Drumbeat: August 19, 2011

EU panel calls for embargo on Syrian oil as deaths mount

(CNN) -- A day after the United States imposed stiff economic sanctions on Syria, a European Union body proposed an embargo Friday on Syrian crude oil.

In Syria, meanwhile, despite the intensified world pressure for President Bashar al-Assad to halt the violence and step down, his security forces continued their tough offensive against protesters. Reports have emerged of at least 23 deaths and a defiant outpouring of mass demonstrations Friday.

The European Union's political security committee meeting in Brussels, Belgium, made the embargo proposal.

Saudi Arabia’s policy of stability at all costs may backfire

Saudi Arabia is widely perceived as leading the counter-revolution against the Arab Spring uprisings. In reality, the kingdom’s response is centered, as its foreign and domestic policy has long been, on “stability.” The Saudis don’t want anti-Saudi forces, including such enemies as Iran and Al-Qaeda, to increase their influence in the Middle East.

US natgas rig count hits 6-month high--Baker Hughes

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The number of rigs drilling for natural gas in the United States climbed to its highest in nearly six months, rising four this week to 900, data from oil services firm Baker Hughes showed on Friday.

Mexico oil thieves may steal near $500 mln this year

VILLAHERMOSA, Mexico (Reuters) - Mexico is set to lose nearly half a billion dollars to oil thefts this year if illegal pipeline taps continue to grow unchecked, the CEO of state oil monopoly Pemex said on Thursday.

Pemex director Juan Jose Suarez said on Thursday organized crime gangs have stolen oil and gas worth $285 million so far this year and could easily reach losses of $490 million by the end of 2011.

"We are losing the equivalent of about 20,000 barrels per day of crude," Suarez said at an event in Villahermosa, Tabasco, an oil producing state on the Gulf of Mexico coast. Mexico produces around 2.6 million barrels of oil per day.

Rafael Ramírez: Venezuela's oilman finds more reserves for the colonel

Rafael Ramírez should be ranked as one of the most powerful men in the world. As the Venezuelan minister for energy, he is also head of the country's state oil company – and, therefore, now controls the world's biggest proven oil reserves.

In a little-reported development, Opec recently certified that the South American nation was number one in national reserves, after a vast field of what was previously classified as tar was redefined as extra heavy crude. La Faja, as the heavy oil belt along the Orinoco river is referred to, contains nearly 220bn barrels. That takes Venezuela's reserves to 297bn – close to 20% of the world's oil – and leapfrogs it over Saudi Arabia on 265bn.

Mongolia plans to build refineries to boost oil supplies

Mongolia, which is forced to import virtually all of its refined oil products and frequently faces chronic fuel shortages, is to begin building an oil refinery early next year in an effort to meet domestic demand and reduce dependence on neighboring Russia for energy supplies.

Saudi Arabia Delivers Oil to Yemen

Saudi Arabia delivered on Tuesday the final oil shipment within a grant of three million barrels to Yemen to the Aden Refinery which will process the quantities to be distributed for all provinces to tackle the fuel crisis.

Some 350000 barrels were unloaded, officials said, pointing out that the government has been importing diesel and benzene to meet the local demand.

A Snapshot of Brazil

Brazilian offshore drilling activities are faring much better than worldwide operations. Total average utilization for Brazil's mobile offshore drilling fleet is 94 percent, which compares quite favorably to the global average of 80 percent. Similarly, average dayrates are much higher in Brazil than compared to the rest of the world. Currently, rigs (i.e. drillships, jackups, and semisubs combined) are garnering rates in the high-$310s while global average dayrates are in the mid-$230s.

Pakistan to borrow $300m from local banks to build gas pipeline

KARACHI: Pakistan plans to borrow $300 million from local banks to build a pipeline that will carry natural gas from Iran, easing its worst energy crisis that is curbing economic growth.

Cuba seeking oil spill agreement with Mexico

The Cuban government and state oil company CubaPetróleo (Cupet) are seeking to reactivate an 11-year old cooperation agreement with Mexico and state oil company Pemex, Mexican daily Milenio reported.

The explosive truth behind Fukushima's meltdown

Japan insists its nuclear crisis was caused by an unforeseeable combination of tsunami and earthquake. But new evidence suggests its reactors were doomed to fail.

Ottawa set to reveal new coal-plant regulations

Tougher emissions regulations for new coal-fired electricity plants in Canada are on the way.

Environment Minister Peter Kent announced Friday that new rules will be published next week and will be open to a 60-day consultation period.

American labor unions take opposing views on proposed oil pipeline from Canada to Texas

WASHINGTON — A Canadian company’s plan to pipe oil from Alberta to the U.S. Gulf Coast is pitting traditional Democratic allies against each other.

Two unions said Friday they oppose the 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline. That opposition aligns them with environmentalists but pits them at odds with the Teamsters, one of the largest and most influential unions.

The Transport Workers Union and the Amalgamated Transit Union say they’re concerned that the $7 billion pipeline could pollute groundwater and cause health problems near the Texas refineries where the oil will go.

A Climate Change 'Bummer Outer' Comes to Washington

Johnsburg, N.Y. -- If you think the record droughts, famines, storms and floods that many scientists say are being caused by climate change are bad now, Bill McKibben is setting out to assure you that these effects will only get worse, more expensive and harder to avoid.

Is oil from Alberta really climate's linchpin?

Some of the world's most prominent climate activists are headed to D.C. to protest a proposed pipeline that would bring Alberta's unconventional oil to the Gulf Coast. Is this the make-or-break point for global action on climate change or more overheated rhetoric?

Straight Talk About Your Future

This is a first for us at Post Carbon Institute/Energy Bulletin: an online 'creative' fundraising campaign. We want to create a presentation deck for all the HUNDREDS of people who have asked us over the years for our slides. But rather than just dump our slides on people, we want to develop a presentation deck and story that is easy to present and personally resonant. Richard has written a fantastic script that presents our oil journey in a truly accessible way, we are now looking to turn this into something really user friendly and inspiring to present. If we're able to raise the funds, not only will we create the slideshow but will train volunteers so that they can deliver it in their own communities.

While we're not seeking much (we're very adept at getting a lot of bang for our buck), the end product will be a powerful educational tool that all of us can use to raise awareness and 'basic literacy' within our homes and communities.

The supply of money in an energy-scarce world

Money has no value unless it can be exchanged for goods and services but these cannot be supplied without the use of some form of energy. Consequently, if less energy is available in future, the existing stock of money can either lose its value gradually through inflation or, if inflation is resisted, be drastically reduced by the collapse of the banking system that created it. Many over-indebted countries face this choice at present — they cannot preserve both their banking systems and their currency’s value. To prevent this conflict in future, money needs to be issued in new, non-debt ways.

John Michael Greer: The twilight of meaning

1. Pull the plug on current popular culture in your own life. Cutting back a little doesn’t count, and no, you don’t get any points for feeling guilty about wallowing in the muck. Face it, your television will do you more good at the bottom of a dumpster than it will sitting in your living room, and the latest pirate zombie romantic mystery, with or without Jane Austen, is better off gathering cobwebs in a warehouse; you don’t need any of it, and it may well be wrecking your capacity to think clearly.

2. Replace it with something worth reading, watching, hearing, or doing. You may well have your own ideas about what goes in this category, but in case you don’t, I have a suggetion: go looking among things that are older than you are.

U.S. Plans First Sale of Offshore Oil Leases Since Gulf Disaster

WASHINGTON — The Interior Department is preparing to hold its first sale of offshore oil leases in the Gulf of Mexico since the Deepwater Horizon disaster last year, federal officials announced Friday.

The proposed sale, encompassing more than 20 million acres of the Western gulf, is scheduled for Dec. 14. It will be the first sale in the part of the gulf bordering Texas since the summer of 2009 and the first sale of any kind in the gulf since March 2010.

Shell closes valve at North Sea oil leak

LONDON (Reuters) - Royal Dutch Shell said it had moved closer to stemming Britain's biggest oil spill for over a decade by closing a valve from which crude had been seeping for over 8 days.

"Closing the valve is a key step," said Glen Cayley, Technical Director of Shell's exploration and production activities in Europe.

Protesters close off Colombia field

Protesters are blocking access to a major oil field in eastern Colombia operated by Canada's Pacific Rubiales to demand the company employ more people from neighboring areas, a trade union leader said on Friday according to a report.

Russia moves closer to new oil export duty

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian ministries agreed on Friday to introduce a new tax regime to cut oil export duties starting from Oct. 1 and the final decision now hinges on Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, a Finance Ministry spokesman told Reuters.

The spokesman said the agreement was reached at a meeting with Russia's Deputy Minister Igor Sechin, who oversees the country's energy sector.

Exodus from Tripoli: Foreigners prepare to flee as rebels near capital

BENGHAZI, Libya — An international body said Friday it would mount an operation to evacuate thousands of foreigners trapped in Tripoli by rebel advances that have put Moammar Gadhafi's capital under siege.

Abengoa Offered $133.9 Million U.S. Loan Guarantee For Biomass

Abengoa SA (ABG), Spain’s largest biofuel producer, was offered a $139.9 million loan guarantee from the U.S. Energy Department to build a cellulosic ethanol plant in Hugoton, Kansas.

The project will convert 300,000 tons of corn stalks and leaves into 23 million gallons (87 million liters) of ethanol a year, the Energy Department said today in a statement. The plant will also have a 20-megawatt biomass electric generator fueled by leftover plant material. Seville-based Abengoa is expected to add 300 construction jobs and 65 permanent ones.

Colin Campbell on embedded energy

So in other words, this is the collapse of the world we have known. Ireland enjoyed a few years of artificial financial prosperity known as the Celtic Tiger, but has gone bankrupt now with 15% unemployed. It can't do much about it as it is locked into the euro and unable to adjust exchange rates. The EU and IMF are offering bale outs to repay the speculators at the expense of the ordinary people who are now condemned to poverty for years. But ironically it might be a blessing prompting a reversion to the sustainable life of Jimmy Mulroe. The situation in Greece seems even worse, but they may find a solution in default, which in turn may torpedo the euro. That would be no bad thing, prompting a reversion to local currencies and eventually returning to a system of barter avoiding all the financial manipulation.

No shirt, no shoes, no problem. Interview: Dmitry Orlov

The whole compound thing I think is, you know, silly in general. I’ve heard from a lot of people who are in, say, investment banking, and, you know, don’t really trust what they’re doing. So on top of doing investment banking they’re also building some sort of a bunker. That seems to be the mindset: “We’ll keep doing what we’re doing, but if it all falls apart then here’s our little self-contained Plan B.”

And I don’t think the world is that tidy.

A New Economic Reality?

As the global economy continues to sputter, is there still a chance of recovery or has an economic paradigm shift occurred, creating a new normal? We’ll talk this hour with Post Carbon Institute Senior Fellow Richard Heinberg, whose latest book is “The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality” (New Society Publishers, 2011).

Jeff Rubin: Time for Canada to find new trading partners

Oil now accounts for almost half of Canada’s export earnings, and the Canadian dollar, already trading at a premium to the greenback, is behaving more like a petro currency every day. This has made getting full value for energy exports never more important.

Yet you would have to go back to the early 1980s made-in-Canada oil prices during the controversial National Energy Program to see as big a gap between world oil prices and what Canadian oil producers are getting paid for their oil today.

Crude Falls to $80 in Fourth Weekly Drop; Brent’s Premium Reaches Record

Oil fell, dipping below $80 a barrel in New York for the first time in more than a week, on concern that slower economic growth will erode fuel demand. Brent crude traded at a record premium to U.S. prices.

Crude lost as much as 3.9 percent, dropping with worldwide equity markets and headed for its fourth weekly decline amid concern Europe’s debt crisis will spread. U.S. crude supplies unexpectedly rose last week, the Energy Department said Aug. 17. Supply disruptions in the North Sea and Africa have boosted Brent to $25.95 a barrel above New York futures, which have tumbled 30 percent from their peak this year.

Global LNG-Asian LNG prices rise above $15/mmBtu on demand

(Reuters) - Asian liquefied natural gas (LNG) spot prices for September rose above $15 per million British thermal units (mmBtu) during the week, with strong Asian demand keeping prices high.

"Asian markets were holding just north of the $15 level for cargoes as the demand for LNG continues to ramp up," ICAP analysts said in a note.

Korea's KOGAS eyes Russian LNG - Gazprom source

(Reuters) - South Korea's KOGAS is in talks with Russia's Gazprom to buy liquefied natural gas (LNG) from a plant in Vladivostok due on stream in 2017, a source at Gazprom told Reuters on Friday.

The source also said that the Russian gas export monopoly may double the plant's annual capacity to 20 million tonnes if talks with the Korean company, the world's largest corporate buyer of LNG, are successful.

Stagflation signs: Bond yields down. Gold up

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Is that a disco ball I see?

Stocks plunged Thursday after several economic reports in the United States raised more worries about stagnant growth and higher inflation.

I wish there was a word to describe such a scenario. Oh yeah. There is! Stagflation. Remember that old chestnut from the 1970s? Gas lines and what not? Good times. Or not.

Exxon Sues U.S. Interior Department Over Canceled Gulf of Mexico Leases

Exxon Mobil Corp. sued the U.S. Interior Department, asking a judge to set aside the agency’s decision to cancel offshore leases that may yield “billions of barrels of oil.”

Iran re-starts Turkey flows

Iran resumed natural gas exports to Turkey on Thursday after a week-long halt following an explosion on the pipeline, the Iranian Oil Ministry's website, SHANA, reported on Friday.

Nigerian Navy Arrests Vessel With Suspected Stolen Crude Oil in Delta

Nigeria’s navy arrested a vessel carrying 441,953 liters of suspected stolen crude oil in the country’s southern Niger River delta, Jerry Unoarumhi, a navy commander, told reporters today in the oil industry hub of Port Harcourt.

Maersk Drilling Puts Rig Expansion on Hold

Maersk Drilling, the oil rig unit of Denmark’s largest company, may put its expansion on hold because the cost of building platforms is rising and takeovers are too expensive.

Obama, Allies Call on Syria’s Assad to Quit

Syrian security forces killed at least 12 protesters and arrested more than 300 people after U.S. President Barack Obama, in concert with European allies, called on Bashar al-Assad to step down.

Gulfsands faces risk of extra EU sanctions on Syria

LONDON (Reuters) - British oil firm Gulfsands Petroleum could face difficulties with future projects if the European Union follows the United States in toughening sanctions against Syria.

The U.S. on Thursday imposed new sanctions on Syria, including a ban on U.S. imports of Syrian oil products, raising the possibility that the EU could also act as part of an effort to financially isolate the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

Sudan: Islamic Scholars Say Government Not to Blame for Rising Prices

South Sudan's breakaway last month denied the North from around 75% of the country's oil production of 500,000 barrels a day.

Oil exports accounted for most of the revenue and hard currency source in pre-separation Sudan. Officials in Khartoum have warned for several months about the economic impact of the South's secession and have adopted tough austerity measures earlier this year which included reducing subsidies on sugar and petroleum products.

The Islamic clerics said that merchants should repent, seek forgiveness and work in accordance with the principles of Islamic law adding that nothing justifies the high prices. Saleh accused merchants of boosting prices ten-fold.

Uganda: Oil Debate Needs to Happen in Uganda, Not Washington

A working paper recently published by the Washington DC based Centre for Global Development (as reported in the Daily Monitor earlier this week), argues that Uganda's future oil revenues should be distributed equally, in cash, to all Ugandan citizens.

Under such a scheme, during peak oil production--about six years from now--every Uganda man, woman and child would receive an annual cash payment of around $50, depending on the world price of oil. This would be a huge boost for low-income households. All of this, the authors say, would benefit the economy as a whole and, over time, generate more tax revenue for government.

Pickens won’t give up on natural gas

T. Boone Pickens made his latest energy pitch Thursday in Amarillo, dropping names, recounting exchanges with Saudi royalty and referring glowingly to 4,000 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in the U.S. just waiting to be used.

As he campaigns across the country for a bill to jump-start a switch to natural gas vehicles, Pickens paints America as a shaky foreign-oil addict facing rehab and in need of a nudge in the right direction. And he says he’s just the man to do it.

Marcellus Gas production continues steady growth in PA

Marcellus Shale natural gas production in Pennsylvania continued its rapid rise in the first half of 2011, according to figures released this week by the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The state's 1,632 producing Marcellus wells pumped out 432.5 billion cubic feet of gas during the first six months of the year - a 60 percent increase from the amount of gas produced in the second half of 2010.

Environmentalists could undermine shale-gas plans, Alberta cabinet documents suggest

EDMONTON — Leaked Alberta cabinet documents suggest the province is worried environmental groups will undermine public support for shale gas development by spreading “misinformation” about health and environmental effects of chemical fracking.

ConocoPhillips: China oil spills almost cleaned up

SHANGHAI (AP) — The local unit of ConocoPhillips apologized Friday for oil spills in China's Bohai Bay and said the cleanup from the leaks is almost complete, with minimal impact to the environment.

No oil remains on the sea's surface from the leakages, ConocoPhillips China said in a statement, emphasizing it intends to ensure such incidents do not recur.

Yellowstone oil spill cleanup will last into fall

BILLINGS, Mont. — The cleanup of a major oil spill in the Yellowstone River has proven more difficult than expected and could go on for several more months, an Exxon Mobil Pipeline Co. executive said Thursday.

Drilling for oil in Arctic Ocean is fraught with danger

This month the US approved four wells for drilling by Shell Oil in the Arctic Ocean off Alaska, an energy frontier. But Shell's plan to recover after an oil spill is completely inadequate, given the region's remoteness and weather.

Deal with oil reality, or else

WHEN it comes to insurance, most of us work on the principle that it is better to be safe than sorry.

We insure our house against the unlikely event of fire, but this logic deserts us when it comes to the really big things, like oil depletion.

Homo sapiens are wise in name only

Humanity passed peak fish in 2004, peak oil in 2006 and is likely to encounter growing scarcities of other primary resources, including mineral nutrients, in coming decades. Yet our demand for all resources - including minerals, energy and water - will more than double, especially in Asia. If all the world were to live like contemporary Australians or Americans, it would require four planet Earths to satisfy their wants, the Global Footprint Network says.

Saudi Arabia’s Nuclear Energy Ambitions

The main driver for KSA’s plans to build reactors is that at the rate that it is burning its own oil, it may have substantially less to export in just a decade or so. At a minimum, it may lose the excess capacity the rest of the world relies on when there are disruptions in supplies from other countries. One scenario suggested by energy analysts that follow oil markets is that within two decades most of the KSA output would be used for domestic consumption.

Alabama Nuclear Reactor, Partly Built, to Be Finished

The directors of the Tennessee Valley Authority unanimously approved a plan on Thursday to finish the partly built Bellefonte 1 nuclear reactor, a project on which the authority spent billions of dollars in the 1970s and ’80s but dropped in 1988 because of cost overruns and declining estimates of power demand.

The revived reactor, in Hollywood, Ala., is not expected to be completed before 2018 to 2020 — or about a half-century after the project was first announced, and following nearly a quarter-century of limbo.

Obama's Automotive Fuel Standards Must Go

Lost in the hysterics regarding America’s near plummet off the face of the fiscal earth earlier this month was President Obama’s announcement that new automobiles sold in 2025 would have to average 54.5 miles per gallon (mpg). Presently, fuel efficiency averages about 27 mpg. Can it be done? Probably. Should it be done? Probably not.

Audi shows off unique one-plus-one 'urban concept'

Audi is showing off a tiny commuter car concept electric that would fit into the smallest parking spots, maybe into the motorcycle spots. It's designed for driver and an occasional plus-one passenger who, to make best use of space, sits sort of behind and at an angle to the driver.

Chevy Volt may be running out of juice

DETROIT — Is the Chevrolet Volt running out of juice?

Even as the maker begins its long-promised production ramp-up, a new study suggests that potential buyers are rapidly losing interest in the plug-in hybrid vehicle.

U.S. Marines: Use less oil, be more lethal

At a desert base in California, the Marines are testing devices that may help them become a deadlier, more self-reliant fighting force.

Power price freeze cools bold ambitions

Dubai's decision to freeze the price of power and water could set back investment in both renewables and fossil fuels.

World's Wind Turbine Markets Keep Trucking, Mostly

Global wind turbine markets have weathered recent economic storms with remarkable aplomb, according to new study by IHS's Emerging Energy Research division.

Feds seeking ocean wind farm projects in RI, Mass

NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (AP) — The federal government is seeking proposals to develop wind energy farms off the coasts of Rhode Island and Massachusetts, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Wednesday.

A Dim Bulb of an Idea

While CFLs are more expensive to buy, they are much cheaper over their lifespan, because they use much less energy (even more so with the cost of CO2 factored into taxes on electricity). Thus, on a straightforward cost-benefit basis, it seems to make sense for most people to switch from incandescent bulbs to the new, greener technology.

This is what is great about technological solutions to climate change: If an alternative option is cheaper, people will start using it.

How to stop demographic suicide

In the first three months of this year, Manitoba’s population increased by 2,700 souls. In that same period, Nova Scotia’s population declined by 1,100.

...Why is Manitoba’s population swelling, while Nova Scotia’s thins? One word: immigration. Manitoba recruits newcomers aggressively; Nova Scotia doesn’t.

Immigration is helping to power and sustain the Prairie province’s boom in natural resources and manufacturing, with unemployment at only 5.7 per cent, well below the national average of 7.2 per cent. The largest Maritime province, meanwhile, struggles with labour shortages and an unemployment rate of 9.5 per cent.

Bashing E.P.A. Is New Theme in G.O.P. Race

WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency is emerging as a favorite target of the Republican presidential candidates, who portray it as the very symbol of a heavy-handed regulatory agenda imposed by the Obama administration that they say is strangling the economy.

Dust storm envelops Phoenix, downs power lines

PHOENIX (AP) – A giant wall of dust rolled through the Phoenix area on Thursday for the third time since early July — turning the sky brown, creating dangerous driving conditions and delaying some airline flights.

Record for billion-dollar weather disasters tied

With four months still to go in 2011, the United States has already tied its yearly record for the number of weather disasters with an economic loss of $1 billion or more, the U.S. government reported Wednesday.

CNBC headline this morning, at about 7:00 A.M. Central Time, “Oil prices fall again.”

Not really. At around 7:00 A.M., WTI was down about 80¢ (around $81), but Brent, a far better indicator of global oil prices, was up about 80¢ (around $107).

The WTI/Brent spread was zero in July, 2010, it was $20 in July, 2011, and it is currently between $26 and $27, even as Cushing inventories are way down from their high, and well below year ago levels.

A more accurate headline would be, “WTI crack spread increases again, as global oil prices rise, while the WTI oil price falls.” As Undertow has documented, the WTI crack spread has increased from single digits a year ago to over $35 per barrel currently. The WTI price has no virtually no real relationship to what consumers pay at the pump (refiners are simply retaining the growing spread between the WTI price and the Brent price), and the Brent price is a far better indication of global supply & demand factors.

Average spot prices through July, for 2011 (EIA):

WTI: $98
Brent: $112

So, currently WTI is down about 17% from seven month average, while Brent is down about 4% from seven month average. The 13 percentage point spread has simply resulted in higher profits for some US refiners.

Related article by Jeff Rubin uptop, from a Canadian point of view:

Time for Canada to find new trading partners

My comments:

It occurs to me that these Mid-continent refiners are playing with fire. If their short term drive for profits ultimately causes them to lose most, or virtually all, of the oil exports from Western Canada, the refiners--and US consumers--are going to pay a huge long term price.

Yesterday, for the first time on Australia's ABC TV 7 pm news, it was explained to the public why petrol prices would not go down after the WTI fell: Australia's oil price depends on the price of TAPIS


now at USD 114 a barrel

Anyone have an estimate % of US consumption is actual WTI crude?

I think about 300k bbls are produced daily, so that would be 1.5% or so. Other grades can be delivered into a WTI contract though.



I guess I don't know what exactly WTI is. Production from the Permian Basin in West Texas and New Mexico alone is nearly 1 million bbls per day. Production from the Permian Basin reached its low point in 2007 at roughly 850K bbls per day and has been increasing since then. I do not know where they come up with the 300K bbls per day figure and what exactly defines WTI, but I would guess that all of the crude coming out of West Texas is being priced based on WTI. The oil from the Bakken, Canada, and the other states in the Rockies and mid continent is also selling at the discount from Brent.

Hear hear! Not that I ever expect accurate news headlines from CNBC, but your suggestion would be a great start.

Indeed. So when will our supposedly enlightened site stop posting the WTI price graph and start posting Brent, or a combination?

SuperG has tried, but so far has not been able to find a source that works with this site.

Thanks for the update, L. Do they charge a fee for using these graphs?

A more accurate headline would be, “WTI crack spread increases again, as global oil prices rise, while the WTI oil price falls.” As Undertow has documented, the WTI crack spread has increased from single digits a year ago to over $35 per barrel currently. The WTI price has no virtually no real relationship to what consumers pay at the pump (refiners are simply retaining the growing spread between the WTI price and the Brent price), and the Brent price is a far better indication of global supply & demand factors.

WTI Refining crack spread now an utterly astonishing $37.41 !!

I have a simple question, which probably does not have a simple answer. I live near Cushing and fly over or drive by the tank farms a few times a year. Right now there are at least a dozen new large tanks in various stages of completion. Several maybe 6-10 older tanks are undergoing maintenance of some kind. Earth moving has begun for at least another 4 tanks. Looking at the size of the farms themselves my guess is this ultimately results in fluctuations of ~5% of real capacity.

So when we are told Cushing is at X% capacity, how is this number arrived at? or when we are told inventories are up or down, do we know this is not partially caused due to unexpected maintenance events? or does the physical storage at Cushing have nothing to do with what are considered inventories for Cushing, since I am sure the piplines themselves contain a considerable amount of oil?

Euro Collapse Could Spark Global Depression, Soros Tells L'Hebdo

“It seems to me that one still doesn’t understand what would happen if the euro collapsed,” Soros told the Swiss magazine in an e-mailed pre-release of tomorrow’s edition. “It would lead to a banking crisis that would be totally out of control.”

Just how close is the Euro to collapse? Would anyone care to speculate?

Ron P.

Prolly close enough, Ron.
It seems to my simple mind that in europe we're looking at an enormous un-dischargeable debt build-up in a soon to be non-existent currency. How F-ed up is that?
And here in the U.S we're prolly only a few years behind 'em.

Ask the folks at HP how fast things can head downhill. After announcing that they were thinking of exiting the PC business, such as their touch tablet, this morning their stock dropped from yesterday's $29.51 to $22.75, a decline of almost 23%. The question your raise is now close the Euro problem is to collapse, where the real question might be, "Will the Euro collapse?", to which the answer appears to be YES. "Ilargi" and "Stoneleigh" at The Automatic Earth have been saying this for some time and it looks like that is happening before our eyes. Best to assume that the Euro will go under and act accordingly, IMHO..

E. Swanson

Soros is a speculator supreme. His comments may mask what he wants markets to do for his own self interest. The Euro has strength against the US dollar as France has shown an ability to deal with raising the SS starting age. Greece, Spain, Italy, and Ireland have already taken austerity steps. Germany and France benefit from the Euro by being able to export to the rest of Europe in the Euro, not in currency that would be much more valuable like the Swiss Franc.
Euro bonds may have problems, but the benifits of the Euro clearly out weigh the detriments. Europe has dealt with $8-$9 dollar gasoline (high gas taxes), oil per capita is one half that of the US. A VAT tax generates huge revenue that the US does not have. Consumption is not the end all for their economy. Europe has dealt with a high wage high unemployment economy for years and its safety net protects a lot suffering that is occurring here. Longer vacations and closer cooperation between labor and management work particularly well in Germany, which will lead Europe in better labor relations. Germany has labor representatives on the board of director for major international companies, something that some would consider heresy here.

The Euro has strength against the US dollar

I have wondered for some time at how wise it is to measure the Euro and the Greenback against one another. If both are in freefall, where do we look for a comparison that provides that information?

It is part of the danger inherent in the use of markers. First of all, most of our "money," be it Euro or USD, exists only as data in account statements. Not only is there no real value there, but there is nothing physical there either. So... lacking a tangible currency, measure of quantity becomes problematic. During the heights of German hyperinflation, X-Mark notes were cycled through their mint by adding six zeros, and sent back out. We won't even have to (or be able to) do that!

It is nice to reflect on the wisdom of the European countries in their safety net, cooperation and so forth. And, I feel certain that they will fare better than we do in the next few years, and more. In the long term though, unless and until the world economy is restructured to a truly sustainable level (fewer goods, limited energy, all cycling through the economies at a slower rate, with fewer hours worked, and arguably more leisure time for all). Whether the cult of greed that has taken over our government, changing them into corporatocracies, will be willing, or able, to make that fundamental paradigm switch will be interesting to obsereve.

Like the old Chinese saying, "May you live in interesting times."

Best Hope for heresies.


Lots of speculation (more like certainty) over at TAE. It's just a matter of time and how it plays out. The likelyhood of an EU split seems high, but it's clear that the ECB and the European banks are reaching critical mass.

Update: Ilargi (TAE) has posted some numbers today that ought to get folks attention, especially the dramatic drop in bank values, EU and US. Keep reading; it appears that there is a run on EU banks underway, and that Europeans are parking their cash in US FDIC insured accounts as a safe haven: "The M2 Explosion".

Another tidbit: "Technology company Apple is now worth as much as the 32 biggest euro zone banks" [combined].

Another tidbit: "Technology company Apple is now worth as much as the 32 biggest euro zone banks" [combined].

A little reminiscent of an old movie line..

Madame, he never drinks with
customers. Never. I have never seen

What makes saloon-keepers so snobbish?

(to Carl)
Perhaps if you told him I ran the
second largest banking house in

The second largest? That wouldn't
impress Rick. The leading banker in
Amsterdam is now the pastry chef in
our kitchen.

We have something to look forward

And his father is the bell boy.

From Casablanca.. of course.

My opinion is that it isn't very close, but it will collapse eventually. I also believe it won't usher in a global depression.

The reason I think a collapse of the Euro won't start a global depression is that Europe and the US are not as important to the world economy as they used to be. The world would stagger but go on. If China's growth was threatened by troubles in Europe or the US, it would respond with the mother of all stimulus packages. With a national savings rate of over 50%, that sort of thing is possible there.

My opinion is that it isn't very close, but it will collapse eventually. I also believe it won't usher in a global depression.

I agree. It will drop stock markets worldwide like crazy for a week or so, but usher in a despression is over the top. However, it would mark a major step down for globalization towards regionalization, which is where we are headed anyway due to higher oil prices.

Do you think that the collapse will be as a result of a global depression?

... it would mark a major step down for globalization towards regionalization.

How will that trend impact the US? I hear opinions (e.g. Kunstler, et al.) that we might see new allignment of States into smaller, more homogeneous units. Some point to Mexican or Canadian States combining with contiguous US States to form new governing units. What will keep that from happening, and what happens to those interior States that would become geographically remote and difficult to continue with trade? Lacking rivers, and separated from other units by mountains or deserts, other than rail (which would almost have to be either coal or electric powered), how would they import or export?

Of course, as nations disintegrate, I for one believe there is a serious concern that we become a group of gang-controlled cities and rural fiefdoms. Is it even possible that the mass of inert couch potatos who comprise most of the US (don't know about the rest of the World... might be the same) would be able to self govern? Is the rule of "might makes right" about to make a comeback? Are the individual States sufficient unto themselves? If we cannot keep the entier Union together, how can we hope to forge new federations that will work? More than that, are we so contrary that we would refuse such, and try to live out the Randian philosophy of the Ron Pauls of the World? In a word, are we moving toward Libertarian society, or would we find ourselves in Anarchy? And if so, isn't the social compact demanding of more than that?

Are there any other forces impacting this trend to regionalization?

Are these events an improvement, or otherwise? What is the value set used for making such judgments?

Just a few thoughts, PE. I'd be interested in your take. I think we are going to need some very serious discussion that so far I do not hear.

Best Hopes for your region.


... it would mark a major step down for globalization towards regionalization.

How will that trend impact the US?

Based on Gail's article on the home page of TOD, I asked a Q yesterday and her answer was collapse will probably come first with the political system, i.e. govt.

If we are to presume greater debt accumulation at all levels of govt. as oil prices remain high, then at some point big govt. no longer is viable and control becomes regionalized or localized. It would seem likely the Fed & State govt. would become so weak at some point they would almost reach the point of simply becoming symbolic of a relic from yesteryear. But of course there will always be a need for control however small communities might become.

Is the rule of "might makes right" about to make a comeback?

I am absolutely certain that will be the case for rougher parts of cities. Probably the more rural, the less violent the rule. However, after some kind of collapse tolerance for crime, in particular thievery of food, will probably be close to zero.

A good assessment, PE. My guess is that we become quite insular, permitting 'strangers' access for some trade, ritual gatherings of various related tribes (actually to prevent inbreeding, but in the form of event-oriented get togethers). Probably there will be 'lookouts' posted strategically at vantage points to challenge 'others' who come too near. Communities who lack these safeguards can expect to be invaded and looted, especially if urban areas are undersupplied with foodstuffs. Which is apt to happen.

I would guess that the first year or two after the state collapses will be critical to establish networks and so forth. Again, your idea that the State Gov't or Federal Gov't will become symbolic is on point. Do you suppose we will become like the 'cargo cults'? Waiting for the Feds to rescue us. Imagine!


When did "might makes right" ever leave the scene?

"...Europe and the US are not as important to the world economy as they used to be."

Since CDS and derivatives exposures in Europe amount to hundreds of trillions of dollars, you may want to rethink that. Further, the west is still, by far, the largest market for Chinese and Asian goods, and Asian exposure to western banking systems is enormous.

It's not just the CDS, most of this Emerging market growth is based on consumption by the west, take that out and it's like a house of cards. Moreover most of the emerging markets have not undertaken any serious social reforms, it was assumed that the flow of money would cure all evils. I guess most of them are in for a rude shock.

China will do more heavy industry when resources are constrained to the point they are burning diesel for electricity? Sounds kind of impossible imho. China hit the ceiling. You cannot stimulate without resources. Money is not a physical resource.

A major restructuring is inevitable but when and how it is going to happen is not so clear.

The German WWI/WWII guilt trip is coming to an end and the willingness among the people from the northern countries to bail out the southern ones is decreasing rapidly. With disturbing frequency in the media you’ll see comparisons between US 2008 and the EU but there are a number of significant differences between the two situations which makes it an apples/oranges comparison.

Both in the US as well as in the EU banks have a problem with the quality of their assets but a significant difference is that in the US the assets were primarily private securities, mortgages and such, whereas in the EU right now banks own a lot of PIIGS country debt which is iffy. When the European countries decided to join the Euro they gave up the right to print money. Before joining the euro Spain could print pesetas and thereby decrease the value of the peseta viz a viz other currencies and in effect inflate their way out of debt. Now they can’t do that anymore. In effect the individual EU countries have become users of currency rather than issuers of currency. The importance of that difference is hard to overstate.

With the monetary tools removed from the individual country’s tool box the only tools left are fiscal. All they can do is increase taxes and cut spending which, not surprisingly, reduces aggregate demand for goods and services, thereby increases unemployment etc which in turn reduces tax revenue needed to support bonds. When you’re an issuer of currency and it is time to repay debt you can simply create currency to do so. However, when you are a user of currency you have to first obtain it (by for example raising taxes or selling assets) before you can repay. What the euro has done is force countries to act like private individuals rather than sovereign entities yet the decision makers and market participants still analyze and treat them like sovereign entities.

However it will be resolved it is going to require an alignment between fiscal and monetary policy. Either individual countries have to (partially) give up their sovereign taxation power or retake their ability to issue currency. Either case is likely to cause a great deal of dislocations for all involved.


How is the Euro a real currency? Who issues it? Does it have complete backing by any nation? Or is it simply the first totally imaginary currency? I almost sense that the whole idea of money is being challenged today, and requires a close look at its foundation.

For instance, saying that a Euro can be redeemed in gold, requires that the value of gold be fixed. Since gold is a commodity of value in the electronics industry, as well as in space technology, that would not really work very well, would it?

Historically, one ounce of Gold represented approximately one week of work by the average worker. Since we are well past "Peak Gold" in any meaningful sense of the word, that doesn't work very well either.

I maintain that unless and until the value of each currency is pegged to its representative value in terms of an hour of human labor (which is, after all, what is added to materials to give them value), we will have these crises. After all, money is simply the token used in a very sophisticated system of barter.

Best hope for sustainable money.


Actually, pegging the Euro to gold is about the best thing they could have done.

The fact that we are past "Peak Gold" is irrelevant - maybe even helpful. Gold works as a stable money becasue you can;t just print, and it's pretty hard (though not impossible) to find it.

You are correct that an ounce of gold has historically been about a weeks wages, and saying the Euro should be pegged to the value of a weeks wages is effectively saying it should be pegged to gold - which I agree with, and gold is much easier to measure - while a week of work is harder to define - just ask a union!

Money is indeed the token for barter, and that is why it works so well. It is hard to transport or store a weeks worth of labour, but an ounce of gold is easy.

The real problem is debt and interest. If gold was the currency, and governments borrowed gold, and had to repay, with interest, in more gold, I expect we would see a lot less government borrowing - that can;t come soon enough in my opinion.

Let me toss in my 2 bytes.
What makes a currency real? I think that nowadays pretty much all currencies are fiat currencies not backed by anything tangible. One of the problems with tying the value of a currency to for example gold is that in a growing economy it is deflationary. And even a gold backed currency is in a way a fiat currency in that one has to believe that for some reason gold is valuable. So then what is value? I guess one way to define “value” is a function of one’s interest in something – in effect a psychological phenomenon where a person for some reason derives utility from an object. And obviously different people will derive different utility from the same object.

Even defining the value of a currency to say one hour’s worth of labor is problematic.
First of all, we all have very different productivity levels, even depending on where you are in life and what tools you have available to you. Secondly, human ingenuity is deflationary because humans seem to be able to keep improving. Thirdly, one’s productivity is a function of other factor inputs. A person can dig much faster with a backhoe than with a shovel.

Money is a very tricky subject but kind of fun to play mental football with.


One of the problems with tying the value of a currency to for example gold is that in a growing economy it is deflationary.

Deflation punishes debtors and consumers and rewards savers. Inflation does the opposite. Economists are terrified of deflation in our economy because our money is created by bank loans. Under a different monetary system, deflation is not really a problem, it just benefits different constituents than inflation.

So then what is value? I guess one way to define “value” is a function of one’s interest in something – in effect a psychological phenomenon where a person for some reason derives utility from an object.

Right. Economic value is subjective.

yep - Inflation is a tax on savers and a subsidy to borrowers. When you run the numbers (I looked at demand deposits+money market accounts)and see how big the subsidy is it is quite staggering.


And in view of that massive subsidy - which is not at all new - it's really hard to understand why so many are so surprised (or at least feign surprise) that individuals and governments have gone head over heels into debt.

Money is a very tricky subject but kind of fun to play mental football with.

One can spend years here:
and come to the conclusion that, like football*, there are many types and it all depends on what your pre-conceived notions are and what baggage you bring to the table. "Kensians" are gonna have a different POV than "Austrians" and they have a different view than (whatever other types one wishes to name, say "the Chicago School".

*Football. One has a round ball with goalkeepers and worldwide appeal, the other has an oval with only one country that gets excited.

Football. One has a round ball with goalkeepers and worldwide appeal, the other has an oval with only one country that gets excited.

Well, two countries. Canadian football is recognizably the same game -- the differences are certainly not as great as the differences between regular and arena football in the US. To my understanding, "football" in Canada is a reference to Canadian football (or the US cousin), not to "soccer". The Grey Cup is the most-watched Canadian sporting event.

I will reply to both you and Paul with this.

It seems to me that the real problem with using Gold is that population is growing much faster than gold supplies; gold becomes more valuable (because there are uses other than as money) as it becomes more scarce. Pegging money to gold would require the government to purchase gold to equal its money (that would be the way that money is issued - either replacing worn out script with new goldbacked script, or using gold coins). William Jennings Bryan gave an excellent speach once about that - the "Cross of Gold" speach as it is known. Today we do not fully understand the real impact on people when gold backed money is combined with compound interest.

Bankers will never - no, it is the industrialists who would not.

Industrialists will never allow currencies to be demominated in anything closely correlated to labor. For instance, it would make sense to denominate the underlying unit based on one hour of labor by unskilled laborer. Then, the discrepencies between labor and C-level would be more notable. Trade offs would be easier to understand. For instance, one reason part of labor goes to the corporation is due to the cost of the machinery and factory (using brick & morter business examples) or shop. Since the labor of all goes into product or service, and investment in time/education goes into experience and knowledge sets, differentials can be more easily seen, and perhaps understood than is the case today.

Since labor arbitrage would become much more difficult using units of labor as a measure of money, capitalists would never allow it. It could be interesting as a mind game, at least, to puzzle out the interactions. May even give some insight into how corporations began, though the legalities of that would supercede. I may do a piece on that and post it. Unless someone else beats me to it.

Best Hopes for Rational Money.


Fiat currency is backed by something pretty real, actually. It's backed by the issuing governments ability to honor its obligations through tax revenues.

That observation can put a bit of spin on the issue often lacking, I think.

Excellent comment, jay. I like ones that provide a different angle to consider. Thanks.


Tax is a way to modulate aggregate demand, not to raise revenue. If a country wants to pay a bill it can (and will) simply issue currency.

Let’s look at how money is actually created.
One day a government wants to build a bridge but has no currency to do so. The treasury will take a piece of paper, write “IOU 100mm USD” on it and give it to the Fed who takes it and then credits the account of the Treasury at the Fed with 100mm. Poof! Money just popped into existence. The government now takes that 100mm and deposits it at JPM and writes a check for the 100mm to a contractor who has an account at Citi. JPM/Citi (the banking system) can now create 10*100mm=1bn in deposits if they can find people to lend it to.

The idea that a government has to raise taxes to pay bills is simply not true.



Tax is a way to modulate aggregate demand, not to raise revenue.

Yes. Taxes have a much larger impact on what is demanded than on the total level of demand. In the US today, taxes result in more being spent on the military, roads, and medical care for the elderly/poor, than would be spent on those things if the money were not collected and spent by the government.

There is M0 money and M2 money etc. If you borrow money from the bank to buy a car, the bank creates that M2 money out of thin air. Then when you repay the loan, that money vanishes. Money isn't exactly debt, it's more like trust that the debt will be repaid. It's a token of the trust between borrower and lender.

I think the "horizontal money" and "vertical money" concepts in MMT add a lot to understanding how the monetary system actually works.

You're right though that repayment of debt extinguishes money which is why as the private sector is deleveraging the public sector has to increase spending in order to avoid a collapse in the money supply.


How does repaying debt destroy money?

I can see how issuing debt creates money, that's ok. It's the "repaying debt = destroying money" bit that I can't grasp.

If a bank loans me a thousand dollars to buy a car, I then buy the car. The thousand dollars goes to the car dealership's bank account, and I get the car. Whether I repay the debt or not makes no difference, at all, to the car dealership's bank account. That account stays $1K in credit whatever I do. That $1k has been created by the loan, and it stays in existence permanently.

I think the missing link in the story is the borrowing which the bank does to cover their loans. My feeble understanding (which may be wrong) is this. The bank gets it's money from the Federal Reserve system or from one of the interbanks as a loan. It's the Fed which creates the money, not the bank. The Fed continually rolls over the debit and issues new loans at an interest rate which is set with the intention of controlling the money supply. Higher FED interest rates filter thru to the banks and tend to suppress lending, which reduces the money supply. Lower interest rates encourage lending. When the loans from individual banks are repaid, the banks do not need to borrow as much from the FED, thus the money supply declines. One might say that money can extinguished as the result of in this process and deflation is what it's called.

E. Swanson

Good answer.

It leaves just one teeny tiny factor out of the equation: interest:

step 1) Fed Reserve "creates" $1000 of "money" out of thin air
2) Fed "loans" the created $1000 to bank and expects payback of $1001
3) Bank loans the created $1000 to Farmer Mac and expects payback of $1002
4) Farmer Mac buys seeds, fertilizer, etc. sows, plants harvests and sells production for $1003 to city slicker
5) Farmer Mac returns $1002 to bank and keeps his $1 of the created money
6) Bank returns $1001 to Fed and keeps its $1 of interest (=profit)
7) Fed retires the created $1000 of "money" but leaves in its pockets the $1 of interest (=profit)

so now the original $1000 of "created" money has vaporized
except that Farmer Mac has an extra $1 in his pocket,
except that Banks has an extra $1 in its pocket,
except that Fed Reserve an extra $1 in his pocket, ... and

except that city slicker is $1003 deeper into debt on his credit card
(the city slicker magically created $1003 of more money during this transaction)

Ergo, we started out with just $1000 of "created out of thin air" money and now we have $1006 of created money circulating in the economy even though the Fed retired its original $1000

Rinse and repeat

Ron: A couple weeks ago undertow had this comment with a link to bloomberg. Enter the ticker symbol and get the price. What are the ticker symbols and where are they found.

here is the link to tapis

*************Aug 5th
Here are today's Bloomberg listed closing prices for the world spot markets as previously listed at upstreamonline
Brent $109.43
Tapis $117.00
Alaska $106.88
Dubai $102.73
Louisiana $110.63
Urals $107.99
WTI $ 86.88
Oman $103.15
Minas $117.45
Forties $109.46
Bonny $118.85

A thought: WTI is low because the 'supply' of money is low. Oil is bidding for dollars here, competing with, say, gummi bears and I-Pads. It could well be a sign of impending deflation, or perhaps the better word might be endemic? The things one sees, in the race to the bottom!


It's low because it appears to suit some players in the futures markets to have it that way. Or "these damned speculators are driving the oil price down." :-)

Refined product is selling in the US at Brent prices and the consumer sees no benefit - the refineries with access to WTI make out like bandits though - perhaps literally...

Of note is that Brent refiners are making plenty money as well. Tapis crack spreads seem to be at more traditional levels.

"speculators" have at best a very limited effect on the price of a futures contract for WTI because for every buyer there is a seller.

But to adress the comment above, I agree that there is a fair chance of some significant deflation with WTI going down significantly.
Look at what has been happening in financial markets. A huge amount of currency has been created but there are no takers for it, which why loan demand is so low and private debt is going down and banks have huge excess reserves parked at the Fed and receive 25bp on it while commoners like us get effectively zero.

If there is going to be any kind of serious attempt to reign in public spending GDP will go down dramatically. Right now gvt spending (Fed, state and local) is what, 40% of GDP? If that does down to 30% there will be a negative 10pct GDP print. If that happens WTI at 30 or less is not out of the question.(as well as massive unemployment etc).



P.S. The US ( or them, depending on your vantage point) is so screwed it isn't even funny.

I am not disagreeing in the slightest that oil prices will likely fall in another recession. The question here is why are oil prices remaining above $100 with the sole exception of "WTI" which is now getting on for $25 dollars cheaper per barrel than oil from the next-door state Louisiana. Refined product in the US is not corresponding to the WTI price either (but rather world prices) so the US consumer sees no benefit. Refiners simply pocket more profit than they could have imagined in their wildest dreams.

Brent-WTI spread broken - analyst

According to a recent research note from Barclay Capital: “Currently, WTI spreads are so far away from
any sustainable equilibrium that they imply a mounting degree of market breakdown.”

Walter Zimmermann, vice-president and chief technical analyst at United-Icap, says the Brent-WTI
spread is broken and has “lost its moorings”. “And when a big ship has lost its moorings it can be pushed
about by the slightest breeze. With a strong enough gale the ship is easily wrecked,” he wrote in a
report published this week.

WTI/Louisiana Sweet Price Differential

Thanks; I needed that and no doubt many others.

What is to stop the EU from printing its way out of trouble just like the US?

If the ECB, the sole issuer of currency in the EU, were to simply turn on the printing presses chances are that the north would experience significant inflation because more euros would be chasing the same number of goods/services. The countries which need money no longer have the ability to print their way out of trouble. The EU is a collection of countries which are in vastly different financial situations. Northern Europe is generally in good economic shape whereas a good part of southern Europe is in pretty bad shape.

What they have been doing so far is that individual countries like Greece and Italy have been issuing (country specific) bonds at relatively high interest rates and the north (and China) has been buying them. One problem with that approach is that going forward the South’s repayment obligations are going up – exactly what you don’t want to have happen when you already have too much debt. Another problem is that the banks in the north now have deteriorated the quality of their assets.


Somebody smarter might be able to enlighten me. But I fail to understand how any country with a debt problem to start with is going to be better off leaving the Euro. The most compelling argument is that they will be able to devalue their currency. However, historically a devaluation has only provided short term relief as the increase in inflation and flight of capital very quickly eliminates any benefit of a weak currency.

However, for somebody facing a debt problem to start with a devaluation will drive up interest rates on the debt as people start to price in the inflation. From debt holders perspective an actual default in which 40% of the debt is written off or 40% is lost to inflation is really the same thing.

Every country facing a budget deficit has the choice of making dramatic cuts in spending to balance their budget. However, if they weren't part of the Euro they would be confronting both a balance of payments problem and a budget deficit problem.

If you leave the Euro (and get your own currency) you now are back in control of both fiscal as well as monetary policy. A devaluing currency does not mean that you’ll have inflation of flight of capital. Think of the US – the USD has significantly devalued versus pretty much any other currency over the last couple of years / decades, yet we have moderate inflation – only recently ticking up – and we have rates close to zero – quite the opposite of capital flight. The US has negative real rates and when you look at forward rates it looks like that’s going to be the case for a while.

It is important to keep in mind that a sovereign entity with the ability to emit currency works quite differently from a household. Government deficits/surpluses are(can) be used to moderate aggregate demand, something a household doesn’t do.


give me an example of a small country that has done that.

The United States never devalued its currency as a matter of government policy. The value of the dollar has fallen but not because of proactive government action.

Plus while in theory controlling your monetary policy is good its effect pales in comparison to the problems associated with a balance of payments problems.

Finland did it several times during the 60's and 70's, and the last time in 1982. The strategy is largely dependent on having a viable export sector that can grow.

There very well may be a difference between stated policy and actual policy (I’m thinking of the US "Strong Dollar" policy. In reality there isn't/wasn't such a policy, only words but no action. I can't remember any time that the US actually bought its own currency. Effectively the US has been pursuing a weak dollar policy by running large deficits.

Aside from the EU zone I can’t really think of any country which does NOT have its own monetary policy.


Aside from the EU zone I can’t really think of any country which does NOT have its own monetary policy.

Actually, there are quite a few smaller countries that have simply adopted the currency of other countries.

Examples of those using the US dollar include Ecuador, El Salvador, Panama and Palau.
Some Pacific island nations have adopted the Australian or New Zealand dollar.
Monaco, Andorra and a few others that are not part of the Euro zone have adopted the Euro.

Full list is here;

a number of the countries you've listed are dollarized but that is the country's choice. They can change the peg at anytime, and therefore in fact do have an independent monetary system.
But yes, there are some other countries with have adopted another country's ccy. I don't think any of them are major players though.

(China is a bit of a special case)


give me an example of a small country that has done that.

Belarus, a month or two ago...

Several South and Central American countries have explicitly devalued their currency, some several times. The only real requirement is that they have a fixed exchange rate as a matter of public policy. Venezuela has such a rate, and explicitly devalued their currency earlier this year. Interestingly, Venezuela now has two official exchange rates, one for those things they want to export more of, and one for everything else.

From Today's Drumbeat: How to Stop Demographic Suicide


Ah-ha - the solution to our problems - we need more people!


And entirely predictable. Tainter has a section on it in his book. As a society approaches collapse, the population growth rate slows. Even reverses. This is always seen as a terrible problem. They need more people - warriors, laborers, taxpayers - to maintain the society. The Romans passed laws setting up orphanages. The Maya fed women at the expense of men, because women are the child-bearers. Modern societies do everything from encouraging immigration to banning birth control to paying people to have more children. Nobody sees a shrinking population as a solution rather than a problem.

Interesting that the Obama Admin. is rethinking deportation:

Obama Administration Announces Sweeping Immigration Reform

The Obama Administration today has announced a sweeping immigration reform program which may cancel deportation and provide work authorization to 300,000 immigrants currently in deportation proceedings. The immigration law firm of Colombo, Hurd & Brandt is offering free consultations and scheduling forums to assist individuals who may benefit from immigration reform throughout the state of Florida.

Orlando, FL (PRWEB) August 18, 2011

The Dream is alive! President Barack Obama today announced the most sweeping and comprehensive immigration reform since Ronald Reagan. The White House announced that the U.S. government will immediately halt the deportation of undocumented immigrants that do not have criminal records or pose a security risk to the United States on a case-by-case basis.

It seems that those who oppose immigration and are calling for closed borders don't want to fill jobs picking crops and butchering chickens.

I think this has more to do with politics than filling jobs.

It's an attempt to enact the DREAM Act without actually passing it. Priority will be given to people who arrived as young children and have gone to college. That's not the picking crops and chicken processing demographic.

And of course it probably has something to do with mobilizing the Hispanic vote for the 2012 election. Of course, it's adding fuel to the to the Tea Party's burning fury, but it's hard to see how they could be any angrier at Obama (although I suppose they might reach the point that many of them spontaneously combust).

It's interesting that one thing that the GOP and the Democratic Parties have in common is that neither party is questioning, at least not in public, our ability to maintain BAU regarding our auto centric suburban lifestyle.

Regarding the Thelma & Louise metaphor, the GOP folks think that a H2 Hummer, powered by virtually infinite fossil fuels, provides a nice comfy ride toward the edge of the cliff, while the Democratic folks think that a plug-in hybrid, powered by cool green alternative energy sources, provides a more socially acceptable ride as we drive toward the edge of the cliff.

But look at the bright side about the 2012 change in the makeup of the officers of the USS Titanic, with Perry in the race, it's at least going to be more entertaining. I wonder who the last serious contender for the Presidency was who routinely carried (and who has been known to use*) a handgun.

*While Perry was out jogging with his daughter's dog, a coyote was allegedly threatening said dog. This being Texas, Perry was carrying a laser sited semi-automatic pistol, and he quickly dispatched said coyote and proceeded with his jogging. I've posted some Texans and their guns stories before. One of the more interesting was in Fort Worth around 1990. A man sitting in his car witnessed another man shoot and kill a woman in a mall parking lot. The witness saw the perpetrator then start walking to the perpetrator's car. This being Texas, the witness retrieved his 44 magnum from his trunk, walked up behind the perpetrator, who was then sitting in his car, getting ready to drive away, and the witness executed the perpetrator with one shot to the head. The grand jury no-billed the witness. No charges were filed.

Seems to me to cover the three criteria for justice quick, cheap, and seen to be done. Not my way of doing things but certainly much better than here in Europe where the victim usually ends up in the dock if he defends himself because he contravened his assailants human rights.

Think about it. Hundreds of thousands of self-agrandizing judges, jurors and executioners all over the place. Is that a good thing?

Is this a good thing? you ask. Where have I said it was a good thing? In fact I said I don't agree with it. In fact I believe in the rule of law, but without justice the rule of law is undermined. Under the present system it seems to me that the rule of law is being undermined because it is neither quick, cheap, and where the Human rights legislation so beloved and implemented by our elites it has favoured the perpetrator over the victim and justice is seen not to be done. I hope I have made myself clear.

An earlier story involved a state trooper who was shot and killed by a man that the trooper had pulled over on a Texas highway. The shooter didn't realize that a witness, a rancher who happened to have his deer rifle with him, saw the shooting from a nearby rest stop. Said rancher executed the shooter with one shot from his rifle.

Only a couple of years ago, a Houston homeowner executed two burglars who were robbing his neighbor's house. The homeowner was on the phone, telling a 911 operator that if the police didn't show up in time, he was going to shoot the burglars, and the 911 operator was trying to talk him out of it. The police didn't show up in time. The grand jury no-billed him.

I recall some other Texas story - that if a husband comes home and finds his wife in bed with another man, he gets to kill them both - as long as it's with a single bullet.

- as long as it's with a single bullet

It's awe-mazing what one can do with a final good ricochet shot even if the previous ones just missed by that little due to the heat of passion.

I hear they are pretty good with ricochet shots in Dallas.

(Too soon?)

Governments tend to take a dim view of this sort of thing. In fact the government has been defined, by Max Weber iirc, as that entity which reserves to itself the legal right to commit violence within the country's borders -- and enforces the reservation. It's still true, just about, even though these days governments like to delegate to private contractors, and seem to turn a blind eye on violence enacted on some citizens.

Vigilante tit-for-tat may be quick and cheap. But it's how things are done in Somalia, not in governed countries. And it's not justice.

I am surprised he got off. that's a logical fallacy of Infinite regress made legal..

True - I don't know if the law has changed but 20 years ago in Texas it was legal to use lethal force to protect your property. Learned that fact when a fellow shot a guy trying to steal his car. The shooter saw him from his apartment window, pulled his scoped deer rifle out the closet and dropped him. Again, no billed. Would have been nicer to at least give a warning shot

This is really interesting. You would think that having such laws on the books might reduce crime in Texas.
However,I see that in fact Texas still has a higher rate of serious crimes than say New York and New Jersey:


Obviously, there is something else at work here.

That particular event might have been a reflection of the situation during frontier days, where horse stealing was a hanging offense. Stealing your TV might not qualify...

E. Swanson

Horses were transportation, a 'power source', and perhaps food if things got bad.
(In WWII cows were 'for the boys over there' and so the meat markets featured horse.)

A few years ago I saw a claim of 'a horse back then was worth $25,000 now' - and $25K is quite a bit of change.

Then you have non economic arguments. A "man's home is his castle" - so what's a sovereign to do? Wait for the police?
Police Have No Duty To Protect Individuals and when a cop screws up on the arrest the whole case can be bounced.

As far as I'm concerned, Perry was cowardly to shoot the coyote.

I've been close to coyotes in the wild; a coyote is a scrawny medium-sized dog. Yes, they are rascally and will grab a toy poodle out of the back yard when nobody's looking; but they are also very cautious, and would never risk a head-on confrontation with a man who weighs 5 times as much as they weigh.

If Perry wanted to get rid of the coyote, yelling at it would probably have been enough.

So, given that Perry hugely over-reacted to a not-really-a-threat coyote, he should be given nuclear weapons?

Probably the poor coyote was hoping that Perry would give it a dog biscuit; little did it know that a Republican would rather shoot you than give you anything.

I used to have them in my back yard. Similar experience - just yell/move and they go away. But it makes better PR to shoot one.

How uncomfortable is it to run with a gun??


So, given that Perry hugely over-reacted to a not-really-a-threat coyote, he should be given nuclear weapons?

After LBJ & Vietnam and after Bush 43 & Iraq, it would be pretty amazing if the US elected Perry next year, but given historical patterns of presidential elections during periods of high unemployment, it seems like that the GOP nominee will be elected president next year. As I said previously, I think that we in an environment where the electorate will tend to vote against the dominant political party in power. Without realizing it, the voters are basically hoping that the next politician in power will be able to find a way for us to maintain an infinite rate of increase in our consumption of a finite fossil fuel resource base, which is basically what Michele Bachmann is promising.

Incidentally, while quite rare, there are case histories of coyotes killing adult humans. There was one such case in Canada a couple of years ago:


And last year a pair of coyotes chased and bit a couple of 12 year old boys in the Dallas area. They got away and made it into their house. If they coyotes had brought them down, the story might have had a different ending.

re. Coyotes,
I agree with Rockman: coyotes should not be dismissed as a non-threat to humans.
The Canadian folk-singer's death was in Oct. 09:

Our island (one of the Thousand Islands) is now riddled with coyotes. We had a commercial sheep flock for 25 years and they were a major problem (one year we lost 44, most years around 25) and were a big part of our decision to sell the entire flock.
When our son was little I told him & his friends not to worry about going in the woods, coyotes would never attack... if you see one just yell and pick up a stick, etc.
I would not give them that advice today.

Just before the Cape Breton attack there was a less-reported attack on a 16-year old boy here in Ontario. He kicked it in the head and was unhurt. But coyotes (which are not native to eastern Canada) are getting bolder (and perhaps bigger, though I've found no evidence of that here). They routinely kill larger animals (calves and even the occasional foal), which requires some strength, teamwork and a good deal of boldness. We had a new foal in April and worried for the first work or so, something we would not have done years ago.

But coyotes (which are not native to eastern Canada) are getting bolder (and perhaps bigger, though I've found no evidence of that here)

Both can be explained via interbreeding with Wolfs.

Sorry, I see now that I responded to an observation made by WT, not Rockman.

I'm pretty sure that the interbreeding would be primarily with dogs, not wolves for two reasons.
First, timber wolves have largely retreated from southern Ontario (I think they would be very rare south of the 401, which is our main east-west traffic corridor). Coyotes have filled the vacuum. My understanding is that coyotes have displaced both wolves and foxes (we still have foxes, but I'll bet that there were many more of them decades ago).
Coyotes arrived here during the 1930s, Nova Scotia by 1960s, then PEI and now (somehow) even Newfoundland.
This article describes US migration:

Second, we see quite an array of colours. Many have a rusty tinge and my dad shot one that was very blond. There are far more dogs wandering around than there are timber wolves, so odds are it's stray male dogs.

No, recent genetic analyses seem to indicate that the Northeastern Coyote is actually a hybrid of the Western Coyote (Canis latrans) with the Eastern Canadian Wolf (Canis lycaon).

The coloring results from the fact that the Eastern Canadian Wolf is very closely related to the Red Wolf (Canis rufus - an endangered species in the US). It is also more closely related to the coyote than the Grey Wolf (Canis lupus) is.

Biologists thought the Eastern Canadian Wolf had gone the way of its American cousin, but apparently not. The wolves in Algonquin Park, which they thought were a wolf/coyote hybrid, turned out on genetic testing to be Eastern Wolves. Compared to the coyote they are about three or four times the size and quite capable of taking down big game. They also don't seem to have had any qualms about interbreeding with coyotes to produce the Eastern Coyote.

See: The Northeastern Coyote

Of course there are Coyotes and then there are Coyotes.

In Texas, I believe they still have the original Western Coyote, which is pretty small. The ones in Eastern North America picked up some different DNA on their walk across the country and are much larger.

At least they are talking about encouraging immigration, not birth rate.

World wide population density is 51 people/km2 (excluding antartica and the ocean) whereas Canada has a population density of 3.4 people/km2. Also Canada's fertility rate is 1.63, compared to a worldwide fertility rate of 2.52 (source wikipedia) It might make sense to encourage some flow of skilled people into areas like Manitoba. Certainly it does nothing to increase total world population and it provides Manitoba with instant productive members of society instead of waiting 20 years or more for a baby to mature and be trained.

I would say that immigration of young adult female immigrants from high fertility rate countries to low fertility areas (deliberately including them in the culture and economy) could reduce overall fertility rate in the world, while helping ease the population aging problem.

Or it will spread high fertility and increase the world population.

I guess that depends on if fertility is affected more by internal (social values taught in childhood) or external (economic environment) factors.

The trick might be to screen immigration applicants and choose those that are interested in adopting their new country's culture, and to ensure that they are welcomed into the new society.

That my friend would contravene there human rights, that would never do.

One person's rights are another person's obligations.

I remember reading somewhere that fertility is primarily a function of women's education.


Cherry picking smart well educated immigrates should improve the average quality of ones society. I guess we should also consider deporting dumb uneducated citizens if economic eugenics is our goal.

"Cherry picking"

That sounds like the AGW-denialist bunch, there, doesn't it?

Yes, well-educated "immigrants", as well as well-educated citizens would do nicely.

I guess we should also consider deporting dumb uneducated citizens if economic eugenics is our goal.

Where would you send them? Australia is kinda populated already... Mars is a bit too far away. Oh, I know, send them to D.C. to be congress critters!

Forests, Soils and Carbon Capture

A good summary article


Best Hopes for More Carbon Capture,


A footnote to that in this week's Science

Forests as Carbon Sink

The forests of the world are absorbing a substantial fraction of the CO2 released to the atmosphere by anthropogenic activities. Pan et al. (p. 988, published online 14 July) provide an updated and improved estimate of the role of the world's forests in the global carbon budget. Using the latest inventory data and analyses allowed an estimate of the average global annual uptake of atmospheric CO2 by forests from 1990 to 2007 at 2.4 petagrams of carbon, an amount comparable to earlier estimates of the entire terrestrial carbon sink.

Abstract at

Seems unlikely - there's a pretty good ledger balance between emissions on one side, and observed atmospheric concentration increase and ocean acidification together with the existing estimate for forest uptake and other minor sinks.

This only works if there's less transfer into the deep ocean than previously estimated. Which means faster warming of the surface, once the Chinese enforce sulphur scrubbing on their power stations.

Another piece of the puzzle falls into place as we transition away from coal and oil....

Nova Scotia praises Lower Churchill hydro loan

Nova Scotia's energy minister says a federal loan guarantee for a massive hydroelectric project in Labrador will ultimately mean cleaner and cheaper power for Nova Scotians.


The federal loan guarantee is a key development in a megaproject that is expected to provide up to 10 per cent of Nova Scotia's electricity needs for three decades.

See: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/story/2011/08/19/ns-energy-hyd...


It seems to me that current oil prices, especially Brent which is reflective of global demand are confirming peak oil; when you look at the stalling of economic growth in Europe, the quick deceleration in the US, the relative slowdown in Asia, sinking stock markets, and recessionary level treasury yields yet Brent is trading at $109 clearly indicate that oil supply is too tight and likely will get tighter next year unless we have a total economic collapse.

Yet again the media seems to focus on sovereign debt as the cause beyond the current weakness in the global economy and ignoring the destructive effect of oil prices; actually the economic growth around the globe halted in Q2 just when oil prices hit the high for the year; but what is different this time is that the world economy may slow down, but oil prices are unlikely to dip the way they did in 2008 largely due to peaking oil supplies and secondly due to continued loss of faith in the world fiat currencies; as a matter of fact if I was a central banker, I would hold my reserves in oil rather than gold, at least oil can be eventually used to generate economic activity or provide a bridge until the economy adjust away from oil; the US selling 30m barrels of its strategic oil reserves in August, reminds of the UK selling its gold reserves in 1999-2002 under Gordon Brown.


From "Abengoa Offered $133.9 Million U.S. Loan Guarantee For Biomass" at top:

"The project will convert 300,000 tons of corn stalks and leaves into 23 million gallons (87 million liters) of ethanol a year, the Energy Department said today in a statement."

Those stalks and leaves should be plowed under to put organic matter into the soil. But no, since we can't eat corn stalks, it is "waste", and now we will harness this "waste" to drive our cars. Our culture has taken leave of its sanity.

U.S. oil speculative data released by Senator, sparking ire


"but they may find a solution in default, which in turn may torpedo the euro."

If one would extend the logic of that statement- if a State in the US defaulted that would torpedo the US dollar? Would we have to go back to 50 state currencies?

Arguably the Euro is the most solid of all currencies since there is no single sovereign that could debase the currency by running huge deficits financed by the printing press.( think US dollar and Zimbabwe) To me the problems are due to the fact that you had a lot of market participants (so much so for the wisdom of the market) who failed to realize that with the advent of the Euro what had heretofore been sovereign debt essentially became the equivalent of US state or municipal debt. It was only as good as the ability of the State to run a balanced budget and or the willingness of the market to finance budget deficits.

Actually, there are things to be said for some sate between one currency and fifty separate state currencies. Using a local currency for local transaction as an adjunct to the national currency might be a big boost to many places.

We already have significant internal devaluation and revaluation of the national currency, we just don't notice it. It shows up explicitly in the National Construction Estimator, which is packed with tables and conversion factors. A journeyman plumber's time is awarded a multiplier of 1.1 in Seattle and devalued by a factor of 0.7 in Alabama. The widespread use of "geographical cost of living adjustments" for things like travel allowances is a a reflection that our national currency is only somewhat more suitable to one size fits all application than the euro.

I think the threat a default holds for the Euro is the large amount of Greek debt held by the big German and French banks. If Greece defaults, those banks are broke. Which leaves Germany in particular facing the hard choice of bailing out the Greeks (pushing money through the EU), or bailing out their own banks. Arguably, bailing out the Greeks (through euro-bonds or whatever) would cost the Germans significantly more than bailing out just their own banks.

At some point it seems at least possible that the Germans would simply say no, and drop out. Especially if they think that the mechanism set up to bail out Greece would also force them to bail out any of Italy, Spain, or Portugal as well.

eMail to Austan Goolsbee and Paul Krugman

Suggestions for others ?

Yes, a shot in the dark, but ...
Title: Overlooked - The Highest Return Infrastructure Investment

Dear Dr. ...

Electrified and expanded freight railroads have the greatest economic, as well as
National Security, environmental and energy benefit of any potential infrastructure
investment. A few tens of billions, or even just billions, of federal incentives can
create a very positive, and permanent transformation in our national economy.

The conversation within the Administration has completely overlooked this option.

From an economic perspective –

Shifting freight from trucks to electrified double stack rail “trades” 20 BTUs of refined
diesel for 1 BTU of domestic electricity, an obvious benefit to National Security, the
environment and energy policy. Trucks would need to buy diesel for 18 cents/gallon to
compete with the fuel cost of electrified double stack container trains.

Stable and low fuel prices for transporting a majority of goods would have positive
ripple effects through the economy.

The more rail is used, with appropriate infrastructure investment, the cheaper and faster
it becomes. This is because the marginal cost of capacity is significantly lower than the
average cost. With roads, the opposite is true.

Most elements of electrified and expanded rail will last 80+ years, with rolling stock
lasting 30 to 50 years and ties 40 to 60 years. Investing is electrified and expanded
rail is a long term enhancement to national productivity.

Although rail carries more ton-miles than inter-city freight trucks, the cost of fuel
burned by trucks – roughly 700 million barrels of refined diesel - exceeds the total
revenue of rail, between $60 and $70 billion this year.

Adding more intermodal centers and speeding up and electrifying rail freight would shift
more premium freight to rail, with the associated increased revenues.

Increased rail revenues mean increased capital spending. This year railroads will invest
$12.3 billion in capital improvements - 19% of gross revenues, much more than any other

A premier example of rail investment is BNSF’s Southern Trans-con line – 2,217 miles from
Los Angeles to Chicago. BNSF spent a bit over $2 billion adding almost 1,000 miles of
double track (completely double tracked next year) and other improvements. Average train
speeds increased by almost 20 mph and capacity went from 50 to 60 trains/day to 135
trains/day for that $2+ billion. Today the BNSF Southern Trans-con is the #1 container
line in the world (the Trans-Siberian is #2 – Russia electrified that line in 2002).

The nation will benefit for a century from that $2+ billion investment. More such
investments should be encouraged.

And the benefits to rail passenger service have not even been considered.

There is much more that can be said, and I would like to engage you in further
discussions of this policy option if you are interested.

Best Hopes,

Alan Drake

PS: I attached a pro bono publico study by the Millennium Institute that points to a
joint solution to our nation's economic, energy and environmental problems. The
Millennium Institute models policy options for national governments and was deeply
involved with the United Nations Environment Programme’s recent Green Economy Report.

On a slightly different track (heh), Midwest High Speed Rail Association just sent me this action message :-

"As Washington moves from deficit debates to budget debates, a new issue confronts transportation policy in the United States: the September 30th expiration of the federal gas tax (a.k.a. the primary way we fund the majority of our surface transportation systems).

With this impending debate and the upcoming reworking of the surface transportation bill, the transportation field is wide open. Change is coming and it is important that part of the change needs to be an investment in high-speed rail. We need to make our voices heard!

Visit StandUpForTrains.Org to let your elected officials know that you want them to find a way to adequately fund our transportation system, including passenger rail.

In the midst of major budget cuts, we must ensure that the importance of infrastructure investment is not overlooked. Investing in transportation, transit, and high-speed and intercity passenger rail systems is one of the smartest investments our legislators can make in these troubled economic times."

Interested parties may write to their Congress critters (my terminology, not MHRA's) at the website mentioned.

Alan, I love your posts on Rail as I believe it is the best investment we
can make to save oil, greenhouse emissions, and land.
Your statement:

The more rail is used, with appropriate infrastructure investment, the cheaper and faster
it becomes. This is because the marginal cost of capacity is significantly lower than the
average cost. With roads, the opposite is true.

Most elements of electrified and expanded rail will last 80+ years, with rolling stock
lasting 30 to 50 years and ties 40 to 60 years.

echos many statements I have read and heard from Rail boosters that maintaining
Rail is a lot cheaper than Roads. Are there any studies to back that up?
It certainly makes logical sense to me, if for no other reason than Rail
can transport 10-12 times the amount of goods or people in the same land than Roads.
Implying that even if maintenance costs per square yard were equal that
just due to the lesser area used by Rail it should be easier to maintain.
But the other arguments have to do with the greater durability of Rails and
Railbeds over asphalt and Roadbeds. But I have never seen in depth studies or
comparisons of that.
Is there historical data on maintenance costs of Rail vs Roads?
Or other factual proof beyond common sense of this claim?

Thanks for any leads or info you can provide Alan!
I really appreciate your postings!

Best of luck, Alan, but I don't think that Krugman's in a position to help - to the regular politicians, he's just a gadfly.

Although it's true that a lot of people read his columns and blog. If that's what you're after, try Mark Thoma at EconomistsView, Bill McBride at CalculatedRisk, Bruce Bartlett (a "moderate" conservative, by today's standards), (maybe) Felix Salmon at Reuters, and especially Matt Yglesias at ThinkProgress.

Edit: possibly also Brad DeLong, at Grasping Reality with ..., Simon Johnson (various places, try Project Syndicate), and James Hamilton.

Study shows powerful corporations really do control the world's finances

For many years conventional wisdom has said that the whole world is controlled by the monied elite, or more recently by the huge multi-national corporations that seem to sometime control the very air we breathe. Now, new research by a team based in ETH-Zurich, Switzerland, has shown that what we’ve suspected all along, is apparently true.

Using data obtained (circa 2007) from the Orbis database (a global database containing financial information on public and private companies) the team, in what is being heralded as the first of its kind, analyzed data from over 43,000 corporations, looking at both upstream and downstream connections between them all and found that when graphed, the data represented a bowtie of sorts, with the knot, or core representing just 147 entities who control nearly 40 percent of all of monetary value of transnational corporations (TNCs).

Download Study here: http://arxiv.org/abs/1107.5728

You know we're up the creek if it comes to this

Alligator fat could be used to make biodiesel

In addition to being a novelty food, alligators could also provide a feedstock for biodiesel. Every year, the alligator meat industry disposes of about 15 million pounds of alligator fat in landfills. Now scientists have found that oil can be extracted from the fat and used to make a high-quality biodiesel.

...The scientists explained that alligator fat has a high lipid content, and the lipids could be recovered by microwaving frozen samples and by using a chemical solvent.

Betcha that EROEI is less than unity.


More Bio-Fuel from NSF

Green Gasoline Comes Closer to Fueling Your Car

Researchers have discovered how to make gasoline from sawdust and other plant materials

Didn't the Japanese, toward the end of WWII, distill pine oil to run their planes? Looks like we're scraping the bottom of the barrel.

might be due able if they turned the crocodile skins into tires very modern,

Your car could come with matching belt, boots, and jacket - a win-win ;-)

"You know we're up the creek if it comes to this Alligator fat could be used to make biodiesel"

Sometimes, in order to illustrate that the environmental impacts of biofuels can be quite bad, I point out that whale oil was a biofuel. There are just a lot of people who still won't entertain the idea that some biofuels have negatives associated with them.

It is an Onion article imho. Why are we being so exotic about it?

I however do think that municipal waste should be converted to methan with digesters, but people do need to understand the gains you get in these exercises are modest. Like getting enough power to run 10-15% of your electrical needs at the plant.

Nothing with reasonable energy should be thrown away, but salvaging waste is only going to get you back a small percentage.

Municipal 'waste' is the end point of a trip from soil to grain (often to animal) to human alimentary canal.

But if that remains a line instead of a loop, we are all doomed. The only thing keeping this linear system working now is vast inputs of ffs. We all know that cannot continue.

Now if you are talking about skimming off some methane as the stuff composts a bit on its way to going back to the farm, you may have something there.

Ideally, one could decontaminate the waste with methane digesters and then use the remains to fertilize soils again. But like I said we should not waste the stuff. We should get the methane out and reuse the phosphate and potassium.

From the story about converting sawdust to gasoline:

Currently, 30 percent of the carbon from the sawdust fed into the system leaves the facility as gasoline.

It takes 45 pounds of sawdust to make a gallon of gasoline.

Lets see, that gasoline would be used in an IC engine, with efficiency perhaps as high as 40%, so the net conversion efficiency might be only 12%. Burn the sawdust in a combined cycle steam system and the efficiency might exceed 50%, then power electric cars with efficiency near 80%, my WAG is the overall efficiency of direct electric production might be near 40%. Thus, the electric car result would require only 1/3 the sawdust as that of the conversion to gasoline and the electricity could also be used to power trains to move freight...

E. Swanson

But the Government Grant money is to maintain the SUV culture so we need to convert sawdust into gasoline. Doesn't that make any sense to you? ;-)

We might have a fix for the housing problem since the last 30 yrs 50% of homes were and are made of sawdust.

Yeah no joke. My house is tiny but it is solid redwood. I wonder how well these McMansions hold up? Particle board bends and tears so easily. When I was younger I watched plywood go to particle wood -- in the early 80s.

Exterior siding if not well maintained will absorb water causing flowering around nails or bottom drip edge and it usually starts on the back side next to the sheeting.The newer materials are not as forgiving as soild wood.This will put strain on retirees as higher ownership costs and the trend of less help for seniors.

“Energy as an Ultimate Raw Material”, Weinberg, 1959


Eventually, as Harrison Brown has stressed, mankind will have to make do with only four basic raw materials: the sea, the rocks (of average composition since true ores will have been exhausted), the air, and the sun. (If we equate the sun to fire, these are essentially Aristotle’s four elements!) The question really is not whether we shall reach this state—it is merely when we shall reach it.

Before assuming from Table 2 that either sea burning or rock burning would forever fulfill our energy requirement (the solar system is hardly expected to last longer than 10 billion years), we must ascertain that less energy is required to extract the raw materials deuterium, lithium-6, uranium, and thorium from their asymptotic natural environments than is returned by burning these fuels.

EROEI in 1959!

US drug supplies run short, endangering patients

... "If a drug is on patent and expensive and there is a big profit margin, then companies have an incentive to make sure there is an adequate supply," Link says. "If there's a problem, there is an incentive to correct it in a hurry. If there's not much profit, the incentives to rapidly fix problems aren't there."

About 80 percent of the raw materials for drugs are imported, says Vaida. That provides more opportunities for shipments to be delayed. Consolidation in the generic drug business has left fewer companies making each drug, he says. ... If one company has a breakdown, "there is no backup," ...

... The FDA can't force a company to make a money-losing drug, even if thousands of patients' lives depend on it, Link says. It's possible that the only maker of a lifesaving drug could one day decide to just shut down production. "That's our great anxiety," he says

The heparin scandal should be highlighted here.

Chinese rogue outfits doped medical grade heparin which should come from pig guts with cheap chondroitin that was over sulfated. The result of this doping which appeared as high as 60%, many people died.

That is the future of medicine. No Obama did not make the Chinese dope the Heparin. The Chinese did that when Bush was President -- the President has nothing to do with it actually. It is called declining EROI. Using China, with no visible regulations to make your drugs is pretty much the end of quality control.

Taking a close look at the relationship between oil and alternative energy sources

(Edmonton) University of Alberta researcher Andrew Leach likes the way Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal thinks.

A new paper by Leach, an associate professor in the Alberta School of Business, and fellow University of Alberta economics researcher Ujjayant Chakravorty, posits scenarios that parallel a statement Alwaleed made in May declaring that it is in the best interests of Saudi oil producers to keep oil around the $70 mark to prevent the West from developing alternative energy sources.

Their paper, co-written with a colleague from the Toulouse School of Economics , hypothesizes scenarios wherein a narrowing of the gap between developing renewable energy resources and fossil fuel resources might mean a rush to drain the oil from its source.

What is it with economist? Do they think the energy needed to transition to an alternative energy source comes from dollar bills?

Very interesting, I wonder if the Saudis would agree when they need $80 dollars a barrel to break even on there balance of payments and billions more to keep there population quiet. We live in interesting times

The Military’s Plans for Social Unrest: CONPLAN 3502, Civil Disturbance Operations and Martial Law

Recent unrest in London has sparked media interest in the U.S. military’s plans for civil unrest, including a report from the Atlantic on a little known document called CONPLAN 3502. With economies declining around the world and social unrest spreading throughout the Middle East and even into Western democracies, many wonder what would happen if this sort of unrest and violence were to spread to the United States. Would the response be measured and calm, respecting popular movements and upholding fundamental human rights, or would the response look something more like what is happening in Syria?

Very interesting site.

The Cylons have a plan...

Today I came across an article about on a 13 year old's insight into the design of tree limbs, leaves and the relationship to solar power. Pretty cool stuff as we look to alternatives for fossil fuel.

You can certainly point solar panels in all different directions, as shown in the picture, to get a more steady but lesser output for the same total panel area. But solar panels are expensive, so sensible people normally try to optimize the orientation to maximize overall energy harvest.

So whether the treelike arrangement pictured would actually utilize the expensive panels affordably is a whole 'nother question. And if you're adding circuitry to cope with the problem that in the tree-like arrangement, many of the panels are shaded at any and all given times, then certainly you can use the same circuitry, if need be, in a more standard, area-optimal arrangement. (So much for the silly traffic-jam-of-electrons pseudo-argument.)

This reads like yet another of those oh-so-cutesy man-bites-dog stories dearly beloved by journos and magical-thinkers. That is, what could be better sound-bite material than a story of a 13yo supposedly trumping experts who thought they knew what they were doing? Better yet, bamboozle the reader with a buzzword or two ("Fibonacci".) But alas, these stories usually come to rather little upon closer examination - one of the, um, darker, mysteries here being the tacit not-quite-claim that somehow the panels can made to work better in places where "direct sunlight can be hard to find." Sure, whatever, solar in the dark.

Another way to get steadier - and higher - output is of course to track the sun. But then you're into finicky, maintenance-intensive motorized mounts heavy enough to withstand worst-case wind loads and/or icing. So most installations forego such mounts - way too much hassle and expense for the return. A full-scale version of the treelike arrangement would have similar structural issues at the panels and in the branches, and might require quite a lot of material, or maybe expensively complicated cable-staying, to meet structural codes. (In the real world, nobody's going to tolerate it flopping, swaying, and breaking and scattering debris hither and yon like a real tree, every time there's a thunderstorm.)

"Another way to get steadier - and higher - output is of course to track the sun. But then you're into finicky, maintenance-intensive motorized mounts heavy enough to withstand worst-case wind loads and/or icing."

Not necessarily. My trackers have been remarkably reliable, made from junked sat dish mounts. I originally used a simple timer and had 2 positions: pre-noon and post-noon, about 15 degrees east or west of south. About 15% to 20% gain over a fixed mount. I've since added electronic photo controls (1/2 degree sensitivity), gaining 30%-40%.

For larger installations, Zomeworks has come up with a cable mounted tracking system, quite unique. Passive option available. I have one of their top-of-pole passive trackers with 160 watts mounted for water pumping. It works very well; no maintenance except an occasional lube.

True, there are always the exceptions - tinkerers or self-installers can do all sorts of things that may not be widely practical on a commercial basis. Still, the treelike arrangement seems to lack much practical value at any scale under nearly any circumstances, commercial or otherwise, except maybe as an art project. I certainly don't understand anyone gushing over it almost as if it were the Next Wave Of The Future, as in the Atlantic Wire story.

I agree. Even if PV became dirt cheap the BOS costs would make it impractical, but at least the kid is thinking about stuff.

It seems folks will grab any "neat idea" straw these days.

Right. The kid is thinking. The kind I used to hire to help around the lab whenever I could grab one. Now some of those thinking kids are world famous, and they have earned it.

The rest of system. I just bought a pack of those cheap PVs that people were talking about a few days ago("74 cents/watt"). Now, looking at all the stuff that normally is tacked on to them, I am thinking of cheaper ways.

The first one that pops up is to stick a panel directly on such loads as water pumps pumping to a storage tank, where random variable power is fine.

The next thought is just use all of the PV power to pump up a big storage tank, and then use a water turbine turning a standard alternator.

The next one is to add on a little battery in the house for the computer and other totally essential things.

The next thought is to quit thinking and go look at that best BBC version of Pride and Prejudice. Done.

Good on you for hiring kids like this.

he is indeed thinking, and that is good. If he has worked out that thre branches follow a Fibonacci sequence, great. The kid seems to have an inquiring mind and is more interested in science than x-box/playstation - which is an achievement in itself these days.

The only really dissappointing part is the story as written, which plays it up much more than I expect the kid himself sees it.

he has had an idea - great
he has done an experiment and got interesting results - great
he may get a chance to try to put it into a real situation and run up against some of the real problems that Paul S mentions, but might achieve/learn something - still great

The Atlantic suggesting that this could radically alter the PV industry based on one model, and no consideration of real world issues - poor reporting. This is a disservice even to the kid - hopefully his teacher still has his feet on the ground.

BTW Wimbi, if you want a good small scale hydro system, check these out;


Note that the efficiency of these systems is 50-60% at absolute best, so your round trip pump storage efficiency will be well below 50%, maybe even 30%. I'd say batteries are a better bet for small storage systems.

Paul. Thanks for the good info on turbines. You do so much stuff of direct interest to me that I gotta think that you can't be doing much else in the world but write like mad for TOD. What generosity!

On thinking kids. In my hiring days I used to look for ANY evidence of real thinking, quite regardless of speciality, and hire the best ones. This worked splendidly for them and for my company. And those lab-helping young kids were usually offspring of local university faculty and often smarter than their parents, sometimes not that hard to be.

Sure, I know water turbines at small sizes aren't great in efficiency. So I have a plan. Take a photo of a really big water turbine, multimegawatts, having very high efficiency. Use all this great digital stuff available nowadays to precisely shrink that photo to just the right size for my frugal house, and then go make it. Voila! a 93% efficient turbine I can hold in one hand.

Plenty of room at the bottom.

Or, just use the PV power as it is generated and store the heat, coolth, pumped water, etc, etc enough to get over the day. That is make hay while the sun shines. And when it doesn't stuff wood into that little water pumping stirling and run the water over that turbine.

I can't imagine what people to with their time if they don't have any need to run from one gadget to another adjusting whatever, endlessly.

For efficient small hydroturbine designs, MHyLab of Switzerland is the best source.

When the evil Austrians bought a Swiss hydroturbine firm, the chief engineer retired and founded a non-profit firm dedicated to small turbines - 100 W to 1 MW.

New website, not yet complete


They use some interesting tricks to make manufacture of small turbines cheap but still efficient.

Best Hopes,


Alan. Super! I gotta talk with those people. Of course I was making a feeble joke about photoshopping down a megawatt turbine. Doesn't work, as many thousands of enthusiastic but ignorant young engineers have been surprised to find. Boundary layers, Reynolds, and all that-damn.

BTW. I too have noticed the way to get great engineering is just what you said- find some senior who really knows his stuff and really wants to do it but has been booted out by a purchaser.

They don't have that much stuff on their site, but their list of projects (references) is extensive. The from the numbers provided their turbines average about 85% eff, which is very good for this scale.

I do note their smallest is 11kW, and may well be quite expensive. That's the thing with hydro turbines - off the shelf is cheap, but may not be perfect for your site - customer made can be optimised, but it costs.

My experience was, and still is, that for small stuff (<20kW) custom made is just too expensive - hopefully these guys ahve found a way around that.

Contrary to what it might seem, I don't spend my whole day writing on TOD, but TOD is where I spend a lot of my spare time - it is addictive. Am happy to share stuff that I know, but in the process I have learned a lot from this site - that is what makes it so great - not just "debate" as many other blogs, but there is a lot good information put out here.

Your comment about people who have to fiddle things reminds me of my father and the old diesel engines he loves restoring - lots of things to fiddle there. If I can, I would like to set up a steam engine/generator with him - LOTS of things to fiddle there, if you want to.
Grand plan is to have an engine running off woodgas, and a steam system from the coolant and use the exhaust for the superheater. Should turn a 25% eff into 35% - not bad for waste wood that can be had for free!.


Any progress with your Stirlings?

Sounds like a noble effort on the combined cycle wood burner-- very similar to some of my daydreams.

I would be happy to buy a very expensive small turbine if it had low intrinsic cost. I am making prototypes in an effort to get something into production.

Ah, stirlings. My status is summarized in the following letter, a paraphrase, of course.

Dear Sir. We report with smug satisfaction that your simple, small, efficient and cheap stirling engine candidate has lost out in our funding choices to a big heavy complex expensive and ugly one of the kind we are familiar with and have successfully lost hundreds of megabucks on in the past.

But we appreciate your effort. Here’s another fifty cents to keep up your obviously doomed efforts to do something worth while. Have fun-- and, BTW, don’t bother to call back.

Most sincerely, THE MONEY GUYS.

The sunflower is closer to a tracker in any case. But tracking is trivial stuff. Satellites are tracked all day long in millions of locations in icy weather and wind with minimal problems, meaning industry mastered the art of tracking. We are talking servos and some seals and lubricated chains and a photodiode feedback circuit that is constructed from about 10 electronic components (op-amp, power transistor, ...) that cost about $10. The steel frame is the expensive part. The impediment to any of this is the up-front investment with electric power at the current prices. All the technology is trivial stuff from the 1950s-1960s.

In California we will have mandatory 7% increases. So those buying into solar today will be paid by those that do not in 5-5.5 years. I pity the folks who in 7 years time will have 1.6x the power bill. In 15 years they will be paying 2.6x. Time is wasting your money.

People have a hard time understanding compounding effects like how a small amount of CO2 matters or why oil is critical to the economy.

I wonder whether California might just price itself out of the market; they seem to think money grows on trees, and so far they've been right but for how much longer? Is there any limit to how much people will pay to live there - and in many of the populated areas, to spend a huge chunk of their life stuck in traffic, or waiting for a bus or just possibly a train? And even if that's all OK in the fine weather of the coastal strip, what about the interior - who in their right mind will continue to pay ever-escalating prices to live in the furnace heat of the interior summer? Or, alternatively, if California pols try to solve those problems by forcing their pricing structures onto everyone else, will that net the rest of us a President Bachmann or some such?

BTW if tracking is such "trivial" stuff in a practical sense, then why doesn't nearly every PV installation have it? It's not the 10-cent raw op amps that are the problem, it's the complicated structural issues associated with meeting code, especially for wind load.

Round-the-clock solar power plant in Spain

Gemasolar, the world's first commercial high-temperature solar power plant, is expected to be able to supply energy to the grid based on demand, regardless of whether there is constant solar radiation

Gemasolar, a 15 megawatt solar power tower

Very good now the big question what is the price of the electric from this plant?

Its 16-hour molten salt storage system can deliver power around the clock. It runs the equivalent of 6,570 full hours out of 8,769 total, says makers Torresol Energy.

Yes and no. It won't be running 6570 full hours because there will be zilch stored on cloudy days and not much on hazy days, and even in Spain there are such days. But it's a start on the storage issue. We'll have to wait and see how the maintenance issues turn out on that huge array of mirrors - all well and good when they're new, but what will it cost to have them still tracking at high precision in twenty or thirty years.

Computers are amazing things. In the old days one had to manually check inventory. With computerized systems a million mirrors is 100 lines of code. But yes there are logical problems with any energy system -- no doubt. NG and Oil pipes need maintenance as well.

Hard to get excited about solar thermal storage capability, when planned plants keep getting canned. Another planned 500MW bites the dust.
Dark Day for Solar Thermal: Solar Trust Switches 500MW Power Plant to PV
They getting outpriced by PV. For all the squaking by utilities that solar/wind is no good because of variability, they won't offer a red cent premium for solar thermals firmer, semi-dispatchable quality. So these babies are being cancelled all over the place.


GOP presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann on Friday stood by her promise to bring gas prices down to around $2 a gallon if elected.

“The price of gasoline the day that Barack Obama took office was $1.79 a gallon. If the price of gasoline was $1.79 a gallon just two and three years ago, certainly we can get it back down to that level again. Why wouldn’t we be able to do that? We’re a ‘can-do’ America,” the Minnesota congresswoman said during an interview on the Washington Times-affiliated “America's Morning News” radio program.

(I bet the plan is to make Gas worth $2 of Silver Eagles)

Michele the value of the dollar has fallen by 50% how will you raise it back up?

Michele Bachmann is a blithering idiot. That's really all there is to say.

Perhaps. But in keeping with what Rockman has been pointing out tirelessly with respect to Rick Perry, let's remember that snobbish name-calling may only energize her supporters, or even make new supporters out of fence-sitters who become exercised at being called idiots by implication. (Much the same effect as engendered by Al Gore's unctuous tone in the movie - some viewers switching off before they even bother to parse what's being said.) Given the extreme closeness of most US elections, where, as I've noted before, 55-45 is regularly and laughably called a "landslide", it's probably not good tactics.

I disagree. She is a blihering idiot, it is not "snobbish" to point it out, and the more people that point out her idiocy, her serial lies, her lack of acquaintance with reality, and just plain nuttiness, the better. Ridicule is called for sometimes. I do not buy into this "handle the wack-jobs with kid gloves" argument at all.

s - I don't think it matters how you, me or anyone else on TOD flaps our lips about any of these politicians...no one is listening to us other than us. LOL. My point was directed at the MSM coverage. Maybe I missed it but who said "handle the wack-jobs with kid gloves"? I've ben saying just the opposite: handle the wack-jobs like dangerous animals that can strike you down when you least expect it. Why energize your enemy? Does anyone think ridiculing someone's religious belief will change those feelings? If I start attacking any of your sacred cows would you bow your head, go sit in your dark room and remove yourself from the process? From what I've seen of you I doubt you would back away from any battle.

I wonder if folks realize that many of these extreme statements about the "wacko religious nut jobs" are being recorded and played over and over again at the church meetings and their political events by the very people being ridiculed? Can you think of any better way to engage them then to laugh at their God or their patriotic stance? I don't listen to right wing radio or follow the local chats. But I work a few folks that do. I enjoy the heck out of Jon Stewart. But his bits are like throwing a bleeding pig into the lion cage. As far as I can tell he's the prime motivational speaker used by the right wing organizers to energize their side. I don't know why this should surprise anyone...the far left does the same thing.

Your suggestion is that those who disagree with the religious "wack-jobs" simply allow them to continue to promote their world view without complaint. As I see it, the result of this attitude is that the promoters of the Fundamentalist religions world view will continue to preach their message, spreading their world view to the exclusion of the reality based, rational world view of the scientists. Don't forget that the entire Christian message is based on spreading the Gospel, i.e., the Christian world view, to the exclusion of any other world view. These folks have been doing this for nearly 2,000 years and there have been several periods where they used intimidation, torture and murder to force people to "believe". I fear that there will be a time where the Fundamentalist will find themselves backed into a corner and will revert to the old ways of persuasion...

EDIT: Your comment further down the thread exactly illustrates the sort of explosion which I fear.

E. Swanson

Sgage; Boy, you are stubborn.

I hope you're sitting down, PaulS, cause I agree with you on this.

sgage, don't forget how much of this battle is all about 'city mouse/country mouse'.. and that 'getting those intellectuals to call you an idiot' is a PERFECT EXECUTION of the game that a Bachman is playing. Ridicule is exactly what confirms for much of America that 'The Elites' are not, and will never be part of the same country as them. Resentment fuels those voting habits.

I don't advocate for kid-gloves.. but ranting like you're so eager to do? I think it's playing right into the game they are counting on from you.. and ultimately that particular game is unwinnable.

I think it calls for self-discipline, and maybe another way to look at this battle is the piece from 'The Art of War' that says the first thing you do is to undermine the other side's willingness to fight. Distract, Reframe, whatever.. but remove the fuel from that fire.

Otherwise, this current game is just a vicious circle, with a dead end.

I was thinking. Hill billies have been the but of jokes for several generation, and until recently they never were able to organiize to gum things up. I'm not sure name calling generates strength in it targets. The Republicans have been calling Democrats, and liberals nasty things for a long time, and it seems to ne working.....

I propose a constitutional amendment abolishing the laws of supply and demand.

I think people must be very dumb if they fall for this type of politicking, but people hear what they want to hear.

We have plenty of oil.

We also have plenty of iron in the center of the earth. Now how much capital would it take to get iron from the center of the earth. Bachman has a plan to solve our crises -- just vote for her. She is an savvy Oil Engineer ...

Here's a little background information I dug up for those who are interested.

I found a lengthy article about Dave Carney, Rick Perry's chief strategist: The Outsider

Such run-ins have earned Carney a reputation for bare-knuckle politics. He’s willing to try whatever works...

But new evidence suggests its reactors were doomed to fail.

Why is it none of the pro-nuke supporters are showing why this analysis is wrong?
(They keep showing up in other places claiming how fission power is the future, why not here letting us know how the reporting from The Independent is wrong)

The main driver for KSA’s plans to build reactors is that at the rate that it is burning its own oil

Right. Because laws about reactors and making weapons are always followed and the KSA statement of "We cannot live in a situation where Iran has nuclear weapons and we don't. It's as simple as that," the official said. "If Iran develops a nuclear weapon, that will be unacceptable to us and we will have to follow suit." last month has no connection to wanting reactors for electrical power.

Not good.

I would imagine Russia is not happy about this either...if several Islamic counties have the bomb, how long does it take for the Chechnyans to get one and smuggle it into Moscow (truck? passenger or freight airplane? car?)and set it off?

India v. Pakistan...Russia v. allied of Chechnya...China v. allies of Uyghurs...U.S. v. Islamic terrorists with access to ME bombs...Israel v. every Islamic country with the bomb...


The probability of the World's 66-year winning streak of not detonating any more nuclear weapons against actual targets will decrease greatly in relation to the number of countries possessing the bomb.

The reality is the UN "Peaceful Atom" program is a failure.

The reality is, for all of Man's understanding of fission, the ability to make correctly functioning reactors just don't happen. From the violations, fines and cover-ups of operation of reactors to the lack of theory-to-practice as evidenced by the lack of the latest fairy-dust of Thorium to the Maple medical reactors of Canada shows Man doesn't quite grok fission.

A plane crashed in my country today, and 12 died. One of many plane crashes that still occur. One could just as well say that mankind does not grok aviation, and argue against the deployment and utilization of infernal aircraft to solve our travel problems.

But aviation is amongst the safest means of achieving its task, that of travel. Past failures can be learned from, and used to improve the standard. This is what occurred in aviation. Flying today is safer than it was 40 years ago.

Nuclear Power has not attained the perfection you demand of it. Yet there are hundreds of such reactors around the world that operate reliably and without major incident. Nuclear power is amongst the safest and least environmentally damaging of energy production that we humans use and will continue to use.

And too, nuclear power can incorporate lessons learned from its failures. It has already done so to a degree. Plant design has been improved since the dawn of nuclear electricity, and a modern nuclear power plant design available from vendors incorporates safety feacture which address the events that led to the Fukishima accident, and that accident can inform any necessary further measures to be taken to improve the standard. The standard of nuclear power evolves and improves.

Mankind did not go from Kitty Hawk to the current standard of aviation in an instant, it was decades of work and painful accidents and steady improvement to attain that measure of grokness, and the same is true of nuclear power. In the face of the lack of perfection of aviation along that route, arguments such as yours would have had us commit to even more dangerous forms of travel, and denied us the level of safety in travel experienced today.

Here's a little ripple through the technology industry.

Chinese Rare Earth Restrictions To Raise Hard Drive Prices

Multiple manufacturers in the IT industry have been keeping a wary eye on China's decision to cut back on rare earth exports and the impact it may have on component prices. An article from DigiTimes suggests we'll see that decision hit the hard drive industry this year, with HDD prices trending upwards an estimated 5-10 percent depending on capacity.

Perhaps this conventional hard drive price increase will speed adoption of Solid-State Drives.

Let's see ... consumer grade SSDs have 1/5 the lifetime in real-world use (even Intel's latest) and cost about 5 to 20 times as much per terabyte.

Nope, can't see a 15% increase swinging the balance. SSDs have their niches but aren't likely to break out of them for some time to come.

Article asserting that Roundup is damaging the roots of plants...


Any ag experts have an opinion on these assertions?

So long as Monsanto continues to use contract provisions to hamper disinterested scientific research into the effects of their product, you are best off assuming the worst.

Heisenberg, Roundup? Tell me about it. We had this very vandalistic kid across the street kill two of our trees, one 75' pine and a 40' that bloomed purple robe type tulips to improve the view from his bedroom. He even had the gall to leave the container - root poison. Sherriff too busy and too low a budget to dust for prints on personal property damage cases. They just took it a stuck it in a warehouse of never to be tested evidence.

Now we can't get anything to grow there, because the root poison apparently permanently ruins the soil. We'd have to dig out huge loads of dirt and replace it in hopes of growing some tall trees again. But what if the roots descend to soil we haven't replaced? Then we've got another dying tree.

People just gotta stop messing with Nature.

Peak Earl,

I am very sad to hear about your trees.

Very bad that your Sheriff department (Army of one in this case?)claims they are too budget-strapped to pursue an arrest in this case. I don't suppose you could be allowed to pay for the forensics...that would be contested as biased I suppose.

How old is this hateful, selfish miscreant?

Could you pursue a claim in civil court? I don't know you financial situation,...the costs could likely outweigh the restitution I guess, but I would savor the satisfaction of justice served.

Could there be an avenue of attack via the state environmental agency?

Sheriff friends of the kids' parents?

If nothing else, I would work tirelessly to vote the Sheriff out.

Here is hoping for better times for you.

Kid is 15-17. Offered to pay for forensics, but was declined. Officer said they no longer pursue property damage cases.

The trouble is at my age 55 they'll throw the book at me for blinking wrong, but at his age it's just considered part of growing up (for the current generation). His parents have the attitude that the kid can do whatever he wants. They have huge SUV's & trucks, cars, boats, rv's, atv's, motorcycles, you name it. Homo collosus on steroids - quite a carbon footprint - everything including the golf cart has an after market muffler.

But the big question is once soil has been compromised by way of toxic substances how long is it until they can sustain life again? This goes to your post as well, because of the widespread usage of Roundup. Maybe it will take many years to know the answer to that question.

you could always try the road flare throught the SUV window trick when they are away and no one would get hurt. It may be a little tit for tat, but it might feel better.

Perhaps you could write the EPA or your state environmental agency or even the manufacturer of the product and ask that question, along with the question of whether there exists any chemicals which would break down the offending chemical (as long as the 'fix' isn't worse than the problem'.

any chemicals which would break down the offending chemical

You know, that almost sounds like a scenario the chemical companies would design...

Kinda like (paid) lawyers to fight (other paid) lawyers...

just trying to offer idea...

what breaks down chemicals?

- reactions with other chemicals

- heat

-sometime microbes will 'eat' th chemicals and process them as waste constituents

- Perhaps the answer to this case is dilution...massive leaching with water?

- they could dig up a log of dirt with a back hoe then pay to have it put if a toxic waste dump, then pay for clean fill.

- Or, just live with it...when it comes time for the house to be sold that contamination ought to be disclosed, at which time the buyer will likely demand remediation or go elsewhere.

Just spitballing here...I feel bad for him (them if he is married).

yes, i feel for him too.

here's how I think this should be handled..

What would happen if this had been some company that had done this and contaminated someone else's land - possibly permanently?
What would the EPA be likely to order that company to do?
-likely dig it up, take to the toxic waste dump, and replace with clean.

That is what the perpetrator in question should be required to do.

Soil contamination is a horrible thing (I used to do cleanups of such) Oil and organics can be bio-remediated, but persistent chemicals and heavy metals cannot - they must be removed or chemically treated/altered. Reversing soil contamination is a classic example of the massive energy cost to take something from high entropy to low.

Without liveable soil, we have nothing.

yes, i feel for him too.

here's how I think this should be handled..

What would happen if this had been some company that had done this and contaminated someone else's land - possibly permanently?
What would the EPA be likely to order that company to do?
-likely dig it up, take to the toxic waste dump, and replace with clean.

That is what the perpetrator in question should be required to do.

Soil contamination is a horrible thing (I used to do cleanups of such) Oil and organics can be bio-remediated, but persistent chemicals and heavy metals cannot - they must be removed or chemically treated/altered. Reversing soil contamination is a classic example of the massive energy cost to take something from high entropy to low.

Without liveable soil, we have nothing.

The surveillance society works both ways.

If one wishes to invoke to protection of the State, one needs their own surveillance gear. 2 or 3 GNU Radios can track the "pings" of cell phones to the cell towers - thus the cell phones around you can be tracked. Same with Bluetooth receivers. Then you have plain old cameras - but many times the pictures are just nor good enough for IDing.

I found the following article fascinating from the standpoint of comparing what happened in 08/09 with this recent economic downward slide.


'Markets plunge again as fears of recession grow'

By themselves, none of the indicators would have sent the markets reeling. But Wall Street has entered a period of heightened volatility, in which the slightest economic data can cause share prices to swing wildly, as investors with memories of sharp losses during the 2008 global financial crisis rush for the exits.

Ah ha. So now with the memory of 08/09 fresh, investors rush for the exits faster.

The other thing IMO is happening is the obviousness of the downturn is much harder to perceive, because things have already dumped down low. For example, how much lower is real estate going to go? It's a fish on the bottom already, bouncing off of local rents being in line with monthly mortgage amounts. That's an important marker because it indicates people can buy houses and have the rent build equity, rather than going out of pocket.

Even though QE's were suppose to infuse funds into the monetary system, bank loans are still tight.

Unemployment has remained in place. 12.7% in Nevada and 12.1% in CA. A friend of mine worked as a computer programmer for a City in CO has been out of work for 4 months, sent out 450 resumes and still has no offers on the table. House - gone!

In other words the telltale signs of recession are somewhat more hidden, except for the recent gyrations of the stock market. But gold is way up and that's a really bad indicator of a flight from risk into something tangible.

We are in another downturn not really too much different than 08/09, except there are no apparent needs yet for bailouts. I think we will get revised 2nd qtr. numbers that are recessionary, and 3-4th qtr will mirror 08/09. The reason why is because Germany is tapped out. They can no longer do big bailouts, particularly ones with enough cashola to prop up Italy & Spain. People know that starts the clock on disbanding the EU. Sooner or later, if bailouts do not come through, the EU countries go back to their own currencies, and then they can print themselves out of debt. But of course the danger there is hyper-inflation. Think that's where we're headed some day. Some day a fifty will be blowing in the wind and you'll let it sail on by without flinching.

Monday's markets should be interesting. Either it will be panic or hope springs eternal.

the obviousness of the downturn is much harder to perceive, because things have already dumped down low.

The best parallel to what we've got in store is a period like 1836 to 1848. It's listed as four separate recessions, but the periods of growth in between were pretty short. Overall, no-one had much fun.

To me, we're about to replay that period on the the global stage.

Of course in those days resources were plentiful and cheap. Tempers will be a bit shorter, this time...