Drumbeat: September 23, 2011

Whose Subsidies Trump Whose? - A new report calculates that nuclear, oil and gas subsidies in those industries' early years exceed the subsidies that have gone to renewable energy

With differing periods and different eras, comparisons are difficult. But the report calculates that nuclear subsidies came to more than 1 percent of the federal budget in their first 15 years, and that oil and gas subsidies made up one-half of 1 percent of the total budget in their first 15 years. “Renewables have constituted only about a tenth of a percent,’’ the report says.

It does not give a total number for coal, but notes that when Congress raised taxes to pay for the Korean War, it decided that the royalty payments received by people who owned land from which coal was mined should be taxed at the capital gains rate rather than the income tax rate, which is higher. The goal was to avoid depressing coal production. That provision remains on the books, the authors said.

Oil below $81 amid growing global economy fears

Crude has dropped 10 percent from above $90 last week as investors fret Europe's debt crisis and a weak U.S. economy will stymie oil demand.

"Time is running out for Europe, and as a result, it is perhaps running out for the whole world," said James Swanson, chief strategist at MFS Investment Management.

China oil refiners lost $751 mln in July - NDRC

(Reuters) - China's oil refining industry recorded a loss of 4.8 billion yuan ($751 million) in July because of high crude prices and rising selling costs, the National Development and Reform Commission said on Friday.

Germany’s Green Drive Subdues 2013 Power Prices

A surge in renewable energy in Germany is pushing power prices for 2013 below next year’s level even as natural gas, coal and emissions rise.

Forward Brent points to easing supply concerns

(Reuters) - Persistent supply shortfalls have kept Brent oil supported around $110 per barrel, even as the economic outlook in Europe and North America darkens and the market prices an increasing risk of recession.

But the relative weakness of forward prices suggests most market participants expect the current tightness to prove temporary, gradually easing in the next 12 months.

Shipowner Mothballing Newly Built Supertanker for First Time Since 1980s

A shipowner will mothball a newly built supertanker for the first time since the 1980s as a glut of the ships drives down earnings to unprofitable levels.

Gas Drillers Face ‘Chaos’ in Land Law Ruling

A Pennsylvania appeals court ruling has raised questions about who can claim ownership of natural gas embedded in the Marcellus shale formation, potentially putting in doubt the legitimacy of thousands of drilling leases.

The state’s Superior Court said Pennsylvania law governing ownership of oil and gas rights isn’t clear and a lower-court judge should solicit expert opinions in a case pitting current landowners against the heirs to an 1881 deed.

“Dozens of energy companies have invested billions of dollars in leasing shale gas production rights in Pennsylvania,” Larry Nettles, an attorney with the Houston- based law firm Vinson & Elkins LLP, said in a telephone interview. “This opinion calls into question whether they have those rights.”

Signing Leases for Drilling, and Now Having Regrets

Now, she said, she is stricken with remorse. And she is not alone. Hundreds of other state residents who signed leases allowing gas companies to drill deep into their properties with a method known as horizontal hydraulic fracturing have changed their minds and are trying to break or renegotiate their contracts. Millions of acres in upstate New York are under lease, awaiting permits for the drilling, which has yet to begin, delayed by a state environmental review.

Some landowners who have soured on the gas companies say they are not opposed to the drilling itself, also called hydrofracking. But, they say, they regret not having bargained harder and are seeking better deals. Then there are residents like Ms. Dewart, who said she did not realize what the lease would mean until the regional debate over the potential environmental risks of the process heated up in recent years.

Poland: No Need For EU-Wide Shale Gas Sector Regulation

WARSAW -(Dow Jones)- Exploration and production of hydrocarbons, including from unconventional sources such as shale gas, are sufficiently regulated and the possibility of pan-European Union regulation of this sector isn't provided for in the Lisbon Treaty, Poland's Foreign Affairs Ministry said in a statement Monday.

Reliance Said to Plan Acquiring Canadian Shale Assets After U.S. Purchase

Reliance Industries Ltd. (RIL) is studying shale-gas assets in Canada after agreeing to spend $3.4 billion to acquire and develop reserves in Pennsylvania and Texas last year, a person with direct knowledge of the plan said.

Exxon taps into Utica shale

HOUSTON (UPI) -- Exxon Mobil confirmed it was following other energy companies in the acquisition of acreage in the Utica shale play in eastern Ohio.

Reliance decries regulatory 'paralysis'

India’s Reliance Industries is reportedly ready to start looking outside India for drilling projects with BP due its frustration with local regulators and auditors.

Reliance Said to Need Up to Four Years to Increase Output at Largest Field

Billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries Ltd. (RIL) and BP Plc (BP/) may need three to four years to raise output from India’s biggest gas field because the reservoir is harder to tap than previously estimated, a person with direct knowledge of the matter said.

Falkland Oil Delays Drilling, May Sell Stock If Well Successful, CEO Says

Norway 'to probe' high rig rates

Norway’s Oil & Gas Ministry intends to establish a working group to probe high drilling costs that threaten to stifle exploration in the country’s offshore sector, according to a report.
Falkland Oil & Gas Ltd. (FOGL), a U.K.- based explorer in the South Atlantic, delayed the start of drilling at its Loligo well and may sell stock late 2012 if the well is successful, Chief Executive Officer Tim Bushell said.

Gdansk reappears in Russia Oct oil export plans-trade

(Reuters) - Russia will restart oil exports from Gdansk, trading sources said, citing amendments to the fourth quarter export schedule which included two 100,000 tonne Urals URL-NWE-E cargoes due to load in the Polish Baltic port in October.

Russia-Ukraine Dispute Threatens Europe’s Gas

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych visits Moscow tomorrow to spar over natural gas contracts as the two former Soviet states risk their third gas war in six years and another disruption to Europe’s supplies.

Lee Sees Russia Gas Pipeline Via North Korea as Win-Win for Cheaper Energy

South Korean President Lee Myung Bak said plans to build a natural-gas pipeline across the divided peninsula are realistic, less than a year after a deadly North Korean artillery attack on a disputed island.

“I do not consider this as a far-fetched dream,” Lee said in an interview in New York, speaking through an interpreter. He called the project “a win-win for everyone involved.”

Hungary Wants to Diversify Away from Russian Gas

Hungary’s reliance on natural gas deliveries from Russia is not going away anytime soon, but the country’s government hopes to play a bigger regional role and produce gas domestically to become more energy-independent.

EXTRA! EXTRA! Wall Street Journal and New York Times Finally Catch Up, Report "Peak Oil" Theory Is Bogus

With "peak oil" finally in proper perspective the hegemony of OPEC over the oil market is starting to sunder. The ascendancy of oil production in many corners of the world is beginning to change the accepted rules of the market. As the New York Times has pointed out, the Western Hemisphere is coming to the fore. What needs be pointed out is that its impact on the oil marketplace is already significant.

Book review: 'The Quest'

Daniel Yergin explores the energy industry and how it's reshaped the modern world. Despite its broad sweep and timeliness, it could have delved deeper. As to the future, the quest for energy 'is a quest that will never end.'

Peak Oil Debunked

The timing of Daniel Yergin's new book, The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World, could hardly be better. With oil prices remaining high, with new sources of natural gas and oil being exploited around the world, and with demand for energy expected to reach new highs over the next several decades, Yergin sets out to explain the history, economics, and politics behind the world's continuing love affair with fossil fuels and show, too, just how hard it will be to end our dependence, given the earth's surprising, and seemingly endless, ability to enable it.

If you're a believer in "peak oil"—the idea that the world is on the verge of running out of oil—you will probably want to burn this book. But if you want to truly understand today's energy problems and opportunities, there are few better places to start than with Daniel Yergin.

Shell Nigeria oil sales to end with operator deal

ABUJA (Reuters) - Shell's Nigerian oil block sales are heading for a messy conclusion due to a tussle over who operates the fields, sources close to the deals said, highlighting the complex nature of doing business in Africa's largest energy industry.

EU bans investment in Syria's oil sector

BRUSSELS—The European Union agreed on Friday to widen the blocs sanctions against Syria by banning investment in the country's oil sector following President Bashar Assad's regime brutal crackdown on protesters.

Libyan oil flows, foreign workers wait

BREGA, Libya - Scribbled in blue marker in Arabic on the walls of Brega oil terminal of Brega is a message meant to cheer returning workers: "Gaddafi is gone and the place has been checked."

Oil production has restarted in some Libyan fields including Sarir in the east, but the near-deserted Sirte Oil headquarters to the east of Muammar Gaddafi's hometown is testament to the damage the conflict has done to the country's main industry.

Libya only has cash to last three to six months

Libya has enough cash to keep functioning for at least three months as it waits for funds and oil to flow, say rebel officials.

Yemeni president returns from Saudi Arabia

SANAA, Yemen (AP) – President Ali Abdullah Saleh returned Friday to the violence-torn Yemeni capital after more than three months of medical treatment in Saudi Arabia in a surprise move certain to further enflame battles between forces loyal to him and his opponents.

Does Peak Oil Really Matter?

In this essay I will not focus on the question of whether Peak Oil theory has any merit. The problem that I will focus on is the fact that many adherents to Peak Oil ideology have fooled themselves and many others into thinking that oil prices can only go up due to the long-term secular forces that they cite.

Many Peak Oil enthusiasts do not seem to understand that to the extent that their pet theory is relevant at all, it is only relevant in the very long term. For any time frame that is less than a decade, the theory is not just irrelevant to investors; it is a dangerous distraction that can cause investors to lose a great deal of money.

The Biggest Bubble of All Time

Just as homes became financialized (in many ways, including serving as the collateral for “ATM” cash-out home equity loans), commodities became thoroughly financialized. (So did healthcare and death, with peasant insurance and death settlements—topics for another day.)

Here’s the reason. Believe it or not, commodities markets are tiny; except for soy, oil, and corn they are smaller than tiny. Managed money is huge—tens of trillions of dollars floating around the world looking for high returns. US pension funds alone are three-fourths of US GDP–$10 trillion give or take. If you put even a fraction of managed money into commodities index funds, you blow up the prices.

Glowing Prospects for Uranium

Let's talk about peak oil first, though. I think that the Hubbert peak theory is accurate, and for good geological reasons-but understand that peak oil doesn't mean we're running out of oil. Rather, it means that we're running out of easily available, cheap light sweet oil. And we are.

However, technology is always improving, enabling economic recovery of oil and natural gas in places where it previously wasn't possible. Horizontal drilling and the fracking process have opened up gigantic reserves of gas, scores of trillion of cubic feet in some basins in the U.S. So, yes the U.S. could become a huge exporter of natural gas. It's entirely possible. It could happen in other regions of the world as well, but probably not with gas at its current prices.

The gas is available, but because it's very underpriced relative to other forms of energy, it probably won't be produced until the price doubles or even triples from where it is now. That would bring it more into historical alignment with oil prices, which I expect will themselves go higher as well.

U.S. learns nuclear plant lessons

Six months after an earthquake and tsunami crippled Japan's Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power station, new recommendations for improved safety of U.S. nuclear reactors are beginning to emerge from the disaster.

Nuclear power to play key role in China emissions reduction plan: report

(Platts) Nuclear power will continue to play a key role in China's plan to control greenhouse emissions, and the country to will also focus on carbon capture and storage as a means of achieving its emission reduction targets, the nation's top climate change official was quoted as saying Friday.

New Porsche 911: Saves gas, goes fast

Like every other automaker, Porsche, famous for its sports cars, is thinking about fuel economy. New regulations in the U.S. and Europe mean every car will have to burn less fuel. Even an iconic sports car like the 911.

So the new 2012 Porsche 911, going on sale here in February, has a host of new fuel-saving technologies that will lead to an estimated fuel economy improvement of about 16% based on European tests.

Solyndra hearing to go on, despite execs' silence

WASHINGTON (AP) — Top executives from a bankrupt California solar energy company are to appear before a congressional hearing investigating their government loan, but they're not expected to say much.

Solyndra Inc. CEO Brian Harrison and the company's chief financial officer, Bill Stover, have notified the House Energy and Commerce Committee they will invoke their Fifth Amendment right to decline to testify to avoid self-incrimination.

Republicans Attack on Handling of Stimulus Money and Green Jobs

WASHINGTON — The battle over Solyndra, the California solar equipment manufacturer that took $528 million in government loan guarantees and then declared bankruptcy, moved on to a second House committee on Thursday as Republicans broadened their attack on the Obama administration’s management of stimulus money and its pursuit of alternative energy as a way to spur employment.

Real Solyndra Scandal Is U.S. Subsidy Approach

Several issues cry out for investigation: Did government officials rush to approve a $535 million loan guarantee to the company two years ago? Did company officers paint an overly rosy picture of Solyndra’s finances after trouble set in? Why, earlier this year, did the Energy Department agree to let private investors get their money back from Solyndra before taxpayers did?

Lawmakers should dig deep for answers. But their most pressing duty at this stage goes beyond finding partisan dirt. Members of Congress need to figure out a more effective way to support the quest for cheaper alternative energy.

Senate Democrats vow to reject clean energy cuts

WASHINGTON (AP) — With the economy sputtering, the warring factions of Congress headed toward gridlock late Thursday over the usually noncontroversial process of approving disaster aid or even keeping the government from shutting down.

Clean energy: A faded shade of green

For clean technology fans, the dawn of the 21st century appeared to be the best of times. As the world confronted the growing scientific consensus that rising greenhouse gases were driving climate change, a move from fossil fuels to renewables seemed irresistible. Clean technology looked a hot prospect.

Now that vision seems more muddied. Renewables are on the rise, but fossil fuels are fighting back. Coal mining has soared to feed China's energy appetite.

Urban gardening taking off at O'Hare

Swiss chard, red habanero peppers, and onion chives are just a few of the 44 different types of organic herbs and vegetables growing in the middle of busy O'Hare Airport. The garden is tucked in the rotunda building, the area that connects terminals 2 and 3. Aviation commissioner Rosemarie Andolino hopes it will become a calming oasis for weary travelers.

...Stanley's Blackhawks Lounge and the Wicker Seafood and Sushi Restaurant are among several O'Hare eateries that are already serving the produce to their customers. Andolino says that not only cuts the carbon footprint from transporting the foot but also guarantees quality.

Poverty pervades the suburbs

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Guess where most people in poverty live? Hint: It's not in the inner cities or rural America.

It's in the idyllic suburbs.

A record 15.4 million suburban residents lived below the poverty line last year, up 11.5% from the year before, according to a Brookings Institution analysis of Census data released Thursday. That's one-third of the nation's poor.

Books By Men Who Like Big Families

Why the hard sell on siblinghood? Kluger is unabashed about the fact that his book's mission is to argue for what he calls the "sibling ideal." In his view, "as long as mom and dad are able to breed and support more young, they may as well keep having them." It's an unlikely stance for a science reporter who should know well the psychological, environmental, and financial costs of large families. And it places The Sibling Effect in an emerging canon of books, invariably written by men, arguing that women should have more children. These books tend to fall into one of three categories: 1. It's better for your kids, e.g. Kluger. 2. It's better for you, e.g. Bryan Caplan's Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids. 3. It's better for society, e.g. Philip Longman's The Empty Cradle.

Staring at the cave bear straight in the eyes. Mass movements and decision taking in modern society

Decision taking is not an easy task, unless you are forced by finding yourself staring at a cave bear in the eyes. That must be the reason why we are not eacting to major threats such as peak oil and global warming.

UN Carbon Market Will Survive Should Kyoto Goals End, EU Says

The United Nation’s carbon market will survive if the Kyoto Protocol greenhouse gas-reduction goals for developed nations expire in 2012 without being immediately renewed, the European Union climate chief said.

Beating a retreat

Arctic sea ice is melting far faster than climate models predict. Why?

Russia's Putin says Arctic trade route to rival Suez

Arkhangelsk, Russia (Reuters) - Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Thursday predicted Arctic shipping routes along Russia's northern coast would soon rival the Suez Canal as a quicker trade link from Europe to Asia.

Russian plans to revive the Soviet-era shipping lane as polar ice cover receded to near record lows this summer could speed energy deliveries to China and boost business for cargo suppliers such as state-owned Sovkomflot.

Bill Clinton: World Must Prepare for Climate Refugees

Some of the most dramatic impacts of climate change will be felt by the millions of people who will be forced to leave their homes: Climate refugees will flee island nations rendered inhospitable by rising sea levels, arid regions increasingly wracked by drought, and wet, low-lying areas that grow ever more prone to flooding.

U.S. military goes green

The U.S. Department of Defense has tripled its spending on clean energy in recent years, and that investment is projected to grow as the military weans itself from reliance on costly fossil fuels.

Those are among the findings of a new report, "From Barracks to the Battlefield," published by the national security, energy and climate project at the Pew Charitable Trusts.

I ran across the article, Optimised Transformers Boost Wind Turbine Profits

The article says, among other things:

Choosing the right transformer can increase sales by as much as 17 MWh annually for a 1.5-MW turbine, depending upon wind conditions. Operating costs can be reduced by as much as $2,800 per turbine annually in avoided backup power costs for periods when there is no wind. Losses can be substantially more if low first cost is the dominant consideration. In regions such as California, for example, where the generation from wind is 22 percent of rated capacity, a turbine will be idle 50 percent of the time.

When turbines are idling generation is not zero, it is negative. This is because there is a transformer connected to each turbine to step up the voltage to the wind farm's substation level, and that transformer must be kept powered. Since a transformer is always powered from the higher voltage side, it will draw from the substation and ultimately the system grid. Utility customers of wind farm merchant generators are aware of this and manage the matter contractually. Typically, there is a backup power charge whenever the wind farm draws power from the system. This backup power charge may be as much as three times the price at which the wind farm sells electricity to the utility.

Has anyone looked at this issue? I know when we looked at small wind turbines in a residential setting, transformer energy seemed to be a fairly big contributor to the poor performance of small turbines.

Has anyone looked at this issue?

Gail, when choosing a transformer an evaluation should be made of the cost of the no-load and the load losses. These losses are a function of the design and the amount of copper and iron used in the transformer. The lowest evaluated cost transformer will minimize the owning cost of the transformer.
This is similar to determining whether it makes sense to buy a more expensive automobile that has higher gas mileage. An analysis can be done based on estimated fuel costs and mileage driven.

Here in Manitoba, home to the windiest corner in Canada- Portage & Main, the first wind farm installed didn't take into account winter. The wind mills and breakers were not rated for the cold and had to have additional (electric)heaters and blanket insulation retrofitter whether they were generating power or not. The power drain has been a continuous loss of efficiency all winter. The ratepayers ended up paying a couple bucks more a month each for wind that they had to buy rather than already installed hydro. All sources of power drain must be considered and designs for moderate costal temps cannot be duplicated for places like Texas this summer or the north in the winter. With this extra heating we haven't had a fire- yet.

Gail, you might also look at MPPT maximum power point tracking. This technology has only recently come to home wind turbines. There should be a significant number of installed residential turbine that would benefit big by using MPPT.

There is a light and low loss symmetrical transformer being manufactured by hexaformer in Sweden:

It is probably very easy to scale it up to 1-5 MVA size.

The main problem with small wind turbines in a residential setting is that they are not located where the most of the wind energy is ....hundreds of feet above ground.

The Cornucopian Empire Strikes Back. Yergin has been getting most of the attention, but a recent NYT article talked about enormous potential in North and South America, and Learsy focused on the NYT article, and on Yergin's WSJ essay.

Re: Learsy: EXTRA! EXTRA! Wall Street Journal and New York Times Finally Catch Up, Report "Peak Oil" Theory Is Bogus (Uptop)

A Front page article in Tuesday's New York Times, "New Fields May Propel Americas to The Top of Oil Companies' List," brays about the massive rush to develop oil in the Western Hemisphere from Brazil to Colombia, to Argentina, offshore Cuba, the oil sands of Canada, the shale deposits of North Dakota as well as the deposits of Venezuela now estimated to be comparable to those in Saudi Arabia, and those of Mexico, the latter two held in check by resource nationalism. Add to that the major new additional discoveries off the coast of Brazil and French Guiana. In other words, an amplitude of oil comparable in its potential and possibly surpassing that of the Mideast that will make the Americas no longer dependent on the whims of the OPEC cartel and its ilk.

Apparently they don't use calculators at the NYT, since the writers weren't able to subtract domestic petroleum consumption from production to come up with some net export numbers. My comments (BP, Total Petroleum Liquids):

Brazil remains a net importer of petroleum liquids, and their net imports increased from 2009 to 2010 (and increased from 0.36 mbpd in 2005 to 0.47 mbpd in 2010).

Colombia's net exports were up from 2005 to 2010, but Argentina's were down. Their combined net exports increased from 0.64 mbpd in 2005 to 0.69 mbpd in 2010.

Colombia was one of the 12 of the top 33 net oil exporters that showed higher net exports in 2010, versus 2005. And Argentina was one of the 21 of the top 33 that showed lower net exports in 2010, versus 2005.

Combined net oil exports from Brazil, Colombia and Argentina, fell from 0.28mbpd (280,000 bpd) in 2005 to 0.22 mbpd (220,000 bpd) in 2010. At the 2005 to 2010 rate of increase in their combined ratio of consumption to production, they would collectively approach zero net oil exports in about 10 years.

Combined net exports from Canada, Mexico and Venezuela fell from 4.85 mbpd in 2005 to 3.73 mbpd in 2010. At the 2005 to 2010 rate of increase in their combined ratio of consumption to production, they would collectively approach zero net oil exports in about 20 years.

If we look at the combined net oil exports from all six countries referenced above, their combined net oil exports fell from 5.1 mbpd in 2005 to 4.0 mbpd in 2010, a 22% simple percentage decline in five years, and a net export decline rate of 5%/year.

In the US, there are some good stories about rising Mid-continent production, and US crude oil production has rebounded from the hurricane related decline that started in 2005, but 2010 production was only very slightly above the pre-hurricane level that we saw in 2004, and monthly US crude oil production has so far been between 5.4 and 5.6 mbpd since the fourth quarter of 2009, versus the 1970 peak of 9.6 mbpd. Furthermore, we remain reliant on imports for two out of every three barrels of crude oil that we process in US refineries.

Looking at the bigger picture here, earlier this year on TOD the idea was put forth that Peak Oil was in the rear view mirror, that the concept had been established and accepted to a point where TOD could be scaled back, and a sort of "what now, where do we go from here?" series of discussions resulted. We're now seeing denials and debunking coming from all quarters, not coincidentally, I think, as the new election cycle (and 2008 part deux) are cranking up. Their rationalizations, the spin, seems effective, often brilliant.

Keeping with Greer's topic of the week, the denial-sphere is casting a new batch of spells on the public and they are not designed to promote clarity regarding our collective energy conundrum. So it goes.

Where do we go from here?

Where do we go from here?

Note that the WSJ (with a right leaning, okay very sharply right leaning, editorial page) and the NYT (with a left leaning editorial page) both ran recent Party On articles about increasing oil supplies. I've put it this way: the GOP wants to drive to the edge of the cliff in a H2 Hummer, as we increase our rate of consumption of virtually infinite fossil fuel resources, while the Democrats want to drive to the edge of the cliff in a plug-in hybrid, as we transition from abundant fossil fuel resources to cool new green sources of energy. Only a handful of politicians are willing, in public at least, to fundamentally question the viability of our auto centric suburban way of life.

And I've begun to think that a sizable percentage of the population will never accept the reality of resource constraints. I read an interesting post by a Cornucopian type the other day who acknowledged that oil consumption would not increase forever, but then he went on to say that "Resource Doomsayers" had always, every single time, been wrong (and that presumably they would always be wrong).

I thought that the comment pretty well summed up the cognitive dissonance that many people seem to be experiencing, to-wit, they acknowledge that there are case histories of discrete regions showing a peak in some types of fossil fuel production, e.g., Texas & the North Sea, but "Resource Doomsayers" have always been wrong, and will presumably always be wrong.

In other words, we will always find new sources of energy. This is the explicit case that Peter Huber makes--that our total consumption of energy will increase forever, even as discrete sources of energy peak and decline.

Here is the problem that Huber, et al are facing. They have to convince themselves that the sum of the output of discrete sources of energy that peak and decline, e.g., crude oil production in Texas & the North Sea, will result in an infinite rate of increase in supply:


The problem for Huber, et al is that the past six years of global petroleum liquids production and net exports aren't helping their case, so they are basically engaged in a massive effort to persuade us that we are not seeing what we are seeing ("Who are you going to believe me, or your lying eyes?").

"And I've begun to think that a sizable percentage of the population will never accept the reality of resource constraints."

I reached this same conclusion quite a while back, especially when considering the developing world. Hence, my "prepper mentality". I also know that 'the bearer of bad news' is always at a disadvantage when trying to overcome cognitive dissonance.

"The problem for Huber, et al is that the past six years of global petroleum liquids production and net exports aren't helping their case, so they are basically engaged in a massive effort to persuade us that we are not seeing what we are seeing ("Who are you going to believe me, or your lying eyes?")."

This why I mentioned Greer and "casting spells", for his is about the best description I've found for what is going on. Most mages (magicians) don't believe in the supernaturality of their tricks any more than most of these infinite growth pundits actually believe that growth can continue indefinitely. They only have to divert, distract and convince the crowd until the show's over (as in the next election cycle).

Once again, where do we go from here? Perhaps focussing on the policy nuts-and-bolts of incremental change is futile without casting some major spells of our own. Not sure what that would look like.

Once again, where do we go from here? Perhaps focussing on the policy nuts-and-bolts of incremental change is futile without casting some major spells of our own. Not sure what that would look like.

this to me looks like someone waiting for superman to fly down and stop the car/train/bus. etc from going over the edge.
when in fact the system is entrenched. it's old enough that over time other parties have put checks in place inside the system to prevent change from within. preparing will be for naught as anything more then a nomad stands no chance of success as what ever you do will either be over run by others or confiscated for the 'greater good' by the powers that be to keep control. basically put, other then trying to hasten the collapse of the current system there is really nothing you can do that won't go down with it as they try to keep it going. yes i do see things getting as bad as what ever governmental system your under going as far as to confiscate goods and land from people to keep a larger group happy and themselves in power as we burn what we can to keep the status quo and use the rest of the land to grow what we need to eat..

If you don't mind my asking, how many of y'all are running computer models of the economy / energy / political situation, or pieces of it? Something more than spreadsheets, like Vensim or Modelica. Anybody? Everybody?

It's a low-priority item on my list of things that I want to get to. I got Ayers and Warr's REXS model running using the free version of Vensim, and want to extend it in some different ways (eg, it lacks any sort of feedback mechanism relating falling income to future population). As a result, if you run their model very far into the future, it does some strange things. I wanted to know more about what Vensim was doing under the hood, so converted the model to Perl code; it was an unpleasant surprise to discover that the free Vensim was using limited-size fixed-point arithmetic, and diverged rather substantially from the floating-point Perl code after enough iterations.

AlanFromBigEasy posted at some point about working with the T21 folks and their models, and I believe that's at least one of the reasons that he's an enormous advocate for electrified rail.

Looking for collaborators?

Yes, when I've got something to contribute. It's going to take a bit of study to get up to speed on Vensim. My background is in engineering modeling so it's mostly a matter of practice.

There's a lot of good accurate information floating around here. I've made notes as we go along, but there's way more here than I can keep in mind all at once. Some sort of a bare bones model seems like the natural next step. Even if it only captures small parts of the big picture, it's got to be better than my present method of making graphs and staring at them.

Well I'm off to google up those two models you referenced, thank you.

Only a handful of politicians are willing, in public at least, to fundamentally question the viability of our auto centric suburban way of life.

I haven’t heard anything useful from any politician yet, but I’ll be doing a Powerpoint presentation on DeMotorization tomorrow in Portland, ME, for 350.org’s Moving the Planet day. This will be at Williston – Immanuel United Church at 156 High Street.

I’m not listed on the program, but I’ll be in the exhibition area, ready to give my presentation anytime I can get 6 to 8 people to sit still 8 to 10 minutes for it.

Sorry I'll miss it.. I'm only a 5 minute walk from there.

I'll be up at the Common Ground Fair this weekend, partly work, partly family day. Afraid we've still got to drive to this one..

Bob Fiske - Portland

Lately, the general population has been told not only that there is no resource constraints but that pricing is due to speculation not supply/demand metrics.

We read in the above, The Biggest Bubble of All Times that:

Say what? You thought that was tulip bulb mania? Or, maybe the NASDAQ hi-tech hysteria?

No, folks, those were child’s play. From 2004 to 2008 we experienced the biggest commodities bubble the world had ever seen. If you looked to the top 25 traded commodities, you found prices had doubled over the period. For the top 8, the price inflation was much more spectacular.

The cause is attributed to the same forces that hyped tulips and dot.com industries,

The pension funds panicked, realizing that their members would hold them responsible for exploding prices of gasoline at the pump. Pension funds withdrew one-third of their funds and oil prices fell from about $150 per barrel to $50. If you want to read the detailed analysis, go to my paper cited above—it has to do with commodities indexes, strategies pushed by your favorite blood sucking vampire squid (Goldman Sachs), and futures contracts. It gets wonky. To make a long story short, the bubble ended in fall of 2008.

But then the crisis wiped out real estate markets and the economy. Managed money needed another bubble. They whipped up irrational fears of hyperinflation that supposedly would be caused by Helicopter Ben’s QE1, QE2, and the newly announced QE3. Better run to good “inflation hedges” like gold and other commodities. That did the trick. The commodities speculative bubble resumed.

The opportunity for reasonable, intelligent conversation about this in the public arena - if it existed at all - I'm afraid is now gone. In our narcissistic self-indulgent consumer driven culture, where the price of our toys is borrowed heavily against our paycheques,and it looks like we're down for the count, people are seeking scapegoats and easy solutions. To say that we - particularly our way of life - may be part of the problem will only raise the ire further. Fluctuation is everywhere with virtually no connection grounded in daily reality.

Let's keep doing what we're doing. Quietly getting the message out to those willing to hear. Perhaps the emphasis should be less on being right and more like (the old boy scout's motto) being prepared. Whether very many of us can do that adequately is anybody's guess. We're in uncharted waters here - restraints on all sides buffeting the economic structures we've all come to rely on - so my hope is that we make it through as long as we can intact. That is (and always has been) a measure of success in its own right.

We don't have a consumer-driven culture. We have a capitalist culture. Please stop blaming everybody equally for the sins of the rich and powerful.

"To me, the importance to the national economy of this modern highway system outweighs all other reasons why it should be built....All I can say is that 10 years from now we'll have 80 million motor vehicles-and we better have the roads. Because if we don't have the roads, we may not have the 80 million vehicles."

--Lucius D. Clay, head of WWII military procurement, corporate CEO, and GM board member, explaining his work for Eisenhower to ram through Congressional funding for the Interstate Highway system, c. 1956.

Michael, I beg to differ. We don't have the classical capitalist/bourgeois/proletariat culture. We have a consumer culture where everyone is on the take to maximize gains. The rich are the chief beneficiaries, of course, but just about everyone else bought into the notion that they, too, could have it all.

Investors are not confined to people who live in the Hamptons. I am an investor. I own shares. I have a pension fund. My employment is, in small part, financed by investments. I am not rich. I am not powerful. I and my family live prudently and modestly.

The McMansions built leading up to the 2008 prime sub mortgage fiasco were not occupied by people who could afford them. Two generations ago, families had many children and houses with few rooms. This generation has few children and houses with many rooms. We like big. We like better. We like to play with our toys.

S.U.V.s and 4X4s are everywhere, driven in large part by people who don't need them and who barely can make the monthly payments.

George Dubya could call on Americans after September 11th to do the patriotic thing and go shopping. There was a time when he would have been laughed off the stage. By the turn of the 21st century, these were heard as soothing words to a hurting nation.

Blaming it on the rich is merely another form of scapegoating. As long as there is somebody on the hook for the world's mess, then one does not need to look at one's own personal culpability.

This is not to say that the rich and powerful have not engaged in some really suspect ethical behaviour. Heaven knows, the dodgy schemes of the financial whiz kids and the flagrant abuse of privilege by brokerage firms and banks deserve investigation and in some cases, prosecution. But to somehow exonerate the rest of the population by saying we live in a "capitalist" vs. "consumer" culture is self-serving and misguided. Human beings are one nasty piece of work and to suggest that somehow vice is a monopoly of the rich is asinine. There is enough sin and guilt to be spread pretty liberally across the board.

The mess we're in is b/c a whole lot of people went on a materialistic binge, fueled by cheap oil, financed by cheap credit, and supplied by even cheaper off-shore labour. It's a matter of scale. People in the Hamptons only pursued the American dream bigger, faster, and wilder.

I agree. As a general rule, alot of the fault lies with both the creditors and the debtors. Those who prudently save, and are cautious about both of the above, are caught in the maelstrom.

Nevertheless it's unconstructive to assign blame. We are witnessing before our eyes the beginning of the end of global industrial and financial civilization, a development that would have been obvious to anybody living in times past. Yes, modern humans convince themselves that they are special and not subject to the immutable laws of nature.

We don't have a consumer-driven culture. We have a capitalist culture. Please stop blaming everybody equally for the sins of the rich and powerful.

Color me skeptical on that point.

My impressions from the fall of the so-called "Iron Curtain" was that it was not the result of pressure from a principled minority of activists and idealists but the weight of millions of frustrated consumers who desperately wanted to taste Western consumer culture.

Across the globe, the single greatest driver of populations since the second half of the 20th Century has been towards zones of affluence and consumer culture.
We dress it up, we mask it, we try to give it dignity, but a refrigerator, a t.v., and a.c. are what populations across the globe want. Even more than a 'job', I'd reckon.

Even Socrates recognized that any society that was just able to meet it's citizens needs was not a fit society, it was a society fit for "pigs".
People demand "relishes", they have appetites.

Capitalism sucks and certain individual capitalists may really suck, but the "sins of the rich and powerful" are really the same sin that stains us all- the original sin of the 'rapacious primate' who wants more, who craves novelty.

" I've put it this way: the GOP wants to drive to the edge of the cliff in a H2 Hummer...while the Democrats want to drive to the edge of the cliff in a plug-in hybrid,"

Perfect WT, perfect.

And I've begun to think that a sizable percentage of the population will never accept the reality of resource constraints.

I suspect that a large part of the US public won't accept it until they get their ration coupons in the mail. And despite my advancing years, I expect to live long enough to see that.

They still wouldn't accept it. They'd blame treehuggers/big government/greedy Arabs/Big Oil etc.

Might it not be better to reframe this as "what are the conditions under which the population will accept the reality of resource constraints?"

We know that everybody here does, but few of us were born with that knowledge. And I doubt that we'd claim we have a rarefied psychological nature. And just last week, in another comment, someone mentioned how his buddies had changed over a couple of years from denial to acceptance (can't find it now, about a wife sanctioned weekend event, can someone point me there?). And some of us have had luck changing students and relatives; I've taught a seminar four times to about 80 students and they seem to get it just fine.

If we, here, get better at persuasion, mix in a little tipping point thinking, and use the events that we know are coming, then we might have an effect. But if we assume that people cannot be smarter than yeast then we close the door on any chance of a viable response.

hey ho,

"If we, here, get better at persuasion, mix in a little tipping point thinking, and use the events that we know are coming, then we might have an effect."

That was my weekend with friends, (mentioned in your post) coming about because I moved from town to a rural area where one of my best friends grew up. You know the kind of place that everyone makes jokes about which cousin you are married to? In fact, I know so many who absolutely cannot understand just why in the hell I moved there/here?

I am recovering from surgery and cannot lift anything beyond 20 lbs for another 4 weeks. Another friend is coming up to help me put some sheep in the freezer, this morning. He gets it. The point of this was your seminar comment. When I return to work I will be teaching the finance portion of a high school 'Planning' course. (I gave up my shop classes because I did not know the prognosis of surgery). Anyway, I have taught this before and always start out with Peak Oil and resource constraints. In fact, that is how I start out with mechanics, as well.

Students do get it just fine. However, it is a fine balance to create a sense of focus and urgency about one's education and life goals. Fear and hopelessness just won't do. Thanks to the many graphs and resources of TOD fame, I manage to make this work. Yes, I have this latitude in teaching because here in BC, we have fought very hard to keep what is called, 'professional autonomy'. We hold up the California model of 'scripted learning', and the broad 'no child left behind'. as examples of what not to do in the classroom and system. As long as I meet the learning outcomes of the subject, my learning resources and teaching focus is my choice.

Why does using PO work so well? It works because it applies to all sectors of our society. Oil is in everything. We are carbon based, for ....sakes. Want to be an engineer? Well, have I got a challenge for you? Doctor? we need doctors, big time...and this is what you need for resources to get through school. Mechanic? Better upgrade your math because the days of backyard fixers is almost over....for now. Logger? those jobs are gone or automated, (pick another door). Slacker? We cannot afford to support slackers, anymore.

One other aspect that works is using my work history as an example, and how the easy 70's have degraded into what we see today. When I left high school ('73) I could work, anywhere. Mills, construction, logging, fishing, and made excellent money. I became a carpenter.....construction now in the toilet. I worked in a mill.....dismantled. I worked for twenty years as a bush pilot.....industry kaput. Now I teach school.....system presently under constant attack by right wing agenda. Kids can figure it out and they might as well know right up front there are few guarantees in life.

A couple of problems I face teaching this stuff. Kids with entitled attitudes simply say they will move to Fort Mac and work in the tar sands. What they don't know is that it isn't as great as it sounds, and once the infrastructure is in, the gravey days will be over. (But I tell 'em). Kids that are not very bright must have a great work ethic in order to make it. You just can't mix stupid and lazy and come up with anything that looks okay. It is absolutely brutal seeing average kids assuming the world is an oyster and they won't even have to move to find work. In short, I believe it is a moral imperative to at least present the ideas of PO and resource constraints to students. None of us have crystal balls, but even this non-scientist can see trends and draw inference. And who knows? If just a few students are better prepared to face life, then it will have been worth it.

If I could do one thing for students it is this. I would go back in time and break the first cell phone. The use of 'smart phones', and electronics as entertainment (in general), has done more to dumb down society than tv and drug addiction, combined...IMO. Or, if that is a bad idea then make it law that students have to actually maintain a certain GPA and course load to own a phone or drive a car. Wait a minute, I think that is called parenting. Of course. I forgot that is what it is. Parenting.


Gas lines at the filling station.

There will be no gas lines or coupons.

People will accept it when there is a sharp and sustained rise in gas prices that forces them to change their mode of transport.

Only a handful of politicians are willing, in public at least, to fundamentally question the viability of our auto centric suburban way of life.

Yes, and that is what is going to go the way of the Dodo in the post-peak-oil era. Once you get over the fact that you can no longer drive everywhere you want, it becomes highly survivable. Just a little restructuring of neighborhoods so that all necessities are within walking distance, a few electric rail lines, and your oil consumption problems go away. There are lots of cute little villages in Europe and elsewhere which meet these criteria.

Of course the average US politician will defend the current auto-centric society at all costs, including bankrupting the government, which probably means a change of politicians is necessary. That's not really likely in the US, at least in the short term. Maybe after the government goes bankrupt.

They have to convince themselves that the sum of the output of discrete sources of energy that peak and decline, e.g., crude oil production in Texas & the North Sea, will result in an infinite rate of increase in supply

It is mathematically provable that consumption of any resource cannot increase indefinitely in a finite world. That being the case, when you see what looks like an exponential increase curve, it is really only the first part of a sigmoid (S-shaped) curve (renewable resource) or a bell-shaped curve (non-renewable resource).

The Texas and North Sea production curves are distinctly bell-shaped, which is what you would expect for a non-renewable resource. This is also what you would expect to see for the global production curve.

The real question is not, "Can production increase indefinitely?" because it is mathematically provable that it can't. It is, "When will it peak?" However, the key word is "when" because the existence of a peak is provable.

Good post, by the way.

Who gains from obscuring the issue of peak oil?

My "Iron Triangle" essay:


I see one group, call them 'devotees', unable to comprehend market failure. I don't mean will not, I mean can not. The core tenent is that a rise in price will bring supply to market. Only 'above ground factors' can explain the failure of industry to bring additional supply to market in the devotees' world view.

I see another group, call them 'kochers'. The kochers recognize the danger to their self-interest that market failure represents. They are astute enough to recognize that the failure of the normal market mechanism to assure supply ultimately leads to a rewrite of market rules, especially the rules which affect the accumulation of money and power.

The kochers have the resources to sow confusion, which I believe is what they are doing. A third group, call them 'hirelings', has no qualms placing its intellectual resources at the disposal of the kochers. Job one for the hirelings is to nourish the world view of the devotees. Job two is to discredit the information the Jeffrey Browns struggle to provide.

Sadly, in my view, another group, call them 'the despairing', unwittingly aid the hirelings by associating the information of the Jeffrey Browns with a coming apocalypse, thus tarnishing the information and impeding its flow. Moreover, the despairing interpret public policy failures as a failure of the public policy process in itself and withdraw from it, thereby reinforcing the ability of the kochers to dominate that process. In the end, the despairing are nearly as important to the success of the efforts of the hirelings as the devotees.

The despairing and the devotees are not at root the problem. The problem is rooted in the greed and cynicism of the kochers and the hirelings. But the convictions of the despairing and the devotees are obstacles to the dissemination of the information and analytical tools needed to overcome the problems engendered both by the overuse of fossil fuels and by their depletion.

Rising prices *are* bringing increased supply to market. Tar sands and extreme deepwater fields are uneconomical at oil prices much below todays, and without them we would have much less oil in the market than we do.

The system is working as it should, there are just a lot of people out there with unrealistic expectations.

The 'system' is supposed to see a response to higher prices which brings enough increased supply and/or falling demand to push prices back down. This understanding underlies the numerous predictions of the likes of Yergin over the years.

Go back a decade and you will find assurances that the costs of mining the tar sands were on a downward trajectory due to technological advances. I remember when former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, echoing the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, was confidently predicting production costs of tar sands oil at $11 per barrel.

Those of us who have benefitted from the many excellent analyses published on TOD, understand why this has not occurred. But devotees (of fundamentalist marketism) are very susceptible to messages that production costs have risen because of over-regulation and whatnot.

The sustained price trend is signalling insurmountable scarcity, but it is not in the interest of the Kochers that this signal be properly understood.

It's especially important for the Kochers that all those powerful people in non-oil sector industries remain confused. Otherwise, they may decide that the time has come to shift control of an enormous amount of capital from an industry that cannot reverse ever higher transportation costs to demand side measures, such as a massive build out of electrified public transport, for example. In the end, labour mobility is absolutely critical for economic prosperity, and powerful people know this.

The Kochers will fight to the end, but when the consensus in the business elite shifts, they will lose. I have no doubt that they know this.

once again, i must ask, how is it possible that no one on the premier peak oil site (oildrum!) made mention of richard heinberg's excellent 2-hour presentation the other night on coast to coast am with george noory. a truly excellent peak oil presentation -- listened to by 4.5 million listeners on 500 affiliated stations all over the country???

here'a a direct link to the podcast:


(and you'll find a podcast of heinberg's presentation on same show about "end of growth" book 1 week earlier as well)

Thanks for the heads up! I didn't know a thing about it..

In case this article has yet to be mentioned, here is Kjell Aleklett's response to Yergin's latest Barking Carnival Barkery ..


(sorry if it's a repeat. I have a cold and am barely scanning the drumbeat today)

thanks! i wonder how many people read kjell's piece -- cannot understand why oildrum readers didn't discuss the heinberg presentation! more people were introduced to peak oil in 2 hours than in all of the history of oildrum!!!!!

I think the world is in 'crazy time' .. so I am trying to withhold that sort of judgement for now. The Oil Drum has a function, but I don't think it's really as much about 'informing the uninitiatedbout PO' .. it's the place people come AFTER they've gotten the bug to see how energy/economy/politics etc, fits together.

I think it's a great place to knock around related ideas.. and no doubt, the ideas fly through here in scads.. but dismiss this as unimportant or not, I think this site is where I go so I can have that critical conversation with others who also see what I do. As I hear people say at TOD all the time, this is a conversation many people they all know, simply don't want to have. You have to check in with someone to decide whether you're still sane about this stuff, and here it is.

Meanwhile, thanks for your heads-up, that's how it works, and everyone is putting in something they think needs to be in the conversation.. but there's a lot of stuff going on, so everyone blinked but you on that. Cheers!

Peak oil is a frequent topic on Coast to Coast AM. Matt Savinar used to be a guest once in awhile.

Coast to Coast AM specializes in conspiracy theories and the paranormal. People tune in to hear about ghosts, aliens, UFOs, etc. I'm not sure being featured on a show like that is going to have much of an impact.

Well, hearing an interview with Kunstler on CtoC caused me to read The Long Emergancy, and shortly thereafter become a daily reader of TOD.

I suppose I would have wound up here anyway, but maybe not as quickly.

Anyone believing peak oil is in the past is making big assumptions that may or may not turn out to be true. That is because there is no way to separate out the demand destruction from high prices and global economic recession.

What comes next? Nothing. Keep watching the data. Try to keep an open mind and humbly admit you can't predict the future. In my opinion, scare stories and predictions of doom are the worst kind of future prediction based on gigantic assumptions.

So, why did global total petroleum liquids increase from 74.7 mbpd in 2002 to 81.5 mbpd in 2005 (BP), a 2.9%/year rate of increase in response to rising oil prices, but then show virtually no increase over the next five years, averaging 81.5 mbpd over the next five years, in response to generally rising* oil prices?

At the 2002 to 2005 rate of increase in global production, we would have been at about 94 mbpd in 2010, versus the 82 mbpd that BP shows.

And why did Global Net Exports (GNE) increase at 5%/year from 2002 to 2005, in response to rising oil prices, but then decline at 1.3%/year from 2005 to 2010, in response to generally rising oil prices?

At the 2002 to 2005 rate of increase in GNE, we would have been at about 58 mbpd in net exports in 2010, versus the actual 2010 rate of 42.6 mbpd.

*Post-2005, annual US oil prices have all exceeded the $57 level that we saw in 2005, with four of the past five years showing year over year increases in oil prices.

Lots of potential reasons:

1. Recession
2. Speculators who can be betting either long or short, big or small.
3. Oil company sales strategy, manipulate supply to manage prices/profits.
4. Emotions, threat of war, mood of the press, etc
5. Consumer behavior, ie suv's vs small cars.
6. Government hoarding and market manipulation.

I can't begin to explain why. My point is neither can anyone else. There are 7 billion players, all with motivations we will never understand. Those motivations and actions combine in a way that's more complex than the weather.

You are good at statistics. Keep up the good work. Just try to be a little more open minded about your conclusions.

Or maybe it's really simple. When producers react to rising oil prices with flat, or declining, production and net exports, it generally means that they can't increase production/exports (at least not without hurting long term recovery factors):

Texas & North Sea production (horizontal axes) versus annual oil prices (vertical axes):


Still, investment into Alberta Oil Sands production also collapsed at that time. That was definitely not due to a shortage of resource, but a shortage of perceived future demand.

From my perspective, you've arrived at your conclusions regarding oil production and the information contained in the price signal because of an open mind. Glad to see you posting at Econbrowser. I see people citing your stuff all over the place, although not always with attribution. Thank-you for all your effort.

mkkby -
intelligence is often marked by the ability to see with clarity the underlying simplicity - to cut the fog, the obfuscation. It turns out that much in life is simpler than it seems at first.

Speculators,governments, oil companies, consumers, all are comprised of people who are part of the same system.
The behavior of the system as a whole is rather like a super organism, eg a colony of bees. You don't need to observe a single bee, or a single sort of bee, eg queen, worker, or drone to understand a hive is experiencing a resource constraint.

In the spring, in the first warm days the hive sends out workers to collect honey. The flowers have not yet opened, the honey supply is low after the winter, the workers are not finding any nectar. The hive's behavior changes, it becomes angry. The observer will get chased and stung repeatedly if too close to the hive this time of the year (first hand experience over the years). The individual character of the bee is utterly unimportant. The behavior of the super organism under nectar constraint is what matters.

The potential reasons you list sound more like the reasons quoted for the daily movement of stock markets,rather than the growing issues the world as a whole has with export c & c supply constraint, and the apparent price response to said constraint, that Westexas researches and so dutifully reports.

Try to be a little more open minded about your conclusions.

The peak in production is the peak in production. Demand destruction is part of the mechanism.

"scare stories and predictions of doom" - tell it to the military(ies), and to the insurance companies. I'm sure they are just basing their fears on "gigantic assumptions" and you could save them a lot of wasted time etc. Do you work in the Safety Division at Fukushima by chance?

"Anyone believing peak oil is in the past is making big assumptions that may or may not turn out to be true. That is because there is no way to separate out the demand destruction from high prices and global economic recession."

This is why a narrow focus on a peak in oil production is something I avoid. Conservative estimates show that western economies must return to a growth rate of over 6% just to maintain the interest payments on their debt. While oil production may increase somewhat in the near term (not sure how), combined with increasing competition from developing countries for oil/energy and other declining resources (including agricultural/water, etc.), many inputs required for a growth rate to support our current debt levels must be wished into existence. Throw in a little climate change and social unrest .......

That sounds hauntingly like the ABC TV poster I saw once.

"Don't just sit there! Well, ok. Just sit there. ABC."

I think reasonable people KNOW that they can't actually predict the future.. but they also know that they have to read the signs, and they know that it pays off to prepare for what look like might be big and heavy changes. We've seen real hellish scenarios take place, and so we know they're possible.. and we've seen cornucopias, and surprise bounties come and save the day as well.. it's extremely dangerous to hang on anticipating either extreme to the neglect of the other.

As the dread pirate Roberts said, "Anyone who tells you different is selling something.."

Where do we go from here?

To an undiscovered country from which none shall return - the future!

(Really, to map out the path to take, one has to understand the landscape and the things that will be damaged by that route. Take this bit of news today:

RNAs from rice can survive digestion and make their way into mammalian tissues, where they change the expression of genes. But a new study suggests that the connection between your food’s biochemistry and your own may be more intimate than we thought. Tiny RNAs usually found plants have been discovered circulating in blood, and animal studies indicate that they are directly manipulating the expression of genes

So if part of the future is DNA manipulation - what will it do if its out among "us"? Think about the world with most of the land-plants dead. http://www.saynotogmos.org/klebsiella.html tells a tale of how a GMO was approved for trials in the biosphere and could have resulted in most of the land based plants being killed - as an example of why being mindful matters)

You always make the point to look at exports available to countries other than China and India. I have prepared a graph looking at the other side of the coin, imports from Asian countries

The EIA data go only up to 2009 when there was a flattening of imports following the financial crisis which now goes into another phase.

It can be clearly seen how much oil would be needed for Chindia to grow as in the last decade

Here is the latest from Mr. Doom:

MARC FABER: I don't believe that the stock market around the world got hit this hard just because of Greece. I think the stock market is discounting something bad globally.

I suspect - I suspect it could be a meaningful slowdown in China and disappointing corporate profits in the United States and in Europe. That's what my suspicion. But it could be even worse.

We have big problems coming towards us from the Middle East. The Middle East will go up in flames and that will have an impact obviously on oil prices and on the valuation of financial assets.

TICKY FULLERTON: Are you talking when you mention the Middle East about a political crisis or are you talking about oil or both?

MARC FABER: I am talking about a social upheaval where regime changes occur and that the new regimes will be far less friendly towards Western countries, including Australia.

TICKY FULLERTON: You mentioned China. We of course rely a great deal on the China growth story. You're not so optimistic.

MARC FABER: Well basically, if you define a bubble as a period during which you have excessive credit growth and artificially low interest rates, for sure, we have a gigantic bubble in China.
I'm not saying that China is finished, but I'm saying that we can have a meaningful setback. And Australian growth today depends entirely on China - not a little bit; entirely. And if China has a recession, and the price of copper would suggest that this is happening, then obviously Australia will be hit very hard, including the Australian dollar.


I guess we can give Daniel Yergin credit for bringing Peak Oil into the consciousness of those who never heard the term before. Now, it appears incantations are flying regarding the true will of this term. I found an article, called Does Peak Oil Really Matter?, containing remarkable insights.

In 2008, even the most elementary cyclical analysis indicated that oil and oil stocks were a screaming sell. However, blinded by peak oil ideology, traders and investors continued to drive the price of oil and oil stocks higher long after it was clear that the bottom was falling out from under the global economy.

As long as an analysis does not include the trillion-dollar-per-year "Right to dump one's garbage on public or other private parties' property" subsidy, the analysis is meaningless. Polluters should pay, and markets can't work if they don't. It really is that simple.

The coal seam gas debate in Australia is heating up.

Farmers are raising their concerns

Is Coal Seam Gas worth the risk? The backlash to a billion dollar industry.

According to government projections the equivalent of all economically demonstrated gas resources would be consumed and exported in just 20 years.

While Parliamentarians dream of vast oil and gas resources

Australian Senate ignores 80% depletion level of crude oil

Hi Matt,

The situation in Alberta doesn't look promising either...

Alberta gas production faces rapid decline

Gas producers in Western Canada are facing rapidly declining production from conventional fields – and growing doubts that new shale gas reserves will be enough make up the difference.

With North American prices expected to remain depressed for the next several years, Alberta is faced with a twin threat of aging, declining fields and a lack of drilling for gas that would replenish the supply.

See: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/industry-news/energy-a...

I wonder what impact, if any, this will have on the province's oil sand operations.


The decline in Alberta gas production will have no effect on the oil sands production.

From ST98: Alberta's Energy Reserves and Supply/Demand Outlook :

The Alberta Gas Resources Preservation Act (first proclaimed in 1949) provides supply security for consumers in Alberta by “setting aside” large volumes of gas for their use before gas removals from the province are permitted. The act requires that when a company proposes to remove gas from Alberta, it must apply to the ERCB for a permit authorizing the removal. Exports of gas from Alberta are only permitted if the gas to be removed is surplus to the needs of Alberta’s core consumers for the next 15 years.

All that will happen is that consumers outside of Alberta will be cut off. Since the US has large reserves of shale gas of its own, I doubt that it is concerned.

In 2010 about 38% of Alberta production was consumed within Alberta, by 2020 that will be 77%. Eventually, Alberta will start importing NG from the enormous shale gas deposits in BC (assuming its own unevaluated shale gas deposits don't cover demand).

Rocky - Very interesting. But does the Canadian fed govt have any say in the matter? In the US the feds would probably pull out the interstate commerce laws to prevent, lets say Texas, from enforcing the same control. Maybe we can model our state law after Alberta and fullfill every Texan's fantasy: let those Yankees freeze in the dark. Well, maybe not everyone here.

Seriously though, I hate to think about the situation ever getting to that point. Will be difficult enough dealing with the problems as a united society. But I can already imagine the heated rhetoric coming from both sides.

The Constituition Act 1982 sec 94(a) on the insistence of Provinces gives all authority to mineral wealth to the Province. Possibly the Feds could interfere with ecologycal issues, but the province rules oil and gas [does not apply to BC Offshore]

In the US the feds would probably pull out the interstate commerce laws to prevent, lets say Texas, from enforcing the same control.

I would think it would be the capitalists preventing market fragmentation. The owner of the gas, will lose a lot of money if he can't sell some of it to hungry consumers outside of the state/provincial boundaries. And we know that those with the big bucks get their way. And especially conservatives will cheer, economic-freedom -the ability of the owner to sell to the highest bidder. Its the American way, non negotiable and all.

Unlike US states, Canadian provinces have complete constitutional authority over their natural resources. In the case of Alberta, for historical reasons, the provincial government actually owns most of the natural gas, so it really has complete control over it.

The Canadian government gets control over natural gas after it crosses the provincial boundary, but of course if the provincial government prevents it from it from crossing a border, the federal government never has control over it.

The Canadian government isn't terribly concerned about this because, in the absence of Alberta natural gas, most of the other provinces will instead use their own massive natural gas or hydroelectric resources. It's nice to have energy that just never quits.

Rocky - Silly me...I forgot about the lack of private mineral ownership up there. Didn't know the province owned the oil/NG...though you fed gov did. The state of Texas does own some minerals directly but I think that volume is way down these days. But even it prohibited that small volume from leaving the state it would certainly cause a stink nationally.

Actually the land tenure system in Western Canada is nearly identical to the Western US. In fact, the Alberta government owns "only" about 85% of the mineral rights in Alberta, with private owners having a bit over 10%, and the Federal government less than 5%.

The main difference is that in Canada, the provincial governments have constitutional jurisdiction over natural resources, whereas in the US, there is no such constitutional constraint, and the federal government retained ownership of most of the mineral rights in some Western States.

The difference means that Alberta can stop the 85% of minerals which it owns from crossing provincial boundaries or falling into private hands, which means it can remove them totally from federal control.

The key difference between Alberta and Texas is that most of Alberta was settled much later - in the 20th century rather than the 19th, and by the time the settlers arrived, governments had caught on to the fact that they didn't necessarily have to give away the mineral rights to homesteaders. After about 1890 they amended their respective Homestead Acts to retain the mineral rights for themselves, and the settlers got only surface rights.

You will find that the US federal government owns most of the mineral rights under private property in some late-settled Western US states. Historically, the US government has more or less given the minerals to private companies, and given subsidies to exploit it, whereas Canadian provinces prefer to charge whatever the market will bear for their minerals and build roads, schools, and hospitals with the money.

Come to think of it, that's one of the reasons Canadian have free medical care and, in the Western Provinces at least, some really top-quality public school systems. Medical care and education also fall under provincial jurisdiction along with natural resources.

Natural gas is preferred when it is cheap, but there are alternatives.

Electricity can be used for creating steam, as with SAGD. This electricity can be from any source--coal, hydroelectric, nuclear, or whatever.

It is also possible to burn some of the bitumen.

FOR ALL Gas Drillers Face ‘Chaos’ in Land Law Ruling

At first this sounded like a frivolous action. But in PA oil/NG rights are separate from mineral rights. And coal is considered a mineral and not a hydrocarbon. This is significant because NG produced from coal seams is thus considered a mineral resource and not an oil/NG resource. Thus a company that acquires the oil/NG rights to a lease doesn't acquire the rights to any NG in the coal beds. So how does this affect the Marcellus?

"The Superior Court, the second-highest court in the state, ruled Sept. 7 that current law doesn’t sufficiently address whether “Marcellus shale constitutes a mineral,” the question that’s now to be hashed out by the lower court."

This could turn into a political nightmare on several levels. First, a company might not have had the right to produce the Marcellus on some of the leases they acquired. This means they committed trespass. Big can of worms there. In Texas they would be obligated to pay 100% of all the sales (not just the royalties)of the oil/NG from that lease to the landowners. And receive no compensation for the monies they've spent. And the folks they did pay royalty to would be required to return the money...probably much of which is spent. Likewise landowners who were paid 100's of millions in leases bonuses would have to return that money. Most lease agreements have provisions such that if the title to the lease fails the bonus money must be returned. Again, much of which has probably been spent. Thousands of land owners could be forced into bankruptcy and lose their property.

It's amazing companies did catch this potential flaw. Title work on oil/NG leases is a huge portion of the oil patch operations. There is a huge cottage industry that does title work and supplies "title insurance". Many companies won't drill a well unless they get a clear title and a title policy. I suspect some companies saw the potential problem but still rushed ahead.

This could have a big impact on unemployment in the state. It's reported there are over 200,000 jobs working the Marcellus right now. There's a well documented history in the oil patch: when they don't need the bodies they get flushed immediately.

In any case, a lot of lawyers will be buying new luxury cars and new vacation condos.

And some of the lawyers that did the paperwork for those original leases will be bankrupt :^)

Well, the state of Pennsylvania seems to have screwed things up in a major way by defining oil and natural gas to be something different from minerals.

The whole system of land ownership derives from Anglo-Saxon common law, which in the US was frozen at 1776 as a result of that unfortunate Anglo/American disagreement at that time. "Minerals" was a pretty well-defined Anglo-Saxon word.

Under common law, you can slice land more ways than baloney. It's quite common to separate the mineral rights on land from the surface rights. However, "minerals" normally includes "petroleum and natural gas". One person gets a title for "all mines and minerals" and another for all rights "excepting thereout all mines and minerals" which means he can plant crops and cut trees and do anything that doesn't involve a deep hole in the ground. So far, so good.

Later on, when people started drilling for oil, the mineral rights owners sold the rights for "petroleum and natural gas" to oil companies, and kept the other mineral rights for themselves in case there was coal or copper there ("all mines and minerals excepting thereout petroleum and natural gas"). Oil companies were only interested in the oil and gas.

PA seems to have screwed up this system, which the oil companies completely understand, by defining natural gas to be something different (maybe) than a mineral, and which might still be attached to the surface rights. You kind of wish that governments wouldn't get into making laws about things they don't understand.

Rocky - I get your point but from the report it seems the law is very straight forward and easy to understand. You lease "minerals" in that state you're not leasing oil/NG rights. OTOH they don't appear to have a clear distinction of what a "mineral" is. They appear to have defined coal as a mineral but are silent on other formations. And that's where it gets confusing for me and you. We know what a 'formation' is. Is a coal seam at 3,000' a formation to you? Is the geologic unit that this coal seam and others above and below it a "formation"? Is the Marcellus a "formation"? If the coal formation is defined as a mineral unit can the state also define the Marcellus formation as a mineral unit? But then why not all other reservoirs?

But it also sounds like the problem could have been completely avoided if they understood the PA laws and designed their lease forms correctly.

There's a few oddities down here. In Texas I can buy your mineral rights with you retaining the surface rights. And I own the minerals right until I sell them. But not in La. I can buy your mineral rights but if I'm not producing those minerals within 10 years the rights automaticly revert to the surface owner. We can thank N. Boneparte for that rule (I think).

In Canada the law is rather more straightforward. Quebec uses the French civil law system (Code Napoleon) and all the other provinces use English common law. The two systems are fundamentally different, but since Quebec produces almost no oil or gas it doesn't really matter for oil companies.

In the US, most states use English common law, but Louisiana uses French civil law, and some of the other states kind of tend toward a random mix of English common law and Spanish civil law. This makes things a bit uncertain if you move from state to state. Oil companies have trouble keeping track of the rules.

Alberta is really straightforward because it uses the Torrens system of land registration. All interests in land must be registered on the computers at the Land Titles office. If you buy all the natural gas on the Northwest Quarter of Section 23 in Range 14 of Township 12 West of the 4th Meridian (110°W), below the top of the Second White Specks formation, it goes on the computers and that's what you officially own. There's no doubt about it. It takes about 5 seconds to determine who owns what.

One advantage in Louisiana law - if the mineral rights generate no royalties or production for ten years, then the mineral rights revert to the surface owner.

There are a number of advantages to having both rights combined.

Some old oil fields in Texas that have been abandoned for generations have mineral rights that the will of the owner did not mention and the probate was not aware of - so they vanish into some sort of legal black hole. The owner considered them valueless.

Yet, someone wants to drill beneath the old field, or try tertiary recovery on the old field, and the mineral owners of 89 years ago simply cannot be found !


Alberta is on the Torrens system of land registration, in which if something is not on the computers at Land Titles, it is irrelevant to the ownership of the land. Every piece of land in the province is on the computers.

This enables companies to verify the title to the minerals on a piece of property in about 5 seconds. The registered owner has what is known as an indefeasible title, which is to say it is nearly impossible to challenge it in court. The government guarantees the accuracy of the title and insures owners, buyers, and sellers against administrative errors. There are very, very few claims for compensation against the system.

As I said, the Alberta government holds title to 85% of the minerals, and of the other 15%, the owners of the minerals are usually different from the surface owners. The railroads started retaining the mineral rights the land they sold about 100 years ago, and even farmers caught on to the fact that they could separate the mineral rights and make more money selling them separately from the surface rights. Sure, it's simpler if the surface owner is the same as the mineral owner, but simplicity is not the goal of the game. Making money is.

I actually owned the mineral rights on the 25x95 foot lot under my house in Calgary, which went back to an old CPR land grant (I traced it back through 25 previous owners using the aforementioned computers), but there was this problem of negotiating a joint pooling agreement with about 10,000 of my neighbors to drill a well. Unlike some other jurisdictions, in Alberta you can't just drill a well and suck the oil and gas out from under someone else's property without getting their signature on an agreement. Otherwise it's some kind of subterranean trespass. I've seen pooling agreements for one square mile with about 65 names on them, but beyond that point the cost of the paperwork begins to exceed the value of the minerals.

"that unfortunate Anglo/American disagreement"

Someday Canada will also throw off the yoke of royal oppression. ;)

WTI is priced below $80 a barrel despite an almost 20 million barrel decline in domestic inventories over the last 4 weeks. Can anyone make sense of that?

Strong greenback; no future demand growth on the horizon?

T - A few of points. First, WTI isn't selling for $80/bbl. Future contracts (probably 30 days out) are being bid at $80/bbl. In 30 days WTI wil be selling for that price, for more or for less. Time will tell. Second, I recall someone pointing out that WTI production accounts for less than 15% of the oil produced in this country. I just sold a load of oil from a coastal Texas field for $103.55. It was barged to La. to get La. sweet prices that have typically been running around 25% higher than WTI sale prices.

Thus the "oil prices" so often put out by the MSM aren't the price WTI is selling for but the speculation of what it might be selling for sometime fixed time in the future. The MSM doesn't have much of a choice. And if they did report the actual price any batch of WTI that has been sold, the vast majority of other US oils sold for a higher price...sometimes significantly higher. For the most part companies don't disclose how much they sold or paid for their oil. But it takes 5 seconds for some MSM reporter to click a mouse and get the current futures bid price. So that's what they report: a number that has very little meaning with regards to what most oil is selling for in this country let alone the rest of the world.


I believe a certain quantity of WTI is sold in the Cushing Spot Market at the NYMEX Futures price because they have specifically set it up this way (the spot price is by design set to the Futures Price).

However the more realistic Light Louisiana Sweet Price, which is not tied to Financial Futures markets, can always be seen by reporters by simply looking at http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/quote?ticker=USCRLLSS:IND

Light Louisiana Sweet Spot

Latest $108.82

Bloomberg also calculate the difference between WTI Spot and LLS spot at http://webfarm.bloomberg.com/apps/quote?ticker=USCSLLSS:IND

WTI/LLS Price Difference

Latest $29.75

And here's something interesting. Here's the Bloomberg calculated crack spread http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/quote?ticker=CRK321M1:IND

WTI Refining Crack Spread

Latest $31.60

This suggests that refiners with access to WTI prices continue to make a fortune but those refining LLS are now barely at break-even on (products sale price) - (oil input cost) even before other over-heads are added. This situation has only just developed as LLS passed Brent price and I doubt it is sustainable. The futures market appears to have pushed the cost of Futures RBOB (gasoline) down below total production cost at LLS Official Spot input prices.

Here's an article from a few weeks ago

The Fed’s convenient WTI ‘Cushing’ factor

Since the Treasury yield curve is becoming less responsive to Fed intervention, we’ve outlined the case for why it might make sense for the Fed to start targeting the energy curve instead.

Obviously the Fed mandate remains an issue.

But that doesn’t mean other parties, whose interests are aligned with those of the Fed and whose presence in the market is big enough, might not try to influence the curve in a complimentary manner.

One thing is sure, market analysts are currently perplexed as to the scale of the contango in WTI, the spread between Brent and WTI, and the scale of backwardation gripping some markets. And no, Cushing doesn’t explain it all.

Could some sort of Fed-inspired government or private sector intervention account for the mystery?

It’s unlikely, of course, that we will ever know for sure. But here, nevertheless, is a rundown of energy analysts who are increasingly noticing that something very strange is afoot in their market. Something that can’t be accounted for by either fundamentals or financial flows.

Last time I looked at the links you provided, if we exclude WTI, LLS was pretty much the median spot price globally.

Strange... ask a person on the street and they'll tell you oil is less than $80 a barrel. That's the only news worth reporting apparently.

The price at the pump, however, is somewhat more reflective of the disparity. In eastern Canada, we're paying well over a dollar a litre. ($1.23 in Nova Scotia this afternoon)

On 11/1/10, WTI was $83, and Tapis was $89, a $6 spread, The spread is currently about $37.

And Nova Scotia has no access to WTI except by sea from the Texas Gulf Coast, or the even cheaper Western Canadian Select, which can't get there at all. Well, they could ship it through Vancouver and the Panama Canal, but that is a bit unlikely.

They're working on reversing the Montreal to Portland Maine pipeline to take Alberta oil to the Atlantic, but that will take a while.

tow - You make my point for me: the folks with the MSM would have to make 4 or 5 more mouse clicks to get to that info. Are you nuts? They don't have time to fritter away on such details. LOL.

"This suggests that refiners with access to WTI prices continue to make a fortune but those refining LLS are now barely at break-even on (products sale price) - (oil input cost) even before other over-heads are added."

Not sure what their margin is but they are barging my oil at least 300 miles to the closest La. refinery. Has to be worthwhile for them. OTOH they aren't making nearly the money the midwest refiners are with all that low priced Canadian oil flowing into Cushing. Based on your chart I got about $5/bbl less for my Texas oil. I'm guessing that's probably close to the transport cost.

Double dip = more layoffs, more conservation, less vacations, etc. = less demand

Could be a price undershoot though that will correct as people calm down and remember how inelastic oil tends to be.

I know talking about pure economics is a bit of topics, but you guys/gals are the only ones I talk to.

Question: If the people are not taking out more home loans (bringing new money into existence), and now the government is being squeezed into austerity (not borrowing for us), isn't inflation impossible? I mean, if no new dollars get borrowed into existence, and the population grows, then over time there would be a shortage of dollars to go around, and we would treat them like gold.

Since monetary policy discussions give me a headache, I prefer to talk about how debts (especially government debt) will, or won't, be repaid. I've posted a link to a well written article* (not by me) several times that concludes that, regarding debt, we are facing default or inflation on global scale. Regarding the fiscal edge of the cliff (my "Thelma & Louise" metaphor), I define it as the point in time at which a country can no longer afford to borrow enough money to maintain their current consumption levels. Based on that metric, Greece has crossed over the edge of the cliff, and many other countries are not far behind.

*In the World, at the Limits to Growth
by David Korowicz

Kurt Cobb has a classic essay, from 2007, that shows how the economic system would grow inherently less stable, given constrained food & energy supplies:

eastex, what you're describing is deflation; dollars as valuable as gold.

There are very intelligent, plausible arguments on both sides of this inflation/deflation debate. But does it really matter who is correct? If the "inflationists" are proven correct, then in the end, we'll have trillions and trillions of dollars but all of them will add up to precisely nothing. If the "deflationists" are proven correct, then in the end, the dollar will be worth a lot, but no one will actually have any. Either way, the end result is exactly the same; we're broke.

But look at it this way; both deflation AND inflation are primarily risk factors associated with debt based wealth systems. So, it would seem that one possible answer is to move one's assets out of the debt = wealth system. One needs material assets. For example; I own my house and it is serviceable enough. I can stay there. And I need someplace to live. It doesn't really matter to me and my house whether or not the economy inflates or deflates as long as I have no intention of selling my house (and I don't have to sell it).

I don't claim to have the answers, but one can at least look in the right direction for answers and not get too caught up in the "noise".

inflation impossible?

All depends on what 'is is' or more to the point - what's the definition of inflation.

Austrian school of economics says inflation is the increase in money supply. Others say inflation is a rise in "price".

But look at your own question:

I mean, if no new dollars get borrowed into existence,

And if the money supply is just expanded without borrowing?

(The assumption - government is being squeezed into austerity not borrowing for us isn't something that a valid assumption to make)

Eastex: yes . . . and no.

A three-year-old's answer is that businesses could invest and spend so much that prices rise. But businesses have no reason to invest much at all, unless they expect more sales. And with everyone repaying debt and saving, there's no reason to expect increased sales. Not gonna happen.

Let's look at the possibilities.

While people are paying back debt or saving up for a rainy day, money is just sitting in banks. US banks have $1.6 trillion in "excess reserves", money that they would lend out if they could find someone willing to borrow it. But there's no demand - people don't want to borrow more, they want to borrow less.

People want to repay debt, and build their net wealth: they are unwilling to spend their money on other things unless they are offered lots for their money. So sellers of goods and services are pressured to cut their prices. Deflation is a possibility.

While this goes on, inflation is impossible for a long time to come. If people simply won't pay higher prices, prices can't rise.

BTW, this situation is called "the paradox of thrift' by economists. Saving is good . . . except when everyone does it.

This could theoretically change in an instant, though. If one day everyone decides that it's a good time to buy things, and to keep on buying them, then suddenly the supply of money will have gone up. That means sellers of goods can charge higher prices, and sell more of each good.

In this situation, as soon as everyone decides that it's OK to spend, the economy will hit the ceiling of production capacity very quickly, and there will be shortages and price rises. Major inflation.

What could cause everyone to wake up one day and decide it's time to start spending? No idea. But it's a theoretical possibility. And it's this theoretical possibility that media commentators and some economists (!) are trumpeting as about to happen any day now . . . any day . . . just watch, you wait . . . real soon . . . (crickets) . . . any day, I tell you . . .

Let's back up. Sell more? Maybe. After a while, no.

While people feel they have to save, they don't spend (duh!). So businesses cut costs. After a while, businesses are not just "trimming the fat", but cutting muscle and bone: reducing total production capacity.

If and when some people start buying more, sellers will run out quickly - the supply of goods will hit a hard limit, the capacity limit of production, which has fallen. There is more money being offered for a fixed amount of goods, so prices must go up: inflation. If a lot of people start spending and there is a lot of money socked away in banks or they can borrow easily: high inflation.

The other thing, that will eventually happen if nothing changes meanwhile, is that production capacity falls so far that just enough can be produced to supply the bare necessities that everyone has to buy (cheap food and clothing, utilities, the minimum of housing and transport).

When people are buying everything that can be produced, because they have to in order to live, sellers can start putting up prices - so long as production capacity doesn't increase. But in this situation market forces cause investment in more production, holding down price rises. (Except if more production is impossible, as with peak oil.) Population growth helps us reach this point sooner.

Spending is also affected by other factors like how much a person has to spend. No job = no spending. Falling housing values mean less wealth. Higher gasoline prices mean less spending. Etc...

New US data reflects economic hard times

In a sweeping statistical snapshot of the nation, titled the American Community Survey, the Census Bureau said real median household income in 2010 slipped 2.2 percent from the previous year, from $51,190 to $50,046.

Feeling the pinch hardest were residents of Nevada, Connecticut and Vermont, where household incomes dropped 6.1 percent.

For a second year running, real median home value fell from $185,200 in 2009 to $179,900 in 2010, with the highest home values to be found in California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Washington, DC.

A way out.

Investing in energy efficient and energy producing infrastructure - "savings" that reduce future costs.

This year, US railroads are investing 19% of gross revenues in capital projects. More than any other industry (BTW, BNSF (owned by Warren Buffett) is leading the way with $3.8 billion out of $12.3 billion). They see the same opportunity I do.

But not enough ! Attract other capital to electrify (ramp up to, say, 5,000 to 8,000 miles/year) and supplier industries will invest.

About 90% of the lifetime cost# for a wind turbine is spent when it generates it's first MWh. Upfront economic activity - long term economic good produced.

# Except for land royalties - which are just transfer payments

Go back to 30% tax credit for insulating, etc. and expand it to rental, second homes, etc. Home owners dip into their savings and create economic activity - and reduce future consumption of FF.

And many more examples of investment supplanting consumption.

Best Hopes for a Reformed Economy,


The railroads should do extremely well out of this oil price escalation. My brother has a scheme to move Alberta bitumen to the Gulf Coast by rail, and chatting with him it looks like he has a license to print money. I've been trying to figure out how to invest in it, but apparently if you have less than $1 billion in loose change you can't play in this league. So, Warren Buffet and Bill Gates will clean up again and I will be stuck with some chintzy gold mines which will allow anybody to buy shares.

Life is cruel that way. Once you get your first billion it's a lot easier, but I'm not going to make it at this rate.

Leanan, thanks for the link up top: Staring at the cave bear straight in the eyes. Mass movements and decision taking in modern society, I certainly would have missed it otherwise. The article, by Ugo Bardi, amplifies the thoughts of Eric Hoffer and his timeless classic, The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements

Today's arguments concerning Peak Oil and Climate Change are expressed largely by true believers on both sides. And, the article points out, internet search engines have supplied both sides with massive amounts of information, and misinformation, that enable everyone to support their bias which is based on their long held views of how the world, and the human race, operates. True believers are never swayed by facts.

I read "The True Believer" in the early 60s and even today I continue to thumb through one of my dog eared copies. I have logged, in my file of favorite quotations, so many quotes from that book that it would take several pages to list them all. But here is perhaps my very favorite. Hoffer starts off by quoting Martin Luther:

So tenaciously should we cling to the world revealed by the Gospel, that were I to see all the Angels of Heaven coming down to me to tell me something different, not only would I not be tempted to doubt a single syllable, but I would shut my eyes and stop my ears, for they would not deserve to be either seen or heard.
- Martin Luther: Table Talk, Number 1687.

* To which Eric Hoffer replied:

It is the true believer's ability to "shut his eyes and stop his ears" to the facts that do not deserve to be either seen or heard which is the source of his unequaled fortitude and constancy. He cannot be frightened by danger nor disheartened by obstacle nor baffled by contradictions because he denies their existence.
- Eric Hoffer: The True Believer.

Please ignore Luther's religious reference here because it is not my intention to enter that debate. My point is that the true believer will insist that his/her facts are the true facts and that any and all data that may contradict his/her facts are to be ignored. They must be ignored because it is a "World View" that is at stake here and no World View can be shaken, much less be proven wrong, by a few simple facts.

The idea that "Man will prevail over nature", that human knowledge is the ultimate resource and will ultimately insure that our civilization will only move onward and upward, is a world view that is held by the vast majority of people in the developed world. It is a faith, a deeply held dogma, that cannot be shaken by a few chicken little doomsayers.

Ron P.

"The idea that "Man will prevail over nature", ..." Taking this farther, the idea that man has the right to prevail over nature, whether by some divine right or just because he can, an inherent discounting of the future, is what I find hardest to counter. The question of "whether we should" is usually where I start, and is usually where conversations end.

It's generally more affective to convince folks that it's in their best interest, here and now, to change their ways. It's a tough thing; folks either like their lives the way they are, or long for a lifestyle constantly presented and promoted on their TV screens; lifestyles and world views they can believe in.

Major problem is that modern homo sapiens believes he is separate from nature. Linear/progressive view is fundamental cause of earth's destruction. If one is nature or is an integral part of nature, it seems that destruction is less likely.

our civilization will only move onward and upward, is a world view that is held by the vast majority of people in the developed world

How are you coming to that conclusion? The first stat that pops into my head is that consumer confidence is at a record low. So, at least in the short term, the vast majority of people are expecting the worst. I would like to see some recent studies on this because the folks I talk to are generally pessimistic or just don't think at all about it. There are exceptions.

Gog really? World views seldom have any relation to short term consumer confidence. I was speaking of people's world views which relate to the long term fate of humankind. I thought that was made quite obvious by my reference to people like me being referred to as "Chicken Little Doomsayers".

I know a lot of pessimist concerning the current economy but few, if any, that really expect the total collapse of globalism and the world economy. And when they are confronted with the evidence they, even the pessimist you speak of, will: "shut their eyes and stop their ears" to the facts that do not deserve to be either seen or heard.

Ron P.

The World View that our civilization will only move onward and upward is the Myth that was spoken about in yesterdays DB in regard to Greer's essays. The current reality is, as you say, not in alignment with the Myth; thus, the dissonance and pessimism.

A while back someone commented that we appear to have reached Peak Inovation (an anti-'onward and upward' view. It seems reality agrees.

OECD report shows dramatic decline in patent quality

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has published its Science, Technology and Industry Scoreboard for 2011 and one section shows that patent quality over the past 20 years has declined dramatically, mainly the authors say, due to excessive litigation by so-called non-practicing entities that seek to exploit patent laws. The result they say, is a glut of minor or incremental patent applications that add little to scientific progress.

Goghgoner has a point: How does anybody here know what the worldview and preferences of humanity are? You cannot deduce it from the course of current events, because that course is based on no serious public access to relevant information and meaningful policy selections.

I think there are many signs that people would choose a rather different course of development, if ever given half a chance.

Of course, that's precisely why no choices are offered, and no major dissent tolerated.

Money talks; suckers walk.

Yes of course Gog has a point but he completely missed my point as do you. We know that hardly anyone knows anything about peak oil and we know that the vast majority of people in the developed world believe that everything will be fine, in the long run, in spite of what we doomsayers are claiming.

And just how do we know this? We know this by what the mainstream media is spouting every day. We know this because of what books are being promoted by the mainstream media. (Like "The Quest") We know this because the vast majority of blogs support Yergin and his ilk. And we know this because the IEA, the EIA, BP continue to promote the view that the peak of world supplies are decades in the future and last but not least we know this because CNBC and Bloombert TV continue to promote BAU and not allow any people with opposing views, such as Jeffery Brown, on their show.

So yes Michael, we do know what the worldview preferences of humanity are because we read them every day in the magazines and newspapers and blogs on the net, and we see them nightly on TV.

And that is not the only reason we know what the majority preferences are. We know that everyone wants the best for their children and grandchildren and will always believe the more optimistic projections for them. They will always believe the person who claims that they will live the life of luxury and not die in starvation and misery 40 years from now.

Ron P.

So, at least in the short term, the vast majority of people are expecting the worst

People are worried about a garden variety recession and their ability to buy the same amount of groceries. Tell em that the housing market will collapse(outside US) or they will no longer be able to 'super specialize' in their field of choice and they will balk at you.

"Please ignore Luther's religious reference here because it is not my intention to enter that debate. My point is that the true believer will insist that his/her facts are the true facts and that any and all data that may contradict his/her facts are to be ignored."

Excellent post. I see true believers within the TOD contributors and the comment threads. It gets tiring hearing the same worn out doomster predictions based on gigantic assumptions. A lot of that comes from the pervasive influence of religion and it's scare stories.

"It gets tiring hearing the same worn out doomster predictions based on gigantic assumptions."

It gets equally tiring watching year after year pass with no increase in world oil production.

"It gets tiring hearing the same worn out doomster predictions based on gigantic assumptions."

It gets tiring hearing the same predictions that societies can return to wanton growth and consumption based on gigantic assumptions.

Assuming assumptions, two questions:

1. Who's assumptions are better supported?

2. Who's assumptions are more dangerous?

A lot of that comes from the pervasive influence of religion and it's scare stories.

I think the exact opposite is the case. Religious people are, by and large, the most optimistic when it comes to the long term fate of humankind. All of them I know, and that includes just about everyone I know, believe that all is well with the world. Except for all that sin of course. ;-) They pay little attention to global warming stories and have never heard of peak oil.

Doomers, like myself, with a few exceptions, tend to be an unbelieving lot.

Perhaps a conclusion can be drawn from this. It has to do with rational thinkers verses irrational believers.

But I said that it was not my intention to enter that discussion so I will say no more on the subject.

Ron P.


You say, "It gets tiring hearing the same worn out doomster predictions based on gigantic assumptions.

You want to tell us all what these "gigantic assumptions" are because it sounds like you are projecting your own beliefs not those of we doomers.


mk - Perhaps some are as you describe. But this devote athiest with 36 years experience drilling for oil/NG doesn't make "gigantic assumptions". I just look at the gigantic pile of facts I have at my finger tips and see a very serious problem coming down the road with regards to resource depletion.

But opinions vary so I'm always ready to put my well documented facts and experience against those who might disagree with my assessment. And always done politely/respectfully without insults. Try me out...you might even enjoy the exercise whether we ever agree or not.

No matter what, the Sun will eventually die and kill our progeny. So nature wins in the end. At best, we make it to another solar system and spread around the galaxy. But eventually the world dies of heat death due to entropy.

But can mankind beat peak oil? Yes, I believe it can. There may be a lot of suffering but we will get through it. We've got through plagues, natural disasters, famines, world wars, etc. all before. And we knew much less back then.

Mankind will certainly beat peak oil. That isn't the question. The question is whether something vaguely like our civilization will come through.

Nothing's faster than the speed of light!

News article today on one of the physics websites. Neutrino's were clocked travelling from CERN to the big detector in Italy at 300,006 km/sec, 6 km/sec faster that light. No-one has any ideas, appears repeatable (6 months testing before publication, but not thru review yet.)

Scientists stunned, sceptical on faster-than-light particles

Interesting.. my not knowing what potentials exist in the system for measuring innaccuracies, etc.. it's also not too surprising that the universe might still have some extents that we haven't written in our little notebooks yet.

Live and Learn!

Yeah, the researchers at Fermi here in the US have seen similar results, but in their case, the excess speed was within the margin of error of their measurement system. CERN's accuracy is much better, and the 6 km/sec is larger than their error margin. The CERN folks have gone past the usual peer-review process and are making their data available to qualified parties, along with the question "What did we screw up here?"

Well, maybe not...

Particles faster than light: Revolution or mistake?

heh..late on the "save" button ;)

Aye, mistake. My first suspect from a very superficial glance is what they measured was a difference in the index of refraction of the air for neutrinos and photons. And even if its real somehow, its not much faster, like 10%?

And even if its real somehow, its not much faster, like 10%?

LOL! The thing about c is that it's a hard limit, like absolute zero. No hand-waving or excuses allowed, no promises to drive slower in future, officer. No exceptions. Going faster is impossible.

If the result holds up, special relativity is broken. Time for some more Gedankenexperimenten.

Helium shortage puts a pinch on party balloons

A national shortage of helium is putting a pinch on party balloon retailers and distributors, in part because of a tightening global market and production problems. ... she's paying about $10 more per tank now than a year ago, from $85 to $95. One tank can fill between 500 and 600 balloons..

It seems like the price of helium per balloon is still cheap.

Helium is also nearly undetectable in toxicological probes, which is important for people assisting a suicide because of the potential of criminal charges.

Apart from the body floating around the ceiling, I guess so.

Appears to be affecting the military to ...

Military Struggles to Find Helium for Spy Blimp Surge

The U.S. military is sending so many spy blimps to Afghanistan that industry is scrambling to supply helium and “cannot keep up with the increased demand” for the containers that hold the gas.

That’s according to documents from the Defense Logistics Agency, the Pentagon office responsible for keeping vital supplies flowing to the warzone.

Demand for helium in Afghanistan has shot up, from 49,000 cubic meters to fiscal year 2009 to an estimated 531,000 cubic meters this year. ... In fact, sources familiar with the process tell Danger Room, when DLA originally issued a call for helium supplies to meet the airship and aerostat programs’ needs, nobody responded. The order was just too big. That forced the government to break up its helium order into smaller chunks.

Peak Blimp!!

Step 1: switch to robot blimps if you haven't already.

Step 2: improve the mylar lining.

Step[ 3: switch to H2.

Step 2.5: recover & reuse.

Was it Clinton that reduced the helium stockpile as it was believed to be in excess?


Laptops en route to Europe by rail for first time

The first batch of Acer notebooks sent by rail is set to arrive in Europe in the next two weeks, and the rail-freighting trend may soon be adopted across the PC industry. The Taiwanese giant is starting to build more flexibility into its supply chain in the wake of the inventory pile-up earlier this year that dented profits and upset channel partners. According to Digi Times, 40,000 units are currently en route travelling through China, Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland and into Germany. This method is estimated to cut "shipping" times from the 40 days it takes by sea to just a fortnight. Acer is expected to use the route only once every two weeks but if the pilot goes well it will be ramped up to a daily operation.

China is building three inter-laced standard gauge (EU & China are standard gauge, Russia is Russian gauge#).

1. China - Kazakhstan - Russia - Ukraine - Poland
2. China - Kazakhstan - Turkmenistan - Iran - Turkey - Bulgaria
3. China - Pakistan - Iran - Turkey - Bulgaria

(another alternative path goes through another -stan and Afghanistan to Pakistan)

No one nation is on all three routes.

It is interesting that Iran has announced a standard gauge rail line along the northern border of Afghanistan. Too many mountains to connect easily with Chinese rail line announced to Afghanistan.

Expected transit times from Beijing to Berlin is between six and nine days, #3 is longest.

China can also access Iranian oil overland. For decades they imported 1+ million b/day from Russia - despite gauge change.


# Above route today requires two gauge changes - jack rail car up and slide wheels over on axle or transload containers.

Anybody know how much of these three routes are electrified?

Glad to see that Europe/Asia are building infrastructure that will produce wealth in the future.

Is Britain out of Europe?

Today's headlines have rightly focused on the starkness of David Cameron's message - his warning that the world could soon be staring down the barrel if eurozone governments don't tackle their debt and their lack of competitiveness.

However, just as significant - at least in the long term - is the fact that the British prime minister wrote his letter calling for action to save the world economy not with European leaders but to them.

Cameron's joint signatories were his Canadian, Australian, South Korean, Indonesian and Mexican counterparts. In other words, on the biggest macroeconomic policy question of the day Britain is not part of Europe, it is looking on from outside.

The optics speak volumes.

Interesting article. Britain was never happier than during the Blair years. Britain could be part of the EU, and participate in European affairs without actually taking responsibility for them. Meanwhile, it could be the US' "poodle" in global affairs, and play a key role in NATO, the expansion of NATO into Eastern Europe, and in NATO and US adventures beyond Europe. It also became the center of the free-wheeling financial system in Europe, with every large global bank establishing a center for trading in London.

But it is all coming unglued now, with NATO in disarray, with Europe moving away from the US.

It's unclear whether Britian will continue to be part of Europe or whether it will attempt to resurrect the alliance of English-speaking nations, ala Churchill. More likely the latter.

Britain could always pursue again some kind of Commonwealth economic alliance - with Canada, Australia, India, etc. - although it is highly uncertain if there would be any appetite - on purely practical self interest grounds - for such arrangement among the other players. Funny, Europe seemed like the perfect panacea in 1973 - growing, powerful, robust, and a potential market equal to America. In contrast, the Commonwealth, a hang-over from the decline of Empire, seemed archaic and moribund.

Now it's Europe that's archaic and moribund.

The United Kingdom, alone among the Commonwealth fold, seems oddly lost and worse for wear. An adept observation among us former colonials these days is that "Britain is a third world country that dresses well."

Part of the problem is that the Iron Curtain fell around 1990.

The problematic PIGS (Portugal, '86; Ireland, '73; Greece, '81; and Spain, '86) all joined during the '73 to '93 period prior to the Maastricht Treaty.

Once the Iron Curtain fell, former neutrals Sweden, Austria, and Finland felt free to join, and then there was a major expansion of former Iron Curtain countries. The only exceptions were Malta and Cyprus, and its unclear why they were ever admitted.

Central Europe now sees Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union as the periphery that offers economic opportunity, while the former periphery countries represented by the PIGS were artificially propped up by borrowing during the last decades.

Europe did well to integrate peacefully following the collapse of the Soviet sphere - a colossal undertaking. You're right, in all fairness to the European Union it achieved a great deal in a short period of time and aside from the Balkans, without bloodshed.

Conceptually, the EU should have benefited from its size and diversity - as do the other super-sized federations of the world, like the U.S.A., Brazil, Canada, and Australia. Although the will was sometimes there, the means did not follow. Maastricht never achieved the transfer of sovereignty necessary to get the job done. A common currency was introduced, yes, but without the mechanism necessary for fiscal flexibility, public accountability, and currency revaluation.

First we saw in September 1992, the U.K. experiencing meltdown when trying to maintain the Exchange Rate Mechanism. After Black Wednesday, the link between Pound and Euro was, for all intents and purposes, severed. For those trying to maintain public accounts in a currency over which they have no control, the situation has turned nightmarish. Britain was, in some ways, lucky not to have signed on to the dotted line. History has afforded today's Britain a few options that the other players do not have.

I suspect you're right, Merrill, and the U.K. will gravitate toward alternative arrangements. At first glance, the Euro-skeptics will have won the day. However, the longer term prospects are, at best, dicey for joining/forming another block in the world community. The USA and Commonwealth countries are now trying to figure out a survival strategy and it may not come anywhere near forging closer ties with the "mother" country. Britain may have to capitalize on its special relationship with America and cash on on old loyalties like never before. It will be very interesting to see how all this shakes down.

Re: Exxon taps into Utica shale, up top:

There is a problem with geologic faults in that the fracking process may create a gas pathway along the fault to the surface when one is inadvertently crossed. The Utica shale has many geologic faults:


RE: Urban gardening taking off at O'Hare from DB above

This is how a judge from Memphis approaches a similar situation

Stand in Solidarity with Adam Guerrero

This week Adam Guerrero, a math teacher at Raleigh-Egypt High School in Memphis, TN., along with three students became lawbreakers after they continued to tend to a garden after it was deemed a neighborhood nuisance.

Adam Guerrero of Memphis, TN has been ordered to remove his front yard kitchen garden before his court date on September 23rd. (video at bottom of page)

ORNL discovers amazing electrical properties in polymers

OAK RIDGE, Tenn., Sep. 22, 2011 — Crystals and ceramics pale when compared to a material researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory discovered that has 10 times their piezoelectric effect, making it suitable for perhaps hundreds of everyday uses.

... "The extraordinarily large response could revolutionize the field of electro-active devices," said Urban, who listed a number of examples, including sensors, actuators, energy storage devices, power sources and biomedical devices.

This could be interesting if these substances could be applied to thermo-electric generators (converting heat directly into electricity). Cogenerating PV panels comes to mind, along with many other applications (thermal/electric storage, etc.)

They would also be useful in wearable electronics. Anything that is constantly flexed.

TODers may be interested in a new myth-busting book on the Easter Island collapse: The Statues That Walked, by Terry Hunt and Carl Lipo. It supports the interpretation that collapse resulted from conquest and its complex aftermath, not from population overshoot and "ecocide."

There's a lengthy new essay advocating the Hunt and Lipo position here:

TOD hosted a lengthy disucssion of Easter Island ecological collapse last year:
with "dacey" presenting much of the careful anthropological work contradicting the ecocide inference.

I'm eagerly waiting for the brown truck bringing my copy of Hunt and Lipo.

The myths of Easter Island – Jared Diamond responds

However, evidence that rats played no significant role in Easter’s deforestation includes the following. Rats occur not only on Easter but also on every other one of the hundreds of other Polynesian islands, most of which nevertheless did not end up deforested. Over 90% of preserved palm seeds outside caves were not gnawed by rats. Easter’s forest consisted not only of the palm but also of at least two dozen other species of trees and other plants, all of which also became extinct on Easter although most of them are not known to suffer seed predation by rats and continue to exist in the presence of rats on other Polynesian islands.

He fails to point out rats are fond of Easter's eggs. No eggs, no birds to spread seeds. Almost end of story.

Rats are also fond of a nice tasty bird. On the other hand many trees don't use birds to spread seeds. Also why not the same problem on the other islands?


Did they have people?

ALWAYS a problem, I admit.

Best Hopes for Rodents :-)


Good question and Alan has a good point.


Yes, they had people. It's people who introduced the rats.

Eating seeds vs. eating eggs of birds who spread the seeds would have the same effect.

Had rat predation on seedlings caused deforestation on Easter, there should then have been no regeneration of young palm trees, but continued survival of mature palms capable of living for many centuries. Instead, palm trees continued to regenerate for centuries in the presence of rats, but eventually all palms, young and old, disappeared by AD 1600. The reason for their disappearance is obvious: they were cut and burned by humans, as shown by burned palm stumps, cleanly-cut-off palm stumps, burnt palm leaves, and burned soil in many parts of Easter Island. See the attached paper by Mieth and Bork, which Hunt and Lipo did not even cite in their book.

Speaking of Diamond's oversimplifications, does anyone here know of a debunking of Diamond's version of the Norse Collapse in Greenland aka the Norse were dumb and wouldn't eat fish. I was thinking of teaching a section on climate's impact of the Norse in Greenland in my Quaternary Ecology and would like something better than Diamond. I always worried that Diamond has oversimplified the Norse the way he did Easter Island. I vaguely recall someone had written a paper with some paleoproxy evidence that cod populations collapsed in Greenland fjords during the MCA hence there was little fish to eat, and another paper trolling church genealogical records in Iceland showing that some people from one of the Greenland settlements managed to move back to Iceland when the LIA set in hard (happier story than starving to death by far).


Diamond's oversimplifications do not help the environmental movement at all. Thanks for the heads up on Hunt's book, I will have to get it as well.

Try 'The Greenlanders' by Jane Smiley - a novel, but well researched. Big fat book. Prepare yourself for a long, informative & extremely depressing read.

I've tried to understand the Norse colonies in Greenland, especially as there are many from the denialist camp who point to the lost colonies as proof that there was a "Medieval Warm Period" which was warmer than present. From my reading, there are a couple of sticking points with that idea. To begin with, the dates presented for the beginning of the so-called "Little Ice Age" have differed wildly. Then, there's considerable evidence that there were short term cooling events which were due to volcanic eruptions, but these were not long term changes. However, given that the Norse were living in a rather fragile climate, an event as large as the Tambora eruption and the one a few years previous that resulted in The Year Without a Summer, could have pushed the Norse toward extinction. The loss of the Western Settlement while the Eastern Settlement continued on makes the notion of a general climate change difficult to accept. The very large eruption of Kuwae in about 1452-53 may have produced a sharp cooling transient, much like The Year Without a Summer..

The Greenland Norse, like the Norse in Iceland, stripped the land of trees and brought in sheep and goats, which tend to eat everything to the ground. Even today, there aren't any trees visible at the site of the Eastern Settlement. Without trees, staying warm in winter might have become a serious problem. And without trees, building proper sea going boats would have been impossible. About the time that it's claimed the Norse died out, there was the first episode of the Plague in Iceland, an event which may have killed half the Icelandic population. Trade between the Greenland colonies and Europe had tapered off, as the Black Death had hit Europe many decades before it appeared in Iceland. I think it's plausible that the Greenland Norse may have migrated back to Iceland, where there were suddenly many farms available after the die-off. There is indirect evidence that the Norse left intentionally, as the archeological digs didn't find typical household items or religious artifacts left behind, which one would expect from a die-off.

Other theories have been proposed, such as attacks of English fishermen or pirates or conflict with the native Inuit, who were moving in from the north. Without definitive evidence, speculation has run rampant...

E. Swanson

Of course there was a "Medieval Warm Period". Otherwise no European in their right mind would have attempted to colonize Greenland. However, for a relatively brief period of time (a couple or three centuries) Greenland was actually green.

Of course, when things returned to what might be described as "normal", i.e. the Little Ice Age, it all went south on them, or rather they either went south or died.

OTOH, the Inuit were experts at living under the coldest of cold conditions, so falling temperatures were a benefit to them. They spread from Siberia to Greenland in a very short period of time on the global migration scale - roughly 1000 years. The colder it was, the better they did, relative to anybody else.

People underestimate the sophistication of the technology required to live under these extremely cold conditions. The Inuit knew how to do it, so they prospered. The Norse knew how to live under sub-Arctic, but not Arctic conditions, so they either died or moved to warmer places. Nobody really knows which.

Revolutionary conducting polymer enables silicon use as next generation of lithium-ion battery anodes

The anode is a critical component for storing energy in lithium-ion batteries. A team of scientists at the U.S. DOE's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) has designed a new kind of anode that can absorb eight times the lithium of current designs, and has maintained its greatly increased energy capacity after over a year of testing and many hundreds of charge-discharge cycles. ...The icing on the anode cake is that the new PF-based anode is not only superior but economical.

If this approach can be generalized, there's a lot of potential across several battery technologies. For example, metal-sulfur batteries have high energy density and in some chemistries use metals that are much more common and less expensive than lithium; one of the problems is the large changes in size and shape of the sulfur compounds as ions are attached/released.

A Fruedian slip at a U.S. State Dept Background Briefing on Nuclear Safety suggests that no matter public opinion or facts the anti-nuclear crowd may bring to the table, the U.S. will remain nuclear and the industry will run the program (just like Japan).

... SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: ...after Fukushima, President Obama ordered a comprehensive safety review of all 104 active power plants in the United States – almost a quarter of all nuclear reactors operating around the world.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has already completed its near term inspections, and we believe that it’s important because you cannot take nuclear energy off the table, we must be able to assert that these plants are safe and secure, which is why the United States continues to reaffirm the importance of strengthening the IAEA.

And we also are looking forward to welcoming the IAEA action plan on nuclear safety in this meeting tomorrow, which calls for states to request voluntary peer reviews on a regular basis to facilitate transparency and improve standards of nuclear safety.

My interpretation:

Both the STATE DEPARTMENT and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission are populated by True Believers who cannot learn from recent events.

They still cling to the belief that "It can't happen here"

And they are willing to export it

OIL POLITICS: Nigeria's Nuclear Nightmare

... With all the information on the dangers of gas flares and oil spills, no serious actions are being taken to curtail the spills or to stop the flaring. Even when communities (for example in Ogoniland) are informed that their water is poisoned and capable of causing cancers, government takes no action and allows the people to continue to slake their thirst with poison. Our cities, including Kano and Kaduna have heavily polluted rivers on which people depend; yet they are not told that the water they drink is not potable.

From recent nuclear accidents, including the one at Fukushima, it has become clear that when such accidents occur the authorities get very economical with the information about the levels of radiation released into communities. In a country where simpler environmental information is not readily available, it is doubtful that people would be warned at all of dangers in situations where nuclear incidents arise.

CO2 storage law falls through in Germany

Energy company Vattenfall, the only firm in Germany planning to build CCS plants for the pilot projects, criticised the vote, saying it needed certainty to go ahead with the plans.

"It's one minute before midnight," said the firm's boss in Germany, Tuomo Hatakka.

"If you're a believer in "peak oil"—the idea that the world is on the verge of running out of oil—you will probably want to burn this book."

I didn't see anyone else mention it, but that definition is wrong right out of the gate. When you start with a straw man definition, it's pretty easy to call peak oil bunk. But that definition is garbage.

I also did not appreciate the implication that we would simply burn any book that contradicted our position without reading it, considering presented facts, attempting to learn from it, etc. What do they take us for, journalists? Pols?

Many Peak Oil enthusiasts do not seem to understand that to the extent that their pet theory is relevant at all, it is only relevant in the very long term.

I am amazed that people continue to say things like this, when the economy is in the gutter and yet we still have oil prices undreamed of a decade ago. I think too many people have this cartoonish idea that peak oil = an immediate return to the Stone Age.

It appeals to the all-or-nothing mentality, very prevalent in marketing these days. Present false choices in short blurbs and quickly move on, locking in the more desirable choice. Surveys and polls are often designed this way.

Hi Ghung, Robert,

Of course you guys are both right, from a any point of view we here would consider to be "rational".

But the fact remains that the "other side" is framing the issue differently, and in many respects more broadly.for instance, the people who denigrate peak oil theory do not generally frame thier arguments in terms of the very long term, except when it suits them to do so;the hundred years plus of increasing production is something they mention, but time frames going forward are couched in terms of a few years or decades at most.

They tend to drag in substitues, conservation, new technologies,and anything else that occurs to them as supporting thier case.

To us it seems obvious that they are trying to evade the issue, to confuse it, or that they are simply lieing flat out.

Now there is no doubt in my mind that a considerable portion of what we hear falls into these categories.

But like it or not, as insane as it seems to people used to thinking for themselves, most of the cornucopians are sincere in thier beliefs.

[Texas] Drought Driving Up Peanut Prices

Texas is a major peanut-producing state and this year's yield is looking to be down about 48 percent. Smuckers, the maker of Jif, has already announced prices are expected to rise 30 percent by November.

World may see 'collapse of demand': Lagarde

WASHINGTON — International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde warned Friday that the world could see demand evaporate if the United States and Europe fail to put their ailing economies back on track.

"Today, if there is no collective rapid action we run the risk of losing the battle for growth," Lagarde said in a speech at the opening session of the IMF and World Bank annual meetings in Washington.

"There are dark clouds over Europe and there is huge uncertainty in the United States and, with that, we could risk the collapse in global demand."

collapse in global demand - seems like a shortage of supply

We might "lose the battle for growth"!


I'm really scared now.

The battle for growth will be lost. Might as well start now and learn to live without growth. Funny that the right wing party of the pro growthers is doing everything possible to accomplish the opposite of what they favor. Oh, there will be collective rapid action but it may be the opposite of what she has in mind.

Nature - the inevitable logic of 7 billion humans colliding with oil and resource constraints - is winning the battle over the financiers.

Ignore them, they have no idea what they're talking about. I used to say this and was ridiculed, even on this site. Isn't it becoming obvious now?

Great buying opportunities in gold and silver in the short term.

Looks like another author confuses resources and flow rates:

Plenty of room on planet Earth
By 2050, the world will probably have nine billion people, less pollution, more space for nature

What could possibly prevent this golden vision? Running out of fossil fuels? Not a chance: the discovery of how to extract shale gas has just given the world a quarter of a millennium's worth of cheap fossil fuel. Running out of water? No: far more frugal uses of water are already in play where price and technology combine. Climate change? Hardly. Rising carbon dioxide is already measurably boosting yields of crops and the slow and small warming we have had so far - roughly half a degree in 50 years - has probably boosted rainfall slightly.

The author calls himself a 'passionate environmentalist' and believes technology will be our saviour. Interesting, perplexing.

What is this goon smoking?
I'm getting the distinct feeling that the quota of paid shills for the invisible hand of TPTB has gone up significantly in the past few weeks.
Adding this to Yergin and, the winner, in my view, Stansberry's equation of the creation of oil to the mere presence of capital and not geology. Oy vey!!

I'm getting the distinct feeling that the quota of paid shills for the invisible hand of TPTB has gone up significantly in the past few weeks.

With elections coming up there are certain political persons who need the groundwork ready for their version of the facts.


Matt Ridley, the "Rational Optimist". He is a techno-futurist transhumanist cornucopian, another Ray Kurzweil without the 180 IQ.

He may, of course, be right. But the 2050 he describes is going to be a tough road.

I had missed that final comment my first time through.

"If there are three things I fear, as a passionate environmentalist who wants to see wild habitats restored all over the world, they are biofuels, renewable electricity and organic farming. Each would demand much, much more land from nature."

It sure sounds like an ulterior motive piece to me.. awfully convenient enemies list there, with no mention of MountainTop removal or tar sands..

Maybe he's a passionate economist?

Re: Falkland Oil Delays Drilling, May Sell Stock If Well Successful, CEO Says, up top:


With six wind turbines the Falklands are 26 percent renewable which, as the man in this video points out, is the only valid way to compare different countries (or states) progress in wind energy.


With six wind turbines the Falklands are 26 percent renewable which, as the man in this video points out, is the only valid way to compare different countries (or states) progress in wind energy.

I disagree. You have to take into account other factors such as:

1. How much wind power is available. A country with more wind power can use more wind as a percentage of its generation.

2. How much capital/wealth is available. Wind power is still more expensive than fossil fuels, so a poor country will be harder-pressed to use wind to electrify.

3. How many other resources are available. A country with little wind but a lot of sun will use more sun and less wind as a portion of its renewable power. Ditto other things like coal resources, gas resources, willingness to go nuclear, etc.

Re: food garden at O'Hare

Am I the only person to feel a strange frisson of irony at the idea of a "locavore garden" in the centre of a hypermobility nexus (airport) where precious fossil fuel is flamed off in unimaginable quantities daily for (mostly) discretionary or entertainment travel?

Brain hurts.

Maybe it would help to look at it as some weeds that are starting to crack open the Tarmac.

Then there's the 'Only Nixon could go to China' view.. the high-volume visibility and 'ordinariness' of this might go far to help those travellers that see it bring this possibility deeper into their worldview, even in a somewhat absurd context.

'First Irish case' of death by spontaneous combustion

A man who burned to death in his home died as a result of spontaneous combustion, an Irish coroner has ruled.

West Galway coroner Dr Ciaran McLoughlin said it was the first time in 25 years of investigating deaths that he had recorded such a verdict.

Michael Faherty, 76, died at his home in Galway on 22 December 2010.

Deaths attributed by some to "spontaneous combustion" occur when a living human body is burned without an apparent external source of ignition.

The next power source?

... if only we can unlock the secret of human spontaneous combustion.

Just wait until an overweight person falls asleep smoking a cigarette. Candle anyone?


Hey, Sally, you're so hot you light up my life.

Just a thought...

Soylent Green, ready to eat.



Yes, that's right. Most cases of "spontaneous human combustion" are caused by a combination of smoking, and human body fat. Fall asleep, set your highly flammable nightgown or pajamas on fire, and it's Candle City, man.

That's the old formula for a candle. A cotton wick surrounded by animal fat. If you put the wick on the outside, it works about the same. Burns too fast, in fact.

And as for the harder parts of the body, Bonfire

The name 'bonfire' is believed to be derived from the Celtic custom of burning the bones of the cattle which were slaughtered (at Halloween) - a 'bone fire'.

Bonefire - amazing what one learns here :)


Whose Subsidies Trump Whose?

The linked article times out with a registration requirement so I've only read a few paragraphs. I see it acknowledges that quotas like 20% renewables have a cash subsidy equivalent. I can't see if the article distinguishes between capital subsidies e.g $10m upfront and ongoing output subsidies eg 40c per kwh feed-in tariff for PV. What is now clear in Australia is that green tech wants multiple bites at the cherry.

In July 2012 Australia is supposed to implement a carbon tax of $23 per tonne of CO2 or its equivalent. The architects of the scheme said once carbon tax is in place all subsidies can be terminated. The wind power lobby in particular protested so they will keep getting a quota the variable cash value of which is called a Renewable Energy Certificate. The REC is estimated to be worth 3.9c per kwh in 2011 who knows how much in 2012 and beyond. There are also various kinds of State and Federal grants and feed-in tariffs. Note that hydro built in the mid 20th century gets nothing.

Therefore new wind and solar (and nonvolcanic geothermal if they can make it work) get several bites at the cherry. These include carbon tax to handicap coal and gas fired electricity, capital help, loan guarantees, State feed-in tariffs and the 3.9c REC. Now don't tell me wind and solar have taken a pledge of subsidy abstinence. They get billions in Australia alone.

Two comments.

Here in the good ol USA, we spend half our federal budget on the military, a significant portion of which goes to ensuring the flow of oil from all those places that need democracy brought to them... Seems like a subsidy to me.

Then there's the health of the planet, which has been duly sacrificed in subsidy to fossil fuels.

Level playing field? Not gonna happen in this culture.


Just one general question: where did the "Best hopes for _____" meme originate? Limits to growth? or right here? Or?



In post-Katrina New Orleans, a couple of months after Katrina and just after dial-up access returned, I signed an eMail to a friend here in New Orleans "Best Hopes". It just "came" to me.

It fit post-K Naw'lins, so I started using it routinely to fellow New Orleanians. I then I brought it here to TOD and began adding comments to it.

At one point, TOD banned closing lines, but they let mine slide. Thanks Leanan :-)

When faced with the "End of the World as You Know It", Best Hopes is an appropriate response.

Best Hopes for the Return of sarcanol,


Here, here. I've seen enough others use it, it's starting to feel like a secret handshake...

Best hopes for community, when and wherever hard times may lie,


Up Top

"Russia's Putin says Arctic trade route to rival Suez"

This might just be the trade of the coming decade, with an ice free summer and a trans-Siberian rail line goods can be shipped to and from China a lot faster at least during the Summer Months.

Development of land routes internal to Eurasia makes a lot of strategic sense because they do not pass though choke points like the Straits of Malacca and the Suez Canal. Railroads and pipelines can replace container ships and tankers.

It would seem that fiber optic cables along the railroads would also be an effective way of bypassing the existing facilities, which include fiber along the old London to Hong Kong Cable & Wireless routes, tandeming the Atlantic and Pacific cables via the US, and the Indian Ocean satellites.

Development of land routes internal to Eurasia makes a lot of strategic sense because they do not pass though choke points like the Straits of Malacca and the Suez Canal. Railroads and pipelines can replace container ships and tankers.

Right on the money. No pirates, you can electrify the whole thing and railroads tend to bring commerce wherever they run, what's not to like. If I could I would invest in Russian companies which deal with Railways and run Oil Tankers and Big Trucks.

"Environmental authors and educators Bill McKibben and Paul Hawken speak at the Commonwealth Club about the best ways to combat climate change in an uncertain economy and turbulent political era." I heard most of this today on radio.

Paul Hawken: "Surplus energy is the feedstock of civilization." He does not see current solar technology as sustainable, particularly PV. He believes that solar technologies will be developed that can be sustainable. However, he identified the problems with tar sands and unconventional oil as including contributions to climate volatility and inadequate energy return on energy invested.

It was good to hear such a view on public radio. It seemed that he was quite aware of peak oil issues and was advocating that the US cut energy consumption from 10,000 watts per capita to 2000 watts. He imagined a life that was quite livable at that level of consumption.

I am well under 2 kW personally for all types of energy. However, if my share of street lights, police, schools, US military, etc. is added - I suspect I get fairly close.

Best Hopes for Energy Efficiency - It Works !


Speculation regarding Putin returning to Russian presidency ends. Medvedev: Putin should return as Russia president

I think it would be right for the congress to support the candidacy of the party chairman, Vladimir Putin, to run for president.

Why not put an end to the charade and crown Putin czar? The double headed eagle is a much more pleasing motif to the eye than any double headed presidency.