Drumbeat: August 3, 2011

A warning for shale gas investors

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Recent reports of an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission into whether shale gas companies are overstating their gas reserves highlights the challenges investors face in navigating this emerging sector.

Last week a research note from the investment management firm Robert W. Baird, citing industry lawyers, said the SEC is looking into whether shale gas companies may be overestimating the amount of natural gas they hold beneath the ground.

Marcellus Impact Study Rests on Some Shaky Assumptions

The latest study of the impact of the Marcellus shale formation on the economy of Pennsylvania continues the theme of prior reports by concluding that "…the development of the Pennsylvania Marcellus increased domestic energy production, creates jobs, and reduces government deficits." Earlier in its report, titled "The Pennsylvania Marcellus Natural Gas Industry: Status, Economic Impacts and Future Potential," the authors made the determination that if natural gas prices do not fall significantly in the future, "Marcellus economic activity could support over 250,000 jobs and generate $2 billion in annual state and local tax revenues." In a state beset by financial difficulties from a weak economy and lucrative state and local worker pension benefits, the prospect of a pot of $2 billion in new revenues has to be viewed positively.

Tax the Shale-Gas Industry? Yes, this state needs the cash

A new industry-funded study says Pennsylvania could produce a quarter of this country's natural gas within 20 years. Does that sound like an industry that's likely to turn tail and hike out of the state if it's asked to pay a tax for the right to drill?

No, Drillers Already Paying Their Way

Despite a deep recession, Marcellus Shale gas drilling in Pennsylvania has created tens of thousands of jobs, rescued many landowners from foreclosure and bankruptcy, and generated fortunes for farmers, laborers, and businesses. Nevertheless, some have stoked fears of environmental disaster and spread the myth that drillers aren't paying their share of taxes. Such attacks have led many to the mistaken conclusion that the industry should pay a special tax or what's euphemistically called an "impact fee."

Mexico's Pemex July Crude Output Hits Lowest Level This Year

MEXICO CITY (Dow Jones)--Mexico's state-owned oil company Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, said crude-oil output in July was 2.536 million barrels a day, the lowest level for any month year-to-date.

Pemex has said it had problems in recent weeks with nitrogen-injecting systems at some fields, including the top-producing Ku-Maloob-Zaap complex in the southern Gulf of Mexico, but that those problems have been resolved.

KMZ, as the top fields are called, produced an average of 831,000 barrels a day in July, according to preliminary figures by Pemex, and 824,000 barrels a day in June. Those levels were off KMZ's peak this year of 850,000 barrels a day in March.

Pemex Says Ayatsil Region Holds 544 Million Barrels of Oil

Petroleos Mexicanos, Latin America’s largest oil producer, boosted its proven reserves at the Ayatsil-Tekel-Pit-Kayab development in the Gulf of Mexico by 41 percent.

Syncrude output climbs, but outages lift price

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Oil production at Syncrude Canada Ltd, one of the country's biggest oil sands operations, rose 13 percent in July as downtime due to maintenance decreased, the venture's largest stakeholder said.

Syncrude is planning for major maintenance in the coming months, however, and other operators have been struggling with outages, pushing cash prices for synthetic crude wrung from the Alberta oil sands to levels not seen in years.

FACTBOX - Schedule of U.S. SPR oil deliveries

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Following is the U.S. Energy Department's latest update on the companies that have received the oil they bought from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

The U.S. Energy Department said on Wednesday that 6.77 million barrels had been delivered in July, slightly less than the 8.74 million barrels it had expected. Through August, however, the sale will total 30.64 million barrels, unchanged, the department said.

Shell shuts Nigerian oil flowstation after spills

(Reuters) - Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L) said on Wednesday it had shut one of its Nigerian flowstations in the onshore Niger Delta, after oil pipelines leaked.

Local youths claimed responsibility for attacking the same pipelines because they say Shell stopped paying them for surveillance work. Shell said the cause of the leaks had not been confirmed.

Mideast Oil Little Changed as Refiners Assess Formosa Outage

Middle East crude oil for sale to Asia was little changed as refiners assessed the impact of Formosa Petrochemical Corp. shutting its refinery and awaited official prices from Saudi Arabia.

Saudis may cut crude prices on refinery snags

Top exporter Saudi Arabia may reduce the official selling prices (OSPs) of September crude for Asian clients, a Reuters poll showed on Tuesday, as refinery shutdowns in Taiwan, China and India curb demand for Middle East grades.

Two refinery outages and planned repairs at a third plant have bolstered the bearish outlook for the region’s heavy sour crude, which constitutes the main feedstock in all three cases.

Saudi Aramco sells third fuel lot to East Asia

Saudi Aramco sold the high 700-cst viscosity parcel of up to 90,000 tonnes for Aug. 22-24 loading from the joint-venture Samref refinery in Yanbu to US-based trader Cargill at a discount of about $22.00-$23.00 a tonne to Singapore spot quotes on a free-on-board (FOB) basis, down from around minus $20.00 previously, traders said.

“That the consecutive parcel is also heading east at lower price levels would suggest that the Middle East may not be quite as tight as initially expected,” a Singapore-based Western trader said.

Gasoline shortage spreads to some county stations

NEW GLASGOW – The news of a fuel shortage in Nova Scotia caused some shortages at the pumps this past weekend in Pictou County.

The short supply is due to a shutdown at the Imperial Oil refinery in Dartmouth. On July 21 the refinery was hit by a lightning strike causing the closure and it’s not expected to be operational again until mid-August. It’s currently trying to find other sources to supply stations.

The big worry about China on the energy patch

As American and Chinese energy officials and scientists meet in Chicago this week, the trick for the U.S. is how to collaborate in the battery laboratory without spilling any secrets.

China to explore Indian Ocean seabed: report

China has won the right to explore for minerals in part of the Indian Ocean as the energy-hungry country scours the world for resources to fuel its fast-growing economy, state media said Wednesday.

Why Ahmadinejad isn't on his way out

There has been much dancing on the grave of Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad. After his unnerving re-election two years ago in a disputed and bloody vote, Ahmadinejad's many critics abroad and at home have savored the thorough political beating he has suffered over the last few months by Iran's real power, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei . Yet there are signs that Ahmadinejad is not a spent force just yet. This wily survivor is in the midst of renewing himself. His prime weapon has been a combination of oil supplicance and oil populism.

Falklands shipping blocked to Brazil

Brazil will bar Falklands-flagged shipping vessels from its waters, a show of support for neighboring Argentina in a dispute over oil leasing off the coast of the British territory, UPI reported Wednesday.

US prepares for worst-case scenario with Pakistan nukes

As U.S.-Pakistani relations spiral downward, the specter of a showdown between the increasingly antagonistic allies is garnering more attention, including the worst-case scenario of the U.S. attempting to “snatch” Pakistan’s 100-plus nuclear weapons if it feared they were about to fall into the wrong hands.

Not Much Peak Oil Lately

I'm pretty convinced that Peak Oil is real and significant (probably very significant). But, even though I've been looking, I'm still having trouble finding a way of investing that makes real money based on Peak Oil implications. The problem is: When the price of oil takes off it tends to take out the entire world economy. Peak Oil is so significant that unhedged Peak Oil investments can't grow quickly relative to other investments.

Apple, not oil, fuels Alaska's bonanza

Oil revenues from the Trans-Alaska Pipeline provided the capital for the Alaska Permanent Fund, a giant savings account created by the state's voters 1976 to make sure the legislature didn't spend the windfall all at once. But what's fueled the fund's growth in recent years -- and helped it hit a record $40.1 billion this week -- are its investments in the stock market, especially in Apple (AAPL).

Cooling server farms with tiny flying saucers

(CNNMoney) -- Every time you watch a Lady Gaga video on YouTube or get driving directions on Google Maps, a server farm somewhere is heating up. The more you do online and the faster it happens, the more energy it takes. Data centers now consume about 2% to 3% of all electricity generated annually in the U.S. That's the same amount it takes to power the state of New York -- and demand keeps climbing.

But most of the energy data centers use doesn't go directly to running servers. Instead, it's dedicated to keeping them cool: Temperatures above 75 degrees Fahrenheit can cause the chips inside the servers to malfunction.

Automakers dreaming up ways to meet new mileage standards

The internal combustion engine won’t go away, not that soon, anyway, so gasoline engines will apply even more advanced forms of direct injection, more aggressive turbocharging and possibly the use of lasers to replace conventional spark plugs.

Who killed economic growth? - Animated Video

Economists insist that recovery is at hand, yet unemployment remains high, real estate values continue to sink, and governments stagger under record deficits. Richard Heinberg propose a startling diagnosis: humanity has reached a fundamental turning point in its economic history. The expansionary trajectory of industrial civilization is colliding with non-negotiable natural limits.

Nate Hagens: We're Not Facing A Shortage of Energy, But A Longage of Expectations

Nate Hagens, former editor of the respected energy blog, The Oil Drum, gives a fact-packed update on where we are on the peak oil timeline. But interestingly, he explains how he sees the core issue as less about the actual amount of energy available to the world, and more about our assumptions about how much we really need:

"We’re not really facing a shortage of energy, we’re facing a longage of expectations. And the sooner that we as individuals or a nation recognize that the future is going to see much lower consumption than today and prepare for that, psychological resilience is going to be really important; because if no one is psychologically prepared, people are going to freak out when some of these freedoms start to go away.

Oil Slides a Fourth Day as U.S. Spending Drops, Moody’s Warns of Downgrade

Oil declined for a fourth day in New York, its longest losing streak since May, on concern that a slowing U.S. economy will curb fuel demand in the world’s biggest crude-consuming nation.

Futures dropped as much as 1.1 percent before a U.S. government report forecast to show a rise in crude stockpiles. Data yesterday showed U.S. consumer spending unexpectedly fell in June for the first time in almost two years. Moody’s Investors Service said the nation’s credit rating may be cut on concern that fiscal discipline will ease, further debt reduction measures won’t be adopted and the economy will weaken.

Oil Output Remains High While Gas Output Is Down

Russia pumped 10.26 million barrels per day of crude oil in July, matching a post-Soviet high recorded in May and retaining the title of top producer as its closest rival, Saudi Arabia, rapidly closes the gap.

Russia also pumped 10.26 million bpd in October 2011. The June rate was 10.2 million bpd.

By comparison, Saudi Arabia pumped as much as 9.8 million bpd in June, an increase of as much as 900,000 bpd in response to the loss of Libyan supply after it failed to persuade OPEC of the need for a coordinated increase.

While the kingdom had the spare capacity to ramp up production by nearly 10 percent in a month, Russia's top oil companies are struggling to grow by just a few percent a year.

India Said to Give State Oil Refiners $3.4 Billion First-Quarter Subsidy

Indian Oil Corp., the nation’s biggest refiner, and state-run rivals will get 150 billion rupees ($3.4 billion) as compensation for selling fuels below cost, two people with knowledge of the matter said.

The payment for the three months ended June 30 is about half of the 290 billion rupees sought by the oil ministry, the people said, asking not to be identified before an official announcement.

Iraq exports hit 6-month high

Iraq's oil exports from its southern ports jumped last month to a six-month high, according to export data, reflecting efforts by foreign oil companies to boost production.

BP:World War II Mine Cleared From North Sea Forties Oil Pipeline

LONDON -(Dow Jones)- An unexploded World War II mine which had been lying next to the key Forties crude oil pipeline in the North Sea has been successfully removed and towed to a safe area for further disposal, pipeline operator BP PLC said Wednesday.

Convenience Store Visits Decline in the Second Quarter as Gas Prices Rise, Reports NPD

Historically when gas prices rise convenience store visits decline and history held true in the second quarter of 2011 when, due to rising gas prices, convenience store traffic declined by 4 percent compared to same quarter year ago, according to convenience store research by The NPD Group, a leading market research company.

China’s Natural Gas Demand May Rise 16% This Year, Industry Ministry Says

China’s 2011 natural gas demand may rise 16.1 percent from a year earlier to 124.6 billion cubic meters, Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said in a statement on its website today.

New York State’s Fracking Lawsuit Barred by Law, U.S. Says

The U.S. government said it will ask a judge to dismiss a New York lawsuit that seeks to force a fuller environmental review of how natural-gas extraction could affect 9 million water drinkers in the state.

The U.S. plans to ask U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis in Brooklyn, New York, to dismiss the case on the grounds that the state can’t prove injury and doesn’t have the right to sue federal agencies, according to a letter filed with the court yesterday.

EPA Proposes New Air Pollution Standards for Oil and Gas Drilling

The Environmental Protection Agency proposed new standards on air pollution from oil and gas drilling operations in response to a court order Thursday.

The new standards are aimed to help reduce harmful emissions that are detrimental to air quality and impact public health. In order to meet these standards, the EPA is emphasizing the incorporating of cost-effective technology in gas and oil drilling operations to reduce air emissions. The technology would help drilling operators to capture and sell natural gas, which would ultimately improve the efficiency of operations.

Chevron Nigeria’s Natural Gas-to-Liquids Plant to Start Producing in 2013

Nigeria, holder of Africa’s largest gas reserves of about 187 trillion cubic feet, burns off, or flares, most of the fuel it produces along with oil because it lacks the infrastructure to process it. At least $3 billion in revenue is lost annually due to flaring, according to the Petroleum Ministry. The country flared 15.2 billion cubic meters last year, according to the World Bank’s Global Gas Flaring Reduction Partnership.

Petrovietnam's new power plant to buy Indonesia, Australia coal

(Reuters) - Petrovietnam has awarded its subsidiary a contract to build a 1,200-megawatt coal-fired thermal power plant in southern Vietnam, which will use coal imported from Indonesia and Australia, a state-run newspaper said on Wednesday.

Iran names Qasemi as new Oil Minister

Iran's parliament voted on Wednesday to approve Rostam Qasemi, a Revolutionary Guards commander, to be Oil Minister, speaker Ali Larijani announced.

ANALYSIS-India, Iran buy time to find other oil partners

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India and Iran's mechanism to end a seven-month-old stalemate over oil payments could keep U.S. pressure at bay long enough for the two countries to work out a long-term separation that would change oil routes through Asia and the Middle East.

Refiners, which have been importing oil from Iran without paying since India's central bank scrapped a clearing mechanism in December 2010, have started to clear over $5 billion of debts for 400,000 barrels per day (bpd) through Turkey's Halkbank.

Sudan rubbishes South oil ‘agreement’

Sudanese officials have branded as “groundless” recent claims by counterparts in recently annexed South Sudan that the two have reached a new agreement on oil revenues.

Nexen still in talks with Yemen over oil licence

(Reuters) - Canadian oil company Nexen Inc is still in talks with the Yemeni government over the possible renewal of operating licences in the small oil producing country, a company spokesman said.

Egypt's Mubarak goes on trial in hospital bed

CAIRO (AP) — An ailing, 83-year-old Hosni Mubarak, lying ashen-faced on a hospital bed inside a metal defendants cage with his two sons standing protectively beside him in white prison uniforms, pleaded innocent to charges of corruption and complicity in the killing of protesters at the start of his historic trial on Wednesday.

The spectacle, aired live on state television, was a stunning moment for Egyptians, many of whom savored the humiliation of the man who ruled with unquestionable power for 29 years. After widespread skepticism that Egypt's military rulers would allow it, the scene went a long way to satisfy one of the key demands that has united protesters since Feb. 11, when Mubarak fell following an 18-day uprising.

Syrian Forces Shell Hama as UN Struggles for Agreement on Condemning Assad

Syria pressed on with attacks against protesters in restive cities including Hama as the United Nations Security Council struggles to agree on action to condemn Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s intensified crackdown.

After two days of discussions, disagreements linger within the 15-member body on how to react to the deadliest episodes in the uprising that started in mid-March. The Security Council will resume talks at 10 a.m. today in New York after a European- crafted draft resolution was sent back to capitals for feedback.

Oil firm says business as usual in Syria for now

LONDON: Escalating violence in Syria has targeted oil-related facilities, but for now foreign firms are doing business as usual in a nation whose economy is reliant on crude, said a director at British oil explorer Gulfsands Petroleum.

Kenya: Thieves Turn Off the Lights in Mombasa

The whole of Mombasa was in darkness on Tuesday following a power blackout that paralysed operations.

Many businesses and offices remained shut in the morning, while others turned to back-up generators to power their work.

Power supply in the central business district was restored around midday, but it was marked by fluctuations and intermittent disruptions.

The blackout occurred around 2am and was attributed to theft of a battery charger at Kipevu plant.

Tepco Reports Second Deadly Radiation Reading at Fukushima

Tokyo Electric Power Co. reported its second deadly radiation reading in as many days at its wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant north of Tokyo.

The utility known as Tepco said yesterday it detected 5 sieverts of radiation per hour in the No. 1 reactor building. On Aug. 1 in another area it recorded radiation of 10 sieverts per hour, enough to kill a person “within a few weeks” after a single exposure, according to the World Nuclear Association.

Jeff Rubin: Setsuden poised to replace nuclear power in Japan

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan was recently quoted as seeing the country as a nuclear-free nation. But unlike similar pronouncements from Germany, which pledges to be nuclear-free by 2022, Japan may become nuclear free literally within a year.

That would be quite a feat for a country that only five months ago relied on nuclear plants for about 30 per cent of its electrical power.

Tepco Disaster Sends Commercial Paper Sales to 18-Month High: Japan Credit

Short-term borrowing with commercial paper reached an 18-month high in Japan, after the country’s worst nuclear disaster in 25 years raised the cost of selling bonds for power producers.

Japan’s Parliament Passes Bill on Tepco Compensation for Disaster Victims

Japan’s parliament approved state support of Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s compensation for victims of the Fukushima nuclear disaster with a plan that asks shareholders to shoulder some of the burden.

Seeking Consensus in a Squabbling Nuclear Family

Months after the triple meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi, an agenda for American reactors is beginning to take shape.

Hinkley C – Somerset's nuclear money pit?

Uncosted, unapproved, and unwanted: why Britain's new nuclear plant may never get built.

Is Nuclear Power Destined for Oblivion?

The nuclear disaster in Japan is being viewed by governments around the world as a big red flag. China has already announced a freeze on new nuclear plant projects. This is a major development, because nuclear power is a major part of the country's energy policy. China's concern is apparently shared by Europe, which has called for stress testing of all nuclear plants in operation.

Man arrested for building nuclear reactor in his kitchen

Ängelholm, a small town along the coast of Sweden, isn't the first place you'd think to look in the search for a nuclear reactor. But that's just what police in the seaside city were tasked with hunting down when one of its citizens took it upon himself to construct his own radioactive power plant right in his own kitchen.

Oil’s Well that Doesn’t End Well

I believe we humans have reached the point where it is going to be very difficult to raise the amount of oil that we can produce on a daily basis. And much of the incremental production that we now bring on is at a much higher finding and development cost. We aren’t running out of oil, we just can’t find any additional super giant reservoirs that produce at prodigious rates at a low cost. What we now find is smaller and, often, under a few miles of water or in a remote location. As the old super giants produce less and less every year, we have more trouble making up for that lost production.

How Limited Oil Supply can lead to a Continuing Financial Crisis

While oil supply has been roughly level since 2005, neither increasing or decreasing, there is disagreement regarding what the future will hold. In this paper, we consider the scenario in which (1) world oil supply fails to increase, and (2) emerging economies continue to grow rapidly, creating a shortage of oil that acts as a bottleneck for economic growth for OECD countries. This would seem to be similar to the situation that occurred in the 2005-2009 period.

When oil and gas are depleted

In this year, 2011, we are enjoying a lifestyle beyond the most optimistic dreams of past generations. We are benefitting from the whirlwind of achievements in science and technology during the last hundred years. There has never been a century like the one just passed, and there will never be another like it. Lifestyles will be very different when oil and gas are depleted.

A roadmap for growing prosperity while saving the planet

The book is really the intersection of two lines of inquiry. The first is the state of the environment and our natural resources. We’re simultaneously facing climate change and peak oil, ocean overfishing and fresh water shortages. As someone who cares about the future, I wanted to understand those challenges for myself.

The second is about innovation and its relationship to resource use and prosperity. I come from a tech background, so I’m used to the incredible onward march of Moore’s Law. But I was surprised to discover that something like Moore’s Law operates in solar energy. In the last 30 years, the price of electricity solar photovoltaic cells has dropped by more than a factor of 10. This decade, it’ll drop below the price of electricity from coal fired plants – the current cheapest. In 20 years, if the trend continues, it’ll be half the price of electricity from coal fired plants.

BOOK REVIEW: 'Clean Energy Nation': The Facts on the End of Petro-Civilization As We Know It -- Along With Alternative Energy Solutions

McNerney, 60, a renewable energy engineer and one of the few members of either house of Congress with expertise in energy independence, and California-based journalist Cheek lay out the facts on peak oil -- and peak coal -- and make an impassioned argument for drastically reducing dependency on fossil fuels and developing sustainable, readily available energy sources—solar, wind, biofuel, geothermal, and hydrogen-based power. Despite rapid advances in recent years, including promotion of wind power by a politician considered by many to be unfriendly to anything that isn't "Texas Tea," we're still behind much of the world in making the inevitable transition from liquid or solid carbon-based fossil fuel to renewable sources, they write.

Now that I've got your attention about that Texas politician, the envelope please: It's none other than former President George W. Bush, who as governor of Texas ("The Power of Leadership," Pages 245-6) in 1996 told Pat Wood, then chairman of the state's Public Utility Commission: "Pat, we like wind." The authors write: "The astonished Wood responded with the question: 'We What?' Bush answered, 'You heard me. Go get smart on wind.'"

European wind power output tipped to treble by 2020: report

Energy producers expect European wind power generation to triple by 2020, with tens of thousands of new, ever-bigger wind turbines springing up, an industry body said Tuesday.

Food security threatened by phosphorus shortage

Could recovering phosphorus from water be more important than peak oil or global warming with massive implications for food and global security?

That's the message from Dr. James Barnard, winner of the Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize for 2011.

Prisons, Then Parks: A Therapeutic Journey

Tree-planting programs not only hire parolees, but give them a sense of kinship with nature that may help prevent recidivism.

The GOP's hidden debt-deal agenda: Gut the EPA

It was lost in the endless drama of the debt-ceiling negotiations, but last week, the Republicans in charge of the House of Representatives launched an unprecedented attack on the U.S.'s environmental protections. GOP Representatives added rider after rider to the 2012 spending bill for the Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department, tacking on amendments that would essentially prevent those agencies - charged with protecting America's air, water and wildlife - from doing their jobs.

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

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

EPA and Shell Oil Near Agreement on Arctic Drilling Permits

According to the Wall Street Journal, Royal Dutch Shell is close to receiving three critical air permits from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in order to go ahead with offshore oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean in an area just north of Alaska on the coast.

Hillary Clinton Heads to Greenland for Arctic Climate Change Summit

According to Reuters, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar are heading to Greenland today for an Arctic summit. Here the pair will meet with other leaders and discuss what the future holds for pristine and biologically-rich region as climate change continues to creep on.

Arctic scientist suspended after awarding research project to University of Alberta

The U.S. government suspended an Arctic biologist over how he awarded a polar bear research project to the University of Alberta and its management, not for his earlier scientific work detailing drowned polar bears, a watchdog group said Monday.

Insurance Industry Grapples With Impact Of Climate Change

As a surge in catastrophic weather events leads to billions of dollars in claims, climate change may pose the insurance industry’s biggest problem — and profit potential.

An unusual onslaught of floods in Mississippi, tornadoes in the Midwest, drought and wildfires in Texas and earthquakes abroad has wiped out hope of much profit for many insurance and reinsurance companies this year.

Meanwhile Xenophobia catches on..

Even as Greece founders under mountains of debt, illegal immigrants have been streaming into the country across the Turkish border — turning Greece into the migrant world's gateway to Europe. Last year, Greece accounted for 90 percent of the bloc's detected illegal border crossings, compared to 75 percent in 2009.


The xenophobic rage exploded in May, when youths rampaged through a heavily immigrant neighborhood in broad daylight, knifing and beating foreigners. The attacks left at least 25 people hospitalized with stab wounds or severe beatings. Athens has since suffered a spate of hate attacks by far-rightists.

Last November, the leader of a neo-Nazi group won a seat on Athens' city council, with an unprecedented 5.3 percent of the vote.

Although I was not alive in the 1930's, it looks almost like a repeat telecast of history. Sadly this will recur throughout all the bankrupt nations of the world.

Meanwhile Xenophobia catches on..

Well, those might be rather harsh words for what is a perfectly natural phenomenon. When any population grows so large that the resources found in their territory will no longer provide enough food for them to survive, they migrate to areas where the resources are still plentiful.

Quite natural.

And those who occupy that territory where the resources are still plentiful fight tooth and nail to keep the intruders out for fear that they will deplete their resources also.

Quite natural.

Why do people get so upset when they discover humans behaving just like all other territorial animals. It is just in our nature, an evolutionary adaptation, and it will not disappear.

Ron P.

Edit: One of the best books ever written on the subject: The Territorial Imperative: A Personal Inquiry into the Animal Origins of Property and Nations The original edition of this book was written in 1966 and I read it soon thereafter. Needless to say it made a lasting impression on me.

Agree completely. I would reword the second half

And those, who are the lowest class just scraping by, in territories where resources are still above need, fight tooth and nail to keep the intruders out for fear that they will be socially displaced downward or their territories resources will be depleted.

Hungry immigrants drive wage rates down. Immigrants compete for scarce jobs. Immigrants compete for cheap apartments driving rents up.

Do we believe in the sovereign nation state any more? Defined by a certain geographic border? US presidents longer do. I think good fences make good neighbors but the global bankers see it otherwise.

But of course. A perfectly natural view of one who occupies a territory that still has the resources to support its current population.

But if you were a member of a territory where everyone was starving, and your children were begging for food, you would have a completely different view.

Perfectly natural.

Ron P.

Of course some people who are starving will fight for food. But judging by the videos from Africa many will just suffer and fade away (starve to death). Maybe more exactly women and children will suffer (starve to death) and males will fight (die fighting or live by killing off the weaker/less well armed competition). The article on illegal immigration did not say are they mostly adult males?

Calling this "perfectly natural" is correct in the sense that it is how the human-animal behaves, but lets not excuse the behavior. Humans are a moral animal with the power to reason. We are not predetermined to head towards a repeat of the 1930s.

OK, one more time: A human may or may not be "a moral animal with the power to reason." Collectively, as history and Tainter show it just doesn't work that way.

"We are not predetermined to head towards a repeat of the 1930s. All evidence to the contrary. We, humans, have a fairly complete record of repeating our mistakes. Making excuses and placing blame seems to have no effect on our collective behavior, limiting their relevance.

Why Ghung, are you trying to say that human nature has not changed during the last 80 years. ;-)

Ron P.

What has changed is our societal and cultural expectations, our level of overshoot in virtually every category, and our ability to deal with economic downturns. The trap we've set for ourselves is quite complete, more so than at any other point in history.

natequist is correct on one point: We won't see a repeat of the 1930s. That was just a dress rehearsal...

It seems to me that in extremis humans will do what humans have always done: fight for what they need, and want. Immigrants are pouring into Turkey and Greece and also into southern Europe from north Africa. Some of these immigrants are political escapees but many more are simply seeking a better life and jumping on the 'carts' heading west. We Europeans are trying to filter them, persuading some to return and in some cases granting them settlement rights. It is a repeat of the fourth and fifth centuries I'm afraid, and it will not end well. Our political establishment is predicated on a belief in growing economic systems supporting welfare benefits by which doles are apportioned to the needy - and these are, as I stated, meant to be supported by an ever growing economy. We are also finding it ever less possible to support a viable military. Why I wonder? Important note: our economies have to all intents and purposes stopped growing; we are debasing our currencies and our politicos are fighting amongst themselves. If you want to know the outcome read Gibbon: The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

We are also finding it ever less possible to support a viable military.

Out of this recent debt crisis, there is another round of cuts to occur later via a sub-committee in which major cuts to defense are suppose to take place. I find it fascinating that when our politicians are on their high horse to enforce rule over other countries, no amount of expenditure is too much, but once the purse strings are pulled tighter justifications will be found to explain our departure.

As we wind down this road of slow collapse, the shuttles have been scuttled and now defense will shrink along with entitlements. Hmm, there's a sign post at the side of the road that reads, 'Warning - Loss of Complexity'. The only question is how much will we lose?

Money is spent on the designs and humans doing the work. They could lower the wages and benefits of the sector like they are doing in other sectors and still get back innovative defense products I imagine. it is not all about ore, oil, and electricity or well most countries would already have a F-35 before the US.

I think the problem is when benefits and salaries are on the table some people are protected from cuts and others get to shoulder them first.

Everyone needs to kick in when austerity is the plan. ;-)

"supported by an ever growing economy"

I think this is the crux, here.

Recall that America absorbed wave after wave of immigrants--not without tensions and bigotry, but by and large, we avoided mass clubbing of new immigrants in the street. And these have continued up to quite recent times--as I mentioned before, our comparatively small metropolitan area has absorbed tens of thousands of East Africans in the last decade or so, and large numbers of Southeast Asians in the decades before that. It is an ongoing struggle to coax, educate and cajole people into seeing that these are now Americans, however strange to us their looks and customs may seem--most of us spring from ancestors who seemed just as odd and foreign when they stepped off the boat to many of those who were already here.

But the tensions will become greater as fewer people have jobs.

Resentments may be 'natural' (whatever that means in this context), but they are something we have long prided ourselves on being able to overcome as nation.

I'm not sure this site wants to become known as a community that condones the violent acts of racist thugs. Just sayin'.

Racism and anti-immigration are two different things. When the nation had plenty of resources and few people, immigration made a lot of sense. Now that resources are waning, environmental concerns are growing, and there are too many people, immigration does not.

I look at value of life, in part, as a supply and demand issue. When natural hazards threatened life and there were few people, life was precious, and progeny were necessarily numerous and prized. Today, people live a long time, mostly, and natural hazards are few. Even man-made hazards don't cull the herd like disease and calamities used to. Therefore, life is much less valuable, and killing somebody for their shoes or aborting a child seems to be routine. Suicides are high too.

I would like to live on a planet where most people still valued their life and those of others. I'm not sure this one is going to continue to be one.

That's because at that time both migrants who want to get away from those people and those people who wanted to get away from migrants could 'go west'.
Not any more.

This is an interesting thought. I think if you take a Lamarckian stance, you would notice that many Americans are quite plump, fat and obese, especially the younger set who are supposed to be most physically fit. Plump individuals are less capable of beating on others. So human nature's urge to eat lots and lots and lots of empty calories appears perhaps to prevent one from being physically fit enough to club down another person with a unique skin color. I wonder which of the so-called 7 deadly sins (our human nature's tendencies) dominates.

Now before you laugh at me for saying something Lamarckian, remember for some types of evolution he was quite correct. The Darwinians ;-) overstated their positions.

I see immigration to America in a Lamarckian perspective. Many jobs in the fields picking fruit or doing masonry in construction. You know -- the GRUNT work -- is dominated by hispanics-- many illegals. Now with 10% unemployment or more you need to ask why didnt the American legals take those jobs. They are likely either not physically fit or they feel it is beneath them. So they have evolved in a Lamarckian sense the inability to function in society doing these types of jobs. Hence, the more physically fit, less obese immigrant takes the jobs and moves into the space.

I think if you take a Lamarckian stance, you would notice that many Americans are quite plump, fat and obese,...

Oct, I think you are using the wrong term here. Lamarckianesm is basically the inheritance of learned behavior, or rather the belief that learned behavior can be passed on to one's offspring.. What you are describing seems to have nothing to do with inheritance.

However the ability to store fat, and consequently become obese if you eat enough, is purely a Darwinian adaptation. People who could store fat on their body in times of plenty had a much better chance of surviving lean times than those who could not. Lean times in our hunter gatherer days was seasonal. So people who could get fat in the spring and summer had a much better chance of surviving the winter.

But I like your theory. It sounds very reasonable. It just has nothing to do with Lamarckianesm. Well I liked it except for this part:

Now before you laugh at me for saying something Lamarckian, remember for some types of evolution he was quite correct. The Darwinians ;-) overstated their positions.

No, Lamarck was simply 100 percent wrong. Learned behavior cannot be inherited. Your DNA never changes during your lifetime. And if you can come up with an instance where the Darwinians overstated their position I would dearly love to hear it.

Ron P.

I vaguely remember a paper that extreme stress would shorten the telomere and increase cancer rates.

Some DNA impact.



And Vitamin D & telomore length:


There is one school of thought that our reduced ability to synthesize Vitamin D from sunlight as we age* is one of Mother Nature's ways of getting rid of us after (most of us) have reproduced.

*We lose more than half of our ability to synthesize Vitamin D over the age of 40.

Another interesting type of inheritance is mitochondrial DNA. The machinery to reproduce this DNA is prone to introduce errors due to the mutagenic reactive oxygen species that are produced as the cell uses O2 to make energy from sugars. So basically it is a clock that accumulates mutations in these powerhouses in the cell. Thus as you age you lose energy as your mitochondria accumulate mutations.

This is thought to underlie some aspects of aging as well, acting as a natural clock in the cell.

>>..."due to the mutagenic reactive oxygen species that are produced as the cell uses O2 to make energy..."<<

Bacterial replicases (the mitochondrion is a degenerate endosymbiotic purple bacterium) inherently possess poorer replicative fidelity than do eukaryotic replicases. This alone is sufficient to explain the accelerated mutation rate of mitochondrial over nuclear DNA. I don't think that it has much to do with oxidative products of aerobic metabolism concentrated within the mitochondrial matrix.

Remember that energy can neither be created or destroyed.

ROX (reactive oxygen) is not O2. It is peroxide. Superoxide. They damage DNA and proteins. Polymerase then will make errors. Not my research but well studied.

As mutations occur in the proteins that make energy then more superoxides are made and the problem grows exponentially.

When you turnover lots of O2 a tiny fraction goes to superoxide and peroxide. Imagine these errors increase that percentage. So you get a built in clock.

But the mutation rate of mitochondrial DNA is no higher than that of free-living purple bacteria, both of which rates are much greater than that of eukaryotic nuclear DNA. It's the conformation of prokaryotic replicases that explains this higher mutation rate. No appeal to the oxidative environment of the mitochondrial matrix is required. In fact, vitamin E & other antioxidants that are prevalent in the mitochondrion, where they serve to protect electron transport proteins from oxidation, might lead us to expect a lower mutation rate for mitochondrial DNA than in their free-living homologs. Yet these rates are quite similar.

Welcome back

Missed your commentary


Hot dog. Up until now I have not been excited about vitamin D but if it slows telomere shortening I am on board!

Well, I did not mean to imply that it would be impossible to get radiated, or whatever, and damage the ability to reproduce DNA and cause cancer. But cancer is a localized event. Though it does usually spread and cause death. But the rest of the 50,000,000,000,000 copies of your (un-cancerous) DNA, one copy in every cell of your body, is unaffected.

And if the germ cell is damaged, the one germ cell, sperm or egg, that combines to form the zygote, it can affect the offspring... of course. But that is a totally different than "learned behavior". It has nothing to do with behavior or any other adaptation.

Ron P.


Nuclear DNA damage in the germ line of the father may be associated with pathology in the offspring, including childhood cancer and infertility.

So extreme environmental stress on the father MAY result in children that are unlikely to reproduce. Not "learned" behavior but a "terminator" gene type effect.

Best Hopes for Good Science,


Not so fast, Ron.


Haven't read the original research, but it's in nature neuroscience, which I believe is considered a peer-reviewed journal. (They do allow transfer of reviews.)

Note that while the DNA itself may not change, the expression of the gene may be mediated by environment:


And epigenetic changes can be inherited, at least in some species-- very likely in mammals, though it's very hard to prove:


We could argue about whether or not these epigentic changes constitute learned behavior, but that's not the point. Gene expression can be changed by environmental conditions, and those changes can be passed on to the next generation.

We need some fast changes in human behavior that will endure for multiple generations to get through the bottleneck. I think this is worth a closer look.

Note that while the DNA itself may not change, the expression of the gene may be mediated by environment:

Of course gene expression is mediated by the environment. That's what genes do, they respond to environmental cues. Geese fly south in the fall, not in the spring. So what's your point?

The average adult has 50 trillion cells, 50 trillion copies of their DNA, one in each cell. The point is that a genetic change would require all 50 trillion copies to change. Unless, of course, we are talking about damage to the germ cell which we have already discussed and has nothing to do with acquired characteristics.

Gene expression can be changed by environmental conditions, and those changes can be passed on to the next generation.

Now just a cotton picking minute here. You really need to explain how that would work.

Gene expression is not a genetic change. Gene expression is something that happens all the time by different genes, hundreds, thousands of times every day. Chill bumps are caused by gene expression responding to the cold, causing the hair to stand up creating an insulating barrier. (From the days when we had fur.) Fear or panic causes adrenaline release. That is gene expression triggered by an environmental event. And I could give you a thousand other examples of gene expression. That has nothing to do with the inheritance of acquired characteristics.

Gene expression, triggered by environmental cues, is as normal as breathing in and out. The idea that it has something to do with acquired characteristics being passed on to one's offspring is more than a little strange. Just how on earth do you make that connection?

DNA is the recipe, not just for the phenotype but for behavior also. (Or the extended phenotype as Dawkins called it.) DNA is the carrier of all that is inherited. The term "it's in your genes" means it is in your DNA. If it is not there then you did not get it from your ancestors. If a person has behavior that is not in their genes, they may have learned it but they did not inherit it.

Ron P.

Ron, without soft adaptation no species could survive. There are many examples of it. The genome is designed to run different programs and these programs can be triggered by environmental stimuli and these programs can be etched into the germ line and transmitted to offspring via methylation for example.

Call that what you want. But you get to a chicken or the egg situation. Environment can influence how the DNA is programmed in offspring. Is it forever? No. Should it be there? Well probably or it wouldnt be there.

It is a plasticity in the whole evolution scheme to allow for rapid adaptation since natural selection in the traditional sense would take too long and the species would be too overly specialized to cope with environmental changes that are rapid.

How is that a problem?

Oct, exactly what is "soft adaptation"? I am not a biologist but I have read perhaps 50 books on the subject. And I have never heard of soft adaptation. I googled it and came up empty. Oh I got several hits but none of them had anything to do with evolution.

The genome is designed to run different programs and these programs can be triggered by environmental stimuli and these programs can be etched into the germ line and transmitted to offspring via methylation for example.

Of course the genome is designed to run different programs. And of course gene expression is triggered by environmental cues. That is just what genes do. You seem to be saying that this is something that most evolutionists are not aware of. But you are saying that acquired characteristics can be transmitted to the germ cell and then passed on to the offspring. Well I will need some reference explaining that because I just flat don't believe it.

I have no doubt that childhood trauma can alter gene expression but I just don't believe it alters your DNA makeup. Does it alter all 50 trillion copies of your DNA or just the 5 trillion copies or so copies the brain? Then if at an autopsy they took DNA samples from the brain of a person who was traumatized as a child, would their brain DNA be different from the DNA in their muscles?

Don't you see the problem here? How can anything alter ALL your DNA, or even the 5 trillion or copies in your brain? I just flat don't believe it can happen.

No, this whole story just doesn't make any sense. I am going to bed now, I may reply tomorrow then I may not.

Ron P.


Epigenetic inheritance

Forms of 'soft' or epigenetic inheritance within organisms have been suggested as neo-Lamarckian in nature by such scientists as Eva Jablonka and Marion J. Lamb. In addition to 'hard' or genetic inheritance, involving the duplication of genetic material and its segregation during meiosis, there are other hereditary elements that pass into the germ cells also. These include things like methylation patterns in DNA and chromatin marks, both of which regulate the activity of genes. These are considered "Lamarckian" in the sense that they are responsive to environmental stimuli and can differentially affect gene expression adaptively, with phenotypic results that can persist for many generations in certain organisms. Although the reality of epigenetic inheritance is not doubted (as many experiments have validated it), its significance to the evolutionary process is uncertain. Most neo-Darwinians consider[citation needed] epigenetic inheritance mechanisms to be little more than a specialized form of phenotypic plasticity, with no potential to introduce evolutionary novelty into a species lineage.[25]

Humans and chimps are 98% similar in our DNA, but the way the program is played out makes chimps chimps and humans humans.

So DNA expression is the key and it is manipulated by things like DNA methylation etc to silence genes and so forth -- thus the organism develops according to this complex feedback mechanism. Development and the idea of adaptation to environment through epigenetics are perhaps similar.

The epigenetic work has shown however that some types of methylation occurs on the germ-line DNA in response to a change in diet or whatever early in life. These germ line changes in methylation are heritable, but over time these methylations can revert back. The methylations alter the gene expression pattern and give the organism a quick way to adapt immediately in the next generation.

Thus you would not need millions of mutations to find ones that survive the change in environment in the stricter sense of typical natural selection.

Genes undergo cycles of methylation and demethylation as they go from fused egg to primorial germ cell to gamete to ...

Apparently, during periods such as sperm production or during the formation of the gonads in the embryo, the biochemical status of the parent can result in changes to the methylation state of the germline DNA which survive the normal reprogramming, including becoming permanent through causing mutations in the DNA sequence itself.

If you do a thought experiment: Compare two species, identical is all aspects except species A can pass epigenetic adaptation for a few generations, while B cannot. Now place them in an environment, which changes on the time scale of a few generations, but overall these shortterm environmental changes don't accumulate (say the climate fluctuates every few generations or whatever). Now the young of A will have an advantage over B. Neither species has time for significant Darwinian adaptation, but species A has a bit more adaptive plasticity. So if a mechanism for neo-Lamarkian inheritance (even though it may be transitory) exists, it will be selected for.

My last post on the subject: Neo-Lamarckism?

First, epigenetically inherited changes in DNA and protein, like methylated bits of DNA, ultimately rest on “normal” mutations in DNA that affect those changes...

Second, as I just noted, in nearly all cases the epigenetic modifications are not inherited past one or two generations, so they can’t serve as lasting templates for evolutionary change.

Finally, those who tout the importance of epigenetics in evolution, most notably Eva Jablonka and Marion Lamb, keep trotting out the same handful of tired examples, like changes in toadflax and mouse coat color, that are inherited only temporarily and have nothing to do with evolution.

An expanded version of this article can be found here: Why Evolution is True

Nuff said. Neo-Lamarckism is, as they say in Texas, all hat and no cattle. Thank you for your kind attention. Bye now.

Ron P.

You underestimate the need for plasticity. There is hardwired DNA, softwired DNA (methylation), there is behavior/neurobiology and its sophistication. All these allow for adaptation. Right?

Admit that there is a soft sort of inheritance.

But this is now chicken and the egg as I expected the argument to go.

You are going to say that the genes that encode the machinery to do methylation is the trait then.

That is fine, however, the underlying mechanism is a change in the DNA program that lasts several generations and that is not traditional genetics. That is why they call it EPIgenetics.

Of course, you lost my original argument cause you are stuck on the semantics of the name of the process.

Fact is, there are mechanisms to train a species and quickly pass that info to their young. You do not need millions of progeny to randomly sort through variants/mutants to adapt or change. That is the point. Deny it all you like; call it "Darwinian" or whatever. It is a nuanced manner of viewing adaptation and it appears critical to diet and neurobiology.

Saying things like "all hat and no cattle" sounds awful dismissive to me.

How can anything alter ALL your DNA, or even the 5 trillion or copies in your brain? I just flat don't believe it can happen.

Go to Fukishima. I'm betting there's a radioactive source or 3 that'll do a fine job of altering ALL of your DNA.

You won't survive the sledgehammer, but your request of EVERY cell being altered can happen. (Every DNA strand can be altered in a crematorium fire as an example - by not existing - in case some can't figure out how to alter ALL DNA in a human body.)

Change your behavior pattern and check out what happens to your brain. Throw a load of hormones on the brain and see what happens to the methylation pattern.

Of course without data none of these arguments mean squat.

After all, the caterpiller and the butterfly are genetically identical.

[[Now just a cotton picking minute here. You really need to explain how that would work.]]

Ron, I believe I did that (as did others downthread). Please hit the last link referenced above and scroll down.

"Implications for Evolution

Epigenetic inheritance adds another dimension to the modern picture of evolution. The genome changes slowly, through the processes of random mutation and natural selection. It takes many generations for a genetic trait to become common in a population. The epigenome, on the other hand, can change rapidly in response to signals from the environment. And epigenetic changes can happen in many individuals at once. Through epigenetic inheritance, some of the experiences of the parents may pass to future generations. At the same time, the epigenome remains flexible as environmental conditions continue to change. Epigenetic inheritance may allow an organism to continually adjust its gene expression to fit its environment - without changing its DNA code.

Fish, E.W., Shahrokh, D., Bagot, R., Caldji, C., Bredy, T., Szyf, M., and Meaney, M.J. (2004). Epigenetic programming of stress responses through variations in maternal care. Annals of the New York Academy of Science 1036: 167-180 (subscription required).

Youngson, N.A. and Whitelaw, E. (2008). Transgenerational epigenetic effects. Annual Reviews in Genomics and Human Genetics 9: 233-57 (subscription required).

Kaati, G., Bygren, L.O., Pembrey, M., and Sjostrom, J. (2007). Transgenerational response to nutrition, early life circumstances and longevity. European Journal of Human Genetics 15: 784-790.

Chong, S., and Whitelaw, E. (2004). Epigenetic germline inheritance. Current Opinion in Genetics & Development. 14: 692-696 (subscription required).

Now just a cotton picking minute here.
You really need to explain how that would work.


With all due respect to your moniker, it appears that you confuse the cook book for the actual cooking of the meal.

Just because you have a gene sequence that codes for the production of a particular protein (through mRNA transcription, etc.) that does not mean that the protein will be produced or produced in sufficient or appropriately limited quantities for producing a corresponding phenogenic effect.

In other words, there is much more to biology than merely knowing how to spell the 3-letter acronym, DNA.

Now don't you think that fat kids are learning how to get fat from their parents or the super markets choices on the shelves. LOL. They are learning this trait. The idea of over-eating is becoming a social norm.

In the past, eating and exercising were more balanced. That was learned as well or socially what occurred when you had to mow your lawn by pushing a mower by hand or walking to the grocery like my grandmother did. Society allows people to get fat. It is not pure evolution that does that at all.

There is data that affirms the idea that the father and mothers eating habits influence the ability of their offspring to take in calories. Meaning that consumption and acquisition of fat can be influenced by the fathers and mother's diet.

Basically, the genome can be modified under conditions of dietary stress via DNA methylation.

When a mother breast feeds her offspring she passes her experiences with disease to her baby. That is Lamarckian in essence albeit not a genetic mechanism.

In any case, Lamarck was correct concerning certain types of intense change: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lamarckism#Current_views

The current research in this area is quite credible: it is called epigenetics.

I know personally of Heat Shock Protein adaptations that can mask hundreds of traits. When the environment changes suddenly all these mutations can emerge at once. Hence the interplay of environment and genetic drift is not so simple as Darwin originally stated. There are means to influence the genome that are far beyond the simple theory from a guy who did not even know the molecular structure of genes, how the cell is organized, and so forth.

As reported in MIT's Technology Review in February 2009, "The effects of an animal's environment during adolescence can be passed down to future offspring ... The findings provide support for a 200-year-old theory of evolution that has been largely dismissed: Lamarckian evolution, which states that acquired characteristics can be passed on to offspring."

His theory is partly correct and Lamarck is partly correct. Isnt that how things always end up?

I would like to read this study in context. For one thing, in order to pass on any trait to one's offspring that trait has to be encoded in one of one’s germ cells. No amount of learning will reach into one’s sex organs and tweak genes. And even if they could, hypothetically, what mechanism will program those genes? In other words, if I start eating pine needles because all other plant matter disappeared in a fireball of global warming, how will the 'eat pine needles' instruction get encoded into the 'what do I eat?' gene? Evolution produces the instruction first (through chance, aka random mutation) and selection determines whether it is a good trait or not. All of the randomly produced, unproductive traits are 'edited out' (a great euphemism for 'die' if I ever heard one.)

Please read this for thoughts about behavioral evolution.

Thanks, Jon.

Please do read their work. It is not simple stuff and 100% of inheritance is not traditional in the sense you think. Aside from the more recent work on diet and inheritance, some immune genes have traveled from the soma to the germ lines and that was know since the 1970s. Since the immune cells developed their traits in response to diseases experienced in the environment then this is Lamarckian in essence. No one in fact denies that.

You can refute well-respected scientists at MIT and Tufts in the recent literature but why should I discard their work at this point.

Unproductive traits are not 100% edited out either. The recent literature also at MIT supports the idea that Heat Shock Proteins can mask mutations and prevent natural selection from acting on all these mutants. Thus a large base of variability can be contained in a population, and this variability is only revealed once a strong environmental stress is introduced. This allows for sudden changes in morphology. Not Lamarckian of course but the idea of careful selection is not so simple.

Another factor that is not inherited in the traditional sense is a prion protein. While some types of disease are harmful with respect to prion proteins, there are prions in yeast that confer a protective effect. The prion occurs in response to the environment and then is transferred to offspring. Very heretical and Lamarckian and also supported by good science at MIT.

I have resigned myself to the idea that their are all kinds of mechanisms involved and the simplest traditional view is not always 100% of the underlying mechanism.

For one thing, in order to pass on any trait to one's offspring that trait has to be encoded in one of one’s germ cells. No amount of learning will reach into one’s sex organs and tweak genes.

In the earliest stages of embryonic development when the embryo consists of one cell (I forget the terminology) the 'germ' cell is susceptible to epigenetic changes. This is what brings about normal cell differentiation. It may be that normal cell differentiation includes epigenetic changes such as those being referred to here, i.e. inheritance of color of the mouse's coat or inheritance of tendency toward obesity. (If the classic case of the inheritability of a moth's coloration is important, why not the inheritability of the mouse's coloration?)

This seems to be a very active field of research these days and it isn't a surprise at all that there is a lot of resistance to some of these ideas in the mainstream of evolutionary biology.

Epigenetic effects are not support of Lamarckian concepts. Darwin's big idea was natural selection as the driving force of evolution, and of course it has been developed ever since then, and as I wrote in another reply here, molecular genetics, epigenetics, etc., etc. has been integrated into the Modern Evolutionary Synthesis.

Malnourished parents will have disadvantaged offspring. This is not support of Lamarck, and to come up with some "fair and balanced" comment like 'His theory is partly correct and Lamarck is partly correct. Isnt that how things always end up?" is not valid. A) Lamarck was not partly correct. B) that's not how things always end up.

sgage it is not so simple and diet and inheritance are not apparently (according to experts) so simple.

I am not some big Lamarckian proponent either. I was making a minor point that not 100% of evolution is pure genetic inheritance selecting spontaneous mutations that appear in the germ line.

The Immune system and diet are too undeniable examples that have challenged the 100% pure traditional view.

There is a lot more to evolution and evolutionary theory than single-gene mutations, and pointing that out does not constitute a valid challenge to the modern synthesis. Pick up any text on speciation and phylogeny. There are an incredible number of mechanisms going on at many levels of organization - single gene, gene complexes, chromosomal, etc. And natural selection works on them all.

There are things that look a bit like Lamarckian mechanisms, but if you look into it just a little you'll see that it is not the case.

The issues you cite are not challenges, they are nuances, and they are predicted and accounted for. You can do the statistics - it's really quite interesting and sometimes counterintuitive.

I have been studying evolutionary biology for nearly 40 years. I know it's not simple. It's the least simple thing I know about :-) Well, then there's trying to understand what's going on in an ecosystem of any richness...

This Nature article is very interesting. http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v467/n7318/full/nature09491.html

"Chronic high-fat diet in fathers programs β-cell dysfunction in female rat offspring"

It is the basis of my neo-Lamarckian thoughts about Americans being complacent and a little fatter than their immigrant brethren. It is all just me being fanciful.

I am not going to say that I am an expert on any of this. I just read it and see lectures on it on occasion.

It is very strange that diet influences offspring in the traditional sense, but it happens.

The other crazy result is that sperm production is altered by the High Fat Diet. Why would access to tons of calories in fact impair sperm production in the neo-Lamarkian manner?

I wonder if evolution is actually trying to create competition by preventing those with access to lots of resources from over producing offspring. Fitness is not so easily linked to access to high fat diet. In fact, high fat diet access is a detriment to this rat model and the inheritance mechanism is not strictly based on natural selection in the traditional sense.

Interesting thread even if a bit off-topic. My readings in epigenetics seem to indicate that quite a lot of feedback from the [epigenetic] environment can affect the newly developed embryo by affecting its genome (contrary to the so-called 'Central Dogma'). Genes can be switched on and off by the methylation process. Normally, of course, this process is what causes the cells to differentiate as the embryo develops, but 'abnormally' genes can be switched off or on bringing about, for example, the well known fact that obese people are likely to have obese infants who have a much higher rate of diabetes and other obesity co-morbidities.

I tend to think the direction of research is leading to a view of a more flexible genome than strict Neo-Darwinism allows for, even if not Lamarckian (some researchers such as Lamb and Yablonsky, authors of Evolution in Four Dimensions, have adopted the name 'Neo-Lamarckianism')

here is an interesting study

This is the section in wikipedia on Evolution and Epigenetics.


The idea that multiple phenotypes are possible and can be triggered by environmental changes is not what one thinks of traditionally. These phenotypes that are triggered can be observed in future generations is quite strange. Consider that the random mutational process in many millions of progeny that are selected for their fitness in the traditional Darwinian sense cannot reasonably take place in any of these experiments.

People can call this type of trait transmission whatever they'd like but it is apparently pertinent to mammalian diet, neurobiology, immunology, etc. This type of trait transmission is more or less like that presented by Lamarck although it is not permanent albeit it can last for generations.

I was just saying that your average American's high fat/cal diet may make them less competitive for jobs from less well fed immigrants in this weird "Lamarckian" sense.

I apologize for causing the thread to diverge. Although I do believe diet is a problem in America, and access to lots of calories is likely detrimental to "fitness" in a weird programmed way.

Has anyone here read Oct's references?

sgage, Over-nourished are at the disadvantage. See the downthread Nature letter.

Now don't you think that fat kids are learning how to get fat from their parents or the super markets choices on the shelves. LOL. They are learning this trait. The idea of over-eating is becoming a social norm.

Tim Minchin - Fat Children
Warning: Lyrics may be offensive some...

And, Lamarck was and still is 100% wrong

Meany Lamarck was only 99.9% wrong ;-)

No, Lamarck was simply 100 percent wrong.

Some recent research has shown that epigenetics (how strongly various gemes are expressed) is affected by the experiences of you parents, and even of your grandparents generations. So in some small way we have some sort of neo-Lamarkian evolution going on. I hesitate to use the word evolution here though, I suspect these epigenetic influences are damped out over the generations, and hence aren't really part of the large scale evolutionary changes that originate species.

Lamarck was not completely wrong-HE HAS BEEN COMPLETELY WRONGED by history-he did a lot of creditable work, and his theory of evolution was a work in progress-he basically agreed on the facts with the folks who eventually became the Darwinist school-he was searching for the means by which traits could be inherited but failed to succeed.

He did not ever claim that you could for instance cut of rat's tails and after a generation, or many generations, get a race of tailless rats, or that an animal could inherit any behavior because that animals parents learned that behavior.

In a little while I will remember the name of the very famous and very well respected Harvard professor who "wrote the book" on punctuated evolution, and the title of his "monstergraph" on the history of evolution.

He lays out the history of Lamarck and his enemies in some considerable detail.

Just about everything just about everybody has heard about Lamarck is a gross distortion and exaggeration.I myself had no idea of the truth of this matter until I read the above mentioned book-which incidentally is one hxxl of a thick book.I gaurantee that anybody who finishes it will know more about the history of the various theories of evolution than 99 percent of biology grads and 90 percent of biology professors..

This is not the place to get into evolutionary theory in depth, but it is an accepted fact in the field, a truism actually, that variable behavior does lead to physical change over long periods of time;indirectly, thru natural selection-for instance the bear like animals that evolved into whales would never have evolved into fish like creatures had they not taken up living in the water-if they had stayed on the land they would never have lost thier now vestigial limbs.They would have evolved in ways favorable to survival on the land-quite possibly the limbs might have evolved to be longer and stronger due to the advantages associated with being able to run swiftly to catch prey or escape predators.

Giraffes don't just get long necks -because they forage in the limbs of trees- in a generation, or because an ancestor foraged in trees-but they do get them because so long as they continue this behavior successfully, every once in a while they benefit from a genetic stroke of luck, a favorable mutation, that helps thier necks get an infintestimal fraction longer-over the evolutionary history of the giraffe, these cumulative changes accumulated thru natural selection have created the long neck.

If giraffes could no longer forage in trees due to an ecological change of thier environment, and a few of them learned to graze exclusively at ground level,and they survived, and thier off spring learned this behavior- after many many many generations it might possibly become hard wired-but in the meantime, giraffes would get shorter only by exceedingly small and incremental stages as mutations and genetic reshuffling create-or recreate- the blueprint for short giraffes-thus behavior influences evolution just as the bed of a river shapes the river and the river shapes its bed.

These two aspects -behavior and natural selection- of evolution coexist.

Lamarck recognized that evolution is a generally very slow process, usually only noticeable over very long periods of time, time measured on a geological scale in many or most cases.

He basically got everything right except the mechanism of natural selection-he might have gotten that too eventually had things worked out differently.

Ah yes-Stephen J Gould, and The Structure of Evolutionary Theory!

OFM, you are right about Lamarck and History's treatment of the man. He basically said their was an adaptive force, which was a very interesting idea. He did not understand how that foce worked. Gould is the name I imagine you are forgetting. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Jay_Gould

Here is a Wiki link on Gould's take on Lamarck: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lamarck#Legacy

I think people still like to attack Lamarck but in fact we do not yet understand biology well enough to say that there are some interesting feedbacks in the system -- particularly interesting are the ones surrounding food, diet.

Actually, giraffes forage in the trees because they have long necks, not the other way around. The first rule of evolution is that everything exists due to chance (random mutation.) The existence of animals with slightly longer necks happened accidentally, one of the results of which was that those animals just happened to have access to more food than their short necked cousins. Every once in a while, due to periodic droughts, they had access to food 12 months out of the year while their runtier kin could only eat for 11.

While that was going on, other animals were mutating to have ugly, fatty lumps on their backs, which just happened to make them able to store water during those same droughts, which made them able to travel longer and survive dryer environments while their sleeker, prettier fellow animals died out. That’s why camels are not giraffes. Other animals were having other mutations happen, which may or may not have been useful. The really useful ones stuck around and, from our perspective, appear to be there by design or by pressure from the environment or even by their progenitors’ experiences.

Nothing could be further from the truth. What we don’t see are the billions of mutations that didn’t do anything useful. If we could see how many duds occurred for each really clever adaptation, I’m sure evolution would appear to be the brainless crap shoot that it is.


Actually Jon, both you and Mac have it slightly wrong. Giraffes traditionally forged in trees. But early giraffes had much shorter necks. Some giraffe offspring had slightly shorter necks than their parents and some had slightly longer necks. There is always variation, natural variation, chance had nothing to do with it, there is always variation. Though some prefer the term "mutation".

Those giraffes that had longer necks than their siblings or relatives, had a slightly higher survival rate than those with shorter necks. They had higher survival rates because they could reach foliage that their siblings and cousins, with shorter necks, could not reach. The genes of those longer necked giraffes got passed on at a much higher rate than their shorter necked cousins. Therefore, over many generations, giraffe necks got really long. It finally reached a point of diminishing returns where longer necks had as many disadvantages as advantages. When longer necked giraffes no longer had an advantage, the long neck progression stopped.

It is that simple, it is so beautifully simple. Nothing mysterious or chancy about it. There is always variation and natural variation is the driving force of evolution.

Ron P.

My understanding is that the giraffe's long neck has little to do trophic adaptation but is a sexually selected trait related to male's fighting over mates.

BTW, what strikes me about the giraffe's neck isn't that it's so long, but that it isn't long enough to allow the giraffe to drink without splaying its front legs awkwardly.

My understanding is that the giraffe's long neck has little to do trophic adaptation but is a sexually selected trait related to male's fighting over mates.

Wow! I don't know where you heard that one. But it is simply not correct. Giraffes browse on trees, primarily the Acacia tree. The giraffe's very long neck, very long front legs and very long tongue all combine to enable it to reach the very high branches and eat the leaves and beans on the Acacia tree.

BTW, what strikes me about the giraffe's neck isn't that it's so long, but that it isn't long enough to allow the giraffe to drink without splaying its front legs awkwardly.

No, the front legs of the giraffe are very long for the exact same reason that its neck is long, they enable the giraffe to reach the higher leaves and beans of the Acacia tree as well as all other trees the giraffe browses on.

Ron P.

Have you ever watched male giraffes fight? The head is used as a bludgeon and the neck gives tremendous leverage for head clubbing. Male giraffes that win aggressive encounters sire more offspring. A classic case of a sexually selected trait.

In fact, giraffes spend the most amount of time browsing at shoulder height. The slightly increased amount of forage a longer neck might provide is insufficient to explain the selective advantage of longer necks. The sexual selection hypothesis is much more plausible. Likewise, increased leg length results in a longer stride, enabling greater speed for escaping predators. Your insistence on a trophic explanation for giraffe morphology strikes me as being quite narrow minded.

Of course I have watched giraffes fight, well on TV anyway. Giraffes fight with the weapons they have, their long necks did not evolve to fight other giraffes. That is preposterous. And the sexual selection hypothesis is almost as preposterous. I know, the peacocks tail is an example of sexual selection gone to extremes, and so is the tail of the bird of paradise. But the giraffes neck is not a thing of beauty to attract female giraffes. How can we know this? Because the female giraffes' neck is long also. Females need to browse from the high trees just as the males do. The female peacock and the female bird of paradise do not have the tail plumage that the male does.

Of course in times of plenty giraffes have plenty to browse on from lower foliage. But not so in times of stress, not so in times of draught.

Your insistence on a trophic explanation for giraffe morphology strikes me as being quite narrow minded.

Darwinsdog, if you really wish to defend Darwin, as T.H. Huxley, the original Darwin's Bulldog did, you need to understand what Darwin understood.

"...the individuals which were the highest browsers and were able, during [droughts], to reach even an inch or two above the others, will often have been preserved.... By this process long-continued... combined no doubt in a most important manner with the inherited effects of increased use of parts,... Charles Darwin, Charles Darwin, Origin of the Species (1859), p. 202

To be perfectly honest, I don't think Charles Darwin was all that narrow minded. But the point you need to take away from all this Darwinsdog, is that sexual selection plumage and decoration, is possessed only by the male of the species. Likewise fighting instruments are also possessed only by the male of the species. If both male and female possess the same inherited characteristics, they probably have far more to do with survival during times of stress than sexual selection.

Ron P.

>>..the giraffes neck is not a thing of beauty to attract female giraffes.<<

Attracting the opposite sex is not the only mechanism by which sexual selection operates. Adaptations that allow one sex (usually the male in mammals) to fight off members of their own sex for the sake of access to the opposite sex is at least as prevalent a mechanism as is direct attractiveness to the opposite sex.

>>How can we know this? Because the female giraffes' neck is long also.<<

This is an iteration of the old "why do males have nipples?" argument. It's because the evolution of sexually dimorphic developmental pathways is more problematic than is simply supplying the other sex with features that are adaptive in the opposite sex.

You seem to be utterly committed to trophic explanations for adaptive features, Ron. This is a common, and important focus, but is by no means the ne plus ultra of selection. You need a far broader perspective on selection before you can afford to be so dogmatic, if you wish to avoid appearing naive or mid-20th century in your understanding of biology.

My God, you're serious! Bye now.

Ron P.

>>..long necks did not evolve to fight other giraffes. That is preposterous.<<

My God, you argue by adamant assertion! We'll keep that in mind whenever you proclaim something to be so, Ron.

No, I, along with Darwin himself, clearly explained how and why long necks evolved. And it is preposterous to think that giraffes, both male and female, evolved long necks to fight other male and female giraffes.

Ron P.

There is no reason why long necks couldn't develop for multiple reasons.

A long neck on the female is absolutely NO reason why long necks would not be found attractive on males... also since the neck IS used for fighting, evolution will have an effect here as well.

Food may be the main reason why the neck grew, but i assure you it is ALWAYS more complicated than that.

It's been suggested that males have nipples because they are really just females that have been modified to deliver some of their mothers’ genes to other females. All of the other sexual accoutrements that we so love and adore have just been added on top this basic function of sex. This is not so obvious in advanced animals, like us, but it is plainly obvious in creatures that still employ a primitive version of sex: Insects.

A hive, for instance, is composed of all females who have been prevented from reaching sexual maturity. 12 year old girls run the show. The inappropriately named ‘queen’ is just an egg laying machine. Once in a while the basic bee form is modified to carry a load of gene bundles. It is given just enough energy and instructions to find a sexually developed female from another hive. The instructions encoded in its brain basically say: When you detect the presence of this chemical (female sex hormone) go toward it. This is really simple programming. New queens also have programming that executes only when they are first hatched. This programming says: When you detect the presence of this chemical (male sex hormone) rip the bottom off its possessor and toss the rest aside. That is the most primitive sex drive.

Three hundred million years later we at least give flowers first.


Actually Jon, both you and Mac have it slightly wrong.

I do find it interesting how Ron thinks he's got Evolution entirely figured out, and how Ron is apparently not expecting any new "holy sh*t" moment in the near future that could upset the THEORY of Evolution on its ear, partially or otherwise. Ron, don't you think it's possible that Evolution isn't the whole answer, but represents only a manifestation of one of a mosaic of yet-unknown life forces? So far, the Theory of Evolution hasn't come close to convincing me of its truthfulness.

Personally, I like the Galapagos example (as EVIDENCE of Evolution) - how it's a moving carpet with the youngest Islands harboring the reptiles, and the oldest Islands harboring primates - if anyone's not watched "Galapagos" in Blu-Ray, it's definitely worth the watch.

and how Ron is apparently not expecting any new "holy sh*t" moment in the near future that could upset the THEORY of Evolution on its ear,...

Oh, you mean like Jesus coming down through the clouds and... Well no, I am not expecting anything like that at all.

You know very well Matt that there are only two theories. 1. There is the theory of evolution and 2. God did it. And you also know that evolution is a theory in the same sense that gravity is a theory. Because gravity is a theory. Gravity can be observed but the theory is what causes it. Likewise evolution can be observed, the theory is what causes it.

Natural selection is a process. Evolution is history.

Ron P.

Gee. I thought that's what I said.

Oh, well. I guess I'd better read my own stuff again.


Since the bandwidth seems slow at the moment, I'll add yet another hypothesis regarding the giraffe's neck size:

This is from article The Giraffe's Short Neck

This article gives a nice history of the various hypotheses regarding the question at hand for a layperson such as myself. It includes references to many scientists including Darwin and Lamarck and the sexual selection hypothesis by Simmons and Scheepers.

That should really help settle things. :) Not!

At least we have rediscovered an apparently previously much-discussed topic. A pity it has so little to do with energy.

A pity it has so little to do with energy.

Once upon a time ...

All the short necked giraffes had to jump and jump to reach the higher up leaves.
But the ugly duckling like long-necked giraffe simply stretched and ate to her heart's content.

In the spring, her calf has born healthy, strong and long-necked.
Alas the other female giraffes had spent up their energies in jumping for survival and their shaken up calves did not fair so well ...

Your DNA never changes during your lifetime.

You are correct however environment turns certain genes on or off. That does get transmitted to the offspring.

Your DNA never changes during your lifetime.
You are correct

So are cancer cells still "you"?

It depends on what you mean by "you".

Merrill - Well, my fat cells are certainly not me. They are definately a Blue Bell franchise.

Rockman, the lower part of your brain stem is methylated with the words "BLUE BELL"

Darl'ning its why I'm ask'n.

If "you" is defined as "your" DNA and cancer cells are not typically 100% "your" DNA - are they still "you"?

Due to environmental mutagens and background ionizing radiation, among other things, there are lots of cells in one's body that do not have the same DNA sequence as the original zygote. Therefore, I don't think that the DNA sequence of a cell determines whether it is "you" or not.

Also, if it did, then identical twins would be the same "you".

Further, you inheirit not only nuclear DNA but complet mitochondria and other cellular apparatus, particularly from the egg cell. As the organizm develops there are lots of mechanisms which govern how DNA is expressed and how a myriad of tissues are formed. This involves up and down regulation of genes, turning genes on and off, etc. Therefore, even if cells have the same DNA sequences and genes, the genes are functioning differently in different tissues.

There is functional redundancy built into the system. Even if a mutation silences a gene, another copy of the same gene may function in its place.

Most mutations result in either cell death or are benign. For example, fat cells in benign lipomas. Even when the mutations result in the unrestricted ability to multiply and penetrate other tissues, the cancer tissue is still part of the organism. It cannot exist outside the host organism, and therefore continues to be part of the host organism. This would be true even for teratomas.

Another question would be whether the bacteria and viruses in your body are "you". They outnumber your cells by about 10 to 1.

I don't think that the DNA sequence of a cell determines whether it is "you" or not.

So the whole "you" part of this DNA being changed or not has nothing to do with DNA and something else?

The DNA is simply a sequence of amino acids on a scaffolding of sugars and phosphate groups. It plays a role in directing the development of "you" but is not synonomous with "you". "You" is presumably a complete organism that developed through a complex process and now includes memories, skills, etc., which allow commenting on this question, but which are almost entirely unrelated to your DNA. Your DNA was only a part of your original zygote, which wasn't you as you currently exist either.

>>The DNA is simply a sequence of amino acids on a scaffolding of sugars and phosphate groups.<<

Surely you mean "a sequence of nucleotides on a ...," unless you're with Pauling re: protein being the molecule of inheritance.

Merill, you need to fix that DNA is a sequence of purine and pyrimidines on a sugar phosphate backbone. Ultimately 3 DNA bases (a codon) codes for a RNA complement that can be translated into chain of amino acids -- known as a protein.

Since there are so many steps in the Central Dogma, controlling any of these whether through DNA, RNA expression or protein expression can affect how an organism develops and behaves and adapts.

What I think Darwinian, Ron, is arguing is that control of these elements is a trait in the DNA. But that gets semantic since the whole argument is whether the environment can stimulate a change in the germ line that is passed to the immediate generation. Epigenetics shows us that this happens. The changes are not permenant but they do prepare immediate kin for a change. That is very un-Darwinian imho as preached in most classrooms.

it is a dead horse and I now understand that the camps are dead set on their semantics instead of wrestling with the ideas themselves which are interesting.

Yes, I was wrong. Sorry about that to all.

Elsewhere, others have said that methlyation is temporary and that it does not lead to a permanent change in DNA. However, I've found papers that indicate that in particular methylation of cytosine as 5-methylcytosine can deaminate to thymidine. This changes C to T at that location permanently. The change does not always happen, but it can.

Do you agree?

See for example, CpG Mutation Rates in the Human Genome Are Highly Dependent on Local GC Content

There are many mechanisms of eukaryotic gene expression regulation. Methylation is only one, rather extreme, method of shutting down transcription, usually employed with genes whose expression is limited to a critical period of embryonic development or to genes on the redundant sex chromosome in the homogametic sex (XX in mammals). Far more often regulation of transcription involves nonhistone proteins and microRNAs that bind to sections of chromatin, thus serving as enhancers, promoters, or inhibitors of expression, as the case may be. Some of these proteins may contain allosteric sites that, when binding the substrate of the particular enzyme coded for by that locus, reduce the affinity of that protein for that particular nucleotide sequence, thus allowing transcription of mRNA. This is the mechanism that allows enzyme inducibility.

If methylcytosine sometimes deaminates to thymidine, this constitutes a transition (pyrimidine --> pyrimidine) and may not be functionally significant unless it occurs in the first position of the codon.

No, Lamarck was simply 100 percent wrong.

Actually, he wasn't - but sadly he is now only remembered for his incorrect thesis that acquired characteristics (a giraffe's neck, etc) are somehow passed onto the next generation. But he also had some very good prescient things to say about adaptation, and the capacity for some species to adapt (and ultimately, mutate) far better than others - and Darwin did notice this.

And it is clearly true that "survival of the fittest" is not a game with equal players ... some species adapt far better than others to changing climate, or whatever the forcing agent might be. Human being are pretty good at it; turtles not so good (but there again, turtles have survived for zillions of years long than us).

What I saw that convinced me that experiences of the parents could be passed on to the genetics of the kids was what happened in times of famine. (Sorry I don't have a link.)

DNA is a chemical that has to be maintained like all other chemicals--if their are severe shortages in key nutritional inputs, it just makes sense that DNA would be affected. And that seems to have been the case in humans who went through severe periods of famine, according to recent studies.

That is just it. Food and diet. Feast and Famine. Childhood obesity in the US. Links are most likely there due to things like the mechanisms recently described in major scientific journals.

We just debate whether it is more like natural selection in the Darwinian sense or more like use and disuse in the Lamarckian sense. but that is neither here nor there. Fascinating stuff!

Humans are a moral animal...

Reminds me of one of the best books I ever read in my entire life. It was so good I bought copies for sons. I have never done that with any other book.
The Moral Animal: Why We Are, the Way We Are: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology

Although first published in 1994, a long time ago in the rapidly developing science of evolutionary psychology, Robert Wright's seminal book remains an excellent introduction to the subject. The text crackles with an incisive wit that says, yes we're animals, but we can live with that. The discussion is thorough, ranging from a rather intense focus on Charles Darwin and his life through the sexist and morality debate occasioned by the publication of Edward O. Wilson's Sociobiology in 1975, to the rise of the use of primate comparisons fueled by Jane Goodall's instant classic, The Chimpanzees of Gombe...

Ron P.

Ron, thanks for the link, that looks quite interesting. I found E. O. Wilson's On Human Nature too short on the subject and Sociobiology looks too long and technical to interest me. But this seems somewhere in the middle.

... and Sociobiology looks too long and technical to interest me.

I thought Sociobiology was totally discredited (and on a par with Scientology) about 30 years ago. A very crude justification of capitalism, using a bit of pop psychology.

You thought wrong. Sociobiology has triumphed. Sociobiology

Over time, Wilson's sociobiology found more and more supporters among biologists, psychologists, and even anthropologists.

Every biologist worth their salt now supports Sociobiology. The Triumph of Sociobiology It is the opposite side, Behaviorism, that has been totally discredited. And it is not remotely related to Scientology, which is religion not science.

When Sociobiology first made an appearance, along with its close cousin, Evolutionary Psychology, there was great opposition by all behaviorist. Some even claimed that genes had nothing to do with behavior or ability at all, that we are all born a blank slate. This book was one such denial: Not in Our Genes: Biology, Ideology, and Human Nature

Such books as the above supporting the "Tabula Rasa" or "Blank Slate" theory has been totally discredited by such books as The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature

The "Blank Slate" by Stephen Pinker is one of the best books ever written on the subject. I would recommend it to everyone.

A very crude justification of capitalism, using a bit of pop psychology.

Sociobiology is all about biology, evolution and human nature and has nothing to do with capitalism.

Ron P.

Sociobiology is all about biology, evolution and human nature and has nothing to do with capitalism.

Are you sure about that? All the social sciences are grounded (almost be definition) within the economic mode of production in which they occur. As for "human nature" - I am not sure there's such a thing in the abstract - or outside the economic-political structure within which it occurs either. But carry on.


Humans may be moral animals with the "power to reason" as you say. However, you are vastly overating the potential effectiveness of this "power" to address any of the serious problems we currently face. The "power to reason" is really just the power to rationalize. As human-animals we behave in exactly the way natural selection designed us to. Then we make up stories about being moral. We don't actually have any real choice. You are correct to say that "We are not predetermined to head towards a repeat of the 1930s". We are clearly headed for much worse.

The modern "sovereign nation state" only dates back to the early nineteenth century. Basically, the template was created by Napoleon (and I would argue, also by the founding of the United States of America). But anyway, the point I'm getting at is that the nation state only predates the "oil age" by a mere fifty to seventy years. I think a good argument could be made that Peak Oil and the end of industrialization also spells the end of the nation state.

Globalists believe in good fences, only not drawn on your map. They draw them financially. And there are probably several between them and you!

Paleocon +5

*SO* true !

Political, physical, social, and even tax policy fences.


When you're talking about humans on the scale that has existed in recent ( 1-4 kiloyears ) times, evolution has not had sufficient time to have much of an impact on human behavior. I doubt instincts help at all ( except by sheer luck ) as far as survival in the current environment is concerned.

Still, people are just not as valuable as they once were when there were not enough of the right people to exploit wide open spaces. People ( of any race ) have negative worth nowadays.

Well, those might be rather harsh words for what is a perfectly natural phenomenon

I am sure every murder can be somehow looked upon as a natural phenomenon. Rape is also a natural phenomenon I guess, in fact all crimes, even eugenics can be justified as natural acts of selfishness. Is that where we are going down now.

I am sure you don't intend to shape the argument as such but that's the logical end of your arguments. Understanding nature and turning into Animals are quite different things, I believe you understand the difference. Even I subscribe to the idea of studying natural behavior to devise more efficient methods of living but in the name of following science I am not willing to break ethical boundaries, I'd rather live with the consequences of not doing so.

Moreover I don't get the idea of first allowing immigrants into your country so that they can do all the menial jobs and then attacking them for feeding on the resources when things don't turn out so well, if one has so much problem with immigrants deport them when you see them or arrest them or even better don't allow them in. It may be natural behavior but this idea of disposing them off when it doesn't suit you sounds extremely selfish to me.

More like the upper classes using the immigrates for low cost labor and the lower classes attack immigrates for under bidding them and hence driving them out of a job/food/apartment. It is class warfare but the lower class fights against itself rather than band together and fight the upper class. Which is rational because the upper class has the army and the police at their control.

Yea I am sure it is rational but is it too much of a task to ask people to condemn unjust attacks like this or is it the time to start attacking that colleague of yours in office who got the bonus that you thought you deserved.

I get it that we are all cynics here in one way or other but this is the absolute abyss one can fall down to. Is humanity in such short supply nowadays, I didn't expect this in TOD. The lower class would do better to clamor for import tariffs and tougher laws on immigration instead of gunning down innocent people.

The upper class controls the government and the laws. The upper class likes cheap labor. The lower class would be wasting its time working on legislation.

Yes violence is bad. People starving to death is a form of violence. The world refuses to end the violence of starvation by a forced two child policy. Now what? The violence of resource theft continues by aerial bombardment and it is called humanitarian aid. Now what?

The federal government does not listen to me when I say murdering people around the planet is wrong. I do not think the poor Greeks will listen to me either. Murder and stabbing and beating are wrong. Please stop everyone. Now what?

Vigilante violence occurs when people do not feel that their gov't responds to their needs adequately. Or just for kicks, for sociopaths.

I have long believed, perhaps cynically, that humane behavior is a thin veneer over baser behaviors, but it is a veneer unevenly applied. When pressure mounts, the best and worst of humanity manifest. In time, most of us will readily adapt to whatever reality we find ourselves in, and live, struggle, and die with the masses. Most of us will not react strongly from conviction, nor be particular evil or noble, but be merely accustomed to the needs of our daily lives however grand or horrific they may become.

The homeless person digging in the garbage can of the restaurant does not see those valet-parking out front any more than the other way around. Only a few spend much time striving to perceive and affect life beyond their daily domain. Such people probably become leaders, artists, or alcoholics.

or psychoanalysts, psychotherapists.

Right, Ed, or in my case, some weird combination of most of the above at one point or another.

Wiseindian you and Edpell have opposite points of view. I am in the middle. And you completely misunderstand my position. Of course Rape and Murder are not looked upon as natural in a civilized society. We have laws against such behavior, as we should. We also have laws about immigration. All civilized societies do, which is their right.

All I am saying is what the immigrants are doing is perfectly natural. And I am also saying that the reaction of the citizens of the country being invaded by immigrants is also perfectly natural. Both you and Edpell point to the behavior of the people on the other side of the argument with scorn or dismay.

- As for pointing to our mental failures with scorn or dismay, we might as well profess disappointment with the mechanics of gravity or the laws of thermodynamics. In other words, the degree of disillusionment we feel in response to any particular human behavior is the precise measure of our ignorance of its evolutionary and genetic origins.
- Reg Morrison, The Spirit in the Gene

I understand however that you are probably not a member of any groups of immigrants. But you do have deep empathy for them. So do I. I have stated here before that I am a card carrying bleeding heart liberal, and damn proud of it.

The difference between you and I however is (very likely) the fact that I do not allow my empathy to prevent me from seeing both sides of the problem. Remember, almost every situation has two sides.

Ron P.

I have no scorn for anyone. They are all following their rational self interests. And it is far away in Greece and so does not effect me.

I think every nation and the citizens of that nation would be wise (rational) at this time of overshoot to have balanced immigration (one out allows one in).

Actually I am trying to be rational here. Look at Japan, they don't encourage immigration, in fact it's so low that their society is falling apart owing to demographic pressures yet they have rejected that solution. That's how you it should be, it's their choice. Everyday I read in the papers that Japan should allow immigration as if it's some kind of charity. It's a country/society's right to admit or deny people entry and we should respect that, but that doesn't mean you can rationalize the idea of first admitting immigrants when it suits you and later attack them (that includes denying them basic human rights which the citizens enjoy) when it doesn't.

Let me point out one more flaw in this argument, in TOD people discuss how our selfish behavior is leading to an energy and environmental crisis, how can one criticize that aspect and yet be aloof in the name of being rational when a similar behavior results in mindless attacks on fellow human beings.

I believe there is no sense in taking a middle ground here, people who attack innocent people deserve the utmost scorn.
You are wrong, I am an immigrant in my own right, within my country not outside it.

So do I. I have stated here before that I am a card carrying bleeding heart liberal, and damn proud of it.

Good to know that, sacrificing the ideals of equality and liberty in the name of being rational is a kind of hypocrisy and thievery. I believe given enough intelligence and statistics one can rationalize almost anything.

Wiseindian perhaps I was wrong in describing my position as "the middle". What I mean is that I understand both sides. I have not justified either side because human nature needs no justification. That is just the way it is. That is just the way humans... and other territorial animals... behave. End of story.

ra·tion·al·ize -verb
1. to ascribe (one's acts, opinions, etc.) to causes that superficially seem reasonable and valid but that actually are unrelated to the true, possibly unconscious and often less creditable or agreeable causes.

Perfect! That is the perfect example of what you are doing.

Ron P.

"-but that doesn't mean you can rationalize the idea of first admitting immigrants when it suits you and later attack them (that includes denying them basic human rights which the citizens enjoy) when it doesn't."

WI, you are talking about two different groups of people as if they were one group. The working class is consistently opposed to illegal immigration, while the political class refuses to adequately fund border patrol. Those in support of illegal immigration tend to be family members of the immigrants, from what I can see.
Legal immigration is much less controversial.

Those in support of illegal immigration are those who benefit from it. In addition to the aforementioned family members are the employers who like hard-working people who have no legal protection and who will work for low wages.

Moreover I don't get the idea of first allowing immigrants into your country so that they can do all the menial jobs and then attacking them for feeding on the resources when things don't turn out so well

I think your argument implies there is a single controlling agent. Oftentimes immigration is decided by the collective society via the mechanism of government. Those who percieve themselves to be negatively affected are usually a subclass. Their aggression against the immigrants may be indirectly seen as aggression against the elites running society as well. Sometimes its only a small but influential class of citizens that dictate the policy (in the US that would owners of certain types of businesses that benefit from cheap immigrant labour). So you can end up with a situation where a substantial portion of the population sees itself as being victimized by the policies of a small elite, and the immigrants are seen as agents of this victimization.

Is it too much to ask for the sorry people without means or prospects to die quietly in some remote area out of sight, rather than being beaten to death on TV?

People get upset because of the dissonance of what they believe about themselves, society, and the world versus what they see people just like them doing to others just like themselves on TV. I believe the human brain is a superb prediction engine, capable of predicting the future at many scales (catching a ball, driving to Colorado, progressing a career, raising kids to maturity) based on ever-updating models driven by perceptual error. When a firm prediction meets a differing perception, a large error signal results, with a cognitive jarring. Having to exit a comfort zone to revisit base assumptions and build a new model is an emotional stressor, and emotional reactions manifest.

During good times people convince themselves of a happy narrative that they flesh and out reinforce, and they make all sorts of promises to themselves, family, and society that cannot be met during hard times, and yet when it rains, it tends to pour. As in Greece, with internal and external pressures mounting at multiple levels.

I think you have been reading the book "On Intelligence".

On the other hand if 500,000 children under the age of 10 are starved to death by blockade as was done to Iraq Madelene Albright said it was worth it. So as long as it does not generate video images it does not seem to bother people.

Yes, that is one. I had read another some years ago that I don't recall, discussing humans ability and need to create narrative and justification (Black Swan overlaps this a bit), and the rationalizing- versus rational-being arguments. But those reinforced my control-systems-esque view of learning, with prediction and feedback, with a little game theory and decision theory included.

Is it too much to ask for the sorry people without means or prospects to die quietly in some remote area out of sight, rather than being beaten to death on TV?

Turn off your TV.

Go watch something like "Wall-e" instead ;)

Although I was not alive in the 1930's, it looks almost like a repeat telecast of history. Sadly this will recur throughout all the bankrupt nations of the world.

In the 30s two nations used social credit to grow their economies 100% with zero interest payments. This was a danger to the global bankers and the two nation were destroyed. Gaddafi was involved in creating three banks in Africa that would have covered all African banking this was a danger to the global bankers. Is this the repeat of the 30s you are talking about? The global bankers against any free people who want to stopping paying them interest? That does describe Iceland well. Not as clear for Greece.

Those two countries invaded their neighbours and killed millions of people. While I'm sure the anglo-american banking alliance hated what Hitler did to banking, and probably had a lot to do with bringing America into the war, I'm also sure that Russia didn't care at all. And it was Russia that did the bulk of the fighting and destroying against Germany. Nothing is black and white but to depict WWII as a banker's war is ridiculous.

Those two countries invaded their neighbours and killed millions of people

And economists have pretty much proven that in both nations the general population enjoyed a great increase in material standards and comfort literally from the loot. The Germans really did relieve teh Dutch of all their bicycles. And Wehrmacht soldiers on holiday passes would even bring looted chickens from France home.

Interesting approach to social credity, no?

Meanwhile Xenophobia catches on..

You know one large part of Darwin's definition of evolution was 'competition between groups over limited resources'.

Nobody forced the immigrants to go to Greece, which is tanking. That doesn't mean they have the right to take their lives, but 'xenophobia' is a modern, fairly useless, word for competition out of resources most of the time.

Of course, in the 1930s, there was no such thing. Then it was just pure scapegoating, but in this case there's a serious situation. Imagine one country taking 90 % of all illegal immigrants(caught, but still) into Europe.

It's easy to sit here and sermonize about tolerance as their nation is getting swamped while they are going down the drain. Pretty? No. But as Darwininan pointed out: human nature.

By the way; I predict that as the dual crises of sovereign debt and peak oil intensify, we'll see Darwin's phrase of 'competition between groups over limited resources' full at play. Evolutionary psychology always was way more serious rather than the bankrupt, pseudo-intellectual house of cards that is modern anthropology('critical theory', Boazian thought etc).

I think the flashpoints is certainly Southern Europe, especially in wake of the deeply corrosive Arab Spring which has decimated those nation's structure and stability. And one more area is actually around India. Especially Bangladesh, parts of Pakistan and inner India itself. I always thought people overanalyzed the China-Western struggle. History suggest that India-China will be far more probable as both nations are close to each other and they're already in conflict over water supply from Himalaya.

India's way behind China in many respect(once you count out the IT sector and a few boutique companies), everything from military to the manufacturing floor(China has very high tech industries in far more areas to be self-sufficient, India still imports a lot of technology and high-tech goods).
India and China also share the same space, they even have common borders, so that's another point I'd watch if I were an Indian. It'll be interesting to see if the West will throw India under the buss to appease China under the coming decade.

On a purely academic point, did Darwin say "competition between groups" or "competition between individuals"?

Edpell, does it really matter? Homo sapiens are a gregarious species, that is we live in groups so our competition is usually between groups. However on the individual level, we do compete with each other.

But we are also a species. We, as a species, compete with all other species for territory and resources. We are driving almost every other species of wild megafauna into extinction. Talk about taking over someone else's territory.

What's your opinion of that Wiseindian. Other species cannot make laws or even fight back. They just go quietly into that good night.

Ron P.

Appeals to Darwin as an authority are no longer very persuasive in light of the advances in molecular biology, genetics, ecology and other areas since the 1850s.

To the extent that Darwin is still applicable, biological evolution is based on the differential reprocuctive success of organisms having differences in their genetic makeup. This is applicable to organisms generally.

This should be distinguished from competition between human groups based on sociological factors such as appearance, language, religion, politics, or favorite football club. These factors are based on social conventions and apply mostly to humans.

I say "mostly" because they are linked somewhat by the appearance factor. There is a biological basis for favoring cooperation with others who look like us (and probably share our genes) and favoring competition with those who look differently (and probably share fewer genes). The socially constructed factors exploit this biological factor by, for example, adopting peculiar religous dress, military uniforms, badges of rank or class, regional costumes, etc.

The more virulent forms of sociological competition appear to stem from either Middle Eastern religions (in which adherents to the one true god are favored while other are not) or to stem from British colonialism {in which miscegenation became taboo, especially between white women and non-white men).

The period 1800 - 1940 saw a general increase in the rationalization of conflict on ethnic basis partly driven by the need to impose national identities in the new nation states, but also partly due to the application of evolutionary theories to sociology by Herbert Spencer and others.

Merrill, Darwin believed that Lamarck was wrong. He could not prove it. It took molecular genetics to prove that Darwin was right and Lamarck was wrong. That is, it took genetics to prove that learned behavior could not possibly be inherited.

Darwin explained how and why natural selection drove evolution. And he got that exactly right. He just never knew anything about genetics. It is a pity that he did not even know about Gregor Mendel's work. That would not have helped him with genetics but he at least could have explained things a lot better.

What Darwin got right was everything about natural selection. He just never knew exactly how and why inheritance actually works.

Ron P.

Ron, the shorthand for Lamarck is the inheritance of acquired characteristics. It was believed that Larmarck was completely wrong, and that acquired characteristics could not be inherited because acquired characteristics were a property of somatic tissue and only the germ plasm was involved in reproduction.

However, epigenetics now indicates that Lamarck was only mostly wrong.

IIRC, environmental exposure can turn gene expression on or off through methylation at various sites on the DNA strand, this state of being on or off may be passed to the next generation, thus providing for another mechanism of adaptation.
That's what has been talked about anyway.

>>...Darwin believed that Lamarck was wrong.<<

No he didn't. Darwin fully subscribed to Lamarkian inheritance of acquired traits and felt that natural selection was a supplemental mechanism that in no way surplanted Lamark's ideas. If you read subsequent editions of the Origin, Darwin's support for Lamarkian ideas only grows as he ages. Ironically, Freud got his Lamarkian ideas from Darwin rather than from Lamark himself.

Appeals to Darwin as an authority are no longer very persuasive in light of the advances in molecular biology, genetics, ecology and other areas since the 1850s.

All of those things have been folded into the Neo-Darwinian Synthesis for many, many decades now. No one "appeals to Darwin". They appeal to Darwinian concepts of natural selection as nuanced by these other things. These other areas that you cite are all relevant to evolution, but do not negate Darwin in any way. They enhance and clarify Darwin's ideas.

See modern evolutionary synthesis.

Physicists don't keep refering to "Newton's Theory of Mechanics". Geneticists don't keep referring to "Mendel's Theory of Genetics" (although Mendelian inheritance is a special case of inheritance). There is no reason to keep discussing evolution as Darwinian anything, even though Darwin did first advance a correct, although incomplete, theory of evolution.

For settled matters of science, the historical origins are best handled in a footnote.

It's usually creationists who refer to evolutionary theory as Darwinism. It is a straw man.

As a physicist I would say physicists do refer to Newton's Theory of Mechanics. We are big on giving credit where credit is due. Gauss' Law, Maxwell's equations, Einstein's theory, Schrodinger's equation, Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, etc....

Newton explained all of mechanics for velocities that are small compared to the speed of light.

That reminds me of a comment many years ago from a co-worker who had studied undergraduate engineering in India just as they were converting from the English to the metric system. He did graduate work in the UK just as they were doing the same conversion. We were starting to do "dual units" in a US company when he fumed:

"This isn't science, its ancestor worship"


Newtons, Pascals, Watts, Ohms.....

Aha! NOW, I know what OMG stands for!

Sooo ... when we say OMFG, we mean Oh My Fhysics Gods?


I agree that Southern Europe is a flashpoint. It has been a flashpoint ever since that unpleasantness between the Greeks and Persians. The area 1000 km around a line between Baghdad and Venice is probably the most contested geography on earth. The skeletons of innumerable warriors have bleached under that sun.

The Muslim-Hindu conflict in the Indian subcontinent has never been resolved over the last thousand years. So I agree that it is ripe for another episode.

I don't see conflict between India and China as very probable. The Himalayas are a pretty formidible border and well defended by the Chinese. Its very unclear why either would initiate hostilities on that border. India's eastern border is somewhat more problematic. But even there, the terrain between the southwest provinces of China and India are fairly rugged and not easy terrain. Most likely China will tend to consolidate relations with Burma and try to maintain control over southeast asian tribals in the mountains.

There is not much historical evidence for causes of tensions between China and India.

I don't see conflict between India and China as very probable

Actually it's far more probable than the India-Pakistan problem everyone keeps talking about, Pakistan is collapsing under it's own weight. The only real danger is that of Islamists getting one of the nukes or launching one over India or Israel. I see the water problem in India and China as one of the biggest threats to security of the world.

The Himalayas are a pretty formidible border and well defended by the Chinese

You are still not thinking of this as a world war II problem are you ? I think we can't even imagine how wars will be conducted in future, it's unlikely to resemble anything we have seen before. And to tell you frankly no one likes the Chinese in rest of Asia, they are seen as big bullies, much of that behavior was on display in South China sea recently. I won't hazard a guess as to how strategic alliances will evolve when push comes to shove. But it's quite clear many countries now realize that they will have to surrender their resources to the Chinese to make peace.

As far as economies go, China is miles ahead of anyone else in Asia barring Japan, no doubt about it, and much of it is due to the fact that the Chinese had achieved complete political integration by the 3rd century BC, the rest of Asia including India is yet to find it's natural state IMO. Even though I am a citizen I do not have very high hopes for the political entity called India, there are high chances that it will degenerate into a more socially cohesive units.

But then we all know that making prediction is a fools game, westerners have been predicting India's demise for the past 60 years and yet I haven't seen any major problems in keeping this political entity together. History always has the potential to surprise you.

Pakistan is most likely to join some sort of non-Arab islamic block that includes Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and possibly some central asian states.

Diverting the Bhramaputra northward would appear to require huge amounts of energy. Diverting it eastward would also be impractical, since it would have to cross the valleys containing the Salween and Mekong. It is unlikely to happen before a shortage of energy causes India to be in too poor condition to do much about it.

India, except for brief periods such as Ashoka, has never had a strong central government. Even the Britsh Raj, which more or less unified the territory of Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka, was a very thin overlay on variegated local administrations. A breakup would be unsurprising, but largely unnecessary.

I'm sure I speak for all TODers that it is great that Nate hit the big time. Plus, the interview was picked up by several other sites. Of course, he was right on!

I read the complete interview two days back, really good stuff

??? What interview?


Leanan has a link up top. I also saw it on both Financial Sense and Zero Hedge yesterday. The interviewer is Chris Martenson.


Yeah. It helps that the interviewer was so sharp and well informed about these issues. Never heard of him before, seems like the ideas of Hagens and TOD are spreading.

Chris Martenson is well a established educator on peak oil issues. And a regular at ASPO meetings.

Check out his Crash Course.


Growing Water Deficit Threatening Grain Harvests Lester Brown

The overpumping of aquifers for irrigation temporarily inflates food production, creating a food production bubble that bursts when the aquifer is depleted…

The shrinkage of irrigation water supplies in the big three grain- producing countries - the United States, India, and China - is of particular concern…

In China, the principal concern is the northern half of the country, where rainfall is low and water tables are falling everywhere. This includes the highly productive North China Plain, which stretches from just north of Shanghai to well north of Beijing and which produces half of the country's wheat and a third of its corn. Overpumping there suggests that some 130 million Chinese are being fed with grain produced with the unsustainable use of water.

Bold mine. I think that the word "bubble" is correct here. Irrigation bubbles are already bursting in India With the population soaring past one billion and with a driving need to boost agricultural production, Indians are tapping their groundwater faster than nature can replenish it, so fast that they are hitting deposits formed at the time of the dinosaurs.

That was written 5 years ago. The problem has gotten considerably worse since the. Irrigation bubbles are bursting all over the world.

I was shocked to learn that China gets 70% of its food from irrigated land. But China is now the world's largest importer of wheat. Since it takes 1,000 tons of water to produce one ton of grain, the importation of wheat is just another way of importing water.

I read a lot of Lester Brown but this is the first time, that I can recall, that he has spoken of "a food production bubble".

Ron P.

Add to that the ripple effects of the drought in Texas. Much of its production is for export.

Someone mentioned about India splitting apart owing to resource pressures, there's your trigger right there. Water usage and distribution in India is highly disparate, while the North of the country is always running out. The Far-East and the South are far better owing to better management and higher rainfall.

And the best part is that this isn't even discussed at a national level as a threat, if hordes of people start moving from one region to another in search of water, expect a civil war to break out soon enough. Here the commentators are so obsessed with growth they can't even see the ticking time bomb.

Free contraceptives, anyone ?


"But Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) expressed a fairly extreme concern on the House Floor Monday night about the expanded preventative health coverage: offering free birth control to women could eventually kill off the entire human species."

Hmmm...somehow, I don't think the demise of the species is going to be due to excessive birth control...

What he said as quoted in the article is

If we let our birth rate get down below replacement rate we're a dying civilization.

Which is obviously correct. I think his concern is driving American White European birth rates below the already none replacement level of 1.5 will speed up the end of White European Americans.

It's quite unclear if Europe/the West/America/whites are dying away or not.

There's likely to be starvation and other problems in most of the world in the coming years. M.E. and Africa are in big time trouble. South Asia and China follow behind.

It's a natural consequence of their extreme population overshoot, which the West does not face. The West faces economic overshoot, not population overshoot.

So the West will have a choice - continue to try to feed the world, and admit millions of refugees into their struggling economies, or shut off the aid and close the doors.

When push comes to shove - when push really comes to shove - Europe and N.A. will be closed.

The quote you used I do not see anywhere in the article. Where is the quote from?

It was on the main page where the article was posted, IIRC.

Steve King is one of the saddest demagogues of our times. It seems like most of his issues are based on racial, ethnic, or nationalist divides.

I am going to post sections of an article I am writing for a National Security journal.

I would like comments and suggestions. This paragraph is not all that I want it to be.
There are several benchmarks for societal, economic and military failure modes:

- Politically and socially intolerable levels of unemployment and underemployment
- Loss of reserve currency status – US Imports can no longer exceed Exports in stressed international markets
- Losing the ability to maintain complex manufacturing and distribution
- Inability to support military forces already deployed
- Inability to support established social institutions such as universities, hospitals, libraries, welfare, pensions, etc.
- Inability to maintain infrastructure in proper working order
- Losing the resources to train and maintain military readiness
- Military power cannot be effectively projected overseas
- Food deliveries and critical utilities are no longer reliable
- A breakdown of both social order and legitimacy of civil authority

A sudden six or seven million barrels/day reduction in oil imports, extended for two or three years, could cause several of these signs of collapse. At some point, oil shortfalls will exceed the ability of the economy to adapt and complex systems will stress and start to collapse. A chronic shortage of affordable oil for a decade or two could have comparable results.

Any comments ?


No mention of credit and debt, especially defaults and loss of trust in markets.

I find it remarkable that all of your listed processes and effects are already well underway, on some level, somewhere.

I'd say the info is OK, but a list that long and wordy begs to be skimmed or skipped. I'd say organize the info into pillars of society, and have a short list of 3 or 4 main areas at risk, and then under another paragraph detail the failure modes for each. Maybe section headers like security, infrastructure, social support, and commerce?

The trouble with such topics is that there are few solid metrics, and for those who like numbers that means you're painting in watercolors where an Excel graph is desired. This sort of approach is great for an intro, but probably needs more meat for each point to illustrate current energy dependency and therefore risk. The aggregate view is important though, because it will be continue to be true that we'll have plenty of energy for any given thing we really need to do, just not EVERYTHING we'd like to do. It is comfortably easy for any advocate (and each of us individually) to assume we'll be in the privileged minority and therefore the hard decisions and coping will fall to others, but not us.

Alan, I gree that the info is good, but too densely presented.

My basic model is that we have two main problems: a decline on the EROEI scale; and a build up of debt leverage in both the private and public sector. The high debt leverage was based on the expectations of increased wealth provided by ever-improving EROEI levels. The unexpected EROEI problem has left us with a societal infrastructure that depends on cheap energy, which is not forthcoming.

Each of the other problems that you listed derive from this dynamic between energy and debt.

Hi Alan,

Politically and socially intolerable levels of unemployment and underemployment

I believe that this topic is key in that all else falls from it. If folks don't have work then it follows that the remaining list will be inevitable in one sense or another, either from lack of revenues to funnel into the military structure, or the need to re-task the military into maintaining control at home as a priority. To start with, this would/could be individual state National Guard units controlling cities, then other Guards on loan, then regular military units, etc. If you can use National Guard units/soldiers in foreign wars, who is to say the reverse won't be required?

after all, any soldier toting a machine gun on a street corner looks the same to a civilian.

How much longer will it remain quiet re: the disintegration of hopes and dreams? In fact, I would bet that there are plans being dusted off to subvert the dysfunctional political system of today with a military option if the rails start to buckle. Illegal? Of course. What scares me if people like the Koch Brothers end up actually controlling the military, then what happens? There are reasons that this has been the source of thriller fiction for years.

I believe that most military personel are professional and follow orders with a conscience. (I say most...obviously not the Lt. Calleys of the world), but it is the folks that give the orders that have me scared. When does military professionalism become subverted by Washington weasels? Look at Rumsfeld. Who was the better man...Rumsfeld or Colin Powell?

This whole topic is frightening.



The basic tasks of National Security would seem to be:
- maintaining public safety and good order within the borders,
- controlling the borders by regulating/monitoring the flow of persons, goods, services, information and money across the borders,
- countering any external threats to the country, and
- perserving access to critical imports by contributing to the maintenance of global order.

The immediate effects of Peak Oil are that it reduces a critical import which cannot be offset by an increase in domestic oil production. This in turn has the effect of:
- raising the price of transportation fuels used by National Security organizations,
- decreasing domestic economic activity, which reduces government revenues and ability to support National Security organizations, and
- lowering the standard of living and increasing domestic discontent.

The secondary effects are to:
- increase international competition for a scarce resource, with increased international commercial, financial, political and military tensions,
- provoke resentment among the least well-off global propulations, which increases non-state attacks on US assets abroad, and
- increase pressures on US borders.

Alan, this is fascinating -- I've been working on a related project, exploring modes of military failure that could become live issues in the wake of peak oil, and it's been suggested that I submit one of my articles on the subject to a journal in the military field. If you don't mind saying, which journal is taking your article?

Aiming for Joint Force Quarterly. If not that, my co-author has other ideas (Naval Proceedings ?).

military.com reporter contacted me a couple of weeks ago.

I am not after "being a star" but informing debate and raising awareness.

Best Hopes for Your Efforts,


JFQ published the landmark paper by Amidon six years ago:

AFJ had an excellent edition in May 08 re energy security & PO:

That prompted a subsequent discussion forum at AFJ a few months later:

Proceedings is also highly regarded.

Military analysts are overwhelmingly supportive of our concerns, and their studies (which often cite info from TOD) should bolster our efforts to get PO taken seriously by civilian authorities.
We should make every effort to encourage military analysts and emergency planners to attend the upcoming ASPO conference, but that may require an agenda which they see as of direct relevance to them.

Thanks for the links :-)

Good for form and approach as well as substance.

Are you "in that field" ?



Hi, Alan

I'm not in either military or media, just a farmer (& teacher nearing retirement).

My research focus is rather narrow:
1. military research on PO:

2. government plans for oil supply shocks/ Liquid Fuel Emergencies:

I'm an energy security analyst for a national organization of family farmers in Canada, so I really should be devoting more time to ag-energy issues as well, which I certainly try to do. But there aren't enough hours in the day, and until USDA and AgCanada decide to examine PO there won't be much activity anyway.

I see #1 as important re. credibility of our concerns, and #2 as a matter of urgency since there is so little activity on that topic and the global export situation is increasingly precarious.

Please send me an eMail for "off the record" information.

Best Hopes :-)


Alan, you're a peak oil star already, and might as well get used to it. The more useful information on peak oil and its implications gets circulated to those who might be able to do something useful with it, the better.

JFQ sounds like a good option. My initial paper (on military collapse driven by a Tainter-esque excess of complexity, using a historical case study) will be going someplace a bit more academic, but we'll see.

Hi Alan.
I did a little edit/rewrite- please excuse the presumption, it was easier to copy and tweak than explain. My thought is that you might consider breaking down the failure modes into smaller bites (the overlaps which caused you to make a single list should probably be addressed if you choose this route.)

My edit:

There are several benchmarks for military, economic and societal failure modes:

- Politically and socially intolerable levels of unemployment and underemployment
- Loss of reserve currency status – US Imports can no longer exceed Exports in stressed international markets
- Losing the ability to maintain complex manufacturing and distribution

- Inability to support military forces already deployed
- Losing the resources to train and maintain military readiness
- Military power cannot be effectively projected overseas

- Inability to maintain infrastructure in proper working order
- Inability to support established social institutions such as universities, hospitals, libraries, welfare, pensions, etc.
- Food deliveries and critical utilities are no longer reliable
- A breakdown of both social order and legitimacy of civil authority

As for content, I like the list with the exception of the military section. "- Military power cannot be effectively projected overseas" is perhaps a little Amerocentric; many successful nations cannot fight outside their borders. It is, perhaps, more about the end of American exceptionalism than societal failure. "- Losing the resources to train and maintain military readiness" might be restructured to suggest the inability of a nation to defend itself is the central issue. Not addressed in the list is the rise of militias, warlords, pirates, and other non-state military organizations, which I would suggest is an excellent indicator of societal breakdown.


VERY useful !

Thanks :-)

Would you like to add any more indicators ?

The article is basically two parts - define an overlooked threat (I refer to the collapse of the home front of Imperial Germany and Czarist Russia in WW I and say a lack of oil in the USA could lead to something similar).

And I then outline how collapse could be avoided - how much money and how long to make the investments.

And this is for the US National Security community - which do see such military abilities as necessary. For example, we may one day need to help liberate Alberta from the tyrannical edicts and oppression of free enterprise coming from Ottawa >:-P

Alan, this sounds very solid. Please post the info when your article sees print -- I'll definitely want to read it.

Send me your eMail (mine is linked to my name) and I will send you a draft :-)

Reduce the waiting by months !

Best Hopes for multiple efforts at "consciousness raising",


Glad to have been of help.

The only additional thought I have would be to make "- Loss of reserve currency status" a sub-point of "-loss of confidence in the banking/financial sector". I would address "– US Imports can no longer exceed Exports in stressed international markets" in one of the following paragraphs.

For example, we may one day need to help liberate Alberta from the tyrannical edicts and oppression of free enterprise coming from Ottawa >:-P

That would have to be at least 4 years in the future. With the current regime, the only reason you'd have to liberate Alberta is to save them from terminal diaper rash from all the a$$ kissing. :)


Is internal migration expected? This results from environmental degradation due to climate change and lack of employment.
Are shanty towns expected.
Will changes to crime, disease, education, medication etc ensue?
I'm sorry if this has been covered further down, I've only read this far.


While not being really specific may I humble suggest the you read

(The Rise and Fall of the great Powers) by Paul Kennedy

my copy is falling apart from over use, was written over 20 years ago but it is certainly not out of date. Good luck

Deep Regards


Hi YM,

There's another (less famous) Paul Kennedy you might want to checkout....

See: http://www.cbc.ca/ideas/

Addendum: A recent episode of potential interest to forum members is entitled Green Growth or No Growth (see: http://www.cbc.ca/ideas/episodes/2011/07/29/green-growth-or-no-growth-2/). One of the panellists, Peter Victor, is one of my past profs.


I will certainly put it at the top of my pleasure reading list. But I read mainly technical reports :-(

Best Hopes for Reflection, Reading and Thinking,


Hi. Lloyd

I'm another Canuck (we farm on an island near Kingston, Ontario... where are you?).
Further to Alan's outline and your suggestions, I would only add that most of these benchmarks/subtopics are covered very well in the extraordinary study by the Bundeswehr Future Analysis team (approved Nov. 2010, 125 pgs).

Section 2 of their study is devoted to intra-societal impacts and is superbly done... it really sets this study apart from all previous military analyses of PO. Section 2.1.4 on Intra-Societal Risks of Peak Oil is highly relevant to what you intend to cover and Section 2.2 on Systemic Risk when Passing the “Tipping Point” is reviewed here (accompanied by a complete English translation of this section):

It should be pointed out that In Section 2.2 the Bundeswehr team draws from the excellent (and one might argue, under-appreciated) analysis of David Korowicz (Feasta, March 2010):

- Inability to deploy due to fuel constraints.

If fuel becomes a severe constraint might it switch the opposition's assault from C3 to fuel supply? In the past an attack on a fuel depot or supply mission might be an annoyance but with fuel in short supply it could become endangering to the mission. More military resources might need to be switched to defending the fuel supply creating shortfalls in other areas.


Suggest, since this is supposed to be for military science, you explicitly break out the different failure types (eg domestic insurgency, attack of supply chain, diminished sphere of influence, etc.) and deal with each separately.

As far as the above item is concerned, it's actually much more to do with logistics and the issues associated with force projection. This is an area that is already exercising military minds, but in an export constrained world, you can show how it could become a significant military weakness.

The effort into synthetic fuels is in part targeted on addressing this (military are smarter than politicians), so you need to show that even with that technology in place, the impact of an oil constrained world makes the total logistic supply line unstable/a target.

Fuel constraints and logistical problems are a common theme in the military studies of PO, energy security, etc.

This aspect is not a major concern of the Bundeswehr study. Instead of worrying about "fueling the troops" BW focused more on the importance of "fueling the economy which funds the troops" (and other essential services).

I think the BW focus is more realistic/sensible: the importance of affordable oil to our economy (and thus to financial markets, when then affect currencies and financial institutions, etc) can hardly be over-stated.
Rather than worrying about the ability to fuel overseas missions, militaries may need to shift focus and recognize that during a major oil shock they may be needed to help maintain order on the domestic front.

Another point is that emergency planners (eg. DHS, Public Safety Canada, etc) need to revisit the long-neglected issue of how one might plan for and administer a major oil shock. The Oil Shockwave folks (SAFE) have tried to raise awareness of this vulnerability ever since the first exercise six years ago, but there is no discernible interest at DHS or PS Canada.

Eastern Canada is highly vulnerable re. physical supply since we rely on overseas oil for about 90% of our supply (ie. a much higher rate of dependence than the USA as a whole). But our federal gov't believes that Canada is "an energy superpower," ready to supply Asia as well as USA (instead of ensuring that the eastern half of our population has security of supply).

Alan, I also am impressed, as I always am, with your thoughts and look forward to the published work.

As a civil engineer I build targets, so my observations may not help the military, but here are a few:

1) Maintaining infrastructure is a task that government/military will need to segment. Our bridges, for example, are in much worse shape than our highways. Truck loadings on roadways will likely go down in a peak oil pre-collapse. The asphalt or concrete will likely be good for at least 10-15 years provided drainage systems are also maintained. We aren't going to suddenly have potholes randomly appearing. In fact, we may find traffic volumes going back done to design levels or better. Much of the most recent stimulus money seemed to be scattered with little advanced planning. A system-wide strategy for maintenance in a post-peak world needs to be established now, with priorities set and data collected.

2) Public transit expansion plans need to be in place to utilize available vehicles, putting truck drivers and other CDL users out to establish a practical mass transit network. Carpooling on a major level is just not going to happen for a lot of practical reasons, but existing carpool matching systems in most urban areas can be expanded to match persons where possible. Individuals are going to start private "taxi" services, so government might as well acknowledge the fact and find some way to provide some degree of oversight to protect the public.

3) Airlines will be under great pressure to maintain service to markets that no longer make sense, and the drop both in flights and in seats filled will be shocking to some. At the same time the military will need a reliable supply of aviation fuel. Some level of overseas flights will have to be subsidized, but domestically the family flight to Disney World or to grandmother on the opposite coast will become economically unviable for many. At the same time, long distance driving will also become unaffordable for a single person. Thus, we need a quick ramp-up of rail and intercity bus.

4) Right now the intercity bus service nationwide is at its lowest point since early in the automotive age. Cities as large as Owensboro, Kentucky (50,000 population) have no intercity bus or rail service. Getting the tour buses oriented to intercity service will be key to maintaining our social network in terms of reaching families, major medical centers, etc. That system needs to be drawn up now.

5) Amtrak needs authorization for a serious study in expansion. Even if GM can turn their auto factories into passenger coach factories in six or nine months, the rail infrastructure to support a quick expansion of service is not there. We would need at least 300 new stations, another 20,000 miles of rail upgraded to passenger train standards, and a route plan. The easiest thing will be adding more trains on existing routes where stations are already in place, and that would need to happen first. Second would be to select the critical new routes (such as Chicago-Atlanta-Florida) to get in place. High speed rail and positive train control will not be in the mix for the first decade of the post-peak world.

Best wishes for a better tomorrow than we anticipate now.


Five excellent points, DFT

If you would like a draft, send me an eMail :-)
My eMail (spam protected) is linked to my name.

A longer response later.

Best Hopes,


Buses are not quite the cure all that many suppose.

Many bus routes have heavy ridership in one direction and light back. The overall fuel economy per pax-mile can be less than a Prius - or more depending.

I think much less travel, rather than travel by bus instead of car, will be the "market" answer :-(

And yes, Kentucky bus service "s*cks". There is no direct bus between Kentucky's two largest cities - Louisville & Lexington - less than 100 miles apart, both with large universities, etc.

When I spoke at Madison, WI I took a bus from Chicago. $15 up by cheap company (UK owned), $31 back by more established company. Nearly full buses (fuel efficient) reasonably clean and as comfortable as buses can be.

CNG is useful for city buses, but does not have the range for most inter-city routes.

Small buses feeding electric urban rail (along with bicycles) is a solution that "works" IMHO.

Positive Train Control is spreading. Required by the feds for Class I RR, BNSF will do much of California by 2013. Some Amtrak trains will be going at 90 mph on those tracks. (110 mph is the limit with at grade crossings).

Best Hopes for preparation,


There's a 'Dollar Bus' that runs from Minneapolis to Chicago and back, with stops in (or near?) Madison, Milwaukee, and just one or two other places. They reserve two seats a trip that by lottery someone gets for a dollar each, then seats scale up from there, maxing out at $30 for a one way trip. It is a clean double deck bus. I don't know who owns it, but it is a good deal, and the best way to get to Chicago from Mpls.

{Edit: I now see that it is UK owned MegaBus, probably the same that you took to Madison?}

Yes it was :-)

Although their Madison stop was a Park & Ride lot on the edge of town (quicker off-on the Interstate).

The ride back was on a locally owned bus company (HQ Janesville, WI) and the pick-up was at the UW Student Union. $31 instead of $15, but more convenient times and pick-up.

The fuel efficiency of nearly full double decker buses is superb.

Best Hopes for More,


"The fuel efficiency of nearly full double decker buses is superb."

Stop the presses--the king of electric rail is promoting double-decker buses for mass transit!?

It always struck me that much more use of buses like this would be a way to essentially immediately increase the efficiency of intercity travel while we wait for TPTB to pull their heads out of their keisters and start investing in the kind of systems you advocate.

Nationwide, city buses average less than a dozen passengers on-board. A single occupant Prius is competitive. A two occupant Prius is clearly superior.

OTOH, intercity buses have *FAR* fewer stops - so better mpg despite higher speeds. And the 80% to 95% load factors for the double deck buses I was on were compelling (no reason to think that they were above average days).

Even with $12/gallon diesel, the tickets would be affordable.

Medium term, and perhaps long term, they have a place.

Bicycles, streetcars and trolley buses as feeders to Light Rail and Rapid Rail (elevated or subway) are the future for cities IMHO.

Best Hopes,


...not facing a shortage of energy....


A glimpse into the era of fuel shortages

Other sentences -

Since 2006, the United States has absorbed almost half of the reduction in world oil exports – a pattern that may continue.


Domestic crude oil production is half of oil imports (5.5 million b/day vs. 11 million b/day)# and all established production areas are in decline. Production from deep water Gulf of Mexico and oil shale frontiers is increasing. Shallow water Gulf of Mexico and existing Alaska North Slope production will, in particular, decline significantly in the next decade. New US domestic oil production may, or may not, offset depletion. However, increases in domestic production alone – an optimistic net gain of 1 million b/day or so - cannot significantly reduce our fundamental strategic exposure to imported oil – currently 11 million barrels/day. Oil imports dwarf any potential domestic new production, net of depletion.

# Other liquids, primarily light liquids from natural gas, refinery gain and ethanol, collectively known as “other liquids”, make up the difference.

Again, any comments ?

Best Hopes for New Audiences,


So far, increasing US onshore Lower 48 production seems to be offsetting production declines elsewhere, especially Alaska, resulting in basically flat US C+C production, which has been between 5.4 and 5.6 mbpd since the fourth quarter of 2009:


Incidentally, I think that we have previously talked about it, but the difference between what the RRC shows and the EIA shows for Texas crude oil production (which in both cases I believe is C+C) is striking. The EIA is showing 2010 annual production as about 20% higher than what the RRC shows:



In 1990, the EIA was about 5% higher than the RRC. I am reminded of the gap between the JODI reports and EIA data for global production.

Mr. Texas, I get whacked all the time by the TRRC for being 1 BO out of allowable balance, or cause we can't seem to add sometimes around the office here too well on our P-1's...I'll go with what the TRRC, they say.

If production is holding flat since 4th quarter 2009 we must attribute that entirely to unconventional shale oil out of the Bakken and Eagle Ford, etc. We can sustain that for awhile with 500 rigs running flat out in the stuff, but with 46% annual decline rates (and counting), eventually the bloom is off the bush again.

Another contributor is the "Wolfberry" Play in West Texas. And I am "flooding" the market with 30 to 50 BOPD conventional wells.

As you know, we are facing what I call "Whack-A-Mole" infrastructure and personnel problems. As soon as we take care of one infrastructure and/or personnel problem, another pops up.

Ha, that's funny about the discrepancy. Whip that into a bona fide article - nothing like scandals to bring in traffic for TOD.

These were the biggest winners YOY for 2009:

North Dakota	137
Utah		27
Montana		23
Colorado	20
Mississippi	19
Kansas		15

Will try and update my spreadsheet for 2010 later on. Texas was -6 kb/d for 2009; they've been on a plateau for some time now. Heading Out shows that NG from the Barnett appears to be plateauing now as well: OGPSS - Natural gas production, as shale gas arrives. So much for infinite resources; was there much associated oil out of there? Most of the fresh supply in TX is courtesy the Permian, and now the Eagle Ford - which shows as the tiniest of slivers on his chart.

While there is some liquids production from the Barnett, I believe that it is much dryer than the Marcellus.

Whoops, screwed up 2009. Redux:

U.S.			411
Gulf Coast (PADD 3)	422
Federal Offshore GOM	407
Midwest (PADD 2)	53
North Dakota		46
Texas			19
Colorado		12

Winners for 2010:

U.S.				113
Midwest (PADD 2)		99
North Dakota			92
Texas				63
Gulf Coast (PADD 3)		62
Rocky Mountain (PADD 4)		10
New Mexico			10

More macro regions this time. Just the states:


Federal Offshore GOM	407
North Dakota		46
Texas			19
Colorado		12
Oklahoma		9
New Mexico		6
Mississippi		4


North Dakota		92
Texas			63
New Mexico		10
Colorado		7
Oklahoma		6
Wyoming			5

Fed GOM declined 8 kb/d for 2010. 2001 was the only other year in the Noughts where gains YOY were >100 kb/d.

Net imports over the last 4 weeks are 9.257 mbpd. As you said earlier, they've come down.


We've become a slight net exporter of refined products, either because of refinery problems elsewhere or because of the cost advantage of WTI as an input.

The Pickens Plan site stated that the USA imported 343 million barrels in June 2011.


Divide by 30 days and I got roughly 11 million b/day.

Too quick and easy data search I am afraid.

5.5 million b/day (see Westexas #s) is a reasonable # for domestic crude (+ condensate) production (2010 average is close).

What # would people suggest for crude oil + net products imports (excluding propane and lighter non-crude trades) ?

Precision is not required - I just want to show that transportation fuels (gasoline + diesel) cannot be covered by increased domestic production.

So what # ?

I am torn between 9.5 and 10 million b/day.



Pickens seems to be using gross imports, crude + products, even though we've become a net exporter of refined product.

Not a good indicator of sincerity.

Taking it a step further, all products imported (plastic toys for example) could be added in oil consumption statistics and all products exported (corn for example) could be subtracted from oil consumption statistics.

We spend a lot of money consuming oil and that is the take-home message whatever statistic one may choose to use.

Not a good indicator of sincerity.

Part of the Pickens plan was to take fossil water and move it to Texas for a bit o bling.

The contracts for the right of way mention it, but Pickens had a history of not answering direct questions about the water diversion.

But does it matter? I thought Pickens declared the Pickens plan dead. About the time the water issue was gaining traction.


Some points:

Making things that go boom in the night has some problems:
1. It's a highly consumptive but not a very productive use of oil.
2. You've lost the opportunity cost of building something useful and then fuelling it with the lost oil from 1.
3. The country you've bombed now hates you; making it's oil ultimately more expensive.
4. The bombing is probably to establish a corrupt puppet government that will be:
a. Unstable (Read expensive to support)
b. Require financial support(bribes) to ensure the smooth flow of oil.
c. More interested in cash than in exploration.
d. Is unlikely to be humane.
5. You've altered the composition of your own country to ex-grunts. This may be good for some who have received skill training, but not so good for constructive approaches to social structure during limitations brought on by the above.
6. All the genius's designing your weaponry could have been working on socially more constructive items. Talent too has an opportunity cost.

Paul from Ontario

Hi Alan.

Since 2006, the United States has absorbed almost half of the reduction in Since 2006, – a pattern that may continue.

Since 2006, world oil exports have declined by (x). In that same time period, United States oil imports have declined by (y): we have absorbed almost half of the export reduction. If this pattern continues(your thoughts here.)

Domestic crude oil /snnip/Oil imports dwarf any potential domestic new production, net of depletion.

Domestic crude oil production is 5.5 million b/day, and all established production areas are in decline. Production from deep water Gulf of Mexico, as well as oil shale, is increasing; however, potential increases in domestic production (optimistically, a net gain of 1 million b/day or so) - cannot significantly reduce our fundamental strategic exposure to imported oil, which is currently 11 million barrels per day.


Watch out for the SPR going the way of the HRE (which was said to be neither holy, nor roman, nor an empire). I don't think its actually 50% corn ethanol yet, but "strategic" and "reserve" have taken quite a hit recently.

In a military context, you lose when you have committed your reserves and the opposition has reserves remaining. If you are not about to win when you start drawing on your last available reserve (which is what the strategic reserve is), then you are about to lose.

Who is the rival challenger though?

Stocks way down today. 2008 redux?

Earlier in the year I noted that we had yet to see volatility of the sort we saw in 2008. Perhaps we are now seeing such.

2008 redux is more probable with each passing day...

Global stockmarkets continue to slide

"Until last week, people have been saying the US debt ceiling was the problem. Now they talk about worries about the health of the economy."

This was underscored by official data released on Tuesday, showing a fall in US consumer spending for the first time in nearly two years.

The figures also showed that incomes had barely risen, indicating that the economy was stalling in the first half of this year.

In addition to the US, eurozone debt worries are continuing to unsettle investors.

Spain and Italy are under renewed pressure because of concerns that the eurozone bailout fund is not enough to protect their larger economies if they can no longer pay their debts.

"It's a pretty bleak picture," said Justin Gallagher of RBS in Sydney.

"The implications for the Italian market and economy going through something similar to Greece is pretty frightening. People are suggesting it's not bailout-able. That's how big it is."

Nor has the President signing the debt ceiling deal into law alleviated the danger of a credit mark down for the U.S.:

US shares fall as spending data ignites economic fears

Ratings agencies Moody's and Standard and Poor's were both cautious about the agreement.

Moody's upheld the US's prized AAA credit rating, but the agency added a "negative outlook" on the rating, saying a historic downgrade could still come if US economic growth deteriorated significantly.

Standard and Poor's managing director Moritz Kraemer told the BBC that "the probability of a downgrade should not be discarded".

He said the firm needed to "analyse the deal in detail rather than just looking at the headline figures".

Which leads me to say that if you're a doomer long enough, you eventually get to be right.

The coming year is going to be a great time to load up on mining stocks. There are also going to be good opportunities in the metals themselves, should they be liquidated in another panic that leads the sheeple to the "safety" of fiat digital dollars and Treasuries.

At this point, I personally plan to have mining shares make up the greatest percentage of my savings, with an allocated metals storage account and physical metals themselves making up most of the rest. All held outside the banking system, of course.

Bernanke and Geithner and Obama and Boehner can kiss my a--.

Summary of Weekly Petroleum Data for the Week Ending July 29, 2011

U.S. crude oil refinery inputs averaged nearly 15.5 million barrels per day during the week ending July 29, 129 thousand barrels per day above the previous week’s average. Refineries operated at 89.3 percent of their operable capacity last week. Gasoline production decreased last week, averaging 9.1 million barrels per day. Distillate fuel production increased last week, averaging 4.6 million barrels per day.

U.S. crude oil imports averaged 9.1 million barrels per day last week, down by 706 thousand barrels per day from the previous week. Over the last four weeks, crude oil imports have averaged 9.3 million barrels per day, 681 thousand barrels per day below the same four-week period last year. Total motor gasoline imports (including both finished gasoline and gasoline blending components) last week averaged 845 thousand barrels per day. Distillate fuel imports averaged 205 thousand barrels per day last week.

U.S. commercial crude oil inventories (excluding those in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve) increased by 1.0 million barrels from the previous week. At 355.0 million barrels, U.S. crude oil inventories are above the upper limit of the average range for this time of year. Total motor gasoline inventories increased by 1.7 million barrels last week and are in the upper limit of the average range. Finished gasoline inventories decreased while blending components inventories increased last week. Distillate fuel inventories increased by 0.4 million barrels last week and are in the upper limit of the average range for this time of year. Propane/propylene inventories increased by 1.1 million barrels last week and are below the lower limit of the average range. Total commercial petroleum inventories increased by 2.6 million barrels last week.

Total products supplied over the last four-week period have averaged about 18.9 million barrels per day, down by 2.0 percent compared to the similar period last year. Over the last four weeks, motor gasoline product supplied has averaged nearly 9.1 million barrels per day, down by 3.6 percent from the same period last year. Distillate fuel product supplied has averaged 3.5 million barrels per day over the last four weeks, up by 1.7 percent from the same period last year. Jet fuel product supplied is 0.6 percent lower over the last four weeks compared to the same four-week period last year.

3.6 million barrels were released from the SPR last week. Total crude stocks including SPR declined by 1.9 million barrels. Crude stocks at Cushing declined 1.1 mb to 36.0. PADD2 refineries operated at 96.9% efficiency.

Usual totally unexplained upwards adjustments. About 2.5 million barrels of crude appeared from apparently nowhere last week in addition to the 3.6 million from the SPR. 1.2 million barrels of product also appeared via "adjustment".

Declining US oil demand and SPR releases of high quality crude are obscuring a fairly significant fall in oil imports and the net balance of oil product imports/exports (the US having switched this year from a net importer of oil products to a net exporter of oil products). In the latest four weeks, this balance of net oil plus net product imports/exports has fallen by 1.1 million barrels per day. Even if US demand for oil products is down 2% from last year (as it was recently), imports are dropping much faster than the fall in demand.

Without the SPR, total US oil inventories would have dropped again this week, as they had almost every week during three months before the SPR releases started.

Many oil analysts are now stating that the price of oil should fall further due to the apparent trend of declining US oil demand – which has recently been reinforced by shutdowns by some state governments and even at some federal agencies (such as the FAA). However in the long run demand would have to fall significantly further – into deep recession territory – for US oil demand and available supplies to balance.

If so, probably these weekly oil supply reports will become the least of our worries.

There are a few Our Finite World posts I wrote that might be of interest. They probably will not be on The Oil Drum.

One is listed in Drumbeat: How Limited Oil Supply can Lead to a Continuing Financial Crisis. It tells about an article that I wrote that has been accepted in the journal Energy, talking about the connection between high oil prices and recession, among other things.

Another is Why the US Debt Limit Agreements is Only a Temporary Solution. It shows graphs illustrating the imbalance between outgo and income. If only income taxes are used to make up for the shortfall, we would have to do the equivalent of tripling revenue from these taxes--won't happen!

I might also mention How can a government fix it debt problem? It ran a while ago. It talks about non-standard ways of getting out of debt.

plus ca change plus c'est la meme chose...

An epigram by Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr in the January 1849 issue of his journal Les Guêpes (“The Wasps”). Literally “The more it changes, the more it’s the same thing.”

Yes, things do sort of stay the same. Our financial system needs growth to work as intended. When there is too little growth, there are too few people with jobs, and too little taxes collected. There are also too many people collecting unemployment insurance and all kinds of benefits. A person can put together a lot of graphs, showing different aspects of the same problem, and they do come out the sort of the same--not very good news. It is hard to see a way to raise taxes or lower benefits that would fix our current problems.

Several weeks ago I mentioned in a Drumbeat that I had been told that Philips had won the DOE's L Prize competition, but I couldn't find anything to collaborate this at the time. Well, now it's official.

Department of Energy announce Philips as winner of L Prize competition
Philips Product Delivers on Department’s Challenge to Replace Common Light Bulb with Energy-Saving Lighting Alternative

Washington, USA – The U.S. Department of Energy today announced that Philips Lighting North America has won the 60-watt replacement bulb category of the Bright Tomorrow Lighting Prize (L Prize) competition. The Department of Energy’s L Prize challenged the lighting industry to develop high performance, energy-saving replacements for conventional light bulbs that will save American consumers and businesses money. If every 60-watt incandescent bulb in the U.S. was replaced with the 10-watt L Prize winner, the nation would save about 35 terawatt-hours of electricity or $3.9 billion in one year and avoid 20 million metric tons of carbon emissions.

Submitted in 2009, the Philips LED bulb successfully completed 18 months of demanding field, lab, and product testing to meet the rigorous requirements of the L Prize competition – ensuring that performance, quality, lifetime, cost, and availability meet expectations for widespread adoption and mass manufacturing.


The product also performed well through a series of stress tests, in which the product was subjected to extreme conditions such as high and low temperatures, humidity, vibration, high and low voltage, and various electrical waveform distortions. The Philips L Prize winning product was also required to have a useful lifetime of more than 25,000 hours....

See: http://www.newscenter.philips.com/main/standard/news/press/2011/20110803...

For additional background and specifications, see: http://www.newscenter.philips.com/main/standard/news/backgrounders/2011/...

Congratulations, Philips !


I purchased a phillips LED 60 watt replacement (not sure if it is exactly the same as the model here because it is rated at 13 watts draw) and it works really well. The plastic casing is yellow and you would never guess it puts out a nice white light, but it does!

Hi Jon,

What you purchased is very similar in design and outward appearance, but the L Prize lamp is definitely a step up, i.e., 910 lumens versus 800, 9.7-watts versus 12.5 and a CRI of 93 versus 80. I have several of the 12.5-watt EnduraLED A19 lamps in my home and the light they provide is very incandescent-like (I can't honestly tell the difference).

BTW, Home Depot sells the 17-watt version of the EnduraLED A19 that is intended to replace a 75-watt incandescent for $39.97 and the 100-watt equivalent should be available in early 2012.

Addendum: Additional reporting can be found at: http://www.ledsmagazine.com/news/8/8/8?cmpid=EnlLEDsAugust32011 Also, some background on the Cree prototype that produces 152 lumens per watt at: http://www.ledsmagazine.com/news/8/8/2


I can't find any LED lights outside of specialist lighting stores in the UK (and at prices to match). Are LEDs about 20 times the cost of CFL over there too?

CFL is sold on the basis of savings, but the EnduraLED are sold on light quality. At £50 rather than £2.50 a bulb, selling them as a money saver doesn't really work.

I think I spent under $40 for the current Endura. Even at $100 you save money over the long run, and I have quite a few Crees that cost that much that I'm quite happy with after several years now.

Note that I replace worn-out CFLs routinely now, yet I have yet to replace any of my LED bulbs (except a couple of the earliest, worst ones that I purposefully threw out, and which should never have been built at all).

I paid a little less than $40.00 for the 12.5-watt EnduraLED A19 so they're fifteen to twenty-times more costly than a comparable CFL as you suggest.

My advice has always been to stick with a CFL unless you have a compelling need/desire to go LED. The L Prize successor to this lamp when it hits store shelves early next year will supposedly sell in the range of $22.00, but that price hasn't been confirmed by Philips as yet.


I would say that "need" includes oft-switched lamps. CFL seems to work fine in the family room, which is on all evening and all day in the summer, but they fail quickly in my auto-detect outdoor lights where dogs and even blowing branches will cycle them.

Either one beats incan monetarily, though my wife still gripes about the cost sometimes.

Cold cathode CFL's (often labeled dimmable) are immune to rapid failure due to rapid cycling. Usually $8+/ bulb.

Best Hopes for Economic, and energy efficient, solutions,


Quite true. As a general rule, I would avoid using a CFL in any fixture equipped with a motion detector or occupancy sensor; they won't be happy and, ultimately, neither will you.

A couple days ago I unplugged my multi-function laser printer/photocopier/scanner and fax machine which in standby mode draws 21-watts. I also unplugged one of our older television sets and its satellite receiver. Taken together, these minor steps will reduce our home's energy usage by 525 kWh a year or approximately 5-per cent (cost: $0.00).


Have you tried the places on the factory estates that the 'leccys use? How about on-line? Check local wholesalers. Over here Home Depot is very expensive, lighting shops less so, electrical suppliers better but the best I have found is just over the bridge in the next state and is just a big shed that supplies the contractors. Trouble is that one is about a 30km bike ride over a very busy and narrow bridge, provided it doesn't fall in the river as it did last summer.


I've been using an 8,000BTU 10.8EER window AC unit (brand new) this past month. I turned it on last Tuesday morning and it has run now stop until this morning (its digital, and i have her set at about 66F). I'm cooling the entire house with it and even the far end of the house has stayed below 80F throughout this heatwave (ranch home/3br)/humidity levels in the house have been very comfortable. The only issue is having to run fans to move the air around. The Killawatt shows it used 78 kWhr's over that time period, or about $9 in electricity. Well worth the money in my book. I know central AC is a lot more convenient, but mine died and replacing just isn't in the cards right now ($$$). $2500 vs $168 made the decision easy!

Cold front went through last night and the heat/humidity has dropped considerably. Looks like a nice extended range (no AC). Hopefully summers wrath is ending up here in Wisconsin. This mornings EURO run is showing a very nice COOL shot (70Fs for highs?) a week from now!

Would love to have a roof full of solar panels to power an AC unit. The draw is under 800watts when its running full bore.

I don't know if your circulation fan still works or if you can conveniently turn it on or off at the thermostat, but I would periodically run it for five or ten minutes to help distribute the coolth throughout your home as needed.


It will be more efficient (perhaps buy at end of season close-out) and comfortable to buy a 5,000 or so BTU high SEER second unit if the circulating fan does not work.

Keep the first one at a reasonable temperature (75 F ?) and turn the second one off when you go to bed.

The economics may not justify $99 or so list minus discount but the comfort may well justify the second unit - especially if teh first one dies.

Best Hopes for economical comfort :-)


So Russian oil production is at a post-Soviet high. Not much digital ink seems to get spilled here on Russia, especially relative to Saudi Arabia, so I'm curious to hear people's opinions. Is it likely that Russia will maintain this production rate for long?

Russian oil production has been on a relativelyflat plateau since last October. Here is what the EIA's Short-Term Energy Outlook is predicting. The figures in bold are past production. The figures not bold are what is predicted. In millions of barrels per day.

2010				2011				2012			
Q1	Q2	Q3	Q4	Q1	Q2	Q3	Q4	Q1	Q2	Q3	Q4
10.1	10.14	10.14	10.13	10.22	10.23	10.13	10.09	10.23	10.14	10.03	9.94

As you can see the EIA is predicting Russian production to slightly fall off the current plateau. Reports out of Russia, from Putin and other Russian officials, say they hope to hold the current plateau. Most oil analyst that follow Russian production, say they will not. But nobody is predicting Russia will increase production above the current plateau.

Ron P.

The net export numbers are interesting (BP, total petroleum liquids).

The 2002 to 2007 rate of change in Russian net oil exports was 7.0%/year (on track to double in 10 years), but then. . .

The 2007 to 2010 rate of change in Russian net oil exports was zero (with 2008 being slightly below the 2007 level and with 2009 being slightly above the 2007 level). The bottom line is that Russian net oil exports have averaged about 7.1 mbpd for four straight years.

Here are the (2005) top five* combined net export numbers for 2005 to 2010 (BP, mbpd, total petroleum liquids):

2005: 23.7
2006: 23.3
2007: 22.7
2008: 22.5
2009: 21.0
2010: 20.8

*Saudi Arabia, Russia, Norway, Iran & UAE

Sam Foucher's most optimistic projection is that oil importers worldwide are presently consuming the (2005) top five's post-2005 CNE (Cumulative Net Exports) at the rate of about 8%/year.

Re: Oil firm says business as usual in Syria for now from above

US evacuates embassy staff in Syria

… The Treasury department is preparing to unveil new sanctions on Mr Assad’s regime this week, while three senators – calling for “crippling” action – have introduced a bipartisan bill targeting companies that invest in Syria’s energy sector or buy its oil exports.

NIST finds that ethanol-loving bacteria accelerate cracking of pipeline steels

U.S. production of ethanol for fuel has been rising quickly, topping 13 billion gallons in 2010. With the usual rail, truck and barge transport methods under potential strain, existing gas pipelines might be an efficient alternative for moving this renewable fuel around the country. But researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) caution that ethanol, and especially the bacteria sometimes found in it, can dramatically degrade pipelines.

Life can always find a concentrated energy source. Clever critters ;-) The bacteria were isolated from industrial tanks that store ethanol. Never thought it was possible to live in pure ethanol myself.

Never thought it was possible to live in pure ethanol myself.

Pure ethanol will pull water from the air 'till it gets to 95%.

At 95% - it can be used as a de-watering agent. Bacteria need water.

So I'm gonna ask for links for:
bacteria were isolated from industrial tanks that store ethanol.

The link was up above me. No details beyond industrial ethanol tank. So I am puzzled as well.

The link was up above me. No details beyond industrial ethanol tank. So I am puzzled as well.

Even 95% ethanol is stunning for life to thrive in.

I'd say that 95% is not possible for life.

Because "life" needs water and 95% Ethyl Alcohol == no water for microbes.

There is 1940's data that shows bacteria (perhaps the cysts) can exist in 90% Ethyl Alcohol and not 95%.

Ethanol may be "gasoline + Ethyl Alcohol" - can there I can imagine some Iron converting critters. History has 50% Ethyl Alcohol in glass remaining stable for 100+ years. Thus an interest in stable energy storage.

Re: A Warning for Shale Gas Investors (uptop)

My comments about the DFW Airport case history:


Chesapeake was estimating DFW Airport Lease production at about 250 MMCFPD (inclusive of NGL's in terms of gas equivalent) by the end of 2011. At their current rate of decline, they would be down to about 15 MMCFPD (gas only) by October, 2011.

wt - Hey...they only missed the estimate by 94%. Guess that's why they have that disclaimer at the bottom of their reserve reports. To paraphrase: This is our estimate. But we could be completely wrong. Thus you can't sue us if you lose money.

As noted yesterday, they probably just had a typo in their press release, when they said that the wells would be producing for at least 50 years. Maybe they meant 50 months. Of course, as previously noted, the Cheseapeake guys tend not to use the qualifer "Commercially" when talking about wells producing for at least 50 years.

Correction: I used three years for the decline instead of 2 years (from the October, 2009 peak of 77 MMCFPD). So at their current rate of decline, the DFW Airport Lease would be down to about 25 MMCFPD by October, 2011.

FOR ALL For those not as anal as WT and me let me simplify the point about Chesapeake's "projections". When any of these fractured shale wells are initially tested it's impossible to project it productive life. So they'll use "curve fitting" which is a very prejudiced way of making an estimate because you have so little curve to work with after just a few weeks of production. These wells don't decline in a linear manner...not initially. So curve fitting is as best a very rough estimate and easily fudged. OTOH Mother Earth is very kind to us reservoir engineers. After 2+ years of production curve become very predictable on a log/normal plot. You don't need to very smart to lay a straight edge along the curve and see at what cumulative volume the well reaches abandonment pressure. This is by far the most accurate measure in the oil patch.

So what companies like CHK do is take a very "liberal" use of curve fitting, make a rather optimistic projection and then, after a few years of production come back and release public statements regarding how inaccurate their original estimate was. Hmmm...you didn't see their press release highlighting how badly they misestimated recovery from the DFW leases? That's because they didn't issue such a press release. Securities laws don't require it. But it would obviously show up on the bottom line of their reserve report, right? Which is why it's absolutely critical that such operations keep drilling new wells. New production comes on at much higher rates then the aging wells. When blended together it tends to hide the decline rates of the older wells.

But the some smart *ss like WT gets the actual production history from some other un-named smart *ss and ...TA DA! The truth will set you free! Being a tad serious for the moment this is what frustrates the heck out of folks like me, WT, Rocky, etc. The cornucopians bombard us with press release from public companies that "project" great things in the future but no one, especially the MSM, follows up on those projections.

A while back challenged me with a press release form another public company: their Eagle Ford well initially came on at 947 bopd and had produced 181,000 bo in the first 12 months. The company "estimated" this MIGHT ultimately recover 500,000. That the cornucopian did know was that I had access the actual production data they report to the state of Texas. the above statement of facts was true. But they didn't bother to mention that the well that started producing 947 bopd was only producing 86 bopd after 12 months. Yes...a 90% decline rate, typical of what I've seen of other EF wells that have enough production history to measure. But, then again, the law didn't require them to make a full disclosure. So the well averages over 500 bopd for 12 months and yields 181,000 bo. And to reach their 500,000 bo ultimate recover this well, averaging much less than 86 bopd over future years, will recover more than 300,000 bo. But you have to read their words carefully. they didn't say it would recover 500,000 bo...they said it MIGHT. The wording of such press releases are review internally by a specially team that knows very well what they can get away with and what they can't. Press releases from public companies have to adhere to SEC laws. Lawyers write/approve these press releases...not geologists or engineers.

An item from the July, 2007 American Oil & Gas Reporter (emphasis added):

Chesapeake Images Barnett Shale Beneath DFW Airport

But for Chesapeake Energy Corporation, the airport itself holds the ticket to expanding
the company’s presence in the red-hot play, says Larry Lunardi, Chesapeake’s vice president of geophysics.

“The Barnett has been arguably the fastest growing gas play in the world, and we are aware of precious
few opportunities to lease so much contiguous acreage,” relates Lunardi, noting that the chain link fences
surrounding the airport’s perimeter encircle 18,076 acres untouched by a drill bit. “The airport not only
represents one of the single largest remaining Barnett Shale lease opportunities, but this acreage likely
contains one of the thickest and best-developed reservoir facies anywhere in the play. That is the biggest
reason we are so excited about the DFW project.”

The DFW Airport Lease is such a valuable Barnett Shale case history because it's a large lease, with one operator, using the best available technology, with a known lease cost ($185 million). And it provides an excellent case history of what happens when the drilling pretty much stops. In this case, production declined by 58% from October, 2009 to May, 2011, a period of 19 months, an annualized decline rate of 55%/year.

I am with you guys in anal fortitude; the kind of EUR numbers public companies boast cloud an already fuzzy reserve inventory base that we need to have a better understanding of going forward. We demand reserve transparancy from the Saudis' but can't get it from Chesapeake or Magnum or EOG.

I can tell you first hand that in the EF trend, especially in the undeveloped NE part of the play, mineral owners read these EUR numbers in press releases and lease bonuses and royalty burdens keep going up and up.

Rock, my Chalk rash is bothering me again.

Incidentally, the last six months of available data on the DFW Airpot Lease show an annualized decline rate of about 72%/year, versus a 19 month annualized decline rate of 55%/year (monthly data in both cases). So far, seems like the opposite of a hyperbolic decline curve.

BBC TV programme in row over Nissan electric car

Jeremy Clarkson, the outspoken presenter of popular British motoring show Top Gear on Wednesday defended an episode of the series in which he deliberately runs out of power in Japanese automaker Nissan's Leaf electric car.

"The piece was about the difficulties of recharging the electric car," ... "At no point did we mislead the viewers. Top Gear's job is to say to everybody, 'Just a minute, do not believe (electric cars) can be run as simply as you have been told. Charging them up is a pain in the arse'."

From the same show that gave us

... In February the BBC was forced to apologise to the Mexican ambassador to London after a Top Gear presenter described Mexicans as "lazy", "feckless" and "flatulent" in a segment about a sportscar made by Mexican firm Mastretta.

The BBC appears to have a problem. Funny that they approve of demagoguery though. Makes their image look bad.

Be fair, Top Gear is far more Peak Oil aware than virtually every other show out there - particularly the business or politics ones. They often make reference to 'the oil running out'.

However, they support hydrogen as a replacement fuel because it enables cars to behave as before (fill up and go). They don't like the batteries.

If they were honest they would cover the issues with hydrogen production, transmission & storage; but they aren't there to be fair minded, but to make entertaining TV.

Long may they say things that others consider 'inappropriate'; talking about the oil decline is inappropriate to some.

Hydrogen is great all except the production, storage, and transmission issues ;-)

Its not as if they were parked on top of a building that was about to be demolished to see if they still started after the building was blown up, or used as target practice for tanks on Salisbury Plain. There are far worse possible fates for cars on Top Gear than running out of juice in Cleethorpes.

But come on, it's just snarky.

'Electric Cars are a big question mark, because there aren't many charging spots out there (yet)..'

Can you think of a source of energy that is MORE distributed at this point than Grid Power throughout the industrial west?

It's about as useful as sniping about soup because you don't have spoons handy.

The Top Gear heads are stuck in a Petrol-head mindset. They think of gas stations and thus immediately think of public charging stations. But that is silly. Every outlet is a charging stations. All EVs come with some sort of travel charger system that can plug into any local outlet. You won't get a fast charging rate but you'll be able to charge. In the UK where they have a 220V system, the charging rate is probably not too bad.

And EVs are not meant to be used as 'touring' cars. They are commuter cars build for typical daily driving needs. If you want to take a trip to the mountains then borrow/rent a gas car.

From NSIDC: Arctic sea ice at record low for July

Arctic sea ice extent averaged for July 2011 reached the lowest level for the month in the 1979 to 2011 satellite record, even though the pace of ice loss slowed substantially during the last two weeks of July. Shipping routes in the Arctic have less ice than usual for this time of year, and new data indicate that more of the Arctic's store of its oldest ice disappeared.

US: 'It was horrifying'! New Yorkers describe seeing baseball-sized hailstones fall in freak storm


Acoustic trauma: How wind farms make you sick

Industrial wind installations are creating a serious health issue, and comprehensive research is urgently needed, says a former Professor of Public Health.

"There has been no policy analysis that justifies imposing these effects on local residents. The attempts to deny the evidence cannot be seen as honest scientific disagreement, and represent either gross incompetence or intentional bias," writes Carl Phillips, formerly Professor of Public Health at University of Alberta, now an independent researcher.

"There is ample evidence that turbines cause a constellation of health problems, and attempts to deny this involve claims that are contrary to proper methods of scientific inference," Phillips writes in a paper published in the Bulletin of Science, Technology, and Society. It's one of several interesting papers in the journal, which is devoted to wind health issues.

On the other hand, it would seem to me that the noise is probably less than what one gets in an acquaintance's apartment a block off of Canal Street in Lower Manhattan. Taxi horns and traffic noise at all hours of the night.

Perhaps improved acoustic insulation might help in adjacent homes.

I don't doubt that between the size of these, and the various diameters/speeds they rotate, that there are some valid problems created with vibrations, rhythmic shadows, etc.. but it's also become a popular target, and put up against unusually high standards.

'You can drown in milk', as they say.

I remember the phone-cancer and wireless causing health problems scares. They had various health problems attached to them too.

Research should be done but I think it's a little early to state "There is ample evidence that turbines cause a constellation of health problems". Especially when in your next breath you are asking for more research to provide more evidence.

And when, in that very same breath, you're taking in the well-known soup of carcinogens that are being poured into the air by our existing coal and gas generating fleet.

There is a part of this reaction that is a natural conservatism, where like with a new addition to our omnivore's diet, we are compelled to try to discern whether there will be long-term problems with this new item.. check for spots and aches, etc.. while we've also been hard at work creating a path for business by trying to weed out such long-term thinking, and insist that industry will self-correct, so we need to responsibly consume their goods in order to let that noble process continue uninterrupted.

It's an interesting balance, that of pushing forward, and also holding back.

This summer, my wife and I were driving through Roscoe, Texas -- one of the biggest wind farms in the world -- surrounded by hundreds, perhaps thousands, of large wind turbines. I pulled off the road, perhaps 100 meters from the nearest wind turbine, to see what they sounded like.

We could not hear them.

I didn't turn off the car engine, but the noise from cars on the highway from half a mile away drowned out whatever noise the turbines were making.

Maybe some turbines are loud, but these turbines, hundreds of them, were less loud than ordinary traffic.

Utah regulators close to OK on blended nuke waste

... One of the division's lingering concerns is whether the blending is being done to skirt a state law that prohibits the more radioactive class B and C nuclear waste, Lundberg said. EnergySolutions provided some information last week to ease those concerns.

While regulators seemed poised to approve the waste, opponents warned that — based on industry studies — the blended product is up to 800 percent more radioactive than the permitted class A waste.

and Avaxia wins $3M to treat gut damage from radiation

Avaxia Biologics Inc., a biotech company focused on the gastrointestinal tract, has won a federal contract worth $2.9 million to look into treatments for GI damage that follows radiation exposure, from such things as a nuclear accident. ...

It's all GDP

and elsewhere Human error led to radiation incident at Kakrapar [India] atomic power station

... If sources are to be believed the three supervisors, responsible for discharge of spent fuel bundles at SFTD plant, completely forgot the orders issued by higher officials.Their ignorance led to the entire situation.

“As per orders, no spend fuel was to be released in the tunnel till 1 pm. To ensure this, we sent a letter to all three and took their signatures as well. However, they forgot about the orders in the letter and switched on the refuelling system. This led to workers coming in contact with the radiation,”

. ... The contract workers were carrying out painting work in the spent fuel transfer duct (SFTD) when the control room released a pair of spent fuel bundles. But, it was found that the radiation they were exposed to was only up to 90,000 million rays or 90 mSv (milli Sieverts). They were sent home as they within our radiation limits," he added.

"only up to 90,000 million rays or 90 mSv"

How I hate spin.
They'll probably be fine though.
Any industrial accident like.that angers me. I've worked in so many situations where the greatest danger is often someone sitting elsewhere.

That situation was roughly equivalent to working inside a pulp beater in a papermill - those guys had to move quickly to survive.
I wonder where they differ from US procedure.

>I wonder where they differ from US procedure.

They speak Hindi

My gut says there's more than that. The transfer tube was supposed to be locked out -

The Gas That Could Ignite War

Following the discovery of off-shore gas fields, a crisis of maritime demarcation has suddenly erupted between Lebanon and Israel. Israel is acting freely in determining its own space, while Lebanon believes that what Israel has set out for itself encroaches on an area that belongs to Lebanon.

'Largest series of cyber-attacks' reported

In a report released on Wednesday and reported by the Reuters news agency, McAfee announced that 72 organisations had their networks intruded upon by a single, unnamed "state actor".

The organisations, which were targeted over the course of a five-year campaign, include the UN, as well as the governments of the US, Taiwan, India, South Korea, Vietnam and Canada.

Also targeted were the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the World Anti-Doping Agency. Companies ranging in scope from defence to tech were targeted as well.

U.S. Natural Gas Wholesale Company and U.S. Solar Power Energy Company on list

also http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/national-security/report-identifi...

McAfee Report: http://www.mcafee.com/us/resources/white-papers/wp-operation-shady-rat.pdf

Amazon deforestation on the rise again in Brazil

BRASILIA — Deforestation in Brazil's Amazon accelerated in June, with more than 300 square kilometers destroyed, a 17 percent increase over the previous month, government researchers said Tuesday.

The National Institute for Space Research (INPE) said 312.6 square kilometers (120 square miles) were destroyed in June, based on the preliminary analysis of satellite photos of the vast South American rainforest. May had seen a decrease in deforestation to 268 square kilometers (100 square miles) from 477 square kilometers (180 square miles) in April. In April, more than 400 square kilometers (150 square miles) of forests were destroyed in a single state, Mato Grosso, which is seen as a major agricultural frontier and is used for cattle ranches and soybean farming.

Researchers see plentiful lithium resources for electric vehicles

Researchers from the University of Michigan and Ford Motor Co. have assessed the global availability of lithium and compared it to the potential demand from large-scale global use of electric vehicles. The research findings, published in the current issue of the Journal of Industrial Ecology, conclude that sufficient resources of lithium exist for the next 90 years to supply a large-scale global fleet of electric vehicles through at least 2100

Please will someone take the trouble of explaining these bums the difference between "reserves" and "resources" .

hih - I suspect they do know the difference and their choice of "resource" over "reserve" is neither due to ignorance or carelessness. You hardly ever find someone spinning who doesn't know they are spinning IMHO.

Japanese save energy with air conditioned clothes:


From Wards Automotive. Not too promising in terms of the trend towards pickups and SUVs.

                          2011      2010   % Chg.
Domestic Cars          340,042   336,790    4.8
Import Cars            155,561   178,153   -9.3
Total Cars             495,603   514,943   -0.1
Domestic Light Trucks  479,978   450,323   10.7
Import Light Trucks     80,324    81,714    2.1
Total Light Trucks     560,302   532,037    9.4

I think this data over a long term from U.S. car and truck sales for 1931-2010. is much more interesting than looking at such a narrow slice of the data.

Things start to look interesting in the mid to late 90s when truck sales start to overtake car sales in volume.
Also you can clearly see the hit the economy has taken over the last couple of years.


I doubt that we will ever see a US market of 17 million per year again unless the domestic makers can see off the imports and go back to planned obsolescence.

This data explains why auto manufacturers are so screwed. They built out massive infrastructure to make inefficient trucks as trucks overtook cars, and now that oil is constrained, more efficient cars must replace trucks.

Hoping that automakers understand peak oil. Perhaps in the bailout environment they can risk making more trucks again betting that the consumer hasn't a clue about peak oil knowing that they will get bailed out again when oil gets bad the second time.

Hence we should really prevent this nonsense and the nature evolution of the industry should reward the small car marker as the economy corrects itself due to constrained oil supplies.

So much for adaptive logic.

They sell trucks at a greater profit, so when people will buy them (decent jobs and cheap gas), they will sell those. If times get hard, the companies will gladly sell small cars to the same people. If during the "recovery" only small cars had been for sale, the companies would have missed out twice. It is society that is behaving illogically, not the car companies.

I gotta say, though, that driving an SUV or truck has a lot going for it EXCEPT when filling up.

I see your point on the consumer end. I guess it will take a long oil tightening to change consumer habits, but the auto industry should spend design time and adapt their plants to be able to change product lines more nimbly.

They cannot ask for bailouts cause oil is tight. That is not a solution either.

I guess it will take a long oil tightening to change consumer habits,

Actually, their habits seem to have more short term sensitivity than you might think, though in the long term it is questionable.

The following is a chart I put up on Robert Rapier's blog in the discussion about GM bringing the diesel Cruze (linked in my post below), in response to a statement that "the price of oil influences what cars people buy"

Of course this is not true - the price of oil is virtually the same worldwide, but Euros and Japanese drive very different cars.
It is the retail price of fuel that really counts, (and other rules/taxes on cars) so I went searching for inflation adjusted gasoline prices, and car sales volumes, for the US;

Most of the identifiable price spikes have led to short term declines in sales of both cars and trucks, which suggests that most people simply delay their purchases in such times, and then, eventually, buy whatever it was they were going to buy anyway. We did hear that there was more demand for the Prius in the spike of 08, but it still hasn't cracked the top 20 best selling models

But compact car sales, like the Chevy Cruze, Hyundai Elantra, etc, are doing better than they ever have, so maybe their is some change after all - though I suspect many are downsizing from larger cars, not trucks/SUV's .

it is also interesting, though probably just coincidence, that the steady rise in sales of trucks(includes SUV's and minivans) has pretty closely matched the steady rise in US oil imports

The rise of "trucks" is almost all due to the incentive provided by regulation of emissions, fuel efficiency, safety, etc. Manufacturers took advantage of the differences in "car" versus "truck" regulations to bring out an array of passenger carrying trucks. These including downsizing the passenger van and putting it on a unibody to create the minivan. They extended the cab to add jump seats and then a full back seat in "crew cab" pickups. They took the Jeep Wagoneer and Chevy Suburban style vehicle and evolved it into the SUV.

All these were strategies to sell passenger vehicles without conforming to "car" regulations.

The US car makers realised back in the 60's-70's that their overseas competitors did not build large "trucks", mostly just cars, and if they could get people to use"trucks" as their cars, they would have this market to themselves.

This strategy actually worked quite well - it is only relatively recently that the Euro/Japanese companies got into trucks, SUV's and minivans in a big way.

But it is typical gaming of the system by the US mfrs to get around passenger car rules.

My rules would be like this;
-If the "truck" has more seating than the front row, then it is a passenger vehicle, and must meet appropriate safety and fuel economy standards. (an alternative would be if the passenger cab length-on the floor- is more than the cargo area length, then it is a passenger vehicle)
-Raise the 8000lb limit for CAFe to 10,000lbs. Vehicles above this are commercial vehicles, and the HD pickups below it are "light trucks" and are incorporated into CAFE averages.

There are probably more details we could have, but I think these two would lead to quite some changes in vehicle types and sales patterns

Trucks outsold cars in 2010, and the one month shown in 2011 continues that trend. It doesn't look like the direction we should be going, unless the only people who are buying vehicles nowadays are business owners who need trucks for their purposes.

A lot of new cars, especially the fuel efficient ones, are not rated to pull a trailer. I looked at putting a hitch on my Aveo, but it wouldn't be good for much more than a bike rack. And it voided the warrantee (although that has now expired anyway.) Around here most people have boat trailers, utility trailers, ATV trailers, or snowmobile trailers and that's not counting the various types of campers.

Locally, one econobox and one truck per family seems to be how it works. The SUVs are becoming less popular and are being replaced by crew-cab pickups (which can carry the kids), usually with Mega-Snort Diesels with optional Jake-brakes to rattle 50% more windows.

Whether this is an improvement over a lesser pickup and an SUV, or his/hers SUVs that used to predominate here is an open question.

And I'm guilty too. I have a 1990 pickup, the Aveo, a boat (with trailer), and a Honda 750 motorcycle (Shadow-aero, for those about to ask which 750). The boat has a whopping great 4 HP 4-stroke outboard, so don't try to lay too much guilt on me; it won't work.

A lot of new cars, especially the fuel efficient ones, are not rated to pull a trailer.

We should probably qualify this by saying;

A lot of new cars, especially the fuel-efficient ones, in the USA, are not rated to pull a trailer

I wrote a post on Robert Rapiers blog about GM's decision to bring the diesel Cruze to N. America in 2013, and in doing so, I looked for the tow ratings of the same Cruze in Australia, Canada and the US;

Towing capacity ratings in Australia are 1500lb unbraked and 2500lb with trailer brakes. In Canada, it is 1000lb max, and, in the US, there is no listed towing capacity. I suspect this has more to do with the number of lawyers in the respective countries than anything to do with the car itself.

Many American versions of a vehicle have a much lower tow rating than the same vehicle in other countries - it's almost as if the Detroit three have crafted the rules over time so that anyone who wants to tow anything, has to buy a truck...

Will be intersting to see how the current - and likely to continue for the forseeable future - fall in oil prices will affect buying habits. Will people just jump straight back to trucks? As QE2 now is firmly over all commodity prices (except inflation hedges such as gold and silver) will continue to fall unil QE3. The latest agreement on the debt ceiling and the focus on cuts makes QE3 much more difficult. As a result it seems quite likely that WTI may fall back to about 50 USD/BBL and Brent to about 70 USD/BBL. It may happen quickly, or it may happen more slowly. But in the absence of QE3 it will most certainly happen.

NM,You are wrong.Since the US treasury bill is no more safe haven the only safe havens left are precious metals and oil.See the funds flow into the oil market.

Not quite sure whether you are being serious or not as you have a hole in your head. :-) But anyway: I (and many others) have been predicting a collapse in commodity prices (with the possible exception of inflation hedges gold and silver) for a very long time. Since the financial crash of 2008/2009 oil prices (and the prices of wheat, cotton, beef - you name it) have been driven upwards (particularly denominated in USD by thin-air money printing. US thin-air money printing has stopped for the time being so quite naturally commodity prices will come crashing down. (At least denominated in FIAT dollars). Remember: Since reaching a peak at 114 USD/BBL in April WTI prices are now down to 87 USD/BBL. That's a hell of a fall and - in my opinion - set to continue for some time to come. Probably down to a level of about 50 USD/BBL. Similary Brent reached a peak of over 125 USD/BBL and has now come down to 107 USD/BBL. Once again this is a trend that will most likely continue down to about 70-80 USD/BBL. Or perhaps even lower? However, WTI and Brent are unlikely to converge for the forseeable future due to the lack of pipe capacity from Cushing. Anyway, I don't have a hole in my head, and things are so far playing out much as expected - so I'm quite happy to enter into a gentlemens bet with you that oil prices will fall below 80 USD/BBL (Brent) and 60 USD/BBL (WTI) by the end of the year (and probably much sooner).

As you are so sure that I am wrong I'm sure you will take me up on it?

A gentleman bet then it is,Nordic Mist.But a rider the price must sustain for minimum one week.A spike for a day or two due to a black swan event is not acceptable.

Fine by me. Minimum 7 days below the given levels.

I think that Nordic Mist will win his bet; all signs seem to be indicating that we are heading for another 2008 size stepdown on the economy. I wouldn’t be surprised if oil fell to the $30-$40 range and stays there for at least the week required in the bet.

But I doubt it will stay at this level for more than several weeks. By this time, the Saudis will have managed to get a pretty good idea of the level of demand destruction that has taken place, and they will then reduce/calibrate their production to cause the price to rise and then level off in the $75-$85 range.

At this point the Saudis will be sitting on several MBD of spare capacity. And as time goes on and the world muddles along, the price will gradually again start creeping up, while at the same time the spare capacity is slowly whittled away. All this happened after the “08 crash. It seems that there is a cycle here, and we are now coming full circle. If there is to be a 2011 stepdown in the economy, are we looking at yet another in 2015? In 2018? How many downturns before we step off the big one--the big monster step down shown in Aangel's Revised Stairstep Model, which was posted here on TOD a number of times a few months ago.

Antoinetta III

And what happens to spot prices such as Light Louisiana Sweet in your scenario?

Louisiana Sweet/WTI Price Differential

Current Louisiana Sweet $109.63

Louisiana Sweet, being available at a port and available to the international markets will more or less track Brent. As mentioned earlier on TOD WTI isn't really relevant for world markets at the moment.

Nordic is the Cushing Oil still the same quality or did they change the spec behind closed doors. Why release oil from the SPR if we had so much surplus oil in Cushing? Makes no sense to me.

The trouble with Cushing is that there is a quite a bit more oil currently available to flow in but no capacity for more oil to flow out down to the coast. As a result sellers are underbidding each other to get rid of their oil. This doesn't have any significant effect on world markets of course as they are hardly getting any more supply as a result.

However, the whole IEA/SPR + others release makes absolutely no sense and just shows that the IEA/US government have completely lost the plot with regard to oil supply/prices. How on earth was releasing less than a days production ever going to have any significant effect? The incredible thing was of course that it did lead to almost a 10 dollar (very temporary!!) drop in oil prices. Shows that the traders are losing the plot as well.

But you do of course have to remember that the oil was released around the world and not just in one location from the US SPR.

The current fall in oil prices from the peak - and the continuing fall that I'm predicting has very little to do with supply and demand and everything to do with the fact that if money isn't being printed at the same insane rate as it was... then commodity prices will collapse. End of story.

Relax. There's plenty of nice, juicy, light sweet oil at Cushing just like Nordic says and it's always increasing. Anyone who says otherwise and that Cushing crude stocks are 2 million barrels below last year at this time is.... THE EIA.

Storage capacity is relatively small. Cushing is to all intents and purposes full. But you're getting the wrong end of the stick: I'm not saying this solves any problems or affects world supply significantly. It just means that prices are depressed at Cushing. IE WTI is selling lower than the same blend would anywhere else in the world. Anyway: Your graph seems to show an upwards tredn unless I'm very much mistaken. :-)

Startups plan to power the world

With this approach, plutonium from weapons and reactor fuel will start about 70 chloride fast reactors. Each one will make enough uranium-233 each year to start 70 new LFTRs at a gigawatt each. That means that in less than 20 years we could have 1000 LFTRs online, generating all of the energy our nation needs, all the while we’re burning down and destroying the plutonium we’ve generated over the last 60 years for weapons and from reactor operation. Compare that to the standard fast breeder approach where in 20 years the 70 fast breeders we started have generated enough new fuel for another 70 fast breeders and you can see really quickly how fast uranium-233 and slowed-down neutrons can let you move ahead and replace coal and other fossil fuels.

Remember all of that fluorine? It’s going to end up combined with lithium, beryllium, and thorium to make the fuel for the thousand LFTRs that we’re going to build. Those thousand LFTRs are going to burn about a thousand tonnes of thorium each year to make all of this energy, which is about a quarter of what one mine site in Idaho with a pit the size of a football field could produce. Again, thorium and slowed-down neutrons can let you be much more efficient in your nuclear strategy.

At the end of this effort, we will have destroyed our 100 tonnes of highly-enriched uranium from weapons. We will have destroyed our 100 tonnes of weapons-grade plutonium from decommissioned weapons. We will have destroyed the 700 tonnes of plutonium and other actinides in the spent nuclear fuel. We will have essentially eliminated the issue of spent nuclear fuel as a concern. We will have replaced the coal and gas electrical generation in the country. We will have added enough additional electrical generation to the nation’s grid to power electric cars rather than gasoline-powered ones. We’ll have cleaner air. We’ll have cleaner water. We’ll keep hundreds of billions of dollars in our country because we’ll be energy-independent. And we will have solved the energy crisis permanently.

from http://energyfromthorium.com/plan/ this was written by the founder of Flibe Energy a new startup company.

And we will have solved the energy crisis permanently.

Right. Sure.

The 70 new LFTRs

Which need cooling water, not in active fault locations, it seems away from Tsunamis, plus a few other considerations.

Where are these 70 a year locations to be found?

And what about nations like North Korea, Iran, Zimbabwe? Are they to be included or excluded from this "permanent energy crisis solution"? What's the criteria for being allowed/not allowed?

New Zealand Democrats propose solution to Greek debt crisis.

Greek bankruptcy joke

Future historians will read current press reports about the Greek shambles with amusement. We also, at this distance, can see the funny side of it already; when we understand how banking actually works.

Sovereign governments, with Greece one of the oldest, have for yonks followed the U.K. and others in delegating their credit creating privileges to wealthy families like Rothschilds to establish banks. As stated in the charter of the Bank of England, it includes the right to “create credit and charge interest thereon”, and although it sounded like a national organisation, it definitely was not; and nor was the Federal Reserve or many others.

By an ironical twist, C.H. Douglas of Social Credit fame, 80 years ago, warned governments that the way economies operate, the system generates more debt than incomes, and if not neutralized, this debt will create trade wars, booms, and drowning in unpayable debt. Economists, probably including the Greek Club, laughed at him, and we now even have the U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donoghue saying that his superpower may also be heading for insolvency. And if that isn’t amusing enough, the so-called wealth of banking companies is nothing but flash buildings and “truckloads” of computer figures, amassed not by producing the Goods and Services that this civilisation thrives on, but simply by using the sequested sovereign rite to create credit out of nothing, and charge everybody interest on it.

If the Greeks were half as smart as Socrates, they’d emulate the first N.Z. Labour Government, and nationalise the Central Bank. Then they could buy back the State Debentures with the same “created” figures as they were bought with in the first place. The rioting would stop because the Greeks could breathe again. Laughing stops too.

- contributed by Donald Bethune, Hamilton

from http://www.democrats.org.nz/OurNews/Articles/tabid/112/selectedmoduleid/...

Link up top: Not Much Peak Oil Lately

The problem is: When the price of oil takes off it tends to take out the entire world economy.

Tell us about it. Folks have been predicting that the price of oil will go through the roof just as soon as we hit peak oil. Well, we have hit peak oil and the price is hovering around $100 a barrel with just as much a chance of going lower as it has of going higher. What a lot of people don't realize is that the economy can only accommodate oil prices so high before a recession knocks them down again.

Right now I sense that we are sitting right on the edge. If oil prices go down the economy will recover slightly and pull oil prices right back up again. That will, in turn, pull the economy back down again and knock oil prices back down again. And the cycle continues.

Oil production, right now, is not decreasing. But the problem is that it is not increasing either. The economy cannot grow until oil production grows, allowing oil prices to drop and allowing an economic recovery. So we remain, teetering on the edge, until something happens.

I estimate, but this is just my opinion, but I estimate that there is about a one in ten chance that whatever happens will allow an economic recovery. That would be like a huge increase in oil production. But the chances are about nine in ten that something will happen that will cause the economy to go into a tailspin. That could be a decrease in oil production, a default of several European economies, a default in several US municipal economies, or several other things that could happen to cause panic and despair in the stock market.

So we sit here... waiting... waiting... waiting...

Ron P.

The time scale is 10 years. By 2021 it will be clear what is happening.

That's what we said in 2001.

So we remain, teetering on the edge, until something happens.

It is an interesting period in which the plateau of oil production has stretched on now since 05, stagnating growth. The results are a variety of fancy fiscal footwork efforts like QE's to keep BAU going. So it appears there is a tough struggle that goes along with a plateau of high priced oil, and that it will probably take a clearcut reduction in oil flow to cause collapse. Which gets back to the question of how long this plateau can be maintained. 05-11 = 6 yrs. Maybe 10, which would be 2015. 10 years at a plateau of oil production sounds like a reasonable time period in relation to the time it took to get to that level.

Gosh, Ron, I challenge you to come up with something optimistic for a change :-/

I've tried and the only good news in my life is purely local, as in many of my preps are paying off, though it's hard; a daily struggle. Better than waiting... waiting. At least that's the plan.

I know this site is The Oil Drum, but we spend a lot of time here discussing the knock-off/knock-on effects of peak oil. Cliches such as 'perfect storm' are hard to refute. While oil, the great enabler, begins to decline, virtually everything else upon which our hyper-complex systems rely is going critical. Climate, population, finance/debt/banking, housing, agriculture/food, fresh water, healthcare, politics, environment, education, energy in general... virtually all systems are stressed to the edge.

Question: If there was a huge discovery, a super, super giant field of perfectly light, sweet crude discovered-developed-producing tomorrow, would it make much difference? Cold fusion? Benign aliens?

Only if it was a cheap substitute, that could be implemented immediately (using current infrastructure).

A cheap substitute won't increase the capacity of our planet to act as a sink for the detritus of our ever-growing civilization, the ultimate limiting factor. Population... Jevons..

We don't need no cheap substitute, not really.

Details! Maybe our population needs to be a whole lot lower. Too bad we didn't figure that out a few generations ago.

The problem is the present system was built on UNDERPRICED energy.

How does photons captured years ago and processed inefficiently and then harvested and processed by multi-million dollar equipment get priced under photons captured in less than one year and processed into say Milk, Veggie oil (or more expensive animal fat), or even ethyl alcohol which all can be obtained with metalworking skills and less than $1000 of material/labor?

A Human don't need a whole lotta skill/training to milk a cow, compress seed to get oil/render fat, or build a container to hold a low concentration alcohol and use condensation to make a high concentration. (Sheet copper + solder so it needs lees "tech"). But the skills and material to make a drill rig and a refinery - that isn't within the ability of one human.

The problem is the present system was built on UNDERPRICED energy.

Unfortunately, the transition to higher price energy will probably be bumpy. Kind of like what the stock market is experiencing right now.

Hot Texas sets electricity record — for third straight day

..."We're concerned particularly for this week," said Kent Saathoff, vice president of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. The increased demand this summer, he added, "is far beyond what we expected."

"We are expecting another record-high electricity demand tomorrow," he added, "so we are continuing our call for conservation between 3-7 p.m."

Dallas saw its 33rd day in a row of triple-digit temperatures, bringing it closer to the record of 42 days set in 1980.

... And there's little chance to cool down overnight, said Accuweather.com senior meteorologist Paul Walker

Conservation between 3-7pm? Isn't that the hottest part of the day? Usually the high hits about 3-3:30pm, but then the Sun gets lower and shines through the windows until it sets. So let's say it's 105-110F. How does one conserve energy during that time period? Turn off the AC, Go sit in a bathtub of cold water and dunk one's headneath every few minutes while the house increases in temp to 120? But then the overnight low is 80-84, and you've scorched the inside of your domicile, so getting the house cool overnight is not happening and you start the next day wrapped in a chilled wet towel.

I'll take northern California. In our neck of the woods it gets into the 90's in the day, but the high 50's at night. We just go downstairs in the afternoon and turn off the AC, then open the windows at night and saints alive it works. No outrageous power bill yet we stay cool enough.

It could be something as simple as not running your dishwasher until later in the evening; dishwashers with their internal heating elements typically draw about 1,500-watts. Likewise, you might delay the use of your washer and tumble dryer -- the latter, if electric, can draw something in the order of 4,500-watts. These actions are particularly helpful if you have an electric water heater as they consume anywhere from 3,000 to 5,500-watts.

In terms of food preparation, you might also minimize the use of major heat generating appliances which will help lessen your a/c load, e.g., my convection oven pulls a whopping 5,300-watts whereas my toaster oven is rated at 1,500-watts. In an extreme power event, I'd settle for a salad and cold cuts or I might throw a couple of steaks on the outdoor BBQ (zero watts).


Even if your tumble dryer is gas, it will exhaust approximately 200 cubic feet of conditioned air per minute, so a single load of laundry will expel a volume of air roughly equivalent to that of a 1,500 sq. ft. home, and this replacement air will need to be cooled and dehumidified.

Summertime is microwave season. Winter is roasting/baking season.

Please note that 3 PM Daylight Savings Time is about two hours past solar noon, and close to three hours after insolation peak (haze and clouds in the PM).

Solar PV is down some % from peak at 3 PM (SWAG -30%) and is near 10% of peak generation by 7 PM in August.

Still useful, but not a cure-all. Solar PV does save NG which can run short.


I am thinking of changing my monicker to htt (holier than thou), since I seem to not be afflicted by the usual curses complained about here. I live in a standard hot sticky/cold damp eastern mid west place, but don't use any AC, don't burn up or freeze, and could go totally off fossil fuels if it came to it, at least in our house if not from support systems outside it.

We use about 6-8kw-hrs per day from the grid, and could and should go much lower, and will when I get around to it. We have a chlothesline that works great, and a dehumidifier from well water circulated thru a radiator in the living room. Our $200 solar water heater heats more than we need in summer, and our wood stove ditto in the winter.

My wife complained a bit about the humidity a few days ago. when the afternoon heat/humidity was the worst we have ever seen, so I started to think about a personalcooling system. The japanese guy's puffy vest looks just right for the job and I am toying with a prototype, which will of course have a little PV panel on its back.

Summary statement. At least here in the US, we have enormously wasteful processes and absurdly high artificial demands on energy that could be redirected to putting us on a solar only energy system very quickly, and we have tons of people, talent, materials, desire, to do it. As well as lots and lots of demonstrations here and all over the world, of THINGS THAT WORK RIGHT NOW.

And my standard retort to "costs too much". Make a pie chart of everything we do, That great big slice up there is the military, and right next to it, and even bigger is STUFF THAT WE DO THAT DOES NOBODY ANY REAL GOOD. And over in the bottom is a little tiny slice labeled- "effort on getting us to where we want to go". So, all we have to do, is cut the pie differently, make the "nobody any good" silce a lot thinner, and slide that nice fat piece of the pie over to stick on the sliver "want to go".
Problem solved. Fast.

Could you put some numbers to the following please...

absurdly high artificial demands on energy that could be redirected to putting us on a solar only energy system very quickly, and we have tons of people, talent, materials, desire, to do it

....especially "artificial demands on energy"

...."solar only energy system very quickly"

and... "tons of materials".

Everytime I work on the numbers I find the opposite to be true. I'm talking real numbers, not pie in the sky future potential, because that is not available "very quickly".

Thanks for the reply, I usually don't get any at all.

Artificial demands-- OK, let me count the ways. Huge amounts of worthless catalogs in my mail that are pushing stuff I NEVER read and NEVER buy, but alas, lots of other people do. Look in those catalogs, and walk down the isle of any big box store, and count the percentage of stuff that meets ANY real need. The number I get is close to zero. And all of it costs lots of energy.
That's one, and the next one is any car more fancy than a civic or corolla.
And the next is-- you can fill in ten thousand of 'em. How about 5 trips per year of 2K miles per to dance around with the grandkids?
And they all soak up energy- put what I call artificial demands on it.

solar energy systems- there's lots of solar, we willnever run out, we know how to get it, if we quit dumping energy into the crap mentioned above and redirect that same effort money and materials toward solar we would have all that we need to do the solar thing RIGHT NOW, and surely all the materials needed too.

I once did a simple number here which came up with a solar thing that would satisfy my personal needs for ALL energy which had the same materials input to it as a standard american car. If such a thing were in a catalog, I for one would buy it in a second.. Instead that catalog is trying to sell me a widget that puts little sparkling lights on fish tanks.

What's missing in almost all the arguments about cost of solar is any sense of relative merit compared to what we are DOING RIGHT NOW and could quit doing without any harm at all.

BTW, I am NOT talking about PV only, solar thermal for many uses is far cheaper, and when you want terawatts, solar thermal on the gulf of california and the red sea, along with pumped storage there too, would be the best buy. After all, solar thermal is just glass, iron, copper and aluminum. We know all about that stuff. All of it is available quickly. Wind too.

Anyhow, let us not despair. We in the US may have proven ourselves to be a bunch of self-deluded idiots, but there are others around far smarter, and they will do it for us. And feed it to us with a spoon--or chopsticks.

"How about 5 trips per year of 2K miles per to dance around with the grandkids?"

For anybody that has been here - this is non-negotiable.

OK, fish, tell me, what is better for your grandkids- a dance with grandpa, or a world not too hot to live in?

I have grandkids too, also 2K miles thataway. I don't visit them much. But if you visit yours, mine get heated up just as much as if I had done the visits myself. So maybe we should negotiate.

So here's my plan, we all switch grandkids, so all of us live almost right next door to our newly assigned grandkids, and so we all can dance with all of them for no kerosene at all, and maybe even derive some cardiac benefit from the direct exercise, as well as feeling more good about their futures.

So that's my move. Yours?

I tend to agree. Every time I read a post that includes the words "dishwasher" and "energy conservation" it sounds so strange. Yes, there are probably people with compromised immune systems who benefit from the sterilization that a dish washer offers... but how many? There are a lot of devices people use that are probably not necessary in most situations.

Heat waves pushes Texas power grid into red zone

(Reuters) - The Texas power grid operator has scrambled this week to meet soaring electricity demand in the face of a brutal heat wave, and residents of the second most populous U.S. state are one power plant shut-down away from rolling blackouts

On Wednesday ERCOT came within 50 megawatts of interrupting flows to industrial customers. That's equal to the output of about 25 industrial-scale windmills.

Will they have enough electricity to keep the Blue Bell ice cream frozen?

Public Information Statement:


Several locations across West Texas and southeast New Mexico have
already set... or are close to setting... records for 100 or greater
degree days in a calendar year.

Midland is also all on pace to annihilate its record for least
precipitation in a calendar year

Offshore Arctic oil needs citizen input

All industrial disasters, like Chernobyl, Bhopal, Exxon Valdez, Deepwater Horizon, and Fukushima, share three fundamental underlying causes: industry negligence, failed government oversight, and public complacency. Industry seeks to minimize costs, accepting the risk of low-probability, high-consequence failures. Government is co-opted by industry, the line between the two blurs, and vigilance declines. And the public is too distracted with everyday life to play an effective oversight role in technically complex issues.

This volatile dynamic is evident today as plans for offshore drilling in the Arctic are developed without effective citizen oversight.

...The general public is asked to review and comment on an overwhelming stream of technically complex documents, but is outmatched by well-paid industry advocates. And with the legendary government / industry coziness in Alaska, the public simply cannot trust that government will look out for the greater public interest when it comes to regulating its main financial benefactor -- the oil industry.


I hadn't heard that this 2008 spill was so large. Evidently it was about a fifth the size of The GOM, but much larger than Exxon Valdez. The devastation is beyond remarkable. I think Shell has claimed thieves tapping into one of the pipes was the cause of one spill.

Re: Marcellus Shale gas links up top:

GasLand, the movie:


Pentagon to monitor social networking sites for threats

... The US department of defence is offering $42m (£25m) to fund research into monitoring social networks to track the formation, development and spread of ideas, and identify misinformation and attempts to foment unrest. The move by Darpa, the defence advanced research projects agency, comes in the wake of use of social networks by insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq and by home-grown threats such as Anonymous. Darpa did not respond to requests for comment from the New York Times.

Darpa is also seeking to identify people involved in such activity, what their intentions are and the impact of online campaigns to shape opinions or gather support on an issue, according to a document presented at the offices of the military contractor System Planning Corporation.

Move along little sheeple, nothing to see here

Department of war to monitor and control the thoughts of the people. Folks can we all say Fascism.

But wait a minute, I like the part "identify misinformation"--maybe they'll put the fools at WUWT in stir where they belong.

And as the article reminds us

The new proposals also seek to further efforts by the US government to automatically generate social media content through fake accounts, or bots. In March this year it was reported that US Central Command (Centcom) had awarded a contract to develop software that generates so-called "sock puppet" accounts – fake identities used to promote a particular view while hiding the user's true identity.

After a quick poll, 34 of my 37 sock-puppets agree these are both wonderful ideas. Now how do I sign up for a share of the $42 million dollars ;-)

Seriously though when you consider that the LulzSec twitter account has 350,000 followers and all "topiary" had to do was tweet a request to take a site down and down it went (police, CIA, FBI, with threats at NATO regularly tweeted etc.), it is something that can't be completely ignored by military planners. When the main web page of the biggest selling newspaper in the UK, displays a story that Rupert Murdoch has been found dead in his "famous topiary garden", it's gone "beyond a joke" really - even if it is amusing as well.

There are some who claim that Anonymous's Sabu is an agent of Russia/China/USA/Hamas/Israel/Iran etc etc. Well even if he isn't the potential for someone in future to be can't be ignored.

home-grown threats such as Anonymous


The establishment is running scared.

And all the good sheeple bleat...."If you haven't done anything wro-oo-onng...what do you have to hii-ii-dde?"

Here's a scenario to consider; how about a biological or chemical attack on a subway system killing 5,000 people that, in retrospect, could have been prevented had the Pentagon been monitoring and investigating leads through social networking channels. You'd be OK with that? There's a huge difference between, say, reading my [e]mail and harvesting signals intelligence from a public, or at best semi-private, channel like Facebook. The NSA would be completely derelict in their duty if they did not cull everything they could from the huge stream of intel that social networking provides.

When I initially read this headline I thought: "hmmm Italy has another Silvio Berlusconi? A smart, charismatic, selfless leader who will show Italy the way out of the forest of thorns it currently finds itself in?...."

But, no. It's just the same old chubby, narcissistic, corrupt, sildenafil citrate stuffed oaf we all know and love.

If he's their only hope; they truly have no hope.

Silvio Berlusconi fails to stem rising panic in financial markets


Just had a thought. A co workers son who was only 22 yrs old, died in a car accident over the weekend. Speed was a factor. If a maximum national speed limit was set extremely low, maybe 45 mph (maybe lower?) for high ways and lower for local roads, I wonder how many lives it would save? But also couldn't it be a way to slow down the demand for cars, and create more demand for trains which at that point would be able to travel significantly faster over long distances than the low speed limit cars.

Maybe create a huge ripple effect from there from commuting changes,significant reduction in fatal/traumatic accidents. Wasteful sports cars rendered almost useless, far safer driving conditions, possibly slower pace of life.

Why is this not possible? Would you want to live in a far slower paced world? Having known quite a few people that have died or been seriously injured in auto accidents (i'm 40) and the pain for the families that are left behind, is the speed worth it?

First of all, speed does not always lower MPG for may vehicles in real-world driving conditions. My '91 CRX HF used to get 50 MPG at 78 miles per hour on the highway, cruising, if I avoided any acceleration or deceleration. Now it gets about 44 at the same speed.

I support the idea of lowered speeds in suburban areas, or even 55 miles per hour on some city interstates. But most cars on the road today will not run very well at 45 MPG. Also, vast differences in speed on the highway can contribute to highway crashes, and a 45 MPH speed limit is unenforceable.

I think we would do better eliminating all electronics from cars to eliminate distractions-- have cell-phone blocking technology built in, get rid of navi, even electric windows, just eliminate every button and knob we possibly can except, perhaps, the stereo. I worry much more about distracted drivers than I do about speeders or drunks.

I enjoy fast driving and own a sports car, but I do not drive it many miles a year, avoid speeding unless I'm working a crisis and conditions permit, and will be happy as this gets phased out of modern life. It will become something that is done only on specified roads, at great expense, perhaps with a special license.

I am very sorry for your friend's loss.

Yair...after losing a couple of mates due to inappropriate speeding speeding back in the seventy's I devised a unit that could reduce the incidence of speeding.

Back then (before the digital revolution)we figured that with a bit of volume it would cost about three hundred bucks...it would be much cheaper now.

Basicaly it was an interlock between the speedo, the fuel level in the tank and a timer that shuts down the starting. In operation an allowance of (say) three minutes per tank was allowed for overspeeding.

There was an analogue countdown on the dash and a beeper. If the driver exceeded the preset allocation nothing happened...untill next time the tank was filled when the car would'nt start untill it timed out...say five minutes for every second over the allocation. That is to say if the driver goes five seconds over the allocation the car shuts down for fifty minutes and would need to pushed away from the bowser.

Not perfect by any means but it would have been a deterrent and would have saved many lives had it been adopted. Yeah, yeah, there are smart ass ways around it but on a modern car they can be very easily blocked.

The unit obviously has no affect on the performance of the car.

I'm with you on highway speeds, but for simple time value, not mileage.

A small car going 80 still uses less fuel than a large one going 50. Simply physics says that larger vehicles cause more danger and damage in multi-vehicle crashes, and that's one reason to get freight back on rails.

However, I don't see how you can say that some cars don't drive well at 45. Even my little Honda, which could really use another highway gear, does great at 45. On the few times I've had to drive long distances at low speeds (in fog or snow), the mileage has been the best I've ever gotten. This is to be expected, but the savings in fuel are tiny compared to the expense of time.

There would be a lot to be said for slowing down life in general, but as long as there is gainful work to be done at hourly rates, that's not realistic either.

Cat, the main issue raised here was safety, and you are definitely much better from a safety perspective driving slower (unless, as you say, everyone else is driving like bats out of hell).

Few cars get their best performance much over 55 mph. So that would be a good place to start. Enforcement is not a problem--just enforce it, starting with the worst offenders. Set the tickets high enough, rapidly going up from the smallest offenses, and people will get the idea pretty quickly.

The greatest oppression, to me, is being forced, in effect to drive at an illegally high, dangerous and wasteful level because everyone else is doing so, and not conforming would put me in even greater danger. The fact that people go over the speed limit is even more reason to lower it.

Dohboi – Many years ago I read about a study that analyzed speeding and driving patterns on US highways as speed limits were raised and lowered. The study concluded that on most roads there was something akin to a “natural speed” that most drivers will gravitate toward. Highways that are wide, straight, lightly traveled and in the middle of nowhere (e.g., few on/off ramps, nothing to look at) tend to have higher natural speeds. When the speed limit is set well below that level, some folks will adhere to the limit and others will drive at the higher natural speed, creating big differential speeds, which are much more dangerous than everybody traveling equally fast. The same study suggested that when speed limits are set closer to the natural speed for a given road, everybody tends to drive at about the same speed. Unfortunately, I don’t remember where I read this, and the results could be false. But it seems to align with personal experience.

Apart from the issue of safety, I can imagine that someone living in the suburbs with an 80-mile commute in each direction would find a 45 MPH speed limit to be positively torturous. And crawling along at 45 MPH on a big, mostly empty highway, where the next town is 50 miles away just seems like a dumb idea. However, it does provide excellent radar trap opportunities for law enforcement (a.k.a., revenue enhancement). I hate to admit, but I love sports cars, have owned many, and drive with a bit of heavy-footedness. But they tend to be smaller and mostly used for weekend fun. I've driven the Autobahn a few times, and it was like heaven! Drivers with a very high level of competence compared to the US, and everybody consistently following a logical set of well-established rules.

Good point about natural speed.

That's another reason I'm so thrilled that they put bike lanes in on the road in front of my house--both narrowing the road and adding more non-car/truck traffic tend to lower the speed most drivers go on the road.

the technical term in traffic flow theory for this is the "mean free speed", but also called the "free flow speed".

It is the speed when there are no cars on the road, and it is essentially a function of the road conditions itself - wider, straighter is faster, narrow/windy slower.

As you add more cars, the average speed decreases, though the flowrate (cars/minute) is increasing. You then get to a point where the concentration is such that adding more cars slows things down so much that flowrate is decreasing, and eventually, with enough cars the flworate, and mean speed, gets to zero - the "jam concentration", also known as "gridlock"

The slope from O to A is the "mean free speed", and the slope from O to any point on the curve is the average speed (the "space mean speed) for all cars. Once the peak flow concentration is passed, the space mean seed drops quickly. Most US freeways seem to operate in the region past the optimum concentration. This could be addressed by universal ramp metering, but many motorists probably would object to that, even though they would likely get where they are going faster.

More info here:http://www.civil.iitb.ac.in/tvm/1100_LnTse/117_lntse/plain/plain.html

Things like traffic calming measures - speed bumps, chicanes, etc, are an attempt to reduce the mean free speed, and fairly effective too.

Having people and bicycles on the road also reduces, dramatically, the mean free speed of cars, as long as there are enough people/bicycles to outnumber the cars - majority rules!

I've had similar discussion on the similarity of traffic on roads to traffic on comm networks. The "mean free speed" of network links is generally fixed, and congestion then occurs at nodes (intersections) instead. At least you don't have drivers duplicating themselves on multiple roads in an attempt to guarantee timely arrival.

There are many complex issues and effective mitigation mechanisms for comm networks. All you need to add is a random discard feature based on congestion levels and you could optimize performance. I suspect drivers would like that even less than admission control. :)

I once drove a residential street that had continual curves, hills, and speed bumps. It naturally made you pay attention and drive slowly. I'm curious as to whether it was safer overall, though.

Two way traffic on one-way width streets is an effective traffic calming strategy :-)

Rarely do cars exceed 25 mph on such streets and it promotes a culture of civility by drivers.

Reducing the % of surface area devoted to cars increases density and walkability.

Best Hopes for Civil Streets,


In city areas that is indeed the case, from the scant time I've spent on the streets of dense English villages. They have a system of turn-outs and a complex but apparently intuitively understood protocol for who has right of way.

Unfortunately, they do the same thing on country lanes, except that speeds are high and corners sharp, and I've had multiple drivers speak of a finely-honed "sixth sense" to know when somebody is coming the other way.

Personally, I see little reason that residential streets could not be single-lane everywhere, either as loops or cul-de-sacs. Houses and lives would be more beautiful if the roads and garages were more of an alley, and the front was instead a sidewalk and shared open space. Bury the utilities in a channel in the middle of the alley, and put all the ugly in one place.

Personally, I see little reason that residential streets could not be single-lane everywhere, either as loops or cul-de-sacs.

Agreed absolutely.

My town is having quite a debate about how to widen streets to accomodate cycle lanes. Naturally I put in a submission suggesting that the (residential) streets (which have E-W rear lanes) be made one way, and then there is plenty of room for cycle ways, with no roadworks needed, only line painting.

This was, of course, dismissed out of hand by the town planner, who said that it would "hopelessly disrupt traffic patterns" (in this town of 5,000 people! ). He also happens to be good mates with the guy that owns the paving company!

There is really no need for two way car traffic in many streets - grid systems often work better with alternating one way streets - IF the mean free speed is kept under control - otherwise they cam become urban dragstrips. Traffic calming, cycle lanes, trees in the street (my favourite), etc all serve this function as effectively as oncoming traffic.

Houses and lives would be more beautiful if the roads and garages were more of an alley, and the front was instead a sidewalk and shared open space.

This is how they did it in the 1800's - terrace ( "row") houses with rear lanes. One of Sydney's older suburbs where I used to live, Paddington, is full of these and they are great places to live. Every house is 14-20' wide and has a front porch and small front yard. On a summer evening you are either sitting on the porch having a drink, or walking past other people's front porches and *gasp!* talking to them.

Very pleasant and quite high housing density to support local shops, pubs and transit, and you can live without a car. That is why these old suburbs are highly sought after.

There is no reason for walking/social people not to have larger front yards, open and shared, with an alley in back; and for more private people to have larger fenced back yards with a lane in front.

Of course alleys are less desirable for visitors, so the expectation would be that many would come to the front by bus, foot, or bike, and any drivers might park in a small shared lot at the front of the house row. It's silly for every house to have enough curb parking for parties anyway. Put the parking by a shared clubhouse and the individual houses could be smaller, garageless, and denser.

A nice side-effect of a walking/golf-cart community is that teenagers and oldsters can get themselves around without a ride from mom or dad. There is an up-scale golf neighborhood here where kids and adults alike zip around on golf-carts between houses and the clubhouse. Younger kids bike when sis isn't heading their way. They all love it. Cross off the Beemers and add a trainstop and you'd have a community where a neighborhood was built.

A couple blocks from where I live, they turned the street into a linear park. The houses on that non-street now have the highest values in the immediate area.


Search under Milwaukee Avenue Historic District for more images.

Here's a brief youtube video about the history of the area:


Yep, very nice.

Really, there is no reason why a lot of streets with rear lanes, could not be turned into a park. Who would not want to have that out front!

they could also be turned into another row of housing too - an easy way to really do infill.

There are many ways to re-invent our cities, but most city planners and politicians are not interested. Actually, a lot of residents are not interested either- some complaining that these things will make property values go up in the improved areas, decreasing their values by default!

local politics is sooo trivial sometimes...

I was once in a neighborhood in Winnipeg where they had forgotten to build the street in front of the houses. I'm not sure how it happened, maybe an administrative glitch or the budget ran out before the paving trucks go there, but it was certainly very popular with the residents.

They had everything else, back alleys, side streets, etc. They just didn't have a front street. Everybody parked their cars behind their houses, and visitors parked on the side streets. Their kids could play in front of the houses with no fear of being run over by cars. Emergency vehicles like fire engines and ambulances could race up the grass if they had to, but I'm sure that any private automobile that tried it would have suffered damage from baseball bats and thrown lawn chairs.

It struck me as a brilliant if possibly accidental concept, but I'm sure that most city planners would freak out if they had to deal with something like that. ("You can't have a suburb without streets! It`s just... WRONG!")

A street with one driving lane and one or two parking lanes is known as a "queueing street". The driving lane is two-way, and if two cars meeting going in opposite directions, one of them has to pull off into a parking lane, stop, and let the other one past. There are large numbers of them in older areas of Vancouver and other cities.

It`s great for controlling vehicle speeds, and local residents use it for controlling reckless drivers. If someone annoys them, he just never gets through because nobody gets out of his way.

Of course, overly aggressive people who feel that nobody should be able to stop them or slow them down hate them, which is another reason for designing streets this way. I feel these people should go away and have their automobile accident or apoplectic heart attack somewhere else and not bother us quiet, unaggressive people with it.

Thanks for bringing the thread back its original premise. Safety.

The mpg argument here is tiresome. Mandate no a/c for mpg, never happen. Any remember the old school buses, where the driver had a ceiling mounted electric fan blowing on him? Mpg rationale should be used for fuel economy. True, it's better for most cars at low speeds, but the issue is safety. Arguments for time saved are esp insidious. The underlying point I hear is my time is more valuable than your life. Disgusting, but I imagine we all feel that way to a degree.

Instead of slowing down, we engineer more methods for survivable crashes. Lap belts, then harnesses, exploding bags. Where's the personal freedom there?

Perhaps counter-intuitively, interstate deaths are low and staying low even with higher speeds. With new cable barriers, crossing the median should become rarer still. If you cross off suicides (20% or so), drinking (about 1/3, but 1/2 to 2/3 at night), fatigue crashes, high-occupancy vehicle crashes, and semi wrecks, the number would be smaller still. If you want to prevent vehicle deaths, focusing anywhere but cars on interstates makes more sense.

Undivided two lanes with high speed limits in wrecks between cars and light trucks and SUVs are where people die. And it's not in "dangerous" locations, but on straight roads where complacency and distractions take their toll.

Too much data to digest, but lots of interesting stats can be found here:

Best hopes for putting dollars and regulations where the deaths are...which is a different question than energy or economics.

All very true.

One other place for putting some dollars "where the deaths are" is driver training.

The advanced driver training/defensive driver type courses should be mandatory for everyone getting their license, or maybe at first renewal.

A follow up driving test every 10yrs, more frequently after age 75.

While this is viewed as an inconvenience by many people, it would surely help improve everyones driving and reduce the incidence/severity of crashes.

Driving their cars, is, for most people, the most dangerous thing they do.

Many things affect safety. Teens are at high risk, due to lack of familiarity and ready distractions. It doesn't help that most drivers think they are better drivers than they are, and few believe they were at fault when accidents occur. Most "dangerous" areas have fewer fatalities but many accidents. "Safe" areas have fewer accidents but more fatalities; again, complacence is fatal.

Our state did away with all inspections, which hurts safety, economy, and emissions. No sense in it at all, except that inspections were a wink-and-nod revenue stream in many places anyway.

People doing the unexpected cause accidents, often just to save a few seconds. I see people every week doing a 180 on a primary street, and often having to 3-point it because their turning-radius optimism is as well calibrated as their decision making ability.

Road layout doesn't help either. Too easy to turn across traffic in dangerous areas, and too many cars going opposite directions too closely. If all streets were one-way, the complexity and speed differential would collapse. I have wondered where the biggest area of all one-way streets might be found, and how well it works.

Paleo – Lots of great points in your 2:14 post, and I agree with all of them.

Paul – You win the prize for this post! The single biggest improvement to safety on the road would be to set much higher standards for getting a driver’s license in the first place – and keeping it once you’ve got it. The standards are appallingly low in many states within the US. Drive around the block, answer few easy traffic law questions and you’re good to go in some states. Then you never have to be tested again. There is no requirement to demonstrate any real car handling skills beyond basic beginner’s stuff, no high speed emergency avoidance maneuvers, no measurement of ability to spot subtle signs of impending hazards, ability to handle heavy rain or snow where applicable, night driving, ability to maintain attentiveness for long periods, etc. So instead we have cars that can parallel park themselves because the driver cannot, brake themselves automatically when the driver is too busy with other matters to pay attention to the road, etc. There are simply too many people out there with inadequate proficiency behind the wheel, and speeding is quite often the LEAST of the problem. So we respond by making cars much more complicated and costly, and we hear these constant calls to lower the speed limit in an attempt to accommodate the lowest common denominator.

The standards are appallingly low in many states within the US.

The international statistics agree with this - the US record is awful.

A good comparison of OECD accident staistices is here:

Consider the following stats for USA, Australia and Sweden;
Deaths per 100,00 people : 13.6, 7.6, 5.2
Deaths per 10,000 registered vehicles 1.7, 1.1, 0.9
Deaths per 100m Vehicle Miles Travelled 0.9, 0.8, 0.6

In fact, the only countries that were worse than the US are such well known safe driving places as Poland and Greece!

[it is possible that the deaths rates are not just due to bad accidents, but also due to bad medical care - either way, the US does not compare well!]

The trend of cars making up for their drivers ineptitude is really quite worrying, but seems to be another example of the US approach of making people not responsible for their own actions - with predictable results. How long will we have to wait for the first lawsuit against the collision avoidance system because it did not protect the driver from an accident wile texting?

All this said, I still think a lower speed limit is tolerable, IF there are alternative long distance transport options available.
Speed does indeed kill...

The standards are appallingly low in many states within the US.

The international statistics agree with this - the US record is awful.

A good comparison of OECD accident staistices is here:

Consider the following stats for USA, Australia and Sweden;
Deaths per 100,00 people : 13.6, 7.6, 5.2
Deaths per 10,000 registered vehicles 1.7, 1.1, 0.9
Deaths per 100m Vehicle Miles Travelled 0.9, 0.8, 0.6

In fact, the only countries that were worse than the US are such well known safe driving places as Poland and Greece!

[it is possible that the deaths rates are not just due to bad accidents, but also due to bad medical care - either way, the US does not compare well!]

The trend of cars making up for their drivers ineptitude is really quite worrying, but seems to be another example of the US approach of making people not responsible for their own actions - with predictable results. How long will we have to wait for the first lawsuit against the collision avoidance system because it did not protect the driver from an accident wile texting?

All this said, I still think a lower speed limit is tolerable, IF there are alternative long distance transport options available.
Speed does indeed kill...

There's a lot of shear stupidity out there on the roadway, that's for sure.
I hypermile in my Prius and that basically means (among other things) that I usually drive as slowly as I can "get away with" out on the interstate. It has been harder over the summer because with traffic thinning out as people take vacation time, the remaining traffic is faster. People take advantage of the lighter traffic by driving faster than usual. So, there hasn't been much of a drop off in accidents, I don't think. Fewer cars, but even higher speeds seems to be translating into just as many accidents as usual. All this is anecdotal, of course. Just my two cents from here in the swamp;-)

Wiki - Fuel economy in automobiles:
Angry face

I think that you should be allowed to drive as fast as you can and still get 30 mpg.

It would be a great incentive to buy and drive more fuel efficient vehicles.

Even better when you go to diesel cars!

from www.drive55.org

Good to know. Thanks for sharing.

There's more - can;t remember where this came from but useful to comapre with the "90's cars above;

As the cars get older, they get worse:

And, if we want a more useful version of the VW TDi chart, we re-plot the data to give fuel use per unit distance - I have used the metric measure of L/100km.

The influence of air resistance, which makes the fuel usage go up as the square of speed, is readily apparent over 50mph.

I think the dashboard display for a car, should have this graph, and plot where the driver is on it at any given time!

Thanks Cat,

The mom is devastated, from what I've heard she didn't eat the first 4 days after it happened.

As far as cars operating at reduced speeds, I would just think we manufacture them to operate optimally at these lower speeds.

The speed limits on New Orleans streets are 25 mph, except for divided streets at 35 mph. A handful of exceptions.

It makes it safer for pedestrians and bicyclists and changes the ambiance.

Unlike most cities where traffic averages 3+ or 5+ mph above the speed limit, here the average is just below the speed limit. No one (except tourists from Texas) gets impatient with someone going 20 mph in a 25 mph zone. So bicyclists "fit in" doing 15 mph or so. Comity in both directions.

Best Hopes for "Big Easy" driving :-)


Those limits and habits also make it perfect for EVs. Of course, it also helps EV performance that it doesn't get cold there. (Though they don't perform very well underwater '-) '-/

Doesn't get cold ?!

It got down to 27 F (-3 C) last winter :-)

I have seen several GEMs driving around.


An irony is that least oil dependent cities (New Orleans 13.7 miles driven/day, NYC 16 miles) are the most reasonable ones for EVs.

Best Hopes for EVs in low VMT areas,


Hit -10F here last winter. Yesterday it was 114F. I pity you poor people who don't know what winter and summer are... :)

Overnight low 81 F, 88.6F & 73 F dewpoint @ 11 AM. Forecast high 96 F.

Hot enough for me !

Best Hopes for afternoon thunderstorms,


That must make life so much more pleasant.
Driving around Boston is akin to being shot out of a cannon (not that I've been shot out of a cannon!)

Most are aware of safety, mpg justifications for lower speed limits, but no one today has the political will (and is willing to take the hit) to say what needs to be said.

Carter, 1977 Statement Urging Compliance With the 55-Mile-per-Hour Speed Limit:

Since the lower speed limit was adopted nationally 3 years ago, there have been approximately 9,000 fewer highway deaths each year than in 1973. The reduced speed limit has been the biggest single factor in this 17-percent drop in highway fatalities.

Unfortunately, highway speeds are again creeping up. Highway safety officials tell us that enforcement is difficult as average interstate speeds again approach 65. Worst of all, the numbers of people being killed or seriously injured in highway accidents are rising again with the increase in vehicle speeds. In July, 169 more Americans died on our highways than in July of last year; for June, the increase was 175.

This is a matter that deserves, and must have, greater Federal attention. General Davis, as special representative to Secretary Adams on 55-mile-per-hour speed limit education and enforcement, I hope you will redouble your efforts in communicating the importance of the 55-mile-per-hour speed limit to the safety leaders of our States and the people of America. Let it be clearly understood that by exceeding the speed limit, we are wasting fuel and, in too many instances, lives as well.

In your meetings with State law enforcement and safety officials, please convey my concern and assure those responsible for the safety of our highways that Federal support will be supplied and appropriate Federal actions taken to assist them in their programs. I will expect a report in 30 days on the status of speed limit compliance throughout the country, along with recommendations from the Secretary of Transportation on any additional measures considered advisable to save fuel and stem the tide of fatalities on the Nation's roads.

Carter, 1979 Energy Address to the Nation:

I'm asking all citizens to honor, and all States to enforce, the 55-mile-per-hour speed limit. This is one of the most effective ways to save fuel.

I will set targets for our 50 States to reduce gasoline consumption and ask each State to meet its target. The timetable will be strict. If States fail to meet their targets when gasoline shortages exist, then ! will order mandatory steps to achieve the needed savings, including the weekend closing of service stations.

If these savings are not made, we will almost certainly have gasoline shortages as early as this summer.

In addition, I ask each of you to take an important action on behalf of our Nation. I ask you to drive 15 miles a week fewer than you do now. One way to do this is not to drive your own car to work every day. At least once a week take the bus, go by carpool or, if you work close enough to home, walk.

This action can make a significant difference for our country. For each day that we do this, we can save hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil. This will help to hold down the prices of fuel, and you obviously will save money you otherwise would have spent on gasoline.

Read more at the American Presidency Project: www.presidency.ucsb.edu http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=32159&st=speed+limit&st1...

If a maximum national speed limit was set extremely low, maybe 45 mph (maybe lower?) for high ways and lower for local roads, I wonder how many lives it would save?

It would also save a tremendous amount of energy (and thus lives expended to get that energy). There is a fantastic article on Low Tech Magazine about how cutting speed in half would drop fuel usage by 75%.


There are a whole series on old electrics. If the speed limit was around 20 - 25 mph then an old electric car with a modern battery would get a 400 mile range.

Much is possible once we give up speed and the high horse power engines needed to reach those speeds. After all, the original trolly lines here in Minneapolis had 1 horse power propulsion.

If the whole system is designed around a lower speed, the changes start to become self reinforcing.

If the max speed, for all vehicles, was 35 mph, for example, the structural requirements for crash protection are much reduced. The vehicles become lighter, which means their sub components - engines, brakes, are smaller and lighter. Tyre wear reduces and tyres do not need to be rated for high speeds. A good explanation of this at the site of the X-prize winning Edison very Light Car.

The accident rate reduces, and those that do happen are less severe.

Roads can be built to easier specifications = cheaper

Traffic is more compatible with bikes/velomobiles/city buses, neighborhood EV's etc.

I think the real enabler would be an effective intercity passenger and cargo rail system - not high speed (120mph plus) but what I call "express speed" (70-110mph)

If these were the rules(35mph), people would work out how to live with them. They wouldn't like it at first, but the slower way of life has many positive aspects, which most people would embrace.

Who knows, it might even reverse this trend;

The right vehicle for the right job has a lot going for it. There is a point at which support functions (AC, radio, etc.) will negate going slower but longer, but it's pretty low. Local traffic tends to be more dominated by traffic and less by top speed anyway.

The notion that ONE vehicle should be a commuter vehicle at 80mph, haul groceries and lawn supplies, be the family truckster, and run local errands is a serious problem. This is enabled only by expensive time, cheap gas, and a general disregard for safety.

In your local low-speed design, road design would be dominated by trucks (as it is today). We really need to down-size local trucks, so that semis aren't the norm for groceries and gas. Instead, garbage trucks and delivery trucks have gotten bigger, so that fewer trucks (and driver) and trips are required.

The road design - especially the pavement design, is indeed dominated by trucks. but things like bridges and curves will have a lower design speed, so they be different. Straightening curves on highways and railway lines to increase speed is a huge expense, especially in hilly terrain.

I agree about downsizing local trucks - this can happen, if you set the local load and size limits, it is limited! Most places don't of course.
I would suggest that intra-city trucks be a maximum of a 20ft shipping container.

The design of the pavement for most suburban roads is dominated by the axle loadings of garbage trucks! Make them smaller, and your roads are cheaper!

Also, with low speed roads - <35mph> you can build them using segmented block pavers instead of apshalt or concrete. The pavers can be made locally, and can be laid by well trained laying crew with a minimum of heavy equipment.

There are many benefits of this whole approach. if you were desiugning a town like this from the ground up, the result would be quite different.

An exploration of that concept is here;

Also, with low speed roads - <35mph> you can build them using segmented block pavers instead of apshalt or concrete.

I would love to hear more about how road repair costs could be lowered. Our city is struggling with rapidly falling tax revenue. So what to cut? And what to cut even deeper to make funds available for investment in mass transit?

Any supporting references would also be helpful. Thanks!

The labor cost is much higher, but there are more durable. The few cobblestone streets left in New Orleans have been there for a century,

There are some tricks - an automatic pothole filler truck being one - to lower costs. Upfront investment, lower unit cost.


You might be surprised to find that the most common application for block pavements these days is - container ports!

You may have also read about "research" into "permeable pavements" made of permeable asphalt or concrete - block pavers are the original form of that!

A unique feature of block pavers is that for doing a utility crossing or the like, you pull up the pavers , dig in whatever it is, compact the fill back down, and finish off by putting the pavers back!

As Alan says, the labor component is much higher, but there seems to be a surplus of unemployed labour in most places these days. I have watched as a highly paid asphalt paving crew paved a street in Calgary known as "cash corner", where you can pick up unemployed guys who will work for cash. A block paving operation there would have have had very cheap labour indeed.

Block pavements have been around as long as there have been pavements - there are Roman roads still in use - how many asphalt roads can last 2000yrs? And block pavements can be beautiful too p so many good features - no wonder they have been stamped out by the US hwy industry!

some good information here;



Hey Paul, thats pretty much what I was thinking regarding the wide array changes that would then take place. As far as enforcing the speed limit, possibly new laws would force cars to be manufactured with engine horsepower set significantly lower.

I think the vast majority of the U.S. would laugh at this idea, that is until they really understand peak oil or maybe have a loved involved in a bad accident.

By the way, when I was young I was a reckless speed demon, I think back to how I would drive on public roads and it scares me. I still usually drive up to about 80 on highways but the more I think about it the more I think making the speed limit significantly lower would have possible positive quality of life effects that would ripple into many different aspects of life.

Oh well, I honestly don't believe our population would allow for this type of change.

Well, I think it could be done. Just think about when you go onto a University campuses, or a resort, or any place that has a really low speed limit. It has quite a different feel about the place, and makes ordinary cars/trucks seem way overbuilt to do the job. If 35mph was all you are allowed to drive, what is the point in buying a car that can do 100mph?

Also, of course, such places are often such that there is no point in owning a car at all.

I would think some island/isolated communities/cities/countries could easily do this (e.g. Pacific island nations). it would be possible, today, with the neighborhood electric vehicles, to have the whole place running on those, at substantial capital and fuel cost savings. Still need some heavy trucks to move stuff around, but when they are going slow they are not as intimidating or dangerous.

You do bring up a good point - what is need is some alternative outlet for that youthful energy/exuberance/testosterone and the "need for speed". I'm sure that could be done - just something/somewhere other than public roads.

new laws would force cars to be manufactured with engine horsepower set significantly lower.

My 1982 M-B 240D has 72 hp helping "accumulate momentum" for 3,055 lbs #:-)

Seems about right ratio.

Best Hopes for Sedate Driving,


# plus driver, passengers and cargo

A "horsepower tax" would probably help things...

It is almost impossible to buy a car with just 72hp these days.

Mind you, the old MB diesels, especially the automatics, were known for glacial progress - by the time you got up to urban travel speed you were at the next lights.

This would be fine if everyone else was at this level too.

Sedate and pleasant urban driving indeed - leave the intercity trips to the train.

I know that 'horsepower' is not exactly equivalent to the power of a horse, but I still can't help feeling the absurdity of most people having the equivalent power of scores of horses dragging their sad carcasses around.

I imagine cities full of carriages with one person in each, each being drawn by 100 or more horses in long double rows, mostly just to go distances they could get to easily by walking or by bike or bus.

The absolute bizarre absurdity of our everyday life is far beyond mind-boggling.

The stock market had its worst week in months last week, and this week is more of the same. The Dow dropped 265 points yesterday and is down over 200 points this morning.

The Next 'ECONOMIC EVENT' is Just Around the Corner

Mr. Jim Shepherd of The Shepherd Investment Strategist is warning that the agreement on the US Debt Ceiling debate has not solved the world's economic problems and in fact has only delayed the inevitable – the likelihood of a worldwide stock market crash and the descent into a deflationary depression involving many of the developed world's economies.

Is this the preferable "beginning of the end" we often hear so much about? Or perhaps "the end of the beginning"?

Ron P.

Actually it was down day before yesterday, and up just a tad yesterday (first up day in 8 - an unusually long negative run). Today just continues the slide.

Yeah, my mistake. The 265 point drop just stuck my head and I forgot it was the day before yesterday. Thanks for the correction. The Dow came off its daily low a little while ago and got back up to only down 160 points or so. But it is back down now, down 240 points.

Oil is sliding also, WTI is down $1.81 to $90.12 and Brent is down $2.66 to $110.57. But everything is changing really fast. By the time I hit "Save" everything will be different.

Ron P.

Notably, gold is up. Sometimes stocks and gold move together, as in the days of QE. Now, gold goes up when stocks are down, too. And interest rates are still low. Slides and volatility is still lower than 2008, but maybe that is like the oil shock difference as well; it simply takes less to knock over our weaker economy, so the extremes have been less severe?

Looks like inflation is losing to deflation so far -- how long did it take for the market to eat the dregs of QEII? 30 to 60 days?

What is the next step if nothing works as desired - protectionism?

Excepting gold and silver, commodities are following stocks down. Then again: Commodities to Withstand Slower Growth, Buy Gold, JPMorgan Tells Investors

Investors should retain holdings in commodities even as the global economy expands at a slower pace as raw-material demand is strong enough to support further gains, JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) said, forecasting gold and copper rallies....

...Commodities as measured by the Standard & Poor’s GSCI Spot Index fell for a seventh session today, the longest slump since May 2010, on concern that the global economy is slowing. JPMorgan cut its forecast for third-quarter U.S. growth by a percentage point to 1.5 percent, Chief U.S. Economist Michael Feroli said yesterday. The U.S. is the world’s largest user of oil, and is second to China in terms of copper and aluminum.

“Baring a material contraction in global growth, which we do not currently expect, commodities should continue to move higher,” said New York-based Fenton, global head of commodities research and strategy, and London-based Lehmann, a strategist. “Even at a now slower pace, global growth in the second half should be enough to outpace still-constrained supply in the major commodity markets.”

"constrained supply"....imagine that. Predicting continued shortages on copper; corn and wheat "in the fall will likely bring much lower yields than currently expected,” they said.

Peak copper? Peak grains?

Gold going down as well, probably last time to buy before printers start running again. Deflation will not happen, it is a near impossibility, the elites lose money in case of a deflation, a hyperinflation is much more preferable to them. This was discussed in Nate Hagen's interview as well.

What is the next step if nothing works as desired - protectionism?

Only with a war, remember TPTB are committed to a globalized border-less world.

Can you provide evidence for the existence of TPTB? I think grouping the super wealthy and the powerful together into a singular group with a specific goal in mind is a bit of a stretch. I think confluence of events are forcing these entities to act similarly gives an illusion of a concerted effort or a conspiracy.

Can you provide evidence for the existence of TPTB?

You don't think there's a TPTB ?? Seriously ??

They don't call it the Govt of Goldman Sachs for no reason.

It does not matter what the mechanism is. Offshoring jobs was a choice made by politicians under the influence of the powerful. Offshoring and "globalization" occurred to stave off expenses incurred by high fuel/energy prices.

"The Powers that be are ordained by God."

St. Paul.

What is the next step if nothing works as desired - protectionism?

It's a necessary prelude to QE3. Shouldn't be long before the QE3 bandwagon gets on the road to try an assuage the stressed markets. But what's it going to take to get another 18 months of tepid growth and levitate the markets, $1.5 - $3 trillion probably.

Can't happen without a sea-change in Congress. The $400B immediate raise was mostly spent yesterday catching up the summer juggling act. Congress will have to work fast to enable the rest of the approved ceiling rise, as if the economy tanks the remaining headroom will spend in 60 days or so, and only the Tea Party would like to see debt as an immediately recurring issue.

Even if the next round of cuts gets agreed, the rest of the currently approved debt would only cover existing overage without much for QEIII, and less still if tax revenues slide. There is no reason for conservatives to grant any more headroom cover for Obama, so the most he can hope for is to dole out the 2T or so he has now.

I think that TPTB will want QEIII, but I'm not sure it will happen.

The Fed is independent of the Government and its the Fed who'll be administering QE3. If they can't use the usual treasuries route then they'll have to find another unconventional way to do it. There really is no alternative so hell or high water it will be done.

Of course it will fail, as with QE1 & 2, in the face of collapse nothing will work or be sufficient to really change anything or make a difference. Governments are there to make things worse after all, so they'll be doing there damnedest to turn an unsolvable problem into an unsolvable crisis.

I think it's right on track for QE3 too. The chatter for it among Fed bankers is getting louder and louder. Today's market plunge should provide enough impetus.

Interesting to note both Putin of Russia and now the Chinese are making waves about US banking. Putin was especially loud, tho it may be political for him.

Sorry, I had conflated stimulus and QE. Gov't stimulus seems unlikely, but the FED could (and perhaps should) act to prod employment and prevent deflation.

But how can QEIII help if consumers and businesses are deliveraging? Somebody has to borrow the proceeds of asset sales to the FED, else the money is just parked, right?

If the Fed or Treasury is going to just print money, though, it would be nice to see it go to do something other than lift questionable securities from major banks. That is a middle-man that needs to be cut out of the loop.

Regarding the "Interesting Times" in global markets this morning, I am reminded of an Ayn Rand quote, "One can deny reality, but one cannot deny the consequences of denying reality."

I think that most governments, most of the media, etc. are attempting to deny the reality of resource constraints, especially the reality of constrained global net oil exports.


Is this the preferable "beginning of the end" we often hear so much about?

Are you witness to the beginning of the end?

Thanks George, great read. In your quote above I meant "proverbial" not preferable. I misspelled it and then I clicked on the wrong spellchecker correction. Anyway:

Neither the left nor the right gets a pass in my book. Both ideologies are simply devoid of understanding what is happening to human societies.

That is just the problem, everyone has an ideology. And the deeper the ideology is embedded in their psyche, the further from reality they are. They have no hope of ever understanding anything. Ideology is like religion, it is believed, mostly on faith. Any evidence that contradicts their ideology is ignored and any that supports it is shouted from the rooftops.

But peak oil is part of no one's ideology, neither the left nor the right. That is the main reason:

"What we are witnessing in Washington DC is the epitome of human foolishness, the exact antithesis of wisdom."

Ron P.

A (perhaps minor) correction--there is no real 'left' in the US.

No Labor Party.

To speak of:

No Socialist Party

No Green Party

No Communist Party


To call any but one or two congressional Democrats anything remotely resembling the kind of 'left' that one sees in, for example, much of Europe, is a cruel joke.

Not that I think the left holds all the answers, but let's try to be a tiny bit accurate in our terminology.

Dow now down more than 400 points.

RBOB wholesale gasoline has fallen 11% this week. Would amount to a fall at US pumps of about 30c per gallon if sustained.

Down 500 points today. Just a few weeks ago I had mused that we had not seen the volatility of 2008 repeat. Perhaps now we are.

If the pattern repeats, there will be some significant up days and more bad news before we're into the big slide. This would just be pre-shock activity.

But history rarely repeats itself precisely; it just rhymes. These changes are fast and deep, so it will be interesting to hear what Bernanke has to say. Makes one wonder if the some of SPR sales were an attempt to prevent this occurrence, but like the tropical storm that evaporated over Texas that also is far too small to make a difference.


Will there be another dead cat bounce or crawl upward after a few more days like this?

I will be curious to see of an undulating plateau of peak oil will cause a financial undulating plateau as well.

How many remember the Burger King commercial, "Where's The Beef?" Well there should be another on asking OPEC, Where's The Oil?

OPEC to Cut Exports as Global Demand Slows, Oil Movements Says

Exports will drop to 22.78 million barrels a day in the four weeks to Aug. 20, the Halifax, England-based researcher said today in a report. That compares with 22.93 million barrels in the month to July 23. The data excludes Ecuador and Angola. It’s the first reduction reported by Oil Movements since the four weeks to July 16.

Down 150,000 barrels per day from four weeks ago. All that fantastic new production from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait is just not showing up on tankers going anywhere. Deliveries are still down more than one million barrels per day from February.

Ron P.

Either OPEC doesn't have that oil to ship, OR they are spoiled at the price oil has been selling for, and now its becoming obvious even to those investing in stocks that the world economy is slowing, the price of oil is in turn dropping, so OPEC in turn decides to lower output. For now I'll take the latter.

However, that scenario if it continues to play out that way will insure stagnant to slowing OECD economies.

I see record oil being burned to keep cool. Surely more people, and bigger homes in KSA, Kuwait and UAE.

Perhaps NG production is falling a bit faster than many expected.

Ramadan may, or may not, reduce demand (anyone know ?). But a/c demand will surely fall in October.


I don't see any way that Ramadan would reduce demand. It would in no way reduce the demand for air conditioning and businesses do not close during Ramadan. If anything Ramadan would increase demand because they would get up earlier and stay up later. They must get up and eat breakfast before the light of day, and then they feast at night after it is completely dark.

Ron P.

I can indirectly concur--an Egyptian Muslim friend tells me that, surprise surprise, Ramadan is every bit as commercialized in most of the Muslim world as the Christmas season is in the Christian world. He actually claimed that American Muslims are, to his mind, a bit purer, since they are largely shielded from much of this crash Ramadan commercialism.

I mentioned this two weeks ago (July 22):

In the last week, Mideast OPEC members have made few final arrangements to ship oil in August. Possibly they are just waiting to see if the IEA really means what it says about not planning another oil reserve release. But there is another possibility – the hot and sunny summer skies in the Persian Gulf region have also increased their oil product demand, where their recently increased oil output would be used domestically, to be refined and otherwise used for air conditioning, driving, and water processing. Ultimately their sunshine state may be more important to them.

The Sunshine State

This trend is still progressing. OPEC exports appear to dropping further over the last week. Incrementally, the export figure used by OM is 270,000 bpd less than two weeks ago - mostly due to lower shipments from Mideast exporters.

Oil Wipes Out 2011’s Gains on Stall Signs

Oil fell to the lowest level in five months in New York, erasing 2011 gains amid growing evidence the U.S. economic recovery is stalling and sapping demand in the world’s biggest consumer.

Read the whole thing

As was the case in 2008, oil prices starting falling dramatically before the final plunge into the abyss in September.

We're now seeing something similar although one should be careful at predicting a recession, but the crisis has now spread to Spain and Italy, who both are simply too big to bail out. There might be a few stalling mechanisms at hand, but the underlying problem, broken confidence, is now the genie out of the bottle and it won't come back, just like it didn't for Ireland/Greece/Portugal.

I've stated on multiple occassions that a sustained oil price(worldwide average) above $100 is much more harmful than a quick shock(except if we're talking $170 and above). The 2005-2008 buildup was slow and it only really took off big time in the final 4-5 months before the year-peak price in July.
We've been above $100 since early Januari this year, far above the initial $85 dollar break-point. And remember the Saudis need at least $90 for their welfare programs in their recent appeasement of their masses in the wake of the Arab Spring.

Nontheless, if we do slip into yet another recession(or even depression), demand will fall - again - and supply will diminish. But as has been shown again and again, investment into oil projects are at record highs yet production of crude had a net decline anyway in the last few years.

And of course, we have depletion and many more issues. I've sort of taken the position that we won't have a singular moment of peak oil. We're there now and have been for the past 3 or so years. We won't get any decent recovery because oil prices will skyrocket - again - and choke off any recovery that was possible in theory.

Just like the 2009-2011 'recovery' was choked off. The U.S. economy grew by an average of 0.6 % in the first half of this year, despite QE II.

Even if this crisis is averted, I can't how the world economy will manage very much longer beyond the first few months of 2012. People seem to have forgotten that above $85 dollars for a sustained time, economies fall into recession.
We'll, we've been above $100 for soon 8 months. The median time for recession according to the economist James Hamilton was 9 months, so one month away.

And again, in 2008, people didn't know they were in a recession until afterwards. In fact, economists are now saying it began in late 2007. This current recession has probably already been under way for several months now, if it is a recession. We'll find out in the coming weeks and months ahead :)

The article appears to be confusing WTI with oil. Brent is down recently, but still well ahead on the year to date.

The United Nations Claims That Nigeria's Oil Delta Could Need The Biggest Ever Clean-Up Operation Thus Far

The environmental restoration of Ogoniland could prove to be the world's most wide-ranging and long term oil clean-up exercise ever undertaken if contaminated drinking water, land, creeks and important ecosystems such as mangroves are to be brought back to full, productive health.

A major new independent scientific assessment, carried out by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), shows that pollution from over 50 years of oil operations in the region has penetrated further and deeper than many may have supposed.

Read the report.

Pretty shocking stuff. Shell's got a lot to answer for.
Remember this?

WikiLeaks cables: Shell's grip on Nigerian state revealed - it 'knows everything'

Heat Wave -- 15 US states too hot for human life (without modern A/C that is)


Dow down 400 pts. oil/gold everything has red ink.


Looking like nasty times economically and environmentally but of course we all know this and nothing can be done!

Bad news for parched Texas: La Nina may re-occur

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Climatologists said Thursday that the La Nina conditions that have contributed to Texas' worst drought in decades may re-occur later this year — troubling news for the state's beleaguered farmers and ranchers who also learned there was likely no relief in sight.

The Climate Prediction Center issued a La Nina watch on Thursday, just two months after declaring the last La Nina had ended. The phenomenon, which is marked by a cooling of the tropical Pacific Ocean, typically results in less rain for southern states.

Weather Underground has an interesting blog post series on heat waves. I thought this one that showed how a high pressure zone can sit over an area and essentially deprive it of rain, was really eye opening. It makes me wonder how quickly could the switch to desert like conditions happen in the central US?


On top of that, once you get these systems anchored over a region a positive feedback loop develops. In this instance, more dry = more heat = more dry.

Texas sees power outages in heat wave for the ages

"I can't remember any year with the magnitude and length of this heat wave," Jack Hayes, director of the National Weather Service, told msnbc.com on Thursday.

One thing that really causes this to stand out is the nighttime lows are much higher in this outbreak," he said, comparing the current hot spell to a similar one in 1980.

That is what Greenhouse Gases do. Keep the heat in overnight.


Another year like this one and many Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and North Louisiana farmers will be bankrupt, as will banks that lend to them. An economic drag.

And I wonder how long to another Dust Bowl ? Any idea ?

Dust Bowl is here now.

"With an average temperature of 89.2°F, July 2011 was the hottest month on record in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, smashing its Dust Bowl-era record of 88.7°F set in August 1936."


And I wonder how long to another Dust Bowl ? Any idea ?

And how long before the migration of people from rural areas to the cities and urban conurbations?

I've long suspected that climate change, financial collapse and energy descent will impact farming hard (the soft underbelly of civilisation). But I'm now beginning to realise how hard it will impact rural areas and their populations too.

I would hope that despite a near repeat of the drought and heat experienced in the 30's the answer is no.

Someone here is likely more familiar with modern land use in the US central and southern plains than I am. Misuse of land (in part due to a wheat bubble) was one of several key ingredients that came together to produce the dust-bowl, and you would think we would not go there again, right?

One of the problems with the dust-bowl of the 1930`s was that people unused to dry land continued to farm as they had done in the better-watered regions further east.

If you are going to farm in an arid region, you have to use different techniques - strip farming to limit soil movement, leaving the fields in stubble rather than completely bare, etc. etc. They didn`t know how to do these things in the 1930s, and they suffered for it.

Cargill recalling 36M pounds of ground turkey


"Meat giant Cargill is recalling 36 million pounds of ground turkey linked to a nationwide salmonella outbreak......Cargill said Wednesday that it is recalling fresh and frozen ground turkey products produced at the company's Springdale, Ark., plant."

36 Million pounds, one plant. So much for attention to detail, loving care of your food at that size. It gets old, how big do they have to grow??? One astronomical feeding vat, with 280 million tubes snaking out to each of us.

I saw the CDC report on this one. The bacterial strain is a nasty Salmonella Heidelberg which is antibiotic resistant. Only 1 person died of the 77 reported cases so far affecting persons in 26 US states.

Doom In the Desert Saudi Arabia and the Skyscraper Index

A not so politically correct article but good for a chuckle.

The building is expected to be completed in 2016–2017 — about the time the famed Ghawar oil field bubbles up with salt water.

You see, the Saudis have developed Ghawar by using peripheral water injection; water is pumped into the reservoir, driving the remaining oil to the surface.

In 1980 (when they last let Western scientists look at it), the depth of oil in Ghawar was at 500 feet and depleting at 18.4 feet per year...

One day in the not-too-distant future, they will pump brine instead of black gold.

Ron P.

I was not aware that political descent was not tolerated in Saudi Arabia. I'm not even sure what it is.

Actually, come to think of it, I think that's what we have in the USA. What we need is political decent. Feel free to dissent.

I was not aware that political descent was not tolerated in Saudi Arabia.

I truly hope you are joking.

Ron P.

Consumer is commenting on a bad spelling mistake in the original linked article "political descent" when it should have been "dissent" but he'd rather have "decent" anyway.

A little word play?


From up top - Regarding shale gas reserves: "Last week a research note from the investment management firm Robert W. Baird, citing industry lawyers, said the SEC is looking into whether shale gas companies may be overestimating the amount of natural gas they hold beneath the ground."

Remember you heard it first on TOD...some time ago.

The too-smart-for-its-own-good grid

In the last few years, electrical utilities have begun equipping their customers’ homes with new meters that have Internet connections and increased computational capacity. One envisioned application of these “smart meters” is to give customers real-time information about fluctuations in the price of electricity, which might encourage them to defer some energy-intensive tasks until supply is high or demand is low.

Recent work by researchers in MIT’s Laboratory for Information and Decision System shows that this policy could backfire. If too many people set appliances to turn on, or devices to recharge, when the price of electricity crosses the same threshold, it could cause a huge spike in demand; in the worst case, that could bring down the power grid.

Speaking of Power Grids

Solar storm heading our way

Early yesterday, (Aug 3, 2011) two active regions on the Sun, sunspot 1261 and 1263 unleashed solar flares, which was captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. … SolarstormWatch, a citizen science project through the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England predicts the solar storm from the larger flare to reach Earth at 15:00 UTC on August 5, 2011, and also predict direct hit on Earth

Also http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/index.html

That's 1100 EDT. Ouch! From your second link:

1500Z, August 4, 2011 - Great anticipation for the first of what may be three convergent shocks to slam the geomagnetic field in the next twelve hours, +/-. The CME with the Radio Blackout earlier today is by far the fastest, and may catch its forerunners in the early hours of August 5 (UTC) -- at earth.

Two impacts are expected; G2 (Moderate) to G3 (Strong) Geomagnetic Storming on August 5, and potentially elevated protons to the S2 (Moderate) Solar Radiation Storm condition, those piling up ahead of the shock. The source of it all, Region 1261, is still hot, so more eruptions are possible.

..."three convergent shocks" doesn't sound good.

Carbon hitches a ride from field to market

New research published in the journal Biogeosciences provides a detailed account of how carbon naturally flows into and out of crops themselves as they grow, are harvested and are then eaten far from where they're grown. The paper shows how regions that depend on others to grow their food end up releasing the carbon that comes with those crops [not just from transportation and processing] into the atmosphere.

Based on US crop production, scientists determined which American regions are carbon sinks, or those that take in more carbon than release it, and carbon sources, or those that release more carbon than they take in. Their calculations showed that the most agriculturally active regions, shown in blue, are carbon sinks while the regions with larger populations, shown in red, are carbon sources.

Paper: http://www.biogeosciences.net/8/2037/2011/bg-8-2037-2011.html

Looking at this map in a different way, it shows the mismatch of food distribution and production if transportation were interupted for any length of time.

10 or 20 years from now SoCal, E. Texas, Atlanta, etc. might be doing a redux of whats going on in the Horn of Africa this year.

Don't know if it's rideable but it definitely gets points for style.

A Pre-Fab Bamboo Bicycle, Grown From The Ground In Bike Shape

A design student at Australia's Monash University, Vittouris envisions a bicycle that isn't built, but grown--the bamboo stalks of the frame being trained into shape while the plant is growing. Inspired by arborsculpture, in which tree branches are fixed in expressive shapes that they take as the plant grows, Vittouris wants to develop a reusable framework that would shape bamboo into nearly finished bicycles.

Brilliant concept.


Re: the 2 stories up top about taxing the shale gas players in Yankeeland.

Pro-tax: "... thou-shalt-not-tax crowd. They keep trying to scare Pennsylvanians into believing the shale-gas drillers will walk..." .

Anti-tax:" That drillers pay the same taxes as other businesses isn't good enough for some, though... but those calling for an additional tax or fee on drillers fail to understand the industry's true impacts or contributions."

Again, at the risk of bragging about Texas and La. I have the same advice I gave about regulating frac fluids: just get our regs and duplicated them. In Texas the oil patch will " pay the same taxes as other businesses" And then pay more: both the state and the counties charge a percentage of the production revenue right off the top. Combined it can range from 6% up to 9%...right off the top...no deductions. And then we pay fees for drilling permits, etc. That covers a goodly portion of the state's regulatory expenses. And La: they take 1/6 of the revenue of all oil production in the state...right of the top again. So if I produce 12 million bo I send a check to the state for almost $200 million. And this isn't income tax...that's in addition. Essentially a "severance / ad valorum" or production tax.

And last I saw the companies haven't walked away from drilling in either state. And as far as the companies passing on these expenses to the consumers? Heck...I wish. When I sell oil I get the price the buyer is offering whether I gave the state $X in taxes or nothing at all. And the refiners who sell the gasoline made from the oil I sold don't know let alone care what taxes I paid. But there is a potential down side: make the taxes too high and a number of wells with smaller potential margins won't get drilled. So there's need to be a balance. But so far the tax structures down here appear to be well balanced based on the insane amount of drilling going on now...especially in the fractured shale plays.

Locally owned small businesses pack powerful economic punch

University Park, Pa. -- Thinking small and local, not big and global, may help communities ignite long-term economic growth, according to Penn State economists.

Small, locally owned businesses and start-ups tend to generate higher incomes for people in a community than big, nonlocal firms, which actually can depress local economies, said Stephan Goetz, professor of agricultural and regional economics at Penn State.

"Local ownership matters in important ways," said Goetz. "Smaller, locally owned businesses, it turns out, provide higher, long-term economic growth.".

The presence of large firms that employ more than 500 workers and that are headquartered in other states was associated with slower economic growth.

… "We can't look outside of the community for our economic salvation." Goetz said. "The best strategy is to help people start new businesses and firms locally and help them grow and be successful."

Certainly the way I see it, areas without local businesses just see all the money sucked out of their local economy.

Here in rural France the way the system seems to work is that government feed money into the local area (via benefits, pensions, grants, subsidies and work creation schemes) and corporations suck it all out again (via the large retailers, supermarkets, utilities, etc.). So life in the rural areas is almost (except perhaps for farming) wholly dependant on government spending. Cut that spending and the rural economy collapses and people will be forced into the cities. In fact farming is pretty reliant on subsidies too thinking about it.

Can rural areas adapt fast enough to survive collapse? Unfortunately I'm not seeing it, rural life has mainly been de-skilled. There doesn't seem to be enough skills, knowledge and will to create the local businesses needed to maintain rural village life without the aid of government spending.

One of the reasons I see the future for most people being in urban ghettoes.

S - And let's not forget it's also a numbers game. I was shocked when I saw the stats a while back. In the US: large companies (over 1000 employees = 100,000; medium companies (over 100 employees = 250,000) small busineses (less than 100 employees) = 8 MILLION). Small businesses represent more than 90% of all the companies in this country. I'm not sure if I remember correctly but I think small businesses employee 85% of all workers here. And I beleive a large percentage of small business have less than 10 employees. Obviouly almost small business are going to all local. The stats came from the GAO if folks want to dig them up directly. They are one of the few sources I accept at face value.

US forecasters see busy rest of hurricane season

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecasters said Thursday they expect up to 19 named storms to develop by the end of the season Nov. 30. There have been five so far.

The lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA's Climate Prediction Center in Washington says key climate factors support forecasters' expectations. Those factors include exceptionally warm ocean temperatures and the possible redevelopment of La Nina, a weather phenomenon that reduces wind shear over the Caribbean Sea and tropical Atlantic. [Bad for the East Coast]

Japan to sack top officials over nuclear disaster

(Reuters) - Japan will replace three senior bureaucrats in charge of nuclear power policy, the minister overseeing energy policy said on Thursday, five months after the world's worst atomic crisis in 25 years erupted at Fukushima.

It also follows a series of scandals in which government officials in charge of safeguarding the operations of nuclear power plants tried to influence public opinion on atomic energy.

Cairn slides 3.5% after it fails to find oil at controversial Greenland site

The oil explorer is down 12p at 340.7p, a near 3.5% decline, after it announced disappointing results from its controversial drilling programme in Greenland. It said an initial well off the west coast of the country did not find oil although it was encouraged by signs of oil-prone rocks.

Worse news (U.S. job figures) set to be released tomorrow :-(

Let's see how the week will end :-o

The heat is on (and not just the weather in the southern/central U.S.A.).

I find it nuts that people stayed in after Libya fell to chaos. That was the peak of the DOW most recent peak that is. No way it can get back there. I sold everything and my "financial planner" said it was a bad move. I need to go for the long haul. I said no I don't. Thank you.

I don't trade anymore, but I occasionally check the charts of the major indexes (I use to be a technical trader). I found this interesting. The NASDAQ broke a key technical level @ 2600.

Check out the rising volume on the decline. It may be too early to speculate, but I'd say 2600 is the new resistance. The S&P similarly broke support @ 1260 with the same pattern in volume.

Edit: May be a good time to get short, but I don't know anything.

If it follows the 2008 pattern, there will be bounce soon (perhaps from the technical support points? I don't know that stuff well....), and then a further slide. I think we need more trouble in housing, EU banks, oil, or something to kick that off though.

Yeah, I wouldn't be surprised to see a dead-cat bounce and grind along 2600 (Nasdaq) and 1260 (S&P) levels. I got burnt pretty badly back in '07-'08 because I got in too early. I do think we're real close to entering that nasty slide that everyone here has been anticipating for 2011. You're right about the kicker. Who knows what the trigger will be this time around. Here's the S&P for more perspective.

WTI also broke solidly through $90. Considering how tight supply is with Libya offline, I don't think that bodes too well for the economy. If we do slide into recession and tax revenue falls by 500 million from where it is projected next year, can you imagine where that will leave the U.S budget? Germany? UK? Japan? Etc?

July 2011 Dashboard: Hybrid Sales Show Signs of Recovery

Hybrid sales in July recovered from last month, gaining 54 percent compared to June—but difficulties with the supply chain have taken a toll on cumulative sales of gas-electric cars in 2011. In July, for the first time, the year-to-date sales have fallen behind 2010.


US hybrid sales for July 2011
Model Units vs. last month vs. July 2010 CYTD vs. CYTD 2010
All hybrids 19,623 54.3% -17.7% 152,737 -1.3%
All vehicles 1,055,905 0.2% 0.9% 7,366,283 10.8%

US plug-in electric sales for July 2011
Model Units vs. last month vs. July 2010 CYTD vs. CYTD 2010
All plug-in cars 1,057 -53.4% n/a 7,764 n/a
All vehicles 1,055,905 0.2% 0.9% 7,366,283 10.8%

US clean diesel sales for July 2011
All clean diesels 8,692 0.5% 43.7% 56,717 38.5%
All vehicles 1,055,905 0.2% 0.9% 7,366,283 10.8%


Here's some good news for TAMU - $1.4M for projects...

DOE awards $12.4M for shale gas and oil recovery projects

brit - Thanks. Even though I'm in the oil patch and did my grad work at Texas A&M: what a freaking waste of money! A whole $12.4 million for some academics with little practical background or direct connection to the working oil patch. Compared to the many hundreds of $millions spent on research by the service industry and the $billions spent by operators conducting real projects how much is this little bit of pocket change going to make a difference? IMHO nada, zip, nothing, etc.

OTOH as one who made it thu grad school on a grant I'm glad for the students up there. My Master's professor also ran the University Research Dept and, being an world acclaimed ex-oil patch hand, was very skilled at bleeding folks for grants. But at least my grant came from an oil company and not the tax payers.

Food stamp use rises to record 45.8 million

The number of Americans using the government's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) -- more commonly referred to as food stamps -- shot to an all-time high of 45.8 million in May, the USDA reported. That's up 12% from a year ago, and 34% higher than two years ago.

BOEMRE has conditionally approved Shell's request to drill four wells in the Beaufort Sea off Alaska's northern coast. Drilling is expected in 2012 at 160' depth.

Shell Oil gets tentative Arctic offshore drilling green light from Feds

EDIT: Corrected depth mistake