Drumbeat: March 26, 2011

Five myths about gas prices

Gasoline prices have been steadily climbing for several months, and Americans are feeling the pain at the pump. The possible culprits (from greedy oil execs to Mideast turmoil) are as plentiful as the proposed solutions (more offshore drilling, green energy or government reserves). But what is really driving prices up? And what, if anything, can be done about it? Let’s take a moment to fill up on information about our fuel.

Follow the money, not the oil, in BP’s Russia row

MOSCOW — Forget Arctic oil that may not be produced for decades; the unravelling of the deal between BP and Rosneft is all about controlling cash flows and potentially huge value as Kremlin Oil goes global.

“Komu vygodno?” — who benefits — is the play. It’s why BP and Rosneft want to save their proposed US$16-billion share swap, even at the cost of abandoning their offshore oil hunt, to fend off the tycoons who own half of BP’s Russian venture TNK-BP.

It’s also why TNK-BP’s oligarch shareholders are dug in for a long fight to secure their slice of future profits.

Oil hits highest levels since recession

Benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude for May delivery settled Friday at $105.40 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. That was down 20 cents for the day, but oil still gained more than 4 percent this week. On Wednesday it hit $105.75 per barrel, the highest level since September 2008.

Retail gasoline prices have followed oil higher. The national average of $3.561 per gallon is the highest ever for this time of year. Pump prices are already above $4 per gallon in Alaska and Hawaii, and they're nearly there in California.

Governor's natural-gas panel begins its work

HARRISBURG — Members of Gov. Tom Corbett's Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission left their first meeting Friday with plenty to think about during the four months they have to recommend how state can best stoke the economic potential of natural-gas drilling and stave off environmental problems within the constraints the Republican governor has imposed.

New signs of damage at stricken Japanese nuclear plant

TOKYO — New signs emerged yesterday that parts of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant are so damaged and contaminated that it will be even harder to bring the plant under control soon.

At the same time, Japanese officials began encouraging people to evacuate a larger band of territory around the complex.

U.N. agencies hold meeting to discuss Japan's nuclear crisis

NEW YORK — U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon on Friday held a teleconference with senior members of U.N. agencies to respond to the ongoing crisis at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Participants of the conference, the first of its kind, included Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency and Tibor Toth, executive secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization.

Japan's nuclear woes add pressure to invest in green energy

The recent reactor crisis in Japan has highlighted the problems inherent in power stations such as Fukushima I, forcing countries to reassess their future energy investment strategies.

According to Jan Beránek, a nuclear energy campaigner for Greenpeace, the world's governments have harsh lessons to learn about the dangers of using nuclear power to generate electricity.

Fresh perspective on the future of energy

Recent global events have prompted a long-overdue assessment of the natural gas industry to ensure the fuel is included in the world's future energy mix.

Now is the hour

William Vorobioff envisages a world that celebrates more than Earth Hour. He hopes the world of the future will be made of communities that live sustainably according to Earth Day, Earth Week, Earth Year and Earth Decade.

California clean energy: "No on 23" is back

Former Secretary of State George Shultz and San Francisco hedge fund manager Thomas Steyer are resurrecting the successful alliance between clean-tech businesses and environmental groups that defeated Proposition 23 last November.

The new non-partisan group, calling itself “Californians for Clean Energy and Jobs,” will support the rollout of new regulations under the state’s ambitious global warming law, which survived the initiative that would have delayed its implementation.

Not a fresh news item(merely a few weeks old), but a good analysis at Gail's blog by Steven Kopits for those who have missed it. It's rich on numbers and data, and takes a broad sweep, and it's much thinner on mere speculation. She has trimmed it, though, and reiterated his main points in order to get through it faster.

Here: http://ourfiniteworld.com/2011/03/03/steven-kopits-oil-the-economy-and-p...

It's well worth pointing out that this was written before the Libyan crisis even it if appeared slightly after. It's also notable that Goldman Sachs has since gone out and publicly said that they now believe that OPEC has less than 2 mb/d in spare capacity.

And finally, Charles Mackay(sorry if I spelled that wrong) here at TOD has been following the tanker tracker Oil Movements, a measure the OPEC countries' use themselves, and concluded that very little has been exported since the Libyan blowout began that wasn't exported before.

Remember '08? Once the Saudis came in under a very short spare capacity, they simply refused to take out the last million barrel or so, more or less forcing prices even higher before the economy crashed.

According to Al-Husseini, the ex-chief geologist of Saudi Aramco, the Saudis can not produce much (if any) more than 10 mb/d over the next few years. They're doing about 9 now. And if the Saudis are going to do like they did in '08, leaving the last million barrels for their own people, who else will step up? Iraq is still a long way from anything gamechaning, Canada may be producing more but exports are still very meager and have moved very slowly. Kuwait? Shale? CTL? More NGV's? No time.

This time around, however, the world is not a place which has seen tremendous growth(on bubbles) or where bail-outs are easily done, either economically or even politically.

Well not to worry, the EIA says everything will be just fine.
EIA raises forecast on OPEC’s oil production in 2012

The EIA predicted growth in OPEC’s oil production at 1.2 million barrels per day (up to 31.03 million bpd) in its previous report.

The EIA expects that the decline in Libya’s oil production, which is observed as a result of political unrests in the country, will be compensated by increased output from other OPEC members.

That second expectation, that the Libyan decline will be compensated by other OPEC increases is already being proven wrong. And I expect that the predicted 1.2 mb/d increase will be a disappointment for the EIA as well.

The world is putting it's faith in OPEC spare capacity and predicting everything will be just fine. The shock felt around the world will be when the world realizes that OPEC spare capacity is largely a myth and those vast OPEC reserves are a total myth.

Ron P.

So far, OPEC hasn't even lived up to its weak plan to replace just 700,000 bpd of the 1.3 mbpd in exports lost from Libya:


With OPEC exports now down 1.16 mbpd from the peak reached just a few weeks ago:


[Note that the Eni SpA (E) 1.2 millions barrels of oil a day refinery was shut down as a result of unrest in Libya]

So it appears the best KSA can do is increase its exports 200,000 bpd. Is 'spare capacity' just a myth? Are we seeing the Twilight of the Desert Oil Kings?

KSA has been seeking a nuclear agreement with the U.S. so as to facilitate KSA building its very own nuclear power plants.


So..., they may wish to provide their power needs from nuke and therefore extend their ability further into the future to make bank selling the World their oil.

Maybe they understand ELM?

Good thing the Middle East is so politically stable and well populated with crack nuclear engineers, otherwise we would have to worry.

But, I can understand why they would embrace nuclear power generation...its not as it KSA has any other natural resource with which to generate electricity. I mean, they could use PV and CSP, but then they would have to displace the millions of people living in the open desert and despoil that verdant ecosystem.

Good grief, if KSA can't slake its demand for electricity from PV and CSP then no place can.

They would have to clean the sand/dirt/dust off the glass protective covering over the gazillions of acres of PV panels, but they would just do what they do...import TCNs (third-country nationals) to do the drudge work for them.

"Good grief, if KSA can't slake its demand for electricity from PV and CSP then no place can."

I think it falls to Lloyd Bridges' prescient AIRPLANE! retort..

"(Solar Power, in the Desert?!) ..that's just what they're EXPECTING us to do!"

Saudi- SR1.43bn deal for solar cell manufacturing plant


Thank you for this article.

"Saudi oil will always remain our most important product, but what is even more important is to see where the World is heading.The whole World is going ahead and developing solar technology."

so said Gov. Prince Abdullah bin Faisalbin Turki in the reference article.

He goes on to say how important it is to develop diversified sources of energy for future generations.

Clearly, KSA understand that their oil resources are finite, and that is behooves them to export their oil at a measured rate for the best price for the longest possible time, commensurate with not killing their customer's demand off, and using some of their proceeds to develop enduring internal energy production methods which do not depend on oil for their fuel.

Actually the OPEC prediction I posted above is out of date. The new Short Term Energy Outlook, table 3c says OPEC produced 29.48 bp/d of crude in 2010 and that will produce 29.55 mb/d in 2011 and 31.45 mb/d in 2012. So they have increased their OPEC prediction by 420,000 barrels per day just since last month. I just can't wait to see what their prediction for OPEC production will be next month.

Notice that they are predicting that OPEC production will grow by 70,000 bp/d this year and another 1,930,000 bp/d in 2012. That is an even two million barrels per day from 2010 to 1912.

Of note: OPEC's own Monthly Oil Market Report says OPEC produced 29,184,000 bp/d in 2010 and has averaged 29,958,000 bp/d for the first two months of 2011. According to those figures OPEC production is already up an average 774,000 bp/d in 2011. Of course that will drop now with Libya off line. But the point is I believe OPEC was already producing flat out in January and February. They, primarily Saudi Arabia, had already maxed out their production in response to the high prices. That left them with nothing in their pocket to respond to the Libyan crisis.

Ron P.

The good thing about predictions is that you are not risking much in making bad ones. They do not have to put their paychecks behind their numbers like most other people. So the only way to hold their feet to the fire I guess is to show how poor their prediction has been over the last 10 years. Compare the error to the reality. They are fudging to the rosy side with increasing regularity.

I knew of a guy in Sydney, a major stock market investor, that would always challenge his investment advisor about his stock picks/market predictions. This guy would challenge his advisor to double or nothing on his fee, if the prediction worked out or not, in a one year timeframe.

He would only invest when the advisor would take the bet, which was, at first, about 30% of the time, though it grew to about 80% in a couple of years. When a pick did not work out, he lost much more on the stock than the fee, of course, but enjoyed that his advisor was getting burned too.

When the person making the prediction has their own skin in the game, they are indeed much more careful about what they say.

Same goes with getting bonuses. Should a banker get a bonus when you finance a housing bubble? Apparently yes.

So the only way to hold their feet to the fire I guess is to show how poor their prediction has been over the last 10 years.

The "success" of the pundits is how much cash they have in their pockets.

The people listening, for the most part, keep listening and the money from advertisers means the money will keep flowing to 'em.

We pay to hear what we want to hear. The truth is another matter. But this agency is supposed to be watchdog not a lapdog right?

I can't help but think that the wizards of wall street are looking at the recent rise in oil prices using historical comparisons. When the talking heads on TV discuss oil prices they talk about demand destruction at certain prices, they talk about oil prices being high due to a weak dollar, they say the Federal Reserve printing money is causing inflation to show up in the price of oil. Each of these comparisons are based on sound, historical models. Only time will tell if these comparisons play themselves out.

As others have posted here on TOD this time may indeed be different. I keep coming back to the massive declines in floating storage that no one in the MSM is talking about. I'm also convinced that demand destruction will have little impact on oil prices going forward. Please consider the following timeline and its effects on the future price of oil.

During the last run up in oil prices to $147 a barrel in July, 2008 all producers were going flat out trying to take advantage of the higher prices.

Two months later, September 2008 Lehman Brothers collapsed and took the economy down with it. As I remember it, the world just stopped. The markets tanked, loan demand tanked, banks failed, auto dealers failed, inventories of imported cars exploded and provided the "photo op" for the worst recession in a lifetime. Thousands of cars sitting idle in docks along the coast with nowhere to go.

Demand for oil collapsed as the unemployment rate ran up with the loss of millions of jobs. New construction came to a halt. Oil producers had to struggle to determine the best course of action. Certainly many producers had sold future production to lock in high prices and continued to produce in the face of a failing economy. Demand destruction forced oil to back up into floating storage around the world.

This recession, one of the worst ever, has had profound impacts on the lives of many people. Businesses and whole industries have been reduced to shadows of their former selves. Millions of jobs have been lost, some forever. Demand destruction clearly at work. Or maybe not?

During this recession China has continued to increase their imports of oil. Recent months have notched new records of oil use in china, record imports of oil, record electricity demand, etc. My point is that the amount of oil imported by china in 2010 was substantially more than they imported in 2008. In other words, our demand destruction simply made more oil available for china to import. I don't know that the world has ever seen this scenerio play out before?

Fast forward to January 2011 and we're told that some 140 million barrels of oil once stored at sea has now been brought onshore. Some of this oil has helped the USA reach record levels of inventories and much has already been consumed. This depletion of floating storage is a huge cause for concern in my mind. If anything, its given us a false sense of security that there is plenty of oil in the world for us to use. The flip side of this equation is the reality that if the floating storage is indeed gone then the world is using more oil each day than is currently being produced. That's not sustainable.

As Charles Mackay has pointed out, shortages are all but locked in. With the floating storage drawn down worldwide the only thing left to draw upon is our onshore inventories. The speed of the withdrawls could potentially shock the world into a new recession or worse.

During this recession China has continued to increase their imports of oil. Recent months have notched new records of oil use in china, record imports of oil, record electricity demand, etc. My point is that the amount of oil imported by china in 2010 was substantially more than they imported in 2008. In other words, our demand destruction simply made more oil available for china to import. I don't know that the world has ever seen this scenerio play out before?

I've been preaching the same stuff - the Oil headed for Japan when the Tsunami hit simply offloaded some place else - it isn't just floating out there looking for a place to go keeping prices down. No, the tankers unable to offload in Japan are steaming right on over to China who is more than happy to purchase all that is available.

I hope Japan will get to resume their former levels of imports once they're back on their feet; they are utterly dependent on Oil - the Japanese population would shrink very quickly were Oil imports severely curtailed.

Thats right. China is continuing to outbid everyone else in the world for oil, thereby driving up world oil prices. OPEC is simply not keeping up with the increases in Chinese demand, so the increase in Chinese imports is driving up prices world-wide.

That's why the US benchmark crude, West Texas Intermediate continues to trade $10 or more below the prince of water-borne crudes such as Brent or Dubai (or Louisiana oil, for that matter). It's because of the lack of pipelines flowing in the reverse direction to the traditional direction imports of foreign oil into the US. Traders can't physically get WTI to the coast to load it on a tanker and ship it to China.

Unfortunately, fuel prices in most places in the US reflect the price of water-borne crudes rather than WTI, so most consumers don't get much of a break, although refiners in the mid-continent area do.

the Japanese population would shrink very quickly were Oil imports severely curtailed.

As long as the nation can import food/water - no need to worry about this event:

The health ministry has instructed the operator of water purification plants nationwide to temporarily stop taking in rainwater to prevent contamination in tap water following radiation leaks from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, ministry officials said Sunday.

But in a future where there is not the excess oil about to move about food/water?

do we know with certainty that the oil being "purchased" by China is "used" quickly? or might it be stored...an investment or savings for future use? if I was China I would much prefer to build storage facilities for oil and purchase oil today at its "lower cost" if what is being said in TOD is reasonably accurate. if fact we Americans would be wise to invest in commodities and foreign currency rather than US dollars; at least a protective portion of one's savings ought to be...Canada's dollar is worth more than the US dollar is an example too

No we don't know. China bought a great deal of oil in a rather short time frame in mid-March. Shipping costs to China are on the high side right now, so it's doubtful they would be storing it offshore in tankers.

However if my memory is correct their onshore inventories were depleted some in Jan/Feb, and its only a few months after their severe diesel crisis last November.

So yes, they may well be storing some oil.

Great time to be alive isn't it? Witnessing the collapse of a system that decimates the natural world.

Well, the natural world will probably rebound. The human species is another matter. But I think we'll get through this, eventually. If not all of us, then selected peoples(the Chinese are high on my list as possible survivors, even with their civilization intact. I take a dim view on most the rest of us).

As for continuing the artillery of information: as most people reading this site know by now, the economy starts going into recession when oil takes between 4 % and 5.5 % of GDP(this varies a little depending on who you ask, at least those in the Peak Oil community and/or those who are Peak Oil aware).

Deutsche Bank stated in their recent report on these issues that this figure has actually been decreasing. It was around 9 % of GDP during the 1970s and a mere 6.5 % in 2008 according to their estimates. They stated that since the financial crisis, the high debt levels, slow or even declining wages has caused the sensitivty to oil prices to become even greater, suggesting that you need less and less of your nation's GDP spent on oil in order to cause recessions.
They've talked about a 5.5 % number for the next recession, if it were to come soon.
Well we are there(5.5 %) now, at least on Brent prices for many nations.

And in conjuction with the original comparison with 2008, if you actually look month-by-month we are actually ahead of 2008 in terms of price development. The average crude price in April in 2008 was 115. Brent's been hovering around that price for most of March. It's likely it will go even higher in April.

JP Morgan (it appears the banks are getting it these days, the major beasts are going bearish this time 'round, are we seeing a slow shift in paradigms?), recently updated their pathetically weak oil forecasts to about 118 in average during Q2. They stated that oil(Brent, that is) will 'likely' go above 120 dollars during the period at several occassions or even stay there for some periods. They also said it was 'possible' that oil would go above 130 dollars.

They expressed concern with the chimera of OPEC's supposed spare capacity and/or reserves, and said that the Libyan crisis was no longer 'a blip' but has evolved into a major factor since from henceforth the OPEC countries' would, and I am quoting them: "risk responding to prices, rather than trying to pre-empt them".

Well, I don't know where JP Morgan or the others have been before this moment, but anybody with even the cursory of knowledge into the situation wouldn't be the slightest surprised if OPEC yet again failed to meet demand, blaming all kinds of issues(demand destruction, unrest, evil speculators etc etc)

Barclay's main commodoties boss recently went out for a long-term estimate of 185 dollars a barrel for 2020:


The article makes plain that this is a respected name with a long history in the industry.
Two things are important to know though:
1. Once he makes a prediction, he sticks to it. He doesn't change it frequently, like many other analysts, in order to appear more 'in the know' than they actually are.
2. His estimates, while usually higher than the industry average(in 2000 he anticipated an average price of just above 40 dollars for 2010, when most predicted around 20 dollars).
So although he tends to go higher, and sticking with his analysis, he's actually underpredicting in the end.

So if 185 dollars is the average price he predicts for 2020, and his track record of underestimating, interpret that as you will.

Deutsche Bank stated in their recent report on these issues that this figure has actually been decreasing. It was around 9 % of GDP during the 1970s and a mere 6.5 % in 2008 according to their estimates.

They stated that since the financial crisis, the high debt levels, slow or even declining wages has caused the sensitivty to oil prices to become even greater, suggesting that you need less and less of your nation's GDP spent on oil in order to cause recessions.

Reduced percentage of GDP spent on oil to cause a recession since the 70's and further reduced most recently due to the 08 economic meltdown, is resulting from higher oil prices. In the 70's oil was 1-3 a barrel. In the 90's 20-25. The cheaper it is the better the economy does, and the more expensive the worse it does.

We are headed towards that price point where it simply does not work at all. Then supposedly it drops back down in price again and we start the clocks over again until the next step down. But will that happen again knowing spare capacity is all but gone? I'm figuring in the next economic step down, the price of oil will not drop as far as it did in 08. Maybe only as low as 90. We're getting squeezed between a rock and hard place.

I made a (brief) summary of all the works that analyzed the impacts of high oil prices on the economy here:


The threshold of oil expenditures /GDP after which oil demand is broken and there is a recession in the US, ranges between 4% and 7.5 % (some differences are due to different type of oil used in the analysis, retail oil prices and or wholesale oil prices).

As for the oil price threshold, estimates range between 125$ and 175$.

According to James Hamil, Professor at USCD, the limit is 5%
(http://www.brookings.edu/economics/bpea/~/media/Files/Programs/ES/BPEA/2...) ← PDF warning

Spain consumes about 1.2 mb/d (Oil watch Monthly) about 438 Million barrels a year.
5% of Spain's GDP is about 5,000 million euros, and that will be reached when a barrel costs 114 euros, that's 155 dollars.
Or the other way around, at 110 u$d/barrel the oil bill is 35,000 million euros, or 48,000 million dollars.
That's about 3,5 % of Spain's GDP/pib at the moment, and increasing.

So we are very nearly there.

Interesting link. But I do wonder how Spain's much higher fuel tax comes into play? Because the nation's finances is ultimately tied to the economic well-being of it's citizens. The people in Spain pay much more for their oil than an American. It's true that they have more public transport but public transport can't replace that much as some people think, at least if you care about getting to work at precise times without going up extremely early(we're not just talking about the capital now).

On the other hand, Europe has a lower energy/capita use, and that includes oil. About half of America's.

So I'm left with an inconclusive message but since most analysis has pointed to the fact that above 85 dollars in 2009 prices, is hurtful for the economy, I'm willing to go for that. We're now looking to go above 120 for Brent sometime in the next 3 months unless something very dramatic and unexpected happens which pushes the oil price down considerably.

"Canada may be producing more but exports are still very meager and have moved very slowly."

The problem with Canada is that it cannot supply swing production by opening up some valves on conventional boreholes. Any increase will come from the oilsands, which are more like factories operating in batch mode than a well in continuous flow. To boost production requires substantial capital input in the billions from the Seven Sisters and the nationals. It's not like junior petes who can drill a new well for $1 million or so.

To boost production requires substantial capital input in the billions from the Seven Sisters and the nationals. It's not like junior petes who can drill a new well for $1 million or so.

However, the huge Chinese state oil companies are starting to put billions of dollars (and not small numbers of billions) into Canadian oil sands developments, so things are starting to move forward in a major way. One can only assume the eventual goal of the Chinese is to ship the oil to China rather than its tradition market in the US.

The Chinese are also putting billions of dollars into Canadian shale gas and LNG terminal developments.

Re: California clean energy: "No on 23" is back

The story points out that a judge just put a hold on the new California law to impose limits on CO2 emissions. HERE's a link to a story from the LA Times...

E. Swanson

"Large" Crack in Reactor Vessel #3 Says Senior Japanese Nuke Official as Evacuation Zone Grows

Ominous new developments are being revealed by the minute. A senior Japanese nuclear official admitted today that there was confirmation of a "large vertical crack" in the reactor containment vessel leaking dangerous gasses and fluids.

Looking for more confirmation, but,,,, I've been worried for days that this was the case; pooring cold water on these hot vessels is like dropping a cold egg in boiling water...crack!

One of the comments to that story and I think very fitting: "Don't drink the nuclear Koolaid"

Yeah, still getting conflicting reports:

CNN, Reactor status this morning:

...The Japan Atomic Industrial Forum, an industry trade group that is tracking official accounts of the effort at the Fukushima Daiichi plan, said the pressure of the No. 3 reactor's containment vessel has been upgraded to "stable."

....so, which is it, 'stable' or 'busted'?

When the story changes, ... you betcha 3 is 'busted.' How is the plant leaking all those nasties? Spent fuel pools? I think not. But we can hope they are not liars. The media control the population. The new propaganda is industrial propaganda.

The quote,

“There is a definite, definite crack in the vessel — it’s up and down and it’s large,” he said. “The problem with cracks is they do not get smaller”,

...attributed to "Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy director-general of the Japan Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency"

..is linked to a NYT article that seems to have been edited.

One of the problems with news reports on these reactors is undefined language. Compare the title statement “Large” crack in reactor vessel”….. to the subsequent statement “there was confirmation of a large crack in the containment vessel.” Completely different meanings with the first saying reactor vessel and the second reactor containment. The former is how the quote was initially reported, leading to the obvious counter statement that the reactor vessel cannot be observed.

The likelihood of a containment crack was reported some time ago associated with a sudden drop in containment pressure, although the reactor containment vessel was later capable of holding pressure. I am relieved to have clarification that the crack is not in the reactor vessel itself.

Does it matter whether there is a large crack, or a tiny one? I suspect that baring very tiny rates of water flow out of the reactor, the flux of fission products out is probably constrained by leach rates out of the fuel rods. A small leak may mean smaller volumes of "hot" water to deal with, but the water will simply be a lot hotter to handle. Until these things can be covered with some sort of leakproof material, I think the best option is to flush the waste into the ocean. Unless we can collect the waste water, and inject it into a deep well?

Extending Consideration of a reactor 3 containment vessel crack. It is hard to understand how water from the containment vessel (check out the diagram of the reactor below) could flow into the turbine building to injure these workers (Kalimankudenko link below). My understanding, and I am not a professional in the field, is that the reactor is connected to the turbine building through pipes that bring superheated water that has flowed directly through the reactor core (not containment). There the heat is exchanges with an independent body of water and it is this water that flows through the turbines. If this view is correct, the most likely source of the highly radioactive water is a leak in the pipes from the reactor.

P.S. I would load the image if I knew how.


I am not an expoert mself but in general the hot water (really hot!) from the reactor is pumped thru a giant heat exchange system wherein the secondary water is flashed to steam and the steam used to drive the turbines.

Both water supplies are as I understand it continiously reused, the secondary water being condensed from spent steam back to liquid for another pass thru the heat exchange.

I have worked on the pipes as a fire watchman between the reactor and the heat exchanger at a couple of nukes, which is usually referred to as the steam generator. They are indeed connected by very large very thick pipes,iirc about 36 inches inside id and around five or six inches in wall thickness iirc -it's been a long time.

The engineers referred to the pumps as "cooling water pumps"-I do remember that there were three of them, that two were necessary for any significant power production, and that it was considered necessary to shut down the reactor if any one of the three failed.Each pump was driven by a ninethousand five hundred horsepower electric motor-the biggest motors I have ever seen personally.

A crack or break in any of the pipes would most likely result in a leak functionally equivalent to a crack in the reactor vessel itself, if there are no shut off valves or if the valves failed to function; any such valves would necessarily have to be in the open position in order for water to circulate and cool down the reactor even after a scram shutdown.

A loss of control circuits and electrical power to the valves would in effect almost certainly mean that they are open , and that until such emergency repairs as are necessary are made, they cannot be closed.

Further more, closing them would close off any normal cooling water circulation thru the still cooking (slowly and gradually cooling off) reactor- a big time no no that would normally be expected to result in a potential meltdown.

If I am in over my head, please remember that I was only a part time mechanic, and not an engineer, and that these comments are based on experiences about thirty years ago.

These reactors (BWRs) don't have a primary and secondary loop like pressurized water reactors. Steam is generated in the pressure vessel above the core and goes directly to the tubines and condenser; all one loop.

Hello Ghung,

Yeah, I looked into it after I commented and what you say is consistent with what I learned. Love to be corrected. The confusing thing is the passage of the heated water through the reactor vessel even though it does not, under normal circumstances, come into direct contact with the fuel rods. Stated another way, the primary to pseudo-secondary loop heat transfer occurs within the reactor. Thus, under normal circumstances, the water flowing from the reactor to the turbine room is isolated from the water in contact with the fuel.

In shutdown, diagrams indicate the water coolant is being introduced into the reactor through a special cooling port and leaving through a second specialized cooling port.

So where do the cooling pipes from the reactor go?

There has to be a "secondary" for sea-water cooling of the condenser of the steam loop. It would make sense to have multiple reactor loops with valves, but each hole in the shell is another venue for leakage.

I think the goal now should be to stop any water discharge -- which requires an isolated coolant loop. I don't think it would much matter if they recirculate really nasty radiated water, but it really should be a goal to get it as fresh as possible too. There no longer are any good possible resolutions; only less bad ones.

Well, if it is busted, physics says the pressure will be stable -at the ambient level. Its just another way to tell the truth in a deceptive way.

Ditto, I had the same thought. "Stable" is almost meaningless in this context.

Stably busted?

Bustedly stable.

Bustable? Stabusted?

Hey, maybe the damn thing was cracked before the tsunami. That would explain how they know it's stabusted.

This guy:
has pidgen words speaking of a crack.
The story he references
does not.

Worry of crack comes from workers boot/feet incident:

Crack in "a"containment pool:

"The most imaginative engineers in the world couldn't have dreamed up a situation like this," No one could see it coming...

Here is another blogger claiming a crack:

Re: Follow the money, not the oil, in BP’s Russia row

Drivel journalism. It's "Kremlin Oil" but at the same time its oligarchs and tycoons. Make up your minds what caricature you want to believe. Also cute how peak oil applies to Russia but not to the world, since allegedly Brazil is finding so much that the world has no problems. I remember similar tripe about deep wells bored in the Gulf of Mexico that were supposed to tap into something like 10 billion barrels. Have not heard a peep about it since. This 50 billion barrels from offshore Brazil (equivalent of 1.6 years of world consumption) is more myth than reality. The only thing that matters is what flow rate they will get out of the production rigs.

We should be able to dig our way to oil independence with Clean Coal. You shovel it into your trunk. You have a little water tank and a steam engine. It'll work.

I love the big give-away of natural resources below the market value so that coal "seems" cheap.

H, we are a bunch of morons.

Morons..Idiot America...that is us.

Embrace the suck!

I imagine the next good idea Secretary Salizar will have is to open the Grand Staircase area to coal and other mineral mining, with buck-an-acre per year lease rates.

Maybe instead we should pay them bonuses to extract the resources. We are just robbing our children's future. LOL

Somebody else got there first ...

This pic looks like a live-action scene from the old cartoon 'Wacky Racers'

Ha ha. I knew it would happen ;-)

Japan nuclear crisis gives Earth Hour added poignancy

"Lights started going off around the world on Saturday in a show of support for renewable energy, given added poignancy by Japan's nuclear disaster, which raises doubts about nuclear power as a possible solution."

I can't help wondering when this will become an every-day routine to save power.

Edit : I, for one, will be glad to be able to see the stars at night, over the city. Or, at least, my neighborhood.

I always turn on all of my outdoor floods for this event (to proclaim the power of renewables) though I may not this year, as it's raining all weekend ;-/

It's overcast here, at the moment, but may partially clear overnight. I always look out from upstairs to see who else has the lights off. Not as many as I'd like.

I have fond memories of stargazing with a small telescope from our back yard outside London, in the 60's.

The article, Five Myths about Gas Prices is by Oil Drum staff member Robert Rapier. It was published in the Washington Post. Congratulations to Robert for getting the very good story published in such a widely read newspaper!

I also clicked on this link and saw that it is by Robert Rapier. Congratulations to him for getting published in such a high profile publication!

Congratulations to him indeed. A very fine man, he was very responsive when I emailed him many moons ago when I was just quibbling into the Peak Oil matter during my first, erratic steps into the territory. He even gave me advice on where to live in order to best prepare and weather the post-Peak world(although I did ask him about it first, but he responded sincerely and with detail).

He did always appear to me me as a moderate, not a doomster, even slightly optimistic compared to most, so perhaps it's easier for the MSM to publish a guy like him than, say, Jeff Rubin. (Make no mistake, I wub Rubin, but I sometimes get the feeling he is a bit too radical for the genteel class, vested in the BAU. He has had smashing success with his book and he is a good writer so I suppose it's just hard to close him down now, but I don't doubt they would try, probably successfully, if he came to the scene now).

I also contacted Robert a couple of times and found him to be very nice and gracious in commenting on my questions. What I appreciate about Robert is that he has a brilliant mind, but also has a terrific writing style. This is a very rare combination for a scientist, and I hope that he continues to publish.

I first learned about Peak Oil in the late 90's when I was in my late 30's (I just turned 50, Yikes!). I am an environmental scientist, and had spent many years trying to get people to understand the environmental problems we face, without any apparent effects. So, I basically gave up and just lived my life, did my job, and took care of my family. So, when I discovered Peak Oil, I initially had a few conversations with folks about it, and watched them do the same thing......Nothing. So, again I have basically given up on trying to tell anyone about it and convince them of anything.

A civil engineer I worked with retired a few years ago. I told him about peak oil and he actually studied it on all the websites, including this one. He decided that in his retirement he would buy a minivan and a camper that he could pull behind it rather than the huge camper and truck that he wanted. I felt that maybe, just maybe, I had made a difference. Last I heard he had bought an F-350 diesel and a 30+ foot long travel trailer to travel the country because he had to have a larger setup than his neighbor (he's an engineer after all).

Now I simply mention peak oil to folks and move on with my, albeit modest, preparations.
Robert, and others, have the ability to continue raising the issue of peak oil and I am very grateful for that.

Me, I just don't waste the energy anymore.

Hi Leiten,

I visited Sweden about 3 month ago and was shocked to see how much the Swedes use their cars, although they still use much less oil per capita than Canadians. I do think sustained $100/barrel oil will hurt the Swedish economy. Sweden has no domestic oil/gas production and imports 100% of what it consumes. High prices will definetely not be good for the economy.

I don´t think sustained $100/barrel oil will hurt the Swedish economy. Not even $200/barrel oil will hurt the Swedish economy. That is because 2/3 of the gas price is taxes. If the oil price doubles the price att the pump will only be 1/3 higher and that will not be a big issue.

The Swedish economy is in good shape right now but the tricky part is that Sweden is heavily dependent on exports. More than 50% of GDP comes from export. $200/barrel oil surely will affect others to reduce their import because they have to pay more for their fuel and can not afford to buy our stuff and that will affect the Swedish economy.

It is easy to explain the Peak Oil concept to a Swede but it is not that easy to explain the connection with the economy. And it is rather difficult to explain that PO is right now and PO will affect your lifestyle. Not because the pumps are running out of gas but that you are at risk to run out of employment due to PO.

How much of their exports are Volvo and Saab? These could be vulnerable to an oil price spike.

Not even $200/barrel oil will hurt the Swedish economy.

I believe it's incorrect to look at high oil prices as just a bit more money spent filling up your tank. My biggest disagreement with the above quote is that increased unemployment and business failures isn't factored into the equation. Tax on diesel and gasoline stays in Sweden and is recycled into the economy, while high oil prices for an oil importer like Sweden means that the money will be leaving the country never to be seen again.

Here's my prediction of would happen to the Swedish economy if oil reached $200/barrel and stayed there for a while:

SAAB automobile = liquidated and bad news for Trollhättan
SAAB aerospace = lose money and layoffs
Volvo cars = lose money and major layoffs
Volvo trucks = lose money and major layoffs
SKF = lose business and layoffs
Sony-Eriksson = lose money and major layoffs
Skandinavian airlines = bankrupt and maybe bailed out by Danish/Swedish governments
Husquarna = lose money and layoffs
Astra-Seneca = not sure what would happen to this drug company
Retail industry = slow-down and layoffs
Housing bubble = crash
Food prices = up
Government = borrow more money to pay for all the laid off workers

I'm not sure what debt load the average Swede carries but some people I talked to admitted they were heavily in debt, mostly because of housing morgages. On the plus side, more Swedes would stay home instead of going to Thailand and Mallorca.

I don't think very high oil prices will hurt Sweden directly, but it will definitely hurt Sweden if it hurts the world, so indirectly Sweden is as vulnerable as everyone else. We are a very export-dependent economy, just like Germany.

One do have to remember that as previously mentioned, 2/3s of the price is taxes. Also, most of our energy come from either nuclear or hydroenergy. Almost no homes in Sweden are now being powered by oil or fossil fuels. We will actually be an exporter of electric energy in the coming decade, most of it renewable.

This frees up a lot of our oiluse to transport. And most of our oil inmports are from Norway and Denmark, and a bit from Russia. We only use like 0.2 mb/d, so we have much safer supplies than most of the rest of the world added with the fact that we simply use very little and our industry does not use oil/coal/NGL for electricity to a any significant extent unlike most other nations.

Still, transport is oil-dependent as always. But we have a lot of public transport. People don't use it because it's a big country with few inhabitants, so you tend to use cars to get about. But if the government mandadted public transport it wouldn't be a problem really. We could probably halve our oil imports by much less driving and energyefficiency since we don't need oil for as many sectors of society that most countries do.

As for our industry, Volvo has been sold off to the Chinese, and SAAB has been finished for quite some time but live on thanks to lifesupport and a skilled CEO.

So when we pay close to 9 dollars a gallon at the tank, we just don't care. We'll only really care when the rest of the world starts to care in a serious way, because that's probably when the world economy is likely to go belly-up, which will affect us too in profound ways because of our need for a functioning market economy to sell our exports.

So I'd say Sweden is not unaffected by Peak Oil but has the fundamentals to weather it much, much better than the vast majority of countries. I can only think of two other nations in the West with better chances and that's Canada and Norway.

Leiten, interesting comments - what was the reaction Volvo being sold out (again)?

Also interesting that you point to Norway and Canada - presumably because they are both oil exporters? Don't know anything about Norway but here in Canada at the macro level, oil export income has done well over the last few years - but not much else has, other than farming. Factories have closed, knowledge based business find their clients have much less to spend, etc. Canada's export industry is absolutely tied to one customer - 87% of exports go the US. So when things go bad south of the border, they go bad here. The overall GDP impact has not been too severe, but the pain is very unevenly spread.

I would also add Australia to this bunch. Even though Australia is an oil importer (uses 900kbd, imports about 300 of that) it is a major exporter of almost every other form of energy - Coal, LNG and uranium. Like Canada, the non energy/farming industries were hit more than others, particularly the little manufacturing that is left - most has gone to China. And since China is Australia's biggest export customer, Australia weathered the recession fairly well, and is back in strong growth mode. That is, as long as it has energy stuff to dig up and sell...

The reaction on Volvo automobiles changing from US to Chinese ownership were not especially large as they moved from the bankrupt to the amateur.

Norway has massive ammounts of hydro power and can build more hydro- and wind power.

"I don't think very high oil prices will hurt Sweden directly, but it will definitely hurt Sweden if it hurts the world, so indirectly Sweden is as vulnerable as everyone else."

Leiten, this is exactly my point. I totally agree with you and Frugal. You have to read my comment all the way to the bitter end ;-)

But I don´t think Sweden are going to export any electricity. A century ago we electrified our railways. Now it´s time to electrify the roads, or at least the streets. That can be done by trolleybuses and trolleytrucks. We have the power and we have the skills but we don´t yet have mentally prepared ourselves for this. Instead the politicians decide to build complex roads with expensive bridges and tunnels.

Frugal: "Astra-Seneca = not sure what would happen to this drug company"

AstraZeneca is heavily dependent on R&D. They sell new but expensive drugs but only as long as they are protected by patents. After some years other drug companies take over and AstraZeneca have to develop another expensive drug. That works only if you can afford those good but expensive new drugs. So I think AstraZeneca is as vunerable as any other Swedish high-tech company if the overall economy slows down.

I guess I never quite "get" why anyone is ever surprised by such things nowadays. Annual kilometers per car tend to be constrained within a factor of two or three in countries where people can reasonably afford to drive at all, even though the USA "wins" the top spot. Traffic tends to range from awful to terrible in large cities, even in countries where people really can't afford to drive.

With respect specifically to Sweden, I recall us Americans remarking to a Swedish visitor one time, about how good Europeans had it with respect to train services and the like. Her somewhat cynical response was, sure, there was an empty train every 15 minutes to take people where most didn't need to go, what a terrible waste of very high taxes.

This harks back to a recurring theme: naïve American tourists returned from spending north of $300/day on package tours abroad, having seen absolutely nothing except what a guide instructed them to see, and thus finding everything they saw to be wonderful, which it jolly well ought to be at such rates. But when it comes down to people living on ordinary real-world wages or salaries, the picture grows more complicated. Or as a Dutch couple in the Randstadt, both with college-degree-level jobs, told me, they and their neighbors weren't using bicycles as much as they were because they wanted to, but because both their purchases and their income were taxed to the hilt and then some.

Transit lines with useful, metro-level service (every ten minutes or better during the day and service on Sunday) to more than a few select destinations are found mainly in very crowded areas where only the very affluent can afford to live both safely and reasonably well. Ditto for walking - few affordable places will provide a decent job, and groceries and the like at reasonable prices, and routine services, all within walking distance. (And in today's dodgy, volatile economies, this matters little since the job will end, and the next one may well prove to be on the other side of town anyhow.) Ditto for cycling, and add that anywhere there is real "winter", arrangements that must be made to handle it will work at any other time of year, so there will be no functional need to cycle.

So even in Europe, even (to a lesser extent) in Japan, a certain number may not need to drive if they're affluent enough, or they're willing to live in a cramped stuffy broom-closet, or, possibly, they're willing to run an extra risk with respect to crime. Everyone else pretty much gets to drive, like it or not (unless they're so poor they have to walk huge distances.) Which brings us back, full circle, to why we should not be the least bit surprised that traffic is so bad in urban areas across the world.

Having just fled the nuclear crisis in the Tokyo area, I was able to rent a broom closet in part of Japan that hopefully doesn't have so many earthquakes!

It comes with no parking spot so I will have to stick to my bicycle.

Sounds like you have an advantage in that you aren't strongly tied down to a particular geographic location. Didn't you say you had kids? Why not just bail out and head for a completely different country? I know, there's that old money thing...

E. Swanson

Oh dear, I first read that as broomstick. Please don't think me rude. Bikes are good, been back on mine for a few months now and am enjoying it a lot.


Is there any part of Japan that doesn't have many earthquakes? Doesn't the entire land mass owe its existence to subduction-zone volcanoes?

My vote is on some combination of electric bikes, scooters, mopeds, motorbikes, ultrasmall cars, and horses/buggies, used in various combinations for short distances. Most oil reserved for agriculture and long distance trucking/shipping, shared with rail of course. I expect modern air transport, both people and cargo, to largely disappear.

Of course things will stabilize but then only go farther down once we deplete whatever's left of the planet's scarce resources. And it's all probably immaterial, as the homo sapien mind seems incapable of going in reverse, which ensures the collapse of industrial global civilization and the start of a new dark ages.

Me, I just don't waste the energy anymore.

Very insightful, thanks for your perspective.

It is interesting to me how it all pretty much boils down to which world view one subscribes to, and I have come to much the same conclusion that trying to change someones jealously guarded ideologies (whether they want it or not) is more or less a hopeless task.

Even within seemingly similar world views there are deep ideological differences. For example, some of those who understand the concept of peaking world oil supplies (or all non-renewable resources for that matter) often have a visceral hatred for those who dare to suggest that those same declining resources are just one aspect of an ongoing collapse of industrial civilization.

This site is a prime example, with a majority of the comments composed primarily of people patting each other on the back for how smart they are about all things energy, while anyone who dares to suggest that they might, just MIGHT be oblivious to the wider context of our global ecological overshoot is routinely spit on as a so-called "doomer".

Catton brilliantly observed that the entire spectrum of world views on these issues falls along a line that roughly corresponds to how ecologically literate people are:

New Ecological Understandings
Adaptaion Circumstance: Consequence: Names
The Age of Exuberance is over, population has already overshot carrying capacity, and prodigal Homo sapiens has drawn down the world's savings deposits. All forms of human organization and behavior that are based on the assumption of limitlessness must change to forms that accord with finite limits
I. Some people recognize that the New World is old and that major change must follow. = circumstances accepted + consequences accepted = Realism
II. Some people have faith that technological progress will stave off major institutional change. = circumstances accepted + consequences disregarded = Cargoism
III. Some people have faith that family planning, recycling centers, and anti-pollution laws will keep the New World new. = circumstances disregarded + consequences partially accepted = Cosmeticism
IV. Some people do not believe that New World's newness once did, or that its oldness now does, have any significance. = circumstances disregarded + consequences disregarded = Cynicism
V. Some people insist that the assumption of limitlessness was and still is valid. = circumstances denied + consequences denied = Ostrichism

Table 2. Analysis of Several Modes of Adaptaion to Ecologically Inexorable Change
From "Overshoot: The ecological basis of revolutionary change" by William Catton

Even a cursory examination of the views expressed on this site reveal that most of the regular posters fall somewhere in the "Cargoism" and "Cosmeticism" range of the spectrum, with a vocal few straying more towards the "Ostrichism" end.

One notable exception being Ron "Darwinian" Patterson, who recently commented that even he is getting bored with it. I would also commend Gail "the actuary" Tverberg for her willingness to consider the "Realism" side of things, although that had the unfortunate consequence of getting her booted from this site in what appeared to be some sort of power struggle with Nate Hagens, et. al.

I myself, being someone who is firmly pegged to the "Realism" end of the scale, have, like you, also long since reached the acceptance stage of grief. So, if I had to summarize my view in one sentence or less I guess it would be:

"Enjoy it while it lasts!"


Jerry, thanks for making me the exception. ;-) There are indeed a lot of things discussed on this list that I get bored with. Wind, solar, politics, mass transit blah, blah, blah. I do not begrudge anyone else of discussing these things because they do interest them, and I hope they continue to discuss all these things because they are very important. They don't interest me because I think they are largely a lost cause. (Realism ?) But for everyone else who has a different opinion then have at it.

But I never get bored with discussing peak oil, net exports, net imports and all the things associated with our declining oil supply. But even here I get discouraged. Sometimes I, or someone else, posts a link to an article that I think is major news, at least should make everyone sit up and take notice. But all too often such posts goes without any comment whatsoever. The discussion turns to cars and their miles per gallon, or Obama, or whatever and no one seems interested in the news concerning declining oil production or related subjects.

But I keep watching and occasionally posting because I think right now things are getting very, very interesting. And I sure as hell am not talking about PV, Wind or miles per gallon.

Ron P.

Hi Darwinian,

You may remember that some time back I in effect advised anyone who wants to debate you to get a good nights sleep and bring his lunch, because you have a VERY firm grasp of the facts and the consequences thereof.

Up until recently I have remained hopeful that with a good bit of luck we might turn the corner of the energy and ecological crisis and emerge severely chastened but more or less still living an industrial lifestyle-at least in a few of the more privileged parts of the Earth.

I'm afraid I have found it necessary to join you in the doomer camp; I still maintain that it probably is TECHNICALLY possible to turn that corner, but it just isn't going to happen.

Of course we graybeards may be safely in our graves before ts really hits the fan;but otoh , maybe we won't. As Greenish has remarked, we have box seats for the most interesting period in all of history.

And so long as the net continues to function, we have a better crystal ball than any wizard of old.

I once thought that it was TECHNICALLY possible to "turn the corner", but over the 30 years which has passed since then, I've about decided there's really no way to do it. The necessary changes aren't really "turning a corner" but require slamming the system into reverse. There are simply too many people and each one wants to live like the average person in the US. That means they want to drive cars and live lifestyles like the suburbanites of LA, which is what they see on their TVs. That's the problem, not the solution, since the American Way of Life (tm) is an illusion, based on cheap energy. Worse, what's really needed is a REDUCTION in population and almost nobody is willing to talk about that, let alone actually do something besides that which makes more babies...

E. Swanson


I just wanted to say thanks for all your posts. I too come to this site predominantly to gain information on world energy production (mostly focused on oil) and I get bored with all the surrounding issues like vegetable gardens and cars, etc. Not that people should not discuss it. It is just not that interesting to me. Therefore, I always look forward to your comments when you post them. I do not comment all that much, but that does not mean that your comments are not being read.

I have coined a term for this phenomenon: "Cultural Momentum"

Even if you could apply the brakes, the acquired kinetic energy takes too long to dissipate.

But I keep watching and occasionally posting because I think right now things are getting very, very interesting. And I sure as hell am not talking about PV, Wind or miles per gallon.

I'm afraid I have found it necessary to join you in the doomer camp; I still maintain that it probably is TECHNICALLY possible to turn that corner, but it just isn't going to happen.

Of course we graybeards may be safely in our graves before ts really hits the fan;but otoh , maybe we won't. As Greenish has remarked, we have box seats for the most interesting period in all of history.

And so long as the net continues to function, we have a better crystal ball than any wizard of old.

I once thought that it was TECHNICALLY possible to "turn the corner", but over the 30 years which has passed since then, I've about decided there's really no way to do it. The necessary changes aren't really "turning a corner" but require slamming the system into reverse.

Thirty years ago I began planning for retirement post peak oil. I thought we'd reduce our materialistic consumption and times might be tougher but that we'd work it out, perhaps even enjoy life more. Ron finally got thru to me. The future I see now makes me glad I'm 67. ofm: Yes, we have great seats and some
most intelligent and perceptive people at TOD to share these interesting times.

Slayer of muddled foes
and friends
autumns warrior
Dar win ee an

HI Jerry,

re: "All forms of human organization and behavior that are based on the assumption of limitlessness must change to forms that accord with finite limits"

In case there's a teeny sliver of possibility and opportunity for getting from here to the there you describe above:


I'm constantly amazed at the quality of posters on this site and the knowledge here and your post is no exception Jerry. Thanks for the thoughtful response.

As I mentioned, I have been aware of peak oil since about 1998 or 1999, and like many people I became obsessed with it. I studied it every day and completely immersed myself in it. I probably know more than most about the subject. I have been reading this site daily since about 5 months after it was created, however I only started posting over the past six months or so. You can put me firmly in the realist camp.
I remember enough of my calculus to know what the area under a curve means, and I also remember enough to know what it would take to reverse the trend of declining production. It just ain't gonna happen. So, I'm a realist about it. Oh, and I'm also an INTJ, but I'm not really sure what that means when confronted with peak oil!

Thanks Jerry and keep up the good work.

Oddly, I often hear the opposite criticism of TOD: that it's Doomer Central, and anyone who tries to suggest that collapse isn't imminent is shouted down.

That's certainly been my take on it - if I see anyone ever mention a possible glimmer of hope they're promptly put in their place!


I agree with iagreewithnick

I agree with Jack who agrees with iagreewithnick who agrees with Leanan(okay, let's stop now).

A small note on the conversion on the doomerish mood:
I just don't have much patience for the 'Peak Oil means Peak Food'.
Well, to an extent, yes, but when they immediatedly warp off into "you need to go survivalism because we're back to the Stone Age within a few years and there's no turning back!", I just stop listening. Some places can go regressive but the overall push is forward.

When Rome fell other civilizations stepped up. There's not enough oil to feed the entire world at this stage, with this development or with these people. But there is enough oil for, say, 2-3 billion people, and if they don't use more oil than a mandated amount. Besides, much of the world is going solar which is growing exponentially.

People often think in linear terms: the pace forward has to be the same as the pace of progress thus far. If you look at computers, or how effectively we find vaccines to new diseases, you'd find that we're getting exponentially better. It took us 15 years to find something which actually helped against AIDS. It took us just 32 days with SARS, thanks to much more powerful computers.

The same is true with solar. It's now at or slightly below break-even. The price is falling a crazy amount and soon it'll be uneconomical not to invest in it. Sure, oil will still dominate but in a dieoff scenario, the available oil for nations quickly frees up as they all become less and less oil-dependent combined with the more and more oil available for them to use since the other nations are going down in flames. I wouldn't be surprised if China had it's hand in a few genocides or two, behind the scenes, as long as it wouldn't influence their oil supply. They've already shown themselves more than willing to engage with enthusiasm with bloody genocidal dictators in Africa in return for oil. They've been buying up a lot of farmland and basically neo-colonising Africa. Immoral, perhaps, but in a pure machiavellian sense, very clever.

Besides, I'm not sure if I buy the whole 'long emergency' theory. I'd think that in the beginning, that might be true but we'll quickly reach a bottle-neck point when there will be a lot of wars, revolutions, genocide and famine which will be self-perpetuating once they've begun (see the current Arab spring for the self-enforcing feedback loop, albeit much more milder than the bottle-neck ahead of us).

And since WMDs are so much more potent this will be over very quickly. Large, mass armies are a thing of the past. With a surgical strike at a nation's IT infrastructure via the internet you can shut down a whole zone, with all the hospitals and power generation and what have you. If it's done long enough, a lot of people can die since we have such thin margins in this society. Japan had a lot of problem, not because they didn't have food or water but because they had fuel problems. If their entire electric generation capacity had been shut off for, say, 10 days, I'm quite sure we'd seen a lot more deaths.

War has changed.
Because of that, I think the first 10 years will be the worst since the amount of deaths done by chemical weapons is so massive. The U.S. also have neutron bombs, which basically leaves the infrastructure intact and has far less radiation than normal atomic bombs, but they still kill life forms on the same scale. So you can essentially wipe out a town but all the vital infrastructure is intact, as well as no serious radiation after some months, which is ideal if you want to take a nations oil but don't want a pesky uprising. You just send in your folks and operate the oil wells or nuclear plants or what-have-you at the minimum scale needed. Or take in some slaves.

The danger rather lies in the superpower struggle. The lesser nations should just pray that they don't go MAD on each other. MAD in the coldwar sense.

The rule of thumb on TOD seems to be 'go where the evidence leads' and when one considers all of the evidence brought to bear here, puts it in an historical perspective and considers it in a systemic way, it's hard to be optimistic about the big picture.

A global ecomic system, based on growth and consumption, suddenly faced with declining resources, has nowhere to go. Virtually all substitutes have prior claims upon them.

The population issue is not being addressed in any meaningful way, therefore population must/will decline due to natural forcing: doomerish.

I read a piece recently about some ocean reefs that were recovering at a rate that surprized scientists; a hopeful sign,,,until one puts it into context. It means little when compared to the ongoing, massive decline of reef systems worldwide.

Forests are being replanted and managed. Hopeful ,,,, until you do the math. Deforestation is ongoing and increasing worldwide.

It's been suggested that global warming will increase rainfall in some areas, replenishing overused aquifers. Hope or dope?

Some of us are 'doomers' because we are compelled to be, though I submit that 'doomer' is applied to anyone who is a realist, considers all of the evidence and reaches conclusions that are less than rosey. This isn't a faith-based site. Sorry. Always open to well-presented, well argued and documented hopefulness though.

But I think several pieces of evidence are oft overlooked, especially if they flow contrary to the doom scenario.

Just taking your population statement for example - it's widely regarded that, even assuming BAU, population will likely peak around 2050 and start to decline or stabilise, due to sociological factors. So if energy/food supplies could be maintained up to that point and subsequently became sustainable then population would cease to be such an issue.

Of course then you need to move onto examining the energy aspect - the big question. On the face of it there looks to be large problems, but there are some reasons to stay optimistic. For example, if renewables do at some stage become cheaper than FFs, even by a fraction of a cent, the investment in them would explode. The most encouraging I've seen so far is not solar PV, but a simple solar thermal turbine that uses complex software to maximise efficiency. The hard part has already been done - coding the software. The hardware is very simple and the company say there are within striking distance of the price of FFs. The materials required to build it are abundant and inexpensive. They claim that their current models would be able to provide electricity for the US using a square with a side of 83 miles. Of course it doesn't need to be all in one place. Additionally they hope to increase efficiency with their newer models. Check it out - it's only a 7 min vid: http://ecorner.stanford.edu/authorMaterialInfo.html?mid=2665

So there you have at least 2 pieces of evidence that go against the grain here but unfortunately developments like the above are often just dismissed as 'fantasy' thinking on this site and not assimilated into the 'big picture'.

The last issue would be trying to address the mentality of eternal economic growth. This is the crux of the matter. I think we will have more time than the doomers expect to mull it over but whether it can ultimately be mitigated, I have no idea!


If those of us who are not sanguine about the future and have prepared are wrong, we hurt no one. However, if those of you who believe the future is rosy are wrong, it is likely that you will destroy society trying to survive.

I find it interesting that those of us who are old are the ones who see disaster ahead. Why? Are we getting so old we no longer think logically? Or, is it that we have far, far more experience observing the real world? We old farts have experienced the Great Depression or parts of it, WWII, Korea, Nam, the oil embargo, multiple recessions, etc. We have seen huge technological changes that younger people take for granted. I got my BS in 1960 and the odds are that you were not yet born.

So, put all your arguments forward. Believe what you wish but remember it will be unlikely that I will help you in your hour of need if you are wrong.


Another site, commenting on the "grumpy old men" of TOD, suggested that old people can't really imagine the world continuing once they're gone, so are invested in imminent collapse scenarios.

Dunno if I buy that, but I suspect it's natural for young people to be more optimistic. They'd never leave home and strike out on their own otherwise.

Another site, commenting on the "grumpy old men" of TOD, suggested that old people can't really imagine the world continuing once they're gone, so are invested in imminent collapse scenarios.

I very much disagree with this. In fact, I expected it to be like my parent's retirement. My expectation was that my retirement would be mundane where I'd work in our orchard and garden and, generally, mess around. It never occurred to me that society would be in it's present state.

Dunno if I buy that, but I suspect it's natural for young people to be more optimistic. They'd never leave home and strike out on their own otherwise.

I very much agree with this. Heck, I left the chemical industry to move to the boondocks in my mid-30s. I had no idea of how we would earn money, I built a house which I had never done before (although I had had a lot of "watching" new chemical plants being built as the start-up manager) and we established a huge garden.

However, I think there is one other thing: A lot of old people simply can't physically "do it" any more. I'm fortunate that I can still do what I did when I was young (fell trees and buck them up for our firewood, take care of the orchard and grapes, garden, repair equipment, etc.) but...I sure don't put in those 10-12 hour days like I used to.


A lot of old people simply can't physically "do it" any more.

This is an interesting point for me. I'm not old, but I also can't "do it" due to health issues. I do wish I could be in a situation to build my own house. But even if I had the health to do so, bureaucracy in terms of trying to secure planning permission and the start-up costs involved would be far beyond my means in this country (the UK).

It's a similar situation for the majority of young people (those born after 1980) - most are struggling to cover the rent on a day to day basis and have little option to make big plans for the future. So in some ways it should be quite surprising that the younger generation have a more optimistic outlook than the older.

Then again, perhaps not: Grumpy old people 'can't help it'

But, perhaps that's for the best: Feeling grumpy 'is good for you'

Something to look forward to ;-)

That grumpy old man thing definitely applies to my dad. He used to be really mellow. Now...not so much. He's still fit, active and sharp, still works (as a consultant now that he's retired)...but things bug him now that would just roll off his back in his younger years.

As for your situation...there's the "No Money Man." That lifestyle would be a lot easier for a young and single person than for an older person with a family to support.

Ha! I've noticed exactly the same with my Dad too - how odd! But I think he kind of relishes the fact that he's 'allowed' to get away with it nowadays.

I'm definitely a bit of a 'No Money Man' myself - my friends would no doubt happily testify to that!

I'm not that old (55). Up until a couple of years ago, I was able to do everything I'd been doing here on our place for many years - gardening, managing my woodlot with my horse, getting my firewood, etc. I was healthy, in great shape, getting this place running smoothly.

Then one fine day my horse died, and a medical catastrophe struck me, and it was pretty much over (yes, all on the same day). I have excellent neighbors who can help me in a pinch. But just like that, my "lifestyle" and my plans for the future evaporated overnight. To say nothing of the hit on my savings (gone).

Some people will be lucky enough to stay vigorous into their 70's, no doubt, but as you make your plans, remember that one way or another you are going to slow down. Maybe it will happen all on one fine day.

Ya, stuff happens. My wife has an inherited mitocondrial disease that saps her energy. She didn't even know she had it until her early 60's (we're both 72 now) when her sister began to have problems which led to my wife being diagnosed with the same thing. It drives her nuts that she wants to help me or tackle some project herself but can't pull it off because she doesn't have the energy.

I also drive her nuts because I keep starting some new project or putting in another fruit tree or grape vine. Right now I'm rooting a whole bunch of elderberries along with some more grapes to fill in a few holes. And, I'm certain that I'll end up buying another apple variety (We have about 15 varieties now but...). Right now we're arguing about how big the garden should be this year. No matter what we "decide", it'll be big (sorry sweetie, I lied). Plus, I'm trying some new hulless oats and a new sorghum (on a very small scale).

I guess all we can do is go with the flow.


It just occurred to me that at least in one respect, young people are less optimistic. When it comes to stock market returns, the older you are, the more optimistic you are.

Apparently, because the older you are, the more dependent you are on high returns from the stock market. Assuming you're not Bill Gates, you need a high rate of return for any hope of comfortable golden years.

Young people, OTOH, have more years to save and therefore less need of a high rate of return. They are more pessimistic (realistic?) because they are farther away from the problem. Kind of like those people living under the failing damn in Nate's example.

I'm twenty-seven, and consider myself a Catton "Realist". I think it's the heavy metal!

Grumpy Old Men --BS in 1960

When you're old, too many things to say in one sound byte.

In 1960, the yeast Petri dish was only half filled (3 Billion people).
Hardly anyone then could foresee doubling (to 7 Billion) in just half a century.

US domestic Peak Oil had not yet been hit.
Man had not yet landed on the moon.
Club of Rome Report was a decade off into the future.

It was a far far different world.

" ...population will likely peak around 2050 and start to decline or stabilise, due to sociological factors. So if energy/food supplies could be maintained up to that point and subsequently became sustainable then population would cease to be such an issue."

So, assuming population stablizes circa 2050 around 9 billion....we have to feed an increasing population for 40 more years. Food shortages are already occuring while our ability to produce food is being eroded: soil and water depletion happening large scale in areas that can least afford it; cost of fertilizers are rising while availability is declining. Important fish populations are collapsing, resulting in more fish farming requiring ever more inputs and environmental degradation; modern techniques for producing more food on less land are backfiring in ways we are only beginning to understand. Throw in a little climate change .......

"So if energy/food supplies could be maintained up to that point and subsequently became sustainable then population would cease to be such an issue."

If..... I'm certainly open to 'how'. After all, it's only a couple of billion more mouths to feed. Problems of scale.

Regarding energy: Same thing. A massive buildup of alternatives during a period of declining physical and economic resources is unsupportable in a global economic system reliant upon growth. Most people fail to grasp the unprecedented inertia of the industrial age.

Liquid fuels: we've made great progress with bio-fuels, but this is basically a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul, and again limited by scale.

Electrical production: Greater reliance on electrified mass transit offers hope, though with a likely decline in nuclear sources going forward, keeping up with current requirements and growth requirements will be a tall order. Greater reliance on natural gas will increase prices and accellerate it's decline. Reinvestment in current infrastructure is lagging while some are proposing massive investment in new infrastructure. Great strides have been made in the build-out of renewables,, until viewed against the backdrop of overall consumption and projected requirements.

Finally, Jevons rules: Human's will continue to exploit all available resources to better their lot until it becomes impossible to do so (major economic decline, dieoff, war, disaster, doomer stuff). History is quite clear in this respect. What we are really discussing here is that ~7 billion humans will change this behavior in an historical blink of an eye. There is no precedent for this, especially on the scale required. Using words like faith, hope, and doomer won't change this. Once again, I'm open to any evidence that this change can occur without pain on an similar scale.

Population increase, finite resources, climate change, environmental degradation, food and energy production, debt, infrastructure investment requirements, consumption of stuff, starvation levels, historical precedent, etc., are all quantifiable at some level. We humans are losing ground in all of these things and these are the things I base my assesments upon. The math and science are getting ugly and I feel pragmatism must trump faith when having these discussions. That said, those who know me or have seen my posts/profile know that I'm still a solutions oriented kind of guy.

Oh don't worry, I agree there are some significant challenges ahead - some that could indeed lead us down the path of ruin. I just don't think it's an inevitability. At least, not on a meaningful human time-scale.

Regarding the Jevons paradox it may be that the 'until it becomes impossible' is introduced artificially - i.e. we impose it upon ourselves. We've just seen how quickly the international community can react to attempt to enforce something which on the grand scale of things is rather insignificant.

I think the key is awareness - we have tackled problems before on a global scale (i.e. the ozone layer) so it can be done. I appreciate the scale of the problem is a lot larger. Education regarding our impact on the earth and duty of responsibility for earth stewardship should be made mandatory for the upcoming generations.

...responsibility for earth stewardship should be made mandatory for the upcoming generations."

Jeez, we can't even agree on the teaching of evolution or basic science.

Humans and their belief systems have long since discarded any recognition that they are bound to physical and natural laws and the limits they impose. Unlike vitually every other species on the planet, we see ourselves as being extra-evolutionary and we have a huge overhead of individuals who contribute nothing to the continuation of the species yet continue to consume our resource base. This circumvention of natural law is accelerating our decline as fast as it has enabled our ascent, likely much faster. We can't buy time, only borrow it from the future.

We live in a dream world of our own making, ultimately incompatible with the real world of our small planet. Enjoy it while you can ;-)

Lol, yes, good point!

I guess all that remains is to say 'So long Mother Earth. And, really, thanks for all the fish..'

Oddly, I often hear the opposite criticism of TOD: that it's Doomer Central, and anyone who tries to suggest that collapse isn't imminent is shouted down.

Doomer Central? No doubt it would certainly appear that way to people more towards the ostrich end of the spectrum.

By painting all realists with the broad brush of that tired old "collapse is imminent" saw you only serve to illustrate my point. The prevailing prejudice is that realists are chicken little, or worse, some kind of survivalist nut jobs running around in a panic and yelling that the sky is falling. Oddly, the same pejoratives were used, and sometimes still are, against people making otherwise sober and well informed assessments of peak-oil and the likely consequences thereof.

And look where that got us.


Everyone thinks they themselves are realists, while everyone more pessimistic is a chicken-little doomer and everyone more optimistic is a head-in-the-sand Pollyanna.

That's why I used the phrase "collapse is imminent." It's a brief but accurate description of that point of view, without trying to claim it's more or less realistic than anyone else's.

If you have a better description, feel free to share it.

Leanan, the Columbian author/intellectual Oscar Guardiola-Rivera refers to it as: the impending catastrophe.

I like that way of expressing it, it covers the actuality as far as our current systems sees it, and as the natural ecosystem of course is experiencing it, doesn't try to whitewash or present a fairytale worldview, but does offer the idea that maybe there is in fact a way forward other than full on and total ecosystem destruction.

Since he has studied other cultures etc, like pre-Columbian natives etc, (ie, he has an actual perspective on matters a bit wider than that found in the US) he also understands that if we make some actually wise decisions, we can change course. I believe this is correct, but it does require real changes, not the silly 'change' slogans of the Obama campaign. It's harder to understand this for people who grew up with their suburban houses, streets, lawns, cars, and dad going off to the office, since the failure of that system of course has to seem like 'doom' or whatever one wants to call it, no matter how absurd and fantasy like that past world of their youth really is/was.

Having seen and lived in relatively recent worlds where average consumption was I would guess about 10% of what the US considers as 'necessary', we have a really really long way to go before our situation here really gets bad. Will get hard to adapt to less consumption, but consumption really is not the road to happiness, that's just some weird idea we picked up watching the Flintstones or whatever we grow up with. And these were fairly modern second/first world, or just entered first, hard to pin them down really, countries, by the way, better quality of life than anything I've seen here too.

Harder to change course from the impending catastrophe now than it would have been in 1970, but that statement holds true for every year we don't make this decision, and try to continue to live as if growth can be perpetual, which of course it can't be. Some good signs out there, lots of bad signs, and as the bad gets worse, the people who wanted BAU to persist are going to vote for people who will make it even worse, that's already happening now, repeatedly. 1970 I think was the real inflection point, not 2010. I think the oft repeated statement that we can only see the peak in the rear view mirror is far more true than we realize, but it's going to take a while for people to see when that peak really was.

I don't necessarily disagree with you...but I suspect that viewpoint would not be considered realistic by many peak oilers.

In particular, the more pessimistic peak oilers think a large dieoff is imminent and unavoidable.

(We actually hashed this out in detail a few years back, and came to the conclusion that that is the essential definition of a doomer: someone who expects a massive dieoff soon. A long, slow, catabolic collapse doesn't qualify.)

I agree with your definition of a doomer but you need to define what you mean by "soon". Soon could be as much as two or three decades down the road, possibly even four. Soon does not necessarily mean within the next few years. A slow decline would mean it would take, to my thinking, at least 100 years or so. No, it may be towards mid century before the crash, the big crash, really happens but when it does it will be catastrophic, not slow. But there may be several small crashes before then.

Ron Patterson, card carrying doomer.

As I recall, we decided "soon" was "in a time frame I have to worry about." So for a young person, it might be longer than for an old person.

Practically, I would say the typical doomer expects the dieoff within five years. Any longer than that, and we wouldn't worry about it much. Being humans with our steep discount rates and all.

"...I suspect that viewpoint would not be considered realistic by many peak oilers."

H2's point about consumption is key; western economies, to a large extent, are built on a high level of consumption. It goes to jobs. Based purely on observation, there is a lot of fat in the US system that can be cut = large scale loss of employment. As we are seeing now, employment is slow to recover and, IMO, many jobs will be gone forever. How this may play out is tough to predict, but a smoothly curved slow collapse is unrealistic. Greer's series-of-steps-down view of collapse is what I expect and some steps will be large, sudden and steep. Massive injections of money have softened the landing this time. What happens next time?

H2 also uses 'we' more than I can agree with. Much depends on what 'we' means. History tells us that these events are devisive; alot of 'us and them'. 'We' are witnessing this in MENA today. It seems that they are taking some large steps down at this point though they may actually buy their populations some time if 'they' can succeed in arriving at meaningful change. It could also go very wrong; big step for us all.

Yes, Greer expects "stair steps down" - but he also points out that people living through them didn't necessarily notice them at the time.

One of the lessons of history is that change, no matter how drastic it appears on the pages of history books, is rarely anything like so sudden for those who live through it. Read an account of the French Revolution, for example, and events seem to follow one another like explosions from a string of firecrackers, from the final crisis of the Ancien Régime straight through to the fall of Napoleon. For the man or woman in the French street, though, these happenings were scattered threads in a fabric of months and years woven from the plainer cordage of ordinary life.

I would also add that there may be "stair steps up" as well, and this will further disguise the overall trend. Katrina was a heck of a stair step down for New Orleans, but now most people see it as "recovered." Never mind that it was in decline for decades before Katrina and that decline will likely continue.

I think it's quite possible that future historians will look back and date the beginning of the end to, say, peak oil USA back in the '70s...only we who are living through it didn't notice.

....on the other hand...

France, 1789 ->



China 1946-1949

US ???? ("..I've fallen and I can't get up")

.....your rate of change may vary.

Post too long, and this thread isn't active currently, so moved a lengthy discussion of the various points raised here to The Doomer World View vs. History and Sustainable Views.

Thanks all, for the thoughtful replies. Much appreciated.


Hi justabotanist

Good for you for your efforts to educate.

re: "I am an environmental scientist, and had spent many years trying to get people to understand the environmental problems we face, without any apparent effects."

It's funny, I've met many college students who are quite open to these issues, although I find many classes not covering peak oil, in a way that would really allow the point to be made.

re: "I just don't waste the energy anymore."

This is something I think we can all relate to.

One idea is here: www.oildepletion.wordpresscom.

The National Academy of Sciences to cover the topic of global oil supply decline, impacts and policy options...

trying to make room for some lessening of the inevitable suffering.

I heard a short interview with Anthony Ingraffea, an environmental and civil engineering professor form Cornell, on the program "A World of Possibilities". He said what I have been saying in that education has been completely lacking from the earth sciences perspective on non-renewable fuel depletion issues.

I have an 11 year old son who is in grade 5. He is in his final year of an abomination known as "Everyday Math." This destructive program has succeeded in teaching him nothing at all about math. He doesn't even know his multiplication tables, and this is just fine with his teacher who just gave him an A- in math. I just shake my head. Next year he moves on to middle school and I will try to fix the damage done then when they go back to teaching more normal mathematics. I despair for the future of our children with the education they are getting.

My 2nd grade daughter has shown me material I had to ask the teacher what the objective of an exercise was - weird stuff - I couldn't figure it out and I've got a math degree. Drove me nuts.

I had to ask the teacher what the objective of the [new math] exercise was


To make money for some textbook company in Texas.

No child is being "left behind" from the program of squeezing more money out of them (via taxes) and teaching them nothing.

And the bonus round for that same textbook company will be remedial books for when Jane and Johnny get out of middle school and still can't do no readin' 'rithmatic and reasonin'

(double negative is so that Jane & Johnny will understand it more some, heh heh)

I'm glad that I am not alone in this.

You are a math major and still don't get it. What they are being taught is some seriously weird stuff; partial sums, partial quotients, partial products, lattice method. This stuff is seriously damaging to kids and the school district doesn't even seem to care. My son's own teacher told me it took him three years to understand it. A grown man with a university degree and it took him three years to understand! How is a kid in grade 2 with no experience in math expected to get this stuff?

Step Back, the interesting thing about the Chicago School of Math program is that there is no textbook, just a series of workbooks, worksheets and journals that the kids do. This causes problems because the parents really have no idea what is going on in the classroom as they can't see the book (there is none!). And, the teachers don't like to send home their workbooks for some reason. It's all very secretive. I didn't really have an idea how bad it was until November of 2010 and by then it was too late to really do anything about it.

Problem is - kids my son's age are the ones who will likely be the first generation to feel the full, lifelong consequences of peak oil. What we need more than ever are highly educated kids who will have to survive the problem and somehow try to come up with solutions too. Teaching kids nonsense like this just makes it more difficult for them.

I just shake my head.

I recenly watched an 8-year old doing public school math and it looked perfectly acceptable to me. The problem with anecdotal information is that it is anecdotal.

I hate to prolong this discussion any longer. However, since you have suggested that I am ill informed on this topic, I would direct you to the following web link. This was provided to me by our school district Math specialist.


I am including below the relevant conclusion from this study. Keep in mind that this study was presented to me as the BEST study done on Everyday Math and its effectiveness. The few other legitimate studies done on this curriculum showed the actual performance to be much worse.


One study of Everyday Mathematics® that falls within the scope of the Elementary School Math review protocol meets What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) evidence standards with reservations. The study included 3,436 elementary students in third through fifth grades in a large urban school district in Texas. The district used the first edition of Everyday Mathematics®.

Based on this study, the WWC considers the extent of evidence for Everyday Mathematics® on elementary students to be small for math achievement.


Everyday Mathematics® was found to have potentially positive effects on math achievement for elementary students."

I would also suggest you read this criticism of Everyday Math from David Klein, Professor of Mathematics at California State University at Northridge:


There are many valid criticisms of this program, so my objection is far from anecdotal.

Please accept my apologies for the poor formatting of the above quotes, but my HTML is a bit rusty these days.

Now I think I'll go practice my bowling.....

Not saying ill-informed, just don't like sweeping generalizations.

I looked at he "Effective Fractions Instruction" and thought it pretty earnest. They seem to teach tricks that you pick up on your own through the years, such as fraction strips, etc.

I looked at he "Effective Fractions Instruction" and thought it pretty earnest.

LOL. Maybe earnestness is part of the problem. There are many times in life when we need results rather than mere earnestness...

OK, instead of using the word earnest, I thought they were seriously well thought out and impressively useful.

Is the Chicago School of Math put together by the same people that promote the "Chicago School of Economics"? That might explain some of the confusion...

E. Swanson

I immediately thought the same thing as you. Seems the University of Chicago thought so highly of its education department and their "progressive" math curriculum that they fired everyone in the department and eliminated the program about ten years ago. Yet the curriculum continues to live on.

Everyday Math is the official curriculum in approximately 20% of school district nationwide. It is in 40% of school districts in Minnesota where I live.

You are a math major and still don't get it.

To be precise, my degree is Computer Science with a math minor - I focused on math that applied to computers, such as Linear Algebra and Stats/Probability. I spent some time interning at Ann Arbor (Kresge, Dept of Otolaryngology) learning how to extract information from noise aka fourier transforms. That was a rather interesting episode of my life, I think with the generous stipend I managed to sample half of the restaurants in central Ann Arbor, one I particularly remember was a cheery lebanese restaurant - a $10 pile of spiced rice - but it was goood. (What Peak Oil lesson can I learn from that rice meal?)

It doesn't just stop at teaching kids, there's a long history of people trying to educate the deaf trying one method after another. Back in Samuel Clemens' time (Mark Twain), it was essential deaf people could talk - at least to say the Lord's Prayer so they were saved. Today, it's modifications to sign language (e.g. Signed Exact English, or SEE) that cause the children to often become idiots - sure there's the special case where the kid's so good at waving her arms while fluttering her fingers that a perfectly structured sentence emerges forth but many, and I have spoken/signed with them myself, are backwards as anyone who's been deprived of a valid information source. Garbage in is still garbage out.

I have an 11 year old son who is in grade 5. He is in his final year of an abomination known as "Everyday Math." This destructive program has succeeded in teaching him nothing at all about math. He doesn't even know his multiplication tables, and this is just fine with his teacher who just gave him an A- in math.

Unfortunately, many people in the US, including most teachers, believe that the American educational system provides their children with an adequate education. This is a delusion, and scores on international tests indicate how far behind other developed countries the US is.

In the OECD Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), tests showed that US children performed significantly below average in mathematics compared to most developed countries.

Mathematics Literacy Performance of 15-year-olds

The U.S. average score in mathematics literacy (487) was lower than the OECD average score (496) in 2009, as it was in 2003 and 2006.

The OECD countries with average scores higher than the U.S. average were: Korea, Finland, Switzerland, Japan, Canada, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Belgium, Australia, Germany, Estonia, Iceland, Denmark, Slovenia, Norway, France, and the Slovak Republic. The OECD countries with lower average scores than the United States were Greece, Israel, Turkey, Chile, and Mexico. (italics mine)

By comparison with the American score of 487, Canadian students averaged 527, and students in Shanghai China averaged 600 on the math tests.

The unfortunate part for my son is that he is really quite bright, interested in math, and fully capable of doing the work. The school board just doesn't seem to care. I'm convinced that the sole reason for everyday math is to "dumb down" the curriculum so that all students score well with the happy result that the school gets its "No Child Left Behind" money.

It's really quite sad to watch.

Oh, and most of my relatives are Canadian and are spread out from B.C. to Ontario, so I have that perspective too.

The school board just doesn't seem to care. I'm convinced that the sole reason for everyday math is to "dumb down" the curriculum so that all students score well with the happy result that the school gets its "No Child Left Behind" money.

That's one of the driving forces behind the "dumbing down" of US mathematics - the school boards and teachers want to get paid without having to work particularly hard at educating the students. The trouble is that school authorities in other countries are not buying into the "dumbing down" concept.

Particularly in China, school authorities are setting standards high and higher, and expect schools and teachers to meet those higher standards. The differences have gotten to be quite striking since the Chinese are very, very serious about improving their education standards for the 21st century.

Even here in Alberta, the education authorities have pushed standards higher than are typical in the US. Back when I graduated from high school, we were about 1 year ahead of US students, and Americans basically needed to have taken first year university in the US to meet the requirements for university entrance in Alberta. I think since then the gap has widened, and there's close to a 2-year gap between Alberta high school graduates and those in adjacent US states.

This comes as a nasty shock to Americans who move to Alberta and try to send their kids to Alberta universities - unless they have been going to a high-end private school in the US they come nowhere near meeting the entrance standards. However, it also comes as a nasty shock to people from the eastern Canadian provinces, too, since there is quite a bit of regional variation in school systems within Canada. There is no national standards-setting authority in Canada, and the individual provinces do their own thing.

The Chinese are even more advanced. Even back when I was in high school they could do some really wicked math problems that the rest of us didn't understand. Nowadays they are just light years ahead of the occidental students.

It's really very simple. If you leave every child behind, then perhaps no child is left behind any of the others, and the Political Correctness Police would deem this to be "fair" - rather like putting out everyone's eyes because some are born blind, in order that we can all be "equal". It functions something like Everything Is The Number One Priority (only in the contrapositive), which really means that nothing gets done because nothing is actually a priority.

If you leave every child behind, then perhaps no child is left behind any of the others

Since this discussion has been about maths and fractions, perhaps the more appropriate expression for the US approach is "lowest common denominator", and as anyone who knows fractions knows, you can only take that so far.

Other countries are taking the approach of increasing the numerator, and you can take that as far as you want.

If you leave every child behind, then perhaps no child is left behind any of the others, and the Political Correctness Police would deem this to be "fair"

That is true. If you set the standards low enough, then almost every child can meet them, regardless of whether they do any work or not. The American way would be to blame their the educational system, and then dumb down the system to the point where no child could fail. Of course, they don't learn anything, either.

An alternative solution (the Chinese one) is to set the standards very high, and then if the children fail to meet them, point out that the problem is that the children didn't work hard enough.

Some children are left behind in the latter solution, but from the Chinese POV that is the children's own fault, and by inference their parents fault for not motivating them. Chinese parents work harder than American parents to make sure their children work hard, because if their children are lazy and fail as a result, they can't blame the teacher or the school.

The school board just doesn't seem to care. I'm convinced that the sole reason for everyday math is to "dumb down" the curriculum so that all students score well with the happy result that the school gets its "No Child Left Behind" money.

This is what hurt me and my parents as well. In the Netherlands I also showed good signs of talent in mathematics and physics when I was 10. The only solution the class could offer was to put me in the class a next year ahead, which gave me a social lag that I could catch up with about 6 years later in High School. However, the school did offer multiple extra classes/lessons/attention to children who were lagging behind in the curriculum. They even hired special tutors for children who needed speech therapy and graded the maths tests with added bonus questions in a way that every child could at least get a 60% score, our minimum passing grade. On those papers, I more often than not received a 120% score because of this.

In Europe, and especially the Netherlands, the focus is mostly on getting everyone on equal ground by providing a lot of opportunities and safety nets for people not performing well. And people that perform well pay for it, not just by the progressive taxation (where people sometimes have to pay 52% income tax), but also in the existing curriculum.

Having been in the schooling system here, I am now a 24 year old student who still struggles with motivation and paying attention to the job at hand at the University. Working hard didn't seem to pay off, so my interests wandered. Even now, I am at my internship, secretly reading up on The Oil Drum.

Wow, this became quite a rant, my point was that "dumbing down" was not essentially a North American issue. In the Europian social scheme were everybody has to have a high standard of living even though they can't perform well enough to back it up. The "no child left behind" money keeps on flowing to mediocre students, while talented people are left to fend for their own and simply lose interest.

Hi Rokarlufia,

re: "Even now, I am at my internship, secretly reading up on The Oil Drum."

Worse ways to spend your time. :)

re: "I am now a 24 year old student who still struggles with motivation..."

I'm glad you're thinking about your motivation.

I hope you will do whatever it takes to re-gain and/or discover your passions and interests and pursue them.

If you'd like to contact me (info in user profile), I have some suggestions of books I've found helpful.

Best of luck.

I'm not quite sure reading books will help me, but i'm open to suggestions :).

I'm not quite sure reading books will help me

The problem of course is that some books will hurt you rather than help you.

There are some very insightful and helpful authors out there.

Then again there are authors who simply pander to the wants of the masses (or of TPTB) because that is what brings home the big bucks (the money).

Which books to recommend to you? I don't know. I can't even begin to say because I don't know you and what your background is.

However, in terms of the subject(s) you should become most intimately knowledgeable in; first and foremost is that of understanding your fellow species mates: the human animal. What makes it tick? What makes it delude itself with notions limitless power and conquest of Nature itself? We each depend on our fellow humans for survival and companionship (where the latter is a must because, after all, we are pack animals). So understanding what makes your fellow man tick is of fundamental importance --even more important (dare I say?) than understanding Peak Oil.

Adequate is not the same as ok or good. Quite a few years ago, when I was a university student in the UK, we had a group of American university students on some sort of exchange. We found them to be way behind in both knowledge and maturity.

Mexico has 2 tiers of education, the state schools and private schools. The state schools generally do 2 shifts, say 8 till 2 and 2:30 to 6:30, imagine the teachers after that. The private schools may or may not but cover the quantity of teachers. These are generalisations from what I see of the ones around here. They both have a government syllabus to follow with set books. Teaching the revolution and its actors seems to swamp out other topics. Parents do try and get their children into the private schools if they can afford it and there is a system of Becas for more talented children who do consider it a privilege and take them seriously.


Quite a few years ago, when I was a university student in the UK, we had a group of American university students on some sort of exchange. We found them to be way behind in both knowledge and maturity.

Well, that's true, but the UK does not score all that well on these tests any more, either, while many of its former colonies (Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Hongkong, Singapore) score toward the top of the ranks.

I have a theory that Britain created an elitist system designed to education the children of the upper classes, while leaving the lower classes relatively uneducated. However, its former colonies took the British educational system and, being more democratic than the Mother Country, ran ALL their children through an upper class education.

Elitist education for the masses was the result. I'm just theorizing this because the education I received definitely seemed to be elitist education for the masses. You could see the roots in the British public school system, but the Brits never ran EVERYBODY through an upper-class education. (Mind you, we never did dead languages, concentrating on math and science instead).

I think the biggest problem I had in high school was a lack of real challenges, because I never had to work really, really hard (I mean 16 hrs/day, 7 days/week) until university. Nowadays, I would go for the International Baccalaurate, which wasn't available then, but will get you into any English-speaking university in the world. The worst you can do is fail, and failure is just a process of learning how much you can achieve. (This is quite different than the "No child left behind" philosophy.)

The UK used to be a lot better, however they followed the Americans in increasing the passes by lowering the standard. The idea is the same, the companies do not want their consumers to understand what is happening to them.


HERE's a link to a description of "Everyday Math", at the K-3 level. No need to worry the US Government is on the case...

E. Swanson

I seriously want all you guys discussing the schools in general and math education in particular to think about this:

You sound like a bunch of (gasp!) conservatives.

Next thing you know you may be committing such unpardonable sins as putting your own kids in private schools.

I am bracing myself and gritting my teeth , afraid that my sight will be blasted because I may read some heretics comment in favor of school vouchers.

The teacher's unions are gonna get you guys, next election, unless the tea party gets them.

Incidentally , I was once upon a time a member of both the VEA and the NEA for six years-as well as being a member of the Operating Engineers for a period of years.My dear old Daddy was a Teamster on his part time job in town for fifty years.

I speak as one with the right to make critical observations, as an insider.

I don't have the source handy, but I seem to remember reading someplace that of all the distinct professional groups in the USA, teachers have a higher percentage of thier own kids in private schools than anybody else.

If I had had any kids, I certainly would never have entrusted them to any of the schools where I or my many scattered friends in the profession worked, unless I could have gotten them into the right classrooms.

There are usually a few good teachers in mostr schools who are able to do thier jobs because they and thier students are an unoffocial school within the larger school-the school where thier own kids go, along with the cops kids, the doctors kids, the business owners kids, etc.

These kids are generally reasonably well prepared to go on to college.

We live in interesting times.

Their kids, your kids:

As recently as 2004, a Thomas B. Fordham Institute study found that 39 percent of CPS [Chicago Public Schools] teachers sent their own kids to private schools.

I don't give a monkeys about public/private except that the choice should be available. What I do care about is the standard of teaching.


Our two children were educated in public schools.

Turned out well-educated and bright.

Three factors:

1. Great genes (mine and my better half's)

2. Great parenting (including being aware and actively involved in helping them learn, surround them with books and reading to them, enforcing limited TV viewing, etc.)

3. Superior schools (Being a military officer, I chose to spend a fair amount of my secure earnings buying homes in the best school zones).

Even with #3, my wife and I called/visited teachers sometimes to tell/show them when they had taught something erroneous and on occasions when they had marked a correct response wrong on a test.

My wife substitute taught and also taught several years of High School Spanish...she didn't teach the rote memorization drills only...she had a dynamic, interactive classroom with plenty of speaking and role playing (at the Mercado, etc) along with written papers and verbal class presentations about cultural aspects of Spanish-speaking countries. When we moved she didn't go back...she was too stressed from her ongoing battles with the other Spanish teacher with umpteen years/tenure who didn't teach her classes squat...my wife was tired of getting her kids for Spanish II who didn't know even the first two months of Spanish I. After trying to reason with the old battle-axe, she tried to get this teacher fired for incompetency, to no avail.

As for me, I helped my wife compose and grade Quizzed and tests (lots of essays), and I have judged a number of Middle and High-School science fairs.

When my son was in Elementary school, I loved the prissy old lady teacher in 4th grade with the religious paraphernalia on her desk...I perused her class's bookshelf during an open house and picked out a book about geology geared to kids of the age in her class and opened to a page explaining (in simple terms) plate tectonics...she twittered "Oh, I wouldn't know anything about that."

Of the Three factors listed above, #2 is most important, followed by #3. #2 and #3 express any of #1.

And let us be real...having a robust, secure income to ensure good nutrition, health care, shelter, books, computers, paints, colored pencils, modeling clay, Tinker Toys, Erector Sets, Lincoln Logs, KINEX (maybe new to some of you oldsters, think modern Tinker Toys with more options), Legos, and other creative play things really helps a lot.

But none of that would matter without loving parents who are not self-absorbed and who take the time to play with and love their children...and truly enjoy the experience.

In our humble opinion, there are people (regardless of class/wealth/etc) who shouldn't be parents.

I was educated in public schools, too, and some cases, my mom was quite concerned that they were low-ranked public schools. (There sometimes wasn't a choice. In rural areas, schools are few and far between.) But I did all right, and I think it was very much because of #2.

However, my dad told me he didn't want any child of his to attend the public college where he was a professor. Some other public college would be okay, but not his. He's seen too much.

But what was he supposed to do? He butted heads with the dean regularly, and even if the dean were on his side, there wasn't much they could do. The problems were way above their pay grades. (Among them, salaries far lower than similar jobs elsewhere offered.)

Hi Heisenberg,

I'm glad your efforts saw results.

re: "In our humble opinion, there are people (regardless of class/wealth/etc) who shouldn't be parents."

So true.

The problem is - they're parents anyway.

So, then the issue becomes: are there any ways to teach and/or encourage love and lack of self-absorption? (Other than to model it?)

These are specifics sources that help,IMVHO, eg. www.cnvc.org, www.gordontraining.com, www.walkyourtalk.org.

However, is there any way to approach parents that might engage them in the idea of love and possibilities for their kids?

He doesn't even know his multiplication tables, and this is just fine with his teacher who just gave him an A- in math. I just shake my head. Next year he moves on to middle school and I will try to fix the damage done then when they go back to teaching more normal mathematics.

No, don't wait, start now, the sooner the better! I started teaching my own son, math and critical thinking skills, when he was four. Today he is taking all advanced college level math and science courses in high school and I expect that he will surpass my abilities to keep up with him in the near future.

Some schools would haul you in and threaten expulsion if they caught a wiff of you doing that:(


Speaking of gasoline prices, my neighborhood Chevron station in Vancouver is now charging CA$1.353/litre = 3.785412 litre/gallon x 1.01906 US$/CA$ = $US5.22/gallon for regular grade gasoline.

I would be interesting to hear from TOD members what gasoline prices are doing in the rest of the world.

8.5 dollars a gallon here.

Unlike in Britain, where the Chancellor of the Exchequer(roughly finance minister) has dropped some fuel taxes for 'the Ford Focus family' and added taxes for Big Oil, after calls from various lobby groups and alarmed news articles, Swedes don't actually care that much.

It could be due to the fact that our GDP grew by almost 7 % in the Q4 of 2010, and we've had no bailouts and our debt is below 40 %, slightly below where we started in 2008. Our unemployment is on the way down, etc.

So oil prices does not really matter here. But then again, frankly speaking, Sweden doesn't matter either. It's not like we can send the world into a recession, like America.

Swedes don't actually care that much.

Yes, it's probably to do with the fact that your GDP per capita is 25% more than ours yet petrol prices are the same..

9.63 US dollars a gallon in Norway. Just beat it!

Finland is right behind you with between 8 (south) and 9 (north, Lapland) USD a gallon.

Finnish people moan about the prices - but they drive anyway. Some time ago I did a very unscientific survey by asking my colleagues what price at the pump would make them use their car less. It hadn't really occurred to them to think that way.

So I challenged them to think what would it cost them in percentage of their available income if fuel doubled in price. Still no reaction. No one would consider taking the bus to work even though we have good private and public transport.

I guess its just a way of life to be able to jump into your nice warm car and drive in your own little world in your own time. People are willing to pay significant parts of their income to maintain that comfort.

Of course there would be people who would be forced to stop using their car if fuel doubled still: the cleaning and cooking staff - people in the lower income bracket who could potentially have to spend quater, even third of their available income on just fuel.

"Finland is right behind you with between 8 (south) and 9 (north, Lapland) USD a gallon."

People sometimes ask how much we will be willing to pay for gasoline. As I point out, when I lived in the Netherlands gasoline was $8 a gallon and everyone was still driving. One difference though is they weren't driving as far (the average trip was about half that of the average trip in the U.S.) and they drove more fuel efficient cars. Another thing I mention is that at this price point, biofuels did not come riding to the rescue.

So when people ask how much we might pay, I tell them that if they really think about it, they will pay a lot for mobility. But it isn't so much how much they are willing to pay that is the issue. The real issue is the crushing economic burden as those higher fuel prices increase prices for everything else.

Hey, actually this is getting me quite interested. I had presumed that the Netherlands and Finnish GDP per capita were similar to the UK, but they're more similar to Sweden according to the World Bank.

But if the UK has the same petrol prices, then I can understand it would be eating more into the average person's disposable income.

Would be interesting to see a graph of Petrol Price vs GDP per capita for the main countries. Maybe I'll have a quick go..

Maybe we should consider the price in terms of something other than money. Say...labor hours per gallon? Tough part would be the value of a "labor hour". Minimum wage? Median wage? Net-after-taxes-median-wage? Doesn't matter to me if the commute cost $1 or $5, but it obviously matters to the guy making $7/hr and working part time.

Indeed, and this is where it gets tricky. It cuts both ways even for the $7/hour guy. If he's got, say, a 12 mile roundtrip commute, his dollar cost might be taken as around $6.60 (Rough AAA/IRS number per mile.) He might come out ahead by paying, say, $3 in bus fare. (Of course the taxpayer picks up roughly another $6, but that's not directly his problem. And either way the taxpayer subsidizes the road, but the bus, with its enormous axle load, is harder on the road than a large number of cars - and probably it is a public vehicle contributing no fuel tax to repair the damage.)

Or, if getting rid of the car is not a viable option for whatever reason, he can save only the marginal cost, fuel plus some wear-and-tear, by not driving. That might be around only $3 (or less.) Payments on his no doubt thoroughly-used clunker will be fixed, and insurance nearly so, whether he drives it or not.

If he actually takes home $6/hour, then his AAA/IRS car cost is around 1h06, his bus cost is 0h30, and his marginal car cost is around 0h30. So it might or might not pay for him to take the bus (though the cost to the taxpayer will be a bit swingeing if he does, both for the operating subsidy and the extra wear and tear on the road.)

However, we aren't done. Not even close. Driving the round trip might take, say, 0h40. But taking the bus each way will probably take at least 2h30 or even 3h00, including walking, waiting, and most likely waiting again at a transfer point for another bus that his first bus might well miss, plus allowing enough extra time to get to work on time when that happens. And that huge expenditure of actual hours might mean that there's not enough time to both of his part-time jobs in a day.

So his worst case car cost is around 1h46, his marginal car cost is around 1h10, and his bus cost is around at least 3h00. If instead he made closer to the average wage, the differences would be considerably larger. And he can also use the car to make other trips when he needs to make them, rather than only if, when, and where some city bureaucrat happens to have deigned to provide bus service.

And yet so many TOD posters affect to be shocked, just shocked mind you, that throughout the world, whenever people can find a way to drive their routine trips, even some people who are rather poorer than our $7/hour guy, so many of them in fact do so. Strange, isn't it?

So what exactly is your point?? (Apart from the fact you evidently don't like buses, walking or cycling.)

There are 7 billion people on this planet, say 4 billion of which are adults who would be fit to drive. Could the oil industry fuel 4 billion cars?

Oh, dear me, why is this so hard? I simply question the more ardent proponents of buses, walking, or cycling in their affecting to be so surprised and upset when their pet notions get preciously little real-world uptake, given that the simple numbers can hardly ever be massaged enough to pencil out.

This cannot be altered in any manner whatever by what I might or might not "like" - which you are assuming, but then, that really isn't my problem. My likes or dislikes will not change the numbers one iota, nor will they have any effect on the extreme slowness and unreliability of bus service in most places, a factor which helps make the numbers fail to pencil out.

Nor will my likes or dislikes add or subtract even a single car from the number the oil industry can fuel. In the future, more and more cars won't be running on oil, so eventually no one will need to care, so we can move on.

And yes, it's blindingly obvious that driving is unavailable to huge numbers of folks in a great many execrably governed 'third world' tribal pestholes, such as the Equatorial Guinea that ROCKMAN has described to us. But most posts about these matters are not centered there, but are centered on North America, Europe, or Japan. Like it or not, re-asserting the (known) existence of those pestholes will not alter how the numbers fail to pencil out in Peoria.

Now, if someone has a serious proposal that might work in the real world (say, hypothetically, by circumventing those numbers; but something like waving a magic wand at the built landscape is out unless one can say where and how to get the wand), and that has been put to a pilot test or at least could be - rather than just armchair moralizing about how other people ought to be forced to live their lives, or rather, moralizing about how other people ought not to have lives, but ought instead to consume all their time by performing the mindless chores of mere survival in ever more laborious ways - then let's have at it...

Before you "move on", your argument would benefit from analysing what 4 billion cars could run on, if not oil.

Denouncing all non-OECD countries as "execrably-governed third world tribal pestholes" will offend many, since TOD has a wide international audience.

Interesting but I'd disagree with some of your analysis. I walk to work each day, it takes 25 minutes. It would probably take 15 minutes to use the bus, however if I used a car it would take longer than 30 minutes, I'd have to find a parking space and walk from there.

I also disagree with the way you price up man hours, I only get paid when I'm at work. Most people in this country (England) spend several hours a day sat in front of the TV watching utter drivel. They do this because they have nothing else to do, if they spent an extra 30 minutes on a bus/walking they'd do little more damage to their lifestyle missing a reality tv program or two.

You can also read on the bus. Though when i got the bike, that was far better, and frankly faster than said public transport.

As with all things, it's complicated and you have to decide on an individual case by case level with this analysis. But let's face it, humans looooove their killing comfort. You would have to prise it out of their fat little hands with a crowbar.

"Though when i got the bike, that was far better, and frankly faster than said public transport."

(Emphasis added.) Exactly. Almost anything beats a bus that stops at every corner, and therefore never gets moving. We've even got a spot where, owing to awful traffic-light design, it's occasionally possible to walk the one short block to the next stop to catch a bus one has just barely missed.

"You would have to prise it out of their fat little hands with a crowbar."

Now this is where we get back to the issue of self-righteous surprise. Why would anyone expect it to be otherwise? And irrespective of whether their comfort might be forcibly snatched away someday, why ought they to volunteer to give it up? When, exactly, did they convert to a religion prescribing asceticism?

I have no doubt that if offered the choice, almost everyone in the U.S would chose to give up their gas-guzzler and buy a 40+ mpg (city) econo car versus being forced to ride the bus.

The bus stopping every couple of blocks during a 12-mile commute is rather annoying and slow.

And the 'bus people' are not an incentive to ride.

The plastic seats are uncomfortable.

Those econo cars do not have to cost a fortune to buy...certainly not as much as those loaded F150s, 250s, 350s, Tundras, Escalades, etc.

Well, it was faster because I had to either get 2 buses or walk for 20 mins first.

The problem is more with the buses stopping too much, rather than any problem with buses per say. If you live on the main road into town you're sorted as the stops dry up a bit. Otherwise, you first have to go around the houses before getting to the main road and the stops are sometimes 2 mins walk apart. It's silly.

The train had 1 intermediate stop yet was always over-full.

Yes, YMMV, and if one searches diligently enough in crowded places, one can certainly identify short trips that take longer to drive than to walk. OTOH a typical commute in the USA is around 10 or 12 miles one way, so it could not possibly qualify. So there's no disagreement, just a use of circumstances that are highly atypical in the USA, in that they would obtain mainly in Manhattan, or in a few specific highly crowded districts elsewhere.

Note that at least some in the USA have some flexibility to take on an additional part-time job, or to take on more hours. Which is why, for example, labor-union negotiations (where there are still unions) over involuntary overtime can become rather fraught. It may also be possible to go to a different employer for proportionally more pay at longer hours; we tend not to have lifetime employment at one place of work anyhow. In the longer term it's not rigidly fixed, so the marginal value of time is not necessarily zero as you seem to assert.

And in any case, even if I had nothing better to do than watch a "reality" TV program from a comfortable chair in a comfortable room, it might be much preferable to walking any distance at all, or standing at a transfer point for a random time ranging from 5 to 40 minutes waiting for an unpredictable bus, when it's 33C and the dew point is 28C, when it's -25C and windy, or anytime in the spring or summer when it's thundery.

Hi Frugal,

Regular, locally, is $1.299 a litre or $4.92 per gallon and fuel oil in many parts of Atlantic Canada now sells for $1.182 a litre or $4.47 per gallon (13.5-cents per kWh(e) at 82% AFUE). My neighbour's oil tank is topped up about every three weeks during the winter months and I'm guessing each fill must now cost $600.00 or more.


Heating costs are a lot lower here on the west coast for two reasons: (1) milder climate, and (2) low usage of heating oil.

Most of the residential and commercial structures here are heated by natural gas, which is dirt cheap at the moment. Additionally, we have low electricity rates because it's mostly generated from low-cost hydroelectric dams.

There are a surprising number of houses here on the Sunshine Coast that use oil - most were built like that in the 60's when it was cheap, and NG was not available here.

The local realtors say that an oil furnace is a big negative value for any house on the market, and a buyer will try discount the price by about $5k to replace with NG or elec heat pump.

Some places have underground oil storage tanks, and the realtors say that no one will buy those as they are worried (quite rightly) about leakage and soil contamination. There was one case a couple of years ago with a water front house that had a leaky tank which was only discovered by the oil sheen on the water - very gravelly soil so the oil moves easily through it. Anyway, every house that has an underground that is to go on the market, gets it removed first - market forces at work to permanently reduce oil usage!

Doesn't it blow your mind that heating oil survived the 1970s. What were our parents thinking? I guess the NG infrastructure may have been limiting. Heat pumps make a lot of sense in coast areas.

What were our parents thinking?

Same thing as others today - got a limited budget and I've already got a od sunlight to heat converter ... why should I buy another one?

There was a major shortage of natural gas in '76-'77. Natural gas companies in the Northeast and Midwest refused new hook ups. My brother worked for a light-metal foundry that used gas-fired furnaces, and IIRC, they had to supplement supplies with very expensive propane.


Hi Merrill,

To revisit those dark days, take a look at this news clip beginning at the 2:10 mark: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n7sUymKcSX0

Also at the start of this clip and again at 3:35: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h_6Pa4s4_BM


I remember by parents house was built with electric heat and a heat pump in 1980, but yes I lived in Ohio in the 1970s. That was me. Although I was not very old then, so NG was not on my mind ;-)

Great video.

Later my parents decided the heat pump was annoying (I do not know why) and they put in a NG furnace but not an oil furnace.

What I am trying to say is how in the world are these Oil-fired furnaces still going strong. I thought they were inefficient and used a pretty expensive fuel. So much for planning.

In any case, good to hear people are getting rid of the oil furnaces. Now I wonder about what will happen when we have a cold snap and NG shortages.

Rolling blackout and frozen pipes I guess. We had I guess about 35 years to come with a way to heat and insulate homes better. We did not think the crisis in the 70s woud happen again.

We (collectively) were wrong. Oh well so much for not thinking about the future.

What I am trying to say is how in the world are these Oil-fired furnaces still going strong.

Because the pain of changing is too much for most people who have them - except if you have a friendly NG utility that will pay you to do so.

Besides, you can;t let a good old all-American industry like burning valuable oil just for heat, die, can you?

From www.heatingoilusa.com:

"How energy efficient is it to heat my home with oil?
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, oil heat systems are 30% more efficient than electric heating systems. The oil heat industry has made great progress with energy conservation. In 1978, the average American home burned 1,297 gallons per year. In 2005, the average number of gallons burned is 860. This is a 33.6% decrease per household! "

Of course, in 1978, 1297 gallons would have cost about $600, today the 860 gal will cost about $2600.

This site also fails to mention that heating oil is often the high sulphur oil that vehicles are not allowed to use - but the sulphur all ends up in the same air!

In February, the US was using 775,000bbl/day of heating oil - that is more than what Alaska produces!

And, you can even speculate on heating oil prices;

Comforting to know that your heating bills are supporting a trader, somewhere.

Clearly, there are many good reasons to keep those furnaces burning - just not for the people that have them!

This was my suspicion about heating oil -- an dinosaur industry that hangs on. LOL. My wife rented a home in Indiana that had oil heater. Nasty old thing. I always thought that oil heaters were just antiques. I never realized people put new oil heaters in. LOL.

Now how is oil cheaper than electric and heat pump? I would like to see that math again.

That's true. Our winters are considerably colder and our heating choices basically boil down to oil and electric. Electricity currently sells at 12.5-cents per KWh and so it holds a slight price advantage at this time.

These same neighbours told us we were crazy when we gutted our home to re-insulate and air seal, but they spend more to heat their home in three weeks than we do for the entire year. Over the past nine years, we've eliminated over 45,000 litres (12,000 gallons) of fuel oil demand, a savings in excess of $50,000.00 at current prices.


Paul -

First, thanks for replying to my late post on lighting & heat/AC issues as the last drumbeat was put to bed.

New subject: When I was near the end of my stint as a solar heating and hot water salesman, I came across Cansolair, a Newfoundland company that makes a fascinating low-tech hot air collector with a core of black coated tubes that are assembled from recycled aluminum beverage cans and mounted in an aluminum housing with a polycarbonate cover. I see that after more than 10 years, these guys are still in business. And it seems that many of their single-panel systems are installed on modest houses.

Picture: http://www.cansolair.com/bigpic.php?img=cindys_dad.jpg

Are you aware of Cansolair? Have you seen buildings with their collectors? I am quite familiar with active solar heating and it's limitations, but Cansolair at US$2800 seems a lot simpler than the $20,000 and up complex, multi-collector hot water systems I used to size and sell. I am curious as to whether this system really works.


You're most welcome, Dave.

I've heard of their products and I understand they work well, but haven't seen them in person or know of anyone who has installed one. In case you missed it, you can view the CBC's The National feature on this company at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n7L013AAhR0&playnext=1&list=PL3DAA1A90DAE...

I recall they were also featured on PEI's local news broadcast, Compass, but, unfortunately, the video links are broken.

See: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/prince-edward-island/story/2008/11/13/pe-f...

You can see a demo of this product at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7klalzCEzMo


Thanks again, Paul. I hadn't looked on YouTube.

Dayton, OH, USA: $US 3.59 per gallon.

Chillicothe is still stuck at the $3.59 mark too Tripper. Another obvious (at least to me) use of the psychology of pricing/marketing. A bit like saying (at $3.999 a gallon...), "whew, sure glad it isn't 4 bucks yet".

The local stations seem to all have use the "Penguin Example", wherein larger group of Penguins will wait for the first one to jump in the water to check for Sharks, before they take the plunge...

Ha! That's what you get for living IN Vancouver (where there is a municipal gasoline tax)! A short ferry ride away, here on the Sunshine Coast (we do actually get sun in summertime) it is *only* $1.31.

BUt Vancouver motorists should be happy as that municipal tax is paying for the creation of bike lanes, which further slow vehicle traffic. The SkyTrain looks a better option each day.

Some prices from other places;

Fort McMurray, Alberta (oilsands central) $1.14/L ($4.31/gal)
Sydney, Australia $1.329/L ($4.99)
Auckland, New Zealand $NZ 2.189/L ($US6.20/gal)

Interestingly, the diesel price in Auckland is $US4.82/gal - clearly some preferential tax treatment there, and not surprisingly, small Euro and Japanese diesels are very popular in NZ. When I lived there I noticed that the taxis were all diesels - a lot of Merc 300D's back in the day (95-96).

Certainly a tax differential like that will encourage a move to diesels, and reduce unneccessary driving for those that stay on gasoline.

Regarding the Diesel price in NZ, it is much lower than petrol because diesel vehicles also pay "road user charges" based on vehicle size and mileage. It's a bit complex, but tries to ensure that large, heavy vehicles pay their fair share of roading costs.

Hi Merv,

A road tax system that " tries to ensure that large, heavy vehicles pay their fair share of roading costs." - what a novel concept!

I had a look at the NZTA website - you are right, its a bit complex, but once you identify your vehicle type is fairly simple - I like it!


The tax is levied according to the maximum allowed vehicle weight, and the number of axles, and the number of tyres (singles or duals). Basically, the heavier the vehicle, the higher the tax per mile, but the more axles and tyres to spread the load, the lower the tax. Of course, vehicles with lots of axles and tyres typically have a high gross vehicle weight, so it's not quite that simple.

Basically, you will try to choose the lowest GVM vehicle for what you are carting, and for trucks/trailers, have as many axles tyres as you can without going over the GVM you want.

As I read it, a diesel car/pickup/suv, of up to 3 tons weight, pays $44.31 per 100-km (621 miles), or about 7.1c/mile

A tractor trailer, rated for say 10T GVM tractor and 20T trailer, would pay $86+241=$347, or about 56c/mile.

It is an interesting system, because, it really does tax by (approximate) road damage by not taxing the fuel, off-road users are not being penalised.
It also provides a mechanism for taxing electric vehicles, under exactly the same scale - though I see they have a temporary exemption until 2013.

For a diesel car driver getting 50mpg, the tax would be 50*7.13= $3.56/gal - actually the tax is the same regardless of the mileage, of course, though you are still buying less fuel.

So not as much of an incentive for diesel as the fuel price alone suggests, but obviously it is still there, as there are lots of diesels on the beautiful NZ roads.

Yesterday paid 118.9 in Campbell River before heading down Island in our miserly Yaris. It is 1.30 around Nanaimo areas. We will return to north Island hasving burned around 20 dollars worth for the whole trip. Still a bargain compared to the bus.

Hi Frugal,

On 08 Jan 2011, I recorded $1.207/liter for regular here in the Oakridge area of Vancouver, BC. Yesterday, at the same station, the price had reached $1.345/litre. And, based on your report, the amount is probably higher today. In any event, that is a price climb of $0.138/litre, or about 11%, in approximately 2.5 months. If this rate of increase were to continue for the rest of the year (I suspect that it will not), then we would be paying around $1.85/litre, or over $7.00/US gallon by the beginning of 2012.


$4.95 a gallon for over the road diesel here in Hawaii. 95%+ of our energy, on island, comes from oil. Most food is shipped from the mainland US. Electricity is approaching $.50 per KWH. Installed LEDs on my outdoor lights and CFLs indoors a LONG time ago. When the tankers stop coming we are so screwed.

Its €1.48 a litre here in Ireland at the moment, but variable +/- 2c.

One thing I'm curious to know is, on average "how long does it take for the changes in crude price to filter through to the pumps. For example the Brent oil price futures one month delivery shows $10 a barrel rise at the end of February, when could we expect to see that rise hit the pumps.

At the most expensive gas stations here in NW DC today, $4.08/gal for regular. Least expensive probably $3.65-66. It depends on location.

here in Moscow Russia we have 26 RUR/ litre or $0,9/litre
Several months ago gas prices were higher than in US
But while in US prices began to rise, due to oil rise worldwide, here in Russia no change
2011 is the preselection year of Putin and froze all prices in favor of public loyalty

Yes, congrats, Robert....and you managed to avoid the idea of permanently constrained oil supplies to boot. One wonders ..... a quick search of Post articles got no returns on the term "Peak Oil". Imagine that....maybe I missed something.

I think its pretty quick. The station owner sees the wholesale price of gasoline, and knows what his next fillup will cost, if he gets it today. And the gasoline wholesalers know what the refineries are going to charge, and the refiners know what their inputs are going to cost. So I think it can happen pretty quickly. You don't have to wait for the station owner to pay for his next tank for it to happen.

Certainly congrats are in order. I suspect he may have toned things down in order to get it accepted. His point 1 didn't make sense, minus 1.2mbpd from Libya, divided by the low price elasticity of the oil price does imply a very substantial delta on the price. Too many people just don't get this and think there is some sort of conspiracy, when a 2% change in supply (or demand) causes a 40% (or whatever) change in price. Inelastic means that price has only a minor effect on demand and on supply, and hence that a small change in one requires a large price change to rebalance the supply/demand relationship. But, I suspect Robert feared this would be a bridge too far.

Yes I agree about Point 1 not making sense. This may be akin to a game of musical chairs. You take away one and a mad scramble starts. We are just not going to replace that high quality oil from Libya, and when most of the world wakes up and realizes this, a bidding war for supplies will start.

I think the East realized their vulnerability first, and bought 85% of the exports out of the Persian Gulf in March. In addition, Japan has already rushed into the oil product market, buying what is available. Did I mention that Brazil was buying gasoline from Europe now?

Here is the US, we just don't want to believe that someone took a chair away and the music stopped - and so follow the excuses about speculators, risk premiums, etc.

Quote: "Here is the US, we just don't want to believe that someone took a chair away and the music stopped." And why should we believe it! The Cushing storage tanks are full and Canada is sending so much oil that new tanks are being built.

Outside of the parts of the country with access to Canadian oil (the middle to upper Midwest), and the upper Rocky Mountain area which has developed its own oil resources, oil supplies in the rest of the country are already below last year's levels.

As I mentioned before, the logistical problem the US will face this year is getting oil from Cushing and the SPR to the rest of the country.

The inventory in Cushing (located in PADD 2) has been going up, but the total US inventory is only slightly above the 5 year average for this date...

E. Swanson

Quote: "Here is the US, we just don't want to believe that someone took a chair away and the music stopped." And why should we believe it! The Cushing storage tanks are full and Canada is sending so much oil that new tanks are being built.

The vast majority of Americans seem to be unaware that Canada is overwhelmingly their #1 supplier of imported oil, and that Canada's oil reserves are second in the world only to Saudi Arabia's. Canada is one of the very few oil producers capable of increasing its oil exports, albeit very slowly. This is a very cozy position for the US to be in at a time when OPEC supplies seem not to be increasing to match demand from developing countries.

An additional factor they should consider is that a lot of that oil in the storage tanks in Cushing is actually owned by Chinese (and other countries) state oil companies. While they aren't averse to being paid large amounts of American dollars, they didn't really invest in Canadian oil sands with the goal of keeping the US supplied with cheap oil. Sooner or later, as soon as pipelines can be built, they are going to want to ship that oil to other countries with less secure supplies.

But, I suspect Robert feared this would be a bridge too far.

Actually, I had gone into a fair bit of detail on this. We spent quite a bit of back and forth haggling over the editing. The point is that oil prices are more impacted by the unrest in the region than by Libya itself. However -- and I made this point very clear in a radio interview I did yesterday -- supply and demand is very tight due to depleting reserves; much more so than 10 years ago. So in that situation, even Libya can have a disproportionate impact on oil prices. I also pointed out that Libya isn't an emergency for the world; Saudi would be.

The other point that was heavily edited was the one about the seasonal change in gasoline. The subject is more complex than a few lines, and it was edited in such a way that it didn't convey the message as clearly as I wanted. In the end, you are working with editors.

I am always amused at the responses to articles like this. One guy said "Oh, I see. High gas prices won't hurt us because your company can step in, blah, blah, blah." I didn't even mention my company nor what we do, and you will rarely find me talking about it.

Second, I never said high gas prices won't hurt. So that guy gets an F for comprehension. The other was the guy complaining about the liberal argument of not developing our reserves. First, I never said we shouldn't develop our reserves. What I said was there isn't all that much there relative to what we use, and a decision to develop won't impact gas prices any time soon. How that gets translated into "don't develop our reserves" is beyond me.

Anyway, thanks to all for the compliments. I will probably republish this on my blog and maybe here, with a bit more of the detail that went into the original before edits. You would see that I did hit on resource depletion (although I did not write "peak oil") and I explained the seasonal blending a bit better. Further, I made it clear that the quote from Chuck Schumer was a direct quote -- and I had linked that one back to story here on TOD. But that link got removed.

Thanks for your response and congratulations on getting your article into the mass media.

I see where our opinions differ – you see the loss of 2% of the world’s exports as a minor influence on prices; I see it as an irreplaceable loss that will set into motion a chain reaction of events that will, within a few months, lead to some oil product shortages.

Even though gasoline and diesel prices have risen significantly over the last few months, the demand for these products has hardly changed at all recently. Granted there may be a delayed or lagging economic effect on consumers, but our modern history has indicated marginal demand changes very little as prices rise.

Unfortunately outside of perhaps Italy, the US will be the most severely affected at first by the shutdown of oil from Libya. While it is true that the US did not import much oil directly from Libya, other countries – especially those in general that can be considered the ‘East’ - are buying up oil supplies that previously went to the US. They are doing this to replace their oil losses from Libya, and since some may consider US oil and product supplies at ‘comfortable’ and ‘above average’ levels, there is no urgency in the US to accumulate supplies for the longer term. However the focus on where we stand now tells us almost nothing about where we are going.

We were are going soon is into a new world of gasoline and diesel shortages, and the opening of the SPR not to reduce prices, but just to keep the refineries running.

"I see where our opinions differ – you see the loss of 2% of the world’s exports as a minor influence on prices; I see it as an irreplaceable loss that will set into motion a chain reaction of events that will, within a few months, lead to some oil product shortages."

Not exactly. As I explained on the radio, 10 years ago a number of suppliers could have made up that lost production. Today, there are few who can step up production to make up for Libya's lost production. So Libya's loss will have an impact today whereas it may not have a decade ago.

However, I am certain that there is 2% spare capacity in the world today. The loss of Libya's production isn't going to lead to shortages. But it will impact prices through both the loss of production (the lesser impact in my opinion) and the fear premium (more significant IMO).

However, I am certain that there is 2% spare capacity in the world today.

Well 2% would be about 1.5 mb/d C+C. I am not nearly as certain as you that that much spare capacity exists. The only three countries with spare capacity would be Saudi, Kuwait and the UAE and I am not so sure about Kuwait or the UAE. Anyway, in response to high oil prices, those three countries have increased production by almost 800,000 barrels per day in the last three months, all before the Libyan crisis. We don't know for certain yet but according to the tanker trackers, they haven't increased production at all since the Libyan crisis begun. Sooo....

The loss of Libya's production isn't going to lead to shortages.

Sooo... we don't really know that yet do we? If OPEC has 1.5 mb/d of crude spare capacity they are making no effort to make that point clear. All we are getting is a lot of noise saying they will meet in June to consider whether or not they will increase production and more noise from Iraq saying we have plenty of oil.

Iran says OPEC special meeting 'unnecessary'

"An analysis of supply shows that despite the price hike of black gold to over 100 dollars per barrel, there is no need for an extraordinary meeting," he said, adding he was ready to organise one if member countries requested it.

Mirkazemi blamed the rise in oil prices on the devaluation of the US dollar.

Of course that is just one of the many excuses we have been getting lately. These are interesting times we live in. I am expecting them to get even more interesting in the next few months however.

Ron P.

Ron, in the short term 2-month timeframe. How do you expect this plays out in terms of product shortages? Diesel first? But in which market China, US Europe? Then a bidding war for oil to keep the pipelines above minimal operating levels?

All shortages ever do is drive the price up until there is no longer a shortage. So any shortage in the next two months will only mean higher prices. I have no idea what this will do to the Chinese economy or any other economy but I suspect it will slow them all down quite a bit. It is already doing that in my opinion.

OPEC is always saying there is no shortage of oil. This is true, right now there is no shortage of $115 dollar oil but there is a dearth of $80 oil.

Saudis: Price up, but no oil dearth. Official calls supply ample, again blames speculators

That is the same old story they always tell. We will never know if they have any spare capacity or not unless they agree to produce that spare capacity. Of course they have increased production in the last few months. I would not be surprised if that was their spare capacity. They did have a little, now it is gone.

Ron P.

"All shortages ever do is drive the price up until there is no longer a shortage. So any shortage in the next two months will only mean higher prices."

There is another side to that though. In my experience almost everyone could produce a little more than they are producing, but the costs to produce would be higher and the efficiency would be lower. But if the price is higher, then they will produce a bit more. In the context of 1.5 million bpd, I think a combination of many smaller players can make that up. In the bigger context of Saudi Arabia's production, then I would agree that this gap would only be closed by demand getting crushed by higher prices (which again, would bring some marginal production online).

To put that volume into perspective, consider this bit of trivia from Oil 101:

There are 500,000 producing oil wells in the U.S., 80% of which produce 10 bpd or less. Still, this accounts for 20% of U.S. production.

So we are producing a million barrels a day from stripper wells, and many of those don't make sense to operate until oil prices climb a bit.

In my experience almost everyone could produce a little more than they are producing, but the costs to produce would be higher and the efficiency would be lower.

I do not doubt that this is true. But when, or at what price, will they produce that "little bit more"? I would submit that is when the price of oil gets above $100 a barrel, for most producers anyway. WTI has been above $100 for some time now and Brent has been around $115 for weeks. I would guess that everyone out there is now already producing that "little bit more". In fact every OPEC nation that was not already producing flat out, began producing that "little bit more' about two months ago and everyone else did at least by February. That is precisely the reason we hit a new monthly high in February. That is if we are going to take the IEA's word for it.

But back to your argument about the cost of that "extra barrel". Oil is priced on the margin. That is oil is priced at the price of what that last "extra barrel" cost to produce. No doubt if Brent goes from $115 to $125 there will be a few more barrels produced, hopefully in excess of the decline of other producers. All that is saying is that we have reached the margin price of a few more barrels.

Now I ask you to just think about that. That is precisely, in my opinion, what has kept us on this bumpy plateau for over six years. Because the price of oil has been so high for so many years, heroic efforts have been made to produce "just a little bit more" to take advantage of these new high prices. And there will come time, perhaps very soon, where that "little bit more" will not offset the decline rate in the many old fields already in decline. That will be the day we fall off the plateau.

So we are producing a million barrels a day from stripper wells, and many of those don't make sense to operate until oil prices climb a bit.

You mean they didn't make sense until prices climbed to above $80 a barrel or so. And that is my point exactly. Prices are now $105 a barrel and those stripper wells are making their owners a cool one thousand dollars per day. Not bad for a stripper well. Even if they only produce 5 barrels per day, five hundred dollars per day ain't bad.

Do you think there are a lot of other stripper wells just waiting for $120 a barrel oil? ;-)

Ron P.

Another question is how sustainable is "that little bit more"? If it comes at the price of depleting pressure drive, then the well woner will have to rest the well to let the pressure recover. So he's probably trying to guess what two month period (or what ever the sustainable pump time is), will have the highest sale prices. If this is the case, then some of that "little bit more" may be transient.

And Rockman has often commented that stripper wells work in a country like the United States where mineral rights belong to the property owner and the free-enterprise system allows small-time operators to run their strippers. He is skeptical that a country with a heavily entrenched NOC and no free-enterprise system will be able to have an effective stripper operation. I agree with this. Also, if KSA actually gets to the point where strippers would provide a significant portion of production, who do you think will getting that oil? I don't think it will be the United States.

And at that point the oil extraction industry will be as a feedstock for the chemical/lubricant market* and the reaction of hydrocarbons with air for heat/little explosions in small tubes translated to rotational motion will be limited.

*Whatever markets are left at that time

I think the simple price elasticity model misses an important aspect of the dynamics. While shortage drives up prices which encourages drilling, prices can react instantly while drilling and producing can take years. Shifting to other energy sources (the ever-over-estimated replacement factor) takes a long time too.

In the middle somewhere is the demand curve, which has to fill the gap via demand destruction. If the time constant of demand, to eat through cash reserves, lower-priority spending, debt options (including new vehicles and such), and finally demand collapse, is much shorter than that of the supply cycle, then we'll likely see cycles of collapse and regrowth overlaid on top of the supply curve(s). Though those are painful, I think they are actually a good thing to see, because each regrowth curve will show some fundamental improvement.

The overall process will take decades, I think. There may be a large fast-crash, but I think it is more likely that we'll have a long, slow, grind.

War and disease are the big fast-crash concerns, IMHO. Epidemiological threats are growing just as our resources to fight them are being stressed and cut.

I've often thought that Chaos Theory could be used to describe the behavior of oil prices. However, back in university I found that using even moderately difficult mathematics to analyze supply/demand curves baffled the professors, so I can only imagine what explaining it in terms of Chaos Theory would do to their minds.

I got the equivalent of a minor in economics, but that was just for my own personal amusement, since I was already minoring in mathematics. I came somewhat over-prepared for the mathematics involved in the the economics courses. I was in the Faculty of Science and Economics was considered an "Art", but I thought that was hilarious considering the amount of mathematics needed to understand what was really going on.

Charles I agree with you especially in hearing the difference in oil types you speak about. Light sweet versus heavy crude. Refinery mismatach issues. The oil KSA could maybe bring in will be mismatched with refineries in Asian and Europe that could process it. How will European refineries stay open? How will US refineries stay above minimal levels if the imports come to a trickle? Great questions.

Maybe though Robert was trying to dispel the myth that Libya is the only major reason gas prices are high, so that he could get in the message that you are trying to state -- that there are bigger problems in supply in general. Perhaps he needed to be heavier than he would have liked there to make that baby step point to the public first.

In any case, both of you are keeping us well informed. Thanks for that.

I read the article, glad Robert Rapier is sharing his insight with Washington Post readers. I think most of the article is very relevant, and I totally agree with all his points with the exception of the first one.

I just have to take issue with saying that the loss of production from Libya is not having a major effect on the markets directly. It's true that it's a small amount lost, around 2% of global exports, but as many posters here have been pointing out, this amount hasn't been completely made up by other exporters, and it's very questionable whether it will be completely covered at all. And in this very tightly constrained market, even a loss of 2% puts serious pressure on the overall supply vs. demand picture.

I agree that a factor in the price is uncertainty over current events, but a more direct factor has to be actual supply loss. Is my opinion uninformed? Could we go into this matter in more detail, perhaps?

EDIT: I see others up stream have been addressing this as well

The article is based on a longer piece he submitted, according to Robert. Maybe we will get a chance to see a longer version on TOD!

Sorry Gail, I'm only getting 'Invalid URL' for that story. I've had that with a few WaPo links recently.


But across an ocean, there’s a continent filled with people a lot like us who’ve lived with high gas prices for years. They’re called Europeans.

This brought a smile to my face

About 20 years ago, I spent a couple of years working in UK
When I first arrived there were a number of contrasts that immediately stood out

Petrol was about the same price per litre in UK pence as AU cents (the exchange rate was 35p to the AUD), so approx three times the price
Most people drove smaller cars with small engines (typical UK was around 1.5L, typical AU was around 3-4L at the time)
A lot of people commuted to work by train (the station was 5 min walk)
Those that drove used car-pooling, mainly because they were single car families, so the partner could have the car during the day

I ended up buying a 1.3L 4cyl 4speed Escort and it was a great car ... and I have never bought anything bigger than a 4cyl since

If Europe is about anything at all, it is about "fiddles". "Fiddles" here, "fiddles" there, rampant "fiddles" everywhere. Nothing ever seems to be quite as it looks on the surface.

The "fiddle" here is the "company car". UK ads for better jobs will often list "company car scheme" (wink, wink) as a fringe benefit. This partially exempts a goodly portion of the population from some of what looks to outsiders like a huge universal expense, and is indeed a huge expense but only to those not so privileged.

I dunno if these overhead IR pics of the ruined Japanese reactors have been posted before...


armscontrolwonk.com is an interesting site for me...it is not exclusively about the state of play of nuclear weapons.

1 to 23: chances getting slimmer for car license applicants in Beijing

Beijing conducted its third license plate lottery on Saturday. The lottery, which is designed to curb the capital city's chronic grid lock, concluded with 17,600 applicants being granted plates, according to a spokesman from the municipal transport commission.

The lottery had received nearly 400,000 applicants by March 8, including those who weren't lucky enough to receive a plate in previous lotteries in January and February, the spokesman said.

Once they are all driving god help us!

Price of regular gasoline in Calgary in last week of March is averaging C$1.11 to C$1.13 per litre, or about US$5 per gallon or so. Just as many SUVs and recreational pickup trucks as ever before. Americans who worry about $4 gallon killing their economy shouldn't; the public will not change until the pain is too great. The late Matthew Simmons remarked once that it would take several severe oil shocks before we would see permanent change. For the average person in the street, "peak oil" is a buzz phrase about as meaningful to their daily lives as "quantitative easing". They may have heard of it, but they haven't had it rubbed into their faces yet.

In Berkeley, California (nearby to where I live), I see many Prius cars, but they are smothered by very large trucks and cars, not trucks for contractors, trucks for one person going to work -- nothing is in the back. I laugh to myself because that is just how bad the situation is really. Even where people are theoretically aware of the problems with oil, wars for oil, and CO2 and so forth -- the number of very large cars is alarmingly high.

I smile as the moron next to me is putting $200.00 in the diesel F 250, that he drives around suburbia by himself.
A F 250 is a useful tool (at least for a while) in the right situation, but most are driven by people infected with some bad memes.

Yeah, I understand trucks are useful for contractors, maintenance crews with repair equipment, but average joe? I do not understand. He's gonna get a bill due this summer he will not like for sure.

Would be interesting to see how many trucks were purchased from 2009 to 2011 (today) after the last oil shockwave.

Maybe two shocks in a row will curb the behavior. Don't know.

I would not bet on people changing their behaviors at current or even modestly elevated (from current) prices for petrol.

My wife bought a very clean, low-mileage Nissan Versa which was traded in by a couple who had a baby...the couple traded the Versa in for a big pick up truck. The salesman said the guy had an office job...not a farmer/contractor/etc. I guess therefore a large pickup truck is required to transport a baby, which could have fit nicely in the back seat of the Versa...heck, I'm a big guy, and I can fit in the back seat of a Versa!

I've looked at other small used cars recently...I looked at a Hyundai Accent which the salesman said a older lady who lives in the ABQ foothills traded in for a four-wheel drive SUV...all because her street got a few days of snow this year! Wow, I clearly remember my grandfather driving his Beetle (VW Type 1) in all manner of weather conditions, including snow-covered roads in PA.

People love the commanding feel of being high off the road and surrounded by 3-4K pounds of steel, with a big engine.

I think gasoline prices will have to be well North of five bucks a gallon for over a year before we see significant shunning of pick ups and SUVs in the good ole U.S. of A.

I love the image of Grandma and the 4WD. Pedal to the metal. Americans love big cars -- vroom vroom. I am a midget (lol not exactly) but I can fit in a 1969 VW Beetle, so maybe my perspective is unique due to my size. I guess the only hope is to hybridize these cars. LOL. Forced fuel economy.

So, H, you think we will see $6 a gal at a station near my house here in No. California (foothills of the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab) ;-)?

That is my feeling. We wil breach the $6 mark.

Possibly...eventually...I have been impressed by the fact that U.S. gasoline prices have remained so low...demand destruction and low taxes it seems.

When I lived in Sandia Park, I used to love my Z71, with the 285 tires. I could climb the Sandia Peak road even with 3feet of snow (which came in handy for my ski-instructor hobby job). But still when in town I learned from bitter experience that you had to split town at the first hint of snow, or risk being trapped in town as Tijeras Canyon (I-40 and route 66) would be closed by even tiny snows!


Tijeras Canyon is a mess.

I avoid I-25 and I-40 and use surface streets exclusively, unless I am driving out of town.

how many trucks were purchased from 2009 to 2011 (today) after the last oil shockwave.

A co-worker bought one at the peak of the crunch. Got a brand new F150 for under $13000. His commute is only three miles, so its not a big deal. A month
back he was looking for a used deal for his buddy. I told him to wait a few months, when they will be giving them away yet again.

3 Mile commute!?!

I probably wouldn't even bother getting the push bike out for that!

Here in the US, even short distances may require cars - because it's not safe to walk or bike, or because the roads are laid out so that it's not easy to walk.

Here in the US, even short distances may require cars - because it's not safe to walk or bike, or because the roads are laid out so that it's not easy to walk.

Yes, and if you take measures to slow the cars down at the crosswalks like blithely walking out into traffic, and then jumping back at the last minute and watching a 6-car chain-reaction collision happen, the police probably think you did something wrong.

We had an LRT station near us, and since the traffic designers weren't willing to put in stop lights so we could cross the road, we had to trigger a lot of rear-enders to get that to happen. I personally put a car sideways into a light pole. The driver was obviously not paying attention and described me as "A little old lady", so I just snickered and got on the train before the police arrived.

The traffic planners eventually relented, so we didn't have to invoke the "Angry fathers with softballs" option in which all the cars that don't slow down lose their windshields. You would be amazed at what a softball lobbed out into traffic will do to a car that doesn't slow down.

Our Community Association had $750,000 in its "Stop the Freeways" fund, and no end of community lawyers willing to work for free, so the city council was really afraid of what we might do to their legal costs. And what we would do to them at election time.

However, this was in Canada, where freeway revolts are common. Most major cities have had freeways killed by citizens groups. Toronto has preserved some of the pillars of an overpass as a reminder of when a freeway was killed in mid-constructon.

I've been to California and you have my sympathy. It's awful. You can't go two mins without having to wait for the signal to cross a road by stopping multiple lanes of traffic.

It's zero sum, people.

The cost of these vehicles has gone down, and is going to go down much further. Which increasingly means that if you buy an inefficient vehicle, you are paying for the fuel, rather than the car.

Meanwhile, the price of efficient vehicles should say steady or rise. Which means you pay for the car, rather than the fuel.

Now certainly, there are exceptions to this, but the pattern will probably hold, at least for awhile.

But keep your sights on the endgame. I suspect that buyers of these vehicles increasingly fall into two classes: those who have so much money that they can afford any vehicle, and fuel at any price, and those are so dull that they cannot understand how their choices make them poorer, anymore than a drunkard or habitual gambler can.

Let the rich and the idiots play around with their toys! I agree with everyone here: it's a waste of time and money to drive inefficient cars long distances.

Conserve at every opportunity. Preserve your middle class status as if it's a matter of life and death. This is going to be the only way to survive.

Oct - Looks like we need to haul you down to Texas for while and educate as to why these trucks are vital to the lifestyle of every true man: simply to show folks "theirs" is bigger. I've been in Texas for 30 years. It's etched into their souls as deeply as that first morning pee and cup of coffee.

Rockman, I hear you. I have a good friend from a small town in Texas. He can pee further than me and he can eat hotter chili than I can too. LOL.

Oh well, maybe we put some secret electric motors in the latest big truck and not tell the owners.

Oct - Ever since I got rid of my last PU about 15 yo I've longed to replace it with a diesel PU. Not that I need a PU often or care much about the milage...it's that distinctive sound of a diesel engine I long for. That is truly a "manly sound". But I understand the new diesels don't sound like that anymore.

Know where I can get a tape recording of an old diesel? I can put some big speakers in my KIA and sit there with my eyes closed and pretend. I just need to ignore the advice of that long dead French philosopher: "To be...not to seem". Going to be tough...I try to live by that rule daily.

Just drove there (Berkeley) today, took the kid back from spring break. Yes more Prius's that out here in the far East Bay. I sure noticed that $4 gas hasn't slowed anyone down, I was doing speedlimit or a tad more in Walnut Creek, and 99% of the cars were zooming by me in both lanes.

Well, the recent increases in the price here in Ireland are having an affect. More and more cars are driving slower, about six months ago, I dropped down to 90kmh (55Mph) to save a bit and initially I was almost alone at going that speed, now there are plenty of us going at below the speed limit.
Far fewer cars fly past me now than six months ago.

In cold Winnipeg there are a lot of Priuses as taxicabs. Juicy point is that by now many are driving in non-hybrid mode (you can see it on the panel) and as regular cars they get around 7-7.5 litres / 100km that is essentially 30 mpg.

Black swans - or getting rid of the old.

studies in the U.S. and Israel have shown that about 40% of patients with the infection die.

The arrogant US health bureaucrats pronounced with antibiotics that bacteria were defeated by mankind. Subsequently, universities with amazing microbiology departments closed down these programs. Meanwhile, the bacteria fight back using natural selection and they rifled through all the know antibiotics. Antibiotics were misused in agriculture and for viral infections producing strains with multiple types of antibiotic resistances.

Only after 9/11 and the anthrax mailings then did the US decide to refund microbiology. Too late though.

So we think we are winning but really we are creating a superbug and like the tortoise and the hare, the lazy hare will lose the race.

We never should have closed our Microbiology Departments. But you get what you pay for.

It is insane how government can find trillions for wars and corporate bailouts, but starts counting pennies when dealing with scientific research. A couple of billion dollars (not per year) could have sustained several departments for decades and would have been a microscopic drop in the bucket of the total expenditures by the government over the same period of time.

Yes, I think public health is one of those things we should think about keeping on solid ground. Nasty influenza could come out of a Mexican pig farm or Asian chicken coop or America one for that matter and spread very quickly. Virology and microbiology were given a back seat to cancer. Alas cancer will not kill as many as the next infectious pandemic.

What kills me is that we are doing microbiology research in relation to bioterrorism, so we may not be doing it right still these days.

The most devastating thing may be a big bug imho. Our globalization and careless animal husbandry are creating a witch's brew for something ugly.

Most concerning to me is the overuse of antibiotics in CAFO operations, as well as human medical facilities.


A bill introduced in 2009 to preserve antibiotics for medical treatment never came out of committee.


CAFO and antibiotic misuse is another form of making the present cheaper at the expense of the future. We will see something nasty from these facilities. No doubt in my mind. Look at the squalor, with rats and germs. Vectors -- cross species jumps -- perfect storm of things in our sickening animal husbandry practices. sooner or later. It will come from Asia imho. Did you notice how or edge people were with SARS? What about the Mexican pig farm that made a pretty nasty flu virus. They are looking for it because the conditions are perfect for it whether it be chickens or pigs.

Some lab (don't remember the name but they gave a lecture at my uni) did an experiment where they screened a bunch of soil bacteria from the backwoods of Ontario - where there was no exposure to artificial antibiotics - against various modern antibiotics. *Every* antibiotic was resisted by several species. They also looked at preserved bacteria from the Ice Age and found that there were bacteria resistant to the *newest* antibiotics tens of thousands of years ago... The genes for resistance to pretty well anything are out there, we have to keep changing it up if we want to stay ahead.

Basically, microbes have been duking it out for like 3 billion years or so in the dirt. So one species makes an anti-biotic weapon, and another species has an anti-antibiotic.

We humans by dumb luck stumbled onto a mold that grew on oranges that made penicillin. We continue to chase after other soil microbes to find their antibiotics. These are called natural products. All antibiotics can be circumvented and have been for millions of years. The trick is that human pathogens generally do not have these resistances -- at least for a while anyway.

IN any case, even if we create a novel antibiotic, the bugs always come of with a means to beat it via natural selection and evolution.

Nasty problem.

So yes I believe you are correct.

No resting at all in microbiology.

Let's not forget those microbes can be our ally too. After all, they did defeat the Martians in HG Wells' War of the Worlds. You know, where a highly intelligent race with lots of personal mobility machines and fancy war equipment tries to dominate the world, and all its food(energy) sources, but fails in the end and collapses spectacularly.

Pure science fiction, of course....

Ah yes ... very nice satire on today's predicament - War of the Worlds - very true.

I think we should be trusting our immune systems a lot more and growing animals in smaller free range settings, but I am a dreamer. LOL.

Less antibiotics unless absolutely necessary.

growing animals in smaller free range settings,

Well, large free range settings aren't all bad, either. Australian cattle in the outback have to walk to work!

I actually just made some comments regarding the health qualities of grass fed v feedlot finished beef in a discussion (partly) about cattle raising on Robert Rapier's blog hosted at Consumer Energy Report

Check out the graph of the decline of healthy Omega-3's as the cows spend more time eating corn! They get fatter and less healthy, and then so do we!

Prices are all relevant!
Gas is about 22 cents per cup in the US, while coffee is $1 to $3 per cup.
People always complain about the price of gas but not the price of coffee.
We just need to travel a lot less, and burn a lot less gasoline.
IMHO IF people in the US cut out all excess travel and "running around town",
we could cut consumption in half easily.

And the price of gold is around $1430/oz, pork bellies are around $118, and other prices for disparate other things are ... whatever they are. So what?

Sounds like we need to cut back on coffee drinking first? :)

Drilling for oil in the Nebraska Panhandle and Japanese fearful of radiation turning to American beef and pork are discussed on this week's Market to Market.

For those not interested in the whole thing oil is at about 6:45 and Japanese meat demand near the end of the program.


Heartwrenching scene:

TRIPOLI, Libya — A Libyan woman burst into the hotel housing the foreign press in Tripoli on Saturday morning in an attempt to tell journalists that she had been raped and beaten by members of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s militia. After struggling for nearly an hour to resist removal by Colonel Qaddafi’s security forces, she was dragged away from the hotel screaming.


Be sure to watch the video (on the left sidebar above the caption "Libyan Woman Struggles to Tell Her Story").

EDIT: Closed parentheses.

An example of the themes for Governor Barbour's national energy policy were he to be elected Preident of the United States in 2012:

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Before activists here, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R-MS) and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) gave a glimpse of what they might focus on if they launch likely presidential runs

Barbour showed a mix of humor and seriousness, as he also criticized President Obama for the health-care overhaul law and the administration's energy policy. He described the energy policy not as an "energy" one, but "an environmental policy." He said the policy is to "drive up the cost of energy, so people wont use it."


"We need more oil; we need more gas; we need more coal; we need more nuclear; we need more American energy," Barbour said, adding that the U.S. should also generate energy from wood and waste. "We need all of the above," he added.

More, more. more.

Not a word about solar, wind, or efficiency, or the need to carefully examine the safety issues of nuclear power.

Please show me any candidate for the 2012 election who espouses a substantially different energy policy than Gov. Barbour's.

We might want to actually pull the plug on Gov. Barbour. LOL. Save us all some grief. Although I'd like to see how more electricity will help us from the oil problem. I think this means keep the electric rates high but increase profits by lowering regs and fuel costs via additional mining permitting on public lands. Sounds like more of what we did the last 60 years.

And here we are. LOL. Same old. Same old.

Although I'd like to see how more electricity will help us from the oil problem.

It continually amazes me how many politicians make this mistake.

"We need more oil; we need more gas; we need more coal; we need more nuclear; we need more American energy,"

He can have as much coal, NG and nuke power - all American - as he wants (though possibly at quite some environmental cost). Actually he can even have more American oil too, though not from his state - from the backyards, wildlife reserves and beaches of others.

But he can't have more oil in total - and I don't think he, or many other politicians, seem to get that.

Sometimes I think what is really needed is another OPEC embargo, to ram home to these people that electricity is not oil, and no matter how much electricity you make, clean or otherwise, it does not resolve the total and utter dependence of the US (and many other) economies on oil.
Find a way to get off oil, and then the rest of that all American energy becomes really valuable - right now - it's a sideshow to oil.

While I was waiting for a haircut today, I picked up the paper and read an editorial from some guy about 'Obama's energy fantasy land'.

The whole screed was based on the premise that Obama et al are conspiring in secret to force us good hard-working Americans to pay 'European-Style gasoline prices'.

I can see the the Republican think tanks have generated this meme and it is being dutifully rolled out by the shills. I imagine that every Presidential challenger in 2012 will ride this stallion of a talking point until 4 out of 5 'Murkens know it as fact.

For the same reason (fear of right-wing bashing) the NRC likely won't do anything to recommend closing any U.S> nuke plants.

we need more American energy

When you have a funny-money system that needs economic expansion to keep the money system from collapse and one of the best ways to have economic growth is to expand the energy input options into the economic system - of course the push is going to be for more energy.

Yes, lets burn more coal waste, so we can ingest more methylmercury, so we can become more like Newt. It's an evil plot I tell you.


IIRC, the "gob pile" referenced is the site where the post-apolcalyptic wasteland scenes from the "The Road" were filmed. Here's a satellite pic from Bing Maps:


Great...I was born in Uniontown, PA and lived there for 7 years, then lived in Altoona, PA from ~7 till ~ 23 years old.

Clearly upwind from all these facilities...of course, I have been aware of all the coal-fired plamts in Western PA for years.

Of course, out here in NM, I'm sure I get to breathe stuff from the coal plants in AZ and at Four Corners.

I will say, though, that the air is consistently cleaner-looking and smelling out here than back in Central PA. When I visit my family I am appalled at the haze brownish-green haze layer one can see when one crests the mountains.

But...I have seen that brownish-green haze layer looking South when I drive from North ABQ to my job in the South part of town...and if Palo Verde had a significant incident, I would not feel sanguine in Albuquerque...

I still haven't seen any emissions emanating from a PV panel...

"I still haven't seen any emissions emanating from a PV panel..."

But you might from the factory that makes the PV panel.


Any you'll see emissions from the mining and smelting it will take to make the batteries of whatever type it takes to deal with the night problem. Or you can dam up a valley and watch the water level bob up and down with pumped storage. Either way, there is an impact, or a sort of emission.

Actually, I am somewhat cheered by Barbour's comments above. He has gotten past the magic bullet stage. Now he needs to expand the selection of ammo in the box, which is a lesser conceptual task.

I understand your valid point.

However, SiCl4 can be captured and recycles and decomposed if need be.

I think this article is a feature of China in general...witness lead-painted toys, melamine-laced dog food, etc.

Most everything we make producing pollutants...I guess the point is that perhaps solar PV overall poses less of a risk, and a more manageable risk, than nuclear fission power.

What are your thoughts on the relative life-cycle pollutant load from hydropower, coal, NG, fission, PV, Wind, CSP, etc?

I start with the premise that humanity needs some amount of electricity, even if greatly below our current levels.

I would put hydro, and the renewables pretty low. Also I would put fission there as well -provided you don't let incompetent owners mess it up. PV is advancing by leaps and bounds, and within a few years should be the lowest of the bunch.

I'll give you one example of an almost closed system for electricity.

Instead of PV, you could do a tree farm, and use the trees as your fuel. Forests can grow without any external inputs other than rain and sun, and provide a sustainable yield of wood. Forests in natural, mature state can producer anyhwere from 2 to 10 tons of dry matter per year, per hectare. With a bit of management (species selection, careful pruning/thinning, etc) you can reliably get 10 t/ha/yr.

Dry wood has a gross energy value of 20GJ/t, or 5540kWh/ton, so you can produce 200GJ/ha/yr. Converting to electricity, you can do either steam, and get 10-15-20% conversion, or gasifier+ ICE, and get 20-30%.

Using the gasifier-ICE and 30% you will then get 1662kWh/t, or 16,620/yr, which works out to a 24/7 production of 1.9kW, or at 20% capacity factor (similar to solar) 9.5kW.

The exhaust from such engines are very clean, lower in HC's, NOx and SOx than diesels, steam engines (boilers) are even cleaner, when properly run.

And, the ash from the wood, containing P and K and other trace nutrients, can be returned to the woodlot, and as long as some of your trees are N fixers, you have a self-producing source of that.

Just for reference, you can buy an off the shelf, ready to run gasifier plus 10kWe engine/generator for $17k - needs 12kg wood/hour -bring your own chainsaw/axe.

Life cycle of the engine, properly maintained, is in tens of thousands of hours.
Life cycle of a steam engine, properly maintained, can be decades/century..

So there is an almost closed loop (some labour needed), clean production system - probably the most land/kW that you can get, but also amongst the least $/kW to set up.

Not sure what a 10kWe PV system costs but am sure PVguy or others do.

The upside to a PV system is you do not have the handling of material to get that energy. Wood - you need to handle and process that wood.

Upside to wood - if making biochar increases soil fertility - then biochar should be an output option.

Eric, I think wood and PV pretty much represent the extremes of the spectrum for renewables.

Wood needs 1 hectare (10,000sq.m) for 9.5kW/20% cap factor, solar would need about 95sqm (950sq.ft), or about 1% of the land area for the same output.
The wood system could be set up for $20k (and actually half that if you just by the plans and build the gasifier yourself), the solar one probably $50k, more if you want tracking/storage.
Wood needs daily labour input, solar needs none.
Wood can be controlled to produce power anytime you want - the solar one you cannot (without significant battery cost, anyway)..
Wood produces twice as much heat again as it does electricity, the solar one does not
Wood (ICE) will need ongoing maintenance, solar does not.
Wood is mechanically complex, electrically simple, solar is mechanically simple, electrically complex (inverter, controller)
Wood can be stored for maximum energy output in winter(or whenever you want) solar will always be minimum in winter.
Thew wood system can be easily moved to any location to provide electricity where it is needed, the solar one is more likely to be a fixed system.

So, if you have not much land, or time, or mechanical ability, and lots of money, and a grid connection, solar is a better choice for you - that is why lots of suburban homeowners in southern latitudes do it and none of them do wood.

If you have some (or lots) of land, or access to waste wood, some time each day, some metalwork ability and don;t want to spend/don;t have lot of money, and are off grid and need power when you want, wood is the better option. That is why backwoods guys/off gridders in temperate latitudes, and villages in rainforest countries are starting to do it (though many of them do solar too - but not 9.5kW)

Like I say, pretty much the extremes, that is why I think it is instructive to compare them.

As for biochar, you will get a very little of that with your ash (about 5% of input mass) -the real value is the ash there. Once woodlots/forest are about five years old they pretty much recycle their nutrients through leaf fall, mulch the leaves/branches when you harvest, and you are returning most of the N to the soil. The constant growth of root matter is increasing the soil carbon content also. Biochar is really not needed for forests - it is field crops and the like where its value is maximised.

that is why lots of suburban homeowners

Oh, I bet the tax rates have FAR more to do with matters than 'not wanting to move wood'.

The tax rate per acre in suburbia is far higher than in the tax rate in the hinterlands.

And some towns have laws that prevent wood burning.

Eric, you are correct, my point is that wood (or wind, or hydro, or anything that requires any amount of land) is not available to them - solar is the only option they have for producing energy. And, as we all know, unless heavily subsidies, they won;t even choose that.
For "consuming" energy - you can use wood pellet stoves in many places, but these are a fraction of drop in the overall bucket of urban energy.

Out in the country, where you have various amounts of land, time, mechanical ability available, and more varied needs for the energy, you have many more options available, and many of them better than solar, subsidised or not.
Also, on the city, solar is often just and adjunct to living, whereas in the country, the energy source might be a part of "making a living", eg heating barns, etc so the needs, particularly reliability, can be very different. Solar PV does not stack up so well there.

The downside to wood is the disturbance required to harvest the wood. In order to achieve rapid growth rates, all the wood in an area must be removed to allow sunlight to reach the replacement trees and this usually requires clear cutting the forest. This process typically exposes the soil to erosion from rain and wind and disturbs the soil directly as machines break and compact the surface. Some areas which have been intensively logged might require more than 50 or more years to re-grow. The evidence has been documented for decades, for example, in Northern California, where massive clear cutting resulted in sediment rates in the Eel River which exceeded that of the Mississippi. Of course, small scale cutting efforts do work, but the yearly rate of biomass production will be much lower...

E. Swanson

You don't need to clear cut all the wood in a area to get good growth rates, you just need to be smart in your forest management. Logging companies clear cut because it is the most cost efficient way to harvest, but there are other ways to go about it. I know of a woodlot in Australia that is "strip felled" - the rows, 5m apart, run E-W and they cut the next southernmost row each year. That way, the row to the north is the youngest, and so shades the cut area the least - and not at all in the southern summer. They do a 10 yr rotation , so the cut line moves 50m for a cycle. The logs are chipped for pulp and the trees(eucalypts) re-grow form the stump, so no replanting required. This was a university study plot of effluent irrigated plantation, they achieved growth rates of 30 cu.m(20t dry matter) per hectare per year, and are still doing so 20yrs later.

You can also just take out trees at random, and make little clearings. If you are managing to maximise value for sawlogs, you continually thin out smallest trees, to get the biggest logs from the ones remaining - in 20yrs or more. If you are managing for maximum biomass (usually for pulping logs, but fuel is the same), then you continually take out the biggest trees, at about 10yrs old, and as they regrow you then have a mixed age forest. A neighbour of mine here in BC does this on his one ac woodlot - takes down the ten largest trees each year for firewood - about four cords - roughly four tons- and sells two of them. He has been doing this for 15yrs, and has more standing timber now than when he started.

If you are after absolute maximum, then area clear cutting might win, but we are not going for maximum, we are going for sustainable. Long term, the degradation effects of careless clear cutting will reduce yields more than maintaining continuous forest cover. Certainly in dry areas (<700mm rainfall) maintenance of continuous ground cover is essential to prevent excessive soil drying, but it's not a bad practice in higher rainfall areas either. And it looks nicer.

Seems plausible.

The Australian example likely feeds the woodlot with nutrient from the effluent (if it is from sewage).

However, if your friend's wood lot in B.C. is not being fed with ashes from the wood combustion, or it is not being fed by another nutrient source, over time would not the soils gradually become depleted of nutrients to grow more trees?

The sewage effluent does indeed supply lots of nutrients - though it is thought the benefits are twofold - nutrients for the tree, and much improved soil microbiology, from the same nutrients, plus the water itself, of course. Compared to dry, poor soils, growth rates of 5x can be achieved, and compared to rich soils in high rainfall areas, the response is +20 to 40%.

For the BC woodlot, and most forests, if the canopy is being maintained, the soil fertility is gradually improved. Trees send roots down deep to get inorganic nutrients (P and K), and recycle them to the surface through leaf fall. There are actually not that many nutrients in the heartwood of trees- the trees keep them in the sapwood/cambium/bark/leaves as they grow.

Actually, a fascinating experiment on "nutrient neutral" tree growing was done in 1652! This is taken from an essay by Robert Rapier's R Squared Energy Blog called Sustainability is the key to long term energy security last December;

In 1652, Dutch chemist Jan Baptist van Helmont conducted the following experiment. He took 200 pounds of oven-dried soil and put it into a vessel. He then watered the soil and put in a willow shoot weighing 5 pounds. After 5 years, the willow shoot had grown to just over 169 pounds. The vessel had never received any nutrients; only water was added during those five years. He then dried and weighed the soil again, and the 200 pounds of soil had only lost two ounces of weight. The vast majority of the 164 pound weight gain was from the CO2 that had been converted into biomass via photosynthesis. (You can hear the story of the van Helmont experiment at Most of Life is a Gas.)

Areas like the Black Forest and elsewhere in Europe have been selectively harvested for centuries - the key theme is if the forest cover itself is maintained, so is its soil fertility.

I've actually thought about using a similar approach. Glad to hear it works. But, I think that doing that east-west cut would require relatively flat land, land which might otherwise be used for row crops. In the mountains, which is where there are still many trees, the small plot clear cut might be the only choice.

When I lived on the West Coast of the US, the logging industry had about cut all the prime timber in California and were moving north into Oregon. The tractor logging which was done in northern California was obviously a bad idea, so the newer logging operations worked with cables and winches to cut the sides of the mountains without disrupting the slope. They were still clear cutting and building roads to the high points where the cable systems were placed...

E. Swanson

BD - That is why I emphasise the difference between a commercial logging operation, and a farm owner-operator woodlot. The farmer will do his level best to look after his forest, as he has to look at it every day. If he clearcuts, he loses the windbreak benefit to the rest of his property, will be eroding his own soil etc etc - a whole host of things that the lumber/logging co's just don;t care about.

The east-west example was on almost flat land. If the land was sloping then you would do your rows along the contours, and the direction you advance the cut (up or downhill) would be whichever is the more southern in S. hemisphere and northern in N.hemisphere. If I was cutting in native forest, I would do contour lines, and then when finished you can deep rip those lines to improve water infiltration and reduce erosion - makes a house difference and many farmers and zero logging co's do it.

A highly developed version is the Keyline system, where the lines run at a slight grade *away* from the gullies towards the ridges, where as most contour banks run towards the gullies, which concentrates runoff and increases erosion! This was developed by a farmer in the 50's but seems to have been "claimed" by the permaculturists. In any case, in dry areas it works, brilliantly.

It is amazing the difference row orientation can make to cropping systems. For summer crops, you want the rows n-s, for maximum sunlight collection, as the long mornings and evening rays are normal to the rows, but for winter crops, you want them e-w to catch the southerly sun (n. hemiosphere) or northely sun in southern hemisphere. It increases sunlight capture by 25% and shades out weeds between the rows. Can increase yield 10% and negate the need for spraying.

My brother (farmer in Aust) said the local agronomist, who works for the fertiliser/herbicde supplier, advises planting n-s in winter and e-w in summer!! Not sure if this is deliberate to grow more weeds and sell more herbicides, or if the guy just doesn't have a clue!

I wonder about your orientation scheme for the NH. As one moves toward higher latitudes, the sun will be lower in the sky to the south. Thus, I would think that the cutting should progress toward the south, thus giving maximum exposure to all the trees on a year round basis. The result would look much like a south facing solar collector, with the tallest trees on the north side. I suppose that much would depend upon the prime growth season and tree species, since growth rates would be nill for species which drop their leaves in Fall...

E. Swanson

"The result would look much like a south facing solar collector, with the tallest trees on the north side."

Quite so. And right behind the tallest trees at the N end of that, are the next lot of younger trees, now in perpetual shade. The problem is that your collectors are too close to each other - the top end of one shading the bottom of the next. Even in midsummer, at say lat 50N, the sun is 27deg from vertical, and with the tall row being, say 50' high, that shades 25' of ground. That is midsummer - it gets worse away from the solstice - the young trees will get the least light, and have the most frost, for more time, in spring/fall days, and they are the plants that can least handle it.

Now reverse the "collectors". The low angle (77deg) winter sun rays are almost parallel to our collector = minimal collection, but that's ok as the trees are shut down anyway. As the sun rises in the spring, all trees get equal amounts, and the young ones at the N of the collector will get direct sun - melting frost off them on spring mornings - reverse the collector and they are frozen all day.

In mid summer all the trees are getting plenty of light with either scheme to it doesn;t really matter. But in spring/fall "south facing collector" always has the young trees shaded while the already tall and healthy ones get more sun. The "north facing collector" has the young trees in the sun more, and will give more consistent growth across all ages. Healthy young trees = healthy older trees later.

If you wanted to have a really wide "cut strip", that takes up the shaded area between the "south facing collectors" you could do that, but then it is effectively in "fallow" for that year, at least, so your overall productivity is decreasing, plus the problems of soil drying out,etc if using coppice species they will be trying to re-grow in shade and will run out of stored food.

Canadian to lead NATO's Libya mission

[Lt. Gen. Charles] Bouchard has been designated to lead NATO's military campaign in Libya, MacKay told a briefing in Ottawa, noting the full scope of the NATO mission is still evolving.

MacKay said he expected NATO to make the formal announcement shortly. He described Bouchard as a "formidable leader, with tremendous character and ability."

This should make Canucks among Gaddafi's favourite people. He has a nice track record of doing good works for people on his friendly list.

Good to hear if Roméo Dalliare's example is anything to go by.

Bouchard has big shoes to fill if he takes on Dalliare's example. Hopefully, he will be keen to enforce the doctrine, "responsibility to protect", something Dalliare has been promoting here on the home front.

Yes, hopefully he will. In fact, is this the first time the UN have invoked R2P since its inception following Rwanda?

i.a.w.n., I don't know, though it could very well be. R2P was only adopted by the U.N. in 2005.

It should be noted that the current Canadian government is reluctant to use the phrase. Carries too much baggage in praise of the previous Liberal government.

This should make Canucks among Gaddafi's favourite people.

Here you go, Muammar, from your friends at MST3K:

[No offense, Zadok. Based on your recent Godzilla comment, I thought you might appreciate the MST3K clip]

Onan, that's precious. Luv it!

Muammar, sound like you'll have to stand in line if you wish to "blow up Prince Edward Island and going on to bomb Ontario."

Gee, its a good thing our government just committed to spend $30 billion for fighter jets. How did they know they would be needed so soon?

I just hope the parts aren't made in northern Japan. Might be slow for just in time deliveries.

The world hasn't been the same since we gave up the Arrow.

The Harper regime sure has its priorities straight. That would be $40 billion for colonial war jets whose range is under 2/3 that needed for Canadian domestic needs (i.e. the range of the CF-18s the CF-35 will be replacing) and jails for unreported thought crimes and not a cent for atmospheric science (you know some of it might fund climate research and we all know that climate change is a commie hoax). But if your research is how to get more bitumen out of the ground in Alberta you will get public money.

I am afraid this clown will get a majority government this time with the idiotic first past the post system. No government should ever have a majority with less than 40% of the popular vote. All the yapping in the media about coalitions is obscene pro Harper propaganda. Any coalition, including the Bloc Quebecois, would be vastly more democratic and functional for the country than this neocon meathead.

Harper is somewhat an odd choice for leader of a Canadian political party since he is a neo-con policy wonk. And while I personally prefer our first-past-the-post system - sorry I can't shed my traditional instincts - I take heart that the election is still in the early stages and that the political landscape can change very quickly.

That being said, from where I sit, I say it looks like another Conservative minority. Harper and company has just enjoyed an unopposed six month negative advertising blitz against Ignatieff and the Liberals. Out of that constant barrage, the Conservatives managed to get a 10 point lead. That's hardly impressive. Goebbels got a better bang for his propaganda buck. The likelihood is those numbers will, barring the unforeseen, go down. The opposition parties now have a chance to score headlines. An election is a big news story and each of the leaders will have his moment in the limelight.

The permutations don't seem to favour anybody. The Conservatives will do well in Alberta and BC. The Liberals will do well in Atlantic Canada, downtown Toronto and Montreal. The Party Quebecois will no doubt win the lion's share of the seats in Quebec. Nor is it likely NDP will lose much support among the industrial ridings of Ontario.

That said, election campaigns do matter.

In 1993, Kim Campbell entered the campaign well ahead in the polls over her rival, Jean Chretien, who, at the time, was being written off by media pundits as "yesterday's man" and a liability for his party's chances. At the end, Campbell's party was all but wiped out. Even up until election eve, no one would have predicted that result.

Bottom line, it's never over til it's over.

Can the United States Feed China?

...For China, the handwriting is on the wall. It will almost certainly have to turn to the outside world for grain to avoid politically destabilizing food price rises. To import massive quantities of grain, China will necessarily draw heavily on the United States, far and away the world’s largest grain exporter. To be dependent on imported grain, much of it from the United States, will be China’s worst nightmare come true.

For U.S. consumers, China’s worst nightmare could become ours. If China enters the U.S. grain market big time, as now seems inevitable, American consumers will find themselves competing with 1.4 billion Chinese consumers with fast-rising incomes for the U.S. grain harvest, driving up food prices.

Food is one of few things the US can export in order to earn foreign exchange to buy oil with. It is better to export food and import oil than to convert food to fuel in the US.

A long but interesting article, will the US have an excess of grain to export?


I think we will. But some things will have to change.

Water will become more expensive. That means that farmers will have to grow crops that are better suited to the area, rather than irrigating so that they can grow more expensive grains.

And Americans will have to eat lower on the food chain. I expect this will happen naturally, as prices rise.

Our ability to export food may be key to maintaining oil supplies. Eventually, OPEC may turn away from the dollar, but they can't turn away from imported wheat.

S – And that brings us to my MADOR protocol: Mutually Assured Distribution Of Resources. The US has the food stocks and China is controlling more of the world’s oil every day. They’ll need our crops and we’ll need their oil (in addition to funding our deficit spending). Sounds like the makings of a solid partnership. If that prospect sounds scary imagine if your country had neither energy nor food resources to maintain itself.

Rock - I agree it's like a Mexican standoff - or that last scene from 'Reservoir Dogs'

Rock, your oil/food China/U.S. understanding sounds about right.

Has anyone seen this gem of a political ad on the airways?


Thirty years ago the Asian folks in the audience and the language would have been Japanese...predictions are hard, especially about the future!

Japan was very much where China is now 30 or 40 years ago. They supposedly manufactured cheap goods of poor quality. They could only copy American products, because their culture discouraged innovation. Then in the '80s - after Japan started kicking Detroit's butt - the bad guys in the movies were suddenly all Japanese.

Also...I recently saw an old Time cover, where the headline was about Japan's assault on the environment.

Japan has simply outsourced it's environmental assaults.

Now they do third world logging, massive over-fishing, but they keep their own forests nice and pristine.

Don't read up on these topics, they are depressing, is my advice. But you are right, Japanese stuff was considered garbage, then bit by bit it became great quality. Didn't take very long either. Then they started writing books on Japanese production and management methods. Then the 90s came, and those books don't sell so well anymore.

There's a disturbing amount of outsourcing of waste products, of mining, of clear cut logging, etc, not just Japan, that trend I suspect really is part of the so called 'first' world's wealth generation, the stuff we live off of while we debate what's right or wrong. Living locally strikes me really as the only path forward that has a future, all the other stuff is just dead ends that leave waste behind.

Japan has simply outsourced it's environmental assaults.

As has the U.S., and Europe. One study found that about 50% of the "efficiency" achieved since the '70s oil crisis was due to offshoring. Energy used domestically to manufacture steel pipe, fertilizer, or plastic toys counts. Energy imported in the form of steel pipe, fertilizer, or plastic toys manufactured elsewhere doesn't. Presto chango, a remarkable drop in energy consumption...at least on paper.

Now they do third world logging, massive over-fishing, but they keep their own forests nice and pristine.

But Japan's been doing it for a long time. As Jared Diamond points out, almost 80% of their land is still forested. Traditionally, they used only brush as fuel, thereby living on a solar budget - the branches grown in only the last year or so, rather than old growth forest. But...they also imported wood from Hokkaido for building projects and the like.

That add is really great work, if you appreciate propaganda. So, we spent ourselves into bankruptcy, did we? And what did our government really spend the money on? Answer: the MIC and stupid wars of imperial conquest. Americans are really good at selling stuff and we finally figured out how to sell worthless paper to people in other countries, papers fabricated by combining the debit from home mortgages and credit cards we all accepted, leaving the sellers rich and the rest of serfs. Of course, those Chinese companies which make the imports are backed by American based corporations that have moved beyond the national boundaries to become global enterprises which can act as mini states to avoid restrictions from individual nations. Then too, the road to serfdom is powered by oil and coal and China is rolling down the same road as US...

E. Swanson

Anti-cuts march: Tens of thousands at London protest

More than 250,000 people have attended a march and rally in central London against public spending cuts.

Labour leader Ed Miliband addressed crowds in Hyde Park and the main march organised by the Trades Union Congress passed off peacefully.

But small groups attacked shops and banks with a stand-off in Piccadilly. There have been 75 arrests and 38 people injured, including five police.

Ministers say the cuts are necessary to get the public finances in order.

Austerity is never pleasant or easy. Unless you're the American government with benefit of a world's "reserve currency", there are only two ways to balance the books, raise taxes and cut spending. That's why it seemed odd to me that the Cameron government shaved a pence off petrol prices and promised tax cuts for gas companies in the budget. Public policy experience says the best approach is to put everything on the table and spread the pain. Then again, that's harder to do when courting the City and relying on backbencher to sure up a coalition government.

Would be a good night for Charles and Camilla to stay off the streets for a quiet evening at home.

As a Brit myself I found the protests a little odd. What exactly are the protesting about? Or, more specifically, what do they expect the government to do about it?

Weren't they around during 2008? Haven't they seen the amount of debt the UK is in?

To quote the Beach Boys, "Fun, fun, fun, til her daddy takes the t-bird away."

Be easy on your compatriots: living within one's means is a hard lesson to learn in life. A second hard lesson to learn is that fairness is not part of the first lesson.

Right, hopefully it will make our generation less spoilt and more compassionate in the long run.

I'm still waiting for the first person to say to me "Why is the government wasting money in Libya when we need it here!"

Hasn't happened to me yet, but you know it's coming...

Speaking as someone who witnessed wholesale austerity in the 1990s, it's tough medicine, but if it's done right, it pays off.

I lost my job in the public sector at the time. Thought it was the worst thing that could happen. Turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I never looked back.

Canada was enormously in debt by the early 1990s and our dollar was worth peanuts. Then a Conservative government imposed a hefty tax increase (an additional 7% General Sales Tax) followed by a Liberal government that slashed every department (with nothing off the table including crown corporations, defense, and transfers to the provinces for health and education ). Nobody liked it but combined with a conservative approach to banking, it saved our goose when the wheels fell off the global economy in 2008. Today Canada's debt to GDP ratio is lowest among OEDC countries and our loonie ($) is at par with the greenback.

Belt tightening is short term political pain for some well appreciated breathing room later. Sound fiscal policy makes sense.

Yes, I'm very much in the 'We had our fun, now time to tighten our belts' camp, but I don't think many feel that way. The old WWII 'for the greater good' type mentality has long disappeared from these shores. Nowadays it's very much a 'me me me' society - I guess an inevitable consequence of consumerism.

Well, I say that, but I actually think the upcoming younger generation are less selfish and more globally aware than mine (I'm in my late-twenties).

So far I've been more impressed with this coalition than the last Labour lot (not hard) but they're not going far enough. There are two things which I feel should be off the table - health and education - but apart from that I'd be happy to see much deeper cuts or at the very least an education campaign to make people here realise the reality and take some responsibility.

I think one of the best chronicles of the peculiar development of British political economy is Andrew Marr's 2008 series on the The History of Modern Britain.

The people who come out of the Second World War are hungry for the pleasures of peace. The road ahead is going to be bumpy and full of nasty surprises. The gap between them and us is less than the span of a human lifetime. It's easy to think we know this story. But the more you look at it, the odder, the more moving, and the grander it really is.

As the documentary (this one and later segments) points out the last of America's post-war loans to a destitute Britain was only paid in full in 2006. In some ways the pent up frustration of the rationing years set the stage for the consumer and credit binge of the Thatcher era. Brits, of course, are no strangers to austerity; freed from it for a bare few decades, Cool Britannia 'admired, aspired, and acquired' like never before. That's not an easy thing to forgo after you've tasted the easy life for a while.

I hope you are right that the next generation is tempered by a greater sense of realism. Will make the adjustment ahead easier to take. For a late twenty something, you may have already gained wisdom not commonly found among the consumer confident of a mere few years ago. The loosening of credit has meant a crescendo of debt. As you say, its "time to tighten the belt."

The next while will not be easy for any of us. IMHO, keeping one's feet on the ground and head out of the clouds should help.


As the documentary (this one and later segments) points out the last of America's post-war loans to a destitute Britain was only paid in full in 2006.

Did the documentary also mention that, in addition to the $4.3 billion that the US loaned Britain at the end of the war, Canada loaned Britain $1.2 billion at the same time? (Britain paid off the Canadian loan at the same time as the American one.)

In addition, during the war Canada gave Britain $3.5 billion in money, munitions, and war materials for a total of $4.7 billion in gifts and loans. That was an incredible amount of money for country with only 11 million people at the time.

The Billion Dollar Gift

Britain lacked gold and dollar reserves. Consequently, Canada gave its ally "munitions of war" worth $1 billion, in an act of unprecedented generosity. The grant, which was announced in January 1942 and accompanied by an interest-free loan of $700 million and other assistance, was expected to last approximately 15 months. Instead, it was depleted before the year ended.

Mutual Aid

Mutual Aid is the principal economic means by which Canada assisted its allies with food, raw materials and munitions from May 1943 until the end of World War II. The Mutual Aid Board, chaired by C.D. Howe, supervised all Allied purchases in Canada and allocated over $2-billion worth of Canadian production without charge, most of it going to Britain and the Commonwealth. An act of enlightened self-interest, it adhered to the fundamental principle that there should be no war debts that would burden postwar trade.

Not only that, but Canada sold Britain millions of tons of wheat at half its market value during the war, and for several years after the war. This was paid for, not by the Canadian government, but by Canadian farmers in foregone income.

Somehow all this aid from the colonies got forgotten after Britain returned to prosperity.

We had our fun, now time to tighten our belts

This usually works out to" We had our fun, now its time for you to tighten yours. usually the you is the generation just entering the workforce. The arguments about using government countercyclically, run deficits during recessions and surpluses during the good times still holds. Otherwise when the problem is a lack of demand, and you throttle the spender of last resort, there is no one left to get the economy going. Austerity can lead to ever receding debt/unemployment horizons. A small country, with its own currency, can do it successfully, as much of the pain is transferred to its trading partners. But, for a big economy, like the US, or (maybe) the UK, it just makes things worse. I'd rather see some bookkeeping numbers pile up, than see millions of desperate unemployed not able to get a job. On a physical scale, wealth is what we create. We aren't creating any during austerity, but rather hoping we can wait out a debt crisis.

I'd rather see some bookkeeping numbers pile up, than see millions of desperate unemployed not able to get a job. On a physical scale, wealth is what we create.

The problem is that the former does not always produce the latter, especially when government is involved.

With the rush of these "stimulus" programs, we have seen governments around the world suddenly give out cash (by debt, of course) for all sorts of projects. But, the process of deciding which projects get done is awful - often poorly thought out, politically motivated, and open to influence. It often results in very poor value (=wealth created) for the money spent.

Here in Canada, the Fed gov asked municipalities to "submit their projects", with a preference for "infrastructure" so they spent lots of staff time doing that, then submit them where some bureaucrats up to 2000 mi away decided which ones were approved. This resulted in rushed projects, simultaneous bidding for heavy contractors (= higher rates) and some projects, e.g. road/pipe work, being done years before it needed to because "the money is there".

In Australia, they did a crash program of house insulation, which resulted in lots of people calling themselves insulation contractors, doing shoddy work, installing insulation 3x thickness because they were being paid (by gov) per batt installed, - free government money often attracts scammers. Finally, the price of insulation went up because of huge demand, and many local, long insulation business were put out of business because suddenly their market had dried up. There are ongoing lawsuits against gov because of the whole mess - money transferred to lawyers for zero lasting wealth creation.

So, while recession spending is a noble concept, it is far from guaranteed that it is an efficient way to create wealth - it can divert scarce government capital from where it is most needed, to where the politicians think it should go - they are not always the same place.

Perhaps so. But I can't shake the feeling that the reason we have/had it so good is down to exploitation of other countries. Of course some debt can fundamentally be attributed to a greater consumption of energy and resources but I don't think that's the whole story - there's a lot of miserable foreigner man-hours behind those figures too.

The East is upcoming - it's their turn now and I feel we should be gracious in accepting this rather than whinging about how "It's not fair!".

But then again, I'll be the first to say I don't understand economics - all smoke and mirrors to me!

I'll be the first to say I don't understand economics - all smoke and mirrors...

I would say, my friend, you know it very well.

Haha, but I've made the fatal faux pas of admitting it publicly..

I was watching online news and 30 minutes ago a feature article discussed this topic. The topic was more like, "Why is US spending money it doesn't have?" Anyway, the article claimed US would spend $1 billion setting up no-fly zone and $100 million per week thereafter. The administration response was emergency funds were already available and additional requests for money were unneeded.

The administration response was emergency funds were already available and additional requests for money were unneeded.

Chi-ching... keep the money presses rolling. Such numbers are mind-numbing - a billion dollars here, another hundred million there.

From what I can see, the prime purpose is to retain the current levels of public sector employment.
They believe that the debts are not theirs but the bankers, and why should they pay with their jobs!

As for the breakaway group that invaded a shop, that protest according to the BBC news was to do with the fact that the business owners are dodging taxes.

The third group, well they are just the usual troublemakers that always turn up!

I do see the point about the Debt, the financial sector seems hellbent on creating new debt to service the existing debts and using the government to facilitate this, via increasing the levels of student loans.

I'm also a brit, and I also find these protests odd. I think that most of these people are actually protesting about who is in power rather than anything else. I don't think they haven taken the time to think about the economic situation, given the state of education in this country it is perhaps beyond them.

I was watching the morning BBC news a few weeks/months ago when they were going on about cuts to "Front Line Services", their reporter was reporting from a belly dancing class and finished his report by saying "Front Line Services like this could be cut!". This country needs a reality check.

Belly dancing is vital to the self-esteem and physical fitness of countless young women, a bonanza to scarf and bra clothiers everywhere, and a major stress relief to otherwise directionless, idle (thus potentially dangerous) and testosterone laden men.

How can anyone criticize such a crucial "Front Line Service"?? No, please say no to these heartless cuts!!

Interesting. The Brits have traditionally been a toe the line sort of people. They would gladly accept any deprivation and would indeed sacrifice their own life to preserve the monarchy.

Perhaps circumstance and the sheer weight of modernity has changed them.

Automakers face paint shortage after Japan quake

Major automakers, including Chrysler Group LLC (FIA.MI), Toyota Motor Co (7203.T), General Motors Co (GM.N) and Ford Motor Co (F.N) use the pigment, called Xirallic, produced at only one factory in the world -- the Onahama plant near the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power station in Japan.

The plant is operated by German chemical company Merck KGaA (MRCG.DE), and has been evacuated. Merck spokesman Gangolf Schrimpf said the company does not know when it will be permitted to reopen the plant, which was closed soon after the March 11 earthquake.

Onahama is 29 km from the Daiichi reactors.

I guess this is the start of our American sacrifices...we might not be able to order our brand-spanking new maximum sized Dodge RAM pickup getting 14 MPG in 'Tuxedo Black'.

Times are tough all over!

They'll be bringing out a new colour soon: "Cherenkov Blue." Make sure the half-life is longer than your Motorplan; don't want the pretty luminescence to fade before you get rid of the vehicle.

Xirallic paint contains special particles that react to light more vividly than normal metallic paint. Sunlight brings the color alive.

OMG - we'll be stuck with dead colors for new cars - whatever shall we do??


Actually I don't see any need for any colour but white...works for me.

Surviving Collapse By Peter Goodchild

3. Alternative sources of energy will never be very useful, mainly because of the problem of "energy returned on energy invested."

4. Peak oil basically means peak food. The survivors, relatively few in number, will be those who have mastered the art of subsistence farming, although as soil quality deteriorates even agriculture will cease to be an option.

Well what else can I say? Actually I think Peter is not entirely correct here. Mastering the art of subsistence farming will definitely help but you will need a lot more than that to even hope to be among the survivors. And you will need a lot of luck.

Let's say you are a substance farmer and also have a few goats and pigs, possibly even a cow. Then the question must be asked, how safe do you feel? Do you think that possibly there are just a few starving people, with starving children, who actually hope not to die in the next few weeks? Is that a possibility?

Well I will go no further with this argument. There are some things that are as obvious as the nose on your face. One of those things is that starving people, with starving children, are not exactly the same person with the same disposition as they were before they became so hungry.

Ron P.

I will also disagree with this;

"Alternative sources of energy will never be very useful, mainly because of the problem of "energy returned on energy invested."

Before oil, all the energy sources were "alternative" and they were all quite useful, and many of them still are.

There is not that much energy invested in collecting and cutting firewood, even if you do it with an old style crosscut saw (which can be as fast as a chainsaw - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y5xtr25oSq4)

There is even less in passive solar heating etc.

WE will just have to learn to adapt to the lesser versatility, and volume, of said fuels.

Assuming the hungry people don;t take them away.

Before oil, all the energy sources were "alternative" and they were all quite useful, and many of them still are.

It's a good point. Although it seems as though we're just slowly eating away at this planet-sized finite lump of resources, in terms of the entropy of the earth it pays to remember that each and every day a vast quantity of energy is gifted to the us from the sun.

Pie in the sky to some maybe, but it's there right enough.

I guess it depend on how you define 'useful'.

Before oil, all the energy sources were "alternative" and they were all quite useful, and many of them still are.

Well no, that's not quite right. Before oil there was coal. And before that all energy sources were renewable. And at that time, when all energy sources were renewable, the population of the earth was a fraction of what it is today. And after that, when all energy sources will again be renewable, the population of the earth will again be a fraction of what it is today.

That is the point Paul, the point you seemed to have missed entirely.

Ron P.

Yes, there was (and always has been) coal. But coal did not actually supplant wood as the major thermal energy source until the mid-late 1800's - by which time oil was on the scene also (though it too, had been used in very small volumes since antiquity).

I may be nitpicking, but for him to say they are of "very little use" is factually incorrect. Renewable fuels are very useful - often just as much as regular fuels. Biodiesel is just as useful as petro diesel, charcoal is actually a better reducing agent than coke for steelmaking, and better than coal for direct firing, ethanol can be used efficiently as a motor fuel (though it presently isn't), hydro-electricity is actually more useful than coal electricity, etc. Half the world cooks with wood/biofuels - definitely useful to them.

So the renewable fuels were, are, and still will be, very useful.
The catch is, of course, that you can't make enough of them, sustainably, to replace current levels of fossil fuels.

Meat and fish are very useful foods, and always have been, but the fact they can't scale to replace our grain consumption does not make them any less useful.

So you and he may well be correct that the population might crash, and I didn't say otherwise, but it won't be because these fuels aren't useful, it will be (among other reasons) that we don't have enough of them.

I think that is an important distinction, and for him to write a statement that can be misinterpreted like that, is lazy writing. It is an important topic he is writing about, and it is worth being clear and unambiguous on the facts - that strengthens the opinions, instead of inviting instant criticism of them, as you and I have both done.

And after that, when all energy sources will again be renewable, the population of the earth will again be a fraction of what it is today.

That's not a foregone conclusion. At least by the laws of physics. The efficiency of using solar energy via wood burning is very low, PV is orders of magnitude more efficient. Obviously we can't use biofuels to power a large population. But, we might be able to do so with advanced renewables (mostly wind/sun). Most likely our stupidity will get in the way of that vision. But if we actually were more sapient than yeast (sigh) we could do it.

Right but we aren't more sapient. And the timeframes involved are too short for real, physical, genetic evolution.

We'll burn all the oil, coal, and gas, and die off.

But it's no biggie! There will still be humans after that, the earth will get a breather, and I'm sure most other life forms remaining on this planet will be happier.

"Assuming the hungry people don;t take them away."

I don't think they'll be a problem, they'll be too busy rioting and protesting in the cities to bother the folks in the countryside too much. Criminal raiding gangs may be more of a problem and the State itself. I'd imagine IED's will become increasingly common in rural areas to control access if things get out of hand. Local knowledge will become essential for safe travel. But I don't believe that will necessarily happen.

I personally think the future will comprise of city ghettoes where most of the population lives, fed by State/corporate run mega farms using a mix of conventional and alternate energies. Rural communities, those that survive, will likely revert back to the older forms of energy and lifestyle as they will be more or less irrelevant in the overall scheme of things.

I don't think it's possible for rural communities to be irrelevant. That's where the food comes from.

For that reason, rural areas will always be relevant. That's why Rome passed laws requiring farmers' sons to become farmers. And why raiding drove Mayan farmers from rural areas to the cities. Unless you're expecting a Star Trek replicator to be invented, productive land will always be the most important resource of any society.

I believe the rural communities will become irrelevant because the food will come from highly industrialised mega-farms. The rural communities will not be part of these highly technical State/corporate run farms. Workers on these farms may well live in camps or facilities similar to military, oil field or offshore rig workers.

Rural communities require expensive services such as schools, hospitals, doctors, public transport, shops, postal services, administration, maintenance, etc. There's vast cost and fuel savings to be made by getting rid of and replacing them with efficient, but minimal facilities that still bring the farming produce to the cities. Such facilities wouldn't even need manning, except for a skeleton crew, for large parts of the year.

The channelling of scarce energy and resources through State/corporate systems overseen by technicians focused on technical efficiency will result in such an outcome over time.

That could be.

But it would still be an impact on rural areas. If only because the land will have to be seized to create the industrial megafarms.

You look at China, and at some now-collapsed Pacific islands...just about every square inch of land has been farmed. Terraces built on mountainsides so steep a goat would have trouble. I hope we don't go there, but I fear it's all too possible.

Yes, what I think will happen is at odds with what I'd like to see happen. Rural communities are and will continue to drain away to the cities, first the young looking for work, later the old in need of healthcare, finally those that cannot fight the economics of the system any longer. Not everyone will leave of course, but those that remain will be increasingly outside the system, mainly forgotten and left to eke out a living on the marginal unwanted lands .

Most of the land suitable for industrial agriculture is already in the hands of large farms and corporations. They simply need to be incorporated into the new megafarms and their owners rewarded. No seizures or hostilities, just business and economics taking over, with science and technology put in charge in a conveniently centralised system.

An overpopulated world engulfed in economic chaos, energy descent and catastrophic climate change will rationalise itself. It will self organise regardless, one way or another, but given our civilisation as it is, I believe it will be similar to what I've described.

Most of the land suitable for industrial agriculture is already in the hands of large farms and corporations.

Most, but not all. And what's suitable now may not be suitable in the future.

There's climate change, for example. That may change suitable land to unsuitable, and vice-versa.

I also think it's possible that there will be a shift to human labor over machines. Yes, it's inefficient, but if you have a bunch of unemployed people who need to be fed anyway, why not use them? That may make land that is currently not suitable for large-scale agriculture suitable. Terraces, for example - not good if you're relying on tractors and combines, but definite advantages otherwise.

"There's climate change, for example. That may change suitable land to unsuitable, and vice-versa."

Yes, for sure. And eventually the megafarms will themselves fail leaving deserts in their wake. I'm certainly not proposing it as a solution, just a likely response of our civilisation to the crisis. Just as printing ever greater amounts of money in response to the financial crisis, the system will throw ever greater amounts of technology at the food crisis. Where cities and their associated agricultural lands fail, people will flee to other more successful cities, expanding their ghettoes and problems.

"I also think it's possible that there will be a shift to human labor over machines."

Yes, I thinks so. But probably in manufacturing and horticulture rather than agriculture. Where efficiencies of scale are overcome by the inefficiency of distance, industries will become dispersed, increasing the use of labour. Particularly in small scale facilities run by ghetto entrepreneurs. Machines, using scarce resources, will be used where they're most efficient, effective and essential.

I have some terraces that I use for food production. They're costly to use and maintain, good only for high yielding crops. This year I'm going to use them for tomatoes, climbing beans, courgettes, etc. I think they'll be left to those remaining in the countryside, at least until things get really desperate.

Megafarms I quiet like that, has a certain ring too it. It has the sweet smell of modernity about it. In the thirties the Soviets called it by its real name collectivisation. and we all know how that worked out. If you want farm productivity with higher yields per acre the way too go is small family farms but if you want lowest cost at the expense of quantity then go for the mega farms. I suspect in the future when things get really tight quantity will rule. I just don't see it happening.

It is a possibility I have examined, and is still on the table.
I have drifted to more of a scenario where there won't be anyone to even answer the telephone in the not to distant future.
We shall see.

Criminal raiding gangs may be more of a problem and the State itself.

Remember the State itself usually reserves the 'power' in 'times of emergency' to confiscate what it wants to preserve the State.

And you will have people who will operate under the color of the power of the State to take what they want personally. See the charges of people in official uniforms taking things post Katrena in New Orleans.

They will harrass the government, and the evil supermarket beaurocrats who are secretly keeping all the food to push up prices. After all, thats where food comes from, supermarkets!

Frankly if half the population of our city wandered through a veg garden they wouldn't have a clue why all those weeds were so neatly arranged between the strips of grass. They will probably just look down on those quietly getting on with things in their shabby little sheds full of useless bits of metal.

After all, thats where food comes from, supermarkets!

I was in software training and in the cab the local news was on. Talking about a local alderwoman.

She was expressing how the local concern about the loss of local farmland was pointless as she, the alderwoman, could buy whatever was needed from the supermarket.

Yes that seems about par for the course although she seems a bit more intelligent than most. ask most people where milk comes from they usually say a carton, she seems to be able to reason farther back down the food chain.

Japanese devise solution for rolling blackouts: rolling production.


The blackouts, which usually last three hours per day, take a big hit on plant efficiency. Metal-casting, for instance, is heavily affected. Smelting ovens need to be cleared and emptied before the shutdown and need a lot of time to come back up once power is restored. A three hour blackout often results in a nine hour downtime.

While enabling some production, the result is still a decline overall.

'OPEC not to increase crude output'

"Prices were pushed up by political crises in some countries of North Africa and the Persian Gulf as well as due to the global economic recovery," he said, adding that an extraordinary meeting is not necessary despite the price hike to over $100 per barrel.

Well what did we expect him to say? The very idea of "spare capacity" is to put it on the market when there is a crisis, like in Libya. Or when there is an economic recovery, demanding more oil. More oil needs to be supplied from the "spare capacity" to prevent the economy from sliding right back into another recession.

Spare capacity is of no use whatsoever unless it is used in the event of a crisis. If it is not used, never put on the market, then that is the exact same thing as if it did not exist.

Ron P.

Ron - Made a rig run today from 0500 to just now so had a lot of highway thinking time. It finally occurred to me that my company (as well as most other US producers) has spare oil production capacity also. I could come pretty close to doubling my flow rate by splitting my producing units in half and drilling a twin well. This might actually increase my URR a bit also. Of course the economics to do so won’t work at current prices. Obviously I’ll have to sell my “spar capacity" at a higher price to get an adequate return on the new capex.

I suspect the KSA could bring many millions of bopd to the market if the price was right. Heck…maybe even 15 – 20 million bopd if they twined every well in Ghawar with a new horizontal. Again, they would have to be paid more than current prices to do so…much more. But if no one is willing to pay this price then the KSA would be telling the truth if they said they had no buyers for their “spar capacity”. Or put more simply the world has access to all of the KSA’s spar marginal production if it’s willing to pay the increased costs for producing marginal production.

I just knew in my heart they wouldn't lie about something so important.


You could probably answer this. What would the economics look like to create spare capacity that would only be implemented when prices were high? Is there something that is expensive to run to produce oil, but can push up the URR and production rate noticeably?

Is there something that is expensive to run to produce oil, but can push up the URR and production rate noticeably?

Absolutely - that would be oilsands, and, especially, oil shale. They are proven technology, expensive to astronomically expensive(oil shale) to run, and each have URR's that dwarf all conventional oil in N. America.

About $70 is good to get most oilsands going, and for oil shale, well, probably $200 +.

Takes a few years to ramp up production though, so don't hold your breath...

I was thinking more of a stage/device/process that could be bolted on to existing production wells - not a separate field/technology.

Gary - was being (partially) tongue in cheek there - unusual to see someone ask specifically for something expensive - oilsands/shale are most expensive answers to your question. Mind you, it does illustrate though that if you want lots of extra capacity, you pay lots.

Rockman may well have some cheaper/faster/easier/realistic options - they just don't deliver such grand reserve increases - that is why some people dream on about oil shale...

Paul - I believe I have a realistic plan to increase production in a group of Texas oil fields from an average rate of less than 10 bopd per well to over 200 bopd per well by drilling infield horizontal wells. But not cheap by any means. Oil over $100/bbl opens up oppotunities that have been recognized for many years.


It might seem a silly question, I assume that wells at 10 bopd are stripper wells and need a pump and I can't work out how you could pump the oil and water out using those nodding donkeys so I assume it would need some sore of submersible electric pump, if you start drilling horizontal wells. I hope it is not a stupid question.

I was thinking more of a stage/device/process that could be bolted on to existing production wells - not a separate field/technology.

Well, you could step up the RPM on the pumps until the bearings started to smoke. I've known companies to actually this kind of thing. It results in producing oil faster, but results in a steeper decline in production later. In fact, it will probably damage the reservoir and cause a decrease in the ultimate recovery of oil, in addition to which it will cost a lot of money and wear the equipment out faster. It's not a long-term strategy.

More commonly, companies drill a large number of infill wells (especially horizontals) and a bunch of injection wells, and inject liquids and gases as fast as possible. This is is what Saudi Aramco is doing at the moment. The fact that their production is not increasing as a result is a cause for concern. Maybe their main oilfields are getting closer to the end of their life than they would care to admit.

I was thinking more of enhanced recovery techniques... maybe a solvent that would enhance the URR and the immediate recovery rate. Or maybe microwave heating of the field to reduce viscosity, etc.

Something that costs and therefore isn't economically viable unless the price is high.

As you can probably guess, I'm interested both because that could change the maximum rate, decline curve shape - and because such techniques become a good investment possibility.

gary - A less silly answer: every well is produced at its "optimum rate". But that's a complicated and very dynamic calculation. Seldom is a well produced at max rate. Often detemined more by an operator's cash flow demand than the technology. Assuming current oil prices are allowing the KSA to easily meet their cash flow needs. If so why would they sell more of thier finite resource now?

gary - Let me offer one of my patented smart *ss answers: how willing are you to invest money into a project that gives you no cash flow or return on your investment. Granted you might get more revenue when you bring that extra production on line but how many years have you waited for the payoff? In every investment (not just the oil patch) the time factor plays a huge role. You invest $100 with me and I'll give you $130 back. Good investment for you? If I give it to you in 12 months...yes. But 10 years...not so much.

Just my WAG when the KSA says they have spare capacity they mean much of it would require some major capex they can't justify at current prices.

splitting my producing units in half and drilling a twin well. This might actually increase my URR a bit also. Of course the economics to do so won’t work at current prices.

But, is that really scalable? Remember what happened to the price of drill pipe during the 2008 price spike? The industry can't suddenly decide to double drilling volume, because there would need to be a commensurate expansion of all the support materials and services.

EOS - Given enough time it's possible. But here's the big BUT. But the buyers will have to contract for future oil at prices significantly above current levels. Remember most OPEC oil is bought on long term contracts. Trust me: if a refinery agreed to pay $200/bbl the KSA would find the drill pipe and rigs to "get er done". But they don't even need to drill more wells. Just increase the pump rate on their Ghawar wells. That would mean increasing their surface production equipment (mostly oil/water seperation). This could be done in the matter of months.

But this is like fantasy football: you can sketch it out on paper but that doesn't mean it will happen. A refiner can contact the KSA tomorrow to contract some of the "spare capacity". The KSA agrees to sell to them and asks how much of this $150/bbl oil the refiner wants to buy. The refiner says none and the KSA can honestly say they don't have any buyers for their spare capacity. Some folks need to be reminded that the seller sets the price for their oil. Just because the KSA is selling their current production at $100/bbl it doesn't mean they have to offer additional oil at that price. If they want $130/bbl of their spare capacity you meet their price or you don't buy. Which is exactly what I would do if I were them. When the PT Cruiser vehicle first came on the market they were sold for more than the sticker price. Same rule of supply and demand.

This is similar to the deception offered when someone claims there are XX billions of bbls of oil recoverable from some oil trend. That number is absolutely meaningless if it doesn’t include the assumptions of oil price and drilling costs. Saying you have spare capacity to sell but not including the price you'll sell it at is the same deception. I can go out tomorrow and put a bigger pump on some of my oil wells and pull them a bit harder. But doing so will likely reduce my URR a bit and also run the risk of damaging the wells. I would be willing to do it but only if I were offered a much higher price than I got Friday.

I could come pretty close to doubling my flow rate by splitting my producing units in half and drilling a twin well. This might actually increase my URR a bit also.

For starters, that would not be "spare capacity" because it could not be brought on in 30 days. However...

Would your increased UUR pay for the drilling of the new well. If it is shallow enough it might. I remember seeing, in Long Beach California, wells drilled every few feet. That was in the early 60s and none of them seemed to be pumping anymore.

But what you would do is increase your depletion rate. You might increase your UUR slightly but your depletion rate would almost double. You would simply suck the oil out a lot faster. And that is exactly what has been responsible for the increased production in much of the world since oil prices skyrocketed.

I suspect the KSA could bring many millions of bopd to the market if the price was right. Heck…maybe even 15 – 20 million bopd if they twined every well in Ghawar with a new horizontal.

They have already done that! It began in Shedgum in 1995.

In 1995, a comprehensive 3-D seismic campaign was conducted across the Ghawar field. The seismic profiles provided vital information on reservoir structure and distribution of fractures, guiding development and recompletions across Ghawar. That information, for example, was used to guide the placement of the horizontal well trajectory for Shedgum No. 1.

The Oil Drum reported this in June of 2009. Five Easy Leases: Ghawar's Discovery Wells And with this extensive drilling of horizontal MRC wells Saudi has gotten their decline rate down from an average of 8 percent to almost 2 percent. Well they had accomplished this in 2006, five years ago. I suspect it has climbed considerably higher since then. Saudi Arabia’s Strategic Energy Initiative

• Without “maintain potential” drilling to make up for production, Saudi oil fields would have a natural decline rate of a hypothetical 8%. As Saudi Aramco has an extensive drilling program with a budget running in the billions of dollars, this decline is mitigated to a number close to 2%.

So with all these new horizontal MRC wells Saudi has gotten their decline rate down. You think they could drill even more horizontal wells and get their production up to: Heck…maybe even 15 – 20 million bopd...

Rockman, I am really shocked that you wrote that. I can think of nothing more to say.

Ron P.

Ron - "I am really shocked that you wrote that". Got everyone's attention, eh? LOL. That was the point. I felt the term "spare capacity" was being thrown around too much w/o folks understanding the dynamics. Obviously at ever point in a field's producion life every technology available that can be used to increase production is applied IF THE CURRENT PRICE OF OIL JUSTIFIES IT. As you know so well folks are talking crazy about "huge potential" from EOR. Yes...huge potential from EOR. That's why EOR has been used in every field applicable for more than 50 years.

Or to put it in terms our non-tech cousins can appreciate: everyone on TOD could increase their income if they gave up 3 hours of their sleep time for another job, And many would...if the paycheck made it worthwhile.

BTW: I don't care how you define spare capacity re: 30 days. The KSA and I are free to define spare capacity how we choose. And no...neither of us are required to tell you what our definition might be. Just like the KSA's prediction of their URR...they aren't required to show the details of that calc.

Iran says OPEC special meeting 'unnecessary'

AFP - Iran Oil Minister Masoud Mirkazemi sees no reason to call an extraordinary meeting of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Country (OPEC), Mehr news agency reported on Saturday.

"An extraordinary meeting of OPEC is not necessary in the current situation," said Mirkazemi, who is also currently the head of the oil producers' association.

That's a great resource.
Thank you!
Here is the "lessons learned" thread:
World-nuclear.org Fukushima portal:
Tepco's analysis of the water workers stepped in:

Okay. So, about 3am Pacific (Sunday), there's a report on CNN that says the radiation readings at one of the Fukushima reactors was 10 *MILLION* times normal readings.

Is this another milli/micro mistake? - Jeez, I hope!
I had heard 10 thousand times in the puddle, right?

That would be, um.... bad?

"The 10-million-times normal reading applies to radioactive iodine-134 found in the No. 2 building's pooled water, according to the nuclear safety agency."


Officials: Huge jump in radiation was a mistake

SENDAI, Japan (AP) — Officials say a measurement showing a huge spike in radiation levels at a stricken Japanese nuclear complex was a mistake.

What's going on here? These are "experts" making measurements that the process for doing is very well known. Either there's a huge amount of incompetence or the "mistake" was releasing information that they don't want to have getting out. Either way, I have absolutely no confidence that we are being told anything close to what's actually happening. We keep hearing about "mistaken" readings, over and over. Come on!

"Either there's a huge amount of incompetence or the "mistake" was releasing information that they don't want to have getting out."

Never attribute to malice what can be attributed to incompetence. To which I would add the incompetence is after two weeks of hell and total exhaustion.

Explanation was simple. They saw the reading and scarpered before stopping to check.


Rebels going strong at the moment:

There are reports Libyan rebels have taken back control of the town of Bin Jawad, about 525km east of Tripoli, as they push forward towards Gaddafi's stronghold of Sirte on Sunday, according to Reuters.

The latest advance puts pro-democracy fighters firmly in control of all oil terminals in eastern Libya - Es Sider, Ras Lanuf, Brega, Zueitina, Ajdabiya and Tobruk.


Sirte will be a big test though..

Momentum is a wonderful thing, eh?

1314: The BBC's Ben Brown in the eastern Libyan town of Ras Lanuf says: "There has been an extraordinary advance by the rebels. It follows the capture of Ajdabiya on Saturday in the wake of allied air strikes on pro-Gaddafi forces surrounding the town. Since then, the rebels have been moving forward very fast, heading westwards on the coastal road, taking town after town. They have seized Brega, Uqayla and now Ras Lanuf. The towns have fallen almost, it seems, without a shot being fired. A rebel commander we spoke to along the way claimed that Col Gaddafi's forces were in full retreat."


I think Gaddafi is pretty much finished. It'd be interesting to see what happens, though.
There was an interview with one senior military analyst here in Sweden who stated that when you look at the research in his area(war, revolutions and conflict), the trend is that the longer the rebels are in armed conflict the more unlikely it is they will want to let go off that privilege. to give up their arms and begin with the painful process of democracy. Often, some powerhungry individuals want to replace the dictator with the new-found military power, or at the very least expand the sphere of power they previously had in the power vacuum and this can often create tense situations, at times leading to internal strife and a continued, protracted civil war.

Since Libya is still a very tribal society, it's possible we'll see more conflict post-Gadaffi. Probably not immediately, since NATO will try to steer away from a scenario where they look like total failures, but with time. Once NATO, and the media, starts to lose attention.

Also, Gaddafi has a lot of tribal support, which is something parts of the media is only now, reluctantly, willing to disclose. A lot of tribes have a clear stake in him having the mantle of authority. They'll lose out if things become more fair, not least because many of these have abused their clear standing to him at other's expense and are rightly worried about repercussions.

And besides, there is no vital infrastructure, the army is in shambles, there has been 40 years of anti-democratic rule and the rebels have no essential glue holding them together but mere survival in the face of Gaddafis forces.

If he is ousted, or killed, the real challenge begins. And unlike in Tunisia or Egypt, a lot of things have to be done from scratch since Libya is a huge country with a very small population, fractured along tribal lines. It'll be hard to hold it together in a true democracy, let alone in a situation where there is a total vacuum after Gaddafi.

Still, I don't see it as a possible way to back down now. Gaddafi must be routed, but what comes thereafter is anybody's guess. The situation is hardly ideal, in fact, quite worrisome.

Yes, I've worried about the same thing. The encouraging signs are things such as the rebels sweeping through towns without a bullet being fired - quite a contrast to the Gadaffi sieges! I'm sure the common people will remember this.

I also take heart from the statements given by the Interim Government - they seem very secular, very sensible, very modern etc. I hope that this rubs off on the final governing group, whoever they comprise.

At present - claims that

AL-QAEDA'S offshoot in North Africa has snatched surface-to-air missiles from an arsenal in Libya during the civil strife there, Chad's President says.

And a blast from the past:

French President Nicolas Sarkozy was first off the mark, flying to Tripoli to meet with Moammar Gadhafi and sign a number of agreements -- including a deal on building a French nuclear reactor in Libya.

Why is the U.S. backing anti-government forces (with words) in Egypt and with military force in Libya, but not backing anti-government forces in Bahrain and Jordan and Yemen?


Would we back China or Mexico intervening in a violent U.S.- Texas conflict if Texas seceded?

Intervention is a tricky and dangerous game, and we might as well throw any talk about 'universal values' out the window...it is all about realpolitik.

Hmm, well to play Devil's Advocate for a minute - two points:

1. It's not just the US backing intervention, it's an international coalition officially formed for humanitarian reasons.
2. The scale of violence in Libya is far greater than other places so far - reports of rebels deaths around 8,000+.


Humanitarian reasons. Congo? Somalia? Ivory Coast?

I watched 'Meet the Press' today...

Gosh did Secretaries Gates and Clinton and Senator Dick Lugar and the panel all tie themselves up into knots attempting to justify this operation!

Lugar lobbed grenades at President Obama for engaging in a military action without well-defined goals and without a clearly-defined exit strategy, and without the costs being budgeted for!


Of course, this is payback for all the same criticism lobbed at the G.W.B administration for Iraq and the 'Stan.

It was justified when it was lobbed at GWB, and it is justified now to lob the same criticism against President Obama.

I love how everyone said we were in two wars, and now we are in three wars.

We (U.S.) were in at least three wars (Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan), and now we add Libya.

What most people don't know is that we have been militarily engaged (special ops, advisers, trainers) since 9-11 (and even before for one major military mission) in other parts of the World than the places I just mentioned. The intensity is low enough to escape media and public notice.

The figure for U.S. involvement in Libya is $100M per day.

Like falling off a log, as easy as that!

But we just had to end tax credits for installing new high-efficiency furnaces and new high-efficiency windows etc as of December 21, 2010.

AT least one guy on the Meet the Press panel got in the last word by correctly stating that the 64 zillion dollar question/8 million pond gorilla is Saudi Arabia.

Believe you me, if KSA wobbles the U.S. will be all over it like a wet blanket.

Yes, I appreciate the apparent double-standards when so many other places are also in need of help, but that doesn't disqualify this being a humanitarian operation too.

Perhaps it's simply a case that it was easier to see a 'quick' solution in Libya than the other places - remove one mad dog. It does still seem that the anti-Gadaffi supporters far outnumber the pro. The Congo, Ivory Coast, Somalia et al are very different situations with an unclear majority. Even Yemen likely wouldn't benefit from the same intervention that Libya has requested.

Rwanda did prompt the inception of the 'Responsibility to Protect' resolution and this appears to be the first time it's been invoked since then, so something of a precedent - I'm not sure it can be fairly compared to the true wars in Iraq/Afghan/Pakistan. But that remains to be seen.

it was easier to see a 'quick' solution in Libya than the other places - remove one mad dog.

Sorry, but after all the recent examples that's got to be one of the most naive things I've read in a long time. Don't we ever learn?

There is one monster huge difference between Libya and Iraq:
In Libya there was a huge external push for the US to get involved, not so for Iraq.

It may turn into another tar baby of a war, but it isn't one that we asked for, and there are many in the world who were complaining that we took too long to get involved.

I don't seem to recall such complaints back in 2003.

I don't seem to recall such complaints back in 2003.

You were not looking in the correct places.

...a violent U.S.- Texas conflict if Texas seceded...

Why would we fight for Texas? There's no oil there.

The U S Navy is helping open a port to bring relief supplies to the tsunami affected area http://www.c7f.navy.mil/news/2011/03-march/067.htm

As well as bring fresh water to the Fukushima nuclear plant


The USMC is there too



1451: Ali Tarhouni says the deal between the rebel council and Qatar, which is taking part in the no-fly zone operation, to sell oil produced in eastern Libya will help ensure "access to liquidity in terms of foreign-denominated currency". "We contacted the oil company of Qatar and they agreed to take all the oil we export and market that oil for us. We have an escrow account... and the money will be deposited in this account. This way there is no middle man and we know where the money is going."


Libyan waters declared a war zone

Nautilus has supported the declaration by the Chamber of Shipping of Libyan coastal waters – up to 24 nautical miles from its shore - as a war zone, backdated to Friday, 18 March 2011.

The recognition of developments since the adoption of UN Resolution 1973 and the participation of UK forces in several locations in Libya has led to declaring territorial waters a warlike operations area.



The usual shippers and insurers won't allow landing in Libya, although it seems possible that Qatar may take the risks and get some oil flowing.

Then there is the additional problem of sanctions on Libyan oil. As far as I know, the sanctions apply to all oil from Libya.

However Iran was able to take advantage of the chaos in MENA and get some oil sold anyway to countries supporting sanctions. So it's possible Libya will do the same under sanctions.

Additional good information about rebel oil sales:

Tarhouni said output from east Libya oilfields that rebels controlled was running at about 100,000 to 130,000 bpd, which could be increased to 300,000 bpd.

Tarhouni said he had asked the main oil company at Brega, 75 kilometres west of Ajdabiyah, to resume operations within 24 hours. The terminal would produce liquid natural gas for domestic use for now, he said.

Officials at eastern oil company Agoco have told Reuters it was pumping most of the oil produced in the east to the terminal in Tobruk in the far east of the country.

The plan seemed to have hit a stumbling block when Agoco was named along with 13 other Libyan companies targeted by US sanctions.


Just a quick question: How do people locate new messages on this forum?

I'm either overlooking something very simple or there isn't an easy method?

Up to now I've just been hitting F3 and searching for the term [n which works reasonably well to identify the label, but unfortunately every now and then someone will happen to have a phrase which includes this and I end up having to scroll through them each time (as the [n in the actual thread text obviously doesn't disappear, in contrast to the blue new post indicator which only appears once).

I suppose I could search for [ne but that requires the effort to type a whole extra letter!

P.s. Apologies to those that employ the same technique and are now having to scroll through my post thricely each time...

I look for the entire word: {new} (only with square brackets)

I will also edit it out if people post it in the text of their comments, so it doesn't screw up searches.

Ah, ok, thanks Leanan. At least I know I'm not missing out on something obvious!

I think I might start going the whole hog and following your advice.

So Syria really does look to be collapsing:

1539: Meanwhile, al-Arabiya TV is reporting that Syria's government is expected to resign on Tuesday; that the Baath Party Regional Command will abolish the emergency law after a new counter-terrorism law has been drafted; that Article 8 of the constitution, which defines the Baath Party as the "leading party in the society and the state", has been amended; and that a new media law "preventing the imperilment of reporters" has been endorsed.


And only a few weeks ago people were quoting the near impossibility that Syria would experience unrest. Just goes to show that even the 'experts' can get it very wrong.

Completely unrelated, but I just gotta say this is one of the best Drumbeats I've read/participated in for quite a while. A lot of discussions, a lot of back-and-forth and a lot of subjects and mostly the comments go on quite a bit. Maybe it's because the news-roundup isn't that rich as it usually is? Maybe it's because it's Sunday? I don't know but this is awesome, but also dangerous. I've lost like 3 hours reading and responding during the day. 3 hours!

I will stop now :p


RAS LANOUF, Libya – Libyan rebels regained two key oil complexes in a high-speed advance west on Libya's coast on Sunday, retracing the steps of their first march toward the capital with their path cleared by the world's most powerful air force.

Now that they have the oil, the rebels are making tentative plans to exploit Libya's most valuable natural resource. But production is at a trickle, the foreign oil workers and their vital expertise have fled the country, and even talk of a marketing deal with Qatar seems murky at best.

The coastal complexes at Ras Lanouf and Brega were responsible for a large chunk of Libya's 1.5 million barrels of daily exports, which have all but stopped since the uprising that began Feb. 15 and was inspired by the toppling of governments in Tunisia and Egypt.


Rebels say Qatar ready to market east Libyan oil


Yemen is also getting closer to the brink .
Seems that Islamics rebels have seized a town in the south of the country:


Make me wonder if the rebels are really taking advantage of the turmoil or if the government has loosen the grip on security in some areas to freak out the west and get support ….