Drumbeat: November 7, 2011

Kurt Cobb: Time to Worry: World Oil Production Finishes Six Years of No Growth

As oil prices rose ever higher in the last decade, the optimists kept predicting rising production capacity and plummeting prices. Looks like they got it wrong.

We are entering what may be the longest stretch of no growth in world oil production since the early 1980s. But the reasons for that lack of growth differ in ways that ought to make us all uncomfortable.

Oil demand globally to peak before 2020

Global oil demand is expected to peak before 2020 as a "perfect storm" of regulation promotes energy efficiency, new technology and biofuel use across the world, according to a new study.

The report, by respected industrial consultancy group Ricardo, challenges the widespread view that 'peak oil' will come as soaring emerging market demand causes oil supplies to diminish.

Oil Rises to Three-Month High Before Greek Talks

Crude oil rose to a three-month high in New York on the prospect of new political leadership in two of Europe’s most financially hard-hit countries.

Futures climbed as much as 1.1 percent after a former spokesman for Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said the premier may step down within “hours” and push for early elections. Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou agreed to leave office to allow a national unity government to secure outside financing and avert a collapse of the country’s economy.

Cost of gasoline falls 4 cents in the last 2 weeks

U.S. average retail gasoline prices fell almost 4 cents a gallon over the last two weeks as the weak economy prevented refiners and retailers from passing their higher costs along to consumers, according to an industry analyst.

Hedge Funds Curb Bullish Commodities Wagers

Speculators reduced wagers on higher commodity prices for the first time in four weeks on mounting concern that Europe’s failure to contain its debt crisis will slow economic growth and demand for raw materials.

IEA economist: ‘We have to leave oil before it leaves us’ The International Energy Agency (IEA)’s annual World Energy Outlook, due for publication on 9 November, will contain alarming research that the world is on track for a catastrophic rise in global temperatures unless fossil fuel subsidies are cut, energy efficiency is improved, and more countries introduce some form of carbon pricing.

ASPO-USA Conference Report: Friday Notes

Robert Hirsch - a guy worth listening to. Claims no change since last year. Peak oil is on track. Dept of Defense has published 2012 as the possible peak data with a 10 mbpd decline by 2015. That's dramatic. Hirsch estimates a 16% decline of world GDP in the decade after the decline starts based on the correlation of GDP with oil production.

Hirsch expects the mass psychology (based on the previous two crisis of 73 and 79) to be: panic, fuel shortages, large price increases, stock market declines, deepening recession, inflation, rising unemployment. I'd like to add windfall profit taxes and punishment of speculators.

ASPO-USA Conference Takeaways

Peak oil is proceeding right on schedule with growing oil supply/demand tightness leading up to the Peak around 2015.

ASPO Conference: Adapting to future scenarios

Dmitry Orlov opened by saying that we had to plan solutions that don't depend on supply chains. We have to "pre-supply" for the day that, "WalMart goes missing." Orlov predicted that physical inventory will be worth far more than paper money. Orlov is noted for his dry humor in print, and though that humor flashes through occasionally, he is a generally reserved speaker. He expected that favors would soon be worth more than money, too.

Gas pipeline from Russia to Germany reveals weakness in Putin's 'energy weapon'

Many people believe that the opening this week of the Nord Stream gas pipeline linking Russia and Germany will put Europe in an even greater energy bind with Russia. But Gazprom, the giant state-run company behind Putin's export-energy policy, has many weaknesses.

Nigeria Bombings at Police Stations in Northeast Kill 53 as Curfew Imposed

At least 53 people were killed in suicide bombings and attacks in the northeastern Nigerian city of Damaturu, police said, while a human-rights group said the death toll was about three times higher.

The Taliban-inspired Boko Haram group said it carried out attacks in Yobe and Borno states that started on Nov. 4. Eleven police officers and seven attackers were killed and an overnight curfew was imposed in Damaturu, Yobe state police Commissioner Sulaimon Lawal said. About 152 people died in the violence, said Shehu Sani, president of the Civil Rights Congress.

Global goals fuel Qatar's ambition

Qatar is becoming a potent financial force far beyond the gas fields that power its wealth. The football world is just one example through the likes of Paris Saint-Germain.

Thousands protest at White House over pipeline

WASHINGTON — Thousands of protesters gathered in Lafayette Square across from the White House on Sunday to oppose a plan for a transnational oil pipeline they fear could harm the environment.

At one point, the crowd linked hands to surround the White House, keeping up pressure on President Barack Obama as his administration decides whether to approve the massive Keystone XL project.

Keystone pipeline decision could be delayed until after election

The project has left Obama trapped between environmentalists who oppose it and unions who back it because it would create jobs.

Peak Oil and ERoEI: Still Nonsense

The latest comment to come back to me on that argues that because of ERoEI (Energy Return on Energy Invested) peak oil really is a serious problem and, essentially, that I’m all wet for disagreeing. The problem with this is that while the math and physics of ERoEI is just fine, indisputable even, it’s just not a very useful conceit except in certain very limited situations.

Is this group think, or is the U.S. about to be energy-independent?

One becomes nervous when a consensus begins to form around a Big New Idea -- it starts to sound like group think. So what are we to make of the cottage industry developing around the notion that the U.S. not only isn't facing an impending oil shortage -- it is on the cusp of being nearly energy independent, short of a margin of barrels that will be imported from friendly Canada and Mexico?

Americans need a system change

A lot of people don't realize that we have already overshot the carrying capacity of this planet. This is the beginning of a transition to sustain ability because all of the resources are running out. Peak oil, peak water, there is a book by a friend of mine called “Peak Everything” and it shows that all of the resources are running out.

Morocco takes lead in Desertec's initiative

Morocco, the most hydrocarbon-poor of the Maghreb states, has so far been most receptive to the Desertec initiative, which was established two years ago.

The country is also the nearest in North Africa to Europe, with only the Strait of Gibraltar separating it from the Iberian peninsula.

Coal seam gas industry on a 'knife's edge'

ENVIRONMENTALIST Tim Flannery will warn coal seam gas companies today that their industry rests on a ''knife's edge'' and must be able to resolve pressing issues of water security, greenhouse gas emissions and social responsibility if it is to continue to grow.

Trade war looms over Europe's aircraft carbon tax

THE world could be on the brink of a trade war over European Union efforts to impose carbon charges on the emissions of all planes landing or taking off within the EU. The scheme, if implemented, would be the first global financial sanction on greenhouse gas emitters.

Flash Forward 100 Years: Climate Change Scenarios in California's Bay-Delta

ScienceDaily — USGS scientists and academic colleagues investigated how California's interconnected San Francisco Bay and Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (the Bay-Delta system) is expected to change from 2010 to 2099 in response to both fast and moderate climate warming scenarios. Results indicate that this area will feel impacts of global climate change in the next century with shifts in its biological communities, rising sea level, and modified water supplies.

Dirty secrets: What's behind carbon's rise?

In a sense, the numbers aren't a surprise. They're a logical extension of the twin-track approach that governments in general have had; we want to curb emissions, but we also want to grow.

Very few have implemented a policy framework that would enable this circle to be squared.

The week ahead.

Aren't coincidences strange sometimes?

JPL: 2005 YU55

Additional Information
Earth MOID = .00103961 AU

2011-Nov-08 23:28 	< 00:01 	Earth 	0.00217200758286823
2011-Nov-09 07:14 	< 00:01 	Moon 	0.00160119624839852

Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS)

REMEMBER: The Nationwide EAS Test will occur November 9, 2011 at 2:00pm, Eastern

Exercise Pacific Wave 11

PacWave11 will be held on 9-10 November 2011 as a multi-scenario exercise that will allow all PTWS countries to exercise using a destructive local or regional tsunami scenario.

YU55 will miss earth by about 200,000 miles and come a bit closer than that to the moon based on available data.

Nice catch.

A true "where is your god now?" moment within the realm of possibility (as always, but these things just put it in the headlines and pop culture).

This surely wouldn't have anything to do with the earthquakes we've been experiencing here in Oklahoma, right? ;)

Felt another one last night (Monday night) -- 4.7 that made the house sway.

The gods are angry at the Inhoffe

He hath sinned by not accepting the one true gift that the gods had given onto man, science.

It is only by science that man can exercise intelligent dominion over the Earth.
Surely the gods did not give man dominion so as to act like a slum lord rather than a good steward.

Alas the Inhoffe needs some gentle** shaking before he wakes up and sees the truth.

** A 5.0 is gentle compared to the 6's and 7's that others are shaken awake with.

Undertow, for heaven's sake, keep quiet on this one. There are any number of wing-nuts out there who see mystical magical qualities to the number 11. Any prospective catastrophe happening on or just before 11-11-11 would send them over the moon - perhaps literally!

"...would send them over the moon - perhaps literally!"

Could we be so lucky?

There is some pretty weird stuff out there.

This courtesy of "OCCUPY" 2012 Indy Info, Analysis of Matthew’s 11/11 Message. I'm assuming Matthew is one of the Ascended Masters.

But can we not see that the Occupy Together and Arab Spring movements are also hard signs? Matthew suggests that we should be able to.

Matthew warns us that the impact of 11/11/11 depends on whether we are predominantly dark or light-filled. The former will find the energies jolting; the latter uplifting. He says that 11/11/11 is a “time pocket” in the “cosmic calendar” but doesn’t explain what these may mean. Since 11/11/11 appears to be an artifact of the Gregorian Calendar, has its date been selected as a matter of agreement? What relationship is there between the “cosmic calendar” and the Mayan Calendar? It’s not easy to know how to interpret matters like these and unfortunately supplementary questions are not always possible.

Since it is not easy to know how to interpret matters, then they'll still be right even if nothing happens Friday.
It goes on to say,

He confirms something I only guessed at earlier, (1) that the cabal, though falling, is lashing out by every means:

“For a bit longer the Illuminati will continue countering all progress toward dramatic changes with such distractions and disruptions as their black ops terrorism, stock market shenanigans, bribing or threatening politicians, limited resumption of chemtrails in some areas, weather control, and of course fear-filled disinformation. Since the light continually is intensifying on the planet, it is logical to wonder why they are able to keep going. The answer is fear.”

By their logic, our doomerish rhetoric is feeding the fear and therefore we are unwittingly supporting the Illuminati.

The sad part is that much of this is generated by people who would otherwise be identified as suffering "bi-polar disorder" or from "manic-depression". Strange musings as these are symptomatic of the manic phase. People with severe bi-polar have access to computers like everybody else. They are highly articulate. There is little wrong with their intelligence - it is just off compass a bit. Most will adapt and go on to have successful careers and family life. As annoying as it is to see, there are many people in our communities whose brains are hardwired this way. As individuals, they deserve our kindness and our help.

Remember, the First World War stopped at 11/11 at 11:11 hour in 1018. This is when every year the German Carnival officially starts. This year it is very special: 11/11/11 at 11:11 hour.

Friday is a holiday here in Canada. Remembrance Day.

11.11.11 doesn't mean much. 11.11.18, on the other hand, will be significant as it will mark the centenary of the Armistice.

11/11/11 will be the last binary day for any of our lifetimes.

Not hugely special, but I'll probably have lunch out in celebration.

Planning on celebrating a little bit?

It's also Nigel Tufnel Day...in honour of turning things to 11.



2 + 3 = 11

(**in base 4 math)

There are plenty of certifiably sane people who write and believe things such as the above. As a person with a substantial number of bipolar people in the family, I've never known any of them to engage in writing things like this. I've observed some get manic with reactions that are more personal(paranoid diatribes such as the water company or the gas company is trying to poison me or somewhat more lucid but highly irritable complaints), either that or reactions not dissimilar to someone fidgeting with ADHD but with full control of their marbles, often gifted creatives.


There are plenty of certifiably sane people who write and believe things such as the above.

That's the really scary part.

K, like you, I have family members and friends who are bi-polar. I have also worked with people with challenges. Like the rest of us they are gifted with strengths and weaknesses.

There is a degree to which belief in spiritual awakening and a sensitivity to numbers, events, and 'synchronicity' have been linked to the manic phase of the disorder. Belief in new age spirituality has similar parallels. One of the reasons why I'm hesitant about turning critical on those who take such matters seriously.

That said, for those who indulge for the sake of wishful thinking or who are gullible to presentations of fantasy, that speaks to a much larger social problem. So, too, is the rise of charlatans amid a general dummying down of the wider culture. My hope is that the willfully gullible are still in the minority (although I'm very aware I could be wrong here).

Exotic spiritual beliefs are a lot less scary to me than seemingly grounded people who insist that fossil fuel BAU will continue indefinitely!

All the best,

Ummm, isn't that also an exotic spiritual belief?


You beat me to it ;-)

K, your point is well taken. Musings on the esoteric meaning of the number 11 are relatively harmless. The exotic spiritual belief in a fossil fuel BAU indefinitely, however, as pointed out by Rootless and sgage, is a tad bit more problematic.

Yes. I think we need to be more sensitive about these sorts of disorders, I too have had to deal with a family member with a disorder, so people making comments like "hey dude, maybe you should get your meds adjusted", just are not cute (even if one has never been directed at me personally). Besides these sorts of episodes are usually shortlived -oftentimes resulting in hospitalization, and aren't really associated with longterm worldviews.

One word: Fluoride.

One word: Fluoride.

Yes, that is true, it is one word.

I wish they'd had fluoride in the water when I was a kid. If they had, maybe I wouldn't have crowns on most of my teeth, and fillings in most of the rest.

Yes, but they would have been messing with your precious bodily fluids. You are correct though, the proper amount administered at the right growth time for your permanent teeth would have saved a lot of dental work and expense later. We gave our two boys fluoride drops. Seems to be working for them, so far.

No doubt they spent too much time watching "This is Spinal Tap".

Would a meteorite that is only 400m in diameter actually survive its trip through the atmosphere?

NASA radars are monitoring 2005 YU55, an asteroid the size of an aircraft carrier, as it heads for a Nov. 8th flyby of the Earth-Moon system.



It is generally accepted that the Tunguska event resulted from the catastrophic disruption of a large meteor high above the ground. Previous studies have yielded diverse interpretations as to the meteor's size, composition, velocity, and density before its arrival. Nevertheless, there is consensus that the disruption occurred 6 to 10 km above the ground,4 depositing approximately 15 Mtons of energy in a narrow altitude band. In a comprehensive analysis, Sekanina concluded that the body was not a comet, but rather an Apollo-type asteroid 90-190 meters across.2 More recent work has suggested that the object was a stony asteroid perhaps 60 meters in diameter.1 In contrast, Turco et al3 concluded that the meteor was of cometary origin with an effective density of 0.003 gm/cm3 and a diameter of 1200 meters.

I am not fanning any conspiracy here, just answering your question :)

It certainly wouldn't survive its trip through the ground. I doubt it matters much if it breaks up in the atmosphere, the pieces are still going to hit, and the kinetic energy will be released anyway. Perhaps a bit more atmospheric heating and shockwaves, and a slightly smaller crater. Not sure if that increases or decreases the damage.

For a meteor with density X, there is a diameter Y wich, if the asteroid enter the earth, it will burn up and gassify before reaching the ground. When it comes to asteorid hits, the expression "Sice don't matter" as as untrue as it ever gets.

Mainly what matters is mass and velocity. The kinetic energy is going to be coverted to heat and shockwaves. Not sure it makes much difference destructionwsie if it vaporizes upon hitting the surface, or transmits its energy directly to the atmosphere. If the density is lower, the details of that energy dissipation will be different, but not the total amount of energy (for fixed mass).


Many meteorites that hit the surface are fist sized.

Depends on what it is made of.

If it is dust and ice, I'd bet not.

If it is nickel-iron, I'd bet yes.

If its made of a hunk of neutron star - well I'm guessing that looks more like a bullet thru an apple.

There seems to be a possible effect that doesn't need a strike:
The moon/Earth interaction can move water 20+ feet. Imagine a change. Injecting water for fracking seems to be linked to Earthquakes - could a change in the barycenter trigger quakes?

Guess we get a live experiment in the next few days. The sane thing if one thinks there will be changes in tides is put your fleet out in deep water. The US of A has perhaps made such a decision - how about other nation-states?

Unless this baby actually is neutron star material, the tidal effect will be minimal. Of course I really doubt neutron star material can exist -except under the impossibly fanfabulous pressure of a NS. Take a chunk out, and it will expand into normal matter. I think Neutronium is forever going to remain in SciFi and not the real world.

Last time I checked, the answear to the question if neotronium is stable or not was "We don't know". And I see no way to test it either. Ever. Maybe we can calcuate it theoreticly somehow, but that is FAR beyond me.

Every time I look at the moon I remember that I'm looking at the same side every time. So those big craters, were they there before the moon got stuck in its 28 day rotation, or did those things come whizzing past? They look symmetrical enough to be a direct, face on, hit. So how did they get there, or how close did they come?

Most of those craters are from the late heavy bombardment period, a few numdred million years rought 4BY ago. Of course the erath is a much larger target, so it would have had many more impacts than the moon. The moon has had its rotation tidal locked with its orbital period, back then it was closer, and the oribit/rotation rate was much greater than 28days.

back then it was closer, and the oribit/rotation rate was much greater than 28days.

Of course you meant much less than 28 days. But don't feel bad I often make such flubs when typing a post. Also the rotation of the earth was also much less than 24 hours. It once rotated in less than an 8 hour period.

Ron P.

Imagine the tidal waves of the time. Must have been 2004 tsunami style, or worse.

If you want to see what an asteroid would do to the Earth try ...


You can input parameters for: projectile diameter, desity, angle of impact, velocity, target type (rock/water), and your distance from the point of impact.

or you want to see what would happen if a nuclear bomb goes off in your city at try ...


Don't forget Jupiter, god knows how many meteorites/asteroids/comets headed for earth it has soaked up. Makes you wonder how lucky life on Earth has been.

When I peer up into the night sky and see the bright planet Jupiter, I now give a silent 'thank you' in appreciation for deflecting and soaking up all those past incoming objects, and like our planet's fabulously strong dipolar magnetic field, allows us shelter to exist here relatively unscaved in our little corner of the cosmos.

Delusional, the side of the moon facing us is just as likely to be struck by a meteor or a larger asteroid or comet as the other side. In fact it might be even more likely as the gravitational pull of the earth might pull them toward the moon.

However, in the early days of the solar system both the earth and the moon would have been hit equally as often except for the much larger surface and stronger gravitational pull of the earth means the earth would have gotten hit far more often. If the earth had no atmosphere and therefore no erosion, it would be just as, or even more, pot-marked with creators as the moon. Weather and has simply eroded the creators away.

The early solar system was much more violent than it is now. There were more planets and far, far more rocky asteroids circling the sun. Most of them long ago hit a planet, merged with a planet, the sun or drifted into the Kuiper Belt or Oort cloud. Some of them still circle close to the sun however, most of them between the orbit of Mars and Jupiter.

Ron P.

But of course, the two sides have very different appearances, not because of the number of craters but because of the concentration of maria -- basaltic plains -- on the side facing us. The issue of why most of the maria are on this side seems to be still open to debate.

Actually Ron, it's not so much weather and erosion which has erased most traces of meteor impact on Earth, but plate tectonics. Virtually all of Earth's crust has been heavily re-worked by plate tectonics in the interval between the late heavy bombardment and now. Of course, weather and erosion play a big part in that overall process too, turning mountains into sea bed, but you get my (continental) drift...

And just so as not to miss out, I see the UK is running four simultaneous Nuclear Emergency Exercises on the 9th November and another the following day.

NEAF Nuclear Emergency Exercise Programme

09 Nov2011 	Rosyth 	MoD 	Nightstar 11	 
9 Nov 2011 	Torness 	Flodden	 
9 Nov 2011 	Sizewell A 	Emu	 
09 Nov 2011 	Portsmouth 	Golden Fox 11
10 Nov 2011 	Winfrith

Time to take off the tin-foil hat and look for the heavy duty lead lined one maybe :-)

YU55 Live telescope tracking http://www.ustream.tv/channel/clay-center-observatory (it's the stationary dot near screen centre - the stars appear to move)

Link provided by Clay Center Observatory

Edit: Strange there are lots of other stationary points of light in the frame as well as the main body. I hope it's faulty pixels or else there's a swarm of smaller bodies surrounding it :-)

Probably just hot pixels on the CCD, they aren't doing dark frame subtraction at that refresh rate.

Some thoughts on Saturday afternoon's excellent ASPO-USA's education conference (organized by Sharon Astyk):

After attending the Saturday afternoon education session, I have begun to conclude (lots of people were there before me) that one of the most important actions that we could take on a local basis would to encourage greater vocational and agricultural training in high schools and community colleges.

Note that in Switzerland, which has the highest standard of living in the world, 70% of high school students are on a vocational track, with all vocational students graduating with some type of basic job skill, and the vocational students can then go on to higher levels of certification.

The last thing that we need in the US is more four year college and graduate school graduates, many of them with five to six figure student loan debts, who are very poorly trained for a post-peak oil environment.

You can't forcibly track students in America. You would immediately run into racial disparities, which would mean lawsuits and a national uproar.

I don't know how they achieve the 30% academic/70% vocational high school division in Switzerland, whether it is voluntary or state mandated, or some combination of the two (perhaps some European readers could respond). But I suspect that the myth that everyone should have a four year plus college degree will not survive very much longer.

I have talked to several community college instructors who are seeing catastrophic failure rates in technical science and math classes by poorly qualified developmental students. It's a continuing waste of resources and a waste of the students' time and money, at the same time that they are taking away spots from qualified students.

Jay Hanson did an interview years ago in which he predicted that the response to Peak Oil would be all wrong--lots of discussions of alternative energy--while not recognizing that they real problem is how do we control men, especially young men, when there is little or no job growth.

To continue commentary on the ASPO conference:

In the link uptop, World of Wall Street comments that the effects of fracking and horizontal drilling on global oil production was not discussed at the conference, and that this is a disappointing omission by ASPO. I agree. As a frequent reader of this site I have not seen an analysis of this topic (if there please direct me towards it). If fracking can be expected to provide nothing more than a drop in the bucket, the peak oil community ought to provide evidence. If its potential is still unknown, we should say that. If it could delay the peak/extend the plateau, that should also be discussed and analyzed.

Art Berman addressed it Thursday night, during the extended Q&A. The problem is that operating costs globally are much higher than the US, and he thinks that it is unlikely that we will see the kind of intensive shale efforts globally that we are seeing in the US.

On the gas side, Art noted that we are on quite a treadmill, and that about 40% of the current natural gas production in Texas & Louisiana comes from wells drilled in the past 12 months.

On the oil side, I estimate that 2010 and 2011 it took about 900 rigs on average to show a net increase in oil production of about 300,000 bpd, from 2009 to 2011, from about 5.4 mbpd to about 5.7 mbpd (annual average, C+C), or about 150,000 bpd per year. Since the world appears to be at about the same stage of conventional depletion at which the US peaked in 1970, this is probably not a bad metric to apply to global efforts.

Let's assume that we want to show a net 3% increase in global C+C production over the 74 mbpd rate that we saw in 2010, with a heavy emphasis on high cost shale plays. Based on the US numbers, we would need about 12,000* rigs.

Excluding the US, there are about 1,700 rigs around the world drilling for oil & gas:


*(74/5.5) X 900 rigs

It starts at home and the attitudes of indoctrination. As a high school teaher with a few degrees and trades under my belt, I am more than encouraging of taking a trade. My son makes 2.5 times what I do by working as an electrician in the patch. However, the bias is out there and very hard to overcome.

In Switz and Germany you are respected as a tradesman. In NA you are thought of as a second class citizen.


But I suspect that the myth that everyone should have a four year plus college degree will not survive very much longer.

I agree, and hope that blessed day hastens.

But you still won't be able to track students in America.

I agree.
I'm an elementary teacher in Ontario. Our Board (like many others) got rid of most of the elementary shop & home economics programs. This was most unfortunate: kids got a 90-minute period once a week as I recall, and for many it was the highlight of their week.
For the kids who struggled with academics, this was definitely the highlight and was probably an important factor in keeping them in school (if a kid had flunked and was 15 the truant officers rarely bothered them).

In home economics they did cooking and learned how to use sewing machines. In shop they did lapidary, wood & metal-working, and worked with plastics.
When the shop programs were closed, Tech was handed over to regular classroom teachers who lacked the equipment, the physical space and especially the expertise.
I believe that there has been some scaling back of the high school Tech programs as well.

Agriculture has virtually disappeared from the curriculum, yet old textbooks (pre-1950) are full of info about crops & livestock, info that urban kids have little knowledge of (nor interest in, though that could change in a hurry....).

The underqualified students are not taking away places from qualified students. They are just costing us money for the community college buildings, maintenance, utilities, and staff.

Money that is paid for via student loans. So ultimately it is these unsuitable students who pay for being in the wrong place (for them). But, it is society that is leading so many to take this route.

"while not recognizing that they real problem is how do we control men, especially young men, when there is little or no job growth."

I don't think it is about control. I suspect the real question is how do we reform these men to the truth if the hopes of economic growth are dashed without inciting anger and violence? All they want is a place in the world where they feel they belong. Young men fit in just fine in societies where there was little to no appreciable growth more than 200 years ago. This isn't a mole hill you need to make a mountain out of.

"All they want is a place in the world where they feel they belong."

..and as long as that place provides food, sex, and a territorial domain, even if it is abstract one, then I agree with you, although I also agree that there is real potential for implosion if these needs aren't met through some failure of the system - like Occupy, only orders of magnitude more disruptive and violent. I do agree with the spirit of your post that the problem is workable and not necessarily a cause for fear or alarm.

Those things that young men, and people in general value, aren't incompatible with a zero-growth model, IMO, given that the definition of growth is an expansion of population, housing, material wealth, and not cultural, or metaphysical or otherwise a growth in efficiency or sophistication. That second kind is the growth we need.

I hear it a lot, and I don't agree with the opinion that young men, or people in general, need to be gainfully employed producing something of material value for society in order to be content, or for society to work. I agree that they need to "have place" in an abstract, but visceral way.

It seems like both the problem and solution to this issue are presented by technology in the near future.

Automation threatens to completely disassemble our traditional model for employment. IMHO this process is already underway and has been for some time. Aren't the bulk of us in the first world already engaged in some abstract, informational relationship to the actual economy of production? We still maintain the illusion that our employment matters to distribution or production, when in fact much of our use to the economy consists in collecting pay, which maintains demand. But the near future threatens to strain the connection that our employment has to the actual economy to the breaking point. The next step will be to see our already meta-critical positions automated. Then new, ever more creative roles will have to be devised for human activity to be rewarded with the prize of demand-power.

Virtual space, on the other hand, offers near infinite capacity for "place" and "employment". Games, and creative interactive endeavors that have little affect on the actual world in the traditional sense of "getting things done", but are 100% effective in providing "gainful activity", in the sense of occupying time and energy for a generation of people, as well as distributing demand.

People trained and ingrained in the traditional model will complain about digging holes and filling them in again, but the complaint seems invalid. If the bulk of production is automated, then a perfectly harmless, perfectly useless employment is exactly what most people need to be engaged in. Careers in this case become abstracted further away from materials, and towards the abstract value they contribute to culture.

IMHO, it is the cultural acceptance of this change that will be most difficult to absorb, and we might fail, leading to war and chaos as a result of our confusion over what the actual purpose and role of a person is, especially for example young men. There's a tremendous capacity for disaster in a generation of people discovering that their 'labor' is not really needed, if the transition isn't carefully mediated. It's a potential break with tradition that will easily be perceived as a loss of status. And there's also a terrible risk in a failure of leadership as well, as people vent their outrage and confusion in the political sphere, just at a time leadership is most needed to gently shift society into a new mode. The irony is thick - imagine WW3 breaking out over the prospect of being given a license to permanent vacation!

On the other hand, there's hope that technology can organically fill the culture gap. For example, there's evidence that the drop in crime rates is related to the availability of violent, immersive video games and surrounding virtual culture and engagement.

Then there will always be people required to actually do and maintain them mechanism of automation: the Player Piano outcome. But if use tech right, we can avoid the malaise described in that book. Also, increasingly the aspects of real material production that have been taken over by industrial automation in the last century, will be taken back by the human players, depending on their value within the new abstract value system of culture. Farming, for example, and craft, and other, previously "low" industrial pursuits.

It's going to be an interesting century.

But it's definitely going to be an interesting century.

But students are tracked here. My mom has taught special ed and gifted students, and everything in between.

Students are tracked just about everywhere-you can take this to the bank.

The practice is simply lightly camoflauged as giudance and choice.

If you walk into any public school in this country, with a large enough enrollment to justify having several teachers in each subject area, or at least enough students for multiple classes,you will find all the evidence you need.

A given teacher is most like going to be teaching chemistry and physics classes for the college bound who are bound for real colleges-the places with admissions standards.Another tow teachers will have these same students in English and math classes.There will be a few students from lower class homes who have proven themselves against the odds mixed in with this elite group.Just about every kid whose parents are important people in the local community will be found in these classes, unless the kid is simply unable to do the work-and if the kid works at it, the work even in these classes is not all that tough.

A second group of kids not quite as sharp and not quite as well motivated will be found in classrooms that are still orderly and efficient, but the pace is more relaxed;some of these students may be in the fast track group in one or more subjects.These kids will get into run of the mill colleges without any problems.

Then there are the classes for the rabble-occasionally you will occasionally find a very talented and dedicated teacher in such classrooms, but on the average there is little or no homework assigned, and the teachers are not able to set tough standards for passing the courses;a token effort is enough, as the kids MUST be moved on the grade conveyer belt to the next grade.They know it, the teachers know it, the principal and the scholol board know it;only the parents, as a rule, are oblivious to this obvious truth.

And then there are the programs for the leftovers.If you ask any training manager at any place that needs good mechanics, he will tell you that the people who are actually graduates of such classes are generally very poor prospects-he would rather just train a raw recruit with basic academic skills and a good attitude, or steal an employee from another business.

Most tradesmen, especially those that do troubleshooting and repair work, really need a good grasp of the basic sciences, basic math, excellent reading skills, and the ability to think creatively and independently.This is particularly true in automotive work, as there are opportunities on a daily basis to work on cars and trucks that have engineering features the mechanic has never encountered before, and may never see again.

Unfortunately, we live in a society that values a poor lawyer or business manager more highly than a good plumber or electrician or auto mechanic.

If you walk into any functional public school large enough to operate in the fashion I have outlined above, and take the time to really find out what's what, you will find things as I have described them.

Of course there are many public schools that are simply nonfunctional.

In a few schools, you may even find somebody willing to admit or even declare that this is the way things are done.

OFM - been there and done that, know a lot of teachers.

As usual, I must beg forgiveness for my one finger typing.

Switzerland has the highest standard of living in the world by being the bank of every dictator and plutocrat in the world. They can afford to pay even their street cleaners to live really well. People are happy to be street cleaners and earn as much as university lecturer in most countries.

Banking makes up about 10% of the Swiss economy. The rest is mainly industrial, high value-added stuff like biotech, pharmaceuticals, precision machining....

...that one of the most important actions that we could take on a local basis would to encourage greater vocational and agricultural training in high schools and community colleges.

Vocational I can understand, but agricultural? What do those graduates do? The most productive land is already owned. Many rural areas in the US are depopulating because of the lack of jobs for the people born there. The typical small farmer is getting by through one or both of (a) they inherited their land so don't have a mortgage and (b) the farmer, the spouse, or both have "town" jobs in addition to full-time farming.

Interesting piece here about things in the US that surprise foreign visitors. I was struck by the number that mention do-it-yourself. Part of the reason for the demand for and success of tradespeople in Europe appears to be that home and/or property owners don't fix things themselves, they always hire tradespeople.

I find the American big stores down here very annoying. When you leave, after the checkouts, they pour over your purchases like 'What have you stolen?' 'What have you stolen?'.

There is a lot of DIY in the UK perhaps the USA has more of a habit of putting big DIY labels on things that the Brits would just consider a bag of nails.


Do it yourself is about as common in Europe as in the US and the big box-type do-it-yourself stores are also common in Europe. It is probably true that if you do hire someone in Europe to do some sort of home repair, they are likely to have has some sort of formal training, as opposed to the US, where anyone can claim to be carpenter or whatever.I am guessing that most of the vocational training in Europe is for industrial and retail-type jobs.

"Vocational I can understand, but agricultural? What do those graduates do?"

I don't know to what extent the degrees focus on it, but there's a growing interest in DIY agriculture that's outside of the big agricultural systems. So you can farm 30 acres, or you can work in advisory or seasonal positions. It's boom time for small farms, due to the growth of interest in diverse local and organic foods. Or rather, it ought to be, if the system weren't hired wired against 'em. They are trying.

"The most productive land is already owned."

Yeah, but the productivity of land is also a product of the farmer. If you go to school and study agriculture today, you may very well be learning how to turn bad land good - fact that's part of the definition of agriculture. And if you're doing it through organic methods, all the better.

Vocational I can understand, but agricultural? What do those graduates do? The most productive land is already owned.

The ones I know farm for a living. Typically they inherited their land from their fathers, but in today's high-tech world, you pretty much need a college degree to operate a farm successfully.

You could also buy the land, but it takes several million dollars in land and equipment to operate a successful farming operation, so it's a lot easier to inherit it. If you have several million dollars to invest, there are a lot easier ways to make money.

That's not totally correct - more commonly the father sells the land to the son on an easy payment basis and retires to Florida. Dad basks in the sun on the beach while Junior works 12 hours a day to make the payments.

Link up top: IEA economist: ‘We have to leave oil before it leaves us’

The International Energy Agency (IEA)’s annual World Energy Outlook, due for publication on 9 November, will contain alarming research that the world is on track for a catastrophic rise in global temperatures unless fossil fuel subsidies are cut...

I really don't think cutting subsidies would help a lot. However cutting fossil fuel use would not help very much either.

New Study Suggests EU Biofuels Are As Carbon Intensive As Petrol

A new study on greenhouse gas emissions from oil palm plantations has calculated a more than 50% increase in levels of CO2 emissions than previously thought – and warned that the demand for ‘green' biofuels could be costing the earth.

At any rate with the worst emissions coming from the third world nations, nothing is really going to happen to bring down emissions. It will happen, end of story. Cutting emissions while people still demand energy, fossil energy or green energy it doesn't matter, is just a pipe dream.

Ron P.

Good Morning Darwinian,

As usual you have hit the nail squarely and forcefully and I can't see any real holes in your arguments, excepting possibly just this one:

Maybe the world wide economy will collapse so suddenly and so sharply as a result of declining oil production and financially clogged arteries that coal consumption will follow suit, perhaps for decades.

It might take a pretty long time for the world economy to readjust itself to running on coal without the oil that keeps transportation and consumption healthy.

There are for instance so far as I know no ocean going cargo ships running on coal.Getting then designed and built , given uncertain prospects for their profitable long term use, might take several years.The tourist industry will likely collapse early, as it depends not only on oil directly for transportation, it also almost totally dependent on the discretionary income o0f the general public.There aren't enough rich people to support more than a very small fraction of the hospitality industry.

I am not predicting that such a scenario will come to pass;yours seems more likely, barring WWIII.But I do believe things could work out in a way similar to the one I have sketched out.


150 years ago almost ALL ocean going cargo ships ran on coal. The first to cross the Atlantic was the Great Western built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. The problem with coal is its low energy density, which meant that for small ships, they needed 100% or more of their cargo capacity to hold the coal they needed to sail across the ocean. To increase useful range, you needed to build big. In ships drag increases with the cross sectional area, whereas the displacement (and hence cargo capacity) increases with volume.

His later ships were even bigger, but the Great Eastern, the biggest ship of its day, was a failue. There were too few ports or quays deep or long enough for it to berth at.

You could easily run a supertanker on coal, or wind, or a combination of both.

Wind would be best. Ships managed for millennia with sails, and modern technology could work miracles. I expect sailing cargo ships will return, and it will be interesting to see at what point the cost of fuel oil makes them viable. I don’t see coal as an option since there is not enough cheap coal available and the old coaling stations around the world have gone.

I just hope that the social structures holding the world together can survive all the transitions we are soon going to have to make.

I just hope that the social structures holding the world together can survive all the transitions we are soon going to have to make.

How about some completely new social structures? What's so great about the current ones?

To be clear I'm not suggesting we throw the all the babies out with the bath water but some of them might need to go.

The rich 1% controlling the lion's share of the world's resources and social structures that support that would be one that comes to mind...

Social structures that push growth at all costs would be another one!

The largest windjammer -- the last of the sailing cargo ships, some in service through the 1950s -- built had a capacity of under 6,000 tons. Proposals for new wind-powered cargo ships like B9 Energy's would have a capacity of 3,000 tons or so. The smallest class of long-distance diesel-powered freighters goes up to about 20,000 tons; special purpose freighters for hauling ore have been built as large as 400,000 tons (and oil tankers to 550,000).

You simply can't hang enough canvas (or canvas equivalent through kites and such) to run cargo ships on the scale of those in service today. If reduced to wind, oceanic transport of bulk cargo is simply going to have to decline substantially.

More ships.

oceanic transport of bulk cargo is simply going to have to decline substantially

and maybe this is not a bad thing...

"..on the scale of those in service today.." There's one variable.. not just in possible population shrinkage, but just in shipping less superfluous stuff.

Also, 'Hanging Canvas' could be a very different reality with Nylons and Kevlar, etc.. and why can't we hang a bunch more of it, split between more ships, I mean?

Changes are inevitable..

You simply can't hang enough canvas

Is that really true? How does the speed of a sailing vessel scale with size? Sail area probably scales about as fast (or faster) than cross section. Acceleration would go down, i.e. the time to get up to speed takes longer for bigger ships.

I think the main impediments are (1) Inertia, we got used to oil powered ships, and like the convienient schedules. And (2) traditional designs would get in the way of rapid loading/unloading (stacking shipping containers via cranes). So some way to get the sails out of the way needs to be devised.

It doesn't have to be an either/or choice. There are options that permit wind to supplement a cargo ship's regular engine. Reduces fuel usage, but leaves the maneuverability and independence of a full engine.


There is a second, and in my opinion, equal, problem here. You can't run a just-in-time, globalized system without containerization. And if you look at the exponential growth of containerization from the '50's to now, one can't help but wonder if the curve will be bell shaped on the way down- that if you lose some containerization ability, you get shocks sent through the system.

Containers not only improve the economics of things being transported: its availability causes things to be shipped that would not be otherwise, like food being shipped to the west from China. A departure from containerization- perhaps caused by an inability to fuel the massive ships used to move them, maybe by an inability to finance some part of the system- would create societal bottlenecks that would be catastrophic.

Consider: how many stevedores are there in North America who can load and unload a ship carrying loose cargo, and how many piers exist that can service such a ship? My first thought is that there aren't any; my second thought is that there are far fewer than in the '50's(there may be some small, loose cargo along the coasts). And considering that we ship many times the amount of goods by sea, both in total and per capita, than we did in the '50's, even if we had the levels we had 50 years ago, it wouldn't be enough.

Smaller, sea-going sail craft are not going to replace ships carrying 15,000 containers at a time. The turn around times are far too long: a container ship is in port for hours, while unloading a loose cargo ship takes days. The economics of loading and unloading are at least as important as the low cost of fuel in the expansion of international trade in the last half century.


There's an excellent book on the topic: "The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger" by Marc Levinson.

I'm sorry, but I don't buy it at all.

It's a box. A standardized metal box, with hoisting and linking points. We surely have the ability to either create sailing ships that would carry 500 or 1000 instead of 15,000 containers, or to utilize other standard container sizes more suited to a different range of ships and order volumes.. It's not like we have to jettison standardized and interchangable parts, or dock cranes and gantrys along with the biggest of the container ships.. and be forced to somehow recreate the stepped gangplanks and hand-carried wooden crates merely by burly dudes with iron hooks.

It's a transition, we are going to shift a lot of things and no, it won't 'replicate' what we have or do today.. but that doesn't mean parts that replace what's there now can't work.. it's what's there NOW that will start getting weeded out as better options show that IT doesn't work any more. But just saying 'Sailing Ships' doesn't mean we're going back to SwashBuckles..

It's a box. A standardized metal box

No it's not. It's a huge system that depends on each link working. The top 20 container ports (LA is #16) handle almost half of the world's container traffic. It is the economies of scale that this level of aggregation has created that make globalization possible.

This system allows the continuous volumes of cargo that allow the container lines to schedule ships based on the knowledge that there will be freight to fill them. The schedules of containerized freight could not be done with the vaugaries of sail, caused by dependence on the weather and speeds that even in the best conditions are far, far, lower than a fueled vessel.

When you can show me a sailing vessel of any size that can keep schedule from Yokahama to Los Angeles plus or minus 15 minutes on a two week cruise, well, then we can talk. As has been pointed out here many times, just in time is the least resiliant system you can have. There is no give in the system. As soon as one link goes, you have a cascade of failures. There was a shortage of Hondas in North America because of a parts shortages due to the Fukashima disaster. If parts came into port with a schedule of +/- 3 months, this kind of problem would be an everyday occurrence; the underlying system would be untenable.

You can't have just in time without mass volumes of cargo, moving very fast, on a very precise schedule. It cannot be done with sail.

When you move away from containerization and aggregation, you do move back to burly guys with hooks. The costs of shipping things, which include fuel, manpower, finance, insurance, etc., become too great. You end up back in the '50's: most things are made locally. Only the most expensive items are worthy of oceanic shipping.


If I remember correctly the "burly guys with hooks" also stole about 15% of what came off of the ships. That was one of the major issues discussed when containerization was developing.

I do believe it. I had a college room mate who worked at an airline shipping dock. They pretty much stole everything that wasn't locked up or guarded. I suspect that, unlike the US Supreme Court, they figured that the corporations shipping goods weren't people and therefore fair game.

Containerization greatly reduced the cost of international shipping, and in addition greatly reduced the theft rate, which was a serious impediment to shipping. It used to require a crew of 20 longshoremen to load a ship, now it requires one guy operating a crane.

I don't think the industry is going to go back to bulk cargo.

If you look at the list of the world's busiest container ports, you will note that 8 of the top 16 are in China, and the busiest port in the US, Los Angeles, is #17 on the list.

Chinese railroads are being build to haul double-stacked containers under wire on electric trains, which is something US railroads don't do because they aren't electrified, and European railroads can't do because of height restrictions.

Indian Railways are also being modified to handle double-stacked containers under wire.

I don't think the industry is going to go back to bulk cargo.

If you look at the list of the world's busiest container ports, you will note that 8 of the top 16 are in China,

My original point was that containerisation is a complex system with no resiliency, and that it can't run without fossil fuels. If, or rather, when, we stop shipping stuff from Asia to the West, for whatever reason, a tipping point would/will be created. This tipping point could be financial, resource based, or political; I don't have a guess as to which or when.

Further to this argument, the trade is mainly one way. Huge numbers of shipping containers enter China empty. (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/29/business/worldbusiness/29iht-ships.htm...) When globalization ends, we will be back to such small quantities of oceanic trade that break bulk will be the rule again. And no, the industry won't like it ('cause all those double high tracks still have to be paid for), but as soon as it is uneconomic, containerization and globalization will end. Once again, no guess as to when or how fast the transition will be.


Exactly which part of the containerized transport system *requires* fossil fuels?

Fixed installation cranes are usually electric.
Trains can be and are electrified at many locations.
Semi tractors can also be electric.
Ships can run on wind and sun, even container ships.

Is there a part of the system I'm missing, or do you think that electrification of trucks is impossible?

Ships can run on wind and sun, even container ships.

As I said above, show me a sail powered ship that can make the trip from Yokahama to Los Angeles pier to pier in two weeks and make a schedule plus or minus 15 minutes, and we can talk. While an electric container ship is possible, I do not think it will ever be practical(someone else can do the math on how big a battery would be required(or how much a 6,000 mile extension cord would weigh), the recharge time, and, uh, what fuel you're going to use to make the electricity. As for running them on nuclear, I don't want to think about running 10 or 15 thousand reactors at sea.) If you don't have the fuel to get the widgets from China to the USA, you probably don't have the fuel to run the factories and produce the plastic to make the widgets. Similar economics to those that Gale always points out about wind turbines.

Is there a part of the system I'm missing, or do you think that electrification of trucks is impossible?

The part of the system that you're missing is that it's a system. Stuff moves in TEU's (Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit), thousands of them at a time. You have to move great masses of stuff from concentrated points. Without the economies of scale from this volume and aggregation, containerization and globalization are impractical. Without cheap fossil fuel inputs, it's more practical to make stuff here. No trans-oceanic shipping required. If it cost more to buy a plastic comb made in China than one made in Minnesota, would we be shipping them halfway round the world?

Leaving behind the question of whether we need those plastic combs, do we really need those combs delivered with clockwork precision? There will be many cargoes that could be delivered by sail with a precision of 'oh, they'll get there in 2-6 weeks'. I am used to getting mail deliveries that take 2 weeks to 4 months, that totally fritzes companies that I have dealt with that cannot understand that I cannot reply 'within 5 business days'. What is especially annoying is there is very rarely any need for e reply on that time scale. The system is tying itself up in knots about trying to keep up the BAU when there is absolutely no need for many things. So what if it takes twice as long to deliver 5,000 tons of plastic bowls.


Those plastic combs need to be there on schedule because it reduces Walmart's warehousing, debt service, and inventory carrying costs. If it takes twice as long as expected, their stores will run out of inventory, and lose customers. Walmart will fire the supplier. They don't have 5 months stock in the warehouse: they might have enough for 2 weeks. Once again, it's a system. It has it's own twisted internal logic, and it will work until it doesn't.

What follows, whether sail-powered or whatever, will not see the volumes that have allowed globalization. Smaller shipments mean increased costs all the way through the system. Increased costs mean smaller shipments. Repeat until only the most valuable and irreplacable items ship trans oceanic.


I don't believe it will work until it doesn't. With slower freight, you may choose between keeping JIT by using more local production and reducing JIT by keeping increased stocks. The likely result is a combination. We need a major catastrophe/war to get a global trade collapse. Else it will just shift slowly and almost imperceptibly.

So the music industry is dependent on the broad distribution of record players and the availability of cheap, high-quality vinyl?

If the time dependencies of the system change because fossil fuels get too expensive, WalMart and other companies using JIT supply will adjust or die, just like they pushed out the companies that weren't dependent on cheap, reliable transit before them.

Most of the 'plastic combs' (plus lots of other plastic goods) sold locally are sold by small shops not Walmart. My local Walmart runs out of plastic bags and just waits for them to come in rather than send someone 100 yards to the shop across the road or a few hundred yards to half a dozen that sell them in the local centre. They ran out of bananas the other day, well I guess they had to wait for them to come from Chiapas rather than buy them from the local farmers. I need plastic storage containers, Costco usually has the ones I really need. The store has been so full of Christmas junk (with no sign of anyone buying any, I've seen NONE in anyone's shopping carts) that they have emptied many regular lines to make space including the containers I am looking for, next stock 4 months time, yep I asked. Maybe they don't stock them at Christmas because their computer tells them they don't sell any at Christmas despite there being none on the shelf to sell! Time dependencies are rubbish, the time dependency has become a requirement because they have made it a requirement. If a new model came along they could adjust to it. It is simply a continuation of BUA, 'That's how we have always done it'. That reminds me, I must stock up on kitty litter as they always run out around Christmas, I guess cats sh****g doesn't fit into their business plan that includes plastic Christmas trees that sit on the display shelf for 3 months before being sold off in the post Christmas sale.


I'm sure there is a pro-nuker who's looking forward to putting civilian nukes on cargo ships.

What could possibally go rong?

Sails are more robust and efficient.

Solar electric has potential as well.

Why would any shipper go to the trouble?

"I'm sure there is a pro-nuker who's looking forward to putting civilian nukes on cargo ships.

What could possibally go rong?"

Economics were not there, but largely for political reasons.


Still, for a first try it was pretty decent.

I am reasonably sure that sailing ships will make a comeback, but as someone pointed out above, it just doesn't seem likely that they will support bau on the scale we have become accustomed to, or even close to that scale.

So far as I know, the biggest reason coal steamers went out was not their inability to haul enough coal to make them viable, either technically or economically, but rather the advent of the oil age.Oil was cheap in the early part of the twentieth century;and furthermore it is a lot more easily handled by pumping in and out of tanks and pipelines than coal which must be handled in railroad car sized batches and loaded and unloaded with much slower and more troublesome equipment requiring a lot more manpower and precious dockside space.

And of course oil is the more energy dense fuel by a good margin, so oil tanks will always be smaller than coal bunkers.

But if I understand the history of the steam engine correctly, there have been truly major improvements made in steam power efficiency since coal burning days, and of course we can build much larger ships today, with proportionately much greater hauling capacity;and we could undoubtedly save a lot of fuel by designing them to run at maximum fuel efficiency at much lower speeds.

Replacing the fueling infrastructure would probably be more troublesome, expensive, and time consuming by a long shot than actually building a fleet of modern coal burners-which somebody else has pointed out already.

But if it comes down to burning coal or giving up large scale open ocean shipping, I believe the coal burners will make a giant comeback.A big steamship will almost certainly out compete a necessarily much smaller and much slower sailing ship so long as coal is still fairly cheap;and it looks as if there will be plenty of coal for at least another fifty years or so.

We might even see oil hauled on coal powered ships someday;that does not seem any more unlikely than the sand country oil exporters installing huge solar pv farms in order to have more oil to sell later.

And while I do not support nuclear powered commerce, it does seem possible that small, modular reactors will be perfected-or at least, perfected to such an extent that they will be sold commercially.Such reactors can be standardized and built in factories, meaning that they might actually provide power a competitive price in a world where oil has skyrocketed.

I suspect the coal/oil competition was so much fuel density, as easy, and safety of handling. Coals seems to be a pretty compact energy source to me, but once mined it is broken up into pieces, which don't fit back together, so it is harder to move. The old coal powered ships required large crews to shovel coal into the boilers. And you had the danger of coal dust explosions. And coal piles were permeable enough to air, that once a fire got going deep inside a pile, the only way to put it out was to shovel the whole mass into the boiler. So the O&M costs and dangers were considerable compared to oil, which could be pumped through hoses and pipes, and also being a liquid wasn't susceptable to internal fires. I hope coal powered ships won't come back.
There are also other potential "renewable" ship power possibilities besides wind. PV is obvious. But people have demonstrated ways to turn wave motion into propulsion as well. So either single, or in combination one or more of these propulsive methods might become imprtant. I don't expect liquid fuel to totall vanish either, aside from being made from petroleum, there is both biolgical and physical means of producing limited quantities of liquid fuels. A sailing ship, might still carry a diesel engine to carry through dead spots, and for manuvering near port etc. So maybe we will see a gradual transition from:

(A) 100% bunker fuel.
(B) bunker fuel, supplemented by wind and/or PV to save say 30% of the fuel.
(B') Move the wind/PV component up to 75% as fuel becomes inceasingly pricey.
(C) Ships that get 90% of their propulsion from wind/PV, but still use liquid fueled power when the above isn't available, and the benefit of some continued propulsion exceeds the fuel cost.
I expect this evolution in ship power may take a century or more to transpire. To observors it will probably look a lot like shipping BAU.

It will come side by side with the nuclear powered vacuum cleaner.


Perhaps these nu-que-eaar thingamabobs can be made really small....

Here is a fact. America decommissioned a nuclear weapon called the “Davy Crockett,” a shoulder fired nuclear projectile the size of a soccer ball back in 1978.


That site is a hoot!

kind of like a 'Nuclear Onion'

Oh man, what's he been taking, I want to avoid it!


Although there's a load of rubbish at that site, what's wrong with the "Davy Crockett" reference?


I'm sure there is a pro-nuker who's looking forward to putting civilian nukes on cargo ships.

I do, and I think it will happen.

What could possibally go rong?

Not very much.

I'm sure there is a pro-nuker who's looking forward to putting civilian nukes on cargo ships.

I am one of them, I hope for very large and fairly fast nuclear container ships that can bridge the worlds electrified railway nets. They could also handle bulk freight with extra large containers. A few hundred of those could make a huge difference for the post peak oil era.

What could possibally go rong?

Manny things can go wrong but ships have unlimited cooling water with the ultimate emergency option of pulling the bottom plug. Thus I prefer water cooled reactors for ships, especially if teh fuel can handle months of salt water soak before recovery.

I doubt that we will ever see any more coal burning ships unless it is the only form of high energy fuel left. They are just too energy inefficient. A modern slow running large ships diesel has an energy efficiency of over 70% while even the most efficient steam turbine is in the order of 40%. With coal having an energy density of around half that of oil it also means that you have to have nearly 4 times the fuel storage, which cuts down your cargo space. Coal only became really effective as a long distance propulsion system for boat was with the advent of the triple expansion engine even then it took decades before it completely displaced sail.

I think your figure for diesel efficiency is too high. The highest efficiency I've seen for diesel engines is about 50%. HERE's a link. Powdered coal can be combined with a liquid hydrocarbon (or even water), to make a slurry which can be pumped and stored much like oil. The density of the slurry will be higher than that of bulk coal, since there are no voids to increase the volume...

E. Swanson

The one remaining coal burning ferry on Lake Michigan is fighting to retain its ability to dump coal ash into Lake Michigan:



In case you missed it, an aging pile of toxic coal ash adjacent to a Wisconsin coal plant collapsed into Lake Michigan early Monday morning.

"The density of the slurry will be higher than that of bulk coal, since there are no voids to increase the volume..."

But the water decreases the energy density while it increases the bulk density...a bad combination.

Perhaps the answer is compressed cubes of powdered coal ;>)

With bio-fuels, unless things like biochar can take Carbon out of the air and keep it out for 10's if not 100's of years and then making biochar and placing it in the soil, all one is doing is using photons to re-cycle CO2.

And given Man's willingness to use technology to squeeze out every watt Man can, of course the biomass will be oxidixed to CO2 for that additional watt.

Ayup. And how about this:


"Wood as a source of biofuel could compete with corn by 2020 if support for a wood biofuel industry is forthcoming, Canadian researchers say."

Now we can use up all the wood that's just laying around up here. Think that will affect the carbon cycle when the big northern forests and tropical jungles are sucked down the liquids pipe?

Yes, let's just eat the planet. Why not. What the hell.

The idea that there is all this "waste" cellulose-lignin (i.e. wood) lying around is just another manifestation of planet-eating idiocy. But it will happen if they can figure out a way. After all, every crumb of carbon-containing anything was obviously put here for us to burn baby burn.

That stuff needs to go back into the soil. It's not renewable, green, or whatever to burn it all up. It's NOT waste. Aarrgghh!!

What they need to do is stop composting biomass. Composting just turns the biomass into CO2. It is better to turn it into biochar and put the biochar in the soil where it lasts for a long time and improves the fertility more than does compost.

Biochar has a much longer lifetime in tropical soils than does any other type of carbon.

I am slowly working on the design of a top lit updraft gasifier to carbonize waste biomass, generate condensible liquids and some heat to supplement oil heat in the winter.

How do you turn food waste/yard waste into biochar? Let it dry first? I compost, but would much prefer burning everything because its so much faster.

i think it's gotta be 'burned' in a low or no oxygen situation. not quite as easy as a simple burn, but doable.

I've read about this and find it really interesting. Supposedly the Aztecs used some similar method to 'terraform' the yucatan. Not sure i've heard it called 'biochar' before tho, IMO that's a poor choice of branding :)

As I understand it, it's basically burning without oxygen, which results in all kind of complex carbon formations that perform all kinds of nutritional and structural support for bacterial/fungal health in soil. Am I right?

I have been wondering if it is possible to reach the right heat levels to create the stuff with parabolics and sun power in oil drums - i've got a few such experiments cooking :)

I guess you're talking about a methane burner of some kind? What's the condensed liquids part about?

Evidently if it isn't directly edible by us, or directly edible by animals that we plan to eat, or useful for fuelling steam boilers or engines of some kind, it's "wasted".

The monstrous stupidity -- I think I really mean "idiocy" -- of this prevalent attitude is beyond suicidal... can only be called omnicidal...

Exactly! The supreme arrogance of "If WE can't use it, it's just WASTED!" No thought that it might be part of something else that's working for us or maybe we're not the only important organism on the planet!

cosmodemonic maybe?

Fracking May Have Caused 50 Earthquakes in Oklahoma

Read more: http://www.care2.com/causes/fracking-may-have-caused-50-earthquakes-in-o...

I wondered about this, but ended up at "So?".

It is a given that the energy of fracking is minuscule compared to the energy released by a large earthquake.

Therefore, at most the fracking causes trivial earthquake or triggers a larger one.

However, early release of earthquake stress relieves growing stress at the quake point, and arguably prevents a larger quake at some arbitrary later date.

However, each quake release increases stress at fault points some distance removed from the quake. At some point, a large and damaging quake could be thereby hastened.

To me, all this says is that we should expected unexpected side-effects of applications of technology, and we should design-in safety factors for homes, bridges, dams, and buildings. Statistically rare but high impact events do happen -- that's where black and grey swans come from. General resiliency is the only defense.

However, each quake release increases stress at fault points some distance removed from the quake. At some point, a large and damaging quake could be thereby hastened.

Missouri has one of the larger faults in the continental U.S. I'm waiting to see if these Oklahoma quakes trigger a much larger one in our neighboring "Show Me" state.

Earthquake insurance, anyone?

The four earthquakes at New Madrid, Missouri in 1811-12 were among the largest in North American history. Fortunately, there were very few people around at the time, and most of them lived in teepees, tents, or log cabins. (Log cabins are highly earthquake resistant).

The New Madrid Seismic Zone

The New Madrid Seismic Zone, sometimes called the New Madrid Fault Line, is a major seismic zone and a prolific source of intraplate earthquakes (earthquakes within a tectonic plate) in the southern and midwestern United States, stretching to the southwest from New Madrid, Missouri.

The New Madrid fault system was responsible for the 1811–1812 New Madrid earthquakes and may have the potential to produce large earthquakes in the future. Since 1812 frequent smaller earthquakes were recorded in the area.

Earthquakes that occur in the New Madrid Seismic Zone potentially threaten parts of seven American states: Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi.

Potential for future earthquakes

In a report filed in November 2008, The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency warned that a serious earthquake in the New Madrid Seismic Zone could result in "the highest economic losses due to a natural disaster in the United States," further predicting "widespread and catastrophic" damage across Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, and particularly Tennessee

Potential for future earthquakes...

Thanks, RMG, that's the one I was talking about, of course. Yikes. I guess we'll just hide and watch...

"Global oil demand is expected to peak before 2020 as a "perfect storm" of regulation promotes energy efficiency, new technology and biofuel use across the world, according to a new study. "

lol, these stuff are so funny (even though a bit pathetic )

I wondered when the "peak demand" narrative would reappear. It seemed like they were floating it out there as a trial balloon a couple years ago, but then it disappeared from mainstream discourse. It will be interesting if we start to see more coordinated messaging this time.


"Peak Demand" on Thanksgiving:

You push the plate away after dinner, too stuffed to eat anymore.

Peak Demand to Yerginites on Thanksgiviing:

The Salvation Army is running out of soup and the lines begin to get smaller.

Answer requested.Just a few weeks ago someone posted that VLCC's were having problems getting enough cargo.Can these VLCC's be converted into bulk carriers of say grains or into container ships,or are they going to be scrapped as ELM is surely taking place?

I thought it was an interesting question so I googled a bit. Frontline (FRO) recently sold a ship to VTN. The first quote is a company supplied description of VTN. So I found that FRO is selling a Suezmax to VTN (who is partly owned by FRO) at loss of $29 million USD. LOL! Anyway, the ships aren't being scrapped at this time and it appears they will still be used to hold oil/oil products.

It is a wholly owned subsidiary of Farahead Holdings Limited forming part of a group of companies which include Frontline, SeaDrill, Arcadia Petroleum and Golar LNG Ltd

Frontline Ltd. Seeking To Sell More Ships

While sale prices for the “Front Hunter”, “Front Fighter” and “Front Striver” weren’t disclosed, the ships fetched prices just above scrap values, industry analysts have said.

Bermuda’s Frontline Sells Suezmax Tanker

The sale will result in a net cash outflow of approximately $0.3 million, after repayment of bank debt, and the company expects to record a loss of approximately $29.6 million.

Tks for the effort,but what sort of oil/oil products can a VLCC hold,after all its 2million barrels of liquid(84 million gallons)capacity?Is there a single oil product produced in such large quantities to fill a VLCC?There are fire and safety issues also.If they fetch only a little above scrap value now then I think they will be headed to the scrap yard soon if you can't get enough business to keep them afloat.

Scrub it out thoroughly and use it to ship potable water?

You hit another problem as you would not be able to load them to the same degree because of the higher density of fresh water over oil. But it is certainly something to think about if the price of shipping fresh water is cheaper than the cost of desalinating an equal amount salt water in let us say for example in the middle east.

An alternative to Heat + Water -> Steam + Turbine -> Energy

New Materials turn Heat into Electricity

... "This boiling and condensing of water requires massive pressure vessels and heat exchangers to contain the water," said researcher Richard James, of the University of Minnesota.

Instead of water to steam, the James's team's idea is to use a martensitic phase transformation that occurs naturally in some multiferroic materials.

"Ni45Co5Mn40Sn10 is a remarkable [multiferroic] alloy," said James. "The low temperature phase is nonmagnetic but the high temperature phase is a strong magnet, almost as strong as iron at the same temperature." The researchers immediately realized that such an alloy could act like the phase-transitioning water in a power plant.

"If you surround the alloy by a small coil and heat it through the phase transformation, the suddenly changing magnetization induces a current in the coil," said James. "In the process, the alloy absorbs some latent heat. It turns heat directly into electricity."

The consequences for the technology are potentially far-reaching. In a power plant, one would not need the massive pressure vessels, piping and heat exchangers used to transport and heat water. Since the transformation temperature can be adjusted over a wide range, the concept is adaptable to many sources of heat stored on earth with small temperature differences.

The thermodynamic efficiency is a figure of merit. An ideal Carnot engine has an efficiency of (Tmax-Tmin)/Tmax. So the question arises how does this thing compare to an ideal Carnot engine. I wouldn't be surprised if it does quite poorly. Then of course there is the cost. It sounds like another sort of thermoelectric generator. Might be interesting if it can be cheap and efficient enough to find a niche somewhere. I doubt it will replace large scale turbines however..

Whether it does well or poorly compared to the Carnot efficiency will determine how likely it is to replace conventional turbines.

It sounds like an interesting technology, though, so I'm sure it will find some niche applications even if it's not a total game changer.

Though it's hard to extract from the article, they seem to suggest that it can operate at a much lower temperature differential. Additionally, the material is tunable to temperature range.

It may be useful in some niche applications

All depends on the temperature one can use it. It takes alot of thermal energy to make steam from water. Less if you are using other fluids - its why organic liquids are used with scroll-type motors in systems that use sunlight as the power source.

If it can take photons that are stopped and converted into heat and make electrical power for less than present PV panels - there is a use. Might even be a use if they can last longer.

If they can use 'low grade waste heat' - again, another use.

I could imagine a hybrid PV panel. A normal panel, but the waste heat powers the thermo-electric component to increase the efficiency beyond what the bare PV can deliver. Maybe this might makes sense for high concentration PV, where the efficiency of the actual cell is very important.

Re. the wonderful ASPO-USA Conference Report: Friday Note above.

The author notes that "Hirsch rightly defines "the problem" as a liquid fuels problem, not a general energy problem.

This seems like an irrelevant distraction. If you have nothing that can replace liquid fuels and maintain your economies, then does it becomes a "general energy problem" ???

Hirsch in 2005 said we needed 20 years lead time to prepare for this "liquid fuels crisis" - we did not prepare.

If we were now prepared to move onto a new source of energy, then we could say "it is a liquid fuels problem."

But until we have way to replace the liquid fuels, it sounds like we have a General Energy Problem to me.

On the contrary, can you run an aluminum smelter on liquid fuels directly?

It is primarily a transportation energy problem. Which means liquid fuels.

Or did I miss all the posts on oil-powered factories needing to retool for electric power?

Oil provies 25-30% of ALL primary energy used by man. Peak oil is not peak energy, but we cannot simply replace oil with another source because we cannot expand other energy sources fast enough.

The USA replaced or converted almost all oil-burning power plants with coal, natural gas, and nuclear in the '70's.

Other countries can and will do likewise in their time.

Ships can be powered by sail.

The top rail services in the world are electric.

The military is working on alternatives to petroleum (for logistic reasons, but they get Peak Oil).

This leaves road vehicles and airplanes.

I suspect that the impact will be more sideways than downward, cars are neat and all, but most of the world for most of time has gotten by with a lot less transportation than most of the west uses.

Random, you have a nice wish-list here - I see a lot of "can be done" statements... but can they?

What is your time line for these global changes? Outside of the petri dish, do you think your plans have a snowballs chance in hades? Don't be a Yergin, consider the Real World when making your plans above.

Not only can they, but many of them are already being done.

Unless it's "all or nothing" there will continue to be international trade, long distance travel, and other trappings of modern society for a long time.

The world is not a homogeneous system, and it certainly isn't a petri dish.

Agree about the heterogenous nature of civilization - and the heterogenous nature of collapse - and that it is not a petri dish where we minimize the variables and control them (and tell our thesis advisor there were too many "above agar variables" in the damn petri dish when our experiments fail ;).

No doubt there will always be an economy of some kind as long as people exist. But as discussed a couple posts down, the critical nature of oil for this global economy makes its depletion a General Energy Problem.

Also agreed "many are already being done" in terms of efforts on your wish list... far too little, far too late ???? Like Hirsch said, we needed a couple decades of serious effort. We jacked off instead. Not even the Caty-in-the Hat could fix this mess before Mother gets home.

I'd be the last person to claim that the future will be a bed of roses, that would be a break with all historical precedent (including the news of today for anyone who's paying attention).

But the planned fixes are only necessary to maintain the status quo, and keep people from getting dumped on.

History says that adaptations will happen, and a lot of people will suffer anyway, and life will continue altered to whatever people can work out.

we are discssing a peak not a complete loss of liquid fuels. The ability of societies to substitute fuel will depend in part on the slope of the downcurve. What ends up being "fast enough" is not really clear yet, I suspect.

One thing slight disagreement : "Peak oil is not peak energy" - the jury is still out on that.

Peak oil might just be "peak energy" production for man, that remains to be seen.

Peak oil is almost certainly peak energy. Oil is an "enabling resource", in other words, it enables us to get all the other energy (and other non-energy resources). When oil production goes down, it becomes very difficult (I would say impossible) to ramp up the alternatives to meet the previous high water mark.

... almost certainly peak energy [day]

If you mean the day the human race generates the most energy (as opposed to Nature),
probably it will be World War III Day --the one where we explode all our nuke bombs in a MAD rush to get to the Revelation

Roger that to both points - enabling resource, and the difficulty (futility) of responding when at the peak, or when depletion of oil begins.

Now ... our "Fight/Flight/Freeze" response is kicking in but we did not have our Wheaties this morning and cannot mount an effective response - adrenaline-rush, or no adrenaline-rush.

"primarily a transportation energy problem"

Primarily Liquid Fuels are the Achilles' heal of energy production for Man right now - without them you lose your functioning economy and all other energy production systems are in jeopardy.

There is no reason to assume we will recover "someday" to higher energy use via other methods currently "on-drawing-boards."

This is especially true considering climate change, the current population pressures, the current competition for resources... in other words, the current Real World.

There every reason to believe we have blown the "One Shot" Fred Hoyle warned us about.

(also: "can you run an aluminum smelter on liquid fuels directly?" as well as "oil-powered factories" = completely irrelevant tangents)

I was struck by this comment:

Wes Jackson, President Of The Land Institute gave the lunch key note speech and gave an agriculture needs to be sustainable speech and got a standing ovation. This clearly shows that ASPO is aligning itself with the general "green" sustainable movement and cannot be considered to be an objective energy obsever any more.


So it's OK to just study peak oil, or even to conclude [gasp!] that it's a real problem, to try to convince others [omg, advocacy!] that it's a real problem... but not to show any enthusiasm for any strategies that might mitigate the impact?

That's somehow not objective? Whereas rigorously avoiding any discussion of strategies for mitigation (topics which occupy a hella lot of bandwidth here at TOD) would be objective?

Interesting. It's like it's OK for your doctor to show you your symptoms and tell you that you are a hairsbreadth away from myocardial infarction, but not for him to mention that more exercise and better diet might help... or something like that. Anyway it strikes me as odd too.

Wes Jackson, President Of The Land Institute gave the lunch key note speech and gave an agriculture needs to be sustainable speech and got a standing ovation.

OMG! Noooo! How could any decent human being, possibly even suggest, that agriculture needs to be sustainable?!

This clearly shows that ASPO is aligning itself with the general "green" sustainable movement...

That alone should strike terror into the hearts of any red blooded, God fearing American, who never in a million years could imagine being in an alliance with the general (can't even mention that color) sustainable movement...

... and cannot be considered to be an objective energy obsever any more.

Unlike the completely objective and unbiased commenter!

Disclaimer, I myself have a rather deep dislike of the term 'Green' when it comes to ecologically sustainable practices and feel it long ago lost it's meaning. It has been hijacked for purely propaganda purposes by every Tom, Dick and Harry who pretends to be pro environment. Still, the point made by the commenter is patently ridiculous!

"This clearly shows that ASPO is aligning itself with the general "green" sustainable movement and cannot be considered to be an objective energy obsever any more."

I have always thought of them as very closely linked. In fact, most of the people I know who are interested in peak oil are also interested in sustainable agriculture. Farmers were well-represented at the 2008 ASPO I attended, and they were here as well.

It was predictable (in fact, it was predicted in this forum) that, as Peak Oil started becoming more main-stream, entrenched interests would start pushing back against the idea, in the same way as they created the false climate "debate".

We should expect to see more of this, and tougher pushback.

Of course, as the effects of Peak Oil start to become more apparent to the casual observer, one can hope it will become harder to deny. If this year's weather events are anything to go by, though, I would think oil shortages are going to be blamed on just about anything other than the fact that we are hitting limits.

This is something that can cause massive snowstorms in the NE AND melt Greenland glaciers at the same time. It's here to stay for the next 15-20 years.

Stalled weather systems more frequent in decades of warmer Atlantic

The researchers observed the frequency of blocked weather events in the North Atlantic –from the equator to Greenland– over the entire twentieth century and compared it to the evolution of ocean surface temperatures for the same area. They then removed the effect that global warming has on water temperatures, and found that decades with more frequent, recurring blocking events in the North Atlantic corresponded to those decades when the North Atlantic Ocean was warmer than usual, as it is now.

The team also found that these short-term weather blocking events impacts beyond the atmosphere and may ultimately alter ocean currents.

Technologies for the city of tomorrow -- Morgenstadt

A city that obtains its power from renewable resources, where electric cars move quietly along the streets and which emits almost no carbon dioxide - German federal minister Mrs. Schavan and the president of Fraunhofer, Hans-Jorg Bullinger, shone a spotlight on the scenario of a sustainable city of the future in the vision of "Morgenstadt".

LOL. "Morgenstadt"? Did that come from a branding-and-marketing class of third-graders? Does it seem to native German speakers to be as cloyingly contrived a bit of manipulation as it looks to be from the outside?

Peak Oil and ERoEI: Still Nonsense in Forbes magazine.

Hi everyone,

I often go by the screen name "Edwin Drake" whenever I am prowling around the MSM news sites where Peak Oil gets (sometimes) mentioned. My habit is to read and comment and spread the Peak Oil message via the "readers comments" sections of MSM news sites.

Well ... there is a Forbes article in today's Drumbeat posted up above by Leanan called "Peak Oil and ERoEI: Still Nonsense" published in Forbes Saturday November 5th, 2011. http://www.forbes.com/sites/timworstall/2011/11/05/peak-oil-and-eroei-st...

That particular news item is sort of my fault. Here's the background of why that November 5th article was even written in the first place ...

That article's very existence is because of something I said to that Forbes writer via "reader's comments" this past Friday night. I had challenged the writer, Tim Worstall, by dropping a reader comment on Friday night into a completely different (older) article he wrote back in October called "Peak Oil, Entirely Nonsense: As is Peak Gas" published in Forbes October 19, 2011. http://www.forbes.com/sites/timworstall/2011/10/19/peak-oil-entirely-non...

The original comment I made at him in that old article was one where I said to him (while under the screen name "Edwin Drake") that he needs to get a clue about the reality of what ERoEI is and what ERoEI means for our economy and our civilization, and that unless he comes to understand the seriousness of ERoEI, he has no business writing about Peak Oil. He replied to my comment by saying "ERoEI just doesn't mean very much" (as far as actual economics are concerned). I was so floored by what he said that I told him I would be spreading the word among other Peak Oilers about his opinions. Thus this latest news piece from him (published just a few days ago) where he calls ERoEI "nonsense."

So, guys, anyone here wanna either go and comment at Forbes? Or blog about this dude named Tim Worstall who somehow thinks ERoEI is "nonsense?"

Is he even worth bothering with?

Thanks for your thoughts.

--Innocent Byroduct (aka Edwin Drake)

What shale has really done is destroy the whole Peak Oil, and peak gas, argument.

Personally, I would not waste my breath as the author doesn't actually understand the concept of peak oil. One clue, is that he never discusses the rate of extraction.

I would not waste my breath as the author doesn't understand ...

[Author]: I'm a Fellow at the Adam Smith Institute in London, a writer here and there on this and that ... I am.

It's not what the one author understands or not, but rather the school of thought he comes from.

More specifically:

Peak Oil and ERoEI: Still Nonsense:

technology is advancing at such a rate that we’re [basically] discovering entire new planets to explore for the stuff [fossil fuels ... and therefore:]

while the math and physics of ERoEI is just fine, indisputable even, it’s just not a very useful conceit [(concept?)] except in certain very limited situations ... [] ... because we’ve got vast amounts of energy coming to us as sunlight. Huge, massive, great big gobs of it. And we’re entirely happy to use it copiously, waste huge amounts of it, because there is so much... [And there-] For the math and the physics of the idea [ERoEI] only apply in certain very specific circumstances, not as a general rule across life or the planet..

...because we’ve got vast amounts of energy coming to us as sunlight. Huge, massive, great big gobs of it.

Well, yes--we do have a lot of sunlight hitting the Earth. But, all of the sunlight that isn't reflected back into space is already being used: it powers wind, evaporates water, heats the atmosphere, provides energy for ecosystems, etc. And, those ecosystemic uses of sunlight provide ecosystem services that have concrete value for humans.

On a related note, does anyone know if anyone has looked at the results of large-scale solar on the Earth's albedo? The Sahara reflects a lot of light back into space--but if large solar plants collected that energy and turn it into electricity, which later is turned into heat, would that effect be significant?

does anyone know if anyone has looked at the results of large-scale solar on the Earth's albedo?

Its been discussed several times. The bottom line is that our climate problems are not caused by direct heating (from energy generation), but rather by greenhouse effect of released gasses, which over the centuries trap thoudands of times more heat, than was peleased by their combustion. So the bottom line, is we could generate todays energy use with solar with only minor impact. The key here is "current", if we try the exponential growth thing, we get into trouble before long.

IB - I applaud your activism. But to a degree he's correct:" ERoEI just doesn't mean very much" (as far as actual economics are concerned." EROEI does mean something. You may not have seen it but we just had a discussion about drilling economics vs. EROEI. Long before EROEI can get too low the lack of economic justification will kill a drilling project. While a certain amount of energy is used to drill any well, the cost of the energy is a relatively small fraction of the total cost. No one is going to spend $6 million to drill a well that produces $3 million worth of oil even if it only took $500,000 worth of oil to drill it. The well might produce 6X as much oil as it produces but no one will intentionally spend $6 million to net $2.5 million worth of oil.

IMHO EROEI is not "nonsense". It's a parameter that is related to energy production. In some cases a very critical aspect. But in the drilling for oil/NG it is not a controlling factor. Which is why the oil patch has never used it to make drilling decisions...and never will. We drill to make a profit...no profit...no drilling. And no profit happens long before EROEI reaches 1.

But from his article, it does seem clear that he doesn't even think that the point is a problem with 'Low EROEI'.. like 4:1 or 2:1 .. he seems to be under the impression that it doesn't even apply until it has passed below 1:1

I don't doubt your regular explanation about drilling economics is accurate, but that profitability is still clearly a direct function of EROEI, as is the overall cost of oil. So far, the industry's profitability has not been hit as hard as the barrel price, which remains robust in a stumbling economy that still pays the freight, and abandons some lesser expenses in the meantime... they gotta have their oil, which allows your industry to continue to act as though EROEI is not really much of an issue. The bills are still getting paid.

The Road's gotta roll.. after all. (Old Heinlein story..)

Innocent; did you see ANY comment over at Forbes that at least helped clarify that EROEI isn't close to his silly analogies?
Everything I saw in the comments allowed themselves to get sidetracked, so his points have really not been confronted yet. (I'm not joining that fray just now.. would you care to take on that response over there?)


joker - True...that's why I would argue that EROEI is a factor. But just not a dominant one. Drilling rig demand has a much greater impact than EROEI for instance. High demand and an offshore semi rig can got for $700,000/day. Low demand $400,000/day. For a 90 day well that's a $27 million difference...many times more than the fuel costs. But as you point out there's a relationship between all the components.

BTW: not looking for any tears of compassion but the oil patch is struggling with profitability of new ventures. Great profits on existing oil production that paid out years ago. But new drilling ventures are not looking as profitable as many might think. Costs have also shot up. But even worse is the lack of major exploratory targets. All the public companies are going nuts with the resource plays. And for good reason: they have very little else to drill. Existing conventional drilling projects, even at today's high oil prices (and modest NG prices) are difficult to find in this country. Certainly not enough prospects to justify at least half the companies in the oil patch IMHO. I will be forever thankful the public oils are chasing the resource plays in order to keep Wall Street happy. If they were spending those $billions chasing the conventional plays I go after I doubt my company would would be in business today. We make a much better profit margin than the resource players...but only if we drill. We don't have enough prospects to drill now and certainly not enough to share with those public oils.

Most won't believe it but the oil patch is approaching panic mode. Despite the glossy press releases of the public oils, who understands the implications of PO more than the folks who are tasked with finding all those cornucopian reserves? I'll overstate the situation: the oil patch has cancer. We know it and all we can do is take much chemo (shale plays) as we can handle but in the end the survival rate will not be high. In the meantime we'll flaunt our remission thanks to the resource plays. But all they've done is halt the spread...the disease is still there. The disease of finite resources. The resource plays are also finite. When they have all be drilled up in 10 or 15 years most of the domestic oil companies will cease to exist IMHO.

But at some future point where drilling/processing/distribution of rock oil is powered by not-storable electricity Mankind is exchanging an energy source that is 'not storable' for one that is 'more storable'. The "economics" of such a project may not matter if one is getting a storable or perhaps something convertible into a larger impulse power.

But in the drilling for oil/NG it is not a controlling factor. Which is why the oil patch has never used it to make drilling decisions...and never will.

Which is why I have never liked the term EROEI. Drillers are not necessarily interested on energy returned on energy invested. But they are definitely interested, and do make decisions on expected ROI. Expected return on investment rules the investment world. No one makes an investment expecting to lose money.

Ron P.

No one makes an investment expecting to lose money.

I don't think that is true. Maybe you meant to say" no one makes an investment expection to lose their own money " ?

b - A valid point. I've told the story more than once of a company that drilled 18 dry holes and netted $millions. Obviously didn't drill those wells with their own money.

Thanks rockman for correcting your typo. Maybe I'm just being picky, but weren't there an inordinate number of misspellings and typos in this drumbeat?

I find them distracting to the focus of the post.

Here is just a sampling:

as as
[As a high school] teaher
possibally go rong

My browser red underlines misspelled words. And yes, I forgive OFM for his one finger typing.


That's correct as far as I am concerned.

There are many of us out here who set our u's in honour and colour and labour and harbour and flavour.

Probably the same ones who pronounce "Z" as zed not zee.

The errors may be a sign that we've reached maximum empower, and the errors are increasing due to difficulty processing, recopying, and refining information. Too much information, not enough energy to process at high levels into coherence. Or maybe it's just that Fukushima radiation is now attacking internet DNA, too? :-}


yup. investors (oil companies) optimize for dollars, not energy.
similary, montesanto optimizes for dollars, not food quality.


From the Wall Street Journal:

Dalai Lama: A Role for Nuclear Power in Development Process

“Just to look at it from one side then to make a decision is not right,” he said. While speaking to the benefits of nuclear energy, however, he underlined the holistic lens needed to be pointed at the issue of risk as well. Nuclear energy specialists “should take maximum sorts of preparations.”

Pro-nuke advocates often can't see the risks.
Anti-nuke advocates often can't see the benefits.

And then both sides wonder why the other doesn't seem to be persuaded by their arguments.

I think you and I, for example, can both see benefits and risks in Nuclear Power.. but we end up gauging their importance and ultimate weight differently. I don't see those benefits coming anywhere near the risks, which worsen slowly and almost invisibly, but steadily through the years, and the pressure to relicense old reactors is higher than ever.

At this point, specifically the deepening vulnerabilities to Economic, Grid, Truck fuels, Quality Replacement Parts Suppliers and Weather disruptions are a few, large strikes against nuclear power plants, strikes that override any of the benefits of that much electrical generation. They require too many inputs just to keep these expensive thorobreds stable and secure. We need Draft Horses and Mules.. to continue the analogy.

I've actually enjoyed my discussions with you on the topic, and learned a few things in the process.

Not much point in a rehash today, as I don't really have any thing new.

Cheers.. I'm resheathing the sabre and getting back to setting up dinner for the little one.


jokhul, spot on!

Everyone out there who likes nuclear power, first, read the latest posting of Steve from Virginia on his blog, Economic Undertow. He has been predicting that Fukushima would go critical, now it has, and now he is writing that it could easily turn into a huge nuclear bomb (soon?) once the melted cores reach bedrock, where build up in energy flux is more possible. Fallout would devastate Japan and reach many other countries in significant amounts.

And second, try to think about a simple life without lots of electric appliances, but where you have the security to know that tomorrow your world won't blow up in a nuclear explosion. Do you know how much such security would be worth to me and my family? We have been ripped apart by Fukushima, devastated in many ways that I won't go into in detail.

I was never a big fan of nuclear power, feeling that it fed excessive appetites that were better not fed, and also feeling that the technology was fallible and so were humans. But now that I have become a radiation refugee myself, and may (if Fukushima explodes) turn into one again as I flee farther this next time, I can say from personal experience that the insecurity it breeds is like no other.

Is mankind REALLY SUICIDAL or does it just seem that way to me?


Sometimes, but not always. We're set up for some big lessons right now. Europe, Ice Caps, Coal, Fission, Banking ...

'Hold onto your butts', as Sam Jackson said, switching off the breakers in Jurassic Park.

Hang in there, Pi.

Learn how a nuclear bomb works, then worry about real risks.

A criticality event in the melted down fuel at Fukushima has the potential of causing a steam explosion. That's a serious enough risk that people don't need to make stuff up to be afraid of.

Did you read steve from Virginia's blog post referred to - http://www.economic-undertow.com/2011/11/07/non-battle-of-fukushima/ ? (I've no connection with steve by the way).

Did you read the Los Alamos "Underground Supercriticality" papers I posted recently? Did you check up on the Zimmerman Plutonium Oxide bomb anyone can build unfueled in a garage?

Want to start thinking about just how many other "interesting" properties of plutonium/uranium and their compounds you might not be aware of, or even if you are, hadn't considered at Fukushima?

Bottom line: According to Los Alamos and others there are nuclear bomb explosion risks from civilian reactors and their "spent" fuel in accident (or terrorist) situations. Just one of the many things the nuclear power industry never mentioned.

In the book 'The Angry Genie' author Karl Morgan describes a number of criticality incidents in the early days of nuclear development. In one incident a reckless researcher pushed blocks of U-235 together with a screwdriver causing an explosion. Seems like it isn't that difficult for a criticality incident to happen.

The book is a good read. Morgan was one of the developers of the LNT theory.

In one incident a reckless researcher pushed blocks of U-235 together with a screwdriver causing an explosion.

Ummm... I would have known about that, I think.

What you describe could be a badly mangled version of the second Demon Core incident, however.

They involved a ball of plutonium, not uranium; the scewdriver was keeping neutron reflectors apart, not pushing blocks of Pu (or U); and there was no explosion.

But reckless, yes....

I was going by the description in the book. It was a fairly cursory description but other descriptions, such as the Wikipedia entry, leave one to believe that an explosion might have occurred if Slotin had not reacted to prevent it. However, the point remains that a criticality event is not that hard to create.

We are talking different sorts of events. In the meltdown scenario you don't have the same quality of fissionable material. But maybe with water mediation you can get a chain reaction going. Of course the steam will blow the thing apart before too much energy is liberated. We are not talking about multi kilotons yield, but something more like a dirty bomb.

It would not have exploded, it would have melted first.


Plutonium does some funny things when you heat it up

Thermal Expansion

Plutonium undergoes more phase transitions at ordinary pressures than any other element. As plutonium is heated it transforms through six different crystal structures before melting — α [alpha], β [beta], γ [gamma], Δ [delta], Δ′ [delta prime], and ε [epsilon]. Physical properties like density and thermal expansion vary significantly from phase to phase making it one of the more difficult metals to machine and work. The metallurgy of plutonium is best left to the experts.

One of plutonium's unique physical properties is that the pure metal exhibits six solid-state phase transformations before reaching its liquid state, passing from alpha, beta, gamma, delta, delta-prime, to epsilon. Large volume expansions and contractions occur between the stable room-temperature alpha phase and the element's liquid state. Another unusual feature is that unalloyed plutonium melts at a relatively low temperature, approximately 640 ℃, to yield a liquid of higher density than the solid from which it melts.

The pits were alloyed with Gallium to stabilise them in the delta phase. The increase in density on heating is small compared to the change to the alpha phase when compressed. The low melting point would help with a loss of symmetry and the critical volume/density needed to sustain fission. Remember that the pit is crushed by a very substantial amount of explosive (look for the photos of pits and of the gadget while remembering that most of the difference is composed of explosives). The compression achieves 3 goals to cause detonation. The pit is collapsed onto the hedgehog, the Plutonium/Gallium is forced into the denser alpha phase and the metal is compressed. It is the combination of these along with brief inertial confinement and neutron reflection that makes the bang. You really need to work hard to make it go bang. The basic pit is in a sub-critical state, it has to be or you cannot build the bomb.


I didn't say it would go bang. In fact I was suggesting it possibly wouldn't even get to the point of melting in this lab test configuration. Maybe the criticality self-terminated before the operators had time to knock off the neutron reflectors. Lacking a few spheres of plutonium to experiment with I'm just guessing though.

However back to things that can go bang easily.

Nuclear Nightmare: America's worst fears come true

Interviews with many weapons designers familiar with the Zimmerman situation have led us to conclude that a principal implication of the Zimmerman/Frank paper is that if a terrorist gained access to plutonium oxide, he or she could detonate that material in a relatively simple way, getting a low but significant range in the 1 kiloton range. This radically simple method of detonation is known as single or one point initiation.

Peter Zimmerman

Peter D. Zimmerman is an American nuclear physicist, arms control expert, and former Chief Scientist of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He is currently Emeritus Professor of Science and Security at King's College London. He retired from the college in August 2008 and was named Professor Emeritus on 1 September of the same year.

I would suggest that some of you need to do a little more studying about nuclear weapons. There is plenty of good quality information on the web.


OK, I have taken a look at both of those.

There are a lot of simpler and less melodramatic explanations for the information that we do have, have you looked at any of those seriously?

If one assumes that the people handling matters at Fukushima are actually monitoring what's going on so as to keep their own pretty faces from melting from extreme radiation exposure it is likely that they caught the re-criticality event soon after it started, not after it melted through the floor of the building. It isn't a super stable, walk-away from it situation (obviously), but a plume of vaporized concrete and rebar would be mighty hard to hide from the world press, and you would have vaporised material at high temperatures if Steve's scenario actually started happening. Rather a lot of it, in fact.

Wonder what was happening here? Mixed white and black smoke poured out of the top of reactor 3 for several days before settling back to just steaming.

TEPCO Webcam March 23rd 6pm Japan time

A second meltdown occurred in reactor 3 on the 21st March according to a well placed Japanese source

Understanding the Ongoing Nuclear Disaster in Fukushima: A “Two-Headed Dragon” Descends into the Earth’s Biosphere

On the morning of March 21 the wind was blowing from the north. In areas downwind from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant (including the Fukushima Daini Nuclear Plant and the cities of Kita Ibaraki, Takahagi and Mito), levels of airborne radiation suddenly spiked. What caused this abnormal jump? According to Tanabe Fumiya, an expert in nuclear power, at this same time the air pressure inside the pressure container of the No. 3 reactor, the one that used MOX (a mixed oxide fuel containing both plutonium and uranium), suddenly soared to 110 times the normal level. Because of this extremely high pressure, it was no longer possible to add cooling water from outside; as a result, the damaged fuel rods in the reactor once again went into meltdown, and the resulting build up of steam led to an explosion. The molten remnants of the fuel rods then breached the pressure container and leaked to the floor of the containment vessel. Tanabe concludes that the blast caused some of the radiation to escape the reactor, leading to contamination of the downwind region, an area extending from the interior of Fukushima prefecture to Kita Ibaraki.7

On March 23, a new plume formed, moving southwest from the coastal areas of Ibaraki through Chiba prefecture. During this period, most of the Kantō region saw several days of rain, resulting in accumulations of radioactive materials on the ground across the region.

If the plume was from corium reacting with reinforced concrete to tunnel it's way out of containmnet it should have had a very distinctive chemical and morphological composition that would be detectible even years later in areas where it was deposited.

That would be a real "smoking gun" for this hypothesis, and the tests could be done in areas that were downwind from Fukushima #2 in March without so much as a "by your leave" from Tepco.

The linked article, while an interesting read, is based on guesses (albeit very educated ones) and press reports. Very thin soup.

Perhaps we'll see some official chemical analysis the same day we are told exactly what was recorded by all the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty sensors.

Perhaps we'll see it the same day TEPCO explains how its "lube oil fire" (which the NRC and just about everyone else called a SFP fire at 4) spread the catastrophic contaminated plume to the northwest of the plant.

By the way I have seen a number of unconfirmed suggestions (blog posts and forums etc) that chemical and isotope analysis at the plant at the time was consistent with corium ablating concrete. Perhaps we will see a peer-reviewed paper one day.

You miss my point, the analysis doesn't need to be done by anyone official, just someone knowledgable.

Any decent geologist or chemist should be able to do a first-cut analysis.

You do not need to rely on official sources. This stuff cannot be hidden effectively if people with the basic skills to track it down can be persuaded that there is something interesting to be found, and if there is something there it will come out once the right people start looking.

Any decent geologist or chemist should be able to do a first-cut analysis.

And who says they haven't? I think we will get our peer-reviewed answers... eventually.

Meanwhile if you want to pop over there yourself and head into the exclusion zone to get some good samples - well on you go then. Watch out for the police and Yakuza and the radiation of course.

You don't even need to go into the exclusion zone to test for this sort of thing (though the *best* samples are probably there).

I'm just not going to get excited about press-report inspired enthusiasm in either direction.

The situation at Fukushima is more complex than my powers of observation from the other side of the planet can discern the full truth of. I can understand the impatience of people closer to the scene for substantial information from a source they feel they can trust, but I see people getting excited about things that are not as dangerous as going to work in the morning in the absence of that information.

And of course, as Pi has pointed out vigorously, the sources most likely to have complete and accurate information aren't trusted by a lot of the people in Japan.

So if anyone happens to know any decently skilled geologists that might be in northern Japan in the near future, this is a potential research idea for them. Perhaps even a way to make a name for themselves if they can come up with reviewable evidence that Tepco is covering up dastardly deeds and disasters.

You assume too much!

The melted fuel might have already escaped from the containment vessel and it is in the sand underneath the wreckage. As Steve said, it is headed (maybe) for the bedrock, where it will be much easier for energy flux to reach criticality again---enugh to explode. Steve explains it all. He said back in June or July that it was headed for re-criticality and then possibly for an explosion, like a mega-ton nuke bomb.

Well, it is quite evident to me that Tepco might rather try to hide these possibilities.

And the government is weak. Noone knows what to do or thinks it's possible to change the bad fate that awaits them.

I live far away---hundreds and hundreds of miles---- from Fukushima now---but I wonder if it is far enough??

You are making a lot of unwarranted assumptions. Either a thing is physically plausible or it isn't.

It doesn't matter if Tepco is the corporate embodiement of the Anti-Christ, their intent can't make things any worse than the physics allows.

Neither can government impotence alter the laws of physics.

Hundreds of miles from Fukushima you'd be better off worrying about the quality of coal that the Chinese are burning in their power plants if you are really concerned for your health.

"Is mankind REALLY SUICIDAL or does it just seem that way to me?"

Adrenaline junkies more than suicidal.

Hang-gliders, bungie jumping, sky-diving, rock-climbing, motorcycling, down-hill skiing, car-racing, horse racing, any racing, etc, etc.

All those are for wimps. If you ask me, the real crazies do base jumping...



E. Swanson

Wow, that looks like... fun?

Did you ever see the Cave episode of that National Geographic Special about life on Earth (can't remember the name of it - might have actually been Living Planet or something like that). These guys are hanging out at the edge of a gigantic sinkhole in the Amazon region somewhere, I mean this thing is huge - can't even see the bottom in the darkness. Then suddenly, one of the guys just steps off the edge - first time I saw it my jaw hit the floor. They were base jumping into this cave!

I'd rather do wing-suits :-)

This seemed like a good spot to add this link about the need/greed of consumption from a Buddhist viewpoint. Excuse the religious overtones, but there does seem to be a very strong psycho-spiritual element in many people's psyches that create denial about BAU.


Even Buddhist leaders can be clueless about their denial regarding BAU, and seek the answers to the wrong question.

The solution to making things better for people is to cook the environment some more so that everyone can fly around the world. We have no limits to growth.


U.S. Poverty Rate Rises to 16% in Alternative Census Data

The [Census] Bureau used an alternate method to calculate that 16 percent of Americans, or 49.1 million people, lived in poverty in 2010, up from the official rate of 15.2 percent, or 46.6 million, according to a report released today. The new measure put the proportion of indigent Americans 65 and older at 15.9 percent, an increase from the official 9 percent rate. Among those under 18, the new rate was 18.2 percent, a drop from the official rate of 22.5 percent.

The annual income at which a family of four -- two adults and two children -- is considered living in poverty was $24,343 in 2010 under the supplemental measure calculations. That compares with the official figure of $22,113 for the same year.

The September data also showed median household income declined 2.3 percent in 2010 to $49,445, down from $50,599 the year before. That was even as the U.S. economy expanded 3 percent in 2010.

This is probably considered great news to those pushing tax policy to move even more wealth to the top 1/10th of 1%, like Boehner, Cantor, McConnel, Fox News, etc. Privately they are probably having huge party's to toast and give tears of joy speeches about those stats. I can see Boehner now:

"The abosolute joy, sniffle, of knowing the pain and suffering we have inflicted on so many to bring greater wealth to our base moves me so much... Sorry, I'm getting all choked up."

I agree. The plutocrats target the middle class, the only people capable of challenging them (through education, savings, and sheer numbers).

A few obscenely rich people and millions of serfs is how they like it.

Not that I care much anymore. The modern middle class was always going to be a short lived aberration in the grand scheme of things.

OS -

... A few obscenely rich people and millions of serfs is how they like it.

Bingo! Or as Bill Moyer put it in How Wall Street Occupied America

During the prairie revolt that swept the Great Plains in 1890, populist orator Mary Elizabeth Lease exclaimed, "Wall Street owns the country.... Money rules.... Our laws are the output of a system which clothes rascals in robes and honesty in rags. The [political] parties lie to us and the political speakers mislead us."

She should see us now. John Boehner calls on the bankers, holds out his cup and offers them total obeisance from the House majority if only they fill it. Barack Obama criticizes bankers as "fat cats," then invites them to dine at a pricey New York restaurant where the tasting menu runs to $195 a person.

That's now the norm, and they get away with it. The president has raised more money from employees of banks, hedge funds and private equity managers than any Republican candidate, including Mitt Romney. Inch by inch he has conceded ground to them while espousing populist rhetoric that his very actions betray.

Let's name this for what it is: hypocrisy made worse, the further perversion of democracy.

The rise of the money power in our time goes back forty years. We can pinpoint the date. On August 23, 1971, a corporate lawyer named Lewis Powell--a board member of the death-dealing tobacco giant Philip Morris and a future justice of the Supreme Court--released a confidential memorandum for his friends at the US Chamber of Commerce. We look back on it now as a call to arms for class war waged from the top down.

Worth a read

also an insight into the mind of bankers in the 1890's. Revolution can't come soon enough.

An example of banking philosophy

Are there really the resources to support a large middle class?

Without a large middle class - who's gonna feed the rich all the toys they are used to?

ask some of the richest men in the world who got to their heights in countries where there is little to no "middle class". I would argue that global capitalism does not need a middle class at all -- relative to whatever standard you want to pick.

Mittal, Batista, Ambani, Waltons, Fontbona, Fridman, Mars, Birla -- all top of the crop in terms of "capitalism" and they don't need a middle class level of consumer. The rest of the top dogs lived through the tech boom and/or work the financials, for the most part.

If there were a "free market" and a shred of economic nationalism left, yes, we could roll back to the good old days of single-earner households with union jobs making stuff that lasted or was repairable between liberal vacations to the lake house (in a country funded by reasonable progressive tax codes). But that ain't happening :-). That stuff went out with Ike.

The working poor?

"Middle" is relative.

as stated in the new movie 'in time' 'for the few to be immortal, many must die.' since time is currency in that movie it's basically saying 'for us few to be rich, the rest of you have to be poor.' did not help that the guy was also a social Darwinist.

TEPCO finds highest levels of radiation at crippled Fukushima nuclear reactor, Bloomberg says

Tokyo Electric Power Company workers have reported finding the highest levels of radiation so far from its No. 3 reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant since the March 11, Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, Bloomberg reported.

The radiation, 620 millisieverts/hr, was found on the first floor of the reactor on November 3, Bloomberg said. Radiation at those levels increases the health risk for workers, the news service reported, citing World Nuclear Association recommendations

also Japan develops powered armour suit for nuke workers: Motorised limbs allow heavy rad shielding to be worn

The suit is referred to as HAL (2001: A Space Odyssey) and the manufacturer is Cyberdyne (Terminator). Someone in Japan spent too much time watching sci-fi movies.

Cuba plans deep-water oil drilling

... The US Geological Service estimates that there could be undiscovered reserves of up to six billion barrels of oil under Cuban waters, only 100 km from the Florida Keys - while others have suggested there could be as much as several times that amount.

And while it would take at least a couple of years before those reserves could be tapped commercially, they would provide a huge boost to the struggling Cuban economy, which currently depends on the largess of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez for more than two-thirds of its daily crude oil requirements.

S - "And while it would take at least a couple of years before those reserves could be tapped commercially..."

I'm pretty sure you realize the foolishness of this statement. If they spudded a well tomorrow and it did discover a commercial oil reservoir in 6 months it would probably take at least 5 to 7 years before it's producing. And that's if it oil. If they find NG I doubt it would be developed in less than 10 years and then only if it huge. Given the pipeline cost I doubt it would ever be produced.

Also, I don't know is the seismic has been acquired in this area yet. I not add another couple of years to the time line. It's also good to remember as I once read many years ago: the first major N. Sea oil field was discovered by the 93rd well drilled out there. It could easily take several years before a major discover is made offshore Cuba. So realistically if there are commercial reserves out there better plan on a 10 to 15 year time line as a minimum. And a minimum of a few $trillion to get it moving into high gear. A dozen DW exploratory wells: $1.5 trillion. Production facility and development wells for one new field: $500 million. One Macondo in Cuban waters: $20 billion law suit in the World Court.

Yah. That caught my eye too. Optimistic hand waving.

Though, if Cuba was only interested in Cuba, they 'Only' need to produce 176,000 bbl/day (2010 est.) to meet their needs. Energy independence - Voilà!

Probably the worst thing for Cuba would be to find another Ghawar or Cantarell.

Can you imagine how long they'd survive in the crosshairs of the 'drill baby drill' crowd? At the moment Cuba is a useful object lesson, if they had oil - well they won't have it long.


Any chance I can steal your expertise for New Zealand? Haha! It is a good place to retire and raise kids, I swear and we do have serious lack of serious drilling experience down here.

I am only kidding (partially).

Corps changing Missouri River plan after flooding

... The corps announced Monday that it will make the changes in the coming winter and spring. Those changes include getting as much water out of the river basin's reservoir system as possible this fall and winter, as well as analyzing how much more reservoir space might be reserved to ease the flooding.

The corps brass has been under pressure to change the Missouri River operating manual in a way that formally elevates flood protection over species restoration, recreation and other congressionally prescribed uses. A U.S. House hearing engineered by corp critics is scheduled later this month, on the heels of a Senate hearing in which corps officers endured lectures.

also http://www.sacbee.com/2011/11/07/4036501/corps-changing-missouri-river.html

Another nail in the coffin of Great Plains agriculture. Draw the reservoirs down to a minimum in fall/winter, and it guarantees that some summers will find the region short on irrigation water relative to the present. That's not necessarily a bad trade-off if it reduces flooding below the last dam in wet years, but it does pick winners and losers.

If Rome burns, U.S. will feel the heat

"Italy has much more systemic implications than Greece, its debt is larger than the rest of the periphery put together, it is too big to fail, too big to save,” Thanos Vamvakidis, a financial market analyst at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. “The markets don’t believe Berlusconi at this point.”

A default by Italy, the world’s third largest issuer of government debt behind the U.S. and Japan, would dwarf [Greek] losses and swamp even an expanded [Eurozone] bailout fund.

... U.S. banks have written about $400 billion in CDS contracts on European sovereign debt, according to the Bank for International Settlements. Those payouts would be triggered if Greece or Italy defaults. Because financial institutions are not required to report their CDS holdings, little is known about which banks or investment firms are on the hook, and for how much.

... the financial markets pummeled Italian bonds Monday morning, sending interest rates approaching 7 percent. At those rates, the cost of periodically rolling over Italy’s $2.6 trillion in outstanding debt would quickly swamp its already strained budget.

My opinion continues to be that the Peak Oil plateau that we hit in 2005, and especially Peak Exports, acted as a trigger for the financial crisis and as an accelerant, pushing various countries faster along the path toward being shut out of foreign credit markets--much like a lit match that ignites a dry forest, and instead of aerial tankers dropping fire retardant, they are dropping napalm.

Even the deflationists concede that once a country is shut out of the foreign credit markets, there are no barriers to high inflation/hyperinflation. My "Thelma & Louise" metaphor from late last year:

The OECD “Thelma & Louise” Race to the Edge of the Cliff

“Thelma and Louise” is an American movie that ends with the two main characters committing suicide by driving off the edge of a cliff. I’ve often thought that this cinematic moment is an appropriate symbol for the actions of many developed OECD countries that are in effect borrowing money to maintain or increase current consumption. The central problem with this approach is that as my frequent co-author, Samuel Foucher, and I have repeatedly discussed, the supply of global net oil exports has been flat to declining since 2005, with “Chindia” so far consuming an ever greater share of what is (net) exported globally. Chindia’s combined net oil imports, as a percentage of global net exports, rose from 11.2% in 2005 to 17.6% in 2010.

At precisely the point in time that developed countries should be taking steps to discourage consumption, many OECD countries, especially the US, are doing the exact opposite, by effectively encouraging consumption. Therefore, the actions by many OECD countries aimed at encouraging consumption in the face of declining available global net oil exports can be seen as the OECD “Thelma & Louise” Race to the Edge of the Cliff. I suppose that the “winner” could be viewed as the first country that can no longer borrow enough money, at affordable rates, to maintain their current lifestyle. So, based on this metric, Greece would appear to be currently in the lead, with many other countries not far behind them.

WT, I really believe you are right. Although I still read the Oil Drum every day, I feel the real action is in the economies of the industrial world. Industrial civilization like a Ponzi scheme needs perpetual growth; I believe that ELM has mortally wounded industrial civilization. The power elite will burn down the house before they change the current perpetual growth paradigm. Any solution that causes a decentralization of capital will not be pursued by the elite. Put the pedal to the metal as the cliff approaches!

It also appears that we are hitting resource limits in land, rubber, fertilizers, metals, timber, water, food, etc... Everything is interconnected and almost all commodities have hit nominal highs since 2005. Oil is driving some of this but they sure as heck aren't finding any more land either.

The only creature that continues to grow for its entire lifetime is a snake... Is our industrial civilization the snake that will continue to grow until it dies..

. Industrial civilization like a Ponzi scheme needs perpetual growth;

An civilisation with Industries doesn't need perpetual growth to keep either Industry or 'civil'isation.

A gin-ed up fiat money system needs growth so no one in the system feels like they are getting the raw end of the deal.

Say - could the people who think they are part of a 99% getting a raw deal be one of the 1st reactions to an end of growth?

I have long been a moderate admirer of Jan Lundberg, ex-oil-industry guy and powerdown advocate. I like his comments on the #Occupy movement:

The Occupy movement is by and large preoccupied with most wealth being hoarded "on Wall Street" in the hands of "the 1%". While it's true statistically that the money is there, what will ultimately prove to matter more to the "the 99%" is access to healthy land that can support life and human subsistence. When the total financial meltdown hits, it won't be the money in digital accounts that matters, but productive land that is held privately or in common.

Power as people commonly perceive it is not on Wall Street. Neither is the power in Washington, D.C. The 20th century saying goes, "political power comes out of the barrel of a gun." But this is also a short-sighted analysis that ignores the future -- for a world of 7 billion people on a collision course with sustainability. So, where is the power and wealth today really at, and can a transfer of wealth for equitable redistribution -- if that were indeed possible -- really transform people's lives positively?

What folks in "poor" countries have always understood is that their power and survival lie in possessing their own land. Land reform in many parts of our increasingly crowded world is a burning issue. Many people live and die for the struggle for their right to live on their ancestral lands. A movement in the U.S. for the masses to take back the land from the few is inevitable.

Someone wrote somewhere on this lively DB that there's no point in training our youth in agricultural skills, because there's no land for them to cultivate. Land reform is imho an essential pillar of any platform for a more sustainable social organisation...

"Land reform is imho an essential pillar of any platform for a more sustainable social organisation..."

So you agree that the Federal government should start selling the 3/4 of Idaho, Utah, and Nevada it owns? It owns a full third of Washington State as well, and Oregon is between ID and WA.

I won't mind if you exempt the national parks, as there is still plenty of land left. Land sales may well be one of the few ways left to fund my Social Security.

Most of those Western lands are owned by the Federal Government because no one wanted to buy them. Remember The Homestead Act, by which the Government basically gave away the land? Those lands are not suited for typical farming activities, as the precipitation in the area is to low for dry land crops. Water is a big issue and all the water rights were allocated long ago. Ranching cattle or timber cutting has been the most frequent use. The Forest Service and the BLM manage the lands to produce both timber and grazing, but the locals object to having the Government tell them how to do things. There are those who would develop the land for recreational use, but that's not going to help the farming and ranching side of the equation...

E. Swanson

I don't know why the US government bothered stealing that land from the Indians, because the Indians were probably making the best use out of it by hunting buffalo, which are a lot better suited for it than cattle.

In fact, a lot of it is going back to the Indians and the buffalo because the Indians are staying while the white men are moving out to urban areas, and the Indians have discovered a profitable business in raising buffalo meat for urban markets.


The Oneida Community Integrated Food Systems OCIFS provides the Oneida people and surrounding communities with natural and fresh meats, poultry, buffalo, fruits and vegetables as well as health products.


Not to be a cynic, but this is still an industrial farming system. But it could be converted pretty quickly I suppose (lots of amish in the area...)- hopefully fast enough to keep Lombardi Stadium in Buffalo Burgers for the Packer Games (yes, the NFL survives collapse ;)

there's no point in training our youth in agricultural skills, because there's no land for them to cultivate.

There is plenty of land - if all of the Ag moves to small enough plots that one can manage without energy input via FF.

Wendel Berry (I think that's the spelling) had a paper on it - make 100K a year from 5 acres. I don't think that model works when one has everyone else doing that.

I'd place a link to thepeacock.com's 'here's how to make money growing thornless berries' partly because it shows hand labor in making a cement lined berry pit and partly because it shows what a man can have if they spend years scrounging/scraping and has believe in onesself. But it seems the site is down. And, well, the life he leads isn't gonna be an easy sell. I'm guessing re-written bibles with expanded paragraphs about how government sucks/bankers suck/dairy products are no good would turn more people off the idea then onto it rather than looking at the long hours with little pay and injury that is typical farming.

Wendell Berry confuses theoretical possibilities with the real world.

Any country bumpkin with scars and calluses and a bit of education can give better advice.

I'm all for self sufficiency, but only a very very few people are ever going to be situated in such a way as to make a GOOD living from small scale farming-and even that few are likely to see their markets either vanish with the coming of hard times or find themselves regulated out of existence.

Now as to whether it is possible to make A LIVING , a modest one, on a small scale diversified farm-this is possible, but just possible and that is about it, unless you are very lucky as to location and community.

Where I live, the working locals are no longer much interested in canning three bushels of peaches for instance-as a matter of fact, most of them have forgotten how if they ever knew.But they don't make enough money , and aren't motivated, to go out of their way, to pay boutique prices for fine produce.

The well to do simply don't give a hoot about produce prices, they buy whatever the want at the upscale supermarket;there aren't enough of the kind who are real fresh food junkies to support much in the way of farm to market retail.

They have been well trained to buy Twinkies and soft drinks and potato chips.They won't buy my prime quality fresh from the field apples for thirty five cents a pound because they can't imagine owning ten pounds of fruit all at once;dividing a bushel among friends and family these days is a mark of shame.

"They have been well trained to buy Twinkies and soft drinks and potato chips.They won't buy my prime quality fresh from the field apples for thirty five cents a pound because they can't imagine owning ten pounds of fruit all at once;dividing a bushel among friends and family these days is a mark of shame."

Not where I'm from. A lot of younger folks I know (spanning income and class) are into buying big batches of local farm stuff like apples. They all watch the food network, and they cook and can and brew their own beers and ciders. It becomes a social thing, like the old days. IMHO there is a serious and growing movement towards DIY around food and local ag.

It's not just the younger folks, lots of middle aged people are getting back into cooking and canning. It may be because of the Food network, or a revolts against industrial food processing, or just bored (unemployed) people looking for something to do in their kitchens, but the movement is certainly afoot.

One indicator - the fastest growing magazine in the US - Mother Earth News.

I actual;ly think the direct farmer to market route is where the action will be. Not just in farmers markets, but in farm sales by "subscription" , which can now be enable by the internet.

So when one buys a subscription, and commits to two bushels of OFM's apples per year, they will learn how to use them.

And soon enough, the local "processing" companies will start re-appearing. Amongst many people where I live (coastal BC), the most important aspect of a food item is not the price, or whether it is organic, but how local it is.

Once people re-accept the seasonality of produce, and learn how to handle it, the local producers are in a much better position.

Along way to go, for sure, but things are changing.

Best hopes for OFM's apples being bought by enthusiastic locals.

"Best hopes for OFM's apples being bought by enthusiastic locals."

Hell i'd buy some right now if I happened to live near the guy, not only to cheer him up, but because I crave homemade hard cider ;)

Wendell Berry confuses theoretical possibilities with the real world.
Any country bumpkin with scars and calluses and a bit of education can give better advice.

Which is why I wanted to link to thepeacock.com - it shows the work one has to go through to get what he was doing.

Because farming is a hard, sucky job - its why many people want off the farm.

They won't buy my prime quality fresh from the field apples for thirty five cents a pound because they can't imagine owning ten pounds of fruit all at once;

I'd be pleased to find apples at such a price. The nearest farmer based produce auction is 100+ miles away - so going to it is a day trip. How many people have the time + money for a 200+ mile day trip?

Eric- if you have steady population growth, industrial civilizations do, then to not grow leads to terrible shortages. This is true of agricultural revolution civilizations as well. To quote Professor Albert Bartlett "The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function." The fiat money system has allowed us to print our way out of resource depletion. The end is drawing near however as resource depletion intensifies. The industrial countries are in a death march and the weak will drop out first when they can no longer service their debt. One of these failures will probably shatter the fiat industrial model, with little hope creating a new system in the chaos. I agree with your take on the occupy movement; I feel they are in for a crude awakening as the current paradigm is unsustainable.

Your analysis, which I firmly agree with, will be observable and sharpened by hindsight. I really hate the anology of Thelma & Louise because I feel like I'm stuck in the car with them at least to some extent.

I don't know if I have sent you this one but it has some beneficial insights to the emotional nature of our generation and its impacts on current and financial events. The writer of this blog IS peak oil aware.


Your ELM and ELP are both concrete, absolute, and need a wider audience. I personally have lost all hope. Look at the audience....Justin Beiber did blah blah blah, or this Cardashyion woman. Good grief, given our culture, perhaps some tawdry sex with a group of nuns might boost you into the inner circle of world leaders....

I guess that we are basically in the back seat screaming at the driver to turn around.

It doesn't look like China is going to bail out the Eurozone...

Jin Liqun: Europe induces 'sloth, indolence'

As the global financial crisis continues to hit the eurozone, Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, and other European leaders have been banking on China to step in and wave its magic wand. But is China prepared to bail out Europe?

Jin Liqun, who has served as China's deputy minister of finance and vice president of the Asian Development Bank, manages $400bn worth of the nation's money through the sovereign wealth fund. He says that unless Europe changes its labour laws and adjusts its welfare system, he does not consider it to be a profitable investment.

Surprise, surprise (not really) the Eurozone's troubles continue today.

Italian crisis: Silvio Berlusconi faces calls to resign

Borrowing rates have shot up in recent days, raising concerns over whether Italy can service its debts.

While Italy's deficit is relatively low, investors are concerned that the combination of Italy's low growth rate and 1.9tn euro (£1.63tn; $2.6tn) debt could make it the next country to fall in the eurozone debt crisis.

The European commissioner for economic affairs Ollie Rehn described the country's economic and financial situation as "very worrying".

Rival demonstrators gathered outside parliament, some shouting "Resign", others "We are not Greece".

"We are not Greece." Very true. But Greece, IMHO, has been a bit of a red herring anyway.

Italy had problems selling its bonds two weeks ago, the day following the agreement to solve all the problems. Nothing has changed. Sovereign debt is toxic. Euros are toxic.

As mentioned before, this is more a political problem (at its heart existential) than a financial. There is a clear lack of will and decision making. What exactly is the Eurozone? What is its purpose? Where does power lie? Until there is some consensus around those questions, the circus will go on.

The Chinese won't back it for good reason. Lehman Brothers, at its most dire moment, would have been a better investment opportunity.

Are there no prisons? Are there no work-houses?

Of oil and national security w/Video

The peril of our nation’s over-reliance on imported oil isn’t news to anyone in trucking. Indeed, oil is the 900-pound elephant in this industry’s – if not the entire U.S. economy’s – living room, capable of causing untold havoc directly and indirectly to the bottom lines of truckers large and small (not to mention the wallets of consumers, thus ultimately altering freight volumes in the bargain as well.)

Your 900 lb elephant is just a baby. The average weight of an adult African Elephant is 4.6 tons. Normally one refers to a 900lb gorilla.

Breakthrough scientific discoveries no longer dominated by the very young: study

... Results showed that before 1905, about two-thirds of winners in chemistry, physics and medicine did their prize-winning work before age 40, and about 20 percent did it before age 30.

But by 2000, great achievements before age 30 nearly never occurred in any of the three fields. In physics, great achievements by age 40 only occurred in 19 percent of cases by the year 2000, and in chemistry, it nearly never occurred.

Peak Innovation?

Much longer lifespan nowadays, seeing as how dead folks couldn't innovate very much? More and more years spent partying in school, or progressing at a snail's pace in Ph.D. programs or postdocs, etc. etc., before "real life" finally gets underway? (In the nineteenth century, I wonder how many people could have spent 20-some years doing little else but getting a Ph.D.) Less discrimination against older researchers, once seen as washed up by 30 or 40? Low hanging fruit already picked over? A mixture of most or all of the above?

I have a feeling it's a "shoulders of giants" problem. Most of the major disciplines -- like oil drilling companies! -- have already located and mined out all the easy topics and subjects for research. It gets harder and harder to make a "major discovery" when your discipline is so fully explored that it takes most of a career just to become literate in the work of all your predecessors. Most research scientists today are reduced to exploring with more and more exacting precision a smaller and smaller area of interest... reminding me of Kipling's snide remark about the Royal Society Fellows spending their time trying to cut thinner and thinner slices through the eyeball of the female mosquito... but even that seems crude, broad-brush, and basic compared to modern day research in many fields.

Anyway, nowadays it takes so long to be fully accredited and even to *find* something unexplored to research -- or to get up to speed on an existing decades-long project in order to add one's tiny increment to the knowledge-stash -- that it doesn't surprise me that prize-winning work is no longer likely at early ages. Science, like most other human endeavours, suffers from diminishing returns over time. Until there's a paradigm shift, and then Kerblooey, a lot of old bumf is thrown out overnight and revived energy is devoted to new (or previously disregarded) topics with a revised theoretical basis.

OTOH there are very exciting, relatively unexplored areas where our collective ignorance is vast -- such as soil biology and biotic productivity, biodiversity and resilience, symbiology and synergism in food webs... in which ground-breaking (so to speak) research could and should be done... but in N Am the vast majority of ag research is done at the land-grant schools which are now mostly to wholly funded by the fossil/chemical ag sector (which has also captured fed and state politics and regulatory bodies), so you can bet these topics will not be recommended by wise old advisors to bright young students. Another traditional reason why science stagnates at certain periods in history: only science which carefully avoids offending powerful players will be funded, encouraged, published. [Again I refer readers to the great controversy over symbiosis in C19-C20. One of the main reasons that the official academy could not admit the evidence for symbiosis was that it contravened a political/ideological fixation on ruthless competition as the gold-standard of Nature (red in tooth and claw etc: predation fetishised via vulgar Darwinism); this "naturalising" of ruthlessness and competition was deeply justificatory for the existing social/political order. Symbiosis -- deep cooperation, entanglement, and resource sharing -- was anathema and hence any evidence of it from field research was ridiculed, suppressed, and denied ... for several decades! Lichen were in and of themselves, just by existing, subversive of the social order.]

I don't think it's so much Peak Innovation as the stagnancy of a particular historical thread in research and knowledge hoarding... if we manage to preserve a fair number of literate, communicative communities across the bumpy descent from growth-mania and FF addiction, I expect an explosion of basic research (already underway despite opposition and inadequate support) in food security, bioremediation, new legal theory and practise, new economic theory and practise, new currency systems, minimalist tech, etc.

Lichen were in and of themselves, just by existing, subversive of the social order.

Hence the modern horror "Rise of the Lichens". very interesting discussion Rootless. Yes, nature has proven more complex and interesting then simple survival of the fittest. Its more than just social order, religion of the time (and still distressingly common today), needed man to be a special creation of god, apart from nature. I think a lot of our modern problems stem from that philosophical mistake.

Interesting RA. I think you're right about the time it takes to get accreditation. I have a similar perspective on the issue with respect to the paradigm shift, in that I think that the institution of Science, including everything from tenure to peer review to aerospace and industrial production is a kind of control system on innovation itself. When you go into science in an advanced scientific age you are essentially learning what not to question, and to a large degree the pre-established knowledge of a field is simply a form of limitation tied to the interests of the establishment.

That fits into your idea of a paradigm shift within science allowing for a revival of fresh study, but I think it is safe to say that a shift in Scientific paradigm is tied to deep changes in society and culture, and in technology. So if PO doesn't wipe us off the map, it'll clear the slate, and be the best thing for Science. Peak Innovation is just Peak Oil all over again :)

That fits into your idea of a paradigm shift within science allowing for a revival of fresh study, but I think it is safe to say that a shift in Scientific paradigm is tied to deep changes in society and culture, and in technology. So if PO doesn't wipe us off the map, it'll clear the slate, and be the best thing for Science. Peak Innovation is just Peak Oil all over again :)

So true. Can you feel the tide surging now? In addition to RA's ecological example of symbiosis, and my example of succession, I'll add today another ecological concept that has been bastardized by the ecologists--the hierarchy of the food chain. My freshmen students are in the tenth week of their semester course on Limits to Growth. The conceptual basis all came together today for them. At the end of the class, one of the brightest said, "Wait, so in essence, we've been taught about the food chain all wrong in grade school? It doesn't stop at top predators--humans have their own separate upside down food chain on top of the normal pyramid (due to fossil fuel build up in complexity)!"

In essence, the ecologists modified or discounted the concepts of symbiosis, succession, and the food chain in order to fit the economic "reality" of infinite growth. It is amazing how one's mind can play tricks in order to fit truth to perceived reality. Perhaps dogma is the worst form of denial, when you subconsciously understand that there are contradictions in the ideas, and that you'd better give up with the arguments and start calling for faith instead.

Obligatory reference to JM Greer's latest, The Wealth of Nature, in which he explains what most of us already know -- but he does it with enviable grace and lucidity -- i.e. that there is a primary economy of biotic, solar, hydrological etc processes, which produces all the real wealth of the planet. There is a secondary economy of human activity, which consists of energy plus ingenuity being used to divert and transform the primary economy's output for human use. And there is a tertiary economy of abstract money, investment, debt, interest, etc. based on speculation on the secondary economy. Right now, culturally, we think that the tertiary economy is more real and important than the secondary, and the secondary is more real and important than the primary. In other words, yes, we have it backwards and upside-down...

Anyway, it's nicely written and conveys the fundamental misconceptions of "economics" as we now know it, more concisely and readably than e.g. Herman Daly (though I have enjoyed Daly's stuff, it is a bit yawn-inducing in places). Greer is sprightly and accessible. Good stuff to hand to the not-quite-convinced or questioning :-) Would make a nice companion to Steve Keen's Debunking Economics.

Peak Innovation?

Maybe just the fact that old scientists, who apply for and receive grants for research take credit for the efforts of their junior staffs?


My brother, who is a chemist, solved a minor scientific problem once, when he worked on his Ph.D. in the field. So we asked if he was going to get the credit for this discovery. "No", he said "but my supervisor probably will".

over specialization. it takes a lot of research and study to get to the edge of many of the fields that the time it takes to get there means those researchers are getting older and older.

I've argued in the past that it's a combination of several things. The research frontier is farther out: you have to learn much more before you understand what's happening at the frontier. The experiments are much more expensive: look at the overall lab costs associated with doing research in, say, rechargeable battery anodes what with nanostructure, exotic materials, etc. Reputation counts in obtaining funding: a young graduate student may have a brilliant insight, but the principle researcher is going to be someone with many more years experience because that's what attracts funding for the expensive experiment. Fewer research opportunities: in the US, at least, most of the big industrial research labs are gone.

As someone summed it up for physics fairly recently: four years as an undergrad, five years for a PhD after that, then ten years of bumming around as a postdoc before you land a "real" position; you're almost 40 before you ever get a chance to be "principle researcher" on a project.

Reductionism and specialization is a dead end when your theories fail because you missed the big picture--just look at economics? An entire discipline is standing around wondering, "Who moved my cheese?"

Funny you should be ragging on the academy about the concept of symbiosis, Rootless. I just typed the same complaint about the concept of succession, at the link below, in response to your previous statement. The concept of succession got swiped by the population ecologists and mucked up, because fossil fuels allowed globalization, which suggested that man was not subject to the laws of nature. I guess the current crop of population ecologists is blinded ideologically by the same denial of limits to growth as everyone else? After all, the economists made a ton of money doing it, and perhaps everyone else just emulated?


A contributing factor might be modern approaches to organizing and funding research. Unless you are already established and have a stellar reputation, your best bet may be to produce research proposals addressing some topic in whatever area of research is currently the flavor of the month. Since most everyone else is doing the same, there won't be very many researchers who succeed in distinguishing themselves.

Peak Innovation

I can tell you for a fact that most of the patents with USPTO are frivolous in nature, they wouldn't even make it through if it were 19th century. And mind you all this is happening when we have the best research facilities with us, take google for example, how many people had something like the world's repository of knowledge at their fingertips fifty years ago. Yet the pace of innovation is falling, IMO we are just running on a treadmill now.

Among the non-biological areas there are a few unexplored domains like Analytics, AI and brain-computer interface, expect a lot of breakthrough research in this area in coming decades, but other than that nil, nada.

I would agree about the patents. They are probably dominated by defensive patents, as in software where most are too obvious, but companies apply for them so someone else can't claim infringement on their (independently thought up similar ideas). In some ways the patent system is becoming seriously abused. In theory it is supposed to aid innovation, by rewarding the creators of new methods and products. But now it can become a serious inhibition, our project seriously needs to use X, Y, and Z, which we are happy to develop, but does someone own the rights to step Y? And if so can they stop us dead in our tracks, or demand so much rent to use Y, that are profits will vanish? Just having to research the issue, wastes a lot of effort.

But in some areas things are progressing. Having big time computation (and visualization) available truly enables a lot of stuff that was impossible a few years back. Likewise stuff like lasers, and nanotechnology. So I do think a lot of good stuff is still being done. In terms of being able to analyze potential engineering designs -especially across disciplines (say combining mechanics, fluid flows and chemistry) is just getting started.

... as in software where most [inventions] are too obvious

I always get a kick out of people who insist that everything is "obvious" (to the person of ordinary skill?)

If everything is so "obvious", why don't you reveal to us less-than ordinary artisans what the next big thing (but alas also obvious thing) will be in the various arts (software, hardware, biotech, etc.)?

And by "reveal" you obviously understand that I mean you should:

[provide ]a written description of the invention, and of the manner and process of making and using it, in such full, clear, concise, and exact terms as to enable any person skilled in the art to which it pertains, or with which it is most nearly connected, to make and use the same

You want a list of obvious patents
Here's a list I recollect from my memory
1. An advanced way of labeling in servers (some kind of naming convention to organize servers) Really !!
2. Finger swipe to unlock cell-phones
3. Tapping the screen to open something (Basically any kind of gesture you perform with your fingers on the screen has probably been patented)
4. Apple has patented the Tablet form factor itself (WTF). Samsung in the lawsuit quoted Kubrick's Space Odyssey 2001 as prior art in it's defense. Even that didn't stick, now Galaxy Tab cannot be sold in Australia.
4. From my own country (Turmeric, Basmati Rice etc etc, all components of ancient medical systems and ordinary food items)

I could dig up a few more but you get the point, Patent system is under abuse right now. Like all good systems it's marginal value has been exhausted.
I particularly hate the practice of 'sleeper patents' where they wait till the product is popular and then sue.

"Obviously" dear kimosobee, you do not understand how the English word "obvious" is applied in the realm of patents.

It is not a verdict you render in hindsight, after someone has shown you the answer (or the problem that leads to the answer).

Instead it is something you must perform with "fore"-sight (before the fact).

That is why I asked you to reveal to us less-than ordinary artisans what the next big thing will be in the various arts (software, hardware, biotech, etc.), not the last little thing.

[i]= image, [+]= more info

next big thing = [ i.mage.+]

another one= [ i.mage.+]

and, ... [ i.mage.+]

I'm actually surprised that Apple has any traction at all with design patents on their PADDiPad.

The core design has only been a stable of science fiction since the 60's, and attempts at it have been being made since the '80's.

They did do an excellent job of execution on the design, but that isn't the patentable part.

Have you been following the Samsung (v. Apple) lawsuit?

Yes, and it's proof to me that the courts wouldn't know "prior art" if you smacked them alonside the head with an antique piece of it.

The iPad isn't a new concept, it isn't a new design, Moore's law and the market just finally caught up with it.

Apple did do some nice work on the interface, but that is detailing, no more patentable than leather upholstery.

Moore's law and the market ...


Those are the magic noise bites that will inevitably provide us with never ending energies and more of the "technology" stuff, aye?

Nope, just fancier toys.

If we want a happier future we need to build it the hard way.

Can't argue with that one.

(iPhone #5= a slightly fancier toy for playing with others; doesn't drill for oil or produce cold fusion)

"Obviously" dear kimosobee, you do not understand how the English word "obvious" is applied in the realm of patents.
It is not a verdict you render in hindsight, after someone has shown you the answer (or the problem that leads to the answer).

You dislike people who work in tech or what, anyways I perfectly know what the world obvious means, patent committees evaluate your work with that parameter, and it's always rendered in hindsight.

That is why I asked you to reveal to us less-than ordinary artisans what the next big thing will be in the various arts (software, hardware, biotech, etc.), not the last little thing.

As far as software goes, AI related fields are the next big thing. Computer vision, face recognition, voice recognition, natural language algorithms etc and they are going to be major job killers. Some challenges in hardware that I know of are asynchronous circuits(no clock), not too familiar with hardware though. I have no idea about biotech.

Oh Wise One

I regret to report that we apparently have a failure to communicate under same protocols.

(BTW, in your tech work, are you a Big Endian or a Little Endian? -a tech joke)

I was not asking you to tell us what "they" will come up with as the next big invented thing. I was asking you to personally invent the next big thing (don't dare get a patent for it though) and I was asking you to personally provide us with a free and "enabling" disclosure of your invention. Thanks.

Bottom line: you be the "they" & you give it away for free

Space shuttle data leads to better model for solar power production in California

Current large-scale models used to calculate solar power output do not take elevation into account.

Researchers at the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego recently used measurements from NASA's Shuttle Radar Topography Mission to predict how changes in elevation, such as hills and valleys, and the shadows they create, impact power output in California's solar grid.

For example, on clear winter days in San Francisco's Twin Peaks neighborhood, in the areas at the foot of the steepest hills, solar days are up to 30 percent shorter than on flat terrain. A solar power plant in that area would produce 12 percent less energy on those days than if it was located on a plain or other flat landscape.

Really? A higher horizon blocks sunshine? Who woulda thunk it? We need NASA space shuttle data to do simple ray-tracing? How long have topo maps been around? WTF?

How long have topo maps been around? WTF?

Or just stand at the proposed site and look at the horizon?

But the data are just inherently kewler if they come from a high-tech satellite :-)

Yep, the sun comes up over our local mountains well after dawn. OTOH the space guys can actually cover a lot of ground with direct measurements. Remember a lot of the topographical maps have been made and updated from space based measurements.


And they've been being updated that way for a long time now, and it doesn't particularly require a manned space shuttle. The big mystery to me is that it was somehow seen as news.

Proving once again that you have the ability to sneer at just about anything.

They made good use of some data sets from the Shuttle, and you throw your slippers at the set. Rich and Rewarding.

The Apocalyptic Landscapes of Alberta’s Oil Sands [Photo Essay]

Roughly one ton of sand is needed to produce one barrel of oil

According to the Pembina Institute, tar sands mining now occupies an area of about 260 square miles. The total minable region is roughly 770 square miles.

"It is surreal," said Jennifer Grant, who directs the oil sands program at the Pembina Institute, an Alberta-based environmental conservation group. "It is such a vast area. From the air, you can see over 170 square kilometers" — 65 square miles — "of tailings ponds alone. It's astonishing to see the sheer scale."

Out of the 260 square miles mined so far, less than one square mile has been certified as reclaimed, ...

According to the Pembina Institute, tar sands mining now occupies an area of about 260 square miles. The total minable region is roughly 770 square miles.

To put in in perspective, the total area of Alberta is 255,541 square miles - about the size of Texas - and the total area of parks and protected wildland in Alberta is over 35,000 square miles - more land area than the total size of Austria.

The total area of forests in Alberta is over 135,000 square miles, and about 84,000 square miles of that is commercial forest. The oil sands are in the commercial forest area, which is planned to be logged regardless of mine development.

Will all of this area be developed at some point? Is it all developable? The US will need/take any oil it can get.

Virtually the whole oil sands area can be developed using in-situ drilling techniques, but only about 10% of it (north of Fort McMurray) is shallow enough for surface mining.

Canada is already by far the United States largest supplier of foreign oil, and its importance will grow in future as other oil producers peak and start to decline in production. The oil sands, though, will last several hundred years at any realistic rate of production.

Several hundred years? Won't EROI rear its ugly head long before that?


A quote from the evanbedfors.com site:

Even its most optimistic proponents admit that the tar sands will never make up more than five percent of global oil production. So what happens when the other 95% becomes insanely expensive. Bingo! The tar sands could become so expensive that it won't even be worth exploiting them

This is akin to Yogi Berra's comment about a restaurant: "Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded."

In reality, conventional oil production will crash, and as a result, oil sands will make up much more than 5% of total production because it will be cheaper than conventional oil.

Doesn't the production of oil from tar sands depend on the price of natural gas? You need NG to heat the tar sands to be able to extract oil from it.

It takes about 500 cubic feet of natural gas to produce a barrel of bitumen at an oil sands mine. At the moment natural gas is trading at $3.75/1000 cu ft and bitumen is trading at $80/bbl, so $1 worth of natural gas will produce over $40 worth of bitumen. The economics are rather overwhelmingly positive at current prices. NG is seriously undervalued on an energy content basis.

On an energy basis, 500 cu ft of natural gas contain about 0.5 GJ of energy and a barrel of oil about 6 GJ, so 1 GJ of NG produces 12 GJ of oil. This is not as overwhelming as the money economics, but still pretty positive.

In-situ (steam stimulation) projects require about twice the NG as mines, so the ratios are 1:20 for money and 1:6 for energy (the EROEI).

The tar sands could become so expensive that it won't even be worth exploiting them

Expensive for consumers (who pay what the market will bear), but for producers it should be high profits.

You are right, but don't forget the spillover. It is a bit like putting food-dye in water. One drop goes an awfully long way. Just like one drop, or more likely several (?hundred/thousand) litres of contaminated water get dumped in the river and this spreads and affects much more than 260 square miles.

In the past I was not totally antagonistic to the oil sands, after all, they probably help pay my pension, but as time goes on I get increasingly skeptical about their overall social good. Good for Alberta's economy,no doubt; good for the health of the local natives, not so good; good for Alberta's ecosystems and all that they do, not at all; good for the world, short term maybe, long term no.


It's not like putting dye in water. The oil sands are naturally like a huge oil spill - the ground is already contaminated with oil. Oil has been leaking out of the sands into the rivers for millions of years - the early explorers claimed that so much oil was running out of the banks into the rivers that they couldn't land their canoes.

The oil sands plants, however, do not discharge oily waste into the rivers.

Come, come, come. David Schindler put that to rest a year or more ago. Sure there is some 'natural' leakage, but there is a lot more that has risen subsequently to tar sands exploitation. And you should know it. If you talk/write about the oil sands, at least be current.

Oil sands development contributes polycyclic aromatic compounds to the Athabasca River and its tributaries
Erin N. Kellya, Jeffrey W. Shortb, David W. Schindlera,1, Peter V. Hodsonc, Mingsheng Maa, Alvin K. Kwana, and Barbra L. Fortina

Proc National Acad Sciences. v106:online early edition, 2009. DOI: 10.1073

Any industrial operation has some kind of effect on the environment, and the oil sands plants are very big industrial operations.

The Schindler and Kellya papers are primarily concerned with the results of airborne particle emissions, primarily fly ash emissions from the bitumen upgrader stacks (despite the fact they have electrostatic filters) and secondarily airborne dust from the mines and roads.

However, they are talking about low concentrations of industrial pollutants in the water, not high concentrations. As Schindler says, "PPE concentrations in melted snow and in tributary and AR water did not exceed drinking water quality guidelines". (PPE = priority pollutants under the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Water Act, AR = Athabasca River.)

I wouldn't want to drink the water downstream from the oil sands plants, but I wouldn't wouldn't want to drink the water downstream from Edmonton, either, unless it had been filtered and treated. It wouldn't be as bad as the Los Angeles River, the Detroit River, or the Hudson River in New York, but it wouldn't be pristine spring water, either.

As an aside, the Alberta government has said that it would prefer to locate future heavy industrial development in Alberta on the major northern rivers such as the Athabasca River and the Peace River because the southern Alberta rivers are overused and don't have enough water for future developments. This area of Northern Alberta is not planned to be a wilderness area but an industrial development area.

"I wouldn't want to drink the water downstream from the oil sands plants, but I wouldn't wouldn't want to drink the water downstream from Edmonton, either, unless it had been filtered and treated. It wouldn't be as bad as the Los Angeles River, the Detroit River, or the Hudson River in New York, but it wouldn't be pristine spring water, either."

Nothing personal RMG, but there's my point exactly about the way that every new short-term exploit is rationalized with respect to its potentially permanent cost to the biosphere. Justification isn't based on exhaustive research on the potential impact in all its complexity on a pristine model of a healthy planet. A rationalization towards a laissez faire approach is good enough to get the job done.

So land and water downstream from oil sands aren't compared to pristine land and water, that, for example, people might want live near and use. It's compared to already polluted waterways: "well it can't be as bad as such and such waterway", even if it could actually be much worse. No major waterway should be in the state it is in, yet it's used as a benchmark. That's a reckless, insane form of reasoning.

Proponents of slash and burn exploits would prefer that there be no pristine comparison - in fact they don't care to imagine that there is such a thing as healthy land and water - it's all relative to the current state of toxicity in which we have to live, and it's incremental, with each decade ushering in an environment that is more hostile to life than the last.

That is exactly how our civilization has ended up in an intractable, unsustainable, and endangered state of being.

No significant impact? Tell that to the residents of Ft Chipewyan...

There is an issue with cancer rates in small communities called statistical clustering. It is highly unlikely that disease rates in a small population will be average, more likely they will be considerably higher or lower than average. It's sometimes called the "law of small numbers."

In this particular case, the doctor got in trouble with Health Canada and College of Physicians and Surgeons because, when ordered to name the specific cancer patients in question, he refused to do so. That is illegal under Alberta law. The provincial government tracks all cancer cases and requires doctors to report them.

The College requires the doctor's permission to release the finding of their investigation of the case to the public. He refused that permission, but a leaked version of the report (of course it was leaked, what do you expect?) indicated serious ethical breaches and fabrication of data.

In the US there are laws preventing the release of confidential medical information. I can sympathize with the doctor in this case.

What stands out to me in this particular case is that it fits the well-worn pattern of exploitation of poor and/or indigenous peoples by one type of big industry or another (mountain top removal comes to mind). The pattern of rationalization, denial, obfuscation, and cover-up is typical of this kind of situation . It would be useful if we could see some agency that was not beholden to the oil industry study the situation in greater detail. I don't expect to see that happen and this leaves those in favor of the oil industry to claim pretty much anything they want as being the 'real truth' about the environmental impact.

Canada also has laws preventing the release of confidential medical information, but in this case there would be no confidential information about the patients in the report, only confidential information about the doctor. He doesn't want it released. One can only imagine what it says about him.

Health Canada and the College of Physicians and Surgeons are not generally considered agencies beholden to the oil industry, and they were the ones upset about the doctor's claims in the press.

The Alberta Environment Department is also monitoring everything up there, and they have no qualms about penalizing companies that cause environmental problems. However, they are suffering from reduced budgets like most other governments, so they are not really keen on wasting money investigating things that they're already monitoring closely, on the unsubstantiated claims of one vocal doctor, particularly since he's not cooperating with them.

There is an issue with cancer rates in small communities called statistical clustering.

There was an excellent piece in the Guardian about exactly this topic only two weeks ago. To make things clear the article uses a "funnel plot" showing how bowel cancer mortality rates show decreasing variability as the population of the city increases:

The article is a great read and introduced me to Ben Goldacre's regular Bad Science column at the Guardian. I wish more newspapers had clear thinkers of his caliber.

That's an excellent plot showing how the variability increases as the size of the population decreases. Of the communities shown, only Glasgow City is something they might want to investigate seriously.

Fort Chipewyan has only 1000 people, so it is 1/30 the size of the smallest community shown on the UK plot, and of course the data variability is extremely high. It also is a far-northern community with a large native population and probably has problems with drinking and high smoking rates. Both smoking and drinking lead to high cancer rates.

BTW, your link to the article didn't work, but Google found it at DIY statistical analysis: experience the thrill of touching real data

Here's a link to the Alberta government's manual on investigating statistical clustering: Guidelines for the Investigation of Clusters of Non-Communicable Health Events (PDF). The Alberta government investigated the situation in Fort Chipewyan and found nothing that was statistically significant.

Potential methodological issues that arise in these investigations, such as small incident cases that yield results with low statistical power and potential post-hoc bias as described by the Texas sharpshooter fallacy, have raised some debate about whether or not non-communicable disease cluster investigations are worth the resources that they require.

Because a perceived clustering of health events is usually associated with a great deal of anxiety and stress from involved communities, these investigations continue to be a very important and necessary public health responsibility.

The government has wasted considerable money in the past investigating health problems that turned out to be nonexistent, and they are not keen on wasting more money in this period of constrained budgets, hence the new guidelines.

I remember one investigation of perceived health issues they did that lasted for years and cost millions of dollars. At the end of it they determined that the people in the community were healthier than average and the cancer rate was abnormally low. Yes, some of the kids living near the gas processing plant suffered from asthma, but the actual asthma rate was lower than in most major cities.

Speaking of guidelines, and Ben Goldacre, JC, here's his TED video describing funnel plots to root out MIA pharmaceutical studies. I link this video for Nurse Practitioner students after they've had all of their serious evidence-based courses, and tell them they might as well go back to educated guessing. Here's why a lot of our reductionist medical science at the end of empire is fairly worthless--regulatory capture by big Pharma. A student doing her thesis on off-label use by practitioners got me focused on this, and I'm still journeying down the rabbit hole on warped policies. We've swung too far on EBP and science, and need to go back to patient centered care (values based practice from the UK is a good model).


And here's an unrelated but interesting look at inequity and health. The results are all arguable; two axes graphs cannot capture complex systems in either healthcare or economics. But the outlier location of Japan in graph after graph after graph is curious. Japan is arguably the bellwether for economic descent--they've had a 20 year head-start economically on the plateau/downturn, and the current situation may be one illustration of a high gain system devolving to low gain. Yet Japan has had much better health overall than other countries (at least up until now). I know a lot of that may be related to culture of diet, but could it be that people using less power are happier and healthier? What do you think, Pi?


Of course that health and happiness gets smashed once your ecosystem base gets trashed by nukes, and everyone has to move hundreds of miles away and still worry whether they are getting dosed as the isotopes inexorably move up the food chain through human activities that concentrate it. A giant experiment in radioecology--I can't believe that there are still people on this board supporting nukes.

Another fossil fuelled environmental disaster is unfolding in Queensland Australia. No fewer than six new ports for loading coal and liquefied coal seam gas are to be built along the coastline that parallels the Great Barrier Reef, a world heritage listed area and major tourist attraction.
There have been increased deaths and disease in fish, dugong (manatees) and turtles. It is not clear whether this can be attributed to harbour dredging or extreme weather. Nobody questions whether increased fossil fuel burning could make the floods and cyclones worse, or whether the damage repair bill will exceed the short term benefits.

We are demented in our desire to produce and consume more and more. Here in Britain we are told our overcrowded islands can expect another five million people in the next twenty years, and still the government encourages feckless women, who have no means even to support themselves, in their desire to have babies and then live off the state in taxpayer funded housing. Their children, we are told, are our future. However, statistically it seems that these children will only be our future if we are police officers, social workers, lawyers or prison warders; such is the likelihood of a successful outcome for children born to uneducated mothers with no work ethic.

Sorry to go off on one, but the thought that the Queensland coast should be desecrated, and with it the Great Barrier Reef, in order that we (and I include all mankind here) can just go on breeding indiscriminately with no heed for the consequences, as we do, seems like total madness.

If only our collective governments could wake up from their sleep spent dreaming of growth and greed.
Watching the politicos running around like headless chickens in Cannes would have been funny had it not been so frightening. These people repeatedly tell us they are in control and the best people for the job. They are in fact visionless incompetents and I just hope that when the streets finally erupt they will be dragged in front of whatever tribunals will be initiated to apportion guilt.

Alas, population growth it is going to be, until it can't any more. I see no, none, absolutely zero serious attention and thought being paid to critical issues on any large political scale. Quite the contrary - it is a frantic holding on to BAU come what may.

It's not so much the problems we face that have me freaking out - it's the response to them.

So I'll leave it to Darwinian give you the gory details, but I boil it down to this: We will eat the planet. It's a Juggernaut. It is going to play itself out. Get out of the way if you can!

Yeah to a certain extent I feel sorry for you Brits in that regard.

North America can still afford immigration, we are incredibly large. Why Britain would try to attempt this model on a crowded island is simply beyond me.

It's almost as if the ruling classes of Britain are sad that they no longer have Empire, so they choose to try to replicate it at home.

North America should have an appropriate population of 50 million, and that may be a bit crowded.
Th US is overcrowded, with few intact ecosystems.

Be very careful with making the causal link that dredging is responsible for fish/manatee/turtle deaths. You may recall that over the past year there have been two typhoons and widespread flooding over Queensland. Having 'who know what' washed out to sea from the flooding is much more likely to be what's killed off the wildlife.

The increase in resource exports is much more of a problem, and Australia would do well to have a smart national policy than the current free-for-all. That's the root of the problems - incompetent politicians.

Connecticut still getting trees cleared and wires patched.. Lots of Maine crews drove down to help out..


As the governor keeps suggesting, state government will be most relevant in asking how much more tree cutting around power lines should be done, whether utility repair staff should be larger, how much should be spent on these things, and how much electric rates will have to increase to pay for them.

How CL&P and state government prioritized their responses to the weather damage needs to examined too, but the biggest question -- why did it take so long to get the power back on? -- is already largely answered if it is accepted that the damage to the electrical system was the worst in Connecticut in 35 or even 55 years.

After last week's storm and blackout, CL&P [Connecticut Light & Power] has opted for a more appropriate logo...

Mexico's Pemex Oil Production Slips In First Week Of November

Behind a pay wall but available via google. Just put the title of the article in your google search window and click.

Mexico just barely a net petroleum exporter.

In its latest trade report, Mexico's National Statistics Institute said that September's petroleum imports rose 79% as compared with the year-ago month, to $4.28 billion, and petroleum exports of mostly crude oil grew 31.8%, to $4.37 billion, making the nation a net petroleum exporter by a small margin for the month in dollar terms.

Exports      $4,370,000,000 
Imports      $4,280,000,000
Net Exports     $90,000,000

Looks like Mexico may become a net oil importer sooner than even most peak oilers expected.

Ron P.

Back in 2007, Jeff Rubin (then still with CIBC) predicted that Mexico would be finished as an exporter of significance to USA by 2012.
This prognosis seemed premature to some people (and perhaps it was) but there seems to be no question that Mexico's role as a major exporter is very much in jeopardy, as is the internal fiscal & political stability that usually comes with a steady flow of export earnings.

Fact Check:

Rubin's call for the demise of Mexican exports of crude by 2012 was definitely premature, by perhaps a decade or more. (In the end he will be right, of course, but timing is important.)

There is no question that Mexican fiscal stability is an issue and "net earnings" may go to zero soon if they can't build a refinery. But, from the perspective of the importing nation, there is a big difference between Mexico having zero net exports and Mexico have zero net earnings from exports. Exporting raw materials and importing finished products has always been a bad way to run an economy.


If I were "Mexico" I would not be concerened about the date of zero net exports. I would be concerned about the fact that export decreases all the time. Ever year you have to adopt tolower and lower revenues. You can not just make one big cutone year and be done with it. You have to cut EVERY YEAR. Even once you hit zero export you will have to cut, since you will then have to increase imports. And if there is no imports to get, you will have to cut even more to adapt to not having the energy. The hill goes downhill, and no end toit is in sight.

JAPAN TIMES EDITORIAL: Fukushima health concerns

Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2011

It is of great concern that little has been disclosed regarding the conditions of the workers at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

...It must not be forgotten that exposure to radiation has long-term effects on human health. In the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings, the number of leukemia cases started to increase among bombing survivors two years after the bombs were dropped. In the case of the 1986 Chernobyl accident, thyroid cancer began to appear among children several years after the disaster happened. Particular attention should be paid to the health of children.

...On the basis of measurements by a worldwide network of sensors, the report says that 19 percent of the released cesium 137 fell on land in Japan while most of the rest fell into the Pacific Ocean. It holds the view that a large amount of radioactive substances was released from the spent nuclear fuel pool of the No. 4 reactor, pointing out that the amount of radioactive emissions dropped suddenly when workers started spraying water on the pool.

The report reinforces the advice that local residents in Fukushima Prefecture should try to remember and document in detail their actions for the first two weeks of the nuclear disaster.

Humorous saber rattling on Iran from the politically inconsequential...

Rick Santorum Sides With Allen West, Supports Preemptive Strike on Iran(video)

This transcription, courtesy of Talking Points Memo posting on the same article.

SANTORUM: If we are in a position where Iran is close to getting a nuclear weapon, then action needs to be taken. It simply can’t be ignored. I mean, Imagine this. Imagine if Honduras has been making noise about trying to destroy the United States and that they were developing a nuclear weapon, and we had a report saying they were in a few months of developing a nuclear weapon. Would we just sit there knowing that they had made comments that they would destroy our country and they were about to get a nuclear weapon? Would we sit there and allow them do that? I don’t think any Americans would let that happen. In fact, the president would be impeached for letting that happen. So what would we say to the state of Israel, that has been threatened to be wiped out?

Santorum doesn't even have the sense to use Venezuela in his metaphor!

After Dan Savage's campaign I have great difficulty paying attention to anything that guy says.

If the GOP wants to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons, the only way to do so is by invasion, boots on the ground and 100% control of every square km of Iran. Invading and occupying Iran would make invading Iraq look like a cake-walk.

If the GOP wants to Declare War on Iran, they are the ones that control the Congress.

They would need to triple the Defense budget, double the tax rates, reinstate the draft and put ~5+ million 18 to 24 year olds in uniform. Then that effort would probably fail.

Why doesn't the GOP controlled Congress do those things?

Obama can't bomb Iran without a Declaration of War by the Congress.

"If the GOP wants to Declare War on Iran, they are the ones that control the Congress."

The GOP controls the House, the Democrats control the Senate.

And reinstate the draft, and expand it to include women.

Otherwise you are likely correct.

But Obama can bomb anyone he wants without approval from Congress for 90 days, and in practice much longer. Putting boots on the ground is supposed to take an act of Congress, but that has been fudged for decades now.

Vietnam, Lebanon, Grenada, Somalia, the Balkans, etc. Congress has gotten real good with "war-lite" as they get the flag-waving, MIC PAC money, and no real responsibility for it. They certainly feel no obligation to pay for it in any way at all.

Besides, we've always been at war with west-asia.

Obama can't bomb Iran without a Declaration of War by the Congress.

The POTUS could choose to carry out air strikes against Iran without the approval of Congress. IMHO, there is not wide support for such attacks to occur. A ground war would require a declaration of war. The only scenario I could envision where there would be enough political support for such a ground war to occur would be another 9-11 type attack carried out on American soil.

While we are focused on Muslim countries that might get nuclear weapons, maybe we should spend more energy concentrating on Muslim countries that have nuclear weapons.

The Ally From Hell

Nuclear-weapons components are sometimes moved by helicopter and sometimes moved over roads. And instead of moving nuclear material in armored, well-defended convoys, the SPD prefers to move material by subterfuge, in civilian-style vehicles without noticeable defenses, in the regular flow of traffic. According to both Pakistani and American sources, vans with a modest security profile are sometimes the preferred conveyance. And according to a senior U.S. intelligence official, the Pakistanis have begun using this low-security method to transfer not merely the “de-mated” component nuclear parts but “mated” nuclear weapons. Western nuclear experts have feared that Pakistan is building small, “tactical” nuclear weapons for quick deployment on the battlefield. In fact, not only is Pakistan building these devices, it is also now moving them over roads.

What this means, in essence, is this: In a country that is home to the harshest variants of Muslim fundamentalism, and to the headquarters of the organizations that espouse these extremist ideologies, including al-Qaeda, the Haqqani network, and Lashkar-e-Taiba (which conducted the devastating terror attacks on Mumbai three years ago that killed nearly 200 civilians), nuclear bombs capable of destroying entire cities are transported in delivery vans on congested and dangerous roads. And Pakistani and American sources say that since the raid on Abbottabad, the Pakistanis have provoked anxiety inside the Pentagon by increasing the pace of these movements. In other words, the Pakistani government is willing to make its nuclear weapons more vulnerable to theft by jihadists simply to hide them from the United States, the country that funds much of its military budget.

If Pakistan is the ally from hell, does that make Israel the ally from heaven?

This article is more tripe from Jeffrey Goldberg and Marc Ambinder, establishment neocon goons.

Actually Saudi Arabia is our ally from heaven, Israel and Pakistan are both from hell. ;-)

I suspect if we do anything militarily, it would be bomb, and then pretend the problem is now solved. Longerterm that would probably just give an enormous boost to the Iranians that want N weapons. But our political time horizon is what four years or less. It would work (delay them them that long). So to coin a phrase "Bomb and Pretend".

IMHO the nuclear weapon threats in the middle east are a lot of saber-rattling and probably nothing more. A lone terrorist might set off a nuke or two if they get their hands on it, but there won't be any full scale nuclear exchanges coming from the people in power. They won't do it for the same reason that nobody else has done it since 1945 - large scale conventional war is obsolete. People didn't suddenly stop being warlike after 1945 but they have stopped using a strategy that no longer provides the expected spoils from a war.

The Congress/POTUS/CIA/US govt won't start another war either. They won't do it for the simple reason that it's no longer an effective way to take money from the American public and direct it into the MIC/corporate state. The USA as a whole cannot soak up another multi-trillion-dollar debt for any reason. The existing govt & country literally could not withstand it and remain intact. That ends the true incentive for the American powers-that-be to start another war anywhere.

Former US official says cyber weaknesses should deter US from waging war on other nations


I absolutely agree, but what is the way out? What happens when the oil stops flowing? What happens when Israel is threatened?

Do we all just decide to ride bicycles and get along?

Clinton bombed Sudan, Regan bombed Libya and you are bombing and you are bombing Pakistan at this very moment. Congress might be consulted but that will be about all.

They would need to triple the Defense budget, double the tax rates, reinstate the draft and put ~5+ million 18 to 24 year olds in uniform. Then that effort would probably fail.

Or they would need to take of the gloves and become really brutal. Then it would require much less resources. But I guess that can't be done in the current political landscape. I agree, btw - hands off. Irans dictators will fall anyway, soon enough.

compared to the outrage of re-starting the draft i would think that the consideration of using our nuclear weapons would seem more inviting. scary thought really.

Ahmadinejad did not say that Israel would be wiped out.

Ahmadinejad, as President, does not have the authority to attack Israel anyway.

Iran, under whatever form of government, has not started a war in centuries.

Iran is not close to a nuclear weapon, as has been confirmed by everyone looking at the matter. The mullahs have issued fatwas against nuclear weapons as inherently un-Islamic, though that may not mean anything.

The mullahs are not "insane" or "crazy". They understand that nuking America or Israel would result in Iran being eradicated, and they have no desire to have that happen.

There is mounting evidence that the US is funding terrorists in Iran such as Jundallah in order to destabilize the country. No one should be shocked; the US is the biggest terrorist state in the world.

Ahead of Iran nuclear report, plenty of apocalyptic talk

Asked at the press conference whether he was worried that cutting off Iran's roughly 3.5 million barrels a day of oil production could lead to a surge in oil prices and damage the US and other economies, Sen. Mark Kirk (R) of Illinois said he wasn't, given Saudi Arabian enmity for Iran.

Saudi Arabia has said they will match any reduction in Iranian sales and they have the capability to do that," Kirk said. "I think given the view of the Saudi government they would mess over the Iranians at the first available opportunity by increasing oil production.

That Saudi Arabia is both capable of making up for all lost Iranian production, and willing to do so, is very much an open question.

They did such a bang-up job of covering Libya's 1.3 M bbl/d oil short-fall - it will be no trouble at all to triple that increase in production./sarc

Methinks Mr. Kirk has his head up his a$$

It would be asinine for the U.S. to attack Iran. Theodore Roosevelt's maxim "walk softly and carry a big stick" only works if one uses the stick sparingly. Saudi Arabia and Israel may not like Iran and fear its influence, however, it would be in America's interest for them to cool their heals. As mentioned before and elsewhere, the US has a much, much bigger problem with the one Islamist ally who has the bomb already, Pakistan.

Besides, Israel is not too popular among western leaders these days. Sarkozy called Israeli PM Netanyahu 'liar'

"I can't stand him any more, he's a liar," Mr Sarkozy said in French.

"You may be sick of him, but me, I have to deal with him every day," Mr Obama replied.

A preemptive strike on Iran's nuclear program wouldn't fit well within the diplomatic niceties of our day.

Ahmadinejad did not say that Israel would be wiped out.

To the contrary, he say so all the time. Either that, or the guys who write the sub titles on tv-news lies to us. But since Sweden has persian imigrants, someone whould have spotted it if they translated wrong.

Then if he say so because he mean it or because he want to feed his local supporters with what they want to hear - open israel-hate is very common in islamic nations - is another issue.

language differences. what he said was the regime, which in English is interchangeable with the country it's self. in farsi there are different words for the country and the government that runs the country. he used the latter. the main stream media used the former because it sells more papers.

How much oil does China get from Iran?

Michael Pollan gives a plant's-eye view

What if human consciousness isn't the end-all and be-all of Darwinism? What if we are all just pawns in corn's clever strategy game to rule the Earth?


The only problem with downgrading consciousness is that there is little difference for humans between life and death without it. It is one of key ideas that made me an atheist.

The logic is this: All dead people are unconscious. Even live people can be unconscious as when they are put out during an operation as I was when I had my kidney removed due to cancer. When I woke up, the whole experience did not exist. I was less one kidney and had a big sore.

So it doesn't matter whether there is an after life, heaven or hell. Without consciousness none of it can be experienced.

All life happens now and after death, nothing. Obvious to atheists but they a small minority.

TED is a great web site. I was thinking about linking to this a few days ago but decided against it because it wasn't sufficiently energy related. But since the TED door has been opened:


small world

me too: a minus one kidney, kidney cancer survivor here (if you want to call this surviving: no more Advil for you, ha ha)

not sure what that TED talk has anything to do with anything (maybe the Question of who "deserves" oil after PO) --but thanks for the link anyway

Repsol-YPF big find in Argentina
Repsol Taps Big Argentine Oil Find

The Spanish company's Argentine unit said Monday it has identified 927 million barrels of oil equivalent in underground rock [shale] while exploring 428 square kilometers in the Loma La Lata area [Neuquen, in the South]. That is about 3.5% of the approximately 12,000 square kilometers it owns in the region, the vast majority as yet unexplored for shale oil and gas, the company said.
Argentina's overall energy trade balance, including electricity, will swing this year to a deficit of about $3.5 billion from a surplus of about $1 billion in 2010

Less than two weeks of World consumption, about five years of Argentinian consumption.
It is non-conventional oil.
Similar news in Bloomberg.

Some analysts are saying that it's probably a good idea to invest in oil companies in the medium term say 8-10 years. The theory being the usual peak oil and consumption rise. IMO it's a bad idea, with more pinch there is every chance that governments will start nationalizing private oil companies (wherever it isn't so already) and a lot of those oil profits will be used for the 'greater good' of the parent countries.
Most of these new finds may actually be locked up for the home country's usage. Oil poor countries will be the worst hit in that case.

I'm certainly not one to make investment advice, but I tend to agree with your assessment. Owning the oil majors is problematic because of their inability to increase production at any cost. Also, governments around the world will find one way or another to "seize" the profits either through nationalization or windfall profits taxes.

If one were to invest in the energy space my advice would be to look at the Oil Service Sector. If there is one group of companies poised to grow for many years to come it's the service companies. They skate under the radar of government intervention and, with production falling the only cure is to drill more holes as fast as you can. But again, I have NO investment experience and am completely unqualified to make any specific suggestions other than my thoughts.

Black Gold : New movie about Nigerian Oil


From award winning director, Jeta Amata, comes Black Gold, a powerful story of greed, murder and corruption in the murky waters of the volatile oil rich Niger Delta region of Nigeria. Black Gold is an epic film about environmental justice and the fight over the control of the scarce oil resources that the world runs on. The line between good and evil is blurred as corrupt government officials, greedy oil companies and violent rebels go on a war path over oil spills and degradation of the land caused by oil exploration. Starring Billy Zane, Mbong Amata, Hakeem Kae Kazim and Sarah Wayne Callies. Produced by Jeta Amata, Wilson Ebiye, Dede Mabiaku and Hakeem Kae Kazim. Original score and trailer by Joel Goffin.

Generating ethanol from lignocellulose possible, but large cost reductions still needed

The production of ethanol from lignocellulose-rich materials such as wood residues, waste paper, used cardboard and straw cannot yet be achieved at the same efficiency and cost as from corn starch. A cost comparison has concluded that using lignocellulose materials is unlikely to be competitive with starch until 2020 at the earliest.

The study, ... did identify many opportunities for reducing costs and improving income within the lignocellulose-to-ethanol process, and provides insight into the priority areas that must be addressed in coming years.

Wind energy lessens under heat wave conditions

During the summer 2003, high temperatures and drought conditions in Europe led to a reduction of the wind force with direct consequences on the wind energy power, reduced by 22%. The study was recently published in Journal of Climate.

see also [Journal article]

Looks like Texas' investment in wind turbines may not give the pay-back they expect

I was just thinking something like this the other day. If you have the same wind speed, what is the difference in energy production of 80F vs 20F (colder air is denser)? ...how cold can a wind turbine produce energy? There are areas with turbines that must see -20F at times...

Australia passes controversial carbon pollution tax

Australia passed its controversial pollution tax Tuesday in a sweeping and historic reform aimed at lowering carbon emissions blamed for climate change, after years of fierce debate.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said it was the culmination of a "quarter of a century of scientific warnings, 37 parliamentary inquiries and years of bitter debate and division."

Feds roll out five-year plan for offshore drilling

The Obama administration today unveiled a plan for selling offshore drilling leases over the next five years that focuses on exploration in the Gulf of Mexico, proposes three auctions in the Arctic and rules out development in unexplored areas along the Atlantic coast.

All told, the Interior Department is paving the way for 15 lease sales in six offshore areas, including the eastern Gulf of Mexico, near an area where development is currently off limits under a federal ban.

Oil and gas companies would also have the chance to bid on drilling rights for Arctic waters near Alaska, including the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, as well as the Cook Inlet.

... Interior Secretary Ken Salazar pitched the new proposal as an expansion of “safe and responsible oil and gas production from the outer continental shelf” that would “help us continue to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.”

Apparently Secretary Salazar has not heard about this new process called efficiency & conservation.

S - Interesting if you lay out the electoral college vs. the proposed leasing areas. But you also have to overlay cultural attitudes of each region. Gulf Coast residents will be pleased with their part: a huge chunk of our GDP/taxes come from that area. OTOH no one on the east coast is currently making a $ from offshore drilling. And the Arctic? They ain't got demographics...seals and polar bears don't vote.

Makes perfect political sense for an election year. Ties well to the current administration approving a Clean Air permit for a new coal-fired power plant in Texas that will burn $billions of Illinois coal. Another win-win.

Makes perfect political sense for an election year.

Thats what I as thinking. Approving drilling off either east of west coasts would cause a firestorm of opposition, so its off the table. I think Floridians get pretty uptight about the possibility of oil on their beaches too. Does that mean he is pushing it as far as the eastern gulf is concerned?

EOS - I would be shocked if they opened up any lease in the eastern GOM close to FL.

Arctic Permafrost: Climate Wild Card

... As the Arctic warms—which it's doing rather rapidly—there's a risk that the permafrost could become less than permanent, releasing some of that trapped methane into the air, which would then accelerate warming, leading to more Arctic melt, more methane emissions...so on and so on. Climate scientists call this a "feedback loop"—and if it happens soon, you could just call us screwed.

Alaska is facing one of its worst storms in history.


The Web's Next Big Thing: Cheap Labor

For $25, Daniel H will help debug your software. Valerie asks just $20 to pick your folks up from the airport. Miss Minty, for $50, will teach you to drive a stick-shift. Those are some of the services being offered on Coffee and Power, a web site that looks to match up tasks with willing workers. Like it or not, it may be the future of work — and pay.

It’s jarring how cheaply some jobs are bid. ...the individual is being devalued in the service of ever more powerful networks.

The goal of anyone who’s creating a web network is to collect big user data that can be more efficiently monetized (think Google and advertising) and can make the network more sticky — that is, hard for users to leave. (Think Facebook.) If they succeed, the network owner gets rich. Users — in this case, workers — don’t. They feed the machine and wind up bidding against each other.

I got more links for you

3-D Printers Will Build Circuit Boards ‘In 2 Years’

Before you know it, we’ll be building circuit boards with 3-D printers.

In other words, 3-D printers will help us manufacture PCs. Or even, other 3-D printers.

“Printing actual circuit boards is very close,” says David ten Have, CEO of 3-D printing outfit Ponoko. “Most of the assembly tools are completely automated anyway. I’m guessing 18 to 24 months.”

Ten Have is discussing a 3-D printing technique known as “additive printing.” Whereas a standard printer jets ink onto paper, a 3-D printer builds three dimensional objects by layering materials — plastic, metals, rubbers — on top of each other. Each layer is about one three-thousandths of an inch thick. Some 3-D printing techniques have been around for over 20 years, but they’re finally getting to the point they can be used by the average company — not just the massive corporation.

I think evolving technology will be a bigger job killer than any other thing around. As recession accelerates automation will only increase. And the last bastion of humans (service industry) may soon fall prey to computers due to advances in Natural Language Processing as shown by Siri and Watson

This afternoon I and a handful of colleagues met with the president of our company for an informal lunch meeting. One of the things that we talked about was "what is the cause or goal of our company?". The question was asked because we're hearing an increasing number of potential employees asking about the company philosophy (I work for a family owned automation company that treats its employees very well and we've done well over the last 10 years by staying small, focused, and nimble). The responses to the question were interesting.

When one of the attendees mentioned his paycheck and that the company provided good jobs to Vermonters, we all sort of agreed. The company is here to earn money by producing a product that fills a perceived need. I commented that while this is true that the company provides us with good jobs, it would be interesting to consider the implications of our products (particularly some of our more recently released products that automate a larger number of sequential operations) on jobs at purchasing institutions. For example, if one of our instruments allows a single user to accomplish the work that 2 workers would complete without the instrument, then it could be argued that our instrument cost us a job. An example of technology eliminating jobs.

Fortunately, for my peace of mind, the instruments that we produce the instruments are almost always purchased because the instruments are far more accurate, and the results reported by the instrument are far more repeatable, than those acquired manually. In other words, our machines tend to improve quality rather than displace manual labor, but the risk of automation supplanting jobs is real.

RepRap. The printer that can make itself (almost).

You can make one yourself, it's open source. And once you've made one, you can use it to make more RepRaps!


Hopefully, web 2.0 is a stepping stone to web 3.0. What would be the difference in my mind? Consider the human body. A marvelous example of a civilization with over a trillion members. It is not the case that each cell communicates with every other cell, but instead, each cell communicates with an aggregator. The toe cell need not log on to the retina every day to determine what is important to it, but instead will rely on the aggregator.

If each cell tried to communicate with every other cell, there would only be (exponential) chaos and confusion, witness web 2.0.


The striking thing is that emissions are now rising faster than the worst-case scenarios envisioned by the IPCC in its 2007 report.

Looked like an interesting article but it kept freezing up and couldn't scroll down. Hopefully will find it on another site.

Economy and Climate Change

Anyone who wants a sneak peak into how post peak transition will, or will not, happen need only look at the path of CO2 mitigation.


This year the world as a whole went backward in reducing CO2, with the UK rising in its per capita CO2 production. From a system perspective, it looks like not only is CO2 positively correlated to growth, it also seems to be negatively correlated to individual wealth. As the economy is taxed, dirty options are selected and carbon mitigation activities scaled back.

Of particular interest is Australia, where carbon intensity has fallen as GDP has risen.

Read that across to a post peak world and it seems certain that the immediate, short term, 'easiest' approach to dealing with post post strains will be taken. We won't be investing in 'solutions' that take 5-10 years to bare fruit, we'll be doing 'quick and dirty'.

As such, ignore nuclear, battery power cars, etc. and think X-to-liquids, dual fuel conversions, and rationed fuel usage.

Alternatively, what can be seen is a policy directed at large scale change when the economy is good has a better effect than trade-ins when the economy is bad. People are prepared to to invest in change at that point - well slightly more than they are in depressions.

Maslow's pyramid strikes back.

Sharp develops solar cell with world’s highest conversion efficiency of 36.9%

Sharp Corporation has achieved the world’s highest solar cell conversion efficiency of 36.9% using a triple-junction compound solar cell in which the solar cell has a stacked three-layer structure. Measurement of this value, which sets a new record for the world’s highest non-concentrating conversion efficiency, was confirmed at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST).


Just for comparison, the efficiency record at concentration is somewher around %41 to 42%. But, that is at over 100suns!

Seventeen workers exposed to radiation at Idaho lab

(Reuters) - At least 17 workers were exposed to low-level radiation from plutonium on Tuesday at an Energy Department nuclear research lab in Idaho, but there was no risk to the public, the government said.

The accident at the Idaho National Laboratory occurred inside a facility used for remotely handling, processing and examining spent nuclear fuel, radioactive waste and other irradiated materials, the lab said in a series of statements.

The so-called Materials and Fuels Complex is located near the edge of the sprawling 890-square-mile laboratory site in the high desert in eastern Idaho about 38 miles from the city of Idaho Falls.

The Never-ending Story – Commercial Oil/Product Supplies Continue Decline

The API provided its weekly snapshot of US oil and product inventories this Tuesday evening:

Oil Trades Near Three-Month High on Berlusconi Plan, U.S. Fuel Stockpiles
By Ben Sharples - Nov 8, 2011 6:55 PM ET

Futures were little changed after climbing for a fifth day yesterday. Berlusconi offered to step down as soon as Parliament approves austerity measures pledged to European partners. U.S. gasoline supplies dropped 1.49 million barrels last week, the American Petroleum Institute said. An Energy Department report today may show they rose 1 million barrels, according to a Bloomberg News survey.

Supplies of distillate fuel, a category that includes heating oil and diesel, fell 2.88 million barrels, the API said. They may decrease 2.2 million barrels, according to the median of 13 analyst estimates before today’s Energy Department report.

Crude inventories climbed 148,000 barrels, the API said. Analysts forecast a gain of 500,000 barrels in the survey.


The decline in diesel supplies has been particularly steep, and has resulted in short supplies in the Dakotas:

Fuel shortages a big problem in the Dakotas

Associated Press
Updated: 11/03/2011 09:51:18 AM CDT

Gasoline and diesel shortages at fuel terminals throughout much of the Dakotas and into Minnesota have fuel truck drivers sitting in line for hours, waiting for fuel to arrive via pipeline. South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard and North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple both have relaxed service hour restrictions for commercial fuel truckers.

"This is worse than 2007-08," Dawna Leitzke, director of the South Dakota Petroleum Marketers Association, told the Argus Leader. "That was a supply nightmare. This is quickly escalating to a worse situation."


More tomorrow on inventories after the EIA reports.

My prior post (from October 12):
Why US Oil Inventories Will Keep Falling

Even the Wall Street Journal is catching on (from November 3):
Oil Inventories Slip, Slide Away

The disk drives I was thinking about getting just went from 1,300 pesos to 3,300 pesos.


GAS HOLE :::::::::::: FULL VERSION:::::::::::::


yes, lets ignore the inadequacy of electric vehicles to do what gasoline versions can.. i know we will just claim it's some grand conspiracy by the car makers, oh and oil companies to kill them off. [sarcasm]

I have recently had a few thoughts I feel like sharing. I don’t really know where to put them so I’ll just post them here even though it’s kind of a random place for them.

It seem like the most immediate problems we are facing has to do with transportation. One of the best solutions to this problem seems to be taxes on fuel.

I don’t think that this tax is enough by itself. Things like gas taxes and carbon tax give advantages to countries that don’t have such taxes which lesson their usefulness, and they also have other problems because they don’t directly address some of the bigger issues. One such issue is that everything is too spread out requiring a lot of transportation.

I think that there should also be a distance tax. With this tax things will be taxed based on the distance between where they are produced and where they are consumed. This tax will encourage people to manufacture things closer to where they are used. I would also include food in this tax because doing so will encourage small farming operations close to urban centers. There might be some benefits to making certain things exempt from this tax such as manufacturing equipment, and for the sake of easier accounting things transported no more than 50 miles (or some other suitable number) should be exempt.

The proceeds from these taxes should be used to help the people who lose their jobs and are otherwise severely harmed by these taxes. Programs should be developed that support people while at the same time encouraging those people to support themselves. These programs should place an emphases on teaching people needed skills, and developing communities where people can help care for each other. I’m not an expert on this but I think some laws will likely need to be changed including zoning laws that get in the way of people helping themselves.

I think that the internet should be maintained if possible. We should aim towards a world where people exchange ideas, knowledge and information more than physical objects.

Another random thought I had. One possible plan for dealing with oil shock might be a system of vouchers. These vouchers will be for groups and/or organizations that perform needs services (someone will have to work out who such people are). The vouchers will be based of those entities average gas costs and amounts used during the last three consecutive years. Each year the needed entities will including information about their gas usage and price paid on their tax returns. The IRS will keep track of this information and in the event of a presidentially declared gas emergency they will issue these vouchers to the needed entities. Fuel providers will have to sell gas to these entities at the prices specified on their vouchers before they can sell to anyone else. If the needed entities fail to proved service to the people that rely on them, and if the people that rely on them can prove that the need entities sold the vouchers or the fuel from the vouchers fraudulently then the needed entities will be liable and the people who relied on them can sue for damages. This will help keep the needed entities honest. Ok, I’m done. Hopefully someone found this interesting.