Drumbeat: May 9, 2011

Americans blame oil companies, speculators for prices

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- The high price of gasoline is changing the driving and spending habits of Americans, and the public blames speculators and oil companies for the price spike, according to a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey.

Sixty-three percent of Americans say they have cut back on driving due to the high price of gas. And almost six in ten report spending less on other items due to the rise in prices at the pump, a sign of a spillover effect into the broader economy.

Meanwhile, almost four in ten Americans say they have changed their vacation plans due to higher prices.

Our view: When gas hits $4 a gallon, phony fixes are sure to follow

There's nothing like $4-a-gallon gasoline to provoke political finger-pointing, mostly in the wrong direction.

Opposing view: Crack down on speculators

Americans are shackled to an uncompetitive and corrupt global oil market — one that is draining wealth from the U.S. economy at a rate of $1 billion a day.

Not everyone is unhappy about this. Big oil companies are posting record profits, while their partners in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) enjoy the benefits of keeping prices high.

Saudi keeps oil supply steady ahead of OPEC meeting

(Reuters) - Saudi Arabia will keep crude oil supplies in June unchanged from May, trade sources said on Monday, amid volatile prices and ahead of an OPEC meeting in June to review the producer group's supply policy.

TransCanada Keystone pipeline shut after spill

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - TransCanada Corp said on Monday its 591,000-barrel-a-dday Keystone oil pipeline will remain closed for a few days after a fitting at a North Dakota pumping station failed and spilled about 500 barrels of oil.

The line was shut early on Saturday after the spill within the Ludden pump station, about 65 km (40 miles) southwest of Milnor, North Dakota.

Iran’s parliament signs off on $508 billion budget based on oil price at $81.5 a barrel

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s parliament has signed off on a $508 billion budget bill that is about 40 percent bigger than that approved the previous calendar year, state media reported on Monday.

The increase in the new budget, which runs through March 2012, is a result of a sharp reduction in energy and food subsidies and an increase in the global price of oil, the official IRNA news agency said, adding that the budget was based on an oil price of $81.5 per barrel. Oil prices have spiked well above $100 per barrel on the back of the unrest ravaging the Arab world.

How shale gas will transform the markets

The past 100 days have been a dramatic time for energy markets, as a nuclear accident in Japan followed revolt across the Middle East, with oil prices fluctuating sharply in the aftermath. Despite the sense of crisis, however, neither Fukushima nor conflict in Libya is likely to disrupt long-term patterns in global energy supplies. But there is one new development – the rising importance of shale gas – that just might.

Shale gas could solve the world's energy problems

It's anathema to environmentalists, but shale gas is a new fossil-fuel source that could power the world for centuries.

Study More Than Doubles B.C. Gas Resources Estimate

A new joint report on the shale-gas potential of Northeastern B.C.'s Horn River Basin more than doubles a previous assessment of gas resources within the province.

The report released by the National Energy Board (NEB) and British Columbia Ministry of Energy and Mines (BC MEM) titled "Ultimate Potential for Unconventional Natural Gas in Northeastern British Columbia's Horn River Basin" is the first publicly released probability-based resource assessment of a Canadian shale basin.

Analysis: Japan LNG reliance grows with latest nuclear setback

(Reuters) - Japan's move to shut another nuclear power plant will boost imports of LNG from Qatar and Australia to fire gas-based plants to make up for the loss, exacerbating rising dependence on imported gas in the wake of the massive earthquake in March.

Glencore Says Supplies 3% Of World's Oil Consumption

LONDON -(Dow Jones)- Glencore supplies around 3% of the world's oil consumption, with its biggest customers the oil majors as well as national oil firms in India, Nigeria and Mexico, the company said in the prospectus for its initial public offering.

The company, which estimates it is among the world's largest non-integrated physical suppliers of crude oil and oil products, supplied a physical volume of around 2.5 million barrels of oil a day in 2010.

At Glencore's pinnacle of capitalism, even hunger is a commodity

What does it take to make the food speculators at Goldman Sachs look like they're playing for lunch money? A secretive Swiss-based company, and one of the world's largest commodity trading firms, knows. With its initial public offering announced on Thursday, Glencore – a multibillion-dollar mining, energy and food trader that will soon list in London and Hong Kong – is the envy of Wall Street. When Goldman Sachs was floated, the then CEO Hank Paulson made off with $219m. Glencore's chief executive, Ivan Glasenberg, has already earned the moniker "The Ten Billion Dollar Man" for his share of the bonanza.

Fuel Shortage-Kenya: The Untold Story of Fuel Shortage

Fear of reduced profitability by oil marketing companies and the government's rush to announce tax cuts on fuel without proper implementation plans are the main causes of the biting fuel shortage that hit Nairobi and other major towns last week. Investigations by the Sunday Nation found that oil companies deliberately delayed to evacuate diesel and kerosene from the supply chain to take advantage of recent reductions of duties and taxes on the two commodities. That time lag between the time the duty waivers were announced and the time the decisions were gazetted was one of the most important causes of the shortages. As a result of the oil marketers' action, the Kenya Pipeline Company's storage tanks were literally clogged with diesel, leaving little space for petrol.

Russia Running on Empty

While gasoline prices in Europe and the United States have surged, Russians think that because Russia is a world oil-producing country, gasoline must be very cheap on the domestic market. But they cannot understand that oil producing companies are business units so they must increase their profit, Simonov said, adding that due to upcoming elections, “Putin must be a populist” and so has begun to blame oil companies. Putin accused the oil groups of agreeing among themselves to put just a small quantity on the market.

Police bikes, cars hobbled by fuel shortage

LAHORE: The police will run out of money for petrol within two days unless it receives a revised budgetary allocation, The Express Tribune has learnt. The supply of fuel to police bikes had already been suspended for two days and the allowance to cars reduced.

One killed during fuel shortage protest in Yemen

Sanaa (IANS) At least one person was killed and three were wounded when police opened fire to break up a demonstration protesting fuel shortage in western Yemen, Xinhua reported.

Hundreds of residents took to the streets of Al-Zaidya district in Al-Hodayda province demanding that the authorities provide cooking gas and car fuel after three weeks of acute gas and petrol shortage.

Nexen halts Yemen output

Canadian independent Nexen said production has been temporarily shut and operations suspended in Yemen as a result of a strike by a labour union.

Syria detains hundreds in fresh raids

BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian security forces arrested hundreds of activists and anti-government protesters in house-to-house raids across the country Monday, part of an escalating government crackdown aimed at stamping out the nationwide revolt engulfing the country.

UK oil to 'feel force' of bribery law

The UK’s Bribery Act, potentially the world's most draconian such law when it comes into force, will hit British-listed oil and gas companies the hardest, research by accountants Ernst & Young showed on Monday.

BP Russian truce only lull in hostilities

LONDON (Reuters) - Last week's truce between BP and its oligarch partners in Russia has not settled the row for good, and the British oil company could yet have to pay more for its new Russian tie-up with Kremlin-backed Rosneft.

American cars that don't suck... gas

The last time there was a big run-up in gas prices it helped push U.S. automakers to the brink of ruin. This time, things are different.

Now, the U.S. auto industry is much more competitive than it has been in a long time, offering a lineup of fuel efficient cars that people actually want to buy.

'Clean stoves' would save lives, cut pollution

On average, women and girls in developing countries spend up to 20 hours a week searching for fuel — time they could spend going to school, running a business, or raising their families. And if they live in areas of conflict, leaving home to search for fuel puts them at great risk of assault or rape.

All of this presents a major challenge — but it can be solved. If we can get cleaner, more efficient cookstoves in wider use throughout the developing world, we can save lives, cut back on carbon emissions, and create new economic opportunities for millions of women.

A case study of cellulosic ethanol

Based upon information provided by the corporation proposing the biorefinery, Frontier Renewable Resources LLC, owned by Mascoma Corporation and J.M. Longyear, I would not consider cellulosic ethanol to be efficient from an energy perspective.

Amtrak, 15 states get Florida's $2Bin high-speed rail money

WASHINGTON — Amtrak and rail projects in 15 states will get the $2 billion that Florida spurned when its governor canceled plans for high-speed train service, the Department of Transportation said Monday.

The largest share of the money — nearly $800 million — will be used to upgrade train speeds from 135 mph to 160 mph on segments of the heavily traveled Northeast corridor, the department said.

Power Ahead: Oil

Day two of Midday's special series Power Ahead focuses on fossil fuels. During the first hour we look at coal with Robert Bryce, author of Power Hungry: The Myths of Green Energy and The Real Fuels of the Future, Bill McKibben, leading environmentalist and award-winning author of The End of Nature and Richard Heinberg, peak-oil expert, author and senior fellow, Post Carbon Institute.

Noam Chomsky: Human intelligence and the environment

We are kind of misled now because there are a lot of humans around, but that’s a matter of a few thousand years, which is meaningless from an evolutionary point of view. His argument was, you’re just not going to find intelligent life elsewhere, and you probably won’t find it here for very long either because it’s just a lethal mutation. He also added, a little bit ominously, that the average life span of a species, of the billions that have existed, is about 100,000 years, which is roughly the length of time that modern humans have existed.

With the environmental crisis, we’re now in a situation where we can decide whether Mayr was right or not. If nothing significant is done about it, and pretty quickly, then he will have been correct: human intelligence is indeed a lethal mutation. Maybe some humans will survive, but it will be scattered and nothing like a decent existence, and we’ll take a lot of the rest of the living world along with us.

We must electrify the transport sector

Our mobile economy remains defenceless against oil-price shocks and supply interruptions. In the US, transport accounts for 70 per cent of petroleum consumed. 97 per cent of transport fuel in the US is derived from oil, and there are no plausible substitutes. When prices go up, there are only two choices: drive less or pay more. If supplies are disrupted for any reason, the choices are even worse. This must change.

Analysis: Rise of electric car to challenge Europe utilities

(Reuters) - A large-scale introduction of electric cars in Europe will force utilities and grid companies to make enormous investments in smart distribution systems in the next decade to prevent blackouts.

In Britain, electric vehicle penetration is expected to reach around 60 percent of new cars and vans by 2030, said the UK's Committee on Climate change in its Renewable Energy Review published on Monday.

At the same time, power distributors will also have to overhaul and expand grids to prepare for an increasing share of volatile renewable power in the generation mix.

Both changes together will require such profound adaptations that they amount to a once-a-generation event, said Marc De Witte, vice president for research and innovation for French energy company GDF Suez.

Germany Electric-Car Plans to Cost 4 Billion Euros, FAZ Reports

Germany’s efforts to promote electric cars may cost about 4 billion euros ($5.8 billion) in the next three years, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported, citing a government advisory panel.

Melting ice, energy development to make Arctic busy

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — U.S. and Canadian military commanders say they are examining their rescue capabilities in the Arctic as a shrinking ice cap brought about by climate change opens up rich oil and gas reserves and draws more commercial traffic to the top of the globe.

"There are a host of issues that face us as this beautiful part of the world opens up more and more," said U.S. Adm. James Winnefeld, commander of the U.S. Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Defence Command, or NORAD.

Nuclear Agency Is Criticized as Too Close to Its Industry

In the fall of 2007, workers at the Byron nuclear power plant in Illinois were using a wire brush to clean a badly corroded steel pipe — one in a series that circulate cooling water to essential emergency equipment — when something unexpected happened: the brush poked through.

The resulting leak caused a 12-day shutdown of the two reactors for repairs.

The plant’s owner, the Exelon Corporation, had long known that corrosion was thinning most of these pipes. But rather than fix them, it repeatedly lowered the minimum thickness it deemed safe. By the time the pipe broke, Exelon had declared that pipe walls just three-hundredths of an inch thick — less than one-tenth the original minimum thickness — would be good enough.

Britain Should Rely on More Nuclear Power, Less Offshore Wind, Panel Says

The U.K. should build more nuclear reactors than planned and slow down investment in offshore wind power to meet targets for carbon emissions and renewable power, the government’s climate advisory panel said.

France to Test 58 Reactors for Surviving Earthquakes, Not Terrorist Attack

Safety reviews at Electricite de France SA’s 58 atomic reactors in France will cover their vulnerability to earthquakes and floods and exclude terrorist attacks, the nation’s atomic regulator said.

“We don’t think there could be a serious study,” of risks caused by terrorism nor could it be done transparently, the head of the Autorite de Surete Nucleaire, Andre-Claude Lacoste, said at a briefing in Paris today. “This will be discussed at the end of the week in Brussels. It’s not a dogmatic position.”

ANALYSIS - West turns blind eye to Bahrain crackdown

(Reuters) - The fate of Bahrain's protest movement is a stark reminder of how Western and regional power politics can trump reformist yearnings, even in an Arab world convulsed by popular uprisings against entrenched autocrats.

Bahrain is not Libya or Syria, but Western tolerance of the Sunni monarchy's crackdown suggests that interests such as the U.S. naval base in Manama, ties to oil giant Saudi Arabia and the need to contain neighbouring Iran outweigh any sympathy with pro-democracy demonstrators mostly from the Shi'ite majority.

Peak Oil And The WikiLeaks Story That Got Away

On Thursday Ursula put up a short sharp post with a graphic that said it all. The petroleum party we have been enjoying for the last century has to end. And end it will, most likely sooner rather than later.

To further the discussion along I want to raise the specter of a WikiLeaks story that came and went and did not get nearly the discussion I thought it was worth.

Crude Oil Rebounds to $100 After Biggest Weekly Loss Since 2008

Oil rose in New York, rebounding from the biggest weekly decline since 2008, as signs that the global economic recovery remained intact stoked speculation the slump was exaggerated.

Futures climbed as much as 3.6 percent, snapping a five-day losing streak, after a report today showed German exports surged in March to the highest monthly value ever recorded and the U.S. Labor Department said May 6 that payrolls expanded more than forecast. The world economy isn’t weak enough to justify a freefall in prices, Qatar Oil Minister Mohammed bin Saleh al- Sada said yesterday.

Gas price to drop as oil joins commodities fall

NEW YORK — Investors finally hit the brakes on oil, gold, silver and food prices. This week's sharp sell-off doesn't mean commodity prices' stunning rise over the last several months is over, but it is good news for anyone planning a road trip this summer.

Oil prices fell 15 percent this week, the steepest decline in two and a half years, just as average U.S. pump prices were approaching $4 a gallon. Gasoline prices fell imperceptibly to consumers' eyes Friday — one-tenth of a penny to just over $3.98 per gallon — but that ended a 44-day streak of rising prices. Prices will soon drop noticeably and some analysts said they could hit $3.50 by summer.

Experts: Gas prices to drop 50 cents by summer

Analysts say things are looking up for the consumer; many predict we'll be paying 50 cents less for a gallon of gas this summer. "There's a saying in the trading community. High prices fix high prices so that process is underway now," Kevin Ferry with Cronus Futures Management said.

Goldman Sees Commodity Recovery as Slump Erases $99 Billion

The commodities rout that knocked off $99 billion of market value last week is driving out speculators and leading Goldman Sachs Group Inc., which forecast the plunge, to predict a possible recovery.

What really triggered oil’s greatest rout

NEW YORK — When oil prices fell below US$120 a barrel in early New York trade last Thursday, a few big companies that are major oil consumers started buying around US$117.

It looked like a bargain. Brent crude had been trading above US$120 for a month. But the buying proved ill-timed. Crude kept on falling.

“They were down millions by the end of the day, trying to catch a falling piano,” an executive at a major New York investment bank said.

The rise of 'real assets'

Aquila’s CEO Roman Rosslenbroich argues that in a changing world, investors should dispense with conventional strategies that have relied on a ‘25 year bond and equity boom’, and instead look to ‘real assets’ for future returns.

‘The real asset side of the business is driven by a belief that we are experiencing exponential growth with limited resources. People have underestimated what the exponential would look like and it is now getting extreme,’ said Rosslenbroich.

Qatar’s Al-Sada Says Too Early to Know if OPEC Will Decide for More Crude

Qatar’s Oil Minister Mohammed bin Saleh al-Sada said it is too early to say whether OPEC will decide to pump additional crude at its next meeting in June.

British Gas warns of higher energy prices this winter

Centrica, owner of British Gas, is warning customers to expect higher energy bills this winter.

The company claims that the prices customers pay don’t reflect the cost of gas on the wholesale market.

Centrica has also announced that it will reduce investment in the UK because of the extra taxes the government has imposed on North Sea oil and gas production.

Syrian tanks storm key northern protest town of Baniyas

BEIRUT — Syrian troops and tanks swept into the northern coastal town of Baniyas on Saturday to suppress anti-government demonstrations, tightening the squeeze on a persistent yet largely leaderless opposition movement that has refused to stop staging protests despite a deadly military crackdown.

Human rights groups said three women were shot dead in a village outside Baniyas when they joined a demonstration to protest the army’s actions, but that otherwise land lines and cellphone services to the town were cut off and no information was emerging about what was happening there.

Sanctions choke off supplies in Tripoli: Some blame NATO, others Gadhafi for growing desperation

Tripoli, Libya— Cars sat abandoned in miles-long fuel lines, motorists traded angry screams with soldiers guarding gas stations, and many shops were closed Sunday on what should have been a workday.

In ever-multiplying ways, residents in the Libyan capital are feeling the sting of shortages from uprising-related disruptions of supplies.

Libya rebels score breakthrough $100 mln oil deal

(Reuters) - Libyan rebels have found a way to access badly needed cash, selling oil worth $100 million paid for through a Qatari bank in U.S. dollars, a member of the rebels' oil and gas support group for Libya said on Monday.

Bushehr plant set to join national grid

Iranian and Russian experts have completed loading fuel into the reactor at Bushehr nuclear power plant in southern Iran, officially putting it into service.

After undergoing numerous tests, the nuclear power station has become operational, but will start generating electricity in two months' time, reported Fars News Agency.

TEPCO detects dangerous radiation level at Fukushima No. 1 reactor

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), detected a potentially dangerous radiation level at the damaged No. 1 reactor of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, Kyodo news agency said Monday.

Chubu Electric to Shut Nuclear Plant; Boost Tsunami Defenses

(Bloomberg) -- Chubu Electric Power Co. agreed to the government’s call to close down its Hamaoka nuclear plant until it can be fortified to withstand a tsunami like the one two months ago that crippled another Japanese atomic station.

Japan nuclear plant shutdown adds new risk to economy, auto industry

(Reuters) - The surprise closure of another Japanese nuclear plant, this time at the power supplier to the heart of the auto industry, threatens to dampen consumer sentiment and will provide car makers with yet another reason to produce fewer cars in Japan.

Hail shale for future fuel

CRITICAL to the argument for a massive, urgent and sustained shift to renewable energy have been three intertwined claims.

One is that renewables provide an economic alternative to fossil fuels. The second is that renewables provide the only environmentally friendly and "clean" alternative, which help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And the third is that reliance on fossil fuels is unsustainable as their supply is finite. Hence the concerns over "peak oil", "peak gas" and energy depletion, shortage and crisis.

Of Subsidies and Sound Policies

MANILA, Philippines -- As of this writing, the government has started distributing the Pantawid Pasada smart cards to some 3,000 jeepney drivers nationwide. This is in line with the Public Transportation Assistance Program-Pantawid Pasada (PTAP) created through Executive Order No. 32.

The Pantawid Pasada Program aims to “provide targeted relief to the public transport sector to cushion the impact of high fuel prices on the riding and consuming public.” A load of P1,050 is allotted per card that the owner (jeepney/tricycle driver) can use to cope with high fuel prices.

Is The Commodities Boom Over?

I suspect this year's unrest in North Africa and the Middle East is not unrelated to recent food price spikes. You could argue that this is the harbinger of much worse to come. Perhaps Malthus was right after all.

However, I am an optimist. I think humans will use their incredible ingenuity to find alternatives to oil. They will develop substitute technologies that will minimise the use of minerals, or else recycle them. And they will use bioscience to find ways to produce greater quantities of food cheaply. And for that reason, for the very long term, I might just be a commodities bear.

How Saudi Arabia Plans To Win The Food War

Without its oil wealth, Saudi Arabia’s 27 million inhabitants would eventually starve. At a recent social event, the country’s Minister of Agriculture Fahd Balghunaim warned that the ratio of food and water in the kingdom is perilously out of balance.

But oil wealth currently ensures that its own population will be fed in the decades to come, as it enables the kingdom to invest huge sums to develop agriculture projects in Africa, Turkey, and elsewhere. By 2100, at least 10,ooo,ooo,ooo people will be jostling for food and other natural resources. As long as it continues to earn money from oil exports, Saudi will not get left behind.

High end homes and backyard chickens clash in Clyde Hill

Boyd says last year, city officials called, saying her animals were illegal. But she saw egg all over their faces.

"Since it's inception, Clyde Hill has always complied with the county code, which explicitly allows chickens," she says.

So Clyde Hill decided to amend its municipal code. The city now bans the birds.

"It began to feel a little vindictive. We got notices that they were going to charge us $250 a day," in violations.

Three Gorges Dam to unleash water, ease drought

YICHANG - The Three Gorges Dam, the world's largest hydropower project, is expected to increase its water discharges over three days in a bid to fight the severe drought that has ravaged Central China's Hubei province and some southern provinces since February.

The discharge speed of the dam will accelerate to 7,000 cubic meters per second during the next three days, 1,500 cubic meters faster than the inflow speed, said Wang Hai of the dam's construction and operation management bureau.

Meat consumption gets ecological grilling

A Swiss non-governmental organisation is trying to encourage citizens to halve their meat consumption – an initiative the industry is finding hard to swallow.

In the past, health risks, ethical issues and the development of disease have been the primary arguments put forward against eating meat. More recently, opponents of eating meat have adopted saving the planet from global warming as their new mantra.

Shipston "tower" to highlight climate change message

ENVIRONMENTAL group Transition Shipston has won a £2,000 grant to build a "transition tower" to highlight its message.

The grant from the environmental charity Artists Planet Earth will be used to make a tower that will display everyday items made entirely or partly from oil-based materials to highlight their impact on climate change.

UN climate change panel says 80 percent of energy needs could be met by renewables by 2050

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — The top climate panel has concluded that renewable sources like solar and wind could represent up to 80 percent of the world’s energy needs by 2050 and play a significant role in combating climate change.

But the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that governments will have to do more to introduce policies that integrate renewables into existing power grids and promote their benefits in terms of helping reduce air pollution and improving public health.

Link up top: How Saudi Arabia Plans To Win The Food War

Without its oil wealth, Saudi Arabia’s 27 million inhabitants would eventually starve...

Peak oil is the kingdom’s leading nemesis. Currently 80% of its revenues are based on petroleum, which its own residents are burning at speed. Remove oil from the equation, and Saudi Arabia stands to lose so much more than just the food war.

At least some officials in Saudi Arabia has seen the light. Their attempt to become self sufficient in wheat proved disastrous and soon they will produce no wheat whatsoever. There is just no food crop that does not require a lot of water, and water is something they do not have.

And make no mistake about it, regardless of what Saudi Arabia is telling the rest of the world, they know the truth. Their old giant fields are in decline and their end is near. Whatever story they tell the rest of the world they are getting very worried about their future.

The trouble starts when people just get hungry, not when they start to starve. Millions of hungry people who feel they are not getting their share of the oil money can start to riot. Then it is all over for the Saudi regime. And they are very aware of that fact.

Ron P.

It's interesting that with elections every two years, we western countries could never seriously work on such a problem. We would just "kick the can down the road", hoping to survive one more term in office.

The Saudis are deep in overshoot due to their oil wealth and following the age old route of colonialism to acquire resources (food in this case). Eventually they will have to expand their military to protect their colonised overseas land assets. As their population is relatively small this will probably involve the militarisation of their society.

It will be interesting to see how this warrior kingdom will come into being. Sending troops into Bahrain and Yemen may just be the start.

Very interesting take. If they do follow this path, then 'ELM' will be amazing to watch, as a busy military consumes lots of fuel.

eastex - just a WAG but I suspect they'll outsource the boots on the ground when time comes. Granted the Legionaires are getting long in the tooth. But there's a lot of cheap trigger fingers in Africa from what I hear. And let's not forget it's important to the oil importers that the KSA not divert too much of their resources to the military...unless they are buying from us, of course.

Outsourcing "boots" does not have a good history. The Romans outsource the frontier guard to barbarians, who ultimately marched into Rome. The Sicilian kings outsourced their military to the Normans, as did the English. It took 200 years to get them out of Southern Italy. They're still ruling England ;>)

True, after the 100 years war between England and France the king of England went home, leaving his army behind. The English army dissolved into mercenary companies and went about creating a market for themselves (ie. creating conflict and destroying security). Some stayed in France causing havoc, other moved into Italy where they were employed by the city states against each other. The result was 30 years of confused conflict between the city states and nobles with the mercenary companies becoming political players in the chaos.

If the Saudis value history then they would avoid military outsourcing. Besides, the Saudi population is young with many troublesome young males. Military adventurism has long been a way to occupy young males and remove their destabilising influence elsewhere. Climate change has also a history of mobilising populations.

The Saudis will probably buy the ruling elite in the countries they're interested in as a first approach to the problem (eg. control via proxy). Although, as can be seen in the MENA revolutions, this is fraught with risk and is only suitable during stable times. Eventually as things become more chaotic, only having physical control can provide the level of security necessary. It's long been my contention that money will become useless if important commodities such as food fail to make it onto the open market, but are instead controlled by private trading relationships. Owning and controlling real assets will become more important than financial paper claims on their production.

As I have watched the stories of Saudi Arabia, and China, and others, buying up land in Africa, I have wondered about it. What makes them think Africa will let them keep the land when the going gets tough? A deed is just a piece of paper, and paper can be repudiated. Courts can negate contracts. Legislatures can pass laws. Warlords can wield weapons. Villagers can vandalize.

Think of all the oil producing countries who let foreigners' companies come in, and develop the fields, and then just 'nationalized' everything. Bye bye foreigners, go away, it's ours. We have a billion people to feed.

Will China roll over as easily as Western countries did? Maybe, maybe not. Stay tuned.

It will roll over whether it likes it or not.The logistics is forbidding.

Perhaps the US military will protect those agricultural resources for preferential access to diminishing oil production.

I dunno..... what if they just arm the nobility with tanks and machine guns and mow the crowds down indescriminately. Then they'd need much less food.

And who would stop them? Whose interest is it in to help?

Ususally the Machiavellian principle of help the weak applies, but not here. The unarmed multitudes want real stuff ( like food ) for their oil. The upper crust will take money and invest it in the countries that bought the oil in the first place.

Food riots turn into revolutions only if segments of the military and/or police go over to the rioters side.

Otherwise, food riots tend to result in fewer mouths to feed. The people with the guns tend to keep the guns and the food.

It will make an interesting movie.
The Saudi's (and they're not alone, many Middle eastern countries are in the same situation) have very limited military capability. It's not for want of guns and bullets, but effective and disciplined command and control. The leadership cadre of the militaries of many of these societies is simply too corrupt and incompetent. And they also seem to lack a truly modern mindset when it comes to military operations in general. This is partially due to their cultural traditions and partially due to having very limited past successes from which to build.
The paradigm for what to expect in Arab military ops can be previewed pretty clearly in the multiple wars they have waged against the Israelis and also the Iraq/Iran war. If you ask me, none of this is very promising.

They weren't hungry yet.

When everybody clicks-in and realizes that future war is part of a zero-sum game, and that there is not enough to go around, I imagine the outcomes to be different.

I could even imagine these desperate regimes convincing their masses to go to holy war, with the true objective of reducing mouths to feed in their own kingdom.

Seems like a win-win for the regimes. If you 'lose', you solve the demand problem. If you 'win', you solve the supply problem with the added bonus of relieving a bit of the demand problem. ... at least for a little while longer.

There is just no food crop that does not require a lot of water, and water is something they do not have.

What they do have is a pile of cash and a need to somehow retain what water there is if they want to be self sufficient within their own borders for their population levels.

Projects like http://earthbagbuilding.wordpress.com/2010/09/03/turning-sand-to-stone/ could have Man reverse the the position of the permaculturalists of Man causing the deserts. At least the United Arab Emerites is dropping some coin on the idea - even if it is a dreaded techno-fix.

Millions of hungry people who feel they are not getting their share of the oil money can start to riot. Then it is all over for the Saudi regime.

Instead of:

Total energy = number of people X rate of resource consumption

They can look at this equation and try to balance it:

Resources like food/water = number of people X rate of resource consumption
If this side is going down - is the KSA willing to change the rate of consumption or the number of people?

But don't worry to much about singing Cheaper crude or no more food as George Ure had this food joy to spread this morn:

Since I try to be a somewhat well-informed writer, I get all kinds of interesting reports and among Monday's was the USDA CropProgress update. In it, we can see the impact of flooding in the nation's breadbasket in spades.
Take cotton: So far this season that's not looking too bad. The 2006-2010 average was 33% planted by this time, and this year it's only 26%. Not a disaster. But, you can't eat cotton.
Corn's a little different. The national average planted by this time (2006-2010 in all these, right?) was 59%. Instead, we have only 40% in and some states, like Michigan are only 8% planted compared with 49% historically. Iowa is right on track, but Indiana? 4% planted compared with a 49% average previously.
Worse, in the survey of 18 corn producing states, only 7% of the crop has emerged (sprouted, eh?) versus a 21% average.
Soybeans are 7% planted instead of the usual 17%.
Sorghum and peanuts are doing fine, but sugarbeets? Another disaster lurking: Only 33% planted versus 77% in more normal times.
Spring wheat planting is behind, too: 22% in compared with the five year average 61% in the ground by now. And of that, only 6% has emerged with a 25% average for five years.
Oats are down some, but more important with beer season fast approaching, barley is running at half-speed.

Best not look behind - that sound is the hooves of horsemen of the Apocalypse Death, War, Famine and Pollution

Re: Crude Oil Rebounds to $100 After Biggest Weekly Loss Since 2008

The obvious question is, how much of last week's price plunge was due to speculators running for the door as the unrest in the MENA sector cooled and thus what is the "real" (i.e., market based) price for oil?

E. Swanson

"as the unrest in the MENA sector cooled"

Did it? I must of missed it.

Dog - You follow this more closely than I do: was the "big" price drop in the spot oil market? The futures market? Can't be the long term contract market since those prices are never released anyway? We won't be selling our oil for another 21 days and won't know at what price since our contract is based on an adjusted WTI price on the delivery date. WTI might be down a good bit today but if it recovers by the first of the month than that's the price at which we'll sell our oil.

Here's what the Futures Explorer shows this morning:

Futures had a big drop in the last few days, dropping well below prices of the last month but still within the range of the last three months. The front month contract only needs to gain a couple of dollars to be right back where it closed in March or April and this is well within the normal range of how much futures prices move within a week.

Nothing to worry about ROCKMAN. Price volatility is not over by a long shot but I expect the annual average price will continue its upward trend.


Just curious...why are the file sizes of your images so huge? They're small images without a lot of detail. They should be one-tenth the file size they are. Is it because they're automatically generated or something?

It's because they're PNGs - would be better to convert them to JPEGs.

Not true. PNGs are a great choice for this type of image. Like GIFs, they are best for images that have large areas of flat color - like charts and graphs.

PNGs tend to be immense if you try to use them for photos. But this is a PNG:

And it's only 20k, compared to 200k for the original.


Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I have always had very high speed internet connections and have never given image file sizes any thought.

The images are originally generated in pdf. I use ghostscript to convert the images from pdf to png and typically have it set to use the highest resolution for best quality for "publication quality" output. You've shown I can lower the resolution without losing quality. I'll try it out.

Thanks again,


If you can't figure it out, it's okay. Your graphs are worth the bandwidth. I was just curious.

Alterantivly link a small copy to a large one on an image host.


Image sizes and page loading times make a huge difference to me. I try to use the energy export databrowser in the office where each change takes a few seconds to load, rather than at home where it feels like minutes. Often I want to check several charts, so the timelags add up. But your current image sizes are not huge, and I agree they're well worth it!

Well, changing the resolution didn't fix the problem. How did you reduce the image size? Was it with ImageMagick?

Your image is 16 bit, this allows for 65536 colours, which is rather overkill for a graph. You can convert to 8 bit ,which allows for 256 colours, with the convert command from ImageMagick:

convert -depth 8 mygraph.png mysmallergraph.png

This would reduce your 204K image to 74K. Set the depth to 4 and you can reduce the image to 16 colours and use 28K.

Learn something new every day..

True, they are PNGs, but not just that. Normally PNGs are 24-bit, but Jonathan's are 48-bit. His current PNG is 203kB, using compression ratio 5.4, which means that uncompressed it is 1.1 MB. Just opening that file in GIMP/Photoshop and saving it will make 16-bit PNG of 70kB - compression ratio 7.9, with uncompressed size of 549.3 kB (half of the original).

I think Leanan knows very well that those are PNGs, but she probably finds those files being big even for PNGs... And they truly are. :P

Probably they are automatically generated by some software called "TXtSoftware" and this application makes them so huge and unnecessarily 48-bit.

As usual, the expertise of TOD commenters is far beyond my own.

I would love to create compact PNGs as long as I don't have to sacrifice image quality.

Our automated workflow on a Unix system is the following:

  1. I'm using R to generate very large PDFs
  2. I'm using 'gs' to convert the PDFs to very large PNGs
  3. I'm using 'mogrify' from ImageMagick to resize the PNG images to 500 pixels

If there are other parameters to pass or another ImageMagick tool to use I'd love some suggestions. Here are the parameters we're using now on CentOS Unix:

gs -dSAFTER -dBATCH -dNOPAUSE -sDEVICE=png16m -dGraphicsAlphaBits=4 -dTextAlphaBits=4 -r300 -dBackgroundColor='16#ffffff' -sOutputFile=out.png in.pdf

mogrify -resize 500 out.png

Thanks for any suggestions.


As ramen says, even importing your PNG into Gimp (Gnu Image Manipulation Program) and saving it with the default PNG settings reduces it to 70K. Using something like Photoshop/Paintshop allows you to compress it even further by selecting a custom colour palette.

You could perhaps try just running the images through a gimp script that just loads and re-saves (you could resize in gimp as well cutting out the mogrify).

Jon, the first command produces PNG16, that's twice the size of PNG8.
I'm not that familiar with GS, probably changing the device parameter would work:


but if not, these mogrify parameters should work:

mogrify -resize 500 -format png -depth 4 out.png

This last command would make your original png around 20kB, the same as Leanan's. ;)
Looking forward to hearing from you whether it did work as intended. :)

Actually, he is using "-sDEVICE=png16m" which sets the palette to 16 million colors and uses 24 bits per pixel. Using "-sDEVICE=png256" will set the palette to 258 colors, which requires 8 bits per pixel. Using "-sDEVICE=png16" (notice the 'm' has been dropped from the first setting) would set the palette to 16 colors, using 4 bits per pixel.

Use R to generate the image as a gif or jpeg or png.

If you are on a headless server, use the Cairo package to create a psuedo-graphic device.
This is what I use on my psuedo-CentOS web host.

If you would like more help, contact me on gmail with ronald.broberg.

Part of the problem comes from creating the image at a large size in the first place. If you create it (with many but not all tools) at the final size, you can take advantage of "false resolution". That is, say, a vertical axis becomes a vertical row of black pixels, or several such rows side by side, and nothing more.

When you reduce the image from a large size, a vertical axis becomes some vertical rows of pixels in varying shades of dark gray, plus more rows of varying lighter shades of gray, due to "antialiasing". In plain English, it becomes blurry (and this is not a remediable defect of software used to reduce the image.) It takes more bytes to represent blurry lines than sharp ones, because there are all those shades of gray, and all their locations, to capture*. Same with all the other features in the image. (However, a little blurriness of curved or diagonal elements is better than none, to avoid a grainy appearance of curved edges.)

One can remove some of the gratuitous blurring by brute force: using the GIMP editor, load the 200K png. Select Image -> Mode -> Indexed. Select Generate optimum palette, with Maximum number of colors: 16, and Color dithering: none. Click on the Convert button. Then select File -> Save, and save it as png.

Result: a 9K file that can barely be distinguished from the original when displayed at 1:1 size. So there's even room to experiment, 32 colors might look a trifle better.

Another possibility would be to create the images as SVG files and convert those directly to the intended rasterized size (e.g. the 500x375) when needed. (Try to avoid re-sampling raster images, especially charts and the like, which are supposed to look crisp, to different sizes. You lose crispness and add gratuitous bandwidth-hogging information - noise and blurring - each and every time you do so.) Since SVG has finally been added to IE (IIRC), it should soon be possible just to put SVGs on the web and let each browser rasterize them to whatever size they become on whatever computer or phone they happen to be displayed on. Since the rasterizer "knows" that an SVG line is a line, it can take advantage of "false resolution" (and blur the diagonals and curves just enough but no more), the same way that the font rasterizer in the operating system has already been doing for many, many years.
*and png is intended to be "lossless" (unlike jpeg which inserts all sorts of "artifacts"), so as Leanan said, it doesn't compress pictures well, because pictures contain lots of noise and blurriness. "Lossless" conversion doesn't attempt to decide which byte-consuming noise and blurriness can be removed without anyone noticing that it's gone, and which can't. It keeps everything, by design.

I use a free image resizer, convert to jpg and downsize the file. Works great for blogs, etc., quick and uncomplicated.

For the truly old school, there's the netpbm package of command-line programs, freely available including source code for essentially all platforms -- Linux, Windows, Mac OS X, and every flavor of UNIX I've ever spent time with.

I like all the nerdy Unix comments. Makes me feel at home.

Wow! So much excellent advice!

Quick responses:

Undertow -- We're trying not to add any more layers to the code base. Gimp is awesome and I love it but I'm not sure the added complexity is justified.

Ramen -- Excellent suggestions. 'gs' supports lower color bit depths as described in this ghostscript documentation but this setting seemed to make no difference on the ultimate file sizes. However, adding "-depth 4" to the mogrify command arguments seems to have helped a lot. File sizes are in the ~70K range instead of ~200K. I think this is enough of an improvement for now.

Ron -- We're running R 2.6.1 on our production server and the anti-aliasing available in that ancient version is not satisfactory. Hopefully when CentOS finally puts out another release we'll be able to upgrade python, R, etc. and start using Cairo. I may contact you at that point. :-)

PaulS -- Our software stack creates pdf files first because some clients really like having access to those. As explained above, versioning issues seem to preclude creating png images directly from R so we're relying on the excellent anti-aliasing available in ImageMagick's 'mogrify' command. But thanks for the detailed explanation.

I'll be bookmarking this comment thread for future reference.

Thanks all!


I'm a computer Neanderthal, but I just use Photoshop to make stuff like that. Then you can do raster or vector, choose not to have anti-aliasing on it if you want, save to any file type you want, and tell it what size the saved file should be. There's lots more you can do in there too, but like I said...Neanderthal.

GIMP can do pretty much the same processing but Jon is using the Linux command line to create an automagic translation that uses no human intervention. I figure that once he gets the right parameters in there he will get just what he wants.


Jon, that's great! Always very happy to be of service. :)

And... I thank -you- for your effort and contribution to this forum. Your insights, graphs and opinions are much appreciated.
Surely, I can speak only for myself, but reading Leanan's response:

If you can't figure it out, it's okay. Your graphs are worth the bandwidth. I was just curious.

I'm definitely not alone. :)
Keep up the good work and posting! ;)

I'm using R to generate very large PDFs

I'm not sure what R is - but would gnuplot work better?

I know gnuplot, and probably not.
R is a much better tool for this sort of thing.

Thanks Jonathan...as I suspected. I get frustrated when "they" report the price of oil as this or that when in reality they're aern't talking about how much any physical oil is actually selling for. That was the main reason for asking such a leading question. Not sure how common it is but hunted down some guys in the internation oil trading game. According to them (unverified, of course) even when a buyer has a long term contract for KSA oil at Brent +/- $X it doesn't mean too much. Said the KSA will tell the buyer what that next load will cost and if they agree. If they try to hold the KSA's feet to fire some odd event will let a force majeure kick in and cancell the contract. Apparently none of the crude buyers are willing to sue the KSA in the World Court. Their story maybe 100% BS but I can also see it as possible. If the KSA is your only source of crude can you afford to make them angry with you?

Rockman, because of arbitrage there can never be a great difference between the near month futures contract and the spot market. Also, except for the first three days of a new contract, the WTI spot always closes to the penny at what futures closes at. Friday's WTI Cushing spot and the NYMEX both closed at $97.18. Don't ask me why or what kind of an agreement Cushing has with the NYMEX but I am sure there is one. I just have no idea what it is.

Ron P.

Thanks for the effort Ron but still as clear as mud to me also. Guess I was doomed to be a geologist from birth. As Dirty Harry once said: "A man has got to know his limitations."

Rockman, it is really not all that complicated. Suppose a few days before expiration the near month contract was selling for $110 while the spot was $100. A trader could buy the oil and sell the futures, locking in an instant $10,000 profit on each contract. That is called arbitrage. Of course the near term futures contract could never get that far out because traders would always be there to jump on any difference once it appeared, pulling the two, the futures and spot, back closer together.

Traders know to the penny what the difference must be in order to make a profit with arbitrage. The time until expiration always figures into the equation. The closer to expiration date the less the difference has to be in order to make a profit.

Ron P.

Wow! that was clear. Thanks (I know I was not part of this conversation, but, thanks anyway)

Yes, thanks Darwinian. Being able to translate something like that clearly and simply is a valuable skill. Your effort is much appreciated.

We won't be selling our oil for another 21 days and won't know at what price since our contract is based on an adjusted WTI price on the delivery date. WTI might be down a good bit today but if it recovers by the first of the month than that's the price at which we'll sell our oil.

RM, this is exactly the kind of information I've been looking for. So the price you sell at is based on the current futures price. If this applies to other producers as well, this directly implies that speculator driven prices on the futures market directly affect the price that producers charge their customers which means that the "speculators are driving the prices up (down)" crowd is essentially correct. Or am I missing something.

It looks like RM's price is actually based on the spot price, or whatever it will be in a few weeks time. So it is not actually based on the futures price. That's why he doesn't know yet how much he's going to get.

It would be helpful to know how often oil suppliers negotiate a price based on spot price, vs negotiating one based on futures price. In principle, a supplier who wants some certainty of revenue (and is prepared to trade off the chance of extra profit to get that certainty) should agree a sale based on the futures price. That would be using the futures market in the genuine sense of "hedging" rather than "speculating".

Notice that the futures market AS A WHOLE is a zero sum game (or strictly a slightly negative sum game once you consider transactions costs). However, that doesn't mean that the "speculator" part of the market is zero-sum. It seems entirely credible that the "speculators" (such as the so-called hedge funds) are making a profit on average, whereas the genuine "hedgers" (the ones hedging for legitimate risk-reduction reasons) are making a loss on average. Presumably the professional speculators keep speculating for a good reason (i.e. they do on balance make a profit) they're not just gambling for the sake of it.

RM's price is probably based on the spot market price of some benchmark crude delivered to some specific location, e.g. West Texas Intermediate delivered to Cushing, Oklahoma. Since he is probably not producing West Texas Intermediate and probably not delivering it to Cushing, the sales contract probably specifies some kind of offset (discount or premium) to the WTI spot price quoted on NYMEX on the date of sale, depending on what grade of oil he is producing and where he is delivering it to.

Hedging is more complicated, but there are basically two sides to every hedge - on one side is a company which wants to reduce its risk, and is willing to pay a premium to be able do that, and on the other side is a company with deep pockets full of money which is willing to assume the risk in return for a risk premium, which will probably translate into a profit when the oil changes hands.

The whole thing is probably neutral as to effect on prices, it's just a transfer of risk from one party (which can't afford to take risks) to another party (which can afford to take risks), in return for a profit, which essentially comes out of the low risk party's profit margin.

Sorry chaps...late response. Yes...based on spot prices. And the adjustment always favors the oil buyer. Or at least it seems that way to us oil sellers. Typically a small producer has ery little negotiating power: the buyers pays $X/bbl with an adjustment and you take it or leave it if it cost too much to haul your load to another buyer.

DrNick, except for the first three trading days of a new contract the futures and the spot always closes at the exact same price. So one cannot really talk about one price or the other because they are basically the same thing. But except for deliveries on contracts, and there are very few of them, oil is, by definition, priced at the spot price. Of course this varies with grade and different contractual agreements.

Also you cannot say that speculators, be they so-called hedge funds, ETFs or individual speculators, make money at the expense of true hedgers. Simply because true hedgers are outnumbered by the former by several hundred to one. The NYMEX trades almost 1 million contracts per day. Today, just on the near term June contract, over 400,000 contracts for 1,000 barrels were traded. That is contracts for over 400,000,000 barrels of WTI light sweet crude. That is about as many paper barrels traded in one day as actual WTI crude that will be traded in several months at Cushing.
NYMEX Light Crude Oil

Ron P.

Quick example. Suppose the current futures price for delivery in January 2012 is $100 (assume WTI grade). I'm an oil supplier, and agree today to that contract to sell 1000 barrels in January. If the spot price in January 2012 is actually $110 then how much revenue will I have when I eventually sell my oil? I'll have $100 x 1000 = $100,000.

You're correct that the oil would ultimately change hands at $110, but in the period leading up to January 2012 I'll be asked to make margin payments, as the future price for Jan 2012 converges to the spot price. So my revenue is strictly $110,000 for the oil minus $10,000 for the margin payments.

Hence as a supplier it does make a material difference to me whether I agree a futures contract or a spot price contract.

On the point about speculators outnumbering genuine hedgers: this is true in terms of volumes of trades, but I'm not at all sure it's true in terms of numbers of players/businesses in the market. In any case, it is arithmetically true that if the genuine hedgers are making a net loss on average (because they are consciously trading off some element of profit for certainty about prices), then in a zero-sum game, the other players are making a net profit on average (they are gaining that element of profit in exchange for higher risk). The numbers on each side don't change this point.

I certainly wouldn't claim this is the ONLY source of profit for the professional speculators; they will also be making money out of the amateur speculators, private players, wannabees etc. This is close to the poker model: the highly skilled professional poker players can make money out of less skilled players, who in turn can make money out of unskilled players.

DrNick, oil suppliers and contract buyers of that oil do not have margin payments unless they are hedgers. Only hedgers, who actually hold futures contracts are required to put up margin payments. And hedging, as far as the hedger is concerned, is one sided. He has no idea who he will sell his oil to, or the buying hedger has no idea where his oil will come from. He only knows that he is guaranteed oil at the price on his contract. Also selling hedgers, who actually hold the physical product, are not required to put up margin because they have the actual product as security for the exchange. They only have a small commission cost.

If you sign a contract to deliver the physical product at a given price, then you must deliver oil at that price regardless of where the spot is on delivery day. However I am not familiar with actual contract trading. Rockman would be the one to answer those questions. But remember traders of the actual product are not concerned with the futures market except that they use it as a benchmark. And the price will vary with grade and delivery point regardless of the benchmark price.

Ron P.

DrNick, oil suppliers and contract buyers of that oil do not have margin payments unless they are hedgers...
If you sign a contract to deliver the physical product at a given price, then you must deliver oil at that price regardless of where the spot is on delivery day. However I am not familiar with actual contract trading.

I think that technically this is referred to as a forward contract rather than a futures contract. It will be between two fixed parties, and not traded on an exchange: no margin payments required.

Previously we were discussing futures contracts, which are traded, and require margin payments to provide assurance that whoever ends up holding the contract will in fact be able to honour it.

Since a forward contract is struck outside a futures exchange, I can't see how a speculator could make a profit out of it. Still the futures market could be having an effect: it can set the expectations for private parties to agree forward contracts. So in that sense, it can affect the price at which real oil is bought and sold. Sometimes.

what is the "real" (i.e., market based) price for oil?

According to conventional wisdom the "real" price of oil is the production cost of the most expensive barrel needed to be produced to meet the demand at the market price.

That definition has two major problems: the market price depends on the market price; and the cost of that most expensive barrel (or any barrel) depends on many vague costs, some of them in the distant past, some of them current, and some of them in the distant future.

A large part of my work is involved with estimating oil reserves, and the physical part of it is simple compared to the financial, legal, and political considerations. We leave them to our clients. Even the physical considerations have major uncertainties, but we can usually give a client a most probable reserves figure, a 90% probability figure, and a 10% probability figure, and similar estimates for production (at least in the first two or three years after a discovery). But trying to estimate future costs, future tax regimes, future regulatory costs, and future political risks is much more uncertain.

Why does this affect the price of a barrel of current production? Just to take an example, if a field about to be put into production is estimated to produce 1000 barrels per day, declining to ten barrels per day over ten years, the conventional approach is to look at the time to pay back the investment. Usually there is some limit set by the investor, requiring costs to be recovered within perhaps two years. But if there is a 50% risk of the field being nationalized within a year of it going into production, that oil is not going to go into production unless the market price is predicted to be high enough to recover development costs in less than a year. This could be thought of as a risk premium.

The larger the project, the longer the development time, and the higher the risks (geological, engineering, political, etc.) the higher the risk premium. So when a high risk project is successfully developed, the investors will make "obscene" profits. But without the possibility of these profits, such projects will not happen.

The current high profits being reported by major oil companies result from projects undertaken in the past in expectation of high profits for high risk. They are balanced out by the ones which were high risk and have produced nothing. Think of the nationalized heavy oil projects in Venezuela, or the proposed drilling by Shell in Alaska.

Ird - We'll said. I know you understand the difference between production (LOE)cost and development cost. I think you actually mean development cost when you refer to "production cost", yes? For everyone else a real life example: I'm currently producing a well at 12 bopd. At $80/bbl (a little H2S price reduction) it generates a very nice positive net cash flow above the production cost...about $160,000/year at current conditions. But the well will never recover its "development costs': the money spent to lease, drill and complete the well. We'll lose about 30% of our investment. But if all you know is that I'm making $160,000/yr thanks to the current high prices you might think I'm gouging the consumer. So I'll make an offer to any consumer out there: pay me back the monies I've spent and I'll give you all this oil (including what I've already produced) for free. Deal?


You're right. I should have explained more clearly. The real "production" cost (what I was talking about) should include all the costs needed over the whole life of the project.

I'll use an analogy. I have a car I drive. The cost per mile for fuel (at $4/gallon) is about $0.20 per mile, so if I am being paid by someone for traveling at $0.50/mile I'm making an "obscene" profit of 150%. But calling that profit ignores the original cost of the car, the cost of insurance, taxes, parking, tolls, maintenance, and the eventual need to buy a new car when this one becomes unrepairable. In the same way, the cost of production is not just the daily operating costs for the field, but all the costs over the whole life cycle of the field. Risked.

FWIW - and it may not be much

JPMorgan Hikes Brent Forecast To $130 By Q3

Beware any vested interest the JP Morgue may have.


Today, the CME raised the margin requirements for crude oil and products, effective tomorrow:

The requirement for a new position in benchmark New York Mercantile Exchange crude contracts rises to $8,438 from $6,750 previously, with margins also higher for contracts in benchmark Brent crude, gasoline and other products.

This might slow down the "speculators" a bit. Maybe some of them learned of this change last week...

E. Swanson

They probably just noticed that there is a concerted systemic action to depress commodity prices which are damaging the real economy. No point in pumping trillions into the economy to foster a recovery then seeing it fail due to rising commodity prices and subsequent inflation. All part of the massive intervention which becomes increasingly necessary when you try and micro manage the economy. It all just ends up as a highly intellectual game of whack-a-mole.

Don't you just love how the US media portrays rising gas prices, and the possibility they may fall before Memorial Day (yeah, right)? Around here the media is talking about prices falling $0.50/gallon as if that's a deal, and speculating that this "break" on gas prices will allow consumers to breathe a sigh of relief that $4.00+/gallon isn't on the horizon.

Except, the "break" in gas prices is still higher than they were 3 months ago, and if oil stays around $100/barrel no way will gas drop to $3.30/gallon. It's almost as if the media is trying to create the news, or those releasing this speculation on falling prices are doing so behind the scenes.

The conventional wisdom of the MSM is that currently high gasoline and oil prices are temporary. Thus the idea is presented that gasoline at $4.00 and more a gallon was only a brief spike, and that gasoline will fall back to the $3.50 range in a few weeks or months.

What do I think will happen to gasoline prices? They will fluctuate, based on both changes in supply and changes in demand. It is impossible to know which way prices will go in the short-term. Over a period of years I expect the price of both oil and gasoline will rise considerably--baring a Greater Depression.

It depends upon one's measurement units.

It occurs to me that if one uses the mean labor hour as the cost unit, instead of dollars or gold, that even the effects of a depression might wash out of the equation leaving a higher cost for gasoline to the end user. Of course, decreasing employment might reduce the correlation since unpaid labor hours aren't counted in the labor statistics.

So far my evidence for this is mostly anecdotal, but I suspect the numbers are present in the Labor and Energy department statistics to support a rigorous analysis if anyone were so inclined.

By unpaid labor above I am referring to increased commute times due to shifting to mass transit or human power, increased household labor from formerly employed full-time housekeepers doing more while spending less, and other off-the-books labor.

"off the books" labor is counted as part of the underground economy and does not count in GDP at all. That is one reason why comparing different countries' real GDP is often misleading: Country A may have a huge household and off-the- books economy while in Country B almost all economic activity goes through the market and hence is counted in GDP.

Advanced economies such as the U.S. are primarily market economies with an underground sector of maybe 20% or less, depending on what you decide to count. Poor economies, such as those in Africa, much of Asia, and Latin America tend to have very large underground economies--sometimes the household sector is as big as GDP itself where families live on big gardens or small farms and raise most of their own food. A hundred and fifty years ago, I think (if memory serves) that the nonmarket part of the economy--primarily family farms raising food for the family--was about as big as the market sector in the U.S. (I may be off by a few decades either way; it is a long time since I read the relevant articles on American Economic History. Also, we do not have GDP data or national income accounting numbers before 1929--just estimates and SWAGS.)

Exactly. I think this shows in the work force participation rate statistics from Labor (at least for the US). All those people who don't have jobs are at least theoretically doing *something* with value.

But that something of value isn't earning them dollars to buy gas with...

The underground economy is almost all a cash economy. Look at drug dealing, for example, or any other kind of illegal goods for sale. There is some credit extended, but not much. Cash is way more important than barter as part of the "off-the-books" economy. Indeed, one way to estimate the size of the underground economy is to look at the demand for cash from banks and subtract off the amount of cash that goes into things counted as GDP.

The underground economy is only part of the equation, as you pointed out above.

I'm more concerned with the effect of the household economy as a distorting factor on energy price/hour labor. Unfortunately there is no way to distinguish the two from the official statistics since neither one is (or can?) be tracked properly.

Actually, we could get the numbers you want. The methodology would be to do interviews the way sociologists do them. However, economists and sociologists rarely speak to one another, because they have mutually exclusive views of how the world works.

Economists say the world is the way it is because people are rational and the market rules. Sociologists say the world is the way it is because of social class, statuses, roles, norms, values and social institutions such as the family and religion and education. I've taken lots of seminars in both sociology and economics, and the contrast between the two is remarkable.

That explains a lot. My minor in college was sociology, and it definitely has had an influence on the way I have approached my more recent study of economics.

Personally, I have always considered the "rational actor" to be the economics equivalent of a spherical cow, and everyone knows that a cow is really a torus.

...and everyone knows that a cow is really a torus.

You wouldn't be "torus sh!tting" us, now, would you? Actually it's mostly humans that often seem toroidal to me. Your average Taurus generally keeps it's head out of its nether regions so is more akin to being just cylindrical with appendages.

Topologically every animal is a torus, so I was indeed making a multi-dimensional pun of it.

I was, however referring to a severe oversimplification in the name of calculability.

Well, there is the whole field of Behavioral Economics.

You might think that a group of middle-ranking executives in a large corporation who were responsible for IT Project Portfolio Management would make all their decisions about projects to approve, work locations to favor, vendors to select, etc., on the basis of cooly rational logic and rigorous, dispassionate quantitative analysis of financial metrics.

You would be wrong.

I think behavioral economics is the best thing to happen to the discipline of economics since John Maynard Keynes came along.

Note that the orthodox profit-maximizing models of rational man that is central to mainstream economic thinking have been proven wrong over and over again by behavioral economics--but the rationality/maximization models dominate the field. Sometimes evidence is not enough to change minds.

I first became interested in bounded rationality back in 1964, when I read the books by Herbert A. Simon and also James G. March and Herbert Simon. They unfortunately picked the unfelicitious term "satisficing" to describe how actual people make real world decisions. During the late 1960s I was involved in research in behavioral economics with Austin Hoggat. My thesis proposal (which was not approved) was on behavioral economics.

it is a tragedy when a man's body functions but his brain goes senile. This phenomenon is a major problem today, and it is getting worse as time goes on.

Your point being . . . ?

Most of dohboi's comments appear to be intended to show that the editors of TOD are overly tolerant of malevolent commenters. If so, it's well done. I'm convinced.

Merril - "make all their decisions...on the basis of cooly rational logic and rigorous, dispassionate quantitative analysis of financial metrics." And also who got them tickets to the playoffs. But maybe other businesses aren't like the oil patch.

Rockman - In the oil patch, I'd think that it eventually becomes obvious whether the hole is going to produce or not.

In IT there are a lot of ways to slink away from a project without it becoming too obvious that it was a failure. If it was a Defense contract, you might be able to just keep on drilling.

Merril - No times for details now but some of those lying dirty bastards in the oil patch have their tricks also.

Economists say the world is the way it is because people are rational and the (free) market rules.

People are rational?

And you did mean the "free market", right? Because what kind of ruling is done by a fixed market?

Now, just for a laugh - show a collection of rational people. And, assuming you meant free market, an actual free market.


Currently high gasoline and oil prices probably are temporary.... just until the next recession crushes demand again. Then we'll "recover" from the recession and the prices will rise....

Rinse and repeat....

I think a lot of people have bought the any price over what I'm comfortable with is due to evul speculators. So a price correction means bye-bye speculative premium, so they expect oil to become "decently" priced again. Of course markets don't work that way, but apparently many human brains do.

Yes, that $50 thing was all over the MSN, my son even mentioned it. I immediately poured cold water on it.

the possibility they may fall before Memorial Day (yeah, right)?

Ahhh but they did fall at least locally. From 4.35(ish) to 3.99.

Shipston "tower" to highlight climate change message...will be used to make a tower that will display everyday items made entirely or partly from oil-based materials.

Wonder if there is a potential for this effort to backfire. I can see J6P seeing all the stuff he didn't know came from hydrocarbons and immediately think we need to drill and produce more...not save the environment/climate. Years ago I used to do show & tells at Houston public schools. Essentially teach them where everyday items came from: copper wire, window glass, sheet rock, etc. Showed them how much came from earth resources. Got into petroleum sourced products a little also. Amazing how many teachers didn't even realize the extent. But, again, that may be the problem: show J6P that part of his ipad and his $120 sneakers come from hrydrocarbons and he might pick them over the environment.

how much came from earth resources

Umm... all of it - as in everything. But yes, amazing how few even think about it. Stuff just shows up on the shelves, magically and without consequence.

True cliffy but I only focused on non-organic sources. The biggest surprised look was when showed them a jar of sand used to make the windows and the raw gypsum rock used to make the walls in their homes. Really was gratifying. OTOH there was the teacher who didn't know how to spell geologist and I had to write it on the board for her. And most couldn't grasp how much of their clothing came from NG.

I can see J6P seeing all the stuff he didn't know came from hydrocarbons and immediately think we need to drill and produce more...not save the environment/climate

Wich is the exact reason I've said repetedly here at TOD that when the oil based economy begins to contract, the climate change issue will come off the agenda. Just wait a few years and see how few people will belive CO2 emissions change the climate.

Los Angeles Department of Water and Power states on there website they have met the 20% renewable power goal


Yesterday, California got 84GWh from renewables. The demand was 599GWh. That is 14% for the state. Nuclear delivered less than that amount of energy in California yesterday. 35GWh of the renewable energy was from wind, or 6%.

Article posted at Common Dreams today regarding Fukushima, and the silence surrounding it:

Should the Hamaoka plant do a Fukushima, Tokyo and surrounding regions are likely to become silent too.

Re: Chubu Electric to Shut Nuclear Plant; Boost Tsunami Defenses, up top.

That is the reason the Japanese government and Chubu Electric have no choice but to close the plant and try to protect it with a high tsunami wall.

Since Hamaoka is southwest of Tokyo and given prevailing winds out of the west, the most heavy likely fallout would be over Tokyo. In the case of Fukushima this radiation fallout was over the Pacific mostly, but that would not be the case at Hamaoka.

If Hamoaka went like Fukushima it is possible that Tokyo would have to be abandoned. Unthinkable for the Japanese.

Bertel Schmitt outdoes himself today on energy related stories over at TTAC:




It seems the Hamaoka plant may have been shut down under pressure from the US worried about its bases south of Tokyo. See:

If so, it may be a rare case in which the empire actually is a force for good. Wonders never cease.

Here is the part I just sent to my wife.. we're increasingly upset about the amount of junk food that our daughter is getting at school, and that all of us have been eating, pretty much our whole lives..

Here is how after Hiroshima and Nagasaki and Chernobyl doctors worked with those who had been contaminated to decontaminate them:

"Macrobiotic Diet Prevents Radiation Sickness Among A-Bomb Survivors in Japan - In August, 1945, at the time of the atomic bombing of Japan, Tatsuichiro Akizuki, M.D., was director of the Department of Internal Medicine at St. Francis's Hospital in Nagasaki. Most patients in the hospital, located one mile from the center of the blast, survived the initial effects of the bomb, but soon after came down with symptoms of radiation sickness from the fallout that had been released. Dr. Akizuki fed his staff and patients a strict macrobiotic diet of brown rice, miso soup, wakame and other sea vegetables, Hokkaido pumpkin, and sea salt and prohibited the consumption of sugar and sweets. As a result, he saved everyone in his hospital, while many other survivors in the city perished from radiation sickness.

"I gave the cooks and staff strict orders that they should make unpolished whole-grain rice balls, adding some salt to them, prepare strong miso soup for each meal, and never use sugar. When they didn't follow my orders, I scolded them without mercy, 'Never take sugar. Sugar will destroy your blood!'. . .

"This dietary method made it possible for me to remain alive and go on working vigorously as a doctor. The radioactivity may not have been a fatal dose, but thanks to this method, Brother Iwanaga, Reverend Noguchi, Chief Nurse Miss Murai, other staff members and in-patients, as well as myself, all kept on living on the lethal ashes of the bombed ruins. It was thanks to this food that all of us could work for people day after day, overcoming fatigue or symptoms of atomic disease and survive the disaster" free from severe symptoms of radioactivity." [Sources: Tatsuichiro Akizuki, M.D., Nagasaki 1945 (London: Quartet Books, 1981); Tatsuichiro Akizuki, "How We Survived Nagasaki," East West Journal, December 1980.]

That is a fascinating story!

There has been much discussion about the metabolism and effects of sugar, especially fructose. Apparently fructose is processed by the liver and turned into, and stored, as fat. so maybe it would then be storing radioactive fat?

If you want some more interesting/depressing reading about what your daughter is probably eating, there is fascinating story about sugar here that was in the NYT last month. I haven't watched the linked video but it is along the same lines. It all seems to point as fructose being the enemy, and rice, even sweet rice syrup - has none - it is mostly maltose.

Another good site, lots of info but very well organised, is the healthy skeptic

From Ran Prieur 's website , here is a good line that sums it up;

There's a public health joke that goes like this: "Q: Table sugar is 50% glucose and 50% fructose bound into a disaccharide. HFCS is 45% glucose and 55% fructose as free monosaccharides. Which is worse and why?" "A: HFCS - because its cheaper."

I do sometimes think that turning corn into ethanol is better than eating it!

A long out of print book "the food factor" Barbara Griggs, documents the scandals of human nutrition. It frequently points out that farmed animal nutrition is often more complete [because it makes commercial sense] than the frequent human malnourishment listed.

Another part of such a diet would be cilantro and natto. Gamma Polyglutamic Acid seems to part of what makes natto work.

Natto, another fermented soy product. Those keep coming up.. hmm.

(I've been hearing that fermented is generally the ONLY way one should consume any quantity of soy. ..)

Fermented Cabbage is great as well, of course.

Natto, another fermented soy product.

You will also note how most of the soy products are processed and lack the outer seed coating.

Natto, Miso, Tempheh

I've been drinking quantities of soy milk for more than thirty years, and my doctor says that I am in much much better health than the average patient he has of my age.

Soy (unfermented) is bad--bunkum.

Once again, a product where you remove the outer seed coat.

That seed coat has some chemicals that interfere with the absorption of nutrients.

I almost couldn't believe a comment I found in the Common Dreams link, that the EPA is reducing testing of rain, milk and food to once every three months.

So, I searched for the news.

"EPA Ratchets Down Radiation Testing"

"EPA ratchets down radiation samples in milk, water"

At this point why should I trust any thing the EPA tests?

This appears to be government malfeasance of the worst possible kind. Remember some respected scientists think the old exposure standards were 1000x too lax for internal vectors. (And forget about the new exposure standards.. even worse.)

Right now, one can assume everything now growing in a outside environment north of Honduras has been exposed & contaminated, thus one should plan accordingly.

Japan nuclear plant shutdown adds new risk to economy, auto industry

(Reuters) - The surprise closure of another Japanese nuclear plant, this time at the power supplier to the heart of the auto industry, threatens to dampen consumer sentiment and will provide car makers with yet another reason to produce fewer cars in Japan.

Heh silly me, and I was all worried about the ecology and things like radioactive fish... at least now I know what really matters.

Given that Fukushima is an ongoing public health emergency, there should be an ongoing stream of publicly available data on the substances being released, amounts of radioactivity involved, percentages of different radionuclides, distribution patterns through the atmosphere and ocean, accumulation patterns on land, etc. Just facts and data. Let local health authorities, individuals, whoever, decide how to deal with it, but get the information out there. Instead there seems to be a general restriction of access and information, and a downplaying of the whole situation.

This looks like the global culmination of regulatory capture of the health physics field originally developed to safeguard the large scale deployment of nuclear technology. This history is effectively recounted in The Angry Genie by Karl Z. Morgan (thanks to whoever originally referenced this on TOD some weeks ago). Morgan was one of the original members of the Manhattan Project and a pioneer in the field of health physics. Starting out, the U.S. gov't recognized that large scale production of enriched uranium, operation of reactors, and generation of fission products would create hitherto unknown levels and types of radioactivity hazards.

The task of Morgan and his peers was to serve as advance scouts into this unexplored terrain. They had to develop the new instruments and techniques required to research, identify, and quantify these risks and hazards. They would establish the parameters within which the nascent industry would operate safely, based on the best available data as it developed. This was the origin of "health physics" and this is how it operated for a number of years. However, as the nuclear enterprise grew from government research into big business, funding of health physics became a tool that industry used to control the research and its conclusions. Instead of health physicists defining the boundaries of safe operation, health physicists would eventually draw conclusions and set boundaries at whatever points were convenient for the industry.

We see this playing out today, and it seems almost out of control, with acceptable radiation levels being set progressively higher or disregarded altogether. This can be done under cover of the more or less random levels and types of radiation exposure individuals will receive in the fluid interaction of man and environment, as well as the length of time it takes for cancers and other health effects to become manifest. And of course we already live in a mildly toxic stew of low level "normal" industrial pollutants, so there is "plausible deniability" of any health problems ultimately being caused by radioactive contamination.

The same principle is illustrated in one of the other nuclear articles up top, with acceptable thickness of corroding pipe walls in nuclear plants being progressively reduced until the bristles of a wire brush can poke through the pipe.

As an aside, I still haven't been able to acquire a professional grade radiation monitor. The one I originally chose and ordered about six weeks ago was supposed to be delivered on April 27, then on May 6, and now is on indefinite back order. I am told that governments are ordering everything available, and they get priority. Also that there are shortages of the Geiger Muller tubes and/or material used to make them. I can't argue with that, but for all the instrumentation being deployed there isn't much data coming back to look at. Hope we don't have another nuclear emergency somewhere before the radiation monitor market returns to normal.

Watching the Fukushima news, government distrust is common. Many Japanese, Koreans, and Americans do not fully believe what they are being told. There is fear and anger.

"Information given to the public regarding the radiation emergency must not only be accurate but must also be delivered promptly."
http://www.fas.org/irp/threat/sudnik.pdf Page 50 "Event Fear Management"

The delay and empty reassurances worked against the government's credibility. Withholding of information continues:

"The government continues to face criticism after the resignation of a key nuclear adviser Saturday over disagreements on information disclosure and radiation exposure limits.
Mr. Hosono admitted that as many as 5,000 calculations on radiation-dispersion forecasts from a government forecast model haven't been disclosed to the public."
"Japanese plant starts on installation of filters"
"Japan kept secret on radiation measurements"

Prior to these dates, it was admitted that daily data was shared between the Japanese Government and the IAEA, but not released to the public. I do not have the reference right now.

The levels of radiation deemed "acceptable" were raised. This is a standard response to a transient event. The EPA and FDA have similar plans in place. They are called RPGs, Radiation Protection Guidelines, and PAGs, Protective Action Guidelines. Here is an introduction. It froths a bit...

These things were done for a variety of reasons. Keeping up appearances is one. Preventing panic, another.

Avoiding further disruption to society is most important. The link above references the lines: "consideration of the appropriate range of costs for avoiding a statistical death" and Estimating incremental societal costs per day per person relocated". It is a moral question. There are a psychological "instruments" used to divine the level of morality a subject operates at. here is an early one, "Heinz Dilemma":

Delays in the flow of information, empty assurances, withholding information, and changing the game so that the game can continue anyway erodes and defies belief. Conspiracy theories rush in to fill the vacuum.

Memes are interesting.
This one is a little preachy:

This is a derivation of "genetic programming", an adaptive system practice.

If you find yourself in a twisted situation, like a hospital with filthy floors and nurses reusing single-patient items... you might think there is a massive conspiracy involving a cast of thousands. The reality may be that it is an adaptive system. All the aspects of that system will arise to meet a goal, say making money, in the most surprising and seemingly perverse ways.

Watching the Fukushima news, government distrust is common. Many Japanese, Koreans, and Americans do not fully believe what they are being told.

Have Governments and Corporations acted in a trustworthy manner in the past? If so, then distrust now is irrational.

They have, and then they haven't. As frustrating as a lot of the theories people come up with out of distrust are, I totally understand the root of the distrust and can't tell them 'it's OK, trust them this time', even if the conclusions they are drawing out of a lack of trust are even more unsupported than the official position.

The truth is very likely to be closer to the official position, but that doesn't mean that the official position is the truth.

Given that Fukushima is an ongoing public health emergency, there should be an ongoing stream of publicly available data on the substances being released, amounts of radioactivity involved, percentages of different radionuclides, distribution patterns through the atmosphere and ocean, accumulation patterns on land, etc. Just facts and data. Let local health authorities, individuals, whoever, decide how to deal with it, but get the information out there. Instead there seems to be a general restriction of access and information, and a downplaying of the whole situation.

Thanks for the reference to 'The Angry Genie'

I just yesterday heard on the Eugene City Club a speaker describing the unholy mess at Hanford and the efforts to clean it up. 80 square miles of land are contaminated in one way or another at this site alone and projections for a cleanup end date are of the 50 - 60 year order of magnitude. I seriously doubt it will ever be cleaned up in any meaningful sense. Against this kind of madness, some still want to forge ahead full speed into a 'nuclear renaissance' with little consideration of the mess we have already created.

Ala. nuclear plant cited for serious safety issue

ATLANTA — Federal regulators ordered in-depth inspections Tuesday at a nuclear power plant run by the Tennessee Valley Authority in northern Alabama after deciding the failure of an emergency cooling system there could have been a serious safety problem.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued a rare "red" finding against the Browns Ferry nuclear power plant near Athens, Ala., after it investigated how a valve on a residual heat removal system became stuck shut.

I seriously doubt it will ever be cleaned up in any meaningful sense. Against this kind of madness, some still want to...

Its worked out pretty well for Hanford/Richland now hasn't it. They get even more government money for local jobs cleaning up (or maybe just maintaining) the mess then they ever got making it. Seems like e recipe for full employment to me.

If we're going to go down the route of ridiculous route of make work projects I would suggest sticking to the tried and tested method of digging a small hole then filling it up again. This method doesn't leave vast areas of wasteland.

Alternatively, the people being paid to dig the holes could be sent home, or maybe they could just go to a public park to play nicely with the other unemployed people and still receive their salary. Assuming they prefer free time to digging a hole in the ground for no reason, this actually makes everyone better off. But that would be socialism.

Depends on the filters you're looking through, of course.

It kind of sounds like "Car Accidents are good for they GDP" to me.

or maybe,
"But you're rich AND beautiful, HOW can you possibly be unhappy?"

In other articles, I have found the only route that has decent oil tanker demand goes from the Middle East to the USA. The baltic dry index is also really low. I still think a global slowdown is the only explanation for the commodity price decrease. Muddy waters, though.

London Canal Boats Beat Supertankers as Glut Sinks Oil Freight

The purchase price of a second-hand VLCC has dropped 2.3 percent this year to $81.9 million, according to the Baltic Exchange. A yearlong rental of a similar ship has declined to $28,000 a day from $31,000 at the end of last year.

By contrast, hiring a canal boat remains an attractive proposition for tourists from around the world, said Barry Peters, managing director of Holidays in the U.K.

“Traveling slowly along the network of canals in a narrow boat and stopping at pubs and attractions is an unmatched experience,” said Peters. “I am astonished that supertankers can be hired for so little.”

It is not so much an actual decline in aggregate demand (= total spending = Consumption + Investment + Government purchases + Net Exports) that caused commodity prices to go down. Rather the big change was in EXPECTATIONS of future growth rates. The first estimate of first quarter U.S. real GDP growth came in at only 1.8%, and this was way below what most economic forecasters had predicted. Hence, expectations (and therefore commodity prices) changed abruptly. Now the majority of economists are predicting less rapid growth in real U.S. GDP for the rest of 2011 than they were predicting before the report.

Note that 1.8% is an annualized rate of growth, and also note that the preliminary estimate is always revised, sometimes substantially revised. I will not be surprised if the next estimate of first quarter U.S. real growth in GDP comes in as low as 1%, and I am not alone in my thoughts on this topic.

I don't think the plunge has much to do with the USA. My guess is Asia.

China auto sales fall for first time over 2 years

April's figure represented the first year-on-year decline since January 2009, when the nation's vehicle sales dropped 14.35 percent year on year to 735,500 units due to the impact of the global financial crisis.

Sales in April were also down 15.1 percent from the previous month.

I'd like to know the nominal and real rates of growth in China during the first quarter of 2011. Unfortunately, I don't know of any source of information on these numbers that is timely and accurate and valid. In general, I do not trust the numbers generated and released by the Chinese government. My guess is that there are two sets of books: Secret and valid information, and a separate set of numbers for public release. Totalitarian governments usually cook the (public) books.

it is a tragedy when a man's body functions but his brain goes senile. This phenomenon is a major problem today, and it is getting worse as time goes on.

As in forgetting that you've already posted the same inane comment? A sad state of affairs indeed.

Low-carbon freight with airships?


A handful of companies have prototypes under development. Lockheed has an airship in the works dubbed SkyTug that should be commercially available by late 2013 with a range of 1,000 nautical miles and a 20-ton payload. The 50-ton Skyfreighter is expected to follow in late 2014.

The industry's future is initially aimed at leapfrogging the conventional cargo transport infrastructure, freighting goods where highways and airports don't exist – Canada's frozen north; China's western frontier; remote parts of Africa, Asia, and South America. No airships are commercially available for cargo transport there yet. But once established on the frontiers, experts say their versatility, cost and fuel advantages should allow airships to penetrate mature freight markets like the United States.

Optimistic entrepreneurs have made similar predictions before, however. Germany-based Cargolifter AG burned through some $500 million without building so much as a prototype before it went belly-up in 2002.

But today's technology is much improved from earlier, flawed approaches. And the potential market is vast.

Isn't helium getting rare?

One word: helium:

Richardson recommends several steps to ensure helium availability in the future. First, prices should be raised by a factor of 20. “The world price of the gas is ridiculously cheap,”...“One generation doesn’t have the right to determine availability forever.”

This isn't going to fly for long unless they go back to hydrogen. And they're not going back to hydrogen.

For some types of cryogenic work, there simply is no substitute for Helium.

Yes, that's the big issue. There will come a time when it can't be wasted on airships.

Definitely, helium is way undervalued as a truly nonrenewable resource. The price should be set to $10 a cubic foot right now, with maybe a subsidy for legitimate research.

For freight, hydrogen should not be a problem, especially on routes over rural areas. They could be piloted with a setup like there is for those predator drones. Also, I think that we could do a better design job now, avoiding much of the risk that was realized with the Hindenburg.

Agreed that freight-hauling airships would likely eventually use hydrogen. Some of the companies mentioned in the article are already considering hydrogen.

Sure the Hindenburg scared everybody, but how is a bladder full of hydrogen any more dangerous than the thousands of pounds of aviation gas in the tanks of every passenger jet?

Maybe in some hyper-cautious countries hydrogen might be prohibited by regulatory agencies, but the main thrust of freight airship development is for transport into areas that have no transport infrastructure, and so probably not much regulation either. Compared to the bloodbath of African road transport right now a few freighter airships going down would be "in the noise".

Agreed that it might well be possible to make hydrogen safe enough for reasonable people. But nothing to do with "safety" is reasonable any more. That's why I don't see it happening, politically. Just say "Hindenberg!" in the same spirit a magician says "Presto!", and the argument is automatically ended without any need for reasoning or cost-benefit tradeoff.

Not every country has the safety and legal systems of the US.

So maybe airships will go into service in Africa, Asia, and Latin America first, in environments where people are used to roads that are 10 to 100X more dangerous than the US, and obsolete, unsafe, and jury-rigged machinery is the norm. People who are used to walking city streets with one eye out for the open holes where sewer grates and manhole covers used to be before the metal thieves took them, probably are not going to worry much about an airship floating by high overhead.

I would say that between potholes, landslides, inclement weather, nasty twists and turns, highway robbers, and traffic jams there could be a lot of freight routes around the world. Basically anywhere that there is a mountain range and a government that doesn't pay for continuous road maintenance there might be an opportunity if freight prices rise high enough.

http://intrinsecoyespectorante.blogspot.com/2010/12/las-carreteras-mas-b... (Ignore the writing..they're talking about how driving along these roads will get you closer to nature :# )

But how much energy would need to be spent to float the airship? and to push that big balloon through the air? what happens when there is a big wind? do the airships have to belly down and anchor to the earth to wait it out? Would the ships have to land or would they be able to lower a cable to a ground based winch and lower/raise their cargo?

A little over 10 years ago, a German airship company approached a town in eastern NC about building an airship landing facility there. They had a prototype of an intercontinental cargo airship, were about to begin production, and wanted to set up the facility to begin making flights there. I found out about all this because one of my highway projects was adjacent to the proposed landing site, and they had very specific clearance requirements.

The company ultimately decided to go with a facility over at Lakehurst, NJ, and a few years went bankrupt, but their ads and proposals made sense to me. The airship being developed could haul about 100 tons of cargo faster than a ship, and cheaper than a plane. Seems like there ought to be a market for something like that.

Perhaps. But I just can't see helium ever being scaled up widely enough and long enough to matter, owing to the limited supply; and I really can't see hydrogen being allowed on any significant scale in the litigious, hypercautious USA, nor in "precautionary", hypercautious Europe. Even if it could be made reasonably safe, far too many people have been trained for their whole lives to live in abject terror of their own shadows, for it to fly politically.

With respect to local use elsewhere, in places where the terrain is rough or the roads are bad, we'll simply have to wait and see. Personally, I won't hold my breath, since it smacks a bit of a bazillion other notions that, while some might even have been technically feasible, never quite made it out of the pages of Popular Science and into wide enough use to matter.

At Lakehurst, Really? Oh, the Huge Manatee!

Maybe Princess Cruises could make a really big Ship and try to revive the Name 'Titanic' while they're at it..

And the effect of Atomic Hydrogen in the atmosphere is?
(Hint: Ozone reactions)

What is the volume of mass of H2 which would escape the gravity of the Earth?

What is the effect of increasing O2 levels? (because in a Hydrocarbon "poor" future, the H2 would come from water, no?)

Sounds like a kick the can down the road kinda solution.

To the contrary; Helium is renewable. It forms deep underground as a daughter particle of heavy atoms decaying. (It also forms in the sun, but that won't help us). As long as the underworld is radioactive, we will have helium. We just need to learn to use it in volumes below the regeneration levels.

Unfortunately the Helium production rate from the planet is pretty low. We currently get it from gas reservoirs that have been accumulating it for millions of years. It seems odd actually, discounting dark mass/dark energy helium is about a quarter of the mass of the universe, but it is really scarce on terrestrial planets. We don't need to wait for fusion to make it out of hydrogen, the bigbang left something close to that one quarter of the mass ratio.

The latest designs are looking at compressing the Helium into low pressure tanks rather than dumping it. Given Helium's propensity to leak it will not solve the problem but it would cut the bulk wastage.


From "The rise of 'real assets'" article above:

since the beginning of the industrial revolution the world’s population has grown tenfold, production has grown 15-fold while resource consumption has grown 100-fold.

If accurate, this stat points out how disconnected resource use is from population growth. On top of that, recall that the bottom two billion or so use hardly any of these resources, while the top billion or so use almost all of it.

Not saying that pop is not an important issue. Just that rate of consumption is an even bigger one, especially for the segment of the pop that consumes the most--the segment that pretty much all on this thread belong to.

Not saying that pop is not an important issue. Just that rate of consumption is an even bigger one

Yet most people here in the US just can't see it. They are often quick to complain about the growing populations in poor countries. If India could reduce their population by half (2x the US population) it would have very little effect on world consumption of any resource.

Stopping our selfish misuse would be the easiest way to slow the resource decline.

Perhaps, but in purely political terms, don't expect very many people to cut back just so someone else can multiply more, irrespective of the absolute levels of consumption. Like it or not the issues will be addressed jointly or not at all.

Any issues that are left unaddressed will resolve themselves; usually in unexpected ways. The poor will continue multiplying whether or not we slow our resource usage. The heavy users are the ones who will be affected by future shortages.

The unwashed masses aren't receiving the benefits of the current massive exploitation of the earth resources. Their lives won't be much different in the future, whereas our lives may change dramatically.

We who are using the resources are the ones who will need to make the adjustments. There is no reason for the others to worry about these issues.

The poor will starve as food prices rise. Especially since they don't have discretionary resources to shift towards food acquisition. It is true, the poor tend to have more children, but their population only grows if they have access to food.

An Update On The Greek Situation

Some of you may have caught the news of the 'secret' meeting of an élite circle of Eurozone finance ministers as well as the finance minister of Luxembourg(who is somehow involved in the process).

The meeting was about the Greeks' inability to pay off their debt, even with the bailout. They wanted to have the conditions renegotiated, something which looks increasingly unlikely.

There was even speculation that they wanted to leave the Euro zone altogether and reintroduce the Drachma(their old currency) to better deal with their precarious debt situation. Either way, things are not looking bright.

The result of all of was seen today: interest rates on Greek bonds soared high today.
The interest for a 10-year bond was almost 16 percent, which can be compared to the 3,17 percent for the German equivalent, and 12.30~ percent on Greek 10 year bonds at the beginning of the year.

In the Guardian story that carried some of the news, the PM of Greece was quoted, and boy did he sound desperate. I'm not sure the meeting went so well. Here's the quote:

The normally cool Papaconstantinou appeared uncharacteristically glum after the meeting where sources said Greece had used the occasion to press ahead with its request that eurozone member states soften the terms of the agreement reached on the bailout loans by further extending repayment deadlines.

Adding to the ever growing sense of a government under siege Papandreou slammed critics at the weekend saying: "I call upon everyone in Greece and abroad, and especially in the EU, to leave Greece alone to do its job in peace."

2. Apparently, Standard & Poor has now further downgraded Greece.

Standard & Poor's has again infuriated Greece by cutting the credit rating of the debt-laden country – from BB- to B – and warning that it could be slashed even further.

The agency issued the downgrade amid speculation that the €110bn (£97bn) International Monetary Fund and European Union bailout is being renegotiated, only a year after being agreed, and its expectation that investors face losses on their bond holdings.

Secret talks were held Luxembourg on Friday between Athens and some of the key EU players and led to the conclusion that Greece will not be able to meet the terms of last year's rescue by returning to the financial markets to issue more bonds. Its current rate of borrowing is regarded as prohibitively high, at 15.9%.

It seems that once again the international markets will throw the precious Eurozone efforts under the buss and simply force Greece to default because of increasingly predatory interest rates.
It now needs to pay 16 %, which is almost sharklike interest. What if it goes over 20 %?

The Eurozone's efforts haven't done anything to stop Greece from defaulting. They are just lending them more money, increasing what needs to be defaulted on. The market's interest rates are a recognition of the reality that Greece cannot afford to repay the debt it has taken on. Partial default is being "priced in".

Al Corralito ! Like in Argentina.
Freeze all bank accounts. Only let them take 50 euros in cash every day from the ATM. And slap on them a Poll Tax on all private professionals and businesses, 20,000 euros or whatever they need to balance the books. Lying Greeks, the State is broke but they are rich, they don't pay taxes.
Tell you this, the real danger is not the shameless Greeks, it is Ireland. Just 4.5 million people in a small island, not many resources, no way they can pay what they owe.

The real danger is in Spain and maybe even Italy. Ireland will go broke, but they're very small. Spain will take down the Euro.

Krugman was commenting about the mentality. The meme that prevails is savers good, borrowers bad. So a country whose elites decided to borrow money they couldn't afford to pay back is slammed with austerity. In the meantime the bankers whose job was to determine if people who want to borrow money are a good bet to pay it back, didn't do thir job, but since they were "savers" they have to be made whole, no matter that millions in the affected countries lives are now blighted.

In today's news we learn that Newt Gingrich will announce a run for President this week. One of the Newt's efforts over the past few years involves a group called American Solutions for Winning the Future. From their web site, we see that the main focuses of this group is oil, as in, Drill, Baby, Drill for more oil in the US. They present a list of "facts" regarding the potential for US oil production, including a massive resource they claim is available from oil shale. I'm not fully aware of the actual resource availability, but I recall that the latest estimates from the USGS aren't as large as previous estimates.

Anyone care to comment on the "Facts"?

E. Swanson

Do - If the newt is talking about the kerogen rich shales out west then the last I heard no one has yet to make oil out of them commercially with currently technology, costs and oil prices even on a pilot scale. I heard Shell Oil put off their pilot project till 2014 (?). So he's seems to be back to playing the stupid "reource" vs. "reserves" game. As a reource there might be billions of bbls of POTENTIAL oil. But only when someone develops a commercially viable method of extraction. Until then it would appear the oil shale reserves are exactly zero bbl of oil.

Yes, he is talking about kerogen. From that weblink (their emphasis)

• America has about 86 billion barrels of oil and more than 400 trillion cubic feet of 
natural gas located offshore in the Outer Continental Shelf, but the Obama 
administration has either banned or delayed drilling for most of these resources. 
• In the Green River shale formation in Utah, Wyoming, and Colorado, America has an 
estimated 800 billion barrels of oil, which is three times the proven reserves of Saudi 
Arabia. Federal law prohibits drilling for most of these resources. 
• In the Bakken oil shale formation in the Dakotas, there are an estimated 20 billion 
barrels of oil

• In one small area of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), there are an estimated 
10 billion barrels of oil. Federal law prohibits drilling in this area. 
• In the Marcellus shale formation in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New York, there 
could be as much as 500 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, the largest natural gas field in 
the world. 

So there it is Rockman - you don't have to do any exploration, and it can *all* be produced because he knows these *facts*

BTW - isn't this the same guy that was the R's leader in Clinton's time? Can't the R's come up with someone for this century, not last?

Sigh, oil shale (kerogen) again. Estonia uses the stuff as low-grade coal because they don't have any better domestic energy sources. China has put a lot of time and money into retorting processes and has managed to get production up to about a million barrels per year. Shell's in situ process, if they got it scaled up to a million bbl/day, would consume electricity at roughly the total current rate of consumption for the entire state of Colorado.

There are literally dozens of patents on file for methods to extract oil from this stuff. But as Rockman points out, no one is doing it commercially in the US using any of those. Just my personal opinion, but if the US gets desperate enough to consider large-scale use of oil shale, it will be because we've made some bad choices about electrifying transport.

Paul - sad, ain't it? As a consevative oil patch hand that understood PO and AGW over 30 years ago can you imagine how frustrating it is to have idiots like this to rep me? I gave up on the R party a very long time ago.

I can imagine your frustration - I have been through similar in regards to water supplies, where some politicians have similar faith in the rain gods.

What surprises me about all this debate on domestic oil production, and its future potential, is the deafening silence from Energy Secretary Chu. Obama refers to him in his speeches as if Chu is his secret weapon, or the get of jail free card, on energy, but you never seem to hear Chu actually saying much.

Given that he is the one in the chair, and has access to *all* the data I expect to see some leadership and clear statements/facts from him on this stuff - isn't that his job? If he *knows* that oil shale can't make any meaningful contribution in the near fiutre, then come out and say so, with the data to back it up, and put the debate to bed. Instead I get the impression of a tech geek who is interested in the latest battery tech, or climate stuff. Equivalent of a ship's captain who is a former engine guy, that can't resist going to the engine room to talk engines with the guys, and meanwhile the ship runs aground.

He is letting everyone but himself set the energy agenda, or at least, the public discussion of the energy agenda.

I agree that Dr. Chu/the administration should put discuss facts with the public to counter false/misleading assertions...but

I wonder how well that will play out with folks who refuse(d) to accept the fact of the President's birth in Hawaii, or refuse(d) to accept the fact that US Navy Seal assassinated Osama Bib Laden last week?

Or a public where a reporter from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette accused the President of belittling the little guys/common folk when the President said in a recent town hall meeting that if someone is driving a vehicle that gets 8 mpg they shouldn't be complaining about $4/gallon gasoline...they should trade in their hog for a more efficient vehicle.

All that being said, the administration should adopt a strategy of calmly, professionally giving facts and credible science-based estimates to counter the blue-sky drill, baby, drill poppycock spread by certain elements.

True, but just because there are idiots out there doesn't mean you stop telling the truth. Otherwise Galileo, Copernicus etc would never have got their message out (not saying that Chu is in that class, mind you). If Chu and co are letting un/misinformed idiots set the agenda then they are not worthy of government.

Regardless of what the idiots say and do, there are many smarter people, and companies, and even State and local governments, that have decisions to make regarding energy, and some leadership would be appreciated. For a company considering going electric - will their investment be bunk if the R';s get their way and drill the continent into swiss cheese and are able to lower prices to $2? If Chu and co know that it won't make any real difference, then get out there with the facts - lay it bare for all to see and pick over. And for Chu, call it as he sees it - not only will people will listen to his opinion, but as the country's top energy guy, I think he is obligated to give it.

He wasn't put there just to look at cool tech ideas - he was put there because, supposedly, he could make better decisions on energy policy than anyone else. if he's not making them - about now would be a good time to start, if he is, then share them, and explain them.

I assess that we are in agreement; I have been disappointed at the timidness of this administration on several issues.

they're pretty good at killing people though! guess they're going with what they know best.

In the Green River shale formation in Utah, Wyoming, and Colorado, America has an estimated 800 billion barrels of oil, which is three times the proven reserves of Saudi Arabia. Federal law prohibits drilling for most of these resources.

Sigh. Again we have confusion over the kerogenic marlestone formations that Americans have foolishly misnamed "Oil Shale". It's not oil and its not shale. If it was oil shale, it might be worth something.

Federal law does not prohibit drilling into these formations, but there's no point in doing so because the kerogen they contain is a waxy solid and won't flow into a well. It must be mined rather than drilled for.

After it is mined, it is not impossible to convert it into oil, but unfortunately the rivers in the area, (the largest of them being the Green River) don't have enough water to both supply enough oil shale plants to provide enough oil to keep Americans moving, and simultaneously provide water to the farmers and major cities (Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix, etc.) that now rely on them.

Leanan, at the top of the screen I am seeing a topic "Leanan's Images" which returns "permission denied" if clicked.

SuperG must be messing with the site again.

He rather doesn't... I -want- to see Leanan's Images! *angelic face*
Errrr... whatever they might be... :))

Edit: Or not, if they weren't meant to be public and the link was there just by mistake. :)

It wasn't meant to be public, but it wasn't anything private, either.

It's the way we staff members store images on the TOD server. Images we link to in articles or comments.

In today's Atlanta Journal, there's an article describing the plans by the Georgia DOT to add toll lanes to the two major freeways (I-75 and I-85) to the north of Atlanta. The plan for one project involves a "public/private" arrangement, which is likely to be very controversial and which is being negotiated in secret. The article makes no mention of the impact of recent high fuel prices nor any efforts to move drivers out of their single occupancy mode of commute travel. The article does give this comment:

The DOT has given up on ever having enough money to sufficiently widen metro Atlanta’s interstates, because wider roads tend to just fill up again.

Instead, the state has planned a network of optional toll lanes. By keeping the toll high enough to keep out drivers who can’t afford it, these lanes offer one thing available nowhere else: reliable free flow, even at rush hour.
The Gwinnett I-85 toll lane, which will be about 15 miles, will charge about 90 cents per mile during the most congested times.

If memory serves, Georgia has not raised their gasoline tax for decades. One reason that there is so much freeway traffic is the development patterns which have resulted from low cost gasoline. The obvious answer would seem to be raise the gasoline tax to encourage people to live closer to their work location, but raising taxes in Georgia would appear to be a political impossibility. So, the poor folks will just have to sit in traffic jams every day, breathing more smog (there is a smog alert in Atlanta today too)...

E. Swanson

But the rich will be able to zip along at high speed on the toll roads; I expect to see more and more of this kind of thing in the future. The toll lanes may be much better maintained than the non-toll lanes, too.

The toll roads are only a part of the journey however. Once they exit, they might find city streets that are in horrible condition with lots of potholes and perhaps semi-permanent orange cones to mark the spots where the holes have grown so deep that people are breaking their axles.

Its amazing though how people get by.
In England we have seen recently large numbers of drain and service channel covers disappear for unofficial 'recycling'. I saw this happen after the collapse in the Balkans, Romania et al. People there just stuck a large bush in the hole and when the traffic got serious again it didn't slow them down at all. We seem to be replacing ours so far in dear old UK, and to refill most, but not all, of the winter potholes. I think 'the cuts' have not really bitten just yet.

Things like separate toll lanes, HOV lanes, etc., are a poor use of construction money because the toll or HOV lanes are underutilized. It is better to simply engineer the extra lanes and allow use by all to get higher overall capacity.

To reduce peak loads and congestion, tolls should be implemented on all lanes with higher tolls during peak hours. This is straightforward to do with electronic tolling systems like EZPass.

I agree M, but the fact is that the elite/wealthy in the area would rather have a luxury (like their own roads) instead of the best possible solution. Why not charge peak driving times? This is the same idea as charging more for electric service at peak hours of the day. Sounds like socialism to the red state populous, however.

I work in the highway design industry for NC; you'll never see a state raise their gas tax again because it's political suicide. NC has the 2nd most roads under state responsibility in the nation, and our gas tax is one of the highest, and it's still not enough for our needs.

Tolls and public/private partnerships on toll roads is seen as a 'fix' by politicians, but past history has shown it's nothing but a way to line political friends' pockets while soaking the taxpayers in another manner. Virginia went that route years ago, complete with secret deals with private companies to run their toll roads; once the ink was dry, the public discovered all sorts of nasty clauses in the contracts, including banning state improvements on routes parallel to the toll roads (to encourage more drivers onto the toll road), delegating eminent domain powers to the private company, and little to no oversight powers on the company itself.

Politicians, faced with rising congestion, pollution and construction costs, will always look for whatever option provides relief in one or more of those categories. The private companies promise the toll roads can be built cheaper than state roads, and relive congestion and reduce pollution. So far I've not seen any proof of any of those claims.

It seems to me the US politicians need to grow a spine, and the US voters need to realise that good roads (and transit) don;t come for free - and a gas tax is the easiest way to fund them.

Here in Vancouver, the Regional District (equivalent to a County) put in place their own gas tax, to help fund transit projects. There is a 15c/L ($0.56/gal) tax, on top of the the 24.85c/L ($0.94/gal) in other provincial and federal taxes.

The list of Cdn gas taxes is here, a couple of other cities have put in their own gas taxes too - it's not that hard to do.

The tax is what funds a major portion of the transit in Vancouver, and keeps a lot of traffic off the road. The roads are still congested at rush hours, of course, as they are in any city, but we have less roads to be congested - and maintained.

The Skytrain (an all elevated, automated train system) does 380,000 trips per day, taking about 150,000 cars off the road. That is why Vancouver has no freeways to maintain.

If you don;t want to pay the gas tax, take the Skytrain - and enjoy that the drivers are paying you to do so.

If you want to drive the roads, and well maintained ones, you have to pay the price - I just don't get how US drivers don't understand this.

One of the interesting (in a wonkish sort of way) questions about funding for roads is whether it is possible to allocate maintenance costs to the people who actually do the worst of the damage. Depending on the model, a tractor-trailer rig at 80,000 pounds gross weight (36,000 kg) does between 5,000 and 10,000 times as much damage to the road surface per pass as a small car. Under current tax/fee schedules, those trucks receive a very large subsidy.

Of course, if registration fees and fuel taxes for those trucks relative to cars was done in proportion to the damage done, the trucking industry would be priced out of the long-haul freight business.

This was discussed in Friday's Drumbeat.

Not only is it possible to allocate costs based upon mileage and damage factor, it is already being done - in New Zealand!

And no, it has not taxed the trucking industry out of business - but it does make them use the smallest trucks they can for whatever it is they carry.

It looks like a reasonable effort to apportion the costs - there is more to road maintenance costs than just weight related damage, of course. Yo stil get water damage, pavements oxidise, reinforced concrete bridges crack, etc etc.

The system applies to all vehicles not using gasoline, (which is taxed normally, for now) so primarily diesel vehicles - but, and this is the most interesting feature of the system - the tax is the same regardless of what fuel is being used.

So it doesn't matter if you are running diesel, CNG, ethanol, methanol, vegetable oil, electricity or pixie dust - the tax is the same. In this regard, with more alternative fuels appearing all the time, I like the concept of separating road tax from fuel tax.

The system could be modernised with electronic gadgetry, but I am impressed that they implemented a system without it - proving the naysayers wrong.

More details and the NZ link are in my post on Friday's drumbeat.

Depending on the model, a tractor-trailer rig at 80,000 pounds gross weight (36,000 kg) does between 5,000 and 10,000 times as much damage to the road surface per pass as a small car.

So what is the ratio of road damage in a state like Maine that allows up to 100,000 pounds on state highways? Heavily loaded trucks routinely get off the turnpike at Augusta and follow Route 9 to Bangor for example, to avoid the 80,000 pound limit on Interstate 95 north of Augusta. What is that doing to our future road maintenance costs?

Well, since you asked...(and if you have ever wondered why most civil engineers are very anal, just think as you read this what kind of person would do this for their entire career)

The answer depends on the axle configuration - if the heavier trailers have to be tri-axles instead of tandems, the load factor is actually decreasing \
But assuming they are the same configuration, then it is increasing.

You can find all the information you want, in a format readable even to non engineers at PavementInteractive.org

Part of the answer depends on whether the pavement is rigid (concrete) or flexible (asphalt). The idea is to compare your axle to the Equivalent Standard Axle Load (ESAL) - here is the equation for rigid pavements;

In a wonderful piece of reality the site says; "at first glance this equation looks complicated - it is."
In another thread I made a comment about a statistical definition that what WebHT would eat for breakfast - this might do him for lunch. If he was still hungry he could also do the one for flexible pavements, which is similar only different.

The W is the axle weight and the W18 is an 18,000lb axle weight, the ESAL. The idea is calculate the Load Equivalency Factor (LEF) in ESAL's as per the AASHTO (don't ask) design rules.

Fortunately, you can closely approximate the entire process just by saying the LEF = (W/W18)^4 - but if you are being paid by the hour and/or government you do the full equation.

So in this case we can just do (100k/80k)^4 to get an LEF of 2.44 and call it 2.5 times the damage.

So in this case, who is smarter - the Feds (Interstate) who limited the load to 80k lbs, or the state of Maine, who upped the load limit to 100klbs, and thus guarantees they will get all the heaviest trucks on their state highway.

The state branch of the trucking association probably lobbied for this saying something like it would increase jobs - and they are right. Clearly, if you allow the biggest trucks to do 2.5 times the damage you will have to rebuild your pavement sooner - this will definitely create some jobs, though the truckers don't pay for them, of course.

Pavement life is designed for, and determined by the number of ESAL's expected over its life. Cars contribute negligible ESAL's it is all about heavy trucks, and (sometimes) buses - roads are designed for about 2% of the vehicles that drive over them!

it should come as no surprise that the trucking industry disputes this. You can read a surprisingly good two page discussion paper from the trucking industry here they argue the number is closer to 1000, not 10,000.

Also, for a concrete pavement, typically 9 inches thick, adding one more inch will almost double the ESAL's - almost making up for our 2.5x increase. Getting the trucking industry to pay for this is another question.

If there were NEVER any trucks on the road you can just do 2" of asphalt and call it a day. This is why the trucking industry say they create jobs - clearly they do create many jobs in building roads to handle trucks.

So to answer the original question, of what is it doing to future maintenance costs? it is helping to bring the future into the present, faster.

That sounds like a slogan from the trucking industry too.

All good information, and nearly all of it is accurate. A road designed for virtually no trucks has about an 8" pavement design; 6" of aggregate and 2-2.5" of asphalt on top of it. That's our minimum design, used on roads with 100-400 vpd and 1% trucks. I've seen a pavement design that was 30" deep from top to bottom; it was carrying 30% heavy trucks, out of a total traffic volume of 110,000 vpd (vehicles per day).

Another problem with the Federal 80k lb truck weight limit; back when the interstates were mostly designed and built, the truck weight limit was around 50k. As the trucks increased in weight, did the roads and bridges get upgraded to handle it? No, they just wear out faster; bridges designed for 50 year lifespans need to be replaced 10 or 20 years earlier thanks to the heavier pounding they're taking.

Another problem; those trucks don't drive exclusively on interstates. The state primary and secondary roads they drive on after they leave the interstates are even less capable of handling 80k weights, but the maintenance funds are even more scarce for them, and you can't toll an uncontrolled access road (a road with direct access to adjacent properties).

Just to provide a little more info, one of our US Senators pushed hard to get the weight limit increased to 100,000 pounds on I95 north of Augusta, which resulted in a one year trial period, which has apparently now expired and has not been renewed. During that one year trial period, long grooves have appeared in the southbound lanes of I95, all the way from Waterville to Augusta, and I expect they will be there until this section of I95 gets repaved again many years in the future. These grooves are probably also showing up in the northbound lanes and beyond Watrville, but I can’t confirm that because I haven’t been on those sections of I95 recently.

All MSM news accounts of this trial period would have us believe that increasing weight limits on the interstate is the only way to get heavy trucks off state highways. Of course they never mention that we could get the same results by reducing the weight limits on state highways to match the existing weight limits on the Interstate.

and not only have the weights gone up, but the annual volume has increased many fold since the Interstate was built in the '60s. From that same website is this example;

A growth rate estimate is required to convert a single year traffic count into the total traffic experienced over the pavement design life. Typically, multiplying the original traffic count by the pavement design life (in years) will grossly underestimate total ESALs. For example, Interstate 5 at mile post 176.35 (near Shoreline, Washington) has experienced a growth from about 200,000 ESALs per year in 1965 (original construction) to about 1,000,000 ESALs per year in 1994. Thus, over a 30 year period, the ESALs per year have increased by a factor of five or an annual growth rate of about six percent.

A five fold traffic increase, and that was 1994. Add in the increase in truck weight from 50 to 80k (LEF of 6.5) and the road is seeing up to 30 times more ESAL's per year than when it was built - hard to predict that sort of thing in 1960.

It would be interesting to see similar load factors for railroad design - since the railroads own their own railroads, I'll bet they are pretty careful about staying within the weight limits.

Railroads make their money by carrying heavy loads long distances, so if the loads increase they will respond by putting in heavier gauge track. If the track wears out in six months, they will consider that a good thing and just budget for replacing the track every six months out of the profits they are making. They have giant specialized machines that just roll down the tracks replacing the rails, so it is a considerably less traumatic experience than repaving an Interstate highway.

Railroads can carry much heavier loads than highways because steel rail is much tougher than asphalt pavement. The typical railroad car can carry 100 tons, whereas the 80,000 pound truck load limit on the Interstates is only 40 tons. The typical unit train is 100 cars, so it can haul 10,000 tons per train.

If they need to carry more than 100 tons per car, then they might have to go to some custom rail builder that manufactures heavier gauge alloy steel rail. Special cars designed to carry extra heavy loads can weigh well in excess of 200 tons, and locomotives typically weigh 120 to 240 tons each.

One particularly notable case was a 36-axle Schnabel car that carried a 678-tonne load from Deluth Minnesota to the Athabasca oil sands without much fuss or bother. By contrast, when people see these kinds of loads moving up the highways of Idaho and Montana to Alberta, they seem to have conniption fits.

They still need to keep the axle loadings under control, or they can break switches and the like. But otherwise, yes, they game their own system to get max cash flow, as you would expect.

Increasing train lengths rather than axle weight is the easiest way to do this - the average US train length is 6500' and climbing. There is no legal limit on train length and Union Pacific did a trial of a Monster Train that was 3.5 mile long, nine locomotives, 295 double stack cars. Turn your engine off if you are waiting at a level crossing!

PS RMG -your Schnabel car link was broken, but quick search finds it - very impressive.

Yes, the mountain town I live in is on the Canadian Pacific main line, so I get to see this kind of thing on a regular basis. The only reason it would take more than 15 minutes to get anywhere in town is the wait at the level crossing while a double-stacked container train thunders through.

A popular tourist attraction is the spiral tunnels in Kicking Horse Pass. The railway does a figure-8 inside the mountains to gain elevation for the pass. With the average train now being longer than the tunnels, the tourists get to watch the lead locomotives come out of the tunnels before the trailing cars go in.

They used to need 13 locomotives to get some of the trains over Rodgers Pass, but they bit the bullet and bored the longest railway tunnel in the Americas underneath the original tunnel to get the power requirements down. With the new higher-powered locomotives and lower grades, they only need about six locomotives now.

Yet another problem, at least for asphalt, is temperature dependence of the damage. I can remember leaving work on a 110 degree afternoon. An eighteen wheeler made a turn in front of me, and left one inch deep tire tracks!

If you want to drive the roads, and well maintained ones, you have to pay the price - I just don't get how US drivers don't understand this.

Oh, we understand it, BUT we also know that our gasoline/diesel fuel taxes are being spent on things like bike trails for recreational use (by bicycles that pay NO taxes), light rail projects that will always require subsidies for every fare, bus operating subsidies for every fare, general government revenue uses, ad naseaum.
Dedicate 100% of the fuel taxes to public (non-toll) road construction and maintainence where the taxes are collected and we might not be quite so upset by fuel tax increases. (Both State and Federal!)

First of all, the average citizen has no idea of what you're talking about. Gas tax is a tax, therefore, it is evil. They learn this from Fox "News".

Second of all, what percentage of gas tax goes to the nefarious items you mentioned, I wonder.

If 100% of fuel tax was dedicated to highway maintenance, etc., the average US citizen would neither know nor care. They would scream at any increase.

Look at the guy's argument: bikes, light rail, and buses are evil; but my happy motoring is sacred and benign.

It is not my experience that those with such a mind set are particularly amenable to reason.

And you're right of course--no matter what the tax was used for, any mention of the letters t a x will always set the hounds a baying.

[edit: unless, of course, it is for a sacred sports stadium, an absurdity that has once again raised its ugly head in my fair city.]

Tax money to go to a Vikings stadium in a time a drastic state spending cuts; the very idea reeks to high heaven.

Let the Vikings go to Los Angeles; Minneapolis will be a better city without them.

It reeks, but it's utterly typical. Rarely is a stadium deal criticized vigorously, and I doubt that a stadium deal has ever gone down in flames due to public anger. Bread and circuses. Plus, if J&J6P ever grew a functioning brain cell between themselves and found something to do with the odd spare evening other than forking over big bucks to multimillionaire ballplayers, there would be one less upward flow of money for Marxist academics to rant about. That might be a minor blow to "scholarly inquiry".

"Oh, we understand it, BUT we also know that our gasoline/diesel fuel taxes are being spent on things like bike trails for recreational use (by bicycles that pay NO taxes), light rail projects that will always require subsidies for every fare, bus operating subsidies for every fare, general government revenue uses, ad naseaum...."

You could not be more wrong!


Only 16% of the current federal gas tax is diverted to non-highway uses in the US. Total federal gas tax is 18.4 cents, while transit gets 2.86 cents and environmental cleanup cost for transport fuel pollution gets 0.10 cents. Balance of 15.44 cents goes to highway programs (construction of upgrades and improvements to Interstate and US highway system). All transit funding is for construction of new systems and upgrading of existing systems; NO federal money goes for operation of any transit system in the US.

Last year the US government transferred over $9 billion from general tax revenues to the highway trust fund to keep it solvent because federal gas revenues only covered about 75% of total federal highway money expenditures for road projects. So if the amount of gas tax going to transit was allocated to highway construction, the fund would still be short by 5 or 6 billion dollars per year.

Two years ago the state of Missouri finished a rebuild of Interstate 64 in St. Louis and about half of the $560 million was from revenue bonds. When this bond issue is paid off through sales taxes (gas has no sales tax in Missouri and nearly every other state), the amount of non gas tax money contributed to this highway project will be over $600 million. Certainly a subsidy for the driver.

So, lets set the record straight. Most road users come nowhere near paying for the roads they drive on by paying gas taxes. And when you consider the cost of the military budget spent to keep oil shipping lanes in MENA (and oil ports in Libya) protected, the gas tax would have to be over $1.00 per gallon to cover the full cost of having roads and fuel to drive on them.

In the United States, fuel taxes typically pay only about 70% of the costs of highways. The other 30% comes out of general revenues (income taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, etc.)

There was a time when US fuel taxes did cover 100% of highway costs, but those days are long gone. Politicians are afraid to increase fuel taxes to cover all the costs, and prefer to give drivers a free ride.

There ain't no such thing as a free lunch. The money comes out of a different pocket, but it's the same pair of pants.

"It seems to me the US politicians need to grow a spine"


How often do you advocate a position that your boss is vehemently against, with full knowledge that you will be fired and publicly excoriated for your position?

Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it does.


If my job is to find solutions, (and that usually is my job) then I put forward the best solutions, and do not sugar coat them. I have actually resigned from a job when when they would not accept the solution that needed to be done - I would not carry on with a less than an appropriate level of environmental protection (this was in regard to sewage treatment and effluent discharge) - this after having to personally face the public - whom I lived amongst, and defend the company's position which I knew to be wrong. Eventually got the result that was needed, but at the cost of my job.

So, yes, I have put my job on the line, and over it - sometimes you have to, and I would do it again. I hope you would too, if your principles required it.

I have always been a proponent of politicians telling people that they can have most things they want - if they are prepared to pay pay for them, and they can *only* have the things they are prepared to pay for -not fair maybe, but that's reality.
For these politicos, they need to be honest with their people - you can have low gas taxes, and bad roads, or higher taxes, and better roads, but you can;t have low gas taxes and really good roads - unless you want no schools.

The recent premier of BC was the first prov or state leader on the continent to propose a carbon tax - he ran an election campaign on it (amongst other things) and won,and implemented it - in fact, his popularity improved.

He then got cocky and, after the last election, introduced a different tax he said he would not. Huge public outrage not so much the tax itself, but being lied to. He lost his spine and paid for it - was pushed out by his own party.

For Vancouver itself, the politicos there have implemented that 56c/gal fuel tax for transit, and it has been there for several elections now - was actually increased before the last one. They have done something that no city in the US has done - who has more backbone here?

All of the Canadian provinces have imposed higher gasoline taxes than any US states and - they all, 100% of them, still have elected politicos. That means no one ran (or was elected, anyway) on repealing those taxes!

These people were elected to make the decisions, easy and hard, on behalf of the people they represent, for the good of the people they represent.
Now, it seems that the reason most people in the US are opposed to gas tax increases is because they think the politicos will probably waste their hard earned money on all sorts of pet projects, bailouts etc, and the people are probably right - whose fault is that?

Every province and state (and several cities) I have ever lived in, in Canada, Australia and NZ, has introduced their own gasoline taxes to support their own road programs, or other works as needed, rather than wait for the feds to do something. I call that leadership - doing what's required, to do what's required, and what's best - what, if anything, are these US state politicos doing?

Rather than raising the gas tax, Federal or state, the new bright idea is a mileage based tax. Basically, you will be charged a fee annually (perhaps paid in monthly installments) based on what your odometer reading is, the reading recorded at an official location. Alternatively, a government-approved device could be installed on all vehicles that adds the tax cost onto your fuel cost for the miles travelled since your last fuel fill up.

A mileage tax has the advantage of taxing those who drive the most, and those whose vehicles aren't using taxed fuel (but are still taking up space on the roads). It has the disadvantage of "big brother" keeping tabs on how much you drive, and perhaps, where you drive if Obama's GPS tracking system gets approval. Seeing how no one's talking about reducing or removing the current fuel tax off of gasoline in lieu of this mileage based tax, I predict it will be strongly opposed by the public rightfully as just another way to take money out of their pockets.

"A mileage tax has the advantage of taxing those who drive the most, and those whose vehicles aren't using taxed fuel (but are still taking up space on the roads)."

A gas tax would also increase the tax on those who drive the most and it would be much simpler. It obviously would not tax the vehicles that aren't using taxed fuel, but how many of those are there? If it is because they are electric or high mileage vehicles then we should be encouraging those anyway.

An increased gas tax just seems like the most obvious (and maybe only) path that America needs to take to lower consumption per person. It would cause people to drive less and to get more fuel efficient vehicles. Of course it would piss everyone off, but if you really believe in peak oil or E.L.M. then that is our future anyway. Why not start now? (And yes, I know the answer to that already.)

I did put a link in a posting up above about the mileage based system they are using in New Zealand - it is an interesting approach.

There is no question in my mind that fuel tax is the simplest way to go -it is already there, it just a needs a number to be changed, and everyone will see that change, and it is very difficult to avoid said tax.
If that encourages more alt fuel vehicles on the road, then great - when they become any significant portion, then the tax system can be changed to bring them in.

Paul great work on this thread. The other thought to consider is the equivalent damage that rail puts on steel rails.

What is the cost per ton-mile in road, fuel, and maintenance for Rail versus Roadway?

Trucking gets HUGE amounts of free money and the US taxpayer gets what in return for this system?


That is funny stuff. Not to mention have you heard the Joe Average complaint about potholes. LMAO

Thanks Oct. Have never actually worked in pavement design, but found it quite interesting when studying it.

Railroads are whole different world - the rails are actually designed to move up and down - the whole system (rails, ties, ballast) acts like a very stiff spring. About 0.2-0.3 inches of deflection is good, less than that and your track is too stiff and will wear out trains, more than that it is too flexible and the trains will wear out the track!

The contact pressure between a fully loaded rail tire (they wearing part of the wheel is still called a tire) and the rail is 60,000 psi! The contact area between a vehicle tire and the road is - the tire air pressure! (about 70psi for trucks). But the rail pressure decreases to 200psi at the top of the tie, 30psi at the the base of the tie, and (amazingly) just 10psi at the subgrade. Pressure under your foot is about 3 psi.

If you want to learn how to build your own real railroad (instead of a model) all the information you need is here in this one document - the US Army Corps of Engineering guide to Railroad Design and Rehabilitation". I heard of an engineer who kept this as reading material in his washroom!

As for energy efficiency, there are four big differences between road and rail;
1. The railroads are built as straight and flat as possible, which naturally makes them efficient. One degree of curvature is resistance equal to 0.04%grade
2.The rolling resistance of steel on steel is much lower
3 The trains (freight) travel at 30-50 mph, and have very low frontal area for their volume - they are very aerodynamically efficient and travel at efficient speeds - cars lose on both counts. Trains are actually more air efficient when loaded - an empty coal car catches more air than a full one.
4. The trains rarely stop.

One factor railroads have always complained about is that since they own their ROW's they have to pay property taxes on them. If they improve efficiency by double tracking, their property taxes go up! No trucker has to pay more hwy taxes when they add a lane to the interstate.

In terms of fuel consumption, you compare using payload ton-mpg which includes the energy used to move the truck/train itself.

The rough numbers to use are 90-100 ton-mpg for truck and 400-450 for rail, or a ratio of 4-5 x the fuel for truck transport.

If you want some more interesting reading, there is an up to date joint DOT -FRA study comparing rail and truck transport

It actually is interesting reading - the summary in pages 1-10 is very informative (including a 2page list of acronyms!)

They did a similar study in 1991 and updated it in 2009. During that period truck mileage actually decreased by about 15 % due to - road congestion! Meanwhile rail mileage has steady increased over the same time, from about 300 back in the day, to over 500 for long haul today.

Not in that report, but I'd like to see, would be things like accidents and deaths per million miles for truck and rail, material consumption (for trucks and trains), manhours, etc.

But, all this is, of course, captured in freight rates, which are much cheaper for trains, but they are slower. As always, speed kills fuel economy!

A serious program of rail freight expansion would be one of the best oil saving things possible. US road trucks use more oil each day than all of Canada!

Of course, if you electrify the rail when you expand it, the oil consumption goes to zero - that is why almost all of Europe has done so.


I've done it too. However, I didn't ask the question appropriately.

First, most people wouldn't do it. I won't go as far to say that politicians avoid painful choices more than others, perhaps it is that their choices are more visible.

Second, the question is how often do people place themselves at risk. There are many anecdotal stories of individual acts of bravery. However, they are trumped my an overwhelming number of self-protective decisions.

Finally, to add another point. About 100 years ago, Henry Ford realized that he was making more cars than the cash purchase market could absorb. The Ford Motor Credit Company was born. Before then, Americans were more likely to pay as we went. 30 years ago, Reagan cut taxes figuring that budget deficits would lead to reduced government spending. However, it didn't work, because we could borrow to maintain the spending, rather than pay as we went. That is now the American way. We will avoid the piper for as long as we can. Then we will collapse.


There is no question that Pol's choices are more visible - in fact, if they are invisible in a democratic system, then something is wrong. But they all know this going into the job.
Agreed also that self preservation usually wins, even (especially) for politicians - you can't get to do anything if you don't get voted back in.

But my point is that some politicos - the good ones - have been able to get hard decisions made and implemented, and even win public support for them, and get re-elected. It seems to me most of the American ones aren't trying. The Wisconsin governor did try to implement a hard decision - reducing state gov workers entitlements, and got pilloried for it. Admittedly, he tried to go too far, and did it in the least tactful way possible, so was asking for trouble, but at least he was trying to do something.

I do think that eliminating gov waste (which includes excessive entitlements) is more important than raising taxes, but in the case of roads, I don't know how much waste there is to cut - i think they are simply underfunded, and everyone wants someone else - usually a higher level of gov - to pay. But if we want them to pay, then we have to accept their timeframe. If we want our timeframe, then we have to pay (or pay a good portion) . Take control of your own taxation, and you take control of decisions about your community/state etc, instead of leaving it to higher levels where you are one of many hands out for money.

My point of all this is that it can be done, but it needs a good politico to level with their people, and not waste their money that they are asking for. I'm seeing lots of grandstanding, and very little problem solving - but maybe that's whet you get when so many lawyers become politicos, and so few engineers do.

For the record, I no more want to see America collapse than you do - though I will have little sympathy as it will be self inflicted. I feel like I have a front row seat to a slow motion disaster flick, but I'd rather be watching something more constructive. Either way, all I (or any other country) can do is watch, and make sure we don't get pulled down too. That is why almost no one is investing in America today - it's a large scale version of GM.

Mean time, there's a push to allow the toll to expire (due this summer) on GA-400, heading due north out of the city; currently Atlanta's only toll highway, and only fifty cents for a car. Adding more lanes to I-75 and I-85 won't be likely; I watched these roads grow from 4 lanes to 14 on some stretches (crazy, and I helped design it!). More likely will be a toll using the HOV lanes which already have separate access and exits.

Plus, it lets some lucky contract holder extract rents from drivers. Private rentiers make political contributions. Whats not to like.

The plant’s owner, the Exelon Corporation, had long known that corrosion was thinning most of these pipes. But rather than fix them, it repeatedly lowered the minimum thickness it deemed safe.

These types of problems will get more common as the worlds reactor fleet ages. Extending the life from 40 to 60 years is easier to do on paper than to do in reality.

Report: Direct removal of carbon dioxide from air likely not viable

Technologies for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere are unlikely to offer an economically feasible way to slow human-driven climate change for several decades, according to a report issued by the American Physical Society and led by Princeton engineer Robert Socolow.

...The possibility of using DAC [Direct Air Capture of CO2 with Chemicals] has arisen in policy discussions that contemplate a so-called "overshoot" strategy in which the target level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is exceeded and then reduced later through use of some air capture technology.

Report: http://www.aps.org/policy/reports/popa-reports/loader.cfm?csModule=secur...

pg. 5: ...Indeed, if the power required [for DAC] were at the high end of the credible range and the power were provided by the same grid, fossil emissions for that power would offset the full amount captured, driving the cost of avoided CO2 emissions to infinity.

ExxonMobil ‘Linked to 9 of Top 10 Climate Skeptics’

ExxonMobil is connected to nine of the top ten authors of climate change denial papers, according to a “fact-check” website.

Analysis by The Carbon Brief found that the ten authors are responsible for 186 of the over 900 peer-reviewed papers skeptical of man-made global warming. The Global Warming Policy Foundation, a climate skeptic group, compiled the list of 900 papers that “promote skepticism of [anthropogenic global warming] or AGW alarm defined as, ‘concern relating to a negative environmental or socio-economic effect of AGW, usually exaggerated as catastrophic.’”

Another 'use' for oil subsidies.

That list of skeptic papers has been growing for years. Te first reference list gave some 450, then another version had 500, then 800 and now more than 900. The first 3 papers on the list are papers by Craig Loehle and include a correction to the first paper and a response, both the result of some work I did. There's no mention of my criticism of Loehle's first paper or the long comment by Gavin Schmidt of RealClimate that showed how flawed Loehle's original work actually was. That's just another sign of the propaganda efforts of the denialist camp as they spread disinformation claiming that there is serious doubt about the effects of green house gases on the Earth's climate...

E. Swanson

I'm going to post three movie titles and three book titles that are my favorites for understanding Peak Oil and its consequences. I encourage others to do the same.

"The Bicycle Thief" One of the greatest films of all time, pioneer in Italian realism, four stars in the Maltin book, a picture of scraping by in post-World War II Rome. Our future may resemble a war-wrecked past.

"The Grapes of Wrath," is about how one family made it through some of the worst times of the Great Depression. Another four-star movie.

"The Wages of Fear" is set in a thinly disguised Venezuela during the nineteen forties and shows how far people will go to keep the oil flowing.

Earl Cook, MAN, ENERGY, SOCIETY is the best single book I know of on energy.

Garrett Hardin, "EXPLORING NEW ETHICS FOR SURVIVAL: The Voyage of the Spaceship Beagle examines new ethics brought on by overpopulation and overuse of resources. It is an elaboration of the famous "Tragedy of the Commons" essay.

John Michael Greer, THE LONG DESCENT. I think Greer is likely to be approximately correct in his vision of the future.

Nice collection! Thank you for suggestions, I will definitely watch those movies. :)
My girlfriend showed me "The Grapes of Wrath" just a few months ago, but it turned out to be different "TGoW" - an English comedy, an episode of the Black Books series. So, I'm looking forward to watch the real stuff... :D

I encourage others to do the same.

I feel myself being encouraged ;) , so I will post three book titles I find very pertinent to Peak Oil:

1. Matthew Stein - When Technology Fails

2. David Werner - Where There Is No Doctor

3. Murray Dickson - Where There Is No Dentist

I have all these three books and I find them very important, cuz they give concrete practical advices how to cope when there is no electricity, no doctor or dentist. Well, many advices in those books end with (paraphrased): "in an emergency do THIS and then transport the patient to a city to get professional medical attention", but being very close to medical profession myself, I find all those advices very helpful and possibly being the final treatment with no additional "professional help" needed. :)

My plan is to die of old age before I need any of the three excellent books that you recommend.

I forgot to mention that the 1948 film "The Bicycle Thief" has also on occasion been released in the U.S. as "Bicycle Thieves," an unfortunately generic alternative title.

Once, when I was a graduate student, I had my bicycle stolen: The bike was an ancient three-speed Raleigh I'd bought years before for only $15, but it meant a lot to me. It was my great good luck to get the bike back the next day, through the efforts of Berkeley's finest--an exceptionally good police force.

But what if police are uncaring or overwhelmed. In the movie "The Bicycle Thief," the police are impotent, though well-meaning.

"The Bicycle Thief" available from Netflix on DVD and streaming.

Wholesale gasoline prices skyrocketed today by as much as 30 cents a gallon in the Midwest due to a combination of river flooding problems, and unexpected new refinery problems. Midwest Refinery problems were (1) Chevron Corp. (CVX) said it extinguished a fire at both of its two crude units at its refinery in Pascagoula, Miss. (2) Citgo Petroleum Corp reported emissions at its 167,000 barrel-per-day Lemont, Illinois, refinery due to an unknown cause and (3) Exxon XOM.N said a sulfur recovery unit failed at its 238,600 bpd Joliet, Illinois, refinery.

You may remember last Wednesday and Thursday I posted we were only one major refinery incident away from a gasoline shortage somewhere. As of today, as a result of the combined effect of the three new refinery problems and a slow recovery at the largest US refinery in Texas City, we have crossed that invisible minimum operating level threshold and shortages are imminent in some cities in the US Midwest – although it’s not yet clear when and where those shortages will occur, or how severe they will be.

Gasoline Gains Most in 19 Months on Flooding, Refinery Problems

May 9 (Bloomberg) -- Gasoline advanced the most in 19 months on speculation that fuel production and distribution will be disrupted by Mississippi River flooding and refinery unit shutdowns from the Midwest to the Gulf Coast.


we have crossed that invisible minimum operating level threshold and shortages are imminent in some cities in the US Midwest – although it’s not yet clear when and where those shortages will occur, or how severe they will be.

Interesting to say the least. According to Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.com, refineries are possibly sabotaging themselves or, at least, pretending to, to drive up prices. That's quite some claim.

Even before shortages occur the blame games seem to have begun.

Price of gas in Michigan drops closer to national average, but will it last?

A Citgo refinery in Illinois reported a flaring event this morning, which is a burning of gasoline and oil, DeHaan said. The incident at the Citgo refinery came one day after a similar event at an Exxon refinery in Illinois, which also had a flaring event last week.

DeHaan said prices might rise as high as the record high prices reached last week, and could reach up to $4.29 per gallon.

There is the possibility that oil companies are manipulating gas prices, DeHaan said. He said all a refinery has to do is release a statement saying there was a flaring event and prices will rise accordingly. He said the rise in flaring events immediately after a drop in wholesale prices was suspicious at best.

“If I was a refinery, it pays to tell the market ‘Hey we have a problem,’” he said. “All they have to do is release a statement and that makes prices go up.”

Interesting to say the least. According to Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.com, refineries are possibly sabotaging themselves or, at least, pretending to, to drive up prices. That's quite some claim.

Sabotaging themselves by not completely adjusting their refineries to the types of crude available - yes - intentional - no. A big problem recently has been a severe storm in Texas City, knocking out power to three large refineries. The largest US refinery was hit by lightning, which started a fire. That is hardly intentional.

The Magellan Pipeline system in the Midwest is also allocating gasoline. That means that system has operational problems and/or is operating at maximum capacity. Also unintentional.

Here's more:

May 9, 2011, 5:10 p.m. EDT
Mississippi swelling raises gasoline supply fears

The flooding has combined with fears of potential refinery outages in the region to prop up wholesale gasoline prices in the Midwest despite dropping crude oil costs. Bids for unleaded conventional grade gasoline in the Chicago market was 20 cents a gallon above June RBOB prices on the New York Mercantile Exchange, up more than 10 cents from Friday despite last week's dramatic drop in oil prices.

One terminal in Vicksburg, Miss. is expected to run out of product early next week, a fuel trader said. The river in that area is currently higher than 50 feet, or seven feet above its flood stage, making barge traffic difficult.


The largest US refinery was hit by lightning, which started a fire. That is hardly intentional.

But aren't you presuming their claim that lightening started a refinery fire is valid? Maybe they used the lightening storm as an excuse.

I remember some years back when gas prices had been increasing due to refinery accidents and problems. For weeks on end there were at minimum two incidents a week, in all cases they claimed it might affect prices at the pump. I got very suspicious of the frequency of such accidents. How hard is it to start a small fire in a refinery, then shut it down for a few days? I really wonder.

If there were only a few national refiners which were spread broadly across the US, it might possibly make sense to cut back output with the goal of raising national prices - that is if imports were not available.

But since refiners are regional or local, they basically lose forever the output in downtime, and since they incur expenses whether the refinery is operating or not, it would not make any sense to cut output for the purpose of trying to raise prices.

However if they were not going to make profit at current prices, then in their own self interest, they might restrict output - but not with the intent to raise prices.

If refiners restrict output (for whatever reason), surely that will tend to drive oil product prices up, other things staying the same.

But since refiners are regional or local, they basically lose forever the output in downtime, and since they incur expenses whether the refinery is operating or not, it would not make any sense to cut output for the purpose of trying to raise prices.

But there is a weaker form of accident causation. If the calculus says profit margins are going to be squeezed, it could make business sense to save money of safety. Factoring the effect of a price rise from a possible shutdown into the equations, might mean that cutting spending on safety pays off. {I don't know if this is (or ever did) happen, I'm just bringing up the fact that one doesn't need to fake (or deliberately cause) an accident, in order for them to ocurr.

tow - a couple of simple facts. First, I live across the highway from the largest refinery in Noorth America and burn off flares happen all the time...sometimes dramaticly. But not burning oil and gasoline. Usually contaminated low pressure NG. Second, and more importantly, the refiners don't have to justify thier run volumes to anyone. They are free to make as much or as little product as they chose. In fact, they do this as a normal course business every day. Why would a refinery make more gasoline than they think they market at their target prices? To make so much fuel they would have to drop prices significanty to unload their output? Is that how you would run a business? LOL.

Again I'm forced to remind folks: the refiners ain't your mommy. They are in business to max their profits (just like all businesses)...not sell fuel at the lowest possible price.

The situation along the Mississippi is getting worse for refiners:

Motiva Enterprise LLC's in Norco, La., is preparing for a possible supply disruption because of rising water levels on the Mississippi River, which could include moving product by rail or truck, a spokesman said May 10.


US gasoline prices moved even higher to day (so far) on top of yesterday's huge gains.

In addition, gasoline prices in southern Quebec have risen about 6.5 cents/liter in the last day or so.

This evening, New York time, the API reported that US gasoline inventories continued their relentless 2011 decline:

May 10, 2011, 4:39 p.m. EDT
API shows oil inventories up nearly 3 mln barrels

Crude-oil inventories rose 2.9 million barrels on the week ended May 6, the American Petroleum Institute said late Tuesday. The API showed gasoline stockpiles declining 1.8 million barrels, and stocks of distillates rising 582,000 barrels.


Still more energy related bad news resulted from Midwest flooding:

Mississippi Flooding Threatens Crops, Refineries
By Brian K. Sullivan and Leela Landress - May 10, 2011 5:47 PM ET

Valero Energy Corp. (VLO) was forced to reduce operations at its refinery in Memphis to between 80 percent and 85 percent of capacity because of the flooding, according to people familiar with refinery operations.


Oil Tanker Diverted From Exxon Louisiana Plant on High Water
By Aaron Clark - May 10, 2011 12:55 PM ET

The 104,532-ton tanker Zaliv Baikal oil tanker was diverted from Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM)’s Baton Rouge, Louisiana, refinery because of concern that the ship wouldn’t fit under the Interstate 10 bridge over the Mississippi River.


Enterprise Products Partners, which transports oil and fuel products, said at least two of its barges would be stuck in Kentucky for up to a week due to flooding.


If the Morganza Spillway or the Old River Control Structure fail, the Mississippi would create a new main channel to the Gulf via the Atchafalaya River. This would be a problem for the oil industry along the old Mississippi channel via Baton Rouge and New Orleans.


The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers was planning to open the Morganza spillway by early next week, which will send flood waters from the Mississippi to the Atchafalaya River, likely disrupting operations at Alon USA Energy's (ALJ.N) 80,000 bpd Krotz Springs, Louisiana, refinery.


Graphic of refineries at risk from floods:


How hard would it have been to design these control structures to allow split flow? The geologic instability with a single channel, is that that channel builds height, and the used one(s) slowly subside. So eventually nature evens things out by switching channels. The next best thing, being that humans want a stable operating environment (you know fixed infrastructure) would be to design the system to use all channels simultaneously.

Domestic oil usage to vie with exports

Khalid al-Falih, the head of Saudi Aramco, the kingdom’s state-owned oil group, said last year that domestic energy demand was expected to rise from 3.4m barrels a day of oil equivalent last year to about 8.3m b/d of oil equivalent by 2028.

That could mean that the kingdom will not be able to export more than 7m barrels of oil a day by 2028, if no additional investment is made, says John Sfakianakis, chief economist at Banque Saudi Fransi in Riyadh. Output capacity stands at 12.5m b/d today, he says.

“By diverting ever-larger amounts [of fuel] to domestic use, these [Gulf] governments are nearing the point where domestic consumption will conflict with exports,” says Jim Krane, of Cambridge university.

Westexas' ELM becoming main-stream (even allowing for the highly-dubious 12.5mbpd figures)?

Bottom line from What is "our" oil doing in their economy? -- Saudi oil consumption trends:

Saudi net-exports of crude oil have entered terminal decline.

Green GPS calculates most fuel-efficient route

Green GPS, developed by computer scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, works like general GPS navigation, except that in addition to calculating the shortest and fastest routes, it also projects the most fuel-efficient route.
The technology runs on cell phones, which links to a car’s computer using an inexpensive, off-the-shelf wireless adapter that works in all cars manufactured since 1996. The car’s onboard diagnostics system uploads information about engine performance and fuel efficiency to the phone, which uses the data to compute the greenest route.
In preliminary experiments, researchers were able to show that following the suggestion of Green GPS saves 13 percent more fuel over the fastest route and 6 percent over the shortest. The initial test was conducted on 16 cars of various types that collectively drove for 1,000 miles in Urbana-Champaign, a city of 170,000.

In my experience the greenest route is usually the 'fastest' route, but driven at a lower speed,

At a steady 55mph, my car does 90mpg (imperial). At a steady 70 mph, it does 70 mpg.

A 20 mph head or tail wind also makes a significant difference.

Regarding the Chomsky article above:

"He also added, a little bit ominously, that the average life span of a species, of the billions that have existed, is about 100,000 years, which is roughly the length of time that modern humans have existed."

Actually, the average lifetime of mammal species is estimated at one million years, and all fossil groups somewhere between half and five million years.


He was even more ominous in his interview for the Nation in their PO&GW series of videos. He said that by voting in the republicans, the US has voted the species into extinction. I think we probably did that a bit earlier, but that did pretty well seal any last chance of sanity taking hold in any time frame that matters.

"The Republicans are evil. The Democrats are good." How much longer should we endure cr@p like that? The man's brain is gone; he seems to be all mouth now.

Got a source for that quote Don?
It certainly doesn't sound like anything Chomsky would say.
I would like to know the context at least.
If you have simply fabricated a quote, well that would be slander wouldn't it?
Be a poor reflection on your character.

No, it is not slander: It is an accurate paraphrase of what Chomsky has been saying for twenty years--if not more. Chomsky used to be a man with a huge intellect. He is now a shadow of his former self, but he still gets attention from the media--similar to what happened to the late great Bertrand Russell, who was wheeled out at regular occasions by his keepers to say stupid political things. The very idea that voting for Republicans means voting for human extinction is absurd on its face. Again I ask, why does anybody take him seriously anymore?

You never indicated it was a paraphrase and it had the effect of making him look very foolish indeed, then in the next sentence you asserted that the man's brain was gone.
It is no way an accurate paraphrase of what Chomsky has been saying for 20 years, it is an ugly mis-characterization.
Perhaps you could read the attached article and apply a more ethical approach to your argumentation.

I've read plenty of Chomsky over the years. A once-great man is now practically brain dead.

So you are alleging an organic cognitive disorder?
Any evidence?
I mean like maybe a video where he shows slurred speech or dilated pupils?
Or do you mean figuratively brain dead where you find his opinions objectionable?
Let's face it, the larger context for this is the sad end of Matthew Simmons and many of the questionable assertions he made in the last months of his life.
If you can provide illustrations of how Chomsky is now in an advanced state of mental deterioration, please do so.
Otherwise, it looks like character assassination. The start of a 'whispering campaign'.

It is a current talking-point: Last night, a talk-radio personality offered that he could out-think Chomsky in a heartbeat.

In dogma, truth is revealed by an authority. In science, truth is discovered for one's self. The dogmatist's attack is upon the person and their authority, not the data. The data, the "facts", are irrelevant. To present or defend them is the mark of belonging to the other side, often a minority position. To parrot the authority and direct venom upon the heretical declares fraternity.

The Republican Apparatus has continued to sneer at global warming, even if a few R's silently demur. The house is on fire, at least according to the Fire Department, if you can believe them, and Chomsky is suggesting, quite justifiably, that supporting this gang who insist on dragging us all back into the Den for a prayer meeting and some QVC, is putting us in just fantastic peril.

I don't see ANY substance in your complaint against Chomsky. Pull a real quote, your paraphrase was inadequate.

In no way is Chomsky's criticism of Republicans justified. To be charitable, I do not think he knows any more what he is talking about. Same thing happened to Bertrand Russell, who was, in his day, a much bigger name than Chomsky is now.

You're just repeating yourself, and including no content, Don.

Here's pretty much the same chunk as he used in the Nation Piece, making this point pretty clearly. Disagree if you must, but to say he's 'unaware of what he's talking about..', or that he's no longer thinking clearly or rationally is totally unsupported.


..the fate of the species.

Systemic risk in the financial system can be remedied by the taxpayer, but no one will come to the rescue if the environment is destroyed. That it must be destroyed is close to an institutional imperative. Business leaders who are conducting propaganda campaigns to convince the population that anthropogenic global warming is a liberal hoax understand full well how grave is the threat. But they must maximize short-term profit and market share; if they don't, someone else will. This vicious cycle could well turn out to be lethal. To see how grave the danger is, simply have a look at the new Congress in the US, propelled into power by business funding and propaganda. Almost all are climate deniers. They have already begun to cut funding for measures that might mitigate environmental catastrophe. Worse, some are true believers, for example the new head of a subcommittee on the environment who explained that global warming cannot be a problem because God promised Noah that there will not be another flood. If such things were happening in some small and remote country, we might laugh. Not when they are happening in the richest and most powerful country in the world.

my emphases.

What are you objecting to?

Worse, some are true believers, for example the new head of a subcommittee on the environment who explained that global warming cannot be a problem because God promised Noah that there will not be another flood.

Maybe someone should sit this congressman down and discuss the book of Revelation with him, you know, the four horsemen and such. Could also throw in a little Timothy 6:10 " For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows."

Seriously though, and I hope the Americans here will forgive my impudence, I think the US and it's constitution has been co-opted by the corporations. That famous sentence from the declaration of independence reads "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." Operative word here being men, "all men are created equal", not corporations or groups of men because, obviously not all groups of men are created equal etc.

Without even reading websites that oppose corporate personhood (eg. http://reclaimdemocracy.org/personhood/ ), I quickly formed the opinion that it is patently corrupt. Corporations serve the interests of their shareholders and as a collective those interests often end up at odds with the shared interests of our civilisation (the commons). Think of it as acting as an amplification of the tragedy of the commons where multiple individuals, acting collectively as opposed to independently, and rationally consulting their own self-interest, ultimately deplete a shared limited resource even when it is clear that it is not in anyone's long-term interest for this to happen.

In this sense Chomsky is entirely correct. The US government is in the hands of the corporations and I have no idea how the man in the street is going to wrest control away from them, assuming that he wants to (remembering a clip of Chomsky on youtube where he speaks to corporate control of public opinion through media, manufacturing consent). It is hard to deny that the Republicans seem to be carrying the corporate agenda more than the Democrats.

Alan from the islands

Edit: added the term "manufacturing consent"

Noam Chomsky: Manufacturing Consent 1 of 9:

Islandboy understands the dynamic better then 99% of Americans. I claim the corps own one and a half political parties. The Dems want to be for the little man, but they are dependent on the corps for campaign contributions, so they are always conflicted, so i think that counts as half bought. So the voter gets to choose between half bought, or totally bought.

The Republican Party in MN formally kicked out a bunch of their best and brightest for admitting that the party had endorsed a useless candidate and favoring another candidate.

There are bad apples in the GOP, and they are indeed spoiling the barrel.

Chomsky continues to provide penetrating insight. The fact that you or someone else doesn't agree with all or anything that he says is not good evidence that he is "brain dead". I don't know whether or not total refusal to do anything about global warming will lead to extinction but it does seem within the realm of reasonable conjecture based upon the science.

Virtually every Republican currently in congress is in total denial about AGW. Criticism of that is hardly evidence that Chomsky has gone round the bend.

Penetrating insight? Example?

The materials quoted in above posts from Chomsky show a naive and childish approach not characteristic of the man twenty years ago.

Just as Matt Simmons lost his mental abilities near the end of his life, so it seems that Chomsky (born 1928) is losing his.

You disagree with him, so he is nuts.

Now THAT's penetrating insight!

Don, you're really disappointing me here.

You persist with the namecalling, and have produced nothing to support your claim. This is childish, come on.

I agree, there's something else going on here with Don, his comments on Chomsky do not reflect reality, in fact, they are totally incoherent, which is obvious because usually Don can at least make up something halfway decent sounding to explain a view. Nobody who had actually read Chomsky would ever think that he wasn't critical of the so-called 'liberal' media and political systems, especially the Democrats. Obviously, this view correctly sees that the Republicans are far worse, far more corporatist, and far more cynical, which does make the Democrats seem less bad. Not good, just less bad.

Pointing out objective facts like the Republicans current efforts to totally destroy all environmental regulations can hardly be considered 'senile', in fact, the comments are almost mundane in terms of how Chomsky usually discusses such issues, but that's because I think he understands the seriousness of our current situation, and is trying to talk to people outside the far left. So it's clear Don has not read Chomsky, aside from I assume a few brief articles. It's simply impossible to make such a statement re Chomsky's politics and views if you had read them, totally impossible.

What's up Don, did Chomsky upset you about something you hold near and dear? That's what it sounds like to me, you usually at least try to make some sense, here you are just totally floundering, I suggest you stop and take a deep breath and ask yourself just what it is that is making you say false statements repeatedly.

Of course Chomsky is getting old, I've heard several recent interviews with him, he's not at all losing it, he's just older, but he's not particularly different than he used to be. You are aware that Chomsky has been considered to occupy a political niche, as noted, above, far left of Democratic party corporate sellout policies, which makes your above comments even more incoherent. Sometimes when you don't know something, it's time to take off the teacher/professor hat and either learn it or stop talking and just move on. This is a hard thing for teachers to do, especially older ones, but just try it, Don, you're kind of embarrassing yourself here.

I think Don despises Chomsky because the Chom at times casts the light of truth on the dark force domain in which the Don dwells: Economics.

With that said, Chomsky does a pretty bad job of presenting his views. He comes across as a boring and self-worshiping 8-hole. His love of himself detracts from the message.

A good example would be this, number 7 out of his 1-9 videos:

Some of Chomsky's messages about state-sponsored propaganda come through, but for the most part it's Chomsky celebrating himself rather than his message

criticism of Republicans [is not] justified

Criticism of Republicans is always justified:

1) They have it "coming to them",
2) They "ask for it" due to the way they dress their thoughts in scantily covered subterfuge,
3) There is a mental asylum in Oklahoma that still doesn't realize one of their patients has escaped (probably by plane), has run for office and has become a Republican US Senator

warning: the linked-to video is from OKee Dokee TV

Republicans tolerate theocrats running for office under their banner.

One bad apple spoils the barrel, and the Republicans have forgotten how to throw them out.

I think Republicans exist simply to make the Democrats look tolerable.

If it weren't for the Republicans, the Democrats would be the recipients of our rational ridicule.

To say that Chomsky is dem centric, is really not paying attention to his analysis.

If anything he is an anarchist or syndicalist:

Exactly, and anyone who has actually read Chomsky outside of his linguistic work would know that about Chomsky's politics, which makes me wonder why Don is claiming to have read him when it's simply impossible to maintain the view he is suggesting if he had. Most considered Chomsky to be somewhere between Anarchist and Maoist, not that those terms have any real meaning when you're an Ivy league professor living in a nice house in the suburbs, lol.

The article I just read certainly wasn't the work of a man who's brain is gone. You obviously didn't read it. He makes no mention of Republicans and is highly critical of Obama.

A more accurate precis would be "The Republicans are evil. Oh, and the Democrats are also evil". That's not too controversial, when you think about it. Both are Business as Usual parties. Or even Business As Usual businesses.

If you want to think explicitly in terms of Climate Change:

Vote Republican == the climate gets it, we go extinct.
Vote Democrat == we talk a lot about climate change, but don't actually solve the problem. The climate still gets it, and we still go extinct.

You can substitute "Climate Change" with "Peak Oil". Or any other major problem which simply cannot be resolved within BAU.

Well stated.

So now you're agreeing with a more accurate summary of Chomsky's views?

Yes, with Chomsky's earlier views.

Note that it is a tragedy when a man's body functions but his brain goes senile. This phenomenon is a major problem today, and it is getting worse as time goes on.

Not all old men are foolish. For example, Warren Buffett still seems to have all his marbles, and his Berkshire Hathaway is still a good company. My guess is that Buffett will have the sense to retire and keep his mouth shut before too many more years go by.

Earlier, as in February?

(Democracy Now Interview)

NOAM CHOMSKY: It’s very interesting. The reason why you can’t get Democratic leaders to join is because they agree. They are also trying to destroy the unions. In fact, if you take a look at—take, say, the lame-duck session. The great achievement in the lame-duck session for which Obama is greatly praised by Democratic Party leaders is that they achieved bipartisan agreement on several measures. The most important one was the tax cut. And the issue in the tax cut—there was only one issue—should there be a tax cut for the very rich? The population was overwhelmingly against it, I think about two to one. There wasn’t even a discussion of it, they just gave it away. And the very same time, the less noticed was that Obama declared a tax increase for federal workers.


Frankly, Don, it sounds like he took a potshot at some Sacred Cow of yours, and you're unwilling to forgive him. I don't agree with him all the time, but I have yet to see where his faculties are slipping.

What Chomsky suffers from is the America centric point of view.

Despite his long and useful criticisms of American Empire, he still cannot admit to himself that America doesn't matter as much as he thinks it does.

China - and the rest of the world for that matter - will burn through its coal (and oil and gas, if it gets it), completely independently of what America does or does not do.

Thereby, to say that AGW is progressing and the species is under threat because of the opinions of a few businessmen and their political lackeyes from the interior backwaters of America is quite absurd.

America no longer leads the world. We can drive our SUVs or not, we can bike or not, we can build rail or not, we can build solar panels or not, we can do this or that or the other or not, doesn't make one difference.

Sad, but true.

Quite so. The coal burned in just four countries: China, India, Indonesia and Pakistan is enough to bring on climate change, even if the rest of the world emitted no greenhouse gases at all. Note that all four of these countries plan to increase their burning of coal. The U.S. also burns a great deal of coal and has no substantial plans to decrease dependency on coal.

Climate change will be more or less catestrophic--my guess is that it will by itself be sufficient to reduce the world's population by half.

Of course, my guess could turn out to be optimistic.

We (the world) is going to burn all the coal that can be mined during the next fifty years or so. Nothing, but nothing, is going to stop that. The only thing that could have stopped anthropogenic climate change is not burning coal and instead generate electricity from nuclear, windmills, PV, concentrated solar power and so forth.

Death rates are going to go up, and the main villain is coal. Oil and natural gas are not benign, but burning coal is the main problem.


I had some distant foggy recollection that you claimed to be a... what was it...perhaps it included the word historical--nah, fagetaboutit.

There is not chance that you have any background in history, since you obviously think it matters no one tiny little bit.

But just tell me.

Do you think that in that dim, misty thing called history the US of A has had and outsized presence affecting atmospheric levels of CO2.

But never mind. I shouldn't call out people whose minds have gone while their bodies go on....

"Death rates are going to go up"


Global death rates are now at an all time LOW.

That is an a l l t i m e LOOOOOOOOOOOOWWWWWWWWWW.


Is there any faculty of thought, reflection or research that goes on before you just blurt out whatever is on you mind?

A moment thought or research would have helped you to not make such a bone headed statement.

But then a moment can seem such a very long time.

And thinking and research can seem like such a very large burden of heavy labor.

To be fair, surely the fact that it's so low would make it easier for death rates to increase?

If the world economy does decline then it seems fairly certain that it will have a knock-on effect on death rate.

Oh yes, it is pretty much guaranteed to go up just because of demographic 'bulges,' though these are not predicted to start in earnest for another couple decades. I'm guessing they may start earlier than that, an perhaps not completely for benign 'demographic bulge' reasons.

The thing that could stop us is if we run out of oil real fast. No oil, no diesel, no mining trucks. Without oil I hope enough of everything will stop to actually end coal mining. Hence my mantra that "PeakOil is not the problem,it is the solution".

"PeakOil is not the problem,it is the solution".

It depends on how fast the decline happens. Mining trucks can be electric. In fact most are already diesel-electric hybrids, like railroad locomotives. It shouldn't be too hard to add an external electrical connection if/when needed. But all these changes require time to implement. Thats why I think the rate of the decline matters quite a bit.

I agree that he may be a bit Americano-centric, but since we still are the worlds highest burner of ff per capita and since through our media and movies we still set the global stage for the definition of prestige, we are still a very major player here.

Not to mention that we have a huge portion of the worlds coal, NG and oil resources, not to mention close to more than all the other countries military power combined.

What we do still matters.

Anyone that denies this is probably brain dead--a tragic thing, when the body still persists, but the brain has long ago gone.

We're burning a quarter of the world's fuel.. yes, what we do still matters. We have aircraft carriers and electronic couriers spanning the globe, exerting influence and calling shots at WTO and G8 Meetings..

Oilman might feel some mighty by disparaging the great Neighborhood Bully, but the game isn't quite as done as he suggests. China can't ignore the US just yet.. or her allies.

And 'America-centric?' How? (Not you Dohboi, but I'm just not in the mood to reply to O-S)

Here's his blurb on Obama's Deification of Reagan the Optimist.. (same link as above)

I won’t even talk about his international behavior. I mean, it was just abominable. I mean, if we gained our optimism by killing hundreds of thousands of people in Central America and destroying any hope for democracy and freedom and supporting South Africa while it killed about a million-and-a-half people in neighboring countries, and on and on, if that’s the way we get back our optimism, we’re in bad trouble.

You guys!..

In previous posts I've made it quite clear that I personally have no intention of taking on Wall Street, the military industrial complex, or the various manifestations of American Empire. For that reason I'm more or less just going to drop out of the system.

Regardless of what American Empire does, though, the rest of the world will burn fossil fuels. They aren't going to slow down (or speed up) just based upon what a few Republicans decide.

I mean, are we going to bomb the entire globe to either obtain their energy resources for ourselves, or prevent them from using them? Get real.

The US has effectively stifled any attempts by international gatherings to come up with Global Commitments to respond to the clear hazards of burning fuels, all the way back to Kyoto, and probably further.

No, Oilman, you're dazzled by something or other, the effect of the R's, several Corporate Heads, and their Neo-Evangelist Cheerleaders is having a very clear effect on what MANY of the Worlds' Governments have been clamoring to address for years. No doubt there are influential industrialists&Pols in all those countries who have breathed a sigh of oligarchic relief that Uncle Sam has gotten them off the hook again, but make no mistake, the Calvinists are standing in the way of a great deal more then just these 50 states and our little Island Collection.

Were also the biggest impediment to some sort of climate change treaty. Admittedly, it wouldn't do much. But clearly the actions of the Chineese and Indians show that they are not ideologically oposed to renewables and conservation. The current Chineese energy strategy seems to be to develope all forms, at full-speed. At least it includes the greener type as well.

Oilman, while there is some truth to your comment, there's not a lot. I think many people here have not actually sat down and read a major Chomsky book, say, where he dwells for hundreds of pages on East Timor. I think you will agree with me that East Timor is not the USA, nor was it a particularly critical zone of US influence, yet it was a key area of focus for Chomsky for a long time. Then there was his decades focus on Israel/Palestine issues, likewise not the USA. And so on. Those books are long, they are a bit dry. Well, no, ok, they are really dry, but it does appear not many here who are commenting actually have read many of them, if any at all.

I think it is however fair to say that Chomsky chose to address the issues of the country he lived in more than other nations, which seems reasonable to me, if I were Polish and living in Poland, I'd probably be a lot more focused on Poland, Eastern Europe, Ukraine, USSR/Russia than the USA, since those are more related to my direct world, what I could hope to influence.

But there's probably some truth to your statement, he is getting older now, but the USA is still up to its old tricks so it's kind of hard to see why he'd shift focus at this stage in life. Not as if he can read original source material from China after all.


Extraordinary claims require fn extraordinary proof.

I myself plan to stalk you, Don, with this quote, till you either retract it or prove it.

"it is a tragedy when a man's body functions but his brain goes senile."

Most of the posters on this site are well over fifty. If elderly people can just be dismissed because they are old so they must be senile--with out one f'n gdamn speck of evidence--then we can all be immediately dismissed at hopelessly senile right now.

Put up or shut f'n up.

(And stop listening to idiot talk radio nitwits, or at least stop parroting them without any intervening thought, that I KNOW you are very capable of.)

Well, keeping in mind Matt Simmons somewhat sad last year of life, I'd say the evidence is pretty obvious when the mind starts to go, you don't need much more confirmation than a formerly sharp, reasonably accurate mind fades and turns to mush.

Hard to beat a mile of oil drill pipe being shot out and then leaking a mile away from the hole, or whatever nonsense Simmons was spouting before his declining health finally kicked him out of this life, so I think we'll have a pretty clear indicator when Chomsky starts to fade, but my feeling is he will just get older and a bit slower but still remain sharp, as he is now.

Don isn't telling us what's really bugging him, that's obvious, clear as glass, otherwise he'd be at least giving it the old college try, but this is coming from some non-reasoned source.

I remain impressed, by the way, at just how clear and coherent Chomsky remains, and how up on things, that takes ongoing work, of course he has good access via MIT to all the real climate science work, a great fringe benefit of being a professor, little appreciated, is all the academic journals you get access to, via online or libraries, having 'Nature' for instance would be fantastic in terms of being up on what's really going on.

The irony of Don's statement did not go unnoticed, but please...no stalking. Feel free to flag every one of Don's posts if you wish; if enough people do it, they will disappear. But no stalking. You're degrading the quality of the site, you and Don both. Cut it out.

I'm against censorship.

Yes, flame wars are ugly.
But flame wars are part of the reality of who we homo sapien critters are, even us Peak Oil "aware" critters. By censoring these spats, you hide what we really are and thus distort the truth. I thought one of the goals of us Peak Oil "aware" critters was to get the truth out there (even if the truth is ugly) so people can confront it.

Sweeping under the rug is what deniers do.

I don't see it as sweeping it under the rug so much as doing it in the proper place. Elimination is part of being human, too, but most of us would not allow guests to poop on the living room sofa.

If you don't like the way this site is run, start your own. We can't be everything to everyone, and don't want to be. Create the site you want, rather than griping about this one.

What I've heard of him he seems to be more like "Democrats are bad, Republicans are even worse".

Something to wich I agree, incidently.

Trying to not step in this pile of ... thread. Perhaps Don is projecting a bit.

Methane levels 17 times higher in water wells near hydrofracking sites

..."We found measurable amounts of methane in 85 percent of the samples, but levels were 17 times higher on average in wells located within a kilometer of active hydrofracking sites," says Stephen Osborn, postdoctoral research associate at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment. The contamination was observed primarily in Bradford and Susquehanna counties in Pennsylvania.

Water wells farther from the gas wells contained lower levels of methane and had a different isotopic fingerprint.

"Methane in water wells within a kilometer had an isotopic composition similar to thermogenic methane," Vengosh says. "Outside this active zone, it was mostly a mixture of the two." [thermogenic and biogenic]

S - Could be NG from the frac'd wells...or not. Not two hours from where I now sit some water wells flow enough NG to be lite. And have long before the first oil/NG well was drilled in Texas. In fact I once mapped reserves on a commercial NG reservoir only 180' below the surface. OTOH when I was at Mobil Oil decades ago a rig blew up and killed 7 hands after hitting a NG pocket that collected from old NG wells that had leaked over years. And none of those wells had been frac'd. A while back someone familiar with that area in Penn. said there was a long history of natural methane contamination.

So testng methane doesn't prove the source either way. Should be investigated in detail by both sides. Especially by the oil patch...they're fighting an uphill battle.

Really there needs to be testing wells before and after fracking takes place in an area to isolate the effect of fracking. An inexpensive yet useful measurement is conductivity.

Actually dovey that's been SOP in Texas for decades. And not just for fracing wells. Very simple...very cheap...very stupid not to do. OTOH for all we know they've done just that.

About 120 years ago, the Canadian Pacific Railway, drilling for water for its steam locomotives in the vicinity of Medicine Hat, hit the the Medicine Hat shallow gas field - the largest gas field in Canada. The drilling rig exploded and the ensuing fire burned down the railway station.

Rudyard Kipling, who happened to pass through on the CPR a few years later, and observed the incendiary aspects of the subsurface, said, "This part of the country seems to have all hell for a basement!"

The gas is very shallow and very abundant. We used to drill wells in less than 24 hours. We wouldn't even prepare the site, we'd just set the rig down on the grass, punch down a hole, pick it up, move it over a mile, and do it again. One well every 24 hours. With four drilling rigs running continuously, we'd drill four wells per day.

Farmers in the area commonly hit natural gas while trying to drill water wells. If they do, they just hook the well up to their furnace and truck in water from the nearest town.

Pennsylvania has shallow natural gas deposits in addition to the deep shale gas deposits they are using hydraulic fracturing on. In shallow gas regions it is not uncommon to get natural gas in your water supply. The easy solution is to vent the methane off before it gets into the house, and drink the water.

Methane is flammable but not toxic. In fact, human beings produce methane. You can demonstrate this for yourself by eating a large meal of refried beans, although your spouse, relatives and close personal friends may dispute the "not toxic" aspect of the process.

To me, the obvious inference of gas in water wells close to gas drilling sites is that the companies drilling the wells are drilling where there is methane. Which is the whole idea. For decades geochemical prospecting has been used to locate oil and gas deposits by locating abnormally high levels of hydrocarbons (including methane) in the soil.

The argument used by proponents of such geochemical prospecting is that no seal on a hydrocarbon reservoir is perfect, and the lighter hydrocarbons, especially methane, leak continuously from the reservoir and migrate upwards through the overlying sediments. This migration path would include any aquifers above the hydrocarbon pool. The hydrocarbons would be present before any drilling took place, and would remain long after the drilling. They might perhaps decrease as pressures in the reservoir drop with production, but because the leakage path through the overburden is very low permeability any such decrease might be seen at the surface only after decades of production.

As others have pointed out, methane in groundwater is not at all uncommon in places where there is underlying gas accumulation.

Japan, US eye Mongolia nuclear waste depot: report

Japan and the United States are eyeing a plan to jointly construct an underground nuclear waste storage complex in Mongolia, a newspaper report said Monday.

Under the deal being considered, the three countries would build a facility to stock and dispose of nuclear waste several hundred metres (hundred feet) deep, the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper said.

The deal has been secretly negotiated by the three governments because there are concerns it would face opposition from the Mongolian people as well as its neighbours China and Russia, the Mainichi said.

Sending someone to Outer Mongolia used to be a joke. Sending nuclear waste there is certainly not. Sandwiched between Russia and China? if there is any future trade disruption or war, not only can they cut off access to the storage, but they also have unlimited access to waste material to use for any nefarious purposes(although each already has plenty of waste already).

Mongolia might be a long way away, but this scheme could hardly be described as "safe".

Europe Must Turn to China for Energy Security

The Libyan debacle has been a major wakeup call for those thinking that Europe has a grip on its neighborhood or that the European Union might one day become a serious geopolitical actor. The point is now so moot, it's barely worth making. What's less obvious is that the fallout from the Libyan intervention will have a serious impact on the upstream energy landscape around Europe. That's not just because the EU has lost around 1 million barrels per day of sweet oil production and around 16 percent of its gas supplies for the "EU 15," but also because the West, and more notably NATO, has shown how weak its energy hand really is.

The alliance can't provide the necessary security guarantees to project European influence across adjacent hydrocarbon states. This has always been obvious for Central Asia -- Russia's backyard -- and it now holds for the Middle East-North Africa (MENA) region. That makes two of the four energy corridors Brussels was attempting to open up. The idea was sound enough: diversify supplies in order to reduce structural dependence on Russia. But the execution has been verging on the reckless. Paradoxically, the lack of resolve on Libya has strengthened Moscow's energy hand. So long as upstream producers have no reason to take the EU seriously, Europe will have to go "long," even very long, on Russia to secure vital oil and gas supplies.

After food v fuel, how about teachers v CO2?

An interesting article in Saturday's Vancouver Sun shows just how quickly carbon trading can have very silly outcomes.
Here in BC, where we already have a carbon tax, the provincial government is also requiring all gov agencies to be CO2 neutral, by buying offsets.
They have set up a government corporation, the Pacific Carbon Trust, to do this, and all gov depts pay the PCT, which then buys the credits on their behalf.

Setting up a gov agency, is of course, the first mistake, the second is that it removes any ability for the gov depts to decide what offsets they buy and from whom.

From the article, the Vancouver school board, which has had to make an $8m budget cut, also has to pay $405k (about ten teachers worth) for carbon offsets from its remaining budget.

And who is the PCT buying them from? That would be En Cana, Canada's largest natural gas producer, who;

is getting the money to change the drilling process it is using in a formation in northeastern British Columbia that releases a high level of emissions.

So we are giving up teachers to help the gas giant drill marginal wells in a dirty formation!

And the carbon emissions from in-province NG production are not even subject to the carbon tax!

We all know that carbon trading will lead to system gaming and questionable offset projects, but this is wrong at every level. Not only should the school board be spending on schools, and nothing else, but En Cana should not be able to sell a single carbon credit until their carbon emissions are at net zero. Then, and only then, should they be able to sell credits if they actually put some carbon in the ground.

And given their business is basically taking carbon products out of the ground, I don't think that is very likely to happen.

This is one sort of oil company "subsidy" that should be abandoned faster than a dry well - I hope the kids still get a good enough education to be able to see that.

Your government has become dysfunctional. Replace it, or suffer the consequences.

We call British Columbia "Lotus Land" for good reason.

In Greek mythology, the lotus-eaters were a race of people from an island dominated by lotus plants. The lotus fruits and flowers were the primary food of the island and were narcotic causing the people to sleep in peaceful apathy.

Actually, the drug of choice is BC Bud, but you can't expect a government to be efficient when people are stoned most of the time.

Looks like mighty good stuff. Should be in every grocery store. Maybe the altered perspective would enable people to realise the high price of oil is a function of greater demand for a limited supply.

America is the number one consumer of oil in the world. This country will do anything to be the only ones that has oil such as go into other countries and “help liberate that countries people”, and other means. Some experts have said that the cost of bringing oil out of the ground is approximately one dollar to ten dollars. In which, if a barrel of oil cost ten dollars a gallon of gas would be fifty cents. If that’s the case why is almost four dollars in New Jersey? New Jersey is one of the few states that has the cheapest gasoline prices. Some other parts of the country mainly more towards the Midwest and West has reached over the four dollar limit. Some economists are predicting by the summer it may reach five dollars a gallon. In which it would cause everything else to rise. Maybe certain people in power want to dry other countries oil and then be the only ones to have that source. Not to mention the crude oil, coal and fossil fuels are very harmful for the environment and for its human beings inhabiting in it. This country needs to invest more money and resources to greener technology because it will create more jobs, and a safer living space for all human beings on this earth not to mention safe the planet.

Oil from Canadian tar sand is about $80 per barrel. The cost of the military to control access should be added to the cost. If you add that in oil is well beyond $10 per barrel.

Some experts have said that the cost of bringing oil out of the ground is approximately one dollar to ten dollars. In which, if a barrel of oil cost ten dollars a gallon of gas would be fifty cents. If that’s the case why is almost four dollars in New Jersey?

Well, if you could produce something for fifty cents, and everyone around you was selling it for $4, what would you do?

If the income of your family depended on this business venture of yours, would be inclined to sell it cheap?

If you did sell it cheap, and then saw your buyer turn around and sell it for $4, would you sell it cheap again?

If you answered yes to any of these questions then you should not go into business for yourself - try a government job instead.

Those are mid-60s prices, and you could buy a new car for $2000 back in the 60s.

More modern numbers would be $10 to $100 to produce a barrel of oil. Take your 60s price of 50 cents per gallon and multiply by 10 = $5.00 per gallon. If you are only paying $4.00 per gallon, consider yourself lucky (until the conventional oil runs out, and new non-conventional oil costs $100 to $1000 per barrel to produce).

The much-vaunted oil shales of the US will cost between $100 and $1000 per barrel to produce. Watch for it coming to a gas station near you sometime toward the middle of this century.

I was talking about the gasoline prices at $4/gal, and I'm sure, somewhere, some lucky person/company is still producing crude for fifty cents a gallon.

It will be interesting to see what will happen with the oil shale - I guess eventually the US will get desperate enough to try it.

Back to the old shale gas water contamination issue: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-13333473

Shale gas drilling operations increase the risk of nearby drinking water becoming contaminated with methane, a study has suggested.

Researchers found, on average, methane concentrations 17 times above normal in samples taken near drilling sites.


Videos are available on the web that appear to show people setting fire to water pouring out of a tap

and the accompanying (fairly impressive) video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d6G6Ap-mF0k

i - Yes...impressive. As impressive as when I saw a rancher do the same thing (actually much bigger flame) 30 years ago from one of the wells he used to water his cattle. The NG came from naturally occuring deposits within the fresh water aquifer. But I've seen similar films from houses in a small community (Daisette?) just east of Houston. Leaking underground storage not only contaminated the ground water but caused explosive accumulation in houses. It's one thing to flame your dirty dishes...another to blow your butt through the roof. Eventually the entire community was abandoned and I think still is today. I've also seen reports of film makers hooking a propane tank up to the water supply so they could film such dramatic footage. The landscape can abound with exploiters on both sides, eh? Fortunately the Rockman is here to help keep you on the path to the truth. Be at peace, grasshopper. LOL

Haha, I bet that was quite a sight over at the cattle well!

To be honest I don't really have a clue when it comes to weighing the benefits/risks of drilling shale gas. I just liked the vid.. ;-)

i - The first time a rancher showed me it scared the cr*p out of me...didn't falre but a very loud pop...had accumulated in a water trough. As I've pointed out a while back methane contamination is the least of the potential problems for my Yankee cousins. Nor is it likely to be the frac'ing process itself. But I've repeated warned them about the illegal dumping of those nasty produced fluids from the wells. This has always been the biggest pollution treat in Texas. And most of the oil patch hates illegal dumpers with a true vengence. Remember most live in the country and most of their kids drink well water every day. Many of us will see a waste hauler going down the road in the middle of the night and will follow them if we have the time to spare...especially if we're close to home. Those drivers have more to worry about than the state troopers...everyone in the oil patch carries. Like I said: with a vengence.

Illegal dumping of harmful waste by corporations really is the pits isn't it?

Mind you, legal dumping isn't much better lol.

i - The problem isn't so much the oil companies dumping illegally but they pay disposal companies to do it. And we pay a lot of money to have cr*p disposed of properly. But the haulers/disposal companies can make a bundle by not following the regs. So the oil companies say it's not their fault: they paid top $ to have it done properly. If the disposal companies are breaking the rules then it's up to the law to go after them. One of those "out of sight...out of mind" situations. In fact a few months ago they busted a Penn. landowner for allowing a disposal company to dump loads of cr*p into a small small on his property. Who knows: maybe that landowner planned to file a lawsuite later against some oil company for contaminating his property. Wouldn't be the first time a landowner "salted" his property so he could sue an operator.

A little bit of topic, but does anyone know how significantly humans today differ from humans in the late Pleistocene, I mean genetically? I know there are some people very informed on that issue, so I'd love to hear some statements to this;)

Your query isn't just "a little bit off topic", it's completely off topic, as it isn't about energy, but here goes anyway. The Pleistocene is dated variously as the period of the Ice Ages, beginning some million years ago and ending with the beginning of the Holocene some 11,000 years ago. As with all such questions of science, the first is what time period are you interested in? Are you interested in changes since the Last Glacial Maximum (about 20,000 years ago) or since the end of the last Interglacial (about 120,000 years ago)? In either case, the "genetic" information, as in, DNA evidence, is very limited. Lacking such data, it would be very difficult to determine statistically significant changes. I know you would "love to hear" otherwise, but that's not science, is it???

E. Swanson

Well of course you're right, it is not a question related to energy at all, but as I#ve written above, as alot of people who post here seem to have a good understanding about these issues, I just thought "well, let's give it a try". I am rather interested in the changes that happened just a couple of thousands of years ago, since the rise of agriculture, about 12k years ago. Thanks for your answer;)

Try Dienekes Anthropology Blog at http://dienekes.blogspot.com/ Dienekes reviews various articles published in periodicals as well as discusses his own work applying statistical clustering techniques to DNA survey data in order to identify patterns of migration/diffusion/replacement in Europe, Asia, and Africa.

An obvious change since the beginning of agriculture is that now about half of the global population has the ability to digest lactose in adulthood. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lactase#Genetic_expression_and_regulation

In an attempt both to say something partly relevant to your question, and to obliquely tie it back in to the topic on hand:


Last year a report came out that showed that the Tibetans had, over the last three thousand years or so, developed genes to help them cope with the lower oxygen levels of the atmosphere in the Himalayas. So fairly significant genetic changes are possible in just a very few thousand years.

The rather oblique relevance to energy is that burning fossil fuels has not only increased the CO2 levels of the atmosphere, but also heated and acidified the oceans. This has lead to a dramatic decrease of phytoplankton:


These same phytoplankton not only provide the base for the marine food chain; they also produce about half of the oxygen annually through photosynthesis, most of the rest of which is provided by land plants. Atmospheric oxygen is a large reservoir, so it would take thousands of years for levels to be significantly effected, but ultimately all humans may have to undergo genetic changes similar to those the Tibetans have experienced if we are to adjust to this new kind of atmosphere and aren't done in by the other types of chaos we have unleashed upon ourselves and the world.

Last year a report came out that showed that the Tibetans had, over the last three thousand years or so, developed genes to help them cope with the lower oxygen levels of the atmosphere in the Himalayas. So fairly significant genetic changes are possible in just a very few thousand years.

If you count the epigenetic process of methylation as a genetic change, the change can occur in one generation.

Last year a report came out that showed that the Tibetans had, over the last three thousand years or so, developed genes to help them cope with the lower oxygen levels of the atmosphere in the Himalayas. So fairly significant genetic changes are possible in just a very few thousand years.

The interesting changes are what has increasing civilization done to our basic temperment. For more than a hundred thousand years we were hunter-gatherers, but starting with agriculkture and cities, the social selection pressure has changed. This has very likely selected for some mental traits and propensities, and against others. It would be fascinating to know how this has played out.

Chimpanzees and humans have 96% in common from the DNA standpoint. So the question of differences among peoples through time is only dealing with deviations among 4% of the genome. Mitochondrial DNA specifies the mitochondria in the cells, the ENERGY conversion units. They are passed only from the maternal side. They are free-swimming entities with a life of their own. They were perhaps incorporated from blue-green algae long ago. Changes in them trace the spread of humankind. Thousands of copies of viral components are also included in the human genome. Many virus hide within their host's DNA until conditions favor expression. But that is just the DNA, which is a tool-kit. Gene, DNA, expression is controlled by epigenetics. For example, stands of DNA are wrapped around histones. If a histone swells, the strand submerges and is no longer available for transcription. Here is the mechanism for change over such short time periods as requested.

In the same time period, the greatest species loss since the rise of mammals has taken place. The human is very much the same animal it was, it just learned too much without gaining wisdom.

Mitochondrial DNA:
Chimpanzee comparisons:
Viral components:

This question isn't easy to answer, but it's quite a lot and it is especially not the same in all humans (in all "sub-populations"). An example is the lactose tolerance of Caucasian Europeans.

A very, very good book on the topic is this:


It is one of the best books i've read, and iv'e read some (~500, >95% non fictional, age 29).

thanks;) Seems I've got a lil time left to read into the material, as I am 9 years younger than you;)

The review comments for that book are...interesting. The author replied to critical reviews, not by addressing the very justified criticism, but by claiming the reviewers must be mentally impaired. Doesn't give me a lot of faith in their research.

The book is defenitely worth reading. Off course there is a lot of speculation and not all the authors's claims will proof to be correct in the future.

But there are some interesting new approaches to understand some basic human behavior and also human history. E.g. that Amerindians are fare worse adapted to "agrarian" plaques and therefore the Spanish "Conquistadors" and the following settlers of North America where sucessfull although initially outnumbered at least 1000 : 1 - it's not really new but very seldom discussed in detail. Also that the inhabitants of one Italian village at Lake Garda have a resistance to bad HDL-levels / high blood pressure which is clearly only some hundred years old and can be reconstructed to a single family living in the Middle Ages.

It is certainly at one end of the scale, but at the other there are allready enough books in my opinion.

As contrast allways a good read - and clearly also full of speculation:


This is actually right on topic if you are looking for ways to mitigate the coming disaster. It takes a very long time, thousands of generations, for changes to the human mind to evolve. The time since the agricultural revolution is far too short for any significant changes to take place. Humans today are virtually identical to the ones who lived in the late Pleistocene.

This means that our minds are geared toward countless problems of survival and reproduction encountered during the Pleistocene -- foraging, hunting, predator avoidance, finding suitable mates, avoiding incest, tribal living, and so on. We have not evolved any ability to cope with modern problems such as man-made climate change, resource depletion, overpopulation, nuclear waste disposal, etc. because these were not encountered during the time when our mind was evolving.

That explains why all the urging of people to stop destroying the environment has no effect. We simply don't have the mind for it. If you want to mitigate the crisis you must take all this into consideration.

Here is Jay Hanson's recommended book list on evolutionary psychology. You might want to spend some of your remaining time reading some of this material.

Name Author Date
Bounded Rationality Gerd Gigerenzer 2002
Cognitive Illusions Rudiger F. Pohl 2004
Darwin Dominance & Democracy Albert Somit, Steven A. Peterson 1997
Darwinian Happiness Bjorn Grinde 2002
Darwinism and Human Affairs Richard D. Alexander 1979
Darwin's Dangerous Idea Daniel C. Dennett 1995
Evolution and Social Psychology Mark Schaller, et al. 2006
Evolutionary Cognitive Neuroscience Steven M. Platek, et al. 2007
Evolutionary Psychology Steven J. C. Gaulin, Donald H. McBurney 2004
Evolutionary Psychology David M. Buss 1999
Evolutionary Psychology David M. Buss 2004
Evolutionary Psychology Lance Workman, Will Reader 2008
Evolutionary Psychology David M. Buss 2008
Evolutionary Thought in Psychology Henry Plotkin 2004
Genes in Conflict Austin Burt, Robert Trivers 2006
Genetic Influences on Neural and Behavioral Functions Donald W. Pfaff et al 2000
Genome Matt Ridley 1999
Gut Feelings Gerd Gigerenzer 2007
Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology Charles Crawford, Dennis L. Krebs 1998
How the Mind Works Steven Pinker 1997
Human Evolutionary Psychology Louise Barrett, et al. 2002
Human Nature Laura Betzig 1997
Mean Genes Terry Burnham & Terry Phelan 2000
Nature Via Nurture Matt Ridley 2003
New World New Mind Robert Ornstein & Paul Ehrlich 1989
Simple Heuristics That Make Us Smart Gerd Gigerenzer, Peter M. Todd 1999
Species of Mind Colin Allen & Marc Bekoff 1999
The Biology of Religious Behavior Jay R. Feierman 2009
The Blank Slate Steven Pinker 2002
The Evolution of Consciousness Robert Ornstein 1991
The Evolution of Mind Denise Dellarosa Cummins 1998
The Evolution of Mind Steven Gangestad, Jeffery A. Simpson 2007
The Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology David M. Buss 2005
The Moral Animal Robert Wright 1994
The Most Dangerous Animal David Livingston Smits 2007
The Origins of Virtue Matt Ridley 1997
The Red Queen Matt Ridley 1993
The Spirit in the Gene Reg Morrison 1999
The Tree of Origin Frans B. M. deWaal, et al. 2001

"Humans today are virtually identical to the ones who lived in the late Pleistocene."

Outwardly yes. But I'd argue that we have been genetically evolving and adapting to new food sources since. Much of what we eat today has only been available to most humans for a few hundred years or so. Those that did not show a genetic propensity to new foods simply became ill and eventually succumbed and died of nutritional disorders (heart, liver, cancers, genetic diseases, etc). In a sense we're probably going through an evolutionary bottleneck right now due to the massive changes taking place in the food we consume (highly processed, synthetic additives, GMO's, etc.). Health care is currently being overrun by the effects. A human from the late Pleistocene probably wouldn't survive very long if he was suddenly transport to the current day.

Also, I think it was Jared Diamond that wrote about the changes that came about in humans as they transitioned from hunter gatherer to farmers. Their stature, bone density and health diminished significantly and we're only now regaining physical size that was lost due to the change over to agriculture thousands of years ago.

But I'd argue that we have been genetically evolving and adapting to new food sources since. Much of what we eat today has only been available to most humans for a few hundred years or so. Those that did not show a genetic propensity to new foods simply became ill and eventually succumbed and died of nutritional disorders (heart, liver, cancers, genetic diseases, etc).

I think the argument can be made that we are not adapted to our new agricultural diet yet. That's sort of the basis of the whole anti-carb thing (Taubes, etc.). We did not evolve to eat a lot of grains, and now that's what most of us live off of - leading to heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

A human from the late Pleistocene probably wouldn't survive very long if he was suddenly transport to the current day.

I think that's probably wrong, at least as far as diet goes. It might apply to germs, and that is at least partly genetic. (Blood types are thought to reflect adaption to different diseases.) But it's probably even more environment - vaccines, and previous exposure to pathogens that allow immunity to build up.

Also, I think it was Jared Diamond that wrote about the changes that came about in humans as they transitioned from hunter gatherer to farmers. Their stature, bone density and health diminished significantly and we're only now regaining physical size that was lost due to the change over to agriculture thousands of years ago.

That's true, but it was not genetic. It was malnutrition that resulted in stunted growth. We saw it over the last couple centuries of immigration. The children of immigrants grew much taller than their parents, even if they were born in the old country. Because of better childhood nutrition, not a change in genetics.

I would guess that recent genetic differences reflect changes in distribution rather than kind. There were probably always some lactose tolerant individuals; now there are more. Every population has A, B, AB, and O blood groups, but the distribution varies.

There were probably always some lactose tolerant individuals; now there are more.

This maybe true for some differences, but at least there is a clear gradiant in lactose tolerance from northern Europe to Africa and to South-East Asia, the same occurs with the colour of the skin or the gen frequency for blue/green/gray eyes in contrats to the "standar type" everywhere else.

And their is also lactose tolerance in some milk consuming African tribes - but the genetic mutation was not same (it was independend) from the European form.


Blue eyes may be the best example of a recent evolutionary change (though whether it has any advantage other than "sexual selection" is another story). Blue eyes arose 6,000 to 10,000 years ago in a single "founder," and spread throughout the world. Supposedly, every blue-eyed person in the world is related.

Pretty interesting, since you find blue eyes not only in northern Europe but in India, Africa, and even Japan. Obviously, ancient people got around...or at least their genes did.

For distributional changes...Jared Diamond points to blood types as a human trait that seems especially sensitive to environmental changes. People who move to different areas pretty quickly come to resemble the local population in blood type distribution. (Quickly on genetic terms.) For example, Jews' blood type distribution tends to resemble that of the population where their recent ancestors lived, rather than that of the Middle East where they originated.

Yeah, the mitigation thing was in my mind, too! Thanks for the suggestions!

TAE/Stoneleigh have posted a comprehensive article about the Japanese nuclear industry, not only Fukushima, but a long history of accidents and cover-ups. The discussion of using contract workers for high-risk tasks to avoid accountability/costs is remarkable:

Stoneleigh: Prior to the devastation caused by the earthquake and tsunami, there was already a well established hierarchical subcontracting system in place:

"These contract employees or temporary workers were provided by subcontracting companies: they range from rank and file workers who carry out the dirtiest and most dangerous tasks—the nuclear gypsies described in Horie Kunio’s 1979 book and Higuchi Kenji’s photographic reports—to highly qualified technicians who supervise maintenance operations. So even within this category, there is much discrepancy in working conditions, wages and welfare depending on position in the hierarchy of subcontracted tasks.

What is clear is that the contract laborers are routinely exposed to the highest level of radiation: in 2009 according to NISA, of those who received a dose between 5 and 10 millisieverts (mSv), there were 671 contract laborers against 36 regular employees. Those who received between 10 and 15 mSv were comprised of 220 contract laborers and 2 regular workers, while 35 contract workers and no regular workers were exposed to a dose between 15 and 20 mSv."

..... a history of the Japanese nuclear industry using a class of non-conformist citizens to do their dirty work, avoiding much possibility of claims by workers for radiation exposure. It goes to a societal/corporate/cultural system, a relic of their past still being exploited today. IMO, a must read.

It looks like Kan is going to shake up the Japanese nuclear industry. It would be helpful if he also addressed the contract worker situation.

Japan Scraps Plan for New Nuclear Plants

TOKYO — Prime Minister Naoto Kan said Tuesday that Japan would abandon plans to build new nuclear reactors, saying his country needed to “start from scratch” in creating a new energy policy.

Tuesday’s decision will abandon a plan that the Kan government released last year to build 14 more nuclear reactors by 2030 and increase the share of nuclear power in Japan’s electricity supply to 50 percent.

The cancellation of the planned nuclear plants is the second time that Mr. Kan has suddenly announced big changes in Japanese nuclear policy without the usual endless committee meetings and media leaks that characterize the country’s consensus-driven decision making.

It's interesting that during the 2008 price spike, the monthly average was only higher than this past month for 90 days. Then it dropped like a rock. We seem to be spiking slower this time, so the question is, can we hold out longer? To be honest, I didn't think we would get this far without more screaming and kicking.

indexmundi.com: Crude Oil (petroleum) Monthly Price

If one looks at the rise rate this doesn't look like a spike yet. Maybe the start of one, maybe just a wobble on the steady and slower increase.

Is Egypt On The Verge Of Starvation?

Egypt is running out of food, and, more gradually, running out of money with which to buy it. The most populous country in the Arab world shows all the symptoms of national bankruptcy - the kind that produced hyperinflation in several Latin American countries during the 1970s and 1980s - with a deadly difference: Egypt imports half its wheat, and the collapse of its external credit means starvation.

The collapse of Egypt's credit standing, meanwhile, has shut down trade financing for food imports, according to the chairman of the country's Food Industry Holding Company, Dr Ahmed al-Rakaibi, chairman of the Holding Company for Food Industries. Rakaibi warned of "an acute shortage in the production of food commodities manufactured locally, as well as a decline in imports of many goods, especially poultry, meats and oils". According to the country's statistics agency, only a month's supply of rice is on hand, and four months' supply of wheat.

The Ministry of Solidarity and Social Justice is already forming "revolutionary committees" to mete out street justice to bakeries, propane dealers and street vendors who "charge more than the price prescribed by law", the Federation of Egyptian Radio and Television reported on May 3.

Read the whole thing

I don't think you need to read any further than "Ministry of Solidarity and Social Justice" -sounds very Orwellian, and what they are doing sounds Orwellian too.

The rest of the story is predictable. Once the government relies on young men with guns to police its merchants, hoarding will only get worse. The Egyptian revolution has cracked down on the commercial elite that ran the country's economy for the past 60 years, and the elite will find ways to transfer as much of its wealth to safety as it can. The normal chain of distribution will break down and "revolutionary committees" will take control of increasingly scarce supplies. Farmers won't get fuel and fertilizer, and domestic supplies will fail.
It will look like the Latin American banana republics, but without the bananas. That is not meant in jest: few people actually starved to death in the Latin inflations. Egypt, which imports half its wheat and a great deal of the rest of its food, will actually starve.

It is a pretty standard scenario. The half of the population that lives on less than $2/day will starve.

It is a pretty standard scenario. The half of the population that lives on less than $2/day will starve.

For now that is probably true, but as we descend the net energy ladder, how long will it be before those starving are living on less than $5 a day, then $10, and so on until the vast majority of the world's population is in a raging panic for their next meal? 7+ billion is going to be a challenging number of people to feed in a world of declining energy, and that decline has already started if you go by price. In the 90's oil was 20-30, but Brent is now 117.65! Pressure is harshly being applied to those at the bottom, but what constitutes the bottom will filter up to higher echelons. The cake is baked. It will continue to heat up until it catches fire, then smolders, then turns to ash.

That is unless one of those new techno plan B's works. Then we can go to 10 billion people and 595 CO2 ppm.

Pretty bleak outlook for them indeed. 83mio people are living in Egypt right now, thats more than in Germany, yet the area under cultivation is just about 3%, in 1900 their population was about 12mio people, now it is 83mio. Apart from the beduines (they are nomades), how the hell are these folks ever going to feed themselves without foreign help? And about a third of the egypt people are under 15 years old, imagine what kind of future they may grow up into... someone ( dunno who exactly it was) once said that young men can be your best friends or your worst enemies. I think thats true.

If the situation in Egypt worsens their army may invade Libya - the eastern half anyway, to get the oil there.

Paul N, try reading the article, there is a context for that quote. In general, reading an article is probably wise before commenting on it. In this case, the scenario painted is quite interesting in the larger picture of overpopulation, especially overpopulation in areas with sand and depleting oil as their main commodities.

Asiatimes.com has a very interesting set of writers/analysts, and they offer views that are definitely outside of US/European mainstream, and they are refreshingly non-corporate in their analysis. Quality varies, but Asia times is one of the very few news sites I actually check every day or two, because they aren't nearly as US-centric in their views as our media is. They will for example actually have intelligent analysis of something in Pakistan or other areas we tend to ignore unless they are in the headlines that moment.

H2, the mere fact that a government department of that name exists, justifies calling it "Orwellian". If it was there as part of Mubarak's regime, well, you expect that. If it wasn't there then and is now, then what is going on? Those people that risked their lives in Tahrir Square did not do so to get a government department of "Solidarity and Social Justice", they did so to get real social justice, and real government, something I still do not see happening there at present. I don't think Orwellian is out of context at all.

I didn't read the article - those lines were enough for me to conclude the government is being Orwellian, and there is nothing in there to convince me otherwise
That article said;

According to the ministry, "Thugs are in control of bread and butane prices" and "people's committees" are required to stop them. "

Mubarak's ministry of "solidarity" calling someone else thugs? How very Orwellian!
government employees hoarding and re-exporting grain instead of feeding the people?

I am not criticising the writer at all - he has written a good article about a sad situation- I am criticising the government, as it seems he is doing too. Leiten's extract alone made that clear, IMO.

Paul, please, do not discuss an article that you have not read, and which you are TOTALLY wrong about the gist of.

This is just plain ridiculous, and the fact you insist on not reading it now makes me lose respect for you, that's just totally absurd.

Please do not respond to this until you've read it. You will benefit in several ways: one,. you will stop looking like a fool for not taking the roughly 10 minutes it takes to read a quite good analysis, and insisting on believing the gist of the article is contained in those two words, and two, you will actually learn something about the problems facing Egypt today, despite the happy talk of the Arab Spring.

Stop arguing about something you have not read, that is just totally absurd, ridiculous. I've read your stuff when you know what you are talking about and you strike me as coherent, what is the matter here in this thread, if you can't be bothered to even look at the article, then please do not comment on your, totally wrong, belief about what it's about. First Don above goes off on some incoherent tangent, based on no reading of Chomsky, now you, who I consider far more coherent and worth reading than Don, insist on stubbornly not reading something due to some weird notion that you have divined the nature of an article which you are totally misreading based on some notion you have in your head.

Don't comment again please until you read the article, as I noted, asiatimes.com is an interesting source of perspectives that you will very rarely see in the US centric media here, if you have nothing to say, and if you are not willing to even look at the topic of discussion, then please move on to something you are willing to spend the time learning / reading. Man, what is it with this thread!! This is a low point for TOD, well, all the pro nuke shills were a real lowpoint, this is just weird.

h2, I didn't make it quite clear in my response there, I did go and read the whole article, after your first comment. I still think the government has, and is, being very Orwellian. That certainly is not the gist of the article (and I never said it was), it is merely a side observation I made from it. If you think my side observation is irrelevant, fair enough.

But I don;t think it is irrelevant. Almost any country that has starvation issues (N. Korea, Haiti, Yemen etc) has a totalitarian and/or corrupt government, or else is in/recovering from civil war

Egypt's government has slowly bled its people dry for years, and now it is out in the open, and, as this article highlights, it is clearly still happening. I feel for the young Egyptians that have had their future virtually stolen from them, and now face famine, and quite possibly a bankrupt country as a result of their corrupt government. They have taken the first step to correct that, but there is much work still to do - I hope they do not starve to death while trying. While I have always been skeptical of many African "aid" projects, in the case of Egypt I would support some large scale food aid from western countries. We encouraged these people to turf their government, and they got halfway there - Mubarak out, corrupt bureaucracy still there. They have now found the cupboard bare - we should not turn our backs on them now.

Is it in the realm of possibility that we will be at post-peak population before we are post-peak oil? I believe in the US that large-scale farming cannot grow any further without a technological breakthrough. Even with the highest corn prices (on average) total acres planted for all crops wasn't really increased. Some marginal land may have been put into play but it should not have a significant effect. In countries such as China and India, I know that they don't have any more land.

""Thugs are in control of bread and butane prices""

That is outrageous.

I live in America. Bread is only $10 a loaf*. I wonder how much it is in Egypt?

*In the chain supermarkets in California, a "loaf" of bread, one-half as long as the old loaf from the 1980's, costs over $4. A $2 1/2 loaf can be found, but the slices are 1/2 as tall... and that's at Food-4-Less. The 1/2 length loaf has become the new normal.

"a loaf of bread costs RUB 15-20 (US$.60)"
We sure showed them!

"I can get my usual bread - very big grains, sunflower seeds in it, very dark - for EUR 1.39 at Kaisers or go for a different brand at Plus and pay just 45 cents also for 500 g."

I think the plastic packaging and full-color printing cost more than the flour.

The main reason the price of bread has gone up so much is that the value of the dollar has gone down so much.

With an electric bread maker I can make my own bread--better and fresher than store bought. With coupons, I have bought flour for as little as sixty cents for a five pound bag. Even good organic whole-wheat flour is not outrageously expensive.

Why buy bread when it is so easy to make at home, even if all you have is an old-fashioned oven and some bread pans?

it is a tragedy when a man's body functions but his brain goes senile. This phenomenon is a major problem today, and it is getting worse as time goes on.

I think you're stepping well over the line with this, D.

It just makes YOU look the fool if the argument isn't salient.. which is what I have patiently asked Don to do, and yet I wait..

True true!
My home:

... Not to worry you all, but I am generally ahead of my times.

Why buy bread when it is so easy to make at home, even if all you have is an old-fashioned oven and some bread pans?

My wife got me a bread maker and loved the way it tasted but got sick. Why? Because when they make it for stores the yeast has had time to die. But when you make your own the yeast is still alive, multiplies in the gut and sickness follows. Gave up on it and just buy store bought Orowheat.

I don't think any yeast survives baking temperatures - it was probably something else making your wife sick.

Yes, yeast is killed off by heat. If you're allergic, you can still react to the yeast proteins...but I would expect that to be a problem with storebought bread, too.

Beer and wine can have live yeast in them, unlike bread.

I know my home-brewed beer has live yeast in it. An important source of Vitamin B! ;-)

It shouldn't but maybe it is not getting fully baked. Perhaps trying some proper oven baked bread as a comparison may help.


I've been making 'Easy Crusty Bread'. It really is easy, the dough stores in the fridge (becomes sour dough after about ten days), and it's delicious and quick; no kneading or double rising.

I recommend using a baking (pizza) stone. My bread machine took too long and used too much electricity.

Do you have a link for that great image?


From the article:
"Food dollar estimate" September 25, 2010:


Derived from:
Which has several more similar graphics.


In the Firefox browser, Right-click on an image, then left-click on "Copy Image Location"... or "View Image", but that will take you there. Or Right click on the page and then left click on "View Page Info", and then select "Media" at the top of the window that opens. All of the media will be displayed. Or right-click on the page and then left-click on "View Page Source"... Or go to "View" on the Firefox tool bar and then select "View Page Source" which works even if right-clicking on the page has been disabled by the page's designers. Then wade through the HTML. Holding down the "ctrl" key while then pressing "F" brings up a search window for any page you are on to help with the wading!

The problem is just another symptom of over population. Given that the world's population is growing at about 75 million a year, if 40% of the Egyptian population of 83 million died, the world population would recover within about 6 months (assuming there was still enough food for the rest of humanity)...

E. Swanson

The main lesson of your grim scenario is that no one country gives the whole picture.

But if you DO actually look at the whole picture you see the following:

>>More than half the people on earth now live in cities, and that number continues to increase;

---urban populations have much lower birth rates than rural pop.s on average.

>>Women are gaining power everywhere (getting education, gaining control over their reproductive lives, gaining control over their economic life, gaining control over who they marry...);

--empowered women on average have fewer children.

>>The really big bulge in human pop, when doubling was happening in fewer than a score years, started some sixty years ago;

--the bump in birth starting 60 years ago means we are now heading into an extended bump in death rate for the first time since the middle ages.

These and other dynamics are now coming into play, but we do not yet know how powerful they will be.

Well here's the thing really.

It is true: one has to look at both birth rates, and death rates, to see where population might go. Clearly, birth rates going down is a good thing - but as you note that's only half the picture.

The other half is something very unpleasant: death. Death rates just have to go up for population to stabilize or decrease. This really can't be framed as something positive, even though it actually is.

But whom amongst ever thinks: it's better to let my parents go rather than persist, because that's better for my kids, and when it comes time for me to go, that is also good, because that will be good for my kids and grandkids?

Nobody thinks that way. Every last one of us wants to live forever.

Update On The Greek Situation

There is an interview with one of Germany's most senior and independent economists, Hans Werner Sinn, head of the reputable IFO think tank, in the Swedish public radio today(our equivalent of the BBC radio)

He basically says that Greece has three options:

1. Leave the union entirely, but there will be a run on the bank, and thus destroying the bank sector.

2. The alternative, to make Greece more competitive in the Eurozone will demand such draconian measures that Mr. Sinn believes that it will create the conditions for civil war. He even drew a parallel to Germany in the 1920s. They didn't specify what exactly this would entail, as the report is very small. I tried to email the journalist but the piece is still very fresh and it's late, 8 PM here in Sweden, so I won't probably get a reply until tomorrow's Drumbeat.

3. The third alternative was painful reforms, a devaluation(I'm not sure I use the correct term, the Swedish term is not very easily translatable, because there isn't a natural and literal word in English for it) of the debt and less credit. This is sometimes referred to as 'the soft default'(or restructuring).

In Germany, the pursemaster of Europe, tensions are mounting and public outcry is increasing. What is notable is that senior economists are joining the populist outrage, as the text above examplifies.

Frau Merkel took an upbeat note, however, mainly because she has no other political choice.
She also said that 'we live in interesting times'. This seems to be repeated by people over and over again, and it's hard to disagree. It will become more and more 'interesting' over the next few years.

The interest(no pun intended) on the Greek bonds is soaring to unprecedented levels now.
It's an unsustainable situation.

Quebec province opens up north for mining

The "Plan Nord" aims to turn 1.2 million sq km of land into a major area of mining and renewable energy.

The plan also aims to ensure that half of the area will be environmentally protected.

"It is one of the world's last virgin territories," said Quebec's Premier Jean Charest.


The area is rich in deposits of nickel, cobalt, platinum, zinc, iron ore and rare earth minerals.

I was traveling last week and missed this story. "Iraqi cutback stokes oil supply fear", they are talking 6.5 mbd target down from 12 mbd. I won't link it because it is everywhere. I know you guys had a great comment section on it somewhere. Help

It's been discussed here, but I would agree that very few serious analysts actually expected Iraq to produce 12 mb/d in 2020, which was the original target but they then went for 2017 in a bizzare display of hubris.

Most serious estimates have put the production between 5.5 mb/d and 6.5 mb/d in 2020 and I would hold on to this. Naturally, this will do exceptionally little to the Peak, as we are already in the beginning stages of Peak Oil and the IEA themselves have stated that there is a whopping 10 mb/d shortfall of new oil between 2010 and 2015, and this isn't even counting depletion of 3.5-4 mb/d each year.

Iraq produces almost 3 mb/d today, so with rising domestic consumption, we're not looking at huge additions to the world economy in ten years from now(2020).

"Iraqi cutback stokes oil supply fear", they are talking 6.5 mbd target down from 12 mbd.

At the time articles were being written on potential oil output for Iraq, each subsequent article (for whatever reason) upped the ante on speculating on how much could be produced. There was even one article I remember claiming it could reach 14 mbd. It was more a case of exuberant piling on than reality. It might have also been a case of the rightwing trying to provide a rah rah for Bush junior. A sort of post no WMD, but now you know this much oil will be coming out of Iraq, don't you just love the guy?!

Average US petrol price set to hit $4 a gallon

US average petrol prices are closing on $4 a gallon as a severe flood on the Mississippi River heads towards a refining centre, putting at risk petrol supplies.

Gasoline futures are strongly outpacing crude markets, threatening higher prices at the pump as petrol prices reach $3.97 a gallon, the highest since mid-2008.

The threat of further rises could prompt a policy response from the Obama administration, which has already announced an inquiry into speculation in the crude market.

Rising petrol prices are eating into Barack Obama’s popularity and squeezing life out of a nascent economic recovery and consumer confidence.

Chain reactions perhaps continued until April:

The animals are dieing.
Other dog rescue videos on the page
very hard to watch:

Google Android LED light-bulb you control with your phone:

Wonderful new invention, er...
"No More Combustion Motors, Hybrids, Coal or Nuclear Power Plants":
I've been exposed to PR. I've even been on Walter Cronkite. Just takes $.

We talk alot here about the need for a new transportation infrastructure, electrified lite rail for cities and suburbs, and all that. I have long since been an advocate for more/better mass transit in the US, though I remain skeptical that it will happen on the necessary scale, or in the time we have. One example:

GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. -- More than a half-million dollars in federal tax money intended to improve metro Atlanta traffic congestion is caught up in red tape, officials told Channel 2 Action News on Tuesday.

Gwinnett County was awarded $600,000 by the federal government in December to study mass transit for a second time. The county issued a 2008 study that analyzed the cost and routes of light rail, but Channel 2’s Kerry Kavanugh has learned this round has stalled.

"If you want federal funds you have go through their process," Chuck Warbington, executive director of the Gwinnett Village Community Improvement District, told Kavanaugh.

Warbington said the first step in the process is the study, or alternative analysis which he adds doesn't happen overnight.

“It takes about 3 to 6 months to make its way to Gwinnett County, then there’s an approval process and then Gwinnett County puts it out for bid,” Warbington said.

First of all, $600K is chump change, considering the scale of the problem, especially in metro Atlanta.

Secondly, studies have been done in this area for decades (I was involved a bit in one study on regional passenger rail in the area, circa 1990. Nothing came of the $2 million effort). No progress.

Thirdly, it takes years just to get the funds to study the problem. Jeez!

These areas are not pedestrian friendly and are a nightmare for cycling. Recognition of these problems does not translate into progress in solving them, and I see no sign that this will change. While the inner-city areas have made some gains, one has to ask: What will all of these folks do? They can't all move to the urban areas. No wonder they're in denial.

Well there always is the poverty solution for the Hotlantan burbs. No better way for the invisible hand to guide American life.

This USA Today Editorial article: Our view: How to cure an obese deficit seems very good.

We wish every voting-eligible American would read, and comprehend, this Editorial. We believe the World would be a better place. Thank you. ~ We the People.

P.S. Yes, We Believe 100% that Osama bin Laden is dead.

Interesting opinion piece on Al Jazeera: Global capitalism and 21st century fascism

I want to discuss here the crisis of global capitalism and the notion of distinct political responses to the crisis, with a focus on the far-right response and the danger of what I refer to as 21st century fascism, particularly in the United States.


The Italian socialist Antonio Gramsci developed the concept of passive revolution to refer to efforts by dominant groups to bring about mild change from above in order to undercut mobilisation from below for more far-reaching transformation.


Obama's campaign tapped into and helped expand mass mobilisation and popular aspirations for change not seen in many years in the United States. The Obama project co-opted that brewing storm from below, channelled it into the electoral campaign, and then betrayed those aspirations, as the Democratic Party effectively demobilised the insurgency from below with more passive revolution.


As militarised accumulation has intensified the Pentagon budget, increasing 91 per cent in real terms in the past 12 years, the top military brass has become increasingly politicised and involved in policy making.


This is not a cyclical but a structural crisis - a restructuring crisis, such as we had in the 1970s, and before that, in the 1930s - that has the potential to become a systemic crisis, depending on how social agents respond to the crisis and on a host of unknown contingencies. A restructuring crisis means that the only way out of crisis is to restructure the system, whereas a systemic crisis is one in which only a change in the system itself will resolve the crisis.


The United States cannot be characterised at this time as fascist. Nonetheless, all of the conditions and the processes are present and percolating, and the social and political forces behind such a project are mobilising rapidly.

So, American friends, how do you react to being labelled a fascist state waiting to happen? A little harsh perhaps?

I'm surprised it took Al Jazeera this long to notice.
The signs have unfortunately been present since at least the '90's, but most people think it is "the other party's problem".

Yes, it's a pretty damning analysis of the situation. I find the concept of 'passive revolution' intriguing. I wonder what will be the consequences - will it merely delay the inevitable or is it truly an effective tool to control the masses?

The mention of Gramscian theory seems a little odd. It is characteristic of two-party democracies that whenever a political movement gains enough momentum to become a threat, one of the two parties will co-opt the movement. On rare occasions there will be a party split, but one of the descendent parties will wither and die. Two-party democracies precede Gramsci's time.

It is evident that the most productive organization of society is when there is close cooperation between business and government. Examples of highly efficient growth would include the Meiji Restoration, the recovery and rearmament of Germany in the '30s, the industrialization and armament of the Soviet Union under Lenin and Stalin, the reconstruction of Japan after WW II, and the growth of the Chinese economy in the last three decades.

With increased social stress and restricted availability of resources, some form of state capitalism is likely to become universal in the 21st century.

The End of the Free Market: Six Questions for Ian Bremmer

The problem is that the primary failure mode of State Capitalism (to use the emotionally defanged terminology you use) is a very pervasive totalitarian state.

Capitalist entities are generally exempt from controls placed on state entities since they do not have the right to wield force. State Capitalism subsumes the state's right to force to the control of entities that are not subject to the controlling factors applied to recognized state entities.

This means that your credit card purchases can be used to estimate your political profile, and if you are potentially dangerous things can happen without even so much as intent on your part, let alone action.

Mighty efficient, for an elite that wants to take and hold power. Yes, indeed.

Totalitarian states are unstable because the detailed control of society requires too much effort. They eventually collapse or evolve towards the more normal society of a balance among multiple competing oligarchies.

Those oligarchies are quite capable of making life a living hell for everyone not in the elite, even while they are busy being unstable.

I guess he mentions Gramsci as he was the first to coin the term 'Passive Revolution' even if it had been occurring long before then.

Nice article - will be interesting to see which, if either, of these conflicting views of the US' destiny comes to pass in the years to come..