Drumbeat: May 16, 2011

Special Report - In Libyan oil shipment, sanctions prove dumb

(Reuters) - The deal was struck in early April. Two weeks after the U.N. Security Council vote that saved rebel-held Benghazi from near-certain defeat, Libya's ragtag rebels agreed to the first shipment of oil from the chunk of territory they held.

The sale promised to bring in much-needed cash for their bid to set up a parallel Libyan government. If they could pocket just a portion of oil export revenues -- worth around $145 million (89 million pounds) a day on current prices -- they could also buy the weapons they needed for their fight against Muammar Gaddafi.

Bypassing the naval blockade and braving NATO bombs, the Liberian-flagged Equator sailed into the eastern port of Marsa el Hariga in the first week of April. There, it loaded up to one million barrels of the light, sweet crude so prized by refiners before setting sail through the Suez Canal for east Asia. Oil traders believed it would unload in China.

It never made it. Since refuelling in Singapore on April 28, the Equator has sat anchored off the archipelago. AIS live ship tracking data on Reuters, based on satellite signals sent from the vessel, shows its massive iron hull immersed in 15 metres draft of water -- indicating it was still carrying cargo on May 10.

Steve LeVine: Oil, gold and Strauss-Kahn

Our list of factors affecting oil and gas prices already includes war, kidnapping, supply and demand, hurricanes, pipeline explosions and threats to tyrants. Add sexual assault.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn's arrest for allegedly assaulting a maid at the Sofitel in Manhattan is causing havoc not just in oil markets -- gold, currencies, and Asian stocks are all in a kerfuffle. Oil dropped below $98 a barrel; gold fell by $3 an ounce, and silver declined, too; the Euro plunged to a seven-week low against the dollar.

Mob attacks Christian protest in Egypt

CAIRO (AP) — An angry mob attacked a group of mainly Christian protesters demanding drastic measures to heal religious tension amid a spike in violence, leaving 65 people injured, officials said Sunday.

The Christian protesters have been holding their sit-in outside the state television building in Cairo for nearly a week following deadly Christian-Muslim clashes that left a church burned and 15 people dead.

Dozens injured as diesel shortage sparks violence

At least 27 people have been injured in clashes sparked by the shortage of diesel fuel in most governorates.

In Beni Suef, seven taxi drivers were injured in a fight with knives over limited quantities of diesel in gas stations. In Ahnasya, another driver was shot during an attack on a gas station by people looking for fuel.

Egypt allocates US$300mn to import diesel fuel

Egypt's Ministry of Finance on Sunday approved the allocation of US$300 million for the Petroleum Public Authority (PPA) to finance diesel fuel and butane gas imports from abroad.

The announcement came after a shortage of diesel fuel that hit the Egyptian market. Vehicles that run on diesel, such as tractors and microbuses, crowded into Egyptian gas stations, and disputes among drivers left at least 20 people injured.

Life has become harder world-wide : Global economic mess affecting every country

The global economic downturn is hitting countries all over the world. It is not only Sierra Leone that is facing problems caused by the global economic chaos. Anti- All People’s Congress ( APC ) Government propagandists and alarmists would want people to believe that it is only in Sierra Leone that these problems are evolving. But the situation would have been worse if the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) had been in power. If they fared so badly at a time of relative global economic stability during the late 1990s and early 200s , what would have happened if they were ruling Sierra Leone at this time of world economic collapse which started in 2009 ?

Japan: The new setsuden culture

While the kanji for "hot" was chosen as emblematic of 2010, setsuden, or electricity conservation, seems to be the keyword for 2011, or at least for the coming summer.

Offices and factories are turning up thermostats and turning off lights, cutting back on overtime, and shifting work hours. Stations throughout Tokyo have turned off lights and escalators. Beverage vending machines are under attack for eating up too much electricity.

No nukes, No problem. Germany is proving a rapid transition to renewable energy is possible

As Germany is showing, it is very possible to get large penetrations of renewable energy while phasing out nuclear energy. With bold political and social support, a consistent incentive framework for clean energy investment, and creative thinking about how to deploy geographically-dispersed resources, Germany is undergoing a major transition in its energy sector.

New U.S. Institutes Help Tackle Cleantech Workforce Shortage

Training academies are cropping up to steer students and professionals into clean energy industries that lack manpower to match growing opportunities.

Splitting water to create renewable energy simpler than first thought?

(PhysOrg.com) -- An international team, of scientists, led by a team at Monash University has found the key to the hydrogen economy could come from a very simple mineral, commonly seen as a black stain on rocks.

Their findings, developed with the assistance of researchers at UC Davis in the USA and using the facilities at the Australian Synchrotron, was published in the journal Nature Chemistry yesterday 15 May 2011.

Entropy, Peak Oil, and Stoic Philosophy

So, I am asking you to follow me with this idea; that the bell curve is a “natural” behavior of production for non renewable or slowly renewable resources. With “natural” I mean that it is the way the system is expected to behave when there are no strong interferences from political or other kind of perturbations. Then, I said that we should look at the inner mechanisms that make the economy behave in this way. I believe that we don't need to invent a brand new law, as Newton did for gravity. We already have the laws we need – even though so far we failed to apply them to this case. These are the laws of thermodynamics.

Two schools and the path to the steady state

All of economics is divided into two schools: steady state theory and infinite planet theory. They can’t both be right. You’d think the choice between them would be obvious, but infinite planet theory still holds sway in classrooms and in the halls of power where policy is made. Last month, though, brought a significant development: the manager of a major hedge fund registered a carefully reasoned dissent from infinite planet theory. And in doing so, Jeremy Grantham offered a glimpse of how and why steady state economic theory will ultimately come to prevail.

Kurt Cobb: Would vested interests starve the world?

In his latest book entitled Bottleneck sociologist and ecologist William Catton Jr. explains in detail why he believes human society is destined for a major dieoff, a "bottleneck" from which few survivors will emerge.

One cause, he says, is an array of vested interests who manipulate the media and the power structure, oblivious to the consequences of their actions. Many would say that this is business-as-usual. After all, what do we expect when governments are thoroughly dominated by the industries they are supposed to regulate? As a result, we may say, a few more people will be maimed or killed or maybe just ripped off than would otherwise be the case. But, would such interests be so crazy as to persist in their manipulations when faced with compelling evidence that suggests their actions could result in widespread starvation?

Second-Largest U.S. Refinery Threatened as Mississippi Floods In Louisiana

Nine of the 125 gates at Louisiana’s Morganza floodway opened yesterday, allowing the muddy Mississippi River to pour into the Atchafalaya River basin as part of the Army Corps of Engineers strategy to save Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

...Alon USA Energy Inc. (ALJ)’s refinery in Krotz Springs is threatened by rising spillway waters. The 83,000-barrel-a-day refinery is within a zone that is under a mandatory evacuation order, St. Landry’s Parish spokeswoman Francine Sias said. Alon spokesman Blake Lewis said the parish had granted the company an extension. A temporary levee is being constructed by employees to protect the facility and 243 nearby homes.

Oil falls near $98 as traders eye US crude demand

SINGAPORE – Oil prices fell to near $98 a barrel Monday in Asia amid investor concern soaring U.S. fuel costs are undermining crude consumption.

Rising oil prices to fuel expansion of Saudi Arabia's economy

RIYADH // Saudi Arabia's economy will expand 5.3 per cent this year, powered by higher oil prices and more government spending in the Arab world's largest economy, National Commercial Bank said.

Think Commodity Prices Are High Now? Just Wait

I just returned from a conference with some of the world's leading money managers, and one theme was clear: there has been massive underinvestment in the global supply chain of industrial metals and raw materials. This is less about oil and gas than about things like copper, iron ore, palladium, titanium, zinc, rhodium, and a host of other “iums” that are the essential, irreplaceable inputs for the industrial world that we all inhabit and that billions are on their way to inhabiting. Simply put there is yawning gulf between demand and supply, and it cannot be narrowed in the coming decade be bridged by technology or spending.

The New Silk Road is slowly becoming a two-way street for Emirates

China's insatiable appetite for energy continues to mean brisk business with the Middle East's oil suppliers.

The dragon economy imported 21 million tonnes of crude in the first two months of this year, an increase of nearly 30 per cent on the same period last year.

In the other direction, there is plenty of evidence of China's growing footprint in the Gulf, including the UAE. China Railway Construction recently secured a US$1.8 billion (Dh6.61bn) contract to build a light railway system in Saudi Arabia.

Biggest Gasoline Price Rise in Three Years in India May Fuel Inflation

India’s move to increase gasoline prices by the most in three years may accelerate what is already the fastest inflation rate among Asia’s major economies, damping demand for the nation’s assets.

CPI-M fears diesel pricing mechanism will be deregulated

New Delhi (PTI) Accusing the Centre of not listening to its demands for price and tax structuring of petroleum products, CPI(M) today feared the pricing mechanism of diesel will also be deregulated resulting in a hike in its prices.

Party General Secretary Prakash Karat said his party and the Left had many times demanded that price and tax structure of petroleum products be regulated and warned against deregulating petrol prices.

Iran president takes over oil ministry temporarily

TEHRAN (AFP) – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said he has temporarily assumed the duties of the oil ministry, as the oil cartel OPEC prepares for a biannual meeting in Vienna.

"For now, I myself am the caretaker of the oil ministry," Ahmadinejad said in a televised speech late Sunday, without elaborating.

BP in last-minute bid to salvage Rosneft deal: report

MOSCOW (AFP) – BP is in last-minute negotiations to buy out its Russian partners in the TNK-BP joint venture and thus rescue its Arctic exploration deal with Rosneft, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday.

The report came as Russia's state-held Rosneft faced a deadline of Monday to either accept or reject the revised terms of its $16 billion (11.4-billion-euro) strategic alliance with the British energy firm.

Kerry presents U.S. demands to Pakistan

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Sen. John Kerry gave Pakistan's army chief a list of "specific demands" relating to American suspicions about Pakistan's harboring of militants ahead of meetings Monday that could shape a partnership dangerously strained by the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, a Pakistani official said.

Gunmen kill Saudi diplomat in Pakistan

KARACHI (AP) — Gunmen on a motorbike shot and killed a Saudi diplomat as he was driving in Pakistan's largest city on Monday, just days after two hand grenades were tossed at the Arab state's consulate building, police in Karachi said.

The motive for the attack was not clear, but it comes against a backdrop of tensions between Islam's Sunni and Shiite branches, both in the Middle East and in Pakistan.

Experts note differences in U.S. approach in Syria, Libya

Some foreign policy experts say the White House is conflicted over Syria not because it is any less violent than Libya but because it is critical to Obama's attempt to end Iran's nuclear program and to promote Arab-Israeli peace. They say Obama's State Department wants Syria, which is Iran's greatest ally in the region, to persuade Iran's leaders to end its nuclear program and its support of anti-Israeli terrorism and if not, end its alliance with Iran.

Official: Libyan oil won't flow until war is over

BENGHAZI, Libya — Libya's biggest oil company will not resume production until the war ends, and that probably holds good for producers across the country, the firm's information director told The Associated Press on Sunday.

Abdeljalil Mohamed Mayuf said that the Arab Gulf Oil Co., responsible for more than a quarter of Libya's former production of 1.6 million barrels a day, stopped pumping for fear of further attacks by the forces of embattled leader Moammar Gadhafi.

"Everything depends on security. We can produce tomorrow but our fields would be attacked," Mayuf said in an interview. "We cannot put an army around each field. We are not a military company and the forces of Gadhafi are everywhere."

Israel-Palestinian violence erupts on three borders

(Reuters) - Violence erupted on Israel's borders with Syria, Lebanon and Gaza on Sunday, leaving at least eight dead and dozens wounded, as Palestinians marked what they term "the catastrophe" of Israel's founding in 1948.

Israeli troops shot at protesters in three separate locations to prevent crowds from crossing Israeli frontier lines in the deadliest such confrontation in years.

U.S. appoints first Turkmenistan envoy in 5 years

(Reuters) - The United States has appointed its first ambassador to Turkmenistan in five years, the U.S. Embassy said on Monday, boosting ties with the reclusive Central Asian state as its companies pursue lucrative oil and gas deals.

Fujairah's oil problem more than skin deep

FUJAIRAH // The Miramar hotel on the northern coast provides towels soaked in a cleanser so guests can scrub off the tar clinging to their skin after a dip in the sea.

The sticky substance is thought to come from the oil tankers that navigate nearby waters, bringing wealth to the emirate's industrial zone but plaguing those who live there and make a living from tourism.

Our view: Don't close tax loopholes for just Big Oil

Earlier this spring, Republicans indulged in their own game of Trivial Pursuit, cutting some minor agencies, such as public broadcasting, that weren't contributing much to the deficit but which they didn't much like. Now Democrats are saying, in effect, two can play at that game. They are trying to force Republicans to take the side of an industry about as popular as the flu. With gasoline at $4 a gallon, it's an easy target.

But the initiative is also government at its arbitrary worst, further complicating the tax code by singling out five companies — ExxonMobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Shell and BP — for special taxes not paid by smaller energy concerns, or by similar companies in other industries.

Another view: End welfare for Big Oil

Big, profitable companies do not need handouts from the government to expand their business. It would be one thing if they were using the subsidies to expand production, helping to lower prices at the pump.

But production levels are at an all-time high, and Big Oil companies have testified before Congress that they do not need incentives for oil exploration. Even when oil prices per barrel were much lower years ago, oil executives said they didn't need the incentives. Jim Mulva, the same CEO with the warped view of what it means to be American, testified, "With respect to oil and gas exploration and production, we do not need incentives."

Glencore could dynamite the commodity boom

The west struck a Faustian bargain with China in the 1990s and early 2000s. Manufacturing jobs would be outsourced to east Asia in exchange for cheap goods coming in the other direction. That was bad for western production workers, good for consumers.

Now it transpires China's growth miracle is not especially good for western consumers either. The rise in global commodity prices stimulated by China's overheating economy is making fuel, food and industrial goods dearer, thus squeezing living standards.

Some dealers get more than sticker price for Toyota Prius

The best-selling hybrid, the Toyota Prius, is in such demand that its average sales price is higher than its original price, say two new surveys. But unlike two years ago, when high gas prices drove out-sized demand for high-mpg car, this time publicity about possible supply shortages this summer because of Japan's disaster also is bringing in buyers.

Auto experts debate carbon fibre’s future

Carbon fibre producers are striving towards 60-65,000 tonnes per year of worldwide production capacity by 2015 and automotive CFRP use could account for 4-6,000 tonnes annually by then, Jäger said. He explained: “It takes a while to get into the car development process. So 10% use in automotive by 2015 would be a lot.”

But as “peak oil” has arrived, he wondered “how do we get away from an oil base for carbon fibres in future, as 2kg of plastic pre-cursor is needed for 1kg of carbon fibre?”

Deinzer said: “We are not yet ready at Audi for large series production, as a lot of development is needed.”

Drivers face more toll increases

Drivers are facing higher tolls this year to pay for road maintenance and improvement projects that are in some cases being hampered by state budget shortfalls and declining gas tax revenue, officials say.

New Jersey an unlikely leader in solar energy

MONTCLAIR, New Jersey (Reuters) – New Jersey, home to more industrial waste clean-up sites than any other state, is poised to become an exemplar of solar power usage -- though not everyone is happy about it.

Yet the combination of a strict state mandate and a generous carbon offset program has made New Jersey -- where only three in eight days are sunny -- the second-largest U.S. producer of solar power, after California, where more than half the days are sunny.

Solar May Equal Cost of Producing Coal Power by 2017 in India, KPMG Says

India, Asia’s third-largest energy consumer, may be able to produce electricity from the sun as cheaply as from coal and other fossil fuel-based power plants by 2017, according to KPMG LLP.

India may install three times as much solar capacity as the government intends by 2022 if sun-powered electricity is able to match the cost of conventional power, a point referred to as grid parity, said KPMG’s Executive Director Santosh Kamath, lead author of a solar report to be released this week.

Hydropower’s Resurgence and the Controversy Around It

In Chile last week, demonstrators protested against a government plan to dam two rivers that wind through a wild, remote part of Patagonia. Last month, officials from Southeast Asian countries failed to reach an agreement about a proposed dam project on the Mekong River in Laos, amid concerns from Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand about downstream implications.

An additional environmental issue — one that has caused mounting concern in recent years — is climate change. Changes in rain or snowfall patterns can drastically affect the amount of power a dam produces and also the amount of sediment flowing through the river.

Market conditions blamed for plant shutdown

Europe's largest wheat bioethanol plant is to shut down temporarily from the end of May due to "unfavourable market conditions".

Coming to a Cornfield Near You: Genetically Induced Drought-Resistance

Climate change has yet to diminish crop yields in the U.S. corn belt but scientists expect drought to become more common due to global warming in coming years. That could impact everything from the price of food to the price of fuel planet-wide. As a result, for the last several years agribusiness giants like Monsanto, Pioneer and Syngenta have been pursuing genetic modification to enable the corn plant to thrive even without enough rain. And now the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is considering approving a new corn hybrid genetically engineered to thrive with less water—the first time such a corn strain would be available.

Peak Oil: A Chance to Change the World

For advice about life after graduation, students at Worcester Polytechnic wanted to hear from peak oil scholar Richard Heinberg instead of Exxon's CEO. Here's what he told them.

The Revolution Will Not be Bought

Generally speaking we work to consume. Sure, we work to feed, clothe, and provide shelter for our families and ourselves, yes. I do not mean to diminish the importance of providing for our needs. The point rather is that we fulfill these needs, and many desires that we frame as needs, through channels of consumerism. This way of life is killing our planet and is damaging our collective physical and mental well-being.

In order to address these problems we have to take steps away from a life of consumerism. This requires adjusting our expectations about the speed and ease with which we should be able to acquire things, and the labor required to fulfill our needs and to solve the problems of our everyday lives. For many this might seem impossible, or at least, quite the nuisance. But I believe that change is possible for all of us, and that small steps lay the groundwork to significant change.

Climate study gets pulled after charges of plagiarism

Evidence of plagiarism and complaints about the peer-review process have led a statistics journal to retract a federally funded study that condemned scientific support for global warming.

Britain Should Scrap Electricity Plans, Curb Utility Dominance, Panel Says

Britain should scrap proposed legislative changes to the electricity market and reduce the power of the six biggest energy companies in order to spur low- carbon investment, according to a panel of lawmakers.

U.K. Manufacturers Say Climate Goals Will Damage Industry, Competitiveness

Britain’s plans to cut greenhouse gas output in half by 2027 risk damaging the country’s competitiveness, crimping growth and curbing investment, a lobby group representing 6,000 companies said.

Vital Arctic cooperation

The rapid melting of the polar ice cap has pushed a host of difficult issues to the forefront. Canada and its seven partners on the Arctic Council made progress on two of them last week.

Warming Arctic opens way to competition for resources

NUUK, Greenland — Here, just south of the Arctic Circle, where the sea ice is vanishing like dew on a July morning, the temperature isn’t the only thing that’s heating up.

Across the region, a warming Arctic is opening up new competition for resources that until recently were out of reach, protected under a thick layer of ice. As glaciers defrost and ice floes diminish, the North is being viewed as a source of not only great wealth but also conflict, diplomats and policy experts say.

Re: U.K. Manufacturers Say Climate Goals Will Damage Industry, Competitiveness

The U.K. argument is the same one which has been presented in the US. Since the problem is a world wide one, all nations must agree to participate in efforts to minimize the potential damage. If only a few nations agree to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, the others will enjoy a competitive advantage. The US has been the largest emitter and our political system has produced a crop of politicians who refuse to accept the science, the result of a massive propaganda campaign by companies such as Exxon and Koch Industries. Since the effects of climate change could well be worse than recent projections, we may find that our present course will result in a very unpleasant future for mankind. It would appear obvious that the greedy people who now control things won't willingly cut their income or give up their status on the top of the hill, so I remain a doomer.

E. Swanson

Until the "frame of mind" that holds economic growth to be the single most important measure of human "advancement" is overthrown there will be no hope of addressing climate change, peak oil, or any of the other critical issues that confront us.

It would have been nice if that "frame of mind" had come to an end in the 1970s.

In the long run, it does not matter if we refuse to recognize limits, eventually, nature will force the issue….

It's much more than the "frame of mind", it's the structural necessity. And that is systemic. Peak oil could be the cure to this "sickness of the soul".

Not sure what you mean by "structural necessity" - could you expand upon it a bit?

My "frame of mind" reference is, no doubt, lacking in rigor as well. But what I was trying to get into the conversation was the notion that human created goals, reasons, expectations, descriptions, etc. are a fundamental aspect of how we address our social situation.

As "LesIsMore" points out, nature will force the issue (indeed, I would suggest it is already doing so), but how we respond to that issue, and its being forced, will be the result of a whole panoply of human created ways of thinking, doing and being in the world.

Our entire economy requires perpetual growth to avoid collapse. Money systems based on credit must constantly expand to enable interest+principal to be paid. Massive social welfare schemes can only be maintained with constant economic growth. I'm sure there are other structural components that also require growth to maintain, but those are the biggies.

This nonsense about the money supply having to be increased to allow for interest to be paid is getting past old. Interest is paid as a percentage of the flow of transactions occurring, not as a percentage of the amount of money in circulation. Thus it is rather akin to taxation of the borrower by the lender. this taxation is then re lent or 'spent' on goods or capital investments; it does not disappear into some black hole. Okay, maybe into an offshore tax haven to rest up a while, but not gone for long.

Massive social welfare schemes again only indicate a percentage of economic activity. In a static model of money your argument might have some merit but the nature of exchange is dynamic. In fact, as the system becomes less dynamic, as seen currently, money supplies are being increased to avoid default and deflation. The forgotten component of Keynes was that the said supply should be pared back down during more 'dynamic' periods to prevent inflation and allow room for expansion during a slump. Only the latter seems to have been convenient to apply if reelection need be catered to.

A given currency unit does about ten times its nominal value on an annual basis which is why you can have a twenty trillion dollar economy on two trillion dollars. Money is not, like petroleum, spent but exchanged indefinitely. Yet we always refer to spending money. One man's 'spent' is another man's income.

Growth is in no way necessary to maintain economic health. But it sure benefits the types who buy land cheap on the edge of town and get a huge profit for sitting on their ass when the town expands. For this sort of 'investment', growth is, as you point out, necessary but I consider the parasitical side of the economy to be part of its disease rather than its health. For those who are accustomed to the entitlement of something for nothing, growth is wonderful. Thus they'll dupe us into believing that it is intrinsically necessary.

Growth is in no way necessary to maintain economic health

Right, tell that to any economist and watch the panic set in. Even Krugman, who kind of admits to resource limitations and peak oil, will still adamantly swear up and down perpetual "growth" is still possible. Because they know, no growth, means the death of modern economics.

Without growth the US per capita income will drop 30% as 100 million new immigrates are added over the next 30 years.

Future immigration depends on politics. My guess is that politicians will be able to get a lot of mileage from anti-immigration stances in decades to come. Remember how we slammed the door to immigrants during the Great Depression. Indeed, during some years of the Great Depression there was more emigration from than immigration to the U.S.

Remember the "America First" movement? Such movements are likely to arise again in response to chronic and rising unemployment.

"My guess is that politicians will be able to get a lot of mileage from anti-immigration stances in decades to come."

But whether that affects only their already-profuse emissions of hot air, or actually affects levels of immigration, is another question entirely. Seems like lots of hot air has already been emitted to no particular effect.

It's all hot air.

Basic economic principle - immigration is not a zero sum game. Take that concept and run with it, assuming you know what it means.

As soon as growth stops, immigration will likely stop. Then deportation. How could it be otherwise?

That was my first thought. My second thought was that it really depends on how bad things are elsewhere. Even if things are bad here, if they're worse somewhere else, this will still be an appealing place to emigrate to.

And that will still be the case, but "appeal" has lots of dimensions. Today it includes work, healthcare, safety, and a largely ambivalent society. All of those can change.

Here, there was a long-blighted area of town with high crime and few white-collar jobs growing out of decades of white-flight, leaving a predominantly black subsistence zone. While to this day there are small employers there (car salvages, some industrial zones), fairly high crime and poor social infrastructure persist despite much city, state, and fed support. Decay is an ever-present reality.

More recently, there is a neighboring area of Latinos, which also has crime but is much vibrant. It has many restaurants, stores, and so forth. There is not a lot of new construction, but up-keep and business turnover is healthy. The population is growing massively, and in numerical terms exceeds even the white majority in new births. Overtime, this is a powerful advantage, and this zone is growing despite outside pressure to contain it.

The former area is mostly legal residents, while the latter is likely 50/50 at best. Both avoid authorities and stonewall police investigations. In either you could have your car stolen or end up in a drug-deal gunfight after dark. In the Mexican zone, though, I could see how one could reasonably live and work in a heavily declining economy. Still, I think at some point the long-standing have-nots from next door as well as the new losing-alls from the middle-class suburbs will react negatively, and squeeze the illegals and their children. Probably some subset of the minority sections will become more insular and survive, while some will dissolve. The chances that black and latino areas join up as an influence block versus whites is small -- more likely it'll a free-for-all melee politically.

I guess my point is that the working-poor will have an advantage over the welfare-poor, but those with entitlements will fight pretty hard on the way down, and it'll get ugly from a lot of directions. It's hard to see the melting-pot open-arms paradigm continuing much longer.

I don't think there really is a melting pot open arms paradigm now. There is from employers that want lots of cheap labor, but that was ever the case.

I was thinking more of what Jared Diamond calls "overcrowded lifeboat syndrome." People respect authority only if those in power can provide for them and protect them in bad times. He describes what happened in Greenland:

Starving people would have poured into Gardar [the largest farm], and the outnumbered chiefs and church officials could no longer prevent them from slaughtering the last cattle and sheep. Gardar's supplies, which might have sufficed to keep Gardar's own inhabitants alive if all their neighbors could have been kept out, would have been used up in the last winter when everyone tried to climb into the overcrowded lifeboat, eating the dogs and newborn lifestock and the cows' hoofs as they had at the end of the Western settlement.

Diamond then draws an explicit parallel with unrest in the U.S., and our inability to secure our borders against illegal immigration:

I picture the scene at Gardar as like that in my home city of Los Angeles in 1992 at the time of the so-called Rodney King riots, when the acquittal of policement on trial for brutally beating a poor person provoked thousands of outraged people from poor neighborhoods to spread out to loot businesses and rich neighborhoods. The greatly outnumbered police could do nothing more than put up pieces of yellow plastic warning tape across roads entering rich neighborhoods, in a futile gesture aimed at keeping the looters out. We are increasingly seeing a similar phenomenon on a global scale today, as illegal immigrants from poor countries pour into the overcrowded lifeboats represented by rich countries, and as our border controls prove no more able to stop that influx than were Gardar's chiefs and Los Angeles's yellow tape. That parallel gives us another reason not to dismiss the fate of the Greenland Norse as just a problem of a small peripheral society in a fragile environment, irrelevant to our own larger society. Eastern Settlement was also larger than Western Settlement, but the outcome was the same; it merely took longer.

At some point people in lifeboats beat off swimmers with paddles. This doesn't much happen when we're all "family", but it certain can with "strangers". Is there a point at which lethal force becomes an option? If so, the border situation would change dramatically. Certainly smuggling of humans would continue, but at a much lower rate, and with much closer coupling to destination "sponsors".

I wonder if the melting-pot was ever as molten as we'd like to think? Large cities often have ethnic zones, and a lot of small towns are still quite homogeneous, with long-standing ethnic background still at work today, and most seem to have an entry process that takes generations of "integration" to really fit in. Certainly on the individual scale inter-marriage is more accepted today than every before, on the other hand.

I didn't hear much about the Rodney King riots making it into affluent neighborhoods, which in many ways would make more sense than rioting in neighborhoods near "home". What were the stats in terms of business and homes damaged, in terms of locale, I wonder?

I'm sure they did try to use lethal force at Gardar. They all must have known that eating the seed corn meant they would all starve. But desperate people do desperate things, and if they outnumber you, there's really not much you can do.

I believe it was Diamond who postulated that we would not be able to hold the southwest. His view of it is that many different peoples have tried to settle there, but it's just too difficult. Societies last for awhile, then withdraw. In the end, it's not really worth fighting about.

Growth is in no way necessary to maintain economic health.

That would be true in an economy built upon wisdom, but thats not what we have. In order to maintain employment with fixed working hours and increasing productivity we have to keep growing the economy. Outside of a few marginalized academics no-one wants to pursue the so called steady-state systems. So the god that is worshipped across the globe (especially during tough times like the present), is growth. I agree about the whole debt & currency thing btw. But, its a profoundly unpopular message as it conflicts with out "debt is bad" morality play thinking.

How exactly would you build an economy upon wisdom?

You would probably start by acknowledging resource and planetary limitations and have some sort of management program for our collective natural endowment. Creating a race to use resources as fast as possible with no regard to the effects is probably not wise. Just the fact that we put ourselves in such a precarious position with peak oil is proof of our immaturity and lack of validity of our economic theories. Wisdom would probably mean admitting our 18th century economic ideas are archaic. But, we have a lot invested in bad ideas so we will run it into the ground..

Put another way, acknowledgment that the earth is the center of the "economy" is a start. Just that factual acknowledgment destroys all current economic understanding

Thank you for your thoughtful answer. Yet, I still find it to be primarily a critique of the current system, and less of a proposal for a new one built on wisdom - or anything else.

At a theoretical level, I don't think one can be anything but sympathetic to your perspective. But there six billion humans out there and reality does have to come into the picture.

I'm not sure I am any happier with the current situation than you are, but if you want to blow it all up, you ought to have a coherent plan for what comes next.

There wasn't any coherent plan for the system we currently have, why would you expect a plan to help in getting somewhere new?

While I believe I understand your desire to at least have a peak at what is to come before you start "blowing it up," I think you may be overestimating the role of rationality in the economic structures we have/wind up with. In short, it isn't THE PLAN that will guide us to some future economic system, but the values/mind set of the people within a society that will guide any new economy's shape.

So the question isn't what will the future economy look like. The question should be, what will our future values be?

There wasn't any coherent plan for the system we currently have

Right, it was a political/power move against the monarchy. Where they essentially "sciencized" monetary interactions and held it up as proof that the monarchy was wrong.

Chapter 7 of Steve Keen (2001).Debunking Economics

“Economics as a discipline arose at a time when English society was in the final stages of removing the controls of the feudal system from its mercantile/capitalist economy. In this climate, economic theory had a definite (and beneficial) political role: it provided a counter to the religious ideology that once supported the feudal order, and which still influenced how people thought about society. In the feudal system the pre-ordained hierarchy of king, lord, servant and serf was justified on the basis of the ‘divine right of Kings.’ The King was God’s representative on earth, and the social structure which flowed down from him was a reflection of God’s wishes.
“This structure was nothing if not ordered, but this order imposed severe restrictions on the now dominant classes of merchants and industrialists. At virtually every step, merchants were met with government controls and tariffs. When they railed against these imposts, the reply came back that they were needed to ensure social order.
“Economic theory — then rightly called political economy — provided the merchants with a crucial ideological rejoinder. A system of government was not needed to ensure order: instead, social order would arise naturally in a market system in which each individual followed his own self-interest.

Now, instead of divine right of kings, we have divine right of capital that needs to be overthrown

There wasn't any coherent plan for the system we currently have, why would you expect a plan to help in getting somewhere new?


So the question isn't what will the future economy look like. The question should be, what will our future values be?

This should be transparently obvious but, given the number of times that we are asked this question (with tones ranging from honest inquiry to savage sarcasm), it evidently is not.

I think we should engrave shaman's elegant statement in a few thousand chunks of granite and place them in prominent locations. Maybe start with the lintels of the entrances to NYSE.

Start here:


then apply these ethics:

Earth (everything comes from ecological services, so don't use them stupidly - it's suicide)

People (apply principles of design to solving social problems, not economic ones; economic solutions flow from solving social problems)

Share (rather than hoard or throw away surplus because it either imbalances or pollutes the system)

You don't need a plan. You can't plan the future for an entire globe, but you can establish a common set of ethics and principles that shape design so that all designs meet the basic requirement of sustainability.

Unless your plan/philosophy can survive the following challenge it is not useful:

I outconsume you, I use my increased energy and resource consumption to take your share.

You die. I win.

a delightfully neanderthal view. Actually, what happens is this: you keep expanding your system by non-sustainable consumption. As the limits encroach, you begin to engage in increasingly desperate actions to keep expanding it, since it must expand to function. This effort leads further and further away from a viable future. Then your system totally degenerates and fails. You lose the game. You are confusing a short term pre collapse event, ie, the present, with the future. That's understandable, it's consistent with all your other views I read here.

He's not talking about a theory or philosophy, he's talking about survival. You are talking about a non-sustainable, primitive world view, which has no way to overcome material obstacles. The present shows us this fact, because everything is happening here and now. The ones who prepare by moving away from the model that must fail, ie, the one you simplistically believe can work when it cannot work, just as the Mayan model could not work, will fail. This is normal by the way, most people cannot grasp that their failing model is a failure until it fails. Currently the US borrowed between 1 and 2 trillion dollars a year to try to sustain its failing model. All our military and oil importing expenses that is, were borrowed. This doesn't continue. An inability to grasp material circumstances is a common mindset of pre failure bias and mindsets, just as it was in the housing bubble pre collapse, it was crystal clear, except to the system seeking to maintain itself, that a model requiring constantly increasing real estate prices was impossible, yet all core members of the system who pushed that model could not perceive this simple fact.

So count yourself among those who do not see and insist that the present must continue into the future, ie, you're a normal person, most people do this.

The winners are going to be those who begin to move towards sane policies, because they will have more functional societies than those, like the US, that persist in believing in mythologies and who believe they are immune to nature and its ways. Bolivia is the first nation to explicitly state its desire to be a winner in the long term game, and I am vastly impressed by this fact, and consider this a major event in modern human history. They would like to be an advanced society (in the true sense of the word advancemed, not in the sense of raw consumption of non-sustainable, non renewable resources), that is, that is a struggle to achieve this condition, and you are correct that you can expect primitive barbaric systems like ours to attempt to maintain themselves, but as you can clearly see if you could connect dots, that ability is pathetically weak. We cannot control Iraq, we cannot control Afghanistan. Israel lost its last two battles, if you followed events. The center is failing, Europe is tottering, debt levels are totally out of control. Natural failures, storms, etc, are damaging the economy more and more. You can only take so much before the bill come due. We have not paid our bills, both in the metaphoric, and the literal sense.

But it is nice that you put your views so clearly, I like that better than you pretending to actually wanting to be rational about issues, it's what I knew you have meant all along when you pretend to be actually willing to discuss issues like nuclear energy rationally, which has been crystal clear you aren't. I admire your honesty here, and appreciate it, and I'm very glad I didn't waste my time engaging in that game with you, which I was tempted to do many times. But true honesty is always a good thing, and I truly commend you for cutting through the bs and laying your honest view on the line, that's a really good thing to do.

In case I'm not clear enough: the Iraq event was an attempt, a miserably failed attempt, to gain control and influence over a key opec oil producer. This has been admitted even by guys like Greenspan. Do not mistake the failure of an attempt with the fact of the attempt, something that many US conservative or neo-con apologists tend to do. As you can see, this attempt, which is going to end up costing somewhere in the area of 3 trillion dollars, has been a total failure. The rest of the world, in other words, is not shivering in fear any longer of the threat you suggest in your posting. In other words, they love seeing us pour our resources into a pit with no hope of return, just as we loved seeing the USSR pour its resources pre collapse into Afghanistan. And they love it when we waste our resources in this way instead of them having to do it, we are the perfect stooge idiot at this phase of the game, and it's only appropriate that we elected such total stooge idiots as Reagan, Clinton, GW Bush, and sadly in too many ways, Obama to represent us to the world. They see what we do not, Putin saw the idiot before him when he met with GW Bush without any question, and must have been totally thrilled once he realized how great an advantage Russia had gained from such fools.

So our recent effort to 'just grab it' has totally and utterly failed. China, if you read here, has clamped down on is rare earth exports. We cannot just grab those. Bolivia is taking full control over its lithium production, and its oil and gas. You are living in a pure and total fantasy world, and I love that fact, it's very funny. The US is failing, all around us. Brazil recently totally rebuffed some lame attempt by Hillary Clinton to influence their policies. Nobody is impressed by the US anymore, except americans who watch too much corporate funded TV I suspect. China is buying their access to resources and making friends rather than enemies. The times they are changing, in many ways. The US can barely influence Mexico or Canada at this point, and has to pay for its way, and that payment requires debt expansion, and that isn't going to continue. Our military is already way overstretched, and has to be shrunk rather than expanded. I could go on, but you would understand this stuff if you read and understood the postings Leanan adds so carefully on each drumbeat, as an editor, she's getting VERY good, I suggest you start paying more attention to the themes and sub-texts going on in the drumbeat's stories.

Nonetheless, the primitive option survives to this day because it works often enough.

That it sometimes fails doesn't change that, and even when it fails it wrecks whatever you were trying to build if you haven't planned for it.

So moving towards a more sustainable civilization requires that one acknowledge that we aren't going to run out of smash-and-grab people any time soon and have a reliable plan for dealing with them when they stop by.

Anything less is just wishful thinking.

And you don't need to insult me. I have a low enough opinion of your rationality as it sits.

we aren't going to run out of smash-and-grab people any time soon and have a reliable plan for dealing with them when they stop by.

Anything less is just wishful thinking.

Why wouldn't designing for sharing excess include allocating excess for defense, if necessary? Then, if we are so unsuccessful at moving to a new paradigm, none of it will matter and Lovelock will be proved out. The idea here is that the existential threat to all will encourage a rethinking of selfishness as a solution.

And you don't need to insult me. I have a low enough opinion of your rationality as it sits.

Leanan recently castigated me for less. Might want to ease up a bit - though you did use prettier words.

Well now, that makes sense. It is a detail that tends to get overlooked if there isn't an immediate threat, though.

It does, you just missed it.

Yes, this has come up before. That I am somehow responsible for coming up with a coherent plan since I highlight it's major flaws. Not to sure I agree with that. However, you do have to start somewhere. But, being biased to scientific thinking, I think the scientific community should highlight the unscientific nature of the theories.

Here is a start:


The market system is a closed circular flow between production and consumption, with no inlets or outlets.
Natural resources exist in a domain that is separate and distinct from a closed market system, and the economic value of these resources can be determined only by the dynamics that operate within this system.
The costs of damage to the external natural environment by economic activities must be treated as costs that lie outside the closed market system or as costs that cannot be included in the pricing mechanisms that operate within the system.
The external resources of nature are largely inexhaustible, and those that are not can be replaced by other resources or by technologies that minimize the use of the exhaustible resources or that rely on other resources.
There are no biophysical limits to the growth of market systems.

As for, "blowing it up", it's own structural deficiencies should take care of that. That is just a matter of time. Also, it's not like a realistic coherent plan would be accepted, anyway. Any "new" plan would be social and earth centered and go against the current power structure and surely would be met with ridicule and scorn.

Interestingly, Hubbert called it the "Monetary culture which has evloved from folkways of prehistoric origin" which is the problem. And I agree.

But there six billion humans out there and reality does have to come into the picture.

OK, then here's a dose of reality, first, its more like 7 billion, and then there are probably about six billion too many for there to be a viable sustainable steady state economy. Therefore, by hook or by crook, six billion humans will be erased from the picture. Kinda sucks, doesn't it?

Therefore, by hook or by crook, six billion humans will be erased from the picture. Kinda sucks, doesn't it?

It will probably suck, although it doesn't absolutely have to. We might turn out to be smarter than yeast, although there isn't much evidence for that, so far.

Also, it's possible that the Earth could sustain as many as two billion of us at an acceptable "standard of living" (I just love that expression), thus reducing the scope of the problem.

Well the systemic and structural doomsday we have created, essentially brought about by neoclassical economic thinking, will only exacerbate as time goes on. At the top of the wealth pyramid sits the logic of the pyramid itself. And that logic is basically a big fire that consumes everything and finally burns out. It is a suicidal logic. And maneuverability will only diminish as time moves on.

The top 2 billion consume almost 90% of the resources. So keeping all things the same, consumption habits, allocation decisions, etc.. That would be correct. In the era of peak everything we are not going to increase resource production trajectories to continue BAU. But it is also assuming that those habits, methods, etc. are actually wise and derived of good "values" and necessary for an "acceptable standard of living". Personally, I don't think wasting resources with reckless abandon is necessary or desirable. It's not materials that we lack, it's something of the spiritual nature

arraya, you drilled it. Exactly right. It is precisely this lack, considered as an achievement, that makes posting on TOD so difficult. The facts are very simple, yet the minds that refuse to see these facts by essentially ignoring all history and human cultures and thought in favor of our own recent experiments in 'controlling' rather than 'working with' nature, experiments which are it's now safe to consider total failures biologically and historically speaking, those minds persist in insisting those failing methods and world-views somehow are good models for the actual way we can live, rather than just a huge mistake. A mistake we have been warned about making for thousands of years in print, plus the endless methods we used pre print to pass along this understanding. This mistake has I assume been made by all failed systems and large scale cultures. And I suppose also all the failed smalls scale cultures that have faded away and vanished.

Even the fact I have to always use the word 'nature' here to talk about a larger matter is annoying, it's something I would never have had to do in any other period of human history, or pre-history. But I do it because otherwise there's pretty much no hope of even touching on things that actually matter.

It's possible that TOD has for me outlived its utility, since failure to grasp this key point makes pretty much all discussion a waste of time, unless I guess some readers sort of scratch their heads and go, huh, yeah, I had a sneaking suspicion...

I wish I had your gift of being able to summarize so tersely and concisely, but sadly I am totally lacking in that skill, so I have to just muddle though each thing and work it out for myself as I type. By the way, in a moment of crystal clarity before his passing, Joe Bageant was consistently noting pretty much exactly what you noted here, I guess it's that clarity you get when all the BS is going and you know you only have a short time to communicate what you needed to say.

It's not materials that we lack, it's something of the spiritual nature.

Or, perhaps even more simply, a clear view of reality and release from the cultural trance that drives us to mindless consumption and pointless competition.

But, I'll sign up for something of a "spiritual nature," if it looks like it might move us toward sane socioeconomic models that recognize the reality of our limited planet. It would certainly be more moral to co-opt the "god gene" for altruistic purposes than for the usual reasons it has been used and abused.

And so it is with population and "carrying capacity". Unless the particulars and assumptions (including, most notably, level of consumption) are first defined, the numbers are completely meaningless. If everyone lived like the average sub-Saharan African, on a buck a day? Then the number would be X billion. If everyone lived like Bill Gates? Then the number would be 1/10000th of X billion.

But even settling on some mid-range estimate for lifestyle, it remains a very difficult question, and scholars of much greater learning than me have come up with a wild variety of answers -- the "wild variety" reflecting the difficulty of the analysis, the large number of variables, and the wide range of plausible estimates for those variables. In this case, method and assumptions are EVERYTHING. To get a sense of this, I suggest chapter 10 of Joel Cohen's book "How Many People Can The Earth Support"; the chapter is titled "Eight Estimates of Human Carrying Capacity". The chapter that follows that is very good too.

It is a (somewhat) interesting academic question, but of little practical value for us right here right now. And the obsession of some is unhealthy in many regards as it takes focus off of realistically fixable problems. We --the human race -- have the population we have, and we'll have to deal with it, as best we can. We can do things to lower fertility in Africa, but that is the most we can do on the population front; other than that, it is largely out of our hands. The rest of the world's population growth is in dramatic decline that started in the 60s, with some going negative. All studies indicate this trend will continue and is speeding up. Max population numbers continually get lower as time goes on and data comes it. The best estimates now suggest a peak near mid-century, probably under 9 billion, and long decline after that. The theoretical question of "how many the earth can support" is of less importance than dealing with the realities that confront us.

It would be accurate to say that the behavioral trajectory of the more-affluent strata of humanity is clearly in the direction of overshoot, and if that behavior were to be replicated without limit, across all of humanity, then overshoot and catastrophic collapse would quickly, and inevitably, supervene. As it stands now, catastrophic global collapse is not inevitable. "Overshoot"is an accurate description of where we're heading, but it is not on account of our numbers; i.e. it is not baked in the cake. It is on account of the resource allocation decisions and use habits -- the more-affluent, as individuals and as nations.

Unfortunately, said "behavioral trajectory" of the more- affluent IS being replicated across portions of humanity in the developing world -- the emerging middle class in India,
China and elsewhere. We (the U.S., and the West generally) set a supremely bad example, and they are following us. But we still have time to change.

The most urgent single thing is clearly for this behavioral trajectory to be stopped. Peak oil should come in handy in this regard.

You would probably start by acknowledging resource and planetary limitations and have some sort of management program for our collective natural endowment.

This is really annoying. Most of economics is based on the assumption that resources are limited - that's why they call it the "dismal science", and most economic theory is devoted to the efficient allocation of scarce resources.

People who don't know that really don't know anything about economics.

Most of economics is based on the assumption that resources are limited

To say it is based on scarcity is not the same thing. It is a scarcity driven system. In fact, scarcity needs to be maintained for functionality. You need a constant level of scarcity for monetary value, which is why we don't have a price tag on air. Which leads to it's inherent schizophrenia of infinite growth necessitating infinite resources while maintaining scarcity for monetary value.

most economic theory is devoted to the efficient allocation of scarce resources.

And that is the biggest joke of all. There is nothing materially efficient or "rational" about our aggregate resource allocations. It is observably and provably false at all levels of usage. In fact, you could not come up with a more materially inefficient system. Which is why we get things like shipping fish from Canada to china for cleaning then back to the US for consumption. Or products that breakdown to keep up cyclical consumption. Economic efficiency has little to do with material efficiency.

We spend a huge amount of energy towards extracting resources, shipping them around the world for processing and consumption, to throw them in a landfill with a few months all while screaming "Oh, no! resource shortfall!" All to keep economic activity moving enough so the whole thing does not seize up.

In totality, peak oil is scarcity of our master resource going into a mostly manufactured demand and artificial scarcity system. The housing crash was an area where we saw massive inventory build up but not released to the market, to keep values up(maintained level scarcity) and the construction business from completely shutting down - all to maintain a hopelessly doomed, poorly made and supremely inefficient living systems. Or as Knustler calls it "The biggest misallocation of resources in history". Though, I give that label to industrial capitalism in general.

Economics is largely a self-fulfilling psychology. It effectively constructs a model of behaviour, to a model for behaviour; whereby such models educate us to think how we’re ‘supposed’ to think. As a result, this pseudo-science has maintained a heavy reliance upon seeking numerical legitimacy and mathematical reassurance for justifying assumptions of rationality.

arraya, you provide, again, a needed and very welcome breath of fresh air to a somewhat degenerating quality level of discussion here (which I assume means the peak really is here, and has been for a while), so thanks a lot for that.

rmg, I generally respect your postings and find much of value in them, but in this area, I have to say you are veering away, far away, from anything I have ever learned or read about economics, and I think you would be VERY hard pressed to actually demonstrate what you just wrote by referencing any key economist's writings, except maybe some mention out of context of material resources. In fact, if I were to summarize modern economics, it would be its consistent, and ongoing, in the mainstream, efforts to totally ignore material reality. Marx, by the way, fell for exactly the same mistake when he tried to state that labor itself was the actual source of value. The overall meme has been almost the contrary to what you say here, that is, the notion has been that economics willl create oil, not vica versa, the latter case being I believe far closer to the truth.

I suggest you pick up 5 key reference works by major economists, then toss in say a few others, like Soros, The Alchemy of Finance, which has a refreshing overview of his relative contempt for the entire 'discipline' of econonics, then see if you can find what you said actually supported as a key component of any theorists works. My guess is you won't be able to. Say, Friedman, Keynes, Adam Smith, just for giggles, and whatever others you might feel are major contributors to the field. I'd personally be fascinated to see the results of that study. Or are you just referring to the abstract discipline, and other, likewise abstract, statements about what it is and says? Not something I'd expect from a competent engineer, so I'm assuming you're referring to specifics here, actual books, actual whitepapers, actual studies where, after reading all of them, you would come to the conclusion about them that you stated.

However, I don't actually have any problem with people who are good in their fields being not so good when they veer outside of them, I don't really honestly care if you don't get economics, and haven't really given it much thought or study in the way you have geology and drilling, your views on petroleum production methods and related issues are what interest me about your postings, as with rockman's and others here to tend to raise the technical level of discussion beyond the web babble norm.

Array, check this one out, a fine recent piece by Chomsky:

I do not want to end without mentioning another externality that is dismissed in market systems: 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. And before we laugh, we might also bear in mind that the current economic crisis is traceable in no small measure to the fanatic faith in such dogmas as the efficient market hypothesis, and in general to what Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, 15 years ago, called the "religion" that markets know best - which prevented the central bank and the economics profession from taking notice of an $8 trillion housing bubble that had no basis at all in economic fundamentals, and that devastated the economy when it burst.

Leanan, sorry about the length, but given the recent thread where Don, for example, was blatantly, and somewhat inexcusably, misrepresenting Chomsky's current mental status, and others were insisting on discussing articles they hadn't read and refused to read due to not understanding a short out of context phrase, I think it's worth posting enough of that 3 page article's conclusions to avoid such errors here, again. Before we get into back into questions about someone's senility, let's make sure that there is at least one person here at TOD who can reach say, 25% of the level of conceptual and historical, global, political, environmental, breadth Chomsky, doddering and senile as he clearly is here, in this recent article, shows. Don't hold your breaths waiting for that though, you'll probably die first. Nobody has to agree with the guy's politics, decisions on fair or correct wealth and resource allocation are not rational, they are just how we view the world, and since that's what politics are all about, that can't really be argued to any real conclusion, since the biases that drive the discussion aren't going to change.

What can be pointed to is actual understanding and conceptual frameworks that are far superior to anything I've ever read from anyone posting here, thus my fondness for Chomsky and his never ending efforts to understand the world in some coherent manner, and to communicate that understanding to others.

I don't mind the length but I really wish you hadn't brought up that old argument. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, please. Let old arguments stay in the threads in which they arose.

Leanan, it's not so much bringing up an old argument, as trying to avoid another, and frankly embarrassing, repetition of one that has been popping up here somewhat frequently. Head it off at the pass, as it were. You might, by the way, look more closely at asiatimes.com as a daily news/analysis site, they have been having some very insightful articles lately, the Egypt one for example really puts into perspective the difference between what we are seeing re the so-called 'arab spring' and what's really going on, for example the recent diesel problems were totally comprehensible with the benefit of that extra background.

RMG, a few points of interest, while I haven't ever had the stomach to read Ricardo and Adam Smith, or the patience, I have read enough Marx and his critique of them to feel fairly safe in stating no such view as you proposed existed in classical economics. And certainly no such view was present in 17th, 18th, 19th, and most of 20th century US attitudes towards nature and the extractive processes which allowed a certain construction of what we think of as 'wealth' to occur. Ruthless extraction until natural limits strike seem the norm, then economists struggle to generate new methods to explain the new reality, all based on real, material limits. Fur, Whaling, hydrolic gold mining, overfishing, etc, all come to mind, along with raw material extraction. Just grab and sell, until it runs out, that seems the real model that's followed, no?

And I've read enough 20th century economics to have noted a total absence of the principles you stated as core. In fact, that's why I have a loathing for the entire field, it's total and utter disregard for reality, ie, the true matter, or substance, of our lives. Keep in mind, the mainstream, up to almost today, that is, has consistently stated that price will produce all the oil we need. That's the rough gist of it, I know it's totally incoherent, but that's another question, and is why I don't spend much time anymore reading economics, to me it's just studying the droppings of our tribes after they have been deposited, then noting the likelihood of that event happening again. Not a discipline, not a science, just a way for the system to explain itself to itself, until that doesn't work, of course, then it fails. Soros is clear on this, I wish the mainstream were, that would at least give us a fighting chance.

The real meme of 20th century mainstream economics, ie, what the corporations and government have paid salaries to in order that they generate what they want to hear, has been: humans create wealth. Marx had that same exact meme, never critically challenged it, which is why I dislike him.

Nature has always been viewed as at best merely the material for this, a sort of necessary evil that really isn't needed in a perfect world, the same world, by the way, that techno-utopians are so fond of inhabiting. High enough oil prices, you recall, will simply lead to more production. EIA predicts global demand / production at 130 million barrels a day or so. Remember? That was a direct reflection of the received economic principles, and has and had nothing to do with your geological or engineering reality. No problem, price produces, that is. The reason this statement was accepted was precisely because economics in fact does NOT have anything to do with reality, it's all about perpetuating THIS system, the one generating the wealth and power, and has nothing to do with science or reason. That 130mbpd was the standard reply until maybe 5 years ago, maybe as little as one or two, among most economists. Now they are working on creating their new version of their story, it's not done yet, we'll have to wait to see what it looks like.

Humans and their social systems are held as separate and primary, that's why you can get mainstream economists always promoting false views that flount ecological and material reality in a pursuit of power, growth, profit. In fact, if I were to really say what the essence of mainstream economics is, it's the total disregard, until it's too late, of the actual matter and substance of life, and of even the economic system itself. That happened in USSR, it will happen in China, and it happens anywhere else such contempt for our ecosystem is displayed, especially under growth based economic systems.

The reason that the discussion of economic systems is so repetitive is that it is currently it is taking place in the Drumbeats, so it keeps getting reset every time the Drumbeat rolls over.
It is a long-term discussion and it needs its own basenote in TOD.

andy, it's repetitive because the system cannot bring itself to discuss reality. It's not just here, it's everywhere. Obama's idea of fixing our economic system was and is reinflating the financial system, stock, bond trading, getting Goldman Sachs back in the heavy duty black. That idea was precisely the same as George Bushes idea, which is no surprise, given the same exact group of people was picked to do this decision making process, ie, Wall Street insiders, those who promote ongoing extraction of social wealth via increasing socialization of risk and expansion of financial entities, that is.

There's actually nothing to discuss in my opinion, it's really just chatter, economic systems aren't determined by discussion, it's far less rational than that. Today we generate cheap money and long term debt to enable the ultra wealthy to get wealthier, and to create the illusion of gdp growth. That's not rational, it's just the same old thing, with new clothes.

Very few people are actually willing to try to see past this trick, which is not much more than the Wizard of Oz running his big puppet behind the scenes.

To me the entire thing of steady state economics etc is all just an empty intellectual exercise, this stuff is about power and who holds it, not who has the best or most attractive theory. And about how wealth is actually generated, and how far people are willing to go politically to change that situation. It has nothing to do with theory as far as I'm concerned, no matter how much is written in blogs etc, that's not what will change things. Then there's the question of just how a system built on ongoing natural reasource extraction handles a plateau of per capita resources available, and increasing pressures internationally to control those. You are seeing that reality now, with Iraq occupied, Libya under attack and an attempt made to change the power base there. Ignore the stories, the excuses, the fictions, it's not about that, that's only stuff that is sold to the markets and media for public consumption, all the key players in for example Iraq admitted long ago, in rare moments of honesty, that it's about the oil. Even Greenspan I think slipped up and admitted that. Economics is just babble and organizing, or trying to organize, the flows of wealth, nothing more.

Rockman is totally right when he notes this is about oil, and that this policy is not different in substance between various parties. Oil, natural resources, etc, form the foundation of our existences, and to think we will not fight to get control over them is to ignore all of history.

Nothing in modern industrial capitalism can handle discussing a system not based on capitalism, period. There is nowhere for such a discussion to begin, this is what arraya meant above I believe when he used the term 'structural', it means, the core structure of our system requires this method to exist, and no other method can be considered. Until it seriously breaks apart, as it appears to be doing now from what I can see. Slowly, very slowly, just under our current ability to see real change. Like all real changes, I assume.

I have to say, I agree with everything you say. Economists are university trained excuse makers and occasional scapegoats that use post hoc reasoning for all 'economic' phenomena. - wrapped in complex math to give them the veneer of scientific legitimacy. It's just another branch of politics and a kind of social engineering - which is also controlled by those with the most capital. It is truly an intellectual mind f#$K

Economists enamored of pure markets begin with the theory, and hang models on assumptions that cannot themselves be challenged. The characteristic grammatical usage is an unusual subjunctive — the verb form ‘must be.’ For example, if wages for manual workers are declining, it must be that their economic value is declining. If a corporate raider walks away from a deal with half a billion dollars, it must be that he added that much value to the economy. If Japan can produce better autos than Detroit, there must be some inherent locational logic, else the market would not dictate that result. If commercial advertising leads consumers to buy shoddy or harmful products, they must be ‘maximizing their utility’ — because we know by assumption that consumers always maximize their utility. How do we know that? Because to do anything else would be irrational. And how do we know that individuals always behave rationally? Because that is the premise from which we begin. The truly interesting institutional questions — the disjunctures between what free-market assumptions would predict and the actual outcomes — are dismissed by the tautological and deductive form of reasoning. The fact that the real world is already far from a perfect market is ignored for the sake of theoretic convenience. The dissenter cannot challenge the theory; he can only describe the real world.”


We are running, essentially, what I call, a state enforced market system model. This is what the US government was set up to be - the propagator, enforcer and referee of a market system(which, ironically, could not exist, in its current form, without ever-present interventions).

The market system, at its core, is a competition for 'scarce' resources. Around this competition, all sorts of magic is supposed to happen and a science was born - where price pressures produce a chain of events that cause all kinds of great things - and the price is all the information we need about the natural world. So what does $100 oil tell us about EROEI or how much is left in reserves? Nothing! It's meaningless! Actually, Milton Friedman was asked about environmental problems and he replied that the price would fix everything. So this is the kind of delusion we are dealing with. Economic thinking is brain damage.

Now, the US was founded with Libertarian economics in mind. Pretty much to protect private property of the wealthy and to force people to act 'economic', which was considered "rational".

Explaining liberalism to people is a thankless and possibly futile task, but it is one that must be attempted for clarity's sake.

Liberalism is a theory of political economy that arose in Great Britain in the 17th and 18th centuries. Its principal inspirations were Thomas Hobbes and John Locke. It emphasizes individualism, human avarice, the "virtue" of competition and the "justice" of the marketplace. It opposed feudalism and mercantilism. It sought to replace the traditional landowners with the rising commercial and manufacturing classes.

It sought to liberate capital, not people (and especially not women, slaves and propertyless males).

Here's what Adam Smith said:

"Whenever there is great property, there is great inequality. For one very rich man, there must be at least five hundred poor, and the affluence of the rich supposes the indigence of the many, who are often driven by want, and prompted by envy, to invade his possessions. ... Civil government, so far as it is instituted for the security of property is in reality instituted for the defence of the rich against the poor, or of those who have some property against those who have none at all."

Utilitarian Jeremy Benthan added this:

"In the highest state of social prosperity, the great mass of citizens will have no resource except their daily industry; and consequently will always be near indigence ... human beings are the most powerful instruments of production, and therefore everyone becomes anxious to employ the services of his fellows in multiplying his own comforts. Hence the intense and universal thirst for power; the equally prevalent hatred of subjugation. ... When security and conflict are in conflict, it will not do to hesitate a moment. Equality must yield."

This means that, in modern societies, the rich are pitted against the poor, gaining their wealth by appropriating the work of others; and it means that government is in "business" to protect the ruling class. This is the social organization model we have been pushing around the world for a century.

[Economics is] just another branch of politics and a kind of social engineering - which is also controlled by those with the most capital.

Correct. Economics is a tool (or weapon) wielded by the manager class, for the benefit of the owners. Nothing more. Or less.

Elegantly summarized, arraya.

I agree, extremely elegantly summarized.

For some reason, the mere mention of "economics" causes people to trot out a lot of straw man arguments about what economists are saying, without really addressing real economic theory.

Wikipedia: The Economic Problem

The economic problem, sometimes called the basic, central or fundamental economic problem, is one of the fundamental economic theories in the operation of any economy. It asserts that there is scarcity, or that the finite resources available are insufficient to satisfy all human wants. The problem then becomes how to determine what is to be produced and how the factors of production (such as capital and labor) are to be allocated. Economics revolves around methods and possibilities of solving the economic problem.

In short, the economic problem is the choice one must make, arising out of limited means and unlimited wants.

That pretty well summarizes the problem that economics has to solve, and the problem that is fundamental problem of the post peak oil era. A lot of the discussion here is merely tap-dancing around the real question of how to deal with the future scarcity of oil. Much of modern economic theory is directly addressed at such problems.

limited means and unlimited wants.

Yes! People just DEMAND so much stuff. What else are you going to do to regulate people insatiable demand for more and more stuff? I mean, there were millions of people at the turn of the century DEMANDING televisions be invented!

Ever since mechanization they had more the the ability to produce more than enough, but scarcity has to be maintained for profitability. While at the same time demand is manufactured. Which is why you have a half trillion dollar a year industry, with some of the most psychologically manipulative methods, based off of marketing research groups studies on peoples emotional responses to stimuli. So much for "rational utility maximizers" At every level you look, it's maintained scarcity and manufactured demand. It's a 100% artificially created environment based on the premise that there will always be enough demand AND resources to keep the whole thing from imploding. Which is why we have the government injecting trillions into the economy and the debt pushers out pushing. Because, capitalism's terminal disease has always been DEMAND. It is, ultimately, a question of demand. The. Future. Is. Broken.

A lot of the discussion here is merely tap-dancing around the real question of how to deal with the future scarcity of oil.

Oil scarcity for what? Scarcity for people buying a car every two years. Scarcity for irrationally shipping plastic crap around the world the winds up in the ocean or a landfill in a few months? Scarcity for the military establishment that uses as much oil greece. What exactly is oil going to be scarce for? Well, economics should fix that problem right? I mean there are only limited means and unlimited wants. Of course, the market system, in all it's wisdom, will surely fix that problem. I don't even know why you bring it up. As long as the pesky government does not meddle, all should be well

Peak oil is the cure, not a problem.

A lot of the discussion here is merely tap-dancing around the real question of how to deal with the future scarcity of oil. Much of modern economic theory is directly addressed at such problems.

This is why you don't understand economics. Economics' primary failing is in pretending it can tap dance around the economic problem.

The science of economics reveals what the solution will be.

People don't like the answer, so they don't listen to honest economists, so the dishonest ones are the ones getting the most air time and money.

The tap dancing is being done by people who know the right answer, and know that they can't sell it (or who have convinced themselves that "it's different this time").

You mistake strategic political maneuvering for honesty. Solipsistic sophists is all they are. There is a inherent lie that goes along with economics because confidence and perception are so instrumental in economic health. It is a faith based system, once people stop "believing" they change there behavior and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Which makes times like now very interesting when economic doom is an easy prediction. Those in power push the lie and those out, that want to be in, appear more honest.

Did that actually mean something?

An honest economist knows that economics is about measuring reality, even if reality is unpleasant. They are the folks that forecast an 80% drop in housing prices from the peak based on previous overshoots from expected valuations. They are the people that say that growth can't go on forever because there are pesky limits. They are the ones willing to admit that poor people starve in the streets of the richest countries in the world just because they are poor.

Telling people that reality is going to bite them is a sure path to unpopularity (or worse).

So it is the dishonest economists that say that everything will be all right, all we need to do is keep growing.

The existence of dishonest economists does not mean that economics is worthless, any more than the existence of dishonest doctors means that medical science is bunkum.

Your first sentence describes an impossibility, unless under "economics" you consider the honest andnon-deluded, e.g. Steve Keen, in which case I would say you are mostly right. Until you find an economist who also understands the full depth and breadth of "sustainability," even someone like Steve will fail to find much of an answer except by sheer luck. The dismal science is called dismal because of the absurd assumptions upon which it is built - not withstanding the quote further up thread.

The science of economics reveals what the solution will be.

The science of economics?!! Huh? Since when does economics even remotely qualify as a science?

sci·en·tif·ic the·o·ry
A theory that explains scientific observations; "scientific theories must be falsifiable".

A scientific theory comprises a collection of concepts, including abstractions of observable phenomena expressed as quantifiable properties, together with rules (called scientific laws) that express relationships between observations of such concepts. A scientific theory is constructed to conform to available empirical data about such observations, and is put forth as a principle or body of principles for explaining a class of phenomena.[1]

A scientific theory is a type of inductive theory, in that its content (i.e. empirical data) could be expressed within some formal system of logic whose elementary rules (i.e. scientific laws) are taken as axioms. In a deductive theory, any sentence which is a logical consequence of one or more of the axioms is also a sentence of that theory.[2]

In the humanities, one finds theories whose subject matter does not (only) concern empirical data, but rather ideas. Such theories are in the realm of philosophical theories as contrasted with scientific theories. A philosophical theory is not necessarily scientifically testable through experiment.
Source Wikipedia

Economic Theories are non falsifiable therefore are not scientific. QED!

Microeconomics is a science, it deals with things that can be measured and delivers predictable results, though the level of precision is not what most would like.

Macroeconomics appears to be what happens when people don't like the answers that microeconomics comes up with. It would appear to be macroeconomics that you consider "economics", and there you are mostly correct. Certainly there are macroeconomic schools that are downright hostile to any thought that their theories could be proven or disproven by gross observation. They are wrong, both in their theories and in their rejection of the possibility of a reality check, but they are not the sum total of economics (I am specifically referring to the Austrian School here from personal study, but I have been told that this rejection of scientific method is more widespread than that).

Choose your poison, but saying that economics (with a broad brush) is not a science is false.

In evidence I present the following economic theory (poorly phrased, but I hope you will get the idea):
If a traded good is produced in a decreasing volume with increasing desire for that good, the price of that good will increase. Ultimate demand for that good will be determined by price and availability.

It's a science like playing a board game is a science. It's a set of rules all of which are human constructs. All these rules are changeable and manipulated to varying degrees.

Science is a process of formulating models that predict outcomes in a natural system under certain conditions, and then testing them to see if the future predictions agree. However, the goal is to find how the model is inadequately representing the natural system. When the model is refuted, it is adjusted to form a new model from what is learned about the system. Since there is an underlying system that is being approximated by the models, there is an "objective reality" (exists independently of human conceptualization) to be described by conceptual models. The models evolve representations of the relationships and features that are defined by the system. Models are useful to humans. Models are respected when they better reflect the nature of the system.

Economics is an artifact of human imagination and all human conceptualization, and the agreement among certain humans who "play the games" together -- thereby it is a social technology. There is no underlying physical reality other than what is identified by the players to be components. Nevertheless, the economic properties are determined by and limited only by the beliefs of the "players." To build economic models one must assume certain features, and the models become part of the generators of the results. Since they are not inherently tied to the physical and biological realities(no physical referent), they may fail arbitrarily as the physical and biological world view of humans change -- or as people believe the physical and biological world exists. Economics in large part reflects human belief systems. Modern economics does not exist if we collectively don't believe it. You can't say the same about thermodynamics.

You are making the same argument that I objected to when I heard it from the Austrian School economists: if people are involved we can make no scientific observation or prediction.

It is the same anti-scientific assumption that breaks their ability to construct a valid theory.

Human interactions are part of the real world, they are constrained by many rules that have nothing to do with imagination, and the interactions can be studied in a scientific manner.

Human perversity in not wanting to be understood makes the study more difficult and definitely reduces the resolution of the measurements you can make, but to say that it is impossible is to reject reality.

No, that's not my argument. The argument is that all the "rules" are man made, changeable and all manipulated. Austrians would argue that an all encompassing market system can exist separate from ever-present state interventions - which is delusional. Without constant state interventions and state force it wold collapse into irrelevancy. Modern economics is game theory, with a set of underlying assumptions that have little to do with anything resembling genetics, neurology, evolution, or natural systems. It's social engineering passed off as the natural state of being, based off of an 18th century understanding of the world, that effectively tells people how to think and act. And this anglo-saxon social engineering program is coming to an end. Given the surety of it's impending death, the only question is will it die a painful death over decades or will it go down fast and furious. Either way, it's over

I'd say it is a human perversity generator.

I think part of the problem is that people like to clearly categorize, and "science" applies to a spectrum of topics. There are hard, theoretically rigorous disciplines like mathematics (including logic and statistics). Then there are physical sciences like physics and chemistry. And there are soft sciences like psychology and economics.

Certainly there is no reason not to apply the scientific method to anything which can be observed and tested. In my field, engineering, we do this all the time to push the boundaries of the design world, but most engineers just assess the situation at hand, make some assumptions, apply well-understood tools, get the work done, and move on. Really, the math and science is simply a means to an end -- get something built. Just because a bridge fails or a circuit oscillates doesn't mean the science was poorly understood (though at times it may be), only that some assumption was invalid or operation was poorly applied in the specific case. Really, engineering is a "soft" application of harder disciplines just like economics is.

The difference is that engineering doesn't pretend to be in control of the underlying science, or to divine deep answers to complex social issues. Every engineer knows that the math he applies is a simplification of much more complex underlying reality, and yet he goes with it because a more accurate analysis is analytically intractable, or more often that a deeper (expensive) effort cannot be justified for the job at hand (and hopefully he's mindful of the bounds of applicability of the simplistic approach!). Engineering is pretty pragmatic, really. It doesn't generally preclude trial-and-error maturation -- it just makes the process less expensive.

Economics should be the same way -- a pragmatic set of tools to manage logistics and make decisions. Those who plot the economic courses of nations should not have unreasonable expectations of the accuracy of future results any more than those who build rockets or reactors -- you have a low-order approximation to a high-order situation. Learn from mistakes and move on.

I wonder if one reason that economics gets a bad name is that those who apply the theory do not make the same value determinations that those affected might? I tend to think the world we have is pretty well explained by economics if you discount the value of human life a lot, natural life a lot more, and the future further still. What results is not really the fault of economics in such a case. Perhaps it's not that economics is fundamentally flawed, but instead that it's doing an overly good job of the problems upon which it is applied, for the benefit of those applying it?

Economic Theories are non falsifiable therefore are not scientific. QED!

Not really. Marxist economic theories were effectively falsified by the collapse of the Soviet Union.

It is possible to conduct a controlled experiment in economics. Take a country, divide it in half, give one half one economic system and use the other half as a control. Experimental cases - East/West Germany, North/South Korea. In both cases the results were unequivocal - Karl Marx's theories discredited, Adam Smith's theories vindicated, capitalism triumphs and communism fails.

Of course the surviving Marxists will never accept the results, but as in any science you have to wait for the old guard to die off and a new generation of scientists to grow up accepting the realities of the experimental evidence.

I had doubts about the theories of the Chicago school, but they had an opportunity to conduct a test of their theories on Chile, and the results were positive, so I guess I have to accept the validity of their theories. Other countries have had equally positive results implementing modern theories, so I think economics is now to the point where a country wanting a good economic policy could just call up a major university and ask the economics department to prepare one for them. It could considered a new field - economic engineering.

Note that I don't think like the usual run of touchy-feely ramblers-on about economic thought. I think like a cold-blooded show-me-the-facts scientist or engineer.

Marxist economic theories were effectively falsified by the collapse of the Soviet Union.

This from the contributor who blithely told us that he had not read Marx (long before the collapse of the Soviet Union), because Marx was "obviously wrong."

How would you know, not having studied the theory, to what extent the operation of governance in the USSR was faithful to it?

Tell me, RMG, would the collapse of, say, Greece, effectively falsify capitalist theory?

I would say both fail due to the frailty of human nature. Marx fails because people do not wish to be equal, nor do they desire to work hard and consume minimally. Capitalism fails when it is easier for politicians to borrow money than to say "no" to voters or to tax them, and to sell community assets for personal gain. Both fail spectacularly due to economic and ecological time constants that are long compared to career spans -- IWBH, YWBH - "I won't be here; you won't be here".

Commerce succeeds where it aligns with human nature, and Rand was right about that part -- rational self-interest. But she fails from the simplest of tests -- the tragedy of the commons.

A share/credit market addresses the commons issue, but only if the revenue for the sale accrues to all. But you'd still be ignoring the interests of those in the future, and decisions would only be as good as the understanding of the majority -- subject to fads and such. I think this is as good as you can get, but it's unattainable.

The only rational perspective for an effectively infinite future is to require everything to be 100% sustainable, and to apply the precautionary principle throughout. This would mean that the population of the world should be small in relationship to our ability to permanently damage it. This seems totally unattainable.

In this sort of long-term timeframe, arguing about Marxism versus Capitalism is moot, as both systems have clearly shown disdain for the environment and other shared assets - though it seems that Capitalism has an unparalleled ability to consume available resources and generate population growth. Perhaps that is the goal of economics ("to optimally distribute resources"?), but if so, it's a Pyrrhic victory indeed.

OK, RMG, we agree about much of the larger picture. I just can't resist tweaking you because you keep posting unfounded, conventional-wisdom, American-cultural-trance comments about Marxism and socialism.

The only rational perspective for an effectively infinite future is to require everything to be 100% sustainable, and to apply the precautionary principle throughout. This would mean that the population of the world should be small in relationship to our ability to permanently damage it. This seems totally unattainable.

Correct on all points, except that I would substitute "unlikely in the extreme to be attained" for "unattainable." On the day I decide it is truly unattainable (well, that happens all the time, but then the optimism bias kicks in), I'll stop frustrating myself with these discussions and my various "good works" and retire in self-indulgence.

Of course, undisciplined as I am, I can't resist pointing out that the political-economic foundation for our nearly-unattainable world would have to be some version of eco-socialism.

Finally, to the extent Greece retains some socialist (or social-democrat) characteristics, the depredations of the money-lenders at at the EU, World Bank, etc. are dismantling them as we speak (as a condition of present and future bailouts). It's called "structural adjustment" and it means "f**k poor and working people."

First, you may have mistaken me for RMG, but I'm pretty sure we look nothing alike. :)

Second, I'm pretty sure what I want won't much matter, and I cannot yet retire, so I'll keep kicking things around and see what I can learn.

Third, I'd say we learned earlier this week exactly who the IMF serves. Itself, and opulently at that. How many poor people does it take to keep one powerful rapist in an expensive hotel?

Ooops. Sorry. We old guys are easily-confused.

I think what we, collectively, want does make a difference. It's just that so many of our "wants" are driven by self-serving manipulation by the greediest and most ruthless creeps on the planet.

I'm rather enjoying the DSK soap-opera blast (although not, of course, the suffering of his victim[s]). The shock waves are rattling lots of cages.

Why Next IMF Chief Must Come from Developing World

I kinda-sorta expect that the crowds in the streets of Greece will grow even less enchanted with punishing austerity measures and fire-sale at gunpoint of national assets.

I hope so.

Correct on all points, except that I would substitute "unlikely in the extreme to be attained" for "unattainable." On the day I decide it is truly unattainable (well, that happens all the time, but then the optimism bias kicks in), I'll stop frustrating myself with these discussions and my various "good works" and retire in self-indulgence.

Of course, undisciplined as I am, I can't resist pointing out that the political-economic foundation for our nearly-unattainable world would have to be some version of eco-socialism.

Actually, I would say it is inevitable as long as we don't blow ourselves away to complete extinction. It's just a matter of time and how much damage we do to ourselves and the planet.

We don't disagree. We'll get there, one way or another.

My skepticism regarding attainability really just means that I nurture the probably forlorn hope that we might get there while maintaining some semblance of civilization.

I know that post-apocalyptic bands of gatherer-hunters wouldn't realize they were missing anything by not having Bach's works available...

he.. Well, I used to think that way. Though, recently, I've changed. I don't think we'll have a long drawn out economic collapse(information moves to fast) and I don't equate "economic" collapse with "civilization" or "population" collapse. Though, the economic system collapsing could precipitate either one via a bunch of bad behavior, though, it does not necessarily have to. At this stage in the game, the "overshoot" meme in the peak oil community is way way overblown,IMO. Not so say consumption is not in overshoot, that's pretty much a given - and the behavioral trajectory for that consumption is a monumental problem. Along with a host of other problems brought about by our consumption overshoot. But, I highly doubt, we go down the back side of Hubbert's curve and maintain this model for too long. In fact, I'd say in less than a decade, it will crumble due to it's inherent flaws and we will have to change how we organize ourselves - or rip ourselves apart. Heck, I could see the world being enveloped in protest by 2015.

I agree to a large extent with this. The thing that makes me wonder though is the point when people become so disgruntled that they protest for large scale change. It's at this stage that our ability to predict what happens falls down - perhaps people will elect another Hitler or Mao. Perhaps the initial protests for democracy and a fairer future will be hijacked by charismatic religious leaders a la the Iranian Revolution.

No doubt, the situation will be ripe for demagogy and mass violence. It is truly a fragile situation that could evolve or devolve as the case may be, in many different ways. Optimism, is however, where you place your bets emotional or otherwise. Personally, I can see the collective "urge" for some very unnecessary bad behavior and people that insist that "billions have to die!" stoke those flames.

Yes the 'earth would be better if we lose half the population' stance is a very bad starting platform on which to attempt to tackle the situation in a humane way!

Considering, the fact, that if we reduced population by half, keeping all consumption habits the same, it would be a negligible effect on resource and environmental strains. 90% of the consumption is concentrated in the top 25-30%. The bottom half are very light on the earth. My vote is for reducing waste and inefficiency instead of playing survivor earth. But that is just me. Really to make an impact you would have to cut above 70% of the population. With the way things are configured, structurally, we could have a systemic "kill-off" that has little to do with not "having enough". I don't see that playing out too long, though. Because it would cause a chain of revolutions world wide - which have already started in the ME.

Assuming an entropic distribution, any shock die-off of a population fraction will quickly revert to 80/20 or 95/5 kinds of distributions, with continuing asymmetry. Adding efficiency will drop the equation down, but then the distribution will probably spread out to fill the void.

I am not at all hopeful that any solution will prevent humanity from rapidly expanding to the carrying capacity of the earth. I'm pretty sure most organisms, including humans, have successfully done this throughout the ages.

So, the the real question will continue to be what the carrying capacity of the nicely decimated ecosystems will be, and how quickly it goes down.

I am quite sure the end result will be a much lower number, and that the world those live in will not be a vibrant or beautiful as it is today. The best you can hope for is that a Liebig's Minimum will quickly assert itself while leaving much of the world intact. Given our propensity to convert resources and substitute, I rather doubt this will help the situation.

If we choose as our goal to maximize time value of happiness (conversely, to minimize misery), assuming some modest discount rate, a fairly large number of happy people now will swamp a larger number of miserable people later. I assume this is indeed our near-term goal.

If the discount rate were small, then a small number of happy people longer would be as good a large number of happy people now, and would be offset by miserable hordes later. This would be more the "7th generation" thinking, which apparently is not the goal.

It sure seems like a pragmatic goal would be to have a relatively small number of people who are happy with relatively little, living well below the carrying capacity of Earth, for a very long time. Since those with the most don't seem to be all that happy, this would seem to be a solid plan. Yet it is not, and may never be.

Genetic drive seems to push for a monopoly on resource consumption. Happiness does not seem to be a goal much at all -- hungry, brutish, and short seems to be more the norm. Our current mistaken ambition for happy multitudes is just a misleading happenstance toward this eternal eventuality. Or so it seems to me.

Assuming an entropic distribution, any shock die-off of a population fraction will quickly revert to 80/20 or 95/5 kinds of distributions, with continuing asymmetry.

This is a systemic and distribution choice - not a law of physics. The amazing thing about humans is our ability to control our environment. It would be a choice.

I am not at all hopeful that any solution will prevent humanity from rapidly expanding to the carrying capacity of the earth.

Again our amazing ability to calculate and measure is astounding. The understanding of our physical systems garnered over the past 400 years is amazing as well. It's what spawned the oildrum. Surely, this knowledge is useful in our decision making systems.

Genetic drive seems to push for a monopoly on resource consumption. Happiness does not seem to be a goal much at all -- hungry, brutish, and short seems to be more the norm.

Quite the interesting thing being the self-aware species of the planet. It's as big a blessing as it is dangerous. No, our overall social operation is towards pathologies and discord that we rationalize under either "freedom" or genetic determinism. It's that "invisible hand" that removes our free will to do otherwise. I'm not too convinced with either argument. Do you seek "monopoly of resources"?

Survival comes in many packages. It would seem that "social" survival may require some adaptations using what we know about personal, social and planetary health integrated into or decisions.

It is really about filling in the state space. Not everyone can make the same amount of money, not even close as it relies on too much of an orchestrated effort, and that's why you get things like the 80/20 rule as Paleocon mentioned.

Right, and the rules of money and market systems are what causes that pyramid effect and also a choice in social technology for distribution. It's systemic.

I don't think the root cause is artificially systemic as opposed to naturally systemic. This also happens in nature, as there is the equivalent of an 80/20 rule for relative species abundance. In natural systems, it is often referred to as occupying a niche and the evolutionary rate of change toward this distribution can be derived by entropic dispersion. I wrote a key post on TOD describing this.

Well, to an extent, we create our "natural" environment - with our social technologies i.e. money, laws, etc. and with houses, air conditioning, so forth and so on. I think being self-aware poses a challenge for us to want to try and be "natural" and we kind of find what we want in nature to justify or rationalize a lot of things. We find what we look for. What we have is an institution of our own creation - we make the rules. Our human constructed rules and social technologies(economics, money, corporate structure, constitutional republic) are out dated and will only serve as a kind of systemic tyranny, for an increasing amount of people as time moves on - and really an emotional wrecking ball for society itself.

To put simply, It's pretty apparent to me, that our method of resources distribution(more so than amount available) and working for a wage for survival needs are going to cause serious social stresses. I mean, these things are just not going to work out.

Likely not your fault, but I don't even think you are aware of what the 80/20 rule is. I am talking statistics and you are talking something else.

I think even with an orchestrated effort it would be that way. Surely power in the political sense would aggregate similarly under such an orchestrated effort? I'm not sure "money" even matters in a capitalistic sense, as the soviet union seemed to still have a power spread like that despite equality for all.

Where there may be opportunity is to tune the slope and endpoints of the curve. Flatter and narrower would reduce overall inequality, but you'd end up with relative more wealthy people versus poor people....only they'd be less wealthy that the rarer uber-rich of a steep, wide curve.

I think the US is going back the other way, as it probably once was during early days of robber barons and railroads. We have a few wealthier on the top, a thinning upper and middle class, and an expanding lower class with illegal immigrants feeding in as well.

I agree that it would always be there to some extent.

Commerce succeeds where it aligns with human nature, and Rand was right about that part -- rational self-interest. But she fails from the simplest of tests -- the tragedy of the commons.

When too much "rational self-interest" leads to social and economic collapse, I think the "rational" should be questioned.

"Rational" has a special meaning in economics; it is very close to the word "consistent." (Indeed, transitivity of choices is a key element of economic rationality.)

Economists assume that businesses try to maximize profits. They also assume that everybody tries to maximize their own utility. Without these two assumptions, all of twentieth century economic theory collapses. Hence economists cling to these fundamental premises, despite empirical evidence to the contrary.

Corporations that do this are of course sociopathic in nature, as their goal cannot possibly align perfectly with any other goal of society. This alone would decide the case for firm regulation with stiff penalties, but that's another topic.

I would say that maximizing personal utility is A goal, but not always THE goal. All things else being equal, I think self-interest is a good bet. But I tend to see it as a broader function, weighted toward the local. Some focus heavily on self; others on family; still others on community. Most do not go far beyond tribe. I am pretty sure some have a more global view, and they are probably continually disgusted by the selfishness they see. A good politician gives the illusion of having a broader boundary while generally having a very narrow one, or so it seems to me.

Without these..., all of twentieth century economic theory collapses

I think the collapse is already in the rear view mirror

Economists assume that businesses try to maximize profits. They also assume that everybody tries to maximize their own utility. Without these two assumptions, all of twentieth century economic theory collapses.

Ignorance or strawman? Please read up on the subject.

Wikipedia not the best source.

How would you know, not having studied the theory, to what extent the operation of governance in the USSR was faithful to them?

I don't know much about Phlogiston theory or Luminiferous aether theory either. I don't generally study obsolete theories, I just need to know they are obsolete.

Tell me, RMG, would the collapse of, say, Greece, effectively falsify capitalist theory?

Not as long as China continues to be highly successful country which is far more capitalistic than Greece. Greece has a Socialist government at this point in time, if I'm not mistaken.

Not as long as China continues to be highly successful country which is far more capitalistic than Greece. Greece has a Socialist government at this point in time, if I'm not mistaken.

Delicious, the irony then, that this most capitalistic country of China, just happens to be ruled by the Chinese Communist Party, wouldn't you say? ROFL!

For the record, I personally don't think there is a snowball's chance in hell of either a capitalist or a communist model serving as a basis for a stable steady state economy.

I don't know when it will happen exactly but I'll wager a considerable sum that in the not too distant future, economic and ecological collapse due to uncontrolled population growth crashing head on into resource depletion will bring down the mighty Red Dragon.

A lot of the discussion here is merely tap-dancing around the real question of how to deal with the future scarcity of oil. Much of modern economic theory is directly addressed at such problems.

Quick! Tell Geithner and Bernanke.

Right, try to find a mention of peak oil in any economic academic journal. What a joke. Peak oil kills modern economic theory. Economists run from it like a vampire does light. The only ones that have semi embraced it are some of fringe austrian types and they have there own agenda. They are kind of like laissez fair, radical, bootstrapper, scorched earth, capitalists meets malthus. Where all the unemployed are over population.

Peak oil is primarily driven by geological constraints, and economists aren't geologists. However, they do model resource depletion in general, and if you feed those geological constraints on production into their economic models, you can get predictions of what that will do to economic systems.

I think the main shortcomings of current economic models is that they don't accurately model the price transitions in oil. I think economists should introduce some chaos theory into their models to make them match reality more accurately, but that would would be pretty radical for most economists, whose mathematical skills are hard-pressed to get past simple calculus. They tend to use smooth curves, and that's not what we are seeing in oil prices.

The mistake people make is assuming economics don't apply to something like peak oil, and that people will be unable to cope with it, or alternatively will find some magical way around it. People will cope with it, they just won't like the process and will tend to blame it on conspiracies, like they are doing now. However, there are alternatives to oil, and people will be forced into using them, or doing without. The chaotic nature of the transition is making it difficult for them, though.

You are quite mistaken about the mathematical competence of economists. I know a lot of physicists (at least six dozen) and a lot of economists (say two hundred, to pick a round number). The economists are at least as good at mathematics and statistics as are the physicists.

The physicists, however, on average, are smarter than the economists. The reason for this difference is that only the smartest people get Ph.D.s in physics.

For a good reference source for the kind of math that economists use, see the classic by R.G.D. Allen, MATHEMATICAL ECONOMICS.

Yes, you don't particularly need too much knowledge of high level maths to be a physicist. They tend to leave that to the mathematicians (funnily enough).

I remember from my uni there were a few of us (around 10) doing both the maths and physics courses together so we got to mingle with the 300 odd physicists and the 300 odd pure mathematicians (not economists). It's amazing how much of a difference there was between them. I'd say on balance the mathematicians were ahead in terms of pure IQ but they were very insular and often somewhat lacking in social skills - at least with the physicists you could have a laugh and enjoy a beer!

Ha, I remember thinking that to myself long before XKCD published it.

I also remember thinking it would have been better if he just had the mathematician sitting there reading through a book, oblivious of the others!

And he forgot to put economists to the left of sociologists..

The economists are at least as good at mathematics and statistics as are the physicists.

You have to realize that at that point in time I was in the Honours Chemistry program, and hanging out a bunch of people in the Honours Mathematics program, so what the economists were doing looked like grade-school arithmetic by comparison.

I remember, one time I found out that one of the girls in one of my Economics classes was only 16 years old. I went and breathlessly announced this fact to the crowd I usually hung out with, and discovered that, of the people I was talking to, two of the Honours Math girls were 16 and one of the Honours Chemistry guys was 15. The two girls went on to get their Ph.D's, and the guy became a neurosurgeon.

Mathematics (i.e statistics) is oft used to fool people into believing that all the "number" crunching must lead to a truth because, after all, the numbers never lie.

In the case of "econo-comics", the number crunching is used to divert people's attention away from the creation of invisible friends like "Mr. Invisible Hand", "Mrs. Market", "Sir Demand" and his royal Highness: "Master Infinite Supply".

Once all the fancy number crunching starts, no one seems to have time to say, Hold on there Pinocchio, tell me again that story about the Intelligent Design work carried out by "Mr. Invisible Hand", I'm not sure I fully "buy" into that part of the story.

Now you're slamming mathematics as well as economics? Is it possibly true that you think anything that is hard to understand must be a nefarious plot to confuse people? These are just tools to enable us to understand the universe better. How people use the tools is up to the users.

The Ptolemaic system had mathematic legitimacy as well. Which ended up being completely meaningless. Turns out the sun did not revolve around the earth. And as in economics, all that's needed is observation to disprove it's false assumptions

Hi RMG :-)

You're slamming the wrong guy.
I'm pretty mathematically literate although not to the level that WHT does it.
Why even passed my AB calculus courses in high school and skipped a repeat of that low level stuff when I got to college.

What I'm complaining about here are the mind bending tactics of econo-linguistics.
It's not the math per se, but rather how math is used as a subterfuge for allowing people to "suspend disbelief" as they start talking about their invisible friends (e.g. The Hand) and how the "fundamental" health attributes of those invisible friends are "sound".

Sorry, what I was referring to was not a wikipedia summary, I really was hoping you'd do better than this in a response, and that you would actually cite some real research you've done, on your own, by yourself, rather than some regurgitated stuff popped up on the lazy man's source, wikipedia. You'd never accept a response like this re your area of expertise, nor should you. So I won't do that either, I'll just consider that you have an opinion, that you have not spent much time doing any critical thinking about, like most people out there. I was talking about real stuff, not some flaky wikipedia entry, sorry. Were you to cite such real stuff, it would be an interesting addition, but clearly you aren't doing that. But as I noted, it's fine if you haven't read the real stuff, I have no problem with that, and it's also fine to just restate some generic views from a generic online summary, and it's fine because I don't read your stuff because of this type of comment, but because when you return to the areas you are actually good at, you are quite decent as a poster, even in some areas outside that you're quite coherent, which is also nice to see. You have to actually do the work before you toss around terms like 'strawman argument' otherwise it looks like you're just tossing a few terms around for want of having done the actual work.

Economics doesn't do anything of the kind, that's just some definition out of some text book or other, it has almost nothing to do with what the profession does. I cou9ld easily see the profession tossing this definition around to avoid facing the fact that it does no such thing, that's for certain. And so publishing it in a econ text book, which then gets repeated on wikipedia. Economics basically works on two levels from what I can see, one micro, one macro. The macro one is totally worthless, and doesn't do anything at all beyond justify one bias or set of interests or the other. The micro one can help a business do some calculations on rates of return, and other such concrete things, that's the only area it has any real application.

If you were this loose and sloppy in your real work every hole you'd ever drilled would have blown up in your face and you would have been blacklisted from the business, and I'm very glad you weren't, and instead chose to carefully study, learn, and master your engineering skills, honing them, learning, developing mastery, etc, until you could post here as an expert, which is welcome. Why is it this requirement is totally dropped now? Oh, wait, I know what it is, never mind, that can't be questioned or brought up so I won't do it here either.

I quoted Wikipedia because it gives a good working summary of current thinking on the topic and is written by people who are working in the subject area. If it was within my own areas of expertise (e.g. non-conventional oil), I might have written some of it myself. (And then someone would have reverted it because they thought it was "original research", never having seen anything like it before.)

I read Adam Smith, Keynes, and Friedman back in university, 40 years ago. I took the equivalent of a minor in economics, but due to a bad case of educational overrun I already had a minor in mathematics and so was taking economics for my own personal amusement. I could read them again, but there's no point because they have been superseded by more recent work.

The textbook was, of course, Samuelson because he covered the whole field. There was no point in reading Marx because he was obviously wrong. But these people are all dead now, and as Keynes said, "Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist." In fact, what I see here on OilDrum is people quoting economists who were rendered obsolete by Keynes, Friedman, et al, and who think they are saying something that is contrary to economics but is actually some obsolete economic theory that was shot down generations ago.

My interest in economics is actually from a practical standpoint, working as a business analyst designing software for the oil industry. We created software to do economic evaluations of oil development for oil companies. You could probably buy software just like it today (some of our code kind of got away on us, software piracy being what it is) if you had enough money, which you don't since you are not a large oil company. This software could predict very accurately how much oil any given project would produce and how much money the company would make doing it. It modeled the constraints on oil production very well. It also modeled the results of tax law changes very well, and every time the government changed the tax laws, we would rerun the economics of all our oil projects overnight, and the next morning at 8:00 am our project managers would start calling up suppliers canceling drilling rigs and purchases.

Unlike governments, who think taxpayers have infinite amounts of money, oil companies are always, always, always working with constrained resources, so the results of these economic evaluations was often quite depressing. After a few runs, you begin to see why economics is called the "Dismal Science". The light at the end of the tunnel is really the outplacement consultant coming with your severance package and telling you what opportunities await you as an independent consultant. If you have enough economics background you will get quite excited about the opportunities.

ah, good, you're talking about micro-economics, that's a relief. I have no argument with micro-economics, nor do I care about it, since it says nothing about central issues and has nothing of substance to do with political decision making in general on larger levels. If I ran a large scale business I'd use those services too, naturally. As long as the underlying system is not undergoing a period of fundamental change, current micro-economics seems to work fine, until it doesn't due to catastrophic macro level failures. Soros notes that fact as well, although the actual illusion of steady states within large changes is an interesting feature, but I think that drifts back into macro level stuff. Macro economics is what others here and myself are talking about. And on a somewhat meta level. However, you were making a mistake in confusing the two, which leads to confusion. I was wondering, because you're clearly a good engineer, but now it makes sense, you've approached the matter as an engineer, which is correct in my opinion, that's how it has to be approached given the problem you set out to solve, so I can see where you derived the value from. I have no argument at all with that view. I can't approach any macro or meta type problem with programming, nor can anyone else, it's fundamentally non-compatible.

I'd hesitate to call Marx 'clearly wrong' when he was clearly right in many areas, for example, he clearly called for a failure of the current capital model, his current, in about 50 years time, based on tendencies that were clearly obvious at the time he wrote, and which he correctly grasped and noted, unlike anyone else I am aware of. Those tendencies manifested, and resulted in the great depression. Which resulted in a somewhat familiar sense of 'who could have predicted this event', like we heard in 2008. Bad models of course lead to failure to predict, good ones lead to success, and only good macro models lead to such ability, that's why I only read people who were largely right. Those people are few and far between, and none are really part of the system per se, because the system never wants to hear that the macro version they follow has fundamental flaws. I'm not talking about Marxes other bad ideas, which were really just devices, poorly thought out and badly designed, like his crude remodeling of Hegel's dialectic, I'm talking more about his actual study of capital, which was pretty decent. As have others been who followed him, in fact, one guy I briefly studied under actually was hired by the Japanese government decades ago to work on larger macro level economic issues.

To be clear here, I think most people in this discussion see clearly that the upper level macro policies show a total inability to grasp reality, from Greenspan's free money inflating bubble after bubble, to Europe allowing banks to lend money to failing states like Greece then bailing them out, to entire economies pretending that finance can create or produce wealth, then being surprised to learn it can't as the system totally fails, although at every step of the way, both micro and macro economists would proclaim with enthusiasm the birth of new models, showing their total lack of intelligence or intellectual honesty, or both, these are the macro level things that show with crystal clarity that there is no there there in macro economics as practiced by the systems intellectual prostitutes. This is totally unrelated to what your work involved, except for having to deal with the fundamental shifts. So there's just a communication problem I think, for myself, I don't care at all about low level economics, that's just engineering, it doesn't set policy.

The textbook was, of course, Samuelson because he covered the whole field.

Yes, in a famous mash-up of flights of fancy.

There was no point in reading Marx because he was obviously wrong.

That rather compels one to ask, "How did you know?" or "Who told you?"

Marx was wrong, but for the same reason the classical economists were—he failed to recognize the planet's essential contribution to value. Nevertheless, his analysis of capitalism, at least, is essential to understanding that particular branch of economic religion.

I took the equivalent of a minor in economics...

Not if you didn't read Marx.

Most of my economics professors back in university were Keynsians, none of them were Marxists. They had little or no interest in Marx's theories, and only mentioned them to point out what was wrong with them. It was a very business-focused institution and its main strength was in its business school.

How exactly would you build an economy upon wisdom?

Er, we are not smart enough to know how to implement one? ;)

This nonsense about the money supply having to be increased to allow for interest to be paid is getting past old.

Prove it.

Show a 100% settling of accounts how it is not true.

Growth is in no way necessary to maintain economic health. But it sure benefits the types who buy land cheap on the edge of town and get a huge profit for sitting on their ass when the town expands. For this sort of 'investment', growth is, as you point out, necessary but I consider the parasitical side of the economy to be part of its disease rather than its health.

And when Goldman Sachs takes a 250 million dollar sewer project and makes it a 5 billion Dollar project that is, what?

If Goldman Sachs, or anyone else, made a $250mn sewer projects into a $5bn project, assuming it was still a sewer project and of similar scale, it would be corruption, theft, government incompetence and a bunch of other things.

But I don't see how that is relevant to any argument that you or others are making in this thread.

Sure, sure. I think anyone who has spent any time on this site, or generally thinking about this issue, realizes this. But I'm not sure that's arraya had in mind - but I could be wrong.

If all we are talking about is the "structure" of late modern global capitalism, then are we really talking about anything other than our "frame of mind" with respect to how economics "has to" work? Unless we are tied to some Engelsian notion of the physical necessity of the progression of economic development, it's easy enough to see how the particular economic system we have is the result of human choices made over time. If these are the only "structures" we are referring to, then changing minds is the only thing that will change structures.

(An aside - the reason I am confident that we face "collapse" rather than "transition" is because I believe the "structural" (in the sense I have just discussed) implacability of the growth ethic is the key problem we face - in essence, it generates the other problems like peak oil and climate change).

Growth is a structural necessity to our socioeconomic systems. To put very simply; If we are not growing, in the economic sense(increasingly turning things into money), our social systems start falling apart - growing unemployment, collapsing "markets", funding of social safety nets and programs dries up, ect. Economists, politicians and "markets" don't go into panic mode for no reason with zero or negative growth. A corporation can't announce that is no longer going to grow, because investors would pull their money out and it would go bankrupt.

Somewhere along the line, the process of turning things into money got further and further away from increasing social well being and started to create and inverse relationship - specifically in mature economies Personally, I think it was in the 70s, which is the time that the capitalist reinvestment process(reinvesting capital to profitable ventures that serve a social need started getting harder - which started the shift to financial engineering and things like the "security" industry).

Now, In developing economies there is still a closer relationship between "growth" and increased social well being. But in developed economies, it is creating social discord and a host of pathologies. Not to mention the untenable stresses on our physical systems and subsequent environmental degradation. The whole thing seems to be driven by junky mentality. And sometime in the future we(collectively)will take a psychological shift that economic "growth" it is no longer physically possible(this realization process has started taking hold on a global scale and the peak oil community is the epicenter of this) - which is huge in terms of social operation.

Now, there is also massive discontinuity between the material needs of our economic model(which is tied to the growth necessity) and human need, and this is what really needs to be rectified. Though, once you intellectually go down that road, you kill our model and all it's assumptions.

This article remains one of my TOD favorites. It explains in a simple way why capitalism requires growth, and also explores other systems. Mike Hearn, the author, is now involved with BitCoin.

It is also one of my alltime favorite TOD articles, and the comments were very good too. Well worth reposting this article; not one thing has gone out of date, and it is even more relevant to the daily news than it was five years ago.

Hey, good stuff, glad to have the link now. And I particularly enjoyed the part of the comments string in which it was interpreted via reference to Heinlein characters & themes. Not enough of that done these days.

Thanks, Leanan. As YesMaybe points out, we've been dealing with this repeatedly, recently. The Hearn piece is a great addition to the list of "standard cites" for the question.

"Mike Hearn, the author, is now involved with BitCoin."

As an aside, I've noticed bitcoin.org has been unavailable as of late. Though probably unrelated, the concept is quite unpopular in some sectors.

L019: Bitcoin P2P Currency: The Most Dangerous Project We've Ever Seen

Bitcoin is a P2P currency that could topple governments, destabilize economies and create uncontrollable global bazaars for contraband.....

After month of research and discovery, we’ve learned the following:

1. Bitcoin is a technologically sound project.
2. Bitcoin is unstoppable without end-user prosecution.
3. Bitcoin is the most dangerous open-source project ever created.
4. Bitcoin may be the most dangerous technological project since the internet itself.
5. Bitcoin is a political statement by technotarians (technological libertarians).*
6. Bitcoins will change the world unless governments ban them with harsh penalties.

Jeez. Just what we need: another TEOTWAWKI pronouncement.

A good use for BitCoins would be designing a pay-for-routing Tor like service - maybe it already exists. You'd sell your unused bandwidth for BitCoins and then pay BitCoins to anonymize your net access efficiently and speedily.

The thing is, I'm sure someone will open a 'Bank of BitCoin' BitCoin Backup Service. It would ruin anonymity but most people won't care about that, a Bank of BitCoin is ever so much safer than keeping them on your hard drive.

People will get loans in BitCoins, and they will be deposited in savings accounts in the Bank of BitCoin, and loaned out. The Bank of BitCoin will choose some reserve ratio or another - maybe 10%?

3 or 5 people will attempt to open the first Bank of BitCoin, and will trip over the probably reams of regulations, and be imprisoned. One of the idiots will actually succeed in making a legal business model. They will be no cleverer than the others sitting in jail, just luckier.

Anyway, with people spending virutal BitCoins, the value of a BitCoin will plummet soon after BitCoin Banking really comes online.

Being more like Gold than printable money, the banking collapses will have no 'lets print money' alternative.

This will piss people off, and there will pop up competition.

Probably a government ( maybe the US Government ) will open a database to store the serial numbers of BitDollars. A valid BitDollar is one whose serial number is stored in the government database, and which bears a digital seal . People will spend these preferentially to BitCoins because of Gresham's Law.

The advantage will be that they can be 'printed' in response to bank crashes.

We're back to where we started eh?

Thanks for the response arraya. I responded a little bit to this approach in my response to Simkin.

I pretty much take the growth issue as a given. But it is a human artifact and not, as you suggested in the first post, a necessity. Your second post makes your position much clearer.

I see, you're quite right. Perhaps the way to put it is that it's a necessity of our current economic system.

I'd call it an systemically institutionalized human artifact

Okay - I kind of like that.

Actually, I've thought a lot about how institutions are formed, grow and operate within societies and I honestly believe that few people recognize the influence they have - e.g., we tend to conflate the institutions that bundled together form the government with the people who occupy positions within those institutions. Institutions are, in a sense, halfway between an idea and a thing, displaying characteristics of both.

okay, I'd best stop here or I'll get accused again of being overly academic.

Agreed . In our case, they are outdated and ossified institutions only interesting in perpetuating themselves regardless of validity or positive social function.

That is a long way of saying GDP per capita is subject to diminishing returns.

Not that I disagree in any way, shape, or form.

The doctrine of means must apply somewhere in here too.

It seems like this topic gets brought up every day lately. The basic point is that overall production for profit requires growth.
e.g. http://www.theoildrum.com/node/7917#comment-803067

Shaman is correct.

China is aware of peak oil and it acting. California is aware and acting. The places that refuse to think and act will fall behind. Just competition.

Germany has done a lot more than G.B. to fight climate change, including massive subsidies of solar. And yet, Germany is doing quite well on the competitiveness front. Sounds like U.K. manufacturers are mainly into manufacturing excuses.

Those manufacturers who are serious about doing a life cycle analysis of their products and processes are profiting from the savings in energy, water, and materials that go into their products and processes. Even Wal Mart is requiring its suppliers to cut the carbon and cut back on material usage in things like packaging.

Besides, of course, failure to address climate change will result in competitiveness becoming irrelevant.

It seems that a lot of German manufacturing is of a high specification/long-term value. We all know about cars, but the same applies to a host of household posessions. By contrast UK has a much weaker manufacturing base these days, prefering to focus on 'banking' and the service sector. I can always buy consumer goods cheaper in the retail outlets, but will often buy a German product because I know the quality can be trusted to mean - in many cases - that the product will more than recoup the initial purchase outlay in the long run. I can trace this philosophy to my father, who was a huge fan of US manufactured goods back in the day when he was an expatriot and reliability and user-servicability was a key consideration in many a far flung spot.

I am not sure that the global market is actively seeking product quality for these reasons, but financial pundits do say that there is strong demand in the Chindian market for 'quality' German manufacturing.

"It would appear obvious that the greedy people who now control things won't willingly cut their income or give up their status on the top of the hill, so I remain a doomer."

The thing is, Dog, most here know it's much more complex than that. We all are doing our part to contribute; we'll all have to do our part to mitigate.

There was some discussion about leadership this weekend, that the goal of gaining leadership usually isn't to lead, but to reap the rewards. The piper no longer cares why the children follow, just that he gets paid (and besides, he just likes to hear himself play). What matters is that the piper and the children don't accept that they have a choice, so the tune gets louder, faster, though the dance stays the same. Down the path of no return we go. Those who have chosen a different path, a different tune, can only watch in horror, as even the piper dances to his own tune. The music won't stop until the the pipers and dancers both have drawn their last breath.

Our global investment in this journey to nowhere is fairly complete. Any leaders who do an about face likely get trampled by shear inertia, replaced by a new piper who has worked his way to the front of the line. Some will lead a few down a different path, though their tune is quieter, less mesmerizing, unlikely to break the spell on more than a few. Thus it has always been, thus it will be, "thus, I remain a doomer".

Yup, kind of like a grand morality play in it's final scene

And we get to watch as our taxes pay the increasingly expensive piper!

Black Dog

The U.K. argument is the same one which has been presented in the US.

There is one big difference, per person the UK produces a third of the CO2 that the US does.


The UK already has amongst the highest taxes on fuel in the world, how much more do you think we can take?


The UK has already lost over half of it's heavy industry to countries such as China, Japan and Poland.
When you consider China uses 45 times as much coal as the UK, United States uses 20 times, it makes little sense cutting UK consumption and jobs.


The fact is countries that produce the best goods for the cheapest price sell them so putting another 2 million Brits out of work may not bother you, but unemployment an poverty is the most destructive cause to the environment. If you cared to look at countries with high unemployment and poverty you would see that is a fact.

jaz, you appear to have entirely missed my point.

One nation (or a group of nations) can not solve the climate problem as long as the remaining nations can benefit from their lack of economic restrictions necessary to address the problem. As one of the unemployed, I assure you that I would rather not add more people to the rolls of the presently unemployed. If China and India are not willing to limit their emissions, these will soon dominate the yearly global total, while their economic power increases due to their low labor costs.

Even without concerns about climate change, the situation is a race to the bottom as the other developed nations find that they must reduce labor costs to compete. In our Western capitalistic economies, this usually results in people losing their jobs as high wage positions are replaced by lower wage ones and automation replaces any low skill repetitive manufacturing task with machines. In the US, available "middle class" jobs (that is jobs for people with only a HS education), has taken a serious hit. Worse yet, both China and India have strong engineering and science education programs and they have been able to produce cutting edge products for the global markets. As Peak Oil becomes obvious, China may be better able to move beyond oil and coal, as China is in the midst of a massive effort to capture market share of renewable energy equipment, such as solar PV and wind.

The US has been subjected to a massive campaign to convince the voting public that climate change is not a problem. That has resulted in a takeover of our government by people with little understanding of science and less concern for environmental problems. Sorry to say, I see no good outcome to these trends...

E. Swanson

Black Dog

I agree, I would not have a problem if all countries taxed Co2 emissions per tonne at the same rate. It would have to include companies that are cutting down and burning forests for wood, charcoal or converting to grazing land, as this is one of the worse causes of environmental damage. The money would be used for things like reversing soil degradation, fruit tree planting, insulation grants etc.

The UK industry are complaining because extra taxes here will cause factories to close down in the UK and jobs will simply move to other countries.

As you say, it is a race to the bottom where people are having to work harder and longer for less.

Twenty years ago a middle income couple could buy a reasonable house, now they buy a share of a flat in a part buy/part rent scheme and can only afford 20% of the property.

Not buying Chinese goods, would help reverse things and bring jobs back.

if all countries taxed Co2 emissions per tonne at the same rate.

That is the largest "if" I can think of. While you are absolutely right, the chances of getting any kind of agreement on this, until after it is too late, is minimal. If a system were to be implemented, countries and companies would game the system in every possible way.

I like Jeff Rubin's idea of a country imposing a carbon tax on everything, including all imports, and the carbon used in their manufacture and transport etc. but this too, would be hard (though not impossible) to implement.

A flip side problem is with how to spend this money - I think it should generally go against the income tax burden. Creating a massive, government controlled slush fund for al these projects will lead to more system gaming, and further concentration of wealth.

Not buying Chinese stuff will be a start, but I think rather than people buying domestic made stuff, they will be simply buying less stuff in total. The problem then becomes of what do the domestic people do for their employment - no one has been able to work out a solution that does not involve lots of low paid hours in food and energy production.

After all, that is what Ghung does - spends most if his time on food and energy production, and by todays standards, his "quality of life" must therefore be awful! I'm sure he would swap it back for the rat race at the drop of a bean - not!

Does anyone think that a barrel of oil once drilled or a ton of coal once mined will not eventually be burned by someone.

We have to start seeing the extraction of ff as the existential threat to all of us that it is.

If a nation was known to be producing masses of chemical weapons and targeting all other countries as well as its own citizens with them, would the global community tolerate this?

Yet this is exactly what countries that are massively UN-sequestering carbon--in a world already far above CO2 concentrations for a stable climate--are doing.

Dog, you've addressed the 'what' of this issue fairly well, and the 'why' isn't too hard to deduce. As arraya said nicely:

"Somewhere along the line, the process of turning things into money got further and further away from increasing social well being and started to create an inverse relationship - specifically in mature economies ..."

..as in "got thee too far beyond a discretionary economy".

Most folks can't afford climate change, economic contraction, powering down, etc.. The things they need are the result of producing goods and services that mean nothing to basic survival or improving the overall 'social well being'. Money for nothing. Others are dependent upon the perceived surpluses and entitlements of this system that has been enabled by the mis-applied extraction of finite resources. We humans are faced with the classic case of damned if we do, damned if we don't. Most people won't even go there.

As you say ... "The US has been subjected to a massive campaign to convince the voting public that climate change is not a problem."

...and it isn't hard to convince most folks because their lives depend on not believing. It has to be one of the easiest campaigns of all time. Case in point, the headline of the article:

"U.K. Manufacturers Say Climate Goals Will Damage Industry, Competitiveness"

The tired phrase, "Climate Change" avoided. "Climate Goals" equated with with the strong negative "Will Damage..".

Slick, huh?

"The tired phrase, "Climate Change" avoided. "

That does point to a problem though, especially with the laymen's point of view. The original "Global Warming" has a problem with global: "of or relating to the whole world; worldwide" so if you find one area where there is no warming, then you have refuted the "global".

The newer "climate change" has a problem with history; the climate is always changing. It's been tracing a bouncy-ball path since the end of the Ice Age, and before that was no better, as the "four" ice ages are now a whole bunch of shorter cycles.

"More climate change than typical for the last 150 years" would be accurate, but doesn't seem very alarming. Like the TV station said;"2011 has been the latest spring ever recorded!" Latest spring is defined as the first day over 60 degrees (F, sorry). That's a reasonable-enough measure, but what they left off is that the formal records here only go back to 1880 or so. That is not really a long enough baseline for such grand pronouncements.

And no one is going to get excited about "CO2 stabilization goals", which is what you really are trying to do. The public will be asleep (or channel surfing) by the fifth syllable and be completely unwilling to pay a dime for whatever it is.

In the end, the economics of peak oil will have their effect and CO2 emissions will drop on their own, unless the wild-eyed optimists are right about shale gas. Which I doubt.

Thanks, I now see the logic behind "we just had a colder than average winter, global warming isn't happening."

Fuzzy definitions weird arguments.

If only a few nations agree to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, the others will enjoy a competitive advantage.

Like what? Going over the cliff first? Whoopee!

It would appear obvious that the greedy people who now control things won't willingly cut their income or give up their status on the top of the hill, so I remain a doomer.

You mean, like the brilliant and powerful, Dominique Strauss-Kahn?

Hmm, suddenly I'm optimistic again...

Happy Monday Morning everyone,

I remember reading over a year ago that the per capita energy use for the USA was about five times the average for the whole world, with us included. When I checked the numbers a little closer it turned out that our per capita energy use was about six times the average for the rest of the world, without us.

I have also read somewhere that the per capita energy use for Toronto is about one third of he average for the USA, including NYC and other cities. And if I remember right, per capita energy use for New York city is even lower than Toronto. (OK, I need to take better notes when I find these useful bits of information)

So I'm thinking that the per capita energy use for a densely populated city with good public transit could easily be as little as one fifth the per capita energy use of a mostly suburban area.

So here’s my question for the day. What is the ratio of energy use for New York City, compared to a mostly suburban area, such as the suburban donut around Indianapolis for example? Is per capita energy use in NYC one-fifth the average for a suburban area, or one-eighth, or one-tenth, or perhaps something even less? And the difference for a city compared to far suburbs (exurbs) could be even greater. Does anyone know where I can find that info?

There are two sides of the lower energy consumption in the cities. One is, of course, that cities are more efficient: people live in smaller spaces, with fewer exterior walls, use less energy getting about, etc. The other is that cities have generally outsourced a lot of energy-intense activity. Consider the energy-intense industries that NYC is entirely dependent on, but doesn't do: agriculture, steel and other metal production, cement production, brick firing, chemical processing.

Yes, I'm aware that cities import most of the energy intensive products that they need. But don't most suburbs do the same thing? For example, many suburbs don't allow ready mix concrete plants, let alone cement kilns. How many cement kilns or blast furnaces are there in the suburban donut around Indianapolis?

Breadman - Depends on the burg I suppose. Mine has a number of concrete plants as well as the largest oil refinery in the western hemisphere. Haven't seen a number for our per capita consumption but I suspect it's pretty high. And that's despite being a somewhat lower income average than most cities.

Rockman - When I wrote my question several hours ago, I wasn't really thinking about industrial energy use at all. What I'm looking for is the differences in energy use, based on where people choose to live. What I would like to get a good grip on is, how much less energy does the typical city dweller use, compared to someone who lives 10, 20 or even thirty miles out in the suburbs. Maybe I should describe it as personal or private energy use, as opposed to industrial or commercial energy use.

In other words, I'm talking about the energy use that we as individuals have the most control over. The big energy uses would be things like heating and cooling a single family house, as opposed to an apartment of roughly the same size, or driving a private car for many miles each day, compared to riding a city transit bus for a few miles each day.

Breadman - Got ya. Probably a little tough to quantify but logic says consumption should match sq ft of living area to some degree. I can tell you that in Houston personal driving is a big chunk....even for inner city dwellers. Folks living d/t still tend to drive some distance for just about everything. I know more than one who drive to pick up their mail (P.O. box). Maybe not 30 miles commutes but a lot more cum miles then someone in NYC I bet.

This is Texas afterall and we doing things bigger than most...including wasting fuel.

Even if everybody in Sugar Land and The Woodlands worked from home, it wouldn't stop the inevitable. When everybody in New Deli gets their first Nissan Armada, it's all over.

Urban or rural: Which is more energy-efficient?

On the EIA's Residential Energy Consumption Surveys, respondents identify whether they live in a city, town, suburb or rural area. It's self-reported and unscientific data, but it does offer an idea of how the four demographics consume energy. Urban households are the largest group, with 47.1 million represented, and they use the most total energy, about 4 quadrillion Btu per year.

But a different picture emerges when you look at per capita consumption rates — cities have the lowest annual energy use per household (85.3 million Btu) and household member (33.7 million Btu) of all four categories. Rural areas consume about 95 million Btu per household each year, followed by towns (102 million) and suburbs (109 million).

Similarly, urban families as a whole spend at least $30 billion more for energy each year than their country cousins, but each individual urban family actually spends about $200-$400 less. That suggests that urban homes are more numerous but also more efficient.

And an older EB article: Urban vs. Rural Sustainability.

As with most questions, this issue can be sliced and diced many ways. I feel that, overall, I have more choices (and fewer temptations) living rurally. It was much harder to power down in the city and suburbs, or grow my own food. YMMV.

Lots of stuff on this subject online, if one looks.

Well, how much "control" an individual has is itself an open question. If you live in NYC, you may have a choice between driving and the subway, but if you live in Houston or Atlanta, probably not.

My point here is, the type of city itself makes a big difference, so using an average of all cities, can be very misleading. Here is a chart of the motor fuel use of some major cities around the world;

This chart should include Atlanta, but it is, literally, off the chart.


I'll go out on a limb and suggest that these same cities that have high motor fuel use, probably have bigger houses and higher household energy consumption too - though I don't have that data.

Cities can be as energy efficient or inefficient as their people/builders choose to make them.

paul - Interesting. But a I reading it correctly: the x-axis isn't per person, is it? It's the area of the city? Also am I reading that Detroit uses almost as much gasoline as Houston per capita? And more than Phoenix? That's rather shocking if true.

Rock - I can see the potential for confusion here, for you non metric folks. This chart (produced by two Australians) is in square metres, per person, or just call it the "area per person" and it makes sense.

The chart was originally produced as below, but since it has per person in the numerator of the X axis, and the denominator of the Y axis, the purists say the hyperbolic relationship it is not an accurate depiction, though I think it makes it very clear;

The "energy" here is actually gasoline use, does not include diesel, electric trains etc. At the time it was done, small diesels were not as popular in Europe as they are today, so I think this chart is fairly accurate for its time.
It would be very good to see an updated version. Also, if you were to look at new areas of Euro cities, which are more suburban, they would be higher up this curve, probably closer to Australian cities.

But the trend is clear, and self reinforcing. When you are as spread out as Houston or Atlanta, people by definition have to travel further, and transit is not very effective, so there isn't much of it.

The price of (excessive) sprawl is, among other things, lots more fuel use, and as long as it is cheap, that does not seem to bother people too much. When fuel is expensive and/or they don't have a job, people seem to get bothered by it.

Whether expensive fuel leads to people not having jobs is a whole other discussion, of course.

To put this in perspective 200 sqm (just above the average of European cities) is equivalent to a tenis court (singles match) per person.

Paul - Metric, eh? I have long suspected you were a commie! But thanks anyway.

Hectares, eh? And yesterday somebody chaffed me for mentioning that most weather services use hectopascals not kilopascals for baro pressure, on the notion that the "hecto" prefix, while official, is too obscure to bother about. LOL.


The hectare is a unit of area defined as 10,000 square metres, which is primarily used in the measurement of land. In 1795, when the metric system was introduced, the are was defined as being 100 square metres and the hectare ('hecto-' + 'are') was thus 100 ares or 1/100 km2.

When the metric system was rationalised in 1960 with the introduction of the international System of Units (SI), international recognition of the are was withdrawn, though the hectare continued to be recognised as a "unit of measure that may be used with SI".

So, if you're comfortable with "hectopascals", feel free to continue using "hectares", although I would strongly discourage using "centiares", "deciares", "ares", and "decares".

OTOH, the acre is defined as 1 chain by 1 furlong - which I am comfortable using because I know how long a chain is (66 feet) and how long a furlong is (660 feet). These are easily converted into feet, making an acre 43,560 square feet. Many people are less comfortable using chains and furlongs, and really don't know how big an acre is, but they keep using it anyway.

The hectare is not an engineering unit. An engineer would use square metres or square kilometres.

Thank you for some excellent graphs Paul Nash.

What the doomsteaders do not and will never understand is that cities aren't the problem - American cities and specifically sprawl is the problem.

I take just one look at that graph and I see how amazingly screwed we are in the U.S. Suburbia doesn't pay for itself if oil is expensive.

It's true - the value of all these McMansions, strip malls, and SUVs must fall, and fall hard. If the Fed tries to print to cover it all, we'll have hyperinflation.

So they won't, and instead we'll have boom-bust stagflation forever.

What the doomsteaders do not and will never understand is that cities aren't the problem - American cities and specifically sprawl is the problem.

Just when I think nobody gets it... ;^)

It's fixable, too--and it's not extraordinarily difficult or expensive. Well, it wouldn't be, if we didn't view giving up the national automobile slum as an unacceptable price.

As for the McMansions, we used to say that we'd salvage them for firewood. We didn't realize that they're mostly so shoddy that they aren't even good for that. We'll probably think of something; we'll need the land for agriculture.

Yes, cities are the solution -if, and only if, they are the right type of cities - and I think those graphs make it clear which is which.

After all, towns and cities were developed because they were more energy efficient than everyone living in the country. The ants and the bees worked that out tens of millions of years ago.

Interestingly, the American style of city developed before the car was around - the 19th century (american) towns were already sprawling. Without the need for a Euro style "defensible perimeter" against marauders they could spread. And the standard for the main street was to be wide enough to turn a horse and cart around. And then the houses had the coach house, which, of course, still houses the "horses" today.

A good, and humorous 3 part photo essay of that is here.

Transport, on anything other than foot simply enables sprawl. if it is rail, the sprawl is along railway lines and you get a spider web city with distinct clusters at key junctions. If it is personal transport, be it horse, bike or car, it pretty mush spreads amorphously like a cancer. The faster your travel speed, the further the city can sprawl. The average travel time for most cities is about one hour, regardless of mode, be it foot, train or car.

of course, if the transport mechanism the city is based on fails, then you have a real problem. I'm sure an equine virus would be devastating to a horse based city as much as high fuel prices are to a car based one.
The only affliction that train based cities seem to have is the odd railway workers strike, and if those cities/states/countries are silly enough to allow those workers to be unionised and/or to have the right to strike, well then they are asking for trouble.

In addition the obvious problems of fuel costs for car based cities, i think the car culture itself is an enormous drain on the economy of any city or town. if you look at the costs of building roads, and buying, insuring and fueling cars, about 90c on the dollar leaves the town, and does not come back - unless the city is one of the few that is home to car, insurance or oil companies.

A community that is not spending all that money on car related expenses has more to spend on each other - be it their hosues, restaurants, theatre,parks whatever. It almost always gets spent on things where a greater proprtionof the $ spent stays in the town and employs someone. That is why the pre-car city worked all the time, and the car city only worked better, when the city can afford that continuous money drain. Once it can't the money drain is still there and everything else (local business) suffers.

Americans value the "space" and "freedom" that cars and car oriented cities have brought them. We'll soon see if what they are prepared to pay matches the "value" that has been invested in these luxuries.

An interesting POV from an apparently right-of-center observer. Thanks, Paul.

Note that America's older cities were (and the oldest neighborhoods still are) much more compact than later development.

Also, you are correct that each new form of transportation has enabled sprawl, of one kind or another, but it is planning and development policy that permits (or, in many US examples, requires) it.

The oft-posted argument that the "vastness of the American landscape" prevents transit-based cities is simply wrong. We heard this yesterday, in response to a reference to the Netherlands. In point of fact, the overall population density of that little nation is about a thousand per square mile, while there is a long list of American places with densities 10 to 50 times higher.

Many of the American cities with higher densities do have reasonably effective transit, but it is constantly impeded by having to share ROW with private vehicles, and by the longer distances imposed by the imperative to accommodate cars. Also, of course, we endlessly hear complaints about transit "not paying for itself," but we never hear anyone complain that the streets don't do that.

As for transit strikes, keeping the organized workers satisfied is probably a better choice (regardless of your ideological preferences) than attempting to prevent job actions by law or force. Just as progressive taxation is a better way to prevent socially-destructive concentrations of wealth than are burglaries and strong-armed robberies--even though the robberies, especially, are much more fun. ;^)

Not quite sure why I get the right of centre label but anyway...

Certainly the older cities (the ones started in the 17th century) are much more European in their design. Those were the days when not many people had horses, and the towns/cities were built compact to be defendable, and to not waste good farmland around them.

I can;t find the reference for the one hour thing, but it certainly seems to make sense. i think cities have been unable to stop the sprawl as any local politician that tries to stop it gets voted out, and the cities love the property taxes from newly built up land. There are costs for expanding infrastructure (like water ad sewage treatment) and services, like schools etc, and somehow, the developers never pay full fare for these things, they are almost always getting subsidised by the existing tax base. If the city tries to charge full fare, the developers( and I used to work for one) have a hissy fit and threaten to leave town - which, of course, would actually be the best outcome!

The vastness of the landscape is a great asset - but no excuse for poor transit. Calgary is in the middle of a very vast landscape, and has sprawl like most other cities, but has the highest utilised light rail system on the continent. It has one of the densest downtown cores, and 40+% of people getting to it take one of just three train lines that exist. That rail system was built in the early 80's and was very cleverly planned to get the most benefit for the least cost. It runs at grade for the most part, on a separate ROW - sometimes in the median of arterial roads, sometimes in rail ROW's, but never has to stop for traffic. The average (O&M) cost per rail passenger is an astonishing 27c!
Most cities either look for the too easy places to put the line, meaning it is in the wrong place, or end up having so many stops the train runs too slow, or they do it in such an expensive way that they never do another one.

As i said before, transit strikes are the achilles heel for rail systems, and they simply shouldn't be allowed - period. Transit is, in my opinion, an essential service up there with water/sewer, electricity, hospitals/paramedics etc. You can have the right to strike, or a monopoly, but not both. of course transit workers should get paid appropriately, but not gold plated levels, and ridiculous things like closed shops, only union approved layoffs, oversized pensions and all sorts of other union silliness. When you work in an essential service, a lot of people- the whole city- are relying on you - going on strike is betraying all of them, and possibly endangering them. Any worker with a conscience will not do that and any manager with half a brain will not let it get to that point either. A strike is a failure on both parts, and erodes the publics trust in the service. A coupe of strikes and you you can be sure that no new transit will get built.

OK, I'm moving you a little back to the left... :^)

I know the Calgary light rail system well, partly because I've been rather obsessed with urbanism (and its intersections with environmentalism and sustainability) for a long time and partly because work took me to Calgary frequently during the 80's and 90's. Used the CTrain, studied it, love it. It is, indeed, a model other North American cities should look to when considering "transit retrofits."

It should be noted that Calgary has about the same average population density as Houston and Dallas, so...

I'll trade the strike option for good wages, benefits, working conditions and job security, and so will the real transit workers--so we may not be at impasse. ;^)

I try to stay out of the political spectrum labelling game - and try to keep it out of my work and decision making. Being an engineer, I am a pragmatist - what works best.
On the railway and other essential service workers, I don;t even view it as a trade - it is a basic characteristic of the job, if someone can;t live with that, then an essential service job is not for them. I am speaking from some experience here. i used to manage the water+sewer+gas+electricity systems for a ski resort. One of my tasks was to modernise our rudimentary water treatment system. One month after starting the job, there was an incident in Walkerton, Ontario, where the town's water was contaminated with E.Coli - hundreds sick and seven people died. The system operator was incompetent and a drunk, did not do his job properly and should never have been there. Point is - people's lives are in you hands - go on strike, and you are deserting that duty and those people.

Another example, a BC Ferry, the Queen of the North, ran aground and sank in northern BC, middle of the night. All but two people rescued, those two were never found. The ship did not make a routine course change, and kept going for 14 minutes and at 12:45am plowed into rocks at 17knots! The three staff on duty at the time (incl 2nd and 4th officer) have refused to testify in every hearing into the incident and the union has backed them. The staff were fired and the union demanded they be reinstated! This in the aftermath of a losing a $150m ship, let alone two people dying (one of them a friend of my neighbour) because of their dereliction of duty. How the maritime union can expect that their staff are not held accountable when someone dies because of them is beyond me.

For the railway workers it is peoples livelihoods, and that of the city, you are risking, and to put your own ahead of all of theirs - you should not be in that job. I would (and did) do anything to uphold the safety and reliability of our systems, and my staff too. In the end I had to resign on principle after resort ownership wanted to pursue a less than optimal treatment upgrade - I knew that was the only way to make it happen (which it did) so got the right result for the resort, the creek and the town below but at the cost of my job. If anyone is not prepared to make that sort of sacrifice they should not be in essential public service. Just doing it for a reliable meal ticket is not enough - like the military, you have to be committed to the whole concept, and I would never hire anyone who wasn't. And when your team is, you will never have a strike and will far outperform any unionised operation. And a strike indicates to me that those people are putting themselves ahead of those who depend on them - so any essential service union that insists on the right to strike, or even uses it as a bargaining chip, gets zero respect from me.

Lest you think that I am anti worker or something, I will say that I will trust a good worker over a computer system anyday. Vancouver made the mistake of going with a driverless train system, in part to make sure they could not be put at risk of driver strikes, and partly to save money. It costs them more to operate their driverless system than Calgary's. not only that, the money goes to some Korean company that made and maintains the equipment instead of employing local train drivers. There have been a few transit strikes though, including one of 50 days in 2001, so even Calgary doesn't get everything right.

Calgary is a great city, and it is amazing that so few others have adopted what made its train so successful. It has saved 16 lanes of road into the city, made the core dense and walkable - no one drives to get to meeting in dt - you just walk as it's all right there.
And all the information is available for free.

There is more that can (and is) being done, but the ridership of the system is oustanding. TOD is now happening along the outer reaches of the lines too. That train has saved a lot of fuel over the years...

It's obvious that you are a person of honor and principle, Paul, and that the projects you manage are fortunate to have someone of your caliber and commitment.

I, also, managed engineering projects with a passion for excellence that some considered a bit fanatical. I, also, sometimes chose separation over compromise. And I was an unyielding champion and defender of my staff, who responded by constantly going the extra mile, giving a thousand percent. I made damned sure they were properly recognized and compensated.

However, I also know that there is inevitable tension, and conflicting interests, between labor and management under our economic system. Workers with special skill, or other value to the organization, and workers who have managers like me, and like you, may be able to achieve fair and equitable arrangements with employers without formal collective bargaining. But not all are so lucky, and only the combined power of workers as a group can prevent management from riding roughshod over them.

Anyway, this is really off-topic.

The most important points we have made are about the possibilities of retrofitting truly effective and attractive transit into a very normal North American city of modest size and density. Calgary has done that with real skill and aplomb.

And, oh, yeah! Riding the CTrain in the downtown core is fare-free! Another way in which Calgary really "gets it."

Check it out, folks.

I think the most important thing is that the people involved are committed to what they are doing, and to their co-workers (which includes management and vice versa). When the trust, commitment and respect are there, unions are irrelevant- they cannot improve things.. If the staff feel the need to unionise, something has gone off the rails, so to speak.

Anyway, interesting but OT indeed.

Retrofitting rail transit is a challenge, and needs some really creative problem solving - which many engineers and politicians lack. There always has to be some compromise, but the trick is to try to avoid doing too much, and avoid a cadillac system. Unfortunately, when many companies see government dollars, things tend to cost 1.5x more than they should, so they don't get done again.

For a very interesting, low cost way to do (very) light rail, check out this one;

Amazing that the "train", powered by a Ford Fiesta engine, can outperform a normal diesel train. I think there is great potential for this sort of thing in smaller cities, or on disused mainlines as their example is. By having such a fuel efficient train, there is no need to go to the ridiculous expense of overhead electrification. The train can use the lightest grade of rail there is, has ground loadings no more than road vehicles, and the track can be laid within existing roadways with no structural work or utility relocation required.

The Bombardier's and Siemens of the world turn their noses up at this, but if being small and cheap is the difference between getting built or not, then small is beautiful (though their styling and colour schemes need some work)

The costs of overhead electrical systems in urban transit systems are offset by the low emissions of pollutants and the extended lifespans of such systems, and when the vehicle follows a fixed guideway, the installation costs are lower and operational problems are fewer than for, e.g. a trolley bus.

In general, that makes electrical power more popular than internal combustion engines for urban rail systems carrying high passenger volumes in stop-and-go mode.

In general, that makes electrical power more popular than internal combustion engines for urban rail systems carrying high passenger volumes in stop-and-go mode.

Quite so, but the type of train I am talking about here is designed specifically for low passenger volumes. Actually, I should call it a self powered tram or streetcar, which is what it really is, and what it should be compared to./

To be able to move 50 people around on a 2L engine is very cheap and fuel efficient, and run it on LPG and it is very clean. It allows this "streetcar" to be operated on existing standard rail lines with no modification. A prime example is the disused Arbutus line in Vancouver. Not worth the cost of electrification, but a self powered streetcar would be ideal, and could start running next month. Ditto for the line from Granville island to Olympic village. The city spent $10m upgrading this 3km stretch of existing line (which actually ran a heritage electric streetcar) to be able to handle the demo of Bombardier's Flexity "streetcar" Was going to cost $90m to complete the remaining 1.5km of track, electrify it, and buy two trains, all for a 4.5km route! The city told them what they could do with that (after the free trial was finished, of course). One of these Parry cars costs less than $1m and could be running on the old rails to Science World Stn that they paved over, no electrification needed.

The point of this type of streetcar is not to compete with the C-Train, Sky train or other LRT, it is to be used in places where LRT is normally deemed too expensive and not enough volume - and there are lots of those, sometimes with rail lines or ROW's already there. if avoiding the cost of electrification is the difference between a project and not, I'll take the self powered streetcar anyday. If volumes increase enough to justify, you can string wires later.
If it is in real streetcar mode, where it stops every 800m, then it doesn't need the engine, you just use its existing half ton flywheel energy storage system , and maybe add a 2nd one, and spin them up from mains electricity at each stop (<30s), and it will get you another 800m easily.

Not a high volume solution to be sure, but a very simple, effective and low cost one - I think there is a place for that in the future.

it is to be used in places where LRT is normally deemed too expensive and not enough volume - and there are lots of those, sometimes with rail lines or ROW's already there. if avoiding the cost of electrification is the difference between a project and not, I'll take the self powered streetcar anyday. If volumes increase enough to justify, you can string wires later.

Yup. The value of these self-powered units, in my mind, is as "starter transit" that people will ride and that can be built for reasonable cost. As Paul says, there are many potential applications where the ROW, even tracks, are in place.

They certainly have drawbacks in comparison with "real" LRT, but I say pop 'em in, work on increasing ridership and densities along the routes, and upgrade later.

I'm not much of a fan of bleeding edge transit "solutions" (my vehicles of choice, here in San Francisco, are the old PCC cars--at least when the tourists leave room for me), but I admit to hoping fervently that the much-hyped super capacitors will turn out to be real and practical, soon. Charge the trams at the halts, discharge caps to get to the next halt... Look Ma, no wires! Sounds like a really good idea.

As a Bostonian, I find that amazing. The MBTA here in Boston is unionized, but the union has shown time and again that they will not protect members who put the public at risk. A strike is not considered a risk, but then, I don't remember when one last happened. I do remember lots of blizzards, and the MBTA's performance suffers more from diesel buses balking at the temperatures, and roads going unplowed (not the MBTA's job), than from workers not showing. They show.

I would like to point out to all on or reading this thread, while "sustainability" is used throughout this thread and is ostensibly what it is about, you are making two errors: you are actually only speaking of efficiency, not sustainability, and you are looking only at fuel efficiency.

I would like to point you to 200 years down the line: my small holding in the country has been sustainably kept and maintained because of trees i planted to replace aging timbers, or straw i grew, or what have you. meanwhile, the city dwellings have had to be made over at least once, unsustainably.

my country village might even be made of condo-like apartments with a a green zone for food production, some for each household, and everything else is local so out transport use has dropped to nearly zero, while city dwellers are still traveling all over the city to satisfy their needs.

just a small taste of what the conversation must actually look like to make sense. The first step is to make sure you are being clear as to whether you are discussing efficiency or sustainability, and are you doing so over proper time frames.


I think we have been pretty clear this thread was about energy efficiency, and with a focus on transport energy. The thread did start with this question from Breadman:
What is the ratio of energy use for New York City, compared to a mostly suburban area?
And in my first posting with the chart I said;
Cities can be as energy efficient or inefficient as their people/builders choose to make them.

In fact, the word sustainability has only appeared once in this thread, and that was in the title of a linked report, so i think we've stayed pretty much on topic - (except for my diversion into unionised railroad workers)

While I can't argue that what you are doing is more self sustainable, that wasn't the point of this discussion. A city cant be "self" sustaining - they never have been. They always need their food, lumber, energy, in fact, all material items from somewhere else. It has been like that for 6000 years. But the fact that they have been around for 6000 years suggest the city model is actually sustainable - though we are all in agreement that not when it is a car city that can't afford car fuel.

But I don't think we have into get into localised food production etc for the conversation to make sense - the question was about energy usage and efficiency and that has been well discussed.

While your vision of a village may well work, it is worth noting that most old European and Asian cities don't have the green zone - they have buildings fitted in close together along narrow streets, some with small yards, but many without, the odd courtyard/plaza, maybe an English style Common, and then the town ends, and the farmland begins. These have been around for 500+ years, so I think that model is pretty sustainable too. There are more ways than one to skin this cat.

Hi, Paul. I linked to the article which included sustainability, not to change the question, but because we can't divorce energy use from sustainability. Energy use doesn't exist in its own little vacuum. Cities concentrate inputs and outputs alike, and many cities are realizing severe limits in their ability to deal with the full cycle of the resources they use and reject. All processes and their embedded energy must be part of the accounting in an honest discussion.

Hi Ghung,

Wasn't suggesting you did that to change the question. I agree that energy use is a part of sustainability, but I think it is reasonable to have the energy specific discussion we have had here - there are significant differences in the way different cities require energy use to live.
If we are to have a full discussion, then indeed all processes and inputs must be considered - but that is a very wide ranging discussion. But many of these factors (e.g how the food is grown to supply it and where) are beyond the control of a city. Transport and land use/density, however, is one of the few things that is almost completely within the control of city, so I think it is worth its own discussion as the city can actually do something if it so chooses.

Of course, efficient transport does not equal sustainability, but its a good start.

The EB article did make for interesting reading - sounds like your experience has been better than his

"sounds like your experience has been better than his"

Ha, I'm too far down this path to change if I wanted/needed to. All in, for the duration :-)

My son is in Seattle, urban living, close to a good job (U of W), walkable community, happy. I told him to hang in there too. Good on both of us, it seems, though I wish we could visit more :-/

"I agree that energy use is a part of sustainability, but I think it is reasonable to have the energy specific discussion we have had here"

My point is it no longer makes any sense to discuss things as you suggest. It's not just a good idea to do so, but necessary to change the discussion such that sustainability is the question and energy the sub-topic. But, yes, as a subtopic, and this thread could be treated that way, and all of TOD, in fact, but even then, and particularly as a leader in the discussion (TOD, not you or I), we might want to develop the habit of including the overall issue in the discussions.

I posted what I did primarily because of the accepted-as-truth assumptions cities are more efficient. i seriously doubt they are in the long time frames we need to be discussing.

pri-de, while I haven't seen anyone here who demonstrates a deeper understanding of these matters, especially re biological systems, than you, the odds of humans adopting such a rational policy at this stage in the game have to be considered as essentially zero.

So discussing ways to grind down in the short term seem fairly appropriate, the reality we are going to be in is depleting per capita resources coupled with increasingly strained and failing ecosystems, and nothing in our current social systems is going to deal with that coherently.

So small steps are probably the best one can do. As noted by a smart guy, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. My biggest fear is that as we start this journey, and burn all our fossil fuels, which we will do, and wipe out the species, which we are doing, and fail to handle the wastes we create, we will inside of this constant circumstance create one system of energy production, nuclear, that creates wastes and system failures so utterly beyond the ability of failing systems to handle or process (as you can see, relatively advanced systems like the USSR or Japan could barely handle these events in their actual functioning states as nations) that they will simply begin to create increasingly large dead zones across the planet, complimenting but not replacing the overall climate heating issues and eco system destruction and bio-diversity devastation we are going to do no matter what is said.

So the odds of anything sustainable coming out that mess, not high, except on local levels, in areas that are far enough away from the major damage or destruction to actually do ok, those all remain to be seen so I wouldn't base on real plans on where those will be. How far will climate heating go? How high will the oceans rise? How many expanding no-go nuclear accident zones or unhandled waste areas will there be? Not a lovely prospect, so I think it's best to just focus on what can be done today, realistically.

Cities can be improved, energy consumption in horribly wasteful states like the US can be cut by 90%, there are many real low hanging fruits.

My feeling, increasingly supported by anthropology readings, is that actually sustainable societies arise out of failure of previous systems, and the arising of taboos and other deeper connections to the ecosystem that transcend the rational sphere we are so fond of calling home and reality. Working with rather than controlling that is, learning to follow rather than lead, takes a lot of time, a lot of trial and error, and I don't think it can be planned or created, though we can certainly do way better than we are doing now, that's for sure.

the odds of humans adopting such a rational policy at this stage in the game have to be considered as essentially zero.

If I thought they were zero, I wouldn't post at all, but they may be very close to that. No excuse to not try.

So discussing ways to grind down in the short term seem fairly appropriate

I agree. The one doesn't cancel out the other.

How far will climate heating go? How high will the oceans rise? How many expanding no-go nuclear accident zones or unhandled waste areas will there be?

Climate: at least two degrees, but that is too far. The ice sheets are melting at +0.8, so how far they will go is irrelevant. The discussion ultimately needs to be how to get back that +0.8. I.e, how to get back to 280 ppm CO2.

Oceans: At least 1 meter.

Nuclear: How many nuclear plants are there?

My feeling, increasingly supported by anthropology readings, is that actually sustainable societies arise out of failure of previous systems, and the arising of taboos and other deeper connections to the ecosystem that transcend the rational sphere we are so fond of calling home and reality. Working with rather than controlling that is, learning to follow rather than lead, takes a lot of time, a lot of trial and error, and I don't think it can be planned or created, though we can certainly do way better than we are doing now, that's for sure.

If accurate, and I don't disagree that this is the typical case, then we may as well embrace Lovelock's view and party on because we will be facing exactly the sort of bottleneck he envisions with tiny numbers of people in the Arctic or underground or some such.

What we also often see when people are not just threatened with danger, but with the loss of their very lives, or that of another person, are heroic efforts. We see altruism in disasters. If we can harness that, we can make this paradigm shift. This is why i advocate doing all the little things to help build momentum, but also that only doing that is suicide. We have no choice but to drive home the fact of the existential threat until it takes hold, because every day counts. We are probably at or past tipping points. The key one is ice, and that is keyed by sea surface temps because 2/3 of sea ice, ice shelves and ocean-terminating glaciers. If we can draw down carbon fast enough we can start cooling the Arctic and mediate reductions in sea ice, slow the methane bomb and increasing overall albedo. If we can continue doing so, we can, very, very slowly swing sea surface temperatures back the other way and return sea ice to levels of two or three decades ago and stop the methane bomb. We won't know for several human lifetimes whether we succeeded, but it is our only relatively safe shot. Geo-engineering is so likely to have unintended consequences it is little better than BAU imo.

We are standing at the edge of a cliff. Beside us is a damaged ultralight that might slow our fall enough for us to live, but, it could give out completely on the way down, ending our lives. Coming towards us is a horde of killers swinging swords and axes. We have two choices: defend ourselves, futilely, against the horde using the ultralight, or fly the ultralight down to the canyon floor.

Saying we can't change people enough to solve the issues we face is remaining on the cliff. Trying to shift the framing of the conversation is flying the ultralight. (In case it wasn't obvious. ;-) )

Thanks for the response, I was hoping for one, it's rare you post something not worth thinking about and reading seriously. I totally agree with your underlying theme, and I certainly won't waste your time with debating small points when the larger picture is the actual matter at hand.

Re nuke plants, I'll be a bit lazy because I'm burned out on the subject. I believe it's about 470 currently, I think those are plants, not reactors per se. Could be wrong, could google it, but don't feel like it. Each plant, if subject to a full scale failure, can devastate vast areas of the planet's surface, and even the relatively mild failures we're seeing already now have changed vast areas completely, the ecosystem is damaged, in some parts for tens of thousands of years, around Chernobyl for example. The lies are just too deep to get around in my opinion re what this stuff actually does to life.

The facts: Chernyobyl was not far from a full blast in the second reactor, and Europe was not far from a major system disruption, on a large scale. Same goes in Fukushima, both countries had resources to throw at the problem. Take a future case, say Pakistan, full failure, major event, way beyond level 7, which cannot even remotely be considered a worst case scenario, I'd say a 14 would be that, say full and total containment failure, spread of radiation, long term damage, who knows, Gorbachev I think, or one of other guys I watched in a documentary on it, said it was only days from large parts of Europe being uninhabitable. Japan must be considered unknown in terms of true damage and status, it's still totally out of control today. 800,000 men were required to physically interact with the waste in Chernobyl. I don't want to get into the nuclear stuff anymore, it makes me frankly lose all respect for many of the posters here, and for humanity in general, I'm sick of people wasting our eco-system for personal greed and always on lights and computers, and just plain pig-headed unwillingness to adapt or change selfish desires and motivations, it's just disgusting. I'm going to leave that argument behind me, I'm convinced now, and need no more data to get it.

Your views correspond roughly to my views, in every way. I have zero interest in doomers or other such people intent on just jumping off the cliff, none at all. I believe there is a way forward, though reading TOD makes that harder for me to actually work for than I think is good for me, but I absolutely believe there is always a way, that's the nature of reality. Just as insisting on being unable to change is how most people have always been, until as you note, they have to change. Then they change. What concerns me is the long term toxins of nuclear energy, those are not compatible with an advanced society that that has opted for a sustainable path, they require industrial societies to take care of the systems as they fail, the wastes, etc. The mines, for example, in Finland, the only country I am aware of that is actually seriously dealing with ongoing waste disposal, are large, industrial projects, not something that can be sustained over centuries.

I totally agree, although I don't view the matter as flying off a cliff, I view it as digging a pit, and then assembling groups of people willing to climb out despite all the people who insist that dead stale pit living is just the best thing in the world, nothing else better can be imagined. And I certainly don't think we'll scale those delicate paths magically, it will take effort, otherwise all the pit diggers, the extractors, etc, will just keep digging, it's all they know, you don't see guys here saying they'll stop, do you? Same story everywhere. But the idea is identical, there is a way, it's delicate, it's not obvious, but it is there, so when I said, zero chance for humanity, I am referring to the humanity that choses to remain digging around the pit floor, not the ones who chose to actually advance and become civilized human beings, again, same story, keeps repeating over the millenia I guess.

The reasons I do not view the cliff analogy as a good one are this: first, it implies we have achieved some height of progress. That is, it confirms the underlying bias of modern social systems. I do not view full and near total systems failure, coupled with massive species destruction, as outcome of ones actions, as progress or advancement, but rather as full and near total failure. Second, it implies that we can, just by stepping off, fix things, floating down on gliders or whatever. I don't think it will be that easy, I think climbing a very difficult wall face from a very unpleasant smelly polluted pit is a much more apt analogy. Third, the notion of being high up here should be left to things that are truly elevated, not crass materialistic over-consumption. Who ever heard of anyone celebrating reaching a pits floor and digging down further? That's where we are at, it's not something to celebrate, it's something to fix. Next, I see the image of pit dwellers shut off from the light and nature far more accurate depiction of our stunted existence than some elevated status. Lastly, the image to me give the proper motivation to get the hell out of this pit and stop digging ourselves further every day. Same result as your image I think though, I like the notion of a gossamer winged glider that might or might not work, that is a fine one too, and the hordes attacking, it's not a bad image either, so don't think I'm actually arguing it.

Estimates re ocean changes are reaching 100 feet rise by now, given rates of melting in the ice caps, so I'd say that is going to create extra issues. I don't see humans stopping coal burning on scale until something makes them stop, like systems collapse or infrastructure failure, or whatever. Same with oil. Zero signs of that so far. Just endless addicts negotiating and explaining why a non-sustainable system must be continued in order that it not stop and deflate, which is basically the entire intellectual content of those views as far as I can see.

Ocean changes don't particularly concern me, that's just whatever, it's going to happen, same with CO2 rise, that's also going to happen, that's about 1000 years to recover from, the species that die, well, those are already now gone, and more will go, so that's not fixable either. But nature has a bit of flexibility left in her I think. And 1000 years might be just about long enough for us to figure out better ways to deal with our interactions with the earth. Especially if good seeds get planted today and now.

You can see her at work, she's always pushing, a crack in an overhead freeway's pavement, suddenly grass is growing in it, creating a bit of soil, then a bigger plant... some places will be very bad for a long time though, that's our fault.

Ha-ha! Thanks for that, but I should have made it clearer I was asking a rhetorical question so you'd not waste your time. I was trying to imply that as many nuclear plants as we have is how many disasters are possible, and perhaps probable.

pri-de, while I haven't seen anyone here who demonstrates a deeper understanding of these matters, especially re biological systems, than you

I know that's nowhere near accurate, but I do appreciate it. I'm just willing to push the agenda, primarily because I see no other choice.

You are the only poster I've read here that qualifies for this. You're the only one who has explicitly debunked the notion of 'waste' per se, compared to true biological systems where no such thing exists. Please keep pushing the agenda, if you have the stomach for it, I'm losing mine re this particular resource, I need to get into more positive modes of change.

Well, thanks again, but there is at least you ahead of me. I don't think you are the only one. I have precious few skills with numbers and no head for details. I live almost completely in the conceptual plane so am not much use once things get into the details of creating solutions. I can, of course, do that on the broad scale, and even the small scale, in designing, but don't ask me to compute the energy embedded in a car or the volume needed for a wetland to treat waste water from a household or neighborhood. I can tell you computing, say the size of wind farm needed to power a city of 10k is the wrong question, and that it should be for a city of 10k after determining what is truly essential for that city to function and no more, or at least not much more.


I remain at TOD because there are some wicked smart people here. I don't spend much time anymore trying to convince anyone of much. just pushing that agenda, urging people to think differently, to actually change the questions and completely rework their assumptions.

...it should be for a city of 10k after determining what is truly essential for that city to function and no more, or at least not much more.

Would you permit lighting for symphony concerts?

A Ferris wheel in the amusement park?

Refrigeration for ice cream, or only fresh veggies?

just pushing that agenda

Hmm, pushing is such a harsh word. Are agendas best led or pushed? I wonder.


Why would I care? Seriously, led or pushed? Do we not have bigger fish to fry?

It may make a difference to how many fish you get in the pan.


Not using context and/or taking a word out of context rarely adds up to much.

"just pushing that agenda, urging people to think differently, to actually change the questions and completely rework their assumptions."

The conversation is not advanced by your question given the full context. A description of my life to date is really a bit much to justify word choice in a quick post to TOD embedded in a side conversation to do nothing more than respond to a compliment.

Pri-de, you talk of 'pushing an agenda'. A lot of people do. It makes me wonder if that is taking the right approach. I am not saying anything about what that agenda is or your life, it is the concept of 'pushing' that seems to grate. Pushing sounds like something that meets Newton's third law. Promoting, demonstrating, encouraging are more positive ways of looking at it. The thought of giving people a hand up to new ways of doing things rather than a brutal shove.


What I've seen of Europe is the same way. There is the town, and there is the country, and the buffer zone of suburban Kunstlerian dystopia is simply not there.

Indeed. The town was built compact and defendable. Also, most if the local farmers live in the town, and then spend their day in the fields, and come back to town so they can have a beer in the tavern - my kind of farming! They don't want to see people (including themselves) building on valuable farmland. And when you had to walk to, and carry, everything, spacing things out just means more effort for everyone. People are very good at conserving their own energy! That of horses, trains and cars - not so much!

Sorry, you're simply misunderstanding. And your assumptions are unfounded.

200 years down the line: my small holding in the country has been sustainably kept and maintained because of trees i planted to replace aging timbers, or straw i grew, or what have you. meanwhile, the city dwellings have had to be made over at least once, unsustainably.

Buildings change over time and maintenance and repair are necessary. Entropy happens. Whether the necessary and/or desirable changes to the structures on your smallholding and the structures in the city are sustainable or not depends upon a fairly complex set of factors which would have to be specified in detail if we wanted to make a worthwhile comparison. There is no reason to believe that your model would necessarily result in more sustainable (or more durable) structures.

Ben Franklin, while in London, mediating between England and the American colonies, lived here:

36 Craven Street

my country village might even be made of condo-like apartments with a a green zone for food production, some for each household, and everything else is local so out transport use has dropped to nearly zero, while city dwellers are still traveling all over the city to satisfy their needs.

Yes, well, that might be true, but it might not be. You, apparently, believe that it would be, based upon some mental models you have constructed, but there really isn't any good reason to think that those models accurately describe reality.

I can't even begin to guess why you imagine that those of us who have been considering these matters "are looking only at fuel efficiency." Perhaps other questions of efficiency haven't been discussed much in this thread (I don't really remember), but rest assured that a lot of people have been struggling with this for a long time. I'm sure there are some things that none of us have thought of, yet, but I promise that we haven't been stuck on fuel efficiency.

Cities, obviously, depend upon their hinterlands. They always have and they always will. Are they "sustainable," in some absolute sense, by themselves? Probably not, because to make them such would be to make them something other than cities. But there's a reason that cities have been at the center of civilization for millennia: they provide cultural and economic sustenance that benefits their inhabitants, the residents of the hinterlands, and society at large. Indeed, we have never had anything like "civilization" without cities, and it seems unlikely that we ever will.

I found your post rather rude in its many assumptions of what I intended by what I wrote and the mental constructs I hold. As is very typical in this day and age, your own issues colored what I wrote and allowed you to imbue what I wrote with all sorts of stuff. I'd appreciate a little more courtesy in the future.

I offered nothing more than some suggestions at how cities being assumed to be more efficient than rural is perhaps - I made no unequivocal statements - inaccurate, primarily because of the assumptions implicit in our concepts of cities and in failing to look at longer timelines. We need to get in the habit of always designing for longer time lines.

Quick observations: 1. We have not always had cities. 2. Though we have had them for a long time, they have always been built in times lacking awareness of global resource constraints. I know of no metric that indicates cities are in any way necessary for humanity.

I said they were central to civilization.

Nobody who has studied the history of civilization would seriously argue the question.

You're a bright guy, but you display a very narrow view of the world and you are quick to take offense over disagreements that you, apparently, perceive as personal attacks or threats to your world view.

If you want to talk seriously about urban issues, with people who are serious about them, you have some remedial work to do.

As for your smallholding vision, I applaud it. Go for it. If you're very nice to us, we may let you come to our lucrative city markets to sell some of your produce.

One question is where does civilization end and humanity begin? Or are they the same thing or even a continuity? Did the rise of civilization and cities lead to the rise of humanity? Perhaps civilization and cities were an inevitable result of humanity. Though they may have nothing at all in common anyway.


Or are they the same thing or even a continuity?

No, I'm pretty sure they aren't the same. And, if they are points on a continuity, I rather doubt that there is anything inevitable or deterministic involved.

However, if we use "civilization" to mean a complex organization of society, with labor specialization, government, excess production permitting development of the arts—all the things we traditionally think of when we use the term, I think it is inextricably linked to urbanization, at least in our world.

It is possible to imagine other realities, just as it is possible to imagine silicon-based life forms, but I don't think it's of practical importance to us.

One of the most likely etymylogical roots of the word is the Latin, civis, which refers to a townsman or "citizen."

It seems to be dependant on how civilization is defined. OTOH it could be a state achieved by humanity where it is defined by the level of social interaction. OTO it could be defined as the level of urbanization that is achieved. The two may or may not be linked. Maybe I should think about this more after a few beers.


You're a bright guy, but you display a very narrow view of the world

Actually, this is not correct. You just are developing a habit of extrapolate a lot of stuff out of very simple and very limited examples, not even real world, and not intended to be if you were to pay closer attention to the context, that I am using to illustrate, simply, a very limited concept.

The problem is on your end, i.e. You don't seem to be getting context. Not sure why.

I said they were central to civilization.

Well there are specific definitions, I suppose, but I am not sure I agree with them. This one does not support your contention: "the way people live at a particular time and place

We're really not getting anywhere. Without intending to be insulting, may I ask if English is your first language?

I'll have to defer to you. If your land is sustainable because of trees that you have planted over the last 200 years, you clearly have a lot more experience than I do.

An epizootic outbreak of equine influenza during 1872 in North America became known as "The Great Epizootic of 1872." The outbreak is known as the "most destructive recorded episode of equine influenza in history." The impact of the outbreak is marked as one of the major contributors to the Panic of 1873 in the United States (link.)

Yes, the horse-and-buggy economy has systemic risks too. As will, probably, any sort of economy of any size at all.

The only affliction that train based cities seem to have is the odd railway workers strike, and if those cities/states/countries are silly enough to allow those workers to be unionised and/or to have the right to strike, well then they are asking for trouble.

Ontario bans public transit strikes in Toronto despite union backlash

Wed Mar 30 2011 TORONTO — Public transit is now an essential service in Canada’s most populous city under a new law that bans strikes and lockouts by Toronto Transit Commission workers.

The government bill passed Wednesday in the Ontario legislature by a vote of 68-9, just a day before the first labour contracts with transit workers were set to expire.

The move infuriated labour leaders, including Bob Kinnear, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113, which represents nearly 10,000 TTC operations and maintenance workers.

He derided Premier Dalton McGuinty as a “lapdog” to “union-hating, right wing” Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, who promised to ban TTC strikes during last year’s election campaign. The move was supported by city council three months ago.

If the Toronto transit workers don't like being hammered down by higher-level government "lapdogs" to "union-hating right-wing" city politicians, I guess they can just move to some other city where the politicians actually do like transit strikes.

I really don't understand why the transit union would be angry at losing their right to strike. Without the right to strike, wage settlements will be decided by binding arbitration. Police and firemen in Ontario who also do not have the right to strike have done very well with binding arbitration. The arbitrators really do not care what the financial situation of the city is like or the impact their arbitration decisions will have on property taxes.

Yes, when transit workers sleep on the job in public, and still demand the right to strike, they should not be too surprised that there is a public backlash. Whatever else people may say about the mayor, he ran on a platform that included this policy, and got elected, so he has a mandate ti implement it. The transit workers have destroyed the public's trust in them, why should they expect the public to let them go on strike for more pay while they sleep - everyone else has to work to earn a living.


Another serious problem in car based cities is the enormous land area devoted to storing the cars when they are not in use. If you look at a google satelite map of Portland, Maine, for example, there are at least a dozen city blocks of surface parking, and than another dozen or so big parking structures. If you add in the wide streets, the total land area given over to cars is probably about 50% of all the land on the Portland peninsula.


Those charts fit very well with some other information that I found over the weekend. Moscow, one of the more dense cities on the charts, apparently has the largest trolleybus system in the world, with about 1700 trolleybuses. For anyone not familiar with trolleybuses, sometimes also known as trackless trolleys, these are basically city transit buses that operate on electricity from overhead wires instead of using onboard IC engines.

Here in the USA we have small remnants of large trolleybus systems operating in five cities. The biggest system in North America is Mexico City, without about 700 trolleybuses. Apparently when the Mexico City system was set up 30 to 40 years ago, they bought up hundreds of used trolleybuses from systems being shut down in the US, so their only big expense was putting up the overhead wires.

Living in one of the Denver suburbs, I'm curious if there was any additional information about the way the gasoline was used -- eg, for commuting, for recreation, etc.

One of the reasons that the Front Range section of Colorado has grown at the rate it has is the ability to just "pop up" to the mountains for hiking, skiing, mountain biking, white-water sports, and so on. A 40-60 mile drive to reach the trail head for a 30-mile bike ride, plus the same drive home, is a very common occurrence. If anything goes wrong on a winter Sunday afternoon, I-70 from the ski resorts, up across the Divide, and down the hill to Denver turns into a 60-mile-long parking lot.

I would not be surprised to find that Denver has the highest "recreational" gasoline usage in the country.

Moscow is really exceptional.

Moscow may not be so exceptional today. This study was done in 1988, right at the end of Soviet Russia. Car ownership, and fuel availability, were restricted. So while the city can function at that low level, not many people would do so by choice. It does illustrate though, that in a city with suitable transit systems, life can go on with minimal car use - like it did before the car was invented.


I'm back, after a trip to the coast for a meeting yesterday afternoon.

In case it is not clear yet, the X axis of that chart is area per person, or the inverse of population density. So the left side of the chart includes cities with the highest population density, and the right side is lowest population density.

Detroit is very spread out and therefore has low population density. In effect, because of the large land area, much of Detroit is low density suburb rather than central city.

The most interesting comparison on the chart is the dramatic difference between European and American cities, with European cities being much more dense, along with using much less gasoline, although some of that lower gasoline use is obviously due to the higher gasoline taxes over there.

Also, I was surprised to see that Toronto is more dense than NYC, but maybe that is just because NYC includes relatively low density areas like Brooklyn and Staten Island.

I was surprised to see that Toronto is more dense than NYC, but maybe that is just because NYC includes relatively low density areas like Brooklyn and Staten Island.

More likely it was because the chart was created prior to the forcible amalgamation of Toronto with five of its lower-density suburbs. Odds are that the land area per capita in the newer, bigger Toronto is considerably higher now.

Amalgamation of Toronto - 1998

Amalgamation occurred in 1998 when six municipalities comprising Metropolitan Toronto – East York, Etobicoke, North York, Scarborough, York, and the former city of Toronto – and the regional municipality of Metro Toronto were dissolved and amalgamated into a single municipality called the City of Toronto

Also, note the following, which points out one of the differences between Canadian and American city politics:

This amalgamation was despite a municipal referendum in 1997 that was overwhelmingly against amalgamation, which resulted in over three quarters of voters rejecting amalgamation... However, the municipalities in Ontario are creatures of the provincial government, which decided to go ahead with the merger despite local opposition.

In Canadian politics, the city government nail that sticks up and creates a nuisance gets banged down by the big provincial government hammer.

Does the consumption data in your chart include diesel, or just gasoline?

The chart is just gasoline. At they time they did this (1989) it was the predominant passenger vehicle fuel, even in Euro cities. Cars did use diesel back then, but their proportion was smaller than today.
To account for passenger diesel in the Euro cities you could probably up the fuel usage by a third, but it doesn't make much difference to the overall picture - people in those cities use far less liquid fuel.

Am I the only one astonished that Los Angeles fares pretty well against other US cities? As long as I can remember LA was the poster child for American car culture.

I think that is from the LA area being a bunch of cities in the same area - not everyone is commuting to downtown. That said, I'm not sure where they drew the boundaries for this study could be the city, the county or the whole LA basin.

I would think LA is certainly still the place for car "culture", but maybe more people like to show their cars off rather thna drive them?

I'm not sure where they drew the boundaries for this study...

That will be the crucial question. What we refer to generically as "Los Angeles" is actually a jigsaw puzzle of multiple municipalities and unincorporated areas multiple counties:

L.A. Area -- Google Maps

It's all, most certainly, still carmageddon, but L.A. has been working hard to rebuild its transit system. Quite a lot has been accomplished:

L.A. Metro

Systemwide Ridership Estimates
Apr. 2011* Apr. 2010 Apr. 2009
Average Weekday Boardings 1,421,638 1,469,054 1,475,000
Average Saturday Boardings 982,800 995,239 993,738
Average Sunday and Holiday Boardings 725,664 728,069 754,857
Total Calendar Month Boardings 37,671,062 39,212,429 39,444,390


As long as I can remember LA was the poster child for American car culture.

LA was once the poster child for the American car culture, but now it is the poster child for the limitations of the American car culture. It is now the second largest city in the US, and has run out of land to sprawl over. LA has simply hit the limits of what is possible to do with the car and low rise buildings, and now has nowhere to go but to public transit and high rise buildings.

The limitations of cars are pretty basic. One lane of freeway can carry about 1800 cars per hour, which, given car drivers solitary attitudes, translates into about 2000 people per hour. The only way to increase this is by adding more lanes (HOV lanes really don't add capacity in practice). Since around half of its land area is devoted to cars, LA has hit the limit of the process of widening freeways - it can't simply double the number of lanes without using up 100% of its land for cars.

So, LA has nowhere else to put freeways, and nowhere else to put buildings. The only way the transportation system can go is public transit, and the only way the buildings can go is up. People who don't believe this are simply in a state of denial of the physical realities of space limitations.

OTOH, in comparison to the 2000 passenger per hour per lane limit on freeways, light rail systems can carry 20,000 passengers per hour per track, and heavy rail systems can carry 40,000 and up. This is how cities in other countries remain completely functional at much higher densities than US cities.

So, LA has nowhere else to put freeways, and nowhere else to put buildings. The only way the transportation system can go is public transit, and the only way the buildings can go is up.


In Pasadena, Calif. there is already ample evidence of the transition to higher density. Now there are many 5 story mixed use buildings (ground floor businesses with upper floor residences) lining Lake Avenue and Green Street, with more being built.

I think the only difference between NY city and Los Angeles city is about 100yrs, if collapse factors do not change the course (and I suspect they will).

Now there are many 5 story mixed use buildings (ground floor businesses with upper floor residences)

It's amazing to think it has taken this long for places like Pasadena and LA to do what European and Asian cities have been doing for centuries;

Central Paris (source)

If your own city looked like this, you wouldn't have to pay to go to Paris (or put up with the Parisians).

Note how angry all the people seem because of the rising price of gasoline.

Not many people know this but Pasadena built the first elevated freeway in the LA basin back in the 1890's - and it was built for bicycles!

It ran for nine miles from Pasadena to LA, grade separated all the way, and made out of Oregon timber.

Photo credit: Low Tech Magazine
A freeway built of renewable materials for carbon free transport - in LA!
It was actually a tollway, 10c one way, 15c return, and could take four riders abreast. It was built to be able to be doubled in width, but this never happened. It was built with railroad style grades and apparently you could almost coast all the way from Pasadena to LA.

Full history here

What the LA cyclists would give for that thing to be around today...

Right before cars, bicycling in the US was HUGE. It's almost impossible for people to get a sense of this fact today. Oddly, in China it was the same, right before cars spread, bicycling was huge, the primary mode I believe of urban transit for many people.

When I lived in Barcelona, I saw a film of an early critical mass type event, in the 70s, Franco era. The people were interviewed and were complaining about how many cars there were, they had film footage of the traffic. The streets were almost empty compared to 90s level Barcelona traffic, I was stunned. So it goes to show, what people think is normal can change radically, and what we think we need is very rarely what we actually need.

That example you posted is from that US bike pre car time, and it shows us that our views of what we must have are simply totally wrong, something we have grown to believe and accept based purely on never critically examining our assumptions and biases, which we receive without any awareness of having done so, largely via a lifetime of absorbing media injections into our minds things designed to sell products for large companies.

Every time I look at cars, listen to them, watch their speed, actually look at freeways, I am stunned by how vile they are. How many of you have ever walked along a freeway? Try it sometime, then explain why cars are good things to have. Make sure to breath deeply of the fragrant perfumes along the roadside, required to move each person's body somewhere they generally don't need to go, or which they could get to some other way. Repeat this exercise until you start to see what a car really is.

When I lived in Sydney I used to cycle to work along "cycle path" that was painted line on the edge of Sydney's busiest freeway - not for the fainthearted. One weekend there was an event on called "cycle Sydney" where that had closed off roads along a 30km route - it ws amazing how relaxing it is to cycle the same streets with no cars.

The interesting thing about that Pasedena cycleway is that it would not be too hard to do that today. An elevated, grade separated cycleway would be very easy and chap to build - over the top of sidewalks. You would likely beat the average travel speed on any peak hour freeway or train in any American city. And the view would be nice too.

closets modern example I can think of is the Galloping Goose Trail in Victoria, BC, which is a disused railway line the runs through the city.

When cyclist don;t have to take their life in their hands in traffic, there are many more of them!

An elevated, grade separated cycleway would be very easy and chap to build - over the top of sidewalks.

You make some good points, but vertical grade separation, unless the vehicles go below grade, ends up creating unpleasant, inconvenient and, usually, ugly intrusions into the built environment. That goes for elevated trains, pedestrian overcrossings and undercrossings, monorails, and stacking bikes on top of pedestrians. It also creates traffic engineering nightmares at intersections.

Best to drop that one.

Well, lets face it, many of the roads in our cities are ugly anyway! I'd rather be cycling above them than on them.

But the intrusion depends on where you Put things.

In Vancouver, we already have the elevated SkyTrain, you could put the cycle way over the top of that no problem. Bonus then is that it runs to all the major centres and right into the centre of DT.

Also, the avenues, which run E-W, all have rear lanes, where the power lines, garages, service entrances and garbage bins are. These are *perfect* for an elevated cycleway with minimal intrusion. Just have stairs located once per block, and you are done.

In fact, if you put Vancouver Broadway into google maps, you'll see the rear lane between it and 10th Ave to the north, and this lane runs almost all the way from the Commercial Drive Sky Train out to the edge of the Univ of BC lands. An elevated cycleway there would hardly be noticed, and it would have thousands of riders each day - even accessible by Sky Train!

In suburbia it's a bit different, but still, the main roads are hardly postcard stuff, an elevated cycleway off to one side would not be the end of the world.

And it achieves an otherwise impossible result - it would make cycle commuting the fastest mode, on average (until you get congestion on the cycleways, I suppose). condemning cyclists to battle traffic means there are not many of them, and as long as it is at ground level, you are going to have this problem in existing build up areas.

Let the cyclists rise above the rat race and leave the frustrated motorists to battle it our on the roads!

Just have stairs located once per block, and you are done.

Stairs? This is is a case in which you really appear not to "get it" at all, Paul.

Here's a research assignment:

In any number of locations around North America, wide arterials are crossed by pedestrian/cyclist overpasses (accessed either by stairs or spiral ramps). These structures were ostensibly installed to promote pedestrian safety, although the real goal is, quite obviously, preventing delay to auto traffic. Quite often, the adjacent grade-level crossing is barred with signs forbidding its use and directing human-powered street users to the overpass.

Take a camera or a counting device and go spend a few hours, during a busy traffic period, observing what peds and cyclists actually do at such locations. Then, come back and tell me again about your stairs every block.

And it achieves an otherwise impossible result - it would make cycle commuting the fastest mode, on average (until you get congestion on the cycleways, I suppose). condemning cyclists to battle traffic means there are not many of them, and as long as it is at ground level, you are going to have this problem in existing build up areas.

Again, this reveals a profound ignorance of the decades of study relating to accommodation of various street users and effective ways in which this can be accomplished.

Even worse, it is based upon an unstated underlying assumption (it may even be unconscious): that automobile traffic must receive privileged, priority treatment
on our streets. Tgere is nor reason this must be the case and it constitutes and expensive subsidy, with serious negative impacts for all other users.

I see nothing wrong with stairs on every block - though I guess you could do it every 2nd or 4th block.
The walkway/cycleway on the Sydney Harbour Bridge is accessed by stairs at each end - longer than a block of course. next to the stairs is a smooth ramp, and you just push your bike up/down that as you walk up/down the stairs. As a one time frequent user, I'd say that the system works very well.
Of course, my idea here is to have the elevated way for cyclists only, but there would probably pressure to have a walking path too.

Quite often, the adjacent grade-level crossing is barred with signs forbidding its use and directing human-powered street users to the overpass.

Hmm, must be an American thing to bar people from crossing the road, and to build an overhead crossing right next to an intersection. Most o'head crossings I see in Canada or Australia are over freeways or the like, or in the middle of long stretches between lights where a set of pedestrian lights would be a real traffic impediment.

In Calgary there are overhead crossings everywhere - in fact, you can walk 10 miles around the entire downtown, without ever having to go to street level, or out into the weather! It is called the +15 system, and is effectively an elevated "freeway" system for pedestrians. Needless to say, it is very popular, especially in winter. Who wants to walk across intersections if you don;t have to? Now, that doesn't mean you are barred from walking over any intersection at street level - this is not a police state, after all. I can't help it if some American cities do silly things like that.

Again, this reveals a profound ignorance of the decades of study relating to accommodation of various street users and effective ways in which this can be accomplished.

No, not at all. What I am saying is that if cyclist are on their own freeway, they can move at their mean free speed, which will be faster than the average speed of peak hour traffic on the roads below. That is the design basis behind car freeways of course, and it will hold true for bicycles too. If they are on the roads below, with the traffic, even in cycle lanes, they can only move as fast as the traffic light changes will allow them - which will be no faster than the rest of the traffic, by definition.

And a Sunday ride along the street with traffic just isn't nearly as nice as one on a dedicated path.

Even worse, it is based upon an unstated underlying assumption (it may even be unconscious): that automobile traffic must receive privileged, priority treatment on our streets.this or even use the rear lane, but you still have an intersection with every cross street, which would make the whole experience less than idyllic.

There is no reason this must be the case and it constitutes and expensive subsidy, with serious negative impacts for all other users.

Who is subsidising whom depends on how it is paid for. if the City pays for the elevated cycleway, obviously the cyclists are getting subsidised and I am Ok with that, although I like the idea of a cycle tollway too - I'd pay a dollar per ride no problem. Vancouver has already spent tens of millions on its at grade cycle lanes. And I don't see how putting cyclists up there is any negative consequence for other road users down below, other than the frustration of being beaten by pedal power - and I am OK with that too.

Of course, I would love to get cars out of the way completely, but that is a little unrealistic, at least, until gasoline gets to $20/gal.

Every time I look at cars, listen to them, watch their speed, actually look at freeways, I am stunned by how vile they are. How many of you have ever walked along a freeway?

Really, all you have to do to understand how car culture has made life in the streets unbearable for everyone not inside the cars is to spend an afternoon walking around (and crossing) an ordinary American suburban network of collectors and arterials. It's a lesson most Americans don't get very often: they only walk to and from their cars, or they drive somewhere "nice" to take a walk.

Andres Duany used to do a slide show presentation in which he'd show a public building, office park, strip mall, whatever. He'd point out that, usually, there is something you could call a "sidewalk," but that the overall setting is so hostile, so unattractive, uninviting and threatening that, "Theoretically, people could walk here, but why would they?"

I can't find a suitable digital image from Duany, so I'll borrow one:

Happy Motoring, America!

Is it any wonder Kunstler talks about the "national automobile slum?"

IIRC, LA once had the most extensive trolley car system in the world.

That is before big oil arranged to have them all ripped out.

LA was sprawling even before the automobile. They had to: earthquake danger.

Ummm... of all the recorded California earthquakes of significant magnitude (Richter 6 or so) between our war on Mexico, which added the pueblo to U.S. territory (1848) and the time when we would all probably agree that the automobile was becoming dominant (early 1930's), perhaps three or four were centered anywhere near Los Angeles.

California Earthquake History

If you review the history of the area, I think you'll find that early sprawl resulted from the usual (in the western U.S.) pattern of boosterism by railroad interests and land speculators.

True, but you do not want to be in any tall building built before 1960, in an earthquake harder than a Richter 4.

I think the real reason for LA sprawl is the building height restrictions.

A lot of people think the building height restrictions were because of earthquakes, but they weren't. They were to limit city density. They didn't want the congestion of dense cities like NY and Chicago, and they didn't want the sun blocked out by tall buildings.

I think the real reason for LA sprawl is the building height restrictions.

The original assertion was about pre-automobile sprawl. I assure you that reviewing the history of the L.A. basin will demonstrate that said sprawl was driven by railroad/interurban expansion coupled with classic boosterism and land speculation.

A few minutes of googling will turn up examples of the seductive "land of milk and honey" recruiting brochures distributed in the eastern U.S. by agents of the usual suspects.

If anyone really wants to do the research, I'll dig up citations.

What I would like to get a good grip on is, how much less energy does the typical city dweller use, compared to someone who lives 10, 20 or even thirty miles out in the suburbs.

Many variables. How many shared walls? Insulation on outer walls. Do you have a Passivehaus or any solar collection? Energy consumed - walking in NYC has a different enery output than driving 2hours one way in California.

In other words, I'm talking about the energy use that we as individuals have the most control over

Then follow breadcrumbs of passivehaus. Using things like solar PV or solar hot water via evacuated glass tubes. A wind machine if you are able to erect it or even micro hydro if you are blessed with that resource.

Almost any of the photon powered conversions are not really an option in dense cities as they lack the surface area to capture the very diffuse photons.

Missing from your list is food.

Creation of fresh water via the 'purification' and transportation via evaporation is also missing.

Creation of fresh water via the 'purification' and transportation via evaporation is also missing.

Can you be a be more specific here - are you talking about energy for water and sewage treatment?
What is "transportation via evaporation", in this context?

energy for water and sewage treatment

In fact no, but you bring up a good point. Sewage can be treated at the source via things like humanure-ing it or the pro photon processing version would be a man made cattail bed. The cattails and other things in the waterway absorb the Nitrogen and other elements and output clean (enough) water to be used for watering plants.

And, if you want, you can eat or turn the cattail roots into alcohol.

The "transportation via evaporation" is simple rain.

Shouldn't that be transportation following evaporation? I think that both processes share the same basic cause.

If water is not being moved about and de-mineralized by evaporation there are additional energy expenses involved with doing just that.

See the KSA for an example.

So, just for balance, does anyone have a link to Mr. Tillerson's address to the graduates of WPI?

Or is that information considered confidential and restricted?

Probably more "trite and boring" than "confidential and restricted." Commencement speeches aren't exactly known for being exciting.

I don't think the entire transcript is online anywhere, but here's an article with some excerpts.

Trite and boring indeed. Thanks for the link!

Golf courses see trouble as fewer people play

Eagle Harbor Golf Club can't meet its debt payments, a problem sweeping the nation as fewer people play amid recession and changing priorities.

Last year, 46 opened and 107 closed.

"I was out taking the trash cans in this morning and 40 guys went by me on bicycles in those skinny little clothes," Orender said. "And not a one of them was under 50. In their father's generation, they'd have been at the golf course and drinking gin afterward."

Bob Shaw would be proud.

(2005) Top Five Net Exporter Update

I took the EIA data for total petroleum liquids for 2010 and then extrapolated the 2005 to 2009 rate of increase in consumption for Saudi Arabia, Russia, Norway, Iran and the UAE to come up with estimated (2005) top five production of 29.8 mbpd and consumption of about 8.0 mbpd, resulting in estimated 2010 net exports of 21.8 mbpd.

Here are the BP (2005) top five net exports data for 2005 to 2009, and the 2010 estimate:

2005: 23.8 mbpd
2006: 23.6
2007: 22.9
2008: 22.8
2009: 19.3
2010: 21.8*


Note that at the 2002 to 2005 rate of increase in net exports for the top five (6.3%/year), they would have been (net) exporting 32.6 mbpd in 2010, versus the estimated net export rate of 21.8 mbpd. The top five data continue to fall between Sam Foucher's middle case and high case. The wild card continues to be Russia, the only country where the production data are currently falling at the upper limit of Sam's projections.

Sam's most optimistic projection is that by the end of 2014, the (2005) top five will have (net) exported about half of their post-2005 CNE (Cumulative Net Exports).

Actual top five data through 2006, and projections (low case, middle case, high case), with actual subsequent 2007, 2008 and 2009 data shown circled:

No surprises here. Your ELM model is robust; I wonder if you could persuade the editors at TOD to let you do a new key post on ELM and its more revised versions, ELMn.

Old timers like me have read all your good stuff, but newcomers have not seen the fine work you and Sam did years ago. Come to think of it, a new article on ELP would also be of benefit to newer TOD members.

Chindia's combined net oil imports were 5.2 mbpd in 2005, rising to 7.3 mbpd in 2009 (BP). If we extrapolate this rate of increase, they would have been up to about 8 mbpd in 2010, which is probably a conservative estimate.

In any case, a reasonable estimate is that Chindia's combined net imports, as a percentage of (2005) top five net exports, rose from 22% in 2005 to 37% in 2010. At this rate of increase (10.4%year), Chindia would consume 100% of combined net exports from Saudi Arabia, Russia, Norway, Iran and the UAE some time around 2020.

Incidentally, the initial CNE depletion rates are so high that there is very little difference between the middle case post-2005 CNE "Half Life" (8 years) and the high case post-2005 CNE Half-Life (9 years). The half-life would be the point at which the (2005) top five had shipped about 50% of post-2005 CNE (Cumulative Net Exports). Here are some CNE half-life numbers for the ELM, the UK, Indonesia and Egypt:


As soon as the BP and EIA production & consumption data are out for 2010, I would like to do several updates, e.g. the Texas/Saudi Arabia paper, the top five paper and the global net exports paper. My guesstimate is that global net exports* for 2010 were around 44.5 mbpd, versus 46 mbpd for 2005 and 43 mbpd for 2009. Given the cutbacks in data collection efforts, I'm not sure how much longer we will be able to get semi-reliable data.

*2005 net exporters with 100,000 bpd or more of net exports.

At this rate of increase (10.4%year), Chindia would consume 100% of combined net exports from Saudi Arabia, Russia, Norway, Iran and the UAE some time around 2020.

It seems unlikely that this 2020 outcome will come to pass. Serious resistance between now and then will happen. Each year that China's rate of increase continues to stay high, will tighten the zero sum game with the United States. When do you predict real problems to manifest?

Here's how we addressed the topic in a recent article, regarding Chindia's combined net oil imports, as a percentage of global net exports (GNE):


However, a key question is, how are post-2005 CNE (Cumulative Net Exports) going to be distributed? Note that in four years Chindia’s net oil imports as a percentage of GNE rose from 11.3 percent to 17.1. If we extrapolate this rate of increase, it suggests that Chindia will be consuming 100 percent of GNE around 2025.

While we can all agree that something will change, and Chindia will not be consuming 100 percent of GNE in 2025, it appears likely only a question of what the long-term rate of increase is going to be for Chindia’s net oil imports.

In any case, for purposes of illustration it’s useful to carry out the Chindia extrapolation to its logical conclusion. If we define Available Net Exports as the volume of net exported oil not consumed by Chindia, then the estimated post-2005 total volume of Available CNE will only be about 150 Gb; and in 2006 to 2009 inclusive, non-Chindia importers have consumed about 56 Gb, or one-third of projected post-2005 Available CNE.

So, I agree that "something" will change. I'm just not sure what something is, but I doubt that it will be a positive outcome for the US.

but newcomers have not seen the fine work you and Sam did years ago

In the internet there is this thing called links.

And on TOD, the old content is kept.

Nothing stopping you from linking to that old content in new posts, if you find it valuable.

Nothing stopping newcomers from reading the old posts either.


I reread old TOD posts fairly often, and perhaps you do that too. I do not think it is likely, however, that many newcomers to TOD read the archives. Hence, I think new (or re-posted, even better) articles from westexas and Sam Foucher would be very worth doing.

Management agrees in part with the 'best of TOD' post. Management mostly lets us post what we want...it just might not stay posted is all.

Nothing stopping posting in a drumbeat:

"Hey - 'member back last decade when X said Y would happen then Z? Guess what? Y just happened." when Y happens.

Might even get a few people to say "huh, and turns out I was wrong about Y not happening". Cuz I know I've been wrong on some of what I was thinking was gonna happen.

I made bold predictions five years ago on TOD. Many have been proven true. My latest forecast, made (I think.) in January of this year was that U.S. real GDP growth for 2011 would be low, in the 1% to 2% range, and that the Dow Jones Industrial Average would fall to below $8,000 by July 4, 2011.

I am reposting these predictions and standing by my forecasts.

Just remember that God made economic forecasters so that weather forecasters would look good by comparison. LOL

Latest on CNBC, about an hour or so ago, was that latest "expert" predictions are for lower growth (about 1.5%) and higher inflation (didn't give a new percentage. Last I saw as 7.65%). So far you're looking spot on, Don.


As new data come in, economists continually revise their forecasts--just as do weather forecasters.

The low growth for U.S. real GDP is, IMO, largely due to the rise in oil prices, and to some extent due to a rise in food prices. When people have to pay more for gasoline, home heating oil, and food, they have less to spend on new cars, furniture, clothing and other highly discretionary (as opposed to immediately "necessary") items.

In regard to inflation, I think John Williams at Shadostats.com has it right.

My guess is that the recent bull market in stocks is over. Stocks have gone pretty much nowhere during 2011, and I think the next major move (say over 1,000 points in the DJIA) is going to be down. If I held any common stocks (which I do not, except as part of my Teachers Retirement Association pension funds) I would sell them now and reinvest all that money in TIPs, Treasury Inflation Protected securities. Stocks have been a terrible investment over the past dozen years. TIPs have done much better than stocks ever since they became available.

IMHO, precious metals are a snare and a delusion. They fluctuate in price, but my guess is that the price of gold and silver may now be in a fairly long-term bear market. Now if inflation rates were to go back to double digits, then I might make a case for accumulation of gold and silver coins, but I think copper is a better long-term investment as a hedge against inflation than are precious metals. You never know when a few hundred feet of copper tubing might come in handy . . . .

IMHO, precious metals are a snare and a delusion. ... but I think copper is a better long-term investment as a hedge against inflation than are precious metals.

I'd say the best investment in precious metals is old hand tools at auction.

To each his own I guess.

But in the coming years I'm not going to have sympathy for people who are too poor to own gold and silver. You have a chance now to get in. If you don't take it, don't complain in 2020 that they're too expensive and in a "bubble."

Of course, I will admit that they, like all things, can approach bubble territory, but we are nowhere near that point, and until I see some stability restored to the financial system I will be a long term investor.

But in the coming years I'm not going to have sympathy for people who are too poor to own gold and silver. You have a chance now to get in. If you don't take it, don't complain in 2020 that they're too expensive and in a "bubble."

Americans who are barely employed, or unemployed, or marginally employed with crushing student loan debt, they don't have the discretionary income to speculate on commodities. They're too busy trying to keep the lights on.

Widgets. Common useful sizes of screws, bolts, bearings, nuts, 9 gauge wire for gardening, extra pliers and screwdrivers (even the good ones break and wear out), and sure, copper tubing is always useful. The poor man's metals play, eh? Not portable in a tsunami, but most useful for the ordinary tribulations, such as a long stretch of unemployment or the empty shelves at the box stores we saw in 2008. Nothing close to the right size to be found, but shelves packed with the wrong size, earthen ware garden gnomes and plastic baskets to disguise the distinct lack of bicycle tires and hardware parts. And that was just a minor economic commotion.

The poor/smart man's metal play is in lead (bullets).

Lead and cold steel have always trumped gold and silver. During times of disorder, those who have gold (or are suspected of having gold) become targets of roving gangs. The gang invades your house, ties everybody up and asks where the gold is. When you don't tell at first, one of the gang members starts carving up the smallest child, or if there is no child, then the woman. Before too many fingers and ears and toes are chopped off, you'll tell where the gold is and be glad to get rid of it.

IMHO, only fools own gold for security during hard times. Another good example of where owning gold will get you killed is the civil war in Lebanon, back in the seventies. Then it was gangs of terrorists that would invade your house or walled compound. Yet another time it was really really a bad idea to own gold was during the infamous Stalin gold purge, where those who owned gold had it confiscated by communist party thugs, and then (if one was lucky) sent to a gulag in Siberia. Many gold hoarders were just shot on the spot, after they had been tortured into revealing where the gold was hidden.

Thus, those who think owning a thousand ounces of gold bullion coins will get themselves anything but grief just have not studied history suffieciently.

5,000 rounds of ammo in various calibers, now that makes a lot of sense to me, but first I am stockpiling water and food.

So, gold can be stolen. So can water and food. So can guns, ammo, knives, bullets.


If your vision of human beings is such that you think we will all devolve into fighting Hobbes' war of all against all, have at it.

But I know for a fact that such a situation has never existed. Even in the worst of times, those who used physical violence to augment their own wealth have been looked down upon, outcast from any organized civil society.

But here's the real problem with counting on your 5000 rounds of ammo - the guy down the street has 10000, the one three blocks over as 25000. But there's a family on the other side of town that's been spreading gold around like its water and he now "owns" the guy down the street and the one three blocks over.

shaman, careful, I was almost going to agree, then I checked in my memory, and sadly, many many such roving gangs have and continue to exist.

Let me point you to some: today: Somalia, a failed state, broken into three parts. Just read a fine book by a journalist who actually had the guts to go there and do real interviews and research. The norm: roving gangs, warlords, total breakdown of social cohesion.

Let's go back a bit: Ghengis Khan, a great roving gang, extremely successful. Only if semantics is a big deal would he not qualify, he roved, he led a very powerful gang.

And let's not forget my people, and their Viking ways, raping, looting, pillaging, all for fun and profit. Mobile, speed, in and out raids, heavy use of physical violence to augment their own wealth, even to the degree that as time progressed, they realize all they had to do was send the next victims a message about an impending raid, unless they received payment not to do so, the danegeld you've hopefully read about at some point.

added: and how can we forget our own rich past and history? Ongoing looting and pillaging and theft of native lands, no problem, great wealth there, no? Seemed to work out ok for us in the short term, I'd say. Wasn't much uproar about the plight of the victims, in fact, once the interface between the Europeans and natives got too close, the European settlers generally insisted on the extermination of the Natives, who were, outrageously, having the audacity to try to protect their lands. In fact, the entire colonization of the new world could be described as extreme violence against others, violence celebrated and approved of by both the state and the people, until of course it was over, then great hand-wringing occurs, among the socially more sensitive.

No outcast, heavy social status, in each case.

Then we can look at more fringe stuff, the Russian mafia comes to mind, they seem to be doing well. They are very fond of using physical violence to augment their own wealth and power.

However, with all this said, I believe it's critical to look at two things when viewing such questions: the people, the tribe, the culture, whatever you want to call it, involved, and the time in history. For example, while the Norwegians today are happy to face the North Sea fury to get wealth, they aren't so much into the rape looting and slaughtering thing anymore, in fact, it's downright frowned upon by right thinking norwegians now. But the attitude is the same, go out there into the harsh north sea and make some serious money. So the timing is a big deal.

I've never bought the mad max view either by the way, there might be periods of social breakdown but they aren't worth planning for in my opinion, you're WAY better off finding a real functioning community and creating links and bonds of real, non virtual nature. And, you might recall, that was in fact precisely how those people survived in mad max, cooperation, social bonds, tight community, which makes the references to a mad max world even funnier, since the key part of the survival there was the grouping into a self protecting and sustaining tribe. Helped by the then young Mel Gibson, of course. There was a wonderful post in these threads which I should have bookmarked by a now non participating tod member who has done just that, and it was the first time I've read someone who actually is living that solution rather than trying to pursue the same exact selfish me first mindset that is getting us into the problems in the first place. The other funny thing about doomers stocking up is something Kunstler pointed out a while ago, it's just another way to shop and consume, and to avoid creating, you guessed it, viable and real social connections in a viable and real community. This is why I like Greer by the way, he's the only guy I read routinely who actually seems to understand this simple point.

Of course, what retired people do has basically nothing to do with our future, what matters is what their kids and grandkids are doing now, that's where our future is going to come from, so that's what I pay attention to. Love those Seattle local grain, sail delivered, bike delivered goods, for example. Love the local farmers market with their bike coffee stands, yep, bike, neat things. Don't care about people stocking up and pretending they can plan for the unplannable, that's their right to buy the stuff that makes them happy, we live in a consumerist culture after all so it's logical for minds less critical to come up with the solution of consumption, logical but also kind of humorous in my opinion. But each to their own, might come a month or two where they are right in the short term, I would guess yes, but I've also seen houses where I live where that dream would hit a fierce and harsh reality as soon as the first gun was shot.

Love those Seattle local grain, sail delivered, bike delivered goods, for example. Love the local farmers market with their bike coffee stands, yep, bike, neat things

Sorry to be a putz but...

Coffee hardly counts as a "local" product in Seattle. Just because almost everyone there likes to drink it every day and some of the major Coffee distributers are there doesn't make it a local product. Unless there is some sort of massive bicycle-relay distribution network from Central America all the way up to Washington that I'm not aware of, I'd say how the beans travel the last mile to the farmer's market isn't really all that relevant.

I was referring to two things, sorry if it wasn't clear. One thing is the attempt up in the Seattle area to create a relatively sustainable fully local food production system, including grains.

The second thing is just a neat local thing I see here, bike powered coffee stands. Rather than looking for perfection right away, that is, all local all sustainable, small steps are very nice to see. We aren't going to get where we need to be in one step, it's a lot of things, and a core thing is young people changing their attitudes, and that's just what things like bike powered coffee stands represent, a change in attitude. That change leads to other changes, and forms at least a rough foundation for further changes, which can't be predicted by us since there are too many unknowns. What can be predicted is that driving to the mall to grab a cup of starbucks just doesn't cut it as a model for anything, so anything that creates a better version of reality to work off as a base is an improvement.

You know, sort of like the types of posters who, with total lack of sincerity, will drive then criticize someone who talks about bicycles because bicycles use a few drops of oil and some steel in their construction, a criticism which if sincere would immediately stop the driving person from driving forever, but it isn't sincere, it's just a way for that person to deny and not change, nothing beyond that.

So I look for positives out there, and I look for what the young people consider 'hip' and 'cool', and that's what I find hope in. Young people in the 70s found cars and car related activities cool. This is a big improvement, now cars aren't really seen as cool at all anymore in many areas, and that's HUGE. Anything that promotes this type of change in understanding is great as far as I'm concerned.

Like this: bad, less bad, a bit less bad, not quite bad, but not yet good... and so on, step by step. No steps, and we won't get past bad and getting worse.

some quick responses - I don't usually log on at night ...

Somalia - does not fit the model of violence for gold (as there is very little gold) - indeed, it somewhat proves my point that in the midst of a region with no functioning government and roaming bands intent on killing one another, that the people manage to continue to live their lives.

Genghis Kahn / Vikings - both are precisely examples of what I was suggesting. They had the gold and used it to go get more. They were the government. That they used the methods that we frequently attribute to anarchic gangs suggests that Hobbes should look a little closer to home (like right at the Leviathan) if he wanted to find the real perpetrator of war on people.

Russian Mafia (or any such mafia) doesn't work as they are perpetrating their violence not in the absence of government, but in the interstices between gov't and corporate control. Indeed, mafias are dependent on the existence of gov't and the creation of marginal illegal realms to allow their particular endeavors to prosper.

Actually, I think the closest you could come to that mad max future was the western crusades into the holy land. But in a sense, there the church played the role of the government.

But I know for a fact that such a situation has never existed. Even in the worst of times, those who used physical violence to augment their own wealth have been looked down upon, outcast from any organized civil society.

I will attempt, possibly some time later this year, to make sense of the two statements you are making. It's going to be a challenge, so you'll have to excuse me if it takes me some time to actually understand what you're attempting to communicate.

You seem to be abstracting things a bit, making some rules about what is and is not a government, that I seriously doubt would have found much agreement in the times these events were occurring in. Khan was an invader, a roving band of very fast horsemen. He wasn't a government in the areas he invaded until a bit later if ever if I remember right. Since you're fond of somewhat pretentious french intellectuals, let me point you to Verillo, the best of the bunch I'd say, Deleuze, who did some pretty good work re flows, speed, etc, and such things, especially in relation to Khan, if I remember right.

I think you're making the millenia old mistake of thinking that thieves do not then become 'the government', then form justifications etc for that original violence, you know, whatever they like, divine right of kings, manifest destiny, whatever. You seem fond of abstractions, semantics, definitions, bypassing more normal ways of seeing things, which suggests to me that you are either in a liberal arts PHD program or a professor of liberal arts somewhere. Am I right?

The statement that those who use physical violence to augment their wealth are looked down is absurd, and totally untrue, and an attempt to then sort of hide that statement in some qualifiers just makes me scratch my head wondering just what you are talking about in the first place. Khan used violence to augment his wealth, and was feared by the victims and those who didn't want to raise his ire. Are you living here on this planet?

Khan didn't use gold to get more, he used the mongol hordes. Vikings didn't use gold to get more, they used military superiority and might, along with lightning fast raids. Don't you do any reading at all? What branch of the academy do you come out of, comp lit or 'critical theory', or... shudder.. .a ... no, I can't bring myself to say it.. are you...a ... new ager?

Vikings weren't bankers, they were raiders, it was only much later that they decided that settling down, say, in Normandy, or other locations, was better than raiding, well, that plus the raidees were starting to seriously fight back, that probably helped too. They didn't use gold to make gold, they used war. Same as we did as we expanded, we got the land via war, then converted it to gold as time went on. The spanish, of course, bypassed the conversion and just took the gold and silver outright. No social stigmas there at all, it was all quite popular and raised the approval ratings massively of the successful thieves and soldiers.

And this isn't even discussing the robber barons, who used extreme violence against early attempts at union organization here in this country. And the violence against the natives that was ongoing, that wasn't looked down on. what are you talking about? Weird world view you inhabit, I honestly cannot figure it out, and I think I won't try to anymore.

But I feel there's no actual point in continuing this with you, you are off on some tangent that I can't quite figure out, nor do I particularly want to.

h2 - there's an awful lot of invective in there for what you are calling abstract ideas. I'm guessing that maybe I've questioned some deep held belief that you're having trouble protecting in your own thoughts?

I'm not going to try to go into details on the Mongols and Vikings - suffice it to say that the Hollywood versions of those peoples are not wholly accurate.

Had you questioned where a roving band that uses violence is separated from government that uses (or approves) violence, then we might have taken this somewhere.

As for my interests; while I do know of and have read many french (and other) intellectuals, this does not mean that I have adopted their way of seeing for my own. But knowing others' arguments and seeing how they can be applied in particular situations should improve the discussion. Limiting ourselves to see only what we hold dearly as "true" will have us all talking past one another.

And since you seem to think position is so important - I work in a very large corporation, sit in a cube farm all day, and log into The Oil Drum when I can't stand the tedium any more. And, I would guess them I'm twice your age.

Interesting, WT, thanks. For me, the crucial part was whether the 2010 data was higher or lower than 2008. 2009 had a massive, 'artificial', demand shock so it was always the odd man out.

And we can now see that indeed, 2010 has lower numbers for net exports than the last booming year, 2008(this despite the entire Q4 of 2008 was depressed). 2011 will most likely be the final year of importance, as demand is record high. Unless, of course, we get another financial crash(which seems very likely by now, and not just oil-induced(although I'm sure the record oil prices are helping things along quite a bit).

If I have a small beef with those estimates, then it's that the ranges are far too broad to be a forecast, rather than a failsafe. Look at the ranges for production of the 5 exporters, for instance. There's almost 10 mb/d between the lowest and highest estimate for 2010. It's not hard to get it right with those wide margins.

Again, I believe the ELM to be a good model but this was just a small comment on that issue.
And yes, I'd like to see an update too, just like many others once you obtain the data.

The key point is the 2005 inflection point. Basically, Sam's forecast was that there was less than a 5% chance that (2005) top five net exports would keep increasing at the 2002 to 2005 rate of increase, which would have resulted in 2010 net exports of about 33 mbpd. Also, as noted above, if we look at the post-2005 CNE depletion rate, there is only a one year difference between the middle case and high case for post-2005 CNE half-life.

And to be completely correct, the solid line represents the projection, with the dashed lines representing 95% probability boundaries, but a shorthand way of representing the projection is low case, middle case, high case. The actual data points are falling between the (middle case) projection and the upper 95% probability boundary principally because of Russia. When Russia's production does start to decline, it may be at a pretty sharp rate (given the advanced state of depletion of the old oil fields), which would bring the overall top five data closer to the (middle case) projection.

And Russia has not exactly flooded the markets with oil. The 2002 to 2007 rate of increase in total petroleum liquids was 5%/year. At this rate of increase, they would have been at 11.5 mbpd in 2010, versus the actual rate of 10.1 mbpd (EIA). The 2007 to 2010 rate of increase in production was less than one percent per year (0.7%/year), with 2008 showing a year over year decline. The four year average production for 2007 to 2010 inclusive was 9.9 mbpd:

2007: 9.9 mbpd
2008: 9.8
2009: 9.9
2010: 10.1

China hit by worst power crisis in years, Q2 output to fall

SHANGHAI (ICIS)--China is grappling with its worst power shortage in years, particularly in the country’s main industrial bases in the east and south, which will lead to reduced economic output in the second quarter, industry sources said on Monday.

China typically faces a power crunch from June to September, when demand is at its peak. This year, the shortage came about in March, and it is expected to worsen, said a source from the State Grid, which builds and operates China’s power networks.

China Electricity Council, a power-industry federation, said in late April that a power shortfall of about 30m kilowatts will be seen this summer and that the demand gap will likely expand.

“This is about twice the shortage that Japan is facing after the March quake. And this is in addition to the gasoline/diesel shortage,” said Gordon Kwan, head of energy research at Mirae Asset Securities, in a research note.

Can we send China a priority list of which plastic trinkets to build first, then if there is enough power, build the rest?

I vote for those little rings you get in the gumball machine at the front of the grocery store. :)

Edit: Sorry, Undertow, it's just that everything in my house says "China" on the back.

#1 on the list: Dashboard Jesus.

#2: Happy Meals prizes.
Very important


#1 on the list: Dashboard Jesus.

"I don't care if it rains or freezes..."

An entrepreneur, toys, told me "If you can sell 'em a piece of plastic, you're ahead of the game".

There is a Barbie Ballerina set that comes with a plastic costume and an elevated/supported plastic bar for the little girl to stand behind while watching a DVD to mimic. An image of industrial isolation.

A friend's daughter did some drawings of a fanciful toy. On the back, the toy had "Made In China", because all of her toys did. It was a moment of real impact: "How did we get here?"

Had a product produced in China. Our line was a couple of tables. The rest of the huge warehouse was doing Happy Meal toys.


Wait a second. You have been ranting about capitalism here for months, and now it turns out that you were outsourcing manufacturing to China?

"Had a product produced in China."

I did the art, technique, science, and engineering.
The labels send it all overseas since 1975.

Sorry, Undertow, it's just that everything in my house says "China" on the back.

My most recent "hobby" purchase was a new fencing jacket. A rapidly increasing amount of the world's fencing gear seems to be sourced in China (where some apparently intentional corner-cutting in manufacturing has led to a worldwide ban on the use of protective masks with transparent visors in foil and epee). To my surprise, the label in the new jacket reads "Fabric made in the USA. Cut and sewn in Mexico."

Also looks like liquidity is drying up fast in China: Two Chinese Bond Auctions Fail

And while the US is no longer allowed to auction off debt, in China the PBoC appears to be no longer able to auction off debt. As Business China reports, "the central bank scheduled the auction of RMB 20 billion worth of one-year treasury bonds and RMB 10 billion in six-month bonds on the country’s interbank bond market for May 13. But banks, faced with tight liquidity, only purchased RMB 11.71 billion worth of one-year bonds and RMB 9.63 billion worth of six-month bonds, the report said."

Businesses are going to be struggling to get finance as well as electricity and fuel.

Limits to growth writ large.

Are we at peak energy yet?

I'm pretty sure we've already passed peak net energy (from all sources) back in the late 80's to mid 90's. The inflection point for deceleration of net may have happened back in the early 70's. It is net energy in usable form (i.e. exergy) that counts when it comes to economic work. When that declines, betting on debt is the only way to make things seem to be normal.


If you're talking about net energy consumption then I don't think that was in the 80s or 90s.

Here's a graph of global energy consumption per capita from the major sources.

You can see that it's been steadily rising through to the 2000s (perhaps peaked a little in the last year or two).

Although admittedly the graph doesn't show exergy (but then again, are we significantly less efficient in our extraction/utilization of energy now than we were in the 80s/90s? That is, significant enough to bring the 2009 peak below the 80s/90s peak?)

-BP Statistical Review 2010

-U.S. Census Bureau International Database

iagree (with nick)

That is a graph of raw (gross) energy, not net energy. After you factor meaningful EROI (declining) into those numbers you will see what I mean.

BTW: Nick (on this forum) has rarely gotten it right and is, in my opinion, a believer rather than a realist.

Yes I would very much like to get hold of some EROI figures, but alas.

My moniker is misleading - it is has nothing to do with Nick on this site (who I neither agree nor disagree with).

I had always been meaning to ask who the Nick was that you agreed with!
I have always wanted to see an exchange between you an the Nick on this site, but to date I don't think it has happened.

Haha, no, so far we've not been involved in a discussion together, at least not as far as I can recall - I think we have slightly different interest areas.

But never say never!

nick clegg ?

Yep. (See the link in the word 'monkier' above.)

SHANGHAI (ICIS)--China is grappling with its worst power shortage in years, particularly in the country’s main industrial bases in the east and south, which will lead to reduced economic output in the second quarter, industry sources said on Monday.

So much for chinese competitiveness in manufacturing. Seems they are reducing their CO2 emmissions the hard way.

If people are wondering what happened to me, I am in China now for a while. Internet censorship acts strangely--I can access The Oil Drum, but I can't access quite a few other sites (for example, Blogspot posts), and I can't write posts on Our Finite World, because I can't access it as an author. There are also some issues with being able to access Internet, period, because of travel arrangements.

I will be back in the US May 27.

Thanks Gail.

Have a safe trip!

"Free Gail T.! Free Gail T.!"

My friends who live there are forever chasing proxy servers the authorities haven't found, yet, to puncture or circumvent the Great Firewall.

We'll look forward to your reports.

Can we live on a knife-edge?

When the flames have their season
Will you hold to your reason
Loaded down with your talents
Can you still keep your balance?
Can you live on a knife-edge?

Emerson, Lake & Palmer

US flood control officials state they can delicately balance the raging floodwaters of the mighty Mississippi by draining just enough water out through the Morganza spillway so that the flood stage water level in New Orleans can be maintained at about 17 feet or less. Anything higher than 17 feet may interfere with the shipment of oil to the refineries on the lower Mississippi. With 13% of the US refinery capacity in this lower Mississippi region, this balancing act to send water through the Morganza without causing the Mississippi to find a new course on its own must succeed. The latest reports, fortunately this time, say we will.

How did we get to this point where the fate of the US gasoline supply is resting precariously on such a thin knife edge? The reasons are many, with each event and decision over a period of very many years leading up to this point.

Recently, a series of unexpected refinery problems have kept refiners running well below capacity – especially in the Northeast and upper Midwest. Some refiners did feel the effects of some uncontrollable problems like lightning storms, but mostly refiners may be having some unstated difficulty adjusting to lower quality oil available.

The accumulation of these refiner problems lead me to state just last Tuesday that the US had now crossed the Rubicon of minimum operating levels of gasoline, and that gasoline shortages somewhere in the US were imminent. The first media report of local gas shortages in western Pennsylvania appeared two days later.

Perhaps not surprisingly to regular readers of US energy news, the reaction of the state and federal governments was to blame high gasoline prices not on short supplies, but on speculators and price gouging. Apparently the laws of supply and demand are supposed to work everywhere else in the US except for energy prices – where any price above what most view as reasonable is thought to be in some way manipulated higher due to someone or some group’s greed.

Greed and speculation may have some influence on prices, but that can’t explain why the levees around New Orleans may or may not hold up, or whether or not the Mississippi can no longer be contained.

At some point we may fall off the wrong side of this knife edge, below minimum operating levels, and we will find it won't be so easy to get back where we were before.

Charles - just one more tidbit about lost production. A few days ago the state ordered all producing wells in the basin to be shut in and the oil tanks drained and filled with water. We lost $150,000/day gross from just one well that just came on line a month ago. Not much choice really: any sort of a spill would be impossible to deal with during the flood. Oddly they haven't shut down drilling. I have a barge rig drilling in the basin near the coast. The flood shouldn't effect us but did have to relocate our shore base from Morgan City.

The lost production should just a relatively small blip but as you seem to imply a combination of effects can add up significantly. The big potential problem I've seen little mention of is pipeline damage. I don't have a number but a very large percentage of our oil/NG flows through pipelines crossing the basin.

Rock - regarding your question:

...The big potential problem I've seen little mention of is pipeline damage. I don't have a number but a very large percentage of our oil/NG flows through pipelines crossing the basin.

From: Rising Mississippi River may take toll on businesses


...concern should be on whether or not a network of natural gas and hazardous liquid pipelines that run under and over the Atchafalaya River will be disrupted. There are 15 major natural gas lines and 13 hazardous liquid lines in the area, Scott said. The former carries natural gas to the northeastern part of the country.

“The questions are ‘Are those very old pipelines? Are they buried properly so that they’ll stay down? If they are over (the river), are they high enough that they won’t get hit by debris?’” Scott said. “That’s something that would affect the entire nation.”

From somewhere (whose location I can't seem to find), I recall the figure of 16% of national NG through these pipelines. (I might be wrong.) It would be a regional problem (probably the Northeast). Kinda like what Japan is going through. Significant loss of peak electrical generation power during summer.

S - Mucho thanks. The numbers sound reasonable. Can't vouch for their condition but I can offer that very few of those p/l are probably newer than 15-20 years. Mostly NG coming out of Texas thru those lines along with La oil and NG. Just thinking that a bigger problem may be the pumping stations along the way. They would have been built in fairly safe areas and elevated where needed. But just like the Japanese tsunami walls maybe not built for such a rare event. Just like the old saying: a chain is no stronger than it's weakest link. Even if it's just the elctronic control systems that are damaged an entire net work could be shut down for weeks.

The US gasoline inventories went below 180 million barrels during Gustav/Ike. There were widespread shortages in the south but they came out of it okay.

gog - During Ike it wasn't so much a shortage but a "run on the bank" so to speak. In the days following there were thousands of cars in Houston sitting in stations before dawn waiting for fill ups. Many stations empty for a few days. I had filled up right before the storm. Sure enough after everyone topped off the "shortage" disappeared. I could drive into anyone of dozens of stations close to home and seldom see anyone filling up from the stations' full storage. We weren't short of fuel...almost everyone decided to stock pile our inventory in their cars. Same thing happened in the late 70's when there was a perceived shortage due to the embargo. All the gasoline that suddenly disappeared from storage didn't disappear at all...it was sitting in everyones gas tanks.

From memory, the shortages were the worst in North Carolina and Tennessee not Texas.

Here is an article from that time long ago:

Frustration in the South as a Gasoline Shortage Drags On

Radio stations let callers fume about the shortage over the airwaves. Fights have been reported at many gas stations. And a community college system in Asheville, N.C., closed temporarily last week after many students stopped driving to class.

In Douglas County, Ga., the police issued a request for motorists to stop calling 911 for help finding open gas stations. A county spokeswoman said the calls could interfere with the ability to handle emergencies.

gog - If I recall correctly the big problem then was the lack of pipeline capacity to get the feul there...not a lack of product coming out of the refineries.

The shortages were created because the refineries offline after Gustav/Ike (it really takes two hurricanes within 3 weeks to create a serious shortage). After the refineries came back online, the shortages continued because of pipeline capacity.

Wait for the hurricane season.

The current month gasoline future price is at ~$2.95 while the US retail price from gasbuddy is at ~$4.01. The last time we had a spread this great was June 2008 but prices are falling this time. I think the flooding and refinery stoppages has created an unique situation.

From last week's TWIP:

Starting with the spread between nearby month RBOB prices and realized national average retail pump prices, EIA calculated an average difference of about 70 cents per gallon over the May 2007 through February 2011 period. However, there was a wide range of price spreads (Figure 1). When prices are rising, the realized retail price may be significantly more than 70 cents above the RBOB futures price the month before. For example, on May 1, 2008 the June 2008 RBOB futures contract was $2.88 per gallon while the June 2008 gasoline retail price averaged $4.05 per gallon, a $1.17 per gallon difference. Similarly, when prices are falling, realized gasoline retail prices can be significantly less than 70 cents above the prior month RBOB futures contract price. On October 1, 2008, the November 2008 RBOB futures contract traded at $2.36 per gallon while the final November 2008 gasoline retail price averaged $2.15 per gallon, $0.21 per gallon below the RBOB contract price.

Futures reflect what the market forecasts the price to be, and as we all know, most in the market have heard of Peak Oil, and yet most (seem, at least) to be simply psychologically incapable of accepting or even understanding it.

In other words, don't spend much attention on futures. Driving season is just around the corner, so is Saudi Arabias peak in energy demand(due to the scorching summers), as well as China's peak.
And on top of all this - hurricane season, which gave us the BP oil fallout last year.

Goldman Sachs now thinks the world has less than 2 mb/d in spare capacity, and much of that is sour crude. The world still needs more than 1 mb/d in extra supply this year, and then we have next year, and next year, and next year...

In short words: forget $2.9 per gallon gas, unless you want a recession(or a depression).

According to upstreamonline.com, Brent finished up over $115 today as WTI went lower, The spread of nearly $17 is usually closed up to $10-12 a few days down the road.

Prices in the regional gasoline wholesale market as of lately have varied considerably from the futures price. For example, wholesale prices in Kentucy were about 30 cents/gallon higher than futures, 20 cents/gallon in Ohio and Illinois. Some wholesale distributors in the Ohio/Kentucky area are closed. Many states were recently 10 cents over the futures price.

I would like to caution everyone against reading too much into current prices. They don't tell us how close we are to a shortage. In Ohio and Kentucky, and western PA, we are very close right now. In a few days, a few more states will probably be added to that list.

News was that the increase in margin requirements is major cause for decrease in futures price. Funny how supposedly dampening speculation is not having a downward pull on wholesale prices. Where do yo get your info on so called wholesale prices? UGA took a major hit today.

Casey Calls on the FTC to Investigate Summer-Blend Gas Shortage in Southwestern PA

Dear Chairman Leibowitz:

As gasoline prices continue to increase, Pennsylvanians in the southwestern corner of the state are particularly concerned about the potential impact of a summer-blend gas shortage on the already high price of fuel. Like these residents, I am also concerned about supply distributions, fuel shortages and their impacts.

Industry members attributed the recent delay in the delivery of summer-blend gas to disruptions in the Buckeye/Laurel pipeline and outages at eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey refineries. This week, five of the nine gasoline terminals contracted in the region either completely lacked or has very low levels of summer-blend gas. As the transition from one gas blend to the other occurs biannually, it is very important that those involved in supply distribution perform all the necessary actions to ensure a smooth transition.

For this reason, I request that the Federal Trade Commission investigate the activities surrounding the summer-blend shortage and report on the specific cause or causes of this occurrence. Additionally, it is important to know if any questionable business practices contributed to the shortage. The people in southwestern Pennsylvania should not be placed in a situation that causes them to pay more at the pump so that others can acquire greater profits. I would appreciate an update on the status of FTC’s assessment.

I look forward to working with you on this and on other gas price related issues. The United States Congress and the FTC have an obligation to provide consumers with the assurance that whatever price they pay at the pump, they can be certain they aren't being taken for a ride.

Robert P. Casey, Jr.
United States Senator

Interesting that gasoline shortages started showing up as the EIA insisted stocks were actually increasing - contrary to what the API said of course.

So now we have reports of widespread gasoline and/or diesel shortages in Russia and China as well as regional shortages in the US. And then there's Egypt, Libya, Pakistan, parts of India, Kenya etc. etc...

And, of course, the price of oil is falling as everyone runs short of fuel...

Hmmm... remind you of the Summer of '08? I wonder where the price of gas will be this December...

Re Kurt Cobb's article above : "Would Vested Interests Starve the World?"

I followed some of the linked articles in Kurt's piece, specifically regarding the papers written on the effects of the herbicide "Roundup".

e.g. reduced resistance of plants to disease, effects on animal fertility, binding of soil nutrients etc.

It certainly was my doom fix for the day - pretty frightening, altogether. We desperately need to wean ourselves off industrial agriculture.

Edit : in spite of the letter sent to the Secretary of Agriculture regarding RR Alfalfa, it received USDA approval.

It's official: The U.S. government hit the debt ceiling on Monday

Geithner said he would have to suspend investments in federal retirement funds until Aug. 2 in order to create room for the government to continue borrowing in the debt markets.

The funds will be made whole once the debt limit is increased, Geithner said. "Federal retirees and employees will be unaffected by these actions."

Retirement funds......

He went on to urge Congress once again to raise the country's legal borrowing limit soon "to protect the full faith and credit of the United States and avoid catastrophic economic consequences for citizens."

Congress, meanwhile, is not showing any signs of budging. Many Republicans and some Democrats say they won't raise it unless Congress and President Obama agree to significant spending cuts and other ways to curb debt. (Social Security and Medicare squeezed).

Squeeze the little people,,,just a bit harder.

11 weeks to default or kick the can? I'm not sure which I prefer.

Ghung - Reminds me of the old joke about the Aggie (Texas A&M grad) terrorist holding a gun to his own head and says: "Don't move...or I'll shoot". Like you I'm not sure if that's more sad than funny.

The weapon is pointed at the American Dream.

They want the retirement money

Give it to them or they blow up the world

Stella Stevens, Dean Martin, the gun shot backwards when you pulled the trigger, forwards if you pushed it. She used it to dispatch an enemy while pretending to commit suicide.

Why do I remember this?

How convienient (for me) that you to mention A&M Rockman, because I've been wondering recently why I consistantly hear people refer to the students/alum as "the Aggie" (singular), or sometimes even just "Aggie" (as if it was a sentient being) instead of "the Aggies" (plural). What are they, the Borg or something? I've never heard people refer to Texas students/alum as "the Longhorn" or just "Longhorn". Can you enlighten me?

Ru - "Aggie" is as much as state of mind or an attitude. Or, if you spend much time in Austin, a genetic defect. LOL. Though I did spend two years in grad school it's difficult to define. Just some hints: think of an Aggie as the university equivalent of a US Marine. But more so. There is no such thing as an "ex-Marine"...same thing with an Aggie. BTW: there have been more generals who graduated from TAMU then West Point. Maybe another comparison is to a NY Mets fan: not logical but they exist. Did you know that once a year almost all Aggies gather in private groups to honor all other Aggies fallen in defense of the country/Texas? Wonder if the Mets fans do likelwise?

For our EU friends you can substitute "Aggie" for "Pole" in many of your jokes.

"Aggie" is an adjective as well as a noun. I suspect you are mistaking use as an adjective for use as a noun. The students are Aggies. I've never heard them called "Aggie" collectively.

Makes you wonder why they don't just raise the minimum tariff from zero% to something reasonable like 5%.

They wouldn't have to wait long for the revenue and it's where the Federal government is supposed to be getting its funding.

IMO, raising tariffs to about 20% would be a great idea, because it would
1. help to reverse globalization, which was a bad idea in the first place,
2. raise several tens of billions of dollars quickly to help diminish both the budget and the balance of trade deficits,
3. increase the price of imported goods, which would help domestic manufacturers.

Of course other countries would retaliate. Fine, no problem: Indeed, that is a quick way to reverse globalization--just have everybody raise tariffs on all imports to 20%. During the Great Depression, it was a mistake for the U.S. to pass the infamous Smoot-Hawley tariff legislation, but current conditions are not at all as they were in the nineteen thirties.

It should be noted that probably more than ninety percent of economists (the conventional wisdom) advocate getting rid of tariffs and are horrified by the thought of stiff tariffs (taxes!) on imports. Personally, I subscribe by the comment made by John Maynard Keynes: "Most goods should be homespun." Unlike most economists, JMK was not unduly beguiled by the Ricardo model of comparative advantage--the one that is in all economics textbooks today.

Could you not achieve almost the same result just with a suitably sized carbon tax, or even just a carbon tariff on imports? With the bonus of encouraging renewable + nuclear energy, of course.

Carbon taxes are a very good idea backed by many (perhaps most) economists. However, from a political view, carbon taxes are poison.

Economists only advise. Politicians and bureaucrats rule. Because carbon taxes would tend to slow down economic growth, there is no political way to get them imposed. Congressmen and Congresswomen dare not vote against economic growth. For that matter, Obama keeps touting a revival of economic growth as a way to mitigate all our economic and social problems.

Because of falling U.S. oil imports since 2005, I think economic growth in this country is pretty much over. This view is alien to that of probably 95% of all economists on the planet.

So far as I know, I am the only member of the American Economic Association to read and regularly make comments on TOD. Most economists, if they ran across TOD would immediately dismiss it as a website beyond the fringe. Economists generally talk to other economists and read mostly what other economists have written. It is a highly inbred discipline, with little cross-fertilization from other academic disciplines. Indeed, economists tend to divide the world into two categories of people: economists and laymen. Laymen, it is assumed, have nothing to contribute to a discussion of economic issues because only economists have the mathematical tools and the specialized language to understand these issues. You may think I'm caricaturing economists, but I'm not. With all too few exceptions, they tend to be stuffed shirts.

When John Maynard Keynes died in the mid nineteen forties, the last great economist died (unless one counts Joseph Schumpeter as a "great," which he was. But Schumpeter died, if memory serves, in the nineteen fifties. In other words, we have been without a great economist for a long time, and although they are undeniably very bright people there is nobody alive today with the stature of JMK or Alfred Marshall or Thomas Robert Malthus).

However, from a political view, carbon taxes are poison.

That is clearly true for the US, though here in BC we are are the only place where a government has introduced a carbon tax already! Mind you, at $20/ton CO2(rising $5/yr to $30) it is not enough to actually make a difference to anything.

My view on how a carbon tax should work is that partly replaces other sales taxes, and is accompanied by some level of income tax relief (here in BC they pay an annual credit to everyone), such that the total tax burden does not materially increase.

If done in this way, should it not have a minimal effect on economic growth compared to the status quo, other than shifting energy use to more expensive non-carbon sources?

You have mentioned before about economic growth in the non-financial economy, and I would agree that it seems to have stopped. But it also seemed the US government was prepared to pin its hopes on the financial sector somehow carrying things through, and the "trickle down" keeping the people supplied with bread and circuses.

In any case, shifting to a non carbon economy now won't save the existing economy from severe pain, and that is what the pols are desperately trying to avoid. What I have not seen, though maybe I am not reading the right things, is any economists plan as to how to get out of this alive - or is that because all the economists except yourself and Jeff Rubin don't understand peak oil?

The great majority of economists classify Peak Oil with flying saucer/beyond the fringe kookiness. In the minds of professional economists, people who worry about scarcity of natural resources "just don't get it."

Now if we go back a hundred or a hundred and fifty years, economists worried a lot about scarcity of natural resources--especially coal. Modern economists all know the story of how Paul Erhlich lost his bet to economist Julian Simon about the trend in the price of commodities. Most economists (probably almost all, but I have no way of knowing for sure) still think the long-run trend in the prices of commodities will be down. Economists, with hardly any exceptions, are grievously ignorant of physics, chemistry, geology, and engineering. The great majority of economists that I've known (among hundreds) do not believe that any relevant or valuable knowledge about public affairs lies outside the realm of economics. Indeed, they see economics as an imperial science that subsumes political science and sociology and much of psychology.

If it were not so off topic, I have a bunch of great and funny stories about economists, but I've posted enough for today.

Don, there's a new report out from the World Bank regarding the economy in 2025. There's a commentary about it on the NYT Blog, Economix today. The report, Global Development Horizons 2011 — Multipolarity: The New Global Economy, may be downloaded from the World Bank web site. I'm sure your comments would be of interest to the folks who read the blog...

E. Swanson


"...in BC we are are the only place where a government has introduced a carbon tax already!"

Isn't BC the Berkeley of Canada?

Only the grow op part. We actually have a Mrs. Arnold premier...."I'll be back", and damned if she didn't? Big business runs the Province these days.

The US would only default if it fails to pay existing lenders. It can easily do so out of tax revenue. The US does not need to borrow any new money to avoid default, and Geithner should be fired for claiming that the two have anything to do with each other.

What the US cannot do without borrowing lots of new money is create free money for Timmy's banker buddies. And, of course, satisfy the ever-growing demands of the 50% of the population that gets money from the government.

The US would only default if it fails to pay existing lenders. It can easily do so out of tax revenue.

While a true statement, it is just as intentionally deceiving as Geithner's claim. For while the percentage of the federal budget that goes to interest is relatively small and could be covered by tax revenue (smoothed out over time). The reality is that without expanding the debt ceiling something the gov't has budgeted for will not get spent.

And while you clearly have a preference for that unspent money to be what goes to the bankers, I think we can rest pretty easy that such will not be the case.

(And the "ever-growing demands" of those who get money from the government - have you even checked out spending on "welfare" recently? It's only about 3% of the total budget - you won't save much there).

So what money doesn't get spent? Considering that about 40% of this years budget was to come from deficit spending, I suppose their are a lot of targets.

The vast majority of the money goes to Defense, Medicare and Social Security. They would have to experience the majority of cuts. And the bankers have more than enough already.

The easy answer would be to take the interest out of the otherwise seeming untouchable defense/military budget. That way, no one actually has to actual vote on doing something that everyone knows has to be done. Presto, no default and decreased government spending at the same time, a true win-win.

This link to Dave Cohen's blog might be relevant to the "ever-growing demands" of those who get money from the government.


In raw numbers, in February of this year, households received $2.3 trillion in income support from unemployment benefits, Social Security, disability insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, veterans benefits, education assistance and other cash transfers of government funds to individuals.

The same month, households paid $2.2 trillion in income, payroll, and other taxes. The difference was nearly $100 billion, or around 1% of personal income.

In order to power the US with thorium based nuclear reactors we will need to build about 30,000 1GW reactors over the next 30 years. That is about 3 per day. Boeing makes about 450 planes per year. So we will need a company about twice the size of Boeing to meet our needs. I am assuming reactors will be factory made and ship to their site whole. We of course will need the shipping company and the site build companies. Lots of money to be made.

In order to power the US with thorium based nuclear reactors...

you must first build one to prove the concept works as planned.

Yes you are correct. My comment is more about the scale of energy. For that matter I do not think anybody has built a prototype plant of any kind that produces base load energy. Yes, people have built peak load shaving plants (solar thermal, solar pv, wind). But no integrated 365/7/24 demos yet.

you must first build one to prove the concept works as planned.

At least one. And run it (them) through the entire life cycle before cranking up that 3-per-day assembly line.

We're feeling a little skeptical since the BWR idea left us with all those dirty bombs.

Yes, the US being exceptional can wait 40 years to do life cycle testing while China, France, India, Brazil go ahead and take over the worlds markets while the US waits.

...take over the worlds markets while the US waits.

Fine with me.

Of course, I'm not expecting a continuation of anything remotely like the "world markets" you're probably thinking of.

And nation-states, at least on the scale of the US, China, India... are rapidly approaching their use-by dates.

30TW total? Almost 100kW per capita? Are you sure?

A few days ago a friend emailed a link about Aurora Algae's progress in Western Australia. The media release is here:

The media release and remainder of the website sound very optimistic about the potential of their process, unfortunately there is little information on the science side and a lot on the PR side.

A couple of quotes from the press release:

“With our demonstration facility fully operational and the technology risk of our process removed, we are excited to be shipping product samples to partners and planning the construction of our proposed 1,500 acre Karratha commercial site,”


The Company’s open-pond production method and proprietary pale green cultivar (PGC) algae strains thrive in dry, arid climates with large amounts of CO2 and seawater as feed stocks. Having met all of these important criteria, the city of Karratha was selected for the demonstration site, a 20-acre facility that currently has six one-acre production ponds. Today, Aurora Algae is producing more than 15 tonnes per month of algal biomass. With outstanding support from the local and national Australian government, Aurora Algae has been able to partner with local industry to help reduce carbon dioxide levels and produce high-value products, such as clean, renewable biodiesel for use by local companies.

To me, it sounds too good to be true, but I lack the enough understanding of algal based fuels to determine whether this is a potential game changer, a niche fuel for local applications or just more PR spin.

I would appreciate it if anyone could provide a more nuanced view of the potential of algal biofuels.

Cam from Oz

A few weeks ago I had mentioned in a Drumbeat that I had attended a Philips training seminar where I was told that Philips would be launching an A19 LED lamp next year that provides the same amount of light as a standard 75-watt incandescent and that a 100-watt replacement would follow the year thereafter. Looks like they bumped up the schedule:

Philips switches on bright LED bulb

Philips is introducing an LED bulb that gives off as much light as a 75-watt incandescent bulb and consume 17 watts of power.

The lighting giant said today that the EnduraLED A21 will be available in the fourth quarter for a price expected to be between $40 and $45. It will show off the bulb tomorrow at the LightFair lighting conference, where many LED lighting announcements are expected.

The EnduraLED A21 will be the first general-purpose LED bulb to give off as much light as a 75-watt incandescent bulb, according to Philips. It will be rated at 1,100 lumens and an efficiency of almost 65 lumens per watt.

See: http://news.cnet.com/8301-11128_3-20063169-54.html

I've bought a number of the 12.5-watt (60-watt equivalent) LED lamps for my home and have been extremely impressed by their performance. However, as I've said before, unless you have a compelling reason to go LED, I'd stick with a CFL for now.


How long do they last? I can buy a lot of regular bulbs for $40.

can buy a lot of regular bulbs for $40.

If by "regular bulbs" you mean old-fashioned incandescents, you probably won't be buying them for long.

Public Law No: 110-140 (PDF)

Phase-out of Incandescent Light Bulbs

Hard to say. They have a rated life of 25,000 hours but there are no guarantees that each one will cross the finish line. FWIW, my experience with Philips products, in general, has been very good; the other major brands, somewhat less so.

My desk lamp operates about 2,000 hours a year (5.5 hrs/day) and I pay 12.5-cents per kWh. Here's how the numbers break out for a conventional 60-watt A19 incandescent, a 40-watt Philips Halogená Energy Saver T60, a 13-watt Philips mini-twist CFL and a Philips 12.5-watt EnduraLED A19 (all provide a similar amount of light):

60-watt Incandescent
Cost: $0.50 Life: 1,000 hours

40-watt Halogená Energy Saver T60
Cost: $6.00 Life: 3,000 hours

13-watt Mini-twist CFL
Cost: $2.00 (multi-pack price) Life: 8,000 hours

12.5-watt EnduraLED
Cost: $40.00 Life: 25,000 hours

The first year operating costs of the 60-watt A19 incandescent, 40-watt Halogená T60, 13-watt mini-twist CFL and 12.5-watt EnduraLED are $16.00, $16.00, $5.25 and $43.12, respectively. At the end of year two (4,000 hours), it's $32.00, $32.00, $8.50 and $46.25 and at the close of year three (6,000 hours), it's now $48.00, $42.00, $11.75 and $49.38. For years four and five, it's $64.00, $58.00, $15.00 and $52.50; and $80.00, $74.00, $20.25 and $55.62.

For simplicity sake, I've assumed that all costs remain constant over this five year period and you may want to incorporate some sort of escalation factor if you feel that's appropriate. Under this set of assumptions, the break even point for this LED lamp versus a standard 60-watt incandescent occurs in year four, however, the mini-twist CFL will always remain your lowest cost option by a considerable margin.


Hi Paul,

For my home, I recently began replacing my 75-watt halogens with Phillips 50-watt and 60-watt LED equivalents, and find that they work quite well in many circumstances. One drawback seems to be that the light-cone (spread) appears a tad more narrow (and perhaps more sharp-edged) than the incandescent halogens, and this is a problem in one room--the side furthest from the light is too dark (the recessed overhead lamp is not in the exact centre of the room). Seems like in some circumstances a diffusor might be useful with the current incarnation of the LED halogen replacements.

Glad to hear that a 75-watt output equivalent is now available. I will try one of these to see if the additional output will help with the darker end of the room.


Hi Gray,

Good light spread can be tricky due to the directional nature of LEDs, but that will hopefully improve over time; certainly Philips has done an amazing job overcoming this problem with its EnduraLED A19 by way of its remote phosphor design.

Just by way of background, most residential "cans" or "pots" are fitted with R20, BR30 or BR40 incandescent reflectors which have a "soft glass" construction much like that of a regular household incandescent. Lamps are measured in eights of an inch, so a BR30 has a diameter of 3.75 inches and therefore fits a 4 inch opening and its larger counterpart, the BR40, is 5 inches wide. The "flood" version will have a beam spread of about 55 degrees, and so its coverage is quite good depending upon how far it's recessed inside the fixture housing (some fixtures allow you to raise or lower the socket to adjust this). These lamps are grossly inefficient, particularly the long-life variety, i.e., those intended to operate at 130-volts or higher. A 120-volt 50-watt R20 will produce about 290 lumens (5.8 lumens per watt), a 65-watt BR30 supplies 510 lumens (7.8 lumens/watt), and a 120-watt BR40 is generally rated at 960 lumens (8.0 lumens per watt). These things are pure rubbish.

Halogen PAR lamps have a thicker "hard glass" construction and they're the next step up on the performance scale, the most energy efficient being halogen-IR (these lamps have a special low-e like coating applied to the inner capsule that reflects heat back to the filament, keeping it at its optimum operating temperature whilst using roughly one-third fewer watts). These lamps are also measured in eights of an inch and the three most common sizes are PAR20, PAR30 and PAR38 (PAR16s do exist and PAR64s are pretty much the exclusive domain of commercial and theatrical lighting). A standard 120-volt 50-watt PAR20 halogen will supply about 550 lumens (11.0 lumens/watt), the 60-watt PAR38 would be in the range of 800 lumens (13.3 lumens), a 75-watt PAR38 gives us about 1050 lumens (14.0 lumens/watt) and a 90-watt PAR38 about 1350 lumens (15.0 lumens/watt). Thus, a 90-watt PAR38 halogen will provide you with 1.4 times more light than a 120-watt BR40 incandescent and consume 25 per cent less energy.

By comparison, a 40-watt Philips Halogen Energy Advantage IR PAR30 is rated at 720 lumens (18.0 lumens/watt) and so it also supplies 1.4 times more light than a 65-watt BR30 and uses nearly 40 per cent less energy. Likewise, a 60-watt halogen-IR PAR38 is good for 1120 lumens (18.7 lumens/watt), so it outperforms a 120-watt BR40 whilst using half as much energy.

PAR lamps come in various beam spreads, the three most common being 10° (spot), 25° (narrow flood) and 40° (flood). There are wide floods (>40°) and very wide floods (>60°) as well, but they're more difficult to source.

The LED PARs are considerably more efficacious. For example, I'm using a Philips 7-watt EnduraLED PAR20 in a number of convenience store retrofits. This lamp supplies 600 lumens which works out to be 85.7 lumens/watt or eight times that of the lamp it replaces. I can't find any reference to beam spread, but I'm guessing it's probably about 25°. I'm also using a Philips 17-watt 3,000K PAR38 LED for a clothing chain that's fully dimmable and like the PAR20 has a rated service life of 45,000 hours. This lamp supplies 930 lumens (54.7 lumens/watt) and I believe the beam spread is also 25°.



Thank you much for the detailed reply. Gives me some things to think about and consider as I continue to replace my light bulbs.


Good numbers. For an oft cycled light, an LED will outlive a CFL, however. The CFLs I have tried in high-cycle uses fair quite early, nearly as short as incans (maybe 2000 hours at most). I have yet to have an LED fail except for the truly crappy early gazillion-little-LED bulbs from Walmart that exhibited terrible color, very low light output, modest efficiency, and a blessedly short life.

I assume over time CFL life will increase and LED costs will definitely go down, creating a continual and stronger battle between these solutions. I suspect CFLs will always have an edge for "conventional" fixture applications while LEDs will drive lighting fixture innovation.

Hi Paleo,

No question, short cycling extracts a high toll on fluorescents, particularly CFLs. A CFL's rated service life generally falls between 6,000 and 10,000 hours, and as high as 15,000 hours in the case of the Philips Marathon, so for applications where the lamp will be subject to frequent switching, select a CFL with a longer rated life.

In some cases, it may be best to stick with one of the new incandescent replacements such as the Philips EcoVantage. These lamps offer slightly longer life compared to a standard household incandescent (1250 hours versus 750 or 1000), cost about $1.50 each and use 28 per cent less energy.

See: http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/blog/post/2011/04/philips-launch...

Your experience mirrors my own. I bought some crappy Walmart LEDs as well (1-watt night light replacements from "Globe"); one failed within the first few days and another died upon initial start-up.


Thanks for the news.

I've been impressed with the Endura as well. Unlike other LED bulbs, this one is a bit yellow for my taste (the others have mostly been bluish).

I'll try the new ones when I see them appear on local shelves.

I'd also prefer a slightly higher colour temperature, something closer to 3000K, say, but when I compare the EnduraLED and Halogená side by side, I really can't tell the difference (the 3-watt EnduraLED BA11 candle has a slight pinkish tone but it's by no means objectionable). Of all the LED products I've seen to date, this is the closest match to a conventional incandescent yet.

I'll probably buy a couple of these higher wattage lamps when they become available, but it's the 100-watt equivalents that have caught my fancy.


This will cause a battle in my house. I'm ready to start buying a bulb every week or two, as the incans wear out, figuring I'll ride the prices down. My wife thinks we should stock up on incans.

So in the end we'll do some of both....but, unusually, this time I will actually win in the end!

Filaments break. Is the LED susceptible to the same termination of usefulness by unexpected shaking as the filament bulb?

In other words, in real world use, what percentage of bulbs of each type will reach their expected lifespan?

Only time will tell.

In my experience, LED's are remarkably durable, and their equivalent to a 'dropped lightbulb' is a spike in the line. As that goes, a good thunderstorm might be doom for LED's that aren't properly protected.. possibly Static discharge from a fluke combination of carrying a new LED lamp across the wrong carpet in the wrong slippers and touching the wrong doorknob.. but so far I've only killed LEDs by personally wiring them wrong or giving them too much voltage, etc.

These new brighter ones also have to get rid of heat, which like CFL's might become a lifespan issue. Heat damage is pretty rough on semiconductors..

These are the Low Voltage LEDs that light my office from a small Solar-charged battery. They throw a very soft 180 degree wash, so I actually have to ADD reflectors to get more directional light from them.


Thunderstorms are my concern, one fried my fax last summer. I have been thinking about these
or a bunch of these
Any feedback from HiH would be welcome.


I'm afraid I know very little about power protection and conditioning but, thankfully, there are one or two forum members who can provide you the straight goods. I lost a fax machine and a couple of handsets several years ago due to lightening. One bolt struck my neighbour's clothes line and it literally chopped it into hundreds of pieces. [Proof that God prefers we use tumble dryers.]


Take a look at How to Protect Your House from Lightning, which is from the IEEE and well covers the issues related to protecting against surges. Every good thunderstorm in my area brings multiple ground strikes. Being off-grid, many of the surges come in from the telephone line. The rest of them come from nearby trees...

I lost a fax machine and a couple of handsets several years ago due to lightening.

I have my home Linux workstation plugged into a TrippLite Isobar ( http://www.tripplite.com/en/products/product-series.cfm?txtSeriesID=825 ) so far, no problems to report on the equipment it is protecting.

From my personal experience, I would recommend using them.

Thanks for the Isobar recommendation, mrflash, and thanks too, Lurker, for the link to the IEEE guide; both much appreciated.


I had one protector strip fried, fuse vaporised, when lightning hit next door! I try and line up my protection so the cheapest, but effective, unit is first in the line, strip, regulator, ups. Had a site with a strike on a not connected but directly outside pole. Blew the cable modem, gateway and server network card. Figured it was from the earth point voltage leaping up. My normal practice is to pull all connections including phone and TV lines during storms. BTW watch out for copper thieves stealing the earth link between rod and meter.

Lurker, thanks for that IEEE, very interesting, looks like they recommend the first device I listed above.


Bob is quite right. I've dropped some LED lamps and this would have resulted in certain death had it been an incandescent, halogen or CFL. In one case it shattered the outer glass but it continues to work just fine. It's the power that's feed to them that will most likely do them in.

Bob also raises a good point about heat. I would not use these lamps inside any enclosed fixture. I think you'll also find that the LED PAR lamps from some of the more reputable players have a rated life of "X" hours when used in an open back fixture (e.g., gimbal rings) and something much less than "X" inside recessed cans for this very reason.


Can anyone provide me a link to the most updated version of this graph (past and projected global oil production)?:


(The one there is from 2007. I'm wondering if there's an updated graph somewhere)

The reason why I am asking is because I make a peak oil-themed energy bar (called "Energy Crunch Bar") and the design of the wrapper uses a rough sketch of that graph. I just want to see if I need to slightly revise the design I had made 3 1/2 years ago.

(If you're curious, for a description of the bar, check out the 19th product here: http://www.greydc.com/product-page/ )

I haven't seen a more recent one, but the behavioral geology behind that curve is best understood by intervals of activity whereby early adopters with the best technology find and extract the oil fastest and then late adopters and hard to reach locations bring up the rear. Apart from oil shocks the curve looks like:

Unfortunately you won't find this explanation in any of the standard references, but it is clearly due to statistical dispersion. In other words it has nothing to do with the conventional Hubbert model even though the summed result looks the same.

This chart would go nicely on the energy bar.

People seeing the gap between discovery and production for the first time encourages conversation, awareness, and action.

Britain should prepare for a drought this summer and crops have already been “irreversibly” damaged by this year’s warm weather, the Environment Secretary disclosed last night.

England and Wales has recorded the lowest rainfall in March and April since 1938 with the warmest spring in centuries. The water levels in some rivers are already being compared to those during the record drought of 1976.

In some eastern counties just 5mm of water has fallen since the end of February.

Last night, Mrs Spelman admitted that the dry weather has caused “irreversible” damage on agriculture but insisted “we don’t have a drought yet”.

“Yes this has already impacted on agriculture and some of the damage is irreversible,” she said. “The harvest will be earlier and the yield will be lower.”

The other day I put forward some tentative speculation that institutions where under pressure to curb the rally in commodities. And one of the effects of this might be to see both falling prices and shortages at the same time. The reason being that prices can essentially be set by manipulating the financial instruments of the underlying commodities (for a while at least). The result being consumption of the commodity doesn't change as there is no price signal, coupled with declining availability leading to physical shortages.

This year I'd say we're going to see a dangerous experiment attempting to restrain commodity prices as supply contracts. Unintended consequences will probably run amok.

I guess the question is is it better for society to let markets handle to balance "supply and demand" by pricing out the poor completely out of the market and the rich can continue on a spending spree, or is it better for governments to step in and physically ration the distribution of a resource on a more "fair" measure of need?

I would think that for a constrained resource, it would be better if manipulations of prices would lead to physical shortages than a pure market signal.

In the 70s there seem to have been policy decisions like implementing speed limits or banning driving on Sundays to curb excessive peak usage to help make distribution fairer.

So far in 2008/2011, I haven't seen many policies of rationing in the west, leaving the market to sort things out. Perhaps because they would now need to be co-ordinated across the entire world, rather than just in Europe and the US.

Stranger than fiction...

Fields of watermelon burst in China farm fiasco

BEIJING – Watermelons have been bursting by the score in eastern China after farmers gave them overdoses of growth chemicals during wet weather, creating what state media called fields of "land mines."

...Chinese regulations don't forbid the drug, and it is allowed in the U.S. on kiwi fruit and grapes. But the report underscores how farmers in China are abusing both legal and illegal chemicals, with many farms misusing pesticides and fertilizers.

We had exploding tomatos last year. My newbie fellow gardeners felt that, if water and fertilizer are good, more is better, so they over watered and fertilized. The maters ate and drank until they popped.

Growth hormones for veggies? More here and here.

Thanks, Leanan, for that strange story. I send out very few articles/jokes/whatever to email contacts -- I think that one deserves distribution. Funny, but not so funny?

"Funny, but not so funny?"

That's it, right there. You know, we ate up the Godzilla movies, as a very sublimated message of 'Nature taught us a lesson for our arrogance'.. but to see it actually playing out in a case like this, it's like watching in fascination as your arm turns into Golden bubbles and floats away.. until you realize you don't have an arm.

I can hear the 1812 overture playing in the background, as the melons explode.

Don in Maine

Denmark to lay claim to North Pole - report

DENMARK, which already counts Greenland and the Faroe Islands as its Arctic territories, is planning to lay claim to the North Pole, a daily newspaper reported, quoting a leaked foreign ministry paper.

...If Denmark's "Arctic Strategy 2011-2020" is adopted, the claims would put the Scandinavian country on a collision course with Russia, the US, Canada and Norway.

Denmark should be careful about pursuing its claims in this area. It is dealing with 3 of the G8 countries (the 8 most powerful developed countries in the world), plus Norway (which could pull the plug on the Danish electrical system). If you want to play in this league, you have to know how to play hardball against the big boys. They don't always play nice.

UK inflation rate rises to 4.5% in April

The UK Consumer Prices Index (CPI) annual rate of inflation rose to 4.5% in April, up from 4% in March.

The rise in CPI was bigger than analysts had forecast and follows a surprise fall in the index last month.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said "by far the largest upward effect" on prices came from air transport, where fares rose by 29% between March and April. Sea fares rose by 22.3%.

New omni-directional wind turbine can capture wind energy on building rooftops

(PhysOrg.com) -- Katru Eco-Energy, headed by founder and inventor, Varan Sureshan, has developed a new kind of wind turbine meant to capture the winds that fly in all directions atop big buildings, and unlike conventional devices, the IMPLUX, as it’s called, can capture wind from any direction as it stands; meaning without having to be repositioned or pointed.


The problem with such all such concepts is that there is a large mass associated with the design relative to the power output. As a result, the cost of the turbine is likely to be large. Also, placing one of these high enough above the ground to reach above the boundary layer is likely to require a much stronger tower than that of a simple 3 bladed horizontal axis turbine due to drag forces, since the cross sectional area is several times larger. I wouldn't count on this system to go very far in the market place...

E. Swanson

placing one of these high enough above the ground to reach above the boundary layer is likely to require a much stronger tower than that of a simple 3 bladed horizontal axis turbine

But doesn't the article say it's designed to go on top of buildings?

It might be fair to claim that placing one of these on a single tall building (greater than 60 foot or 20 meters tall) might represent a placement at a proper height, but such buildings often are built near other tall buildings, causing the boundary layer to be thicker. Also, placing one on top of a building would present other problems due to flow around and over the top of the building. Furthermore, the web site gives no test data, such as a curve of output versus wind speed, so we don't know at what speed produces the the stated power output...

E. Swanson

Yes, a little thin on details. Still, the proof is in the pudding I suppose, so all we have to do is wait until 2012 and see whether we spot any sprouting on buildings in the local vicinity!

BD -

Also, placing one on top of a building would present other problems due to flow around and over the top of the building

The design actually makes use of chaotic (omni-directional) airflow over buildings by redirecting it upward as a uni-directional flow.

From the website http://www.katru.com.au/katru.html

"IMPLUX" is no different to standard wind machines: no wind = no power. However, "IMPLUX" is capable of extracting higher levels of power at lower wind speeds and hence can produce power for longer time periods. Further, if the wind direction changes rapidly and repeatedly, standard machines cannot deliver any power. "IMPLUX" can continuously deliver power in such an environment.

Granted, it would be nice if the website had more robust technical specifications.

The Lanchester-Betz limit was established 90 years ago for a rotor in open flow. The ideal limiting performance of rotors operating in ducts, diffusers or other systems that modify local inflow has not previously been established.

Presentation: http://www.ewecproceedings.info/index2.php?page=info2&id=23&id2=13&ordre...

Video: http://www.katru.com.au/image/IMPLUX22sec.avi

You can still only capture energy according to the cross sectional area of the turbine.it would seem these people are hoping to get some local wind tunneling from the buildings they are on, and they will get some.

But, there is only so much x-section area you can put ion top of a building, so the there is only so much energy you can get out of a turbine there - it will be 10's of kW maximum - which will only be a fraction of the energy used by such a tall building.

One also has to ask what happens to these things at the survival (destruction) windspeed (normally 50m/s or 110mph). Having a turbine self destruct and send metal bits everywhere from the top of such a building may cause some collateral damage to nearby buildings and/or people.

Yeah, I found out about the Betz limit when I was studying wind energy systems in 1974. The analytical derivation tells us that the maximum power which may be captured from the air flow thru a rotor of a particular diameter is only .59 that of the free stream power thru a circle of the same diameter. The limit is the result of the distortion of the flow of air, which must slow down as it passes thru the rotor, the result being that the maximum upstream free stream flow area is only 0.59 as large as the rotor disk. Various arrangements of diffusers have been proposed with the intent of improving the performance of the WECS, but these also add mass to the device, thus increasing the cost. One can't say whether these devices are worth while without data for both performance and for the cost of the system. Since these folks have patents and show a working prototype, I think the lack of any data is indicative of poor performance...

E. Swanson

Greenhouse ocean study offers warning for future

The mass extinction of marine life in our oceans during prehistoric times is a warning that the Earth will see such an extinction again because of high levels of greenhouse gases, according to new research by geologists.

..."Our research points to a mass mortality in the oceans at a time when the Earth was going through a greenhouse effect, with high levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and rising temperatures, leading to a severe lack of oxygen (hypoxia) in the water that marine animals are dependent on," Professor Kennedy says.

"What's alarming to us as scientists is that there were only very slight natural changes that resulted in the onset of hypoxia in the deep ocean. This occurred relatively rapidly - in periods of hundreds of years, or possibly even less - not gradually over longer, geological time scales, which suggests that the Earth's oceans are in a much more delicate balance during greenhouse conditions than originally thought, and may respond in a more abrupt fashion to even subtle changes in temperature and CO2 levels than previously thought."

New solar product captures up to 95 percent of light energy

Efficiency is a problem with today's solar panels; they only collect about 20 percent of available light. Now, a University of Missouri engineer has developed a flexible solar sheet that captures more than 90 percent of available light, and he plans to make prototypes available to consumers within the next five years.

Seaports need a plan for weathering climate change, say Stanford researchers

The majority of seaports around the world are unprepared for the potentially damaging impacts of climate change in the coming century, according to a new Stanford University study.

..."As we saw with Katrina in 2005, storm and flood damage can devastate a regional economy for years after an event and have national impacts," said Becker. Katrina, a Category 5 hurricane, caused an estimated $1.7 billion of damage to Louisiana ports. This month, the region is bracing for flood damage once again, as the National Weather Service is predicting that the Mississippi River could crest in New Orleans on May 23.

...The problem on a global scale, he said, is that ports may start scrambling all at once to adapt their structures to changing environmental conditions. "It could potentially exceed our capacity for construction worldwide," he added

Which technologies get better faster?

In a nutshell, the researchers found that the greater a technology’s complexity, the more slowly it changes and improves over time. They devised a way of mathematically modeling complexity, breaking a system down into its individual components and then mapping all the interconnections between these components.

...The team was inspired by the complexity of energy-related technologies ranging from tiny transistors to huge coal-fired powerplants. They have tracked how these technologies improve over time, either through reduced cost or better performance, and, in this paper, develop a model to compare that progress to the complexity of the design and the degree of connectivity among its different components.

Besides the importance of overall design complexity in slowing the rate of improvement, the researchers also found that certain patterns of interconnection can create bottlenecks, causing the pace of improvements to come in fits and starts rather than at a steady rate.

When is it worth remanufacturing?

It seems like a no-brainer: Remanufacturing products rather than making new ones from scratch — widely done with everything from retread tires to refilled inkjet cartridges to remanufactured engines — should save a lot of energy, right?

Not so fast, says a new study by researchers at MIT.

In some cases, the conventional wisdom is indeed correct. But out of 25 case studies on products in eight categories done by a team led by Professor of Mechanical Engineering Timothy Gutowski, there were just as many cases where remanufacturing actually cost more energy as cases where it saved energy. And for the majority of the items, the savings were negligible or the energy balance was too close to call.

The article "The new setsuden culture" should be interesting to all those doomers out there.

In a well functioning and resourceful society, the ingenuity of humans will help make a sudden decrease in resource availability much less problematic and people are quite remarkable at being able to adjust if necessary.

It looks like Japan is rapidly adapting to the electricity constraints with things like:

"Such appeals seem to be having an effect. In one recent newspaper survey (Asahi, May 7), 86 percent of respondents report taking energy-saving measures at home"

"Toshiba plans to put on sale in July a flat-screen TV, designed for use in Southeast Asian countries having frequent blackouts, which can run for three hours on a rechargeable battery."

"Clothing for summer as well is moving beyond Cool Biz to Setsuden Biz. Uniqlo has already started selling special cooling underwear, and lines of polo shirts for the office are also in the works from various makers"

Or if technology doesn't help, then there is always the option of
"Beyond such products, the energy crisis seems to be leading to a re-examination of the busy, modern-day lifestyle with its emphasis on convenience above all else, and encouraging more time spent with family."

A well working society doesn't just break down because of a sudden shortage or catastrophe. It mobilises its full strength to solve the problems. Cuba's special period appears to me (I might be wrong on that) another good example of a more or less successful adjustment to sudden resource constraints. Painful yes, but not catastrophic to society as a whole.

Of cause, that requires a cooperative society to start with, and not one where each individual is out to screw over the next to his/her own advantage if at all possible...

Honestly, part of the problem was the adaption of the western suit, which developed in England, a place with notably fair weather. Japan has always been hotter in summer, also snowier by far (especially in the mountains and the west) in winter. Since Japan took Hokkaido from the Ainu officially in the 1800s, they have an area with a cooler climate, but the winters are pretty harsh from what I hear.

The kimono worked for over a thousand years in Japan (it was adapted from China). They probably won't go back, but in any case the solution is sitting in their grandparent's closets. A/C didn't exist in 1000 AD, yet Heian/Kyoto was the capital then. Edo/Tokyo was a major city for hundreds of years before A/C, and while the heat island effect was no doubt less, I'm sure it was still mighty toasty.

Same with most places - Fela Kuti had a song called "Gentleman" where he talks about how stupid suits are in Africa. Traditional dress evolved for a reason. Part of power down is wising up.

Fela Kuti had a song called "Gentleman" where he talks about how stupid suits are in Africa. Traditional dress evolved for a reason. Part of power down is wising up.

Yes. When I no longer needed them, I gave every last piece of "businessman costume" wardrobe to charity. My friends may now have me for dinner, weddings, funerals, etc., depending upon season, in turtlenecks, aloha shirts, dashikis... but definitely not in a tie.

Sometimes I stroll through the financial district, noticing the wannabe masters of the universe, preening-while-striding importantly along (some of 'em may be former colleagues--we just don't recognize each other). I always think, "Free men would not choose to dress that way."

And it's not even a weather issue here.

I still find suits uncomfortably hot in spring/summer/autumn here in the UK.

It's definitely a compromise of comfort for appearance. I don't think they were ever designed with functionality in mind (although still probably a lot less uncomfortable than the ridiculous fashions that immediately preceded them!)

Luckily most businesses seem to be trending towards smart casual these days.

After having had bad whiplash, ties were a pain in the neck - literally. Even a loosely worn tie caused a great deal of pain. To me they were an instrument of torture. I often wonder how much energy could be saved, worldwide, by abandoning the suit and tie model. Dress light in warmer summer offices and dress warm in cooler winter offices. However I do think that some limits would need to be set to prevent unscrupulous companies abusing this and creating hell holes.


US studies legality of American-led private army

The US state department said on Sunday that it was examining the legality of an American-led private army that is being established in the United Arab Emirates.

That's pretty rich. I guess the theory is that Prince's private armies are only legal if they work for "us."

I'm pretty sure that numerous governments questioned the legality of the letters of marque and reprisal issued by so many nations, including the U.S., into the 19th century.

From NOAA April was seventh warmest on record

The Earth experienced the seventh warmest April since record keeping began in 1880, as the climate phenomenon La Niña continued to be a significant factor. April’s annual Arctic sea ice extent was the fifth smallest since record keeping began in 1979, while the Antarctic sea ice extent was the fourth smallest.

Re: BP in last-minute bid to salvage Rosneft deal: report

BP-Rosneft Share Swap Collapses as Billionaires Block Deal

BP Plc's proposed $7.8 billion share swap and Arctic exploration accord with OAO Rosneft collapsed after the U.K. producer's billionaire partners in its existing Russian venture blocked the alliance.

tangentally related ...

China and Russia Increasing the Speed of Military Modernization

...The trend is to allow investment decisions related to the productions, transportation and export of all energy sources to no longer be purely business matters, but an essential element of state control. This securitization implies that U.S. and other foreign companies cannot be allowed to execute major projects and can only be involved as minor partners or shareholders.

Russia’s political trajectory would seem to create greater tensions with the West, given the inevitability of new energy wars based on control over key business decisions by the Kremlin and the desire of the Russian government to allow the prevalence of natural gas interests over petroleum and other energy sectors. Indeed, it has been widely speculated that Putin and Medvedev may be exploiting the leverage provided by oil and gas in order to build close personal ties with two key allies of the United States. These allies included Angela Merkel of Germany and Nicolas Sarkozy of France.

Over 1,000 miles to a tank from stunning eco challenge

standard production car (the model I drive) completes 2000 km freeway journey on one tank (45 lites) of diesel.

That works out at 106 mpg (US).

It goes to show you what can be achieved with a bit of driver training. I routinely hypermile but I'm definetly not as good as this guy. I wonder how slow he was traveling on the AutoBahn?

In the same car I can return 90+ mpg (imperial) by sitting at 50-55 mph. This equates to little more than idle rpm for the engine in top gear. Any slower and the engine labours. Any faster and wind resistance every quickly cuts into the economy. It all comes down to how long you have got to make the journey. My passengers complain at less than 68 mph.

High prices will lead to a dip in US gasoline demand this year: IEA

Analysis indicates that retail prices are well in the threshold that typically impacts travel patterns

If prices at the pumps remain high, demand for gasoline will decline this year when compared with 2010, despite a seasonal rise during the upcoming summer driving season, according to analysis conducted by the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Research suggests that gasoline demand in the US will average 8.9 million barrels per day in 2011, down 1.5% from the previous year. Demand from April to September will decline by 2% this year, when matched against the same period last year.

Denali NG pipeline cancelled.


It's one thing to have gas, another to be able to actually use it.


Yes, could see this coming. They were having a tough time getting any commitiments from the oil cos, and the current (and expected) low price of NG doesn't help any.

Meanwhile,. others have their eyes on the north slope gas, for doing a gas to methanol to gasoline project - which would use the existing oil pipeline.

An alternative, if they still want to pipe gas, would be to join forces with Canada and do the over the top route to the Mackenzie Delta gas fields, and then follow the Mackenzie river valley into northern Alberta.

Meanwhile,. others have their eyes on the north slope gas, for doing a gas to methanol to gasoline project - which would use the existing oil pipeline.

I know you think this might make sense for business reasons in the particular circumstances that apply there, Paul, but... what would you guess that EROEI might look like for such a project?

I'm not just giving you a hard time for fun, merely wondering about how the increasing tendency (not necessarily here) to think of "total liquids" and various unconventional sources as if they were energetically equivalent to conventional crude, and about what that tendency might mean in terms of the difference between mainstream numbers and the truth about net energy per-capita.

They said they would use 4.5bn cu.ft of gas per day (=4.7^6GJ) and make 450,000bpd of gasoline (=2.4^6GJ), so that is a yield of 51%.
With reserves up there of about 100tcf, that will produce 450kbd for 61 years!

If they just did methanol and stopped there, the yield would be 64% - and this is in the normal range for methanol from NG.

I prefer staying at methanol, as it is a much better fuel than gasoline - gives better than diesel efficiency in diesel engines, and better than gasoline efficiency in gasoline engines.

If we used NG to methanol (64%) to then run diesel engines (40% eff) we get much better exergy than from gasoline engines (30% max) , so the productive work from the methanol is 33% more, than gasoline, making the effective yield of work done about 86% for NG to methanol to diesel engine than 51% for NG to methanol to gasoline to gasoline engine.

We have many choices in how we move forward, but the US, ins staying with the gasoline engine, is choosing the least efficient - as usual.

This is a hard one in terms of net energy. If this project isn't done, and the gas stays in the ground, then the net energy is zero. If you regard this as a black box, with the output being liquid fuel, (either M or G), then thew question is what external inputs are needed - and we don't count the gas as we get it for free, and it is stranded with no other use. So in this regard, and with zero exploration risk, and a 62 year life, I'd say the net energy is probably Ok - on a par with oilsands. Not as good as a Saudi well, to be sure, but we don;t get to do any more of those.

Overall though, yes net energy is declining. As more societal resources go into energy (and food) production, we have less left for everything else, and we are certainly seeing that. Paradoxically, an increase in the employment of the US oil and gas sector indicates net energy declining! but when people would otherwise be unemployed, then GDP is actually increasing.

Thanks, Paul.

Overall though, yes net energy is declining. As more societal resources go into energy (and food) production, we have less left for everything else, and we are certainly seeing that.

Well, we are seeing it, but certainly not with precision or certainty, and society as a whole seems to have no clue.

I've been struggling with this (I mean that--the struggles make me tired and sore) since at least the late 90's. Around the time "The End of Cheap Oil" was published, I was in one of Jay Hanson's forums that included contributions from Colin, Jean, HT Odum, Matt Simmons and a whole host of stars (well, stars to folks like us), not to mention the inimitable Jay, himself. Although I had been vaguely aware of the concept of net energy for years (I was an "accidental engineer", after all), well, you can imagine the cram course I got.

It was about this time that someone (maybe Rich Duncan?) advanced the proposition that we had already long since passed net energy production per-capita. The idea was an absolute stunner, to me, for two reasons. First, if it were true, and there were nothing on the horizon likely to reverse the condition, this was a bigger deal than PO itself--way bigger. Second, if it were true and could be clearly demonstrated, we might finally have the story to that would get the world's attention and motivate us to move gracefully toward PowerDown (I was slightly less doomerish, then, despite being immersed in the deep end of the dieoff pool).

All these years later, I still don't know. I see lots of snippets of evidence. I see more and more projects that are clearly net negative going forward for "special" economic or local or logistical reasons. I see increasing focus on lower EROEI unconventional plays and major bursts of activity for projects, e.g., Marcellus SG, that look pretty iffy to my amateur eyes.

As George said, I'm pretty sure, now, the net per-capita peak is way back there. What I'd really, really like is a serious analysis--which is beyond my skills and resources.

So, to second (or third or fourth) a suggestion that has been popping up: Is it feasible for us, collectively, to fund the data acquisition and analysis that would allow such an analysis to be done, with the intention of reaching the best possible conclusions with respect to EROEI, net energy and net per-capita? I know we have the talent here to do it. Are the Talented Ones interested? What would it cost? What would we need besides money?


Oil production tanks in Alberta as wildfires threaten facilities

This should take a little pressure off the Cushing oil storage tanks.

Crops: Drying a slow death

In Hertfordshire, farmer Robert Law expects the yield from wheat sown over winter to be down by 40 per cent. Cereals sown this spring have been practically wiped out. “In an average year, we would have 130ml of rainfall,” he sighs. “This year, we’ve had 7ml.” There isn’t the water to irrigate cereal crops, and it wouldn’t be cost-efficient for him if there were, given the prices the crops fetch...

...One of the consequences of stunted crops is a shortage of straw. After last year’s baking July, some farmers simply ploughed their under-performing crops back into the ground, rather than spend the money on harvesting them. As a result, livestock farmers found that there was a shortage of bedding, and had to pay a high price for it. Straw could be even more difficult to buy this year...

...This year, the grass hasn’t performed. Meadows that should be knee-high at this season barely tickle your ankles. Cattle are being moved on to fields that had been earmarked for silage. And the weather has made it difficult to spread fertiliser, which needs rain to take it into the ground. The cost of fertiliser, being energy-intensive to make, follows the oil price, so is now at a high.

Complex systems under stress do very interesting things... like kill you.