Drumbeat: November 18, 2011

Saudi Aramco CEO says expects oil prices to remain 'healthy'

Saudi Aramco CEO Khalid al-Falih said Friday he does not expect oil demand to fall in the future and that he saw oil prices remaining at a "healthy" level in the long term.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of an energy forum in Moscow, Falih said he did not see a drop in crude oil demand as it would be supported by "driven by demographics which is rising and by economic growth in Asia." "I expect [oil] prices will remain healthy in the long term," he said.

Falih said that in 2012 Saudi Aramco is to keep capital expenditure "at the very high level to maintain our production and meet our strategic plans."

Oil Rallies, Heads for Seventh Weekly Gain in New York, as Euro Rebounds

Oil rose in New York as the euro strengthened amid speculation that European Central Bank buying of Italian and Spanish bonds will stem surging borrowing costs and mitigate the effects of the region’s debt crisis.

Futures rose as much as 1.3 percent, after dropping 3.7 percent yesterday. The euro strengthened against the dollar while Italian and Spanish lending costs declined following reports the European Central Bank bought the nations’ bonds. Prices, up 1.1 percent this week, are headed for their seventh straight weekly gain, the longest run in more than two years.

“The physical oil market remains fairly tight, which keeps supporting the market,” said James Zhang, London-based commodity strategist at Standard Bank Plc. “It also benefits from a recovery in euro.”

Gas prices likely to reach holiday high

Motorists will probably pay record-high gasoline prices for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

Regular gas is likely to average $3.37 a gallon next week — up a whopping 51 cents over last Thanksgiving, according to price tracker GasBuddy.com. Adjusting for inflation, that's about 1 cent higher than 2007's previous holiday high of $3.08.

China Power Firm Margins Worst Since 2006 as Coal Rises

Chinese power plants face the smallest profit margins in at least five years as government- mandated caps on electricity prices prevent utilities from passing along coal-price increases.

Disaster reform eyed for oil industry

The government, Petroleum Association of Japan and other oil industry-related entities are taking steps to make oil supply chains more disaster-resistant, due to lessons learned from serious fuel shortages in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake.

EU Rules May Soak Up $93 Billion of Utility Cash

Companies from RWE AG (RWE) to Vattenfall AB may have to find an extra 69 billion euros ($93 billion) to meet unprecedented European Union regulations designed to crack down on speculation in the region’s energy markets.

A proposal made last month by the EU may for the first time require utilities and other firms with commodity assets to set aside funds to clear, or safeguard, their power, fuel and carbon permit trades against default. Those companies don’t currently need to clear so-called over-the-counter, or OTC, trades, which, in power, account for 73 percent of Europe’s electricity market.

Russia eyes legal opportunities to challenge EU’s Third Energy Package

Russia is considering an opportunity to legally challenge the rules envisaged by the Third Energy Package of the European Union, Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko said on Friday.

The existing cooperation agreement between Russia and Europe stipulates maintenance of the existing economic conditions of work of the Russian firms operating in the European Union, Shmatko said.

UAE in line for bigger oil presence in Kurdistan

ERBIL, Iraq // The UAE could increase its presence in Iraqi Kurdistan's energy assets as the prospect of a merger between two of the first companies to pump oil in the northern region of Iraq improve.

South Sudan assertive on oil sales

JUBA (Reuters) - South Sudan will market its crude through its oil ministry, an oil official said on Thursday casting further doubt on the role trading major Glencore's venture will have in selling the nation's oil.

Baghdad threatens ExxonMobil with contract cancellation

Baghdad is flexing its muscles as it threatens to enforce a blacklisting policy against foreign companies that sign oil contracts with the regional government in Iraqi Kurdistan.

A deal struck by ExxonMobil to explore for oil in the semi-autonomous region of northern Iraq has inflamed relations between Erbil and Baghdad, and put pressure on Baghdad to cancel ExxonMobil's multibillion-dollar contract in the south or face the prospect of other oil companies entering Kurdistan.

Transneft to load first Ust-Luga oil cargo Dec.15-20

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's new Baltic oil terminal at Ust-Luga will load its first crude oil cargo on Dec. 15-20, the chief executive of oil pipeline monopoly Transneft said on Friday.

"By December 15-20 we plan to finish all the works... and the first cargo will load," Nikolai Tokarev told reporters, adding that the terminal was expected to ship 20 million tonnes of crude in 2012.

Origin Needs at Least One More Customer to Expand Conoco LNG Venture

Origin Energy Ltd. (ORG), ConocoPhillips (COP)’s partner in a $20 billion Australian liquefied natural gas venture, said it aims to sell more than half the fuel from the project’s second phase before committing to an expansion.

The Fracturing of Pennsylvania

From some views, this diamond-shaped cut of land looks like the hardscrabble farmland it has been since the 18th century, when English and Scottish settlers successfully drove away the members of a Native American village called Annawanna, or “the path of the water.” Arrowheads still line the streambeds. Hickory trees march out along its high, dry ridges. Box elders ring the lower, wetter gullies. The air smells of sweet grass. Cows moo. Horses whinny.

From other vantages, it looks like an American natural-gas field, home to 10 gas wells, a compressor station — which feeds fresh gas into pipelines leading to homes hundreds of miles away — and what was, until late this summer, an open five-acre water-impoundment chemical pond. Trucks rev engines over fresh earth. Backhoes grind stubborn stones. Pipeline snakes beneath clear-cut hillsides.

Passions electrify Dansville hydrofracking hearing

DANSVILLE — The first public hearing on New York's controversial rules for regulating natural gas drilling brought little meeting of the minds Wednesday, but plenty of passion.

More than 1,500 people descended on an old school auditorium in the Livingston County village of Dansville for two separate sessions. Anti-drilling forces rallied outside the school, pro-drilling forces flashed placards and drove a mobile billboard up and down the village streets, and advocates of both positions exchanged pointed comments at the public sessions amid cheers, applause and not a little booing. A large contingent of Rochesterians made the one-hour trip to Dansville, as did a sizable group from Steuben County just south of here.

The seam old story springs a leak

ENERGY Minister Martin Ferguson is often criticised, but he's right about this: the coal seam gas industry has grown too fast.

We have not done our homework before issuing approvals for this $50 billion-plus export industry: on the possible groundwater and land-use impact, on what to do with the millions of tonnes of salt left over, or the impact on Gladstone Harbour and the Great Barrier Reef.

‘Inappropriately Cozy’ U.S. Ties on Keystone, Group Says

The State Department withheld information on internal discussions about TransCanada Corp. (TRP)’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline across six U.S. states, according to an environmental group.

The department “heavily redacted” or withheld internal e- mails on discussions over the $7 billion project that were requested under the Freedom of Information Act, according to Friends of the Earth in Washington. Documents that have been released demonstrate “inappropriately cozy” relationships between department officials and TransCanada, the group said.

Brazilian federal police investigate Chevron offshore oil spill

SAO PAULO — The Brazilian Federal Police on Thursday began investigating an oil spill in an offshore field operated by Chevron Corp., a leak that an environmental group alleges is far bigger than the company has stated.

Fishermen sue ConocoPhillips over China oil spill

A group of Chinese fishermen is suing ConocoPhillips for damages allegedly caused by a huge oil spill at an offshore field operated by the US energy giant, their lawyer said Friday.

The early-June spill leaked more than 3,000 barrels of oil and oil-based mud -- a substance used as a lubricant in drilling -- off China's eastern coast, drawing widespread public criticism and warnings from Chinese authorities.

In Pakistan, a deep civil-military divide

LAHORE, Pakistan — A growing storm over a confidential memo is laying bare the profound division between Pakistan’s powerful army and its civilian government, and the nation’s relationship with the United States is again at the center of the gulf.

At issue are allegations that the government of President Asif Ali Zardari asked for U.S. help to prevent a military coup after the Navy SEAL raid in May that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. The claim is thought to have enraged Pakistan’s army, and the resulting controversy prompted Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington, Husain Haqqani, to offer his resignation this week.

Obama Highlights Maritime Security as China and Philippines Spar

President Barack Obama said the East Asia Summit he is attending in Indonesia is the “premier” arena to discuss concerns over maritime security, a topic China has resisted addressing at international forums.

Clashes along Egypt Christian march injure 29

CAIRO — Twenty-nine people were injured in Cairo on Thursday when residents clashed with a group of Christians marching through the capital to commemorate those who died in confrontations with the army on Oct. 9, state news agency MENA said.

Egypt protesters return to Tahrir Square to protest military 'dictatorship'

CAIRO — Over 50,000 Egyptian protesters flocked to Cairo's Tahrir Square Friday to pressure the military government to transfer power to elected civilian rule, after the cabinet tried to enshrine the army's role in a constitutional proposal.

The protesters, mostly bearded men and veiled women, sang religious chants before Friday prayers, while others handed out flyers demanding the withdrawal of the constitutional proposal and presidential elections be held no later than April 2012.

Russia warns Syria is close to 'real civil war'

An attack by Syrian army defectors on an intelligence complex that reportedly left 20 security police dead or wounded prompted Russia's foreign minister to warn Thursday that the embattled nation was close to a "real civil war."

Assad's forces shell Syria villages for hours

AMMAN, Jordan — French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe on Friday called on the U.N. Security Council to act against Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime, as his forces used sustained shelling against people involved in the eight-month uprising for the first reported time.

West Bank solar panels risk demolition

Clouds of uncertainty hung over this tiny Palestinian village on Wednesday, as locals waited to see if the Israeli army would call off its demolition of the community's solar panels.

It was two years ago that Spanish NGO SEBA joined forces with Nablus's Al-Najah University and installed two solar panels in the community, at the southernmost tip of the West Bank, replacing the gasoline generators that the village had been using as its only source of power.

Solyndra $535 Million Loan Mostly Lost to Taxpayers, Chu Tells Lawmakers

Energy Secretary Steven Chu told lawmakers he was responsible for the $535 million U.S. loan guarantee to Solyndra LLC and said he doubted much of the money would be recovered after the company’s bankruptcy.

Chu, who once predicted the California maker of solar panels would be a “shared success story,” testified today before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee investigating the Energy Department’s reasons for backing Solyndra and providing refinancing as it slid toward collapse.

Issa: Energy Department's Wind Power Project Resulted in 'Abuse of Taxpayer Dollars'

"Instead of lowering unemployment, the Energy Department's efforts to play venture capitalist with stimulus funds have resulted in enormous waste and abuse of taxpayer dollars," said House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., on a recent Energy Department Inspector General's report about a stimulus program gone wrong.

Renewable energy in Constellation deal questioned

The chairman of the Garrett County Board of Commissioners wrote Exelon President and CEO Christopher Crane this month saying industrial wind-power generation has been a contentious issue in the county.

The board "does not support further industrialization of ridge tops until a prudent and reasonable public policy has been created and enacted that will provide protections to those who will be adversely impacted," Chairman Gregan Crawford said in the letter.

Safety in mind for country's first nuclear power plant

An international committee that is to visit the proposed site of the UAE's first nuclear plant next week says the potential risks of the proposed reactor site require more study.

Abu Dhabi to send more power north

The combination of increasing supply to the Northern Emirates and strong demand growth in Abu Dhabi will next year push the load on the emirate's power plants during the hottest months above 10 gigawatts for the first time.

From Edison’s Trunk, Direct Current Gets Another Look

Thomas Edison and his direct current, or DC, technology lost the so-called War of the Currents to alternating current, or AC, in the 1890s after it became clear that AC was far more efficient at transmitting electricity over long distances.

Today, AC is still the standard for the electricity that comes out of our wall sockets. But DC is staging a roaring comeback in pockets of the electrical grid.

Alstom, ABB, Siemens and other conglomerates are erecting high-voltage DC grids to carry gigawatts of electricity from wind farms in remote places like western China and the North Sea to faraway cities. Companies like SAP and Facebook that operate huge data centers are using more DC to reduce waste heat. Panasonic is even talking about building eco-friendly homes that use direct current.

Hybrids safer than comparable gas-powered cars

On average, the odds of being injured in a crash are 25 percent lower for people in hybrids than people traveling in comparable non-hybrid vehicles, the research found.

“Weight is a big factor,” said Matt Moore, vice president of the Highway Loss Data Institute and an author of the report. “Hybrids on average are 10 percent heavier than their standard counterparts. This extra mass gives them an advantage in crashes that their conventional twins don’t have.”

Honda Civic Natural Gas: Green Car of the Year

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- The Honda Civic Natural Gas took home Green Car Journal's 2012 Green Car of the Year award at the L.A. Auto Show on Thursday.

The Civic was lauded for being the cleanest running internal combustion vehicle as certified by the EPA and the only assembly-line produced natural gas passenger model for sale on the U.S. market.

Molycorp's $1 billion rare-earth gamble

How an American company is trying to break China's monopoly on high-tech minerals.

Your grocery bill is getting higher, and higher

Paula McGowan has cut out soda, switched to store brands for other foods and even sent her boyfriend hunting for deer so she can put food on the table.

Still, she finds herself struggling with higher food prices.

“It’s milk, bread, just the basic stuff,” she said. “We’re looking at basics and it’s all going up.”

After two years in which overall food prices barely budged, groceries are getting more expensive.

Exelon Chief Defends EPA

One of the lessons that Exelon CEO John Rowe has learned over 28 years of leading utility companies and dealing with Washington politics is that liberalism is relative. “The electricity industry is probably the only place where I could be a liberal,” Rowe says with a smile in a recent interview with National Journal. “I’m fundamentally very conservative in my economic views. And I never met a big power plant that I didn’t like.” As the chief executive officer of the country’s largest nuclear-reactor operator, he is one of the utility industry’s rare vocal fans of the Obama administration’s clean-air rules; he also ardently supported climate-change legislation. (His company was not at risk: Nuclear power emits virtually no air pollution.)

Kent Says Canada to Speed Environmental Reviews of Big Projects

The Canadian government is considering narrowing the focus of its main environmental assessment agency so it can accelerate reviews of major industrial projects, Environment Minister Peter Kent said.

Not All Rivers Reach the Sea

For six million years, the Colorado River ran its course from its soaring origins in the Rockies to a once-teeming two-million-acre delta, finally emptying 14 million acre-feet of fresh water into the Sea of Cortez. But now, a multitude of straws are drinking from the river, Mr. McBride notes in his documentary.

“The Colorado River delta is a testament of what happens when we ask too much of a limited resource,” he said. “It disappears.”

Report: Climate change means more frequent droughts, floods to come

Climate change will make the drought and flooding events that have battered the United States and other countries in 2011 more frequent in years to come, forcing nations to rethink the way they cope with disasters. according to a new report the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued Friday.

The report — the culmination of a two-year process involving 100 scientists and policy experts — suggests that researchers are far more confident about the prospect of more intense heat waves and heavy downpours than they are about how global warming is affecting hurricanes and tornadoes. But the new analysis also speaks to a broader trend: The world is facing a new reality of more extreme weather, and policymakers and business alike are beginning to adjust.

Wind Power company Suzlon in trouble

Despite all the hullabaloo over alternatives, it seems wind and solar companies aren't doing so well after all. First there was Solyndra now there's Suzlon, which has a sizable presence in Europe.

Many of us suspect that the primary problem that many of the OWS, et al protestors are fundamentally protesting against, generally without realizing it, is resource constraints*. IMO, what most of the younger protesters should be demanding is vocational and agricultural training.

*What I define as Available Net Exports (ANE), i.e. the supply of exported oil available to importers other than China & India, fell at an average rate of one mbpd per year from 2005 to 2010 (from 40 mbpd to 35 mbpd). ANE could be down to 15 to 21 mbpd in 2020.

"...what most of the younger protesters should be demanding is vocational and agricultural training."

Our regional community college abandoned all agricultural programs years ago, and their 4-H association as well. They now offer stuff like "Entrepreneurship" and "Dress For Success". That's what happens when a smaller, rural community shifts from agriculture to real estate and development. It's also why unemployment is around 20%, underemployment much higher.

They do still offer welding courses, though there isn't much welding going on around here... I did hear that the Walmart is hiring for the holidays.

I suggested to my 13 and 10 year old kids at dinner the other night that they would one day go to college to learn to become farmers (Ag School). My son was totally opposed, but my daughter thought it was an ok idea.

While I agree that it is a good idea for more people, especially young people, to learn farming/agriculture, this does not solve the major problem they face - access to farming land.

The price of farmland is so high that no one who doesn't already own land, or substantial other assets, can afford to buy it. And if you can, it will never produce enough to pay off that investment.

if the land is close to a town like Ghung describes (which is similar to where I live - real estate is the main game) then any pieces of remotely useful land are priced on their potential for being "country estates" , and are typically bought by retiring city folk - who want the "rural life" - but this almost never includes any actual farming activity.

Some forward thinkers amongst my community have leased some of their land to young farmers - for $1 - but there are only a few of them.

Any land that might be cheap enough for a young farmer to buy is either rocky and unsuitable, or marginal at best. Either way, the young farmer is in for a tough time.

Time for a new version of the homesteading program, IMo.

Add that if you go an ag school today, you're going to largely learn industrial farming practice, so you're looking at a second mortgage to pay for the equipment. Most small farmers these days make it only because they've got a "town" job, or a spouse with such.

Most small farmers these days make it only because they've got a "town" job, or a spouse with such.

Not anymore. Things have changed in the last couple of years, at least around here.


At current land prices, even small farmers are millionaires on paper.

The thing is that the rise in the price of farmland is driven by government mandates - the mandated level of ethanol in fuel. From the article above:

Ethanol production is expected to use almost 40 percent of the nation’s corn crop this year. Iowa’s 41 ethanol plants will use about 60 percent of the state’s crop.

This gets back to the fundamental problem with converting food into fuel - it is creating food shortages and higher prices for food-importing countries (not to mention American poor) so American drivers can continue to drive in the manner to which they have become accustomed (at taxpayer expense).

Yah, the ethanol scam has made it good for corn growers.

Tying back to the original comment, high land prices don't do anything to help a recent college graduate get into farming. 320 acres (half a section, and far from a big corn operation in Iowa) at $10,000 per acre is $3.2M. The linked article says banks are asking for 50% down on land loans.

Exactly. Farm land is priced according to the value of the crops you can can grow on it. High prices for crops means high prices for the land, and that makes it harder, not easier, for young people to get into farming.

It also makes it harder to get away from monocultures. Generally, everyone in a given area is growing the most profitable crop that will grow there. They have to, to pay their mortgage.

Farm land is priced according to the value of the crops you can can grow on it.

There is more to it than that.

If we assume that you are looking for a 5% return on the investment, then you need to make $500 profit, per acre, per year. If the Iowa farmer is getting 200bu/ac of corn, at $6, that is $1200/acre gross, and $500/ac/yr out of $1200 is one hell of a good profit margin - I doubt that any of them are making that much.

Part of the problem is that the land is being valued as a speculative commodity in itself, and particularly by corporations - who have access to more financing at better terms than does any farming family.

Japan took the approach that they didn;t want this distortion caused by corporate farming, so they passed a law that made it illegal for a corporation to engage in agriculture. The result has been lots of (very small) family farms that cannot grow rice at anything like competitive prices (compared to imports), though they have a better chance when it comes to fresh fruit and veg.

Still, if you want to do a small, but intensive horticulture farm, then you are looking at greenhouses, orchards, etc where the establishment costs make the $10k/ac seem cheap.

My observation of farming in Australia is that, generally, it is all the service companies - machinery, fertiliser, chemical suppliers, and the banks, that are making all the money. The only way the farmer ever really makes good money is when they finally sell part or all of the farm - and increasingly that is to corporate owners.

One proposal I have seen is for a new version of the homesteading thing, where the gov will give leases on gov land, for a nominal amount, but you have to live on it, it can only be sold (the lease) to another person, not a corporation, and you can;t own more than one (though people can sub lease, but must still live on it). And if the land is not being farmed - is just being used as an estate etc, then the gov can cancel the lease.

A noble idea, but the potential for people to game the system is enormous - so it is unlikely to happen.

For starters, I think young folks are foolish if they don't have 50% down. It keeps your expectations reasonable, and your payments. And go for the shorter term, 15 yrs, smaller if you can.

There has to a will to succeed at the venture, that doesn't mean making money necessarily. So you spend whatever yrs needed to rat hole that down. And don't look at the Mercedes. No sense for a beginner to jump into the most valuable corn ground. That price is coming down anyway. There's much cheaper land available. Know your soils. Look hard while you're making that down. There's always a deal, find out what constitutes a deal. Don't appraise a property on the buildings. Banks won't. They look land value, you'll be surprised, that's probably third of what you may think the land is worth.

I know several youngsters starting out. One story. He and his wife bought his land first. Small piece to start. And at 1200' higher than I, in a place I never would have thought to make a go of it. Too long of winter. But he knew the soils, had the water, took a south aspect. Brought in an old used trailer he scrounged. An old MF for a tractor. Scrounged ancient implements. Has a 2 yr old. And grossed 13K this year selling at local markets, wherever he could. Figures he netted 7K. Not much, but he's happy, it's a better net than last year, says they live fine on it. They won't eat anything they can sell. And looking someday to net 14K.

It's all what you want to do, your expectations.

It looks like this to me:

No health insurance, eat what you can't sell. Ramshackle trailer with the wife and two year old. No disposable diapers, no store-bough formula. No cable television. If the old pickup gets a flat, no transportation. Clean air, honest work every day, no iPhone. No boss, no office politics. No retirement benefits, no vacations or holidays. No timeclock, no commute.

Probably a better life than we can hope for most of our grandchildren.

Pretty close, and the reasons that Dad gave up on dairy farming.

The only comments I would add is the air isn't always that clean; many farmers end up with respiratory problems from breathing concentrated dust and chaff, even if they avoid troubles from the chemicals. Look at the cloud of dust around a combine. Decent AC and filtration systems on those machines are a pretty recent invention.

And satellite TV is now available if you can afford it. The bank is your boss, but they are not the micromanaging type. And we had a small but pretty nice house, not a trailer. There are a lot of trailers out there though.

There's the other end too. Read about them, but I'm not sure they sleep as well as the guy above. Take out the big loan for land and machinery. But you can bet they've more experience than an AA degree, or BS for that matter. They lived it on another place, maybe their folks, maybe not. I doubt the banks will loan without that experience. The degree is often just a finishing touch.

Anyway, I hear reports each month of young folks starting out with our lender. They even have a program for it:

The current caution is watch out, the good times rolling now for grain, livestock, won't last. Be prepared.

For starters, I think young folks are foolish if they don't have 50% down. It keeps your expectations reasonable, and your payments. And go for the shorter term, 15 yrs, smaller if you can.

While any body would love to have 50% down to buy a farm, house or business, the simple reality is that very few do.

Consider this. You are asking this young couple that want to borrow money for an income producing business (the farm) to have a far higher down payment than if they were buying a house, or a car, or any other consumptive item?

Not only that, what other business has to come up with 50%, when the security is the one asset that is readily saleable and has almost never depreciated in human history - good farmland?

A 50% rule will simply ensure that they don;t go into farming, and instead try to get jobs in the consumption economy, and if they could get good jobs, then they would likely not be considering farming in the first place.

The down payment rules should, at most, be no more than buying a house. The land will always have real value - unlike condos and suburbs, developers can't create an oversupply of farmland.

The really successful farmers I know (and I know a lot of them because I grew up in a farming area with a lot of successful farmers) pay cash for everything. They are the survivors because, inevitably, the rest get weeded out when they have a really bad year, it doesn't rain during the summer, hail wipes out their crops, the grasshoppers eat what's left, the first frost comes before harvest, and they make no money at all. The ones who owe money to the bank go broke and have to sell out to the ones that have money to the bank - at fire-sale prices.

OTOH, the successful farmers just shrug and say, "Oh, well, next year" and run the harrows over the land to prepare it for next springs planting. And, the next year the rains come and they get a bumper crop off - and they put the money in the bank, only holding enough back to buy a new combine and a new tractor.

I don't doubt for a moment that that is true. But how did they get their start?

There are still opportunities for innovation in farming, something young people are generally better at. If you are talking about broadacre production of commodity crops, then you are absolutely right.

If you are talking about growing food that people actually eat, as opposed to industrial grains, it's a different story.

The ONLY way the new/small famers can make it work is to not play the ag commodities game, they have to find some other niches.

Of course, removal of some of the arcane supply management rules in Cdn dairy, eggs poultry etc would help, as would eliminating the monopoly of the Cdn wheat board...

"buying a house, or a car, or any other consumptive item?"

There's the rub. Consumptive items, consumption period, should be purchased outright. If you don't have the money, you can't afford it. It's a good rule, no exceptions. Anything else is an enlistment in the debt race.

You need to check only a short way back, mid 80's, when US farmland values crashed big time. Lot of large corporate farms I know of went under. Land assets are not a sure thing, never have been, and won't be in the future.

There are easier, much, much better paying businesses with a far greater return on equity. No argument there. And there are much better paying jobs.

yes, they should. but there are no laws about that, so why have one requiring 50% for farmland purchase? This is a much better use iof debt than any consumptive item/activity.

I stand corrected on the farmland values then, though I will remain of the opinion that over long periods of time, it has held its value.

The real problem with farming, as I have alluded above, is that everyone else makes the money off the farmers back. be it his suppliers, or his customers. Looks at the profits of the food industry - Nestle, Kraft, Heinz etc. Typically, the farmer gets less than 10% of what the consumer pays.

Contrast this with the oil industry, where the crude oil producer gets about 80% of what the consumer pays for the finished product.

It is this ratio that I see changing in the future, where the farmgate prices are higher, and there is more bypassing of the food processors altogether.

I know one young guy who wants to be a farmer. You wouldn't guess it; he looks like a typical teen, with bizarre facial hair, hip-hop type clothes, and piercings in body parts I would never consider putting holes in. But he wants to be an apple farmer the way other kids want to be NFL players or rock stars. (Apples are the big crop around here, to the point that someone rustic or unsophisticated is derogatorily called an "appleknocker.")

His father is an engineer from a farming family, and hoped his son would go to college. He doesn't think there's a future in farming any more, though he still helps out on the family farm, run by his brother. (Everyone helps out at harvest time, even those who have gone to college and become citified.) However, he's supporting his kid's dream, and is willing to put the money saved for college toward a farm instead.

Right now, the kid is working on his uncle's farm, learning the business. I think it's likely he'll end up owning that farm, because no one else in the family wants to be a farmer.

I know one young man around here who is doing the same thing - he, too, is preparing to become a farmer. A smart lad, he's working as a paramedic to help pay the bills, owns two houses where he rents one to build up equity, and when he has enough saved, is planning to cash in his investments to buy a farm.

He's looking at mixed farming: a few beef and dairy cattle, some sheep, an apple orchard, maize corn, and root vegetables.

Locally, the land is quite fertile and can support mixed farming. His take on it is that it is better to diversity than specialize.

I wish him well. It is a noble (if hard) pursuit. At least if his dream comes true, he'll never go hungry.

King County, Washington has a Farmland Preservation Program:

The Farmland Preservation Program (FPP) began in 1979 when the voters of King County approved an initiative authorizing the County to preserve rapidly diminishing farmland by purchasing the right to develop it. During the 1980's, King County acquired the development rights on 12,600 acres of high quality farmland within its boundaries. The County is continuing to purchase development rights on select properties and there are now approximately 13,200 acres that are permanently protected.

On a much smaller scale (865 acres), our local organic coop has the PCC Farmland Trust which does essentially the same thing but has a covenant requiring organic practices.

Non-profit Seattle Tilth has various programs that provide small farm business training and support.

At least in our fairly urbanized county, there are numerous organizations that support small scale farming for rabid gardeners wishing to scale up. But the reality is that small scale farming is incredibly hard work and, if you're not raised to it, you pretty much have to be already pursuing gardening with a passion. It's not just another job you go to college for.

Best hopes for community owned/operatred agriculture.


PS__ Our own very urban lot has 3 apples, 2 pears, a 50' row of raspberries, 30' of strawberries and a 9'×20' veggie patch that keeps us in greens about 5 months a year. It's a moderate amount of work but at least I don't have to mow. ;-)

Hi Jonathan,
Nice to see you online, and wishing you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving :-) This Sunday is our last CSA delivery for the sail transport co-op, then we take a break. Talked with the skipper this AM, who was laughing over the dock ramp--it's so icy they're sliding the CSA boxes down. Very cold but clear in Port Ludlow. If you're in the 'hood, stop by for hot cider and cookies as we celebrate end of season!

To add to your comments: I just received an invitation for a statewide Women in Farming conference, from our land grant school, Washington State University.

Women face unique challenges in growing viable businesses in farming and ranching.

They also learn differently than men and like to connect with other women farmers in sharing experiences, knowledge and resources. Keynote speakers will be broadcast across the state to a site in the counties listed above; and local presenters will reflect the needs of those regions.

When: Saturday, February 11, 2011
Where: At sixteen locations throughout the state of Washington
More info: Visit the website for more information: Womeninag.wsu.edu
Cost: $25 includes a continental breakfast and lunch.

The community college where I teach in upstate NY doesn't have anything even remotely related to ag education (despite close physical proximity to Cornell - and the hq for the Cornell Cooperative Extension). Not to worry though, we do, however, offer a variety of "general (and other) studies."

Efforts to bring ag ed to the institution have so far not borne fruit, or even much interest.

"That's tech school stuff for non-college bound (e.g. losers)."

Feeling kinda cynical today. My apologies.


I've suggested to our county agent that there may be demand for courses in smaller scale, intensive and high value ag. Greenhousing, aquaponics/aquaculture, extended season (tunnel) farming, etc.. With prices of higher value foods (specialty vegetables, fish, herbs) going higher, and folks seeking alternatives (such as rabbit, chevon/goat) to high priced meats, the local markets are welcoming such alternatives. I'm hoping to get a goat coop going on my place in the near future.

It's a shame that the last dairy in our county closed a few years back - regulations :-/ ...and the nearby (small) USDA meat processing facility closed recently as well. Big ag and farm bills haven't been kind to small producers. This needs to change, soon...

I met a guy raising tilapia and catfish in Alabama who went out of business despite doing everything right. He couldn't compete with imports from Thailand, Viet Nam and Central America. Crazy. Imported "Swai", (from Thailand) on sale this week for $7.95 at the local grocer. OK for fish 'n' chips, I guess.

Ag infrastructure

You raise a very important point, one which may not be apparent to many non-farmers.
Step one to achieving the sort of diversified, local, smaller-scale agriculture that many of us would like to see is to stop going backward, stop digging ourselves into a hole.

One permanent aspect of going in the wrong direction is the development/paving over of prime foodland. That seems almost impossible to stop (for a great many reasons).

Another aspect (which is largely overlooked) is the ongoing loss of services & facilities which are essential to a local food system: dairies, slaughter-houses, feed mills, fruit & vegetable processing plants, farm equipment dealers & repair shops, etc. We are caught in a downward spiral: as more farmers scale down or pack it in entirely, the supporting infrastructure loses business and eventually they pack it in. The remaining farmers have to travel further to ship their produce/livestock and to pick up supplies, so they become stressed even further, etc.

Step one is to stop losing what little we have left: here in Kingston, Ontario we now have no facility within about 50 miles which will process poultry. We used to have at least six slaughter-houses, now down to two. The Kingston feed mill closed last year. Our island has only one dairy farm (it used to have about 50).

I believe that we have plenty of local consumers who would prefer to support local farmers, and local farmers who would appreciate (and surely need) their support. But we need the infrastructure/services to link the two.

I hope I'm putting this is a good place, here. I think it is very pertinent.


West Wind Farms, Deer Lodge, Tennessee

Also check their web site, how they distribute, and more. She doesn't to on much about it, but these two have worked their fannies off.


I just think it is fairly obvious that one cannot 'make it' in farming unless the land and operation is passed on; (including all equipment). Why anyone would even try is beyond me?

Specialty operations like mushrooms, maybe. Nurseries? Possible until Wal Mart or Home Depot cranks up the spring bedding plants and take the profits away.

Subsistence and trading about, sure...profit? I don't think so. Furthermore, the regs and inspections rig the decks against small operations. It simply cannot be done.

If my friends want some lamb they can come out and use my rifle...do the work, but they won't be processed commercially. Too expensive.

My wife and I subsidized our land purchase by selling house in town and moving rural. Woodlot, sheep, chickens, potatoes by the ton, maybe sell $5,000.00 worth of Christmas trees a year, all taken care of with a town job and small pension. Profits? cannot be done. We don't even try or pretend to.

It is a lifeboat, not a farm. It is a lifestyle, not a way to make a living. It is an accomplishement to grow most of one's food, but thank God for the tractor gas and bags of flour, and everything else society provides and we often take for granted. Power out again today due to snow. Didn't need the generator today but picked up a few more flashlights....just in case. Thank you Chinese flashlight factory, thank you.

Take Paulo's comment to the bank, folks.

He is DEAD ON.

Right on, Paulo

When my late father-in-law (who raised 13 kids on his dairy/beef/sheep farm) heard that we wanted to farm, he immediately said, "Listen, you two, if you think you're going to make any money farming, you're dreaming. One of you... no both of you... had better have a good off-farm job."
That was very good advice, which thankfully we heeded. We saved until we could buy the farm outright, bought a dozen sheep from him, and built from there.

We bought our farm (just down the road from his, which is now run by my brother-in-law) in 1981 and had a commercial flock of sheep for 25 years. We had to up-front the winter feed & worming costs, pray for twins or triplets in May, fend off coyotes & stray dogs, etc.
We got rid of the sheep in 2006: by then the butcher (who is 45 mins away) was charging $40/head (now probably over $50).

My point is that when we subtract the butcher's fee, vet stuff, winter feed costs, grain & supplement for finishing, fuel, fencing, etc there was almost nothing left for us, maybe $50/lamb profit. With 220 lambs, just over 10 grand at best. A fraction of what my off-farm job pays (my wife has not worked off-farm since 1988).

Without affordable diesel we would be paralyzed.

Like growing old for middle age types, for younger people learning vocational and/or agricultural skills may beat the alternative.

Who knows what will happen from here, but there was a guy at the ASPO conference who bought some farmland in Indiana in 2006. He has been renting it out to farmers, and his average annual rate of increase in rent has been 20%/year since 2006. Of course, as noted elsewhere, this just makes it tougher for farmers starting out.

"They do still offer welding courses, though there isn't much welding going on around here.."

That's odd, there is a shortage of welders around here. Unless you only mean carbon steel stick welders. Those openings could be saturated.

But TIG welders who can pass a certification with stainless steel and inconel are not that common. We had a rash of failures in 2205 duplex stainless steel caused by bad welding.

For that matter, we've had contractor problems with carbon steel welds that couldn't pass x-ray.

I am a certified welder-used to be any, way.

I still own a full set of equipment, and do a lot of around the home place projects.

But there is extremely little work to be had; just about everybody who has any need of frequent welding has learned the basics and bought the basic equipment.

This leaves only a few jobs for somebody like me, and they are the tough ones, all to often requiring the use of additional manpower or equipment such as a crane or machine tools found only in machine shops.

My advice to anyone advising youngsters , in respect to welding, is this:

It is an excellent backup trade, when combined with other skill, such as those of an electrician or heavy equipment mechanic.

But the work itself is highly cyclical, and more times than not, it is VERY HARD to find work, even if you are certified in even the toughest stuff such as stainless and inconel.The big construction jobs are mostly dominated by union labor,even in non union states, and the unions look after their own first;you simply will not get hired if there is anybody "on the bench" at any local anywhere nearby-unless of course you have that priceless membership card.

Welding, when you do it all day, day after day is DAMNED HARD work, especially in most situations where extensive welding is done-on assembly lines.It is still hard work when you are doing custom fabrication and repair.

If your kid has a shot in say a new plant manufacturing pv panels or something, the work might be secure, and there might be opportunities for advancement.

But remember this jobsite joke:

Whaddya get when ya cross a chimpanzee and a welder(pipefitter,plumber, driver, etc)?

A retarded chimpanzee.

Welding is easy to learn, if you are not actually retarded, and even then, you may be able to master a lot of welding skills.

One of the best i ever knew could barely read a newspaper and couldn't balance a checkbook.He could read a tape, and after a long struggle, he finally got to the point he could read drawings fairly well-which he considered an accomplishment equivalent to being an engineer.

It doesn't take to long to learn.

I can teach any eager adult with steady hands and decent eyesight the abc level fundamentals in a week, and entry level job skills for most jobs in factories in a month or less.Anybody with an iq above ninety and plenty of desire and opportunity to practice in a structured setting can become a top notch welder in a year or two at the most , so long as some engineer someplace specifies what is to be done.The engineer may be accepted as a given.

The only reason it takes most welders a long time to become top notch guys is that the opportunities to learn the new portions of the trade come at irregular odd intervals out on the actual job sites, and otj classes are typically taught only one evening a week, or on every fourth Saturday morning or something along these lines, and only when the necessary personnel can't be lured away from a competitor or out of retirement or whatever.

Now of course there are automated welding lines the days, and the operators of the machines may be called welders, but in actuality, they are really better described as programmers or electronics technicians or machine operators.All the real decisions are going to be made by an engineer or department supervisor.

If I had a kid , I would approve of him learning welding in conjunction with a more intellectually demanding trade, such as repairing trucks-which requires a lot of independent thinking and decision making. I would strongly disillusion him of any expectations involving earning good earning good steady money welding as his primary occupation.

But there is no better "hole card" if you are looking for trade work than to be able to tell the hiring manager that you can double up and get most of the routine welding work taken care of so he won't have to send it out or call in somebody to do it at contractor's hourly rates.

It is the same for 'carpenter'. Building is a young man's game. I would say that by the time you are in your early forties you had better be the boss or foreman, because the old 'bod can't do 8 - 10 hours a day doing the heavy work. Plus, and this is a big one, everyone is a carpenter. You see a guy build a few spec houses and the next thing you know he is a contractor. It used to be that all Govt funded projects, (bridges, schools, etc.) were Union in my neck of the woods, but that changed in the late 70's. Now it is low bidder, all for the sake of the tax payer, of course, but funny how the contractor association has such tight links to the Govt. Thinking about it....the jobs seemed to decline as a reflection of what Stoneleigh has said was the peak of earnings/lifestyle. Big money has been made on jobsites, but in general, the wages have been in decline since then.

I am a crappy welder. I stick things together and love to use the mig because it makes me look like I can weld, but there is no substitute for experience. Like OFM says, away from town most folks can weld enugh to get by, and that goes for building, plumbing, mechanics...whatever. Example, today I am putting in a new insulated chimney system for a new woodstove. Why not? The supplier charges $1500 to do it and i know I can do it better and faster. Tomorrow I will put in a new starter in the truck. 1 hr? Maybe 30 minutes. Next week have to finish wiring the addition. And we are all like that around here. You have to be or you cannot afford to live here. When I have had to get a tire fixed, the guy charges me 10 dollars and I give him 15 because in town they charge 25! Cash and trade if you don't have the gear.

For jobs...when my son didn't want to go to university I suggested electrical because usually all energy is converted to such for transmission...even portability. Plus, folks are afraid of electricty or you have to be certified. He hasn't looked back. If he had gone to university he would either be unemployed, or living in the city. If things do really start to wind down, any and all trades are what is necessary to have in the back pocket. Pick up some Haynes manuals for your vehicles, some tools, and DIY books...or specialize in something so you can trade around with others. It is an awesome way to be connected in a community. You grade the driveway and they help you prune...whatever. This can work in town, too. there are online barter lists or better yet, start one. What a great way to meet people. I'll do your taxes and you can fix my steps. It can work for almost everyone.

Have a great Saturday. Paulo

You can do it!
This is the USA I used to imagine.
Much respect.
Phil (on the Scottish Border)

Like many other activities, if one spends a lot of one's time doing something over a period of years, a person may benefit from understanding the potential hazards and risks from long-term engagement in an activity, and the available risk mitigations:


Any time I have done anything indoors involving what I judged to be significant fume/vapor/dust production, I have taken the time and effort and expense of providing robust ventilation/indoor-outdoor air exchange, and wearing a NIOSH-compliant mask (N95, IIRC is what I used).

I didn't find the expense to be onerous...the biggest impact is wearing gloves/masks when I did the work, as I sweat like a pig. when laying tile, painting, sanding cabinetry, etc.

Inflation is at 10%+(official) for the last two years in India and fiscal deficit is spiraling out of control, there is a talk of removing all subsidies from petroleum products very soon. You might wanna consider removing India from Chindia pretty soon. Even I will believe it when I see the numbers but all indicators point to a drop in consumption going forward.

I agree. Indian oil companies are losing $70 million per day because they are forced to subsidize diesel, kerosene and cooking gas. They already have too much debt. A few days ago the CEO of one of the oil companies said they will run out of money to buy crude next month. Either they have to raise the price of diesel, kerosene and cooking gas (very difficult to do for political reasons) or they will experience shortages.

One of the strange things about consumer pricing in India is that the actual amount paid at the pump for gasoline is pretty high by world standards but most of that is is local taxes. The actual amount that the oil companies receive is less than the cost of buying it on world markets.

That's only for gasoline, but yea that's true. Petrol is like this big cash cow that governments depend on for their survival. The local governments make all kinds of noise mainly for political posturing but when it comes to cutting the local taxes they look the other way.

Some numbers* for 2005 & 2010, mbpd:

GNE: 45.5 & 42.6

China's Net Imports: 3.3 & 5.0

India's Net Imports: 1.8 & 2.5

Chindia: 5.1 & 7.5

At China's 2005 to 2010 rate of increase in net imports as a percentage of GNE (9.4%/year), China would approach 100% of GNE in about 23 years.

At Chindia's 2005 to 2010 rate of increase in net imports as a percentage of GNE (9.0%/year), Chindia would approach 100% of GNE in about 19 years.

*GNE = Global Net Exports, top 33 net oil exporters in 2005, BP + Minor EIA data, total petroleum liquids

what most of the younger protesters should be demanding is vocational and agricultural training.

Probably true. I would add to this that one of the common themes in the OWS movement is an understanding of govt. not working in the best interest of the 99% but rather being a good ol' boy system oriented to the top 1%. A positive loop exchange between those in power and those with money.

What is really needed is a new form of government in which 'The People' vote directly on policies, rather than voting someone in they 'hope' will represent their interests. If all the people, not just the top 1% could vote every 3 months on a series of policies we 'The People' could reshape this country in a positive direction. In CA there are ballot initiatives, well why not have National initatives? But no fluffy ones, real polices like what type of tax system do 'The People' want? Do you want 9-9-9 or a progressive tax system? Do you want deductions or not? Do you want a balanced budget amendment?

IMHO this is what the OWS movement should be moving towards, a new form of govt. in which 'The People' reshape America.

The experienece in CA tells me direct democracy is even worse. You end up with LIV (Low Information Voters) dominating the decision making. And many issues are pretty arcane so nearly everyone is a LIV. At least the representatives usually read the bills, and have staff that can theoretically analyze them. Then the influence of money seems to be even worse. Special interests buy up campaign adds for their propositions, and this ususally determines the outcome -because deliberately deceptive adds aren't challenged.

I think the next best thing, was radomly appointed legislators -as in the original Athenian democracy, where 500 citizens were randomly choosen. Being one of a fairly small number, and having it be your job encourages some degree of research into the issues. At least as compared to the average voter.

Of course the terms of service should be short enough, that relationships between lefislators and interest groups don't have much time to be established.


A young fellow in Britain explored a variation of of that idea - selection of candidates by random draw out of the voting "hat"

A "perfect" voting system.

Makes for an interesting system, though it preserves the party system, which, in the US at least, seems to be the real problem.

Still, if our societies are content to have a randomly selected jury decide on a murder case, there is no real reason why we couldn't use that process to decide on taxation,. etc

Re, staff reading bills. A lobbyist neighbor in Ca, reported to me that , " My proudest moment was passing a bill that no one ever read. I slipped it into the queue on the last day of session along with 143 other bills. It passed and was signed by the gov. the same day."

Is America a great country, or what ? Shining beacon of the free world.

It's fascinating how a thread can transition here on TOD. My post above was about returning power to 'The People' by providing an opportunity for Americans to vote directly on policies. I used CA's proposition system as simply an example of people voting on policies, but I specifically stated the idea for voting nationally would not be about fluffy initiates, but rather topics with bite, like the taxation system, etc.

What the thread turned into was a negative diagnosis of California's propositions. Not sure how I can better communicate, but I will keep endeavoring to accurately convey my thoughts.

What I was trying to do, and apparently failed, was to convey that the OWS movement is in part about the failure of our system to provide power to the people. We are now in a position of voting for individuals that then become part of a good ol' boy system of power and money running hand in hand. To bypass that voting on policies by the people might work. Better to get X millions of votes on something being argued in DC, than to let a few people that cancel each other out determine our future.

Maybe that was clearer.

Anyone that thinks about the movement, rather than reacts to the outward appearance of OWS, will discover that this is the essence of the movement. IMHO you articulated it quite well both times.

I understand the OWS point. My point is that how it is done matters greatly. The path of least resistance proposition system works poorly. Other methods of democratizing can and should be tried instead.

The media of late has liked to contrast the OWS with the tea party. I see a common thread in the OWS groups of demanding a more equitable distribution of wealth. With the tea party, the underlying thought for the rank and file is with a more equitable division of labor. One can't the powerful hoarding all the wealth, the other hates doing all the work while others coast on handouts.

Better to get X millions of votes on something being argued in DC, than to let a few people ... determine our future.

But by that logic, shouldn't we appoint 1 Trillion flies to do the voting for us?

Isn't it more rational to have a few people who are deeply studied in an issue argue over it rather than having the uneducated masses decide on the basis of ignorance?

Just think about how "Drill Baby Drill" appeals to your average Joe and Jane Voter.

"...what most of the younger protesters should be demanding is vocational and agricultural training."

ROFLMAO. How many of those thoroughly urban protesters - as seen on Jon Stewart, or on Fox News, or in any newspaper of any political persuasion whatever, doesn't matter - look and act anything at all even remotely like they're aspiring to become farmers, carpenters, or any other such thing?

But yes, they may well be protesting inadvertently against resource constraints. Probably it would take an increased flow of resources to grant their (vague) wishes, since confiscating and mobilizing money now stashed away in such intangibles as corporate control surely would initially release pent-up demand for tangible goods as well as for services, even if it collapsed the economy via hyperinflation not too much later on. After all, they do seem to want more for themselves, certainly not less.

Richard Heinberg is on Occupy's Reading list

It appears to me this site grew out of the former OWS library, where 5000+ books were trashed in Tuesday's raid.

Two articles up top talk about the European Union. I found another one that is highly critical of the European Union... and Peak oil.

The Only Good Reason for the European Union

The EU today is two dozen countries scrambling to find an identity that will not throw them back into a dark and bloody past. That is the one and only good reason for the existence of the European Union, and it is the only one that is never stated openly...

Our moron media are obsessed with phony "peak oil" limits, but that will fade soon enough when they finally see the new age of plentiful, clean energy from shale-based natural gas. All that hysteria for nothing.

The EU, U.N., and the Demagogue Party specialize in exploiting artificial shortages, like the Chicago Carbon Exchange, which recently crumbled when investors figured out the scam was up. If you could convince the bubbleheads of the world that there's a shortage of breathable air, you could make them pay for every breath they take, and levy taxes per inhale and exhale.

So we are all bubble heads because we don't realize that shale-based natural gas is plentiful and peak oil simply doesn't matter.

Ron P.

From MarketWatch:

Heating oil, diesel and gasoline make a toxic mix

But “stronger WTI prices will result in higher refined product costs,” he said.

That might end up hitting consumers in more ways than one — in the form of higher prices for gasoline as well as heating oil and diesel.

“If crude oil remains above $100 a barrel, prices at the [gasoline] pump will move closer to $4 per gallon,” said Herbst.


And though supplies are low and demand is climbing, U.S. exports of distillates are on the rise.

Exports of distillates have climbed around 27% as of the week ended Nov. 11, from the week ended Sept. 2, EIA data show.

Oh well, I'm glad I'm not heating with oil this winter...

E. Swanson

Heating with oil has been a bad idea for some years, but given the global distillate shortages, I think this winter will make it painfully clear to a lot of people what a bad idea it is.

A lot of people don't have a choice. If you don't have a gas line nearby you can connect to, you're pretty much stuck with heating oil.

Even if you could switch to natural gas, it's expensive to change over, and given recent history, people don't have a lot of incentive.

A few years back, peak oilers were talking about the imminent "natural gas cliff," and how the northeast had come very close to running out of natural gas during the winter. But Joe Public was told natural gas was cheaper and cleaner, and many did convert. Only to be confronted with prices that tripled practically overnight.

Now natural gas is cheap again...but for how much longer? Art Berman thinks fracking is a temporary miracle at best. Maybe he's right, maybe he's wrong, but given the uncertainty, I'm not in a hurry to switch over from heating oil.

I agree. You can't go changing out your heating system every 5 years to chase fuel prices around. I mostly heat with wood nowadays, but my oil-fired furnace is quite necessary for keeping the pipes from freezing on the real cold nights (and we get some real cold ones up here in central NH), and allowing me to be away for more than a few hours without the house freezing.

But Joe Public was told natural gas was cheaper and cleaner, and many did convert. Only to be confronted with prices that tripled practically overnight.

That's exactly what happened to us. I figured we'd save by having propane heaters over using central electrical heating and at the time the numbers panned out very nicely in our favor.

We bought the heaters, I installed them and had the propane tank outside filled and it was great for two years. Then suddenly the price for propane went skyward and I hopping mad because it no longer viable to heat our home in winter via propane.

Our fillups for propane went from 120 dollars to 385. But we need 3 fillups a year which went from 360 dollars to 1155. Now that may not seem like a lot to people in colder climates, but we live in temperate CA. We also have monthly PG&E bills.

Interestingly enough PG&E reduced winter time rates and increased Summer rates, to encourage electrical heating. So we are back to central heating and the propane heaters are simply permanent fixtures with no use. And the sunk cost of just the heaters - One stand alone ceramic covered gorgeous propane fireplace 2500, wall heaters 580 each x 2 = 1160, total 3660. And the only reason it isn't more is because I did the labor.

You're learning. Now soon electric rates will jump again, but you'll have the propane to kick back to, just do the math for btu's from your appliance. And for moderate climate, get a heat pump. No question. Use it for moderate temps, propane for when you just want that radiant heat in your bones. I'm switching out of propane, but won't give up the appliances. Just installed a wood boiler this fall, if propane or electric stay at their current prices, it'll pay out in 3-4 yrs. Like tonite, when it's predicted near zero, and that fuel is free, minus labor.

About twenty years ago, radio stations in the New York City area used to run non-stop ads at this time of year from an outfit called the "Metropolitan Energy Council" that was trying desperately to prevent consumers from switching from oil to gas heating. The main advantage quoted was that oil was provided by "friendly local dealers" whereas gas was supplied by a faceless bureaucracy. I wonder if anyone ever fell for these ads.

A look backward at normalized oil consumption trends (principally BP data base) for China, India, top 33 net oil exporters and the US:

No Thanksgiving turkeys, holiday hams at Oak Park-River Forest food pantry

"A Thanksgiving meal without a turkey seems like heresy, but for the Oak Park and River Forest Food Pantry, it’s just the grim reality of a bad economy.

Michele Zurakowski, the pantry’s director of operations, said the organization will not hand out turkeys and hams for Thanksgiving and Christmas because of rising food prices and increased demand."

I guess folks are down to the three-bean salad with cranberry sauce...

Hybrids safer than comparable gas-powered cars

This propagates a common myth that heavier cars are safer cars. In particular, I doubt that a 10% increase in weight translates into a 25% reduction in crash injuries.

I think it is more likely the difference is that hybrid drivers are slower, more careful drivers than drivers of non-hybrids, and as a result get into fewer, less serious accidents. Also the center of gravity of hybrids is very low so the drivers don't roll them that often.

Mini-vans have a better safety record than SUV's, despite the fact they are lighter. The real difference is that mini-van drivers don't drive very fast or corner very hard because they have kids in the back. Meanwhile SUV drivers are always trying to corner fast enough to make the stupid things fall over on their sides. You never used to see vehicles upside-down in the middle of a dry highway on a clear day before the SUV was invented.

Agree. Though hypermilers probably spend too much time watching the real-time MPG readout and thus less time with their eyes on the road. While doing so, they are driving slower, breaking earlier, and being safer.

Breaking earlier! How dare you - hypermilers try to never touch the break peddle. All that lovely momentum turned into wasteful heat.

Well, in a hybrid with regenerative braking, one is re-charging the battery. So "slowing earlier" how 'bout?

For my parent's Toyota Camry hybrid, correct:

If you are cruising at speed, and remove your foot from the throttle, it goes into regenerative mode without putting your foot on the brake pedal.


The long term decline in UK road fatalities has accelerated in the last few years, just about the only thing that has. I haven't been cut up by a petrol head for a year now. UK cars are getting smaller and more efficient. Total road miles and congestion are falling, petrol sales down 15% (but diesel up at least half that).

Still plenty of SUVs at 90mph on the motorways, but I feel less lonely trundling along at 64mph, I even overtake the occasional car. Fuel is £1.43 / litre at my local garage, of just over $8.50 / US gallon. 15 cents a mile.

[blockquote]Still plenty of SUVs at 90mph on the motorways[/blockquote]

Don't see so many as before, understandable when they have to stop to refuel and it's £125 or so for a full tank (motorway service stations +10p a liter). Some while back I asked somebody who owned one of these tanks what high speed economy was like .. answer 17mpg compared to the rigged official figures of 30+

...and being safer.

For themselves, yes. For the larger community of people using the road, not nearly so much. Every law enforcement professional I've ever asked about it seems to believe that the root cause of a lot of accidents are people who refuse to "go with the flow" and drive the same speed that the majority wants to drive at in congested conditions. Those people themselves are not in the accident, but evading them puts other people in bad situations.

Driving California freeways always gives me nervous twitches because they follow at such close distances, but my perception is that California drivers are extremely good about all driving at basically the same speed.

Interesting to note that one of the advantages touted for self-driving vehicles on smart roads is that all the vehicles drive at exactly the same speed, so they can follow more closely and increase the capacity of the road.

I have found that as well, on busy roads I just "go with the flow" as not to do so results in bunching behind me.
On quieter sections of road, about 90% of the route I can go at 90-100kmh without hassle.

Rocky - Some years ago the state police in Texas did a secret study to find out why pickups were involved in a disproportionate number of accidents. They got the companies to agree to put hidden mikes in all the p/u's they sold in Texas. After several years they analyzed the tapes from all the accidents. They discovered that 63% of the time accidents were preceded by the statement: "Hold my beer and watch this".

True story...honest. At least some years ago they made it illegal to haul kids in the back of p/u's.

Come on, Rock. That may make a good story, but it ain't true.

You need not only a mike, but a recording device, and until recently we haven't had a decent (working and cheap enough) technology to do the recording. A tape recorder running all the time wouldn't last long in Texas heat in a pickup parked in the sun. And somebody would discover the stuff when working on the pickup. And no way 63% of accidents were preceded by that statement.

So, folks, occasionally ... just occasionally ... a story you may hear from a Texan may stretch the truth just a bit.

So, folks, occasionally ... just occasionally ... a story you may hear from a Texan may stretch the truth just a bit.

What's that? A Texan exagerate? I'm shocked...shocked I say....

So, folks, occasionally ... just occasionally ... a story you may hear from a Texan may stretch the truth just a bit.

From Mars much :-)

Aw, come on, I could hear the tinkling of the bells all the way down here ;)


From what I've been able to observe, the Toyota Prius is owned and driven by middle aged, middle class drivers; the safest motoring demographic to begin with. It's a bit depressing, I know that Cameron Diaz has one, but other than her, I can't recall ever seeing a hot babe behind the wheel of one of these buggies;-)

It's all purely anecdotal, for sure, but I do know at least a dozen people who own these things at this point, including myself.

I was nearly run over by a one a couple of hours ago. It was reversing on electric only, and I couldn't hear it coming.

I see a hot babe behind the wheel of a Prius all the time. I'm dating her. ;)

You must not live in The Bay.

My friend from Colorado observed that many SUV drivers seemed to have the false impression that 4-wheel drive not only helped your traction when starting and accelerating, but braking as well, judging from the numbers of them he saw in the snow drifts.

It's always SUVs in the ditch here when it starts to snow. They really believe 4wd makes them invulnerable to ice. Of course, it's also the first time they've ever engaged the 4wd.

The odd thing is if you know what you're doing 4WD gives you a bit better control braking (you can use the 4wheel power to control/breakout of a skid). But the real issue is people using technology to substitute for brains/skill. If you don't know what you're doing 4WD won't help much.

I wasn't able to discern what they were comparing.
(1) Serious injuries per vehicle year.
(2) Given the same crash, the odds of serious injury.
Those are totally different animals. (1) would be affected by driver attitude. (2) Would be affected by differential rates of seatbelt usage, and crashworthiness. Both would be affected by (if it exists) crashworthiness differences. Its not clear if the study was designed to separate out those very different causes.

If a 3 ton SUV hits a 1 ton sub-compact head on, the driver of the SUV suffers a lot less deceleration than the driver of the sub-compact, regardless of the relative speeds of the vehicles. I was in a 10 ton bus which hit a car head on. I suffered a sprained wrist. The car occupants were lucky to survive.

If two 3-ton SUV's collide, then what happens? How does that compare to two 1-ton compacts? The issue is not how light compacts are, but how illogically enormous SUV's are for the average person who does not need such a vehicle.

The other problem is the height of the frame, which usually corresponds to weight (but doesn't have to). If an SUV is higher off the ground than the compact, then the collision is more likely to result is part of the SUV entering the passenger chamber and causing serious injury to those in the smaller car. But it's important to note this is not directly because of weight, but rather orientation of the vehicles in the collision.

It isn't a myth that heavier cars are safer cars. In collisions with other cars or objects, mass differential is a major factor in transmitted collision forces. You're right that the story is complex and that the socio-economics of drivers matters, but it doesn't help to dismiss the very real problem of driving light cars around heavy ones. If you're going to get hit by a pickup truck, would you rather be in another pickup, or in a Smart Car or a Fiat 500, etc.? It's an issue.

There's been a lot of work done about how to design a small light car to protect the occupants during impacts, particularly with larger vehicles. One of the changes is to make the passenger "cage" extremely rigid, which allows it to make use of the crumple zones of the bigger heavier vehicle. Another is to create more "ride down" room in the interior -- say, by replacing the steering wheel with a sidestick, as is done in some jet fighters. Different airbag design and placement helps. At least some national regulations conflict with trying to make these changes.

And yet, at the end of the day, and no matter what you do, the initial, abrupt change in velocity will be larger for smaller vehicle, due simply to basic physics.

But just as much, at the end of the day, and during the day, it DOES matter 'what you do', and that is why it seems that people in more prudent vehicles seem to have more prudent driving habits and assumptions.

It always sounds so sober and realistic when people try to paint these in 'All things being equal..' statements.. there are all sorts of things that are not equal, but instead are moving variables, and these seem to have easily as much sway in whether and which cars are actually ending up in those collisions.

And so, to pander to people who think they need SUV's and such, people who want to do the right thing are penalized with threats to their very lives.

And people interpret this as "smaller cars are unsafe".

And people interpret this as "smaller cars are unsafe".

A lot of that may be because the industry actively promotes that theme, particularly when higher CAFE standards are being debated.

And yet, at the end of the day, and no matter what you do, the initial, abrupt change in velocity will be larger for smaller vehicle, due simply to basic physics.

Well, that is only for the case of the two vehicles hitting each other, and head on at that. What % of crashes are head on?

For the more likely case of the car hitting a stationary object, like a tree, wall, or the back of a semi-truck (effectively stationary, since the mass ratio is so large), then the vehicle favouyred by the situation is reversed

The 5000lb F-150 moving at the same speed as the 2500lb Mini has to dissipate twice the energy in the crash. Now, the F-150 is bigger, and has a bigger crumple zone, so this should be no problem, right?

The crash report concluded the F-150 driver likely died, and the Mini driver survived. I know which vehicle I'd rather be in, and it has far less chance of ever being in a rollover than the F-150.

Much more fun to drive too...

There is a picture on the web of a hummer vs. small pickup crash. The hummer is wrecked while the pickup may still be drivable, maybe with the application of a few adjustments from a lump-hammer. Many years ago I came across a little old lady in a Mini, standard original mini, I was on a good motorbike. She threw the mini around a roundabout and left me standing in her dust, roll-over, no way. I still think the best safety accessory for drivers would be to replace the driver's air bag with a claymore mine.


The two main things that matter are driver accelleration (especially max brain accelleration), and passenger compartment instrusions. It looks like your F-150 has the later. Average decelleration would scale as the square-root of the length of the crumple, so a longer frontend would be an advantage. Mass shouldn't affect accelleration (as long as the strenth of parts is scaled with vehicle mass). Mostly it is a matter of the quality of the engineering. I think PUs don't have as many safety regs to pass as cars, so that might explain the result.

If two vehicles have properly designed crumple zones, the one with the longer crumple zone will impose a lesser acceleration, which tends to imply less injury, on the occupants. This, too, is the most basic physics 101 (or 001 in some colleges.)

Of course, it only holds other things being equal. So if those pictures are representative, they may well indicate that other things are not equal, i.e. that the F150 designers weren't as careful as the Mini designers. Given that the public perceives the larger vehicle as automatically safer, maybe the levels of care reflect priorities among the upper-level marketers. Or, to put it another way, it's certainly possible to build a long but ineffective crumple zone - after all, cars all over the world were pretty much built that way back in the days before anyone had really heard of crumple zones.

But that's yet another wrinkle, and with respect to the physics it's comparing apples to oranges. Once we compare apples to apples, then the physics rules, and it even trumps ideological notions about what the other guy ought to be driving.

You are correct, of course, that if both vehicles have properly designed crumple zones, and all else is equal, then the bigger vehicle should fare better.

And, of course, the truck designers do not spend nearly as much effort on crash safety as the small car designers - and are not required to either.

My point is that any car -regardless of size -can be designed to a high level of safety - though many are not.

People who choose larger because they think it is safer, are really just justifying their desire for a larger vehicle - it may not, as this crash test shows, actually be any safer than a smaller, better built vehicle.

And with the longer stopping distances, poorer handling, the larger vehicles are more likely to get into crashes in the first place, even before adding the "invincible" attitude that many of their drivers have.

I'm not arguing against the physics, at all, just saying that I don;t think it is currently the decisive factor in the difference in survivability of the various vehicles - they can all be designed for good protection, but some are definitely designed better than others.

It isn't a myth that heavier cars are safer cars.

Depends on the vantage point. Heavier cars are much more destructive projectiles than smaller cares.

1/2 * m * v * v

Quite so. But, until all heavy cars are off the road, they present a major threat to smaller ones.

Of course, cars also collide with poles, rocks, embankments, animals, etc. There again, size and mass matter, particularly at the higher velocities.

At any practical mass, it is also inherently dangerous to frequently travel at high rates of speed in independently powered and steered metal boxes that constantly cross paths with one another.

One of the problems with pickup trucks is that the frames are higher than on cars, and in a collision with a car the truck tends to override the car, which can be fatal for the car occupants. This is known as the "aggressive or incompatible vehicle problem".

This doesn't really make the pickup truck safer. 45% of the fatalities in pickup trucks and 60% of those in SUV's occur in rollover accidents, and of those, over 80% are single-vehicle rollovers - there was no other vehicle involved in the crash.

If you want a truly safe vehicle, buy one of the imported luxury cars - e.g. a top-end Mercedes or Volvo. They combine rather high mass with lots of crash protection features and a low center of gravity which prevents rollovers.

Rollover fatalities are the only type of accident which is increasing in the US. Improved safety features in cars are reducing the fatalities from other causes, but reducing the rollover rate in pickups and SUVs requires rather drastic and expensive changes in their basic design. Of course, imported luxury SUV's have already had these design changes, which is one reason why they are so expensive.

Rocky - Here's a point that might get folks as flustered as the probability of flipping heads 20X in a row. Many states require motorcycle riders to wear helmets for what seems like an obvious reason: a helmet decreases the probability of a fatal head injury. So what is the bottom line: are we interested in a lower fatality statistic or in saving the most number of lives?

Did most of us agree that the important issue was saving lives and not just a lower stat?
Then those who agree must also be willing to support laws requiring all automobile passengers to wear helmets. The most common cause of fatalities in automobile accidents is a head injury. And since there are a great many more autos of the road then motorcycles than many times more folks die from head injuries in car accidents. Statistically not as high a percentage as motorcycle riders. But didn't most of us just agree that the stat wasn't as important as the number of lives saved? The death toll from all accidents, auto and motorcycle, would decrease greatly if everyone riding in a car wore a helmet.

The benefit per person of helmet wearing in cars is much lower. So a cost benefit analysis might determine that the cost per life saved was too high. Of course there is a headroom issue. Taller drivers helmets would be scrapping the ceiling.

The same argument would say, everyone has to wear a fireproof racing suit (like race car drivers). It would save some lives, but be pretty costly and onerous.

EOS - The benefit of every car passenger wearing a helmet is saving thousands of lives every year. So what's more important to you: saving thousands of lives or the cost benefit analysis? Again, thousand of folks die from head injuries and not burning to death.

Or put it this way: if your loved one died of a head injury in a car accident would you be comforted by the money saved from not buying a helmet? I've been riding around in cars for over 50 years and have never been in an accident...so the benefit/cost ratio of those seatbelts and air bags have been zero for me. Would you not have smoke detectors installed in your new home because doing so had a low benefit/cost ratio nation wide? Or do you think you would just look to goofy wearing a helmet in your car? LOL.

Because we have people running around screaming about the nanny state, we gotta pick and choose which safety rules to force onto the people. Cost benefit is a good place to start. Sure it sucks when someone gets killed, and having choosen differently wrt. cost/comfort might have made the difference. Those cases will always exist. I think softtop convertibles have much much higher fatality rates than ordinary hardtop cars (roof crush strength is crucial in a rollover), so we should ban convertibles? Also motorcycles are hugely more risky than cars (IIRC 25times the risk of death). Good luck trying to ban them.

Also if we set max speed limits lower -say 45mph (and we have the technology to have roadside cameras automatically ID violators and issue fines), would save a heck of a lotta lives. Good luck selling that one to the public.

I wonder if helmets are more effective at reducing driver injuries than airbags? Indy car, F1 etc have required helmets since forever, but I'm not aware of any of them using airbags.

Now, given that airbags are now mandated for all new cars - something that has a definite cost associated with it, would we get more benefit for less cost by mandating helmets instead?

Never happen of course, as the helmet is a significant inconvenience, and convenience is what everyone wants, even if there is a risk associated with it.

EOS - Didn't I mention they just raised the speed limit to 75 mph (including at night)on many of the highways around me? Any way...gotta go now and get fitted for my new helmet and flack jacket.

Of course we might want to pursue this to its logical limit and observe that people would be "safer" still if they never drove at all - and indeed if they never even got out of bed lest they fall and break their fool necks, an injury that is not prevented by helmets and may even be aggravated by them. So as with everything else, people must choose how much safety is enough. Tradeoffs, always tradeoffs.

Well the casual SUV and truck drivers are suffering now. Just as the obese happily stuffed their mouths and then ended up with diabetes, heart disease, and bankrupt from hospital bills. Just as the stocks and bonds people were getting rich for 30 years, and then found out they were speculating in fragile paper instruments while the gold people were grabbing the real wealth.

I'm not a market fundamentalist, but there is a certain poetic justice to the machinations of the market that cannot be ignored. People who are conscious about their health, who drive small cars in a responsible manner, or perhaps don't drive at all, are now winning against all the people who splurged when times were good.

The question is whether the collapse takes us all down with it.

"People who are conscious about [...] are now winning ..."

Maybe, maybe not. Generally, and despite all that, they're living longer than their ancestors, and perhaps, in many cases, longer than really makes much sense. John Mortimer (author of Rumpole of the Bailey) is supposed to have said:

I refuse to spend my life worrying about what I eat. There is no pleasure worth forgoing just for an extra three years in the geriatric ward.

He, or whoever said it, certainly had at least, to use an appropriately English expression, "part of a point."

"Transneft to load first Ust-Luga oil cargo Dec.15-20" - we understand this has been delayed due to the new berth sinking a few feet! maybe delayed until January but seems uncertain.

For those not familiar with this bit of soap opera:

"The route is designed in part to bypass Belarus as a route for Russian oil and gas to Europe after past disputes over prices and other issues led to disruption of flows."

"Russia, the world's No. 2 oil exporter after Saudi Arabia, wants to bypass the countries that stand between its abundant oil and gas reserves and customers in Europe after arguing with both Ukraine and Belarus over transit terms in recent years."

Details: ttp://www.reuters.com/article/2011/11/18/transneft-ustluga-idUSL5E7MI1Z920111118

From Edison's Trunk, Direct Current Gets Another Look

AT&T adopted direct current for the phone system because of its inherent stability, which is part of the reason that landline phones often survive storms better than the electric grid.

And household appliances and much industrial equipment — everything from hair dryers to jet planes — are built to use DC. Embedded converters bridge the mismatch between the AC grid and the DC devices on the fly.

But those constant conversions cause power losses. For example, in conventional data centers, with hundreds of computers, electricity might be converted and “stepped down” in voltage five times before being used. All that heat must be removed by air-conditioners, which consumes more power.

I worked at Bell Labs long enough ago that everyone learned a bunch about the history of the network. "Stability" had nothing in particular to do with it, unless you use a quite different meaning for that than I do. Everything in the local central office and distribution plant, with the exception of power ring, was DC: stepper switches, cross-bar switches, relay logic, 2-wire to 4-wire hybrid circuits, the telephones themselves. The early reliability goals dictated big battery farms down in the basement, and once you had those, it was enormously cheaper to design the central office so it always ran on battery power, and commercial AC was rectified just to keep the batteries charged.

Landline phone systems survive storms better than the power grid because (a) fundamental network architecture (ie, knocking down a cable in one neighborhood doesn't affect service to another), (b) those big batteries and (c) every central office was/is equipped with a large back-up generator and several days worth of fuel.

Politically, the reliability stuff really emerged in the 1930s. In exchange for monopoly franchises and cost-plus-12-percent rates, the AT&T companies promised (and worked very hard at delivering) service reliability that was previously unheard of.

Since phone service was deregulated, my impression is that most people are more concerned about the cost of their phone service than the reliability. They may complain when their less expensive VOIP or cell phone service is down but they won't switch back to a more reliable land line connection or to a more expensive cell service provider.

I have very reliable and affordable land line phone service, along with fast-enough DSL. Of course, I have no cell coverage here in the hollow...

Yes, twice. If you go back to the early 1980s and the break-up of AT&T, the big push on the consumer side was businesses who wanted to cut their bills. Up to that point, almost all of the AT&T operating companies' state tariffs had "business subsidizes residential" and "long distance subsidizes local" structures built in. Cell phone service is an interesting demonstration of the value that people put on mobility. Most of today's cell phone to cell phone calls provide horrible voice quality compared to landline service in the 1960s.

I don't have a cell phone and can tell, and cringe, whenever I receive a call from someone using a cell. They sound terrible, even after 20+ years of development.

Kinda funny, isn't it? Finally perfect the regular telephone for crystal clear transmission, and everyone ditches it for a crackly cell.

Around here cell is better than landline much of the time.


To use a home as an example, it doesn't seem very practical to switch from AC to DC power due to the wide variation of power requirements. Heavy power consumers such as vacumn cleaners, stoves, air conditioners, etc. really need to operate off a fairly high voltage. At the other end of the spectrum, electronics and LED lighting only require low voltage DC. The present system where the major power consumers can operate directly off of 110/220V AC while devices requiring low voltage DC utilize a transformer and rectifier circuit to drop the voltage and convert to DC would seem pretty optimal to me. It might make sense to provide low voltage DC powered lighting fixtures to accomodate LED light bulbs. LED bulbs are inherently a low voltage DC technology so it certainly isn't optimal having to include extra components in every bulb to enable them to operate off of 110V AC.

Indian power plants are running out of coal. Imported coal is too expensive:

Power projects situated near coal mines are supposed to have a reserve of two weeks; those located far should have at least a month’s supply in reserve.

Of these 11 projects, six having a capacity of 11,410MW belong to state run NTPC Ltd, India’s largest power generator. NTPC has an average coal stock position of four days across all its stations. Of the country’s installed power generation capacity of 182,345 MW, NTPC makes up 19.1%, or 34,854MW.

A senior NTPC executive said that “Our coal situation is hand-to-mouth. We are only meeting our daily requirements and no stock can be built up. The states are faring much worse. The crisis is far from over.”

Looks like the solution is destroy whatever is left of the environment. Bye, bye, tiger.

Faced with an alarming coal crisis on the back of higher import cost and fewer resources within the country, coal ministry is planning to come out with a list of 51 to 54 coal blocks with resource potential in excess of 11 billion tonne by the end of this month. The ministry is expected to begin the tendering process in next couple of moths.

India coal stocks fall slightly to 11 million T

Coal stockpiles at India's ports fell slightly since mid-September to 11 million tonnes from 12 million, importers said, but weak cement sector demand and rail bottlenecks are likely to keep stock levels high, according to some of India's biggest importers.

Until the unsold tonnage shrinks, which could take months, Indian buyers are unlikely to return to the spot market for large fresh purchases despite the growing coal supply crisis which is causing power shortages across the country .

India's need for imported coal for power generation is structural and rapidly increasing but a lack of rail capacity to move it from ports to end-users is holding up both domestic supply and imports.

New radiation scare for rice in Japan

"Tokyo (CNN) -- Japanese authorities have halted the shipment of rice from some farms northwest of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant after finding higher-than-allowed levels of radioactive cesium, local authorities said Thursday.

The rice was grown in the Ohnami district of Fukushima Prefecture, about 60 kilometers (36 miles) northwest of the plant. The prefectural government banned rice shipments from the district after tests found a sample of brown rice from one farm contained radioactive cesium at a level about 25 percent higher than government regulations allow -- a level that experts say would likely pose no immediate threat to human health and only a slight long-term risk."

Bad news for Japan's self-sufficiency.

Just saw this press release from Shell about the Perdido development in the GOM:


World record set in drilling and completing a subsea well 9,627 feet below the water’s surface

This does look pretty remarkable.

Norway mobilises for oil push into Arctic

OSLO, Nov 18 (Reuters) - Norway unveiled a 20-year plan to unlock offshore Arctic oil and gas resources and channel them to worldwide markets, a project the foreign minister said may cost billions of dollars and bring rivalries over Arctic resources to a head.

"It is the project of a generation," Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere said in an interview. "As the ice melts, new transport routes are opening up, resources are becoming accessible and human activity is drawn to this region."

The 134-page white paper said massive infrastructure building, research investment, a new fighter-jet fleet and careful diplomacy will help bring "a new industrial era in the high north", including an island group where jurisdiction is contested.

... The white paper sees heightened military activity in the far north, including more NATO exercises and the planned purchase of 48 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters from the United States to replace Norwegian F-16s now stationed above the Arctic Circle.

Shocking footage reveals tuna industry's slaughter of marine life – videoNew video footage captured by a tuna industry whistleblower has been released by Greenpeace, which reveals the routine slaughter of other marine species, including whale sharks, rays and whales. The footage is shot onboard a tuna fishing vessel in the
Pacific which deploys fish aggregating devices, one of the most aggressive fishing operations used by the industry in the face of declining fish populations owing to overfishing. Warning: this footage contains images that some may find disturbing

The utter contempt for living things is just sickening!

The sad part about this is that the tuna industry has been employing horrific practices for years - I saw news footage in the UK in 1994 that still makes me ill.

It hasn't stopped people eating tuna, though.

I tuned in, at random, to a tv cooking show where the host was preparing tuna, and he said something like "and if you're really lucky and can get Blue Fin..." - I sent a less-than-complimentary note to their marketing department about Bluefin being virtually extinct. Needless to day, I never heard back from them.

People should stop eating at his restaurant.

if you're really lucky and can get Blue Fin..."

I caught a snippet on NPR the other day about a 700 lb. Blue Fin, recently going for over $400,000.00 in Japan.

Now, that's sickening!

There could be no clearer a sign that the "free" market system is incapable of dealing with a huge and important class of issues.

Books have been written about why the inhabitants of Easter Island cut all the trees down. I think the reason is the richest people on the island just *had* to have one.

Green buildings save green

In addition to emitting 34% less carbon dioxide and using 11% less water, sustainably designed federal buildings cost 19% less to maintain and use 25% less energy, according to a report by the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. The results are included in a white paper recently released by the Government Services Administration, or GSA.

Wind experts advise on revolutionary wind-powered skyscraper

Typically, the wind environment in urban settings isn't of the higher quality required for wind farms. But the offsetting component is that you cut out the middle person: You generate power on the building, and utilize the power in the building. You don't need to go to a power utility. You can be one-third as efficient as a wind farm, and still be economically feasible."

Japan CO2 emissions see first rise in three years

The gain reflected a 4 percent rise in energy consumption in the fiscal year on the back of a recovery in the domestic economy and unusually hot summer and cold winter, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said.

New research claims US imposed ‘democracy’ won’t work for Arab Spring

In a paper just presented to state department staff at the Library of Congress in Washington DC and due to be personally presented to former US Secretary of State Madeline Albright next month, research fellow Oz Hassan claims the American idea of democracy is too focused on economics and there is a lack of innovation in US Middle East policy.

U.S. "democracy" consists of exporting petrodollars and having them recycled in Treasuries, in order to control domestic inflation, lest the plebeians get restless.

Of course, it helps that Arabs are corrupt, backwards, and don't really know what to do with all that oil other than build fake cities in the desert.

An interesting report indeed.

For anyone who wishes to learn more about sustainability and energy issues I strongly suggest you check out this upcoming Agrion Energy Conference. The event will touch upon of variety of subjects involved in energy security and renewables with key figures from the government and large business discussing these issues.

Here is the link: http://www.agrion.org/sessions/agrion-ny-Residential_Demand_Response_and...

Foreign money pours into American oil, gas fields

Does anyone track the percentage of foreign capital, Chinese in particular, that's being invested in U.S. and Canadian energy production? So much for 'energy independence.'

It's also amusing to see the clash of the oil behemoth v. the gas behemoth.

thanks from a newcomer,
--- Bill O'D


Energy is a better investment than T-Bills or MBS.

Bill - I haven't seen any compilation. Just press releases from time to time. About 6 months ago the Chinese paid $2.3 billion for a 30% interest in the undeveloped Eagle Ford Shale acreage Chesapeake owned. That measn they also spend at least several times that amount drilling wells with them. BP, Repsol (Spain) and Petrobras (Brazil) also have significant acreage positions in our offshore GOM. But that's a net gain for us: it's illegal to export any production from federal leases without permission of the govt. And probably logistically too expensive for the Chinese to ship on shore oil/NG out of the country. But there is one angle: a paper swap. The Chinese could swap 1 million of onshore US oil for 1 million of ME oil. The money that a US refiner would have paid for the ME oil producer goes to the Chinese and vice versa. They money is the key as much as access; if supplies get tight and there's a limit of how much oil can be shipped out of the ME such paper swaps an help a lot. Years ago the US allowed N. Slope oil to be shipped to Japan who, in turn, bought oil closer to our Gulf Coast and swapped it for the N. Slope production. The motivation then was to save shipping costs...a win/win for everyone.

Having foreign investments in domestic oil/NG production won't bring energy independence, of course. But it ain't a bad thing either.

Rockman, it may be as simple as energy provides the Chinese with a hedge against currency debasement. It also provides a way to diversify their dollar holdings away from the ultimate blowup of the bond market. Since the US will not allow them to buy an energy company outright, buying into the various drill plays presents an avenue for them to participate in our energy market.

Chinese companies have invested about $11 billion in the Canadian oil sands in the last few years. They are looking for a secure source of oil from a politically stable country.

At the moment the oil is flowing to the US, with the Chinese collecting the profits, but I'm sure their ultimate goal is to take it to China instead.

Also, I think if we examine the rationale behind investments in oil sands and other unconventional oil resources, we'll find that these investments are made with an eye to improving the technical capabilities of the Chinese investors.

Great Plains river basins threatened by pumping of aquifers

Suitable habitat for native fishes in many Great Plains streams has been significantly reduced by the pumping of groundwater from the High Plains aquifer – and scientists analyzing the water loss say ecological futures for these fishes are "bleak."

"It is a finite resource that is not being recharged," said Jeffrey Falke, a post-doctoral researcher at Oregon State University and lead author on the study. "That water has been there for thousands of years, and it is rapidly being depleted. Already, streams that used to run year-round are becoming seasonal, and refuge habitats for native fishes are drying up and becoming increasingly fragmented."

Did Watching Television put Americans in Debt?

A new study conducted by researchers at Hunter College reveals that the role of advertising in household consumption and debt may be greater than suggested by existing research. Drs. Matthew Baker and Lisa George (Economics) analyzed the effect of television penetration on debt using household finance measures drawn from the annual Survey of Consumer Finances covering years 1946 to 1958. Their results indicate that the appearance of television was associated with higher levels of debt for durable goods.

Study: The Role of Television In Household Debt

I suspect we have not reached "peak social control" yet. And it may not be Orwell, but Madison Avenue that's the model.

Their results indicate that the appearance of television was associated with higher levels of debt for durable goods.

Could one go so far as to say the greater the complexity the greater the debt load? And at some extreme level of complexity the debt load exceeds the ability to repay?

Timeline of a mass extinction

While the causes of this global catastrophe are unknown, an MIT-led team of researchers has now established that the end-Permian extinction was extremely rapid, triggering massive die-outs both in the oceans and on land in less than 20,000 years — the blink of an eye in geologic time. The researchers also found that this time period coincides with a massive buildup of atmospheric carbon dioxide, which likely triggered the simultaneous collapse of species in the oceans and on land.

With further calculations, the group found that the average rate at which carbon dioxide entered the atmosphere during the end-Permian extinction was slightly below today’s rate of carbon dioxide release into the atmosphere due to fossil fuel emissions.

The researchers also discovered evidence of simultaneous and widespread wildfires that may have added to end-Permian global warming, triggering what they deem “catastrophic” soil erosion and making environments extremely arid and inhospitable.

Nevada Governor Declares Emergency from Wildfire

(Reuters) - Nevada's governor declared a state of emergency on Friday because of a wildfire burning outside of Reno that has destroyed 20 structures and forced the evacuation of 9,500 people.

The Caughlin Fire broke out overnight and has already blackened more than 400 acres as it moves toward heavily populated areas said Michele Anderson, spokeswoman for Reno Mayor Bob Cashell.

"The firefighters are battling with extremely high winds right now that are also extremely erratic," Anderson told Reuters

related Wildfire tears through Reno; 10,000 evacuated

yea, this is the frightening scenario. 20,000 years tho - it's teh blink of the eye to a geologlist, but it's a good long time to a technologist. I imagine we could tackle geo-engineering on the needed scale in 1000 years, given the threat of extinction.

I imagine if we tackled geo-engineering with a total war sort of urgency, like devoting say 10% of global GDP to it, that we could do quite a lot of it. If our very survival depends upon it, and we can get agreement on that fact, then we probably could muster the resources.

For 10% of global GDP you could implement the measures necessary to ensure that "Geo-Engineering"(gag me) won't be needed.

Instead of trying to change the way we live on the land, people would rather carry on with an impossible situation. It's insanity.

For 10% of global GDP you could implement the measures necessary to ensure that "Geo-Engineering"(gag me) won't be needed.

That would require the monkeys to realize the danger, before TSHTF. No sign that thats going to happen. So the intervention will be done only after the bad stuff hits bigtime.
Of course then instead of a few percent of GDP for a couple of decades, geo-engineering will have to be continued for a thousand plus years....

The thing is, we don't have a 1000 years - we have maybe 5 or 10. And when peak oil bites, our options will be reduced to something equivalent to throwing rocks at the moon.


Are you saying we have 5-10 to halt global warming? because I think that ship has sailed - we can't do anything about it now. But if we have 10-20 thousands years before the feedback look turns the planet inhospitable to large mammals, or even if we only have 1000, then there's some hope that we can do something about it.

In terms of energy available - if you're limiting our prospects in terms of energy - there's more than enough electro magnetic energy from the sun to power geo-scale engineering projects - way more available than all fossils sources of energy we use now. Coupled with automation, and some of the advanced materials science that's coming out of labs right now, it's quite possible that a vast space-based energy platform could be constructed, possibly in as short a timescale as a century.

With enough energy it would be possible to engineer vast planetary breathing apparatus that could balance global air and water chemistry in time to avert a planetary extinction - why not?

What's missing is the perception that such drastic measures are necessary. No one wants to propose efforts on the magnitude needed to prevent a global crisis, until after a global crisis is generally accepted to be impending. No-one wants to say: we're f*'d if we don't start this project now.

Yes, the idea that we're past the point of no return is predicated on not ever being able to take CO2 out of the atmosphere at a rate greater than we add it (i.e. a floor of zero for human GHG emissions).

Right - everything i read tells me that loose little carbon atoms are just what we're going to use to build the technical materials of the near future - graphene and etc. So if we can suck them right out of the air then I'm a true believer.

From Congressional Research Service (CRS)

U.S. Natural Gas Exports: New Opportunities,Uncertain Outcomes

As estimates for the amount of U.S. natural gas resources have grown, so have the prospects of rising U.S. natural gas exports. Projects to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) have been proposed - cumulatively accounting for about 12.5% of current U.S. natural gas production – and are at varying stages of regulatory approval.

Producers contend that increased exports will not raise prices significantly as there is ample supply to meet domestic demand, and there will be the added benefits of increased revenues, trade, and jobs, and less flaring. Consumers of natural gas, who are being helped by the low prices, fear prices will rise if natural gas is exported.

The possibility of a significant increase in U.S. natural gas exports will factor into ongoing debates on the economy, energy independence, climate change, and energy security

Economic Growth and the Unemployment Rate

What appears to matter for a reduction in the unemployment rate is the rate of actual economic growth compared with the rate of growth in potential output (i.e., the output gap). Potential output is a measure of the economy’s capacity to produce goods and services when resources, such as labor, are fully utilized.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects that the annual average growth rate of real GDP will not much exceed potential output until the 2013-2016 period. Unless the economy grows more strongly than currently projected, the unemployment rate is expected to remain close to 9.0% through 2013 before approaching its pre-recession level of 5.0% in 2016

Presidential Policy Directive 8 and the National Preparedness System: Background and Issues for Congress

S -"Producers contend that increased exports will not raise prices significantly as there is ample supply to meet domestic demand, and there will be the added benefits of increased revenues, trade, and jobs, and less flaring."

Mucho thanks...nice to end the week with a good laugh. So what's that basic economic principal? Oh yeah...as less product reaches a market the price goes down. That supply/demand thing: the less supply during a period of increasing demand forces prices down.

They are right about increased revenue: selling more NG at higher prices will certainly do that. And more jobs for sure. Of course, they have to be paid with some of that increased revenue. Otherwise why would they hire them in the first place. They also shoot themselves in the foot with the "less flaring" portion of the statement. Why are they flaring NG now? Easy answer: the low price of NG doesn't justify putting in the pipeline gathering systems. So why will they spend those $billions down the road to capture all that wasted NG? Because the price will be high enough down the road to justify the investment...unlike it is today at current prices.

Sometimes it's almost as difficult working in the oil patch as it is being a conservative with idiots out there making such statements to "help" our side of the discussion. Please: stop helping.

Yes: I fully support shipping as much LNG out of this country as possible. Most of what I produce is NG and I'm all for anything that raises prices to the US consumer. As I've said before: we ain't your momma.

Re: Natural Gas Exports

Zero Motorcycles debuts electric motorcycle with 100-mile range and improved speed

Zero Motorcycles recently unveiled the first mass-produced electric motorcycle capable of traveling more than 100 miles, breaking down one of the long-standing obstacles to consumer adoption.

The Zero S, one of the company's expanded line for 2012, goes faster - up to 88 mph - and farther - 114 miles - than previous bikes which generally traveled about half that distance before requiring recharging. Previous top speeds of Zero bikes were generally legal highway speeds.

A new battery cell technology is designed to last the life of the motorcycle, allowing a rider to travel more than 308,000 miles.


European Parliament Study on Crowd Control Technologies

This study grew out of the 1997 STOA report, ‘An Appraisal of the Technologies of Political Control’ and takes that work further. Its focus is two fold:(i) to examine the bio-medical effects and the social & political impacts of currently available crowd control weapons in Europe; (ii) to analyse world wide trends and developments including the implications for Europe of a second generation of so called “non-lethal” weapons.

H(ackers)2O: Attack on City Water Station Destroys Pump

Hackers gained remote access into the control system of the city water utility in Springfield, Illinois, and destroyed a pump last week, according to a report released by a state fusion center and obtained by a security expert.

The hackers were discovered on Nov. 8 when a water district employee noticed problems in the city’s Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition System (SCADA). The system kept turning on and off, resulting in the burnout of a water pump.

Forensic evidence indicates that the hackers may have been in the system as early as September, according to the “Public Water District Cyber Intrusion” report, released by the Illinois Statewide Terrorism and Intelligence Center on Nov. 10.

•The disclosure was made by a state organization, but has not been disclosed by the Water ISAC, the DHS Daily unclassified report, the ICS-CERT, etc. Consequently, none of the water utilities were aware of it.
•It is believed the SCADA software vendor was hacked and customer usernames and passwords stolen.
•The IP address of the attacker was traced back to Russia.
•It is unknown if other water system SCADA users have been attacked.

related Water utility hackers destroy pump, expert says

and Was U.S. water utility hacked last week?

and Apparent cyberattack destroys pump at Ill. water utility

A pump at a public water utility in Springfield, Ill. was recently destroyed after cyberattackers gained access to a SCADA system controlling the device, according to a security expert who said he obtained an official report about the incident.

Meanwhile, in a separate case, a hacker named "pr0f" earlier today posted several images on Pastebin purporting to show access to a "really insecure" Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system at the city of South Houston.

The posting was prompted by what the hacker claimed was the DHS's attempts to downplay the Springfield incident. "This was stupid," pr0f wrote in a note on Pastebin. "I dislike, immensely, how the DHS tend to downplay how absolutely f**** the state of national infrastructure is," the hacker wrote.

Hacker says he broke into Texas water plant, others

A twentysomething hacker said today that he hacked into a South Houston water utility to show that it can easily be done, after U.S. officials downplayed the risks from a report yesterday of an intrusion at an Illinois water plant.

The hacker, using the alias "pr0f," said he has hacked other SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) systems too.

He tweeted on November 5 links to public posts with what he identified as PLC configurations for a Polish waste-water treatment plant; SCADA data from an HMI (human-machine interface) box possibly for a generator used for research purposes at Southern Methodist University; and what he believes are water metering control system files from Spain or Portugal.

I would have kept my mouth shut if I were him. How long will it be before they track him down?

Scientists Invent 'World's Lightest' Material

Researchers have created a material that's so light it can rest comfortably on a dandelion seed head without disturbing the fluffy, delicate structure of the plant. The "ultralight metallic microlattice" invented by scientists at UC Irvine, HRL Laboratories, and Caltech is described in the Nov. 18 issue of Science.

The new material is 100 times lighter than styrofoam, according to reports. The secret to its lightness is a cellular architecture fabricated from hollow tubes that supports a material structure that is in reality 99.99 percent air, according to the research team that built it.

Germans face consequences of giving up nuclear energy:


If Germany wants to give up nuclear, fine.

But if they are doing anything with the intent of combating AGW, they are suckers that are wasting their time.

Humans will burn through whatever fuels we can get our hands on, that much is clear. AGW cannot be stopped. Best to secure the ports and man the borders to keep out the climate refugees.

Humans will burn through whatever fuels we can get our hands on, that much is clear. AGW cannot be stopped. Best to secure the ports and man the borders to keep out the climate refugees.

Agreed. All we are doing now is burning FF and waiting to see how dramatic the weather will get. It's almost as if we are standing with a clipboard looking up into the sky wondering how bad it will get, and jotting down notes as it transitions into who knows what. It's a bad experiment that will be tested to its maximum possible level, while ignoring what happened in the Permian extinction. Who wants to learn from Earth's history when one can act like yeast and simply go baby go!

I don't think we will burn through it all. When we get bonked badly enough, we will quit. What we really need to do (but obviously can't), is to advance the date of the bonking. In any case, a few regions will place some of their FF off limits, and that will probably mean peak CO2 will be marginally less than if they didn't.

If Germany wants to give up nuclear, fine.

But if they are doing anything with the intent of combating AGW,

They are giving up nuclear instead of lignite (both 23% of electricity generation), so obviously they don't care about AGW.

They've obviously picked the battle that they feel carries the more imminent threat at the moment. They are still planning to reduce GHG, but seem to feel that they might not be able to do ANYTHING if they have poisoned a chunk of their country and hence their economy, as severely as Ukraine or Japan have seen.

Let's not kid ourselves. They had peak non-fossil electricity generation last year.

They seem to expand fossil generation to fill most of the gap left by nuclear decommissioning. Not very surprising, as they likely realize they cannot integrate that much more intermittent renewable power into their grid.

so obviously they don't care about AGW

We will just have to wait to see how it turns out. One the one hand their coal consumption rampdown will be delayed. On the other, they will be desperate to expand renewables, and that might mean better renewable tech gets developed (and exported) sooner than would otherwise be the case. The later factor might outweigh the first in terms of net global emissions (peak CO2).

They are importing Chinese PV and Russian gas. Again, let's not kid ourselves. We know how it turns out - more fossils and more than a lost decade.

Interesting interactive from BBC ...

Eurozone debt web: Who owes what to whom?

The circle below shows the gross external, or foreign, debt of some of the main players in the eurozone as well as other big world economies. The arrows show how much money is owed by each country to banks in other nations. The arrows point from the debtor to the creditor and are proportional to the money owed as of the end of June 2011. The colours attributed to countries are a rough guide to how much trouble each economy is in.

The UK doesn't look all that stable.

Greece: €38,073 Foreign debt per capita, 252% Foreign debt to GDP

UK: €117,580 Foreign debt per capita, 436% Foreign debt to GDP

Ireland: €390,969 Foreign debt per capita, 1,093% Foreign debt to GDP

1,093% Foreign debt to GDP

Why even if you sold the entire population into slavery you wouldn't be able to cover that!

I don't know ... maybe after 6 or 7 generations they might start to show a profit.

Privatization Nightmare: 5 Public Services That Should Never Be Handed Over to Greedy Corporations

Who gains – and who loses – when public assets and jobs are turned over to the private sector?

When a public job is contracted out, usually public employees are replaced by people who are paid much, much less and receive fewer, if any benefits. Corporate propagandists complain that public employees are overpaid, receive “lavish” benefits, and are difficult to fire.

But the question we all should ask is: is it in the public interest for Americans to be paid less or more, and to receive or not receive benefits?

related Privatizing Liberty

As Mayor Bloomberg's forces swooped down on Occupy Wall Street, news reports described the "hundreds of police and private security guards" who had re-taken Zuccotti Park.

Those private guards were used against public citizens who had been exercising their civil liberties in a public area.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu told lawmakers he was responsible for the $535 million U.S. loan guarantee to Solyndra LLC and said he doubted much of the money would be recovered after the company’s bankruptcy.

Chu, who once predicted the California maker of solar panels would be a “shared success story,” testified today before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee investigating the Energy Department’s reasons for backing Solyndra and providing refinancing as it slid toward collapse.

Once again the Corporate Media for the 1% manages to focus on the
gnat on the elephant! Where is the outrage about the literally billions of dollars of cash never accounted for from the Iraq Disaster? Or the fact that for years the Pentagon has never passed a fiscal audit?
Or if we want to focus on energy subsidies only, then how come nothing is said about the billions for incredibly dangerous nuclear power not only in direct subsidies but also in the infamous Price-Anderson Act which provides public insurance via our tax dollars for
any nuclear disaster such as just occurred and is still spewing radioactive poison in Fukishima?

I share your outrage. What happened is entirely predictable though. Those running the media want to discredit liberalism (as if Democrats and Obama were liberals), and will manufacture any scandal they can to do so. The psychology of big numbers, is that a waste of 10million has the same outrage effect as the loss of a trillion. So they exploit that (and other) cognitive weakness to the max.

One of the lessons that Exelon CEO John Rowe has learned over 28 years of leading utility companies and dealing with Washington politics is that liberalism is relative. “The electricity industry is probably the only place where I could be a liberal,” Rowe says with a smile in a recent interview with National Journal. “I’m fundamentally very conservative in my economic views. And I never met a big power plant that I didn’t like.” As the chief executive officer of the country’s largest nuclear-reactor operator, he is one of the utility industry’s rare vocal fans of the Obama administration’s clean-air rules; he also ardently supported climate-change legislation. (His company was not at risk: Nuclear power emits virtually no air pollution.)

This is precisely what OWS is protesting about!
"A liberal"? I am reminded of Phil Ochs famous song:

love me love me love me I'm a liberal!

John Rowe was paid $11.5 million in direct compensation:


Of course without the Price-Anderson Act and other major subsidies to nuclear power, John Rowe and Exelon would be bankrupt.
As reported by a report from the Union of Concerned Scientists:


WASHINGTON (February 23, 2011) – Since its inception more than 50 years ago, the U.S. nuclear power industry has been propped up by a generous array of government subsidies that have supported its development and operations. Despite that support, the industry is still not economically viable, according to a report released today by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). The report, “Nuclear Power: Still Not Viable Without Subsidies,” found that more than 30 subsidies have supported every stage of the nuclear fuel cycle, from uranium mining to long-term waste storage. Added together, these subsidies often have exceeded the average market price of the power produced.

The actual Union of Concerned Scientists report is here:


Although the US Corporate Media seems to have forgotten there seems
to be unending bad news from the Fukishima nuclear disaster:


Cesium Fallout From Fukushima Plant Widespread
by Mizuho Aoki

Radioactive cesium from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant may have reached as far as Hokkaido, Shikoku and the Chugoku region in the west, according to a recent simulation by an international research team.

Large areas of eastern and northeastern Japan were likely contaminated by the plant, with concentrations of cesium-137 exceeding 1,000 becquerels per kilogram of soil in some places, says the study, which was posted Monday on the website of the National Academy of Sciences.

We've been casually observing for many years that the Drug War and the War on Terror were preparing the way to deal with any civil unrest that resulted from corporate control of government, courts, and the media. Now, almost suddenly, it's no longer a matter of small talk. Simon Black found that the militarization of US police forces hit him like a baseball bat to the head when he returned from extended travel abroad:

It’s truly appalling how police forces across the country have become militarized. The concept of ‘peace officer’ no longer exists. Police are now paramilitary forces who only protect and serve the political class.

Because I’ve been out of the country for so long, I notice these changes more acutely; it’s like diving in head first into ice-cold water as opposed to wading in slowly. And this rise of the police state is accelerating.

Here’s the thing– when you look around the world, you can see a lot of chaos and turmoil. Hardly a day goes by when there’s not multiple riots and protests in the western world being met with overwhelming force from the government.

The government is sending a clear message: “We are in charge.”

. . . If President Obama wins a second term, many conservative Americans will have reached their breaking points. If a republican candidate should win, a huge portion of Americans will feel they have lost their champion. . . . Watching the farce of America’s political theater play out, it’s clear that this ticking time bomb will go off after Election Day 2012. As polarized as voters are, and as dismal the federal balance sheet is, there’s little chance of society keeping it together afterward. . . .

Black is wrong, I think, about Social Security being bankrupt -- that talk is part of the campaign against the safety net. Otherwise, he sounds chillingly plausible.

Meanwhile, an adviser to Goldman Sachs has been appointed Prime Minister of Italy. The mild-mannered Canadian commentator, Ian Welsh, sees it as another step in an international fire-sale:

The financial elites are on a plundering spree, gleefully using their power to force entire nations into poverty, blackmailing governments into huge payouts. Pay extra on bonds, or pay extra on oil, or hey, why not both!

The political elites are clearly either bought or completely ineffective at resisting. If the ECB won’t buy bonds, then countries just need to leave the Euro so they can print money. Yes, that might cause inflation and various other problems, but that is better than semi-permanent depression through austerity.

Now, what can the people do when the elites won’t allow direct referendums, and when there are elections you can only vote for parties which are all in favor of austerity?

Make them fear you.

Three-dimensional farming | Tomorrow Today


A scientist in Stuttgart is researching how farming will be done in the future. He wants his fields to be stacked up rather than to extend across the plains. It's hoped the concept known as"Vertical Farming,"will provide more arable surfaces to grow crops to feed a burgeoning world population.Several working groups are tackling the project around the globe.

"Vertical Farming"

Gees, it's about time that idea was brought out into the light of day, so to speak. I've never understood why farming relies on expectation of good weather and control of insects via insecticides, vs. a controlled environment. Why not have a 4-6 story building with farm equipment attached to an overhead track. The equipment could even link to other adjacent buildings. There would be no need for insecticides or concerns about the weather - all organic produce! It's amazing how things have to hit a wall for change to occur.

Here is an article about this concept from Popular Science:


There are other article in other publications...

This particular article posits a 30-story building with the footprint of one square city block, costing $200M to build and feeding 50,000 people per year.

That math works out to feeding each of the 50,000 people at a cost of $4,000 per year. This does not count the costs of utilities, land/building/business taxes, labor, insurance, transportation, marketing, and profit.

I have been in numerous buildings which had plenty of insects inside. Funny thing is, that weed seeds can hitchhike their way around easily and could get into these 'controlled environments', as can fungi, mold, bacteria contamination as well. Add the annual costs of insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, and fertilizer.

These high-rise farms would be vulnerable to Earthquakes, tornado and hurricane damage, and mass vandalism/attack as well as insidious insider acts of sabotage.

I am not saying the idea might not have some merit, but with any new idea, I would say...please build several, at least, prototypes across the country and run them full-up for at least five years and get the bugs (literally) out of them...do a robust proof of concept and operational test before declaring victory.

I wonder if ConAgra and Archer Daniels Midland and the farm implement companies would lobby very hard to stop any such pilot projects, especially if they received any government funding...

I can't imagine how much utilities for such would end up costing. Not only electricity for lights and pumps, but water, water filtration, etc. It strikes me as the least possible of sustainable farming models.

Maybe these several thousand (in the U.S. /Divide our population by 50K folks fed per building) high-rise 'vertical farm' food production buildings could be powered by 600-700 advanced breeder (or Thorium) fission reactors which are mated to industrial facilities to pull CO2 from the air, combine it with H and make all of our present and future consumption needs for liquid fuels, as well well as all of our electricity needs, for as long as we want!


PDF Alert:


Or perhaps our friends up the road at LANL didn't do their math right...or left out some of the math?


Oh well, if this idea doesn't work we have the Italian breakthrough in LENR to fall back on, and also the impending revolution where hundreds, perhaps thousands, of humans will live and work in Earth orbit, constructing and maintaining a huge fleet of space-based power satellites, courtesy of the dirt-cheap Earth-to-low-orbit transport provided by the Skylon paper airplane.

If the chaps at Popular Science were turned loose and allowed to run the World we would engineer ourselves out of all these so-called predicaments!

...and there would be Spandex jackets for everyone...

[EDIT] I almost forgot, we could also grow all the fish we could ever want in the water in the hydroponics systems used by the plants. Doesn't water weigh 7 pounds per gallon? Are these 30-floor high-rises?

As an added yummy bonus, we could use these facilities to grow the megatons of synthetic meats that scientists are right now busily working to 'perfect'.

And we could do away with that pesky labor rate and insider threat of sabotage (including poisoning the food supply)by having the vertical farms tended by humanoid (and otherwise) robots and computers!

No dangers there...that perhaps a computer virus could be introduced (a la STUXNET) into the Global Amalgamated Vertical Farm Corporation, shutting down our Star Trek food supply systems...

Also...what OFC said below...

I will try very hard not to be too condescending and sarcastic for about ten seconds-there I have counted to ten, and contemplated whether simply braying like a mule or trying to explain why vertical farming is a colossal joke.

No offense is intended, as many of us obviously are not knowledgeable in either biology(farming equals applied biology) or the construction trades.

My rolling stone life has endowed me with more than a passing acquaintance with both subjects.

Vertical farming would in essence involve stacking greenhouses one on another to the desired height, say ten stories.

Let me suggest that anybody who believes this is a simple matter contemplate the amount of skilled labor, concrete,steel, and other materials that are required to build a ten story building.

Second let me point out that the three primary requirements for plants , which are necessarily going to be brought into the building at considerable-nay-unbearable -expense are nutrients, water and light;air with co2 is not hard to get , you could just open a window.

The light will be the real killer of the three.

The sun only provides enough for ONE FLOOR-NOT TEN FLOORS.The rest will have to be brought in by means of a field of mirrors,etc, or by generating it with electricity.

Greenhouses are single floor "vertical" farms.

The only significant savings to be had from a vertical farm is the one of the size of the actual physical foot of building, and the savings associated with shipping the food to the same location from a farm some distance away.

The enormous savings associated with doing things with powerful machines such as tractors and combines out in the open, compared to doing them by hand inside ,will dwarf the shipping savings.

Farmland will always be hundreds of times, or thousands of times, cheaper per square meter than high rise construction costs

A single "story" greenhouse will always be cheaper to build by several orders of magnitude than a high rise transparent skyscraper on a per square meter basis-and probably cheaper by at least a factor of ten to maintain and operate on the same basis.

Anybody who might think otherwise should stop to think just how expensive staircases, elevators, growlights, high pressure pumps,electricity, and so forth are.

Just the foundations alone of a high rise building would probably cost enough to build a green house of the ordinary type three times as big as the proposed individual floors of such a high rise farm.

Insects and diseases ARE somewhat easier to control inside greenhouses than out in the field, but anybody who works in one will tell you that the glass seems to be just about as effective an open window half the time.

Anybody who has any experience around a hospital will tell you that the worst possible place to be, in terms of acquiring a dangerous infection, is in the hospital.

Greenhouses are frequently subject to devastating disease outbreaks.

The only way high yields can be achieved anywhere is to supply plenty of N, P, and K.

Just where these elements are to come from , unless brought in as manufactured fertilizers, is somewhat of a mystery-one worthy of Sherlock Holmes himself.

Of course it might be possible to get most of the nutrients from sewage , but this is not an idea likely to sit well with a typical well educated middle class professional woman, or man for that matter.

Vertical farming is a joke good only for getting a few professors of this and that a little publicity or maybe a research grant to pxss away.

If these professors possessed either any professional competence relevant to the field of agriculture,or any self respect, they would not have their names associated with such absurdities, except on the first day of April.

LOL. But as I've noted before, some years back I saw them growing heads of lettuce under lamps inside a supermarket in Funabashi at what later became Tokyo Lalaport (a name that maybe says everything you need to know about it), owing, I was told, to all the crops having been destroyed by a long string of hurricanes. So it must be technically feasible, though I suspect that a single leaf, used as a garnish, probably cost the equivalent of a buck or maybe two.

So to really scale this thing up properly, someone with big bucks needs to form a consortium to hire Rockman to drill for "hydrinos". With a steady supply to power enough of the danged buildings, anything should be possible...

Good points OFM, you clearly know your business as far as farming goes.

The closest thing to a "vertical farm" I could see ever working out would be a terraced greenhouse, possibly with some overhang to take optimal advantage of low solar elevations at higher latitudes. Ideal placement would be on the edge of a large city, where it could steal light from developed office/industrial space and have access to the city's effluent stream for nutrient recycling.

But even that would still be subject to all the complexity and problems intrinsic to indoor farming, which you enumerate quite eloquently, and the number of points of failure (both mechanical and biological) of a system of the required complexity is mind-boggling.

Given the area required to grow the worlds food, this is truly geo-engineering on a massive scale.


So, back of the envelope, I figure ~ 150,000 30-story 1-sqaure-block vertical farms to feed ~7B people.

When your run the math that comes out to 7.5B people, but I put a (probably too-small) pad in to account for the fraction of industrial farm capacity which will be down at any given time for preventative and reactive maintenance, and to include storm/earthquake/sabotage damage downtime.

Increase the size of each building (or increase the total number of buildings) if we wish to add fish farming and synthetic meat production. Just a guess...to include excess capacity for downtime, fish, synthetic meat to feed all humans to the U.S. standard....~300,000 vertical farms?

Add to that the LANL Fission/atmospheric mining of CO2 industrial complexes to make all of our liquid fuels production and all of our electricity (again to U.S. consumption per capita standards)...if I recall the previous discussion on TOD about this, some folks estimated as many as 100,000+ nuclear fission reactors (perhaps several hundred thousand if we really are talking about all 7B folks using liquid fuels and electricity at U.S. rates of consumption per capita).

I recall the champion of this idea saying in so many words that it was very do-able.

If we could harness the energy from all the arm-waving in the World we might be able to meet our energy needs!

Peter's comment at the end of Ian Welsh article puts a bit more clarity on the European situation:

It’s a horrible problem built on an irrational monetary structure. The States may be badly divided, but no one doubts they have the political powers and institutional tools to do what needs to be done once they figure out what that is. Not so here. Gotta go forward or back–the first spells German hegemony, the second chaos. Choose your poison.

The real underlying problem is that European unity was an elite project that only got general acceptance with promises of money. The political and cultural cohesions that were supposed to flow from idealistic economic unity didn’t evolve. The hard truth is they don’t like one another nearly enough to support the sense of mutual obligation and assistance the project demands. To see this all in general classical terms of an economic class war with solidarity or even potential solidarity among the classes is highly naive. It’s at bottom a political and cultural crisis. You may also want to remember that , in Europe, car-trashing riots can often have unintended results.

Economic hardship seems to be bringing out the old devils in each respective system. In America, there was a long held belief that the country was moving towards a classless society. OWS mantra, 1% vs. 99%, is putting stamp paid to that myth. Meanwhile, the old bogey-man of Europe, nationalism, is again raising its hoary head. It, too, was long hoped dead among Europe's leading intelligentsia. So much for that legend.

Vultures' Picnic:


In his new book, journalist Greg Palast talks about his encounter with Etok, an Inupiat Alaskan fighting oil companies and their government backers

Interesting read...a little tidbit of insight on how Arctic Slope Regional Corporation formed...and how we 'white folk' shove the native American folk around to get at 'our' resources...

Luv it. Thanks for the laugh:-)

On the fourth day, Etok figured the Green People were now wise enough, hungry enough, and thirsty enough. He ordered his people to rescue them. “They are vegetarians,” the wise Etok explained to his people and ordered them to bring many buckets of mikiaq, fermented whale meat in congealed blood. The hungry Green People ate the whale, no longer giving a [s#it] that it was some goddamned endangered species. The Inupiat told them it was not wise to enter the Native boats. The rescue party had brought along a filthy crude-oil barge for the frozen Green People to ride.

Moral of the story: just when you think you're on the high end of a crusade, and got everything figured out, changes in circumstances may lead you look at life differently.

The Powers That Be (TPTB) invested in Business As Usual (BAU) are continuing to organize to discredit and dissipate the 'Occupy' movement, and any potential sympathetic politicians.

I am shocked, shocked, I say!


I have been thinking on and off that the only politician running for President who is truly 'out of the box' is Ron Paul.

The only other one I can think of who is pretty out of the box (in a different direction) is Ralph Nader, but he is through...

My 19-year-old daughter is reporting to work at a retailer at 11:30 Thanksgiving night to start serving customers at midnight and on...


I like the fact that a few retailers are starting to pull back from this idiocy...I especially salute Nordstrom for not putting up Christmas decorations until the day after Thanksgiving...

I see many bubbles which are going to pop down the road...

We've had Christmas since September. Stores have been drained of their regular stock to make room for Christmas goods. You can hardly get through the isles to do regular shopping for all the Christmas rubbish stacked high. I am already SICK of Christmas and it's only November.


EDIT: didn't read right

I have grown tired of paying the American shaving razor duopoly, Gillette and Schick, their obscene King's ransom for their stupid blades (Mach 3, Sensor, etc).

I went on the Internet

I purchased a nice double-edge razor, a stick of shaving soap, a brush, and a pack of double-edged blades...if I can 'cut it', I hope to save a lot on blades vs. the Mach-3/Sensor shaving paradigm...

I am off to the sink to go back to the future and learn to kick it old school...wish me luck...

Razor blades last nearly forever if you keep them dry. If you can put up with the inconvenience of storing your razor outside of the bathroom when you're not using it, you can save a bunch of money.

"Ah, I have an idea!. I will drag a piece of sharpened steel over my face every day and try to beat back this totally natural function of my body. I'll show who's the boss here!"

I totally subverted this bizarre system nearly 40 years ago. I grew a beard. My shaving-supply outlays are nothing.

Just sayin'...


Your advice seems sound...I checked out a 'back to the old days' shaving blog from some British fella...one of the many tips was to pat the DE blades dry.

sgage, I think your approach is fine, but it is not for me...vive la difference!

All: It went better than I imagined...not a nick, and my face and neck is smoother than after a 2-4 blade shave with the over-priced stuff from the Shick-Gillette duopoly.

Now I will experiment to see if I can get satisfactory results with DE blades less expensive than the Merkurs...