Drumbeat: June 1, 2011

Scary signs for jobs

A variety of one-time factors, including high oil prices earlier this year, Japan's earthquake and nuclear crisis, and severe weather including flooding and tornadoes in the South, have all taken their toll on American employers.

Add government layoffs to the mix, and the picture looks even worse. As federal stimulus dollars have petered out, state and local governments have cut jobs for six months straight.

That said, economists were still not expecting this much weakness.

Oil Falls the Most in Three Weeks on Report That U.S. Employers Cut Hiring

Crude oil dropped the most in three weeks after data showed that U.S. companies added fewer jobs than forecast last month and the expansion of manufacturing slowed, bolstering concern fuel demand growth will weaken.

Higher oil price prompts increased drilling

Higher-than-expected oil and gas drilling activity in western Canada led the Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors Wednesday to increase its forecast for the total number of wells to be drilled in 2011.

It now expects the total to be 13,128, an increase of some 1,300, or 11 per cent over the 11,811 wells it anticipated in its project released in October.

Philippines protests to China over oil rig plan

The Philippines said Wednesday it had formally protested to Beijing over recent activity in disputed waters of the South China Sea and Chinese plans to anchor an oil rig there.

Venezuela will keep sending oil to the United States

The Minister of Energy and Petroleum of Venezuela, Rafael Ramirez, said today that his country will continue to send the 1.2 million barrels daily sold to the United States after that country announced sanctions against the Venezuelan state oil company (PDVSA).

"We are serious and we will continue sending this quantity, but the question is: Are they going to do damage to us with their measures to be able to guarantee the shipment of oil? It's something that we are going to determine, the Venezuelans and not the Americans," Ramirez said in a televised speech.

Hopes fade for peaceful Arab transition to democracy

Nearly four months ago, longtime Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak finally yielded to political reality and stepped down from power. Mubarak's fall -- coming on the heels of the ouster of neighboring Tunisia's Zine El Abidine Ben Ali -- was seen by many as part of a domino effect.

The Arab world, it seemed, was finally on the brink of a peaceful democratic transition that had eluded the troubled region for generations.

Today, however, the promise of a peaceful Arab Spring appears to be yielding to the reality of a long, violent summer as dictators across the Middle East and North Africa draw a line in the sand and fight to maintain control of their countries.

Breaking down Middle East and North Africa unrest, country by country

Countries in the Middle East and North Africa have been swept up in protests against longtime rulers since the January revolt that ousted Tunisian strongman Zine El Abedine Ben Ali. In many cases, these demonstrations and movements have been met with brute force and escalated into seemingly unending violence.

We take a look at what's next for the 'Arab Spring' and look at the latest developments from each country and information on the roots of the unrest.

Report: Syrian abuses could be 'crimes against humanity'

(CNN) -- The Syrian regime has carried out a "systematic" series of abuses against protesters that could "qualify as crimes against humanity," and the United Nations must hold the government accountable, a leading humanitarian watchdog organization said Wednesday.

Human Rights Watch makes these assertions in a report titled "'We've Never Seen Such Horror': Crimes against Humanity in Daraa."

Source: Missiles strike at Yemeni defectors' compound

Sanaa, Yemen (CNN) -- Four missiles struck a compound where generals who defected from the Yemeni regime were meeting, a spokesman for the defected generals said Wednesday.

U.N. atomic watchdog seen raising pressure on Iran

(Reuters) - The U.N. atomic agency is voicing growing concern about possible military aspects of Iran's nuclear programme and Western envoys believe it may firm up its suspicions later this year, adding to pressure on Tehran.

Farm boom missing Main Street

Most farmers no longer buy cars, clothes and farm equipment in towns near them, local bankers and rural economists say. Most young people who leave for college don't move back. Like most small towns across the Midwest, Guthrie Center's population — 1,569 according to Census figures — is shrinking and getting older.

Your Commute Is Killing You

This week, researchers at Umea University in Sweden released a startling finding: Couples in which one partner commutes for longer than 45 minutes are 40 percent likelier to divorce. The Swedes could not say why. Perhaps long-distance commuters tend to be poorer or less educated, both conditions that make divorce more common. Perhaps long transit times exacerbate corrosive marital inequalities, with one partner overburdened by child care and the other overburdened by work. But perhaps the Swedes are just telling us something we all already know, which is that commuting is bad for you. Awful, in fact.

OPEC seen ignoring West's call to act

(Reuters) - OPEC is unlikely to bow to western pressure to officially raise oil output at its meeting next week, with members instead expected to act independently of the group, a Reuters poll showed on Wednesday.

All 13 oil analysts and traders surveyed by Reuters predicted the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) would roll over its current output agreement, untouched since the group's record cut in December 2008.

"They will simply sit on the fence with oil back near $100 barrel," said Harry Tchilinguirian, head of commodity markets strategy for BNP Paribas.

A new golden age for fossil fuels? Huh?

Natural gas is cheap and clean, but hardly the answer to our energy needs. It just buys us time.

Special report: If Monterrey falls, Mexico falls

MONTERREY, Mexico (Reuters) – Mario Ramos thought it was a bad joke when he received an anonymous email at the start of this year demanding $15,000 a month to keep his industrial tubing business operating in Monterrey, Mexico's richest city and a symbol of progress in Latin America.

Sitting in his air-conditioned office looking across at sparkling office blocks dotting the mountains on that morning in January, he casually deleted the email as spam.

Six days later, the phone rang and a thickset voice demanded the money. Ramos panicked, hung up and drove to his in-laws' house. It was already late and he had little idea what to do. Then, just after midnight, masked gunmen burst onto his premises, set fire to one of his trucks, shot up his office windows and sprayed a nearby wall with the letter "Z" in black paint, the calling card of Mexico's feared Zetas drug cartel.

"They were asking for money I could never afford," said Ramos by telephone from San Antonio, Texas, where he fled with his family the next day. "I should have taken the threat more seriously, but it was such a shock. I couldn't quite believe this could happen in Monterrey."

Iraq’s Oil Export Revenue in May Increases to Most This Year

Iraq, holder of the world’s fifth- largest oil reserves, exported 2.23 million barrels of oil a day in May, with record revenue this year of $7.4 billion, said Falah al-Amri, chairman of the State Oil Marketing Organization.

Iraq sold crude at an average price of $108 a barrel last month, he said today in a telephone interview from Baghdad.

Libya's oil chief Ghanem defects, now in Rome

ROME (Reuters) - Libya's National Oil Corp head Shokri Ghanem said on Wednesday he had defected from Muammar Gaddafi's government but had not yet decided whether to join anti-Gaddafi rebels.

Speaking at a news conference in Rome organised by the Libyan ambassador, who has also defected, Ghanem said he had left his job because of the "unbearable" violence in Libya.

Petrol shortage continues in Sharjah

SHARJAH — Petrol shortage in some Sharjah fuel stations continued to worry motorists on Tuesday even as they sought an immediate solution to the problem.

Mohammed Ammar, who went to Enoc station in Muliha Road around 1pm on Monday, was told that no fuel was available. “My Tank is empty and I can’t drive around searching for a gas station. What should I do, and where should I go?” He asked.

FACTBOX-Key political risks to watch in Zambia

LUSAKA (Reuters) - Zambia, Africa's top copper producer, has enjoyed peace and stability compared with many countries in southern Africa but an election this year and a possible energy crisis is clouding its immediate outlook.

Nigerians Want Jonathan To Tackle Power Supply

Some civil servants in Abuja on Tuesday, called on President Goodluck Jonathan to fulfil his campaign promises by addressing electricity and unemployment problems in the country.

The civil servants who spoke with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) said that the President should endeavour to tackle the energy crisis, corruption and also effect the payment of the N18,000 minimum wage to workers.

FACTBOX-Key political risks to watch in Tanzania

DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) - Tanzania is expected to unveil plans this month to tackle a chronic energy crisis and rein in inflation, while keeping an eye on political unrest in some parts of the country.

The east African country's 2011/12 budget reading is due on June 8. Concerns over an economic slowdown this year have prompted several parliamentary committees to reject pre-budget plans from a number of government ministries and demand more public investment in infrastructure projects.

Energy Bills Put 'Fracking' On Different Tracks

Two energy-related bills making their way through the legislature underscore the excitement and the anxiety that energy exploration engenders in this state.

Their official titles notwithstanding, one bill might well be called the Go Slow bill and the other the Hurry Up bill.

Alpha's purchase of troubled Massey coal company gets OK

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Shareholders have approved coal producer Alpha Natural Resources' $7.1 billion takeover of rival Massey Energy (MEE).

Massey sought buyers due to financial and regulatory problems following the April 2010 explosion that killed 29 miners at its Upper Big Branch mine in southern West Virginia.

Haley Barbour to testify on Gulf oil spill at House hearing

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) is slated to testify on Thursday at a House committee hearing examining the issues affecting residents of last year’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which left 11 dead and leaked 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

China slows its runaway high-speed rail expansion

In his State of the Union Address in February, President Obama suggested that China was outpacing the United States in transportation technology. He cited China's development of high-speed rail as something the United States must emulate and called for $53 billion in spending to create a U.S. network of high-speed rail lines.

But China has hit the brakes on its expansion in the past three months as critics question the value and safety of bullet trains, which have been expensive to build and maintain.

Richard Heinberg: The China Bubble: Demographics: Old/Young, Rich/Poor, Urban/Rural

China’s older workers have largely been left behind in rural villages, or pushed from their urban homes into apartment blocks on cities’ outskirts to make way for new apartments and office buildings occupied by younger urbanites and the companies hiring them. Age discrimination is a fact of life.

All of this will gradually change as China’s work force ages. Within a generation, the average age of a Chinese worker will be higher than that of an American worker.[1] One of China’s leaders’ biggest fears, expressed repeatedly in public pronouncements, is that the nation will grow old before it grows rich (Japan, in contrast, got rich before it grew old).

To avoid this fate, China is trying to grow its economy as fast as possible now, while it still can.

DECC model highlights inconvenient energy truths

For those of us with an anorak in the closet, the government’s new online energy planning tool, the 2050 Pathways Calculator, has provided hours of perplexing fun. The goal is to cut British climate emissions 80 percent by mid-century while keeping the lights on, through choices about levels of demand, modes of transport, generating technologies and so on. But this is no game.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change clearly intends us to confront the many uncomfortable trade-offs inherent in our energy predicament, but two conclusions in particular are inescapable and troubling.

German nuclear phase-out is bad news for Britain

When Europe's largest economy announces it is phasing out nuclear energy, the rest of the world has to pay attention. In what amounts to the biggest coup yet for the green lobby, Germany has said it will be nuclear free by 2022.

The news has sent shockwaves across the world, with sceptics questioning whether such an ambitious target is possible without widespread blackouts - and energy companies threatening legal action.

Germany's denuclearization shot in Russia's arm

Russian influence is the big gainer from Germany’s decision to stop producing nuclear power. The losers are eastern and central European states including Lithuania, Poland and Hungary, and American influence.

Offshore wind energy: The benefits and the barriers

Clearly wind power cannot immediately replace the energy we still must generate from the oil and gas produced on the outer continental shelf. But America’s unwillingness to clear the way for permitting a proven, commercially scalable, clean source of energy is a major black eye for a nation that purports to be a leader in technological development.

Surrey pushes for alternative fuels

VANCOUVER -The Surrey, B.C., city council passed a fuel initiative this week that requires all new service stations provide at least one alternative fuel source -- such as hydrogen, compressed natural gas, or electric recharging -- in addition to conventional gasoline, diesel and propane.

Financing Renewables

London, UK -- A swathe of natural disasters topped off by Japan's earthquake and tsunami will undoubtedly see insurance companies hike premiums in a bid to claw back cash after some big payouts, so Fraser McLachlan argues that developers will have to work harder still to cut costs in both Europe and further afield.

Challenges to increasing U.S. vehicle fuel mileage

As we enter the summer driving season and national gasoline prices approach $4 per gallon, Americans again are placing more emphasis on mileage when considering a new car purchase.

In this column, we will discuss the impact the growth of renewable energy has had on national fuel mileage calculations. You may be surprised to learn that the increased consumption of ethanol could present a challenge to manufacturers.

My expensive run-in with Zipcar's flawed damages rule: Zipcar's 'simple' rental rules have one big flaw: What happens when a car is damaged between reservations?

I again wrote back immediately, and again received no response. Meanwhile, Zipcar charged our account for the $750. It was taken from my friend's account immediately -- which was a debit card linked to her bank account.

A word of warning: If you use Zipcar, make sure your account uses a real credit card. That would have given my friend a chance to dispute the charge with her credit-card company, instead of having it unexpectedly vaporized from her checking account by Zipcar.

ASPO-USA Asks: “What Are We Missing?” - Part 2

There are so many challenges facing us as a result of Peak Oil and related issues that it is easy to miss something important. ASPO-USA asked more than 50 leaders on Peak Oil to share what they felt was the most critical issue we’ve all been missing, the thing every one of us should be talking about - but aren’t. The answers were eye-opening, and have started a discussion that continues. This is the second in a three part series (first available here), in place of a traditional commentary, Peak Oil Review will run a range of perspectives on this issue - from geologists to food experts, from social critics to scientists - what are we missing? Where should we be putting more attention, more resources? All of us miss things - but between so many working minds, we have a better chance of covering the expansive ground that we have to address. We thank all of our contributors for expanding our vision!

In the world, at the limits to growth

We imagine this country is in crisis, yet crisis is relative. Most people in the world would envy our material austerity and be thankful for our endlessly 'collapsing' health service. But with our expectations thwarted and in the anxiety of uncertainty, we are focussed inward. Yet we remain as deluded as ever.

The Role of Religious Congregations in Promoting a Steady State Economy

Proponents of a steady state economy could get a boost from religious congregations. Very thoughtful and insightful people are now writing about the urgent need to transition to a steady state economy. However, good ideas from deep thinkers in this day and age are often insufficient to overcome the power of entrenched lobbies such as the oil, timber, and mining industries, as well as those in the financial sector who specialize in offshore tax havens and dubious finance schemes of the kind portrayed in the Oscar-winning film Inside Job.

As food prices spike again, aid agency warns cost of staples will double in 20 years

AMSTERDAM — As food costs spike for the second time in three years, an international aid agency predicts the price of some staples such as corn will double in the next 20 years amid a permanent crisis caused by rising demand, flat crop yields and climate change.

The report by Oxfam released Tuesday said the demand for food will grow 70 to 90 percent by 2030, without factoring in the impact of climate change. Increasingly frequent droughts, floods and changes in agricultural patterns from global warming will add pressure to what the agency calls an already broken system.

“The food system is buckling under intense pressure from climate change, ecological degradation, population growth, rising energy prices, rising demand for meat and dairy products and competition for land for biofuels, industry and urbanization,” Oxfam said in its report, “Growing a Better Future.”

Peak Oil, Peak Water, Peak Resources, Peak Planet: Building a Currency for the 21st Century

The fascinating Peak Planet panel at the Aspen Environment Forum today brought out many examples of resources under stress, and areas where the human appetite and footprint – large and growing – is taking us into uncharted waters in terms of local and global environmental change.

Oil Trades Near Three-Week High; MF Global Says $105 Possible

Oil traded near the highest in three weeks on speculation shrinking U.S. crude supplies and Europe’s steps to stem its debt crisis will boost fuel demand.

Futures gained 2.1 percent yesterday and rose as much as 0.6 percent today as analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News predicted U.S. inventories dropped last week. EU leaders will decide on additional help for the Greek economy by the end of this month, according to Jean-Claude Juncker, head of the group of euro-area finance ministers. Prices may rise to $105 a barrel in “a few days”, MF Global Holdings Ltd. said today.

Russia, Qatar Face Pressure to Scrap Gas Link to Oil Prices as Crude Jumps

Russia and Qatar are under growing pressure from Europe’s biggest utilities to scrap a 40-year-old system that links natural-gas prices to oil after Brent crude’s 23 percent surge this year.

Jeff Rubin: China, not U.S., key to global oil demand

What’s more important to world oil demand - gasoline prices in the U.S. that are nearly $4 a gallon, or power rationing in China?

To Americans, of course, it’s the former. But to world oil markets, the latter may be a far more significant indication of where oil prices will be heading this summer.

Elusive Oil Will Boost Prices

For my money, however, a lion's share of the price hikes involve fundamental changes in where and how we retrieve crude oil -- along with the manner in which those changes may expand. While I'm agnostic regarding scary thoughts about peak oil, we've clearly moved light years from the days when we could simply turn a drill bit to the right in West Texas or the shallow-water Gulf of Mexico and transport the resulting crude to the appropriate refinery.

But how things have changed! For instance, if you paid attention to The Wall Street Journal last week you have more than an inkling that the members of Big Oil are now being forced to head for many of the world's least hospitable places and fight challenging technological conditions for success in producing black gold. For instance, the Arabian Peninsula and other Middle East garden sports not long ago typically released a treasure trove of desirable light crude with very little coaxing. However, they're now testing the technological mettle of the major oil companies that seek to produce the "thick as molasses" heavy oil from the wells.

Oil Prices: Oil Market Fundamentals vs. Speculation

The question is what is the reality? The structure of the oil market is such that all producers outside Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) produce oil up to the maximum production capacity. OPEC is acknowledged to be the swing producer in the oil market. Therefore, the closer world oil demand reaches OPEC production capacity of around 32 MBD, probability of oil price increases become higher. It is at this time that the speculators enter into the market and push prices higher and make speculative profit. However, when there is excess production capacity in OPEC of more than 30 percent, price declines and eventually settles at the level that is defined by market forces, or OPEC’s price target . The decline is further re-enforced by speculative selling.

Fizzy assets

Let us return to that key narrative, or story, which enables a bubble to expand. The narrative can take various forms, ranging from a scare (the world is on a Malthusian path of peak oil or agricultural products) or a promise of salvation (the dollar and other fiat currencies are doomed, so only hard assets like gold will retain value) to a seductive, new era promise (the internet heralded a paradigm shift of immeasurable technological promise). Often, the hopes and dreams of the latter type of tale are based on an innovation, which cannot exactly promise how useful the new development will prove to be.

James A. Baker III - Cut the red tape: Free up oil drilling in Alaska

After months of oil rigs sitting idle in the Gulf of Mexico, when some producers left to drill in foreign waters, vital energy production there is finally resuming. Once again, federal regulators are approving necessary permits there — a good sign for the U.S. economy, American jobs and energy security.

But even more domestic offshore drilling will be required if our country is to increase its stable and secure energy. One reasonable place to accomplish that goal lies beneath the waters off of Alaska's northern shores. According to government estimates, that area holds approximately 27 billion barrels of oil, more than the individual petroleum resources of all but eight countries. It also contains 132 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, enough to supply the United States for six years. With our demand for oil and natural gas expected to increase during the coming decades, we cannot afford to leave that energy untapped. Responsibly developing Alaska's immense resources has the potential to mark a new chapter in America's energy future.

Everything you've heard about fossil fuels may be wrong

Are we living at the beginning of the Age of Fossil Fuels, not its final decades? The very thought goes against everything that politicians and the educated public have been taught to believe in the past generation. According to the conventional wisdom, the U.S. and other industrial nations must undertake a rapid and expensive transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy for three reasons: The imminent depletion of fossil fuels, national security and the danger of global warming.

What if the conventional wisdom about the energy future of America and the world has been completely wrong?

Natural gas: Our savior or methadone for the masses?

Shell oil executives didn't get any slack Tuesday at the Aspen Environment Forum despite being one of the major sponsors of the event.

In two separate sessions, serious questions were raised about the viability of using natural gas as a “bridge fuel” between more carbon-intensive fossil fuels and renewables — inadvertently putting Shell officials on the defensive.

NY attorney general suing feds over gas drilling

ALBANY, N.Y. – The federal government should conduct a full environmental review that weighs potential damage to the welfare of people in the Delaware River watershed and the drinking water quality for millions of New Yorkers before allowing natural gas drilling in the region, the state's attorney general said in a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday.

Texas may soon make 'frack' chemicals public

HOUSTON – Texas could soon become the first state to require drilling companies to publicly disclose the chemicals they use to crack tight rock formations in their search for natural gas.

Legislation approved Sunday night in the Texas House could prompt the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other states to make similar rules. The governor hasn't indicated whether he'll sign it.

Mexico's Pemex sues US firms over fuel smuggling

MEXICO CITY, June 1 (Reuters) - Mexico's state-run oil company Pemex is suing 11 U.S. companies for buying up to $300 million of fuel stolen by drug gangs and smuggled across the U.S.-Mexico border, court documents showed.

Centrica leaves key gas field idle

Centrica has decided not to restart production in one of Britain’s biggest gasfields because of increased taxes on energy companies.

Gazprom: To Reach Pre-Crisis Output 2013, Sees Increase In 2014

MOSCOW -(Dow Jones)- Russian state-controlled natural gas monopoly OAO Gazprom expects to reach its "pre-crisis production level" in 2013, for which it needs to put the Yamal field on-line in 2012, the company's Deputy Chief Executive Alexander Ananenkov said Wednesday.

China, Russia expect progress in gas co-op

MOSCOW - China and Russia have signed an agreement in gas cooperation and expected further progress in this field, Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan said on Tuesday.

When meeting with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin after the seventh round of the Sino-Russian energy negotiators' meeting, Wang said China hopes the two sides could make further essential progress in gas talks as soon as possible.

Russia FinMin says no gas tax hike for independents

(Reuters) - Russian Finance Minister said on Wednesday that the state will not increase mineral extraction tax for independent gas producers, the government web site said.

Gazprom says tax increase will hit output

(Reuters) - Gazprom's output will decline if the Finance Ministry goes through with new proposals to increase its tax burden through a rise in output levies, the deputy chief executive of the Russian export monopoly said.

Turkmenistan offers to boost gas exports to Russia

Turkmenistan says it is willing to substantially increase the volume of natural gas exports to its traditional customer, Russia.

Total sees Indonesia gas output falling 11 pct in 2012

(Reuters) - Total said on Wednesday that its gas output from Indonesia is expected to fall 11 percent in 2012 to 2.119 billion cubic feet (bcf) per day.

Marathon Oil buys Texas oil fields for $3.5B

NEW YORK (AP) -- Marathon Oil will spend $3.5 billion in cash to snap up oil and natural gas fields in Texas as the company boosts exploration and production in a highly targeted and energy rich region.

Iraq Says Signed Contract With Kogas to Develop Akkas Field

Iraq signed an agreement with Korea Gas Corp. (036460) to begin developing the Akkas natural-gas field, an Oil Ministry official said, ending seven months of delays in progress at one of the country’s biggest deposits of the fuel.

Shell back in Qatar in shift toward gas

DOHA// A little more than a decade after quitting the Gulf state, Royal Dutch Shell is back in Qatar for the long haul.

The emirate that shares the world's largest gas deposit with Iran is a "new heartland" for Shell as the company shifts its operational focus ever more towards gas, said Peter Voser, the chief executive of Europe's biggest petroleum group.

Shell, Rosneft in talks for Russian arctic

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (UPI) -- Royal Dutch Shell said Russian oil company Rosneft was interested in jointly exploring the hydrocarbon potential in Russia's arctic waters.

Shell Chief Executive Officer Peter Voser said following talks with Rosneft last week that both could look at "a multitude" of opportunities in the Russian arctic. Some of the blocs included in the talks had been set aside by Rosneft for British energy company BP, the Financial Times reports.

Iran, Armenia agree to boost energy ties

TEHRAN (AFP) – Iran and Armenia have signed a memorandum of understanding to boost cooperation on oil, gas and electricity and expand their commercial and industrial ties, Iranian media reported Tuesday.

Iran oil output 'may drop drastically by 2015'

TEHRAN (AFP) – Iran's oil production may fall to 2.7 million barrels per day within five years unless 150 billion dollars is invested in its energy sector, a top official said in a report on Monday.

Desire Petroleum upbeat in Falklands

LONDON (UPI) -- A new oil find in the Falklands could mark a turnaround for prospects in the area following disappointing 2010 results, the chairman of Desire Petroleum said.

Desire Petroleum said it was fast-tracking data from new prospects in the Falklands. New data are expected toward the end of the year, though preliminary information suggests encouraging results.

Explosions and street fighting in Yemen capital

SANAA (Reuters) - Explosions ripped through a northern area of Yemen's capital on Wednesday as a powerful tribal group backing the ouster of entrenched President Ali Abdullah Saleh battled his security forces.

Yemen's Saleh likely out of power this year - report

(Reuters) - President Ali Abdullah Saleh is unlikely to stay in power through 2011 but violence in Yemen will increase while he clings on, a report said on Wednesday.

India, Pakistan fail to break ice on glacier

NEW DELHI: India and Pakistan failed on Tuesday to break ice on how to demilitarize the world’s highest battlefield in the Himalayan region in a sign of how far apart the nuclear-armed rivals are even on less contentious issues.

Defense secretaries from both countries held two days of closed-door talks in New Delhi on how to agree on withdrawing troops from the financially costly , mountainous no-man’s land above the Siachen glacier and defining the official border.

Western push on Syria may spark divisive IAEA debate

(Reuters) - Western states are pressing ahead with a drive to report Syria to the U.N. Security Council over suspected nuclear activity, despite misgivings among some other countries and a last-ditch bid by Damascus to thwart the move.

Iran votes to take Ahmadinejad to court

IRAN'S parliament has voted in favour of taking Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to court over what politicians say is a violation of the country's constitution stemming from the president's move last month to declare himself caretaker oil minister.

The vote in the conservative-dominated assembly today is its latest action against Ahmadinejad since the president in April publicly challenged Iran's highest authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

S.Africa union declares wage dispute in oil sector

(Reuters) - South Africa's labour union Solidarity said on Wednesday it had declared a wage dispute in the country's petroleum sector after negotiations failed.

World’s Greatest Power Thieves Keep 400 Million Indians in Dark

To run his fan, lamp and small television, Sikander strings a homemade wire hook over power cables outside his one-room New Delhi house, helping perpetrate the world’s biggest energy heist.

“The cables are right there, it’s really easy to take it,” said Sikander, 26, who uses only one name and earns less than $2 a day cleaning people’s ears on the streets of the Indian capital. “You have to be very careful when it rains because you can get electrocuted tying the wires together.”

About one-third of the 174 gigawatts of electricity generated in India annually is either stolen or dissipates in the conductors and transmission equipment that form the country’s distribution grid, Power Secretary P. Uma Shankar said in an interview.

IAEA Says Japan's Nuclear Regulators Need More Oversight After Fukushima

Japan’s nuclear regulators need more powers to prevent a repeat of the Fukushima disaster, which was triggered by insufficient defenses against the March earthquake and tsunami, the International Atomic Energy Agency said.

In Japan, a Culture That Promotes Nuclear Dependency

As Kashima’s story suggests, Tokyo has been able to essentially buy the support, or at least the silent acquiescence, of communities by showering them with generous subsidies, payouts and jobs. In 2009 alone, Tokyo gave $1.15 billion for public works projects to communities that have electric plants, according to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. Experts say the majority of that money goes to communities near nuclear plants.

And that is just the tip of the iceberg, experts say, as the communities also receive a host of subsidies, property and income tax revenues, compensation to individuals and even “anonymous” donations to local treasuries that are widely believed to come from plant operators.

Tokyo Electric’s Financial Aid Is Risk for Japanese Bank Ratings, S&P Says

Japanese banks’ credit ratings are at risk if they forgive loans made to Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of a stricken nuclear power plant, Standard & Poor’s said.

In a worst-case scenario, debt waivers combined with deterioration of other loans because of the country’s record earthquake could negatively affect the ratings on some banks, S&P said in a statement today.

The hollowing out of Japan’s auto industry

It doesn’t take much to bring an automotive assembly line to a halt, according to John Mendel, CEO of Honda’s U.S. subsidiary, even “something as small as a speedometer needle.”

It’s a lesson the automaker has had driven home after the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan on March 11, killing tens of thousands and all but shutting down the country’s auto industry for the better part of a month. Since then, shortages of various parts and components, some as small a speedometer needle, have forced a sharp cutback in production by Japanese automakers.

German nuclear cull to add 40 million tones CO2 per year

LONDON (Reuters) – Germany's plan to shut all its nuclear power plants by 2022 will add up to 40 million tones of carbon dioxide emissions annually as the country turns to fossil fuels, analysts said on Tuesday.

The extra emissions would increase demand for carbon permits under the European Union's trading scheme, thereby adding a little to carbon prices and pollution costs for EU industry.

Jordan expects to receive bids next month for nuclear reactor

Jordan is pressing ahead with plans for its first nuclear power plant despite concerns that private investors will be put off by regional instability.

The kingdom expects to receive bids next month from foreign partners to build its first reactor.

Explaining the Emirates' nuclear plans to the public

Entering the lobby of Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (Enec), the government company building the country's first reactors, is a bit like visiting a toy store.

A model of the power plant to be built in Abu Dhabi's Western Region includes miniature cars, palm trees, spent-fuel pools and reactor cores. Nearby, visitors can examine a replica of uranium fuel rods that are to provide the emirate with up to a quarter of its electricity by 2020.

The model is part of the company's tools in bringing the public on board with its ambitious plan, which envisions the first two reactors being online in the next seven years. Fahad al Qahtani, the acting director for external affairs and communications, explains Enec's strategy.

UAE weighs options for nuclear waste disposal

One option under discussion is an underground cave to be shared with other nations from the region that could hold radioactive uranium and plutonium for thousands of years.

R.I.P. Reaganomics Revolution: 1981-2011

Whether it’s the BP Gulf spill, four-buck gas, oil-driven inflation, “peak oil” warnings, domestic political pressure to drill baby drill, that requiem to “The Oil Age” in Foreign Policy, or the oil giants’ ads bragging about what good guys they are, a big bubble is blowing.

The Big Fix

Spreading outward from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to Wall Street and the White House, the focus of Josh and Rebecca Tickell's docu "The Big Fix" is less on the crude-oil pollution of water than on the corporate contamination of democracy. Alternately gutsy and preachy, specific and scattered, the righteously angry pic risks alienating those who could be galvanized by its proof of Big Oil's corrupting omnipotence, at least in the overlong cut that screened at Cannes. For the Tickells, containing the spillage of info could result in a leaner, meaner, more marketable and less exasperating work of cine-activism.

The triple crunch won't be pretty. But will it banish our economic torpor?

There is now potential for not just one crisis but three: ATMs freeze up, the planet warms up and the lights go out.

Localization -- Necessary, But Not Sufficient

A recent HuffPost article by Tom Zeller on our research spawned hundreds of comments, most of them critical. These commentators incorrectly believe that we think localizing food systems is a waste of time. What our results show is that localization seen as food miles alone is not a solution to the complex problems of our food system -- we need to think in broader and deeper terms.

Should Transition Movement Leave Politics at the Door?

As the massive impact of just one Transition group has shown, this community-led response to peak oil and climate change is having very real influence on how villages, towns and cities around the world operate—and it is often doing so by avoiding the traditional realm of political activism, instead focusing on grass-roots projects and inclusive, community-focused initiatives. But some in the movement feel like this is a mistake. Voices are being raised that suggest that unless Transition embraces political activism, it risks being sidelined and becoming irrelevant. So could political activism help take Transition to the next level, or would it ensure that it will forever be a niche movement for a self-selecting group of people.

Town Meeting wraps up (Amherst, MA)

Residents will now in most areas of town - excluding business and educational areas - be able to raise up to 12 chickens and/or rabbits without having to apply for a special permit. Instead they will register with the Board of Health and be subject to an initial inspection by animal welfare officer Carol A. Hepburn. She will then inspect the animals once a year.

University of Massachusetts professor John M. Gerber led the move to change the bylaw. "We just presented the facts. This is no big deal," he said.

He does not expect a flurry of chicken coops, but the bylaw makes it easier to have them.

While it took a lot to get the bylaw changed, Gerber said as an educator he enjoyed having conversations with people about the local food movement, global warming and peak oil "to raise awareness ... we can take personal actions."

Money Blows in to a Patch of Oregon Known for Its Unrelenting Winds

MORO, Ore. — It pays to live in Sherman County: $590 a year.

In this sparsely populated landscape south of the Columbia River Gorge, annual checks for that amount are local residents’ share of a windfall brought by the growing wind energy industry. In an area otherwise dominated by wheat farms, hundreds of 300-foot wind turbines now generate electricity and cash.

“Wind is the only thing that is going to save rural Oregon,” said Judge Gary Thompson of Sherman County Court, “especially since all the timber is gone and the sawmills and all that are closing down. I think what it is is a breath of fresh air.”

Groundwater Depletion Is Detected From Space

IRVINE, Calif. — Scientists have been using small variations in the Earth’s gravity to identify trouble spots around the globe where people are making unsustainable demands on groundwater, one of the planet’s main sources of fresh water.

They found problems in places as disparate as North Africa, northern India, northeastern China and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley in California, heartland of that state’s $30 billion agricultural industry.

The Good News: Climate Change Doesn't Matter Anymore

My provocative title represents the increasing awareness that we don't need to believe in climate change to do the right thing when it comes to energy. Of course, climate change is a real threat to us and our environment. But there are many highly valid reasons to become more energy efficient, conserve energy through behavior change, and transition to renewables – entirely independent of climate change concerns.

Greenland's Shifting Climes and Settlers

In the 10th Century, Erik the Red led Icelandic Vikings westward onto the pasturelands of southwestern Greenland, opening the way to the first European colony in the Americas a generation later. While the Norse settlement of North America was unsuccessful at the time, the livestock farmers of Greenland established a stable society of devout early Christians that flourished for the better part of 400 years. And then they vanished.

Canada has ‘more to lose than it realizes’: global warming report on Arctic

Canada's fabled Northwest Passage will not open up to shipping anytime soon, according to a study that warns global warming is a double-edged sword for northern transportation.

“And Canada is going to be feeling the harsh edge of the sword more strongly than other Arctic states,” says Scott Stephenson, lead author of the study that forecasts that the Northwest Passage will be the last Arctic shipping route to become ice free.

EU: Greenhouse gas emissions fell in 2009

BRUSSELS (UPI) -- Greenhouse gas emissions in the European Union plunged by 7.1 percent in 2009 due to the recession and use of renewable energy, the European Environment Agency says.

However, preliminary figures for 2010 indicate emissions were on the rise again with the economic recovery, the agency said Tuesday.

Off the Pedestal: Creating a New Vision of Economic Growth

The idea of economic growth as an unquestioned force for good is ingrained in the American psyche. But a longtime environmental leader argues it’s time for the U.S. to reinvent its economy into one that focuses on sustaining communities, family life, and the natural world.

Re: Greenland's Shifting Climes and Settlers

I tried to read this report last night, only to find it behind a paywall. Some PNAS reports are open to the public, but not this one.

I wonder whether the reported colder conditions were local or more widespread. If there were a shift in the THC, it might impact local climate, but not change global climate as much. The recent wild weather we've experienced may be an indication of such a local shift in the THC, as there's evidence that there has been a change in the THC over the past few years. For example, this past winter, some areas of Southern Greenland where the Viking settled experienced unusually warm conditions...

E. Swanson

There's more detail in this press release. It was a study of local conditions, so it doesn't say anything about global temperatures.

that's the commentary I saw yesterday. There's still much to be learned, although still I think that the Greenland Norse were done in by the short term effect on climate of the Kuwae volcano (1452/53). One can see the sharp cooling in some of the ice core data...

E. Swanson

I'm sure there were several factors, but I've always been convinced that the decisive blow was the failure of shipping from Europe (specifically from Bergen in Norway, which had a royal monopoly on trade with Greenland). The failure of Norwegian shipping was largely due to the Black Death killing so much of the population there. The last official ship to sail to Greenland did so in about 1350, shortly after the Black Death arrived in Norway in 1349. The generally quoted 1410 for the last ship refers to an accidental visit by a ship blown off course.

jared diamond tells a different story in "collapse". (too long to go into details just check the book if you are interested)

Yes, in COLLAPSE, Diamond devotes about 60 pages of excellent description and analysis to Norse Greenland. It's worth reading, in my opinion.

I've read COLLAPSE. Diamond is not a climatologist and I think he got it wrong. There are other interpretations of the available data and this latest report is just another piece of the puzzle. The Greenland Norse lasted until at least 1408, but Iceland had already experienced a round of the Plague in 1402-04, which may have killed half of the population. The Greenlanders were closely related to those in Iceland and that last written communication was to someone in Iceland. After so many in Iceland died, one might easily think the Greenlanders decided to move back there, especially if their local activities had resulted in serious environmental destruction, as happened in Iceland. It is known that the so-called Western Settlement did disappear at an earlier date. The truth is, there are several theories, but no one knows for certain exactly what happened...

E. Swanson

The real problem was that Greenland was cut off from Europe and Iceland by pack ice moving down from the north and was and unable to trade for food and other necessities after the start of the Little Ice Age

Starting in the 13th century, pack ice began advancing southwards in the North Atlantic, as did glaciers in Greenland. The three years of torrential rains beginning in 1315 ushered in an era of unpredictable weather in Northern Europe which did not lift until the 19th century. There is anecdotal evidence of expanding glaciers almost worldwide.

Greenland had been settled by the Norse during the Medieval Warm Period when the climate was much more benign and it was possible to grow crops and raise cattle in favorable locations along the Greenland coast. Agriculture came to an end after the temperature drop at the start of the Little Ice Age rendered Greenland too cold for the Norse to grow crops and raise cattle.

I think there's considerable uncertainty about what happened to the Norse in Greenland. Your link to Wikipedia gives many disjointed examples of colder conditions, but these tend to be located around the North Atlantic and the dates do not necessarily show that all regions were impacted at the same time. There is no agreed to set of dates for the beginning and end of the Little Ice Age and the short term impacts of volcanic eruptions are often taken as evidence of general cooling when the effects usually last only a few years. A large volcanic eruption, such as that of Tambora (actually, there were other eruptions at about the same time), which resulted in The Year Without A Summer in 1816, would have probably have doomed the Norse, even though the impact would have been transient...

E. Swanson

It's true that nobody really knows what happened to the Greenland Norse. They just disappeared and left no forwarding address. However, I doubt that a single-year cold snap would have done them in. The evidence is of an extended climatic shift toward shorter and cooler summers, which made growing crops and raising cattle very difficult. The expansion of the Thule people, who were much better prepared for living in cold climates, into the southern part of Greenland in the 1300 to 1500 time frame probably didn't help, either.

All this is covered in the e! Science News article Climate played big role in Vikings' disappearance from Greenland

What climate scientists have been able to ascertain is that an extended cold snap, called the Little Ice Age, gripped Greenland beginning in the 1400s. This has been cited as a major cause of the Norse's disappearance. Now researchers led by Brown University show the climate turned colder in an earlier span of several decades, setting in motion the end of the Greenland Norse.

...climate is not the only factor in the demise of the Norse Western Settlement. The Vikings' sedentary lifestyle, reliance on agriculture and livestock for food, dependence on trade with Scandinavia and combative relations with the neighboring Inuit, are believed to be contributing factors. Still, it appears that climate played a significant role.

As you wrote, we still don't know what actually happened. The Greenland Norse were living in the area for more than 400 years, longer than the US of A has been going. They relied on wood and after they cut all the trees, they had to import wood from the other side of the Labrador Sea. Their boats were made of wood as well and without wood, they were toast. The Norse in Iceland did the same thing and introducing sheep and goats made things worse.

As for what can happen due to a couple of bad years, read the Wiki article about "The Year Without a Summer" or Pang's description of the effects of the Kuwae volcano. The Greenland Norse depended on growing enough grass to feed their cattle thru the winter. If that didn't happen, there would be no cattle the next year...

E. Swanson

Archeologists have been able to identify a lot of changes that occurred in food production in Europe during the Medieval Warm Period as well: grapes in England and cereal grains that used a longer growing season in Scandinavia are two. There were also a number of documented famines as the regional climate cooled and those longer-growing grain crops failed.

Arctic sea ice VOLUME may be zero in September 2016 if parabolic trends continue
One-Year-Old Ice in Beaufort Sea Now a Foot Thinner than in 2009

Good graph and article. It is not only the thickness but the quality of the ice that has degenerated. I've heard explorers and researchers describe recent ice as "rotten".

As we loose the refrigerator at the top of the world, changes will start to accelerate at enormous rates. All the energy that had gone into converting water from solid to liquid state, will instead just heat up the water and air. There will be much more evaporation and weather patterns will shift accordingly (as they already have, apparently).

The super heated water will also accelerate the dissolving of sea bed methane hydrates in the vast and shallow East Siberian Arctic Shelf, and since these now form a cap over vast reservoirs of free methane, we will see dramatic releases of methane probably at least doubling the level in the atmosphere today. (Such releases are already happening, but it is unclear how widespread they are at this point.)

Amazing and visually obvious trend. How can so many people still not get what's going on there?

Yeah, neven has great graphs. A must visit for any obsessed with our melting northern polar cap.

After seeing that graph, it's hard not to be obsessed.

I don't know. When it is in the format of the below it is not so scary. Granted, if we can spur a government takeover of industry, I am all for whatever works.


What don't you find scary about that graph?

It shows that we are now tied for the all time low for ice coverage for this day. Do you find some great comfort in that?

And don't hold your breath for "government takeover of industry." Industry took over government a long time ago and will not give up that control short of a revolution.

If I may, I will play the advocatus diaboli (devil's advocate) here. :D

I think it looks better, because it shows that lowest point was in September 2007. Last year's was even higher than 2008's! This way, it may seem that things are somehow getting better, not worse.

< / devil's advocate mode turned off>

But sadly, this graph gives us no information about the ice thickness or quality (as you, dohboi, mentioned - the ice is "rotten") and people somehow like to forget that those are very important parameters, too.

So... if one leaves out the scary stuff, no wonder things may seem quite comforting, eh? :P

Try this page for the NSIDC simple graphs that are easy to read and easy to see the differences.


Here's the current daily mean (image changes daily):


please note it is more than two standard deviations below the reference period.

In case a reader is not familiar with standard deviation:


You didnt actually say government takeover of industry? My boy, this is America, industry took over Government. You have it all backwards. They are one in the same. They are inseparable. There is no free market. Now run along and listen to the next broadcast of Limbaugh at 7.

Seriously can you at least show a single example of Government takeover. Please. Pretty please. ;-)

Industry begs like a homeless street person for handouts from the public. Almost every business cycle in fact. Airlines, Cars, Oil and gas, ethanol, wind, solar, the museum of useless crap, I could go on ...

As far as I can tell industry mandated rules that control citizen's safety are the ways industry controls the average American. The safety ninnies. The massive scale of cars. The safety seats. The disposable consumer culture (made to fear bacteria and disease with excess government rules). You think honest Americans wrote those rules. Nope. Big business and lobbyists did.

Industry is setting the rules that dictate America lives. You are completely backwards on that.

Now your name is also a little useless and contradictory as well. Look at the so-called "American" companies in China. They all love Red Communist China. Explain that? In the 1950s, these people would have been burnt at the stake for that. Now people like you embrace them affectionately but shout commie at everyone else. What nonsense.

I know I feed this troll ;-)

Real images updated daily. Not radar, so you have to deal with clouds.


Satellite, I believe. Hard to "read."


Cryosphere Today:


Supposed to show ice age, but the changes in it are really wacky at times. It consistently does show older ice where it should be: north of Canada.


There's probably an easier way, but to get the most recent image I manually alter the URL:


The bolded numbers should be read as 2011/06/01, or June 1, 2011, and the day and month are all you need to change.

Ice core samples shows no correlation between climate changes in the area and in the Himalayas. Conclusion; whatever was going on there, it was local. Or rather it was atlantic.

Clean Energy from America’s Oceans
Permitting and Financing Challenges to the U.S. Offshore Wind Industry

For 87 days in the spring and summer of 2010, an undersea gusher of oil continuously reminded Americans of the toll energy development can take on our oceans.

Approximately 3,500 oil rigs and platforms were operating in U.S. waters at the time of the BP disaster. There were also over 1,000 wind turbines generating clean, renewable electricity off the coastlines of northwestern Europe. But not a single windmill yet turns in the strong, abundant winds that abound off our shores.

Clearly wind power cannot immediately replace the energy we still must generate from the oil and gas produced on the outer continental shelf. But America’s unwillingness to clear the way for permitting a proven, commercially scalable, clean source of energy is a major black eye for a nation that purports to be a leader in technological development.

See: http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2011/06/offshore_wind.html


Paul - "America’s unwillingness to clear the way for permitting" wind power offshore. True...Americans...not Texans. A few years ago we issued offshore wind farm leases in our state waters. Odd that a major FF producer would be behind wind power development, eh? And I think the last I heard Texas had more WP capacity than any other state. Doubly strange, eh?

Texas is a State that knows the value of making money from energy sources. Not so strange.

Rockman, You rubbing it in. I am going to call you Windman then from now on.

Maybe the NIMBY's just want to hook up power cables to Texas for all there electric needs?

Given the dependencies of the East Coast for petroleum products, natural gas, and low-sulfur coal from Texas, Louisiana and other western states, an attitude of "we'll just hook up power cables to Texas wind, Arizona sunshine, and Nevada geothermal" is not entirely unexpected.

The real fun starts when the Western states begin to be reluctant to export electricity.

We'll trade them water.

I'll simply say that it seems unlikely. If the climate models are generally correct, the East will have excess water during a fairly narrow window. The East will lack storage capacity, so it would have to be stored in the West. The same models suggest wetter winters in the northern parts of the West. Given that, plus additional storage capacity, the West probably has adequate water supplies without water from the East, if it manages them properly.

For example, in the upper Colorado River basin, about 90% of diversions are agricultural and about 70% of those are used for corn, a large majority of which goes to animal feed and ethanol feedstock. That water will have to be used somewhat differently.

Yes, and my comment was snarky. I find it irritating when the oh-so-proudly independent Westerners start whining about having to share their energy with us dependent Easterners. I'd point out that here in Pennsylvania we once had abundant fossil fuel energy resources too, but we (the collective we) used those up, partly in building the infrastructure that allowed so many people to live in the Western states at all. And we had plenty of human and environmental tragedies to accompany the production of it too. Now that it's their turn to share suddenly they want to gloat.

Also, in a more regional world that stops trading things like energy and water, it will be a lot more livable in Pennsylvania than it will be in most of Texas, Arizona and Nevada. In a couple of hundred years, if not sooner, hardly anyone will live in Phoenix or Las Vegas anymore.

Twilight makes an undeniable point. Texas lacks water resources and that problem only gets worse in the decades ahead.

Unless someone mentions Peak Oxygen, water will always be the strongest trading chip.

And my response was also, to some extent, snarky.

Nevertheless, I think there is an important question buried in here. It is common to find people (not pointing at you) that assert localization and regionalization for most of the economy, then turn around and also propose massive transcontinental power networks.

There are areas that are going to take a beating, and others that have a fighting chance. I agree with you about Phoenix and Las Vegas, and suspect that trend continues as far as West Texas. I argue that the current depopulation trend in the Great Plains will continue (and that staffing massive wind farms will be problematic). The area that I think takes a surprise beating in a regional world is the strip from Boston to Washington DC and 100 miles in from the coast -- a little over 20% of the US population lives in that strip, with limited food and energy resources.

Hi Rock,

Texas is home to twenty-five per cent of the nation's installed wind capacity and at times wind supplies one out of every five kWh consumed in your state. Mighty impressive numbers indeed.


Re: "Oil Prices: Oil Market Fundamentals vs. Speculation"

The peak oil theory argues that we have already reached the maximum global oil production capacity and in the future, the supply will decline, and the scarcity factor will lead to a price increase.

I cringe everytime someone says stuff like "... peak oil theory argues that we have already reached the maximum global oil production capacity ...". Confusing the concept of peak oil with its timing is a mistake that I see over and over again in the press. Why is so difficult to understand that peak oil simply means maximum world oil production?

Regarding As food prices spike again, aid agency warns cost of staples will double in 20 years, above..

I read the review of this report yesterday via The Guardian and noted this:

Entitled "Growing a Better Future: Food Justice in a Resource-Constrained World," the report said: "The scale of the challenge is unprecedented, but so is the prize: a sustainable future in which everyone has enough to eat."
Oxfam believes one way to tame food price inflation is to limit speculation in agricultural commodity futures markets. It also opposed support for using food as a feedstock for biofuels.
"Financial speculation must be regulated, and support dismantled for biofuels that displace food," it said.

[emphasis mine]

One wonders what Washington thinks of the above.

The world's top ethanol fuel producer in 2010 was the United States with 13.2 billion U.S. liquid gallons (bg) (50.0 billion liters) representing 57.5 percent of global production, followed by Brazil (6.92 bg - 26.2 billion liters), and together both countries accounted for 88 percent of world production of 22.95 billion US gallons (86.9 billion liters).[1] By December 2010 the U.S. ethanol production industry consisted of 204 plants operating in 29 states,[4][6] and 9 plants under construction or expansion, adding 560 million gallons of new capacity and bringing total U.S. installed capacity to 14.6 bg.[6] At the end of 2010 over 90 percent of all gasoline sold in the U.S. was blended with ethanol.....

....The Obama Administration set the goal of installing 10,000 blender pumps nationwide until 2015. Blender or flexible fuel pumps simultaneously dispense E85 and other lower blends such as E50, E30 and E20 that can be used by E85 flex-fuel vehicles. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a rule in May 2011 to include flexible fuel pumps in the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). This ruling will provide financial assistance, via grants and guaranteed loans, to fuel station owners to install E85 and blender pumps.

Stating the obvious is one thing, expecting the world's most committed ethanol producer to do an about face is naive. Perhaps when Americans get hungry enough....

It will be a long time before Americans go hungry, compared to when nations which have neither energy nor food exports go hungry.

I wasn't holding my breath.... though many Americans already are,,hungry, I mean.

Crashes are always personal in the end, and failure modes are almost always complex and dispersed. Why do Americans go hungry? How many really do? Is hunger mostly a convolution of entropic income distribution and birth rates skewed toward the underclasses? Over time, most populations grow until most members are hungry. Can we really have a hunger discussion without a population discussion?

Edit: Also, it is unclear how many Americans really go hungry. A quick Google will bring up so much hyperbole that it is clear that the word "hunger" is mostly intended to drive agendas than to ensure that the hungriest get fed. The term "food insecurity" comes up a lot, and is so nebulous and broad as to be meaningless. The number of people who actually suffered health issues due to lack of food is not at all obvious. I could clearly be in the list of those with food insecurity since I struggle to plan healthy diets that my children will actually eat, while balancing my budget. Heck, I've had to cut back on organic foods from the health food store and traded steak for hamburger just because my kids grew to be teenagers with voracious appetites.

An entropic income distribution convolved with complex politics means that there will be a lot of people looking to make money on the highly visible supposition that there are a great many "food insecure" people, while practically guaranteeing that a relatively small number of people will actually starve in obscurity.

"Crashes are always personal in the end, and failure modes are almost always complex and dispersed." True enough. I have no idea what an entropic income distribution is, but Bloomberg was reporting as of October 2010 that 1/8th of the American population is on food stamps. So what happens if that aid is reduced, eliminated entirely, or if the Federal Government collapses?

Clearly not all of those millions of people starve to death, but equally clearly some of them would.


"...there will be a lot of people looking to make money on the highly visible supposition that there are a great many "food insecure" people"..

Yeah, the emergency food storage business is booming. Even the big box warehouse clubs are getting in on the fun. That said, I take our food security seriously, mainly due to rising costs. Grow/can/preserve your own. Makes one feel better.

I think it's cute you seem to think people aren't really hungry because it's just a distribution problem. I grew up being hungry for parts of most months, particularly when an adolescent.

It doesn't matter why. Your post seems to be belittling the issue or to be dismissive. Perhaps that is not your intent, but it reads that way.

Regardless, all hunger is a socio-economic issue, not a supply issue, so you are merely splitting hairs, and not usefully. The entire system must change, so why care about what is? More useful to focus on what needs to be.

Most hunger is socio-economic, but there are supply events which create famines. Even then, socio-economics determines which people starve, and which people still have plenty. There are also events which provide surpluses, such as the age of cheap energy and the Green Revolution, which provided a step function increase in food production. Population has been a lagging response, but is probably well into overshoot territory. Soon we'll be back to famines.

My point was that the issue of US hunger in reality is quite different than hunger politically, and that throwing money alone at it with big gov't programs will not help for long. To not have hungry children, we need fewer poor families -- and that means fewer children as well as better wealth distribution.

Unless we manage reproduction, there is no hope to eradicate hunger. Anything besides that will be a self-defeating stop-gap.

Worse, any such population goals go against our basic programming for genetic success. Every layer of population dynamics favors those who procreate over those who don't.

So yes, I am rather dismissive of the political issue of hunger, though not of those who are actually hungry. Simply, I can see no realistic way that a good fraction of the world will not bump along at the cusp of starvation as energy and food production plateaus.

Our goal, then, obviously should be for our kids to climb the entropic distribution and stand on the shoulders of the starving masses, while procreating successfully. If you can't beat the system, well, then you have to beat the other players.

Edit: Lots of people say that hunger is a distribution problem, but they mean "economic logistics" when they say "distribution" -- getting food from areas of surplus to areas of need. When I say it, I mean a WHT distribution - an entropic, fat-tail distribution of personal wealth. The areas of surplus will always remain near those who could afford them, and never flow to those who cannot. The former is attractive because it's a problem that simple thinking could resolve; the latter is intractable, and those who might have the power to change the slope and ends of the distribution have limited motivation to do so, as they are at the top already.

You wrote:

I can see no realistic way that a good fraction of the world will not bump along at the cusp of starvation as energy and food production plateaus.

I tend to agree with your assessment. I would also suggest that you modify your analogy a bit, changing the word "plateau" to "ceiling". Bumping one's head against a ceiling is likely to be painful...

E. Swanson

Simply, I can see no realistic way that a good fraction of the world will not bump along at the cusp of starvation as energy and food production plateaus.

It is well-known that the US produced 40% of it's food in backyard gardens - not farms, just gardens - during WWII. The idea we can't manage food issues is a lazy conceptualization.

Our goal, then, obviously should be for our kids to climb the entropic distribution and stand on the shoulders of the starving masses, while procreating successfully. If you can't beat the system, well, then you have to beat the other players.

If you're good with me and mine and screw the rest of you, yes. I disagree this need be a default. There are too many examples of cooperative societies for this default to be accepted at face value.

I admire your trust in the potential good of human nature. I used to think that too, but as I've aged I've come around to thinking that tribal boundaries are the norm -- good with us and ours inside, and screw those outside. Different people draw their natural boundary of "inside" differently. Some draw it around themselves, many around their family, community, state, or nation. A few include all of humanity (that must be frustrating for them!). Most have different weightings for each rung, with themselves high at the center and then decaying the further out you go.

The simple fact that some people go hungry without successfully gardening belies some of your assumptions. Most don't have gardenable yards anymore, and there is little to protect those that do from theft.

Can you provide an illustration of a resource-constrained modern society with a cooperative model and similar mores to the US today that manages to avoid hunger? Socialism works nicely within the tightest rounds of family and tribe, where there are adequate controls to prevent sloth, theft, and other contrary behaviors -- people comply with expectations so they don't get "banished". At a larger scale, where the coupling between donor and receptor is long and weak, many will take what they can get and give as little as possible. Free enterprise (rational self-interest) works better in such situations, but has other downsides. In an open model, those with global visions end up subsidizing those with narrow goals. You will sacrifice having kids for the good of humanity, and I'll have 10 and raise them with your generous support, for example.

This all comes back to the Tragedy of the Commons, and our societal failure to properly value and managed shared assets. The societal ability to support children is one such shared commons. China had that right, though there methods were heavy-handed. There are certainly mechanisms that could work, but I see little reason to expect that they will be employed, when starvation "works" as well, and without sacrifice by the powerful.

"This all comes back to the Tragedy of the Commons, and our societal failure to properly value and managed shared assets."

I'm glad you said 'societal failure', because it's not global and automatic human nature to spoil the commons. Not where there is a real culture and shared values.

Only when you have a society based on absurd myths of individuality and greed, and actively working to destroy any sense of community, relationship and common interest, does this the TotC thing really become a problem.

The tragedy of the commons happens regardless of cultural type. Probably the earliest case of tragedy of the commons was when the hunter-gatherers developed spear throwers (such as the atlatl) and bows and arrow. The improved hunting technology thinned out game on the ground to the point that most hunting and gathering societies were forced to adopt horticulture.

As Garrett Hardin said, there is a unique solution to the tragedy of the commons--mutual coercion, mutually agreed upon. This generalization is particularly true when it comes to population growth, where the benefits of having several children (a secure old age) go to the individual and the costs are social--increasing use of scarce resources and destruction of the environment.

Note that the tragedy of the commons equally afflicted the capitalist West and the communist Soviet empire. Thus capitalism is not the problem.

In regard to Garrett Hardin's thoughts about the tragedy of the commons, I strongly recommend his book EXPLORING NEW ETHICS FOR SURVIVAL: THE VOYAGE OF THE SPACESHIP BEAGLE.

Don, there are cultures that have used social norms (you can call it coercion) to manage their commons quite successfully.

I didn't say capitalism was the problem, and that some sort of communism/socialism was the solution.

Since Hardin's original elaboration of the TotC, a lot of work and historical research has been done.

Here's an interesting essay:


Thanks for the link. So far as I can tell, the author did not understand "The Tragedy of the Commons" at all. For example, there is tons of evidence to support the essay--and no clear counterexamples at all. Population increase is the clearest example of the tragedy, and the general rule has been that populations increase until death rates equal birth rates. Only the exploitation of oil and other fossil fuels has postponed the Malthusian trap for societies that are prosperous today.

Here's another clear example of tragedy of the commons--air pollution in China. Each individual enterprise, whether privately owned or publicly controlled has incentives to increase the consumption of coal. This case of the tragedy of the commons has progressed to the point where air pollution in China's cities has become a major health problem, and it continues to worsen, driven by the inexorable logic of the tragedy.

Overfishing the oceans is another clear example of the tragedy of the commons. The unique solution to overfishing the oceans is mutual coercion, mutually agreed upon. Since there seems to be little in the way of mutual agreement to limit exploitation of the fisheries, overfishing gets worse and worse. Note that all kinds of cultures overfish; e.g. it is a serious problem on Minnesota's northern lakes where Native Americans are allowed the use of gill nets and do not have to observe the catch limits that are imposed by sport fishermen.

When technology was primitive--oars and sails and fish lines and small nets made from plant fibers, the oceans were not overfished. But now with trawlers and other modern technology, overfishing is the norm--regardless of culture. There are a few examples, e.g. Iceland, that has imposed limits on ocean catches, but they had to use armed force to drive away British fishing boats that were exploiting their fishing grounds.

"The Tragedy of the Commons" has stood the test of time, and evidence of its robustness are all around us.

So you didn't read the article. OK.

The author of the article The Myth of the Tragedy of the Commons is off into some kind of Marxist never-never land. He doesn't actually address the serious economic issues brought forward by the original "Tragedy of the Commons" paper, which is more a parable than a formal analysis of the problem, but has a serious message to send. The article purporting to refute it is just an exercise in informal logical fallacies. I can list them for you if you want.

In the real world, "Tragedy of the Commons" situations arise all the time. Among other things, we have a "Tragedy of the Fishes" which is causing the oceans to be overfished, and a "Tragedy of the Freeways" which is causing people to drive far too much. The fundamental lesson of "Tragedy of the Commons" was that you should not let people use scarce resources for free because they will inevitably overuse them. It's just basic human nature.

The whole point is that yes, human nature is "me first". That's why we have cultures and societies in the first place - to leverage what is common-sensically known about "human nature", and create norms that mitigate it as far as possible. What is wrong with you people?

Sort of like raising a child. No one lets a child just do whatever the heck it wants. But our particular culture seems to pander to the worst of human nature, rather than taking it into account. Greed is good! Nobody tells ME what to do!

Not all cultures and societies are based on me first and me only. Not all cultures and societies celebrate and deify the worst of human nature. That's my point, and the point that you and Don seem to have missed.

To the extent that we just give in to this thing called "human nature", and don't realize the extent to which social norms can mitigate it, we are utterly f***ed. Truly, totally, and utterly. That's the project - to deal with human nature, not pander to it.

It's not that the TotC doesn't occur, it's that it's not unavoidable.

But of course, we don't have cultures and societies any more. You know, globalization.

So you win.

The whole point is that yes, human nature is "me first". That's why we have cultures and societies in the first place - to leverage what is common-sensically known about "human nature", and create norms that mitigate it as far as possible. What is wrong with you people?

Um, my culture is sooo much better than your culture, you damn socialist! Nya, nya, nya! >:^P

Oh, that was a rhetorical question...

I wish I could find the "Biker Mice from Mars" episode that talked about "the goody bar"... How everyone was chasing the yummy thing and gave up all to have it. Also, I wish I could find the videos of the scrabbling, flowing rivers of rats in some Australian grain facilities. Comforts, money, and rampant reproduction amid riches. Pandering is good for the bottom line! There's no money in moderation! The genome with the most copies is popular!

In Koza's series of books starting with "Genetic Programming: On the Programming of Computers by Means of Natural Selection" leads to the image local populations perfecting local solutions which then vie on a sphere. There is nothing about moderation in the underpinnings.

Coolio had a good song about it:

Life forms with a generational multiplier factor less than one are no longer with us.

They did not measure up to the primary requirement of life.

Coolio had a good song about it:

Yeah, we are, each of us, living in our own little tribe's Gansta Paradise, from sea to shining sea, from Wall Street to Main Street... Great lyrics! Tks.

No, sgage, it is you who are missing the point. The tragedy of the commons plays out across all cultures and societies and throughout both prehistory and history. The principle is that general.

You cannot cite a single example of a society and culture that did not tend to overuse resources to the extent that technology allowed it in the absence of coercion. Where resources are conserved and where sustainability occurs there is invariably coercion to enforce limits on the use of resources. As Hardin stated, there is a unique solution to the tragedy: Mutual coercion, mutually agreed upon. In the past there have been many cases of coercion imposed from above that restricted the exploitation of resources or norms such as female infantacide to restrict population growth. Many of these historical cases of coercion were most emphatically not mutually agreed upon, and many were based on ruthless exploitation, such as the traditional Indian caste system.

The reason we need coercion to be mutually agreed upon is that that is the only way to have effective coercion in the modern world of more than two hundred countries. In other words, there is not going to be a global dictator that lowers birth rates; each society must come to its own agreements as to how to limit births. Nations that keep growing from natural increase should be seen as pariah dogs. Many nations have a natural increase rate of zero or below zero; they have solved their population increase problem--but not if they allow immigration from countries with rising populations. Hardin advocates a kind of lifeboat (or spaceship) ethics when it comes to immigration, and on this point--as well as all his other main points--I think he is 100% correct.

Where we cannot come to agreement--for example to limit carbon emissions from burning of fossil fuels--we risk global catastrophe from climate change. In other words, the tragedy of the commons is THE fundamental problem.

The tragedy of the commons plays out across all cultures and societies and throughout both prehistory and history.

False. Why would you make such an absurd claim when there are cultures/societies extant that have not fallen prey to this, except to the extent that we are their tragedy of the commons?

Your beliefs are not facts. You must include in your calculus our impacts on their sustainability. If you are trying to say that globally sustainability is impossible, you will have a stronger argument, though by no means will you have won with such a statement.

I agree "Many nations have a natural increase rate of zero or below zero; they have solved their population increase problem--but not if they allow immigration from countries with rising populations."

Immigration is not just poor folks loaded into boats and tractor-trailers. It is the immigrate who pays one million dollars for a house in BC, Canada.

It is not just immigration but the ever raising likelyhood of invasion of a country that maintains its population level in a world that has an ever increasing population.

I admire your trust in the potential good of human nature. I used to think that too, but as I've aged I've come around to thinking that tribal boundaries are the norm

I didn't claim this isn't so. There is nothing preventing tribes being cooperative. Besides, we don't live in tribes much, anymore, so are not bound by that past, positive or negative. We have learned a lot more about the world we live on and can make choices that mimic current and past cooperative societies, large and small, with the greater knowledge we now have. We have had societies of hundreds of thousands living cooperatively in urban settings, and with neighboring people.

Caral. Look it up.

We are not preordained to compete ourselves out of existence. It will be a choice, should we go there.

Will/Can. Exactly the issue. Our difference lies in you having decided the outcome and me choosing not to do so. Had i already decided the outcome is failure, there would be little to post here. Why do you?

Nah, we have tribes as much as ever. The membership is a bit different -- a church, a social clique, a university team, a political party -- but the behavior is much the same.

We could learn about the world and adapt wisely, or we could dig in with like-minded people into insular groups that bristle against any influx. We'll do some of each, but when push comes to shove, the latter might well win out.

So what happened to Caral? Why is it not a shining example today?

I am not sure that mass decline is 'failure' in any real sense; it may be horrendous, but humanity will likely persist as the dominant species. I'm trying to come up with a strategy to help my family, locale, state, and nation come out on top, of course. Like I said earlier, I'm willing to help change the game, but I'll still play to win with what I'm dealt.

But mostly my interest is in the systems dynamics. It's fun to try to figure out how the wheels of complexity spin inside our society.

"I'll still play to win"

Thus have you already lost. Sustainable communities are collaborative, not competitive. In seeking to win, you are already losing - for us all.

Share the surplus.

At last somebody who understands the simple process that is evolution.

"Unless we manage reproduction, there is no hope to eradicate hunger. Anything besides that will be a self-defeating stop-gap.

Worse, any such population goals go against our basic programming for genetic success. Every layer of population dynamics favors those who procreate over those who don't."


"Our goal, then, obviously should be for our kids to climb the entropic distribution and stand on the shoulders of the starving masses, while procreating successfully. If you can't beat the system, well, then you have to beat the other players."

"Worse, any such population goals go against our basic programming for genetic success."

And yet miraculously many nations have been quite successful in bringing down birth rates: China, Bangladesh, even India.

Perhaps "our basic programming for genetic success" is not necessarily our destiny, or it is more complicated and less reductive than you think.

Rates are down but still positive in those countries. And for the world at large.

Just check this out, and click those countries (and the US and Mexico too, why not):

Certainly population control is possible, though unpleasant, for any given country (and of those, only China really seems to be having significant success). It's just that others will then tend to take up the slack. For every US who flattens their population curve through education and wealth, there is a Mexico ready to migrate and reproduce using that wealth. China was already having starvation issues, and so is a perfect case in point for bumping along the ceiling. India was already at capacity too. For both, economic growth (back to the Green Revolution and cheap energy) raised the ceiling.

Look at Israel - a wealthy, successful nation of well-educated people, and the Palestinian territories, which are basically refugee camps existing at the whim of international aid. Both have similar, and large, population gains.

I do think that a safe and effective semi-permanent birth control that required both partners to purposefully elect to have a child (perhaps with societal agreement) would be a great step forward. TV shows that make teen moms into role models and absentee dads into viable sperm donors don't inspire a lot of hope.

Israel has education for girls and still they have birth rates that reflect a devotion to religious ideals about reproduction that are unaffected by secular education.

Latino Americans have a fertility rate of 3.0. Mormon Americans have a high fertility rate, conservative Christian and Jewish Americans have high fertility rates. Yet, secular education is provided free of charge to all the girls and boys of these groups.

It only takes a few million bad (only in the sense that they do not conform to the social plan) apples to ruin it for all. That is a few million humans that choose to have fertility rates over 3.0

You use the word unpleasant to describe population control in a nation. I think that is a correct word. On the other hand we would not call millions of people starving to death unpleasant. So I think we see population control as less cruel than disposing of the surplus population by the four horsemen.

"Worse, any such population goals go against our basic programming for genetic success."

The key problem with your arguments is not that they are necessarily right or wrong or logical /illogical, it's that you keep making these broad assertions that are just so much refuse.

Again, societies have have chosen in the past to manage their populations, and will likely do so again. Some are still, I'm sure. Birth control pills are a good example.

All this programming and fated be3havior you speak of does not reflect fact, but your own beliefs. And the era in which you were born.

What society choose to manage their population in the past?

In the past, population decline has been associated with economic and social and cultural decline; for example, the Roman Empire fell when birth rates fell below the high death rates of the time: The Roman population declined, and the Goths--with a high birth rate and high rate of population increase--took over from the Romans and destroyed their society, their economy, and most of their culture.

In the past, population growth was a path to military power and economic growth. Currently, population growth is a path to hunger, misery, and eventually mass starvation. For example, if India could stop its population growth, they might be able to improve agricultural practices to the point of feeding a billion people. But population keeps growing, and millions of additional mouths each year demand food--so India keeps importing more and more food. Clearly, this is a path to ruin. India will remain a poor country, with the bottom half of the population (mostly in villages in rural areas) worse and worse off as time goes by. True, they have an upper class that is very comfortable, and they do have a growing middle class, but for the fecund half billion in rural areas conditions get worse and worse. For more and more Indian peasants, suicide is a rational way out of a miserable life--the only possible way out.

The Green Revolution came to India and doubled food production. But population more than doubled. Indeed, the Green Revolution was a disaster for India, and insofar as the Green Revolution depends on cheap oil and cheap fertilizer, it is now going into reverse. If present trends continue, India will have more suffering undernourished hopeless people than any other country. Indeed, such is the case now.

You make my point precisely. Some nations and individuals will indeed elect to manage their populations, and they will be out-bred by those who do not. In the US, our educated masses have few kids, but immigrants and minorities have many. Soon, we will be a different nation, hungrier, and throughout our population grows. Ditto for Europe. Again, I see no concerted move to manage populations in even the most "advanced" countries; indeed, the goal is generally to promote "reproductive freedom".

There is no solution unless it is global, and there will always be incentive for some to outcompete and outbreed. The wealthy and the sneaky still win out, even in China:

Skirting the One Child Policy

Families in rural areas, where children are needed to work family farms, are more likely to break family planning rules than urban families. Migrants to the cities are 13 times more likely to break family planning rules than urban residents.

To get around the one child policy, parents give birth abroad or pretend their first child is handicapped (loopholes allow them to have another legally) or get divorced and remarried. One entrepreneur had three successive “wives” in order to have more children.

Some parents bribe doctors to document a second child as a twin to the first even though the second child was born years after the first one. There are stories about twins who were born 10 years apart. The practice is so common in the Guangzhou area that pregnant women are asked, “Is it you are first child or are you having twins?” Others get approval for a “second first child” by giving birth in a hospital that has no record of their first child. Others “park” second children with childless relatives or friends.

Extra children are often tolerated and documented as long as parents pay the fine, which has became viewed more as a fee than a fine. Depending on the place and the situation the fine can vary between $370 and $12,800. One man who raised $1,200 from his family to pay teh fine for his second child told the New York Times, the authorities "didn't try to talk us out of it. They just wanted to be sure we would pay the fine."

While the rules remained strictly enforced in large cities like Shanghai and Beijing, the rules were eased in medium-size cities and towns. By the mid 2000s, so many children had been born outside the rules, only one child in five was an only child.

Today its is much easier to evade family planning officials as hundreds of millions of Chinese are not pinned to one place as they roam around the country in search of jobs.

My beliefs have been formed by observation and population trend data. I'm not sure it was the era in which I was born, since my beliefs have shifted over time.

"Some nations and individuals will indeed elect to manage their populations"

But we can't! We are biologically programmed!


Glad to see you are getting there. The real problem with this whole thread, not just your posts, is the lack of full context. These discussions that go round and round about issues without ever fully acknowledging that this time is different are becoming very frustrating for me. We have multiple lines of evidence and multiple voices saying we have to act quickly, yet, here we are arguing about all this as if very real limits are not out there.

To assume we are merely biologically programmed to have sex and then children is not in line with what we know. Many cultures in the past have had strict control of birth. They have been known to use infanticide, eldercide, natural birth control, etc. Of course, the vagaries of life and climate undoubtedly did their share of the culling.

I object to this idea we cannot manage our penises when we have obvious examples of doing so. I object to the idea we cannot live sustainably when we have obvious examples of us doing so. This is why i say you are a product of your age. You do not seem to acknowledge anything but a deterministic future. Sorry, but we are creative and adaptive, and we used to know - some of our ancestors and some of our current brethren - how to live in an area for milennia without depleting it.

Managing population is easy these days in terms of tolls for doing so. We don't even need to bother with the hardest part, managing behavior, because the clinical and medicinal alternatives have become so simple. It's access to these that are the problem more than the behavior, at least in that limited sense. In problem solving, sometimes the best answer is to simply shoot the message, a.k.a. the old joke where the doctor says, "don't do that." if we find behavior is too difficult control, then provide means.

We are in the Anthropocene. If you think the rules of the Holocene still apply, I suspect that will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Everybody here is right? Where there have been limited resources, there have been adaptations to limited resources. When there is no limit, any restriction is an artifice. These transition regions where civilizations rise and fall are not normal.

If today's pulse of population, building, and advancement lapses back into the jungle, then a more measured normalcy will return. If we get fusion, then standby for skyrocketing adventures in rabid monkey lust.

This is a fairly accurate look at things!

The only point I disagree on is "Simply, I can see no realistic way that a good fraction of the world will not bump along at the cusp of starvation as energy and food production plateaus."

Government forced one child or two child law with mandatory sterilization of both mother and father after the one or two child(ren). But of course this would NOT work if implemented unilaterally in one country only (or in several countries only). The rest of the world would just fill-in.

I am not saying that forced sterilization is more humane than little children starving to death. I am not says that forced sterilization is more humane than little children dying of disease. I am not saying that forced sterilization is more humane than 60% of the population dying of cancers. I am not saying that forced sterilization is more humane than 60% of each generation dying in warfare. I am just saying it may be possible to limit human reproduction.

Yes, when the commons are global, the tragedy is as well. It thus requires a global solution.

Amen brother. "Can we really have a hunger discussion without a population discussion?"

Although cutting back on biofuels would free up more land for food, the world's population will just expand to take up the additional food. The "prize" is unobtainable.

Correct. There is no cure to world hunger. If you get it, you will just see poulation grow. Then we are hungry again. We tried this in the 1960'ies when some goodhearted scientists was worried about those one billion hungry people on the world. He invented the Green Revolution, population increased by a factor three and there are still one billion hungry people in this world.

If there is a cure to world hunger, it is condoms.

Indeed. Perhaps you should consult with your former master, OB-GYN Kenobi.


Condoms won't solve world hunger. As paleocon says, hunger is not about production, but distribution. That won't change just because the bowl of food grows or shrinks.

Can you identify the flaw in your thinking in using the 1960's as an analogy for the future?

No, please enlighten me.

For the record things have changed. We are now eating and burning more food than we produce. We live off inventories and at current speed we are 10 years from hitting the bottom of the barell. The days when hunger as a distribution problem is now replaced with a prodction problem. Maybe we could go back to the old ways if we stopped putting food into car engines but I doubt. The world is changing, and not in a good way.

Or rather, it is changing from a distribution problem, to an adaquacy of supply problem, with distributional issues to boot. We could argue, that it is still mainly distributional, too much primary production is going into fuel and animal feed. Which is in part distributional, rich people want meat and fuel, and outbid poor people for agricultural outputs.

Whether population will be limited by Malthusian issues (starvation limited) or other means is still not determined. It is possible that reproductive restraint, as we've seen with the demographic transition will do the trick. We also see that in some societies, marraige is limited to those with the means, and possibly lack of per capita wealth can limit population at a level below that where starvation become widespread.

If you look at a graph of fertility versus income/wealth in the US what you see is a U shape. Those at the lowest end have more children than those in the middle of the income distribution and those at high incomes have more than those at middle incomes. Poverty does not limit fertility. Starvation and disease does limit surviving children of the poor.

This reminds me of something an aunt told me years ago. When she first got married, it was during the Great Depression, and they put off having children because the times were so uncertain. So perhaps it is true that poverty by itself might not limit fertility, economic uncertainty might have a different effect..

Because she had middle class values. Save, put off until tomorrow. If she felt she would never have anything (poor person values) then she would have been free to act in the moment and have children. I am making no statement about who is right or wrong, good or bad.

I think this is very true, especially for industrial (rather than agricultural) societies.

In particular, look at the former Soviet Union. Many of those governments did everything they could to increase the birthrate, including draconian measures like banning birth control and requiring females to undergo gynecological exams monthly, starting at age 12 (to discourage illegal abortions). But it was an uphill battle against the economic reality in those countries.

You might enjoy this.


This is a corn stove. It burns corn. Have an old one here on the farm. 50Lb bag of whole corn costs less than $10. Burns clean.

"The primary reason you are probably considering a corn stove is to save money on your heating bills. "


OMG do you know how many New York State building codes are violated in that picture?!

Who cares about New York building codes?
They can't tell corn country what to do!

See all the wonders of burning food;


And, if you want to burn wheat, barely, rice etc then

so now you can enjoy winter warmth while watching the Egyptian food crisis playing out on tv !

It could also save natural gas the car. Making ethanol from corn is rather inefficient and I guess turning natural gas into motor fuel would be simpler although the best would of course be to use the natural gas directly.

It would be particularly good for buses in cities since it would reduce pollution for the passengers. Buses usually start at full throttle and release most of the pollution at the bus stop around the passengers.

I knew this occured but seeing it as bluntly like this... I need no further proof of humankinds shortsightedness.

Reassuring isn't it?

Here is a factsheet from those clever folks in the government of the province of Ontario, about the advantages of burning corn!


When corn was $2/bushel (56lbs), corn as energy was actually quite cheap - works out to $4.80/GJ. If you don't have natural gas at your house, this is the cheapest energy you can buy other than coal!

Lots of people would buy cheap weather damaged/mouldy/dirty corn for fuel, but I'm sure plenty of edible stuff gets burned too.

Lest you think that burning food is only done on this side of the pond, last year the EU used 9 million tons of biodiesel - almost all of it based on edible oil.


Though it is unlikely that much of it went on home heating.

Let me set the scene for you a little further. When the folks in the house (I've got my car http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AxsdjHx6cAY) are burning corn, it might be 32 degrees F, 0 C, outside. Inside, it will be 78 degrees F. The windows are single pane, there is no attic insulation, the attic has a big door open to it so the outside cats can get in (including a mountain lion), and there is a huge, old T.V. running. It is the American way, and she will protect her God-given right to it.

Makes more sense than corn ethanol for cars.

Plus, there's a certain perverse honesty in directly burning edible food which gets a bit muddled with E10. I suppose a reasonably cogent Malthusian rationale, as well, for preventing greater starvation in the future by keeping folks a bit more hungry now. Malthus wasn't wrong.

And probably some utility in having your fuel supplies potentially edible by oneself or one's critters.

Still, hard to believe there isn't some way of producing cellulose to burn which doesn't require the high N fertilizer input of corn.

And say, how about popcorn? It'd be entertaining to watch.

You got me. I am going to look into buy one.

Actually, you do. It's simple. The problem with using the '60's to decide what the future will be is that at that time we on;y increased food, and under the assumption we really had no choice and that there were no real limits to being able to do so.

We now live in an era where limits are undeniable and continuing to increase population will equal chaos and collapse. The difference there is, again, that we can see it coming when we have never been able to gaze into our future before on such a scale an with such clarity.

Let me simplify my point. in the 60's there was one goal: growth. Now, we know we must reduce consumption. If this becomes common knowledge, inherent in our day-to-day lives, i.e. a systemic response, the results may very well be different.

Actually I said it WAS about distribution -- income distribution mostly. But going forward it will be about adequate supply, and still also income socioeconomics. Some cows will eat well to provide veal and Filet Mignon to those of means while other people will starve. Such as it always goes.

I would like to think that the wealth curve could support education, equality of opportunity for women, and declining birth rates, but given the rise of slums around major cities in 3rd-world countries this seems unrealistic.

Condoms (and other forms of birth control) are the only viable solutions for the world's most intractable problems. Which is why they are, and will remain, intractable.

As I stated: "As paleocon says, hunger is not about production, but distribution."

Nice interactive apropos the Oxfam article @ top.


P.S. Click, don't roll as instructed.

Sudan's Nile blend in decline - why we should be concerned

"...serious questions were raised about the viability of using natural gas as a bridge fuel..."

The article seems to imply that NG may not be the "bridge fuel" some folks hope. I suppose it depends on one's perspective. Just a couple of years after I stated with Mobil Oil in 1975 NG became THE bridge fuel in the US. A combination of two related factors: the major oil plays in the US had been fairly well developed and thus NG, which had previously had little value and transportation infrastructure, became a major game changer for the oil patch. Helping this transition away from oil exploration was the ability of new seismic data to show direct indications of NG reservoirs in some trends. This greatly increased the success rate and lowered finding cost. In my tiny little world (i.e. the oil and NG production industry) the age of the NG Bridge in the US began over 30 years ago. It isn't some theoretical possibility. With the development of the shale gas plays and imported LNG from huge foreign fields, I could offer we're moving into a continued NG Bridge age.

When people talk about natural gas as a bridge fuel I think they are mostly referring to it in terms of transportation fuel. It is questionable if there is enough natural gas around to run the transportation fleet (in addition to existing natural gas uses) for more than a relatively few years.

Is The Arab Spring Doomed?

I've been warning for months that Egypt, Syria, Tunisia and other Arab oil-importing countries face a total economic meltdown. Now the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has confirmed my warnings.

The numbers thrown out by the IMF are stupefying. "In the current baseline scenario," wrote the IMF on May 27, "the external financing needs of the region's oil importers is projected to exceed $160 billion during 2011-13." That's almost three years' worth of Egypt's total annual imports as of 2010. As of 2010, the combined current account deficit (that is, external financing needs) of Egypt, Syria, Yemen, Morocco and Tunisia was about $15 billion a year.

At its May 29 auction of treasury bills, Egypt paid about 12% for short-term money, to its own captive banking system. Its budget deficit in the next fiscal year, the government says, will exceed $30 billion.

And the IMF's $160 billion number is only "external financing"; that is, maintaining imports into a busted economy. It doesn't do a thing to repair busted economies that import half their caloric intake, as do the oil-poor Arab nations.

Read the whole thing

Good article. If I may be so bold as to further quote the last few paragraphs:

This is the sort of general breakdown I observed in 1992 in Russia, following the collapse of the communist government. As an adviser to finance minister Yegor Gaidar, I heard stories of Russian officials selling unregistered trainloads of raw materials on foreign markets and depositing the proceeds in Swiss banking accounts. Anything of value that could find a buyer overseas was sold. I didn't last long as an adviser; looting and pillaging wasn't my area of competence. Russia, it should be recalled, is largely self-sufficient in food and is among the world's largest oil producers, while Egypt imports half its food. Russia had enormous resources on which to draw. Egypt, Syria and Tunisia have nothing.

For 60 years, the Egyptian army and associated crony capitalists ran the economy as a private preserve. Although the army remains in nominal charge, the public humiliation of Mubarak serves notice on the previous masters of Egypt's little universe that they are as vulnerable as their former patron. Everyone who can get out will and will take with them whatever they can.

Syria is also vulnerable to hunger, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned May 23. "Continuing unrest in Syria will not only affect economic growth but could disrupt food distribution channels leading to severe localized shortages in main markets," according to the FAO. ''Syria hosts one of the largest urban refugee populations in the world, including nearly one million Iraqis who have become more vulnerable because of rising food and fuel prices."

Nearly 700,000 Libyan refugees have reached Libya and Egypt, fleeing their country's civil war. At least 30,000 Tunisian refugees (and likely many more) have overwhelmed camps in Italy, and perhaps a tenth of that number have drowned in the attempt to reach Europe. A large but unknown number of Syrian refugees have fled to Lebanon and Turkey.

Robert Fisk wrote in the London Independent on May 30 that Turkey fears a mass influx of Syrian Kurdish refugees, so that "Turkish generals have thus prepared an operation that would send several battalions of Turkish troops into Syria itself to carve out a 'safe area' for Syrian refugees inside Assad's caliphate." The borders of the affected nations have begun to dissolve along with their economies. It will get worse fast.

This is the post peak oil future that many have been talking about in forums like this. Mass migration, mass shortage of food, invasions, collapsed societies. Ironic (but in hind sight predictable) that it happens first in the area of the world most known for its oil production.

Well, I happen to think human socities are very resilient. People may moan and groan but 'mass collapse' rarely happens unless you have a point when there is basically anarchy, which often requires some sort of very sudden, big change. Otherwise, people somehow try to muddle through(boiling frog and all that).

As for mass migrations and invasions(either militarily or demographically), there have been a slew of recent reports suggesting that the so-called 'climate refugees' will actually be very few, much less than thought. If you look at the exodus from Libya, over a million fled, but merely 30,000 reached Europe(which has close to 800 million inhabitants) and this caused mass panic in our papers, and even a diplomatic crisis between Italy and France as well as the partial repeal of the Schengen agreement. Most refugees don't go farther than their neighbour. And civil war is an extraordinary situation. A post-peak scenario will be nasty, brutish and not short at all to paraphrase Hobbes, which allows people to adjust, however painfully.

I think that as Europe continually goes down the tube a lot of migrants which before went here primarily because of the welfare, will be deterred as they see the specter of harsh austerity, coupled with the recent successes of Front National, Denmark's People's Party, Sweden Democrats, Holland's PVV etc etc.

Some will always come, because no matter how run down Europe may become it will still be better than the chaotic mess that is increasingly Egypt or Lebanon.

And as I previously stated, it's not at all certain that some of these rich oilstates will help the poor Arab states. The entire Arab world complains about the Jews(often coded as 'Zionists') and Israel, yet none of the Palestinian refugees living in Arab countries can even get citizenship and live in humiliating conditions without basic access to health care.

And Europe, and especially America, has tons of food ready to export.
I'm not at all certain that the OPEC countries hold all the cards. China can barely meet it's own growing apetite for food(it's importing already), and it's far away. If China wants the OPEC oil, Europe can say, we'll give your Arab brothers food and because of our proximity, we'll give it to them fast. Or do you want your brethren to starve?

And even if the Arab OPEC exporters want that(or, rather, are indifferent), Saudi Arabia still needs food to feed itself, and it's not going to get that from China. (In fact, Belgium has already begun to trade water for oil with the Saudis this year, and I expect these kind of arrangements to not merely continue but increase exponentially between the Middle Eastern OPEC nations and Europe/U.S.)

There are more ways to be resource rich than in Oil, which the Egyptians and other Arab states are beginning to learn(and so are increasingly the Saudis too)

"boiling frog and all that"

Didn't you hear that Peak Frog was 1994? '-) (Actually, amphibians of all sorts have been in sharp decline now for decades.)

"the chaotic mess that is increasingly Egypt or Lebanon"

"There are more ways to be resource rich than in Oil, which the Egyptians and other Arab states are beginning to learn(and so are increasingly the Saudis too)"

Exactly the point I'm making. People can be resilient up to a point, but then stark famine stares them directly in the face. This has happened often elsewhere in Africa in the past few decades. It looks like we are about to see it in Northern Africa now, and perhaps in other parts of the near east.

There used to be twenty million people in Egypt just eighty years ago. Most of them were poor. Now there are 80 million, even more poor. They haven't expanded agriculture greatly. They have relied on oil exports to buy grain to keep the masses happy. Now domestic consumption has overrun their diminishing production.

This same dynamic has been played out all over the middle east in various forms.

There are no very good 'solutions' here. Either the population cuts back drastically on its domestic oil consumption, and sells or trades its diminishing oil for food (but that will be diminishing), or they keep using all their oil and reduce their use of food--or go cup in hand for handouts.

Migration will not be much of a solution, since it is hard for the desperately poor to travel far (as you say, usually only to the next country), and, again as you say, Arabs do not have a great history of being generous to refugees. (I hadn't really thought about refugees into Europe. But Europe is now well below replacement rate leaving a large hole in the younger demographic, an age range that MENA is particularly well supplied with...just a thought.)

On the point of climate refugees, I'd like to see your sources. Already, many Pacific Islanders are looking for countries to move to as their nations go under the waves. I suppose it is possible that as things devolve further people will just try to cope (or not) in place. I'm not sure how anyone could claim to know that for sure in advance.

Anyway, thanks for linking the very interesting and disturbing article.

There is already massive migration from sub-Saharan Africa to North Africa to Southern Europe. Most of it illegal,
most of it by young, desperate people. This is a major source of political tension throughout Europe, many Africans
drown or otherwise die in the attempt. It will only get worse. Already the free movement of nationals across EU borders without passports is being withdrawn.

This problem will get dramatically worse in the coming years and will lead to very unpleasant policies.

Good points.

Here's one prognostication of "hundreds of millions of climate refugees" as well as of pervasive and continuous resource and climate related wars:

As the NYT reported in 2009:

The changing global climate will pose profound strategic challenges to the United States in coming decades, raising the prospect of military intervention to deal with the effects of violent storms, drought, mass migration and pandemics, military and intelligence analysts say.

Such climate-induced crises could topple governments, feed terrorist movements or destabilize entire regions, say the analysts, experts at the Pentagon and intelligence agencies who for the first time are taking a serious look at the national security implications of climate change.

That’s a key reason 33 generals and admirals supported the comprehensive climate and clean energy jobs bill last year, asserting “Climate change is making the world a more dangerous place” and “threatening America’s security.” The Pentagon itself has made the climate/security link explicit in its Quadrennial Defense Review.

Sadly, the chance that humanity will avert catastrophic climate impacts has dropped sharply this year (see “The failed presidency of Barack Obama, Part 2“). And that means it is increasingly likely we face a world beyond 450 ppm atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, which in turn means we likely cross carbon cycle tipping points that threaten to quickly take us to 800 to 1000 ppm.

It is a world not merely of endless regional resource wars around the globe. It is a world with dozens of Darfurs and Pakistani mega-floods, of countless environmental refugees “” hundreds of millions by the second half of this century “” all clamoring to occupy the parts of the developed world that aren’t flooded or desertified...

Thomas Fingar, “the U.S. intelligence community’s top analyst,” sees it happening by the mid-2020s:

By 2025, droughts, food shortages and scarcity of fresh water will plague large swaths of the globe, from northern China to the Horn of Africa.

For poorer countries, climate change “could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back,” Fingar said, while the United States will face “Dust Bowl” conditions in the parched Southwest“¦.

He said U.S. intelligence agencies accepted the consensual scientific view of global warming, including the conclusion that it is too late to avert significant disruption over the next two decades. The conclusions are in line with an intelligence assessment produced this summer that characterized global warming as a serious security threat for the coming decades.

Floods and droughts will trigger mass migrations and political upheaval in many parts of the developing world.

Though I don't know of many Pakistani refugees during or after the Great Flood there. Perhaps that will be the new norm--people just dying or coping where they are, partly because there is no 'safe' place to go. For the Pakistanis, certainly India wasn't an option, and Afghanistan didn't look like much of one either.

What fraction of the Egyptian population needs to be removed for Egypt to be self sufficient in food?

This pdf confirms my WAG that only about a quarter of the population can be locally sustained--


And they are accepting thousands of refugees from Libya.

Thanks, very interesting. I would like to see it done taking into account locally available water and locally developed export industry. For example Singapore is well able to buy or rent land in foreign countries to grow food.

You are talking about the country that has the friggen NILE running through it. If they can't feed more than 25% pop, then think of Libya, Sudan, Tunisa, Syria, Saudi...

And yes, I have seen the statistics from those and other countries. It stinks.


Thanks for linking this excellent article. When doing a nation-by-nation accounting of population trends and import/export trends for fossil fuels, grains, etc. it becomes clear that some countries have a very bleak outlook.

Gail's article What's Behind Egypt's Problems? gives an in-depth review of the situation in Egypt including the impact of higher food prices on political stability there. Realizing that Egypt's population increased by 21% since 2000 is also key to understanding what happened there.

Reviewing the data on other oil-poor nations in the Middle East, Yemen of course stands out as "waiting-to-fail" (now in process). I would place Jordan and Syria not far behind Yemen. Regional conflict has driven refugees into both Jordan and Syria resulting in population growth above 30% in each nation in the last decade! It is now impossible for these two nations to export enough services or manufactured goods to pay for their increasing imports of food and fuel. Financially, they are failed states already.

Morocco and Tunisia are in a somewhat different class. First off, population growth in these two nations is subdued at 11% for Morocco and 10% for Tunisia since 2000. (US = 9%.) Tunisia also has perhaps the most educated populace of all the MENA nations while Morocco is largely self sufficient in foodstuffs except during drought years. Morocco is also the worlds leading exporter of rock phosphate used in fertilizer -- Morocco's "white gold".

The bottom line is that the article calls attention to very important trends but goes too far in lumping Egypt, Syria, Yemen, Morocco and Tunisia together as "oil-poor Arab nations". There are very important differences between these nations.

Best Hopes for understanding the unique circumstances of every nation.


If you've been staring at the mind boggling US national debt and wondering where it all went, here is an excellent overview from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:


And here's another one from them on the deficit, including a link to a report with interesting future scenarios (still digging through this one):


To me, the entire national debt and real estate bubble has basically been an attempt to shift the cost of today's party onto tomorrow's taxpayers. I expect a wide spread revulsion against all forms of debt, especially among younger people struggling their way into the job market. However if the economy and the dollar don't collapse, the feds will probably prevail and the debt will be evaporated away with their usual bag of tricks. I think this is the plan (if anything that organized exists).

Considering our upcoming energy situation, I seriously doubt if we will have that luxury. A federal default and debt restructuring appears likely to me. Most of my efforts at this point are in trying to predict how things are likely to work out afterward.

Kudos once again to the folks at TOD for really opening my eyes to the facts behind our energy supply. Without the comprehensive and accurate information I have learned from here I would only have half the picture.

Re: Everything you've heard about fossil fuels may be wrong

Sigh... yet another Cornucopian article, claiming that shale gas and shale oil will solve the world's energy problems for "centuries, if not millennia". He actually states that "depletion of fossil fuels... [is] no longer plausible".

Don't know where to begin, this guy is so far removed from reality. Sure, hydraulic fracturing has greatly increased the size of recoverable NG reserves, but to claim that it represents an essentially endless supply of energy to replace crude oil is naive at best.

PT in PA

Word. What's worse is that they published it at Salon.com, which is generally a thoughtful, reality based liberal news site. Maybe the editor was hungover from Memorial Day?

I hope folks also noticed the response directly below it. Pretty much says 'Yeah, we know. This guy's out there..'

Yeah, but in addition to all of Leonard's (rather amusingly delivered) critiques of Lind's Cornucopian explosion, there's the obvious rejoinder that much of what Lind mentioned is based on current rates of consumption. As the "Policy Director of the Economic Growth Program at the New America Foundation", I would expect Lind to know that capitalism doesn't allow for steady consumption, but rather demands steady growth—exponential growth—which chews through its basis breathtakingly quickly. And economists with a broad audience are gnashing their teeth and pulling their hair about the recent dip to 1.8% growth; how does Lind expect to see any sort of economic growth from his drawn-out consumption of all these exciting new sources of fossil fuels?

I know that many of my fellow Peak Oil theorists are expecting rather less than 0% long-term growth, but I just wanted to take this opportunity to again cry out about the problem with assuming growth. Thanks for your patience.

Thanks for the Peak World article. A term that puts everything else in perspective!

Yet more hope for India:

India looks to allow big retailers into local market

India would announce new rules for foreign investment in retail by April 2012, paving the way for companies such as Walmart and Carrefour to open stores, Junior Trade Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia said on Monday....

...Allowing foreign investment in multi-brand retail might help moderate food prices, said Kaushik Basu, the chief economic adviser in the finance ministry, who sits on the panel. Food inflation averaged 16 percent in the last fiscal year after the late arrival of rains disrupted supply.

“We are much further down the process than people think,” Scindia said, before the report was issued. “I think it is a huge opportunity” for India....

...Retail sales in India might swell to $785 billion (R5 trillion) in 2015 from $396bn in 2011 on economic growth, rising salaries and expansion of organised retail, Business Monitor International said. India’s $1.3 trillion economy has expanded at an average 8.6 percent a year from 2006 through 2011, government data show.

The problem is a complete lack of space in most Indian cities for the large stores. I am also very dubious about any potential of these kind of stores to actually moderate inflation. (I am originally from India but have lived in America for the past 25 years).

Adaptation presented as Strategy.

Japanese Energy Strategy: Hawaiian Shirts

June 1 will potentially usher in their worst nightmare, as the government introduces a "Super Cool Biz" campaign that advocates wearing Hawaiian shirts, T-shirts and sandals to work as a way to save electricity this summer.

From the article:

"I personally do not think it is appropriate to go out in sandals and meet people," grumbled one official from the powerful ministry of trade.

Having grown up in Brazil and having lived in Rio de Janeiro and now living in South Florida, I must respectfully disagree. These folks really do need a change of pace, to say the least.

Or, to rephrase it: "I personally do not think it is appropriate to go out in traditional Japanese attire,"

My guess it that traditional Japanese dress is well adapted to a non air-conditioned Japanese climate. Of course, the modern buildings probably aren't.

Odd.... Aren't these the folks that developed the flip-flop?


Don't forget the 'sumo' thong!! Maybe they can wear those too.

Hey, my WINTER wear is Hawaiian shirts. For summer, a sheer silk kimono sounds cooler.

Seed maker races for crops as climate changes

... "Agriculture production is moving to the north because those climates are becoming warmer. Some of those environments are also very conducive to some good agricultural production," Paul Schickler, president of Pioneer Hi-Bred, a unit of chemicals giant DuPont, told Reuters on Friday.

"But when you move north you've got less of a season, less sun, less heat units. Now you need to make hybrids and varieties that have shorter maturities but still generate the appropriate amount of yield," Schickler said when asked about the company's long-term growth strategy.

"Soils are also becoming more saline -- so you've got to have crops that can tolerate more saline," he added.

It sounds like they will soon produce a crop that can grow on the dark side of the moon--just breed it so it doesn't need soil, sun, water, atmosphere, warmth--no problem.

Really the arrogance that we can make plants do whatever we need them to do is just stunning.

Why can't we? GMO is one thing, and something I am adamantly opposed to, but breeding plants? Why in the world not? I don't think breeding will solve climate or peak, but it can sure help with adaptation.

Just another day in Fukushima ...

Japanese nuclear plant hit by explosion and oil spill

An explosion workers heard at reactor 4 on Tuesday was likely to have come from a gas tank and did not cause any additional radiation leaks, Okazaki added. The cause was being investigated.

Move along; nothing to see here ... Happens everyday

Yep, expect to see more like this before the cleanup is complete.

It is a nasty tangle of an industrial wreck, there are lots of hazards there other than the radioactive material, and it is fairly likely that despite their best efforts one of these hazards will claim one or more of the cleanup workers' lives (possibly even the radiation, but it is only one hazard among many and will have to get in line).

Thank you for bringing in all the news stories. I've often found updates to the current action in your work.

Cooling system stops at No.5 reactor in Fukushima

Tokyo Electric Power Co. said the pumps to cool the nuclear reactor and fuel pool have stopped at the No. 5 unit, and the operator is now working to switch to backup pumps to restore the cooling system.

Pump failure nearly brings No. 5 to a boil

Fukushima #5:

9 p.m. Saturday:
reactor 68 degrees C
fuel pool 41 degrees C

8 a.m. Sunday:
reactor 87 degrees C
fuel pool 44 degrees C

Noon Sunday:
Reactor 93.6 degrees C
fuel pool 46 degrees C

12:31 Sunday:
Cooling restored
Temperatures drop

"The temperature of the core must stay below 100 degrees to maintain cold shutdown status."
""Even if the temperature (of the core) reaches 100 degrees, the alternative water-injection system is available,""

These systems failed in #1 and #3 after the earthquake and before the tsunami. Are they really available in #5?



Survey shows young adults ready to change their behavior based on sustainable values

Young adults from Montreal, Halifax and New York City have very specific ideas about what it takes to build a more sustainable world. And they are willing to make the necessary changes to their lifestyles to make such a world a reality. This is the conclusion drawn from a survey sponsored by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which surveyed 400 young adults between the ages of 18 and 35.

... What emerges from the research is that young adults in the New York City area, Halifax and Montreal share the dream of a better-balanced way of life, inspired by more just and humane values and distinguished by fulfilling work, family and social lives. For these young people, living responsibly means consumption based on necessity, reducing car usage and adopting public transportation for routine travel. They recognize the need to use less water and less energy. Buying local products, recycling and composting are among the practices they are willing to adopt to improve the environment, emphasizing the importance of reducing waste in every form.

Other ways in which young adults clearly differ in their concerns depending on where they live:

•Young Montrealers are concerned with their overall quality of life, including the availability of more affordable organic food, expansion of the bicycle path network, and development of solid neighbourly relationships.

•In Halifax, respondents want to see substantial investments to improve public transportation in the city and its outlying areas, including by the sea; they are also very critical of the sluggishness of local authorities in developing a network of bicycle paths.

•In the New York City area, young adults clearly identified the lack of decent, affordable housing as a major issue, along with energy consumption, pollution and the difficulty of getting into Manhattan, whether by car, train or bicycle.

"What emerges from the research is that young adults in the New York City area, Halifax and Montreal share the dream of a better-balanced way of life, inspired by more just and humane values and distinguished by fulfilling work, family and social lives. "

So the 60s ( 1960s, that is) are back in vogue again?

I remember living in Manhattan in the 70s and being a young adult. I was concerned about affordable housing, pollution, and the difficulty of getting in and out of Manhattan. True I did not worry much about energy. The more things change the more they stay the same.

Australia’s confused solar policy lacks energy

... We have an incredible supply of sunshine, a host of technologies that could meet our needs, and a 5% emissions-cut target we need to meet. So why is our commitment to solar so half-hearted?

There is really only one plausible explanation for Australia’s piecemeal and ineffective set of solar policies: the immense political power of Australia’s big greenhouse polluters.

If you want to point a finger, point it at the coal industry.

I think the writer of this article, from my old university, has missed the point, and fingered the wrong culprit here;

Neither Flagships nor REDP meet the principal need of large-scale solar. Large-scale solar needs FiTs: they are needed to build the market for second-generation CST power stations with thermal storage, bring down costs and open up the doorway to a sustainable energy future.

We have an incredible supply of sunshine, a host of technologies that could meet our needs, and a 5% emissions-cut target we need to meet. So why is our commitment to solar so half-hearted?

There is really only one plausible explanation for Australia’s piecemeal and ineffective set of solar policies: the immense political power of Australia’s big greenhouse polluters.

If you want to point a finger, point it at the coal industry.

There is actually another, perfectly plausible explanation - people do not want to pay even more for their electricity than they already do.
Average residential rates in Australia are 20-25c/kWh - and this is with cheap coal as the dominant power source.

When you need even higher FIT's for solar, and this guy proposes up to 50% solar, then people are going to be paying substantially higher prices than they are today. Not surprisingly, regular folks aren't overjoyed at that prospect.

Customers do have the option to purchase greenpower, at about a 7-10c premium - predictably, not too many choose to do so, other than businesses that can use it for marketing.

As for the Australia’s piecemeal and ineffective set of solar policies: well, that is because politicians haven't come up with a solution of how to make expensive solar power cheap. everyone loves the idea of solar panels on their roof, as long as someone else pays part of it. No one likes the idea of paying for solar panels on someone else's roof, when they can't afford it themselves.
It is no surprise that Australian politicians have solar policies at cross purposes - more solar but cheaper electricity - so do governments all around the world.

The only real solutions here are to have expensive solar, or cheaper non solar, but you can't have solar and cheap at the same time - no matter how sunny it is.

Paul. Are you talking of cost as the kind that doesn't count the cost, or the cost that does count the cost? The one way solar is expensive, the other way solar is cheap- relatively.

And when you talk about solar and expensive are you talking about more expensive than what - essentials?- Like soft drinks and fast cars? or like food and water?

He's talking about true, all-inclusive costs, where the supplier doesn't get the chance to hide most of the costs in the cost of some other good or service. In cases where the true cost of solar is not hidden, you will find it is several times the cost of other alternatives.

Governments are bad for using "creative accounting" to hide the true costs of things. You can get away with this if taxpayers or ratepayers are subsidizing things, and you aren't going to go bankrupt if you calculated it wrong.

It's not all as neat and clean as that, though, RMG.

There are well-known hidden costs with Coal and FF that the consumer can blithely continue to ignore, which make Solar seem costlier. This is the flipside of the same creative accounting. It also preemtively discounts the advantages that many homes have gleaned by going solar, which is that they've gotten to start making other, tough choices about what their usage profile looks like. What they really need vs want, or when they've simply been blindly wasting energy (like leaving a 800w coffee-pot on for the day, etc).. Looking even at a Grid-tied balance sheet puts your Dryer, Range and Hot Water Heater in a whole new light (so to speak).

Then there are the very difficult-to-measure cost advantages of having a system that can preclude needing to buy emergency batteries or keep a generator running, yet have a power source throughout various grid-killing emergencies.. the cost advantages (and 'insurance' value) of knowing that you can run radios, lights, the Fridge perhaps, charge batteries of all sorts, like for hand tools and home medical gear, without the extra complications of keeping an emergency generator up and running.. (emissions, noise, fuel, filters, oil, starter rope, spark plug, rust, gas maintainer, strength to position and start a generator, etc..)

Those might seem like outliers, since we're in countries that have been powerful and stable for decades now.. but as with the premise of this site, such things could be a changin', and of course for MANY others in the world, whether you're in Baghdad, Katmandu or even just a little ways out into rural Maine, you're much more friendly with your 'backup power' (or lack thereof) than the folks in the lucky towns.. and if the roads and wires see even more cost-cutting, then it will become clearler that the value of having your own power should be measured by far more than just a $/KWH comparison.


.. to note, Yes, there is a 'hard and fast outlay of cash' that one looks to for the acquisition of their home's power.. but this plays to a certain devil-may-care ethos that is all too familiar in our culture, and which celebrates a singlemindedness and shortsigtedness that lets other costs be outsourced to the 'not my department' category. Naturally, a great deal of the above is contingent on how much one is willing to look beyond simply the first tier in their Cost Benefit Analysis... as such, I'm not playing this with the cynics view on 'what the masses will do'.. I'm afraid that's just too easy, and there are enough others here who are more than happy to work that angle.

Well, in the case of Australia I am not too sure how many "hidden" costs there are. The coal plants have state of the art air emissions controls, and have had for decades - there are no air quality issues. Most coal plants have built sulphuric acid plants to use the recovered sulphur. Their ash management is also top class. and the fly ash is a sought after admixture for concrete (improves concrete durability properties). Coal mine environmental management is also state of the art - I am speaking here as someone that used to be an environmental engineer for one of the largest mining companies there.

Coal mines still have an environmental footprint, of course, but in Australia the majority of coal production goes to export, and thus the majority of that "footprint", such as it it, is not associated with domestic electricity production.

So, I'd say the external costs are relatively low.

There is also an economic issue - producing electricity with domestically produced coal, or with expensive, imported PV panels (mostly from China, of course, though made with Australian coal)

As for the grid killing emergencies, there aren't many of those in urban Australia, and in the rural parts, people are already prepared for them.

The real issue here is the subsidised implementation of solar power. NSW offered a large feed in tariff (60c) and those who could afford to spend $10k plus to put panels on their roof, did so. Now rates across the board are going up to cover that cost. But what about the lowly apartment renter, or basement suite dweller, who doesn't even have a roof to put panels on, let alone afford the cost of them? They are paying higher rates to subsidise those of higher income who can afford panels.

Some politicians recognise this, and the recently elected NSW government ran on a policy of ending the egregious feed in tariffs, so they are doing what they said they would do.

Now, clearly this is very annoying to academics who have never made electricity for a living, and whose tenure is dependent on the continuing existence of a solar industry, but welcome to the real world.

If solar is such a good investment, then whose who wish to invest in it should go for it - but asking everyone else, including those who can't do solar themselves, to subsidise most of their cost is just wrong.

You wrote:

I'd say the external costs are relatively low.

I take it that you think ignoring the external cost of CO2 emissions is OK then...

E. Swanson

Well, we have no meaningful way of quantifying what that cost might be, if any, and I doubt we ever will.
In the meantime we have plenty of other very real environmental issues to deal with, many of which are getting ignored because they are not directly CO2 related. some are even exacerbated in the name of reducing CO2, like water withdrawals from the Ogalalla aquifer to increase production of "CO2 neutral" ethanol. CO can be co opted to push almost any cause that any group seems to have, so I just stay away from it entirely and deal with real issues that have real solutions.

What I do know is that solar panels made in China use lots of coal burnt in second rate power stations, with negligible environmental (or human safety) controls.

Is there really a net environmental benefit happening here? Should Australia bet its energy future on stuff that comes from China, and transfer large amounts of wealth in the process?

Paul what is it you don't understand about what is happening to the climate? Your posts are flights of fancy. We can't quantify? Uh, yes, we can: asthma is rising, the planet is heating up.

C'mon. At least take the conversation seriously.


There is lots I don;t understand about climate - am not a climate scientist. However, even for the climate scientists, there is lots they don't understand about climate.

I am a pragmatist, and I like to find solutions to problems - there is no shortage of resource and environmental problems to be solved, without worrying about CO2. And worrying about CO2 is causing many other problems to not get solved. If we can have a society that has efficient and responsible use of renewable and non renewable resources, protects its environment, limits its population - it will be sustainable, and, even if using some non renewable fuel like coal, will have a minimal effect on CO2 levels. However, it is possible to have the opposite, a CO2 neutral society e.g one powered by nuclear, that over consumes resources, pollutes the environment, overpopulates, etc - is is CO2 neutral, but is that a better society - which would you like to live in?

"solving" CO2 in and of itself does not necessarily solve any of modern society's other problems. Solving the other problems first will partly solve the CO2 problem, and by then we might know whether it is actually a problem or not, and whether it can be solved.

From the point of view of a country like Australia (or Canada), it is a fly on the rump of the CO2 emissions from China, so Australia cannot materially solve the world's CO2 problem - it can however, work towards reducing over consumption, pollution etc etc and make itself a sustainable society.

And to close, the fact that australia burns coal for power does not preclude it from doing other things to sequester carbon - and it is evaluating options there. That is a whole other discussion for another time. Just because I have not git into it here does not mean I am not thinking about it - though I would do it for economic and environmental benefits - CO2 reduction is an unquantified bonus.

finally, since you are adamant there is a quantifiable "cost" on CO2, just how much is it? If the price is paid by Australia, as a carbon tax, where does that money go, and just how does it, physically, abate the CO2 put into the atmosphere? IF there is not abatement, then the "price" is meaningless, as whether it is a little or a lot, nothing is being achieved.

So given all these intangibles, I choose to focus on the tangibles - find real solutions to real problems, that deliver real benefits and have a real chance of being implemented. Incremental progress works, and is within the power of people/cities/companies/countries to implement, which means it is more likely to get done.

Decades of debate on CO2 have achieved little material change, and I am not hanging my hat on that changing anytime soon. Not politically correct but I calls them as I sees them.

Paul: If you don't solve "CO2", no other problem will matter. We are at a point where a thermo nuclear full scale world war is the pretty way out. BAU will be worse, much worse.

However, even for the climate scientists, there is lots they don't understand about climate.

Not in the sense you are saying it. We know more than enough to alter our behavior based on the risk assessment, and have for decades. 1988 at the very latest.

I am a pragmatist, and I like to find solutions to problems - there is no shortage of resource and environmental problems to be solved, without worrying about CO2.

Denial is not pragmatism, it is the opposite. in what way is it pragmatic to allow your ideological beliefs to override scientific data and facts?

If we can... use... non renewable resources, protects its environment... it will be sustainable

Isn't there a logical disconnect here?

and, even if using some non renewable fuel like coal, will have a minimal effect on CO2 levels.

At what rates? Nobody is saying never use fossil fuels again, ever. What is being said is that their use must become minimal, small enough to go backwards, for some period of time, then the total energy balance of the planet must then be kept in a certain range which is probably in the range of 250 - 300 ppm.

the CO2 problem, and by then we might know whether it is actually a problem or not, and whether it can be solved.

Nothing supports the stance that we don't know the effects of excess GHG accumulations, and we know much about what to do about it. Denial is so dangerous to our future. I have to tell you, there is no excuse for such a stance. When you wish to be intellectually honest, perhaps we can reengage. As long as you are so deluded by your beliefs and/or misrepresenting the facts, there is no point in dialogue with you on this topic.

To be honest, such statements are so obviously in error and known to be factually incorrect that they are the equivalent of the sorts of things you cannot scream in public without getting yourself fined or jailed for causing public harm. There is no issue of opinion here, so you don't have a right to say whatever you wish when what you say brings harm to others.

To be honest, such statements are so obviously in error and known to be factually incorrect...
There is no issue of opinion here, so you don't have a right to say whatever you wish when what you say brings harm to others.

Pri-de, In case you didn't notice, there is no sign on this site that says "you must acknowledge AGW and agree to take all steps to reverse it, before joining here" This is an energy site, and I came here to learn and discuss energy issues. If you think I have no right to say anything without signing on to your point of view on AGW, then I think you are on the wrong forum - there are plenty of other places where you can talk about climate change and try and convert "denialists"

I choose not to participate in that debate, same as I choose not to participate in politics, religion etc. If you have a problem with that, that is your problem.

That is true, the only requirement to join here is that you want to and can complete the signup procedure.

On the other hand, if you want to be taken seriously then making statements like you make above is a good way to sabotage yourself.

Global heating is observed fact, the linkage with CO2 is well established science, and human emissions of CO2 are well established as well.

The variations within the chaotic system of the Earth's weather are enough greater than the signal that it is easy for people with interests in preventing public action to minimise CO2 emissions to fool people into thinking that there is doubt as to what is happening, but the doubt has been being manufactured wholesale for decades now.

And how established is it that we can actually reverse global warming by reducing CO2? How much agreement is there on that? How much agreement on actions? Do I wait for the governments of the world to agree? If they do agree, does that mean something will actually get done?

In case you hadn't noticed, my goal is not to "prevent public actions to minimise CO2", my goal is to find and implement solutions to energy problems.
Now, you and many others here seem to think that only criteria for an energy solution to be acceptable is the CO2 aspect - I disagree. Though most of the things I work on do reduce CO2, reducing CO2 is not the primary goal, it's a bonus.

When CO2 is the primary goal, we will (and are) seeing lots of outlandish geo engineering and space based power schemes being proposed - most will thankfully stay as vaporware, though it is possible some silly ones will be implemented, with potentially unknown consequences.

At the level of the local community, where I work, you cannot influence global warming, but you can make your community more resilient and self reliant - I think those goals are worth pursuing, more relevant, and more achievable than some world agreement on CO2 - but that's just me. Whatever floats your boat.

Did I say you were an interested party?

Did I even waggle my eyebrows suggestively at the notion?

You have been recieving a lot of conflicting information from a lot of different sources, all of them appearing equally credible to the layman. Some confusion is inevitable.

You don't know me or pri-de from Adam, no reason you should take our word for it, but I would suggest that you consider that the majority of climate scientists might just have a clue on this one. They don't have any interest in a particular direction for average planetary temperature, they get paid to report on what is happening whether it is warming or cooling.

My only interest is in planning ahead. If my local climate is going to change in the next 20 years it's nice to know about it in advance.

And how established is it that we can actually reverse global warming by reducing CO2? How much agreement is there on that?

Completely. If I throw a ball up in the air, I don't need a proof to explain why it will come down. Likewise, if the Earth is being heated up by adding GHGs, I don't need a proof to explain why reducing GHGs will have the opposite effect. Planting enough forests, particularly regenerative and regenerative edible forests, will do the job when combined with reducing emissions. There are other ways, too, that are safe, organic, natural.

The on;y dissent on this would come from people like you, I'd imagine.

Though most of the things I work on do reduce CO2, reducing CO2 is not the primary goal, it's a bonus.

It is you who has it backwards. Of course, denying the need to address climate makes it rather certain you cannot understand your error. And you have repeatedly been dismissive of the climate issue.

At the level of the local community, where I work, you cannot influence global warming, but you can make your community more resilient and self reliant

That is obviously false. I don't think there is any need to explain. Energy issues are well known here. To claim changing how we use energy cannot affect climate is incomprehensible.

In case you didn't notice, there is no sign on this site that says "you must acknowledge AGW and agree to take all steps to reverse it, before joining here" This is an energy site, and I came here to learn and discuss energy issues. If you think I have no right to say anything without signing on to your point of view on AGW, then I think you are on the wrong forum

If I had said that, you would be correct, but I didn't.

I choose not to participate in that debate

The quotes in my post above are not from your post? You have a curious way of not participating in that debate.

Well, we have no meaningful way of quantifying what that cost might be, if any, and I doubt we ever will.

You seem to have placed yourself firmly in the ranks of the deniers to the point of denying that experts have looked into the costs of ignoring CC.

The UK government has estimated the cost of ignoring Climate Change is a decrease to 5% to 20% of GDP. The cost of stabilization was estimated at 1% revise up to 2% of GDP. It was recommended Stiglitz, Solow and other mainline economists.


Of course the climate change deniers like Lomborg and the Cato think-tankers say its all nonsense without much analysis.

Climate denier? No, I just have better things to do than worry about something which even the experts can't agree on, much less control.
So the Stern report says that climate change will cost 5 to 20% of British GSP. But (assuming it can be done) how does Britain stop climate change, if China doesn't want to play the game?

A 1% of GDP tax collected around the world and invested in CO2 mitigation? I can't imagine anything more corrupt than that. The country that can keep using FF's while other's don't has an enormous advantage - the game playing that would go on in such as scheme would make Wall St look like a board game.

Meanwhile, there are plenty of other problems to deal with - that's what I am interested in. "Solving" CO2 in and of itself, does not solve any existing problems.

Climate denier? No, I just have better things to do than worry about something which even the experts can't agree on, much less control.

I cannot allow you to lie in this manner. There is no relevant dissent on the climate issues. There is no smoking gun science that denies the effects of GHGs. There is no science at all that overturns any of what we have learned about climate.

If you are going to take the stance that your opinion backed by no evidence at all should be set against thousands of scientific studies, then you should be prepared for the way people begin to treat you. How can anyone respect what you say when you use such poor reasoning? While I do believe people sometimes have blinders on wrt specific topics, it also always causes me to distrust their reasoning on anything else they post.

If you come by your opinions honestly, which isn't really possible, unfortunately, so what I mean is if your ideology has led you to listen to the Becks and Limbaughs of the world, then you need to delve into the science. If you're just another shill, don't complain as your comments get publicly flayed.

Denying the climatic effects of GHGs is no different than claiming all oil is abiotic and will last forever so we can pump all we want. Neither is supported by facts.

There are well-known hidden costs with Coal and FF that the consumer can blithely continue to ignore, which make Solar seem costlier. This is the flipside of the same creative accounting.

Are there really such costs? Usually they are fully accounted for by the electrical utilities who want to make a profit on supplying the market with electricity, and who are not going to ignore any cost in doing so. It is usually the costs of "renewable" energy which are subsidized by governments who want to appear "green" using whatever definition of "green" which will get them reelected. Power utilities who use dirty old fossil fuels are usually on the losing end of these subsidies.

as with the premise of this site, such things could be a changin', and of course for MANY others in the world, whether you're in Baghdad, Katmandu or even just a little ways out into rural Maine, you're much more friendly with your 'backup power' (or lack thereof) than the folks in the lucky towns..

Well, I haven't been in Baghdad or rural Maine, but I have been in Kathmandu, and if you ever want an example of how NOT to run a power system, Nepal is good one. The power when I was there was shut off at random for 8 hours per day, and since then they are up to 14 hours of blackouts per day. The incessant thumping and smell of the diesel generators when the power was off really harshed the mellow of the remote Himalayan experience. For those of us who were not on drugs, it was hard to take.

The Nepalese could take a lot of lessons from nearby Bhutan (been there, too), which is doing a really good job of supplying its population with electricity. The Bhutanese mantra is "Gross National Happiness", but much of the happiness is supported by giant hydroelectric plants. Yes, they do supply solar power, but only for the high Himalayan yak herders who they can't connect into the hydro grid.

Yeah.. as Black Dog said above.

"Elephant? What elephant?.."

..And however 'State of the Art' it is Paul, how much one can wash their hands or lungs of the remainder, the CO2, the exports sent to China, those emissions are real, and they become real costs, and noone buying Coal-fired electricity has to figure them in when they compare the price to that of PV.

Costs for solar are dropping rapidly. I'm a member in a cooperative running a 36kWpeak facility in not-so-sunny, high-labor-cost Switzerland. We have an offer for an extension of the facility for an additional 63 kWpeak for 330'000 Swiss francs (151'000 Swiss francs is the cost for the bare panels). In not-so-sunny-Switzerland we are producing about 900kWh / kWpeak / year. The lifetime of this type of installation is likely to be 25 years (probably longer, but let's go with this number).

Let's calculate: 25 years * 900 kWh/ kWpeak/ year * 63kWpeak = 1'417'500 kWh of expected output over the lifetime of the facility, or 23.3 Swiss cents per kWh (about 26 US / AUS cents per kWh). This is close to the Swiss retail price of ~15 cents/kWh, although of course, costs for operating the grid etc are not included. Nevertheless it's not prohibitive any more.

Looking at Australia, you guys typically have >2000kWh/kWpeak power production from solar, because it's so much sunnier down under, so you can halve the price I calculated. Furthermore, labor costs are probably lower. Finally, we are looking at modules which cost 2.4 CHF/Wpeak, and apparently, some companies are able to (or will soon be able to) offer panels at half the price. I would suspect that you could be looking at 10 AUS-cents per kWh over the lifetime of a facility, which probably isn't several times higher than the alternatives.

See this analysis of solar-thermal generation by a highly respected independent energy engineering consultant group from Chicago.

Assessment of Parabolic Trough and Power Tower Solar Technology Cost and Performance Forecasts

"Trough technology is a fully mature technology, and there is low technical and financial risk in developing near-term plants."


Current costs as of 2002 - $0.126 /kwh . IF normal improvements are made during the construction of 2.8 to 8 GW capacity, costs drop to $0.035 to $0.062 / kwh (See pp 15 of pdf.)

Solar thermal in good insolation areas like Australia is simply being held back by utility conservatism and fossil fuel resistance.

That report went on to say;

The major risk for parabolic trough solar plants to reach market acceptance (competitiveness) is the incentives
that will allow the plant to be competitive with current non-renewable cost of generating power. Assuming
incentives are provided the risk for achieving cost reduction over the next 10 – 20 years is low to average.

Yes, if the government provides enough incentive that all other risk is removed, then the technology should flourish

There are some very dubious assumptions in there. They assume $3/kW,($2002 $) less than current PV's , but maybe doable, and then a capacity factor of 56%! I know of nowhere on this planet where the sun shines for more than 50% of the time.

And to describe something that is still in development as a "mature technology"? Just what is their definition of "mature".

In any case, eight years later and where are we at? This technology, which they describe as mature and 12c/kWh, has no proliferated. There are still no off the shelf CSP plants that you can buy, and the ones that have ben built have all needed generous incentives - though they did at least predict that.

"Solar thermal in good insolation areas like Australia is simply being held back by utility conservatism and fossil fuel resistance.

No, it is being held back by the fact that it is very expensive. The utility that serves Broken Hill (far western NSW, and very sunny) has to buy its power on the market, and transmit it over one thousand miles, by which time 33% of it has been lost. They are very motivated to have generation occurring at the end of the line (and a wind farm is being built out there). If you build a CSP plant there, they will happily buy whatever you produce. The fact that no one is doing so on a commercial basis (there is one demonstration solar thermal plant in western NSW) shows that either the technology is not mature, or not competitive, or both. I'll take commercial reality over a research report from consultants whose job it is to write research reports.

This is typical. The promoters of solar power make unrealistic assumptions about the availability and cost of future technology, and completely unrealistic assumptions about availability of supply. Then they completely ignore the fact that they need backup power or storage for when the sun doesn't shine (e.g. at night or when it is cloudy), and avoid the issues of transmission costs.

Once you use realistic estimates for the costs of the technology, discount the available peak power for the intermittent and unpredictable nature of the source, add in the cost of standby power or storage, and factor in transmission costs, it begins to look a lot more expensive and a lot less desirable.

Not that there aren't applications in which it is useful, and I have been involved in projects that used it for those applications (e.g. supplying power to remote locations with no access to the grid), but for supplying light and power to the average household or industrial user, there are much cheaper alternatives.

Once you use realistic estimates for the costs of the technology...it begins to look a lot more expensive and a lot less desirable.

Yes indeed. And the realistic costs, for home installations, are typically $6-8/W. The rampant subsidies divert capital from places where it does more good to places where it does less. That is not a sustainable recipe for solving problems.

Another note on this;
Solar thermal in good insolation areas like Australia is being held back by utility conservatism and fossil fuel resistance

Well, actually, it is being advanced by fossil fuel interests. The largest CSP system yet to be built in Australia, 44MW, is being built at a coal fired power plant. The steam will go directly into the existing turbines, thereby saving coal fuel;


Interestingly, rather than using the solar troughs that the expert consultants eight years ago called a "mature" technology, they are using compact linear Fresnel reflectors, which seem to be a cheaper way of doing things.

So there we have it - the coal industry making solar happen!

Yessir. One is a trend. There are no efforts by the FF industry to limit the expansion of alternatives. Nope. Never have been, never will be.

Don't know if I would call it a trend, but certainly a promising development - this will be more CSP than all other plants in Australia combined.

There are no efforts by the FF industry to limit the expansion of alternatives.
I don't know about that either, but then,. I don;t really care what the FF industry does, they can take an FF for all I care.

What I do care about is ensuring a reliable supply of electricity (and/or water), where and when it is needed, at a price that does not have seniors shivering in the cold in winter because they can;t afford to turn on a heater (I have seen this happen).

The electricity industry is not particularly devoted to coal - if something better comes along they will use it. CCGT is something better, and they are using it. Hydro is something better, and they are using it, where possible -though it has it's own issues. Wind is not something better - it is something worse in many respects, but they are using it anyway.

If CSP can be made into something better, the electricity industry will use it - they will be very happy to use less coal. But CSP today, is not something better, it is something worse, so the electricity industry is looking at it, but not betting the farm on it.

Those that do not provide electricity for a living are very good at telling those who do, how it should be done. When you provide an essential service to society, the most important thing is to keep providing it. The more options for providing it the better - when new options are better than the old ones, the old ones will be given up - that is how society and technology progresses.

What I do care about is ensuring a reliable supply of electricity (and/or water), where and when it is needed, at a price that does not have seniors shivering in the cold in winter because they can;t afford to turn on a heater (I have seen this happen).

How odd to care so much about the future of Dead Men Walking. Everything you say you want to achieve above ensures the long-term end of the people you claim to care about.

The industry does not care what is better, they care what is cheaper and that it is theirs. But cheaper is not always better and they have fought "better" for decades. Surely you are not that naive.

What rate $/KWhr would the utility pay in Broken Hill?

Well, you can see what they sell for here;

They are required to keep the residential rate in the far west the same as the rest of the state, which is a base rate of 22.1c

The utility has to buy the power on the market, pay for transmission to the national grid operator (the HV lines) and then left and send out along their own long lines to these area, and what's left at the end can be sold to the customers. Just as well they have other areas in the state to subsidies these transmission losses!

Paul, you ignore the external benefit of one more customer increasing the size of the PV market, that the additional revenues mean the technology can advance. Esentially some of that excess cost is contributing to the value of a global commons. If one is totally selfish, he doesn't consider that, those benefits are distributed over the whole world, and mostly accrue to the future. Again its a matter of getting a large chunk of the worlds consumers to pay the cost of the R&D to develop a technology. Very similar in social profile to the externalities of coal, global warmings harm is distributed around the globe and onto future generations so any narrow scoped cost benefit analysis won't reflect the true picture.

All you guys are ignoring the FACT that Sargent & Lundy is a very professional, reliable INDEPENDENT engineering company expert in the electricity business. They make no assumptions, basing all their inputs on proven NREL test data.

The ONLY subsidy they propose is that there should be sufficient subsidy provided to ensure that the necessary 2 to 8 GW gets built to ensure that the power generated becomes competitive on the wholesale market (e.g. the generation cost can be dropped from current 12.6 cents/kwh to 3.6 to 6 cents).


Len, how can you use NREL test data to say that a technology that is not in wide use, is "mature"?

How does building 2-8GW of something that is not market ready really help? Sounds like a recipe for a white elephant to me. The better subsidy is to fund more development so that it becomes ready, or else decide that it won't be and cut it off.

In any case, their conclusion that it is "competitive" was wrong, as hardly anything has been built, even with the subsidies available.

You can go and order a CSP trough plant from Siemens, but the fact that they are not building many of them tells you that it still is not competitive, regardless of what the consultants say.

something is only competitive when it is winning business away from its competitors. When we see Ontario Teachers Pension Fund investing in (unsubsidised) CSP, then it is competitive. Until then, it is about as competitive as the Toronto Maple Leafs.

If you read the report, all would be answered. e.g. most of the cost reductions comes with volume manufacturing of the components, standardization typical to the utility industry, and incremental improvements to smaller components such as the connecting tubes that tie troughs together, already demonstrated. NREL / Sunlab have already demonstrated to S&L engineers satisfaction that the costs WILL come down to S&L's (worst case) estimates at least, given only 2.8 GW constructed. Sunlab (NREL) estimates factor in several somewhat more risky, but still highly likely, improvements, such as an improved collector fluid temperature and a build rate of 8 GW, to arrive at their much lower estimates.

Problem is, its a chicken / egg scenario. Investors won't build ANY units unsubsidized until the costs come down to competitive, and the costs won't come down until there exists a high-volume rate of manufacturing and installation.

And the Maple Leafs are a very poor analogy for your case, as they're the MOST profitable NHL franchise out there. This issue is all about profitable, not most efficient or anything else.

It's good to see all the discussion on cost, etc. My own persistent thought- "what doth it profit a man that he gain the whole world ($ in pocket), if he suffer the loss of his own soul (planet)"

A bit of my own experience on maturity. A short time ago, we got a go for a solar thermal widget. In about 2 months, we went from a thing that cost x to a thing that worked better and cost x/3. Nothing miraculous, just that we were doing it. When you do things, you get ideas on how to do them better. When you are not doing it, you aren't doing it.

When you are not doing it, you aren't doing it.

And we are talking about a major industrial supply chain, and all the engineering that must be done to make those improvements. Computers/electronics have gone so far because something like a trillion dollars has been invested into making it better and better. How much the learning curve climbing can improve things will be dependent upon the technology being created. I doubt solar thermal can enjoy the sort of price decreases that PV likely will.

They were working head to head against a very good solar PV. They won. Costwise.

All that the report answers is what the consultants thought would happen in the next ten years - but it hasn;t happened. I will go with what Siemens has done, I am sure they have engineered in many/all/more of the improvements S&L mention, but still they have not built any large scale solar trough plants.
Subsidies have been available, but still, not much has been done. Clearly thew costs are much higher than S&L predicted, and this is normal for these sorts of reports to take an optimistic approach - it is just like stock market analysts - you always have to be bullish.

Companies like Siemens and GE have the greatest incentive to build/sell these palnts, because for every MW of them, there needs to be a MW of something dispatachbale, and these days that means NG turbines, which those companies pretty much have the market to themselves. both of them have invested heavily into wind, and of they thought there was a real future for CSP, they would be into that too. We'll see how long it takes for someone to hire Siemens to build their plant.

The Leafs are actually the perfect analogy for solar. Both have been overpriced also rans for decades, that have failed to achieve their primary purpose - to win the Cup/generate lots of power. But both have succeeded in garnering a large following, getting lots of publicity, and making lots of money off the hype, and the attempts - but neither has made money on the results, as there have not been any.

but still they have not built any large scale solar trough plants.

So your evaluation of viability is what happened during a 7 year period of dogmatic neo-conservatism, hysterical anti-global-warming, anti-renewables campaigning and oil wars, followed by the deepest economic recession / depression in 80 years? Electricity sales in the US have likely dropped in the past couple years. And you propose that because no-one has been inclined to build 8 GW of it in those times proves that solar thermal is not viable, eh?


Screw GHGs; really, the industry will do what is better (being such good people and all they'd never go against the public good to line their own pockets); it hasn't been developed so not viable...


I could care less about the politics of the last 8 years - it is not very good at generating electricity - often the reverse, actually.

But, lest you think that politics is to blame, in the last 8 years there has been (sourced from Wikipedia);

160GW of wind installed;
20MW of solar
Hundreds of GW of coal, NG, hydro and nuclear.

.. and 0.35GW of concentrating solar.

So it's not as if the capacity was not being built, or even renewable capacity. And I''m sure the politicos are not violently opposed to CSP compared to anything else.

Even your Ontario provincial government has been saying for a decade(?) now they will shut down the coal generation by using renewables, which they haven;t, but their attempts include the world's largest PV plant in Sarnia (97MW). This is just down the road from the S&L consultants in Chicago - why did they not use the "mature" technology of solar troughs?

The simple fact is that CSP has been, and remains, less viable/more expensive/less proven than other renewable technologies.

No amounts of consultants reports will change that.

As you said earlier there are multiple goals here:
1) reduce FF
2) reduce GHG
3) minimize the cost of electricity

At the present time for Australia, given our resources, a combination of Wind + CCGT is probably a better fit to achieve those goals in the short term.

My own view on Solar Thermal (incl Storage) for Australia is that it could be quite promising, but I think its too early and unnecessary for Australia to go down this route just yet. In about 5-10 years time Australia will be able to benefit for the experience derived from the Solar Thermal projects that are just starting to be built in the US (Brightsource, SolarReserve etc) and some of those in Spain and a few home grown small projects. In about 10 years time there will be a much clearer picture on the costs, the reliability and suitability of these type of plants for Australia. It would be wrong for Australia to try and pick a winner at this stage, it would be more sensible to wait until there is more real world experience and to benefit from the development experience of others.

I would add another goal is to be more efficient in using the electricity, but that is not really within the control of the elec industry.

There is a place for quite a few flavours of electricity, but the key, in my opinion, is distributed generation. The proposed wind farm at Silverton, near broken hill, is not the most ideal wind resource (though it is still pretty good), but it is in the right place - at the end of avery long line.

CCGT has been increasing, and I expect most new large scale generation will of this type - it is just so much easier even from a permitting process, than coal.

I still want to see solar thermal being developed, because Oz does have a huge sunshine resource, and solar thermal, is by it's nature, a distributed source, but it really needs work ion making it cheaper - all the work has been going into making it more efficient, or adding storage - which is totally unneccesary. An example of a really cheap solar thermal system is here. Somewhere between that and the high tech plants is the answer, and, i think, it should be something at small scale. Then you don't need hundreds of cares, you can put small plants anywhere you have a piece of sunny land next to a power line.

The rush to subsidise solar PV has been a very poor use of money, IMO. It has resulted in lots of panels being out up in less than ideal installations, in places where it provides the least benefit (e.g. Sydney). If the program had been targeted at western NSW, where it is sunnier, and conventional electricity has large transmission losses, the benefits would have been much greater. But this was really a PR/vote gaining effort, and even then, it didn't work!

I even see a good future for biomass based electricity, in some areas, at small-medium scale. But for supplying the large cities, for the near future, it's going to be centralised FF plants.
I'd sure love to see the country areas supplying the cities with renewable electricity, but they have to supply themselves first, and even reaching that is some way away.

A lot of it is higher cost now, for lower cost later on, versus trying to minimize the current cost all other considerations be damned. In computing, we would refer to the later strategy as a greedy alogorith (in a process trying to find a solution, we always take the biggest currently available step, without considering were it what opportunities for future steps). Stuff like solar has major learning curves, a lot simply associated with the size of the market. For instance Applied Materials is investing in developing specialized equipment that can help PV production companies reduce their cost of production. That sort of investment doesn't happen until the market opportunity is high enough (i.e. there is enough manufacturing capability to make the R&D expenses in various incremental improvements pay off). In order to overcome the advantages of entrenched technology (which has decades of manufacturing improvements to draw upon), it requires some societal investment to overcome the very real market barriers.

Researchers cut machinery fuel consumption by half

Researchers at Aalto University in Finland have found a way to cut the amount of fuel consumed by non-road mobile machinery by half. This new technology captures energy, which up to now has been lost by the machinery when working, and uses it instead of fuel. The fuel consumption of construction and mining machines, agricultural machines and material handling machines is reduced significantly.

Hybrid tractors?

Why not? If it's good enough for the mining industry...

Though that appears to be a fully electric model, a hybrid would be more appropriate for many locales.

The fuel consumption of construction and mining machines, agricultural machines and material handling machines is reduced significantly.

On the surface this seems like a great savings in energy, however it struck me as a desperate response to peak oil prices. Sure, for a while improvements in fuel economy for vehicles such as these off-road vehicles can help, but it only helps to clarify the magnitude of the situation.

Just look at this article that came out today as the DOW dumped over 200 points.


'Recovery at risk as jobs and housing stumble' - (Manufacturing is also showing signs of developing cracks)

Following a report Tuesday that home prices have now tumbled further from their peak than during the Great Depression...

Gross Domestic Product turned in a disappointed performance in the first quarter, rising 1.8 percent. That’s down from 3.1 percent in the fourth quarter

So articles describing an interesting techno advantage only stretch out the inevitable a little longer. But hey it's BAU, so enjoy it as long as it lasts.

The mining industry is using robots to mine. Some companies have three operation centers located around the world so that operators are always on their own first shift.

These cover the state of the art in mining.

Flooding on the Missouri near Cooper nuclear plant. River's approaching historic levels at many points along its course.

It also may prevent the Fort Calhoun nuke plant from coming back online. Large portion of Omaha, Nebraska's power.

If the US is unable to dredge and levy its own rivers can it do its part in controling the world's climate?

You can only do so much. The Missouri is one of the most heavily engineered rivers in the world of its length (IIRC, less than 6% of its 2300 miles remains in its natural state). The northern Great Plains have had a very wet spring, so the big reservoirs that provide much of the flood control are quite high. The snowpack in the northern Rockies was well above average this year, and the melt has been delayed by cool weather, so will be quite heavy beginning with warmer temperatures this week. Some of the current flooding has been "assisted" by releases by the Army Corps of Engineers in anticipation of the upcoming big melt. The Garrison Dam spillway was opened to drop the lake level before the melt for the first time in its history.

Hmmm... I didn't know so many people (44%!) agreed with me that the stock market does not have future. I wonder what perceptions were in the past.

Never buy stocks again? Seriously?


As far as stock market indices, sure they won't really do much except slowly decline. If it's true we are at the end of growth, then buying, say, a mutual fund based upon the s&p 500 is a total waste of money.

But individuals stocks can always do well. I personally favor mining companies. And if our financial situation stabilizes, I would favor agriculture and energy.

Despite their volatility and risk, shares of solid companies are right behind gold and silver in my view. I believe we are in a debt bubble, so I'm avoiding bonds, particularly government bonds, like the plague. TPTB have me convinced that they are going to print to oblivion to service the interest on said bonds, which makes cash worthless.

So one's only option is hard assets really - metals, gemstones, durable goods, productive land, and shares of good companies.

I'm pretty sure this is the macro trend, and I'm prepared to take substantial losses in the short term.

Glad to see so many people agree with me. Do you have any historical data, though? Were a majority of Americans really ever sold on the casino of the stock market as a safe place to stow wealth?

1000 CPS Radiation Reading from Koriyama Sample:

That is one thousand clicks per second. The meter squeels when held to the small sample. Away from the sample, the background is quite low.

"This soil sample was taken by www.Safecast.org at Koriyama on May 17, 2011. That is 60km away from the plants (30km outside the exclusion zone), 2 months after the earthquake and tsunami and over 1000 times higher than the normal room reading (which is between 0 and 1...)."

"Though these samples were found in roof drains and thus would be more concentrated than average levels on the ground, these are extremely high figures: For reference, the forced evacuation level at Chernobyl was 1.48 million Bq/m2 of cesium-137 ground contamination, while the corresponding voluntary evacuation level was 185,000 Bq/m2."

Is over population the root cause of ALL these issues/problems?

It's a cause of many problems, but also is an effect of all this cheap energy we've figured out how to harness.. an effect of our learning how to store food and avoid (enough) starvation that we can bloom the way we did.

It's huge, but I don't agree with those who seem to say that it's the only thing we ought to be worrying about. Any such oversimplified answer makes me suspicious.

With a world population of 100 million we would not be talking about any of the standard issue here. We could use hydro for 100% of energy. We could farm only flat low soil erosion land. Fish would be plentiful. We could live in areas with super good weather Santa Barbara, the south of France, etc.

Maybe, or maybe not. The richest 500 million use half of all the fossil fuels today. So with a little effort, I bet those 100 million could manage to burn up a good part of the fossil fuels we are using now.

If we all lived like Tanzanians, who use in a year the ffs that an American uses in a day, we could probably have a few more billion on the planet.

I'm not advocating that, only pointing out that consumption rates are at least as important as population. Especially for the richest 10% which is pretty much everybody here.

I don't think these are useful hypotheticals, though, ed.

The only effects we can have on Population are through 'soft' means like education and empowerment of women.. and these 'can' help, but don't always. Otherwise, population takes care of itself. It seems to me it will probably mirror oil's descent to some degree.. some of that will be horrific, some might be mild or barely noticable.. but that's the way it works.

In the meantime, what I can do is focus on how to live, how to work with a better understanding of which activities are abusive to the biome, or expend too many irreplacible resources. How to employ appropriate technology to help make best use of the least resources, and how to give back to the ecosystem that I'm part of, so it can regenerate.

We're not going to see '100 million'.. or if we do, these people will be resource-rich, and surrounded by insurmountable piles of civ's waste and corpses.. for a while. But if these 100m aren't aware of the lessons we're trying to learn right now, they might shoot right back up to a straining Pop level as fast as Tech. and Resources will allow, and then be facing the same disasters all over again. Simple as Yeast.

I'm fascinated by the lessons that cultures pass down. How we're still, after three or four collapses, looking to the Code of Hammurabi, to the Golden Mean, to the Magna Carta.. and to other less obvious 'lessons' that have been the hallmarks of Human Development. Some have been terrible, but some are also lovely. What a piece of work is man!

I would put my energies towards passing down customs and habits and human laws that help show whoever is coming next that there are ways one might live to be productive and happy, and not scar or deplete the place where you set your home.

"The only effects we can have on Population are through 'soft' means like education and empowerment of women."

I know this is true, as far as it goes. But I have often wondered if the change of cultural infrastructure that enables the education and empowerment of women also requires/entails/generates an increase in the standard of living, such that the reduction in population is more than matched by increased resource use per capita.

I think that this is an important question.

In theory, it need not be the case to any great extent. Economic contentment seems to peak globally at about $10,000 a year. Above that there is relatively little increase in satisfaction.

Education, increased economic and political power, access to health care, having few of your infants die, having some food and other security, urban life--none of these needs to be extremely resource intensive.

But it would be good to see actual studies looking at the balance between consumption levels and low birth from what is sometime called 'demographic transition.'

Bangladesh seems to have greatly reduced their birth rates (though they are still rather high by global standards) without a huge increase in consumption, as has Kerala in India, iirc. Perhaps these are places to start looking?

Yes there are many things that will "take care of itself", like human population, CO2 levels, and global temperature. I just do not like the solution that mother nature is offering. I think we humans or some group of humans can do better.

Dang, I can't add to this but I agree so heartily that I'll post anyway.

But where do you take it then?

I'm strongly in favor of advocating for Family Planning, for Empowered Women and Balanced Societies, for supporting institutions that go out and build schools, hospitals and do Person to Person work that tries to share the option of creating a consciously contained pop. level for a given society or region.. but beyond that, what are you saying?

I'm not going to bother with the 'dark paths', as I find those conversations more useless than just about anything we argue about here.. so what are you pulling for here? The reason I say it's not a useful hypothetical ('100 million' people, or whatever) is that, as they say in the old Maine story "You can't get there from here.." .. in German, they say 'Das kommt nicht in der Frage.'.. which is not as much "It's out of the question", as much as it means, 'That's neither here nor there.'

Yes, we have to keep Population questions in our sights, they are vitally important.. but at that point, give us your best shot, because otherwise, it's like complaining about Earthquakes, even as much as it seems like we 'should' be able to do something about it, I don't see anything but the aforementioned 'soft' tools.

It's not outrunning the Lion, and it's not even outrunning some other poor Gazelle.. it's trying to outrun your own jeans. (intended spelling) At that point, you might have to approach the race with an end run of some sort, like deciding to live somewhere without Lions.

Whaddya got?

If that was the case, why wasn't the world ever utopian?

Now I agree that population will crash, and that in many ways this will be good for both nature and humanity. But it won't be utopian. We'll still be what we are today.

Same with different forms of energy - in fact, reliance on hydro/solar/wind will create a more unstable world, as these resources are local and not as easily distributed as fossil fuels. The fight will be over land in the future.

One of the things I've had to admit to myself when considering the coming crash is that there's no such thing as utopia, not now or ever.

There is of course evolution. The one and only thing that changes life on this planet is millions upon millions of years of gradual change in species and their adaptation to surroundings. Punctuated by rapid change, of course, but even this is very long by the timeframes that we measure, say, human history in.

So there's hope, but not in the way we think there is. The only hope in this universe is constant change which is too invisible for us to see.

I read that people were better nourished before the agriculture. They were taller. Likewise I read that they worked less and that hunter gathers of today work very few hours per week even though they live in some of the least abundant land in the world. Basically I believe it was a far easy life before agriculture.

If we choose to live with today's level of technology and the accumulated assets of civilization at a far low number it would be utopian. Do I think this will happen in the foreseeable future? No. Might we globally limit population growth to zero in the foreseeable future? Yes. This could be one big world government or it could be a UN agreement that each member must enforce locally as they choose. If the nation fails then the UN steps in to correct the situation. A census is done each nation is assigned a fixed number of people allowed in that nation. Some means of outside inspection is defined. Some course of remedial action is detailed for those that fail to keep their population at or below the allowed number.

For those interested, a tightly packed little storm just passed over Central Florida and is headed into the Gulf of Mexico over the Loop Current. The interesting thing is this storm formed in the North Atlantic off New England, then tracked to the southwest making landfall over Florida. Any bets on it's strengthening over night, as in, suddenly blowing up into a "tropical" storm? Jeff Masters has a comment half way thru his post HERE

E. Swanson

The interesting thing is this storm formed in the North Atlantic off New England, then tracked to the southwest making landfall over Florida.

I didn't even know that particular weather track was possible, but then again it's news to me there could be tornados in Mass. & Cal.

Tornado hits Springfield, Massachusetts.

According to the 5pm news, it "came out of nowhere".

For a second week in a row, we had a tornado in the Sacramento valley!

We had tornado watches going all yesterday afternoon, thoughout most of Maine. Skies were definitely strange, and the air was perky.

U.K. Explorer Suspends Shale Gas Drilling After Earthquake

Cuadrilla Resources Ltd., a U.K.- based shale explorer, suspended hydraulic fracturing near Blackpool in northern England on concern it may have triggered an earthquake in the region.

The company halted operations at its Weeton site that use the technique known as fracking, which shoots high-pressure jets of water, sand and chemicals underground to crack open formations of hydrocarbons. The company will evaluate data on the “small seismic event” on May 27 from the British Geological Survey and the Department of Energy and Climate change before restarting the project, it said yesterday in a statement.

Concerns about earthquakes may add to environmental opposition to fracking after the state of New York banned shale exploration on the risk of contaminating water supplies. The U.K. Parliament’s Energy and Climate Change Committee said May 24 said there’s no need to curb shale gas activities in Britain, where they could provide the equivalent of 1.5 years of the country’s gas consumpti

...suspended hydraulic fracturing near Blackpool in northern England on concern it may have triggered an earthquake in the region.

It's intesting that this hasn't been mentioned much, if at all.
A year or two ago, there were two geothermal plants shut down (one in Napa[?] and one in Switzerland) because of the same concerns. They break up rocks to get the water flowing in a similar manor to fracking. Earthquakes in the regions increased.

Though this might be a good way to release tension in some faultlines.
Are there any NG or hot geothermal patches along the San Andreas fault?

NYT Swiss story

NYT NoCal story

Finally, others are catching on to what I've been trying to point out for some time.

Morgan Stanley On The Renaissance In American Oil Production

According to Morgan Stanley, oil production in the US is about to increase exponentially, and in new ways that will stabilize the market.


The only way we are going to see so much growth from oil shale is with oil prices at $200.

The only way we are going to see so much growth from oil shale is with oil prices at $200.

I just love wishful thinking quotes like this.

Guess what? We're already seeing so much growth from shale oil with prices far less than $200.

That's up to 2.5% of daily consumption. How much higher can it go?

Oil shale == Kerogen in a shale matrix. High processing cost.

Shale Oil == Crude oil in a shale matrix, once it's out of the ground it's just plain crude already.

Of course, it appears that even professional industry writers can't (or won't) keep that straight, so little old me could easily be wrong.

Could you provide a link to the report, instead of someone's opinion of the report, if possible.

It's my understanding that MS expects much higher oil prices, which would be the primary motivation for using the alternative technologies.

May 31, 2011 08:45 ET

Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and J.P. Morgan all Predict Higher Oil Prices


I think NewPeakist is right, Morgan Stanley is forecasting 450-500 mbpd per day for Bakken, look at the $/Barrel P10 curve, it's at $200/barrel, at $100-120 per barrel it has reached its maximum.

ac - And has been said before: two wrongs don't make a right. LOL. I agree as long as oil prices stay at current levels the public companies will keep plowing money into the fractured shale reservoirs. But I'm sure you understand the high decline of these wells. So consider the 1.6 million bopd projected during 2014. With the huge decline rate those wells will not be producing but maybe 20 to 30% of that volume in just 2 years so the bulk of the 1.8 million bopd projected for 2016 will be from wells drilled since 2014. Just a very rough guess but probably around 6,000 new wells. And by 2018 a very large percentage of that production will be depleted and thus even more wells will be needed to keep the production rate growth.

And that, my friend, is why I consider such exponential production growth to be BS. And for two obvious reason: it requires an exponential growth in drilling and, more important, requires us to completely ignore that such wells have an exponential decline rate. These fractured shales reservoirs are not smaller versions of Ghawar Field. When a Ghawar well came on at 5,000 bopd it held in there for decades at that rate. But I've already see one Eagle Ford well that came on at 800 bopd decline 80% IN FOUR MONTHS. Granted that was unusually bad it doesn't change the fact that most of these "savior" wells will decline to marginal rates within 4 or 5 years of when they are first produced. And if oil prices slide down for just a short period of time many of the players will be crushed out of existance as happened to so many shale gas players when they lost price support.

But hey...that's just one geologist's opinon.

Rock, I'm not sure why you keep raising these objections. Nobody said they were Ghawar-esque sandstone reservoirs. Everybody knows they've got high depletion rates in the first year or two. Everybody also knows (or should know) that once these wells reach that 80% decline (or whatever), the decline rate slows down significantly. I forget what the figure is, but a typical Eagle Ford or Bakken well stabilizes at something like 50 or 100 bpd after a year or two, with a very slow decline after that point. EOG tells us their Eagle Ford wells stabilize around 100-200 bpd. At this point, just do the math.

For example, according to someone at the Texas Railroad Commission they expect 20K-30K wells to ultimately be drilled into the Eagle Ford.

Fast-forward maybe 20 or 30 years. 25K wells have been drilled into the thing, but by now drilling has dwindled to a trickle. Maybe 20% of the wells have already been shut-in, leaving 20K producers left. I'll be pessimistic and instead of using 50-100 bpd - let alone EOG's 100-200 bpd - I'll assume those remaining 20K producers are producing an average of just 30 bpd.

20K wells * 30 bpd = 600K bpd.

That's still not bad for a development which is already 20-30 years old. I'll bet you the wells in the East Texas oil field after 20-30 years weren't doing much better, on average, than 30 bpd.

Finally, that's just the Eagle Ford. Repeat all this for the Bakken, the Utica, the Niobrara, etc etc. Some will be bigger than others, but there will also be a lot of smaller ones which will add up to a big one. Four big ones with numbers similar to the Eagle Ford I described above, plus several small ones which collectively add up to the same thing, will give you 3 million bpd. And again that's after development of these things has matured and largely filled out.

Tiki-Torches for Everyone!

20K wells * 30 bpd = 600K bpd.

And there you have it. Twenty THOUSAND wells. $ cost + ERoEI. The mind boggles; just how much diesel will have been burned by the truck which pulls the drill rig into place... 20 thousand different times.

Not really comparable to the old gushers of the past, now is it?

One of Art Berman's principal points is that the shale gas wells are more likely to show mostly exponential declines to non-economic status, rather than a hyperbolic decline. Although, I think that as the "Rock" has pointed out, a group of wells drilled over time showing individual exponential declines tend to show a collective hyperbolic pattern. And if memory serves, something like 20% of the Barnett Shale gas wells have already been plugged. And of course, the relative permeability to gas is much higher than the relative permeability to oil.

In any case, rising oil production from thermally mature shales has helped to keep total US C+C production at between 5.5 and 5.6 mbpd since the third quarter of 2009--versus the 1970 peak rate of 9.6 mbpd.

The "Rock" and I are not arguing against increased US drilling. Quite the contrary. It's just that consumers should not make the mistake of assuming that oil companies' ability to incrementally increase production in some selected areas, within a post-peak region, means that they can make a material difference in long term production. Depletion always wins. I frequently use the example of the North Sea, where oil fields whose first full year of production was 1999 or later (the North Sea peaked in 1999) had a production peak of about one mbpd in 2005, but these fields, equivalent to about one-sixth of the 1999 peak rate of about six mbpd, only served to slow the 1999 to 2009 decline rate down to 5%/year. Oil companies were able to incrementally increase production in some selected areas, but they could not keep total North Sea production on an upward slope.

Based on the HL models, in 2005 globally we were at about the same stage of conventional depletion at which the North Sea peaked in 1999, and so far slowly rising unconventional production has not been able to materially lift annual global C+C production beyond the approximately 74 mbpd mark that we saw in 2005. At the 2002 to 2005 rate of increase in C+C production we would would have been at about 86 mbpd in 2010, versus the 74 mbpd that the EIA currently shows. As I said, oil companies are making an incremental difference, but not a material difference, i.e., so far they have not been able to keep global total crude oil production on upward slope.

The "Rock" and I are not arguing against increased US drilling. Quite the contrary. It's just that consumers should not make the mistake of assuming that oil companies' ability to incrementally increase production in some selected areas, within a post-peak region, means that they can make a material difference in long term production. Depletion always wins.

I would agree with you and "The Rock". Depletion always wins. After a few decades in the oil business you become very skeptical of these "pie-in-the-sky" predictions because reality always triumphs over optimism in the long term. You always have to keep your eyes open for the next big play, because the one you are working on will run out sooner or later.

If you look at the exponential North Dakota production curve, you will see that it follows the price of oil rather closely. That is because all that drilling and fracing is driven by high oil prices. The Bakken was first discovered in 1951, but it is only with recent high oil prices that it has been economic to develop it.

However, there are limits to how high the price of oil can go (the consumers will go bankrupt) so there are limits to how much drilling and fracing the oil companies can do. Once drilling levels off, the total production from the Bakken will go into decline as depletion from old wells starts to outrun production from new wells.

Not that there's anything wrong with plays like the Bakken. It is doing wonders for the economy of North Dakota because most of the money ends up in the pockets of the local people. I would just emphasize that it is not a game-changer for the US as a whole. Americans are still burning far too much gasoline and diesel fuel, and they will have to consume less in the future whether they like it or not. If nothing else, they will run out of money to pay for drilling all these new wells.

The Bakken was first discovered in 1951, but it is only with recent high oil prices that it has been economic to develop it.

Though no doubt price has paid a part, the recent development of the Bakken and similar formations has more to do with technology than prices.

Although, I think that as the "Rock" has pointed out, a group of wells drilled over time showing individual exponential declines tend to show a collective hyperbolic pattern.

That was me. I have a complete derivation in The Oil ConunDrum. This is one of those interesting mathematical identities that shows up in many different physical processes. I don't recall seeing a derivation in any reservoir engineering texts though, where the textbook authors prefer to explain it as a useful heuristic.

The exponential makes more sense if all these wells show uniformity in behavior.

ac - Thanks for the advice but I've been doing such math for 36 years. As far as your stabilized rates of 50 to 100 bopd for the next few decades you are free to assume what you want but there is no historical basis for it. No fractured shale well has ever stabilized at such rates for any extensive period of time. Not one...nada...no way. Find one well to dispute what I just said. I said one well...not 10....not 100. Just one. And that was exactly my point about projecting Ghawar-type production profiles. There is a very good reason such reservoirs are called "unconventional" . It's not because they have funny names or the rocks are an odd color. It's because they don't have "conventional" decline rates like most fields that have been produced. I suspect many folks never understood why these reservoirs are called unconventional. But very specifically it's because they do not have conventional reservoir dynamics. A 40 acre conventional oil sand 30' thick can contain 1 million bbls producible oil. A fractured shale may have only 100,000 bbls of producible oil in a 360 acre reservoir. But due to the high permeability of fractures this well might initially flow 1,000 bopd compared to 100 bopd from the conventional reservoir I just described. But once those fractures are drained there's no other source for the oil. Does everyone get that: the fractured well flows 10X as fast but has only 1/10 the URR. Rather "unconventional, eh? LOL And that's why no fractured shale oil well has ever had the type of production history you chart requires to be valid. Sorry but Mother Earth makes the rules: not me, you, the TRRC or the USGS. And especially some suit with a brokerage house who can't grasp even the concept of an acre-foot.

The TRRC expects 20-30k Eagle Ford wells to be drilled. So what? We've drilled millions of oil wells in the US and guess what: the current average stabilized rate isn't 200 bopd...isn't even 50 bopd. It's less than 10 bopd. And the majority of these wells are in conventional reservoirs that have much less severe decline rates than the fractured reservoirs.

But feel free to make whatever projections you like. Your OPINIONS are no less valid than my OPINIONS. But be very careful presenting FACTS. I'm in the FACTS business along with westexas, RMG and others. You may not have notice but I seldom ever challenge anyone's opinions...we all have one of those also, as they say. LOL.

As I offered: it's very easy to show me wrong - name one fractured shale well that was completed more than 5 years ago that's producing anything close to what your assumptions require. Just one well...just one. To be very clear I'm not asking you to document that the average production of such older wells is 50 bopd. Just one...just one. And be so kind to include that well's API number. Then I can pull its entire production history up in about 30 seconds.

Rockman -

Here's an opinion for you - what you just wrote there about fracture flow vs. porous reservoirs and conventional vs. unconventional reservoirs should be used as a psy-ops torture device for any and all of the "suits with a brokerage house". Exactly what you wrote should be repeatedly described in detail to the "analysts" from the Morgan-Stanleys of the world. You know that constant exposure to this sciencey type stuff would be a fate worse than death to a group obsessed with "creating their own reality".

Why anyone continues to put any stock in what these clowns say based on their past perfomance ("nobody could have seen this coming" - sound familiar ?) is beyond me. The cheerleading gets louder as the delusion runs deeper.

Thanks for the great post.

Thanks cat. I might have been a little more harsh than I should have but I've been having a heated tech debate with a geologist and a reservoir engineer since 1 AM this morning. These are both smart guys but there so much in the oil patch that isn't black and white. So when I see someone ignore well established reservoir engineering concepts it does tend to set me off more than it should.

And I meant what I said: if someone's of the opinion that an ungodly amount of fractured oil shale wells will be drilled and thus save the day I won't argue even though my opinion would differ. A cornucopian has just as much right to their expectations as I do. Just opinions. But when someone tries to justify their opinion with unsound tech 'facts' it's difficult to let that slide.

A question for the Oil Patch guys (pursuant to a request from Jim Kunstler):

Anyone have an approximate number for first year average simple percentage declines in production for Bakken & Eagle Ford Shale wells, i.e., what is the average simple percentage decline from first month of production to 12th month of production?

wt - I'll try to pull it off DrillingInfo when I have time. I'm up to my *ss in alligators with 3 ornery wells tonight. In total I have 5 wells drilling now...and I'm a one-man ops dept. I'm about to lay on my office floor for a two hour nap. Just can't run with the big dogs like I could when I was 30 yo. And I just wasted 1/2 hour of my nap time digging that EF data out for abundance. Shhh...another 1/2 hour of my life I'll never get back. LOL.

But it was kinda fun...the EF isn't even as good as i was guessing. Those public company PR folks can spin a yarn well, can't they?

And I thought that I was busy with just one rig drilling continuously.

The sad part is how many "average guy investors" will loose their shirts to that guy.


From Brigham Exploration's Q1 2011 Conference Call presentation (PDF, pg. 12), here is their type curve for their Wiliston Basin wells. At 20 years they're 20 bpd, give or take. If you don't agree, take your beef to them, not me. I'm sure they've got reservoir engineers who've crunched just as many numbers as you, if not more.

When I used 30 bpd in my little 20-30 year calculation, there will of course be some older wells just crunching out 10 bpd, but there will also be some more recent wells still churning out 50 bpd.

The TRRC expects 20-30k Eagle Ford wells to be drilled. So what? We've drilled millions of oil wells in the US and guess what: the current average stabilized rate isn't 200 bopd...isn't even 50 bopd. It's less than 10 bopd.

Give me a break. You're including wells that are 50, 70 and sometimes more years old. I was only talking about 20-30 years out. Yeah, in 50-70 years the Eagle Ford shale won't be churning out 600K bpd anymore, but that isn't what I was referring to.

And the API number requested is???

I'm sure rockman will respond similarly, his statement was:

"As far as your stabilized rates of 50 to 100 bopd for the next few decades you are free to assume what you want but there is no historical basis for it. No fractured shale well has ever stabilized at such rates for any extensive period of time. Not one...nada...no way. Find one well to dispute what I just said. I said one well...not 10....not 100. Just one.
As I offered: it's very easy to show me wrong - name one fractured shale well that was completed more than 5 years ago that's producing anything close to what your assumptions require. Just one well...just one. To be very clear I'm not asking you to document that the average production of such older wells is 50 bopd. Just one...just one. And be so kind to include that well's API number. Then I can pull its entire production history up in about 30 seconds."

This graph is titled "Based on Current Forecasted Type Curves" All Estimates...Of Future production. However, the graph proves his point anyway.

1000Boepd initial, 90boepd 5 yrs, 50boepd 5 yrs, 50boepd 10 yrs, 34boepd 15 yrs, 20 boepd 20 yrs.

This doesn't sound like "typical Eagle Ford or Bakken well stabilizes at something like 50 or 100 bpd after a year or two, with a very slow decline after that point." Sounds more like a cornucopian dream of the future with lots of hoping thrown in.

BTW, here's another good source showing Bakken decline curves:

Bakken operator type curves

Sample one from Continental Resources, note that the wells drilled in 2006 are still averaging about 50 bpd after about 4.5 years, with the decline rate levelled off. Different operators have different results, of course.

If all this is true, why is EOG telling folks that their wells bottom out at 100-200 bpd? Someone certainly could call them on it pretty quickly.

They're probably referring to their more recent wells, which have higher IP's and, presumably, will stabilize at higher rates than the older wells.

Looks like their 2010 wells got off to a bad start, but if you look at all the companies in the link above you can tell the newer wells tend to have higher UP rates.

EDIT: When EOG said that, they were also referring to the Eagle Ford, not the Bakken. Perhaps the Eagle Ford has different behavior characteristics than the Bakken.

It is easier [for me at least] to understand the reservoir dynamics of Bakken. As I understand it, the Bakken should probably be thought of as three strata. A shale above and below with a streak of dolomite in between.

Absent fracturing, shales generally lack significant permiability. As such, in the conventional view shale strata may be thought of as source rock, or as a cap forming part of a trap necessary for a productive reservoir.

In the Bakken [once again as I understand it -- I have no direct knowlege of Bakken Reservoir dynamics] the the Dolomite has some natural permiabilty. Fracing improves on the dolomite's permiability through fractures [maybe acid too as dolomite is a carbonate.] The fractures would also extend into the shales which creates permiability in the shales and increases the surface area exposed to the wellbore via the fractures.

A lot of very heavy fracing over thousands of feet of horizontal well bore and you have the concept for a high initial flow rate. Problem is that more than a small distance -- don't know how small -- beyond the newly created fractures there is essentially no permiability in the shale. When the close in oil has been produced, it is time to try again with another frac job. This next try will have to be bigger and hopefully not break into the existing fractures from the previous frac job as because you are partly pressuring up something that was already open you would lose the flush production from virgin rock, and you would need to apply a bigger frac job o pressure up the existing fractures to build the pressures needed to open up the virgin parts of the formation.

The Eagleford? I have surmised that there is some natural fracturing and probably some permiability streaks from either stringers of sandy stuff ... or maybe natural fracturing.

If true, the key to Bakken production [a regional permiablity streak of great areal extent] is not present, so it is likely production would tail off more rapidly as there would be less exposure of permiable rock to the shale, and the contents of the rock making up the permiability streak would not exist because there is no such regional permiablity streak.

I do look forward to learning more about the Eagleford. GJ

BTW Rock ...

A fractured shale may have only 100,000 bbls of producible oil in a 360 acre reservoir.

I have yet to see any company who is projecting average EUR's of their shale oil wells as low as that - at least in the Bakken and Eagle Ford. For example, from the Drilling Info blog

25% of these wells have already produced greater than 100,000 BOE. How are the berman projections less than the actual data is one question.

But I dunno, maybe they've got different acreages than you had in mind.

a-c: I just pulled up the complete production history of every Eagle Ford well produced in Texas since Jan 1945 when the data base was started. We'll forget the old wells...they were verticals. And, just for the moment, we'll leave out the wells completed during the last two years because they are still in their max decline period. Virtual all the remaining wells are horizontals. That's a grand total of 16 wells completed between Dec 2005 and Nov 2009. Of those 9 are no longer producing. Those 9 depleted wells had an average URR of 20,400 bo before they were abandoned. Of the 7 wells still producing they have had an average URR to date of 58,000 bo. The best of these wells has produced 92,933 bo (Burlington #3 Kunde - API 42-297-34726) though March 2011. During March of 2011 that well has averaged 16 bopd.

So much for wells fairly far down their decline curves. Now let's jump to the brand new wells that haven't hit the skids yet. During March 2011 month 30 new wells started producing. Those wells produced a total of 229,487 bo during that month. OR 7,649.56 bo each. Or 246 bopd each.

So the average initial production of the 30 most recent "savior" EF wells averaged less than 250 bopd BEFORE THEIR RAPID DECLINE RATES KICK IN. The well with the best daily rate, the Sharon Hunter Resources #1H Gonzo North (API 42-255-31814) produced 23,702 bo for the month or 764.58 bopd. The worst well produced 95 bo for the month or about 3 bopd.

So the average rate of the latest 30 EF wells is 250 bopd. Let's be generous and assume a 50% decline rate even though all the operators in the EF I've spoken to have said 60-70% is more realistic. So using my more optimistic DR these wells will average 125 bopd during March 2012 and 62.5 bopd during March 2013. So you can now see why I have a bit of trouble accepting that chart.

I can do the math because I've got access to the actual production data of every company drilling the EF in Texas. I don't have to accept any "projections" of any company on the DrillingInfo blog. BTW: all the production data I just posted came from the same DrillingInfo database. So you can now see the difference between my opinion and your opinion. Yours is based upon what some companies project (without supplying any actual data to support their projections). Mine is based upon the actual production data those same companies report to the Texas Rail Road Commission.

But I'll be fair and let everyone on TOD decide for themselves which opinion seems to have a better basis.

Thanks. The numbers that you put together are consistent with what Art Berman found for the liquids production from the Eagle Ford. These shale plays continue to remind me of the Austin Chalk.

For the readers, note that that publicity charts that AC posted up the thread show BOE (liquids and natural gas in oil equivalent terms).

"Virtual all the remaining wells are horizontals. That's a grand total of 16 wells completed between Dec 2005 and Nov 2009. Of those 9 are no longer producing. Those 9 depleted wells had an average URR of 20,400 bo before they were abandoned. Of the 7 wells still producing they have had an average URR to date of 58,000 bo. The best of these wells has produced 92,933 bo though March 2011. During March of 2011 that well has averaged 16 bopd."

Rockman, YIKES! Thanks for the insight. Based on those numbers Las Vegas is more fun and at perhaps on a single roll of the dice likely to yield a favorable return. GJ

I can do the math because I've got access to the actual production data of every company drilling the EF in Texas. I don't have to accept any "projections" of any company on the DrillingInfo blog.

They did not post projections, they posted actual, do-date production data:

And here are these wells ranked in order of BOE produced. No projections, just good ole’ fashioned raw data.

Granted, that's boe instead of just bo, but even if only half the boe volume is oil, they've got somewhere around 25% of the wells already having produced somewhere around 50K bo.

That's a grand total of 16 wells completed between Dec 2005 and Nov 2009.

Huh? From the drillinginfo discussion:

This reduced the sample size from 210 to 80, but I think it’s more than fair to give the wells at least 6 months production.

Methinks you're missing a helluva lot of wells. You're looking at the older ones and presuming they'll have the same IP's and EUR's as the newer ones (and when I say "older" I'm referring to the fact that hz fractured drilling did not really start here until 2008-09). That is almost certainly not the case.

I find it hard to believe that a company like MRO would lay out 3.5 billion dollars for 141,000 acres in the eagleford, unless there was an eur of at least 500,000 barrels per well. Just doesn't make sense.

joe - I saw a company spend $184 million to drill one deep water GOM well...and it was a dry hole. Who do you think makes the decisions in the oil patch...the infallible Pope? LOL. Also there's a lovely strip of offshore federal leases east of Florida called the Destin Dome. Companies spent several $billion (and those are 30 year old $'s) leasing and drilling the Destin Dome trend. And how much oil/NG has been produced from there to date? Exactly zero bbls of oil and zero mcf of NG. Notice I didn't say commercial or profitable...not one molecule of hydrocarbon has been produced. Oops.

And a little over a year ago I spoke with a company that spent $30 million for Eagle Ford acreage. They offered to sell me the same leases for $180 million. I told them I wouldn't pay anything for the acreage but I would pay their share of drilling wells up to $180 million. IOW I would turn their capital into interest in all the new wells. What a deal, eh? Not only would they make a huge profit on the original land investment but they would own a big interest in a lot of EF wells. BTW: they turned the deal down. And so did four other companies I made the same offer to. Odd isn't: the same companies bragging about the huge future profitability of the EF and not one of those 5 companies wanted to own any part of a new EF well. BTW: that company finally sold their position for a little over $200 million. And no...they don't invest in drilling wells...never have and never will. They are professional land speculators and one of the partners is a distant cousin of mine who has been doing this full time for over 40 years. And in those 40+ years he has never lost one investment $. Then again, he's never invested in even one drilling deal. And he's one of the most successful guys in the oil patch I've ever known. And has NEVER DRILLED ONE WELL.

Just as well: I would never had done the deal if they accepted. Again, not because a profit can't be made drilling the EF (assuming you don't over pay for the leases). But those wells won't deliver a return as good as the deep NG wells my company is drilling. And since we're not a public we don't have stock to hype. I don't have the hard numbers but I'm very sure the bulk of the profit realized from the EF trend so far has been made by selling sock...not oil.

A lot of oil will be produced from the EF eventually. But not enough IMHO to affect PO. But a lot of oil regardless.

a-c: You need to read my post more SLOWLY. I’ve already clearly explained your counter points. I ain’t missed nuthin: I have an Excel spread sheet from DrillingInfo with all the detailed info on every Eagle Ford completion from 1945 thru March 2011. It contains the name of the operator, the exact location, when it began/stopped producing, exactly how much oil AND NG it has produced on a monthly basis and about 15 other parameters. I can make one mouse click and see a detailed production chart for each well which readily shows the rapid decline rates. Other than some very general charts presented by unnamed individuals who offer no detailed back up as I’ve provided….what ya got?

Any info I offer can be readily verified by anyone with access to the actual data base. If I’m lying or misrepresenting the situation with the Eagle Ford I can be easily exposed on the spot. I haven’t seen anyone else out there putting their reputation on the line as I have.

As I said earlier I don’t consider your opinions any less valid then mine. But we’re not talking opinions now…it’s the DOCUMENTED facts. The TODsters can read our posts and develop their own opinions. I’ll be glad to carry on our debate when you offer supported facts. But not opinions.…you and I have burned up enough space on TOD with that OMHO.

So the average initial production of the 30 most recent "savior" EF wells averaged less than 250 bopd BEFORE THEIR RAPID DECLINE RATES KICK IN. The well with the best daily rate, the Sharon Hunter Resources #1H Gonzo North (API 42-255-31814) produced 23,702 bo for the month or 764.58 bopd. The worst well produced 95 bo for the month or about 3 bopd.

Yeah, here's your kicker, highlighted in bold. See other reply re: older wells. Go to the map on page 13 of EOG's latest presentation and notice the proliferation of wells producing 800, 1000 and 1100 bopd, with a few 1300+ thrown in for good measure. And that's just the oil, not including gas. Your "best" 2-3 year old Sharon Hunter Resources #1H Gonzo North well is now more like average, and your others are at the bottom of the heap. Your newer wells probably also include wells mostly in the gas window.

I think we should revisit this topic in a few years before we make any conclusions.

Ooo ooo ooo, this gets better and better. Dunno if these some of these figures are boe or bo, but anyway ...

Ze link

“The Drees A-79 1-H well is a pretty nice looking well. I’m getting myself some data here in front of me. I have to say it’s a pretty straight-line decline and we originally thought that these wells would recoup something in the 350,000 barrels per well."

"We’ve recovered well over 100,000 barrels from that well so far in the first five months. So that’s clearly not the right number. I would think that we would be well north of 500,000 barrels from that well.”

Ze other link

Anadarko Petroleum recently increased its average estimated ultimate recovery (EUR) on wells in the Eagle Ford Shale to 450,000 barrels of oil equivalent (BOE) each. The company plans to drill 200 wells here in 2011, double the level of drilling in 2010.

That one is definitely boe, so maybe oil-only is half, or something around there.

Some companies list a wide range of EUR's, depending on location. I have a sneaking suspicion Rockman's older wells were largely from the wet gas window, since the Eagleford started out mostly as a gas play.

Another link

In terms of drilling costs and per-well ultimate oil recoveries (EURs), company estimates vary widely -- even within the same company! Crimson Exploration's expected well costs range from $4 million to $10 million, depending on what area of the play they're modeling. Petrohawk pegs its Red Hawk EURs as low as 150,000 barrels of oil equivalent and its Black Hawk EURs as high as 750,000 boe.

Again that's boe, but even if we assume oil-only is half we're still at least in 75K bo EUR range, and almost certainly more for this company since they've got some really nice acreage with better EUR's too.

Rock, I may not be in the oil biz, but I spend most of my day pouring over geographic data, looking at patterns, spotting trends and anomalies, and I've gotten so good at it I can do the same for just about any kind of data, and you just can't pass anything by me without me finding something wrong. And the thing I find wrong here is, you're just about the only one I've seen telling everyone the EUR's of these things average less than 100K. It's possible you could be right, but you seem to be in the minority.

So a $4 to $10 million well (say avg. $7 million) returns (450,000 / ?2? ) = 225,000 barrels oil total in its life. Thats an initial cost of $31.1 / bbl + lifting costs, transport costs, operating overheads during production ... minus net value of any gas produced (if any at current market price). Risky. And is sure never going to reduce present market price of oil is it?

a-c: OK...I'll waste a few more minutes with you. Here are the numbers that Murphy Oil reported to the Texas Rail Road Commission for your Drees A-79 1-H well (API 42-255-31616 in Karnes Co, Texas). First month's production (March 2010): 985 bopd. Latest production (March 2011): 97 bopd. Yes: Murphy Oil themselves are reporting a 90% decline rate the first year. A tad worse than the DR I've been using...right? And the decline curve does not appear to be leveling off at all so projecting at least a 50% DR doesn't seem unreasonable. Thus the well may be down to 50 bopd by March 2012(probably less but I will be generous). Cum production as of March 2012 was 180,388 bo and 157,917 mcf. That means they have 320,000 left to produce that 500,000 bo URR. So let's be generous again and say the well miraculously stops declining next March 2012 and stays flat at 50 bopd. It will take over 15 years to reach their 500,000 bo. Of course I doubt you would find a single oil patch hand who would believe that well would survive half that time. Just MHO, of course.

Having your own numbers used to prove your misconception has to be tough to swallow. But please understand: I haven't been trying to change your mind. I knew long ago that no info anyone could offer would ever change your expectations. My goal all along has been to make sure other TODsters didn't didn't blindly accept your offerings. I actually don't mind if any of them don't believe what I offer. I'm not here on a crusade. Just my own little personal obligation to the Eleven. I meant what I said, really: your OPINIONS are no less valid than mine. And thus there is no need to argue about opinions any more. But feel free to offer any "facts" you uncover. I have a huge spread sheet ready to check them against.

BTW, just so everyone here knows Rockman is human and capable of being wrong ...

On Tue Feb 03, 2009, ROCKMAN wrote:

Again, I haven't seen the numbers from other operators but we’ll probably only drill 40% or less then the number of wells we drilled in 2008. And those wells drilled in Jan '08 have already declined significantly. We won't have to wait a year to see how accurate my guess is. We should see the results by the mid-year numbers.

Not only did we break a NG production record (measured by gross withdrawals) in 2009 (the year we were supposed to decline mid-year), we also made a new record in 2010, and at the current pace (though it's still early) could break yet another record this year.

EIA data

Just thought I'd let y'all know. ;-)

abundance.concept wins: FATALITY

Next up:

Nordic Mist Vs. Alaska_Geo

Topic: ANWR


H - Out of idle curiosity I ask if you really felt a-c's opinions and undocumented charts trumped my publicly available facts? If so I may have to re-evaluate my position since I've always valued your opinions. I'm also a but surprised to find out you're a closet cornucopian. LOL

Nah, H just thought you were down for the count, but then you popped back up after a dramatic pause. Remember the "drama" vs "change the channel" commercial?

Paleo - That's what I also think. I just like to tease H from time to time because he's a good sport.

There are a lot of folks who don't know how to read those pumped up press releases. I've worked for public companies and have slapped more lipstick on pigs than I can remember. After 36 years I can read any press release and immediately see its weakness. And that's not usually based on what they say (very rarely do they actuall lie) but on what they don't say.

If it is a press release then the first assumption is lipstick.


It appears that the EIA uses dry natural gas production as their definition of "production." A link to annual data:


In 2010, we did approximately match the early Seventies rate, but it took a vastly larger number of wells in 2010, versus the early Seventies. For example, in 1972 Texas produced 7.5 TCF from 23,000 gas wells, and in 2009 we produced 6.8 TCF from 101,000 gas wells (RRC).

As noted up the thread, on the oil side, US C+C production has been between 5.5 and 5.6 mbpd since the third quarter of 2009, versus the 1970 rate of 9.6 mbpd.

a-c: Heck if we listed all the times I've been wrong we would crash the TOD server. LOL. But you are confusing yourself. Read that post again. I'm cleanly talking about the number of wells drilled and not the amount of NG produced. For a change I'll let the TODster waste their time with you and pull up the drill rig stats themselves.

You seem to have developed an ugly habit: every time I present data that throws a big bucket of cold water on your ideas you don't respond to what I've offered but go off on a different tangent. For instance I show you where Murphy Oil themselves report a 90% decline in just 12 months of one of your savior wells you tossed out but me and the rest of the TODsters hear nothing back about it. Have you not had time to check my numbers online? Took me less than 60 seconds to pull them up.

You need to be careful friend before you earn yourself irrelevance status with the rest of TOD. You already have with me but, then again, I’m just one dumb geologist who has been wrong more times than I can remember. Sorry pal but IMHO you are a lost cause and are now dead to me.

Does everyone get that: the fractured well flows 10X as fast but has only 1/10 the URR. Rather "unconventional, eh?

It follows that very little long-term diffusion will occur which would lead to dispersive effects. It all gets extracted according to proportional draw-down, with little variability, sharply delineated boundaries, and so it lacks a hyperbolic fat-tail.

Dat looks like a peak. So now what? Oil shale is a dead end in the US at less than 2 mbpd. And heck that is all extrapolation from 2010 which is less than 0.5 mbpd.

SO I will not wait for this one. Planning for < 1 in a decade would probably be wiser.

Low supplies of gasoline in Chicago area, as a result of refinery problems, push area prices to highest in the US:

Chicago Gasoline Advances on Illinois Refinery Outages
By Leela Landress - Jun 1, 2011 3:36 PM ET

The premium for spot gasoline climbed to a 31-month high in Chicago amid supply disruptions at Marathon Oil Corp. and Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM)’s Illinois refineries.

The premium for 87-grade conventional gasoline in Chicago versus July futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange widened 5.5 cents to 42.5 cents as of 2:34 p.m. The spread is the highest since Oct. 14, 2008. The price for prompt delivery fell 2.33 cents to $3.397.


Chicago gas prices highest in nation: $4.14 a gallon
Jun 1, 2011 06:37PM

Sykuta also said prices in the region can be volatile because it relies on just two large pipelines. If the system is working well, Chicago’s mandated blend might cost 10 cents a gallon more than the standard version, he said.

But if there’s a disruption, the price differential could be 40 or 50 cents a gallon, Sykuta said.


Hi Charles, glad to see you're back.
I do have a question about the inventory of oil supplies. You had a consistent theme of warning that we were in an imminent shortage(perhaps you didn't use the term, but that was the gist of it). How imminent was a matter of definition and of geography, but it was near.

Yet, it's been over 2 months now(or more) since these warnings started and the gas price has continually fallen. So has the oil price. I wonder, is it possible you overestimated it?

(No doubt, things will start to change as this year comes to a close, that will be more about the world supply as a whole).

Please don't take this as an ad hominem attack, I still enjoy reading your commentary and I find them strikingly interesting, even when I disagree with them(such as now).


More specifically, I did say there were imminent shortages possible, although likely to start at a small scale on a local level, in the upper Midwest. We did have shortages in about four counties of western Pennsylvania two weeks ago just after I said that (ok, that is not exactly the upper Midwest, but close). However even though supplies in Chicago are very low, there is not an actual shortage in that area now - or in any other county wide or larger area that I know of in the US.

In the last week or so, gasoline supplies have improved somewhat across the US. Around this time there usually is a seasonal increase. Going forward, there does not appear that shortages will develop again anywhere very soon, except in Chicago. It's getting very close to a shortage there:

JUNE 2, 2011, 12:47 P.M. ET

Chicago Spot Gasoline Premiums Remain Strong; Citgo Seen On Refiner Buying

NEW YORK (Dow Jones)--Chicago's spot gasoline and gasoline-blendstock pricing premiums remain strong on Thursday as regional refiners continue to step into the incremental market to cover short supply because of production problems.

Traders doing business in the region said Citgo Petroleum Corp. and Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) have led Thursday's buying interest.

Citgo on Wednesday reported flaring at its Lemont, Ill., refinery to Ill. environmental regulators, but the reason for the event wasn't clear, published reports said.

And Exxon Mobil Corp. has been a buyer for quite some time due to production problems at its Joliet refinery.

As such, reformulated-gasoline for oxygenate blending, or RBOB, has traded at Wednesday's premium of 60.0 cents a gallon to the July Nymex gasoline benchmark price, and unleaded regular conventional gasoline premiums are steady at Wednesday's 45.0c to 50.0c to July Nymex.


The seasonal low point for gasoline is about Labor Day, early September. I still think we will see more shortages besides Chicago and PA by then - although it is too early to tell how widespread they will be. I may be wrong if the US economy is in a significant recession by then.

While diesel supplies remain adequate for now, there is a diesel shortage developing in China. It's not yet clear if this may have the indirect effect of increasing US diesel exports to other countries, and reducing domestic supplies - that is if China starts increasing diesel imports.

6/2/11 Reuters News 12:27:47

"With high demand, lack of supply (thanks to the petroleum product price regime) and no incentive to increase imports by Sinopec and PetroChina, we do believe that China is experiencing a shortage of diesel," said consultancy FACTS Global Energy in a research note on Thursday.

[no link]

Diesel is becoming an issue for the UK too:

UK diesel shortage 'may put energy security at risk'

Challenging conditions for the UK refining industry mean that it is becoming less economical to convert crude oil into diesel, petrol and other finished fuel products in this country.

However, demand for diesel vehicles has never been greater, with the price of the fuel hitting new highs above 140p per litre this year.

The biggest cause of the domestic shortfall of diesel is this rising demand – up 38pc over the past 15 years – coupled with falling refining capacity. Currently, four out of the UK's eight refineries are in a sale process and all are under pressure from high-volume, cheaper rivals in Asia, which are not subject to the same £1bn green taxes on the industry.

Energy imports to increase (China)

China will tackle an impending power shortfall by increasing energy imports, said the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the top economic planner, on Wednesday.

The nation is expected to see a serious shortage this summer, said Li Yang, director-general of the NDRC's Bureau of Economic Operations Adjustment.

"With the coming of summer, the peak time for energy consumption, and the rapid growth of industrial production, the gap between electricity demand and supply will become more obvious and some areas may face a shortfall in coal and oil supplies," the bureau said in a statement.

The second episode of Adam Curtis's "All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace" is available:


WebHubbleTelescope won't like it !

It's OK. They just push the idea of a hidden natural order rather than a rather obvious disorder to explain stuff. In the first half-hour, entropy is not mentioned, but then Jay Forrester shows up to solve everything. I will see what happens.

Incidentally, I am having a discussion at the Azimuth blog pitting my simplistic views against a much more advanced mathematician.

And they're squaring off... WHT seems indifferential to MrP's manifold powers. He knows that multidimensional simultaneity will soon have him eating humble Pi. MrP gives WHT the old Lorentzian metric and tries to push him out into n-countable Hausdorff space! WHT Hilberts back... MrP never really imagined! The tables are turned! WHT goes all Bayesian on MrP! That's just mean! Where'd that log come from?

Excellent play by play !

Don't hurt yourself typing and trying to keep up with the action though :)

Is this bout scheduled for 12 rounds ?

He retreated and will write a complete post on universality in physics.
I may not understand that either.

Complexity comes along to break ordered analysis of systems. Systems are not statically stable, they are dynamically stable at best, and exhibit complex attractor behaviour at worst.

Mind, I'd say that was well understood, although I would say that he accurately points out that most analysis ignores the human factor.

This series from Curtis is interesting in that it pushes a position that computers are the bad guy, along with supposed attempts by computer scientists to allow decentralised structures to work. Earlier series suggest it's hierarchical command and control that's the bad guy. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

I am in agreement, as the Forrester models sweep complexity in the form of disorder under the rug. These are not stochastic formulations and so do not do a good job at modeling the real world.

I was under the impression that disorder is the instigator of complexity in systems.

Biology operator at or near chaos.

For example, we carry many protein folding mutations but these mutations are all suppressed by proteins in the cell that chaperon the mutants. However when a stress occurs these proteins can suddenly come on all at once allowing for a biological system to have a latent adaptive system. Of course, natural selection will then pick the winners when all hell break loose. Maybe a mechanism for punctuated equilibrium (in evolution).

Perhaps punctuated equilibrium is in fact a phase transition for life. These things happen of course when climate changes.

This is just one example, but it is a means to deal with the uncertain future. Uncertain futures seem to imply that working on the edge of chaos is good planning for what you will not be able to control in the future.

Geophysical dynamical systems are not white noise. The oceans, the atmosphere and the convection of the Earth's mantle cannot be described by 1-dimensional diffusion equations. Even looking at these systems over long timescales (decades-centuries for the atmosphere and millions of years for mantle convection) they do not behave like white noise.

Hamiltonian systems (energy conserving) evolve around a slow, fuzzy manifold due to various adjustment processes (instabilities). So even starting in a disordered state they will create order. This is unrelated to the strange attractors found in forced-dissipative systems.

A fun set of episodes. Sad that Rand had so little self awareness. So little knowledge about human emotions. That she was so pained by life that she had to avoid emotions and hide in hyper rationalism.

The show keeps saying all believed in computers and that computers would lead to paradise. That is BS. The greedy global bankers (the white shoe crowd as Gerald Celente calls them) used computers to confuse and hide the facts from the customers. That is to swindle the customers. No new world order in that just the same old world order that has been running for as long as finance has existed. 4000 years in China, 3000 years in the ME, 2000 years in Europe, 400 years in North America and South America.

I've been quite agnostic on climate change. The position I've taken is basically 'yes it's happening but Peak Oil will pre-empt most of the effects'. I've taken this position mainly because I'm lazy, I admit, but also because people I have genuine and deep respect for, such as Bob Hirsch, have written things to a similar extent.

It appears the recent events of mega-droughts are disproving these theories. Climate change may actually be happening much, much sooner(or maybe even too late for us to do anything significant).
Russia, China, America, France and heaven knows what other country have all had 'worst drought of over 50 years' headlines in the past 2 years.

Last year was the warmest on modern record, spanning over a century. This year may well beat that record.

It appears to me that we're not only going into a financial deathspin, not only an energy crisis, but coupled with all of this, we're getting severe climate/food/water stress toppled on top of it all.

Some days, I just feel like dancing.

"Climate change may actually be happening much, much sooner(or maybe even too late for us to do anything significant).
Russia, China, America, France and heaven knows what other country have all had 'worst drought of over 50 years' headlines in the past 2 years.

Last year was the warmest on modern record, spanning over a century. This year may well beat that record.

It appears to me that we're not only going into a financial deathspin, not only an energy crisis, but coupled with all of this, we're getting severe climate/food/water stress toppled on top of it all."

Very well put. Glad you are not one to close your mind to overwhelming evidence when it becomes impossible to ignore. I hope others are noticing these trends, too.

A couple points. Last years record high global average temperature came near the bottom of the longest, deepest trough in solar activity for about 100 years. We are now coming out of that trough.

It does always interest me when people go from "it's too far off in the future to worry about at all now" instantly to "it is completely upon us and there is nothing we can do about it."

While the latter may be true to an extent (though of course every time we use electricity or drive a car...we ARE "doing something about it"--we're making it worse), it is notable that both positions (held apparently simultaneously by Foss in her interview by The Nation last fall!) seem to conveniently remove the one holding them from any responsibility for the situation.

"A couple points. Last years record high global average temperature came near the bottom of the longest, deepest trough in solar activity for about 100 years. We are now coming out of that trough."

Yes, I've been astounded that the deniers are still using that old, worn out line. "The Sun's brighter and that's what's causing the warming." Every Radio Amateur knows that the solar activity has been at a long-time low.

"It does always interest me when people go from "it's too far off in the future to worry about at all now" instantly to "it is completely upon us and there is nothing we can do about it."

Right, we've just been trying to warn them about if for 30-40 years now and they wouldn't listen. There's all the documented evidence over the years that they ignored all the warnings!

We finally had some rain here in France, but with it also came the wind and dried everything up again. It's probably too late now for the winter sown crops, yields should be well down. Hay is abysmal. And we still have the hottest and driest months ahead. Water supplies were causing concern last year locally, I'd imagine they're looking increasingly worrying this year.

Every year the financial, energy and climate crises combine to make farming increasingly difficult. At some point it may well become near impossible to do at scale. The first article mentions an €700 billion fund for agriculture in France, which doesn't seem right, it's a huge amount. If it is correct then we're looking at an industry in deep deep trouble.

Agriculture is the soft underbelly of civilisation, if it fails all plans of mice and men become immaterial. Yet it hardly ever gets mentioned, such public complacency probably means it's the biggest threat we face. At the very least I'd expect food prices to take an ever greater slice of people's income, pushing out spending on other frivolous expenditures. Even this would create massive societal and economic changes.

Oil Market Needs 500,000 to 1 Million Barrels More, OPEC Delegate Says

Global oil supply needs to increase by 500,000 barrels to 1 million barrels a day in the next several months to meet demand, an oil official from a Middle East nation said six days before OPEC meets.

I though supply was meeting demand. No peak here. Move along.

They must mean '500,000 to a million barrels/day of light sweet crude' - that OPEC no longer seems to have.

But they have plenty of 10.0 °API/8% sulfur. Pay no mind to the vanadium. Want to buy some tar balls?

Although I haven't seen any official announcement as yet, I just heard that Philips has been awarded the U.S. DOE's coveted "L prize" for developing the first 60-watt incandescent replacement that meets all of the following criteria:

Efficacy of more than 90 lumens per watt, which exceeds the efficiency of all incandescent and most compact fluorescent sources today, which range from 10 to 60 lumens per watt
Energy consumption of less than 10 watts as compared to a 60 Watt incandescent.
Output of more than 900 lumens, equivalent to a 60 Watt incandescent light bulb
Lifetime of more than 25,000 hours, which is 25X greater than a typical incandescent bulb
Color Rendering Index (CRI) greater than 90, which is a high measure of lighting quality
Color Temperature between 2700 – 3000 Kelvin, which is "warm" white light comparable to that of incandescent sources

Source: http://www.lightingprize.org/news_phillips.stm

This is a major achievement in lighting field and one that promises to greatly reduce the amount of energy consumed in the years to come (almost half a billion 60-watt lamps are sold each year in the United States alone). And as announced at this year's Lightfair, Philips will launch a 75-watt incandescent replacement this fall (it draws 17-watts) and a 100-watt equivalent next year.

Congratulations, Philips !


This must be a performance improvement over Endura, which has a CRI of only about 80 IIRC. Philips already has the broadest beam pattern and is the best standard bulb replacement I've yet seen, but it is still not perfect. If the new bulb addresses the color issue and works with electronic dimmers, I'd say they will have reached the functional goal.

After that, prices need to (and should) come down. I'll buy some, but most people will balk until they're legislated even if prices drop to $10 or less -- most people will not do a multi-year cost analysis.

Hi Paleo,

This is, in fact, the case. As it turns out, I should be receiving a shipment of EnduraLED A19s in the next few minutes (last time I checked, there were 60,000 on back order). These lamps consume 12.5-watts versus less than 10, supply 800 lumens versus more than 900, and the CRI is 80 versus greater than 90, so this next generation of LED lamps are all around better performers. Dimmer compatibility is still hit and miss; Philips LED lamps are compatible with reverse-phase or trailing-edge dimmers but cannot be used with forward-phase dimmers.

Cost will be a barrier, unquestionably, but things should improve with time. As I've said before, stick with a good quality CFL unless you have a compelling reason to go LED.


It's lights out for old bulbs at Sears Canada
New-style lighting cheaper, lasts longer

Sears Canada won't be lighting up your world for much longer - not with incandescent light bulbs, in any case.

The national retailer announced Monday that it would phase out the sale of incandescent bulbs by September, instead increasing light-emitting diode (LED) and compact fluorescent lighting (CFL) offerings.

Sears Canada also announced that it would replace all the spotlights in its Full-Line and Sears Home stores with LED fixtures, which it says use up to 75 per cent less energy and last up to 10 times longer than the more traditional light bulbs.


Sears Canada says it is the first national retailer to ban the sale of incandescent bulbs in its stores. Swedish home-furnishings giant IKEA announced last year that it would stop selling incandescent bulbs by the end of 2010 in its Canadian and U.S. stores.

See: http://www.montrealgazette.com/lights+bulbs+Sears+Canada/4865243/story.html


Speaking if IKEA, I was in their Vancouver store yesterday, and had a look in the lighting section.

They are now selling an LED replacement for halogen GU10 PAR 16's. It is 4W, 3000K colour, 135 lumens and sells for $15
Right next to it - hadn't seen this before either, they have a CFL replacement for the the same PAR 16 halogen bulbs. 9W CFL, colour temp 2700K, 190 lumens, $ 10.
[The regular 35W halogens are about 500Lumens ]

I thought the CFL would be worth trying - but obviously everyone else did too as they were sold out of them!

In South Africa, Wal-Mart Refuses to Buy Local

"Massmart currently buys 60 percent of its goods from South African manufacturers and farmers. Wal-Mart would supplant these networks of local production and trade with its own global supply chain, sending a flood of imported food and other goods into a country that already has 25 percent unemployment. A government-commissioned analysis concluded that every 1 percent shift from domestic to overseas suppliers by Massmart would cost the country 4,000 jobs."

One wonders how many more local economies will be destroyed by the global distribution model before rising transport costs put a stop to it.

Of course, then, the economies serving the global supply chain will be destroyed...

"International expansion is critical for Wal-Mart, which has seen same-store sales in the U.S. decline for eight consecutive quarters. But while it has established a foothold in South America, Asia, Europe, and now Africa, Wal-Mart's global ambitions have often fallen short of expectations".

Edit : Somehow, the image of 'The Blob' springs to mind...

I try and buy local where I can, both from he corner shops and wholesalers. Usually the price is better than Walmart and the other supers eg I picked up oranges for 6.50 as opposed to 7.50 though many Items the difference is greater. Availability of local produce was a point for moving to this area. If world transport tanks then there is plenty of local production. Back in the UK, lack of international transport will be a food disaster.


I grew up in the UK and moved back to S.Africa when I was a teenager. I remember how great the food was in SA compared with the UK - especially the variety of fruits. Everything was really cheap, too.

My mum used to get super excited when she found a tiny, expensive mango at the local grocer in London...

I recall putting on a lot of weight...

That reminds me, must go and put myself a bowl of the melon and papaya that I picked up in a local store on a quick bike errand :) TTFN


Just trying to make those who have to travel miles to a Walmart in their SUV jealous.

BGI Sequencing news: German EHEC strain is a chimera created by horizontal gene transfer

According to the results of the current draft assembly (available for download at ftp://ftp.genomics.org.cn/pub/Ecoli_TY-2482), the estimated genome size of this new E. coli strain is about 5.2 Mb. Sequence analysis indicated this bacterium is an EHEC serotype O104 E. coli strain; however, this is a new serotype — not previously involved in any E. coli outbreaks. Comparative analysis showed that this bacterium has 93% sequence similarity with the EAEC 55989 E. coli strain, which was isolated in the Central African Republic and known to cause serious diarrhea. This new strain of E. coli, however, has also acquired specific sequences that appear to be similar to those involved in the pathogenicity of hemorrhagic colitis and hemolytic-uremic syndrome. The acquisition of these genes may have occurred through horizontal gene transfer. The analysis further showed that this deadly bacterium carries several antibiotic resistance genes, including resistance to aminoglycoside, macrolides and Beta-lactam antibiotics: all of which makes antibiotic treatment extremely difficult.

BGI (formerly known as Beijing Genomics Institute) completed the sequencing of the bacterial genome in 3 days.

So, you're basically saying that it's a mutant doom bug? Got it.

It is not communicable enough to be a doom bug.

It may not be a doom bug but at first glance it does appear to be yet another manifestation of some of the "really bad things" that have been predicted via antibiotic resistant bacteria.

So essentially chalk up another thing that those downer scientist warned us about that lo and behold is actually happening in real time.

Most of these situations where "you can't say they didn't warn us..." turn into relatively localized, short duration "events" but I can't see how we aren't getting closer to really hitting one out of the park at some point in the not too distant future...

but I can't see how we aren't getting closer to really hitting one out of the park at some point in the not too distant future...

I can see that happening too. For a long time I've wondered how it was that our specie was able to insulate itself so well from the natural environment. It just seemed as though Humans represented such a big target (7 billion+) for microbes, and Nature usually finds ways to take advantage of whatever sources are available. Also, since we have tried to seperate ourselves from the wild kingdom we exist in a more sanitary enviroment, but that acts to weaken our immune systems. For example, children not exposed to the microbes in dirt can get asthma. Our water must be prestine or we get sick, yet people of undeveloped countries are often able to stomach poor quality water.

So I'm wondering if all these recent outbreaks of E. Coli and drug resistant stains are telltale signs that the microbrial world is honing in on us. If so, it could be the best case scenario because it would cull the masses w/out decimating all the other species, like a thermo nuclear war, runaway global warming or starvation would. In the case of a new, easily and wide spreading virulent microbe would cause a bottleneck, providing an opening for a small percentage of people to pass through.

That would be perfect. An animal kingdom not reduced any further, 1-2% of the human pop. passing through ending the oil age once and for all. The planet survives in tact and the remaining people night just live in harmony with the environment. We can dream, right?

That dream would wake me with a cold sweat.

That dream would wake me with a cold sweat.

And I'm sure most everybody else too. However, this ascent of man is destroying the very planet that gave rise to our specie. We couldn't handle the situation responsibly. We evidently care more about the economy than the environment, and we certainly don't care much about the demise of other species, so haven't we set our selves up against Nature? Having most of the species on the planet and a small percentage of the current human pop. pass through some bottleneck would keep the planet in tact and offer humankind a 2nd chance. That's probably the best case scenario possible.


The singular of "species" is "species". Sort of like one sheep, two sheep.

Sorry to pick nits, but I'm an ecologist :-)

Sorry to nitpick back, but species in the sentence it was used below is correct. I wasn't referring to one specie, but many species. Read it again and see if you don't agree.

we certainly don't care much about the demise of other species

I think you are too much of an optimist. If what you describes happens, the humans left will have learnt nothing and they will rush to repeat the errors of the past.
I think that the best chance for us long term is the worst case scenario for the short term - burn all fossil fuels, destroy most of the earth's ecology and have a human dieoff. That is the only chance that we will learn our lesson (and I am not so sure of that anyway).

Since my odds are 98% that I die I would call it a nightmare not a dream.

Sorry to break it to ya, ed, but your odds are 100% that you'll die, just like all the rest of us.


"Humans represented such a big target (7 billion+) for microbes, and Nature usually finds ways to take advantage of whatever sources are available."

Yep. We're the largest (relatively) uniform food source on the planet. Eventually, in spite of modern medicine's best effort, some clever bug will evolve to exploit this enormous and uniform food source. Biological nature abhors (or loves to gobble up) a monoculture almost as much as physical nature abhors a vacuum.

"1-2% of the human pop. passing through ending the oil age once and for all"

Can we arrange for the remaining population to be one least involved in the spread of the kudzu ape as an exotic invasive throughout the planet? The Koisan and perhaps some of the Aka (Pygmy)?

The survivors would be some combination of the naturally immune and those with access to the resources to identify and counter the pathogen.

Natural immunity can be quite rare. Only about 1 out of 300 people are naturally immune to HIV and do not develop AIDs from a HIV infection. http://www.nature.com/news/2010/101104/full/news.2010.582.html

Had HIV been an airborne virus as communicable as the common cold, it would have done the job, since it would have been endemic globally before the first AIDs cases became apparent following the retroviral incubation period. However, it is probably highly unlikely that a virus or bacteria can be highly communicable, highly lethal and have a long incubation period.

However, it is probably highly unlikely that a virus or bacteria can be highly communicable, highly lethal and have a long incubation period.

Unless you build it that way.

Try Earth Abides

Earth Abides is a 1949 post-apocalyptic science fiction novel by American writer George R. Stewart. It tells the story of the fall of civilization from deadly disease and its rebirth. Beginning in the United States in the 1940s, it deals with Isherwood "Ish" Williams, Emma, and the community they founded. The survivors live off the remains of the old world, while learning to adapt to the new. Along the way they are forced to make tough decisions and choose what kind of civilization they will rebuild.

It is an excellent book. One of the big surprises for me is how well it has aged. The only point that I noticed was the main character goes to find a house with a radio (not TV, not internet). Other than that the book could have been written today rather than 62 years ago.

"Also, since we have tried to separate ourselves from the wild kingdom we exist in a more sanitary environment, but that acts to weaken our immune systems. For example, children not exposed to the microbes in dirt can get asthma."

One theory holds that syphilis was a common skin rash among indigenous peoples of the Americas. Europeans could have carried the non-venereal tropical bacteria home, where the organisms may have mutated into a more deadly form in the different conditions and low immunity of the population of Europe. I.E. the relative cleanliness forced it to become more aggressive.

Polio is supposed to be experienced early while playing in the offal and dirt. When caught later in life (amid a cleaner lifestyle), it is the paralyzing disease.

"Before the 20th century, polio infections were rarely seen in infants before six months of age, most cases occurring in children six months to four years of age.[86] Poorer sanitation of the time resulted in a constant exposure to the virus, which enhanced a natural immunity within the population. In developed countries during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, improvements were made in community sanitation, including better sewage disposal and clean water supplies. These changes drastically increased the proportion of children and adults at risk of paralytic polio infection, by reducing childhood exposure and immunity to the disease."


"It is not communicable enough to be a doom bug."


Enteric bacteria need a pathway. Like poop to food to hand to mouth to be passed around. Basically don't eat your poop and wash your food. Better yet eat food from your local farm stands and support your local economy.

A doom bug kills a several million a month. This is scary but managable.

I imagine the bio-trail goes from Africa to Spain to Germany.

Another way in which globalization is a joke to our health and safety. We already know what it did to American made products and anything durable. LOL

OK biologists in the room is this naturally occurring or human-made?

Ya know... there is talk of altering the concept of "species" with regard to bacterium because of the free-flow of genetic material among them.
Drug resistance is carried by plasmids: rings of DNA. These are freely exchanged among bacteria. In a hospital, one type of bacteria will become resistant . Then many types suddenly acquire the same plasmid and the same resistance. What hospital a bacterium came from can even be determined.

Who knows? Improve the transmission, add a quorum detection so it only becomes symptomatic when the host is saturated, put some shifting sugars on the outside...

The Russians came up with a good one: Add neuronal material to a common infectious agent. The host's immune system picks up on this and attacks the nervous system and the agent. No clue remains.

My feeling is that animal husbandry practices which dole out more antibiotics and those used for human health each year are the problem.

Furthermore, remember antibiotics are not new inventions. They are old old weapons that soil bacteria have been using to take territory.

For every antibiotic there is a countermeasure. A real ying and yang.

Resistance is an ancient as life itself.

But remember the arrogance of the US. The US public health system, which was dismantled since we solved the bacteria problem with LOL penicillin. LMAO. The biggest joke in public health planning. Yes. We did take down all our micro departments. Yes they did not recover. Only the anthrax letters saved a few fortunate programs.

So we now get to enjoy these bugs, many of which are understudied. Oh well.

Forget Human-made biowarfare. The only biowarfare known is the usage of bugs that are naturally nasty (like Bacillus anthracis, which causes the disease anthrax).

Only very sophisticated folks could try to make such a bug but they would need to test it to make it work. Why bother? God gave us anthrax.

But it is not easy to weaponize bacteria. You have to look at the history of the bug. The Germans thought they could poke anthrax into cows loading onto american ships for the war effort in WWI. Boy were they absolutely wrong about that. No one died.

The Brits learned that you get the wool-sorters disease from spores airborne anthrax spores in the wool shipments from all over the world. They learned how to weaponize anthrax and they shared their idea with the Americans to beat the Germans who were hopelessly lost at that time.

It was an entire program. Sophisticated stuff. Lots of scientists on the task. Sadly all the ways to weaponize the bug are declassified documents ;-(

Naturally occurring, but doing so as a result of human-imposed conditions that made it likely to happen eventually.

KD, there is no agreed-upon bacterial species concept as it is. It has always been and remains nebulous.

[Iowa already has one of the highest proportions of electrical generation by wind in the country.]

Group says sixfold increase in Iowa wind power possible by 2030.

It is interesting to see individual regions saving themselves. California is very aggressive in its energy policy and apparently Iowa.

Breaking: Reports of explosion and fire at Chevron refinery, Pembroke, Wales. Refinery has just been sold to Valero by Chevron.

Unhappy workers? Did they loose their pensions in the deal?

Pembroke refinery explosion: casualties injured in fire

Sky is reporting 2 dead, seemingly two road tankers drove into each other.

4 dead, 1 injured. Not much damage.

Move along, nothing to see here.

China - not just buying Canadian oil.

Chinese Fuel Vancouver Home Boom

A fresh wave of Chinese buyers, coupled with Canada's already frothy home prices, has vaulted Vancouver into the ranks of the world's most unaffordable real-estate markets.

Bungalows—small, detached, single-story homes, some in need of significant repair—can command prices well above a million Canadian dollars (US$1.02 million.) One local website, crackhouseormansion.com, invites visitors to guess whether homes pictured on the site are property sold for more than C$1 million or are alleged crack houses.

... Quantifying Chinese buying is difficult. Local authorities don't publish statistics on foreign ownership of residential property. Real-estate consultancy Landcor Data Corp. pored through sales data in two high-end Vancouver neighborhoods, looking for "pure" Chinese names—excluding Western first names or any "remotely non-Chinese" variants—in an attempt to get a sense of the scale of mainland buying. They found 74% of buyers of luxury homes in the areas last year fit the category.

'Smart Money' is getting 'Out of Dodge' (rats leaving the ship - for you Brits)

Yeah for C$1 million you must be on crack. LOL. Sounds like DOOM for the local housing market for up and coming youth! Time to live with Mom and Dad until the bubble pops.

Old news for those of us who follow http://www.greaterfool.ca/

Here is one related specifically to the situation in Vancouver:

Mainland Chinese Creating Vancouver Millionaires:


Chinese millionaires pass one million mark.

Millionaire households jumped 31 per cent in 2010 from the previous year to 1.11 million, the BCG Global Wealth Survey showed.


This smells a little bit like the nouveau riche being fleeced by the old money banking establishment who are extending credit like there's no tomorrow and in the process establishing a mammoth housing bubble.

These things don't end well, see Tokyo 1989.

That being said, would I rather be in Vancouver than L.A. or Phoenix or Miami? Of course.

The problem is that the hot money just keeps flowing from one sector to another, one location to another. Meanwhile, Wall Street laughs all the way to the bank.

Oh wait, they are the bank.

Good article on sustainable development


footprint on a nation by nation basis


Pressure mounting on Kan to resign quickly

Prime Minister Naoto Kan says a state of cold shutdown at the reactors of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant would lay the groundwork for his resignation.

Ruling and opposition party members speculate that Kan wants to stay in his post until January. The plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company, says it will achieve a cold shutdown of the reactors by that time.

Earlier in the day, Kan said in a meeting of his Democratic Party that he wants to pass responsibility on to younger lawmakers after fulfilling his role in handling the disaster.

IAEA wants latest information on nuclear accident

The International Atomic Energy Agency has called on Japan to report the latest, most detailed information on the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

The IAEA explained to its member nations the current status of the accident at a meeting at its headquarters in Vienna on Thursday. The agency plans to hold an international, ministerial-level meeting to discuss the accident later this month.

Nagasaki staffers exposed to Fukushima radiation

Nagasaki University Hospital says that at least 40 percent of local people sent to Fukushima Prefecture, host to the crippled nuclear plant, suffered internal radiation exposure.

The hospital checked staffers and medical experts sent to Fukushima by Nagasaki's prefectural government. They spent around a week helping local government offices and medical institutions in Fukushima after the nuclear plant accident in March.

The hospital says radioactive iodine was detected in the bodies of 34, or about 40 percent, of 87 examinees. Some were also detected for radioactive cesium. Neither substance occurs naturally in human bodies.

Fukushima to check internal radiation exposure

Fukushima Prefecture has decided to check the internal radiation exposure of residents near the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and adjacent areas with high radiation levels.

In Fukushima, there are mounting concerns among locals over the health effects of radiation after the nuclear accident at Fukushima Daiichi plant.

The prefecture had already decided to conduct health checks on all citizens, but will now assess residents' internal exposure to radiation from breathing and eating.

Wastewater rises, fears mount

The operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is struggling to remove pools of highly radioactive wastewater as fears of an overflow get more intense.

Tokyo Electric Power Company says wastewater levels rose around 6 centimeters inside the No.2 reactor turbine building, and in its utility tunnel, during the 24-hour period through Thursday morning.

What is internal radiation exposure?

[Not a health pysics effort, but I'll play one for this comment!]

That would be radioactive substances that are inside ones body, and whose radioactive decay "irradiates" the body. External radiation is high energy ionizing particles from outside the body. The later can be easily measured with something like a geiger counter. The former depends upon chemistry and biology, as how much of a given element end up in the body, and how long it stays there (and where it might concentrate) depends upon details of chemistry and biology.

(CNN) -- The Syrian regime has carried out a "systematic" series of abuses against protesters that could "qualify as crimes against humanity,"

Yes, indeed.