Drumbeat: November 21, 2011

Gregor Macdonald: The New Price Era of Oil and Gold

There was a time when central bankers used to fight high oil prices with interest-rate hikes. But we are now in a different era with that equation, and central bankers are more likely to lament, as Ben Bernanke quipped in his spring 2011 press conference, that "the FED can’t print oil.” Yes, precisely. At the zero bound of interest rates and with debt saturation coursing through the private and public sector, the developed world faces not an inflationary restraint from oil prices, but rather an additional deflationary barrier. Welcome to the new oil cycle.

In the old oil cycle, new supply of petroleum was brought online to capture rising prices. In the new oil cycle, declines from existing fields neutralize this new supply, for a net global supply gain of zero. In the old oil cycle, recessions benefited large consumer countries like the United States as oil prices fell, giving a boost to the economy. In the new oil cycle, the price of oil falls only for a short time before resuming a higher swing. In the old oil cycle, the developed world set the oil price through swings in its demand. In the new oil cycle, the developing world, with its much lower sensitivity to high prices now sets the floor on oil. Most of all, the new oil cycle caps growth in the developed world. The new oil cycle kills the economies of the OECD nations.

Saudi Arabia halts $100bn oil expansion programme

Saudi Arabia has halted the $100bn expansion of its oil production capacity after reaching a target of 12m barrels a day as the kingdom believes that new oil sources will meet raising demand.

Khalid al-Falih, chief executive of state-owned Saudi Aramco, said on Monday that pressure on Riyadh to raise its output capacity had “substantially reduced”, the clearest indication yet that the world’s top oil producer is not pushing ahead with an assumed expansion plan to 15m b/d by the end of 2020.

Aramco CEO: No plan to raise capacity to 15 mln bpd

RIYADH (Reuters) - Saudi Aramco has no plans currently to increase its oil production capacity to 15 million barrels per day (bpd), its chief executive said on Monday.

"Saudi Aramco has more spare capacity than the kingdom is obligated to or has committed to ... so it wouldn't make sense," Khalid al-Falih told journalists in Riyadh when asked if the state-run energy company was considering expanding its upstream oil capacity from around 12 million bpd.

Saudi sees threat of shale oil revolution

(Reuters) - Saudi Arabia's state energy company said on Monday that its dominant role in world oil supply had been altered by large new reserves in North America, sapping the urgency to develop the kingdom's own reserves.

The speech by Saudi Aramco's chief executive was the first from the globe's top oil exporter to acknowledge that unconventional oil was set to shift the energy balance of power and cut U.S. dependence on Middle East crude.

Analysis: Saudi Aramco acknowledges oil revolution from unconventional sources

LONDON — In a landmark speech given in Riyadh on Monday, the head of Saudi Arabia’s national oil company acknowledged that new technology has transformed the world energy outlook from scarcity to plenty.

Worries about peaking oil and gas supplies have been replaced by news of increasingly abundant resources, as conventional production pushes into new frontiers and hydraulic fracturing unlocks unconventional supplies from tight rock formations, according to Saudi Aramco’s chief executive Khalid Al-Falih.

Pemex could need shale help

Mexico must decide whether state oil monopoly Pemex alone will develop the country's huge shale gas reserves before the resource can be fully exploited, a government regulator said.

False energy crisis in Yemen?

SANAA, Yemen (UPI) -- The Yemeni president is creating an energy crisis in the country to fend off international pressure to resign, an opposition leader said.

Canada: Diesel prices could fuel inflation

Higher diesel prices could lead to higher prices for everyone on everything, truckers are warning.

UAE pipeline to flow first oil in December

ABU DHABI: A crude oil pipeline in the United Arab Emirates that will bypass the Strait of Hormuz is nearly complete with first oil to flow next month, as talk of military action against Iran intensifies, four industry sources said yesterday. The Abu Dhabi Crude Oil Pipeline (ADCOP) project, a 480-km pipeline with a capacity of up to 2.5 million barrels per day (bpd) - would allow OPEC member UAE, one of the world's top five oil exporters, to avoid the risky sea route and boost exports from its Fujairah terminal on the Gulf of Oman.

Stop buying Iran oil, allies urged

France is calling on its allies to stop buying Iranian oil in order to pressure the regime to halt its nuclear activities.

The call came after the US, Canada and Britain announced they were imposing new economic sanctions on Iran in the wake of a UN nuclear agency report suggesting Iranian work towards the development of atomic weapons.

Canada oil sector must keep cleaning up act: Prentice

(Reuters) - The U.S.-imposed delay of TransCanada Corp's Keystone XL oil pipeline shows Canada's energy industry cannot relax efforts to improve its environmental record, a former top minister in Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government said on Monday.

The U.S. move has also helped build consensus that the oil industry must lessen its near-total export reliance on the U.S. market, said Jim Prentice, who left the Conservative government last year to become vice-chairman of Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.

Egypt's Cabinet resigns amid protests, violence

Cairo (CNN) -- Egypt's Cabinet resigned Monday night, the prime minister's office said, as thousands of people gathered again in Cairo to protest the military-led government.

The military leadership subsequently accepted the resignation, said Lt. Col. Amr Imam, a spokesman for the ruling Supreme Council for the Armed Forces. State TV was still reporting Monday night that the resignations had not yet been accepted.

Saudi Arabia poised to become solar powerhouse

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- The United States may be known as the Saudi Arabia of coal thanks to its large deposits. But under an expected investment push, Saudi Arabia could soon become the Saudi Arabia of solar power.

Early next year the oil rich kingdom is expected to announce a plan to get up to 10% of its electricity from the sun by 2020 -- a more aggressive national policy than what's in place in the United States.

Saudi Aramco Says Renewable Energy Progress Is ’Faltering’

Progress in implementing renewable energy globally is “faltering” as companies have been slow in starting projects and some companies may fail, Saudi Arabian Oil Co. Chief Executive Officer Khali Al Falih said.

Some shelters dish out organic Thanksgiving to homeless

"If I have a guest coming to my house for Thanksgiving, I'm not going to open a can of beans for them," explains Steve Badt, director of kitchen operations at Miriam's Kitchen in Washington D.C. "A homeless person who is my guest deserves no less."

Kurt Cobb: Emperor Vespasian has a solution for unemployment

I was reminded of Vespasian when Charlie Hall, perhaps the best-known energy researcher you've never heard of, commented at a recent conference that we have built a society where fossil fuels have consistently displaced labor. This has had the unfortunate result that those whose primary aptitude is with their hands are finding less and less work.

Outline of the "Transition Companion"

This outline of "Transition Companion" was compiled to help guide discussions in our local book groups. I thought other people might find it useful as an overview of this rich and dense work. There are links to any sections of the book that are online. The 12 Steps from the Transition Handbook are mapped to the corresponding Ingredients and Tools in the new model.

Richard Heinberg: Islands in an Expanding Sea

Expansion of trade depends not just upon favorable trade rules, but financial and monetary integration between nations, as well as the availability of affordable transport fuels. I will argue that current APEC negotiations to increase trade within the Pacific region are a hollow exercise because the preconditions necessary for expanded commerce are disappearing. The peoples of this region therefore need to develop alternative economic plans and strategies.

Saudis Say OPEC Is Asked to Pay More Than Fair Share on Climate Action

Saudi Arabia and its OPEC partners are asked to bear too much of the burden of cutting greenhouse- gas emissions because of their economic dependence on oil and gas exports, the kingdom’s climate envoy said.

“Climate policies on the international level are mainly targeting the transportation sector, so they will impact the demand for oil,” Mohammed al-Sabban, the country’s chief negotiator at talks on global climate change, said today in Riyadh. Saudi Arabia should “take seriously” the potential impact of oil demand peaking in 2050, he said.

Oil near $97 after China leader negative on growth

SINGAPORE – Oil prices fell to near $97 a barrel Monday in Asia after a Chinese leader predicted the world's current economic malaise will be long lasting.

...The effects of slowing global demand were also evident in Japan, where exports fell for the first time in three months in October. Singapore's government, meanwhile, said it expects the island's economy to grow as little as 1 percent next year, down from a 5 percent expansion this year as export demand from developed countries wanes.

Just in time for holiday travel: Gas prices fall 5 cents

U.S. average gasoline prices fell nearly 5 cents a gallon to $3.38 over the last two weeks due to a combination of weak economic conditions and fewer daylight hours, an industry analyst said on Sunday.

Hedge Funds Cut Bullish Bets by Most in Seven Weeks on Europe

Hedge funds cut bullish commodity bets by the most in seven weeks on mounting concern that Europe’s debt crisis will restrain global economic growth and demand for raw materials.

UAE to bypass Straits of Hormuz with new pipeline-sources

ABU DHABI/DUBAI (Reuters) - The United Arab Emirates could soon start pumping oil via a key pipeline that will allow it to bypass the Straits of Hormuz and protect exports if Western powers resort to military action in a row over Iran's nuclear programme.

Russia-Belarus gas deal seen this week

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia and Belarus are expected to strike a new gas agreement on Friday, Nov. 25, preventing a row that had threatened to disrupt gas supplies to Europe, Russian government sources and news agencies said on Monday.

Centrica deal with Norway secures UK gas supplies

British Gas owner Centrica today signed a series of deals worth billions of pounds with Norway's Statoil to secure gas supplies for the UK through until 2025.

Centrica is paying £1 billion to buy stakes in a series of producing and exploratory gas and oilfields located in the Norwegian sector of the North Sea.

Poland's PGNiG eyes 900 bcm of shale gas

(Reuters) - Gas monopoly PGNiG has the potential to loosen Russia's supply stranglehold on Poland after it revealed it may have up to 900 billion cubic metres (BCM) of shale gas at its 15 licences.

Saudi Aramco denies it plans Bangladesh refinery

(Reuters) - The head of state-run Saudi Aramco denied it was considering construction of an oil refinery in Bangladesh after a senior Dhaka energy official said on Monday the proposal had been raised last week.

"This is not true. There is no discussion at all about refineries in Bangladesh," Khalid al-Falih, Aramco's chief executive officier, told reporters in Riyadh.

Iraq oil: fools rush in

There is something unseemly about the scramble for Kurdistan. Western oil companies are flocking to Erbil, capital of this semi-autonomous region of northern Iraq, to secure exploration and drilling contracts. The prize: a possible 50 billion barrels of oil, or 40 per cent of Iraq’s proved reserves.

Yet Iraq remains bitterly divided. Critically, there is no agreement between Baghdad and the regions on a petroleum law and the sharing of resource revenues. Oil company bosses could be walking themselves and their investors into a legal and political minefield.

Iraq's Kurds keen to mine riches

Iraqi Kurdistan has opened its relatively undeveloped land to foreign oil companies, and it wants to bring in miners next.

The Gulf region can squeeze more value from its oil industry

While hydrocarbons will remain the bedrock of the economy, they can no longer be the driver of growth in the Gulf.

Iran Says Oil Market to Suffer If Its Exports Affected, Seeks ’Fair’ Price

Any disruptions to Iran’s oil exports would create “severe problems” for the global crude market, Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi said in an interview broadcast by Al Jazeera television.

Iran will seek a “fair price” for crude when the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries meets next on Dec. 14, Qasemi said, adding that the global market for crude does not face a shortage.

Iranian boycott mars rare Middle East nuclear talks

(Reuters) - The U.N. nuclear chief urged Middle East adversaries on Monday to engage in "fresh thinking" in rare talks on efforts to rid the world of atom bombs, attended by Israel and Arab states but boycotted by Iran.

Israel in hot seat at Middle East nuclear ban conference

Vienna - Arab countries urged Israel to give up its nuclear arms as a precondition for a nuclear weapons ban in the Middle East, participants at an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) conference said Monday.

Congressman rails against more fracking regulations

One of this area's two U.S. congressmen presided over a subcommittee meeting last Wednesday regarding the regulatory approach of horizontal hydraulic fracturing ("fracking"), which has become a major issue across the country including here in Athens County.

During the hearing, U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio, reinforced his oft-stated skepticism about federal environmental regulations, by disputing concerns about fracking's negative effects on drinking water supplies.

Chevron Says Brazil Oil Spill Reduced to ‘Residual’ Seepage

Chevron Corp., the second-largest U.S. energy company, said it is reducing the amount of oil leaking from a project off the coast of Brazil after plugging the source of the spill on Nov. 13.

Technology: What is Unconventional Oil All About

There are four generally accepted definitions of Peak Oil – 1) when maximum oil production has been reached, 2) when over 50% of the estimated original-oil-in- place has been produced, 3) when oil demand exceeds oil production, or 4) when new reserves added are consistently less than the reserves used on an annual basis. In 2005, few people in the oil industry believed in Peak Oil despite the warnings of M. King Hubbert, a Shell Oil scientist. Daniel Yergin, Michael Lynch, Steve Forbes, and others have generally considered Peak Oil to be a myth. Now, in 2011, many more knowledgeable oil people are considering the viability of the Peak Oil reality and there are some very good organizations like Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas who continue to promote Peak Oil as a serious world problem and both a near-term issue and a long-term challenge.

Energy firm Ecotricity scraps Somerset solar farm plans

Energy firm Ecotricity has cancelled its plans to build a solar panel farm in Somerset, blaming cuts in government solar energy subsidies.

New Zealand: Greens keen on boosting rail

The Greens want stronger rail/road networks and would make investing in the Northland rail network, particularly a Marsden Pt link, a priority, they said. The Green Party's value-for-money solutions to Northland's current roading problems would deliver safety improvements to State Highway 1 instead of the Puhoi to Wellsford motorway.

Cutting Back on Defense Spending Will Make the World Safer

We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to switch spending for defense to more sensible priorities, such as the amelioration of peak oil and global warming, while optimizing educational, public infrastructure, and environmental needs. Except for a few politically necessary expendables, however, the military-industrial complex will prevent what should be a slam dunk obvious answer.

Volkswagen Aims to Make Electric Vehicles in China in 2013

Volkswagen AG (VOW), Europe’s largest carmaker, aims to build electric vehicles in China from 2013, the head of the company’s business in China said.

Laos to Wait for ‘Positive Signals’ Before Building Mekong Dam

Laos will wait for “positive signals” from its neighbors before it builds the $3.7 billion Thai-financed Xayaburi hydropower plant on the Mekong River, Deputy Prime Minister Thongloun Sisolit said.

South Africa’s Eskom Starts Solar Plant at Its Lethabo Operation

Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd., South Africa’s state-owned power utility, said a solar photovolltaic installation at its Lethabo power plant has the potential to produce as much as 1.25 million kilowatts a year.

India’s Cabinet to Fix Ethanol Price Within a Month, Minister Says

India’s federal cabinet will set the final price for ethanol within a month, Minister for New and Renewable Energy Farooq Abdullah told reporters in New Delhi today.

A consuming passion

It's not yet a full-blown crisis - in the developed world at least - but we are facing disaster unless we rethink everything about the way we produce, distribute and consume food, he says. Think of a global issue, from peak oil to biodiversity and climate change to obesity, and it can be tracked back to food.

Eating what in the future?

The CSIRO estimates that in seven years' time we'll be paying $8 a litre for fuel.

As well as cutting out the Sunday drive, have you thought what it might mean for our diets?

We know a lot of food is freighted to Tasmania but it also takes a lot of fuel to produce food on farms here.

'Organic' certification gives farmers a tough row to hoe

Across the USA, many small-scale farmers do not feel the need to become certified organic, even if their method of farming would meet or exceed federal standards. It's a phenomenon that can be credited in part to the eat-local movement and the explosion of farmers markets, where consumers can meet, ask questions of and even visit the people who grow their food. Many locavores feel they don't need a third-party certification for something they've seen with their own eyes.

Call for prayer and action on climate change

The Rev Canon Rachel Mash, Environmental Coordinator of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa and member of the Anglican Communion Environmental Network, wants greater assurance from world governments that they are taking the issue of climate change seriously.

"Despite 17 years of negotiations to cut warming emissions, current global pledges to cut emissions leave Earth on track for between 2.5 and 4 degrees of warming, widely agreed to be catastrophic,” she said.

U.S. Sets High Bar for Post-2020 Climate Accord After Durban, Stern Says

Climate-change deals reached at a United Nations meeting starting this month may be “completely silent” about how to combat global warming after 2020, the U.S. climate envoy said.

“It’s not self-evident that you need to talk about that at all,” Todd Stern, President Barack Obama’s lead climate negotiator, told reporters yesterday at a briefing in Arlington, Virginia.

Rising sea level will lead to big changes, scientist says

Rising sea levels will make it riskier to live in New Zealand and render parts of the coast uninhabitable over the next century, a climate scientist says in the wake of an international report.

Air-Conditioning Gases Must Be Curbed to Protect Climate, UN Says

Emissions of hydrofluorocarbons, heat-trapping industrial gases used in air conditioners and refrigerators, must be curbed to help combat climate change, according to the United Nations.

Greenhouse Gases Rise to Record in 2010: UN

Atmospheric concentrations of the three main gases blamed for global warming all rose in 2010 to their highest since records began, the United Nations said.

Global capitalism is based upon trade and investment between nation-states. As nation-states continue to fail and go Somalian, globalization will slow down and eventually halt.

Chaos, deja vu in Tahrir Square

Some on the streets expressed little confidence in the current government, saying there had been little progress since Mubarak's ouster.

"Nothing has changed," said Zahra, one protester. "We've gone backwards. The military council is garbage. Mubarak is still alive and well, and the people are dying."

Is anyone really surprised by this? It had disaster written all over it from the beginning.

Investors didn't have this baked into the market. I think that roughly 99% of literate folks are surprised that replacing a dictator doesn't equate to a better life. Those of us that believe that finite resources rule the day are the other 1%. IMO, finite resources are truly the most powerful force shaping our economies civilization. It started to take over about a decade ago and is becoming stronger every year.

The Egyptian Exchange's EGX30 index closed 3.99 percent weaker, at 3,862 points, according to the exchange's Web site. The drop surpassed the previous day's 2.4 percent decline sparked by clashes between security forces and protesters in Cairo's iconic Tahrir Square, and pushed the index's year-to-date losses to almost 46 percent.

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2011/11/21/financial/f033743S90.DTL#ixzz1eMNCG6pf

In Sweden, we shot our last dictator in 1792. We have experimented with democracy ever since. Got it working about the time of WWI. Democracy takes time. Just replacing the dictator won't solve a thing, unless you are willing to walk the long walk of democratisation afterwards.

I fear the most important result of the Arab Spring will be destabilisation, and islamisation. As much as I hate dictators, I think it will go downhill from here. If we had abundant natural resources to play with, they would have another outlook.

I don't think finite resources are the key point. Historically, regime change tends to be messy. There are very few instances where things went well. (The Philippines after Marcos are an example, though they had their bad moments, too.)

Egypt was in a worse situation than most, in that there was really no one in charge and no real idea of what they wanted.

These decades-old dictatorships in the ME generally wiped out all true civil institutions, so they have to be reinvented on the fly, in time of great flux and confusion, and hard-ball power-jockeying.

In some respects, Egypt is better off than, e.g., Libya - at least they had a semi-functioning beauracracy and institutions. Of course, now they need to wrest control of all that from the military.

I don't think that anyone is particularly in charge in any of these Arab Spring events, nor that there is a clear idea of what is wanted beyond removal of Mubarak/Gaddafi/Assad/whomever. Once this is achieved, there seems to be a real "now what?" moment.

But who knows?! I'm no expert...

There's also the problem that these countries are somewhat artificial, with the boundaries drawn by colonial occupiers. Dictatorship forced people to get along, but didn't do much to diffuse tensions or allow them to learn to get along on their own. So you have conservative Muslims firebombing beauty salons, Sunni vs. Shia violence, Christians being shot in the streets, etc.

Yes, the colonial boundaries, grouping up historically antagonistic tribes/sects/religions, etc., is obviously a major problem if you're trying to cobble together something like a democracy.

My final analysis of these issues always seems to come down to "I'm glad I don't live there". :-/

I think it was possible for a lot of people to get a very optimistic reading of the course of events - popular uprising, army refuses to fire on protesters, dictator flees in disgrace, army takes over, elections and a constitution on the way.

If you were well informed or cynical or both, you had to figure that both the army and their US backers would fight very hard indeed to preserve the essence of the old system minus Mubarack, and that further unrest was inevitable. But that surely wasn't the way US media was reporting it.

Cuba made it. North Korea failed.

If they can't work together to form a sustainable society then things will get ever more ugly.

I think the numbers support that Egypt has been heading for financial disaster for some time. There are simply too many Egyptians for that country to support. That problem always seems to manifest itself as unemployed young men. A very dangerous lot, especially if they are educated.

...or armed.

Ron / West / Charles / Rock

I know you gentlemen have explained in detail how the NYMEX works with the trading of oil contracts, longs, shorts and price. I also understand that millions of "paper" barrels are traded daily on the NYMEX. I also understand that traders may take cash or oil upon expiration of the contracts.

My question is how does the NYMEX actually relate to physical barrels of oil. In other words, is it possible that everyone long oil may decide to take physical delivery? If so, where would these millions of barrels come from? That's probably a poor way to ask my question. I'm just trying to understand the implications of owning an oil contract versus the actual delivery of oil.

Thanks for your help!

T - Others may be able to flesh it out better (especially our resident ex-trader) but here's a few tidbits. First, it's not millions of bbls but billions. I recall someone pointing out that real oil makes up on a few percent of the volume traded in the futures market. Which is also part of the answer to your other question: what if they take physical possession? The vast majority can't even if they wanted to: if they took the oil they would have to store it someplace. And almost none of the traders have storage facilities available to them.

There are some actual crude users in the futures market. But many use the market for price stabilization reasons more so then for actual oil acquisition. An over simplification but the futures market is not much different than a Las Vegas betting room where you can put your money down on your home town football team. Your team wins or you bet on the future prices of oil is correct you make some $'s. If you're wrong...you lose $'s. Your bet doesn't change the outcome of the football. Nor the price of oil IMHO. Obviously the relationship between futures and actual oil prices is more complicated. But in the end 95+% of the oil volume represented in the futures market doesn't actually exist...never did...never will.

In other words, is it possible that everyone long oil may decide to take physical delivery?

Generally speaking, no. Most contracts are settled financially. In principle, the long party could request and receive physical delivery. But if the counterparty has no physical oil (which is most of the time) they settle the contract at the difference between the price of the contract as entered and the settlement price. This allows the party long oil to, in theory, be made whole on a subsequent physical purchase.

Let's suppose a sizeable number of buyers of futures decided to convert a settled contract to physical delivery. This would drive up the price in the spot market until those long the futures lost their appetite for physical delivery. This wouldn't take long; their make-whole payment on the settlement would be converting to a widening loss. It would make even less sense if they didn't have a need for physical oil, right?

The main takeaway here is that futures markets for oil and similar commodities don't exist as a means to procure physical supply -- rather their main purpose is to hedge the price of existing physical supply and of course they invite bets (speculation) on future prices.

Let's suppose a sizeable number of buyers of futures decided to convert a settled contract to physical delivery. This would drive up the price in the spot market until those long the futures lost their appetite for physical delivery.

Steve, you had everything right up to that point. Traders long futures contracts can never be forced to settle contracts for more than the contract price. If they want physical delivery, and are lucky enough to get it, it must be delivered, f.o.b. Cushing, at the contract price. It would not affect the spot market one way or the other. However, as you state, if there is no oil to make physical delivery they must settle for cash.

That is one of the greatest misconceptions of the futures market by non traders. Most assume that if you accidently forget to close your contract before expiration then you can be forced to take delivery if you are long or make delivery if you are short. Not so, if a trader does not wish to take or make delivery then they can settle in cash. In fact some markets, like the Tokyo Exchange, have only cash settlements. There they have no such thing as physical delivery.

Ron P.

if a trader does not wish to take or make delivery then they can settle in cash.

Absolutely right, and an important point to make.

I was trying to stretch a bit and imagine a scenario where a trader closed their futures position with cash and went to the spot market to ensure physical delivery, mainly to illustrate why it doesn't happen much, if at all.

According to the NYMEX website


the contract calls for physical settlement. Do you have a link which allows a short to settle for cash rather than providing the physical? To the best of my knowledge- futures contracts are either cash settled or physically settled but not both.

Don't expect improvment in regulation

Commodity Futures Trading Commission could face staff cuts

Just when it was ramping up to implement Wall Street reforms, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission could face personnel cuts now as a result of its budget approved last week by Congress.

... Administration officials told POLITICO that the shortfall is close to $14 million and upward of 60 workers — 8 percent of the CFTC’s current staff — are now at risk.

Of course a contract cannot be settled by both cash and physical delivery. You can only possibly get one or the other, cash or physical delivery.

I can find no link that says you cannot be forced to take or make delivery but likewise there are no sites, that says you can be forced to take or make physical delivery.

However I am a former commodities broker and a long time trader and I know that to be the case. Think about it, at every expiration there are always many, sometimes thousands, of contracts that expire while still open. People have accidents, die, or whatever and do not close their contracts. They are simply settled for cash because it would be impossible to force physical settlement.

The margin requirement changes as and volatility and price changes but it averages about 8 percent of the price. Right now it is $8,438, or was the last time I checked. That is all a trader must have to trade $100,000 worth of oil, assuming the price is $100 a barrel. So how can a trader with only $8,438, plus or minus gains or losses, in his account be forced to buy $100,000 in oil?

Also, though a contract has two sides so the shorts and longs always match exactly, but... the number of those wishing to take delivery will almost never match the number of those wishing to make delivery. So if there are 1000 contracts wishing to take but only 500 contracts that wish to make delivery, guess what the other 500 longs do? Obviously they must settle in cash.

Again, there is no such thing as forced delivery in the commodities market. That does not stop the myth from being repeated however.

Ron P.

Today, the USDebtClock.org site showed that the National debt to GDP ratio passed through the 100% level at $15.03 trillion. If GDP figures showed a real inflation number for its deflator factor, it would be doubtful that GDP is actually over $15 trillion. Given u-6 is over 16% and 50 million are with out health care insurance and 100 million are struggling, It seems that taxing the rich a little more is the least the
Congress could do. Who else has benefited from the government spending accounting for 46.5% of GDP spending more than the rich? Howe could any company in this Country claim that government spending has not help their business? Given that congress has made it possible for major companies to avoid all or most of US taxes, why should anyone support Congress that refuses to accept their responsibility? Executive pay under the facts is excessive and basically welfare without higher taxation.

Given political paralysis in so many OECD countries, e.g., the US, I have concluded that most OECD governments that are heavily reliant on continued borrowing will quit borrowing when they can no longer afford to borrow money.

Given political paralysis in so many OECD countries, e.g., the US, I have concluded that most OECD governments that are heavily reliant on continued borrowing will quit borrowing when they can no longer afford to borrow money.

westexas, its a sad commentary, but I agree with your assessment.

... at which point they'll probably start printing it. I agree with the original poster. With more than 50% of workers making less than 25K a year, there needs to be some fairness. The top rates need to go up. The loopholes need to close and government needs to start investing in solutions, not problems.

As an aside, does anyone have the crude + condensate numbers? I've been looking through the IEA and EIA reports but it seems that final all liquids figures have now been labeled 'oil' and it's tough to tease the real oil out.

What I've got so far is:

8 mbpd nat gas liquids (what products come from nat gas liquids anyway?)
1.3 mbpd biofuels
5 mbpd unconventional (tar sands, heavy oil, is deep water oil considered to be unconventional or not?)
2.3 mbpd processing gains from refineries

These numbers would imply a 72 mbpd base crude+condensate production?? Am I far off? And am I right to say that the numbers are getting pretty damned murky??

Since GDP & the debt are in the same currency, I don't see that inflation adjustments really matter for which is larger. Also, according to the Bureau of the Public Debt, 1/3 is still intragovernmental:

Current Debt Held by the Public Intragovernmental Holdings Total Public Debt Outstanding
11/17/2011 10,325,335,447,717.63 4,714,014,876,871.62 15,039,350,324,589.25

which are kind of nitpicks. I completely agree that spending cuts now are crazy, and that the best tax policy would be to let the pre-Bush rates come back in 2013.

Inflation makes a huge difference. GDP is real and increases with inflation, debt is nominal and doesn't.

If you are measuring them at the same time, it doesn't matter.

Water. Coal. Fracking. Texas. Sanity. One of These Words Does Not Belong

In one District west of Fort Worth, “the share of groundwater used by frackers was 40% in the first half of 2011, up from 25% in 2010.”...

a Union of Concerned Scientists report on freshwater use by power sources begins by noting the impact on drought-stricken Texas:

As of late summer 2011, Texas had suffered the driest 10 months since record keeping began in 1895 (LCRA 2011). Some rivers, such as the Brazos, actually dried up (ClimateWatch 2011). The dry weather came with brutal heat: seven cities recorded at least 80 days above 100°F (Dolce and Erdman 2011). With air conditioners straining to keep up, the state’s demand for electricity shattered records as well, topping 68,000 megawatts in early August (ERCOT 2011).An energy-water collision wasn’t far behind. One plant had to curtail nighttime operations because the drought had reduced the amount of cool water available to bring down the temperature of water discharged from the plant (O’Grady 2011; Sounder 2011). In East Texas, other plant owners had to bring in water from other rivers so they could continue to operate and meet demand for electricity. If the drought were to persist into the following year, operators of the electricity grid warned, power cuts on the scale of thousands of megawatts are possible (O’Grady 2011).


It would seem to me that the State of Texas should consider banning the use of fresh water for frac jobs (and mandate the use of saltwater). However, I don't know if this presents problems for the types of fracs they are doing these days.

I've got my money on y'all banning the use of fresh water for drinking.
"Whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting over."
Mark Twain

What about recycling?


Like they did with urine in "Waterworld"?!

I guess Pecos Bill is gonna finally catch Catfish Sue ...

The programme comes amidst reports that unemployment in Saudi Arabia is widening because of the private sector’s preference of the cheaper expatriate labour and the fact that the population is growing faster than the economy.

A drive to increase the number of Saudis employed, and reduce the expatriate labour force.


Best Hopes for Lower Birth Rates,


PS: How about a plan to install 3 GW of solar PV per year, with a 100% Saudi work force? Easily paid for with increased oil exports.

Right, they'll just shut down the oil-fired electricity and replaced it with solar electricity that's 10 times as expensive to the end user. No one will complain or riot. *chuckle*

Aramco just writes a check for the difference between burning heavily subsidized oil and the new solar PV.

Revenues from the sales of extra barrels of oil will be far greater than the Aramco check.

Best Hopes for Reduced Subsidies as well,


Aramco just writes a check for the difference between burning heavily subsidized oil and the new solar PV.

Revenues from the sales of extra barrels of oil will be far greater than the Aramco check.

Not really. A barrel of oil contains about 6 GJ of energy, which converts to 1667 kWh. Assuming a price of $100/bbl, and a power plant efficiency of 30 to 50%, that translates into a cost of between 12 and 20 cents per kWh. Basically, it's more or less the same price as PV solar, so they would be breaking even replacing oil with solar.

That model will not work for them since their production costs of oil are far less than $100/bbl, and they are charging electricity to their people at below cost, not at world price.

If you take natural gas, on the other hand, they can probably produce it for less than $1/Mcf, and 1 Mcf contains about 1 GJ of energy or 278 kWh. This translates to a cost of well under 1 cent per kWh when burned in a power plant.

What they really need to do is run their power plants on natural gas since they can do it for next to nothing. However, they seem to have problems producing enough natural gas, and the fact they are burning oil that they could export for far more money indicates they are desperate.

They are heading into a massive economic and political crash at some point in the not-too-distant future, but are in a state of denial about it. The Western world, however, would be well advised to prepare for a Saudi crash well in advance. You have been warned.

Actually, it will save that barrel of oil for export another day.
Perhaps at 200 or 300 dollars per barrel.

Thus the rate of return for Saudi solar PV indirectly is even higher than one could hope for ($0.50 kWh). You've just got to look at the Big picture.

Steam power plants are about 34% efficient. 1667 kWh heat x 0.34 = 567 kWh electricity

At $107/barrel, kWh = 18.9 cents/kWh

At low latitude and clear skies, Saudi Arabia should get "above Average" results.

On a broader scale, investing $$ today (using local labor) for essentially free power in the future (after the $$ are spent on solar PV instead, of, say Prince's monthly allowance or arms). A small positive in future years as all other systems in the kingdom become stressed.

Best Hopes for Wise Investments,


"Steam power plants are about 34% efficient."

This is true, but who would burn oil to run a steam power plant, when you can use it to run a gas turbine at 40-45% or a CCGT at 55-60% ?

And the GT's are much cheaper to buy, and faster to build.

So, if they go with the best equip possible, at 60%, then the barrel produces 1000kWh at a cost of 10.7c/kWh.

That said, I do still think that PV systems there make a lot of sense - but that doesn't always seem to figure in their decision making

This is true, but who would burn oil to run a steam power plant, when you can use it to run a gas turbine at 40-45% or a CCGT at 55-60% ?

Isn't that a little high? Efficiency of Gas Turbine

The efficiency of most GE-design heavy duty gas turbines *in simple-cycle application* (i.e, without a waste heat recovery boiler (or heat recovery steam generator) in the exhaust is approximately 32-35% at Base Load in new and clean condition at nameplate rated conditions (ambient pressure, ambient temperature, ambient humidity).

However you are right on the combined cycle efficiency. Combined Cycle Power Plant

However, the combined cycle power plant (CCPP) is clearly superior to any other practical design in terms of electrical efficiency. Gas fueled CCPP units may have an overall electrical efficiency of up to 58%. In comparison, single cycle steam turbine units may only reach 42% electrical efficiency.

Ron P.

Ron, I stand corrected.

That's what I get for not checking my sources - there was an article I had read that had those numbers, but not so.

Best appears to be GE's largest turbine, 9FB, 38.3 % simple cycle, 59.3% combined;

In any case, KSA is clearly going the gas turbine route, and GE already has 500(!) units operating there, generating half of KSA's electricity.


An even more efficient "simple cycle" machine is GE's 9MW gas ICE, which gets 48.7% efficiency. This could be higher still with a combined cycle setup, using an ORC system, but would not be cost effective with steam.


Gas turbines for gas, steam for oil is I believe what the KSA grid is building for additional capacity. Over 2 GW oil fired steam plant is under construction (if not recently completed).

The "waste" heat from steam (gas or oil) is used for desalinization.


I don't know much about gas turbines but I am pretty sure they can burn atomized oil if they need to. And for sure the steam plants can burn either. I worked at Saudi's Gazlan plant from 80 to 82. It is now Gazlan 1 because since I left Gazlan 2 has been built right next door. Gazlan 1 has 1,600 megawatts capacity and Gazlan 2,400 megawatts capacity.

But the point is, when I was there we burned gas at least 94 percent of the time. Occasionally they would burn oil for a few hours just to check out the burners. The oil burners extended out to near the center of the boiler. The oil burners were retractable but the gas burners just blew the the gas into the boiler from fixed burners near the boiler wall. One time we burned naptha for about a day.

And right down the road about a mile they built a giant desal plant that also burns either gas or oil. It went on line in 1982. But obviously since I left gas has gotten a lot more scarce because of all the new power and desal plants.

Ron P.

They can absolutely burn both - jet airplanes, after all, burn kerosene.

Here's a link to Siemen's website where they rate their turbines for gas and distillate fuel;. Interestingly, the efficiency is actually better on gas.

If they are doing combined cycle then they still have plenty of heat from the steam condensers for pre-warming desal water.

Most Saudi distillation is thermal not RO (distillation is better for dirty/high salinity water), and they will continue to go that way, and have been doing some serious work on improving their efficiency. As far as this paper is concerned, a power plant can be the back end of a CCGT plant, or you could even forget the steam turbine and just use all the turbine exhaust heat for desal - still a cheaper arrangement than a steam only plant.



Saudi mainly burns a mixture of crude oil and heavy to medium bunker oils for electricity (plus NG of course). But when it is 122 F in Riyadh, they will burn ANYTHING to keep the a/c going.

Not as suitable for turbines as kerosene.


Aramco have signed Deal with Korea to look at building up to 16 Nuclear reactors
Makes you wonder how much oil is left when they are desperate to build nuclear!

That said, I do still think that PV systems there make a lot of sense

In case folks were wondering, I completely agree that PV makes a hell of a lot of sense in Saudi Arabia.

What I'm mocking is the idea that authoritarian government is going to turn on PV, charge a sensible price for it, and shut down heavily-subsidized oil electricity. If you're an authoritarian government, you're always and forever playing for time. Cheap electricity for air conditioning and TV is Saudi Arabia's bread and circuses. Shut off cheap electricity, and you immiserated a bunch of folks with little to lose. What's Arabic for guillotine?

What's much more likely is that the PV brought on-line will go to providing jobs at new factories. SA has a lot of unemployed people, and putting them to work at solid middle-class jobs gives them a stake in the regime. SA has an obvious petrochemical and refinery industry waiting to be built up: the oil's right there! Distill and refine right next to the oil wells and ship out the finished product instead of crude. Open up some desalination plants and start replanting some of those fields.

Does this all sound crazy? Probably. But we're talking about what an authoritarian government has to do to placate its people. Shut off the cheap juice, and you might as well save the time and hang yourself from the nearest lamp post.

Interesting Point Alan,

but I think you might be missing a point, having lived and worked out there for a couple of years one thing you notice is the sandstorms that spring up in the spring as the centre of Saudi heats up drawing wind in from the edge of the land mass. What's that got to do with it you might ask, well it will take the shine off the paintwork of you car in next to no time. I was just wondering how well these panels will work after a few seasons of violent sandblasting that is apart from the violent heat. I have personally measured 48degrees in the shade, not a healthy temperature for a human being, you don't sweat you melt.
The rapid heating and contraction of the panels is also not conducive for a long life, to put it mildly it is not an investment I would want too invest in.

It is my understanding that the dust levels vary significantly within Saudi Arabia.

And dustier areas may have an engineering solution. Say scratch resistant glass on top ? Extra $$ , but Saudi has those in abundance.


If the Saudis utilize tracking mounts for the PV, there would be two benefits. First off, the output from each panel would be increased, to nearly twice that of simply placing them in a fixed position. Second, the tracking mounts could be programmed to move to a horizontal position during a dust storm, thus the panel surface would be nearly parallel to the wind. This would minimize damage to the glass from "sand blasting". During a storm, there's not going to be much output in a dust storm, due to the clouds blocking the sunlight...

E. Swanson

I would also think it wouldn't be outrageously difficult to apply a sacrificial surface layer to PV that will be in sandstorm-prone areas, if the damage is considered to be chronic exposure, or to have shutter systems cover an array with roll-down material (or fold together, like clamshells, etc, take your pick) if the main degradation is determined to be from periodic events like storms..

We could take a clue from Gators and other swimmers, who have extra shield layers that guard their eyes underwater, but still allow for a dgree of vision to continue..

.. 'it ain't rocket surgery', as my buddy says.

Or that old traditional standby: shutters.

Saudi Aramco focus on gas, downstream rather than oil expansion: CEO

Saudi Arabia has total crude oil production capacity of 12.5 million b/d and has no further investments planned to expand that further although Oil Minister Ali Naimi has said previously that the OPEC kingpin could raise capacity to 15 million b/d if dictated by future demand...

KAPSARC's interim president, Khalil al-Shafei, said on Sunday that, if the current demand pattern continues, Saudi Arabia would be using 8 million barrels of oil equivalent per day domestically by 2035.

I really don't know what to make of this. They are making no further plans to expand oil production and will instead concentrate on natural gas and refining. But it looks like they are desperate to cut down or slow their growth in oil consumption by bringing up more natural gas. Also:

Saudi Aramco has started developing its first non-associated gas field, the Saudi Aramco has started developing its first non-associated gas field, the Karan field, as part of an effort to supply its ever expanding chemicals and petrochemicals sectors while also meeting high domestic demand for power generation and desalination plants., as part of an effort to supply its ever expanding chemicals and petrochemicals sectors while also meeting high domestic demand for power generation and desalination plants.

So Saudi currently produces no non-associated natural gas. I did not know that. About the Karan field, I found this on the web: Field Focus: Saudi Aramco's Karan Field

Discovered by Saudi Aramco in April 2006, Karan gas field is the first non-associated gas field located in Saudi territorial waters of the Arabian Gulf, 160 kilometers north of the company’s headquarters in Dhahran...

Karan, designed to produce 1.8 billion standard cubic feet per day (scfd) of raw dry gas to support the company’s Master Gas System, will be produced from 21 increment wells distributed over five offshore wellhead platforms.

I did the math and that comes to 310,311 barrels of oil equivalent. To my mind that will not mean a huge cut in their oil consumption.

Ron P.

They have to do something. At the 2005 to 2010 rate of increase in their ratio of consumption to production of total petroleum liquids (BP), Saudi Arabia would approach the 100% mark--and thus zero net oil exports--in 14 years.

So Saudi currently produces no non-associated natural gas.

That is not correct. The quote read:

Karan gas field is the first non-associated gas field

Saudi has produced non-associated gas from the Ghawar field since the 1980s, from reservoirs much deeper than the Arab-D. Technically, one could say that, since it is primarily an oil field, their statement might read true. However, there are many smaller fields near Ghawar that produce gas but not oil, so it is more true that the quoted statement is just wrong.

I really don't know what to make of this.

In my mind, it makes perfect sense.
The Saudi King has already said that they will 'preserve our oil riches for future generations' (for Saudis, that is, not for the world).

They are already at their limit. Net exports have not surpassed(or even reached) their 2005 highs and it is highly unlikely that it ever will.
It will continue to decline.

But the West is overrun with the romantic idea that Natural gas/Oil shale will save us, so the Saudis just talk up their natural gas prospects to get the U.S. off their backs, because America would never allow this to come to fruition unless the Saudis had their green light to begin with. So clearly the American officials believe that these moves will ease the supply constraint going forward.

I would find it likely, however, that 2-3 years from now as things become clearer that there are no magic bullets, the Saudis will face massive pressure to increase their oil production by any means necessary. I dont think this decision will hold for this decade.
Probably no more than a few years. At best.

Well, Saudi Arabia may come under massive pressure to increase its oil production, but I don't think they can do it, and that is why they are resisting the pressure.

Saudi Arabia's oil fields are getting old (their biggest, Ghawar was discovered in 1948 and put on production in 1951) and show natural decline rates of about 6% a year. The Saudi's are having to drill more and more wells and inject more and more water into them just to maintain current production levels.

And they also use water injection from the begeining of the production phase. Meaning they don't have that stage of EOR to put in, once the decline of a field show up in the statistics.

In 2015, if I was the Energy Attache to the US Embassy in Riyadh, I would be "talking up" the advantages of

1) A massive solar PV installation program, using US made panels and 100% Saudi labor
2) Solar distillation of seawater for desalinization
3) Massive urban rail projects like those being built in Dubai ("keep up with" prestige)
4) Pointing to the success of the Iranians in tripling local gas prices
5) Import controls on low mpg cars (Royal family exempt of course)
6) Shifting more of that noisome truck traffic to the new railroads you are building
7) Some efforts to control population growth
8) Perhaps some nukes as well (D or R Administration back in DC ?)

All designed to reduce Saudi domestic consumption.

Best Hopes for Minimizing ELM,


7) Some efforts to control population growth

AlanfromBigEasy, you might want to move the effort to control population growth up higher on the list.

Best hopes of Saudi Arabia's future.

Re 1) above

That labour would be unlikely to be Saudi, rather guest workers.


Not if there is an edict from the King for a 100% Saudi workforce.

No doubt some Yemenis will slip through regardless of the edict.


Doesn't SA import like 100% of their food needs? They may want to figure out someway to grow food in that desert. Maybe their buddies the Israels could teach them :)

Just their wastewater could probably be used for a large amount of fruits/veggies.

Israel has MUCH more water than Saudi Arabia. Look at rainfall maps, and northern Israel is in a major "wet spot" compared to most Arab lands (except Lebanon).



And with a lower population, they STILL don't have enough.

I can't vouch for the source, but he describes the situation quite good:


I would not want to be a KSA citizen.

No, Saudi is self sufficient in meat, goat and camel meat mostly... and dates. However the stores have a lot of imported meat. Mostly because the expats don't like goat and camel meat.

Ron P.

Not if there is an edict from the King for a 100% Saudi workforce.

When I was in Saudi in the early 80s there was a strong drive to convert all but the most menial jobs to the Saudis. They are still working on that plan today. And they are scant closer to that goal today than they were then. It would take a lot more than an edict from the King to pull that one off.

Saudi, indeed all Arab nations, have a serious problem called "wasta". It is a serious handicap and really prevents conversion to an all Saudi workforce.

Wasta: The Hidden Force in Middle Eastern Society

"Understanding wasta is key to understanding decisions in the Middle East, for wasta pervades the culture of all Arab countries and is a force in every significant decision. . . . Wasta is a way of life." What is this mysterious force? Nothing very surprising: wasta is Arabic for connections, pull.

Ron P.

Alan, please become special adviser to the US president, then work through your points. That will be a much greater help to the US and the world (and eventually to the Saudi's as well).

Best hopes for Alan's energy efficiency programs.


"Centrica (a British utility) is paying £1 billion to buy stakes in a series of producing and exploratory gas and oilfields located in the Norwegian sector of the North Sea."

The Brits are catching on to the biz plan China developed over 10 years ago: secure future access to ff production either by contract or, even better, by direct ownership of reserves in the ground. This is where China and many other countries have a great advantage over the US: our govt doesn't have a system for such acquisition. And any US company that acquires interests in foreign fields is not under any obligation to ship those reserves to the US. China owns a lot of Angolan oil in the ground. At the moment they are happy to sell it on the open market. But the day will likely come when they won't want the cash but the oil itself.

Yet, if you believe what domestic Chinese rapports and IEA rapports have got to say about Chinese oil acquisitions, the current situation seems to be that the Chinese NOCs are finding it increasingly difficult to negotiate deals where they attain direct ownership of the oil in the ground. All players get to feel the squeeze - what with the problem of reserve replacement looming and what not;-)
African countries aren't as willing to outright sell off their resources as before, and so service contracts and loan-for-oil deals are increasingly the preferred way of letting the Chinese NOCs get a bite of the akshun'.

'Fuel poverty' surges in UK on rising prices (w/Video)

Growing numbers of Britons are struggling to pay their fuel bills as energy companies hike costs.

Energy prices in the UK have increased by 20 per cent in 2011 as the wholesale cost of fuel has gone up.

This has forced an increasing number of homes into "fuel poverty", which is currently defined as spending more than 10 per cent of household income on fuel.

The number of homes technically in fuel poverty has gone up almost five-fold in the past eight years.

Hi Seraph,

Shocking to read that an estimated two hundred Britains die each day during the winter months due to "cold related illnesses".

Source: http://blog.uswitch.com/2011/11/10/sir-david-jason-supports-sagas-surviv...

[Good to see DI Frost on the case.]


In the dialect of NE Scotland, "starve" (from Germanic sterben "to die") used to mean perish of cold, rather than hunger.

Really? I'm from NE Scotland and have never heard that. Maybe very local or very old?

Oh wait I missed your reference: "Doric". Hmm. Those Aberdonians are a strange lot :-)

However I take issue with "I'm stervin" still means I'm freezing in NE dialect as the reference says. That would definitely mean "I'm starving" to anyone I can think of today. I do wonder if the reference is correct. I'll ask some people who know Doric history. My great great grandfather actually translated much of the Bible into Doric. His obituary was on the front page of the Aberdeen Press and Journal about 100 years ago.

Here's some advanced appreciation for any research you might do. But I expect that "stervin means freezing" was already archaic when it was last used poetically over 100 years ago.

The only point I was trying to make was that dying of cold in the northern British isles cannot have been that uncommon "in the old days".

Seems "die of cold" was way back in archaic English around the 14th Century. Never knew that's where starve originally derived.


O.E. steorfan "to die" (pt. stearf, pp. storfen), from P.Gmc. *sterban "be stiff" (cf. O.Fris. sterva, Du. sterven, O.H.G. sterban "to die," O.N. stjarfi "tetanus"), from PIE base *ster- "stiff, rigid" (cf. Gk. sterphnios "stiff, rigid," sterphos "hide, skin," O.C.S. strublu "strong, hard;" see stare). The conjugation became weak in English by 16c. The sense narrowed to "die of cold" (14c.); meaning "to kill with hunger" is first recorded 1520s (earlier to starve of hunger, early 12c.). Intransitive sense of "to die of hunger" dates from 1570s. German cognate sterben retains the original sense of the word, but the English has come so far from its origins that starve to death (1910) is now common.

It could be a bit of both. Children (and I would assume this would apply to adults as well) can be so seriously malnourished that they cannot maintain their body heat (even if they are placed under warming lamps). They need food for the body to generate that heat. In Scotland (and elsewhere) a cold snap could make it such that the body could no longer maintain its body heat, it would cool and eventually the person would die.

I remember seeing this in Jamaica in the early 1970's. It was a very impressive example of the fundamental need for food.


It certainly is. In my job (at an outdoor pool) I consider the female athletes under 15% body fat at a higher risk of hypothermia. They tend to turn purple/blue and shiver violently while the chubbier ones are quite comfortable.

According to Wikipedia

In January 2008 Tajikistan faced its coldest winter in 50 years, and the country's energy grid began to fail.... The UN reported that with so much energy required to keep warm there was a danger of people starving to death.


I read somewhere that winter campers should prepare to eat 4500 to 5000 calories per day, and I remember a friend saying that he had to eat 10,000 calories a day on an Artic cross country skiing expedition, although I would take that number with a grain of salt.

In diving we consider those who are a little overweight as having a built in wetsuit ;) It is noticeable that those who have little body fat get cold more than those who have a reasonable fat layer. I tend to watch those more for signs they are getting cold. As for the calories, I have seen reports that some of the polar adventurers eat blocks of butter to keep up the calorie flow.


The in built wetsuit is also why most long distance swimming records are held by women - their bodies are better suited to it!

A former workmate of mine was an alpine climber and he used to work out his calorie requirements fairly accurately. he said it was a trade off between how much food you carried, and how much warm stuff (clothes, weight of sleeping bag etc). So, a lighter weight sleeping bag meant more food.

His secret energy food was (dry) oatmeal that had been soaked in melted butter - lots of energy even if you don;t cook it.
he also said a surprisingly good and equally cheap alternative was the Asian style 2-minute noodles - one look at the nutritional information and you see they have a very high fat content. He would break open the seasoning packet, shake it on them, and eat the noodles dry, like potato crisps - it is surprisingly good.

Ramen noodles don't have a high calorie content, compared to the daily requirements discussed in this thread. Each package provides only 380 calories, the fat content represents 120 calories of that. And, each package weighs 3.2 ounces (91g), which is a rather large weight for long distance back packing, I would think. For a week in the woods, not so bad for lunches. Compare that with a freeze dried package from Mountain House, Beef Stroganoff, which provides 2 servings, of 310 calories (110 from fat) each, at 2.4 oz (68g) net per serving. With the freeze dried meal, one also needs to include the weight of the foil lined package when calculating the total weight of food in one's pack...

E. Swanson

The early Arctic and Antarctic explorers used to rely on pemmican, which is a native American food with a very high energy density.


Pemmican is a concentrated mixture of fat and protein used as a nutritious food. The word comes from the Cree word pimîhkân, which itself is derived from the word pimî, "fat, grease". It was widely adopted as a high-energy food by Europeans involved in the fur trade and later by Arctic and Antarctic explorers, such as Robert Falcon Scott and Roald Amundsen.

The specific ingredients used were usually whatever was available; the meat was often bison, moose, elk, or deer. Fruits such as cranberries and saskatoon berries were sometimes added.

The reason climbers eat Ramen noodles instead is that at high elevation, due to the lack of oxygen, they can't metabolize food very fast - they basically want hot water with a little energy in it. I know some people who did Denali (twice - the first time they skied up, left a set of skis at the top, and skied down, and then they did a technical climb up a face and skied down), and they said they couldn't digest more than 1000 calories a day, while they were burning 5000-6000 calories a day.

People who do Everest (I know quite a few of them) usually come back all skin and bones. You have to move fast at those elevations because every day on the mountain you are losing weight, and if you take too long you'll never make it. It helps to be fat to start out. The same applies to wilderness survival exercises - the fat guys last the longest.

When I go for my lone hikes in the woodlands, I try to get food with an energy content of 6/3/1 carbonhydrates/fat/proteins. Dry off course.

Since I do this mainlyin the summers, heat is no big deal, and I carry light gear, so I can carry quite little food. I have never come home without a food stach unused in my pack. Most people would not believe how little I eat compared to how far I walk. But then, I am tall and thin also.

Dry seasoned ramen was one of my kids' favorite snacks in their tween and early teen years - put the mix in a baggy. I despaired, but now glad to hear this has some energy value for hikers and climbers.


I did a week-long dog-sledding trip on Lake Superior in January, 2001. Average temperature, -5 degrees F.

I can vouch for the fact that we ate and drank fluids seemingly constantly. Fatty items like salami and cheese, bacon, ground beef. Powdered eggs, powdered milk, dehydrated veggies. Stuff which is portable frozen. Lots of candy bars and trail mix. Bread, pancakes, oatmeal. Cooked with butter.

Lots and lots of hot tea, or hot lemon water. Dehydration is an issue.

While I didn't count the calories, 5000 or thereabouts seems right. I believe I lost a bit of weight, too.

The dogs were given solid blocks of frozen ground meat to eat.

Of course, you really bundle up with clothing too. Long underwear, fleece base layer 100 weight, second fleece layer 300 weight, parka and ski pants.

The tents get pretty warm while one is cooking on the little stove, but we slept in double down sleeping bags. Wet socks and gloves are put between the layers of sleeping bags to dry overnight, or they freeze.

The stove is only used for cooking, then turned off - the risk of fire would be too great otherwise.

Here's some advanced appreciation for any research you might do. But I expect that "stervin means freezing" was already archaic when it was last used poetically over 100 years ago.

Still in use it seems, though I don't recall hearing it myself.


Type "sterve" in the search box.

Thanks, Jon, for sharing this. Beyond its usage with respect to hunger, you'll often hear someone say that a person or animal is starved for affection or that an engine is starved for fuel, but I would have never expected it to be applied in this context.

BTW, if you have the opportunity to catch the Scottish TV series Doctor Finlay which is set in the immediate post war, you'll often see the actor's breath in the indoor shots that were filmed during the winter months (the final episode of this great series can be viewed at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7rBSlpBWZbY&feature=results_main&playnext...).


These figures aren't quite as bad as they look. Every country has considerable excess winter deaths over summer and although the UK's figures are relatively high they are more affected by circulating disease than the temperature if you compare years. The highest death tolls don't usually correspond generally to the coldest winters.

That said a huge amount needs to be done in the UK regards insulation and fuel costs for the elderly especially and I'm sure the figures could be brought down closer to the european average but not to the summer baseline as 200 a day would imply.

Interesting point. The press does like to jump on the 'excess deaths' news item caused by both cold and hot weather. However, it is obvious that these fuel price hikes (20%) are going to impact most people. While for the vast majority it is not a life/death issue, but more it will be an awareness that they need to change the their approach to consuming fuel so freely. We have a long way to go in the UK with regard to implementing domestic energy efficience measures. And of course, those who need to make the changes most, typically can afford it least. A similar survey out today reports that many Brits are now using as much energy to shower as they would to heat a bath. So much for the energy efficiency touted by that 'cultural shift' of the last few decades!


It isn't going to get any easier I don't think. What are the good options for a densely populated countries if the wind doesn't reliably blow in the winter, the sun doesn't shine and the concentrated energy sources like fossil fuels need to be phased out? Where I live if 99% of the time I can do without electricity for both heating and cooling, this isn't something which shows up on our local GDP.

Looks like another rough day ahead for the markets. Apparently, the Spanish voters didn't lurch far enough right to appease the marketeers.

Markets fall on eurozone fears after Spain election

Spanish markets have fallen despite a resounding victory for the country's centre-right Popular Party in the election.

Stocks in Madrid fell 2.4% while the government's cost of borrowing rose.

Is anybody anywhere under the delusion that markets give a fig newton about elections? As though slash and burn austerity is going to make much difference.

The story somewhat redeems itself by pointing out that the main culprit for today's jitters is France.

European markets were rattled by news that credit rating agency Moody's has warned that recent developments could affect France's credit rating.

Moody's said the country's rating could be hit by recent rises in borrowing costs for the French government and a downturn in growth prospects.

"Elevated borrowing costs persisting for an extended period would amplify the fiscal challenges the French government faces amid a deteriorating growth outlook, with negative credit implications," the agency said.

Surprise, surprise. Geezzzz... Greece, then Italy, now France. For whom does the bell toll? Silvio Berlusconi seemed invulnerable not very long ago, too.

[Addendum: Market speculation is that the US Super-Committee may be on the brink of failure. No surprise there either. Dow down by 300 points already. Oil (WTI) off by $3. But take comfort, the financiers are really suffering this year. Bonuses are down by a whopping 30%. According to Scott Page , compensation will come more in the form of cash rather than equity ("being that equity is so cheap right now" - What? Nobody wants shares?). What's more, he says you don't have a choice, you have to pay for "top talent." Take note, there is a resurgence in "investment banking advisory work." The pillaging continues. The ones who cause the mess keep rewarding themselves generously.]

From what I can gather, the new Spanish PM is:

a) just a shade to the left of the U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders when it comes to policy, yet headlines blast news of a "conservative win" in Spain.

b) going to still be in transition when the GS*tapo come for Spain too

c) has to make something positive from a negative caused primarily by bad real estate loans to people who couldn't afford a place in sunny spain and those loans being traded and leveraged as AAA causing a massive bubble burst like the rest of us ate, and the last time we checked, ya' can't do it.

d) all of the above

*GS = Goldman Sachs

One of my inlaws said I'm paranoid about oligarchy, that I'm over-reacting to the situation in the EU, Goldman Sachs, stuff like that. Sent him this link over the weekend:

What price the new democracy? Goldman Sachs conquers Europe

Simon Johnson, the former International Monetary Fund economist, in his book 13 Bankers, argued that Goldman Sachs and the other large banks had become so close to government in the run-up to the financial crisis that the US was effectively an oligarchy. At least European politicians aren't "bought and paid for" by corporations, as in the US, he says. "Instead what you have in Europe is a shared world-view among the policy elite and the bankers, a shared set of goals and mutual reinforcement of illusions."

.."sharing" and "mutual reinforcement". What could go wrong with that?

LIPA, BP Solar and Brookhaven National Lab flip the switch at the Long Island Solar Farm (w/Video)

Owned by BP Solar and Met Life, the LISF installation is part of the largest solar energy project in the state of New York, the largest photovoltaic array in the eastern U.S., and among the largest in the nation constructed on federal property. The 32-megawatt (MW) LISF, is made up of 164,312 solar panels ... Solar farm will produce enough energy to power up to 4,500 Long Island homes avoiding the use of fossil fuels

LIPA has entered into a long-term power purchase agreement (PPA) with LISF to provide the energy produced and Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) from the solar farm. The costs to LIPA under the PPA for the energy produced by LISF are estimated to total $298 million (including interconnection costs) over the contracted 20-year term or about $0.60 per month for the typical residential customer.

Re: Air-Conditioning Gases Must Be Curbed to Protect Climate, UN Says

Lately, I've had to learn about various refrigerants, as I am in the process of replacing an older heat pump which is running R-22. There are HFCs available for this purpose, however, they each have differing impacts on climate. For new equipment, R-410a is the industry choice, but, for older equipment designed for R-22, the choice is limited, due to the need for a different oil, POE. The same problem exists for auto AC units, which now use R-134a instead of the previous R-12. HERE's a comparison from the EPA web site, for those interested.

There happens to be a very good replacement option, as far as matching the characteristics of R-22 and R-12, which also has a very low Global Warming Potential. It's a mixture of Propane and Butane, with relatively high purity. The big problem is that it is flammable, which makes for a big problem in car A/C units. Using this R-22 replacement in A/C units would appear to be reasonable, since these are much less likely to leak. These replacements are NOT APPROVED by the EPA. Some comments I've seen suggest that this alternative is widely used outside the US and perhaps the UN wants us to use this refrigerant here as well...

E. Swanson

Dog - Along similar lines re: GHG we all know how much worse methane can be. A story on NPR just this morning: in Boston a researcher bought a portable methane detector and surveyed all the roads in the city. Found 4,000 "substantial" methane leaks from the LDS (local distribution system). The utility in charge of the LDS acknowledged they had a very leaky situation and that it would eventually cost $billions to fix the entire network. And the implication was that the rate payers/politicians would not find that acceptable.

I'm disappointed that more hardware for R-744 isn't being produced.

Perhaps this is what the UN is considering. Looks great for HVAC, as a system could also produce high temperature water as well as space heating/cooling. R-744 looks very useful for auto climate control systems as well and the Europeans have mandated it's use. Sad to say, all those old AC and heat pumps sitting out there in Amerika could not be retrofitted to use R-744...

E. Swanson

There is a fair bit of R-744 (CO2) gear being produced, many of the major names are into it now, but it is still a very minor, but growing part of their business.


But that fact, as Eric points out, that most existing systems can;t be retrofitted - they have to be replaced - is definitely a hurdle.

That also means a big potential market if they can get the cost down, or get old stuff mandated out of existence, as happened to CFC's.

Hi Paul,

Sometimes you're better off replacing these older system, at least that's been my experience.

As a side note, it's currently -4°C outside and the heat pump that serves our lower level is drawing 350-watts and the one for our main floor, 420-watts -- just 0.77 kW to maintain a 2,500 sq. ft. home at its set temperature (basically, the equivalent of a 3 ft. baseboard strip). By contrast, the 30.0 kW electric furnace in my first home would be repeatedly cycling on and off and drawing nearly forty-times as much power when energized. From a utility's perspective, one is a sleeping dog and the other a bull in a china shop.


Hi Paul,

Agreed that you are usually better replacing. One of the things with CO2 is that it operates at higher pressures than other refrigerants so this means that all the piping has to replaced - which in some cases will be very difficult.

Good news about the heat pumps, but - a 30kW furnace! That is one hell of a peak load. Must have needed a 400A service for that.

NO question that heat pumps are the best deal going in home energy efficiency.

Even if those with oil furnaces don't replace them, I am sure one well used heat pump would cut the oil bill substantially - as it certainly has in your case.

Thanks for the update.


This was an old Victorian in Toronto that had been renovated back in the early '80s and although it was reasonably well-insulated it proved impossible to heat. I recall that in the dead of winter you could easily blow through 150 to 200 kWh a day and the thermostat was never turned above 15°C unless we had company. That experience scarred me for life and I couldn't wait to unload the place.

Fast forward almost thirty years and for a home that's similar in size our energy requirements are now one-tenth that. For the first twenty-one days of this month we've used an average of 11.4 kWh per day for space heating purposes -- the energy equivalent of 1.3 litres/0.34 gallons of fuel oil at 82% AFUE.

Winter hasn't arrived as yet and so the numbers will move higher as the season progresses, but my ultimate goal is to get our total annual energy use below the 10,000 kWh mark (43 kWh/m2).


Thanks Paul

25 kWh/day, or 1.04kW average, is impressively low, especially considering that is providing space heating. This would likely be within the production ability of an off grid house. Use a bit of wood for some of the space heating and it definitely is - though this is not really an urban option.

And you haven;t even gone to the extremes of efficiency measures (except perhaps with lighting)like superinsulating, etc.

So, it can be done, though it sounds like that Toronto house is an exception to that rule - wonder what the current owners/inhabitants are thinking?

This Toronto home had a number of strikes against it but the single biggest problem was an all-glass conservatory that had been added at the back prior to the introduction of low-e/argon (when it was -20°C you could feel the heat being ripped out of your body at twenty paces). Back then, I was paying 4.8-cents per kWh as I recall; today, with TOU pricing, the cost is likely to be three times that. Hopefully, the new owners switched to gas long ago.

Not sure we could swing off-grid, even under more favourable circumstances (there's near zero solar potential with our current home, sad to say). At -6°C, the upper and lower units are pulling 780 and 370-watts respectively, and at -20°C I would expect both will draw between 1,200 and 1,500-watts. That's a pretty tall order for any off-grid system and you would likely require wood or some other alternate heat source to do most of the heavy lifting for much of the winter.


I remember going to a winter party at a house in Calgary that had a conservatory - same thing - you could just feel the heat being pulled from you.

I wasn;t suggesting that you do go off grid, of course. What I am getting at is that you have achieved low electricity consumption - including space heat - without going to extreme measures. A house in the country, like a farmhouse, could easily generate this electricity demand, and probably go net positive to the grid, but a standby heat source would be essential.

Here's a company in Saskatchewan that makes a couple of very nice wind turbine units - 1.5 and 3kW, designed for those breezy prairies. They would give pretty good winter production there!


even the Globe noticed them just recently;


This guy designed and built his turbines, the generator and the inverter, and they are cheaper than any other American made turbines of the same size - I wish him much success.


"In 2005, few people in the oil industry believed in Peak Oil despite the warnings of M. King Hubbert, a Shell Oil scientist."

An absolute false statement by any measure. I've mentioned it many time that my first mentor in 1975 went into great detail about the problems the oil patch was experiencing AT THAT TIME with PO. And again, we didn't call it PO but the reserve replacement problem. During my 36 years as a petroleum geologist THE constant pressure inside every public oil I worked with was reserve replacement....much more so than profit.

Someday maybe folks like this author will release that the PR pieces from the public oils in no way represent the position of the vast majority of oil patch workers...especially those of us who have been threatened with replacement if we didn't generate sufficient reserve replacement. I've seen scores run off for that very reason...including some I fired myself. As I'm fond of saying: we ain't the public's momma. But we ain't our brother's keeper either: replace those reserves or I'll find someone else who can. I've seen companies actually fire half of a very large staff in one afternoon just to drive that point home.

Just one reason I'm very glad to not be working for a public oil today. I know many geologist who are and they're extremely thankful for the shale plays. If not for those plays at least half the geologists/engineers I know would be out of work...many permanently. I was at Devon when the NG prices collapse destroyed the shale gas play in E Texas for the most part. I saw firsthand 100's of very talented folks kicked to the curb. And everyone working the shales plays today know that story very well. Despite high oil prices and the PR pieces there is a very high anxiety level in the oil patch today...at least at the grunt level.

Thanks, Rock. I got a kick out of that article also. Like #4, 'when reserves added are less than reserves used.' That's been true since 198sump'n, no?

I also like the one higher up about gas prices dropping by a nickel because the days have gotten shorter. First I've heard that one...

there is a very high anxiety level in the oil patch today...

There is high anxiety in all sectors of the economy today

(except in the anti-anxiety medications sector)

In reality, the oil producing companies in the US are gradually going out of business (most of the ones I have worked for don't exist any more), and the main career objectives of those involved in exploration is to make it to early retirement and collect some sort of a pension (like I did).

The US has already produced the vast majority of its oil reserves, and what people like Rockman are doing is poking around in the corners of old oil fields, looking for the dribs and drabs of oil that was missed in the rush to develop them way back when they were first found.

Even the much vaunted and overhyped Bakken formation was discovered in 1953. It is only being drilled now because the high prices of oil make using very expensive drilling and production techniques viable to get oil out of very impermeable rock. However, it, like all oil fields is finite in size and production will peak and start to decline like the other oil fields.

The promoters and oil company execs, however, are not going to make the facts public because their lucrative jobs and stock options depend on convincing naive investors that things are still rosy and only going to get better in the future.

Another attack piece by Monbiot and his pet professor.

Post-Fukushima 'anti-radiation' pills condemned by scientists

But Gerry Thomas, professor of molecular pathology at the department of surgery and cancer at Imperial College, London, describes his statements about heart disease caused by caesium as "ludicrous". She says that radioactive elements do not bind to DNA. "This shows how little he understands about basic radiobiology." Of the products and services being offered, she says, "none of these are useful at all. Dr Busby should be ashamed of himself."

Oh really Geraldine?

Study may help slay 'Yellow Monster'

The fact that uranium, as a radioactive metal, can damage DNA is well documented. But what Stearns and her collaborators recently have found is that uranium can also damage DNA as a heavy metal, independent of its radioactive properties.

Stearns and her team are the first to show that when cells are exposed to uranium, the uranium binds to DNA and the cells acquire mutations. When uranium attaches to DNA, the genetic code in the cells of living organisms, it can change that code. As a result, the DNA can make the wrong protein or wrong amounts of protein, which affects how the cells grow. Some of these cells can grow to become cancer.

"Essentially, if you get a heavy metal stuck on DNA, you can get a mutation," Stearns explained. Other heavy metals are known to bind to DNA, but Stearns and her colleagues are the first to identify this trait with uranium. Their results were published recently in the journals Mutagenesis and Molecular Carcinogenesis.

Source: Northern Arizona University

As to the supplements, in recent interviews and videos Busby has said very clearly that the cheapest way to get them is direct from a shop. This video from mid October. Yet the Guardian attack piece fails to mention this.

Prof. Chris Busby update on Supplements to block Fukushima radioactivity effects

It is straightforward, he says, to buy Calcium/ Magnesium tablets from health food shops where they are not expensive. The adult dose is about 800mg Calcium and 350mg Magnesium. Reduce the dose for children in proportion to their relative weight, so for a 10-year old, about 400mg Calcium and 175mg Magnesium. This is a critical issue: it will save lives and it is so simple and is absolutely harmless.

Whether Busby is right or wrong (and his explanations at least seem plausible to me) it's not as if he is promoting some expensive "snake-oil" to make himself rich as The Guardian tries to imply. Monbiot really makes me sick.

As to the rest of the attacks, anyone following Fukushima Diary and other Japanese sources will be well aware that radioactive debris is being sent to be burned across Japan. They just don't call it "waste" even though it is contaminated. Pictures have been published of the massive radioactive ash piles building up with nowhere to go around incinerators.

Your attacks on Monbiot make me wonder if perhaps YOU have an agenda.

Heavy metal poisoning is not from the metals attacking the DNA, it is from the metals interfering with the actions of various proteins in the cells.

Arguments from ignorance are seriously unconvincing, and do not do your case any good.

Yes, I have an agenda regarding Monbiot. Personally I think he's a creep.

What part of Dr Stearn's work (which I posted a summary of from PHYSORG.ORG - http://www.physorg.com/news63620093.html ) do you think is ignorant?

Uranyl acetate induces hprt mutations and uranium–DNA adducts in Chinese hamster ovary EM9 cells

A maximum adduct level of 8 U atoms/103 DNA-P for the 300 µM dose was found in the EM9 line after 48 h. This is the first report of the formation of uranium–DNA adducts and mutations in mammalian cells after direct exposure to a depleted uranium compound. Data suggest that uranium could be chemically genotoxic and mutagenic through the formation of strand breaks and covalent U–DNA adducts. Thus the health risks for uranium exposure could go beyond those for radiation exposure.

DNA adduct

In molecular genetics, a DNA adduct is a piece of DNA covalently bonded to a (cancer-causing) chemical. This process could be the start of a cancerous cell, or carcinogenesis. DNA adducts in scientific experiments are used as biomarkers of exposure

...When a chemical bonds to DNA, the DNA becomes damaged, and proper and complete replication cannot occur to make the normal intended cell. This could be the start of a mutation, or mutagenesis, and without proper DNA repair (DNA repair happens naturally under normal circumstances), this can lead to carcinogenesis, the beginnings of cancer.

So uranium binds to DNA. If it's enriched uranium then then you have radioactive U-235 (and other produced even nastier isotopes) bound to DNA. I find it impossible to believe that having U-235 bound can be anything other than worse than having U-238 bound (which is bad enough). What do you think Plutonium does?

OK, that *is* an interesting result.

There are still a lot of lines that need to be drawn to reach your conclusion that Monbiot is an idiot from it, however.

I didn't say Monbiot was an idiot. I said he's a creep. Until very recently he was far more anti-nuclear power than just about anyone else (see my link in post below to an old article of his). Now he attempts character assassination of current anti-nuclear campaigners on the assumption that most casual readers will probably look no further than his headlines.

If it was deemed convenient I'd bet he could be anti-nuclear again in 2 seconds flat. He'd probably blame his temporary conversion on an overdose of radiation.

The word I think you are looking for is "heretic".

Hmm, Brasenose College, Oxford then a BBC World Service Producer. I'm sticking with "creep". You can call him what you want.

Oh well at least, as far as we know, the KGB didn't try to recruit him unlike Prime Minister David Cameron who believes the KGB attempted to recruit him just as he began at Brasenose himself.


Returning from Hong Kong he visited the then Soviet Union, where he was approached by two Russian men speaking fluent English. Cameron was later told by one of his professors that it was 'definitely an attempt' by the KGB to recruit him.[31]

Nice to know his professor at Brasenose was apparently an expert on KGB recruitment techniques!

Back to Fukushima. Let's remind ourselves the supposed cause of Monbiot's conversion.

Going Critical

How the Fukushima disaster taught me to stop worrying and embrace nuclear power.

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 22nd March 2011

You will not be surprised to hear that the events in Japan have changed my view of nuclear power. You will be surprised to hear how they have changed it. As a result of the disaster at Fukushima, I am no longer nuclear-neutral. I now support the technology.

He astonishingly thinks that "Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb", is a suitable reference to relate to his own "conversion" because Fukushima proves nuclear power is safe. Only Strangelove was satire. I think George is having a secret laugh at us.

Around the 22nd March (when the article was published) Reactor 3 was in its second meltdown (and had probably achieved re-criticality for a time according to an NRC email). There was a major failure of containment and one of the two largest radioactive plumes from the disaster was about to head south.

You see, the funny thing is that in Japan nobody has the excuse of "the government is controlling the media to suppress reports of radiation casualties".

Open country, open press, and open season.

The Fukushima Daiichi site was thoroughly trashed by the earthquake, tsunami, and follow on explosions due to lack of power to support cooling at the site.

Compare the verifiable consequences so far to those from the Deepwater Horizon incident, a disaster in handling fossil fuels that didn't even have the excuse of being in the middle of a major natural disaster.

I wouldn't say this leaves the nuclear power industry smelling of roses, but it certainly doesn't look anywhere near as bad as the currently in use alternatives.

From my perspective (safety is relative) this leaves nuclear power in a strong position. Mr. Monbiot's statements on the matter sound like he has moved closer to my position, so I (of course) think that this is just peachy.

You see, the funny thing is that in Japan nobody has the excuse of "the government is controlling the media to suppress reports of radiation casualties".

According to a former editor of The Japan Times, Yoichi Shimatsu, his colleagues still working at the Japan Times believe there are a large number of deaths. Numerous sourced and unsourced rumours in Japan say this and apparently Japan Times journalists think this is credible. Thus their recent editorial calling for the truth to be told about workers health.

Two categories of people generally are involved. The lowest level bio-robots recruited by the Yakuza from the homeless who then are "lost" afterwards and the higher level workers where the families have been given 3 million dollars to stay quiet. Now this could be nonsense but with these sorts of stories being repeated by the likes of Yoichi Shimatsu, I think they need further investigation.

Also note that an early FOIA NRC email stated that they had been informed that 5 workers had probably received a fatal dose in the initial phase of the accident.

Oh and could you point me at the official best estimate Flexpart or similar plutonium and uranium distribution models? No you can't because they have not been published.

By the way, if you take the Gundersen/Kaltofen air-filter hot particle data and plug the values for Fukushima City into 1940s and 50s hot particle inhalation research it seems that the entire population of Fukushima City may have already inhaled a lethal dose. One hope this is due to a difference in definition of "hot particle". I really wish official air concentration data would be published proving this not to be the case. Can't figure out why they don't release it. Can you?

It is possible that there isn't any official data yet. Governments aren't magical entities that can pull useful information out of nothing, and frequently don't have the resources available to private individuals to gather that data (or the foresight to put data gathering equipment where it will be needed).

Health impacts from a lethal inhalation dose of U or Pu particles 6 months ago would be absolutely impossible to hide now, however. After 6 months people would be dead, and with a provable related cause.

Actually very few if any would be dead by now. Peak deaths at these levels of exposure are many years later.

Here's the air filter X-rays


And here's something interesting

Japan Mycoplasma Pneumonia reported per sentinel weekly

Two members of the Japanese Royal Family are sick with "Mycoplasma Pneunomia".

If you seriously believe it is possible 8 months later that officials don't have reasonable data on how much uranium/plutonium etc "escaped" and where it went then I suggest these governments/officials have no business running nuclear power plants as they are clearly incompetent.

Btw, on another subject I've been reading a lot about Ted Taylor, the nuclear bomb designer and creative genius who's works included the US megaton class fission bomb and the mini 0.1 kiloton nuke (maybe higher?) you could fit in a coffee mug.

His words are interesting

In Memoriam---Ted Taylor (PDF)

Facing the realities of the Nuclear Age as they have become evident these past 50 years has been a difficult and painful process for me, involving many changes of heart in my feelings about nuclear weapons and nuclear power since I first heard of nuclear fission on August 6, 1945. I started with a sense of revulsion towards nuclear weapons and skepticism about nuclear power for nearly five years. Then I worked on and strongly promoted nuclear weapons for some 15 years. In 1966, in the midst of a job in the Pentagon, I did an about-face in my perception of nuclear weaponry, and have pressed for nuclear disarmament ever since. My rejection of nuclear power, because of its connection with nuclear weapons, took longer, and was not complete until about 1980.

Since that time I have been persistent in calling for the prompt global abolition of all nuclear weapons and the key nuclear materials needed for their production. Since all of the more than 400 nuclear power plants now operating in 32 countries produce large quantities of plutonium that, when chemically separated from spent fuel, can be used to make reliable, efficient nuclear weapons of all types, I have also found it necessary to call for phasing out all nuclear power worldwide. To accomplish this while being responsive to the environmental disruption caused by continued large-scale use of fossil fuels, I also find it necessary to call for intense, global response to opportunities for saving energy and producing what is needed from renewable sources directly or indirectly derived from solar radiation.

I shall try in the rest of this paper to explain briefly the convictions that have led me to join others in making these calls with great urgency.

...Contrary to widespread belief among nuclear engineers who have never worked on nuclear weapons, plutonium made in nuclear power plant fuel can be used to make all types of nuclear weapons.
- Ted Taylor

Ted Taylor could figure out so many simple ways to build a bomb using civilian fuel cycle sources that he felt he had to speak out.

His justification for being opposed to nuclear power is one that I disagree with, but I can at least comprehend it.

I disagree because there is no putting the genie back in the bottle. Once people know that a thing is possible it is only a matter of time before they do it, and giving up on the good uses of a technology because it has evil uses doesn't stop the evil uses.

In this case the "good" use of the technology is what makes the "evil" uses possible relatively easily. Without the "good" uses of the technology there would be be no source of plutonium other than the "evil" ones.

Mankind did not evolve to live with plutonium in the biosphere. And now we've got more of it than we know what to do with even with thousands of bombs.

The nuclear industry has got away with "security via obscurity" for far too long. That worked for a while in the IT industry as well. Until it didn't.

If there's a way to do nuclear "safely" then by all means lets do it but falsifying data and deliberately providing misleading info because the public would be horrified if they knew certain things, just has to stop. Or one day maybe we will see a megaton class explosion from a melted down reactor as Soviet bomb designers feared at Chernobyl.

You don't need plutonium to make a nuclear bomb, and you don't need a reactor that produces power for civilian use to produce plutonium from uranium in sufficient quantities for the purpose.

A smaller reactor specially tuned to produce plutonium is a far superior method, in fact, requiring fewer resources and producing an easier to purify product. It's also easier to hide.

In short: for any entity with the basic resources it is possible to create nuclear weapons. The international community has been trying to control the distribution of the necessary resources, but has failed miserably.

On your other point, it always surprises me how people are horrified by one thing and unmoved by another that is even worse. It makes me think that the actual outcome isn't the issue.

It's just human nature. We worry about pesticides on apples or being killed by terrorists or being eaten by a shark, but don't buckle our seatbelts. Rare and dramatic events capture our attention more than everyday events.

You don't need plutonium to make a nuclear bomb,

Don't be obtuse. You know perfectly well that having large quantities of plutonium rich in Pu-240 around the world vastly increases the possibilities of building very simple self-initiating nuclear bombs. Or if you don't you should.


The Department of Energy is providing additional information related to a 1962 underground nuclear test at the Nevada Test Site that used reactor-grade plutonium in the nuclear explosive.


A successful test was conducted in 1962, which used reactor-grade plutonium in the nuclear explosive in place of weapon-grade plutonium.

The yield was less than 20 kilotons.


This test was conducted to obtain nuclear design information concerning the feasibility of using reactor-grade plutonium as the nuclear explosive material.

The test confirmed that reactor-grade plutonium could be used to make a nuclear explosive. This fact was declassified in July 1977.

The release of additional information was deemed important to enhance public awareness of nuclear proliferation issues associated with reactor-grade plutonium that can be separated during reprocessing of spent commercial reactor fuel.

The United States maintains an extensive nuclear test data base and predictive capabilities. This information, combined with the results of this low yield test, reveals that weapons can be constructed with reactor-grade plutonium.

Jimmy Carter (a nuclear physicist) understood the risk all too well. Note who was president in 1977 when the above info was declassified. If it hadn't been for Carter and 3 Mile Island the US would likely be awash in MOX fuel right now. There are once again plans to start using MOX fuel on a large scale in the US.

It is possible to make a nuclear bomb with nothing but uranium. The first nuclear bomb tested was a U235 bomb.

Plutonium might make it easier, but "it's hard" has never gotten in the way of people finding new and horrifying ways to kill each other.

And it took the resources of the Manhattan Project to get that amount of U-235 and they didn't have any spare left over for a test blast. Plus the detonation is trickier for a simple bomb requiring a neutron initiator but yes Ted Taylor has roughly described how you could build a home U-235 bomb if you only had access to that. However he said reactor grade plutonium is probably the best for terrorists and simple bombs (where a 0.3 kiloton "fizzle" would be a massive success). And no terrorist is going to run uranium enrichment centrifuge cascades in their garage. Separating plutonium from fuel rods at home is chemically fairly straightforward however especially if they are fresh MOX. Harder for spent fuel but not insurmountably though especially if you are not worried about personal exposure levels.

Terrorists are a minor risk compared to nations that wish to arm themselves with nukes.

Nations can mount Manhattan Projects of their own, and shockingly enough the number of nuclear-armed nations continues to grow despite international attempts to prevent more countries from obtaining nuclear weapons.

Terrorists are mainly a problem if one of those countries sees it as in their "national interests" to provide a nuke or two to somebody willing to use it in an unconventional manner.

Why should a nation state bother with a Manhattan Project if it knew it could divert its civilian permitted fuel into pre-built nuclear weapons with perhaps only a few days notice? You can build large, reliable nukes with nation state resources, not just the lower yield terrorist type bombs.

The Russians are supposed to be keeping a close eye on the Iranians in case they do this with their new "civilian" power station. Talking of which...

Bushehr nuclear plant to be launched at full capacity: nuclear chief

TEHRAN – The director of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) said on Wednesday that hopefully the Bushehr nuclear plant will be connected to the national grid at its full capacity in two months.

“After solving technical problems of the power plant, I hope that it will be launched during the Ten-Day Dawn and operate at its full capacity,”

Ten-Day Dawn celebrations (February 1-11) marks the anniversary of the victory of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

On September 12, Iran celebrated the initial launch of the power plant, and on September 13, the plant was temporarily connected to the national grid and reached 40 percent of its capacity.

After operating for two weeks with 50 percent of its power generation capacity, the Bushehr nuclear power plant was temporarily disconnected on October 16 from the national grid to undergo technical checks and tests.

Top tweet for fukushima right now on Twitter is

GeorgeMonbiot GeorgeMonbiot
It's one of the most disturbing news stories I've ever worked on. t.co/M13uOqhx Please RT

Yes it is a link to the above article.

So let me see George - some guy with a funny hat advising people in fallout zones to take "800mg Calcium and 350mg Magnesium", is "one of the most disturbing news stories I've ever worked on."

Pull the other one.

George Monbiot is using his press position to launch outrageous attacks on, in particular, Dr Helen Caldicott and Professor Chris Busby. He can argue they are wrong all he likes but he now seems to have switched to accusations of intentional deceit for financial gain by cherry-picking info and ignoring facts which don't fit his story. That's not nice.

Wonder who has the most in his bank account - George Monbiot or Chris Busby? I'd bet it is Monbiot by a very long way.

The nuclear winter draws near

Nuclear power is also the world's most dangerous business. If Sellafield's antiquated liquid waste tanks were to blow, they would release as much radiation as 10 Chernobyls. Britain has already accumulated enough nuclear waste to build 5,000 atom bombs. Reprocessing, upon which the industry now relies to justify its existence, increases both the quantity of bomb-grade plutonium and the opportunities for stealing it. The children of women who have worked in nuclear installations, according to a study by the National Radiological Protection Board, are 11 times more likely to contract cancer than the children of workers in non-radioactive industries. You can tell how close to Sellafield children live by the amount of plutonium in their teeth.

Fifty years of secrecy and deceit have compounded these problems. Britain's nuclear power programme began with a lie: it was, in fact, a smokescreen for our nuclear weapons programme. It has been supported by lies ever since.

Who said that? George Monbiot - The Guardian, Thursday 30 March 2000 15.17 BST

Second-generation ethanol processing cost prohibitive: study

Costs for second-generation ethanol processing, which will ease the stress on corn and sugarcane, are unlikely to be competitive until 2020, according to a unique Queen's University study.

The researchers found that building large scale facilities for second-generation ethanol production will be more costly than building plants for first-generation production. One reason is the extra infrastructure necessary for significant and costly pre-treatment of items like wood residue and waste paper. These replacements for corn and sugar cane contain multiple kinds of sugar while corn starch consists of pure glucose.

Oil groups turn to royalty trusts for finance

The capital raised will be used to drill 118 new wells in the field, with 50 per cent of the royalties from those new wells reserved for the trust. The trust also receives 90 per cent of future royalties from 69 existing wells, which are already producing oil.

That severely limits the upside to Chesapeake and its existing shareholders from the field, but industry analysts said explorers have been forced to look at the royalty trust option, because of the high cost of shale exploration.

GreenTown conference focuses spotlight on sustainability

... Dick Jackson, M.D., professor of public health at UCLA and former director of the Centers for Disease Control, called for a move away from the decades long trend of building suburban homes with three-car garages, often with no way for backyard neighbors to get to one another's houses without "climbing the fence and going past the Doberman and Rottweiler." He also argued against windowless schools at the edge of communities with no sidewalks leading to them and for more pedestrian friendly roadways.

Israel boosts naval patrols around Med gas fields

Missile boats have stepped up missions around the Tamar and Leviathan platforms over the past year, as well as coordination with private security firms contracted by the U.S.-Israeli exploration consortium, the official said.

"We have replicated the arrangements already in place at Yam Tethys," the official said, referring to another Israeli gas field 40 km (25 miles) off southern Ashkelon port, near the waters of the Palestinian territory Gaza.

Israel and Cyprus, which is doing its own drilling for eastern Mediterranean gas in consortium with Texas-based Noble Energy, are also mindful of Turkey's naval assertiveness in the area.

The Saudis are afraid of a peak in oil demand by 2050...

If oil demand doesn't peak well before then, we are all in a world of hurt. Hell, we're in a world of hurt right now.

Ignorance is bliss when it comes to challenging social issues

The less people know about important complex issues such as the economy, energy consumption and the environment, the more they want to avoid becoming well-informed, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association.

And the more urgent the issue, the more people want to remain unaware, according to a paper published online in APA's Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Through a series of five studies conducted in 2010 and 2011 with 511 adults in the United States and Canada, the researchers described "a chain reaction from ignorance about a subject to dependence on and trust in the government to deal with the issue."

"This is despite the fact that, all else equal, one should have less trust in someone to effectively manage something that is more complex,"

Link this with Report: 1 in 5 of US adults on behavioral meds and you have a perfect recipe for where we're at now.

Through European history, a large portion of adults was on behavioral medicine. It was called "being drunk". Xanax is quite a bit better than gin.

JP, vodka was the numbing agent of choice for the Russians. Opium for the Chinese.

A buddy I knew in high school, who was always high, had a personal motto: "Reality is for those who can't handle drugs."

JP, vodka was the numbing agent of choice for the Russians.


Opium became a drug of choice for the Chinese only after it was introduced by the British.

Ah, the early days of globalization were so much more straightforward--addict vast populations to deadly drugs that also renders them incapacitated and get rich off the profits.

What the Brits did to them in the 19th century with, they are doing to us with mountains of cheap crap--consumerism, the opiate of the masses!

The history lesson I got travelling through China was, the opium market was created to balance the trade deficit between China and Britain due to the amount of tea being bought. Mr Lipton, happily for the Brits smuggled out of China some tea plants and the technology of making black tea and started business in British held Darjeeling India, which removed the need of the opium trade.

Now, having a quick look around Google, I have found it hard to justify this version, but then the victor always writes the history books. I be happy to hear if anybody can confirm or shead some light on this version of history.

Basically you are right, the Chinese always wanted silver in payment for goods and were very reluctant to buy anything in return. The British sent a trade delegation to China in 1792 headed by Lord Macartney ( no relation to Paul Macartney.)It was a resounding failure. I wont go into the details, you can check them for yourself. This would have not been a problem if the Brits had not developed a taste for tea, the tea trade did not stop which meant that China was building up a large reserves of silver currency. My Grandfather used to say to me that money was made round to go round but there was not enough silver around to go round in the coffers of the British East India company which had political control of Bengal where opium was freely used and I still suspect is freely used today, when I was living in India I used to buy pellets of Opium in the local market for diarrhoea it works wonders for Delhi Belly. What better way to solve the silver problem than pushing it in China. It must be remembered that there was not moral stigma against opium at the time and it was sold openly in England remember we most like would not have had Coleridge's "Kubla Khan" if Coleridge had not been an opium head, apart from that fact that there were plenty of Opium dens in the east end of London during the late Georgian and all through the Victorian era. The problem is that opium is addictive and the Chinese government was getting pissed off, and rightly so by modern standards. There was no real way of controlling it once there was a large captive market, by the end of the 1850s. America has the same problem with Heroin from Columbia, and who gets blamed. Things might have been different if China had been a little less haughty in 1793 and if China then had signed up to buy cheap tat made in Birmingham in exchange for tea.


Thanks for the reply and the fill in info. Do you know if the the part of the story where Mr Lipton smuggled the tea plants and the black technology out of China is true or not?

It sounds plausible to me, as the need to import Chinese tea did seem to evaporate, and there must have an event that allowed this to happen. Like the transfer of tea plants and or the technology out of China?


I think that the Lipton bit is an embellishment, the rest is in fact true but it was the Dutch in the 1820s who are reputedly to have smuggled tea plants out of China they certainly set up Tea growing plantations in Java at that time, its not only coffee that comes from there. It would only be a small jump from there too India.

thanks for that

From the article

... Participants who felt unknowledgeable about oil supplies not only avoided negative information about the issue, they became even more reluctant to know more when the issue was urgent, as in an imminent oil shortage in the United States, according the authors. For this study, 163 Americans, with a mean age of 32 (70 men and 93 women), provided their opinion about the complexity of natural resource management and then read a statement declaring the United States has less than 40 years' worth of oil supplies. Afterward, they answered questions to assess their reluctance to learn more.

"Beyond just downplaying the catastrophic, doomsday aspects to their messages, educators may want to consider explaining issues in ways that make them easily digestible and understandable, with a clear emphasis on local, individual-level causes," the authors said.

"However, they did not avoid positive information, the study said."

Sounds like good old confirmation bias.

The Government will provide. The markets will provide. "They" will come up with a solution. "We" will muddle our way through just like we always did.

What, me worry? --Alfred E. Neuman

Oh Brave New World with such creatures in it.

*Pops another Soma*

re: Saudi Arabia on shale oil

The Saudi response to shale oil means one of two things:

1. The shale oil revolution is real, and we're in the beginning of a massive surge in oil production, albeit not as cheap as conventional.
2. The Saudis are clamoring for any excuse as to why they're not raising production.

My take exactly, but I say #2 is much more likely.

I knew they would come up some pathetic excuse for the Saudi peak!

This is an object lesson for Americans on deficit-cutting. Is anybody listening?

The lesson from Canada on cutting deficits

Finance officials bit their nails and nervously watched the clock. There were 30 minutes left in a bond auction aimed at funding the deficit and there was not a single bid.

Sounds like today’s Italy or Greece?

No, this was Canada in 1994.

“There would have been a day when we would have been the Greece of today,” recalled then prime minister Jean Chrétien, a Liberal who ended up chopping cherished social programs in one of the most dramatic fiscal turnarounds ever.

“I knew we were in a bind and we had to do something,”

But to win its budget wars, Canada first had to realize how dire its situation was and then dramatically shrink the size of government rather than just limit the pace of spending growth.

It would eventually oversee the biggest reduction in Canadian government spending since demobilization after the Second World War. The big cuts, and relatively small tax increases, brought a budget surplus within four years.

Canadian debt shrank to 29 per cent of gross domestic product in 2008-09 from a peak of 68 per cent in 1995-96, and the budget was in the black for 11 consecutive years until the 2008-09 recession.

For Canada, the vicious debt circle turned into a virtuous cycle that rescued a currency that had been dubbed the “northern peso.” Canada went from having the second worst fiscal position in the Group of Seven industrialized countries, behind only Italy, to easily the best.

Now, this required a certain amount of intestinal fortitude on the part of the government.

At one 1994 cabinet meeting, Mr. Martin [the Finance Minister] announced a spending freeze. A minister put forward a project that needed funding but Mr. Chrétien [the Prime Minister] cut him off, reminding him of Mr. Martin’s freeze.

A second minister raised his hand to ask for funding, and a testy Mr. Chrétien told the cabinet that the next minister to ask for new money would see his whole budget cut by 20 per cent.

The government members were sure they were going to lose the next election after the draconian cuts they made. In fact, the Liberals won the next two elections and only later lost to the Conservatives, who promised even more spending cuts.

So, I tend to to pay a lot of attention to the doom and gloom coming from the US since Canada is doing relatively well these days. The US can put its house in order, too, but only if the politicians smarten up and face reality, which doesn't seem to be one of their strong suits.

RMG, it was hard medicine but I doubt there are many Canadians today who regret the austerity measures taken then. Two things I have to say that helped to make it work:

1) The government of the day left nothing on the table. Even the sacred cows were trimmed. Health, social welfare, transportation, agriculture subsidies, the armed forces, etc., were all subject to the knife. Revenues, too, were increased. Tax loopholes were closed and the GST (the value added tax introduced by the Conservative and which the Liberals had promised to axe) was retained in full.

2) The government was upfront with the need for austerity, worked with the opposition parties to get the message out, and built up a consensus among the citizenry for the policy. Austerity is easier to impose if you have buy in from the people.

Between tight public fiscal management and traditional banking practices (separation of investment and commercial banking, stringent lending criteria, etc.), the country proved the merits of living within one's means. There was another advantage to hitting the brick wall first. It hurt like hell but at least we weren't trying to pull ourselves out of the hole in the middle of a worldwide recession. If it had happened in concert with others, I suspect the results may not have been as straightforward. Moreover, we had control over our currency. We didn't have to coordinate efforts with other international partners. That seems to me to be the chief dilemma facing the Europeans.

Italy, Ireland and other European countries have passed austerity budgets with unity votes. The citizens,while not happy, realize that the light at the end of the tunnel is a few years down the road. Here, we go deeper into the abyss of debt.

The Europeans are at least making an attempt. Nothing is being left off the table. Governments are seeking unity coalitions to get as much of the public on board as possible.

As mentioned before, the Eurozone's biggest problem is its lack of definition. It has a central bank that can issue a currency on behalf of seventeen countries but is unable to float bonds on behalf of its members. It is not a "lender of last resort." Monetary and fiscal policies are disconnected and ill coordinated.

American policy makers, on the other hand, while acknowledging a problem, seem oblivious to the urgency and the means to solve it.

There are several dilemmas facing the Americans:

First, the political interplay between the White House and Congress means that everything will stay on the table. Legislation in the US tends to be quite meaty as input from every constituency and vested interest is added into clauses, sub-clauses, and codicils. Forget revenues. Taxes are anathema for a political class that responds to the nuances of lobbyists.

Second, American politics is highly galvanized. The ideological dichotomy between Republicans and Democrats, right and left, conservative and liberal, red state and blue state, is real and rigid. The electoral cycle and frequency favours continuous machinations. Bipartisanship is a rarity on the political landscape and so a public consensus is next to impossible to achieve.

Finally, America doesn't operate the same way as every other country. 'American exceptionalism' is alive and well. A country that holds preeminence in the world's pecking order will tend to be quite cavalier about its need for reform. The age old metaphor of the six hundred pound gorilla looms large.

The serious problem with such thinking, however, is that the law of nature still applies. Spend too much, earn too little, and live beyond your means can only work for so long, even in the place where the world's money is printed. Eventually, even the biggest kid on the block has to pay his own bill.

I would add that in the US, the electorate is largely deluded as to the realities of their situation; very effective campaigns of disinformation, distraction and divisive irrelevancies abound. The amount of time and energy we spend lying to ourselves is remarkable; deeply invested in telling ourselves the wrong stories, immersing ourselves in false ideologies. The oligarchy is casting powerful spells; Sirens, luring the ship ever-closer to the rocks.

You might find this interesting :-


"Fox News Viewers Know Less Than People Who Don't Watch Any News: Study"

"Fox News viewers are less informed than people who don't watch any news, according to a new poll from Fairleigh Dickinson University.

The poll surveyed New Jersey residents about the uprisings in Egypt and the Middle East, and where they get their news sources."

Also from the poll:

By contrast, some media sources have a positive effect on political knowledge. For example, people who report reading a national newspaper like The New York Times or USA Today are 12-points more likely to know that Egyptians have overthrown their government than those who have not looked at any news source. And those who listen to the non-profit NPR radio network are 11-points more likely to know the outcome of the revolt against Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. However, the best informed respondents are those that watched Sunday morning news programs: leading to a 16- point increase in the likelihood of knowing what happened in Egypt and an 8-point increase in the likelihood of knowing what happened in Syria.

...putting those who read major newspapers or listen to NPR around 30 points ahead of Fox News viewers. One wonders how regular readers of TOD would fare, or how Fox viewers would do if asked what the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship standings are. If asked about the NFL or the Kardashians, I'll bet that Fox viewers would kick some TOD butt.

"The New York Times: "...that Egyptians have overthrown their government...". Is that really a point you want to use Ghung? Just yesterday on BBC I listened in real time as the same political machine that's been running Egypt for the last 30 years was shooting down unarmed civilians. I don't think I would give the NYT a high score if they've been telling folks the E. govt was overthrown. To paraphrase Mark T. - The rumors of the Egyptian govt's death have been greatly exaggerated. But the rumor of the deaths of protestors has not.

"Fox News Viewers Know Less Than People Who Don't Watch Any News: Study"

I know. Having been stranded in a town in the deserts of Utah with only Fox for a news source, I can confirm that you will learn less than nothing from them. No wonder Americans are so uninformed about what is happening in the world.

By contrast, high in the Himalayas in the mythical Buddhist Kingdom of Bhutan you can get BBC World Service, not to mention Al Jazeera English Service and CNN, and really get an informed and balanced picture of what is going on in the world.

It's really getting to be a strange world we live in.

I find tv as the only source of information to be uneducatinal, no matter the sort. I spent one summer borrowing and reading books from the local library about anything that has to do with Israel and the conflict there. Learnt a lot. I don't believe anything any news agency have to say about the matter any more. Or subscribe to any left- or right-wing political leaning on the subject.

Dig your own data rocks. Support your local library.

Ok, I admit having been mostly a couch potato watching TV after coming home from work for years. Though I watched primarily NG and Discovery so perhaps I still learned a little bit :P, my partner used to watch the real life soaps etc all evening. I think if aliens were watching us secretly, they must have been disgusted, although I think we were actually mediocre in our TV watching lazyness compared to others.

Anyhow, two years ago we moved to a new house, and being both fed-up of being a couch potato, we decided not to get cable-TV in our new house. Boy, that must have been one of our best decisions ever made! Instead of apathy we now use the spare evening hours to startup a local renewable energy company together with a bunch of other folks. I go to bed much more satisfied with life then before.

Apart from not being able to discuss the latest gossip about the reallife soap stars during lunch at work and the occasional craving for a Discovery program we have not missed the TV whatsoever. I even sometimes feel disgust when I hear people hotly debating the latest X-factor equivalent candidates. C'mon people there are more important things in life then blond bimbo's that can't sing, but they just give you the blank-not-understanding stare if you talk to them about it.

But those little things aside, I can heartily advise: try it... you might like it.

Good for you!

Kill Your Television bumper stickers are available at amazon.com.

I watch almost zero television. I don't have cable or satellite. But Kill my Television? No way. I need it for films on Blu-Rays, videogames, internet browsing, etc.

RMG and Zadok,

There is one extremely important fact that you have overlooked. Canada could undertake a program of austerity back then and succeed because the rest of the world's economies were growing and buying Canadian products.

Austerity doesn't work if every country that is your trading partner is also imposing austerity.

One other factor that led to Jean Chretien and Paul Martin's success at reducing the deficit, eventually run surpluses, and pay down the debt was that they had a very effective revenue tool of 7% GST (VAT for our British friends).

Unfortunately our present Prime Minister imprudently dropped the GST by 2%, which was an unsurprisingly effective attempt to garner votes by pandering to the electorate. The consequence is that the government of Canada is now running deficits and will continue to for at least a few more years.

Just to clarify, aws, and I know I'm being nit-picky, but I hadn't overlooked Canada's unique position of going into austerity during a time of global expansion.

There was another advantage to hitting the brick wall first. It hurt like hell but at least we weren't trying to pull ourselves out of the hole in the middle of a worldwide recession.

And yes you're right, Canada is once again running deficits. That said, in all fairness to Harper, he made the decision to reduce the GST before the wheels the came off the world economic bus during one of his "slash taxes" manifestations. I live in a province where it failed to make much difference. Our HST (harmonized sales tax, combined federal and provincial) dropped from 15% to 13% until the province figured out it could use the money. We in Nova Scotia are back up to 15%. Lateral transfer. What came off the books in Ottawa went on the books in Halifax.

The article, if you read it, points out that it was easier to put the budget into the black back then because other economies were booming. However, I think the lesson is that countries should get their financial houses in order before an economic crisis hits, because after it hits it is much more difficult.

It also points out that the fact Canada had a 7% VAT (and a 55% top income tax rate) didn't help particularly because it meant the government didn't have any flexibility on the tax side and most of the cuts had to come from the expenditure side. The spending cuts, as a result, were rather severe:

For ministers it was brutal. Mr. Manley lost half his budget as industry minister in the 1994 budget and went from 54 programs down to 11.

OTOH, the US has more flexibility on the taxation side because its taxes are rather low by international standards. It could introduce a VAT, bump up the top income tax rate to 50%, double the gasoline taxes, and it would still be internationally competitive.

However, American politicians lack the intestinal fortitude to increase taxes, as well as well as to cut the enormous US military budget (half the military spending in the world). If they made the tax changes I suggested, and cut the military budget in half, the US budget would be well into the black because US social spending is already very low by international standards. What are the chances of that happening?

Source: List of countries by military expenditures

The United States accounts for 43% of the world's military expenditures. It's closest rival is China at 7.3%, followed by the U.K. at 3.7% and France at 3.6%. The homeland of the once feared evil empire, Russia, is trailing in fifth at a miserly 3.5%. Even if the United States reduced its armed forces' budget by half, it would still outdo China by a factor of three to one in annual spending.

There's lots of room for a few cuts here and there without jeopardizing America's 'king of the hill' status.

The funniest thing about all of this -- well, for some values of "funny" which may apply only to former budget wonks like me -- is that if Congress simply went home for the next few years, coming to Washington only to pass continuing budget resolutions, the US federal deficit would essentially disappear by FY2015. Additional revenue, significant cuts to Medicare and unemployment insurance spending, are all built into current law. All Congress has to do is "let it happen".

Those built-in changes are the fundamental reason that the Super Committee has failed. The nominal number that gets in the newspaper is $1.2T over ten years, which would be, as everyone says, almost trivial. The Republican members of that committee, though, have been given marching orders about preserving the Bush (and other) tax cuts which means they need to find on the order of $10T in spending cuts over ten years -- which is politically impossible if you want to get re-elected.


Is it that easy? Just let the existing legislation ride and the U.S. annual debt goes to ~ zero by ~ 2015?

Wow...that is significant.

May I ask for a reference to an article or paper etc which walks that dog?...I would like to study it.


After reading the following, I really want to see the math...

Freshman Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., a tea party favorite, even questioned the legitimacy of the outcry over the military reductions...McKeon's warning that they would "cripple our ability to properly train and equip our force, significantly degrading military readiness."

"I think we need to be honest about it," Paul said in an interview on CNN Sunday. "The interesting thing is there will be no cuts in military spending..because we're only cutting proposed increases. If we do nothing, military spending goes up 23 percent over 10 years. If we sequester the money, it will still go up 16 percent..."

According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the planned Pentagon budget for 2021 would be some $700 billion, an increase over the current level of about $520 billion. The cuts already in the works plus the automatic reductions would trim the projected amount by about $110 billion.

But McCain and Graham have been working on legislation that would undo the automatic defense reductions and instead impose a 5 percent across-the-board reduction in government spending combined with a 10 percent cut in pay for members of Congress.


5% across-the-board reduction in government spending? Across-the-board, excepting the DoD, and likely the CIA, NSA, DHS, EIEIO?

5% 'reduction'...in the planned rates of increase?

I am tired of our government's double-speak!

The devil's in the details. In the absence of further legislation, and in addition to the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, and of the remaining stimulus, you have the AMT bracket not adjusted for inflation and raising taxes dramatically on the upper middle class, and the absence of a doc fix slashing government healthcare payments to doctors to below cost.

The budget can be closed almost entirely with cuts that actually improve America significantly:

1. Ending foolish wars and powering down the military-industrial complex.
2. Legalizing drugs and ending the spectacular amount of money spent chasing users and trying to run the police and armed forces of other countries.
3. Modest cost controls on Medicare and Medicaid.

That's a trillion dollars a year right there, and we haven't even gotten to the painful stuff yet.

2. Legalizing drugs and ending the spectacular amount of money spent chasing users and trying to run the police and armed forces of other countries.

Reminds me of that scene in Scarface, when Tony (Al Pacino) is in that huge indoor hot tub watching the news. An opinion piece is done on why drugs should remain illegal, and Tony says, "That's because you got your head up your a@@!"

As a drug dealer he knows society would be better off making drugs legal so people like him were out of business. But all these years later here we are still fighting the same old losing battle.

It's a jobs program for law enforcement,lawyers,judges,prison system and all the ancillary business.

It's a jobs program for law enforcement,lawyers,judges,prison system and all the ancillary business.

Well, how many people would be employed if drugs were legal? Farmers, processors, inspectors, packagers, transporters, distributers, liquor stores, taxes would help states, and there would be huge savings for a massive reduction in prison fees and overcrowding. Court calenders would be quickened. Plus the buying public would not risk incarcaration to get the fix they need. I bet it would make a 10% improvement in the overal enjoyment of the populace of the country, moneywise, with employment and increased tax revenue.

I'm going to disagree here and list my reasons why "austerity" in Canada in the early 90s isn't anything like the current problem the US and EU face.

- there are far less global financial controls now, so you can be raided and shorted (see US housing market, default swaps, and the "shorting" of Greece by the big houses.

- Canada has a small population and vast natural resources. EU countries are dense and lack natural resources.

- Canada is more of a social democracy (a "conservative" there is a "liberal" in the US), so thier austerity was "fair" and shared by all. They also have a better safety net (better starting position) and aren't as far out on the risk margins of life as the US.

- Canada was next door to a massive boom in the US, a buffer to their "austerity."

- Canada regulates their capitalism, hardly anyone does that any more.

- They have milk in bags, how can you mess with that? (Ok, that's a joke)

So my point is that in history, there are no direct comparisons or formulae to follow. Today's "asuterity" is for the 90-99% while the top just skates. I would compare the time now to the time before the US depression, or a guilded age, or a fuse.

Austerity right now for the US is like shooting the 300M target while the 50M target is wailing on ya.

Just my $.02, keep the change. It's only opinion and we all have 'em.

If we have truly reached the limits of growth then it is imperative that we stop running deficits. Governments have traditionally not worried about the absolute size of their debt because growth would quickly reduce the debt as a percentage of GDP merely by dropping deficit spending down to or close to zero. With no growth, deficits and the accumulated debt become a much more serious problem.

There is certainly room to increase taxes on the rich, especially in the US. However, this will not come anywhere close to generating enough revenue to deal with the deficit. Austerity for the 99% is unavoidable as well as broad based tax increases, so the middle class cannot be shielded from tax increases either. It will be hugely painful but continuing to run large deficits only guarantees more pain further down the road.

Not many politicians have figured this out. Even those countries that appear to be on track to eliminate their deficits are only planning to do so years into the future and with growth estimates that are far too optimistic.

yes, the system is broken. we're screwed 8 ways to Sunday and addicted to cheap energy fueling infinite "growth" as our model.

i think step 1 is to tax the living daylights out of financial transactions, capital gains and wealth then step 2 is to make risk risky rather than bailing it out.

if we need austerity to stop the insanity, drop it on the 1% first, let the strong take it for the weak for a while.

what we do now is punish the weak for what the strong have done.

it's probably too late anyway. serfdom ain't all that bad, 'cept for the occasional plague.

With no growth, deficits and the accumulated debt become a much more serious problem.

Bingo! Time to reduce spending. Even if people cannot conceive of limits to growth, maybe they can conceive of spending within the limits of revenue received.

Greenhouse gases soar; no signs warming is slowed

(AP) -- Heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are building up so high, so fast, that some scientists now think the world can no longer limit global warming to the level world leaders have agreed upon as safe.

"The growth rate is increasing every decade," said Jim Butler, director of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Global Monitoring Division. "That's kind of scary."

...Massachusetts Institute of Technology professors Ron Prinn, Henry Jacoby and John Sterman said MIT's calculations show the world is unlikely to meet that two-degree goal now.

"There's very, very little chance," Prinn said. "One has to be pessimistic about making that absolute threshold." He added: "Maybe we've waited too long to do anything serious if two degrees is the danger level."

also WMO: The State of Greenhouse Gases in the Atmosphere Based on Global Observations through 2010

and The NOAA Annual Greenhouse Gas Index (AGGI)

At some point the methane buried in the tundra and shallow ocean hydrates will start to bubble up. Then things will really start to get interesting... and warmer... a lot warmer. It may be a real trigger event.

Ron P.

Looking on the bright side of things ... at least I won't have to keep buying oil for my furnace.

Yeah, but what you save in fuel oil may be taken up in cost of sand bags, storm damage repairs on house and cars from trees falling, and loss wages due to power outages.

"Emergency" Arctic Mission Discovers Millions Of Tons Of Powerful Greenhouse Gas Methane Bubbling From Arctic Ocean


And so it begins (background music playing)

I'm pretty dubious at the implicit message that this is due to global warming. While we are seeing a warming of the Arctic and a significant loss of ice cover, the warming should largely be limited to the top surface. Warm water expands and therefore isn't easily circulated downwards. This effect is readily observable at a lake in the summer -- the surface may be nice and warm and pleasant to swim in but dive down a few feet and the water will be much colder. The article doesn't say how deeply the methane hydrates are buried but that is certainly another barrier protecting the hyrates from surface warming.

The range of permafrost has been getting smaller since the end of the last ice age.

"Warm water expands and therefore isn't easily circulated downwards. This effect is readily observable at a lake in the summer -- the surface may be nice and warm and pleasant to swim in but dive down a few feet and the water will be much colder."

I'm not sure that comparing thermal stratification in a freshwater lake to the Arctic Ocean is very useful. We used to experience thermal inversions (cold water capping warm water) fairly often on submarines, especially in higher latitudes.

Two points to note. The vast (~200 k^2) East Siberian Arctic Shelf averages only 50 meters deep, so lots of this methane hydrate is only a few meters down.

Also, as the Arctic Ocean becomes more and more ice free in the summer, waves get larger and there is more mixing down to the bottom, especially in these shallow areas.

Shakhova talks about sea bottom temps in the Arctic increasing by 3 degrees C in the last few decades.


(Click on the 3:35 'Presentation' button and go to slide #28.)

Having said that, some of the early reports indicate that these new 'dramatic' releases may be associated with seismic activity, which presumably would not be directly connected with feedback. But on the other, other hand, massive catastrophic release of seabed methane would likely show up on monitors as a seismic event. Once the cap of frozen methane hydrate destabilizes, for whatever reason, it is likely to trigger a cascading failure of the cap over a large area, releasing the enormous pools of methane from below, resulting in the 'boiling seas' that have been reported. Here's hoping that is not what is going on, or that it is not the runaway train it looks like.

Frustrating that we must wait months before the scientific analysis, but I guess I'd rather have slow good science than fast and poorly done.

One caveat, from the article:

Editor's Note: When this article was first published, I believed that the email quoted above was in a Telegraph article dated November 10, 2011. I was mistaken - the quote and article refer to a 2008 mission. Rather than remove the quote and link, and substantially alter the original article, I am adding an update on the 2011 Mission from the Russian Geographic Society, via The Arctic.

This reference would have been a far better, and more accurate, addition to the original article then the (mistaken) one I used.

I apologize for any confusion this has caused.

Russian and U.S. scientists discover new methane emissions in the Arctic

September 27, 2011

The international expedition of Russian and American scientists has led to a discovery of new sites of intense methane emissions in the eastern Arctic that can strongly impact the greenhouse effect, Igor Semiletov, Head of the Arctic Research Lab of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Far Eastern Branch, told RIA Novosti Tuesday.

Findings from this 2011 mission should be released in about five months.

...so we won't know what the full results are from the September study for several months... Yikes!

From memory, 2007 was the minimum Arctic ice event. "Seas bubbling" in 2008 ?

2011 was second most ice free summer. "Seas bubbling" reported by Russian merchant ships that summer.

AFAIK, no reports from other summers.



We also have land based methane releases.

If you by "one point" mean "2007", I am with you. It is starting now. The question is what the acceleration profile of the process will look like.

And when it will be great enough to affect global methane levels. After dropping slightly they have been inching back up.

some scientists now [worry] the world can no longer limit global warming to the level [that] world leaders have agreed upon as [being] safe

Please do not look behind that curtain.
Do not disturb that fuddling old man.

The Great Oz is all powerful.
Pay attention to the stage and the show.

1) "Bachelorette" pair Break their Engagement (ooh ah)

2) Duchess Kate "doesn't look like a princess" (ooch ouch)

3) Demi and Ashton Divorce details emerge (sad sad)

I really wonder who these "some scientists" are, and I wonder what planet they were on the past decade.

Did they miss the fact that the industrialized world did not make any serious attempts at curbing greenhouse gasses the past decade?

Were they lulled into complacency, napping between annual meetings, fat and happy in some Ivory Tower? Or maybe obsessed and distracted by their own research and all the Huff-and-Puff that goes with it - to the point they did not notice an absence of activity?

The screws come looser and looser...

...some scientists now think the world can no longer limit global warming to the level world leaders have agreed upon as "safe".

[Emphases added.] That half-sentence alludes to so many tails wagging so many dogs that I've lost track...

IAEA Report on Fukushima Daiichi Contamination

In response to a request made by the Government of Japan, the IAEA organized a fact-finding Mission to support the remediation of large contaminated areas off-site of the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant (NPP).

This report presents the main conclusions of the Mission. It highlights nine areas of important progress to date and offers advice on twelve points where the Mission Team felt that current practices could be improved.

Is Sarkoxy crazy? If the world decides to boycott Iranian crude, the price of oil will skyrocket. The global economy is already weak and cannot handle higher prices. That would be a great boon for the other exporters.


That would make for an interesting experiment. Stop buying Iranian oil and let's see if the other OPEC countries and OECD suppliers can make up the shortfall. What happens to oil price? 120? 140?

All this would do is reduce the fungibility of the commodity, which would increase price but probably not as much as you're worried about. Even if every other country on earth participates in the boycott, China will certainly not and they import enough to cover all of Iran's exports.

Has anyone seen this paper ?

How does the earth system generate and maintain thermodynamic disequilibrium and what does it imply for the future of the planet?


The chemical composition of the earths atmosphere far from equilibrium is unique in the solar system and has been attributed to the presence of widespread life. Here I show that this perspective can be quantified using non-equilibrium thermodynamics. Generating disequilibrium in a thermodynamic variable requires the extraction of power from another thermodynamic gradient, and the second law of thermodynamics imposes fundamental limits on how much power can be extracted. When applied to complex earth system processes, where several irreversible processes compete to deplete the same gradients, it is easily shown that the maximum thermodynamic efficiency is much less than the classic Carnot limit, so that the ability of the earth system to generate power and disequilibrium is limited. This approach is used to quantify how much free energy is generated by various earth system processes to generate chemical disequilibrium. It is shown that surface life generates orders of magnitude more chemical free energy than any abiotic surface process, therefore being the primary driving force for shaping the geochemical environment at the planetary scale. To apply this perspective to the possible future of the planet, we first note that the free energy consumption by human activity is a considerable term in the free energy budget of the planet, and that global changes are closely related to this consumption of free energy. Since human activity and demands for free energy is going to increase in the future, the central question is how human free energy demands can increase sustainably without negatively impacting the ability of the earth system to generate free energy. I illustrate the implications of this thermodynamic perspective by discussing the forms of renewable energy and planetary engineering that would enhance overall free energy generation and thereby "empower" the future of the planet.

Looks like it's not possible to extract as much wind and solar as some people claim.


Sorry, comments have been shut off to Five Misconceptions about PO
and I wanted to respond to your last post there

PO kicks in well before we get to start worrying about "depletion"/"running out".

It's more like a chronic and growing problem with asthma
(I should give credit to the TOD reader who came up with that great analogy except I forgot who it was)

For the asthma attack sufferer, it's not about there being no air available to suck in (a depleted air supply)
It's about not being able to suck air fast enough into the lungs because the passageways (bronchi) are constricted.
That is a rate problem, not a reserves problem.

Same is true with PO.
We can have all the "reserves" (of uneconomically recoverable type) that one may dream of.
But by definition, the flow rate (a.k.a. production rate) is constricted due to asthma attack kinds of limits.

An "oil shock" (i.e. the 1973 one) is just like an asthma attack.
We didn't "run out" of oil. But the pain at the pump sure did hurt.

Stepback and Aniya;

I would add that while we discuss this issue here with some ability to pay attention to the countless facets that affect or are affected by PO, that such a tangled web is not something you include when you're trying to sell the story to a newcomer.. the point has to be One-sentence simple.. and the implications of Economics, Geologic Constraints or the more thorough appreciation of how we ARE ultimately 'Running Out' can come in to it when someone is returning for the detailed discussions later on..

but initially, it's essential to keep it uncomplicated and brief.

Like they said (so confusedly) in the SNL Skit, "You can't look TOO LONG at a Nuclear Explosion.."
(dang, can't find the link.. gotta get to work..)

On the Calculated Risk blog, there is a great chart showing the vehicle miles driven:


The trend is pretty stark ever since the recession began.

By that graph, looks like another recession could be starting. I would guess the 1st quarter of 2012 is going to be ugly with unemployment rising significantly. On the other hand, perhaps the model has shifted and those that are not driving this year really don't count for enough spending. Maybe the extremely poor are becoming invisible. I would say 60/40 split with a recession more probable.

Compare with inflation adjusted cost of gasoline.

It appears that $3.00 gas in current dollars is sufficient to suppress/depress transportation mileage. Both in 1979-1982 and 2008-2011.

How long would it have to hold to cause permanent changes in behavior?

It appears that $3.00 gas in current dollars is sufficient to suppress/depress transportation mileage. Both in 1979-1982 and 2008-2011.

How long would it have to hold to cause permanent changes in behavior?

Ron Broberg, good question. I think with the higher average fuel economy than we had in 1980 gas needs to be at least $3.50 a gallon to hold the attention of the car buyers. $4.00 would definitely cause a change in fuel usage behavior.

@Kindhearted: I think you may be right. I still see a lot of new products from the car manufacturers that seem to be aimed at the performance oriented buyers. Car manufacturers still claim that there is not much demand for fuel efficient cars. Sustained $4 per gallon will definitely have a strong effect.

The other side of demand is that with cars lasting as long as they do nowadays, customers will switch to more fuel efficient models very slowly. Its often much more sensible to hold on to an old gas guzzler thats fully paid for than to take on risky car payment in a shaky labor market.

Relevant to my previous post, I saw this article:


A new study authored by Max Warburton of Bernstein Research, a market trends and analysis firm, suggests that automakers’ fondness for big iron was, and continues to be, driven by the outsize profit margins generated by the machines.

Car manufacturers still claim that there is not much demand for fuel efficient cars. Sustained $4 per gallon will definitely have a strong effect.

BrownBear, it is not only the price we are paying today but the buyer's estimate of the cost in the future. With many unaware of the consequences of Peak Oil, buyers are probably underestimating future fuel costs.

Normalized oil consumption (BP) for China, India, Top 33 Net Oil Exporters & the US for 2002 to 2010 (2002 = 100):


I am wondering if the fate of companies of and individuals is diverging. Companies are still doing not-too-badly, but way too many individuals are unemployed or employed below what they should be earning. The recession figures seem to measure company results and are not doing too badly, while confidence statistics and miles driven seem to measure how individuals are doing, and do less well. But consumer spending feeds back into business results, so it seems like the two need to converge.

Possibly tied to increasing productivity per worker?

Due to automation in Greer's 'second economy' (goods and services) and increased profits in the 'third economy' (financial)?

As technology improves, fewer workers are needed to maintain/grow the economy? Resulting in wide spread unemployment and the concentration of the economy in fewer and fewer hands, yet food and goods are abundant? Isn't this the dystopian flipside of the Kurzweil singularity?

If companies are still not doing too badly because they are taking more from the individual purse. Bank profits and bonuses seem to be going up. Are companies taking too much, profiting by way of pricing and shedding staff, that they are risking harming their own marketplace?


That chart Brown Bear tells the story of the depth of the recent recession, appears we never really bounced out of it except for a slight uptick, and may now be dipping back into recession as the line points downward.

What the OECD countries need now is a whole lot of cheap abundant energy.

Antibiotic Crisis grows while Drug Companies make Lifestyle Meds

Antibiotics for acute infections are a pillar of medicine, but doctors say the pillar is crumbling as pharmaceutical companies neglect antibiotic development and instead chase massive profits from chronic illnesses and lifestyle diseases.

Writing in The Lancet Infectious Diseases edition last week, Professor Piddock argues that the drug industry will be shooting itself in the foot if it continues its myopic focus on the most lucrative drugs: “pharmaceutical companies need to recognise that many expensive medicines in their portfolio and in development might by useless if patients succumb to fatal infections. Therefore, their return on investment for products to treat cancer or chronic diseases depends, in part, on effective treatment of infections.”

Researchers Draft Blueprint to Boost Energy Innovation

The U.S. government could save the economy hundreds of billions of dollars per year by 2050 by spending a few billion dollars more a year to spur innovations in energy technology, according to a new report by researchers at the Harvard Kennedy School.

Report: Transforming Energy Innovation

also Background: Transforming U.S. Energy Innovation Report; A Report with Recommendations for Improving Energy Innovation in United States

Energy resource bureau aims to bring State Department out of the dark ages

The State Department's new bureau of energy resources will focus on maintaining stable supplies of affordable energy; promoting green technology, including the US industry; and expanding access to electricity to the 1.3bn people who currently live without it.

The 55-person bureau will be headed by Carlos Pascual, who was forced to resign as US ambassador to Mexico last March after WikiLeaks published his criticism of the authorities' fight against drug trafficking.

Between the lines, however, it looks like Pascual is going to be devoting far more of his attentions to gas than to wind, solar, or other renewable energies.

also U.S. State Dept Energy Office to Push Natural Gas

Pascual, a former ambassador to Mexico and Ukraine who assumed his current role in May, said new gas generation allows Saudi Arabia and Kuwait "to look at other opportunities for power generation".

Saudi Arabia, which sits on the world's largest oil and natural gas reserves, has been forced to burn increasing amounts of crude to generate power for its rising domestic electricity demand.

As spare production capacity in the nearly 90-million-barrels-per-day global oil market dwindles to 2 to 5 million bpd, and U.S. oil prices trade above $100 a barrel, introducing alternative fuels has taken on new value.

FRO stock is down over 40% today. Stick a fork in them. The insanity of the oil tanker business is mesmerizing to me.

Frontline Seeks Talks With Creditors as Losses Widen on Freight-Rate Slump

“The main problem right now is there are too many ships, which means we need to increase the demand,” Jens Martin Jensen, chief executive officer of Frontline’s management unit, said at the company’s presentation today.

Herbicide may affect plants thought to be resistant

Purdue University researchers have discovered a fine-tuning mechanism involved in plant root growth that has them questioning whether a popular herbicide may have unintended consequences, causing some plants to need more water or nutrients

Battery Electrode's 40,000 Charge Cycles look promising for Grid Storage

One of the biggest problems researchers face is designing an inexpensive battery that can be recharged many times. Today’s lead-acid batteries typically last only a few hundred charge cycles, while lithium-ion batteries can last up to 1,000 charge cycles.

Now in a new study, researchers led by Yi Cui, a materials science and engineering professor at Stanford University, have designed and demonstrated a battery cathode that lasts for 40,000 charge cycles while maintaining 83% of its charge-holding capacity. The results are published today in Nature Communications.

API Reports:

Crude Inventories down 5.6 million barrels
Gasoline Inventories up 5.4 million barrels
Distillates down 886 thousand barrels

Nearly a tenth of Japan contaminated

Japan's Science Ministry says nearly 10 per cent of the country's land has been contaminated by radiation from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant.

It says more than 30,000km², or eight per cent of the country's land area, has been blanketed by radioactive caesium.

The Ministry says most of the contamination was caused by four large plumes of radiation spewed out by the Fukushima nuclear plant in the first two weeks after meltdowns after the March earthquake and tsunami.

also DOD to release post-quake radiation estimates for Japan bases

... [U.S. Pacific Command] PACOM’s top surgeon, Rear Adm. Michael H. Mittelman, told U.S. personnel in Japan in July that they had, potentially, been exposed to something that was not normal.

“We thought it (estimating individuals’ radiation exposure) was the responsible thing to do so if there is ever a question, 20 years from now, they can go back and look at what their potential dose was,” he said at the time.

Individual radiation doses will be calculated by applying data collected during Operation Tomodachi to models based on those developed for health studies of U.S. atomic test veterans exposed in the 1950s and 1960s, he said during a visit to Japan in July.

Our 'leaders' lead by example ...

A video of Rep. Don Young every American should see

On Nov. 18 the celebrated historian, Dr. Douglas Brinkley, testified before the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee. The committee was taking testimony on another congressional effort to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil exploration and drilling.

After Brinkley delivered his testimony, Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, walked into the hearing late. Please watch this short clip of what happened: [also pay attention to the congressional aide's expression behind the Rep]

But what about the oil?

According to the United States Geological Survey, there is a good deal of oil beneath the coastal plains of the ANWR. But there is, in relative terms, very little when compared to world demand. Pump it dry and it would be emptied in less than a year.

Another Republican congressman, Roscoe Bartlett of Maryland, always votes against drilling the ANWR. Bartlett doesn't think it is wise to pump the ANWR dry just to consume it in highly inefficient cars and trucks. Bartlett drives a Prius, which is another thing that drives the caucus a little crazy.

Diesel shortage hits region [Alberta, Canada]

Truckers and farmers are coping with the third year of November shortages of diesel with anger and ingenuity.

Dave MacNevin, Whitecourt Transport Inc. operations manager, noted that the shortage of supply always triggers price increases which don't drop when supply increases. The price was at about $1.04 a litre before the shortage began.

On Nov. 17, a UFA spokesperson said the price was $1.24 plus the five per cent GST.

MoD given deadline over radioactive Dalgety Bay beach

Scotland's environmental watchdog has given the MoD until the end of February to devise a plan to make safe a Fife beach contaminated with radioactivity.

Sepa said that if the deadline was not met the land at Dalgety Bay would be declared officially contaminated.

The radiation is thought to be linked to the remains of wartime aircraft buried in the area.

...If Sepa did declare the area as "Radioactive Contaminated Land", it is understood this would be the first time it had happened in the UK

...Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown earlier called for urgent action to tackle the problem.

Fed's 2012 Stress Test Recipe: Half Of 2008 Plus A European Blowup

The 19 banks with more than $50 billion in assets that are subject to the annual review are required to conduct tests based not on the Fed’s economic forecast, but under a scenario “designed to represent an outcome that, while unlikely, may occur if the U.S. economy were to experience a deep recession while at the same time economic activity in other major economies were also to contract significantly.”

The Fed said its global market shock test for those banks will be generally based on price and rate movements that occurred in the second half of 2008, and also on "potential sharp market price movements in European sovereign and financial sectors."

In the Fed's hypothetical stress scenario, unemployment would spike as high as 13 percent while U.S. gross domestic product would fall by as much as 8 percent.

also Fed to test six big U.S. banks for Euro stress

and Fed orders stress tests for America's biggest banks

Looks like the slope on this roller-coaster is going to get a little steeper.

Related from Europe: Central Banks' Forex Processor Tests Euro Breakup

LONDON—CLS Bank International—which operates a settlement system that is the backbone of the foreign-exchange market—is running stress tests to prepare itself for the possible breakup of the euro, people familiar with the matter said Tuesday.

The tests form the first solid sign that the currencies-trading industry is preparing for the worst from the common currency area's deepening debt crisis.

The New York-based industry utility, which ensures that each side of currencies trades gets paid, is keen to ensure that its systems are well equipped to cope with disruptive "Lehman-type" events and could withstand the stress of a country leaving the euro zone, the people familiar with the matter said. One of the people added that getting new European currencies up and running in the system would take "at least a year."

Looks like the US bank stress tests are designed based on US economic effect of a Euro breakup along with possible US bank loan losses in the trillions in EU, and Euro bank tests based on probable breakup of EU.

The question is, how much is preparation 'just in case', and how much is baked into what is 'expected to occur'?

Sure looks like their expecting a 'dead stick' landing.

Looks like IMF is getting into the spirit.

International Monetary Fund Offers Short-Term Credit as Insurance for Nations

WASHINGTON — The International Monetary Fund on Tuesday announced a set of measures intended to “bolster the flexibility and scope” of its emergency programs to aid nations that may face liquidity problems.

The goal, the fund said, is to “break the chains of contagion.”

Deutsche Bank Could Transfer Financial Contagion

Nov. 21 (Bloomberg) -- You’ve probably never heard of Taunus Corp., but according to the Federal Reserve, it’s the U.S.’s eighth-largest bank holding company. Taunus, it turns out, is the North American subsidiary of Germany’s Deutsche Bank AG, with assets of just over $380 billion.

Deutsche Bank holds a large amount of European government and bank debt; it also has considerable exposure to lingering real estate problems in the U.S. The bank, therefore, could become a conduit for risk between the two economies. But which way is Deutsche Bank more likely to transmit danger -- to or from the U.S.?

By any measure, Deutsche Bank is a giant. Its assets at the end of September totaled 2.28 trillion euros (according to the bank’s own website), or $3.08 trillion. In the latest ranking from The Banker, which uses 2010 data, Deutsche was the second- largest bank in the world by assets, behind only BNP Paribas SA.

The German bank, however, is thinly capitalized. Its total equity at the end of the third quarter was only 51.9 billion euros, implying a leverage ratio (total assets divided by equity) of almost 44. (Healthy is 10-15)

Another entertaining GOP debate this evening. Speaker Gingrich made two extraordinary claims:

1. The US could make up for 4 million barrels per day that Iran produces

BLITZER: The argument, Speaker Gingrich -- and I know you've studied this, and I want you to weigh in -- on the sanctioning of the Iranian Central Bank, because if you do that, for all practical purposes, it cuts off Iranian oil exports, 4 million barrels a day.

The Europeans get a lot of that oil. They think their economy, if the price of gasoline skyrocketed, which it would, would be disastrous. That's why the pressure is on the U.S. to not impose those sanctions. What say you?

GINGRICH: Well, I say you -- the question you just asked is perfect, because the fact is we ought to have a massive all-sources energy program in the United States designed to, once again, create a surplus of energy here, so we could say to the Europeans pretty cheerfully, that all the various sources of oil we have in the United States, we could literally replace the Iranian oil.

Now that's how we won World War II.


2. The US could produce enough oil to crash global oil prices within one year

GINGRICH: But let me make a deeper point. There's a core thing that's wrong with this whole city. You said earlier that it would take too long to open up American oil. We defeated Nazi Germany, fascist Italy, and Imperial Japan in three years and eight months because we thought we were serious.

If we were serious, we would open up enough oil fields in the next year that the price of oil worldwide would collapse. Now, that's what we would do if we were a serious country. If we were serious...


EDIT: Rockman, I wish you oil patch guys would get serious!

Gingrich is a bloviating circus clown.

Ken Verosub did a good job of taking Newt down in the ASPO speech that you can listen to here:

What I don't get is that did he, or anyone in the R camp, suddenly discover a way to get 3+ mbd out of the US, that was not known 3years ago, when you had two former oilmen running the country for eight years!?

I'm sure if it was that easy Bush and Cheney (if not Rockman) would have done it.

Paul - I could up US production by 3 million bopd in a month: just start pumping the SPR. No problem. It would certainly drive down the global price of oil...for 7 months until we depleted the SPR 100%.

BTW: since when was either Bush or Cheney an "oil man"? I have to admonish you as I did our friend Phree. Bush has no training in the oil patch and never generated a drilling deal in his life. He just owned/ran an oil company. I've worked for more than one CEO who couldn't find oil on his driveway. And no one in Cheney's company ever generated a drilling prospect...they just provided services and made the same profit whether the wells they worked on did or not. I'll put it another way: would you call a salesman for a medical supply house a surgeon and let him operate on you? LOL.

R - I even have my doubts about how much such an SPR exercise would drive down the price.

As for Bush and Cheney, I guess you have a narrower description of "oil man" than I do. I think owning/running an oil company does qualify, even if he never touched the stuff.

The medical supply guy is still part of the "health care industry", so maybe a better phrase would have been "oil industry men".

That said, I maintain my position - if the R's have these great ideas for raising oil production, why didn't they put them into practice in their 8 of the last 11 years - what were they waiting for?

What's more telling than the brazen lies spouted by 'the Gingrinch who stole R voting brains', is the applause! Wake up people!

phree - You seem to be suffering from the same misconception most Americans share: believing that when a person with a national forum speaks on a subject they must be an expert. That seems to be an especially prevalent problem when the speaker is a national politician. Doesn't matter if it's Newt, president Obama or even a renowned scientist (in another field) like Dr. Chu who is now playing the role of a politician. Suddenly such folks are anointed "oil men". LOL.

I'll toss you a test: when was the last time you read anything written by a documented "oil man"? And I'll have to exclude CEO's of public companies like Chesapeake who have great incentive to keep the American ignorant of the reality of the situation. Think back to what you've seen on TOD. Forget the local yokels like me , westexas, Rocky, etc. We're just part of the mob scene here. How many times have you seen a link to a true representative of the oil patch who laid it all out for the world to understand?

Kinda hard to recall very many, eh? And for good reason: ain't nobody paying them to do so. "We" work for a freaking living....no pay...no play. LOL. The Yergins and CEO's of the oil patch make a damn good living dishing out their "facts". If Bill Gates funded a group of independent oil patch hands like me to go out and garner national media you would see ole Wolfe getting a completely different picture then what's coming from any of the politicians, CEO's and wannabe POTUS's.

But it ain't gonna happen. Unless of course all the TODsters want to pitch in and toss me a fat 6 figure income and a 8 figure budget. Credit cards and Blue Bell vouchers welcomed. LOL.

I suffer from no such misconception. I know that the former Speaker is no 'expert' and I never said I 'believe' either one of these claims. I offered up his quotes, because I doubt that you will find very many in the media that would recognize the absurdity of the statements and fewer still that would challenge him for saying them.

Matt Simmons failed to convince large numbers of Americans about the reality of peak oil. As much as I respect your opinion, I suspect that you would fail as well. Of course, you could always write a book or two, and then prove me wrong!

Gringrich is stuck in the past. There was a time when the US could dump enough oil on the market to drive down world prices, but those days came to an end in the 1960's. US oil reserves and oil production peaked in 1970, and it was all downhill from there.

A lot of US conservatives want to return to those glorious days of old, when the US dominated the world and could do anything it wanted without worrying about its oil supply being cut off, but in reality the US has drilled about 2 million wells and extracted nearly all the oil from its oil fields that it can. When it's gone, it's gone.

The US needs to modify its energy policies to reflect that reality because the consequences of not doing so are severe for its population. Unfortunately, Gringrich and other politicians (both left and right) haven't got the message, and so the consequences are already severe. They will get worse.

Fortunately, I don't live in the US. I live in Canada, where the politicians started planning for this about 40 years ago, and solutions are already in place, but I think US politicians need to wake up and face reality.