Drumbeat: April 8, 2011

Aramco chief cautions against short-term solutions

Despite the changing global and economic landscape, Al-Falih cautioned against short-term solutions for long-term challenges, and urged the energy industry to stay the course for the long haul.

“The day-to-day gyrations of the petroleum markets and the news feed rolling across our TV screens should be viewed in perspective and kept in context. So while it is imperative that we demonstrate short-term agility, it would be a mistake to overreact to events in a manner that throws us off course from our future goals,” he said.

Analysis: Libya's Gaddafi hunkers down for a long siege

ALGIERS — He has survived a revolt, Western air strikes and the defection of some of his closest aides, and now Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi is hunkering down for a long siege.

In the past few days Gaddafi's administration has emerged from a period of paralysis and started drawing up a blueprint for how to run the country -- at least the parts he still controls -- while isolated by the outside world.

It is not clear how long Gaddafi can last, but the fact he seems to be digging in for a prolonged stay will be disheartening to Western governments under pressure from war-weary publics to deliver a swift conclusion in Libya.

"The conflict is going to be long and drawn out," said Geoff Porter of North Africa Risk Consulting.

Witnesses: 17 killed as thousands protest in Syria

Some 17 people were killed in Syria Friday, a hospital source and an activist said, after reports that security forces had opened fire on thousands of protesters.

After anger at the autocratic rule of Bashar al-Assad erupted again after weekly Friday prayers at mosques, troops used live ammunition to disperse the protesters in the southern city of Deraa.

Egyptian protesters demand Mubarak prosecution

CAIRO – Tens of thousands of Egyptians waved flags and shouted slogans Friday in Cairo's central Tahrir Square, demanding that Hosni Mubarak and his family be put on trial over allegations of corruption in one of the biggest protests since the longtime president was ousted two months ago.

A revolution for Pakistan?

Jasmines are about to blossom in Islamabad, but is there any possibility of a Jasmine revolution in Pakistan? Such a revolution began in Tunisia, it arrived in Egypt and then spread to several other Arab countries with mixed success. Can Pakistan be on its itinerary?

The ever present threat of political unrest in the Middle East and North Africa

According to Al-Yabhouni, even with Libya’s output levels plummeting “there is plenty of oil in the market.”

That view was backed up on 3 April by Iran’s oil minister, Masoud Mirkazemi, who said he saw no need for OPEC to hold an extraordinary meeting to address high oil prices.

If there is still plenty of oil in the market, then why is the oil price still surging?

Oil at the tipping point

Rising prices and falling demand can't co-exist for long, which is why some market watchers argue that oil prices are headed for a fall unless new problems emerge -- such as another flareup in the Middle East.

U.S. wholesale inventories rise as sales slump

NEW YORK — U.S. wholesale inventories rose in February, but sales unexpectedly fell to post their largest decline in nearly two years, a government report showed on Friday.

Norway to shift oil fund investments from Europe to emerging economies

OSLO, Norway — Norway says it wants to shift some investments of its $560 billion sovereign wealth fund from Europe to emerging economies in Asia and South America.

Russia Sechin urges agreement between BP and TNK-BP

(Reuters) - Russian Deputy Premier Igor Sechin said on Friday that Rosneft will defend its interests if BP and its partners in TNK-BP fail to agree to a BP-Rosneft share swap.

Sechin, who is also Rosneft's chairman, was speaking to reporters after a court upheld an interim injunction for the BP and Rosneft share swap deal, and gave BP further time to try and extend an April 14 deadline on the deal.

Pemex to Award $5 Billion for 50 Offshore Oil Platforms

Petroleos Mexicanos, Latin America’s largest oil producer, plans to award contracts worth $5 billion in the next two years to build 50 platforms to boost output in the Bay of Campeche in the Gulf of Mexico.

Japan aftershock raises anxiety, knocks out power

ICHINOSEKI, Japan – Shoppers emptied store shelves, traffic snarled with stoplights knocked out and drivers waited in long lines to buy gasoline in a new wave of anxiety Friday after a magnitude-7.1 aftershock struck disaster-weary northeastern Japan.

Nearly a half-million homes were without electricity after the latest tremor, which dealt another setback for those struggling to recover from the earthquake-spawned tsunami that wiped out hundreds of miles of the northeastern coast last month and killed as many as 25,000 people.

Japan government tells businesses and homes to cut power use 25%

Hiroshima (Platts) - The Japanese government on Friday told businesses and domestic users to cut power usage by as much as 25% from July, ignoring industry suggestions of alternative ways of coping with the national energy crisis.

The Japan Automotive Manufacturers Association had called for a "rotational output suspension", with different industries stopping production on different days of the week, while the Japan Aluminum Association proposed a cap on power usage by companies.

Toyota Motor Corp. to restart output but at half capacity

Toyota, the world's biggest automaker, has seen its operations cut by 260,000 since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami led to the deaths of more than 12,700 people, upended industry, damaged infrastructure, and made living and working conditions difficult for millions throughout Japan.

Nolasco explained that many of the biggest challenges for Toyota, like other Japan-based vehicle companies such as Honda and Nissan, have been logistical -- namely, the difficulty in getting needed electronic, rubber and other parts needed to produce the cars.

Can nuclear power be part of the solution?

As the unfolding nuclear disaster in Japan has shown, the costs of cleanup after a nuclear meltdown are borne in large part by national governments and taxpayers rather than the industry. Paying for cleanup is just one of many hidden costs of nuclear energy that make judging the value of nuclear power difficult. Many countries, including the United States, are rushing to build a new generation of nuclear power plants to reduce carbon emissions. However, the disaster in Japan should force us to take into account the full costs of nuclear power (and other energy sources). Here we propose that all forms of energy incorporate their full costs (including climate impacts, the risk of accidents, and the safe disposal of waste) so that their true value to society can be revealed and better decisions made.

U.S. wins when China invests in green

LAGUNA NIGUEL, Calif. (CNNMoney) -- The United States wins when China invests in renewable energy.

That was the message from Matthew Kahn, an economics professor at UCLA, speaking Wednesday at Fortune's Brainstorm Green conference.

Microsoft teams with Toyota to power smart cars

The system that Toyota and Microsoft plan to deploy will be unique in at least one respect: For electric and plug-in hybrid electric cars, the partnership's telematics will provide energy management services, in which plug-in cars "talk" to one another. The cars will also be able to communicate with the electric grid and arrange to charge themselves in the most environmentally friendly and cost-efficient manner.

As plug-in electric cars grow in number, the demands on the electric grid are going to be substantial. If everyone decides to plug in their cars when they get home from work, that could easily overwhelm a city or town's system.

Can the commons move from the margins to the mainstream?

If we are going to raise awareness of the commons and make it a serious element in policy discussions, then we are going to have to talk more aggressively about enclosure – because the privatization of the commons is in fact a profound disenfranchisement of people.

Brazil to focus state loans on ethanol, not sugar

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazil's government plans to prioritize state lending for cane mills that focus on ethanol rather than sugar in a bid to boost supply and stabilize prices for consumers, Energy Minister Edison Lobao said Friday.

The high international cost of sugar has led Brazilian millers to reduce output of the biofuel, aggravating the usual seasonal rise in ethanol price at a time when policy-makers are increasingly concerned about inflation.

Richard Heinberg - Fight of our lives: Moore's Law vs. Murphy's Law

It is a truism in most people’s minds that the most important driver of economic growth is new technology. Important innovations, from the railroad and the telegraph up through the satellite and the cell phone, have generated fortunes while creating markets and jobs. It may seem downright cynical to suggest that we won’t see more of the same, leading to an abundant, technotopian future in which humanity has colonized space and all our needs are taken care of by obedient robots. But once again, there may be limits.

High Gas Prices: Supply and Demand

We don't have to pay high gas prices if we end our extreme reliance on oil. And we can start with our cars. Raising average fuel efficiency of cars to 60 miles per gallon by 2025 would reduce gasoline consumption by 2.8 million barrels per day by 2030.

Oil is a lousy way to power cars. Only two out of every ten gallons of gas in your tank actually moves your car – the rest is wasted or idled away. Sixty-two percent of fuel in your tank is wasted on the inherent inefficiency of the internal combustion engine. Another 17 percent is lost while the engine idles. Electric cars apply 75 percent of the energy stored in their batteries to actually moving the car. And we can produce electricity in the United States from clean and sustainable sources.

Economic Contraction

There are three ways in which North Americans have managed to live at five-planets-worth-of-consumption. I am indebted to Sophy Banks and Naresh Giangrande for an explanation in the Transition Training here in Los Angeles in 2008, which really broadened my understanding.

“Ghost acres” – taking from others. We have raped and pillaged the raw materials of other continents (leaving the people who live on those continents with far less than their fair share). We’ve consumed those goods here and persuaded each other that they were rightfully ours.

“Draw down” -- taking from the future. As we desecrate ancient forests and deplete fisheries, we are consuming today that which should be our children’s inheritance.

“Ancient sunlight” – taking from the past. Fossil fuels – oil, gas, coal – are captured ancient sunlight. In the space of a mere 150 or so years out of the entire history of humanity, we are gobbling up and consuming the entire planetary supply.

Sir Thomas Enough: Utopia and the steady state

Sir Thomas More’s Utopia was written almost 500 years ago, in the early 16th century. The book has since influenced many a philosopher interested in the concept of Utopia, in theory or in practice. It is an attempt to outline the workings of an ideal state – in this case a small island state in the New World. Written originally in Latin, the book was dangerous in that it directly challenged the authority and wisdom of the ruling Crown – a standpoint that later resulted in the author’s execution by King Henry VIII. As I began to read this book, I was startled by the early realization that this book is nothing short of a 500-year-old vision of a steady state economy.

John Michael Greer: Alternatives to absurdity

Back in the halcyon days of the 1970s appropriate-tech movement, a great deal of effort went into designing passive solar architecture, and the results were impressive by any standard. In most areas, given a decent southern exposure, a house designed for passive solar heating, and adequately insulated and weatherized to make best use of it, requires little or no heating other than what the sun provides. The one drawback, and it’s a significant one, is that the house has to be designed and built with passive solar heating in mind. Those of my readers who expect to have the resources to build a house from the ground up, or have one built for them, should certainly look into passive solar designs; the rest of us will be living in existing construction, and the possibilities here are more limited.

The most important limit, of course, is that you can’t do passive solar at all unless a good part of the south or southeast face of your house receives direct sunlight during at least a significant fraction of each winter, spring, and autumn day. Some houses have that option; many others don’t, and if you don’t, you need to do something else. If you do, on the other hand, you have at least three options available, and they can be used alone or together.

In Africa's largest slum, a cooker that turns trash into fuel

The Community Cooker is a device that uses trash as a resource to produce heat for a large stovetop that local residents use for cooking and heating water.

Every day, community members deliver all sorts of trash to the project in exchange for tokens for cooking time. The garbage is then sorted according to material and stored in racks next to the cooker.

A Mad Scientist's 50 Tools for Sustainable Communities

In the middle of rural Missouri there is a physicist-turned-farmer looking to redefine the way we build the world. Marcin Jakubowski is the mastermind behind a group of DIY enthusiasts known as Open Source Ecology and their main project, the Global Village Construction Set. The network of engineers, tinkerers, and farmers is working to fabricate 50 different low-cost industrial machines. A complete set, they say, would be capable of supporting a sustainable manufacturing and farming community of about 200 people almost anywhere across the globe—a "small-scale civilization with modern comforts."

Rush to Use Crops as Fuel Raises Food Prices and Hunger Fears

The starchy cassava root has long been an important ingredient in everything from tapioca pudding and ice cream to paper and animal feed.

But last year, 98 percent of cassava chips exported from Thailand, the world’s largest cassava exporter, went to just one place and almost all for one purpose: to China to make biofuel. Driven by new demand, Thai exports of cassava chips have increased nearly fourfold since 2008, and the price of cassava has roughly doubled.

Each year, an ever larger portion of the world’s crops — cassava and corn, sugar and palm oil — is being diverted for biofuels as developed countries pass laws mandating greater use of nonfossil fuels and as emerging powerhouses like China seek new sources of energy to keep their cars and industries running. Cassava is a relatively new entrant in the biofuel stream.

But with food prices rising sharply in recent months, many experts are calling on countries to scale back their headlong rush into green fuel development, arguing that the combination of ambitious biofuel targets and mediocre harvests of some crucial crops is contributing to high prices, hunger and political instability.

Galloping Food Price Index Shows First Dip in Months

The index, created in 1990, was down 2.9 percent from its peak in February. It was the first dip in the index, which measures the price of a set “basket” of food commodities, in the last eight months. But to keep things in perspective, the index is still 37 percent above where it stood a year ago. And that steep rise in food prices has meant a significant increase in hunger globally.

US program seeks to increase use of E-85 fuel

DES MOINES, Iowa – The federal government wants to increase production and use of a higher blend of ethanol fuel by giving financial help to gas stations that install more pumps for the fuel, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in advance of a formal announcement planned for Friday.

Petrobras asked to boost ethanol output-minister

(Reuters) - Brazil's Energy Ministry Edison Lobao said Friday he has asked state-run oil company Petrobras to get more involved in the production of ethanol.

WTI oil trading over $111, IMF joins the peak oilers party

The new analysis by the IMF (International Monetary Fund) said that market tensions were increasing between growing demand for oil from fast growing emerging market economies, like China, and production constraints due to maturing oil fields.

“There is a risk that the tensions between oil demand and supply trends could intensify again and prices could rise rapidly.” said Thomas Helbling, an advisor to the IMF’s Research Department and author of the report.

IMF warns of threat to global growth as pressure on oil supplies mount

The effect on world growth will ultimately depend on the extent and evolution of oil scarcity, which remain uncertain, according to the IMF.

The fund said that gradual and moderate increases in oil inadequacy would have a small impact on medium-term global economic growth.

Slower Oil Output May Not Be ‘Dramatic’ for Growth, IMF Says

A slowdown in oil production over the next 20 years may not be a “major constraint” on global economic growth provided it is “moderate,” the International Monetary Fund said.

“If, as in the benchmark scenario, the trend growth rate of oil output declined only modestly, world output would eventually suffer but the effect might not be dramatic,” the Washington-based IMF said in parts of its World Economic Outlook report released today.

Rising demand for oil could have detrimental effect on world growth IMF warns

Rising demand for oil could have a detrimental effect on world growth, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned on Thursday.

In a paper released yesterday that will be part of the semi-annual World Economic Outlook to be issued next week, the IMF said that it expected oil supply to become more thinly spread over the coming years because of rapidly rising demand in emerging market economies such as China, and the fact that maturing oil fields will limit some producers' ability to add new production.

Amrita Sen answers your questions – Part one

In my view, the relationship between oil and the global economy has changed significantly. This is because oil demand has moved towards less price-sensitive sectors (transport) and less price-sensitive regions (the non-OECD). Transportation is now the single largest user of oil (accounting for 50 per cent of global oil demand) and the largest source of incremental demand (accounting for more than 90 per cent of consumption growth over the next 20 years). In my view, part of OECD oil demand has been in effect exported to non-OECD countries, together with the economic activities that shifted towards emerging markets.

Oil Rises to 30-Month High Above $111 in New York, $124 in London on Libya

Oil rose above $111 a barrel in New York and surpassed $124 a barrel in London for the first time since 2008 as a fire burned at Libya’s Sarir field, bolstering concern that unrest in the region will further reduce supply.

Any oil price pullback could be temporary

Most experts are predicting a short-term drop in prices, but the long-term threat to global supplies remains unclear.

China's top refineries to raise April runs moderately

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's leading refineries will raise their crude oil throughput in April by 2 percent from the lowest daily volume in a year in March, as a major plant ramps up operations after maintenance and a fuel price hike eases the burden of soaring crude costs.

But industry officials still warned that the price hike was not big enough to boost refining margins.

Fuel price blow softened

An economist on Friday said South African consumers have been sheltered from an even higher petrol price increase because of the relatively strong rand.

Blackout hits most Venezuelan states, Caracas

CARACAS (Reuters) – Blackouts hit most of Venezuela on Thursday, affecting an oil refinery and the Caracas metro in a growing headache for President Hugo Chavez months after electricity rationing dented his popularity.

The 146,000 barrel-per-day El Palito refinery had to be restarted after the failure and the capital's metro transit system ground to a halt at the beginning of the evening rush hour, forcing thousands of commuters onto the streets.

BP official pressed at Gulf oil spill hearing

METAIRIE, La. – A BP official was questioned at length Thursday about the roles and responsibilities of personnel aboard an oil rig that exploded last April in the Gulf of Mexico.

The testimony came during a federal panel's continuing hearings into the explosion and resulting oil spill.

Oil Spills May Leave More Emotional Than Physical Scars, Study Finds

NEW ORLEANS — In a review of past oil spills as well as the available data from last year’s BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico, doctors found that adverse health effects from oil and chemical exposure are less likely than behavioral and mental health issues to pose significant long-term risks for most gulf residents.

Scientists link oil on dolphins to BP spill

BILOXI, Mississippi (Reuters) – Scientists confirmed on Thursday that they have discovered oil on dead dolphins found along the U.S. Gulf Coast, raising fresh concerns about the effects of last year's BP oil spill on sea life.

Small oil drillers say new rules threaten wildcatters' survival

Tightening of regulations for offshore drilling following last year’s BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico has lengthened the permitting process and brought tighter scrutiny to offshore drilling. But the new process is strangling small independent companies such as Pisces, which need to continually pump to survive, analysts and industry leaders say.

More than just squeezing profits, the increased federal scrutiny threatens the culture of wildcatters — independent oil companies that seek crude and natural gas in areas where typically no one else is looking.

Conoco CEO Mulva says oil tax break would spark investment in Alaska

The head of Conoco Phillips responded to critics of the governor's oil tax break Thursday, pledging to increase investments by up to $5 billion in existing North Slope fields if the new tax rules take effect.

Pa. seeks more water tests for drilling pollution

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Pennsylvania is expanding the scope of water tests to screen for radioactive pollutants and other contaminants from its booming natural gas drilling industry, but state officials insisted they aren't doing it because federal regulators prodded them.

NATO: No apology for hitting rebels in tanks

BRUSSELS – NATO acknowledged Friday that its airstrikes had hit rebels using tanks to fight government forces in eastern Libya, but said it would not apologize for the deaths because no one told them the rebels had tanks.

British Rear Adm. Russell Harding, the deputy commander of the NATO operation, said in the past, only forces loyal to Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi had used heavy armored vehicles.

Explosions hit 3 gas pipelines in Iran, halt flow

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iran's semiofficial Mehr News Agency says three explosions have hit gas pipelines near the country's holy city of Qom, in the same area where simultaneous blasts took place two months ago.

The lines carry gas from Iran's gas refineries in the south to the country's northwest.

Iraqi forces storm settlement of Iranian exiles

CAMP ASHRAF, Iraq – Iraqi forces early Friday stormed an Iranian exile camp that Iraq's Shiite-dominated government has tried to close for years, and both sides reported casualties in the raid.

Ivory Coast leader: We'll starve out Gbagbo

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast – Ivory Coast's democratically elected leader said his forces will starve out the entrenched strongman who remains holed up underground at the presidential residence and that he'll focus on normalizing life in this corpse-strewn, terrorized city.

Shell ‘set for Gazprom asset talks’

Energy giants Shell and Gazprom could be on the verge of striking asset swap deals with discussions set for next week, a report claims.

Turkey gives offshore prospecting permit to Gazprom for South Stream project

Turkey has permitted Russia's gas giant Gazprom to carry out offshore prospecting under the South Stream pipeline project, designed to carry gas to Europe under the Black Sea, Pavel Oderov, head of Gazprom's external economic activities department, said on Friday.

Decision on South Stream route this summer

MOSCOW (UPI) -- Gazprom, Russia's state-controlled energy giant, said it would choose the route for its South Stream natural gas pipeline by the middle of 2011.

"This summer we will choose one of three possible routes for the South Stream pipeline," Pavel Oderov, head of Gazprom's international business department, was quoted as saying Friday by the Dow Jones news wire.

The Gas Age

The report includes some pretty remarkable numbers from countries that currently have limited domestic gas options, including China and quite a few western European nations that have been held somewhat hostage by Russia. Its publication comes in sync with a disturbing article in The Times noting how much crop production, including tropical staples such as cassava, is being diverted to making biofuels.

Edward Burtynsky's Oil Exhibition Shines

Oil, the new exhibition opening Saturday April 9 at the Royal Ontario Museum, brings together over 50 pieces by celebrated local photographer Edward Burtynsky, and examines our love-hate relationship with the sticky substance. Burtynsky's taken photographs of oil as it is found around the world—reinforcing its global impact—ranging from Canada’s tar sands to NASCAR rallies in the United States, from giant parking lots of Volkswagen cars in China to oil fields in Azerbaijan and tanker graveyards in Bangladesh.

Aftershock could weaken damaged nuclear facility

A large aftershock that rattled Japan late Thursday knocked out electricity to the northern part of the country and raised concerns about further damage at the crippled nuclear power plant in Fukushima.

European Ports Tighten Radiation Checks as Japan Ships Approach

European ports including Rotterdam and Antwerp are tightening safety checks as they prepare to unload the first ships from Japan since last month’s earthquake led to radioactive discharges from a damaged nuclear plant.

Hokkaido Elec to delay commercial ops at No.3 reactor

(Reuters) - Japan's Hokkaido Electric Power Co said on Friday it would delay the restart of commercial operation at the 912-MW No.3 reactor at its sole Tomari nuclear plant from the original plan for early April, after troubles at Tokyo Electric Power Co's quake-hit Fukushima Daiichi plant.

Russian Gas Beckons for Germany as Merkel Turns From Nuclear

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s shift away from nuclear power is set to make Germany more reliant on Russian gas and Merkel more dependent on her predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder.

Curbing nuclear power worldwide: Bad news for climate change or window of opportunity?

BANGKOK - Worldwide calls to curb nuclear power amid Japan's plant crisis could be bad news for the fight against global warming — unless nations finally go all-out to tap wind, solar and other clean, renewable energy, climate change negotiators and activists say.

If countries scrap nuclear plants, which emit no greenhouse gases blamed for global warming, they may turn to the fossil fuels that experts call the main culprit behind climate change. Environmental activists say the tragedy could provide an opportunity to strike a decisive blow against both.

Is Nuclear Power Simply Too ‘Brittle’?

Still, it’s worth exploring more fundamental questions about such complicated, consequential systems in an interconnected world where a valued trait, going forward, appears to be resilience. It may be fine to argue, as George Monbiot and others have done with reams of data, that nuclear reactors, even after Fukushima, are vastly safer than coal in terms of lives lost. But is nuclear power simply too brittle?

Australia urged to develop 'fuel of the future'

One of Australia's richest men claims the technology exists to dramatically reduce the country's vulnerability to international oil price shocks and even become an exporter of transport fuel.

Mining magnate Peter Bond says Australia could be self-sufficient in diesel and jet fuel if state and federal governments permit the commercialisation of underground coal gasification (UCG).

Energy reason will prevail

Peak oil theorists and other Malthusian moralists are -as ever -being made to look ridiculous. Private-sector ingenuity has most recently upset the depletionists in orchestrating a shale gas revolution, which promises hundreds of years of additional supply. The IEA's chief economist, Fatih Birol, admitted earlier this year that shale gas would further undermine wind and solar. Meanwhile, other recent studies have suggested that improving technology may soon unlock the vast resource of shale oil.

Economist Jeff Rubin discusses Peak Oil

Jeff Rubin spent 20 years as chief economist for CIBC World Markets. After resigning in 2009, he went on to become the best-selling author of Why Your World Is About To Get a Whole Lot Smaller, a book about the rising price of oil. Spacing sat down with Jeff to discuss the implications of “peak oil” for cities.

Drive for higher mpg gives automakers case of the shutters

Just as mini-blinds help keep out the sun, automakers are starting to use their own version of shutters to keep out the wind — making cars more fuel efficient.

These are no ordinary window treatments. Rather, they are high-tech mechanisms that are sandwiched between the car's grille and radiator and are controlled by the car's engine computer. The computer uses several factors to decide whether the shutter slats should be open, closed or somewhere in between.

States, Amtrak vie for Florida's forfeited rail funds

WASHINGTON – Twenty-four states, the District of Columbia and Amtrak are vying for $2.4 billion in federal aid that became available when Florida's governor canceled a high-speed rail project in his state, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Wednesday.

Bike lane on the Hoan Bridge? Gov. Walker still says 'no'

With the authority to appoint the secretary of the Department of Transportation, the governor has the final word on major highway projects in the state.

And when it comes to a bike lane on the Hoan, Walker's word has been 'no.'

Most major U.S. cities show population declines

A key factor: blacks leaving for the suburbs and more immigrants settling directly there instead of cities when they arrive in the USA.

Immigration, which soared in the 1990s, also appears to have slowed in the past decade partly because of the recession — another factor driving the urban slowdown.

San Luis Obispo: The happiest place in the USA

Broad sidewalks, outdoor cafes, plazas and green spaces are hallmarks of happy towns, Buettner adds. So are opportunities to be active and eat fresh, healthy food. SLO has an extensive network of bike lanes and hiking trails. Its Thursday night farmers' market (featuring a free bike valet) is legendary. Several blocks of the fig- and eucalyptus-lined downtown streets are closed off for the event. Vendors bearing handmade cheeses, fresh-picked fennel, chard, pistachios and more set up shop. Fire jugglers and musicians entertain the crowd.

Goat meat, the final frontier

More good news: Goats represent sustainability, without the curse of factory production. They are browsers, not grazers.

“The meat’s better for you, and the animals are easier on the land,” Adams says. “I can put at most two steers on an acre, but at least 10 goats. Maybe more.”

China seeks alternatives to 9 million burials a year

Most Chinese worry more about rising prices for burial plots that have made some cemeteries more expensive per square yard than the fanciest city apartments. The soaring costs have coined a new term — "grave slave" — for a generation that must work hard simply to afford the burials of themselves and their parents and keep up cemetery payments.

Li Xinjing, spokesman for the Beijing civil affairs bureau, says to save the environment and money the Chinese should choose a "green burial," such as scattering ashes at sea or burying ashes under trees.

Water woes in southern Nebraska loom again

OMAHA, Neb. – A U.S. Supreme Court decision that breathed new life into a decades-long water-rights dispute on the Great Plains has renewed concerns among southern Nebraska farmers about what could happen to their livelihoods.

The dispute centers on the Republican River, from which Kansas contends Nebraska took more than its share of water in 2005 and 2006. In addition to some $72 million in damages, Kansas is seeking to force Nebraska to stop irrigating about 500,000 acres in the Republican River basin — about half of the basin's 1.2 million irrigated acres and nearly 9 percent of the basin's total 5.8 million acres.

Clean Energy Is a Target of Ryan Budget Plan

A long-term Republican budget plan released this week by Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin calls for drastic cuts in federal spending on energy research and development and for the outright elimination of subsidies and tax breaks for wind, solar power and other alternative energy technologies.

Google in German solar investment

BERLIN (AFP) – Google on Thursday announced a multi-million-euro investment in a solar power plant outside Berlin in what the US Internet giant said was its first clean energy project investment in Europe.

Google said it would plough 3.5 million euros ($5.0 million) into one of Germany's biggest solar plants, located in Brandenburg, the state surrounding Berlin.

EPA concerns key to budget battle

Republicans came out in droves this week — aided by three dozen Democrats — to oppose the administration’s environmental regulations, and EPA’s climate change rules are at the center of a heated budget battle that’s threatening to shut down the federal government.

Rich, poor nations feud at UN climate talks

BANGKOK (AFP) – The first UN climate talks for the year entered their final phase on Friday with negotiators still trying to hammer out a deal after familiar feuds between rich and poor nations flared.

Japan, Russia Won't Take on New Kyoto Targets, UN's Climate Chief Says

Japan and Russia reject new targets under the Kyoto Protocol climate treaty, whose current goals expire in 2012, the top United Nations climate diplomat said.

Canada hasn't done enough to stop 'dangerous' climate change: Study

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his international colleagues have not gone far enough to avoid "dangerous" climate change, according to an Environment Canada report that could cause problems for the Conservatives on the campaign trail.

The study, published this week in a leading science journal, suggests that global greenhouse gas emissions "must ramp down to zero immediately" to avoid a 2 C rise in the planetary temperature this century. Allowing temperatures to climb more than 2 C could wipe out thousands of species, melt Arctic ice and trigger a rise in sea level of several metres.

Shell's outgoing UK boss has seen oil firm's role shift in a changing climate

Appointed chairman of Shell UK in 2004, Smith immediately recognised his tenure would be defined by his response to climate change. The European Union's emissions trading scheme – the first time that the oil and gas industry had to pay for its carbon emissions – came into force on 1 January 2005.

While oil industry chiefs in the US dismissed global warming as a fad, and tried to rubbish the science behind it, Smith was following in the rather greener footsteps of BP's Lord Browne.

Global Warming’s Consumption Paradox

Too little consumption is the biggest challenge climate-change policy will face in the future, eclipsing the signifiance of over-consumption.

Ireland 'among last lifeboats in climate change crisis'

Professor Brendan Gleeson, of the National University of Ireland (NUI) at Maynooth, was speaking in the first of a series of lectures on the dangers of climate change, entitled "An Urban World at Risk".

He told the audience that if global temperatures rise by three or four degrees, as he predicts they will, Ireland could become one of only a few habitable 'lifeboat' regions.

Research: Climate Change Will Cripple Undeveloped Countries

The National Center for Atmospheric Research says climate change will hit fast-growing cities in the developing world hardest.

According to the research, many fast growing cities are not adequately reducing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. And it is these cities, many of them in coastal areas, which will remain vulnerable to storm surges and prolonged hot weather.

New warning on Arctic sea ice melt

Scientists who predicted a few years ago that Arctic summers could be ice-free by 2013 now say summer sea ice will probably be gone in this decade.

New York set to be big loser as sea levels rise

New York is a major loser and Reykjavik a winner from new forecasts of sea level rise in different regions.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said in 2007 that sea levels would rise at least 28cm (1ft) by the year 2100.

But this is a global average; and now a Dutch team has made what appears to be the first attempt to model all the factors leading to regional variations.

Two really good videos from Larry Kudlow's show on CNBC:

Oil Zoom & Economic Doom?

John Kilduff: I participated in the poll. and i submitted a $175 potential price for the third quarter.

Kudlow: Whoa.

Kilduff: And i ended up being the high man. i've never heard you say $175 before. brent crude, fine. that means at least $150 for our west texas. that's a killer for the economy, john. it certainly is. where that number came from is as we're seeing as we bolted through $110 today, the all-time high for wti, $147. all-time high for brent, $145.

The all time high for Brent was $145. I did not know that.

2012 White House Race Underway (Donald Trump rants about OPEC)

Kudlow: What would you have opec do? how can you force saudi arabia, which by the way is now flirting with communist china -- what would you have them do?

Trump: They're flirting with anybody that they'll flirt with. we have tremendous power over these people. we've protected them. they wouldn't be there if it wasn't for us. you look at what happened with iraq where iran is already making moves to take over iraq as soon as we leave and take over those oil fields. you look at the way this country is run…

…and by the way, if your folks are right that were just on your show about oil going up to $150 or $175, we are going to have a double dip like nobody's ever seen because this country can't afford $100. it's the lifeblood of the country. it can't afford $100 oil. really can't afford $70 oil. i have a very, very smart friend who's a brilliant guy when it comes to the oil. he said, anything over $40 a barrel, we are really in trouble as a country. here we are at $110.

Anything over $40 a barrel will wreck the economy. So we must elect Trump so he can make OPEC produce more oil and get oil back down below $40 a barrel.

Note: CNBC videos now have new software that converts all audio into printed text. It does not capitalize anything nor does it tell you who is talking. But you can copy and paste the actual text and if you wish then figure out who said what.

Ron P.

Anything over $40 a barrel will wreck the economy.

The corollary of this is that the only way we'll ever see $40 barrel oil again is if the economy collapses.

Maybe not. I see that the price is dropping this morning, because "Bangladesh raises furnace oil price to cut subsidy". More for us! :)

Someone should show Trump that chart that shows over half the oil costs over $40 to produce, then ask him what the economy looks like with only half the oil.

The real worry if Trump ever got into power is that if/when he "fires" a country, like KSA, it could be be taken literally.

Trump is a joke. Don't worry about him getting elected. Palin, Bachmann or Trump, the democrats are just hoping one of these clowns get the nomination. Or how about a Trump - Bachmann ticket? That would be the dream ticket... for the democrats.

Ron P.

Agreed. Trump's opinion of himself is far higher than that of the voters. What amazes me is that he seems to be taking himself seriously - though I'm sure he's got some angle to make money out of this publicity.

Trump-Bachmann would be funny, but i can;t see the R party insiders ever letting that happen - but then, they did let Palin happen...

Trump-Bachmann would be funny, but i can;t see the R party insiders ever letting that happen - but then, they did let Palin happen...

My uncle is convinced--based on what I am not sure--that the Republican 2012 ticket will be Beck/Palin. I still pee a little bit every time he mentions it. Next time it happens I think I will counter with, "You're nuts! It's going to be Pancake/Toenail for sure."

If Trump becomes president, what part of the economy will he put in bankruptcy and what part will he blow more money on?

His casinos in Atlantic City have been in bankruptcy at least twice. I thought that the house always wins?

The reason that Trump is doing so relatively well is that delusional GOPs think he's rich enough to self-finance a presidential run.
Con-man that he is, the Donald is playing the chump Teapotty hoping to raise money off them.
He'll drop them when either he starts racking in dough or when
he starts to fizzle.

Can you imagine testy Trump on the stump?
Yer foyered!

A comedian I heard the other day called the current group of GOP hopefuls "the Obama 2012 Re-election Committee"

Most of the Republican congress is a joke but they got elected. George Bush was a joke but he got elected. I even thought Reagan was a joke and he got elected. Lately, the big jokes are getting elected left and right and I don't see this changing. I don't discount anyone when it comes to the insane voting patterns of the American people.

What a joke. A budget plan to eliminate help for renewables. Ha Ha Ha.

What a joke.

I used to say "goodie goodie goodie, now they'll final see how insane this group is, and then it will be the end of um". But, it seems the crazier the better.

they'll final see how insane this group is

I used to feel the same way.

Now, in hindsight, I see how insane I was to believe that the human race is filled with sane people.

Trump: ...I have a very, very smart friend who's a brilliant guy when it comes to the oil. He said, anything over $40 a barrel, we are really in trouble as a country. Here we are at $110.

How many years ago was it that Trump talked to his brilliant very, very smart friend to get this information? 5+ years ago? Based on where we are at today, a sustained $40 (or less) price per barrel is almost unfathomable.

I was worried we were going to pull all our troops out of MENA. Thank God for Trump. He is a genius.

You can put Papa Smurf in the Whitehouse, nothing is changing the fact that we are burning oil faster then we can find it and have been for a long time.

Gasoline prices are starting to have an effect on friends and family locally. Lot of complaining and changing of summer plans, trips, etc. Cars with good MPG are going to be worth a mint especially if Japan shuts down a lot of production, which looks likely.

Maybe we should use a computer program in the Whitehouse that runs off of a Wall Street algorithm? I hear ya DLL. I know it. I was being a horse's (_).(_).


$145 for Brent eh? Well we've just passed the $127 barrier - game on!

I just looked at the crude oil prices on Upstreamonline.com, which list current prices for eleven different benchmark crude oil prices, and every one of them is higher than it was three years ago at this time, including WTI. And two of them are already around $22 per barrel higher than three years ago at this time. It looks like it won’t be much longer before we start hearing the squeal of dry bearings as the world economy starts seizing up. Wonder where the squeals will be loudest, and which ones will start first. It couldn't be "the world's richest and most powerful country" could it?

Sayyyy, the US government uses lots of oil, driving up the price. Wouldn't it be a brilliant idea to shut down the government... oh, wait...

Note: CNBC videos now have new software that converts all audio into printed text. It does not capitalize anything nor does it tell you who is talking. But you can copy and paste the actual text and if you wish then figure out who said what.

Yes. :) And even, if you click somewhere on the transcription text, the video starts playing exactly where that text is being said. Very convenient. :)

The idea of oil needing to get back down to 40 a barrel shows Trump is out of touch. Unconventional oil such as tar sands, Orinoco heavy oil, or even deep water like the sub-salt in Brazil will require a lot more than 40 a barrel. Like Pickens said, the cheap stuff is gone.

With increasing demand, apparently no more spare capacity from OPEC, depleting reserves, we are at least tied to 90 a barrel or more. Figure out how to run an economy on that.

On another note, with Trump's current popularity with the rightwing, we can start to see where peak oil is going and that's in the direction of war. They will get angrier and more demanding until some doinkathon like Trump gives them the war they want. It will probably start with an invasion of Iran.


The all time intraday high for Brent is $147.50, on July 11 2008.

The all time closing high is $146.08, on July 3 2008.

The Donald rites a letter too the editer:

Even before Gail Collins was with the New York Times, she has written nasty and derogatory articles about me. Actually, I have great respect for Ms. Collins in that she has survived so long with so little talent. Her storytelling ability and word usage (coming from me, who has written many bestsellers), is not at a very high level...


Gail Collins responds:

Although Trump and I have had our differences in the past, I never felt it was personal. In fact, until now, I have refrained from noting that I once got an aggrieved message from him in which he misspelled the word “too”...


François Fillon (French Prime-Minister) declared on the 5th of April at the French National Assembly “We have, in 2009, reached the peak in oil production. Production can now only decrease.”

http://petrole.blog.lemonde.fr/2011/04/08/fillon-la-production-de-petrol... (article in French)

This is a surprising and interesting declaration...

Probably explains France's sudden interest in Libya and all out push to help the rebels.

On the topic of when the peak comes, there was a very interesting seminar with Kjell Aleklett(the co-founder of ASPO and arguably the world's most(or one of the most) renowned Peak Oil experts in academia) a few days ago in Stockholm.

The video is all Swedish but I can translate if there is interest.

I'll give the brief points though:

He talked in great detail about renewables but also about climate change, and he compared the ASPO 2002 oil forecast which predicted a peak in 2010 and compared it with today, and it fares very well(he looked at crude oil since that's 85 % of our liquids productions and an even higher percentage if you look at energy efficiency)

He also looked at an in-depth mathematical study that they did at the Uppsala University(basically one of the best Swedish universities) in 2005 or 2006 and compared it with actual production data all the way through 2010 and he saw that it was essentially closest to the 'worst case' scenario, even two years after the crash. They had 'worst case, standard case, lower best case and best case'.

An interesting thing was about the phrase Peak Oil itself which he talked about just a few short seconds but the story went something like this:

It was actually called 'The Oil Peak'(which is proper English) up until the founding of ASPO but when Colin Campbell talked to Kjell when they decided to found the first major organisation on these issues, the name chosen would logically be 'ASOP' for the organisation. Kjell thought it did sound a bit lame so he suggested they would switch the two words with each other; The Oil Peak would become the Peak Oil, and therefore giving the organisation the name of ASPO instead of ASOP.

And thus, ASPO was born, as well as a phrase.

Overall, it was an interesting presentation and there was also a Q & A.

So maybe they should have called it TOPP?

(The Oil Production Peak)

Interesting insight. Thanks

I used the phrase The Overshoot Point (TOP) to describe the plateau and possible steeper decline in The Oil ConunDrum.

I have also preferred to use the term Oil Depletion as a more general description as it accepts various peak profiles. Of course Oil Depletion has a very apt acronym OD.

Interesting anecdote about ASOP, I mean ASPO.

I am sure that more than a few of us would be interested in any English translation, not necessarily now but when ever there is one available.


Although the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has not yet been stabilized, there is no evidence that overheating during the last month has resulted in any melting of the reactor vessels or their containment structures, Obama administration officials said Thursday.

If that assessment is correct, then significant additional releases of radioactivity into the environment will be limited, and emergency crews should have a far better chance of preventing further damage to the plant's reactors.

The assessment, provided to The Times on background, suggests that the plant is unlikely to suffer a complete meltdown, in which uranium fuel gets so hot that it melts through the bottom of the reactor and containment vessels, spewing high-level radiation into the plant's underlying foundation.

"We are a long way from a point where anybody would say this is stable," a senior administration official said. "But it is not a runaway. For a long time, we will be at a declining level of risk."

Excellent news! (if true)

Re: EPA concerns key to budget battle

In case folks don't understand the problem, the fight between the Democrats and the Tea Party Repugs is about global warming. The Repugs want to ignore the scientific evidence and are willing to "kill the messenger" by removing funding to both control emissions and to do further study as well. Yesterday, the House passed H.R. 910, voting 255-172...

E. Swanson

A 'contact' of mine, fence sitting Tea Partier, sent me an email last night about how the Dems are overblowing this issue to make the repugs look 'evil'. Clearly he hadn't actually read the bill. I sent him this abstract, from the bill:

To amend the Clean Air Act to prohibit the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency from promulgating any regulation concerning, taking action relating to, or taking into consideration the emission of a greenhouse gas to address climate change, and for other purposes.

Seems pretty clear to me. I haven't heard back..

Oh, and there's this:

(4) Congress should fulfill that role by developing policies that do not adversely affect the American economy, energy supplies, and employment.

Jeez...How? Pray a bit harder?

I think it's really hilarious that the Repugs have included water vapor as one of the greenhouse gasses which the EPA is prohibited from regulating. These guys are such idiots. NOBODY in the scientific community has proposed limiting emissions of water vapor for control of global warming. That's because there's no way to control the amount of water vapor, since the amount is a function of the temperature, not mankind's emissions...

E. Swanson

I haven't looked hard at this, but it strikes me that lumping water vapor in with the problem children makes them all benign. Re-educate the public to make no distinction between water, carbon dioxide and methane! Next we can claim that water is at least as dangerous as DDT wrt the biosphere...

Now that's an achievable instructional goal.

at least as dangerous as DDT wrt the biosphere...

That body of work has already been done. You can read about the perils of deadly Dihydrogen Monoxide here:

It contaminates every living thing!

DHMO - That's the stuff that got Heiro of Syracuse, iirc.

Very dangerous, as we've seen in Japan. Almost as bad as CPOO.

Not meaning to peg your frustrato-meter; from Leanan's across-the-pond link, above: Energy reason will prevail

Even more fortunately, as rhetoric falters and reality intrudes, the whole issue is now collapsing. Apocalypse is an increasingly tough sell as the "science" is exposed (see article by David Evans at right). Climate policy is revealed as not merely ineffective but a Trojan Horse for other costly and destructive agendas. Most fortunately -and ironically -of all, the world faces a fossil fuel bonanza that will improve lives without causing environmental Armageddon.

Time to go transplant my cucumbers.

Gardening truly does appear to instill a zen like return to peacefulness.

I notice an increasing number of posters at TOD ending their comment with something like what you did Ghung: "time to transplant cucumbers" "going to stake up the tomatoes" "planting my rows of potatoes" etc.

Spending some quality time amongst nature's critters - both vegetable and animal does appear to avert a full on head explosion until reading the next Drumbeat...

Based on the news and links lately there is going to be a very well worn path between the house and garden this year...

I still have my Mother's fave poster, saying;

"When the world wearies and ceases to satisfy, there is always the garden."

Of course there's only that narrow window when the garden is full of optimism and renewal... then the "other" critters discover it too and it becomes another source of frustration where you are continually outsmarted by everything from bacteria to bugs to bears :)

"...where you are continually outsmarted by everything from bacteria to bugs to bears :) "

At least their intentions are pure, their needs fundamental, and they generally don't outsmart themselves ;-)

It's an ancient theme..
Candide: or, Optimism

let our gardens grow!

The garden is coming together, most stuff is planted now. I watched the 2 Kites that live around here circling overhead. Amazing creatures. Tickled the neighbours cat around the ears while hanging the washing. Bottled the wine.

Sampling it right now. Not bad for a quid a bottle knockup.

Life is good.

I'll be going out for a couple hours this afternoon to get started on next year's firewood for my woodworking shop. I want to get at least a cord tucked away in my solar woodshed before the bugs come out in mid May.

I've spent most of the spare hours in my day this week watching eagle chicks hatch...it has been raining nonstop here.


So since greenhouses gases include CFCs, and indeed CFCs are included in the wording of the bill, would this remove the ability to regulate the release of CFCs or is that still regulated elsewhere?

The wording used above of "and for other purposes" looks really wide open for any interpretation, so I'm just trying to figure out if the bill is really that stupid? I had a quick look through but couldn't work it out personally.

I.E. can you still regulate CFCs for damaging the ozone, you just can't regulate them for climate reasons, or would this remove all restrictions?

The list of chemicals is:

(a) Definition- In this section, the term `greenhouse gas' means any of the following:
(1) Water vapor.
(2) Carbon dioxide.
(3) Methane.
(4) Nitrous oxide.
(5) Sulfur hexafluoride.
(6) Hydrofluorocarbons.
(7) Perfluorocarbons.
(8) Any other substance subject to, or proposed to be subject to, regulation, action, or consideration under this Act to address climate change.

Strictly speaking, CFC's are not on the list, unless they would be restricted as greenhouse gases. My guess is that the opposite is not true in that emissions of some of these gases may be regulated for other reason besides their GHG potential...

E. Swanson

Thanks. As CFCs are a greenhouse gas, I saw 6&7 above and read it as CFC also.

Obviously this is still a terrible piece of legislation, aimed at dumping costs on everyone except the people turning a profit, but I just wanted to double check this doesn't remove all restrictions on CFCs.

Also as I understand it a couple of the Republican riders to the budget that Democratic leaders have a real problem with are propositions to:

1. Cut funding for continuing the clean up of Chesepeake Bay.

2. Relax standards on mercury and arsenic concentrations - because according to Republicans these are "impedements to economic growth and job creation"

Same old talk out of these goons who it is painfully obvious could give a rats a$$ about "job creation"... real translation - "if we aren't allowed to poison the rabble how can we be expected to keep turning record profits ?"

Oh and let's not forget about Wisconsin - where a clerk "found" thousands of votes for the incumbent on a "personal computer"...

Sanity and democracy being flushed simultaneously... but who's surprised ?

That may be the situation. I don't have enough interest to track down the actual bill and all the riders...

E. Swanson

I can understand not having the interest.

I can't stomach the political theater anymore - just filled with lies, half-truths, and flat out cheating... and no interest anymore in even attempting to cover it up - basically it's right out there in the open for anyone to see.

I didn't actually read the riders - heard it on the radio news this morning - those were the big sticking points that were mentioned (and the proposal to gut Planned Parenthood).

Just once I'd love to see the gutless Democratic party utilize the same hyperbole the thugs from the other side employ on a daily basis. "They are going to shut down the government because they aren't getting their way in attempting to poison the population with arsenic and mercury!" There's a sound bite for you Boehner...

Just once would be nice.

Peak oil theorists and other Malthusian moralists are -as ever -being made to look ridiculous.

Is the National Post insulting both the IMF and the French prime minister?

And how does shale gas production disprove the peaking of oil production, exactly?

Questions, questions..      Edit: Oops, meant this comment to be a seperate thread

Apparently there is lots of shale gas and no such thing as global warming. Who knew. Better tell all world leaders, and the american military.

Though i've got to say i have difficulty feeling ridiculous when oil is currently rising pretty much in line with our predictions.

That being said, i'm sure the hot air produced by the article could power China for a couple of decades. Perhaps that's what they meant.

Thailand’s Rice Bowl May Get Smaller as Farmers Curb Plantings"

Thailand, like the Saudi Arabians in oil, became the key producer, the country that could always moderate global prices with its abundant reserves...

The government may be ready to abandon Thailand’s position as the world’s top rice exporter, a serious decision considering the mounting anxiety over the stability of global food supply...

“We’re suffering from a rice-price slump, crop damage, and lower-than-expected production,” she says, standing on the edge of a rain-soaked paddy. “Production costs are higher than income. We can’t afford to continue planting.”

Anyone to pick up the slack?

I personally think that Vietnam doesn’t need to become No. 1 in rice exports,” says Nguyen Van Bo, president of the Vietnamese Academy of Agricultural Science. “To export a lot, Vietnam will have to exploit a lot of land, use a lot of fertilizers. That could cause degradation of natural resources.

The mind set behind ELM is beginning to sink in with all resources all around the world.

It's gunna get interesting.

Thailand is responding to real production problems, and is responding by not taking a costly herbicide route. Planthoppers are running amuck, and they have decided the best solution is cutting 3 plantings/yr down to 2. That was continuous year round cultivation. The fallowing of the patties will starve the hoppers, but projects to decrease yields 20%.

With all the financial incentives to corn, we'll probably start seeing more rotational problems here.

But last year, 98 percent of cassava chips exported from Thailand, the world’s largest cassava exporter, went to just one place and almost all for one purpose: to China to make biofuel. Driven by new demand, Thai exports of cassava chips have increased nearly fourfold since 2008, and the price of cassava has roughly doubled.

If we are heading, whether voluntarily or not, towards using sunlight as the primary source of energy for fuel production, then it seems inevitable that fuel production will increasingly be in direct competition with food production, especially if both rely on biological sources. One could argue that this is "good" in the sense that it restores a more direct negative feedback between population growth and the energy use, which have become decoupled while we use up the reserve of fossil fuels.

It always struck me as remarkable that parts of the world that contain a miniscule fraction of the human population were able to supply the rest of world with all the energy they desire. It was a nice party while it lasted.

It would be better to use solar panels than biofuels. Plants are only 1% efficient -- at least solar panels are in the tens of percents.

Crazy world we are in. I do not get it.

It's amazing the bad decisions that are made when all externalities are not included in a cost benefit analysis.

Oct, presumably you are talking in terms of % sunlight to energy, but that is far from the only criterion to consider in plants v panels. Biomass fuel can be harvested from a large area (if you have a large area), and it can be stored, transported and used when and where required.

In the tropics the eqn may favour panels but in temperate regions that is not necessarily true. I am heating my house with stored sunlight in the form of wood, I just can't do that with sunlight in a cloudy BC winter. I could do a viable biomass to electricity business here (I am looking at that) but to do a solar to electricity one here would not even be close.

The good thing about renewables is that there are several flavours of them, and they have different properties and advantages/disadvantages, so there is a place, somewhere, for all of them, and they do tend to make up for each others shortcomings (except for not being in liquid form).

In the US today, wood, and biomass waste account for 2.5% of all primary energy consumption. Doesn't sound like much, but this is 30x the contribution of solar and 3x that of wind (source : http://www.eia.doe.gov/energy_in_brief/renewable_energy.cfm)

And wood/biomass has been doing this, reliably, and without massive subsidy, for decades, so i think it has earned its right to exist.

As we all know, it cannot scale to supply all our energy needs, and it certainly can be mismanaged - but it that does not mean biomass cannot be useful.

It does not have to be either/or - just sayin'

I agree Paul. Biofuels to ICE power is only feeding an existing liquids infrastructure. But how much energy is gained from the sun after do all the biochemical manipulations?

Power storage is not great for solar, except in an EV car battery, which would be a great solution to the storage problem. It is not long term storage but good enough for overnight storage.

But consider that land can be Brown field or too arid, such that you cannot grow anything you can eat on that land. Solar PV/thermal would be able to provide energy on otherwise worthless property.

Parking lots, garages, other industrial/commercial sites do not grow food. So plenty of land can be used for PV solar.

Of course, we are not going to entertain dollars and cents and costs here. Solar and biofuels are not cost effective ultimately.

I really am not worried about wood or cellulosic waste. I am worried about con, sugar and food getting thrown down the liquids rat hole without some thought going into solar where applicable.

EDIT: Con = corn ;-)

Biofuels to ICE power is only feeding an existing liquids infrastructure

I am actually thinking in terms of biomass to ICE to electricity - as that is the output of a PV panel. Going biomass to liquids (other than corn-ethanol) simply has not been done at any practical level yet, and the energy losses are very high.

But staying with electricity, the conversion sun energy to biomass is indeed very low. If you grow 10t/ha/yr of dry matter, you have about 200GJ, or about 55,000kWh of primary energy. Go to electricity via ICE and you could get about 25% of that, for 13750kWh, or about 1.6kW continuous per ha

One ha of solar panels would produce about 1,500,000 kWh (100W/sq.m, 15% capacity factor). , or about 100x the output for the same area, or the same energy from 1/100 of the area (100 sq.m). The continuous output would be 171kW per ha.

A more useful way is the area needed per kW, which is 6000 sq.m for biomass and 60 sq.m for solar.

In this context, the land requirement for PV is almost negligible, and the fact that we can put it on top of other things is a great advantage.

I really am not worried about wood or cellulosic waste. I am worried about con, sugar and food getting thrown down the liquids rat hole without some thought going into solar where applicable.
Quite so. The US will do anything to feed its beast of car/liquid fuel dependency, as will most other advanced countries, though to a lesser extent.

Of course, we are not going to entertain dollars and cents and costs here. Solar and biofuels are not cost effective ultimately.
Actually, I disagree here - ultimately, solar, biofuels and other renewables are the only cost effective energies, as they will be all that is left. It is just that today, we have cheaper alternatives.

The costs between the renewables are hugely different, but they have their different properties. You can buy an acre of wooded land for less than the cost of PV panels for the same energy output! If I recall correctly, Ghung, our resident expert offgridder, still uses wood for heat. It takes more land to grow the wood than PV panels to provide the same energy, but the wood "costs" almost nothing, and provides the heat on those winter nights.

He has adapted his energy use to match the available supply and types of energy. The rest of us as a society need to do the same - but, let's face it, that is a pretty scary concept when applied on the scale of L.A. or any large city, let alone a country or the world. It is no wonder the politicians do not want to go there.

Really what we need is them to go to the Politicians - perhaps Ghung will let us in on what he would seriously do were he the president!

I just can't do that with sunlight in a cloudy BC winter

Well, there must be some sun in BC for these guys to be doing this.

Apply this technology designed by a retired engineer in MT, and you just might be able to...

Hi CM,

There is indeed some sun in BC - but winter can be cloudy/raining for days/weeks on end. The Solar BC push is stalling because of the expense of doing certified HW systems. They still have to be designed for snow/freezing, and to get a meaningful amount of winter production you need a lot of collectors and storage. My local Solar BC installer says about $6k for adding a system to an existing house. You can run a hybrid heat pump water heater ($1500) on BC's clean hydro electricity for a long time on that money.

Quite simply, efforts are better put on improving the passive heating, like your example. I helped a neighbour build a woodshed that is pretty much like that you linked to. For my own house, it is shaded by beautiful 40-70' cedar and fir trees on the south side (on both my and adjacent lot) and I have no intention of clearing those just to allow sun in. West end, in summer gets some midday and then afternoon sun, which is where the deck is, and that's just great. if I had a greenfield site to build on, I could, and would, do it very differently.

The build it solar site is great - it gets away from the very concept of the $6k solar hot water systems - but those are the only type that Solar BC supports!

I grew up on a farm in Australia with wood fired heat and hot water, and we had solar panels on the roof to supplement (this in the 70's) - didn;t need to fire up the boiler for 3months in summer, but winter, different story (climate would be similar to central valley Ca).

Don;t get me wrong, solar is great - but it is not always the best choice, and sometimes not even possible for some homeowners.

The second design is much like what I used in my solar house design. The polycarbonate is a bit tricky as it softens at temperatures above 180F, which the authors mentioned. My design used a vertical wall and has an overhang, as well as some deciduous trees on the south side, which provide shade in summer. My collector "runs" all year round, but has no output in summer. I think that a sloping setup would be better than vertical, as long is one provides an appropriate overhang (which might be movable) for summer shade...

E. Swanson

+1. Now, if we could invent a solar panel that you could plant from a seed and water it and watch it grow, we'd be 'in the money';>)

Alan from the islands

Will U.S. ease up on foreign oil?

Conventional oil production peaked five years ago, and now the world economy relies on much more costly methods to produce oil, whether from Canadian tar sands or deepwater drilling, Rubin said. Producers go after that tougher-to-extract oil only when oil prices are elevated, as they are today, he said.

Jeff Rubin is getting a lot of press these days, all peak oilers are.

Ron P.

Although not specifically stated in the above link, Obama's plan to reduce imports includes increasing oil imports from Brazil:

America would sell the Brazilian national oil company Petrobras oil field equipment and then buy the product once it starts to flow. Brazil would benefit to the tune of tens of billions of dollars and tens of thousands of jobs.


But wait, Brazil is increasing its own oil imports:

Consultancy Oil Movements has estimated that OPEC oil shipments are now likely to fall by 380,000 barrels a day in the four weeks up to 23 April, as the oil producing cartel fails to fully compensate for Libya's supply losses.

The reduced supply comes coincides with high demand for oil from emerging markets such as Brazil, China and India.


Based upon recent shipping reports (not linked here), including today, Brazil is buying oil from west African states that the EU and the US desperately needs to replace lost supplies of high quality oil from Libya. Brazil has also started buying gasoline and other oil products from Europe (including western Russia).

The coming oil price 'superspike' that I started discussing 4 months ago may have arrived.

I think you can remove the word 'may'

Brent $125.50 future

Tapis $131.61 spot (5 hours ago).

Re: Rush to Use Crops as Fuel Raises Food Prices and Hunger Fears, up top:

For sake of argument, lets say this shallow analysis is true. What then are the implications of of not using "food" for fuel?

Most here agree that we are post Peak Oil and oil prices are likely to rise over time albeit in fits and spurts. That means holding food prices down will result in loss of profit in farming since oil is a farming input.

This will over time discourage movement back to the land from cities where many impoverished farmers have fled.

The net result of this nonsense policy will be reduced supply of food whether used for bio fuels or not.

Food is energy for humans and animals. Oil is "food" for machines.

To some extent these two forms of energy are interchangeable. Most here agree that oil is necessary for food production. If this is true, then the price of food must reflect the cost of oil if starvation is to be avoided longterm.

Keeping food artificially cheap has been the policy of governments around the world for decades. The population of rural ares has been denuded in many countries including the United States. The time for cheap food is over.

Cheap food encourages population growth in cities. We have seen what cheap food has done to Egypt. It moves farmers to the cities to collect food subsidies and multiply their numbers.

When cheap American grain is exported to countries like Egypt, the result is further stress on local farmers who can not compete with it. They flee the countryside for the cities where there is no possibility of them being food self sufficient.

Exporting food to poor countries where the local food market is undermined by cheap food imports has the same disastrous effect as Chinese manufactured goods have on American manufactured goods.

It puts domestic producers out of business.

This is well known and accepted in the United States. What is strange is that somehow applying the same idea to cheap American food exports is rejected.

The fact of the matter is exporting food to poor countries is very bad policy. Food prices should rise faster than the rise of oil prices over time. Ethanol helps to make sure it happens.

It is absolutely necessary to provide the incentives to increase food production in the United States and around the world. There must be revenue available to get people to move back to the land. They are not going to do it with subsidized food in the city.

And food prices must reach levels such that there is economic disincentive to use it for bio fuels.

We are not there yet. And as we get closer the price of oil rises yet again as though they were in a race, which they are.

Food can not drop out of this race. If it does the race will be won by oil prices anyway since most oil is not used for food production.

Resources, both human and energy, have to be returned to the land and the only effective way to do that is with economic incentives for more food production which means high food prices around the world.

The transition will not be pleasant, but continuing the cheap food policy of the past is worse than facing higher food prices. Change is not easy, especially for those on the margin of existence. But cheap food means less food not more.

For those who still want cheap food for the poor, I suggest that the burden should be put on them through higher taxes to subsidize food to populations out of control in countries like Egypt and not on the backs of food producers struggling with food prices kept artificially low by prohibitions on ethanol production or cheap food imports from surplus nations.

We have seen what cheap oil imports have done to America. Cheap food for poor countries is even worse.

"The transition will not be pleasant"...

x gets today's understatement prize: a can of beans ......

make that a bag of dry beans. canning requires heat for cooking and the steel for the can smelted. fetch your own water, cook your own beans. Plant some.

Submission for Patent: Perpetual flatulence cooking machine. Eat beans, collect gases ;-), cook beans, repeat. Sorry it is a farting joke. Had to share.

Food and energy are linked in a weird way. What is the solution ultimately? Some folks will starve as others drive SUVs I guess. Not a happy ending. Biomass from non-food sources, grown on poor soils, should be a win-win. But too much food-->fuel is not a good thing imho.

Resources, both human and energy, have to be returned to the land and the only effective way to do that is with economic incentives for more food production

Are you saying there is a lot of potentially productive land currently not being used to grow food even though it could be?

Research is still continuing on the use of non-food crops for biofuels. This will eventually have to be the direction.

BESC scores a first with isobutanol directly from cellulose

OAK RIDGE, Tenn., March 7, 2011 — In the quest for inexpensive biofuels, cellulose proved no match for a bioprocessing strategy and genetically engineered microbe developed by researchers at the Department of Energy's BioEnergy Science Center.
To make the conversion possible, Liao and postdoctoral researcher Wendy Higashide of UCLA and Yongchao Li and Yunfeng Yang of Oak Ridge National Laboratory had to develop a strain of Clostridium cellulolyticum, a native cellulose-degrading microbe, that could synthesize isobutanol directly from cellulose. "This work is based on our earlier work at UCLA in building a synthetic pathway for isobutanol production," Liao said.

While some Clostridium species produce butanol, these organisms typically do not digest cellulose directly. Other Clostridium species digest cellulose but do not produce butanol. None produce isobutanol, an isomer of butanol.
While there were many possible microbial candidates, the research team ultimately chose Clostridium cellulolyticum, which was originally isolated from decayed grass. The researchers noted that their strategy exploits the host's natural cellulolytic activity and the amino acid biosynthetic pathway and diverts its intermediates to produce higher alcohol than ethanol.

This post discusses some ideas which I have been mulling over for some time.

Over the years, industrial scale agriculture as practiced in OECD countries using cheap FF inputs (oil, NG) to provide fertilizer and fuel farm machinery, has produced massive amounts of cheap food. In my neck of the woods, local farmers, many of whom produce on small plots in hilly areas have been complaining bitterly that they often cannot sell their products at economic prices in the presence of cheaper imported produce that is often the beneficiary of significant subsidies in the countries where it is produced.

The availability of super cheap cornmeal, flour and rice means that the typical Jamaican diet contains loads of flour and rice. Cornmeal porridge is breakfast for many especially those from lower income groups who cannot afford corn flakes etc. Even in deep in farming areas the population depends heavily on the steady supply of baked produce, rice, tined produce and frozen meats brought in by trucks every week and heavily marketed by their respective bakers/distributors.

At the same time a combination of poor practices, inefficient production, unpredictable weather, lack of cold storage and rising costs of imported inputs has made life very difficult for local farmers as outlined by x above. So we have the following competitive situation of imported versus local produce.

wheat flour, rice, cornmeal ------ local starches cassava, yams etc.
vegetable oils ------ local coconut oil
frozen and processed meats ------ local fresh and processed meats

In the face of this, the only bright spots have been things like ginger, coffee (Blue Mountain), cocoa, pimento and certain varieties of hot pepper which it seems by some stroke of fate have been blessed with particularly strong or unique flavors giving Jamaican produce a price premium over other producers that can produce much greater quantities. Still, even these bright spots have had their share of ups and downs.

So a lot of what x has written in the above post resonates with me. However lately I have sensed a change in mindset.

Ministry official says lenders conned Jamaica into neglecting farming

"The truth is the IMF, the World Bank, all our international partners expounded and commended to us, 20 years ago or so, that we must engage in specialisation where we focus on services, tourism and that kind of thing because we had a competitive advantage and just buy food because we weren't competitive. That's acknowledged and they have acknowledged it," he emphasised.........

"What has happened, about four, five years ago the tables began to turn, climate (change) is impacting production and supply. A series of natural disasters and speculation in the commodity markets cause food prices to rise way out of the reach of poor people and that has brought back the whole issue of food security," said Stanberry.

Ochi (Ocho Rios) gets taste of 'Eat Jamaican' campaign

Farmers market generates record profits

Sugar has bright future — Tufton

In addition to the above stories, I sense an increasing interest in agriculture as well as a sense that we will have to try and be less reliant on imported food. I see a couple of areas that were previously abandoned being cleaned up put back in production. Food is going to get more expensive and those who are planting now will be better off in the long run. I get this feeling that all these companies doing marketing and distribution of food that depends very heavily on FF, are going to suffer, along with their customers.

I sense that Peak Oil is bringing with it an end to the system that was decimating small scale agriculture. The sinister side to this is that, it is this same system that has provided bountiful cheap food for billions of poor people all over the planet. The only upside is that millions of subsistence farmers who couldn't sell their produce under the current system will find be experiencing increased demand for their produce.

I'm having some difficulty following x's reasoning on how exactly farm subsidies that maintain the current status quo are going to work. The subsidies provide cheap food but, will be difficult to justify in the face of soaring deficits. Subsidized large scale farming has driven millions of small farmers out of business and into poverty. Quite a quandary isn't it?

I fear this will not end well

Alan from the islands

Food prices should rise faster than the rise of oil prices over time...And food prices must reach levels such that there is economic disincentive to use it for bio fuels.


I tell you what. You get my landlord to give me my housing for free. Then I'll stay home when everyone who has to pay for their housing is rioting in the streets because the food prices have reduced them to ramen and rice.

""because the food prices have reduced them to ramen and rice.""

I happen to like, "Ramen and Rice," but not at the same time....

I powered down years ago, never felt better, in a financial way or a physical way. Debt free is the only way to be and it's quite easy, for the time being anyway, to eat very healthy food, for $5.00 a day or less. I eat better than 99% of the people on the Planet for that amount of money.

Things are changing, but for now, life is good. At least for me.

Choose Wisely.
The Martian.

X, Sorry but you are very much mistaken about agriculture in Egypt. There is only limited available farmland in Egypt and although a few million acres/feddans were added in the past century there was also loss due to urban expansion. The farms are small and intensively cultivated. So the expanding population causes the excess to leave the rural areas for the cities.
Cheap wheat from the US, Australia and the former Soviet Union only helps the farmers as it provides their base load calorific intake very cheaply and doesn't depress the prices for their fruits and vegetables in the Egyptian and export markets.
Even if all subsidies on grain were reduced by the US etc the Egyptian fallah couldn't grow anywhere near enough wheat to meet local demand. They can barely meet half their demand now. 85 million mouths and only 7 million feddans to feed them will do that.
In Egypt the word for bread and the word for life are the same. If Egypt can no longer provide subsidized food then millions will starve.

IIRC Egypt supply potatoes to the UK during the winter months or spring, presumably when there's a price premium. The potatoes are grown out in the middle of the desert, water is pumped from an aquifer and no doubt lots of chemicals. Not that it negates your point, but just thought I'd mention it. The reason I remember it is because its seems such a dumb thing to do, but then again money makes people do dumb things.


Blood-For-Oil Exchange Rate Released

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND—U.N. officials announced late Monday evening that they have determined a blood-for-oil exchange rate. The announcement came just days after a speech in which President Obama suggested America could consider avoiding armed conflicts with authoritarian dictators in the foreseeable future.

Seems we are already almost reaching 2008 max when paying in euros ...
The holliday economy is going to take a big hit if it keep rising at this pace.

Link Zerohedge :
Image hosted by uppix.net

Wont we all print money until we run out of oil. They wont let the financials crash too hard. They will re-inflate perpetually until physical chaos takes over. Upon each crash, the lowest working incomes will either have to get lower or go unemployed. Once enough people are in poverty then viva la revolution I guess. Not a pretty picture for governments these days. BTW, rich people die of diseases too. They are not immune from the chaos that is a repeatedly crashing economy.

Where is the Lehman Brothers event horizon this time? I mean, just watching Brent climb to $148 is not going to automatically suck us into the black hole.

I was wondering that too. I guess it will be a case of 'expect the unexpected'...

You are assuming that the crash was caused by Lehman Brothers. That was just one small factor that caused the recession. Oil over $140 a barrel was the major cause. The housing bubble bursting was another cause. But that was exacerbated by the high price of oil.

We could very well sink into a black hole when oil gets to $148 a barrel. The next recession will very likely be much worse than the 2008 recession, much worse because we still have not fully recovered from that recession. So the coming recession will just have a piling on effect.

Ron P.

So the coming recession will just have a piling on effect.

I thought we had all agreed on the term "step-down". The visual on that is easy to see, each step down implies it is worse than before. The bad part is that each step might be different in size. "Watch-out, that next step might be a doozy".

Ron: I believe the 2008 crash problem analysis here is "If I only have a hammer, all problems look like a nail." IMHO, this is very much the case here on TOD with full time contributors. The sub primes crash was not caused by high oil price. Using the house as an ATM crash was not caused by the high price of oil. The US Government owned by the banksters (and others) was not caused by high oil prices. If one approaches the crash analysis with a full spectrum view, oil price was only one factor and probably not the major one. Government to the highest bidder was probably the most direct and that is both parties. And that includes the military industrial complex. Todd would probably add that becoming a "Service" economy was another major problem. Is it the people/yeast relationship?

BTW: We just finished construction of the high tunnel 'hoop house'. More garden work in that area and the plastic goes on next week. Is it because of possible fallout? Not really, it has been planned since fall.

There is just one tiny little problem with your analysis Lynford, all the things you mention happened in the U S of A. The recession was worldwide! And the recession started in Japan and Europe before it started in the U.S. Read the article, Jeff Rubin makes my argument for me.

Just How Big is Cleveland?

And how do falling property values in Cleveland create a recession in Japan, and the Euroland economies, before they even create a recession in the US economy. And if Cleveland and its ilk are really the epicenter of all the world economies’ ills, why is the rest of the world buying greenbacks?

Ron P.

I've read his book of course and he is an oil economist? Check!

And that's your answer? That's your entire argument against what Jeff Rubin wrote in the article? You are attacking the man, not his argument! And you know what that is called. If you made that argument on a debating team the coach would kick you off. And likely he would see no need to explain to you why.

Oil shocks create global recessions by transferring billions of dollars of income from economies where consumers spend every cent they have, and then some, to economies that sport the highest savings rates in the world.

It makes no difference what your opinion of oil economists are, it still behooves you to answer their argument, else you look far worse than they do.

And by the way, he is an economist, not a oil economist. I don't think there is really any such thing.

Ron P.

My argument was and still is that if oil is your thing then you see more problems as oil related than other people.

It makes no difference what your opinion is, it still behooves you to answer that argument, else you look far worse. Changing my argument is not nice. I will respond to the specifics from your link when I get a chance to read it.

Clue: Japan was in trouble for 20 years due to money management. EU was/is in trouble because of a common currency in various mind sets of individual countries. Just because you and some others think differently does not make all other views void and null.

I'm not very good at flames so I'll just leave it at that.

And Japan was locally producing so much oil. I wonder what could have happened?

Exactly, Japan was throwing money after oil and energy for a long time, hence their big economic problem. No way to manage money to make oil appear magically.

I did not change your argument, you made no argument whatsoever, that was my point of contention. You simply stated that Jeff Rubin was an oil economist, which he is not! There is no such thing as an oil economist. Rubin was a the chief economist for a bank, not an oil company. Anyway just calling him an oil economist and leaving it at that is not, by any stretch of the imagination, an argument.

My argument was and still is that if oil is your thing then you see more problems as oil related than other people.

Oil is not his thing so you need to do better than that. The man is an economist and we are indeed discussing the economy.

I'm not very good at flames so I'll just leave it at that.

I am glad to hear that. I gave up flaming years and years ago. Glad to hear that you are not too good at it because I would hate for you to start flaming.

Okay here is my argument!

The recession started in Japan and in Europe even before it started in the US. The problems in the US could not have affected the world economy before they even happened. And this is my argument also:

Oil shocks create global recessions by transferring billions of dollars of income from economies where consumers spend every cent they have, and then some, to economies that sport the highest savings rates in the world.

Almost every past recession since the Great Depression was caused by a spike in oil prices. This past one is no different.

Ron P.

Two years ago I would have agreed with you but have since come around to the view that oil had a pretty big role in the crisis. Think about it: what year did global oil production flatline? 2005. What year did Wall Street really crank up the sub-prime racket? 2005. It would be pretty tough to create an empirical model connecting the two events but I would describe the logic like this:

When oil production flatlined, prices went up and that sucked the wind out of consumer spending. People were less willing to buy houses in the suburbs. Wall Street started seeing danger to their profits, and the sub-prime mortgage was the cure. Now....I don't think this was a conscious decision. Wall Street tycoons are just as clueless about oil and the REAL economy as the rest of Americans. Rather I think the "hive-mind" created a way to keep up their profits, and that was a huge pile of criminally-created debt that we know as sub-prime mortgages. The banks were doing the equivalent of printing money--only it was virtual money in the form of securities.

This only kept the party going a few more years. In the end, the destruction of the real economy caused by Peak Crude Oil in 2005 couldn't be hid behind the mountain of debt and housing "value". What couldn't continue eventually didn't. Now we are left with a huge gap between actual wealth and the amount of money in circulation. That gap is debt. If we don't want to default on the debt, we have to increase real wealth to close the gap. Peak oil will keep wealth from rising to close the gap, unless our society takes some pretty huge steps to change our transportation infrastructure. I am not hopeful.

Anyways thats my shot at an explanation.

Of course it had a big role in the crash but was it absolutely guaranteed to be the major cause? Do people who study oil have a bias? I have well over a hundred combat missions; do I believe in war?

Interesting isn't it? We do live there, don't we?

I think there is a difference between the cause and the trigger. I think that oil going to $147 was the trigger. But for the cause I think you have to dig deeper than the sub prime crisis or even Lehmann. IMO the cause to financial crisis was absence of wage growth in the prior 8 years. I don't think that people woke up and said "oh goody I'll get myself a sub prime loan or go deep into debt". The only way they could sustain their standard of living was by going into debt and they were enabled by the greater fool crowd.

If it had not been oil it would have been some other trigger

I have attempted to show that the underlying cause of the recession was still related to oil (through net energy) and not just the spike. As you say the spike was a trigger, or a pin prick that popped the bubble. But the steadily rising price of oil and energy in general, reflecting an actual decline in net energy available to build real wealth is what forced many parts of the economy to rely more heavily on debt financing to keep up the illusion of wealth growth.

See: It's the Area Under the Curve for an explanation of an energy causal model.


George, you end your article "its the area under the curve" with:
The only thing that could possibly break this downward cycle is the discovery of new, much higher, energy return on energy invested sources. If you take any time to look at the data on EROI for all of the current proposed sources, alternative/renewable sources, you find that they are way too low for maintaining an industrial society such as ours. Perhaps there is yet to be discovered a wonderful new source of energy that has an EROI equivalent to oil back in the 1950s (roughly 30-40 to 1). I sincerely hope so. I am not, however, holding my breath.
Even older small wind turbines(100-400kW) have an EROEI of about 20:1. Based on Vestas 3MW turbine ( reported as CO2 emissions) this turbine has an EROEI of about 50:1, when calculating the kWH used not the kWh energy equivalent in FF used to generate electricity.
But it gets even better because electricity can be used to power EV and PHEV vehicles that use energy 5-10 times more efficiently that present ICE vehicles, an do not use electric or NG energy to refine oil into gasoline. On the downside up to 30% more energy may be used to manufacture EV's( based on price) but since vehicle manufacturing only represents about 10% of the lifetime energy use of an ICE vehicle this would be a small price to pay for 5-10 times more efficient transportation. How much wind power would be required to replace all oil used by cars and light trucks in US?, surprisingly only about 10 times present capacity of 40GW, or within 20 years at present growth rates

My argument was and still is that if oil is your thing then you see more problems as oil related than other people.

Most people here on TOD see the problems, and who see the most for the future are the ones who include human nature.

Another economist who understands the problem is Paul Hawken. Check out his book 'the next economy'. Oil is the most important energy to keep the economy running is also his conclusion. He wrote some decades ago (after rising oilprices between 1973 and 1981):

Between 1972 and 1974 the American energy industry used 15% from the available capital for the development of energy in that country. In 1982 it was risen until 25%.
How will it be in 2010 and 2020 when capital is a substantial higher part in the production cost of energy ? The demand for energy will make capital more and more expensive until we cannot afford capital or energy anymore.

25% already in 1982 seems almost unbelievable.

Money = energy. They are not independent species. So it all boils down to energy. Japan's problem has been energy since like WWII. The US is facing the same energy monster. How do you reckon we escape it: better money management?


Money = promises.

Fulfillment of "promises" requires "cheap" oil plus a few other things

Default= failure to fulfill your promises to those (creditors) who trusted in you

Howard Odum pointed out that money and energy flow thru the economy in opposite directions. From that perspective, money and energy are the same thing. When the level of debt was a small fraction of the total money supply, money acted as a mechanism to guide the flow of energy thru the economy. The fact that our financial geniuses have allowed the creation of ever larger piles of debit, which grew so large that the repayment became impossible, does not change the function of money as a mechanism of control for the energy flows. But, as the debt levels have become so massive, the available flow of energy could not sustain the payments, thus defaults will occur. In other words, borrowing from the expected future flow of energy (i.e., creating more debt) to provide resources in today's economy does not work when the expected growth in energy flows ain't gonna happen...

E. Swanson

Very good. One way of thinking about it is that energy is just a mechanism to gain a competitive advantage. Exchange of fuel for money is a debt to be repaid as future fuel compensation. This makes sense because the culture is high stakes and requires cheap energy to scale to the expectation level of the game players.
It becomes a zero-sum game when the oil depletes from the equation.

My argument was and still is that if oil is your thing then you see more problems as oil related than other people.

OK! If you say so. Though I strongly suspect that whether or not oil is one's thing, you'd be darn hard pressed to untangle it from the all webs into which it is so deeply woven but go ahead and try.

Oil Based Economy

That's an interesting directed graph but the connections seem quite arbitrary. For instance, I don't see an arrow between transport and fuel supply, yet there is one between water and transport. Unless the point is that if you made it completely interconnected it would become unreadable.

Unless the point is that if you made it completely interconnected it would become unreadable.

That's part of it the other part is that I had flipped this graph from one that was originally created showing the interconnectedness with oil being at the top level as opposed to how it is displayed here and I may have inadvertently left out an arrow or two.

In any case my point was that what we have is an inverted pyramid resting on a point which is our fossil fuel energy supply and everything is dependent on that.

By that logic you could substitute MONEY for OIL in the pretty drawing. After all nothing in the economy works without money. In 2008 the money markets siezed up, too much debt, too much credit, too much debt/credit chasing returns in a crooked market. It was fear/greed and lax financial standards that caused 2008. $147 oil (and the sudden drop to below $40) were symptoms of that.
Peak oil is a reality, so is the financial mess that many countries have got themselves in. Dealing with either peak oil or a stinking financial system would be hard. Dealing with both is going to be near impossible.

By that logic you could substitute MONEY for OIL in the pretty drawing.

Sure, just try stuffing a 100 bucks in your fuel tank or sit down to a nice hot meal of money and see how far it takes you. There is no economy or money without energy and at the moment almost all of our energy is fossil fuel based. Money is an abstraction, energy is real.

Money is an abstraction, .... energy is real.

It is astounding that so money people can't see the palin and simple truth.

I agree with FM.

Too many people here at TOD view PO as the nail that needs to be hammered upon for every conceivable problem we talk about.

While it may be true that a modicum of the "energy" stuff has to be spent with every financial transaction because, after all, even flipping a couple of computer bits from 0's to 1's consumes some small finite amount of "energy", that small amount of energy is negligible and has nothing to do with the magnitude of promises made by the financial transaction.

Also, "energy" is not always equal to "oil", it could be solar, wind, coal, etc.

Also "oiL" is not always equal to "energy", it could instead be lubricant, feed stock for plastics or a type of painting.

Ron: I read the article and it has nothing to do with the argument that people interested in oil production are likely to be biased toward all problems are related to oil pricing. He starts off with a very "Straw man" argument same as you did. Please look up the definition.


People interested in gold are likely to attribute all the problems to our going off the gold standard.

Once again, Jeff Rubin is not an oil man! He has never been an oil man and I would bet he never will be an oil man. Rockman is an oil man. WT is an oil man. T. Boone Pickens is an oil man. RockyMountainGuy is a Canadian oil man. Rubin is not an oil man. He is a Canadian economist.

You have created a straw man by calling Jeff Rubin an oil man. Now that I have tore down your straw man please proceed with your argument.

Ron P.

OMG Ron: Like everything else, you changed my words to make your argument valid. That is the definition of a straw man. Please quit doing that. I never said he was an "oil man" like many here. I said he is an 'oil economist'. If he is not then why is his book "Why Your World Is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller: Oil and the End of Globalization" so pertinant to all of us here?
And as such he, like you, are likely to see more problems derived from oil than others see them. Who's right?; flip a coin. Geeze I guess you have a hard time to be humble....

I said he is an 'oil economist'. If he is not then why is his book "Why Your World Is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller: Oil and the End of Globalization" so pertinant to all of us here?

He is not an oil economist because there is no such thing as an oil economist. He is an economist who looked at the economy and found a problem... the very high price of oil. If he had found the problem to be the high price of real estate he would probably wrote a book about that. Then by your logic his argument would be invalid because he was a real estate economist.

However because a man, or woman, writes a book about something does not mean that their view is warped simply because they wrote a book about their area of expertise. Good God man, think about what you are saying. If that argument were valid then no book ever written would have any validity simply because the author had an interest in the subject he/she wrote about.

And that is your argument?

Let me repeat! If you have a quarrel with my argument, or the argument of Jeff Rubin, then you should present your argument. Simply stating that his, or my, argument is invalid because we are interested in the subject is... is... is... well if that is an argument at all it is most certainly the worst argument ever presented.

Ron P.


He is not an oil economist because there is no such thing as an oil economist. He is an economist who looked at the economy and found a problem

Speaking as an oil man, which is a bit of an arbitrary designation, but I'll go with it, I would say Rubin is clearly not an oil economist, he is a banking, real estate, and stock market economist, and lately a journalist.

Jeff Rubin

Rubin graduated from McGill University with a Masters in Economics after completing his Economics B.A. at University of Toronto. He began his career as an economist at the Ontario Government Treasury Department where he was responsible for projecting future interest rates. He moved on to the brokerage firm Wood Gundy which was taken over by CIBC and became first CIBC Wood Gundy and then CIBC World Markets. He has accurately predicted fluctuations in interest rates and the value of the Canadian dollar. In the early 1990s he came to prominence projecting a major decline in the Ontario real estate market. He was one of the first economists to accurately predict soaring oil prices back in 2000 and is now a popular commentator on oil depletion and its economic repercussions. Jeff writes a blog published every Wednesday for The Globe and Mail newspaper. (italics mine)

CIBC is the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. Rubin's interest in the oil business was probably sparked by the fact that CIBC once had more than its entire net value loaned out to Dome Petroleum, and Dome Petroleum couldn't pay it back. However, CIBC being a Canadian bank the whole matter was quietly worked out behind the scenes between the Canadian banks, oil companies, and government. In addition, CIBC had to take a $2.5 billion hit to cover its legal problems in the Enron affair, but again that was worked out behind the scenes. (Having worked in the Canadian oil biz I know where all the bodies are buried).

However, the bottom line is that Canadian banks now keep a very sharp eye on the energy business because they like to keep their money safe. It's not as if there is much oil in Ontario, where Rubin lives, but there are a lot of banks and market investors, and they do like to keep an eye on their money.

Having worked in the Canadian oil biz I know where all the bodies are buried

Please let us know when you've finished your memoirs. Should be interesting reading. We hope you can finish before you get "covered up"...

E. Swanson

Ron - Thanks for the promotion. These days I'm more of a NG man than an oil man. BTW if this debate leads you to a stroke can I have your screen name? I've always admired it.

Yes Rockman, if it leads to a stroke you can have my screen name, but that is unlikely. I have never had so much fun in my life so only if laughing can cause a stroke is that likely to happen.

Ron P.

Ron, high oil prices was a cause of the 2008 crash; but it was far from THE major cause. Little things like CDOs, underpriced insurance, counterparty risk, fear of contagion and a toxic financial system were far more significant.

This time the equivalent of Lehman Brothers will be a sovereign default. It is probably going to be one of the PIIGS countries.

Maybe, but I think that would take too long. The EU will rollover the debt, to kick the can down the road. When we get to July, the music will stop, and somebody will not have a chair. I guess we should be looking at the riskiest bets on business-as-usual (that are not government subsidized) (or too big to fail).

The EU has already kicked the can down the road a few times. The can is quite heavy now. The next crisis is sovereign defaults. My best guess is that it will start in Europe.

From the "Japan Aftershock Raises Anxiety" article above:

At a plant in Onagawa, some radioactive water splashed out of the pools but did not leave a containment building, Tohoku Electric said. Such splashing is not unusual.

And now the same story from Kyodo

The Onagawa nuclear plant lost three of its four external power connections but one of them was restored on Friday morning, with its cooling system for the spent nuclear fuel pools temporarily stopped.

An example of contrasting journalistic styles; "Is the pool half-empty or half-full?"

There is going to be a real mess in India later this year with respect to gasoline and diesel. Here is the background:


And also this:


Although consumer prices for gas/diesel have been nominally freed, in practice, the government does actually set prices. The oil companies are incurring terrific losses which are not fully compensated for by the government. As a result, the oil companies start withholding fuel from the market leading to shortages. Exactly this situation happened in the summer of 2008 during the last oil spike. I am afraid we are going to see much the same kind of events again this year. I was in India during the fuel crisis of 2008 and there was panic buying and long lines at all gas stations.

I agree, the last time this resulted in the Indian Rupee being devalued against the dollar as the outflow of dollars far exceeded the inflow. The outflow was off course due to the high fuel prices. The same thing happened to South Korea. This will reduce standard of living and also result in huge inflation.

Maybe some of these folks need to get off and push ;-)


I'm sorry, but, this is starting to annoy me. The MSM is still pulling out the "oil is higher today on the conflict in Libya". How many oil dollars can you really blame on a small piece of norther Africa?

Why don't they just pull up China on the Energy Export Databrowser, and let the graph of exponential import growth sit there for a minute? I mean, I must have twenty business channels on this television, all of then have the Dow on the background screen all day.

Hmm, to be fair I don't think it's a sudden increase in physical demand that's causing this rapid price rise - it can only be fear that's driving it in such a short space of time. I mean, only a few weeks ago it was at $100 - even Chindia can't grow that quickly!

Looks to be several factors, Libya being one of them - bit of a perfect storm. Remains to be seen whether it blows over or not before the banks fall down.

I guess it could also be that there is now just two investor camps. Those who think KSA has lots of spare oil, but won't give it to us. And, those who think KSA doesn't have it. Either way, the bet is the same.

Right, that's got to be a big worry point for everyone - why hasn't KSA come through, again?

Actually, I think that taking Libya's cheap oil off the market and replacing it with Folger's Crystals more expensive oil is having more of an impact on the final price than might be obvious at first blush, that and there isn't a 100% replacement for the missing oil from several counties.

Of course, this can't be helping the situation...

US budget: Talks go on as government shutdown looms

Republicans and Democrats have offered starkly different reasons for an impasse in talks on US spending cuts as the clock ticks down towards a government shutdown.

That's my view as well, r4ndom. Call it over the cliff because what's on the other side oil traders 'knowing' that OPEC capacity is tapped out? Nothing, unfortunately is the answer. Unless, by some miracle in the next couple of weeks KSA or Iraq (which was said to be able to ratchet up to 12 mbd - yeah right) can start flooding the market with cheaper oil, we are now past the edge of the cliff and staring at an awfully big step down - ouch! Don't hit the rocks, folks.

Was it G.W., as prices went up in 2008 who went to KSA and after returning said something like, "It is not nice to pressure KSA to produce more when they may not be able to do so."?

There was a big difference between what people thought, and what was really happening in the oil market.

According to the tanker tracker 'Oil Movements' and, well, myself, OPEC has only replaced about 300,000 bpd of the 1,300,000 bpd exports lost from Libya over the last month. However it was widely reported that OPEC was expected to make up most or all of the difference. If you listened to OPEC carefully though they usually talked about output and did not actually claim to have increased exports, and when they offered to increase exports - well the 'offer' might not be the price they wanted.

Apparently there is a fast growing realization that we should looking at what OPEC does and not what it says.

Since the loss of high quality oil from Libya can not be fully made up elsewhere, a worldwide game of musical chairs started, with no country wanting to sit where the chair is now missing.

I would guess that between $10 and $20 can be attributed to Libya. Since that oil came offline when we were running weekly deficits, I think we could easily see $200 this year unless the global growth goes negative.

EIA WTI future prices

Aramco chief cautions against short-term solutions

My interpretation of his caution: We need the money, don't use the money for other things (solar, wind, nuclear).

Aramco chief cautions against short-term solutions

My interpretation of his caution: We need the money, don't use the money for other things (solar, wind, nuclear).

Absolutely true, however it's incumbent upon us to have the brains to figure out our situation. It could be said that in 08 we were fooled the first time, thus "Fool me once, shame on you (OPEC)". But we (as a society) ran right past the 3rd base coach waving his arms and said, "Please, hit me with another, so I can say, fool me twice - shame on me." And that really is the case, it will be shame on us.

But even if MSM and the White House get kicked hard enough this 2nd time, will that be enough of a shock to jolt the West into coherance? Obviously all this fuel based personal transport is going by way of the dodo bird - will that actually be realised? There seems to be a myopic direction of BAU, regardless of the secondary junk getting processed into oil to keep it going a tad bit longer, rather than concerted efforts and understanding of an urgent need for an all encompassing Plan B.

bonny light just went over 130


Edit Tapis is pushing 132

Check out RBOB! O_O


Edward Burtynsky's exhibit is excellent.

Another artist relevant to this site: http://www.jean-pierreroy.com

I was also thinking about the way peak oil/climate change could alter art and history going forward. Modern history will be looked upon differently years hence when things become extremely apparent to the world, and not just a minority of enlightened folks.

"The urban revival of the 1990s may not return, Lang says.

"That could've been it," he says. "It might have been as good as it gets.""

What are the odds that he is going to have to eat those words. I can't believe that they are people out there who still believe that the future is in the suburbs. Besides the obvious implications of $150 oil on transportation costs it seems to me that there are going to be a lot of Boomers looking to get out of their McMansions in favor of denser housing where services are going to be a lot easier to get.

http://2010.census.gov/2010census/data/ has a mapping tool that you can use to select a state map of population increas/decrease by county.

The more pronounced trend is a continuation of declining population in rural counties. Urban counties generally hold their own, while suburban counties have increased. With the emptying out of rural counties, I think that the densities of neighborhoods in which most people are living are increasing. There have probably been more condo complexes built than McMansions.

Also see
18 Cities Where The Suburbs Are Rapidly Turning Into Slums

During past recessions, American cities became centers of poverty and crime. But this time, it was the suburbs that suffered.

Between 2000 and 2008, suburbs saw their poor populations grow by 25 percent -- almost five times faster than urban poverty growth, according to Brookings.

Doesn't seem to be anyone interested in moving to farming areas to farm ... yet .

I live in Indianapolis and there are small farm marketers popping up based on intensive gardening. Every house in the city and suburbs has a yard and even an empty lot in the neighborhood. There is no need to move out of this city or most cities in the USA. I bought a few acres here for less than farmland prices.

My WAG has been that there will be no movement back to the land (ie. the countryside) and the existing trend of people moving into urban areas will accelerate. The rollback of globalisation due to financial collapse and the effects of climate change and resource depletion will throw people back onto their own resources and into localisation. The result being a new form of ghetto in the urban areas as localised economies develop and allow people to live, albeit in a different way. "Urban villages" if you prefer an Orwellian twist to how things are named.

Although the bulk of food staples such as wheat, corn, etc. will still be cultivated on corporate controlled industrial megafarms. Complexity will increase as will unintended consequences adding mayhem to the chaos of financial, resource and climate collapse.

Much of what I see in DrumBeat and elsewhere seem to add some weight to this conjecture.

I suspect that we would have to go a very long way down the slope before subsistance farming returns to being a viable option inplace of mechanised farming.

People are simply not going to move into rural areas if there isn't any work for them.

I think many people are very naive about the economics of farming. There are tremendous economies of scale involved. I doubt that farms of less than 1 square mile have ever been economically viable in North America, even back before the drilling of the first oil well and the invention of the tractor.

The 1/4 square mile the government gave the homesteaders was just a starter farm to encourage them to settle in unpopulated areas. Homesteading was followed by a consolidation process in which the good farmers bought out their neighbors until they had enough land to make an economically efficient operation, while the poor farmers sold their land to the good farmers and got factory jobs in the cities. Ultimately, the Homestead Act was a plan designed to industrialize the Midwest, not to grow more food.

It still takes at least a square mile of land to provide a living for a farm family - and if they want to make a good living, they need to have several square miles of land, plus hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of machinery. Peak oil won't change that. People who think they can get by with 40 acres and a mule will find that is a recipe for being trapped in poverty, just as it always has been.

"Peak oil won't change that. People who think they can get by with 40 acres and a mule will find that is a recipe for being trapped in poverty, just as it always has been."

You seem so sure, Rocky...

"But here is a key insight: being poor on purpose is much easier than being poor as a result of suddenly having less than you are accustomed to having. Voluntary poverty is a hell of a lot easier than involuntary poverty." Orlov

40 acres and a mule seems preferable to being stuck in a city with little food, heat, power to go around - not sure of who you fear more, the corrupt Police State or your local Gang Lord. My neighbors may not be right next door, but I know every one of them. Have for years.

I think this is an oranges and apples thing. If viewed solely through an economic lens then Rocky is probably correct. But small scale farming isn't really a money making venture, its benefits lie outside the monetary economy. I believe this is the point that most people miss, its not about being part of the mainstream economy, the metric for success is not money. Its not even about supplying produce to the wider public, more about supplying produce into a select local club.

I doubt that farms of less than 1 square mile have ever been economically viable in North America, even back before the drilling of the first oil well and the invention of the tractor.

I grew up on a farm in North Alabama and I never saw a farm in that area even close to 1 square mile in area. The average farm was between 40 and 80 acres. One square mile, a section, is 640 acres.

My dad was a sharecropper, farming 40 acres when I was born in 1938. In 1945 he bought his own farm of 45 acres. We were no longer sharecroppers then, we were high class farmers. ;-)

Dad had a one row Allis Chalmers and around 1947 he bought a two row Allis Chalmers. We were really big farmers then. He also had a team of horses, not mules, up until about 1950.

Actually our farm was about average. Farmers who had 80 acres or more were big farmers. There were even some farmers who had over 100 acres but usually they grazed cattle on most of that.

Those were the days when we chopped cotton with a hoe and picked cotton by hand. It would have been impossibly to farm much more land than 80 acres when you had to do everything by hand.

The viability of a farm, in those days, would depend on what you grew. We never grew tobacco because we did not live in tobacco country. But tobacco farmers to the north of us, in Tennessee, usually had very small farms, usually less than 20 acres or so. Tobacco is very labor intensive, and it was almost all hand labor, or at least it was in those days.

Ron P.

Well, there is oe reason why smaller farms were more viable then - the farmers go paid more for their product!

Here is a table for some farm commodities, with their 1960's prics, adjusted to 2008 dollars, comparted with 2008 (when prices were similar to today)
Even at the reported high prices, with the exception of corn, the prices farmers have received have increased at a rate roughly half the average rate of inflation.
Product 1960 1960Today 2008
Wheat (per bushel) $1.79 $12.44 $6.60
Corn (per bushel) $0.98 $6.84 $6.24
Rice (per lb.) $0.05 $0.34 $0.19
Chicken (per lb.) $0.16 $1.11 $0.48
Beef (per lb.) $0.20 $1.39 $0.95
Hogs (per lb.) $0.12 $0.83 $0.49

{from http://www.clearpictureonline.com/1960-Food-College-Income.html}

With the singular exception of corn, every commodity has about halved in real price since 1960 (an as recently as a year ago, when corn was $2.50/bu, it too was half).

Go back into the 20's and the real prices are even higher.

Mechanisation has allowed food to be produced in greater quantities and lower prices than any time in human history, and these low costs have been passed on. Family farm income is, relatively, at similar levels - it just needs, as RMG says, a lot more land and equipment to make it these days.

Consumers should be happy they are paying the lowest prices in human history for food. Of course, most consumers buy highly processed food, where the cost goes up 5-10x, but that;s the price of being too lazy to prepare it yourself.

So when people today complain about high food prices, their real problem is lack of employment/income - which are also at low points in the US, and many other countries.

I grew up on a farm, too, in Central Alberta. My father had 320 acres, but it wasn't big enough to make a living on. He liked farming, but gave it up and bought a business in town.

I remember taking census one year, and was startled to discover that one of my uncles was farming half a township - 18 square miles or nearly 12,000 acres. That was enough to make a good living on and take winter vacations in Europe and New Zealand - even buy a new Cadillac from time to time. It was just himself and his son farming it, but with the huge machinery they had, that was no problem.

Last Christmas, one of my nephews was telling me that (in addition to his grain and cattle operations) he had 640 acres in peas, and a new computer-controlled combine to harvest them. Guess what his market was? - India. He could grow peas and sell them to India cheaper than the Indians could grow peas themselves. Scale matters in farming.

Mind you, the local markets on the Canadian Prairies could never absorb the volume of food the farmers could produce. Most of it has to go to other countries. That has always been true.

Not to mention that the USAT article gets it totally wrong. Headline is "Most major U.S. cities show population declines," but only 2 of the 15 listed cities show declines, Chicago and Detroit. The other cities show reduced RATE of growth (Phila actually increasing growth rate) from the previous decade (the 90's boom - not surprising).

Chicago seems decrease seems to be a function of African Americans moving to the suburbs; an interesting trend. Detroit's situation is old news. The conclusions drawn from this article are bogus.

Time to Rethink Japan's Energy Future

Located along the tectonically active Pacific Ring of Fire, with nearly 200 volcanoes and some 28,000 hot springs, Japan is one of the world’s most geothermally rich countries. Using conventional technologies, geothermal energy could provide over 80,000 megawatts of electricity-generating capacity—enough to meet half of the country’s electricity needs. But with the modern enhanced geothermal systems (EGS) technology now available, Japan’s geothermal potential could be far greater. To give a sense of the possibilities, a U.S. Geological Survey study of geothermal resources in the United States found that EGS increased estimated U.S. geothermal power potential 13-fold.

There has been some discussion in the last few days on what will be the trigger now. It was Lehman in 2007, although there were troubles before that. Lehman was just a logical consequence of a long series of events.

The banks are the lifeblood of the economy, but they are also very sensitive to the economies of the countries. When Portugal went for a bail out from the EU in the recent few days, immediately there was focus on the banks.

Nevertheless, there are potential candidates for the sub-prime mess pre-2008.
Canada has a housing bubble, albeit not large enough to embroil the world economy.
China does one have one, as well as a building bubble, and both of these are huge.

China will have to come down simply because of the appetite they have for food, oil and all other kinds of things. The bubble is kept from popping as long as growth is staggering. Dent the growth and weakness reappears, and you do not need to dent the Chinese growth by a lot to seriously affect them.

They need at least 8 % growth to keep adding a lot of jobs to add to social stability and cohesion. Fall below that and you get protests and civil unrest because people are again reminded how unfair and brutish their lives often are(we're talking about a large, ignored mass of people that Western media never writes or reports about, many of these are poor migrant workers on desperately modest means).

If growth falls, or worse, the bubble bursts, the world will be in many ways in a worse place than the U.S. because nobody can bail the Chinese, and while I doubt anyone can bail the U.S, China can act as a global engine for growth, and a counter-weight to an increasingly burdened and weakened America. That role would obviously diminish if their bubble burst or their major environmental problems caught up with them(especially water scarcity or their very tight food production), not to mention their ever-hungrier taste of all things energy(often fossil energy).

I will just round up this comment that watch the E.U.
For me, the main three countries to watch is Britain, Italy and Spain.
Britain has a really overlooked situation, which is very dire, but it's government is very serious and credible.
Italy's slow growth and very high debt are big issues but the paradox is because the society is so corrupt, it's hard to get an accurate picture of just how bad things are, which might actually help them(in the short term at least).

Spain's an interesting case, the Guardian is pushing for this angle today.
I'm a bit doubtful, but you never know. In any case, for me, 2011 seems like the year we should watch entire nations fall, not mere banks, as the main threat to the world economy, and this would be helped primarily by oil prices going into the sky.

(P.S. sorry for spelling, I am tired after a very long day, especially after the boring socialising that you must take part of at least until way after dark on fridays. I wish I was 60 or something, so I didn't have to pretend to like meeting drunk strangers. Anyways, /rant. G'night).

I'm not sure I would call Lehman a trigger. It was a consequence, of fraud and over-extended circumstances of the poor, that called attention to the bankrupt state of the system. To call it a trigger is to limit your horizon to wall street.

All downward steps that are driven by oil prices are not driven by headline rates. They are driven by 'the area under the curve', connected to available funds (domestic or commercial).

Looking at this time, do we have a similar fault line in the system that can slip with the pressure of high oil prices? Where could the earthquake be?

Earthquake in Chindia: As others have pointed out, the GDP created per barrel of oil in Chindia is high. The market for commercial goods is pretty resilient. It's unlikely that Chindia will be the creator of the next step down, although they might catch the effects.

Earthquake in Europe: The position of many european countries remains fragile. Not only the PIGS, others have no real scope to bail out their economies again. Should the market pick on an economy and collapse it there could be a domino effect that kills the euro.

Earthquake in US: We have large number of potential Option ARM resets this year in the US. Most of the problems associated with these fraudulent mortgages haven't been solved. Foreclosures remain high and foreclosure sales are low - the problems remain, and maybe highlighted by the resets.

Frankly I'd have to say I think the US remains front and centre as the potential trigger for the next step down. Too much papering over the cracks and not dealing with the real issues. Might be domestic mortages, might be commercial. At the same time, I think the US might be a foreshock to the earthquake it can create elsewhere. Although it might start from the same spot, I don't think the quake will be of the same form and magnitude.

I think it will be worse.

"Microsoft teams with Toyota to power smart cars"
This is frighting, I have a Ford Hybrid with MS Sync and the bottom line is that the vehicle is hazardous to operate, Between the steering wheel and the consoles there are dozens of buttons without logical layout. Reach for the Fan and get blasted by the Radio. Forget trying to listen to a song or podcast on an USB Stick. Would be the end of the Toyota brand? Call from the wife, Honey I'm Stuck, Multiple BSD's on the Prius Dashboard? PLEASE say it's not so! More lines of code lines than a Volt?

Maybe Toyota will discover their cars are not compatible with 'Vista' - ha! We got Vista and our 1100 dollar digital camera didn't work with it, our 650 dollar scanner no go, our HP 520 dollar printer nada. We canned it and went back to the older program. I can only imagine trying to marry vista to a hybrid - ouch.


"Microsoft teams with Toyota to power smart cars"
This is frighting

Just be patient.

Be an early adopter, but not a cutting edge one, and you'll probably find over time that some fine Linux folks have figured out how to have the system's M$ OS swapped out and replaced with Linux GPL'd equivalents. ;)

Reading above about the inefficiency of the internal combustion engine... and thinking about the thermodynamic limits of any kind of heat engine... the thought occurred to me:

Fossil fuels get used two ways: sometimes they are burned just to heat something up, other times the heat from burning is used in a heat engine to create mechanical power. Cogeneration usually starts with a heat engine and then pipes the waste heat to customers who just wanted heat anyway. But why not run cogeneration the other way? Start with some heating application, and add mechanical power generation to the system!

We have an oil fired furnace in the basement - not uncommon! Why not replace the furnace with something like a diesel powered generator. Run the generator whenever the house gets cold, triggered by the thermostat. Funnel the waste heat of the generator into the heating ducts to distribute it around the house. Plus take the mechanical power from the generator and maybe charge up some batteries, or perhaps pump water or any similar mechanical work that has a flexible schedule.

I remember a story one of my grade school teachers would tell. He had worked in a blast furnace in Pittsburgh before becoming a teacher. Some of the folks in the steel mill would hunt bear, and then bring in the bear meat and roast it on the cooling fins of the blast furnace. So similarly, how about using a diesel generator as an oven. A diesel engine gets plenty hot. Want to bake a pie? Charge up your batteries and get your pie baked from the waste heat!

Stretch those BTU!

Honda and others makes Home Co-gen Generator/Heaters. In the US, the Gov/Enron botched energy de-reg .... little opportunity to contribute power. If you have a meter, you are a parasite and have been assimilated., Net Metering is a temporary way around the mess, but just offsets consumption. Power from petro generators ~ $.25 to $1.00/kWH. Lead Acid Battery cost is at least $.15/kWh just for Storage, So Batteries are not cost effective (yet) as storage except in off Grid apps. The Lead plates sulfates each cycle. Solar PV generation cost ~ $.20 +/- 25% and falling. Distributed generation is disruptive to Investor Owned Utilities and they hate & fight it.

Beautiful! Thanks!

Boy - the polarpower looks like the Swiss army knife version.
Would want at least 2 for maintenance rotation. Doesn't say what the RPM is - I hope 1800 for 60hz.to get a little engine life. If 3600 you have to change oil every week, and engine every 3 months. You can actually get years out non-synchronous Inverter Generators like the Honda 3000i - in a autostart PV Battery backup system. The Home Depot Hurricane Season Generator-combo- Lawnmower 3600 RPM sets are good for a couple of months of continuous use at best. Diesel would be the way to go for any continuous use... but Diesel Mechanics make a lot of $$$. PV Power is cheap cheap cheap compared to the cost of Power from ANY ICE Genset! We asked to delayed a truck load of 245 watt PV panels for a project due to head-up-ass regional permit issues in the Sunshine state, Supplier was thrilled, I believe it was "needed" for Afghanistan deployment since the fuel convoys were being such a juicy target.

Your House is too big.

The Martian.

As mentioned in previous posts, these devices have been around for a while. The main trouble with them is the lifetime of the engines. A small engine, like that in a car, might require a rebuild after 2,000-3,000 hours and a big diesel might last a year (8,760 hours). If these are intended to run 24/7, they are going to be a really expensive way to heat and/or provide A/C.

E. Swanson

I agree about 3600 RPM units; they don't last on continuous duty and are noisy. I've relieved 2 from duty. Fuel efficiency is an issue as well. An 1800 RPM, watercooled diesel is likely more cost effective over time.

The unit described seems to be designed to charge a large battery set and would be suitable in an off grid setup, partnered with PV. One caveat is its complexity. In my experience it's better to keep things simple, especially after TSHTF. I like the fact that it is a DC genset; eliminates the need for a battery charging function in the inverter(s), and allows for a good hot charge. Not sure about the quality of finish charging.

The Polar unit looks like there are a lot of things that could go wrong. Parts availability could be a huge problem in a major decline. Then again, so will be fuel. My genset runs well on anything from low sulfur to B-100, even kerosene; uses about 2 liters/hour at 85% load (10kw). Also, parts (relays, starter, alternator, etc.) are standard off-the-shelf stuff; good availability/repairability. Its Mitsubishi engine is widely used and has a very high MTF. The alternator is also widely used, known for longevity. I keep spare parts for both. These considerations trump a bit of efficiency when one is determined to be self-reliant, IMO. My rules of thumb: keep things simple, provide redundancy/spares, learn to do your own repairs.

I'm in the process of hooking up a heat extraction system for our hot water storage tank. Not only will it recover heat from the engine for household use, it will allow me to preheat the block in really cold weather. We'll see how it goes .....

Yeah, ir really makes sense to give up some efficiency to gain some robustness. If one is using the waste heat anyway, the loss in efficiency is not such a penalty. The main inefficiency to avoid is incomplete burning, because that is a real loss.

My current thinking is that maybe using the engine to charge batteries isn't the best alternative, though not too bad. Maybe the smartest thing is to run a heat pump. If you want to heat your house with oil, that's probably the maximum yield. Burn X BTU worth of oil, and end up heating your house with maybe 2X BTU. Maybe you get 0.5X mechanical work out of the engine, but with a heat pump that gets multiplied maybe up to 1X again, depending on the thermal reservoir you have at hand, like maybe an underground loop of water.

US corn reserves expected to fall to 15-year low


Saudi Arabia sees fresh protests

(CNN) -- Protesters staged fresh demonstrations in Saudi Arabia on Friday, calling on the government to release Shiite prisoners and grant more rights, human rights activists said.

I was wondering when the protests would finally hit Saudi Arabia. Mind you, these are pretty small protests but they always start off small. The big question is what the Saudi shieks are going to do -- a brutal crackdown or a slight loosening of the dictatorship? If these protests spread, watch oil prices head into the desert sky.

I wouldn't worry too much about Saudi they are not particularly squeamish, they are in talks now for Pakistan to transfer two divisions of its army too Saudi.


and they wont have the political repercussions as it would if infidels were dispatching muslims too there heavenly brothel

There are also rumours that Pakistan has already sold Nukes too Saudi complete with delivery systems. It also goes a long way to explain. why Saudi has been supplying Pakistan with subsidised oil.

unfortunately we live in interesting times. Two fanatically theocratic regimes facing off both armed with nuclear weapons in a sand pit where at least 60% of the world oil reserves are present, does not bode well for the future of my grand children.

Man stranded in empty Japanese town since tsunami

The farmhouse where Shiga's family has grown vegetables for generations is at the end of a long mud- and rubble-covered road blocked by fallen trees and dead and decaying animals...

...He said he spent his lonely days since the disaster sitting in bed in his dark home and listening to a battery-powered radio. A scruffy beard covered his face. "The tsunami came right up to my doorstep," he said. "I don't know what happened to my wife. She was here, but now she's gone."

Shiga said he was aware of the evacuation order but could do nothing about it, since he is barely able to walk past the front gate of his house. His car is stuck in mud and won't start.

A pretty scary, but still amazing, story.

Wow, that's sad. He looks really good for a 75-year-old. Thick head of hair, no gray that I can see. But he sounds confused mentally. I wonder what happened to his wife? Did she die in the tsunami, or abandon him when she evacuated because he can't walk? Or did she die years ago, and he just doesn't remember?

Now we start finding out the price of fear.

8 killed in German pile-up caused by sand storm

The crash in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania state was caused by a sand storm, but it was unclear if this was down to a sudden lack of visibility or by sand on the road, Werner said.

Strong winds may have carried the sand from nearby fields – one of them freshly ploughed – to the four-lane highway, Werner said.

The region has recently experienced prolonged dry conditions, affecting agriculture and leaving many soils exposed to erosion.

Germany is suffering from something of a drought at the moment. Rapeseed crops (aka. Colza or Canola), mainly used for bio-diesel in Europe, is suffering due to the lack of rain, not sure about their wheat, etc. Climate change is still damaging our agricultural production and accelerating the destruction of our soils.

The global crisis is still mainly in the economic phase, but resource depletion and Climate Change are increasingly making their presence felt. Our response to the escalating crises being created is also curtailed by the interplay between them, the unstoppable feedback loop pushing us ever closer to the cliff edge. I guess Black Swans will become the norm in our new chaotic world where the unexpected happens all the time.

Germany is suffering from something of a drought at the moment.


It's dry in Texas too:


This week's Iowa Public Television "Market to Market" program discusses agriculture's increasing role in energy policy, EPA, Farm Aid's support for small farmers plus commodity analysis:


Interesting observation,

About 6 months ago logging exploded on Vancouver Island after almost total shutdown from 2008. I kept waiting for a slack to manifest itself parallel to rising diesel, but in fact it seems to be increasing...everywhere. We are seeing truckloads of beautiful second growth logs (3' dia) and load after load of old growth heading to the sorts. My faller friends working through snowfalls waist deep to fall right of way. The feller bunchers and processors start before 6 in the morning and sometimes I hear them past 7:00 pm. This is going on 7 days per week.

Destination? China. Not to BC mills, or whole logs to Canadian firms in the Pacific NW, but shipped over to China as fast as possible. I wonder if this isn't just like loading up your plate before it is all gone at the smorgy? Even with our dollar at 1.03 US plus, and climbing, it just trucks on.

They were getting wood from Siberia, and I hear much of it was basically illegally harvested after the collapse of the SU, and now I wonder if that source is exhausted or held back? Anyway, the resource grab is going on from oil to building materials. I am sure there are countless examples of this in every facet of the economy.


The Chinese are playing it smart. Swap the declining USDs for physical commodities. Lumber can join coal, iron ore, base metals etc as things the Chinese are bidding up and buying up big.
Inflation in China is around 20-25% and buying up assets is one way of dealing with the problem.

Until these countries get smart and demand something else then USD toilet paper.

I am seeing the same thing (on a smaller scale) across the Georgia Strait on the Sunshine Coast - raw logs going to China. I am normally a free trade guy, but in this case I think the Cdn/Bc gov should have an export tax, or even ban, on raw logs. There is a lot of potential added value, and jobs, dissappearing with each shipload.

Raw logs are the *only* lumber that can be sent to the us that is NOT subject to the softwood lumber agreement, so same thing - jobs and value going south.

And we are left with clearcuts and burning slash piles, or worse. Part of the water catchment for my town was logged so that a Vanc Island company could send raw logs to China. Local gov made a court challenge and BC gov overruled and allowed logging to go on. China got the logs, the company got the money and we got a denuded landscape and a water quality advisory from eroded soil in the beautiful alpine creek that supplies our water. *%#holes.