Drumbeat: April 4, 2011

We Aren't Going to Stop Buying Gas

According to research by UC Davis's Jonathan Hughes, Christopher Knittel and Daniel Sperling, Americans are now less responsive to increases in gas prices. In the late 1970s, a ten percent rise in the cost of gas would lead to about a three percent decline in the amount of gas consumed. In the early 2000s, on the other hand, gas prices would have to rise about 60 percent to provoke a similar decline in gas consumption. The researchers theorized that this might be because spending on gas is now a smaller fraction of total monthly income or because cars get better mileage now, meaning that cutting back on driving saves less gas than it would have in the 1970s. But either way, their research suggests that even if gas prices go higher, we’re unlikely to see Americans buying substantially less gas.

US emphatic: No deal to let BP resume drilling

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on Monday rejected media reports that BP was striking a deal to resume deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico a year after the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

British media on Sunday said BP was in talks with the U.S. government to restart drilling at existing wells less than a year after a blast on the Deepwater Horizon rig ruptured BP's underwater Macondo well, unleashing millions of barrels of oil.

US official decries safety bonuses awarded to executives of rig company in Gulf oil spill

MEXICO CITY — The head of a U.S. presidential commission investigating the Gulf of Mexico oil spill says the company whose rig exploded a year ago “just doesn’t get it.”

Former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator William Reilly says bonuses awarded to executives of Transocean Ltd. underscores the commission’s finding that lax standards caused the largest offshore spill in U.S. history.

Rise in Oil Prices Unsettles Markets

“OPEC has also shown that it is taking the Libyan outage seriously,” according to a report from JBC Energy in Vienna. “Libyan production declined by just over 1 million barrels a day in March, but total OPEC production fell by only 500,000 barrels a day as other OPEC members — mainly Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait — picked up the slack.”

Some analysts say oil prices — which have jumped about 29 percent since Feb. 15 — will likely begin to fall unless the United States announces a major new program to provide cheap money or violent protests spread in the Middle East and North Africa.

Pemex tries to pump up moribund redevelopment projects

Petroleos Mexicanos officially tendered in early March 2011 for the redevelopment of mature and abandoned fields in three onshore blocks in Tabasco State. The first round is a 2 year seismic option that follows a 2-year evaluation phase. Potential operators have the option to bow out. The hydrocarbon reserves identified by Pemex in each block may be of interest to niche-players. Pemex indicates there could be about 200 million recoverable barrels in 6 fields. Existing wells have many issues.

FACTBOX-Key political risks to watch in Mexico

Oil production, which funds about one-third of government spending, has stabilized after slumping by nearly a quarter between 2004 and 2009. It hit an eight-month high in January but output fell slightly in February, and the government says it should hold steady at around 2.6 million barrels per day through 2012.

Understanding the price of gasoline in Canada

Count yourself lucky if you don’t give a rat’s posterior about how gas pump prices are derived. Because if you do, like some of us, you’re set up for years of frustration. But understanding is achievable. So let’s get started.

Watching The World: Japan's energy gap

The oil and gas industry has already seen changes emerging from the woes that have descended upon Japan, with oil suppliers ready to fill in the gap created by the shutdown of nuclear power plants.

Libya and Japan to bring additional $3.5 billion of revenue to Gazprom

The energy crisis in Japan and the Libyan conflict led to a change on the natural gas market in Europe, RBK daily announced. The excess supply of liquefied natural gas (LNG) has decreased significantly in March as large amounts from the fuel are shipped to Japan. Furthermore the spot market prices of natural gas are now higher than the contract prices of Gazprom, which gives the Russian company another argument in its negotiations with clients.

Libyan Rebels Gain in Fight for Oil Town

BREGA, Libya — As evening fell Monday, rebel fighters were engaging the main body of Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi’s forces in an intense battle for the oil town of Brega, trading fire at close quarters and sending volleys of rockets into the town.

Libya rebels may sell first oil cargo this week

(Reuters) - Libyan rebels may this week sell the first tankerful of crude since an uprising against leader Muammar Gaddafi fully halted exports from the North African country and sent oil prices higher.

Libyan wounded describe "hell" of Misrata

SFAX, Tunisia (Reuters) – Gaddafi forces using tanks and snipers are carrying out a "massacre" in Misrata with corpses on the streets and hospitals full of the wounded, evacuees said, with one describing the besieged city as "hell."

Two Qaddafi sons are said to offer plan to push father out

TRIPOLI, Libya — At least two sons of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi are proposing a resolution to the Libyan conflict that would entail pushing their father aside to make way for a transition to a constitutional democracy under the direction of his son Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi, a diplomat and a Libyan official briefed on the plan said Sunday.

The next oil crisis point

Nigeria is about to become the crisis du jour, and there is good reason -- Goodluck Jonathan is running for re-election as president this month; so are candidates for Parliament. In the last elections -- in 2007 -- there was so much violence that 1 million barrels of oil a day -- half the country's total production -- was lost to export markets, the Wall Street Journal's Jerry Dicolo reports. If that recurs -- or if traders figure it will -- look for prices to go a lot higher than the $107.94 a barrel that they reached last week. Along with that will rise gasoline prices.

The Arab Spring: The Kazakh case

While the petro-states of the Middle East are roiled by the Arab Spring, the Islamic countries of the former Soviet Union are mostly quiescent. The richest of them is Kazakhstan, which today is holding the latest in a two-decade string of rigged presidential elections. President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who will be swept into a new five-year term, isn't talking publicly, but his prime minister, Karim Masimov, has weighed in on how the Kazakhs view Cairo, Tunis, Damascus and so on. "What is the biggest difference between them and us? People in Kazakhstan, the young generation in Kazakhstan, have hope and they have an opportunity to go forward," Masimov told Reuters.

Strike by refinery workers could cause fuel shortage

Workers at Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE), which controls three of Greece’s four oil refineries, entered the second day of a planned 10-day strike on Monday amid fears that their action could lead to a fuel shortage.

The employees are protesting staffing levels, the failure of management to sign a collective contract and the reduction of their wages.

Search for radiation leak turns desperate in Japan

TOKYO – Workers used a milky bathwater dye Monday as they frantically tried to trace the path of radioactive water seeping into the ocean from Japan's tsunami-damaged nuclear plant.

The crack in a maintenance pit discovered over the weekend was the latest confirmation that radioactivity continues to spill into the environment. The leak is a symptom of the primary difficulty at the Fukushima Dai-ichi complex: Radioactive water is pooling around the plant and preventing workers from powering up cooling systems needed to stabilize dangerously vulnerable fuel rods.

Centrica Begins Construction on $1.2 Billion Wind Farm in U.K.'s Northeast

Centrica Plc (CNA), the U.K.’s biggest energy supplier, started building a 725 million-pound ($1.2 billion) sea-based wind farm near Skegness in the northeast.

Belectric Wins Contract for Largest Saudi Solar Plant in a Parking Lot

Belectric Solarkraftwerke GmbH, a German solar project developer, will build Saudi Arabia’s largest photovoltaic plant on a parking lot at a new Saudi Arabian Oil Co. office complex in Dhahran.

Privatization of Canada's electrical grid accelerating

Canadians tend to think of power generation as a public utility — a crucial piece of infrastructure that governments are duty-bound to provide and oversee. But in Canada, the responsibility of managing the electricity grid is no longer a question of public trust; increasingly, it's a matter of private enterprise.

The quants and the poets

My feeling is that the green movement has torpedoed itself with numbers. Its single-minded obsession with climate change, and its insistence on seeing this as an engineering challenge which must be overcome with technological solutions guided by the neutral gaze of Science, has forced it into a ghetto from which it may never escape. Most greens in the mainstream now spend their time arguing about whether they prefer windfarms to wave machines or nuclear power to carbon sequestration. They offer up remarkably confident predictions of what will happen if we do or don’t do this or that, all based on mind-numbing numbers cherry-picked from this or that ’study’ as if the world were a giant spreadsheet which only needs to be balanced correctly.

Beef prices soar

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- If you're already shocked by how much your favorite cut of beef costs at the supermarket, brace yourself because prices will keep going up.

Surging commodity prices already have consumers paying more for groceries such as eggs, milk, cereal and meat. The price of beef in particular has shot through the roof.

Grain drain. We don't need to give up meat to feed the world.

Fixating on meat as the malady is a good example of the tail wagging the dog. The root problem isn't that we cover our continent with grain to eat more red meat than we need.

The problem is that we grow so much grain we hardly know what to do with it. So we feed it to cattle, put it in soft drinks, and even force ourselves to burn it in our cars.

Watch Radiant City, How Urban Sprawl is Eating the Planet

Four years ago I reviewed Radiant City, a sort of cross between documentary and drama by Gary Burns and journalist Jim Brown. Spacing describes how "together they demonstrate how urban sprawl is eating the planet. They look at the brutalizing aesthetic of strip malls and listen to fears about the soul-eating suburbs. Making heavy use of cultural references, they riff off sitcoms and reality TV and drop names from Jane Jacobs to The Sopranos while all the while using a wide range of cinematic devices to examine what happens when cities get sick and mutate."

Now it is free and online.

Employees say show us the green, and the commitment to green

Want to impress your prospective employees? Whip out the balance sheet, but don’t forget the sustainability report.

A new survey finds that more than 6 in 10 full-time workers think an employer’s impact on the environment is vital when evaluating whether to work there. That’s about the same percentage of people who think looking at their profit margin is important.

Saudi Arabia Looks to Solar, Nuclear Power to Reduce Its Oil Use by Half

Saudi Arabia, which holds one-fifth of global oil reserves, aims to pursue renewable energy and nuclear power to help reduce by half the crude and natural gas it burns now to generate electricity.

The country expects domestic power demand to triple over the next two decades and wants to develop a more sustainable mixture of energy sources, Khalid Al Sulaiman, vice president for renewable energy at King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy, said at a conference in Riyadh today. King Abdullah City is the agency in charge of developing green energy.

“Saudi Arabia’s demand for petroleum products -- demand for energy -- is rising at a high and very alarming rate,” Al Sulaiman said in a speech at the Saudi Solar Forum. “Population growth and robust economic development and many reasons drive that demand.” The country currently gets almost all of its energy from fossil fuels, he said.

Oil Rises to 30-Month High on Libya Conflct; Kuwait Says Price Is Too High

Oil climbed to the highest level in 30 months in New York on speculation that U.S. economic growth may support demand and a protracted conflict in Libya will curtail supply.

Futures advanced a third day after an April 1 report showed the U.S., the world’s largest crude consumer, added more jobs than economists forecast last month. Prices are too high and “worrying,” the chief executive officer of Kuwait Petroleum Corp. said today. Forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi bombed an oil field south of the city of Ajdabiya, Al Jazeera television reported, heightening concern output losses from Africa’s third-largest producer may continue.

Kuwait 'ready' to fill Libyan oil gap

Kuwait is ready to supply more crude to global markets if they are needed to help offset a shortfall in exports caused by the conflict in Libya, Kuwait Petroleum's top official said.

"We're ready to supply more. So far we haven't been asked," Chief Executive Officer Farouk Al-Zanki said at a conference in Kuwait City today. Kuwait is pumping "two and something" million barrels of crude a day, in line with its Opec production quota, he said.

OPEC oil output slips lower, Saudi Arabia misses target

OPEC crude oil output slipped lower in March, dropping over 1 percent as the halt in Libyan exports takes effect and it seems that OPEC’s star exporter, Saudi Arabia has missed the target on filling the oil supply gap.

Kingdom steps up role in global energy security

Saudi Arabia holds the key to global energy security. It plays an extremely significant role in balancing the overall demand and supply.

With many in the Western world continuing to be skeptical of the Saudi potential and capacity, at least in the longer run, eyes continue to remain focused on Riyadh.

And any move by Riyadh is viewed critically.

A Reuters report, citing Simmons & Co. analyst Bill Herbert, raised eyebrows last week when it said that Saudi Arabia is planning to boost the number of oil rigs in operation by almost 30 percent to 118 from a current level around 92.

Oil Prices Won't Kill the Recovery

More importantly, the U.S. economy is today well-positioned to absorb an oil spike without experiencing it as an oil shock. First, we're nowhere near peak oil consumption, which we hit in August 2005 at 21.7 million barrels per day. We're now 9% below that, even though consumption has recovered substantially since its worst levels of the Great Recession in September 2008. The last three recessions—those that started in 1990, 2001 and 2008—began only after oil consumption reached new peak levels.

Economies in the early stages of recovery, like ours today, are less vulnerable to oil shocks than those in the late stages of expansion. As a business cycle matures, the economy experiences diminishing returns from any given factor of production—labor, credit, oil or anything else. When a recovery is still new, large gains can be levered from relatively modest increases in inputs, so the economy can afford to pay more for those inputs.

Stocks Stealth Bull Market Trend Forecast 2011

Whilst the mainstream press as ever looks in the rear view mirror to pick events as reasons for the rise in the oil price, such as the ongoing breakout of freedom in the middle east, however as stated in the January 2010 Inflation Mega-trend ebook and updated below, the consequences of peak oil ensures an escalator effect for the ramping up of oil prices into ever higher trading ranges that will one day make today's high oil prices look cheap, as oil prices continue a volatile mega-trend to north of $200 per barrel.

Jim Rogers on the Dangers of Price Inflation, the Promise of Commodities and America's Continued Decline

Daily Bell: What about oil? Give us your take on Peak Oil. Is it real? Does it exist?

Jim Rogers: I don't know if there is Peak Oil or not. I do know that known reserves of oil are in decline. That is a very simple statement. Is there a staggering amount of oil out there in the world? We don't seem to know where it is, though we hope we find it soon and that it is accessible. The price of oil and all energy is also going much higher.

Three killed in convoy attack in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (UPI) -- Islamist rebels in northwestern Pakistan cut the throats of three security guards in the latest fatal attack on a NATO truck convoy headed for Afghanistan.

The guards were killed at a NATO truck terminal in the town of Landi Kotal in the Khyber tribal district near the Afghan border.

Suspected Taliban and al-Qaida rebels also damaged 10 oil tankers carrying fuel to resupply international troops in Afghanistan, a local Pakistan government administrator said.

Qaddafi Emissary Meets Greece's Papandreou as U.S. Extends Combat Missions

Italy rejected a reported cease-fire proposal by Muammar Qaddafi and said it is recognizing Libya’s opposition as the legitimate government as rebels fought loyalists at the oil port of Brega.

U.S. to withdraw warplanes from Libya mission

BRUSSELS (AP) — The U.S. military will pull its warplanes from front-line missions Monday and shift to a support role in the Libyan conflict, a NATO official said.

Libya warns of disaster if 'Great Man-Made River' hit

TRIPOLI (AFP) – Libya warned on Sunday that NATO-led air strikes could cause a "human and environmental disaster" if they damaged the country's massive Great Man-Made River (GMMR) project.

Built at a cost of 33 billion dollars, the GMMR extracts water from deep beneath the Sahara desert at a depth of between 500 and 800 metres (1,600 to 2,500 feet), purifies it and transports it to the coastal cities of the north where most of the population is concentrated.

Troops fire on Yemen protest, 6 killed, 30 wounded

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Yemeni troops opened fire on crowds of protesters demanding the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, killing six and wounding more than 30 on Monday in the second straight day of clashes in a southern city, witnesses and medical officials said.

Bahrain union chief dismissed

The head of one of the biggest trade unions in Bahrain has been dismissed for "encouraging" staff to strike during the protests that brought the declaration of martial law last month.

Abdul Ghaffar Abdul Hussain, the chairman of the trade union at Bahrain Petroleum Company (Bapco), was told to leave his job as a mechanical supervisor with immediate effect, his employers said. He was notified by a letter sent to his home on Thursday.

Fight for Abidjan Enters Fifth Day as Ivory Coast Food Supplies Run Short

The fight for Abidjan, the commercial capital of Ivory Coast, enters its fifth day today with few people daring to go outdoors and food supplies in the city of four million beginning to run short.

Nigeria Delays Elections by a Week After Parliamentary Vote Ends in Chaos

Nigeria’s electoral commission is scrambling to prepare for rescheduled parliamentary elections on April 9 after two delays cast doubt on its ability to organize the vote in Africa’s top oil producer.

Kuwait to overhaul oil industry

Ministers in Kuwait are today expected to unveil a plan to overhaul the nation's oil industry in a bid to bring its economic fortunes more into line with those of its neighbours.

Other Gulf oil exporters such as the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, are streaking ahead of Kuwait in terms of economic development. That is despite the nation's vast oil endowment, which has already transformed its living standards for its citizens who now enjoy an annual income averaging more than US$43,000 (Dh157,928) per head.

ConocoPhillips Targets Deep-Water, Shale Acquisitions, CEO Mulva Tells FT

ConocoPhillips (COP) is looking at acquisitions of deep-water and shale assets, the Financial Times reported, citing Chief Executive Officer Jim Mulva.

The company will increase planned capital spending of $13.5 billion by $2.5 billion this year for favourable opportunities, Mulva told the newspaper, mentioning the Gulf of Mexico in particular.

PDVSA Inks 12 Million-Bbl/Year Fuel Oil, Diesel Supply Deal With Argentina - Executive

CARACAS -(Dow Jones)- Petroleos de Venezuela, or PDVSA, has signed a term fuel oil and diesel supply contract with Argentina to begin shipping 12 million barrels a year of the oil products next month, an executive at the state oil company said Sunday.

Thailand: Diesel subsidy up, price still B30

The government has raised the subsidy for diesel by 30 satang a litre to 5.40 baht a litre, effective immediately, Energy Minister Wannarat Channukul said on Monday.

Mr Wannarat said after chairing the National Energy Policy Committee meeting that the subsidy has been increased to keep the retail diesel price from exceeding 30 baht a litre.

Report: BP to restart deepwater drilling in Gulf

In a deal with U.S. regulators, BP this summer plans to restart deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico on 10 wells in exchange for tougher safety rules, British media reported Sunday.

The London-based oil giant promised to abide by rules that are stricter than guidelines set after the April 20, 2010, blast on the Deepwater Horizon rig that killed 11 workers, The Financial Times and The Sunday Times of London reported. The accident, which released almost 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, was the largest marine spill in U.S. history.

BP sells aluminum unit to Japanese consortium

LONDON (AFP) – BP said on Monday that it has agreed to sell its ARCO Aluminum unit to a Japanese consortium for $680 million ($421 million) as it seeks to meet the costs of last year's disastrous Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Republicans, Alaska Governor Push for Oil Drilling in Arctic Ocean and Wildlife Refuge

After months of forgotten offshore drilling ventures following the United States' worst oil spill disaster, Republicans are planning to push a bill that would allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern Alaska. Consisting of more than 19 million acres, it is the largest wildlife refuge in the country. In addition to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the bill would also require the Department of the Interior to begin selling offshore leases for drilling ventures.

Canada warns EU of trade conflict over oil sands

BRUSSELS — The Canadian government has stepped up lobbying in Europe for its oil sands industry, repeating its threats of trade conflict, a leaked letter shows.

Zuma’s Quest for India Ties Threatens S. African Power Supply

South African President Jacob Zuma has forecast a “great future” for relations with India as he pushes for a partnership with one of the world’s fastest-growing economies.

Side effects for his country may include higher inflation and a power crisis.

Putting Statoil's Recent 'Major' Oil Discovery in Perspective

Norway is clearly a major producer basically on par with Nigeria, Venezuela and Kuwait. But simply looking at the amount of oil a country produces doesn’t fully capture the importance of its production to the world. How much oil a country is actually able to export after domestic consumption is a better measure of its importance to the rest of the world.

Shumlin plan to import gas raises concern

MONTPELIER -- Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin is strongly supporting a proposal to expand natural gas service from northwestern Vermont as far south as Middlebury.

But some are questioning whether expanding Vermont’s use of Canadian natural gas squares with the governor’s long-time support for getting Vermont to use smaller amounts of imported fossil fuels.

As It Stands: Peak Oil: It's not if it will happen, but when

Here's the thing: Everyone agrees we will run out of oil someday. It's when we will run out that predictions vary. Now I'm going to throw in another factor. It's not just how much oil is left -- it's also how much oil can be extracted at a significant energy profit. The bottom line.

Howard Odum wrote in the early 1970s, “The true value of energy to society is net energy, which is that after the energy costs of getting and concentrating that energy are subtracted.”

What Japan's disaster tells us about peak oil

These food and bottled water shortages, power cuts, fuel-rationing and breakdowns in just-in-time manufacturing have been anticipated by those who take peak oil seriously. It is almost as if eastern Japan is experiencing a peak oil rehearsal, although other regions of Japan are virtually unaffected. If proponents of peak oil are correct, then the rest of the world may experience something similar within the next 5 to 10 years, and hence it is important that we learn valuable lessons from Japan's response to the current circumstances.

Tepco to Dump Radioactive Water in Sea to Keep Reactors Stable

Tokyo Electric Power Co. will dump radioactive water from its crippled Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear station into the sea for the first time as it runs out of space to store fluids used to cool the plant’s six reactors.

Japan nuclear crisis to trigger huge civil damages claims

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Japan's nuclear crisis is likely to lead to one of the country's largest and most complex ever set of claims for civil damages, handing a huge bill to the fiscally strained government and debt-laden plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co .

Lawyers say the size of the claims could be the biggest in Japanese legal history and the lack of precedent for dealing with these incidents means it is still not clear how the claims will be handled.

From Afar, a Vivid Picture of Japan Crisis

For the clearest picture of what is happening at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, talk to scientists thousands of miles away.

Thanks to the unfamiliar but sophisticated art of atomic forensics, experts around the world have been able to document the situation vividly. Over decades, they have become very good at illuminating the hidden workings of nuclear power plants from afar, turning scraps of information into detailed analyses.

IEA’s Tanaka Says Carbon Cuts Will Be More Costly Without Nuclear Energy

The International Energy Agency’s Executive Director Nobuo Tanaka warned countries that cutting greenhouse gas emissions blamed for climate change would be more costly without nuclear energy.

Analysis: German nuclear U-turn means jump in emissions

(Reuters) - Germany's nuclear policy U-turn leaves it little choice other than to rely more heavily on coal power, and that could boost its annual carbon emissions by as much as 10 percent.

At Chernobyl, a warning for Japan

CHERNOBYL, Ukraine — Forbidding under a cold, gray sky, the dead atomic power plant here is a living enterprise.

The explosion that struck 25 years ago this month, in the world’s worst nuclear accident, set in motion a major undertaking that today bears on the life of the entire country. It is a model, or a warning, for what could await Japan. The crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plant will at some point be contained — but then there begins a national project from which there is no exit strategy.

Fukushima Crisis Worse for Nuclear Power Industry Than Chernobyl, UBS Says

The crisis unfolding at the stricken Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant north of Tokyo is likely to hurt the nuclear power industry’s credibility more than the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, UBS AG said.

The accident in the former Soviet Union 25 years ago “affected one reactor in a totalitarian state with no safety culture,” UBS analysts including Per Lekander and Stephen Oldfield wrote in a report today. “At Fukushima, four reactors have been out of control for weeks -- casting doubt on whether even an advanced economy can master nuclear safety.”

IAEA: Japan crisis is a major challenge with enormous implications for nuclear power

VIENNA — The Japanese reactor crisis poses a major challenge with enormous implications for nuclear power, the head of the U.N.’s atomic watchdog said Monday.

"Peak Everything" may mute Fukushima backlash

Political support may be holding for nuclear power and offshore oil, despite the Fukushima and Macondo disasters, as decision-makers confront climate change and dwindling domestic energy reserves. A theory of "Peak Everything" suggests we are running short of vital assets such as clean water, carbon-free air, some minerals, fish stocks or the cheap fossil fuels which have powered the world economy and helped curb the price of food.

China Buries Obama’s ‘Sputnik’ Goal for Renewable-Energy Use

China is beating the U.S. in the race to supply clean-energy technologies to the world, helped by a government bank whose advisers include Henry Kissinger.

International Renewable Energy Agency meets in capital to elect leader

As the curtain rises today in Abu Dhabi on the meeting of the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena), members from around the world have a big decision to make: who is going to be its first permanent leader?

The UN agency tasked with promoting the adoption of alternative energy is in the capital for a three-day session, and delegates from more than 60 countries will choose today between the interim director general Adnan Amin and Pedro Marin, the former Spanish energy secretary.

Speculators, Cartels and Myths of Scarcity: How War Pushes up the Price of Oil

Last week, as if to justify his Libyan crusade, President Obama echoed the prevailing “peak oil” myth, stating that “we must accept the new reality that from here on out, demand for oil will always exceed supply”. It was music to the ears of the Rockefeller/Rothschild energy cartel and tax-dodger oil traders in Zug, Switzerland alike. Both know full well that oil companies pay around $18/barrel to get crude out of the ground.

Q&A with Transition Town Initiator Kaat Vander Straeten

I can’t remember how I learned about Transition Towns, but I do remember that Aha!-feeling. Transition is basically a model for action on the middle ground between the individual or household level where actions seem trivial, and the national and global scene that is way beyond our control. On that human scale we can have a visible, meaningful and effective impact. In that local space we can build the kind of resilience and sustainability that can mitigate or at least adapt to all these crises barreling down on us. The Transition model and the enormous network of people experimenting with it offer a tool box for all aspects of this process.

It took me some time to gather the courage to try and make this happen in Wayland, but here we are, on the cusp of introducing the model to the community.

Green garden scheme takes off in Dover and Deal after only two months

Deal's Garden Share scheme, which matches people with gardens to people who want to tend them, is blooming according to area co-ordinator Steve Wakeford.

First Seed Lending Library Opens in San Francisco with Two Initial Locations in Potrero Branch of San Francisco Public Library and Hayes Valley Farm

The process is simple; residents choose from a list of vegetable seeds available in the Seed Library collection, borrow them, and plant their seeds. After they have harvested their crops, they save the seeds from the heartiest and healthiest of their harvest and return the seeds to the same branch. Over time, each SF Seed Library branch will include a wide selection of seeds that are best suited to each micro-climate since they have grown to full fruition, responding to the local soil, climate, and plant/animal diversity.

Lost in Transition

"Do you worry about whether you've buried the entrails deep enough?" was among the questions I heard at my first Transition meeting, in Albany, California. The meeting featured an informal discussion with Novella Carpenter, author of Farm City, who had converted an empty plot of land in the Oakland inner city into a viable vegetable and animal farm. Carpenter had just mentioned raising rabbits for food, and what she did with the remains. The woman asking the question was concerned that if they weren't buried far enough below, rabbit entrails would rot and contaminate the rest of the farm. "Two feet is enough," was the confident response from Carpenter, who then proceeded to talk about how the gall bladder could also be used for green ink.

Gall bladders for green ink? How did I get here?

U.A.E. Becomes First of Six Arab States in Persian Gulf to Get CO2 Credits

A waste-heat recovery project won 79,960 metric tons of Certified Emission Reduction credits on April 1, according to data on the website of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Bonn.

Steel Industry to Sue European Union Over Post-2012 Carbon Permits Plans

The association of European steel producers Eurofer said it will sue the European Union over the design of a method to allocate free carbon-dioxide permits in the 27-nation bloc’s emissions trading system after 2012.

Carbon emissions 'unrelated to city density'

When analysing the carbon footprint of a city, most research studies look at the emissions generated by the inhabitants of that city. Typically they come to the conclusion that denser cities produce less carbon emissions on a per capita basis.

But Jukka Heinonen and his colleague Seppo Junnila from Aalto University, Finland, have a different way of examining this issue. They believe that emissions should not be allocated to where they are produced, but to where they are consumed.

Tweaking the climate to save it: Who decides?

CHICHELEY, England (AP) — To the quiet green solitude of an English country estate they retreated, to think the unthinkable.

Scientists of earth, sea and sky, scholars of law, politics and philosophy: In three intense days cloistered behind Chicheley Hall's old brick walls, four dozen thinkers pondered the planet's fate as it grows warmer, weighed the idea of reflecting the sun to cool the atmosphere and debated the question of who would make the decision to interfere with nature to try to save the planet.

In the Mountains of Patagonia, a Harbinger of a Rising Ocean

A study suggests that glacial melting in Patagonia has sped up by at least a factor of 10 in recent decades, dovetailing with temperature records suggesting that the Earth has been warming briskly since around 1980.

‘Fighting a losing battle with the sea’

“We are now facing a societal debate about how much people want to pay — and who pays — for coastal defense,’’ said S. Jeffress Williams, a coastal marine geologist and scientist emeritus with the US Geological Survey Woods Hole Science Center.

Rick Murray, a professor of earth science at Boston University and a Scituate selectman, puts it more bluntly: “Not everything we love can be saved.’’

Critics' review unexpectedly supports scientific consensus on global warming

A team of UC Berkeley physicists and statisticians that set out to challenge the scientific consensus on global warming is finding that its data-crunching effort is producing results nearly identical to those underlying the prevailing view.

The Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project was launched by physics professor Richard Muller, a longtime critic of government-led climate studies, to address what he called "the legitimate concerns" of skeptics who believe that global warming is exaggerated.

But Muller unexpectedly told a congressional hearing last week that the work of the three principal groups that have analyzed the temperature trends underlying climate science is "excellent.... We see a global warming trend that is very similar to that previously reported by the other groups."

Oil finds $100 floor on Saudi politics, output costs

Goldman Sachs assumes that some marginal Russian crude now represents the most costly barrel at around $100.

Paul Horsnell, head of commodities research at Barclays Capital, agrees oil companies need ever higher prices to balance rising costs. The bank's equities research says the break-even cost for integrated European oil companies is now not far off $100 a barrel.

Two figures from Does Peak Oil Even Matter? (the first one is definitely out of date)

My question: will oil ever disconnect from the price of gold, or will they continue rising together ad infinitum?

will oil ever disconnect from the price of gold, or will they continue rising together ad infinitum?

EM, as long as both are priced in dollars, and dollars continue to be devalued, both will rise. Maybe not precisely together, but relatively so.

And, with all the QE projects under way, the greenback is going to drop in value relative to any commodity.


Hi Zaphod -- I understand what you're saying. And because virtually everything is tied to energy, everything will rise with the cost of energy. So if oil doubles in price, does it necessarily mean that everything else will double, or will oil "break away from the pack" and follow its own trajectory? I mean, how can gold possibly be on a par with oil, value-wise? Oil is the foundation that modern civilization stands on, not gold, and not dollars.

I suppose I'm just waiting for oil's breakout moment, when the market realizes that gold is just an index. It has little intrinsic value, compared with oil.

Most likely no, different resources use different amounts of oil so a direct correlation is unlikely. Also feedback loops and outside interests come into play on different commodities.

As always...It's complicated.

Actually i'm surprised a "bubble" hasn't started forming yet around any of the financial commodities.

If oil was ever to have a "breakout moment" you could effectivly say goodby to any economic stability, let alone growth! Most likely the price will be capped by demand destruction, just as it was last time.

The real question it, just how much demand destruction would be needed to cause the price to drop!

Saudi Arabia needs at least $85 dollars to even break-even on their national budget after the king went on a spending binge to satisfy his population in the face of rising unrest. And they surely need some profit to reinvest in their industry, so you get a $100 dollar floor for them too. Minimally. And this is discounting the ever-increasing domestic consumption.

And then, of course, you have the artic and so on, all requiring very high prices.
The end of cheap oil means the 'new normal' is now triple digit oil prices.

If you're not shocked at that, that only means we've simply forgot how revolutionary this truly is, and not to mention unsustainable.

In other words: we've entered the final stages of the plateau where no matter how much we try, we end up in a recession in the end anyway because of the very high ceiling on our oil prices. We've entered a so-called 'negative feedback loop' and the only way to get out of it is by increased production, which of course is impossible. And since there is no easy, quick fixes we now have to pay the price for complacancy.

Perpetual recessions means bankrupt countries, steadily rising unemployment until you get hyperinflation/deflation, wiped out pensions, the collapse of the social security net and, finally, the inevitable blaming on immigrants or brown-skinned folks, since we all surely know it's all their fault our 'leaders' have failed to do a damn thing about the situation.

I think we are now in our last, dying years of anything resembling of what've we have seen in our post-WWII world.

What comes next is anybody's guess, but I'm an optimist. I don't believe we'll all go down in one giant apocalypse, but you'd have to be quite delusional if you think the next ten years will be an era of peace and tranquilitiy. And the next ten years after that will probably not be sunshine, either.

P.S. Also, how do you post images?

Register with, and upload your images to, an image hosting site like www.photobucket.com. After your image uploads, click on its thumbnail (opens the image) and you'll see a list of sharing options. Click on 'html' option which will copy the code to your clipboard. Paste it into your comment. Keep them small (file size) and relevant or Leanan will remove them (I always edit mine down before posting to P'bucket).

Also, keeping them smaller (500 x ???) or adjusting them to the current width of the thread keeps them from running off of the right side of the page, charts and graphs especially. Post links to high res photo's.

And please use "preview" to test it. Do not actually post test posts.

Re: Kuwait 'ready' to fill Libyan oil gap

Kuwait is pumping "two and something" million barrels of crude a day, in line with its Opec production quota, he said.

Wow, accurate figures from an OPEC country at last.

Yeah, lots of links up top about Kuwait saying they are ready to pump up production to fill the shortage created by Libyan oil going off line and saying the price of oil is too high yet...

Kuwait sees no oil shortage, $90-$100/b is fair price

Kuwait is adhering to its OPEC quota and does not intend to raise output to make up for the loss of Libyan oil unless instructed to do so, he said.

"We are complying...sticking to our quota unless otherwise instructed," Zanki told reporters on the sidelines of an energy conference, adding that there was surplus capacity that could be mobilized should there be a change in OPEC's position.

They are ready to do everything to help the situation except produce more oil. They say they can produce 3.4 million barrels per day. They produced, in February 2.368 mb/d crude only. So they can, if they only wanted to, produce about a million barrels per day more than they are currently producing, but see no need to do that right now. And everyone believes that?

Ron P.

That's right, Ron. I guess they think that if enough MENA suppliers say they can add a mil or so a day to production, all the sellers will say, "Well, okay then. We'll just have to drop the price then."

Everything is fine. Nothing to see here folks. Move along.


If Kuwait could actually produce another million barrels per day, they would be insane not to do it. Even if the price stayed at this level for only one month, that would gross Kuwait an additional $3.6 billion. That's a lot of money for such a small country -- I think I would do it, and they probably would too if they could!

Regarding "Oil Prices Won't Kill Recovery" by Donald Luskin... a review of his bio shows that he co-wrote a book called "I Am John Galt," in addition to being a flack for The Wall Street Journal. Thus, what we have is a 'Chief Investment Officer' who first of all believes that the economy was on recovering in the first place, followed by his belief that President Obama (or any president, for that matter) is going to increase domestic oil production, accompanied by the fact he puts this fiction in Rupert Murdoch's "Journal" (another piece of fiction most days of the week). Top it off with his praising of that Randian icon of greed and avarice that is the John Galt cult of personality...that's all I need to know he's got no bloody idea what he's talking about.


Regarding "Oil Prices Won't Kill Recovery" by Donald Luskin...

Top it off with his praising of that Randian icon of greed and avarice that is the John Galt cult of personality...

I saw that muck as well, and it made me think of this other article I read this morning on Google news:


Robert Reich use to be the economic adviser to Bill Clinton, and from interviews I've seen with him, he knows his stuff.

Why aren't Americans being told the truth about the economy? We're heading in the direction of a double dip -- but you'd never know it if you listened to the upbeat messages coming out of Wall Street and Washington.

Consumers are 70 percent of the American economy, and consumer confidence is plummeting. It's weaker today on average than at the lowest point of the Great Recession.

Consumer confidence is not something that can be argued against - it simply reflects consumer confidence in the economy. But we will get the rah rah until the Dow tanks and oil ratchets back a few notches.

Thanks for sharing that link, Earl, it's a briliant post by a brilliant man.

He gives historical and factual context and really shows you in a brief time how deep a hole the U.S. is in. There simply isn't a way the country will avoid a prolonged stagnation even without Peak Oil. The U.S. is the next Japan, in the best of worlds.

Luskin is best known as a self-professed Paul Krugman stalker. He admitted it in a National Review article about 8 years ago
We stalked. He balked

Is it me or is the phrase "oil at a 'insert number here' month high" appearing an awful lot recently. Seems oil is on the rise again after stabilising at $115 for a few weeks or so. I wonder what new level it will platau at next...

I say OPEC will be deeming around $125(+-5) per barrel a good place for oil to by next week.

At 14:20 GMT, upstreamonline.com is reporting Brent at $120.54, up $1.50. Maybe it will be different at the close as WTI hasn't followed the Brent increase. Brent accounts for around 66% of the world's export of crude oil.

-Brent accounts for around 66% of the world's export of crude oil...-

...but mentioned in only 5% of all BAU articles.

Brent accounts for around 66% of the world's export of crude oil.

I am sure that what you meant to say was that Brent is used as a benchmark for 66% of the world's export of crude oil.

I would consider that high however. Brent is used more than WTI but nowhere near 66% of the world's crude oil exporters use Brent as a benchmark. Benchmark (crude oil)

Crude oil benchmarks, also known as oil markers, were first introduced in the mid 1980s. There are three primary benchmarks, WTI, Brent Blend, and Dubai. Other well known blends include the Opec basket used by OPEC, Tapis Crude which is traded in Singapore, Bonny Light used in Nigeria and Mexico's Isthmus. The Energy Intelligence Group has published a handbook which identifies 161 different blends in total.

Benchmarks are used because there are many different varieties and grades of crude oil.[2] Using benchmarks makes referencing types of oil easier for sellers and buyers.

The Dubai benchmark is now known as the DME-Oman benchmark.

Ron P.

Yes. Also formula pricing can have multiple benchmarks referenced.

Brent crude jumps to 2-1/2-yr peak above $120/bbl

Brent crude futures prices extended gains to a 2-1/2-year peak above $120 a barrel on Monday on concerns over Libya's conflict, Middle East unrest and potential supply threats.

Brent prices were the highest since before the Lehman Brothers collapse and the global financial crisis in September 2008.

Brent is reported at $121.05 at 1600 GMT.

For a quick review of recent prices in oil futures I've just updated the Crude Oil Futures Chain movie with data up to the end of March. Now you can watch 20 months of futures prices evolution in only 46 seconds!

I don't know if it's educational but it is entertaining. And it does leave one with a very strong impression that the futures markets are completely determined by the market's reaction to recent events rather than longer term "fundamentals".

Watching the video I would say that Adam Smith's "invisible hand" is quite spastic at the moment.

Happy Viewing!


Please forgive me for this question....but:

How do I bring up only the "new" comments when coming back to review
the Drumbeat after several hours absence?

I know this question was answered in a Drumbeat several days ago...but
I have lost it.

Like many others, I focus heavily on the comments section---and GREATLY
appreciate the editors and steady contributors to this terrific site.

If you are logged in, new comments will be flagged with {new} (only with square brackets). Use your browser's search function to search for {new} and you can go down the page, finding all the new comments.

Four KBD of ethanol offline. Anecdotal or a sign of a widespread trend, I don't know.

Clean Burn Fuels files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy

The company, founded in 2005, completed construction of its 60 million gallon (annual) capacity plant last August.

"Soon after, corn prices more than doubled while ethanol prices did not keep pace proportionally with the rise in corn prices,'' a release from the company said. "This imbalance persisted and worsened, creating operating losses that led to the cessation of operations in early March.

"Despite good faith discussions with its secured lenders and key vendors, the company has been unable to reach a consensual agreement on a proposal to return the plant to profitability,'' the release said.

Corn Rallies to Highest Since 2008 as Stockpiles Drop, Goldman Sees Record

Corn for May delivery climbed 12.5 cents, or 1.7 percent, to $7.485 a bushel at 1:14 p.m. London time on the Chicago Board of Trade. The grain reached $7.50, the highest level for a most- active contract since July 2008, when a global food crisis spurred riots worldwide. Corn touched an all-time high of $7.9925 on June 27, 2008.

This current run-up in price has already been more sustained than 2008. Looks like the 4-month moving average is well above 2008.

Futures Trading Charts

Corn is now only thirty cents below wheat on the CBOT, $7.60 vs $7.90. Will it pass?


According to the National Academy of Sciences, there are no safe doses of radiation. Decades of research show clearly that any dose of radiation increases an individual’s risk for the development of cancer.

“There is no safe level of radionuclide exposure, whether from food, water or other sources. Period,” said Jeff Patterson, DO, immediate past president of Physicians for Social Responsibility. “Exposure to radionuclides, such as iodine-131 and cesium-137, increases the incidence of cancer. For this reason, every effort must be taken to minimize the radionuclide content in food and water.”

Doubtful. As that would imply that the body couldn't heal itself at very small doses. I'd also be surprised that super small doses had actually been tested. Usually they test larger doses when testing for toxicity then draw in the rest of the graph using standard models for dose response. It's simply too difficult to separate very small amounts of toxin effect from background noise.

That being said, even a single disrupted molecule in the wrong place could theoretically kill you. It's just highly improbable.

It's not nearly as improbable as you imply. A sub-milligram dust mote of a radionuclide lodged in a lung or liver gives the immediate surroundings a large and continuous dose of ionizing radiation, although the whole-body average is negligible. Those cells in close proximity to the dust speck have a high probability of turning sour - and killing the entire organism.

Meanwhile, there are those who insist that rads are positively good for you!
I'll leave it to the curious reader to track down who exactly these guys are, and their connection to the massive coverup of the radioactive Taiwanese apartments.

As with all things "it's complicated" and "it depends".

I suppose a "radiation is bad. Always" is good enough for the general populace. Saves time.

I am more than happy to have said people demonstrate personally how rads are good for them. I'm sure they just can't wait to volunteer.

That being said, even a single disrupted molecule in the wrong place could theoretically kill you. It's just highly improbable.

Small probabilities occurring over and over again will add up. Take your small probability as P, then the probability after N events is P(N) = 1 - (1-P)^N

Say you could automatically get one fresh mega-lottery ticket every second for the rest of your life. The same equation applies. Each ticket gives you miniscule odds but it eventually adds up.

And if the probability is zero it doesn't.

The assertion that a single particle of radiation could result in someone's death without even specifying a mechanism by which it might do so is ridiculous. I can't believe anyone even said it.

Wow. If it wasn't for redundant error-correcting circuitry, every piece of digital logic will eventually go belly-up due to the odd single photon of cosmic radiation. The bit flips due to a single event causing an invalid program. The proof of this is that no one will design modern RAM without it in place.

In the case of life forms, the single event is a highly energetic particle causing a mutation.
I really thought this was common knowledge.

I really thought this was common knowledge.

There is a difference between common knowledge and sticking one fingers in one's ears and going "la, la, la I can't hear you".

Causing death from the single event as was suggested by the post you were responding to?

Accumulated errors over time beyond the ability of natural repair mechanisms, sure. But again, radiation isn't the only cause of those errors (or even the most severe one).

Assertion of a risk does not make it real, a real risk leaves bodies.

You seem to be just intentionally obtuse here. Are you saying there have been no bodies (deaths) from radiation?

The basic mechanism is not that difficult to understand. Every increase in radiation increases the likelihood that a gene will be damaged. Repair systems do not work 100% of the time, and can themselves be undermined by radiation and of course other causes.

Is there anything at all that you find to be of concern about radiation, or do you just think it is great everywhere all the time?

And bodies and their stories get buried.

There have been some pretty phenomenal birth defects, too.. but maybe that was all photoshop.

I'll bite: how many?

Grotesque birth defects have been happening for centuries all around the world, has there been a notable increase in the quantity of them?

Without numbers it is nothing but emotional anecdotes.

Give me meat, you might not persuade me, but this isn't even a decent effort.

Well you convinced me that probabilities are not multiplicative. Thanks for the laughs.

Maybe you should go to Vega to convince casino owners that they should remove Green 0 and Green 00 from roulette since small deviations from even-money do not favor the house.

If the risk is that small, does it justify such extreme measures to avoid it?

The risk from radiation is too terrible to contemplate, yet too subtle to detect. That sets off my bull*** meter at 100%.

If the risk is so little, do feel free to show us all by going to the "reasonably safe" 4 reactors in Japan the world has been fretting over and help explain, in person at the 4 reactors, how "reasonably safe" the reactors are and how the concern is not necessary.

Your talents are obviously wasted here on TOD.

I'm just parroting back the arguments I was getting in the post above.

I've gotten much better information since, and am starting to get my arms around the actual risks now.

I still may not be persuaded around to your position, but I am trying to understand it well enough to decide for myself whether I still consider the risk/benefit ratio acceptable.

I still may not be persuaded around to your position,

To actually get understanding - why not state what you think my position actually is?

Well, by your comment above you appear to be strong anti-nuclear.

Correct me if I'm wrong on that.

you appear to be strong anti-nuclear.

The *WHY* is far more important than the *WHAT* my position is.

Because changing the WHY can change the position. And, a sane and rational person who understands the WHY comes about to the same position.

If it wasn't for redundant error-correcting circuitry, every piece of digital logic will eventually go belly-up due to the odd single photon of cosmic radiation. ... In the case of life forms, the single event is a highly energetic particle causing a mutation. I really thought this was common knowledge.

WHT, common knowledge is not necessarily correct knowledge. Human DNA has a lot of redundancy built into it, and human cells have very extensive mechanisms for repairing damaged DNA. If all else fails, there are genes dedicated to detecting when cells have turned cancerous, and ordering them to self-destruct. It takes quite a lot of damage to get past all these mechanisms. One hit with a photon will not do it. These mechanisms date back to a time when the Earth was much more radioactive than it is now, so they work quite well.

The only reason they are not more effective is that we are all a product of mutations. If the mechanisms were perfect, we would all still be single-cell organisms. So, to allow evolution, they have to allow some scope for error. Not all errors are bad.

RMG, Gametes have ZERO redundancy. Fry an egg and it is F---ed up for life.

Taking risks is cumulative. Ask an insurance agent. They aggregate into your total risk. You do not get "free energy" to fix them just cause they are smaller in number!

Just roll the dice and hope you can keep your streak I guess. Some people leave Vegas rich. They are not the many, however.

But we are talking about hope and no longer about mathematics.

Gametes have ZERO redundancy.

DNA repair genes and cancer

There are a couple of exceptions, when DNA damage can be an even more serious problem. One is in case the cell is an egg or sperm cell (a gamete), in a multicellular, sexually-reproducing organism, and the cell goes on to generate a new individual, which will inherit the damaged DNA. Since gametes are only a small proportion of all cells, and very few gametes are ever "lucky" enough to become new individuals, this is a fairly rare event.

Italics mine.

Yep, If our body is on its own radioactive to the tune of 180 nanoCurie (I put a reference in a post a few days ago http://www.theoildrum.com/node/7745#comment-787152, also here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Background_radiation), then there is a gazillion of particles and radiation of all kinds generated continuously inside our bodies. Actually around 6000 per second, i.e. 4000 Bq of potassium and even 50Bq of carbon-14. The single photon theory does not hold.

The safety threshold goes around the principle that there are no health effects from exposure up to a certain limit. Pilots get more radiation than oilmen and programmers in Denver get more than in the plains, but it does not show up in any health outcomes - exactly because of the self-reparation, redundancy etc in living systems.

Let's say the odds of dying is 1/1000 and you re exposed for the 1000th time, then on average you should already be dead; 1000 x 1/1000 = 1, but you actually have a 36.7% chance of not being dead (Woo hoo!).

If you buy 1 million lottery tickets with 1 in a million odds on average you should win on average once but there is a 36.7% chance you'll never win but a 36.8% chance of winning only once a 18.4% chance of winning twice, a 6.1% chance you'll win 3 times, etc.

The odds of Megamillions is 195,711,536 to 1. A Megamillions ticket costs $1. In 50 years, playing once a week is 2600 times or $2600 total,
so on average you could only hope to retrieve .0013 cents while your probability of winning at least once would be 1.3 out of 100000.

If I remember my old safety manuals. Strictly true only for radionuclides like radon emitting alpha-particles (tip; stop smoking if you know your house has radon gas, because the probability, 'risk', can go to 100% for lung cancer). Alpha energy will get no further than adjacent cells.
Gamma mostly goes through you (though there is always still some risk to be calculated), and beta radiation will leave most of its energy in exposed tissue, though more diluted than that from alpha particles.

If I remember my old safety manuals. Strictly true only for radionuclides

And did these manuals address the heavy metal effects of the materials?

If we wanted to add the first level of complexity to the story told to the general population, we'd first distinguish between exposure and contamination. It's fairly easy to grasp that contamination means permanent, ongoing exposure forever, rather than that one pass through the hot zone that people seem to be worrying about now.

It's another ball of wax entirely to bring up the chemical identity of those radionuclides; some (like Pu) are supertoxic, but almost all of them change their atomic number as they decay. Elements that pass through a biologic barrier and then change to another element can find themselves trapped forever.

Elements that pass through a biologic barrier and then change to another element can find themselves trapped forever.

And the changed element may be better or worse than the original, now decayed element.

The simple way to avoid the whole issue is to not create the elements in question.

The chemical "supertoxicity" plutonium is a myth; as a chemical poison, it's no worse per unit mass than arsenic or cyanide. Globally, about 30,000 tons of arsenic is produced and used each year. Chances are excellent that there's arsenic in or around your house: it's one of the most common n-type dopants used in integrated circuits and CCA-treated lumber was common until a decade ago.

The lighter-weight fission products are probably more of a concern than plutonium. They're easily absorbed by ingestion, and your body mistakes several of them for other things and hangs on to them. Eg, strontium is absorbed by the same mechanisms as calcium, and your body readily assimilates it into bone. Plants will substitute cesium for potassium and can provide a concentrated exposure.

Arsenic doesn't cross the placental barrier.

Arsenic doesn't cross the placental barrier.

Male bovine manure.

Arsenic as a Teratogenic Agent

Lugo et al. (14) have documented a human case of arsenic trioxide poisoning in human pregnancy, and has shown the ease with which inorganic arsenic crosses the human placenta at term with extremely high levels in the fetal liver, brain and kidneys.

Thank you RockyMtnGuy - I stand corrected!
Arsenic it is! Onto the world's worser stuff than Pu list it goes!
Except for those pesky alpha particles, o' course.

Actually, caffeine should be on the list of substances that are more toxic than plutonium. You could swallow a dose of plutonium higher than the fatal dose of caffeine and survive quite nicely.

There were about 25 people in the US nuclear industry who are known to have ingested plutonium in the early days of nuclear weapons development (They referred to themselves as "The IPP Club" - I Pee Plutonium). All of them are still as healthy as the average person, or died of something unrelated. Any excess deaths were lost in the statistical noise. On the other hand, a lot of people died from radium poisoning in the days when they used radium on watch dials and didn't realize how toxic it was.

Plutonium exposure levels are set very low mainly because it is relatively easy to control, not because it is so toxic compared to other hazardous materials.

The biggest threat from the Japanese reactors would be radioactive iodine and cesium. Radioactive iodine-131 in food would be absorbed by the body and preferentially concentrated in the thyroid gland. Cesium-137 would be distributed throughout the body's soft tissues. By contrast, 99% of ingested plutonium would be excreted without being absorbed. The body just doesn't like the stuff.

The biggest threat from the Japanese reactors would be radioactive iodine and cesium.

And they just keep making 'em and having the material enter the biosphere.

But it's OK because "there are no bodies" as someone has staked out the position.

Since it doesn't chemically mimic elements that are easily taken up by the body, Pu is less likely to be absorbed by the digestion system.

But that doesn't mean it is not dangerous.

A very tiny amount of Pu inhaled and lodged deep in the lung can pretty well guarantee lung cancer and probably other problems.

But you are certainly right about radioactive iodine and cesium.

A very tiny amount of Pu inhaled and lodged deep in the lung can pretty well guarantee lung cancer and probably other problems.

What you are referring to is the "hot particle hypothesis", which was proposed some years ago, but has largely been refuted since. More recent research seems to indicate that dispersed plutonium dust is more dangerous than a single "hot particle".

Inhaling is one of the few ways that plutonium can get into the body, since it is not absorbed from food. But when it gets into the lungs, it's not a lot more carcinogenic than some other substances. Polonium-210, a radioactive isotope which is found in cigarette smoke, has been shown to cause more lung cancer in smaller amounts than plutonium (One more thing for smokers to worry about.)

The thing is that plutonium is fairly easy to keep out of the body, so not many workers have been exposed to large amounts. Good dust masks are very effective. Even human nose hairs have been shown to work rather well at keeping plutonium out of the lungs.

The lethal lung burden for plutonium has been estimated from animal experiments to be 27 micrograms for humans. The US workers exposed to plutonium absorbed between 0.04 micrograms and 3.0 micrograms, which is far less than the lethal dose, and they didn't show any elevated levels of lung cancer.

common n-type dopants used in integrated circuits

As a dopant this is one part in thousand to 10 million atoms of silicon. I would worry more about the arsenic treated lumber and somebody burning it.

or the lead in christmas tree lights will be far far more dangerous ...


Lots to worry about, but the swipes at solar power are just mean spirited. lol

WHT is almost certainly right about the older pressure treated lumber- there are literally millions of decks,fences, farm buildings, etc, scattered just about everywhere built out of the stuff.

Some was even used occasionally as a precautionary measure against rot in potentially leaky areas such as bathrooms inside houses.

It is quite common for people who don't know any better to burn it to get rid of it or even use it for firewood if they come across some during demolition work.

This treated wood will be around for another century at least in significant quantities.

Chances are excellent that there's arsenic in or around your house: it's one of the most common n-type dopants used in integrated circuits

Ahhh but:

When chips fail the device fails and the usual failure mode is not "letting the magic smoke out". The chips are encapsulated (like a reactor is supposed to be - in fact if the reactors were STILL encapsulated we'd not be having this discussion) and, as far as I know, no one is storing toxic arsenic above the chip.

One report I heard claimed the rod storage for one of the reactors was ABOVE the reactor. (way to go! if true)

One report I heard claimed the rod storage for one of the reactors was ABOVE the reactor. (way to go! if true)

For spent fuel, pretty much true -- higher than the reactor and off to the side, but inside the containment building. At the time, it was touted by most as a feature, not a bug. At refueling time, a crane lifts the spent fuel rods out of the reactor, pivots, and lowers them into a cooling pool. You don't have to take them outside of the containment building until their radioactivity has dropped significantly.

It's hard to blame the designers. The spent fuel pool had to go somewhere, and the government-dictated fuel cycle plan to which the US designers were working said it would be on-site for a relatively brief time, then placed in permanent geologically-safe underground storage. Japan's government plan was to reprocess the spent fuel rather than storing it, but on-site storage was still a relatively short-term thing.

It hasn't worked out that way in either the US or Japan. European countries appear to have done a much better job of moving spent fuel away from the reactor sites in a timely fashion.

For the US, we produce 4.4 million pounds of spent nuclear fuel rods per year, have over 50,000 metric tons now stored at nuclear plants. As safe disposal hasn't been done/discovered in the last 50 years, I doubt we'll do it as we power down from oil.

Nuclear technology - a future technology whose time has past.

Even if it's sidestepping a purely literal and isolated reading of the above statement, I think it's fair enough to say that the point now is that we've got so many challenges in the environment that our Body Burden is huge, and our systems are well and fully engaged and battling already, and that 'Any Degree of Additional Radiation' can no longer hide behind this excuse that it is 'Indistinguishable from Background Radiation'..

We know it's additional to what's already there, whether it's going to read on our sensor systems or not. We know we've dumped enough into our air and water, be they chemical toxins or radiological ones, and as Randall Fitzgerald wrote about in 'The 100 year lie', we can hardly track individual toxins in the biosphere, and haven't scratched the surface in seeing what the COMBINATION of various toxics do to us and other Living Things and Chemical Balances in our world.

If the amount of toxins in our environment is at an all-time high than please explain why the average life span is now higher than it has ever been before and continuing to increase? My understanding is that the amount of pollution in the western, industrialized nations has been decreasing for quite some time.

If toxins were the only killers you would have a point.

Toxins don't just kill; they maim. They affect neurodevelopment, sexual maturity and function, other endocrine functions. They affect pulmonary and cardiovascular function that doesn't necessarily kill you, just makes life a bit more difficult.
Don't take death as the only endpoint of interest.


If the amount of toxins in our environment is at an all-time high than please explain why the average life span is now higher than it has ever been before and continuing to increase?

1) Because toxins are not the only factor to lifespan. Another factor is pathogens like bacteria.
2) from 2007 http://www.mrc.org/bmi/articles/2007/Life_Expectancy_Increasing_or_Decre...
from 2010 http://www.healthandwellnesstimes.com/u-s-life-expectancy-decreasing-why/

So I'm not gonna call your position of "the average life span is now higher than it has ever been before and continuing to increase" as wrong, but instead I'll call upon you to defend the absolute statement as absolutely true and not subject to dispute.

I forget who said it, but low-level exposure to a wide variety of industrial toxins is one of the prices we pay for civilization. Although to be honest, it took a long time for cities and the resulting tech to pay off in terms of overall longer lives. By most estimates, the average life expectancy in Classical Rome or Middle Ages London was no better than Stone Age hunter-gatherers (and some claim it was worse).

Of course, the biggest driver for the increase in life expectancy at birth is that today's world is far and away the safest -- in terms of things that can kill them -- place for a new-born baby that has ever existed.

When I read this, I kept thinking about the recent CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder) in honey bees and what scientist believe is the cause.

No one has any idea what's causing CCD. Pesticides have been suggested, but there are no conclusive data about any overarching factor.

Weakened immune system...probably multiple effects of plethora of toxins...coming to a species near you.

Also combinations of naturally occurring fungus and viruses, stress from constant long-distance relocation, malnutrition as a consequence of drought and monoculture agriculture, etc. Probably multiple effects, yes. Toxins specifically, not nearly so clear.

If the amount of toxins in our environment is at an all-time high than please explain why the average life span is now higher than it has ever been before and continuing to increase?

In recent decades the level of serious toxins such as lead and asbestos has been reduced to a fraction of their former levels. Lead is no longer used in gasoline, in paint, or in children's toys. Asbestos is no longer used in brake linings or insulation. People no longer use soft coal to heat their houses or power steam engines, and as a result the levels of airborne fly ash, soot, and carcinogenic tars has been drastically reduced.

Nowadays, when people talk about environmental toxins, they are talking about parts-per-billion levels of chemicals whose biological effects are rather obscure. Sure, if you grind up plastic bottles and feed them to female rats it may (or may not) cause fertility problems, but what does that mean for people whose daily diets don't include ground-up plastic bottles?

We've eliminated most of the obvious environmental toxins, so what are left are chemicals whose effects are uncertain (possibly nonexistent), and chemicals that people voluntarily expose themselves to (e.g. cigarette smoke and alcohol). The toxic effects of those are well known, and the health effects severe, but the victims think that killing themselves is one of their basic rights.

If the amount of toxins in our environment is at an all-time high than please explain why the average life span is now higher than it has ever been before and continuing to increase?

The Clean Air Act passed in the early 70s had some notable success in bringing down the levels of lead and sulfur pollutants, and probably some others. During the Reagan years, the EPA was pretty much rendered useless (became known as the Environmental Pollution Agency) as corporate producers were actually told that pollution regulations were not going to be enforced. In recent decades, the sheer number of cars on the road and the pollution each puts out has overwhelmed the progress in making each car incrementally cleaner to run. The air is getting dirtier every year. Then there is water born pollution, ocean dead zones, N. Pacific Gyre megatons of plastic waste, and so on ad-infinitum.

As far as life-expectancy goes, does it not occur to you that the massive health care costs in the US have something to do with the pollution of our environment? Currently life expectancy in the US is going down.

And then there is the simple fact that we now export our pollution. China, the world's factory, must have the most polluted environment on the planet and I suspect it will get worse before it gets better.

Your argument is indeed 'kool aid.'

How would it be possible to reduce pollution enough to make a major cut in medical costs (that is to cut them by more than half, i.e. cut out the majority of costs, since oyu seem to be implying that is caused by pollution), while simultaneously at least preserving life expectancy?

I'm not sure I get your question. It's probably difficult to establish a direct causal link between any single type of pollution and a corresponding pathology in the human population. However, we have trends in certain diseases, especially those referred to as 'diseases of civilization' that strongly imply a link between these pollutants and the trends in these types of diseases. The same, or similar correlation exists between the 'western diet' and these 'diseases of civilization'.

Actually, with environmental pollution, what we have is a serious 'burden of proof' problem. Industries are, to my knowledge, seldom if ever required to provide some reasonable level of proof that a given pollutant will not harm the population. The default is that someone else is responsible for this proof. Ostensibly this would be the EPA. I think it is the EPA that maintains what is called a Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) list of waste products that basically the agency has neither the wherewithal nor political will to test, so these substances get a simple wave of the hand and join the hundreds of others in our environmental waste stream.

What if you found someone at your well where you get your water and they were pouring some chemical stuff down the well. Answering your obvious question of 'What the hell are you doing?' they would assert that you have no proof that what they are dumping is going to affect your health in any way, so not to worry. This is more-or-less the situation we have.

I lost both my brothers to cancer back in the 80's and two years ago I developed Parkinson's disease, both these types of disease are strongly suspected of being 'diseases of civilization' in that they correlate with the rise in environmental pollution and the development of a grossly unhealthy diet. So this issue concerns me greatly and I hate seeing people shrugging it off as inconsequential.

I have no objective knowledge about the effects of miniscule amounts of radiation on an organism, but in general I do not depend on the assumption of a linear effect in nature. It may happen, but it probably doesn't. Non-linearity is (almost) a constant [I had to say 'almost' otherwise it would be an oxymoron.] Among other things, one should always consider the stage of development of an organism; an embryo is not a fetus is not an infant is not a child etc. The idea probably applies to all organisms.
Pesticides and other chemicals are often assumed to have linear effects. Lots of literature saying that is wrong.


You do not understand "RISK."

Risk is a probability. It is a role of the dice. Every time you roll the dice you add to your net risk.

Sure small doses are lower risks. Nonetheless they all add up.

Hence, exposure to radiation always increases the risk of disease.

If you do not understand that then flip a coin 100 times and try to avoid a heads. Your odds of that are low, right? Now try to avoid it after 1000 flips, after 1 million flips.

The more flips the harder it is to avoid a result.

It is all about probabilities. Although I have not seen the data, one would assume the probability function is an exp(x) function. So the probabilities will add up. Exp(x)exp(y) = Exp(x + y)

Just like the way chemistry populates energy levels. Most likely the model but the data would need to be examined.

IIRC there was some data from Chernobyl that suggested that very low doses across broad populations did not produce the expect level of cancers (eg there was a step function in the curve).

The postulated theory to explain this was that very low doses were actually beneficial. Most cells when hit by low level radiation will either repair, or die. Very few turn cancerous. The theory was that the low level dose tipped already unhealthy cells into death, whereas healthy cells could repair. Therefore the net average health of the cells went up.

Not sure that will hold true for getting a bit of plutonium in your lung, but it's an interesting theory.

Every time you rely on a repair process, like DNA repair, then you go another level deeper into backup systems to prevent cancer.

Just like when the quake wiped out electrical power to Fukushima and the diesel generators were needed, and then those were wiped out by Tsunami, and then the electric back died due to exhaustion of battery power. Once these systems cascaded as failures, then the plant succumbed to large scale disaster.

Each level of DNA repair can only roll the dice so many times. Each level breached means another level beneath it is worked that much harder.

Many types of mutagenesis procedures using X-rays on yeast show a dose dependent effects with respect to REM applied.

In fact this is how you study DNA repair pathways. They need DNA repair to prevent cell death from the radiation damage.

DNA repair pathways in fact exist to control breakage which will occur under the 2nd Law. To maintain DNA and its information there is a tremendous cost in terms of complex machinery and energy expenditure to keep the info safe and organized.

To invoke that life uses radiation to do useful work, however, is a statement in violation of the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. Random radical formation, randome collisions with energized atomic particles, or ionizing radiation damage cannot be used to do useful work. The only means that is could be used is if an enzyme were to selectively bind to radionuclides and use them on a substrate in a useful manner. That would be converting radiochemical work into chemical work or something of the sort.

Now certain geobacteria live deep down in the earth and they use radioactive elements to do useful work; however, they do it by capturing hydrogen produced on the spot. This is not in violation of the 2nd law since energy is captured secondarily from the H2. These critters survive in low level radiation of course. They do not thrive. Getting energy from the sun or from other organisms would be much easier, but they are living miles below the earth's surface!

Right. Another way to say this is that disordered radiation has fewer benefits than ordered radiation. I know that certain medical treatments require a specific frequency that resonantly excites a mode in the pathogen. Injecting a broad spectrum at the problem will cause wider spread damage.

Even if an enzyme were to bind to a radionuclide (how would it know chemically? that is another question.), then it would need to wait an undeterminable amount of time to release its radioactivity (if ever). Very wasteful to make such proteins or enzymes.

So radiochemistry as a source of useful energy is unlikely to be an adaptive mechanism for mammals. We eat other critters and plants and we use chemical energy. It is much easier to do.

Now medicine can use very precise radiation to treat cancers. And medically useful isotopes are important.

That is true, but biologically in living systems I can only think of the geobacter species that use H2 released from uranium deep inside the earth, and that is still one step removed. Clever little bacteria if you ask me, but no one has found a real Uranium powered bug that takes in a U atom and gets ATP from it via a radiation capture mechanism. It would be too improbable of a scheme to use successfully.

Got you. Any potential benefits seem implausible to be 'designed in' .

But they are plausible to "just happen".

A muscle doesn't get stronger unless it is stressed. Bones weaken it the absence of forces which at too great a strength will break them. An immune system that hasn't been exposed to disease can actually turn on its own body.

Is it so implausible to think that this overall trend fails to apply at the cellular level?

Especially with regards to radiation, which has always been a part of the natural environment at very low levels?

You are saying that random events make more productive chemistry. You are a perpetual motion machine advocate then. Please think for one minute about what you are saying.

You are saying that introducing radiation, unpredictable DNA strand breaks, and disorder into a system inherently makes it stronger -- which is like saying ultimately that it will then become more ordered (higher in energy).

It is like saying heating a human up to 42 C makes him strong. You are increasing random motions, right? LMAO.

Check out the "Free Energy" guy in the Dilbert cartoon. You'd make more money and have more press releases.

Pumping a muscle is not random motion; that is work in a particular direction. An injury is when random motion is applied to your muscles and bones, resulting in fractures and tore things.

Random cannot be used to do useful work. This is the essence of how the world works.

Life is a random event.

An excess of radiation is obviously bad, we have empirical evidence of that.

Quoth BRER (linked by Black_Dog above):

Average annual exposures worldwide to natural radiation sources (both high and low LET) would generally be expected to be in the range of 1–10 mSv, with 2.4 mSv being the present estimate of the central value.

(I had this already from other sources, I'm just using B_D's link because I had it up)

If single events have a chance of causing irreparable harm in isolation, then surely the millions of annual events represented by background radiation exposure on the individual should add up more quickly than 60 years.

It is like saying heating a human up to 42 C makes him strong. You are increasing random motions, right? LMAO.

Yet your argument is like saying that cooling a human to -10C will keep them healthy. It reduces random motions, right? We like to joke around these parts that people keep better in the cold, but I don't think anyone really believes it.

Extremes are known to be bad in most areas. It is unclear whether low levels of background radiation are merely tolerated or used by the body.

So you are arguing about single events. That is not the argument. You changed it.

I am arguing that probabilities are multiplicative since it is pure math and radiation being random must follow exponential probabilities else you are invoking some BS non-mathematical fairy dust.

Good luck.

Prove me wrong that the double 0 and single 0 on a roulette wheel (lowish probability events) are not there to allow the house to extract a small non-zero payout from people that bet on Red or Black. The house is banking on it. Radiation is the same game but less fun.

Best of luck arguing further. You should try to convince an insurance person. They do not mess around with fairy dust. Trust me.

Muscles get stronger when stressed because they were designed to do so, and they will not get stronger than a certain amount. there is a feedback mechanism that allows the body to regulate how strong the muscles should be for a given individual's needs - which is why there's a lot of wimpy kids out there, they're just not exploring the full range of motion and effort their muscles were "designed" for, and so they never achieve the potential they have. Muscles rely on this stress to get the signlas that tell them to grow to whatever level they need to get for the individual to use them.

It is a far cry from saying that there is some mechanism in the boidy that requires radiation stress to make it stronger...

Ya got people putting forth the argument that the state of the 4 reactors in Japan show how "reasonably safe" Fission power is - with such level of trolling of course you'll get a 'what doesn't kill you makes you stronger' argument because, well, the pro-nukers have been shown to be wrong on:

1) Commercial reactors can be properly managed (see cost cutting and operating a flawed in manufacturing reactor as MORE proof reactors can't be managed in a for profit world)
2) Reactors *DO* fail - and those failure modes are VERY toxic.
3) If the rumor of a weapons program under a reactor is true - the whole structure for the "peaceful atom" would be shown as fatally flawed.

There is an interesting tendency for life to use any energy source. Be it light, iron, sulfer, carbon, or the hydrogen you mentioned. After the accident at Chernobyl, a biologist noticed a fungus growing on the side of the defunct reactor vessel. Given that the radiation ought to have been lethal to all forms of life, he investigated and ascertained that the fungus was using melatonin to capture gamma radiation and that energy was powering the ATP cycle. (See Radiotrophic fungus)
Typically, melatonin is a pigment that protects the cell. In this case, the protection provided a source of energy.

Your fungus is very interesting. It still does not use radionuclides directly. However, I am unsure of its mechanism, since capturing gamma would certainly render the pigment into a myriad states, making energy harvesting kind of tricky, but perhaps they are on to something.

I just wonder how you damage and then recover in an orderly way. But perhaps that organic molecule can do that. But from my understanding of hydroxy radical damage, the side products are very complex.

Now they just need to prove the fungus can live on minimal salts and only heavy gamma irradiation to prove their claim. No glucose or other cheap energy source. Would be nice to see.

But in any case, the critter has evolved a specific pathway to use the energy of the radiation to do work. Seems they do not like to do it and grow slower, but they can camp out in hostile territory.

In the future, the prevalence of these molds in the ecology will tell us what land is contaminated by our past nuclear industrial wastes.

""Just as the pigment chlorophyll converts sunlight into chemical energy that allows green plants to live and grow, our research suggests that melanin can use a different portion of the electromagnetic spectrum - ionizing radiation - to benefit the fungi containing it," said co-researcher Ekaterina Dadachova.

Investigating further, the researchers measured the electron spin resonance signal after melanin was exposed to ionizing radiation and found that radiation interacts with melanin to alter its electron structure. This, they believe, is an essential step for capturing radiation and converting it into a different form of energy to make food. Until now, melanin's biological role in fungi - if any - had been a mystery. Interestingly, the melanin in fungi is no different chemically from the melanin in our skin, leading Casadevall to speculate that melanin could be providing energy to skin cells.

And radiation-munching fungi could be on the menu for future space missions. "Since ionizing radiation is prevalent in outer space, astronauts might be able to rely on fungi as an inexhaustible food source on long missions or for colonizing other planets," noted Dadachova."

The claim is interesting but do the numbers work? Is there enough energy at 500xbackground to support life? I bet the fungi are just first responders to a radiation hot zone! Cool though.

The fungus is a relatively common soil microbe. So, yes, it is likely an early colonizer/responder. Oh, and the pigment is melanin not the auto-corrected melatonin erroneously mentioned in my earlier post. The interesting aspect of the original work was the postulated route for transferring the energy from the pigment to the ATP cycle. Sadly, I have not seen any followup work on this.

There are a number of fungi that are radiation resistant, most notably Deinococcus radiodurans which can happily live at dose levels of 5,000 Grays. All of them have enhanced DNA repair mechanisms, most likely due to other types of stressors, that can be marshaled in high radiation environments.

Life, especially the microbial forms, is extremely robust and can adapt to a wide range of environments. The lesson seems to be: for a given environment, if there is energy and nutrients, then there is a fair chance of finding some organism that can live in it.

There is a third outcome. The cell remains partially damaged, but it still consumes chemical/energy resources and divides. But they no longer perform their function as well as they should.

Carbon to carbon bonding energy. 0.1 to 2 electron Volt (eV) range. simons.hec.utah.edu/papers/304.pdf

Uv photons have energy ranges in 1.2 to 12 eV range.

Thus sitting out in direct sunlight. Your surface skin cells are being exposes to lots of tiny chemical bond braking UV energy photons. (Consider it to be small arms fire.)

But, when a radioactive particle decays were talking energy levels in the 200 KeV, to 1.2 MeV range. Thus a radioactive decay occurring inside a cell/body is like a Cluster bomb going off. Many thousands of chemical bonds broken simultaneously. That's a lot of damage to repair.

Before nuclear weapons and power plants.. the normal isotopic loading of human body would consist of.


Where roughly half the low dosage internal decay radioactivity comes from slightly radioactive potassium 40, which makes up 0.0117% of all Potassium, and stable non-radioactive K-39(93.2581%), K-41(6.7302%)makes up the rest.

When some of that slightly radioactive Potassium is replaced by highly radioactive Cs-137, the risk of damage increases by (..WARNING MATH Follows..)

1.248e+9 years(half life decay of K-40) / 30.17 years(half life decay of Cs-137) * 8547 [Relative difference in abundance of radioactive particles, K-40(0.0117%) verses K-39,K-40,K-41(1.0)] * 1.95 (number of decay particles per radioactive atom) == 6.89E+11 more radioactive particles per unit decaying inside the human body.

Summary, internal radioactive Cesium-137 has the potential to inflict 689 billion more times cell damage then background radiation we get from Potassium.

You really, really don't want these very damaging isotopes inside your body.

*clap* *clap8 *clap*

Hey wait. But but but ... no debate from the other side on the energies in those monsters.

But they have made the debate about weak single photons. LOL. This is why nuclear wins; they dumb down their argument to non-real situations that are equivalent to what we evolved to handle -- low dose. The reality near Fukushima is not low probability events. It is heavy dosages for how long and how often?

Only gonna be worse in Japan than any of the rosy-colored-glasses theorizing I am reading here.

Furthermore, no one can argue random is good and can do useful work.

No one can say little probabilities are not multiplicative for total probability. P = p1 x p2 x p3 x p4 ... Each little p is a exp() function. Guess what. Exp(p1)xExp(p2) = Exp(p1 + p2). The chance of getting a nasty damage just adds up. The little random probabilities then all accumulate additively as the exponent in exponential functions P = exp(p1 + p2 + p3 + p4 ... ). Unless you want to invoke that radiation damage is somehow intelligent, non-random, linked, or something wacky like that.

But swing away. The Casinos in Vegas may need to read up if probability and statistics are suddenly a lost cause.

This is why nuclear wins; they dumb down their argument to non-real situations

I liked the 'The earthquake/tsunami shows how "reasonably safe" fission power is' tolling.

Worked as a troll, fails as an argument as to why there should be broad support for fission power.

Nuclear wins because anti-nuclear advocates are bad at making their case.

This is either because the facts are against them, or because they aren't using the facts effectively.

Yes, I would agree with this. However, I don't subscribe to the popular viewpoint that absolute safety is achievable and desirable. Should we give up all electrical devices just because some studies suggest a link between exposure to electromagnetic radiation and higher rates of leukemia? Should we give up using cell phones due to a possible link with brain cancer? From my perspective, the benefits of these technologies far outweigh the risks. It's the same with nuclear power, the benefits to me and to society far outweigh the risks.

I am absolutely disgusted at all the blame that has been placed on the company that owns the damaged nuclear reactors in Japan. It was Japanese society as a whole that failed to recognize and plan for the possibility of such a large tsunami. If we assume that by now most of the missing people are in fact dead, the tsunami killed roughly 29,000 people. There is no reason to believe that the number of people who ultimately will die due to radiation escaping from the reactors will be anything other than a tiny fraction of the number who were killed by the tsunami.

Is there room for improvement in the safety of nuclear power? Yes, of course there is. The accident in Japan will lead to changes and improvements just as resulted from Three Mile Island and Chernobyl.

I am absolutely disgusted at all the blame that has been placed on the company that owns the damaged nuclear reactors in Japan.

What a beautiful example of "Privatize the profits, socialize the costs".

So now we are not even supposed to "blame" a publicly traded company, which made additional profits by minimizing expenditures on battery backup, backup generation, grid connections, dosimeters, haz-mat suits, disaster planning and response preparation,etc.,etc. and as a consequence will impose many billions of costs on the public, not to mention some unknown number of additional deaths, birth defects, and cancers. I guess the proper response is supposed to be "You made critical mistakes, failed to invest in safety, reaped the profits, and then dumped the costs and suffering on the general public, but we forgive you and absolve you from all blame"??? Such an attitude would guarantee that disasters continue to occur ever more frequently.

Tepco will clearly get either nationalized or massive public capital transfers to continue operations. This illustrates why true "free market" nuclear power will never happen, because no private entity has the capital to realistically insure against the costs that nuclear accidents can incur, and no utility has sufficient assets to fairly compensate victims in the event of a "much less than worst case" accident.

That's one of the problems with our society -- too much emphasis on assigning blame and not enough on learning from our mistakes.

And you don't like big corporations. Well sorry, but many of things we need can only be provided by large organizations. In regards to corporate profits, where do you think those go? A lot of it goes to mutual funds owned by individuals and pension funds. Wishing for lower corporate profits is a little like cutting your own throat.

The balance of wealth is farther out of balance than it ever was.

Enjoy your Kool-aid.. if you feel dizzy, there are cots set up for napping.

Wishing for lower corporate profits is a little like cutting your own throat.

Lets tell a tale of a big red button.


In the summer of 2000, I asked a group of 100 people at a conference of spiritually committed people who would push a red button if it would immediately stop all narcotics trafficking in their neighborhood, city, state and country. Out of 100 people, 99 said they would not push such red button. When surveyed, they said they did not want their mutual funds to go down if the U.S. financial system suddenly stopped attracting an estimated $500 billion-$1 trillion a year in global money laundering. They did not want their government checks jeopardized or their taxes raised because of resulting problems financing the federal government deficit.

Our financial profiteering and complicity is not limited to aristocrats and the elites who do their bidding. Our financial dependency on unsustainable economics is broad, ingrained and deep.

The throats of Man are going to be cut one way or another in the example today - a reduction in "profits" or via making 100's of acres no-go due to radiation.

Funny thing - I'm not hearing from the people who defend the events post March 11th 2011 as being a "market opportunity" due to the ignorance of others and how they are gonna move there to take advantage of others ignorance.

"Our financial dependency on unsustainable economics is broad, ingrained and deep."

Which seems to make it virtually impossible to change it, since it would require entirely re-building the whole mass of our infrastructure from the bottom up. Might as well just let it fall off the great cliff and then start all over, no? As to change it would essentially require taking it all down anyway.

"Might as well just let it fall off the great cliff and then start all over, no?"

That makes about as much sense as replacing your car in the same fashion. The odds aren't bad that you'd end up going down with the car, which would make buying or building the next one problematic.

What if you aren't driving the car? And nothing you say seems to make a difference as the car approaches the edge...

Well it's worth considering to what degree we're all passengers/drivers in this 'car'..

or to Jump ship, I mean, metaphors.. if we're all on the Titanic and some of us see that it's very much sinkable and we are watching the Iceberg approach.. is it in our best interests to help sink the ship? To cheer its descent?

I just think there are other actions that deserve our attention, and some of them might actually only be possible to take on before we are in those icy waters.

That old Titanic analogy you use might be closer to the truth than you realize. If one were on the Titanic and saw it's impending sinking, jumping ship would simply put you in the icy water sooner. Before the burg was hit, if one had tried to jump into a lifeboat, one would have been seen as an idiot or, worse, a threat by the rest of the passengers who hadn't seen the burg dead ahead. Stealing a lifeboat on a clear day would have been some sort of criminal offense. Wasn't that logic applied as society viewed those of us who wanted out of "the system" during the late'60's and '70's? Back then, our warnings were ignored and we were scorned, even though it may turn out that our distant vision was correct. What we got wrong was the timing...

E. Swanson

Wishing for lower corporate profits is a little like cutting your own throat.

But, letting them consume an ever growing share of GDP, which are currently bought out system of government and media, mean that a smaller rentier class will become ever larger parasites on the rest of society. Sure I own some stocks, and I want them to do well, but the vast majority of people start out with little to no capital, and our society is rapidly consigning these folks to lifelong poverty. Balance is what is needed. But, our philosophical attitudes don't seem to allow for the pursuit of balance, but instead to a winner take all society. Soon we will all find that we are the fully owned slaves of the few lucky owners left.

Well sorry, but many of things we need can only be provided by large organizations.

I can't believe that no one has challenged you on this, yet. Please name one thing that we need (emphasize NEED) that only large organizations can provide. And just to be clear, I expect this to be a human need, not a "need" of other complex or large organizations.

Maybe electronics like phones and computers? Although you could argue they're merely convenient. But then they're *really* convenient.

Please name one thing that we need (emphasize NEED) that only large organizations can provide. And just to be clear, I expect this to be a human need, not a "need" of other complex or large organizations.

Well assuming you live in a major city and depending on what you mean by large! the local water board in one that springs to mind.
True, that water company does not need to be within a larger organisation, unless it gets its water supply from the same pipe.

The water "board," "company," or whatever its called is a good choice to demonstrate precisely the assumption that jstewart (and many others) made. If your starting place is the "major city" then clearly you "need" to get water into it for certain uses. A large organization does this for the level of complexity that we associate with major cities. But have we presumed that the level of water use that we currently "enjoy" is the "need"? But even beyond the transport issue, is it a "need" to live in major city and thus be dependent on the water board to bring in water?

This is the trap that most supporters of large organizations get themselves into - they presume that the level of complexity that we currently live in is somehow a "need," something essential to their ability to continue existence. (The mean side of me thinks of a person who simply is at wits end when the power goes out, they can't get on line and their cell phone is out of charge - what can they do! Saw many like this back in 2004 when we had 4 hurricanes criss-cross the state).

It's an ok point, but don't play into his strawman.

It assumes his opponent is truly against 'ALL BIG ORGANIZATIONS' ...

'Presuming the extreme' is the intellectually lazy route that we spend way too much time arguing needlessly against here. "Renewables can't replace all the Gasoline!" .. "What, are you going to build 10 Billion of those, so EVERYBODY has one, huh?"

I'll make my ad-hom more general.. 'They're idiots, playing Middle-school games to score points.'

tommyvee -

Apparently in the UK the nuclear industry lobbied for taxpayer funded unlimited liability for future nuclear waste costs and, as usual, won...

So the poster above should tell us again how society should be blamed... even when they fight something as ridiculous as this proposition they don't have chance since the deck is so stacked in favor of the "captains of industry"


"socialize the risks" indeed...

The blame directed at TEPCO is largely due to the appearance of incompetence and their ultra-confusing release of information. The fact that three weeks into this "situation" they appeared to have little more information on what exactly was going on than they did back within the first few days has been astonishing to quite a few observers given the severity of what happened there.

I don't think you can blame society for this one... it wasn't up to society to plan for the tsunami's impact on the nuclear plants. You obviously haven't been following how corporations continuously minimize potential threats to the "commons" despite warnings to the contrary and then repeatedly act shocked, just shocked ("nobody could have predicted _____") when a particular event (often a natural disaster) does occur.

"you know there is geologic evidence that 10m tsunamis have hit this area..." "oh stop being such a chicken little... this 5m wall will be just fine based on our cost-benefit profiteering model" etc etc

The blame directed at TEPCO is largely due to the appearance of incompetence and their ultra-confusing release of information. The fact that three weeks into this "situation" they appeared to have little more information on what exactly was going on than they did back within the first few days has been astonishing to quite a few observers given the severity of what happened there.

Well I do believe that organizations are better off in the long run if they are honest and "up front" about a situation they are dealing with.

I don't think you can blame society for this one... it wasn't up to society to plan for the tsunami's impact on the nuclear plants. You obviously haven't been following how corporations continuously minimize potential threats to the "commons" despite warnings to the contrary and then repeatedly act shocked, just shocked ("nobody could have predicted _____") when a particular event (often a natural disaster) does occur.

"you know there is geologic evidence that 10m tsunamis have hit this area..." "oh stop being such a chicken little... this 5m wall will be just fine based on our cost-benefit profiteering model" etc etc

My understanding from other postings is that the geological evidence was found fairly recently. It certainly wasn't available when it would have really made a difference -- at the time the plant was built.

What action should the power company have taken given the geological evidence? I don't think simply building a higher wall around the plant would have provided protection against any possible tsunami. The location is just completely inadequate so the only satisfactory way to eliminate the tsunami risk would have been to immediately set about building new reactors in a better location so that the plants along the coast could have been decommissioned as quickly as possible. There would certainly have been a cost to society as a whole through higher power costs. If society was going to foot the bill for constructing safer nuclear reactors, than I don't see how it could at the same time ignore the fact that millions of people were living in areas at risk of a large tsunami. Remember, it isn't just the area that was hit that is vulnerable to large tsunamis. The cost to protect all people living in areas vulnerable to large tsunami would have been immense. Japan as it is is one of the most indebted countries in the world, so I don't think it should be such a surprise to see that so little was done. Immediate problems are always going to take precedence over something that might not happen for a few hundred years.

Japan has done an amazing job of building earthquake resistent infrastructure and now they are going to have to work on protecting themselves from tsunamis.

The west coast of Canada, Alaska and the northwestern states are also vulnerable to tsunamis. What are we doing to minimize the damage and death toll that would result from a large tsunami? Precious little from what I can see.

the only satisfactory way to eliminate the tsunami risk would have been to immediately set about building new reactors in a better location

The tsunami disrupted the power supply to the reactor cooling system. Protect the power supply and you protect the reactors.

Edit: Also the water supply. Protect the power supply and the water supply and you protect the reactors. And the plumbing... and the wiring. Protect the power supply and the water supply and the plumbing and the wiring, and you protect the reactors. And the air supply...

I don't think it is that simple. The reactor buildings were right in the path of the tsunami and would certainly have sustained some damage. We also don't know what damage the buildings sustained from the earthquake.

I'll concede that we'd have less of a disaster on our hands if the diesel generators had kept running, and there would be a greater probability of being able to return some/all of the reactors to service. However, you'd still have the problem of losing a substantial amount of generating capacity for a significant amount of time. From an engineering perspective, you want an important piece of infrastructure like this to be able to withstand any large earthquake/tsunami that could reasonably be expected to occur without an extended shutdown afterwards.

A truly responsible engineering approach would be to know that you can actually shut down safely at all. The failure modes of Nuclear, and the potential for unusable lands and poisoned ecosystems is nowhere near the level of safety that we need to insist upon.

What if it's 25 more years until one somewhere else gets knocked down, while the Cesium from Chernobyl and Fukushima are still just a couple half-lives in and keeping those swaths of land off-limits. Of course, the original reactors are nearing 80-90 years old.. how many old pools are still holding fuel, how many plants have had 'emergency license extensions'?

you want an important piece of infrastructure like this to be able to withstand any large earthquake/tsunami that could reasonably be expected to occur

I certainly do - also hurricanes and lightning, landslides, forest fires, tornadoes, TEPCO, kamakaze, sinkholes, meteorites, malware, water spouts, wars, floods, solar flares, postal workers, molten lava, calderas and normal wear and tear.

maybe to clarify a little..

I don't really care if it breaks during some 'Act of God'- nearly as much as I care that it doesn't remain a hazard to the neighborhood, region or hemisphere long after as a result.

Also peak oil, grid going down because of geomagnetic disturbance, and grid going down long period for unforeseen reasons (because of bankruptcy of major players, lack of replacement parts, etc.)


Greed, incompetence, corruption, malfeasance, terrorism, negligence, arrogance, ignorance, optimism, error, sabotage, political instability, war, societal collapse...

We are talking about humans here, after all.

And those factors are why I've been saying Man can not safely operate fission as a power source due to the failure modes.

Nor can Man, apparently, safely operate a government due to the failure modes.

Which is why there are attempts at feedback modes like:

1) Money based on physical things
2) Access to courts
3) the 3 boxes - soap, ballot, ammo. Too bad box 3 gets used.

I don't think you can blame society for this one... it wasn't up to society to plan for the tsunami's impact on the nuclear plants.

Societies have a moral obligation to protect their members from the consequences of natural disasters. You can't expect private companies or private individuals to plan for events that are beyond their imagination. You need to put the scientists on the case and determine what the worst-case scenario is from a geological perspective, and then plan for that scenario.

If Japan had made a simple rule that, "No nuclear reactor will be built less than 30 metres above sea level", and had made an additional rule that, "All nuclear reactors will have a 1-week supply of emergency cooling water stored below ground on site", the consequences of an earthquake/tsunami that exceeded design specs would have been much less severe. Such earthquake/tsunamis are not unusual in Japanese geological history.

Nor are they unusual in US geological history. I don't think the US would do any better if the Cascadia subduction fault slipped, as it does every few hundred years. There are 500,000 people at risk from a similar-sized earthquake/tsunami on the West Coast. The US should not have permitted people to build beachfront houses there.

I don't disagree with you on this RMG.

And I really can't offer a very educated opinion on how things work in Japan either...

However, if the society - corporate dynamic is anything like what we now experience in the US, warnings can be issues by society (concerned citizens, scientists, politicians etc.) until they're blue in the face and corporations will institute a massive lobbying effort to discredit the warnings and/or those raising the issues... probably telling us how this will "cost jobs" if the proposed changes are instituted (which of course is code for "it will cut into our profits by some amount to do things right for everybody instead of what's right only for us...")

I should have worded it better - society obviously has a responsibility to look out for these things... whether it has the ability to actually effect change any more in the face of the ammunition available to the corporations is the more appropriate question.

My understanding is that more recent geological findings as well as the recent tsumami itself have illustrated that much larger tsunamis are possible than had previously been believed. I did see a documentary that showed a wall that a Japanese town had built after their community had been hit by a tsunami back in the 50's or 60's. While it would have protected the town from the tsunami they had experienced, I doubt it would have coped with the recent tsunami.

I think the point is that, in the case of nuclear energy, planning for anything but the worst case scenario is unacceptable. Granted the mechanism for tsunami generation is still not totally understood but if the highest one ever seen on the planet in a similar setting (either through direct observation or geologic evidence) is know to have been 15m (for example) then a nuclear plant simply should not have been built in any location that was vulnerable to something half again as high or maybe at least 20m (again for example).

Would it be expensive ? Yes, probably ridiculously so... but it will be chump change compared to the cost (and I don't mean only the $$ aspect) of rendering a significant area uninhabitable for centuries.

Well, given that the tsunami that resulted in the loss of emergency power to that nuclear plant also caused the verified deaths of over 10,000 people, with at least as many more still missing and unaccounted for, I'd say that the design passes the "reasonable safety" test admirably.

I find the lack of perspective on the part of most anti-nuclear advocates disturbing.

The mere exposure of people to potential risk trumps actual day-to-day injuries and fatalities.

Well, given that the tsunami that resulted in the loss of emergency power to that nuclear plant also caused the verified deaths of over 10,000 people, with at least as many more still missing and unaccounted for, I'd say that the design passes the "reasonable safety" test admirably.

Note how "reasonable safety" is 4 plants in states of meltdown and the "reasonable safety" is explosions which remove the tops from buildings.

Show me the bodies.

Do check back in 30-40 years, as the body count will still be continuing then...

E. Swanson

Show me the bodies.

What will be your next objection? You are on an internet site and can not see the bodies?

I'm betting a collection could be taken up to provide you with transport to the site so you can walk in concentric circles 'round the plant looking for bodies near all that "safe" nuclear power.

Try me.

I certainly believe in the deaths on the Macondo well, and I didn't see those in person.

I believe that people died in the Big Branch mine explosion.

I didn't see those directly.

I even believe that people died from the Chernobyl incident that weren't at the reactor site. From radiation.

Show me the body count.

Show me that it comes even close to oil, let alone coal.

So far you haven't even tried to do this, and I think it is because you can't.

It might well be because we can't.

I think the big contest going on now is whether Soviet Russia or the Western Corporatized Power Structure can be more successful at hiding inconvenient data, and making the remainder look unauthentic. There are a lot of tools available to devalue the challengers' message.

Are you satisfied so far that we're getting reliable accounting from Fukushima, so that an open and fair assessment will be possible through web-searches down the road?

- IF NOT, in which direction do you expect the misinformation to be skewed?

- Who has control over the data, and what are their imperatives?

- Is it in the interest of the Government, much less TEPCO to come forward and admit that this has happened on their watch, and to be forthright about the degree of damage that has gotten through the gates?

It is in the interests of every industry to hide their bodies, yet the information comes out in the end.

I've heard someone suggest that the fatalities associated with Chernobyl are orders of magnitude greater than commonly supposed, yet I have seen no link to analysis that even tries to pull these numbers from the publicly available mortality and morbidity data for Europe.

I have seen lots of links to reports of what radiation can do, but I am the only person here that has linked to the organization that has done the largest cross-sectional exposure study ever done: the monitoring of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors. If there is any study that shows what actually happens that is the one.

I have looked at the numbers available to me and I am convinced that nuclear is less dangerous, both to its workers and the general public, than either oil or coal. I have seen people suggest that it is also safer than natural gas, wind, and hydro, but I am not totally convinced of those.

If you have even a hint that the numbers are so much worse that they demonstrate an unacceptable risk, show me.

TRY to show me, for goodness sake.

All I have gotten so far is handwaving and emotional anecdotes. Bring some rigor to your argument, I know you are capable of doing so.

I'm not sure which report you are referring to. There's been a long history of studies of the health effects of ionizing radiation on humans, as you point out. The question of the effects at low doses has been one of the major issues. I haven't kept up with the latest, but here's a major study for those interested to read and discuss:

Health Effects from Exposure to Low Levels of Ionizing Radiation, BEIR VII (2006)

I don't know, perhaps this is the work to which you refer...

E. Swanson

Thanks, that's one. I'll take a look at it.

I was referring to http://www.rerf.jp/index_e.html (Radiation Effects Research Foundation), the repository of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki monitoring results. An experiment that I hope never gets repeated.

Why ya arguing with her on this body point? This "body count" position is a response to 'the reactors are safe within reason' by pointing out how this "reason" position comes with 4 biosphere poisoning toxic engines of death. Look at what is called A real risk leaves bodies - thus the 4 reactors arn't a "real risk" as there are no bodies.

She starts the body count at "1900" which is years before the pubic use of fission power.

And she wants the dead from "radiation" - thus ignoring the mining deaths from Uranium. (a few studies have been done on the Navajo nation and the effects on the Uranium mining) Stick to "dead from radiation" avoids the "dead from cancer" category.

She's framing the argument in such a way she can't be disproved on one point.

The telling part is how she's not over in Japan working next to the "safe" reactor. Ya know, showing us all how rational and sane she is.

I am actually expecting the Navajo mining results.

Do not think I am arguing from ignorance or that I expect you to play fair.

Considering your position is Go back to 1900 and your call for bodies in in reaction to pointing out how you have defined 'safe, within reason' as 4 reactors placing radionuclides into the biosphere - you've demonstrated you do not have an honest position.

And yet you aren't even trying.

You keep running back around to the talking points without even trying to show how much of a risk that release constitutes.

Are people going to start dropping dead in droves if this continues? How much more needs to leak out before we actually start seeing the effects in a form that doctors could track like a flu outbreak?

A risk that has no impact is not a risk, it is merely an event.

Show me the bodies.

The bodies are gone. Washed out to sea. Eaten by fish.

Only their next-of-kin would know they are missing, and their next-of-kin are missing as well. That's the problem with doing a body count in a major disaster - there are no bodies left to count, and nobody left to count them even if they could.

Those are the bodies from the Tsunami. A real and significant risk that is insufficient to keep people from building houses on the shore.

The bodies from the nuclear "disaster", which only began in earnest after the wave had gone, should not be easy to hide.

Note: I am in no way trying to belittle the impact of the tsunami, it is that impact that is making me question the authenticity of the people saying that the nuclear incident is so horrible.

We've got horrible in spades all around there, I'm just not seeing that any of it is actually from the nuclear reactors and nobody can be arsed to so much as link an article from a third party about it, they just keep shouting that I'm wrong.

If there was a profitable tsunami industry, presumably there would be shills on here asking where all those bodies are from the tsunami.

After all, if there are no bodies, there is clearly no tragedy, "just and event."

There are profitable coal and oil industries, and I have no trouble at all finding bodies from those.

Claiming a coverup is not a sign of a strong argument.

2 dead and more to come. Economic damage to farms and industry incalculable at present since the disaster looks like it will go on for a long time. Economic damage to Tokyo in lost talent. Hard to know.

I'm not even necessarily strongly anti-nuclear... I don't really think it's that complicated - you're just being completely disingenuous and argumentative if you think that every question raised about nuclear safety is invalid. Fer cryin' out loud - it's happening in real time - this is no longer the lunatic hypothetical ravings of some wide eyed anti-nuke hippie. OK maybe this time it hasn't reached the mythical "worst event ever recorded" level but frankly that metric appears to be constantly modified anyways... but curiously always by those wanting to play down the impacts. Of course eventually transparency is acheived and the facts come out - and another curious trend emerges - the truth is nearly always worse (and frequently much worse) than we were lead to believe by all the hand wavers.

Well, given that the tsunami that resulted in the loss of emergency power to that nuclear plant also caused the verified deaths of over 10,000 people, with at least as many more still missing and unaccounted for, I'd say that the design passes the "reasonable safety" test admirably.

Back in the day when I got a private pilots license on a Cessna 152 single-engine plane, spin recovery training was still part of the PPL program. The Cessna 152 has an unusual overhead wing design which contributes to its inherent aerodynamic stability. This means that a Cessna 152 generally exits from a spin if the pilot simply removes his hands and feet from the controls. No need for fancy flying skills. (note: in pilot lingo, a "spin" is an autorotation flight mode, where an aircraft rotates around all three axes at the same time, spiralling down in corkscrew fashion until altitude = ground level :) )

The take-away for nuclear energy is this: given the nuclear wasteland consequences of any serious incident, howsoever caused, the inherent dynamic stability of nuclear reactors should have been part of any reasonable safety test. Meaning, whatever the failure mode, the outcome should be that the reactor automatically goes to safe shutdown.. That is a necessary condition for a "reasonably safe" reactor for me.

However, whether such a brilliant reactor design can be created or not, this by now is academic. Nuclear power generation has become too politically radioactive. Only a war footing for a long transition to 100% renewables will do at this stage, and I am shocked that our "leaders" still can't get their act together to declare "war on energy poverty" with renewables at the tip of the spear.

The take-away for nuclear energy is this: given the nuclear wasteland consequences of any serious incident, howsoever caused, the inherent dynamic stability of nuclear reactors should have been part of any reasonable safety test

And Canada has an example of this.

They put together a reactor to make their own material for Nuclear Medicine. It was calculated to have 3 separate negative feedback loops. 2 worked. 1 did not.

They opted to scrap the project.

I am shocked that our "leaders" still can't get their act together to declare "war on energy poverty" with renewables at the tip of the spear.

1) The 'renewables' typically need land to gather the energy - thus creating a have/have not class separated by land.
2) The social control centralized power represents would be diminished.
3) The centralized power makers feel they'd have to invest in larger plants which would not be running at capacity. That creates:
4) Individuals will want their own backup and will use it when the renewables take a dip therefore creating a rise in liquid fuel demand which would introduce wilder price swings in liquid fuels.

I did see a documentary that showed a wall that a Japanese town had built after their community had been hit by a tsunami back in the 50's or 60's. While it would have protected the town from the tsunami they had experienced, I doubt it would have coped with the recent tsunami.

That means they are designing for a 50-year tsunami. The problem with designing for a 50-year event is that the average person will experience one of them, or possibly two, during their lifetime.

Reportedly, the last time a similar tsunami hit the area was 869 AD, so this was likely a 1000-year event.

Many of these are fat-tail phenomena and so I think it is mostly meaningless to attach numbers to the event time spans. Normal counting statistics don't always apply. The mean magnitude can diverge for certain fat-tail probability distributions and so big ones are more prevalent than most people think.

This is a good article: "Obstacles to Clear Thinking About Natural Disasters: Five Lessons for Policy"

The US should not have permitted people to build beachfront houses there.

Its worse than just allowing - the Government backs the insurance for the beachfront property.

Thus when people have loss of property - they can get it rebuilt on the backs of taxpayers all across the land.

It would be interesting to know how many meters of tsunami each of the world's nuclear plants built along an ocean is built to withstand. Does anyone know?

It's the same with nuclear power, the benefits to me and to society far outweigh the risks.


Ok - here's the challenge - state the benefits that are claimed by fission power.

Because the benefits as listed in the 1950's which started the path now on don't match what has been delivered.

The industry can't make it safe enough to self-insure as evident by Price-Anderson.

I am absolutely disgusted at all the blame that has been placed on the company that owns the damaged nuclear reactors in Japan.

Yup. Some should fall on the maker General Electric.

It was Japanese society as a whole that failed to recognize and plan for the possibility of such a large tsunami.

Oh wait. You are not taking the position that GE has blame. You are blaming "Japanese society as a whole". Yet, "Japanese society as a whole" has what level of input into how Corporations function?

How exactly were "Japanese society as a whole" supposed to have acted to maximize the profit to the Corporation *AND* somehow prevent this event?

Is there room for improvement in the safety of nuclear power? Yes, of course there is.

At least we agree here. Yet, I don't see how this is possible given the utter failure of the Corporate governance structure - and I doubt you have an answer here.

But go ahead - come up with reform that creates the "safer" fission power.

The accident in Japan will lead to changes and improvements
1. An unfortunate incident that happens unexpectedly and unintentionally, typically resulting in damage or injury

You've pointed out how failed to recognize and plan for the possibility of such a large tsunami - how is this position "unexpected"?

Given the cost of failure of fission power - the acceptable change is to stop its use as Man has demonstrated the present system Man is operating under is not able to operation fission responsibly.

However, I don't subscribe to the popular viewpoint that absolute safety is achievable and desirable.

Straw Man Alert!

What rational person could ever believe that "absolute safety is achievable and desirable"?
In the history of humanity, who has ever expressed such a belief??
Far from being popular, I have never seen such a viewpoint expressed, either in words or in print, in my entire life.

Of course, the Straw Man serves an important purpose, which is to prevent a rational discussion of the risks, costs, and benefits of nuclear power, by arguing with a non-existent and ridiculous opponent, instead of confronting the actual facts of the situation.

What rational person could ever believe that "absolute safety is achievable and desirable"?
In the history of humanity, who has ever expressed such a belief??
Far from being popular, I have never seen such a viewpoint expressed, either in words or in print, in my entire life.

I see a society that keeps passing more and more laws and regulations in an attempt to guarantee personal safety. In other words our politicians (and presumably a lot of voters) have bought into the idea that "absolute safety is achievable and desirable". For example, some children died in drop side cribs so now they have been banned in the United States. There were problems with parents not assembling cribs correctly (an education problem that could never be solved completely), and plastic components that failed (an engineering problem, easily solved). To simply ban dropside cribs when millions upon millions of parents have used them without problems reeks of "absolute safety is achievable and desirable".

Another example here in Canada that hit closer to home is our federal bureaucrats who decided that volunteers leading canoe trips should have to have the same qualifications as commercial guides. Thus experienced canoeist's in our canoe club could not take other members out on even the most basic flatwater canoe trip without having all the certifications required by a commercial guide taking clients down a whitewater river in the artic. Definitely a case of bureaucrats striving for "absolute safety is achievable and desirable". Funny that none of us were aware of an epidemic of drownings on organized canoe club trips run by experienced, unpaid volunteers. Fortunately, the minister in charge of that department realized this wasn't a good idea and put it on hold -- for now at least.

...our federal bureaucrats who decided that volunteers leading canoe trips should have to have the same qualifications as commercial guides. Thus experienced canoeist's in our canoe club could not take other members out on even the most basic flatwater canoe trip

When did that happen? I'm just wondering because I do some runs down Canadian rivers from time to time. Flatwater canoeing is relatively safe for children of all ages as long as they wear their life jackets. People who fall out of boats while drunk with no life jackets are a completely different case, but difficult to regulate.

I was going to post a picture of a dead kayaker that my wife did CPR on last spring, after he ran a waterfall and missed, but decided that might be too much reality for most people here to handle. A lot of the things we do might be too much reality for most people.

However the point was that there is a big difference between kayaking over a 12 metre (40 foot) high waterfall, and canoeing a flat, slow moving river. Two different levels of risk, done by people with two different levels of risk tolerance. Government bureaucrats often have problems seeing the difference between a high waterfall and a flat river.

Rocky - Here’s a thought that may stir some folks up. Watch my words closely and don’t make assumptions:

Should motor cycle riders wear helmets? Obviously two very divided views. If you vote yes the reason could be that mc riders bear a greater risk of brain injuries. But what did I really just say? More mc riders die from brain injuries or that they have a higher prob of being killed in an accident? What’s really important: the prob of death or the number of deaths? IOW what’s the real consideration: the stat or the deaths themselves? I would think most folks would say the actual deaths: wearing a helmet reduces the absolute number of deaths of mc riders. I’m guessing most here would agree.

If I’m correct then most TODsters would agree that we should pass a law requiring all passengers in automobiles wear helmets. Simple logic: most auto deaths are a result of brain injury. Add that to the fact that around 60 times as many folks die from brain injuries in auto accidents than mc accidents. Then since so many more folks would survive auto accidents than mc accidents we should all wear helmets in our cars. Many thousands of lives would be saved (many more than mc riders) if everyone were to wear helmets in their cars. Isn’t that why we have laws that require baby car seats…to save the lives of those babies? We’re worried about their lives and not the stats, aren’t we? For every mc rider whose life is saved by wearing a helmet than 60 auto riders would be saved by wearing a helmet.

So a show of hands: who is going to buy a helmet tomorrow?

Should motor cycle riders wear helmets?

Based on the last half-dozen motorcycle accidents I've seen, it would be a really good idea. There's nothing between their brains and the pavement zipping by at 60 mph but their thin skills. Even helmets don't stand up that well, but at least it gives them half a chance.

When my wife worked in the ER, they had a special name for motor cycle riders: "Organ Donors". There was a certain air of excitement around the ER as the spring motorcycle season approached and they waited for the first one to lose it on the leftover winter sand. They'd come in and they would be young adult males with all their organs in excellent shape, except they were brain dead. They'd alert the transplant teams, get ready, declare them dead, pull the plug, and get all those organs out and packed in ice as fast as possible.

By contrast, brain dead automobile accident victims would come in with most of their other organs damaged as well. More commonly, their brains were still functioning, but the rest of their body wasn't working very well.

So, there is a certain argument for automobile drivers wearing helmets, but it isn't as convincing as for motorcycles. All those airbags they put in cars work pretty well without one.

Rocky - For every 1 motorcycle rider who dies of a brain injury in an accident around 30 to 40 die from brain injuries in auto accidents. And that's with seat belts and air bags. So back to tha basic question: if mc riders should wear helmets to save lives why not auto passengers since it would save multiple times the lives?

BTW I've never seen a mc rider dead with his head split open. But I've seen 5 car riders dead with the heads split open. That includes one very bad night in S Texas at 2 AM when the car 50 yds ahead of me was hit head on. Would have been me if I had been 30 seconds farther down the road.

I'll try to gig the stats out later today but I think more folks die of brain injuries by slipping in the shower than from motor cycle accidents. So what's your preference for your next shower: helemt or safety harness?

...don’t make assumptions...
...For every mc rider whose life is saved by wearing a helmet than 60 auto riders would be saved by wearing a helmet. So a show of hands: who is going to buy a helmet tomorrow?

I'm not sure. For all I know, wearing an auto helmet could increase my risk.

In order to answer your question, I would need to know the number of people who die each year of head injuries sustained in passenger car accidents while wearing auto helmets. The only person I've ever known to wear a helmet while riding in street legal vehicles already had a head injury.

Let me know when you find out. If the numbers work out, we should consider a law forcing pedestrians to wear helmets too [: )

M - You've offered the #1 argument used by mc riders why they shouldn't be forced to wear helmets. I don't have the link yet but some years ago I saw a report showing that 30 to 40 times as many folks die from head injuries in auto accidents than motor cycle accidents. But it's very easy to understand why: how many auto riders are there compared to mc riders? Very easy to estimate: count the number of cars and mc you see on the way home tonight.

I'm still waiting for someone to offer the reason for not putting your baby in a car seat: if there were an accident and the car was on fire and you couldn't get the seat to release your baby would burn up. Obviously much worse than having a dingo eat your baby.

Aimed at push bikes, but you get the idea:


Although, as a mc rider myself, I must say that the risk of serious injury resulting from user error is still a lot higher for a mc than a push bike simply because of the speeds involved - eating asphalt after a push bike crash is a lot more palatable than from a motorcycle crash. Personally, I don't wear a helmet on my push bike but I wouldn't go out in traffic on my mc without.

i - I'm disappointed I haven't stirred up much cr*p...that is one of my main goals in life. LOL. Actually I wasn't so much going after motor cycles or any other particular cause of death. Rather it was about risk mitigation. Motor cycle helmets just made it easier to focus. So anyone who thinks mc helmets should be mandatory must logically want auto passengers to be helmeted. You can't argue otherwise if you use "life saving efforts" as the criteria. If every auto passenger wore helmets there would many thousands of fewer deaths every year. And they can't argue costs as an excuse: a helmet for a mc rider costs the same as for an auto passenger. For that matter much more money is spent every year for car seats for babies than for mc helmets.

This goes back to how folks interpret (or misinterpret) risks. Be it the risk of an offshore oil spill, a frac job contaminating a fresh water aquifer or a nuclear plant meltdown. Folks will honestly think they have a chance of winning a lottery when the odds are only 1 in 16 million but never worry about getting injured by a lightning strike (1 in 900). Most folks think motor cycle riders should be forced to wear helmets to save lives but IMHO would fight you tooth and nail to prevent a law forcing all auto riders to wear one. If you're old enough think back to the battles over mandatory seat belts/air bags/ baby car seats/etc.

Boils done to limits on personal choice: when should the right of an individual (or corporation, state, country, etc) be over ridden by the benefit to the majority. Should the folks in the Gulf Coast suffer the risk of another oil spill so the country can add some production? Should folks in autos be required to wear helmets because it would cut medical costs by many billions? Should smoking be illegal because of the tremendous costs burden it inflicts upon society?

It's really a never ending list of such questions, isn't it?

Ah yes, I see where you're coming from now - serves me right for just dipping into the conversation last minute!

I agree - I think it's very much a part of human nature to misinterpret probabilities when relying on intuition alone. Fear of flying is another good example!

I could see this Train-Wreck of an argument coming from a mile away, and I turned off onto a side-track a ways earlier.

I'm just prowling past now, nice and slow, just to see if there are any gory remains to gawk at. Of course rubbernecking is the cause of a whole lotta additional accidents, I hear.

MC Helmets is one of those highly flammable Dragracing-type issues.. I think I'll walk.

You're no fun joker...just like my wife. She tends to ignore me also when I poke her with a verbal stick. LOL

Selected Traumatic Brain Injury Statistics

Motor vehicle accidents account for an estimated 28% of traumatic brain injuries; sports/physical activity account for 20%; assaults are responsible for 9%; 43% are due to "other" reasons. However, when considering those brain injuries severe enough to require hospitalization, virtually half (49%) are caused by motor vehicle accidents.

So, there is an argument for wearing helmets in cars. I mean, race car drivers do it - maybe they know something the average driver doesn't.

Alcohol was involved in 41% of all fatal crashes and 7% of all crashes in 1996. More than 321,000 persons were injured in accidents where alcohol was present—an average of one person injured every 2 minutes.

People consuming alcoholic beverages will be required to wear helmets. Based on the behavior I have seen, this would be a really good idea - even in their living rooms.

While brain injuries due to car accidents have declined an impressive 25% between 1984 to 1992, brain injuries resulting from firearms have risen 13% during the same period.

People carrying guns will be required to wear helmets. I mean, it is mandatory in the army, why should civilians be exempt?


Studies indicate that the risk of brain injury in hospitalized motorcyclists is nearly twice that for unhelmeted motorcyclists and that unhelmeted drivers had acute care costs three times ($30,365) that of helmeted drivers

And they will be required to fill out the mandatory organ-donation form, because as I have explained before they are a valuable resource in this donatible-organ-short world.

As many as 74% to 85% of bicycle-related head injuries could be prevented if bike riders were to wear protective helmets. An average of 140,000 head injuries per year are attributed to children and adolescents in bicycle accidents.

A really good idea. I always wear a helmet while bicycling.

Air bags have been associated with a substantial reduction of fatalities in motor vehicle accidents involving adults (a 14% decrease in fatality for front passengers wearing seat belts and a 23% decrease for those not wearing seat belts).

Air bags are a pretty good helmet-substitute in cars.

However, children younger than 10 (seated in the front seat) had a 34% increased risk of dying in frontal crashes in cars equipped with dual airbags.

So, parents will be required to disarm the air bags while carrying small children in the front seat. There should be a switch available for that purpose. Alternatively we could require a very expensive Small Child Detection and Air Bag Disarming System (SCDABDS). A better solution would be to force small children to sit in the back seat and wear helmets (of course). And put duct tape over their mouths so they can't complain.

Oustanding response Rocky...mucho thanks. So my take away should be that I should wear one of those helmets with the dual beer can attachments with sippy hose while I drive my 4 yo strapped over the fender of my car while trailering my Hog.

BTW the reason there have been more head wounds is perhaps folks have been paying to me rant about the importance of taking a head shot whenever possible...only way to be sure, ya know.

You have a 4 year old? I always pictured you being about 65 to 70 years old. You old dog!

My wife is always double checking every time I strap the kids into their car seats. The big thing these days is to keep them rear facing as long as possible.

Rear facing? That seems odd - what's the rationale behind that? Surely the back of the head is weaker than the front?

Rear facing? That seems odd - what's the rationale behind that?

It prevents the head being snapped forward in a crash, with probable whiplash and possible spinal fracture. It also spreads the force over the entire back, rather than just the belts.

I remember looking at the system the stewardesses had on a recent airline flight I took. They were sitting in rearward-facing seats next to the exits, and had 4-point harnesses with wide belts and quick releases rather than the simple lap belts we passengers had. I got the impression that management was more concerned about their safety than ours. Either that or the Employee Safety Department rather than the Marketing Department had drawn up the specs.

Ah ok, makes sense.

For the stewardesses.. well presumably they fly a lot more often than a typical passenger so in a way it may all boil down to probabilities again. Perhaps giving them a better chance of survival in the event of a crash offsets the higher likelihood that they'll be involved in a plane crash at some stage of their lives?

Screwy logic, I know..

In the event of a survivable crash they need to be in as good a shape as possible to help the passengers.

Additionally, there is some training involved in wearing a 4- or 5-point harness properly, and they aren't all that comfortable. Seatbelt compliance would be quite an issue.

A really good idea. I always wear a helmet while bicycling.

What hasn't been discussed much here is the risks increased by safety precautions such as wearing a helmet while bicycling.

I've kept fairly well in touch with relatives on my father's side, and I hear stories such as bicycle accidents, whether they happened yesterday or a hundred years ago. I've heard quite few stories about bicycle accidents, such as the one my mother had while learning to ride a bike ninety-five years ago (I heard it from my father), and I've contributed a few stories myself, such as when I ran over a dog's tail and he took off before my front wheel was clear of him. I lost a fair bit of skin off the palms of my hands (I was twelve at the time). But in all of these accidents over the years I have not heard of a single head injury.

On the other hand, every relative on my father's side has developed some form of skin cancer on his or her face or neck by the age of fifty. My father died from melanoma which developed on the back of his neck. That was after he lost most of his nose to other forms of skin cancer. My brother is still keeping his fingers crossed five years after losing part of an ear plus associated lymph nodes to melanoma.

And no bicycle helmet I've seen provides any sun protection.

When I ride a bicycle I wear a broad-brimmed hat. And sunblock.

There's a section about the increased risks of wearing a helmet in the link posted up-thread here.

I'd be dead or severely brain damaged if I hadn't been wearing a helmet on my push bike. I got off lightly with merely an arm bone described by the surgeon simply as "mush" and a cut where the helmet got pulled slightly to one side. I'd have also lost half my face as it scraped along the ground.

You can always tell the serious daily road-cyclists in britain, they wear helmets and light reflecting gear. It's simply not logical to do otherwise on the roads.

Helmets aren't expensive, it isn't a big deal to wear them and they protect your head... it's a total no-brainer and i've never understood the fuss about it. Even more so now.

Drop an average sized melon from about 6 feet to concrete. Repeat until whatever weird ideas about helmet dangers vs benefits vanish in a smooshed up pulp.

The melon reacts roughly the same as your skull, the cracks you see in the melon would roughly be the same as the cracks that would appear in your skull. Now, keep in mind, this test isn't accurate, since the melon would actually have to hit at speed to be representative of the average accident, but it's ok as an example.

Anyone who doesn't wear a helmet riding has no respect for their brain, which almost is a given, since it's just not smart to not wear one, that would suggest the brain just doesn't warrant such respect in the first place. I have a few friends who are fantastic riders who never wear one in town, but they are truly great riders, ie, championship level, so they can do whatever they want as far as I'm concerned, since they are truly in tune with their machines and the traffic around them.

I do understand the thing with liking to feel the wind etc in your hair, but to me it just doesn't pass the test of: god I wish I'd worn that helmet the day I got hit by the car I never saw coming. That only takes one time, never happened to me, but I've seen it happen to others.

There is however a very major problem with people buying helmets and not cinching the straps properly, ie, to give it that snazzy loose casual look. This is the real problem, the helmet should be snug enough to not move that much if you slap it from any direction.

Even Tour de France type racers had to finally give in as they rode past one of their now dead compatriots brains that had poured out of his head onto the asphalt of a mountain decent after he'd crashed and hit his head hard. That seemed to finally get the message home.

I've never hit my head on cement, but I've hit my head many times mountain biking, at high speeds, that's why I used a heavy duty helmet, held up better. Never even got a headache from any accident like that, lots of road rash of course, but the head was always fine, as the deep scuffmarks in the helmet testified to.

It takes only one single major head injury to change you from a bright cheery member of our society to a somewhat incoherent dribbling mental case.

Pays to be vigilant with the silent EVs on the road.

People are looking into it the issue though. All a bit sci-fi: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WS4fvCB6KUY

I find that the car tires are actually more noisy than the exhaust, which raises the real point about safety: DO NOT RIDE WITH YOUR HEARING IMPAIRED!.

Ie, do not use mp3 player devices, or any type of headphones, that can cost you exactly that moment where you had the time to react, the sound of tires coming, the click of a door about to open, etc.

My experience is that you always have enough time to react on streets, but not if you are distracted by anything, the sound/visual inputs give you enough time to react if you do not hinder them.

More noisy...? Not sure I quite follow - those EV cars are lethally silent compared to the older ICE cars - no doubt about that!

I nearly walked out in front of an electric truck the other day - jeez, scared the cr*p out of me!

In general yes, the sound of tires are far noisier than modern exhaust systems, but I forgot the single case where that's not relevant: acceleration from stop, then you are totally right, there is simply no warning.

But generally, the sound of the tires is what I hear from cars walking or riding, always, that's my warning. In the old days, it was the exhaust, with those big v-8s, it still is with the silly big trucks and suvs, diesels, but in most cases with standard sedans moving at speed, the tires are louder.

Yes, when accelerating from stationary it's almost eerie.

Here's a vid that seems to be comparing the exact situation you mention: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QpnJhQU_m0A

Hey man, I was just doing as instructed and not making assumptions. The numbers prove motorcycle helmets save lives. Maybe a dorky auto helmet would be just as effective. Maybe it would interfere with my ability to use my cellphone, causing me to die. I don't know. Show me the numbers, that's all I'm saying. The effectiveness of auto helmets in passenger cars is as yet unkown.

I'm still waiting for someone to offer the reason for not putting your baby in a car seat: if there were an accident and the car was on fire and you couldn't get the seat to release your baby would burn up. Obviously much worse than having a dingo eat your baby.

Much worse, I agree. If the dingo eats my baby, all I lose is the baby.

One argument from those who don't like to wear a helmet is that it restricts one's view of the surroundings and cuts off some of the sound which enters one's ears. In a car, the extra protection of a helmet would mean that the driver would have less awareness of his/her surroundings, thus a slight increase in the incidence of accidents might be the result. This effect might be somewhat like using a cell phone while driving, which has been the cause of many accidents due to the lack of attention by the driver. In the case of a motorcycle, wearing a helmet is clearly a net benefit, but in the situation of driving a car in traffic, a helmet might be a net negative, given the other safety devices already in use for cars. As you note, there are many more drivers of cars and the number of miles driven per car is higher, thus a small negative benefit would translate into a larger total injuries or deaths...

E. Swanson

Then why do all race car drivers wear helmets?
"Every NASCAR driver is required to wear some type of helmet. Most wear a full-face helmet, which covers the entire head and wraps around the mouth and chin. Others wear an open-face helmet, which only covers the head. Drivers who wear the open-face helmet usually wear protective goggles. They claim that a full-face helmet restricts their peripheral vision."


Could it be that they are driving faster? Seriously, race drivers have roll cages and 5 point seat harnesses with seats that provide considerable lateral support and protection, as well as helmets and eye protection. Racing is much more likely to result in a crash than driving on the freeway (at legal speeds)...

E. Swanson

Could it be that they are driving faster?

Hunks of flying stuff from the track. In dirt track helmets you have 'tear off' sheets to 'clean' your helmet.

My intended point was that they have even more need for extra-effective senses--peripheral vision, hearing, yet are able to drive successfully at high speeds with helmets, so highway drivers have no excuse.

I go one better than that in Britain several years back they had a die off in a salmon farm for fear of contaminating the sea the dead fish had to pumped out of the floating nets and carted off and dumped in a landfill. The same goes for mussels you can eat them but you cannot throw the shells over the side of the boat into the sea. Unfortunately Stupidity is not a criminal offense, otherwise the idiots who think all this up would be serving life sentences.

What do you propose? PCBs in our water and mercury in the air? Are you a libertarian that believes the corporation should take the life and liberty away from decent humans that happen live near an uncontrolled industrial plant? That is an oxymoron to me.

That is the problem with idealists are dreamers like libertarian types. You cannot have corporate freedom and personal liberty at the same time. They self-contradict when the corporation has limited liability and the person is affected disproportionately due to gross corporate negligence as defined in the Laws we govern our society by.

Is it OK for a person to walk into a store and deface all logos that say "Proctor & Gamble"? It is OK for a corporation to deface the waterways and airways in a community?

Philosophic points but this is the make-up of an advanced culture. Anything short of this compromises personal liberty.

PCBs in our water

You're probably not going to like this, but I'm going to say it anyway: PCB's are not really very toxic. The problem arises because they are persistent organic pollutants. They are nearly impossible to get rid of. You have to burn them at very high temperatures under controlled conditions to dispose of them.. If you burn them at low temperatures, e.g. accidentally in a transformer fire, they generate dioxins and furans, which are very toxic.

More inconvenient facts to deal with from the real world of chemistry.

Marine mammals in the Lawrence River have high concentrations of these materials, PCBs, and they have high incidence of cancer, but linking the too is always gray. The marine mammals may get these cancers from other pollutants, and PCBs just tend to bioaccumulate.

One could argue that bioaccumulation of anything is not a good idea, nonetheless.

Hence 3M got rid of their stain fighter product that bioaccumulated. Good policy I think.

you're probably not going to like this, but I'm going to say it anyway: PCB's are not really very toxic.

Have you some data to back up this claim? While you are at it, collect the data that shows that PCB's are 'not really very toxic' in combination with one or more of the several tens of thousands of other man-made chemicals in the biosphere. As jokhul pointed out, the same uncertainty exists about radiation. Can anyone guarantee insignificant risk, or even demonstrate some low probability of risk with any given level of ionizing radiation when combined with chemical pollutants of one kind or another?

Obviously, you can't do this, nor can anybody. But strangely the rates of cancer, neurological disorders, and so on have increased by orders of magnitude in the past century. I wonder why.

So, shove another round into a chamber and give the revolver drum a spin, maybe we'll be lucky, maybe not.

Polychlorinated Biphenyls

How can PCBs affect my health?
The most commonly observed health effects in people exposed to large amounts of PCBs are skin conditions such as acne and rashes. Studies in exposed workers have shown changes in blood and urine that may indicate liver damage. PCB exposures in the general population are not likely to result in skin and liver effects.

The point I was making was that PCBs are much less toxic than the dioxins and furans that result from burning them. They once were very commonly used in transformers but are now banned because transformers occasionally catch fire.

The secondary issue is that they are not biodegradable, so once they get into the environment, they persist more or less forever.

However, when I am evaluating environmental toxins, my usual baseline comparison is with second-hand cigarette smoke. Compared to PCBs, second-hand cigarette smoke is much, much more toxic, and I am much more likely to be exposed to second-hand smoke than PCB's. So, I'm much more worried about cigarette smoke than PCBs.

If you worry about everything indiscriminately, you'll develop chronic anxiety disorder, and have one more thing to worry about. So, it's best to prioritize your worrying. My priority is to have smoking banned anywhere near me. PCBs have already been banned.

A truly consistent "libertarian" (and I'm not sure I've met any) would not believe that corporations should be allowed to do anything. Corporations as they exist now are only made possible by a regulatory and legal environment that is created by that very government that the libertarian supposedly opposes.

Even stripping away the tax breaks, the subsidies, and the like, the corporation is possible as a result of limited liability rules that create the legal entity while shielding the participants from any exposure of their own wealth. (This is why we don't talk too much about the largest "partnerships"). This existence separate from the owners was extended to give corporations a legal "person-hood" which then allows them to take advantage of further government protection, including things like special bankruptcy rules (as an individual you bankruptcy options are limited, but their are many variations for corporations).

It would be an interesting though experiment to work through the implications of removing the legal underpinnings of limited liability and corporate person-hood. But few of those implications would result in the large corporations that your hypothetical libertarian believes in. Indeed, your hypothetical libertarian (much as s/he resembles the current real world examples) would probably find such a world quite to their dislike. For that sort of libertarian is not really interested in a reduced gov't role in their life, they really just want that government role to benefit their only view of how things should be.

Shaman, there is no such thing. Libertarians are just neo-feudalists, that's all. Giving them any more intellectual credit than that is really just flattering them.

Their position is based on a belief, quasi-religious in character, about a 'free market' whose existence has never been shown in the real world. But ignore what they say, and look at what they do, and what they do is attempt to divert and direct the social wealth to the ruling elites. Friedman is a classic example of such an authoritarian type personality, he loved the military dictatorship in Chile, was just thrilled by it, because they were funneling the social wealth to the hands of a small elite, which is what real libertarians are always directly or indirectly pushing for every time they rail against government regulations.

It's extra amusing seeing libertarians, like Greenspan, get so confused when markets not only fail to self-regulate, they literally self-immolate when their lobbyists succeed in getting those regulations removed. Then the social body gets to come in and bail those criminally insane lunatics out, like just happened in 2008, and will certainly happen again in the USA, repeatedly, until people stop listening to these sociopaths. Greenspan was especially revealing, since guys like Soros had clearly and carefully documented how and why boom/bust cycles occur, and also noted that the 'efficient markets' myth was just that, Greenspan's confusion about how his bad theory would fail to correspond to reality was really all you need to see re these intellectually incoherent neo-feudalists.

I've also thought that a truly consistent libertarian would be violently opposed to the even less free corporate type hierarchical structures, which by their essential character destroy free market competition and replace it with either monopoly or oligarchy type market dominations. But this is where you see their truth come out, the corporation, being a fundamentally feudalistic entity, is exactly what they want to see.

That's why you will NEVER see a libertarian talk about corporations as being non-free, anti-free market entities, whose social internal relations are fundamentally non-free, it's because that is their goal, they want to return to feudalism, the brief fling with democracy has always deeply annoyed this type of personality, libertarianism is just the current way they talk about the desire to return to the good old days, where you had kings, dukes, earls, and the peons serving them and supplying them with their wealth.

But then I slapped myself a bit and reminded myself that the notion of a consistent libertarian is an oxymoron, they cannot be consistent, to do so would make them anti-capitalist to a fairly extreme degree, because of the issues with corporate control over markets.

I have, by the way, seen and appreciated something that much more resembles free markets, the public market systems in Europe and much of the old world, at least pre-corporate versions of that world.

Once you have any type of irresponsible by design entity, like a corporation, which is determined by law to always place itself before the needs of the social body, you no longer have free markets. Free markets require free actors, and you cannot speak of freedom when a corporation is governing what you can do or buy. That's what Bechtel for example learned in Bolivia when they tried to seize control, with the right wing administration there, the water supply, thus helping launch Evo Morales and the leftwing counter actions.

I saw a pretty good "free market" once when traveling in Irian Jaya. I was trying to buy some Betel and my Indonesian wan't much better than the woman I was buying from (her "home" language being good enough for most uses). But she was good at sizing me up and numbers are pretty easy - so she asked for 600 Rupiah, which IIRC was worth about 30 cents at the time. I was gladly willing to pay that price, having no idea what the going rate was. I handed the money over and received what appeared to me to be a generous amount of betel nut, lime and leaves. The man standing next to me, a local but by dress appeared more traveled than the woman, appeared incensed at the transaction. He reached out and snatched the 600 Rupiah from the woman, counted out three 100s and returned them to the women and handed me the other three. The woman was clearly embarrassed at having been called out for trying to "take" the foreigner, quietly accepted the 300 Rupiah and turned her eyes down from both me and the man who "corrected" the transaction. All this was quite clear with only minimal exchange via language. Not wanting to embarrass the woman even more over a truly trivial amount of money, I simply nodded thanks to the man and left.

It's still basically handwaving, trying to whimper about 'Absolute Safety' as we look at a technology that, when it loses control, or when its undisposable wastes creep back out from under the Rugs where they were swept, is NOTHING like any kind of safety.

If some consumer products have overreached, that doesn't buy Nuclear Power a pass.

Meantime, my devoted Tea-party Corporatists in Maine are hard at work to repeal the recent laws trying to keep toxic additives out of kids toys.

I'm sure I could get you a deal on a whole Boatload of Chinese Barbies with Lead-lined Camisoles and matching Melamine Sweater sets.. they make good chew-toys.

Ah. I can give a slight illumination to where those Maine Tea Partiers are coming from.

My sister had an idea for a cool children's jewelry.

When she started looking into the business aspect of it more deeply, she discovered that those laws about lead? She would have had to have every batch, of every ingredient, of each and every separate jewelry model, independently tested by a professional lab at a cost of thousands of dollars.

Even though she planned to make the jewelry from completely nontoxic substances. Small boutique artisans are held to the same testing burden as mega-billions rich Chinese manufacturers.

Needless to say that was one cool kid's jewelry that never came to market.

The same testing regulations apply to all small-time individuals who make anything at all for under age 13, even children's books and t-shirts.

The mega-billions rich Chinese manufacturers switch to some different poison not covered by the law. And all the American small businessmen go out of business.

That is what the Tea Partiers in Maine are fighting over. Poorly written laws that slaughter the little guy while the big guys laugh and find a loophole.

That might be what some think that they are fighting for, but they are pawns in a larger game that will not benefit them--it will just make it even easier for a billionaire (Chinese or otherwise--does it matter?) to exploit them and all the rest of us.

I don't think that's illumination, it might be some Glow-in-the-dark material inserted into the Astro-turf to enable the playing of 'Night-Games' in the Legislature.


In a statement on February 17, partner organization Environmental Health Strategy Center stated that not a single Maine company stood up in opposition to the Kid Safe Products Act in 2008 or against the BPA rules adopted in 2010. They say, "The exclusive opposition to these protective laws comes from the chemical industry including Dow Chemical who manufactures BPA and the national chemical manufacturers trade association and toy industry giants including Hasbro and Mattel which want to continue to sell toys to Maine parents without disclosing which ones contain BPA."

The attention to state laws by out-of-state interests is playing out across the country. Those who are trying to pass toxics laws in any municipality or state across the country can be sure that they will garner the laser-focused attention of the chemical industry.

Tactic #3
Gut state laws in favor of federal law: State pre-emption.

Many of the pleas that you'll see the chemical industry make to the government boil down to a single idea: instead of following state laws, they want the federal government to pass an over-arching toxic chemicals law that would overrule all the state laws and render them powerless. This is called "state preemption" and has been used by all manner of industry including the tobacco industry fighting smoking laws, the food industry fighting state labeling or ingredient laws, the pesticide industry fighting local farming laws, the beverage industry fighting local alcohol laws, and the firearms industry fighting local gun laws.

I'm sure there are improvements to these laws that can help Cottage Industries and Small Local Businesses.. but this is not what's happening.. this is a Highly Coordinated Attack to recoup corporate profits where social demands have kept them from 'squeezing the sponge' quite as thoroughly.

Just like their attack on organized labor, they are using the 'Little Guy' as a human shield.

So you voted for LePage? Gov. Paul LePage, the guy who removed the labor mural from the state Dept. of Labor building because the labor mural wasn't in keeping with the department's pro-business agenda? The guy who said he

...hoped to repeal the Maine ban of Bisphenol A, voted for unanimously by the Maine Board of Environmental Protection, because

"There hasn’t been any science that identifies that there is a problem” and added: “The only thing that I’ve heard is if you take a plastic bottle and put it in the microwave and you heat it up, it gives off a chemical similar to estrogen. So the worst case is some women may have little beards....and we don't want that.”

LePage the tax cheat. The nepotist. The creationist? For some cheap beads? :) [no offense, V-Tech]


Nuclear Industry LOVES to hide behind this 'Absolute Safety Doesn't Exist' argument.

It's the Twin Sister to "Climate Is ALWAYS Changing.."

I'm not arguing for Absolute Safety.. I personally LOVE running with scissors. It's fun AND dangerous, and the area where I was just running is still safe enough for my daughter to run through right afterwards.

I split wood with Axes and Mauls, I climb on my roof with unapproved ropes and harnesses, usually.

That Argument is a decoy, pure and simple. It is not about 'will it draw blood?', 'could it kill somebody?' .. it's a question of how far out you are willing to create dangers for others, how far geographically, how far into the future? Nuclear is off the charts in both directions.

Fine. Let's look at relative safety.

Go back to 1900 and show that more people have died from radiation (all sources, include the radium watch dial painters) than die in a typical decade from fossil fuel sources (possibly even a typical year).

Let's just take the recent Big Branch coal miners and Macondo well hands, I am sure their families are relieved that their deaths weren't due to radiation.

Let's take the sufferers of asthma and bronchitis due to coal amd oil-produced air pollution in cities around the world, how many thousands of deaths there *annually*? How many people unable to work because FF emissions have so maimed their lungs that they simply cannot function?

"No safe dose" indeed.

The danger from all the overstuffed spent fuel pools across the planet are not going to show up in today's historical records.

Like Climate Change, the lives we've endangered and encumbered haven't even mostly been born yet.

But keep hiding behind coal.. it puts a cute smudge on your nose.

I thought it put a smudge on the forehead in March so one can then claim their position is FAR better than the other.

Show me the bodies.

Show me the actualization of the risk that you are afraid of here.

I don't even have to break a sweat to show you deaths from fossil fuels, from collection to post-consumption.

re: "There is no safe amount of radiation."
I have a device in my home which emits large amounts of radiation in the wavelength 0.5 x 10-5 meters, and a number of devices which emit large amounts of radiation in the wavelength 0.5 x 10-6 meters. I guess I am doomed. The first device is a wood burner. That wavelength is generally referred to as infrared. The other devices are light bulbs.

It's pretty well understood in this context that we're talking about ionizing radiation.
The tenuous RF-leukemia link is merely another strawman.

The other issue here is this massive, uncontrolled experiment that we're performing on the entire biosphere, one that we couldn't reverse if we tried. At least for AGW mitigation we could in principle sequester carbon, inject particulates into the stratosphere, and ride our bikes everywhere. But how exactly can we get the genie back in the bottle once we've contaminated the globe with bioaccumulating radionuclides?

But how exactly can we get the genie back in the bottle once we've contaminated the globe with bioaccumulating radionuclides?

I think the answer is we don't get to put it back. "Life" will find a way to evolve to take into account the newly remodeled habitat we shall leave behind, with or without us.

You should be careful putting up straw men next to your woodstove.

Because it could catch fire, cause your home to catch fire and then we'll have a discussion about how your being burned was from radiation in the wavelength of 0.5 x 10-5 meters. The insurance firm can point to your storage of men of straw AND how you felt the radiation cited was safe and therefore they should not pay as it was not that much higher than the background radiation level.

You should be careful putting up straw men next to your woodstove.


So you laugh off the risk from one form of radiation while being all up in arms about another?


How big an exclusion zone have we ever created around a faulty woodstove?

How much concentrated waste needs to be guarded by people with Automatic weapons and complex redundant cooling systems because of woodstoves?

Since this thread is about risk assessment and mitigation I will point to something which caused a *boggle* the first time I saw it. During the slavery/near post slavery era of American history blacks often lived in cabins with leaning tip-able wood chimneys. They were designed to be tipped away from the cabin when they caught fire, which they often did, a kind of active safety scheme. It reminds me of nuclear reactors that way. The japanese are the new black!

Three feet. Sixteen inches with a proper heat shield between the stove and the wall.

And never hang socks less than six inches away to dry; a neighbor burned his house down that way once. No insurance either, poor guy.

Poor Guy, no doubt.

But that house site is still viable for a new house, right?

While millions of people suffer and many even die from breathing ailments due to indoor wood-smoke and similar problems, these health issues are ALSO being fought against by those who are trying to assure we have a healthy environment. It's not as if we are looking simply at 'wood versus nuclear'.. both exist, both in their ways add to our overall hazards, threatening a certain amount of area over a certain amount of time.

Wood smoke can be managed, prepared for, fire safety can be dealt with, taught.. and when a mistake happens and turns towards tragedy, scale of the damage can be acted on and limited throughout the event, and individuals and communities can be effective responders to this kind of crisis.. and the waste products don't turn the affected areas and the downwind neighborhoods into 'No Man's Lands'.

And ultimately, if you have chromosomal damage from one, you can easily also have more chromosomal damage from the other.

Here is a link to a very solid source for radiation effects: http://www.rerf.or.jp/

Personally, I still find the "no safe level of exposure" argument absurd.

There is no safe level of breathing. Every breath you take brings you that much closer to death.

there are no safe doses of radiation

There is also no such thing as no exposure to radiation. You are constantly bombarded with radiation from the sun, cosmic rays, and radiation from the ground.

If you have a granite fireplace, it may be quite radioactive since granite can contain a lot of uranium. If you get your drinking water from a well, it may contain high levels of radiation if the aquifer happens to include a potential uranium mine. You never know unless you use a radiation meter on it. This is an argument for not making a super-insulated house overly airtight, because without a supply of outside air, the radiation can build up to quite high levels inside the house. Air-to-air heat exchangers are recommended.

If you have high levels of radiation in your house, the government may know about it but they will not tell you about it, nor will they do anything to fix it. It's natural, so it's your problem.

The nuclear power companies only get concerned if they detect radiation leaking into their nuclear reactor from outside sources, which does happen sometimes, but they won't tell you about it either. It's not their problem.

Fascinating to see discussions on probabilities in the thread. It makes me feel at home. Tally ho, pip pip, and carry on.

We're not modeling climate tipping points, said DOE's Chu

There will be certain risks and damages that might occur if the world temperature goes up three degrees centigrade, said Chu. "The question you should ask yourself if it goes up six degrees centigrade would it be four times worse, would it be two times worse, or will it be a whole lot worse," he said.

Most climate scientists don't want to put these tipping points in their models because of the huge uncertainties, said Chu, but that means the models don't show the full risk.

"To be sure, if you start to model the tipping points you put in much larger uncertainties, but there is a difference between uncertainty and inaccuracy," said Chu. The "long tail of the damage tail is out there," said Chu, who urged climate researchers to include tipping points in their models.

Re: We're not modeling climate tipping points, said DOE's Chu

I think he's going to get blindsided by Peak Oil while he's focused on Climate Change.

Peak Oil is a crisis that is happening NOW. He's Energy Secretary, not Climate Secretary, so it behooves him to get a grip in the immediate crisis before worrying about a crisis that may (or may not) happen sometime in the semi-foreseeable future.

Modeling Peak Oil would be far more useful since it appears we are now at or near the "tipping point" in this particular crisis. I don't see any plan for what happens if gasoline becomes unaffordable for the average American, and that could happen Real Soon Now. Ignoring it isn't a useful approach to the problem.

Chu appears to be one of the better Obama appointees and an intelligent person. Likely he has a decent understanding our our oil predicament. I wouldn't blame him for the lack of sensible policy so much as his boss and his boss's advisors, who think that it's all about being "positive."

And there is no secretary of climate anyway. Energy use is the driver of climate change. I'm happy he pays attention to the issue.

I think you're in for a bad experience in the next few years (as if the last few were a rose garden). Just a bad feeling that the US government is not on top of the situation.

It looks that way, yes. The US Govt is a big problem. But Chu himself is not so bad. His boss, on the other hand ....

"Peak Oil is a crisis that is happening NOW"

True, but why do you think GW is not happening "NOW"?

The tipping points he refers to are already underway, especially in the Arctic.

With only 4 of 17 nuclear power plants operating, Japanese industry collapses:


So is Japan the first to slip down the side of Olduvai Gorge?

The 'prediction' of heading into Olduvai does have some unassailed assumptions to it, particularly that we have a communications network that lets us watch Japan or New Orleans and react to it's implications. People sometimes learn slow, but they do actually learn. You do, right?

You might say that y2k, or 9/11, or the Iraq/Afghan Oil War, or Tunisia/Egypt/Libya/Bahrain, or Fukushima, or Bieber's Haircut have 'not changed anything, that 'Happy Motoring' persists.. but that's not the whole picture, is it? People do push back into their lives after the big news item has passed, and we have a system that is, naturally, trying to defend itself and retain its status-quo, its inertia or momentum..

I think seeing a collapse in Japan, if that's what happens to some degree, will change the view as to what's possible, what's true, what can happen, and where we should head next.. It might be an avalanche of changes, or it might be barely perceptible.. so obvious (like Computers, or Salads at McDonalds) that we hardly notice a fundamental attitude shift.

There are a lot of pieces in motion.. and I don't think they're all just swirling around the Toilet Bowl, towards the same hole..

Yes, true. There is a category of incremental change that can be noticed. Others are coming from the point of view that all these incremental changes are occuring within the SAME general level of thinking (about thinking) -- that an infinity of incremental change will not add up to what is needed -- which is to leap (non-incrementally) like an electron into an entirely new way of seeing the relationship between self/world: a kind of mutation in our understanding of thought itself seems to be needed, which is similar to what happens now and then in biological evolution. I understand that evolution is composed of both incremental and sudden, non-incremental leaps. Now seems to be the time for the latter and there is no indication, in my opinion, of such a change happening (outside the new age arena). Therefore a more pessimistic view here. Any change, no matter how welcome, which still operates on a completely selfish basis (that is, on a solipsistic basis as it seems to be operating), seems from this angle to be heading sooner or later into the toilet. For a certain amount of biological selfishness is one thing: but most of the time people seem to be extending this self preservation into a hallucinated attempt to preserve a mere thought of themselves (therefore from one angle the most practical thing we could do is reconsider our thoughts of the category of thought itself). Because from my miserable but still for me somehow enjoyable point of view I operate (and by inference most people I've ever met operate) on a low level of schizophrenia, still essentially believing (if not consciously) that their thoughts of self are real things that need protecting from imaginary spears of differing thoughts, no less. We carry this image of ourselves around, talking to ourselves internally (if not for all to hear), which implies to this deranged sumbitch no clear perception of the difference between thought and thing. So long as this basic state of hallucination continues, we will head towards the toilet in my impaired opinion, no matter how many good things we also manage to accomlish. So here's an example of low level poison -- this societally invisible form of schizophrenia, this "me and my shadow" form -- that really seems deadly.

Any change, no matter how welcome, which still operates on a completely selfish basis (that is, on a solipsistic basis as it seems to be operating), seems from this angle to be heading sooner or later into the toilet.

So could you tell me an example of a change that does NOT operate on a "completely selfish basis"? If we all made all THOSE changes, would we have a great world that was in almost every respect unparalleled in human history?

Because from my miserable but still for me somehow enjoyable point of view I operate (and by inference most people I've ever met operate) on a low level of schizophrenia, still essentially believing (if not consciously) that their thoughts of self are real things that need protecting from imaginary spears of differing thoughts, no less.

What exactly does this mean? What are thoughts of "self" and not of "self", anyway, that "need protecting", and what happens if one drops this barrier of "protections"?

We carry this image of ourselves around, talking to ourselves internally (if not for all to hear), which implies to this deranged sumbitch no clear perception of the difference between thought and thing.

So what, you can't do that -- 'talk to yourself internally' (what, when you think words in your head?! As that's how I'm interpreting it)? Wouldn't that need a fundamental change in the very biology of the brain? What is this "mere thought of oneself" that "has to be preserved", and how is it inevitably *evil*? What do you mean by "difference between thought and thing"? The difference between the thought and the thing thought of? As the latter seems trivial. The difference between a thought and an actual physical object? Again, it seems fairly easy.

I'll try to respond to each question, thanks.

1) So could you tell me an example of a change that does NOT operate on a "completely selfish basis"?

There seems to be very little evidence of non-selfish behavior. So given the predominance of selfishness, it's likely that all our best laid plans will go awry. And yet I think there is evidence for the possibility of selflessness, yes.

Evidence for this rests, for one thing, in our capacity to recognize error. The discovery of error is an action in the sense that it changes (acts on) our view of the world. And it's not selfish because it is in many ways self-negating. The selfish impulse is to resist the recognition of our own stupidity and error.

Often it is the error -- the apple falling on Newton's head -- which leads to discontinuous leaps of insight. The rejection of one's entire framework of thought is a non-selfish act, I think, because it is not so much an act of our own volition (not an act of desire or selfish want), but an action forced upon the brain (against its will often enough) by facts themselves. In the same way that the recognition of oil peak was forced upon the brain by facts.

But what I'm suggesting is that selfishness would not arise by effort (or goal setting), because that still lies within the framework of selfishness (because, if we can bear to look at this brutal fact, any willful action has selfish aims). I'm suggesting, therefore, that we can't gradually become free of selfishness any more than a dog on a chain can gradually become free from his chain. No matter how long a chain we give the dog, there is a discontinuous leap between a dog on a chain and a dog off the chain.

In short, here are the assumptions driving this statement (and we can examine them one at a time through your questions below): 1) we're selfish; 2) psychological (as opposed to biological) selfishness is dangerous; 3) At this rate (through gradualism and incremental change) we're only extending the length of our chain, but are still tied to a conditioned, selfish level of existence; 4) therefore so long as we make no discontinuous leaps into a different framework, we're doomed.
These are the assumptions, and we can examine their validity and proper contexts.

2) If we all made all THOSE changes, would we have a great world that was in almost every respect unparalleled in human history?

No changes are being suggested in the usual sense of "change" (as a willful, goal-oriented action): First, only the fact of selfishness is observed. But the possibility of a new framework is left open, evidenced by the capacity for selfless actions (such as the discovery of unpleasant facts).

But rather than picturing a "great world" (as a selfish goal), what I'm picturing is purely negational. We are confronted with problems arising from a world/self view that takes as its primary assumption the idea that the world is composed of separate things bouncing off one another. Is it an error to imagine the world in this way? (Can this view be negated?) For by thinking of it as divided into separate things (not merely distinct forms of the whole), then we act accordingly, competing beyond the point where we are protecting ourselves biologically, but acting out of a belief that we're isolated in a hostile world, acting with such wreckless abandonment of reason that we create nuclear weapons (to protect ourselves?), and so and on. I take these self-destructive actions as evidence that we're extending our biological instinct for self (body) preservation beyond its proper context, driven by ideas of separation.

When we think of our national interest, or of my personal pride and vanity, and act in anger in protection of those "things", we are extending our biological instinct for self preservation into an imaginary realm -- where our nation (pure idea), or my self esteem (idea), needs to be perpetuated, even if it means starting a war that kills real living things.

We act according to how we think the world is organized. That is, the assumption is that human nature is a product of our understanding. And as it changes, so, then, do we. Nothing appears more plastic than life, moving from primordial soup to dolphins. It is a whole system but we are behaving as if it were broken up into pieces, with many "others" lying outside the pale, where empathy is not extended.

3) What exactly does this mean? What are thoughts of "self" and not of "self", anyway, that "need protecting", and what happens if one drops this barrier of "protections"?

I'm hoping that my response to 2 covered this more or less as well.

4) So what, you can't do that -- 'talk to yourself internally' (what, when you think words in your head?! As that's how I'm interpreting it)?

Oh, hell, we can do anything we want. But I'm noticing that a lot of mental energy is spent voicing things to no one at all. No one's home. For I already know what I'm going to say to myself before I say it. It's a fancy, a freak show, a schizophrenic outbreak that I find amusing. This is the theory: Our belief in separateness is a cancerous meme that has infected every aspect of our consciousness, including our relationship to self.

The stream of consciousness that most people seem to experience seems to be (if observed very very subtly) a series of responses to previous thoughts. The attempt to control ourselves or change ourselves or any of the ways we try to edit our image of self, keeping it forever on the higher end of our perpetually sinking ship of state, looks to me like a sign of madness, or hallucination, of believing that "I" am separate from "Me." This push and pull internally wastes a great deal of mental strength. But it seems to hold a key to its own resolution.

It looks like a form of the children's toy -- the chinese torture game -- where the more you pull to be free, the more caught you are. Whcih then strenghtens the delusionn that "I" acutally exist in a form that can be controlled (because I feel resistance!). This belief in being an operator free enough from our own selves to operate on ourselves (controlling ourselves and editing our images, pulling and pulling), is based on an unconscious vision of division, separation. Which then gets extended outwardly the world as nations, races, religions, and so on, leading to war. It is a war philospohy, seen in seed form in the stream of consciousness we presume to be an unalterable fact of human life. Baah. It's a product of theory, like everything else from this perspective.

5) Wouldn't that need a fundamental change in the very biology of the brain?

I'm presuming this means that the division is seen as "human nature", as in biologically determined. Well, obviously, I'm coming from the assumption that human nature is a product of how we think the world is organized. And again, I see no signs of a stable form for any kind of life system. It's all too plastic.

6) What is this "mere thought of oneself" that "has to be preserved", and how is it inevitably *evil*?

This is an interesting question. I've already gone on too long. But some of this has been covered. I could rough out a quicker summary (that might not work but let's fling it) by saying a thought of self is any verbal structure that I defend or get angry over or feel is real.

There is Evil (as in christian doctrine, whcih I find preposterous) and then there is little e evil, which is what I mean. We act miserably to anyone outside our horizons of empathy -- anyone who is believed to be separate from us, or an other. These horizons extend and contract with context and with depth of perception. In rare cases a person of no empathy perceives everyone in the world as an other(serial killers and such?). Sometimes the horizon extends to the idea of "our nation". In a sense, evil can be seen as a fragmented sense of goodness. Because even Hitler tried to be good to those with whom he identified (and was an utter monster to those with whom he couldn't). Even a seriel killer is good to himself presumably. And some, like Gandhi perhaps, have extensive horizons of empathy.

But neverthelss, the assumption here is that no matter how wide the horizon of empathy extends, it's still a leash to which our dogged brains are tied. And so long as this rope continues to expand merely incrementally, we will eventually find contexts that bring us up short, causing us to project divisions that are actually only ideational constructs (hallucinations). War is implicit in the existence of a horizon of any kind. The idea is not to "get rid of" the horizon, for that goal, then, is only another ideational construct. The idea (if one can call it that) is to see the fact for what it is, a hallucination of division where perhaps only distinction exists. It's to negate, not posit new ideas. It's to recognize the fundamental error which supports the cancer of war on every level of consciousness.

7) What do you mean by "difference between thought and thing"? The difference between the thought and the thing thought of? As the latter seems trivial. The difference between a thought and an actual physical object? Again, it seems fairly easy.

It's easy to tell the difference between a thought of a tree and a tree. But it's not so easy to tell the difference between a thought of "my wife" and the actuality of her unknown potential. For the thought of my wife is my memory of her, that's all. My expectations, my limited vision. The reality of anyon exceeds any idea, but we forget that, frequently, and tend to go to war believing we "know" what "the enemy" is up to and wants, who they are. And then there are the ideas for which there is no thing -- nations, religions. They are entirely ideas. And then it's necessary to realize that the idea is itself merely a thing, a construct, an invention, that has no reality (that has no Corresponding "thingness" outside itself).

"Evil (as in christian doctrine...)"

This is the common (mis-) understanding of Christian doctrine, but for much of the early Church, evil was a kind of absence, specifically the absence of God/good, just as shadow is the absence of light. So in a sense, by that philosophy (articulated most clearly in book 5 of Boethius's "Consolation of Philosophy"), evil does not exist.

The notion of evil as an actual substance set off in juxtaposition to a good God was originally known as Manichaeism (with roots in earlier Zoroastrianism). It is true, though, at least as far as I can see, that most modern Christians have a more Manichaean than Boethian view of evil.

That's excellent. I have a sense that Christ (at least through interpretations of the rejected gospel of Thomas) was rather amazing after all, and that much of his teaching has subsequently been corrupted. A long time ago I read a book (and if I wasn't so lazy I'd look it up) that had a subtitle something to this effect: "how the kingdom of god became christianity." It was an interesting archealogical dig through layers of politicized text to find the essential kernel of the earliest record of what christ said. And as with interpretations of Thomas, had a very Buddhist-sounding (to my ear) bend. Interesting. And I remember something about repentance, in the earliest form used by Christ meaning something more akin to "turning to face" sin, rather than "doing something" about it. And to me, that sounds very similar to what I mean by facing error. Just seeing sets us free from so much wasted effort (chinese torture). If I'm making any sense, which I'm probably not. As it's getting towards time for a beer and I'm outta here. Good night.

IN the model presented by Tainter in the collapse of complex societies, the Japanese tsunami is an example of the a shock to society already passed the peak of growth that can trigger collapse. Their infrastructure is already too stressed and lacking resilience to adapt to the sock.

Nicely done.

(Though I agree with jokuhl that paragraphs would have been nice.)

Unfortunately, much of our identification of self (who we are) is built on the acceptance that we are indeed our thoughts. This is certainly true of those of us raised in western cultures, but I believe is increasingly true globally as the western cultures have become so dominant over the past two centuries.

All sorts of "issues" arrive out of this, including the frequent evidence that people believe others think just like them and any "wrongness" is just wrong thinking and can be fixed by pointing out where the error is. But perhaps the worst part is that the relationship between thought and thing becomes reified and prevents us from imagining a way out.

And yet, if we could but find the observer within and recognize that thoughts are something to be watched and allowed to pass away ....

Yes, yes. And I wonder why I lose touch with this watching mentality so easily. Because it's easy when it happens. It's doing nothing, it's not resisting. What could be simpler. But I mess even that up.

It's easy to induce that any movement away from watching is evidence of resistance. There seems to be a more profound error in the thought/thing issue than I can bring out verbally. There are certain realizations that need to be received more physically than cognitively, if that makes sense.

Rather than posit an alternative perspective (from a sense of life as a whole being the living thing, etc.), which would only lead to an artificial sense (verbal sense) of knowing something, it may be necessary to confront the limitlessness (inescapabilitiy) of selfishness and let the impossibility of escape from this fact do something to our fundamental assumptions. For our behavior is generated at that deeper root of how we often unconsciously assume things to be.

Here's an interesting paradox: everything infinite is also limited. It's another way of seeing relativity's meaning. It sounds ridiculous but is pretty easy to see.

Here's a simplified example: Picture a two dimensional world populated by stick figures. (Someone recently told me that a guy wrote a book on this concept around 1900, and I've got to find it). The plane extends without end. So it IS infinite in one context (the horizontal dimension or context). But it's limited in a way that those stuck in that context of horizontal thinking can't yet perceive: it's limited with regard to the vertical. (Any subject is the same: math is infinite in its capacity to depict the world, but is not poetry; or vice versa, and so on).

If a vertical creature were to step into the horizontal and say "here is a vertical dimension", the horizontal thinkers would perceive that only as yet another horizontal dot. And the concept of "verticality" would remain only a verbal construct, confusing some into thinking they know what they don't know (like me?).

Much of our despair is in running from the fact that everything is selfish. We try to do good, but essentially, usually, for selfish reasons. And this is ultimately going to kill us (which is a selfish reason to stop!).

My tendency is to reject that premise or ignore it (for selfish reasons). The belief that I CAN reject this fact or escape it is evidence that I still haven't perceived the fact as a fact. It seems negotiable.

Here is the confusing thing: The infinity of selfishness (the inescapability of it) is also its limit. If I were to confront the inescapability of selfishness I am in a position where escape is impossible, and the attempt to selfishly try and escape comes to an end -- the limit is reached. At that moment (and most of us have been there at least briefly, for me extremely briefly, but enough to indicate) a new vertical movement ensues at that very point. Any humbling discovery implies this. In realizing the inescapabiliy (the infinity) of selfishness, that very realization is a 1st movement of non-selfishness.

But these discoveries are more like hitting a wall than moments of genius. When we let the intellect (the verbalization) intrude, the brain inevitably makes the logical (but faulty!) leap of inducing the following: limitlessness "therefore" implies "no other possibility." Endgame. It's that implicit leap along "therefore" to an endgame that is the key error somehow. Possibilities need to be kept open even in teh face of inescapability. For it's not "escape" per se that opens up a new possibility.

I think there is need for what you said: watching what the brain does. In particular, when confronted with this inescapable (infinite) trap of selfishness. For we will always want to escape from it into some new perspective (artificial or verbal). And if we keep feeling (touching, sensing, not thinking through) that escape (not stopping the escape, but not escaping from the sensation of escape), then does this very sensation of escape communicate something to us non-intellectually, non verbally, which in and by itself refutes the horrible infinity of selfishness?

The physicist David Bohm and the extremely misperceived and underestimated Krishnamurti went into this stuff in great depth.


I didn't reply to yours so you have a chance to jump back in and edit it. (if you will)

Try to break it into paragraphs.. it's such a Word-storm at these threads already.. way too hard to read a big block of text like that.


OK, I'll do that. Wrote it quickly.

They are some good thoughts, and I'm afraid I'm off and running into life today..

To keep my view functional, I have to keep remember that 'There is more under the heaven and stars, Horatio, than is dreamt of in my philosophy' .. if I can keep enough of that humility intact, then I can also remember during the darker moments that 'I might be wrong.. and for the moment, I'm still breathing.' .. and the little girl comes up and asks me to play. Accepting that offer is a tough turn away from the darkness, and has been a decent form of self-medication.

You said "I understand that evolution is composed of both incremental and sudden, non-incremental leaps. "

It reminds me of the tale of the Grandfather advising the impatient grandson.. "What's the hurry? Life is long." .. and later, when the grandson had gotten a little too procrastinative and pokey, he chided, "Hurry up! Life is short!"

The paradoxes give me hope. (But if I choose to, I could also use them to confirm my despair.)

Well, I don't actually know how to edit the original, so I'll proceed more slowly from now on, paragraphs included. Thanks.

You can't edit the comment Jokuhl was referring to anymore because Mike3 replied to it. Once someone has replied to a comment, the edit option goes away.

thank you.

Japan is fairly stable actually.

Their population has peaked, and they are smart not to flood their country with immigrants of lower quality. They just have to learn to let their old die with dignity, and the young and middle aged will be well off.

They value education and industry, which means when push comes to shove they will farm the land, they will build the necessary energy infrastructure. They have the human capital to do it, even if they don't have the natural resources.

They do have to learn to stop going deeper and deeper into debt. Eventually this will happen.

Will they decline? Sure. But everyone will. I don't have a particular stake in it, but the world does. Japan does alot of the heavy lifting in high end design and manufacturing. Believe me, we will still be importing stuff from them long after the decline sets in.

I'm inclined to agree.

Compare Katrina 2005, a much smaller disaster, with Japan 2011 and see the difference. The U.S. has huge domestic problems which will get quite ugly once the tougher times sets in.

I wouldn't be surprised at all if there was a civil war in the U.S. based on ethnic/racial lines in the next ten years, albeit I'd like to add a caveat that I'm not predicting one, merely stating my view that it's entirely possible.

On Japan, however, even if they are already down the demographic ladder, they are still very reliant on imports, too much so. And they hardly have a military either. I'm not as gloomy on them as some are, but I think you may be overlooking other issues that doesn't exactly loom lightly for them.

Oilman wrote:

Their population has peaked, and they are smart not to flood their country with immigrants of lower quality.

Leiten replied:

I'm inclined to agree.

I am not inclined to agree at all. I have no idea what "lower quality" immigrants would be but I assume you, Oilman and Leiten, mean those less fortunate, those born into poverty and fled to another country in hopes for a better life for themselves and their children.

Now don't get me wrong, I am not in favor of open borders but I would never refer to those less fortunate than myself as of "lower quality". The choices we are given are seldom if ever between good and evil, they are almost always between the lesser evil and the greater evil. Closed borders is simply the lesser evil, but never doubt that it is evil.

Well, it is only evil if you think mother nature can be can sometimes be evil. Perhaps evil in not the correct word. Cruel is a far better word in my opinion. And mother nature can, at times, be horribly cruel, no doubt about it.

Ron P.

""The choices we are given are seldom if ever between good and evil, they are almost always between the lesser evil and the greater evil.""

There is nothing that exists in Nature, to the extent of being "good" or "evil". No such thing.

Only opinion exists. A Human construct.

The Martian.

I agree that evil is a human construct, cruelty is not, it is a simple fact of nature.

If nature were kind, she would at least make the minor concession of anesthetizing caterpillars before they are eaten alive from within. But nature is neither kind nor unkind. She is neither against suffering nor for it. Nature is not interested one way or the other in suffering, unless it affects the survival of DNA. It is easy to imagine a gene that, say, tranquilizes gazelles when they are about to suffer a killing bite. Would such a gene be favored by natural selection? Not unless the act of tranquilizing a gazelle improves that gene’s chances of being propagated into future generations. It is hard to see why this should be so, and we may therefore guess that gazelles suffer horrible pain and fear when they are pursued to death—as most of them eventually are. The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation. During the minute it takes me to compose this sentence, thousands of animals are being eaten alive; others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear; others are being slowly devoured from within by rasping parasites; thousands of all kinds are dying of starvation, thirst and disease. It must be so. If there is ever a time of plenty this very fact will automatically lead to an increase in population until the natural state of starvation and misery is restored.
- Richard Dawkins: River Out of Eden, page131-132.

Everything is transient, including suffering. Pleasure and pain are the duality of nature, never do you see one without the other. The law of nature is the law of karma. Every action has a consequence. The only way to look at this creation is to consider it as nothing more than an illusion. There is nothing of lasting value in this world, neither suffering nor pleasure.

The law of nature is the law of karma.

There is no law of karma. Karma is purely a religious word, Buddhist BS.

Every action has a consequence.

Every action has a reaction, not necessarily a consequence. Sometimes that reaction is meaningful, sometimes meaningless.

The only way to look at this creation is to consider it as nothing more than an illusion.

Creation implies a creator. More religious nonsense. You cannot have an intelligent discussion about anything as long as you couch every phrase in religious nonsense.

Ron P.

You're gonna split 'Reaction' from 'Consequence'??

That's an 'X' level debate, Ron. You and your absolutes..

Bob, reaction and consequence hardly have even similar meaning and they are always used in different contexts. Consequence is something one suffers It is used to mark a matter of importance or significance or to deny such as in: It is a matter of no consequence.

Reaction is the response of the eight ball does when it is struck by the cue ball.

The consequences of a life of crime could be life in prison. That would definitely not be a reaction of a life of crime. Consequences and reaction are entirely two different things. Good god man, where do you get off.

Ron P.

I'm just being literal.

You're taking a connotation and trying to turn it into a denotation.


Main Entry: consequence

Part of Speech: noun
Definition: result, outcome of action
Synonyms: aftereffect, aftermath, bottom line, can of worms, chain reaction, effect, end, event, fallout, follow through, follow-up, issue, outgrowth, payback, reaction, repercussion, sequel, sequence, spin-off, upshot, waves

Antonyms: beginning, cause, commencement, inception, origin, rise, source, start

What really matters is if a theory (be it religious or whatever) is proven in the field. Why do you discount anything that seems remotely related to some religion? There is a 50/50 chance of their being a creator and a creation. Even if we put that aside for a moment, is there anything in this world that has a lasting value? Anything? You did not go to the spirit of my comment, just BS the whole notion because of some elements that do not agree with you.

I suppose there's no sense in commenting on this now, it's kind of old. But the notoin that "only opinion exists" is stated as if it were a fact.

I would say that thought is opinion, but thought is not everything.

The thought that I'll run into that wall is an opinion. Running into the wall would be a fact.

I think relativity has been "generally" misunderstood, and has been used to level everything to mere opinion, so that truth then becomes something jejune and old fashioned. However, without a passion for truth we lose our capacity to act meaningfully. We become starved of meaning.

Relativity itself is a meaningful truth, a universal truth. It only means that something can be absolutely true, but true relative to particular contexts. Some contexts are oddly enough universal (and yet contextual, therefore limited simultaneously). This is the great paradox with tremendous implications: everything infinite is alaso limited.

It's not as simple as saying "only opinion exists" for that becomes just as dogmatic an idea as existed prior to the discovery of relativity.

'Brent oil price rises above $120 a barrel in London'


Brent North Sea crude reached $120.63 a barrel just before 1600 GMT on the InterContinental Exchange (ICE) in London, its highest level since August 2008.


"The troubles in the Middle East and North Africa continue to dominate the oil market, and are increasing concerns over supplies," said Myrto Sokou, analyst at Sucden Financial.

Are part of those troubles in the ME the fact that not all of Libya's reduction in exports was picked up by OPEC, and in particular by the land of Saud, leading investors in oil to realise their investment is pretty safe, so why not up the ante?

Brent is now only approx. 27 dollars less than the high mark reached in 08, or was WTI the benchmark that reached 147? And if it was what was Brent when WTI was 147? What was Tapis?!

Anyway, I just filled up here in No. CA and the four stations selling were 4.30, 4.20, 4.16 & 4.06. I bought 14.5 gallons at 4.06 = 58.87, but if I bought at 4.30 it would have been 62.35

Remember that was 2008 dollars. Probably looking at around $151 in 2011 dollars - need to add an extra $4 onto that $27 figure for it to be a fair comparison.

Edit: Upstream is showing Brent at $121.05 as of 19:45 GMT

I've been recording Brent and £/$ for five years now.
On July 4 2008 Brent peaked in both $ and £ at $145.12 which gives (145.12/1.983) = £73.22
It's now $121.00/1.6132 = £75.00

(Also average petrol and diesel here in Yorkshire peaked three weeks later at £1.19/l and £1.32/l - now £1.32 and £1.39.)


Yes, there's no doubt that the UK is in a worse position financially than it was in 2008.

Yair...hello folks.This looks as good a place as any to slot in with a query.

I get the feeling I am living in a parallel dimension to that which I see discussed on these pages.

You see I went to town today, a rare event as I rarely leave the farm. "Town" for me is an industrial city with a bauxite refinery and an aluminium smelter...with a coal fired power house to run them. In addition there are very large coal export facilities and a multi-billion gas export plant is under construction.

The place is buzzing...and yet it would grind to a halt if it were not for diesel fuel. I also frequent a few heavy equipment websites and the boys with the F250's are getting all exited about the "new generation" mine trucks with 4000hp engines. I just don't get it.

NO ONE not even machinery manufacturers such as Caterpillar seem to even contemplate that there may be supply issues within the forseeable future.

I look at the dire predictions here about the American economy and our local talking heads tell me how things are looking up in the US...while our dollar is at a dollar four against the green back.

We have a catastrophe at several levels in Japan with wide spread political unrest in North Africa and the Middle East...and yet the stock markets keep on rising.

I'm just an old bush bloke trying to come to grips with the situation. Can anybody help with some sort of explanation?

Well, technically the stock prices are rising "because" of the unrest and nuclear fallout.

There are many reasons why people don't get it... but generally they have been told that nothing is "really" wrong, and they believe it...

I have to say that I can see how a 4000 hp engine is an exciting thing.

If I could, I would join my Dad and his lifelong pal Leo who published these
magazines all his life, and go look at some beautiful old rotary engines from between the 'Great Wars'.. We have an old piece of Vinyl that just listens to an old 400 hp v-12 "Liberty Engine" sputter and roar to life.. and it's absolutely Orchestral. It's a delight.

I remember filming a Nascar Crew, watching in wonder as they worked on Ted Musgrave's #16 for Primestar, some 14 years ago.. These guys were serious, sober and virtuosos with these high-strung and high-caliber machines. They could 'feel' how that car was performing as it did test laps. (The folks falling drunk off their trailers throughout the infield, notta-so-much)

Me.. I'm a bit like you. I'm a witness, trying to put these disparate pieces together. I'm meeting with some friends today to think about simple little pieces of equipment we can create to help people transition over to a less industrial kind of life. But still, for me, it's Beautiful Machines. A treadle Sewing Machine or an elegantly simple Op-Amp circuit that controls a Solar Hot Air Blower.

People trying to use their crafts, their hands and their intelligence to make better tools.

"Replicants are like any other machine: they're either a benefit or a hazard. If they're a benefit, it's not my problem." Deckard, Blade Runner

The story titled "Understanding the price of gasoline in Canada" appears to have major factual errors. They state that Libya was producing "about 89 million barrels a day". Other resources on this board and Wikipedia indicate that Libya was actually producing about 1.3 million barrels per day.

The also say, "places like China, which import nine and three quarters of a billion barrels of oil a day. And that’s Brent oil." But other sources indicate that total world oil production is closer to 85 million barrels per day.

Can somebody help me out here? What's with the funny numbers?

First one is misinterpretation on your part - the 89 million doesn't refer to Libya's share but to the global supply. Badly constructed sentence perhaps.

Second one looks like a misquote - must have mixed up millions and billions. And probably the actual number too, not sure that bodes well for the article in general!

The story titled "Understanding the price of gasoline in Canada" appears to have major factual errors.

Well, you have to realize that the author is from Ontario and normally writes about the car industry, and his editors are apparently not that big into checking facts or grammar, so the article is a bit scattered.

Canada is somewhat unique in that it has managed to locate its car manufacturing areas almost at the opposite end of the country from its oil producing areas. If you want to understand the price of gasoline in Canada, you need to find a source from the producing areas, e.g. Calgary or Edmonton, which are approximately 3500 km (2200 miles) from Toronto.

As I like to point out to people from Toronto when I am trying to annoy them, Toronto is closer to Cuba than it is to Calgary. Despite that, Ontario refineries do use Western Canadian oil due to Canada having the longest oil pipelines in the world.

Thanks, all, for the clarification. I'm the editor of autos.sympatico.ca, and yes—"millions" not "billions." One of those things on a Monday morning…

That said, it has been corrected…a few people wrote in with the error as well. I am pretty upset at myself for not catching it, as I'm a regular reader of theoildrum.com (more as a lurker than a commenter) and think that these issues *need* to be explained to the general public.

RockyMtnGuy, you're right, it is an automotive site. And we do silly stuff like "Craziest trucks ever." But as our readership grows, I've been assigning more and more features not about the latest and greatest new cars. Why? If I'm paying a writer to do something, it is far better for our long-term survival to have them write something informative. And it never hurts to try and put a different perspective in front of readers every now and then.

If anyone cares to chime in on what sorts of articles I can assign, or how to "sell" articles about fuel prices and oil issues to my readers, I'm all ears. I personally cycle to work, don't have a car, rarely drive, and try to live as sustainably as possible—but it's a little difficult sometimes to approach topics of conservation and alternative transportation when you're the editor of an automotive site with a general audience.

Still, I haven't seen the other major sites in Canada tackle the topic. We will do better (100% fewer typos) in the future, and I'd like to do more articles on this topic. So…suggestions?


Michael Banovsky
Editor, autos.sympatico.ca

...how to "sell" articles about fuel prices and oil issues to my readers...

Good luck, banovsky. You got some edumacatin to do.

Comment #8

Not withstanding the above, gas prices are high because the average motorist is stupid. Have I got your attention now? Then read my lips. There is NO SHORTAGE OF OIL EXCEPT IN YOUR MIND!

Most gas in the world is in the tanks of your cars, waiting to be used, and I can prove it! Next time we all buy gas, just buy half your normal amount. Let them hold on to the rest for a few days till you really need it.Within a week there would be no room in the the stations for their usual delivery, because they've got TOO MUCH GAS. Within two weeks there would be NO ROOM, at the refineries, because they've got TOO MUCH OIL. This would back up to the tanker ships, then to the oil well storage tanks, 'cos they've got TOO MUCH OIL. So they either bring down the cost of oil/gas, or SHUT DOWN their wells, and have reduced income levels. Your cost? Buying gas twice a week,instead of once!

DONT BE A VICTIM, USE YOUR PURCHASING POWER TO INDUCE CHANGE, everyone else does. And all because the oil industry has TOO MUCH OIL, NOT A SHORTAGE! Don't be fooled by the chicken littles of this world. The sky is not falling, but the average guy is conned in to believing that it is. THEY"RE TAKING THE PISS OUT OF YOU and you are falling for it, STUPID. No offense intended, I just needed to get your attention!
Posted by: Mike Byrne, April 4th 2011

Valley oil!

[Apologies for posting the entire rant (no comment linking)]

I'm not sure I understand the logic behind this rant. Is this blogger saying that the price of gas will drop permanently if you just reduce the storage levels in automobile gas tanks? But after all the tanks are dry, wouldn't the price shoot back up to an even higher level?

I don't know but I would say that was some twisted pretzel logic.

A few years ago my father sent me an email once, that was a forward of an item that was very similar to this. I was surprised, because my dad used to be brighter than that.

But as he aged, he began to fall for things like this. Actually believing that shifting the timing of a purchase by three days, or buying from one brand and not another, or sending a form email to a congressman, could really make a permanent, worldwide difference to something of this nature.

I believe it is an early expression on the road to the worldwide 'reality moment' that's coming. First denial; then bargaining which is what I think this is a form of. I forget what the next step is?

I believe the next step is Anger.

Followed by Depression and finally Acceptance.

If we make it that far...

Web - After contemplating for a bit it's an excellent idea. Most importantly because you get much better miles/gallon from the first half of your tank than the second half. I'm sure most here have noticed that you get more miles from the first top half of your tank than the bottom. If we could get everyone to run on only the top half of their tank we would have much lower fuel consumption.

Thank goodness...PO solved. Who would have thunk: it wasn't "drill, baby, drill" but "fill, baby, fill."

"fill, baby, fill."

You'll have to remember this one for the next election cycle!

No, Rockman. PGB solved the oil problem by extending daylight savings time by 6 weeks. Haven't you noticed?


I'm not sure I understand the logic behind this rant. Is this blogger saying...

Mr. Byrne isn't a blogger at banovsky's site. He's just a guy who left a comment there. You probably know that, but I wanted to make it clear.

He's basically advocating a consumer boycott. He thinks the greedy oil barons will lower the price of gas if consumers refuse to buy it at what he believes is an artificially inflated price.

"He thinks the greedy oil barons will lower the price of gas if consumers refuse to buy it at what he believes is an artificially inflated price."

He might even prove to be right, if "consumers" were willing and able to refuse to buy it - or couldn't afford to buy as much, which is more or less what happened with the last big spike. But he's really advocating just a quick, transitory one-shot boycott, not a lasting reduction in the flow rate. That gets him into what WHT correctly called twisted pretzel logic, which provides us yet another redundant illustration of an H. L. Mencken saying: "No one in this world, so far as I know — and I have searched the record for years, and employed agents to help me — has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people."

Oh, I know. That's the problem. I know trying to change people's opinions is futile, but provoking a response and forcing them to defend themselves in the comments is a possibility.

We used to get comments saying we hated domestic cars. So we ran a stories about how Canada has no "domestic" car industry, how Canadian suppliers (Magna et al) are who really make most vehicle parts, how the Toyota Camry is the most U.S. vehicle on sale. All facts.

Then we did a gallery on the domestic cars to look out for in 2011, and got comments saying, "How can you call these domestic, there are no Canadian car companies!"

Mission accomplished! M!

Well, one possibility is to investigate, "What kind of car would YOU drive if fuel was $2.00 per litre?" That is hardly outside the realm of possibility, it's already that expensive in Europe. That's why they're racing around with tiny little turbo-diesel engines.

For that matter, $3.00 per litre is not outside the realm of possibility, but would really hurt those people driving a gas guzzler. For those who have a short commute in a Prius, it might not be that bad.

You might look at the rise of China as a cause of high fuel prices. Chinese consumers are mostly middle class nowadays, there are over a billion of them, and they all want to own cars. Their cars are much more fuel-efficient than North American ones, and they drive them much less, but they all want one. The main source of the current oil price rise is that Chinese demand is rising, and OPEC production is not increasing to meet the demand. Saudi Arabia is falling down on the job.

The Chinese, given their vast foreign exchange reserves, are just outbidding other countries for the available supply, notably from Saudi Arabia. The Chinese are very subtle about this and the topic has been mostly overlooked by the mainstream media in favour of blaming speculators.

From the Canadian perspective, this is not really a problem since Canada is a net exporter of oil and now exports more oil to the US than it consumes itself. A lot of the export revenues end up in government pockets, so governments are unlikely to do anything drastic to stop it. Many of the governments would like to cultivate China as an additional market for oil.

Since Canada is both an importer and exporter of oil, Canadian drivers are fully exposed to international oil prices, and of course prices are rising. In the post-peak-oil era, prices are likely to continue to rise indefinitely. How are Canadians going to handle this, given that Canadians are likely to still have rising incomes as a result of increasing oil sands production, while people in other countries (e.g. the US) may be suffering declining living standards.

Just tossing some ideas out there, since you asked for them.

RockyMtnGuy, great ideas. Appreciate it.

"Their cars are much more fuel-efficient than North American ones..."

Yes, within reason. Smaller engines but much less advanced tech and fewer pollution controls. Still, if we're going to move the needle in fleet fuel consumption, it's far better to improve MPG in light trucks by 5-10 mpg than to get the average subcompact from 35 to 50 mpg.

So yes, they have "fuel efficient cars" and the total number of vehicles is an issue, but I'd reason that the average person in NA consumes multiple times more of their fair share of fuel than their middle-class counterparts in China.

What's your source material for the comments about China and "their vast foreign exchange reserves"?

"How are Canadians going to handle this, given that Canadians are likely to still have rising incomes as a result of increasing oil sands production, while people in other countries (e.g. the US) may be suffering declining living standards."

Canadian drivers/cars/roads five years from now? Ten years from now? Twenty-five years from now? I'd love to get different experts (designers, urban planners, economists, etc.) to weigh in…


While in theory Canadians might still be able to drive 10 or even 25 years from now, in practice it seems unlikely that we will be able to maintain a BAU economy while the US and much of the rest of the world suffers from a liquid fuels crisis.

It may seem far-fetched but I would not put it past a US administration to beat the war drums against Canada in the not too distant future.

What's your source material for the comments about China and "their vast foreign exchange reserves"?

Various sources, e.g. Xinhua News:

China should diversify foreign exchange reserves to keep safe: leading economist

China had accumulated 2.85 trillion U.S. dollars by the end of 2010 from robust foreign trade over the past a few years. The foreign exchange regulator has not disclose the currency structure of the holding, but the U.S. dollar is widely believed to take up a lion's share.

China's ODI up 13.1% in the first two months: MOC

BEIJING, March 22 (Xinhua) -- China's outbound direct investment (ODI) in the non-financial sector saw an increase of 13.1 percent year on year to 5.27 billion U.S. dollars in the first two months, the Ministry of Commerce (MOC) announced Tuesday. the Jan.-Feb. period, Chinese entrepreneurs invested in 680 overseas enterprises in 88 countries and regions, said Yao Jian, spokesman for the ministry.

MOC figures show that China's outbound direct investment in the non-financial sector had amounted to 264 billion U.S. dollars by the end of February 2011.

You have to keep your eye on the ball to see how the game is being played.

I suspect they interchanged barrels and gallons. Typical jouno not having a clue about anything with numbers (or units) in it.


Oil price rises will hit road repairs

The UK will struggle to foot the bill of repairing its weather-damaged road network as soaring oil costs spark concerns about the price of building materials.


“The international oil price has already risen significantly this year and will probably continue to increase as countries emerge from recession, stimulating demand for oil. Recent events in the Middle East will also create upward pressure on oil and therefore bitumen prices,” the letter continues.

In similar correspondence from Lafarge, the world’s number two building materials producer, and Breedon Aggregates, the UK group, customers are told that rising bitumen prices, roughly two-thirds of which is oil, have resulted in the cost of materials going up.

Larfarge, which recently agreed to merge its UK operations with those of Anglo American, tells customers that higher input costs mean it “cannot sustain the cost increase without reflecting it in our prices”.


“Oil is our biggest input cost as we use it in almost every element of what we do,” said Simon Vivian, chief executive of Breedon, the UK’s only independent aggregates producer.


Potholes are filled by 3 men, a lorry with melting pot and a road thumper. The cost of the bitumen/gravel is trivial compared to wages, admin etc.

In Knoxville, the cost of asphalt is b/w 50-60% of the paving budget. I think this is representative of any municipality in the world.

Area municipalities deal with increases in gas prices

I suspect you might both be right. The cost to repair a single poyhole would be labor dominated. But, paving uses a lot of materials. And the cost of asphalt is probably a big deal there. It is also possible that frequent application of asphalt may help to delay decay, and as costs of material increase, the interval between treatments will have to go up.

Here in Ireland, on the rural roads, its three men a load of stones/(cold)bitumen & size 12 boots.
Bloody stuff comes out almost as quick as it goes in.

While that may be, all of the costs eventually come back to energy. The wages paid go to buy food (for labor and support of family), shelter (maintain proper temperature) and clothing (same) as well as petrol and other necessaries. Wages pay for stuff that somebody had to manufacture using energy to do work. Pays the electric bill for the telly etc.

The lorry runs on petrol. The heating pot runs on something, most likely oil, and on and on it goes. Add up all the energy costs that ultimately go into fixing potholes and it actually gets to be quite a lot (oil or other).

"The apparent stalemate in Libya, which accounts for a little under 2 percent of daily oil production, is keeping crude prices elevated."

I know everyone here has heard this comment but what I was wondering is.... what are the total available exports worldwide? So if we are producing 88 million barrels per day what percentage of that are available exports? 50%=44 million 60%=52 millons??

When Libya goes offline with 1.3 million of exports what percentage of that is available exports and not the percentage of total productions. This give a better picture of the impact of something like this.



I'm not Westexas, but based on this graph:


It's probably a bit above the figure in that graphs because that was 2009, 5 mb/d or so was taken off-market due to the recession. Today I would wager that it's a bit below 50 mb/d.

Thanks Leiten and Westexas!

So for 2009 total exports were about 42.8 million barrels. Losing Libya and Gabon we have a total of 1.5-1.6 offline or close to 4% of total exports.

...has anyone noticed the price of RARE EARTHS at the moment?

-Let's put it like this, if these prices persist every GreenTech thing from Priuses to Windmills are going to get really expensive. Most of the REEs sold on the spot market have doubled in the last 6 weeks...

The Lynas 'basket price' is now $150 / Kilo !! (up from ~$60s in Dec. 2010)


Do you know the cause of the rise? Is it simply a case of China kicking Japan while she's down?

Simple enough to tell if the price was rising before the tsunami hit.

I don't think the price rise is political. China's reserves of rare earth metals has reportedly been dropping for some time causing them to consider the finite nature of the Earth and plan accordingly.

Kaiser Bottom Fish has a (list of charts). You probably have to pay to get the most up-to-date data. Prices on rare earths may be difficult to find since they are not traded in the commodity markets.

So it looks like the price has been rising a year before the earthquake hit Japan.

Thanks goghgoner, for the metal-pages chart and especially the link to Kaiser.

I actually went to Metal-Pages (and a couple of other metals-market sites) but access to historical price data is members-only, and filling-out the subscription form seemed a Jetsonian task so I decided to lie down for awhile instead. I suggested that the rise in price might be due to an attempt by China to put the screws to Japan simply because my knowledge of rare earth metals comes from a single 2010 Drumbeat article outlining how China leveraged its 97% share of the market to bully Japan in some naval territorial dispute.

Someone explained to me at the time that China doesn't really have a monopoly on the metals, just a huge majority of the world's operating mines. No one wants to mine rare earths because doing so is environmentally damaging, although the US promised to ramp-up production to help free Japan of its dependence on China.

PS: WebHubbleScope
You still haven't answered my simple question, which seems to have dissapeared. But no matter, you remember. Don't be shy now.

I'm actually doing research on metal scarcity and prices and I can safely say that it's not specifically a political thing against Japan. Extraction of Rare Earths is a complex method, because of low concentrations in mining sites and a lot of radioactive isotopes that need siphoning off. Due to environmental distruction and pollution in the surroundings of these mines, China has stopped issuing new mining permits up to 2012. Also export restrictions are being used and taxation to pay to clean up the pollution has increased.

I sadly have only 1 source at hand, the rest I know I have the source material for, deep down in some pdf documents... If necessary I will supply them.


Hmmmm, one of the sources I have found refers to Rembrandt Koppelaar. Appearantly, he knows more :).

A million EVs: Our generation’s Sputnik moment?

The debate over Obama’s million-EV target hinges on myriad supply and demand factors. Pike Research (Boulder, Colo.) projects the United States will miss the mark by about 160,000 vehicles. Its figure includes both plug-in electric and hybrid electric vehicles. Still, the research firm forecasts that between 2010 and 2015, the United States will field more EVs and hybrids than any other nation or region of the world, including China.

One caveat: “Our forecast was done before the earthquake in Japan, and the probability of hitting those numbers now is somewhat lower,” said Pike Research analyst John Gartner.

That’s because Japan is the world leader in lithium-ion battery production, followed by South Korea. Supply chain disruptions in Japan are having a short-term impact on battery and EV production. Toyota has delayed the planned April launch of its new wagon-style Prius in Japan. And while Nissan has resumed battery production and assembly of its all-electric Leaf, the company said production levels would depend on the frequency of rolling blackouts.

Part of a long story in EE Times about Electric Vehicles.

I admit, a tad unrelated, but am I only one tired of Obama's constant use of 'Sputnik' analogies?

In education, energy, health etc etc.
I feel a slight pity towards Obama's brain, as it cannot help itself to see 'Sputnik moments' in even as trivial things as sales of cars.

Maybe better than Win The Future (WTF). I know. S Palin pointed that out first. But it's pretty apropos anyway.

Responding to Sputnik was nothing compared to what we have to do with respect to energy and global warming. But now our dreams have mainly been reduced to balanced budgets regardless of the consequences. The other side's motto should be STF (screw the future).

pity Obama's brain, ... it cannot help itself

In that regard, Kunstler has it right on target this week:

There are a few things you can state categorically about the US energy predicament and the national conversation we're having about it - including the leaders of that conversation in government, business, and the media. One is that we are blowing a lot of green smoke up our collective ass. None of these schemes is going to work as advertised. The disappointment over them will be massive and probably lead to awful political consequences.

One of Kunstler's better essays, IMO.

The comment about the New York Times' reliance on IHS-CERA (too juicy to repeat here!) I found particularly gratifying.

Don't we need like 50 million EV eh for our foreign oil dependence thingy.

1-2 million ride their bikes. EVs are not even close to a two-wheeled manually-driven bicycle that costs $400 US. LOL

In New York City alone,

Build it and they will ride. That’s the message conveyed in the latest annual estimate of the number of bicyclists in New York City by Transportation Alternatives, which found roughly 236,000 New Yorkers riding each day in 2009, up 28 percent from 185,000 daily riders the year before.


Look at the traffic Jam Pain index. EVs still have to drive in traffic: http://2ndgreenrevolution.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/commute-pain.gif

OPEC oil output takes a Libyan hit

Total production from the 12 OPEC members fell by 411,000 barrels a day to 29.343 million barrels a day in March, according to a survey of government officials, analysts and industry sources.

The number differs, depending on the source, but it looks like OPEC production, in March, was down about 400 thousand barrels per day. Saudi "spare capacity" has been woefully short in making up the Libyan shortfall.

Brent closed at $120.67. Doesn't look like Saudi is in any hurry to keep prices down, risking another economic collapse and a consequent oil price collapse like we had in 2008. But they are boosting their oil rig count to 118 from around 92 in hopes of at least keeping production constant. I suppose that is the best they can hope for.

Ron P.

One story featuring those reports had an anonymous oil analyst from New York(funny how you can't even go on record to express doubts, tells you something in of itself) almost whispering that this means that 'either the Saudis believe their current spare capacity at about 3.5 mb/d is not enough or they just don't have that much to begin with'

Well, it's not good news either way. This is a sign of trouble. But if their spare capacity is the hoax we know it is, and it is, then it remains to be seen how much they can actually affect the situation.

Does anybody know if there are technical risks with this?

Would the anonymous analyst lose his job or worse ... ? (((Removing tinfoil hat))) Too bad the truth is something we are afraid of.

Well, there are technical risks. I worked for a company that found a major natural gas field and invested large amounts of money in developing it. They estimated 1 trillion cubic feet of reserves (worth $4 billion at today's prices). The field initially produced high volumes of gas (250 million cubic feet/day), but a year after production started, the wells started producing significant amounts of water. A few years after that, all the wells were producing nearly 100% water.

So, all they could do was declare force majeure on $4 billion worth of sales contracts, plug and abandon all the wells, salvage and sell all the production equipment, and walk away from the field. The most upsetting thing was that the geologists had no explanation for what had gone wrong, or at least none would admit to understanding anything about it.

The concern with Saudi Arabia's big oil fields is that their geologists may not have the geology right. If they're wrong, they could be really wrong. I could point to Mexico's Cantarell field (once the second biggest oil field in the world after SA's Ghawar field) as an example of how things can go really wrong.

On "the quants and the poets", about Greens, above-

The author could have been channeling me while writing this. For those who don't follow story links or haven't the time to read long articles, I cherry-picked the words:

endlessly argued-over scientific ‘facts’... disguised... underlying... assumptions about the way the world is

highly politicised people...self-image predicated on being ‘activists’... on preventing such terrible things... not allow ourselves to be honest about this... we have to lie to ourselves – into denial for... our psychological health.

Middle class life in a consumer democracy or a liveable human existence? Or do we now think these are the same thing?

We have no shortage of arguments about numbers and machines, but we do have a great shortage of workable stories.

The author was mainly talking about Ecos for whom numbers or a particular technofix are shield, refuge, and security blanket. Like the starfish in Finding Nemo, when the horrible little girl was banging on the side of the aquarium- "Find a happy place, find a happy place, find a happy place!"

"The data show that (insert number) blah blah blah, (insert number) blah blah blah, (insert number) blah blah blah." Punching away on calculators while Rome burns.

Or obsessive "All we need is (insert technofix) and everything will be just perfect!" While ignoring the most important number of all- cost.

I once had the misfortune to be present when a "power of positive thinking" type got bashed up aside the head, for the very first time, with a personal disaster that could not be fixed, avoided, spun, or anything else. She ran out of "what if"s and "well maybe"s and was left eyeball-to-eyeball with raw unalterable reality. I don't watch tv, but I've read about reality shows, and believe me what followed made reality tv look like a 1970s National Geographic documentary.

I can't imagine what it will look like when millions of people all over the world hit their "reality moment" at the same time.

I can't imagine what it will look like when millions of people all over the world hit their "reality moment" at the same time.


I read that article on "greens vs quants" and it looks like the author is enthralled by the power of the anecdote (the "narratives" and "stories" in his words), yet then he talks about the statistical "millions" in his last statement. That is the jarring contradiction: he is a quant himself if he is making such non-anecdotal predictions.

WHT, I went back and looked at it again, and I didn't see any reference to millions. Maybe I scanned it too fast, but could you point me at it?

I agree that "narratives" and "stories" is phoofey-talk. First-class limp-wristed uselessness.

But at the same time, I've also observed, more and more, people who seem to actually be hiding in math. Using numbers as a means of avoiding having to deal with the real world.

Technofixes, too; obsessively fixating on just one- ethanol, or EVs, or wind/solar/tide, or mass relocation to cities, or whatever - and then just, well, sort of disappearing into the chosen sedative and refusing to ever look or think about anything else ever again. Avoiding having to deal with the real world.

I suppose it's just a last gasp of idealistic thinking on my part, but surely there must be a middle way.

Numbers and planning are step #1. One could plan a house or they could just start building and hope for the best outcome. I think a little of both is best myself -- theory and experiment. The adapt and make improvements.

I do not see our financial system doing any of the above.

I agree that "narratives" and "stories" is phoofey-talk. First-class limp-wristed uselessness.

I'd caution against such derogatory language. After all, it might turn out that math and science are themselves nothing more than "narratives" and "stories" (reference Edmund Husserl's excellent essay called "On Geometry" - hard to find the versions from when he wrote (a journal and a collection) unless you have access to an academic library - but there is a reprint available in a book by Derrida called "Edmund Husserl's "Origin of Geometry": An Introduction")

Shaman, resist the urge to point anyone to Derrida, he can only confirm and enforce any bias against such thinking.

There are many better sources, less full of BS, you can use, and far more relevant.

The stories we tell ourselves do not need external sources to explain, we can explain them without such references, and the explanations would be much more honest and accurate.

The function of language is to tell stories. We invent specific languages, ie, of the hunt, of basket weaving, etc, to allow ourselves to tell each stories about how to make such things, and why, and so on.

Engineering talk, math talk, are all such languages, and the stories they create are the stories we rely on to see our world, at least they are in this current social body we inhabit. The sum total, for example, of all the varied oil industry stories allow for the creation of large devices, the flowing of social capital to their making and use, then, as an outcome, allow the oil to come out of the earth, to be wasted, burned, by us, all the while we do not pause for probably even a second to ask ourselves about this story we are living in, which is itself really only about 100 years old now.

But that's how stories go, we live in them, and when and as they change, so too does our telling each other of the story, to the degree that we don't even realize we have come to tell a new story. I've read more than one instance of Native Americans modifying their myths in real time to account for the arrival of the Europeans, but without any awareness that the myths had changed to adapt to a new reality.

Also what Soros calls 'bias' guiding 'trends'.

Now the story Derrida tells is one of vacuous intellectual blather that hasn't the first clue about any first principle.

Now if you'll forgive me, I have to return to a very boring conversation with some web servers...

I'm no particular fan of Derrida - the reference was only because that is the easiest place to find Husserl's essay. I'm not real fond of Derrida's take on Husserl either, I believe he tries to extract him from the hermeneutic or phenomenological rubric in which he worked in order to re-establish him as a post-structuralist (and thus in support of his own agenda).

That said, please be careful of "critiques" that rely on language like "full of BS," or "vacuous intellectual blather" without making clear why you think that. For while you portray your disdain for Derrida, you do not engage his ideas or arguments. This reflects as poorly on you as it does Derrida.

I disagree, sorry, Derrida is worthless, as are all his pseudo-intellectual deconstructionist ilk. I've read that crap, lots of it, and I've long since outgrown it, no need to engage it again, I've also had the pleasure of exposing them as the intellectual fakes they are in person, on occasion. I prefer to engage with serious work and serious thinkers, or just talk to people on the street, that's always more rewarding.

I'm relying on common sense here, this isn't an academic discourse, peer reviewed etc.

Pointing people to arcane bad philosophy, or decent, but still arcane, stuff like Husserl, really is not a good idea in general, the context is far too large to just dip into, it's a mistake. Husserl makes no sense outside of his direct tradition, and certainly makes no sense unless you know the discourse around him, Heidegger, Nietzsche, etc., and the primary works, like Being and Time, Phenomenology of Spirit, and so on. And Derrida just plain makes no sense, though he has fun with the words on the way to achieving that no-meaning, as do his silly disciples.

I have never seen anything more worthy of the term 'intellectual blather' than the self-referential and self-indulgent 'deconstructionist' academic drivel.

Asking me to engage Derrida's ideas is like asking me to engage in a pile of dung just because it's on the road and the smell has annoyed me. I have engaged them, that's why I consider them worthless. I'm not about to waste more of my life on such drivel, nor would I ever point anyone to it in a normal day to day discussion.

And such discussions, again, do nothing to demonstrate anything in the context of this thread, or any thread like it, the level of BS these types work in basically makes it totally impossible to engage them at all, that's why I ignore them and deal with people who are serious and who are much more profoundly focused on real issues, not academic word games like those Hesse described so clearly in 'Magister Ludi', aka 'The Glass Bead Game', a work that so perfectly describes the vacuousness of the deconstructionist academic project I feel no need to add a word to it. D.T. Suzuki would be an example of someone who is utterly serious, and very very solid. Life is to short to waste on third and fourth rate academics who have comfortable little niches for themselves in the academy. Second rate academics though I'm fond of, the people who spend a few years researching some arcane subject then write a cool book about it.

I don't understand what you are so upset about - and to be honest, not even clear what you are "disagree"-ing about.

You rail against Derrida, but not once do you say what it is about Derrida that you don't like. You clearly want me to believe that you've read him and all his "ilk." Yet, apparently, you don't seem to understand that Derrida was not a deconstructionist, but a post-structuralist. Sure, perhaps you can take the entirety of four decades of academic work after the collapse of behavioralism, wrap it up all into a single ball as if it were all one thing and dismiss it if you like.

But what I get a sense of in your response is some visceral reaction to a portion of your education that has left you so furious that you can't even engage it's ideas, only rail against it with derogatory invectives. Do I really learn what you are trying to say when your argument is that "it" is "psudeo-intellectual," "crap," "intellectual fakes, (all from the first paragraph) while you simultaneously puff your own chest by noting how you've "outgrown it"? And outside the notion that you think they're playing word games, you still haven't let on to why you find them so objectionable

As for Husserl being "arcane" - I have to wonder what you mean by that word, because it doesn't fit in with how I know that word to be used.

In the end, I am no closer to understanding what your argument is against Derrida and his "ilk" - but perhaps we should just drop the names/personalities, as you clearly have an issue with them, and just talk about the idea?

Do you have some particular objection to the notion that math and science are "narratives" or "stories" that we tell ourselves?

Oh, christ, look, I refuse to talk further about this stuff, OK? The reasons I listed are complete, though of course, if I want to waste more of my life and finite existence here on earth, I would of course engage this further. Or maybe it's not a good idea to do that?

If you do not understand that Husserl in the context of this thread and discussion is arcane, then I think we should give up on this now, ok? I would say it's also safe to assume you haven't read the primary works in question here, no? That's usually the case when people don't understand core criticisms, like noting something sucks, when it sucks.

If I were discussing this in other contexts, then I would use terms like 'arcane' in different ways, depending on who I was talking to. In this context, ordinary communication being read by people who are following various energy related topics here on TOD, these guys are all arcane, as is the entire sub thread here, and I apologize for that.

Really, I have to let this go, sorry. My days of wasting time on whatever you want call this academic project are long past me, and I have no interest at all in wasting more moments in reviving this particular dead horse. I wish you well and hope your studies bring you to the point where you come to understand that my point here is complete and requires no further amendment. I even gave you a pointer, Hesse's book. Read it, that's my point, there's no need to repeat it here. That book will show you all you need to know about vacuous intellectual academic word games, it's a virtual masterpiece in terms of how accurately it describes that sphere of human reality.

Sorry to all readers of this thread, such a discussion is a total waste of TOD server capacity and of the internet's electrical grid, I'll avoid any repetition of it in the future. I realize to some the flowery word games generate a fascinating picture even though there really is no there there in the end, at some point we all have to learn to see the difference ourselves, what Hemmingway hoted as a core requirement: the presence of a built in BS detector.... once triggered, there is no need for further engagement. That's why I'm not talking to or engaging with pro-nuke shills or apologists any more, they convinced me that they had nothing, so there's just no need to keep beating a dead horse.

Now let's get back to work, there are real problems out here in the real world, and real things to achieve beyond such wastes of digital bytes.

I find this all a little strange, both your attitude and the notion that "it sucks" is a criticism.

Be that as it may, I'll try to leave you with one thing to think about (which really was the point of my initial post on this subject) - as you "get back to work" on your "real problems" you might want to consider if what you think is work and what is a problem is colored, just a little bit, by a tendency to put "science" and "math" on a special or unique level when it comes to revealing "truth."

(hey h2 - really didn't mean to provoke your ire, really was just trying to draw you out. I rarely get on the computer or internet in the evening, but I was bothered by this exchange - both your unqualified hatred for a whole approach to thinking about the world and VictorianTech's view that it represented some new age or hippie view point. It's been awhile since I left academia, but "wow" both your attitudes struck me as bizarre. There are lots of good arguments against these approaches, but "it sucks" and "its hippie" were not one's that I would have thought anyone would consider serious critiques. Oh well. Best to you.)

Yeah, narratives and stories have been part of the human psyche far longer than math and science, and IMO, are still far more powerful. Since math is the language of science, it can be (mis)used like any other language to describe or delude; it's all about application. As I've said, we humans live in a dream-world of our own creation.

Reality? What a concept ;-)

Hmmmm. How do I explain this. It's not the thing itself (stories) that I denigrate. Without our stories- our history and philosophy- we are little more than monkeys hooting in the trees.

It's the label that leaves me rolling my eyes in disgust. People who use words like "narrative" when what they mean is closer to "mindset" tend to be those Kumbaya-starry-eyed-all-we-need-is-love types who live in some fairy la-la land that has no connection whatever with the real world.

They are the equal-but-opposite of the calculator-punchers who hide inside equations and spreadsheets. Neither the singing-clapping-dancing bunch nor the quadratic-and-differential huggers are doing the world any good.

What we need is a middle way, with a healthy dose of realism and practicality.

The problem, of course, is that everyone defines realism and practicality differently.

What we've always needed is a middle way.

However, I would say we all pretty much define realism and practicality the same way, although we like to pretend we don't.

For example, judging from what I've seen here, and globally, at least 99% of the industrial world's population believes that the rates of energy consumption, once achieved, are now required, and thus all talk of cuts as first step, not last, is basically discarded a priori. Except in a tiny niche, far too many of whom really want to continue their consumption, via solar panels and battery powered cars, for example.

As an example, there is really no difference between a Texas oil man drilling for his black gold and the urban yuppy buying the Prius and solar panels, both are in the same reality, and both agree on all the fundamental notions of consumption / extraction, by their actions, not by their words.

I agree though with your restated point, using the word 'narrative' really is what you say, more or less. I do wish we could actually talk about the myths we live in and that drive our existences, the myth of growth, or that we 'produce' materials, rather than extract and waste them, and so on, but that's apparently a bit too much for most people to really get into, and that's as it should be, we weren't designed to interrogate our stories, we were meant to live in them, that makes social systems work. Except when it doesn't, like in our case, but that's not the fault of the story mechanism, it's the fault of the story we follow today, of growth, expansion, destruction, profit.

Hopefully we'll find a middle way that has a better storyline in the future, or maybe we are finding it today already only most people aren't seeing it.

"Hopefully we'll find a middle way that has a better storyline in the future, or maybe we are finding it today already only most people aren't seeing it."

We? Middle way? I'm not sure it fits your storyline but those of us who have powered down and gone off-grid have a different story to tell, and it's a pretty good one. A story about how growth sucks, living well within a renewable alotment is doable and even better in many ways.

Most people 'aren't seeing it' because they are bought and paid for with stories of BAU, the false narrative of happiness through gain and consumption. This narrative is loud and in your face, and it will be played out to whatever its (yet to be written) end is.

Ghung, exactly the people I was thinking of when I wrote that. Out of small beginnings come large things.

I totally agree, those of you who are leading the way to a future that might just work out are the ones creating that path. People with a vision to make a new future trump the other 99%, who will always insist that the present storyline is unalterable. Facts noted well by Nassim Taleb, Soros, and others who have successfully exploited this tendency and weakness among their tribe in the financial markets.

Hats off to you, my respect grows for those creating solutions, not recreating worse worlds with no future beyond toxins and death. It's quite easy to see here who is who, by the way, just by the tone and understanding. Attachment to BAU is a human condition, but so is seeing beyond it in order to adapt to new circumstances.

By the way, you might take a look at this wind energy study if you haven't, I had missed it, it's from the the energy watch group: (large pdf warning, slow loading) - http://www.energywatchgroup.org/fileadmin/global/pdf/2009-01_Wind_Power_...

Main English site:

those of us who have powered down and gone off-grid

The problem, Ghung, is that for those who wish to follow your example, but are starting from scratch, from zero, the cost is now in the neighborhood of a million dollars. Most of which is the price of the land necessary.

60 acres of good river bottom land, $890,000. It was on the market for a year, the seller a filthy rich millionaire who made his fortune raping the forests of South America (all property owners are public record at the tax assessor's office, the internet provides the rest).

Nobody would pay his greedy price, so he finally took it off the market after a year. Undoubtedly to wait for the rush of the rich to get out of stocks and into farmland.

No one who is not a millionaire can ever hope to power down now. Try not to gloat so much.

"No one who is not a millionaire can ever hope to power down now."

Au contrair, mon amie. Here in the Southern Appalachains, the bottom has dropped out of land prices. Foreclosures and firesales have driven mountain land to well below $10K/acre in many areas and while banks aren't loaning much, many sellers are willing to owner finance with a reasonable down payment.

RE equipment is near alltime lows, I've seen fine woodstoves for sale cheap, and materials can be had for much lower than in previous years, as can be labor.

Millionaire? Jeez. My newest pair of overalls is 4 years old and I lived in an old RV for years before getting into a semi-finished house. My water system consisted of two 55 gallon drums filled by spring water (still is, though I got bigger tanks at salvage) and I haven't worn a suit in years. We built our home using cash and (12 month's, same as cash) credit cards. I traded labor for many of the materials and labor. While some of our land was inherited, we used savings to buy more so it wouldn't be developed. I'm growing cucumbers and squash on the roof to help us stay cool this summer. I gave up a reasonable career at above average pay (17 years ago) to do this. Haven't been on a 'vacation' for 15 years. Since my wife and I were both laid off 2 1/2 years ago, things have been very tight. If we had utility bills, et al, we'd have been sunk. We may still be; who knows... Luckily, we have other skills.

The guy up the road with the million dollar home and new Denali Hybrid thinks he's the millionaire. He never had it so good.

As I've said before, powering down and rejecting the BAU lifestyle is a mindset, an adaptation, most of all a choice (until it isn't). There's a fine line between "gloating" and having a bit of foresight; setting an example. Being a part time hermit, TOD is one of the few places that I choose to "gloat". Being something of a sociopath, some folks I know can rot in hell WTSHTF, for all I care. You can lead a horse to water ...

Having said that, we are still dependent on questionable aspects of our current society, certain inputs, though not for lack of trying. Hopefully, we'll find ways to solve these problems as well. Be sure that I'll gloat about it when the time comes.

/rant. Sorry y'all. Grandpappy warned me about too much pride...

[goes to stir the chicken soup]

Your move sounds much like mine. I bought 2 acres at an auction, then moved up from Atlanta to build a house. I started by cutting a D/W up the side of the ridge for a 60 foot elevation gain, then lived in an old camper for 7 winters while doing the building. The first thing I did was drill a well and then install the septic system. Fortunately, I had some help along the way and now have a real roof over my head. My motivation was to build a solar house and was able to do so because there weren't any restrictions on what I could do. My only regret is that I didn't start with more land, since there's no way to put a garden up here. I do have enough trees that I think I'll be able to stay warm just by cutting a couple of them a year. By the time the trees are all cut, I'll likely be gone as well...

E. Swanson

Would coppicing work with those trees? You might end up with a steady supply.


Battery banks are fully charged, hand pump is primed, seedlings started, this coming winters wood is cut, split and stacked. Working on the winter after next wood now. Compost piles are finally starting to warm up again, working on plans for a newer bigger greenhouse this year. Ahh for the "sociopath" way of life !!

Don in Maine

Ghung, you're the coolest. Squash on the roof? I love it, I absolutely love it. That made my day. I literally did LOL.

On a more serious note, though, the key terms in your post are "$10K/acre", "banks aren't loaning much", "reasonable down payment", "inherited", and "17 years".

And you're not a sociopath. Corporate CEOs are sociopaths. Gloat away, dude- you've worked hard for it. I wish I was in your position.

I don't know where you are getting your ideas, but 60 acres is rather larger than what one might need for the basics. And, your land price quote is likely a left over from the real estate bubble. Many people around the world feed themselves and their family with less than 10 acres of land. If you want to maintain a high energy consumption lifestyle, that's a different game entirely.

The fact is, with relatively simple, low cost technology, one can heat a house with solar and provide hot water as well. That takes a large chunk out of the energy requirement in many areas of the US. Add a small increment of PV and you can have lights and some appliances. Running a stove would be a problem, but there are solar alternatives for that as well, such as solar ovens and wood stoves. The biggest headache is storage and thermal storage isn't very expensive. The trick is knowing what to do, which is more important than simply having lots of money...

E. Swanson

I wasn't saying 60 acres was necessary; I was just throwing out a very recent example of farmland prices in my neck of the woods.

I would be ecstatic to have even an acre.

People who use words like "narrative" are Kumbaya types? Clearly we travel in different circles.

Actually, the term "narrative" (which is not very much like "mindset") was a term used in a very specific way by Foucault and his deconstructionist colleagues and followers. Without getting into detail it is more like the built up historical artifacts of our thinking that drive our actions and thoughts in the present. And while I personally don't find the whole approach very intellectually satisfying, the notion that it should somehow be seen as the opposite of an over reliance on science and math I find rather odd.

And not to worry about being little more than monkeys hooting in the trees - for it is only our grand ideas that make us any different... or at least make us believe we are any different.

On my way home, I'm thinking I may have confused this - maybe someone with more recent exposure to these guys can clarify - now I'm thinking that "narrative" came from Lyotards postmodernism. Foucaults bag was "discourse." I think.

shaman said:
phenomenological rubric


Yes, we travel in very different circles. I am eternally grateful to have escaped yours.

So, let me get this right - You're laughing as you defend ignorance?

I'll take ignorance over phoofeyness any day.

Ignorance is easier to fix.

(Note I said ignorance, not denial.)

So, your argument is essentially;

I don't understand that so it is "phoofey."

Somehow I don't think that's going to serve you very well.

Iman Al-Obeidi, the Libyan woman who sought refuge among western journalists (video here) in Tripoli's Rixos hotel after being raped by Gaddafi thugs, spoke to NPR today by phone. Here's the story from BoingBoing, with links to NPR.

Oil Price Superspike Update

It’s now four months since I first predicted here a likely oil price ‘superspike’ in 2011:

We may now have entered a long term situation where long term oil demand exceeds long term supply. This is possible because there are still some surplus oil inventories around the world, although the quality and location of these inventories outside of governmental control is open to debate. This leads us finally eventually to a more serious problem – the oil [price] ‘superspike’ – which will likely result when the overshoot of demand over supply that appears to have started eventually runs through whatever surplus supplies are available.

Being that the oil markets and products operate with considerable physical lags (such as shipping oil from the Mideast to the US) , when the world gets to its bottom barrel of inventory over the MOLs (minimum operating levels) there may be a sudden realization that there is no longer enough oil to go around. Then the price will go up, and up, and up, $100, $120, even $150 will not be a price barrier because of the built up momentum in our economic systems.

Well we now have passed $120 on Brent oil. So what’s next? There are many articles in the media about oil is priced at some kind of ‘premium’ due to political instability in various west and north African countries, and in the middle East. While there might be some sort of small premium built into the price due to the danger of tankers travelling through war zones and areas where pirates have some success ransoming even very large oil tankers, mostly the rising price is a reflection of a growing imbalance in world oil supply and demand.

For example, a sign of falling supply ignored even by most well known energy analysts, tanker operators say there business is now so bad that some routes result in losses:

Mideast crude tanker rates slide, ship glut grows
Mon Apr 4, 2011 5:21pm GMT
LONDON, April 4 (Reuters) - Crude oil tanker earnings on the key Middle East route fell to their lowest in over five months on Monday as growing vessel supply weighed on the market, despite firmer fixing activity.

Average earnings were at their lowest since late October last year and were below the operating cost level of a VLCC, which is estimated at around $10,000 a day.


Other reports indicate that tankers plying the Persian Gulf to the US route operate at a considerable loss, but their owners allow some use of their tankers to transport oil just to reposition the tankers closer to a more desirable location.

Perhaps then it is needless to remind everyone that 85% of Persian Gulf oil exports have headed East since March 1, with only 15% headed to any Western country in the EU or towards the US.

Political events have only accelerated the date of the arrival of the oil price superspike. Once the dynamics of a price superspike start, they will be hard to start – even if, for example, Libya starts restoring some limited amount of oil exports.

I remember reading your post 4 months ago predicting a superspike in oil prices, and thought of that post once prices started to gain momentum.

I read one article the other day which claimed conventional wisdom was today's high prices were the result of the loss of exports from Libya. Which of course neglected to realise that only part of the high price of oil can be attributed to that situation. More importantly, IMHO is the situation in Libya put the focus on OPEC's failure to completely cover that shortfall. Particularly glaring was the inability of the House of Saud to quickly cover it, since they had been claiming for quite some time to possess 4.5 mbd spare capacity.

Something I posted a while back, was my concern that once investors in oil contracts got a whiff of the failure to cover Libya's shortfall, the jig would be up on spare capacity claims and the price could start rising quite fast, which it is now doing.

My concern is like yours now Mackay and that is there really isn't anything to hold back a major (probably even record setting) oil price superspike.

I had posted on this yesterday but the thread died without much activity.

I was thinking about previous estimates on TOD of what true spare capacity was. For example, in August last year Rune Likvern estimated around 2 million barrels a day; last, December I think it was, Darwinian estimated no more than 1.5 mb/d.

Then I gathered together the export figures Heading Out has been doing keyposts on, and started subtracting.

Libya -1.4
Yemen -0.2
Syria -0.5

That's -2.1 million barrels a day right there.

Then potentially very soon due to political instability:

Nigeria -2.3
Gabon -0.2
Sudan -0.5

Now we would be down 5.1 million barrels a day.

So if Rune and Darwinian and others of like mind are correct, we are really really close to no spare capacity left at all.

Syrian and Yemen exports still function, so you can remove those(even if they are still in the danger zone).
Gabon's strike has ended, according to Bloomberg.

Nigeria is the worry, though, but we should be looking at 1 mb/d, not the full 2.3 mb/d.

However, they are trying to avoid the last 1 mb/d taken off the market that happened with the last election(in 2007). And the Obama administration is very heavily involved. Carson, the point man in Africa, is on site and looking over the situation.

But you are quite right about spare capacity. Goldman belives we are already operating under 2 mb/d. So even a small country like Gabon has an outsized impact, as crazy as it sounds. If you take away even 1 mb/d from Nigera, you're looking at much higher oil prices. And especially in the U.S. since it's a very important supplier. WTI might actually not only close the gap with Brent but exceed it too.

Still, it's only April.
Compare 2008 prices(slightly below $100 dollars) with today's($120+ for Brent), and you'll see we're already far ahead of the curve.

I don't see how we can escape what Charles calls the 'oil superspike'. People also forget that Saudi Arabia uses a lot more domestic oil for energy consumption in the summer months for ventilation and air conditioning. In 2010 it was a whopping 600,000 bpd extra compared to the winter months. We're entering that zone now, again.

It's quite frightening, if one thinks about it, that it appears you believe that the oil superspike has not even begun in earnest("Once the dynamics of a price superspike start") despite a Brent price of over $120 dollars and a similar price to most major blends if one looks at the Upstream data.

Other than that, very interesting comment. I do enjoy your updates on TOD as you seem very ingrained in the situation, especially on the tanker side. You foresaw, for instance, the lack of export from OPEC very early on after the Libyan shortfall, and you were proven right. So I have no reason not to take your current words seriously.

You cannot talk about the price increase from a fundamental supply & demand viewpoint, it has to be:
A) speculation
B) the 'risk premium'
C) demand destruction
D) simply 'unrest'(this last point is usually combined with point B).

One thing that beguiles me is that this time there seems to be alternative voices. You can not get more establishment than Goldman Sachs and they went out a few weeks ago and claimed that OPEC spare capacity is below 2 mb/d. Aside from a single Telegraph column, this got extremely scarce publicity. It's almost as if there is a conspiracy of silence on the part of most MSM.
Peak Oil is still a dirty phrase when talking about these issues and scare quotes are needed, if you are to use the phrase at all.

I do have a a few questions, though, to you Charles:

1. Do you think we'll get this 'superspike' within months or could it take longer?
2. Is this 'it', so to speak? Will there be a comeback from this or are we seeing the ceiling of possible oil supply, more or less? I'm defining the ceiling not as a particular number but rather as a place where we will always lag behind demand, thus giving us perpetual recessions(or worse).
3. Could you please get a blog? It's much more convenient than to search for your name in each comment section as is currently the case. Naturally, you shouldn't feel the pressure to constantly update if you got one, but it would be better to have all your comments/thoughts gathered at one place, with an expanded space to talk and give feedback.

It's much more convenient than to search for your name in each comment section as is currently the case.

Here are all comments by Charles: http://www.theoildrum.com/user/Charles%20Mackay/comments

Thanks for your support.

The concept of an oil price superspike has gone from a fringe idea four months ago to being discussed in earnest here in the US financial media today. This kind of change of events is what might be expected if we were on the downslope after peak oil.

Anyway I don’t have blog because it would conflict with increasing work duties.

Back to oil. The ‘real’ superspike hasn’t yet arrived. I expect that will happen when one or more larger nation realizes that it just won’t have enough supplies of diesel, gasoline, etc. to get through to the end of the summer.

1. Do you think we'll get this 'superspike' within months or could it take longer? I am fairly certain that if this was going to happen in 2011, it will be well underway by June.

2. Is this 'it', so to speak? Will there be a comeback from this or are we seeing the ceiling of possible oil supply, more or less? I'm defining the ceiling not as a particular number but rather as a place where we will always lag behind demand, thus giving us perpetual recessions(or worse). Good question. If you look back at what actually happened in 2008 and this year, it’s fairly clear there is very little spare capacity for high quality oil. That is a problem because pumping out low quality oil in response to various oil supply problems creates a mismatch between supply and available refining capacity, although with logistical problems. For example, the US has almost been cut out of Persian Gulf exports the last five weeks. Poster aangel and others (sorry not to mention all) explained how rising prices and shortages lead to recessions and declines in oil usage, and declines in prices – before supply and demand get out of whack again and the cycle repeats. It is an unpleasant reality that the next oil price superspike will start with most of the EU, Japan, and the US at a lower economic level. So yes, we are on some kind of downward sloping cycle.

3. Could you please get a blog? It's much more convenient than to search for your name in each comment section as is currently the case. Naturally, you shouldn't feel the pressure to constantly update if you got one, but it would be better to have all your comments/thoughts gathered at one place, with an expanded space to talk and give feedback. Maybe that won’t be so bad as I first thought. There are some persons who no longer visit here and it may be one way of communicating with them.

Interesting article in an australian farm site regarding the come-back of the "commer knocker"
engine---apparently 2 pistons running in opposition in the same cylinder. EcoMotors (from Michigan)
says it can run on any fuel and is extremely efficient with less emissions. Link:

I've never heard of it before.

Two-stroke opposed piston engines are not exactly new - they date from 1907. During WW2, the Germans used them in aircraft and the Americans in submarines, among other things.

The last time someone brought them up, I linked to a few videos of them in action because they are such unique sounding engines. Search on "Commer TS3 knocker" in Youtube to find a few of of the videos.

They are interesting, but not overwhelmingly better than any other kind of diesel engine, particularly in the modern world of turbocharged diesels with four-valve cylinder heads and common-rail injection. And they are complicated.

The primary thing that could make an opposed piston engine more efficient would be uniflow design. That's where the air flows through the cylinder in one direction, so that the relatively cool expanded exhaust gases don't cool off the hot end on their way out.

Also moving both ends of the cylinder means that for the same crank speed, the opposed piston engine expands the hot gases faster. This leaves less time for heat loss to the metal.

Unfortunately I don't have much data on the efficiency difference, but that's the theory.

The thing that makes opposed piston engines really cool is their potential for very low levels of vibration, as nearly every moving part has an identical mate moving in the opposite direction.

Yes, those opposed piston diesel designs were quite successful. The new version from EcoMotors uses a rather unique mechanical configuration, which makes it possible to do the opposed piston configuration without the need for two crankshafts. The linking of the pistons to one crank with links allows for a much lower mass of the block, as there aren't any cylinder heads and there are much lower forces on crankshaft bearings as well. The scheme works because they drive the turbocharger with an electric motor, so they can start the engine without a direct drive supercharger required by the older designs. Once running, the turbocharger motor becomes a generator, thus capturing some of the energy from the exhaust and eliminating the need for a belt driven generator.

There would appear to be many advantages to this new engine design, which could provide more "happy motoring" years. The engine would appear to be a natural component of a properly designed hybrid, by which I mean, a smaller engine and a larger electric drive in a series configuration. The low vibration would be especially important in smaller, lighter weight vehicles, which will be the future of vehicle design as the limited availability of oil becomes much more apparent and prices continue to rise...

E. Swanson

For those interested I've moved my energy shortage mapping site to the Ushahidi platform. I've restarted the counter too. This will be Version 3 of a project I started in 2007 (blogger > drupal > ushahidi).

I infrequently updated over the past few months, but now I'm a little more engaged with the project and you can be as well by submitting reports of energy issues directly to the site. They get mapped automatically now.

If you are interested in visiting the site the linky is in my signature file.

Thanks for visiting.

That looks an interesting resource, especially if you can maintain it as problems increase. It reminds me of EDIS:


They are indeed similar. EDIS is a little more like the old energy shortage platform in that all the content appears to be vetted and edited before being placed on the map. The Ushahidi platform allows for much more social engagement by accepting reports from anyone. From that point different verification methods can be applied to the report.

Currently, since this is all new, I'm the sole news gatherer (as before). Hopefully, others will participate in the project in the future.

The counter was reset when I moved it and just in the past 3 days all the usual suspects have reappeared (Pakistan, India, Argentina, Nepal, etc.). At the old site just before the financial meltdown, I noted about 117 regions and territories that were experiencing some sort of energy issue.

Thanks for your interest.

Apologies, can't find the BBC's equivalent English language version but you can use a translate program and hopefully get the gist:

Mexico contemplates a future without oil boom

Mexico's role in the international oil market is beginning to change. The government-owned company Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex) now recognises that its proven hydrocarbon reserves will only last ten years...

...it will be very difficult to see (Mexico) return to the production levels seen in the past, say experts.

Tapis Crude Spot: $126.60


Edit: $128.90 (5:48 AM ET, Apr 6)

UK, Saudi Energy Ministers To Meet Tuesday Over High Oil Price

In a statement, the U.K.'s Department of Energy and Climate Change said Secretary of State Chris Huhne will meet with Saudi Arabia's Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi during a visit in the Middle Eastern country.

"There is no shortage of supply, and yet the price has remained high," Huhne said. "International energy markets should understand that the current price of oil doesn't reflect the realities of supply and demand."

...and the cheque is in the mail.

Mr Huhne is more worthless than I previously thought.
This reminds me of the Bush visits to the Saudis. He went there twice I think.
We all know what happened - not much.

Does anybody expect our fortunes to be different this time?

"There is no shortage of supply, and yet the price has remained high," Huhne said.

Surely he can just get the oil companies to pump more from the North Sea then instead of travelling to Saudi Arabia. Oh wait there is a shortage of oil.

Chris Huhne will meet with Saudi Arabia's Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi during a visit in the Middle Eastern country.

"There is no shortage of supply, and yet the price has remained high," Huhne said.

Why is he meeting with them? Obviously it isn't to raise output if he's certain the World is well supplied. Either he's lying or doesn't understand the contradiction nullifies the need to meet.

"There is no shortage of supply, and yet the price has remained high," Huhne said.

Hey, the man is correct, there is no shortage of $120 oil, there is a great shortage of $80 oil however. Doesn't that man have sense enough to know that the very reason that there is no shortage is because the price is so high?

Ron P.

Ron – Exactly. I think folks are going to need rethink their concept of supply/demand and “excess capacity”. Even if the KSA has X million bopd extra capacity they are under no obligation to sell any of it at any price. Another oil exporter could try to take some market share away from the KSA by cutting their price. But, again, what would be their motivation to do so? I doubt the exporters who have reached their PO aren’t aware of the reality. IMHO supply/demand is working just like it’s supposed to: the sellers are controlling supply in order to max their revenue. Some folks seem to think having the ability to over supply the market and put downward pressure on prices is a natural part of the process. Obviously not.

Coming soon: Canadian hypercars

Yes, super-fast hypercars. Not just ordinary, four-door, let's-go-shopping-at-Sobeys Chevrolets, but big, powerful environmentally-unfriendly road-rockets whose main purpose - other than to rid the independently foolish of their unwanted millions - is to boost the ego of the super-rich as they lord their superiority over we, the Corolla-driving proletariat.

And not content with just producing one hyper-expensive automotive trinket, it turns out there will be two such Canadian-built hypercars, the cheapest costing a heady $795,000 with its truly hedonistic competitor falling into the "if you have ask ..." category. They'll suck back gas quicker than a fleet of Hummers, are as impractical in the winter as a Brazilian bikini and, considering the rigours of Canadian law enforcement - at least in my home province of Ontario - are unlikely to ever venture further than second.

Narcissism is in the air and still sells cars, apparently.

Oh, well. And there we were, coming to think that all Canadians were so self-effacing and Minnesota-like nice... ;)

What a useless car -- you would not be able to carry a canoe on the roof!

What a useless car -- you would not be able to carry a canoe on the roof!

Thanks for the laugh ;-)


@ Leanan

Is there any chance of making theoildrum more iPhone friendly? I know of several tech sites with similar format/layouts that are very user friendly on smartphones. I don't suppose it is large undertaking, of course I could be wrong. BTW, if you make an app for theoildrum, there is potential for advertising revenue.

If you have tech suggestions, they should go to SuperG, our tech guy. Use the tech support address on the sidebar.

We are a nonprofit organization, though, and therefore can't accept advertising revenue.

Not to be nitpicky, but 501(c)(3) organizations can garner revenue from a wide range of sources, not just donations. The main test is whether you are operating to earn a profit to distribute to owners/investors, not whether or not you take in money from and for your operations (and that you operate for a charitable or educational purpose). Many hospitals in the US are non-profits.

Brent up over $123 according to upstream: http://www.upstreamonline.com/marketdata/markets_crude.htm

I think it's interesting that the people don't seam to be flinching yet. A couple of months ago, we were questioning if the 2011 price spike would have to be as big as 2008, in order to cause the next step-down. I think too many people have a simple view of the $4 price at the pump as the high mark which is needed to change minds.

I remember last time though, that the price spike was so sharp that truck drivers could not afford fuel for deliveries that were contracted in advance.

Edit: and if you look at that chart for Brent at the bottom, and just pencil in a continued curve of the last six months, you get to $135 by June.

I had similar thoughts - still not really making MSM headlines over here and no-one I know is talking about it IRL.

Edit: Brent approaching $124 now

Yep. I doubt we'll have to wait till June for $135. IIRC, the price increase last time was not linear; towards the end, not even exponential--more like hyperbolic.

If the government shuts down for a few weeks, that would put a big cork in consumption! :)

They had better come up with a good, coordinated excuse for the next step-down, quick. You can't let the public have a simple oil spike = no economic growth equation.

$124.31 - justlikethat!

I wonder if the oil price will spike higher than 2008 this time around? In 2008 there were a lot of ARM resets that helped with the recession/ demand destruction. If the price of oil would have been much higher without that, and now with higher demand from Chindia, not to mention QE1, 2 (3?) I think it could go a lot higher this year.

QE 2 is the main big difference, but it ends in June. And what then? More borrowed cash?

Besides, Brent's ahead of the 2008 prices if you look at the date and compare them, even adjusted for inflation. So is WTI, by the way, but not as much(perhaps 8 dollars or so). Brent's about 20 dollars above today what it was in 2008 at the similar day and time. So we reached around 147 in July, what will we get by July this time?

The increase in oil prices will not be a straight line. In 2008, the price increased by 20 dollars in a single month(in May) and by 10 in April. So don't be surprised to see $130 for Brent in April, if it happens.

We need that spare capacity now, if prices are going to go down. The Saudis failed in 2008 and they've failed now. Anybody who believes them is a fool from now on(quite a lot of people, including Chris Huhne, then).

But we have Nigeria coming up next week and Portugal basically needs to be bailed out. If the economy crashes this year, I wonder what will happen to places like Portugal, or the UK.

Will they even be able to cope?
We're in unchartered territory now. There are no real solutions to this crisis.

"In 2008 there were a lot of ARM resets that helped with the recession/ demand destruction."

But wait-there's more!


....and demand destruction is where you find it:

Boehner tells Republicans to gird for shutdown

Republicans, who control the House of Representatives, aim to boost defense spending and have outlined deep cuts to most domestic programs....

.....Republicans also aim to choke off funding for a range of Democratic priorities, from environmental protection to Obama's healthcare reform. Taking those off the table would require deeper cuts elsewhere, they say.

Methinks there's a point where Chindia and ELM will take up the slack in US consumption and that demand destruction in the US will have diminishing effects on oil prices. We'll see.......

Republicans, who control the House of Representatives, aim to boost defense spending and have outlined deep cuts to most domestic programs.

The US is already spending more than $1,000 billion on defense, if one adds in all the spending in other agencies, such as the CIA, the DHS and the DOE. The US already spends an amount about equal to that of the rest of the world combined. What are the Rethugs going to spend the extra cash on? Are they going to go for a full bore anti-missile defense system and go on to achieve Full Spectrum Dominance capability in space? Or, perhaps they see a need to add more troops in order to secure "new" sources of oil, as in Venezuela or Iran. Perhaps worse, do these guys want to take on 1,300 million people in China, boots to boots?

E. Swanson

Methinks there's a point where Chindia and ELM will take up the slack in US consumption and that demand destruction in the US will have diminishing effects on oil prices.

Over time yes, but how much time is there for that scenario to take place before collapse occurs? We are on the cusp of another oil price led, commodity price rise world economic step down. Once that occurs (for the 2nd time in just a few years), the pace of collapse will accelerate because borrowed stimulus trillions will not be available like they were after the first step down in 08/09.

I really don't see much to stop a substantial draw down on the economy in this next step down. Every level of govt. is fiscally straining to kick the can down the road in hopes the so called recovery will once again fill coffers. Every small and medium sized business is counting on this recovery to pay off loans incurred to stay in business. Homeowners just barely making their mortgage payments are holding on for better times to keep their homes. But once this coming 2nd freefall begins, what is there to stop it? That's what I can't see - 'what' could stop it?

If somehow what isn't apparent now, this next major step down can flatten out into another attempted recovery, how much smaller will the US economy be? How many empty homes, shuttered businesses, etc. As the process of disenfranchisement occurs, there is less of a base to pay taxes to hold it all together, it becomes an accelerating downward spiral. We are not far away from a big acceleration.


Gadaffi mounts new offensive to take Brega, but it looks like cracks are starting to appear:

Meanwhile, in the capital Tripoli, angered by fuel shortages and long queues for basic goods caused by sanctions and air strikes, some residents began openly predicting Gaddafi's imminent downfall.


President Obama, in his major energy policy speech last week, asserted: "There are even cars rolling off assembly lines in Detroit with combustion engines that can get more than 50 miles per gallon."

Apparently Obama's 50 mpg gas-engine car is in fact a Chevy Cruze rated 42 mpg on the highway. The White House states that the car "can achieve more than 50 mpg under the right conditions".

Why is Obama confusing people? He should stick with government ratings. Next he will tell us there is 50 gallons of oil in a 42 gallon barrel.


"can achieve more than 50 mpg under the right conditions"*

*Please note under the right conditions may include going down hill, coasting to a stop or freefall.

It still puzzles me every time someone posts a pic from that genre. Is there any reality, or are they all just silly jokes? What could possibly ever be the point of dragging such an enormous mass around when it's not even providing shelter? Just the wheels, tires, and axle probably weigh more than a proper light buggy.

You can still lock the trunk, with the remote, while you go shopping.

The wheels, tires, and axle are heavier but roll easier over that flat, sandy terrain than any light buggy they can easily make.

You should spend some time around here :) Complete back axles are commonly used in carts and there are other interesting improvisations around too.


Sophisticated suspension system and a catalytic converter for the ass gas.

The back end of a compact car is not all that heavy. Two guys can pick up the back end of a VW Rabbit. If there are no steep grades around, half a car can make a very practical donkey cart. Especially compared to whatever else that guy could make out of two dead trees and a pocket knife.

Not to make light of the bad news on high oil prices, but the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston should be a money maker this year. Free shrimp for everybody!


The Experts Predict the Year 2000...and 2100

But bear in mind that in doing this sort of assessment we tend to be cognitively biased: We focus on “hits” while downplaying “misses,” even stretching vague language in order to turn “maybes” into “hits” (which is why Nostradamus continues to successfully predict the news after all these centuries). Hence, judge carefully. And when you’re done, ask yourself how accurate an attempt today to peer much further into the future is likely to be.

I'm sure the desal part grabbed you. I was surprised at the the number of correct inferences, and that the incorrect ones seemed to center on energy. Maybe that just the lens I filter with, but it seems 60's scientists took unlimited energy for granted.

Some better news at last?

Ivory Coast: Laurent Gbagbo 'negotiating surrender'

The UN says three generals loyal to Ivory Coast's besieged President Laurent Gbagbo are negotiating terms for surrender in return for guarantees of safety for him and themselves.

Gold Rises to Record $1,456.40 on Ounce on ‘Chaos' Hedge; Silver Tops $39

Gold futures surged to a record of $1,456.40 an ounce as sovereign-debt concerns boosted demand for the precious metal as an alternative asset. Silver prices topped $39 an ounce.

The cost of insuring Portugal’s debt rose to an all-time high. The conflict in Libya and the nuclear crisis in Japan spurred demand for gold as an investment haven. The metal has jumped 28 percent in the past year, and silver more than doubled.

“There’s still turmoil in the Middle East, uncertainty in Japan and possible sovereign-debt defaults,” said Adam Klopfenstein, a senior strategist at Lind-Waldock, a broker in Chicago. “There’s still demand for gold and silver as a hedge against chaos.” ...

...Japanese stocks fell the most in three weeks after Tokyo Electric Power Co. began dumping radioactive water from its Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear station into the sea.

US stocks somewhat flat for the day.

A peak oil post on Balloon Juice (a political blog):

The Collapse of the American Empire Won’t Be Televised…


The post contains a link to a post on a different political blog, which begins:

NEW VOICE COLUMN UP, about the conservative answer to Earth Hour, called Human Achievement Hour, in which the faithful blazed their lights and fired up their appliances to demonstrate opposition to environmentalism.