Drumbeat: December 26, 2011

Oil interests push China into Sudanese mire

China, which gets nearly a third of its imported crude oil from Africa, has invested billions of dollars in the past 15 years to pump crude from this war-scarred land. But the division of what until five months ago was a united country has pushed Beijing into a political minefield in defence of its assets.

China's involvement revolves largely around the interests of a single company, China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), a state-owned giant that has dragged the usually risk-averse Chinese diplomats into one of Africa's most poisonous feuds.

CNPC straddles both sides of a murderously volatile fault line: between Muslim Arabs in the north and black, often Christian Africans in the south.

Most of the oil lies in the landlocked south, but the only way to get it to market is through Chinese-built pipelines that pass through the north to a Chinese-built terminal on the Red Sea.

Global oil demand to remain stable in 2012

ABU DHABI - The UAE Energy Minister Mohammad bin Dha’en Al Hamili on Sunday said that world oil demand in 2012 will be similar to this year’s level.

“Economic growth will also be more or less the same as this year,” Al Hamili said.

Libyan Crude Output Exceeds 1 Million Barrels a Day: Persian Gulf Oil

Iraqi crude oil production jumped to the highest level in at least 20 years, or more than 3 million barrels a day, said Hussain al-Shahristani, deputy prime minister for energy affairs.

Libya, holder of Africa’s biggest crude reserves, is now pumping “more than a million” barrels a day as its industry recovers from months of conflict, said the Nuri Berruien, chairman of its state-run National Oil Corp.

UAE's Dec oil output at 2.6m bpd Join our daily free Newsletter

(MENAFN) UAE's Minister of Energy, Mohammad Bin Dha'en Al Hameli, said that in the current month, the country's oil output reached around 2.6 million barrels per day (bpd) on average, reported Gulf News.

Iran likely to export gasoline next year

(MENAFN) Iran's oil minister, Rostam Qasemi, said that following the reduction in local gasoline consumption after implementing the Subsidy Reform Plan in December 2010, next year, Iran might start exporting gasoline, reported Tehran News.

GCC oil ministers pass unified oil strategy and media plan

(MENAFN - Emirates News Agency (WAM)) GCC oil and gas ministers recommended today approval of unified mining law as a guide for three years.

The recommendation, issued by the ministers at the end of 30th meeting of the GCC petroleum cooperation committee here today, gave the competent authority in each member state the right to prepare its executive regulation.

Canada should look to Asia as gas-export market

Mr. Brikho, 53, is a Lebanese-born, Swedish-trained engineer with a travel schedule that would crush lesser mortals. He landed in Calgary recently to talk about the changing U.S. energy landscape and what it means for price-challenged Canadian natural gas in 2012 and beyond.

Russia, Ukraine look to avert New Year gas row

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Ukraine and Russia will renew gas talks on Jan. 15, Russia's Gazprom said on Monday, as they strive to avert a standoff over pricing, which in the past has led to supply cuts and gas shortages in Europe during New Year holidays.

Both countries have pledged to ensure steady gas flows to the Europe Union, which relies on Russia for one quarter of its gas supplies, despite differences over pricing and the ownership of Ukraine's strategic gas pipeline system.

Gazprom links South Stream to Ukraine gas talks-reports

(Reuters) - Gazprom's chief executive officer said on Monday that the implementation of the South Stream underwater gas pipeline project hinges on gas talks with Ukraine, Russian domestic newswires said.

Turkey, Azerbaijan agree on a gas pipeline

(MENAFN) Turkey and Azerbaijan agreed to set up a consortium to build a pipeline to ship natural gas from Shah Deniz field to Europe via Anatolia, Bloomberg reported.

Afghanistan cabinet OKs oil deal with China's CNPC

(Reuters) - Afghanistan's cabinet cleared the way for the war-torn state to sign a contract with China's state-owned oil giant China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) for the development of oil blocks in the Amu Darya basin, the Afghan president's office said on Monday.

Storm hits Norway gas plants, gas exports reduced

OSLO (Reuters) - A powerful North Sea storm knocked off power at two key gas installations in Norway in the night between Sunday and Monday, curtailing gas exports to the rest of Europe.

The plant processing gas from Royal Dutch Shell 's giant offshore Ormen Lange field, which can provide some 20 percent of Britain's gas demand, was shut on Monday while the Kollsnes plant further down the coast appeared to be restarting operations after sustaining two shutdowns overnight.

China's 1st deepwater surveyor to scour South China Sea

(Reuters) - China will soon put its first deepwater survey vessel into use in the South China Sea, an official with China Oilfield Services Ltd (COSL) said, part of an effort by the world's top energy consumer to tap its underexplored deep waters.

U.S. Prepares for a Curtailed Relationship With Pakistan

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — With the United States facing the reality that its broad security partnership with Pakistan is over, American officials are seeking to salvage a more limited counterterrorism alliance that they acknowledge will complicate their ability to launch attacks against extremists and move supplies into Afghanistan.

The United States will be forced to restrict drone strikes, limit the number of its spies and soldiers on the ground and spend more to transport supplies through Pakistan to allied troops in Afghanistan, American and Pakistani officials said. United States aid to Pakistan will also be reduced sharply, they said.

U.S. Promises to Help Nigeria Find Bombers Who Killed Dozens on Christmas

The U.S. promised to help Nigeria find those responsible for a wave of Christmas Day bombings that killed dozens in the oil-rich African nation.

“We have been in contact with Nigerian officials about what appear to be terrorist acts and pledge to assist them in bringing those responsible to justice,” according to a statement by White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.

Five Killed in Latest Baghdad Bombing

BAGHDAD — A suicide bomber driving a car packed with explosives attacked a checkpoint in front of the Iraqi Interior Ministry on Monday morning, killing five, wounding 39 and roiling a country unsettled by a political crisis and a wave of deadly bombings just days ago.

Arab League observers expected in Syria on Monday

(CNN) -- Dozens of Arab League observers were expected to arrive Monday in Syria amid reports of raging violence, despite the government's agreement to end a brutal crackdown.

In recent weeks, the government has increased attacks that left scores dead, including many in the flashpoint city of Homs, opposition groups say.

Iraqi political parties seek to resolve crisis

(Reuters) - Iraqi lawmakers tried on Sunday to negotiate an end to the country's worst political crisis in a year after Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki sought his Sunni vice president's arrest on charges he ran an assassination squad.

Is the Arab Spring failing its people?

Abu Dhabi (CNN) – This time last year a match was lit by a fruit vendor in Tunis which sparked a wildfire spreading throughout the region. Countries big, Egypt, and small, Tunisia, have witnessed wholesale change and the toppling of governments.

But at the one year mark, those on the ground here in the region are asking a simple question: Are we better off today than we were before the Arab Spring? People talk of a “The New Middle East” with a mixture of both optimism and despair, from Bahrain to Yemen.

A Village in Revolt Could Be a Harbinger for China

BEIJING — China’s state-run media have had a field day this autumn with Occupy Wall Street, spinning an almost daily morality play about capitalism gone amok and an American government unable or unwilling to aid the victims of a rapacious elite.

Occupy Wukan is another matter entirely. The state press has been all but mute on why 13,000 Chinese citizens, furious over repeated rip-offs by their village elite, sent their leaders fleeing to safety and repulsed efforts by the police to retake Wukan. But the village takeover can be ignored only at Beijing’s peril: There are at least 625,000 potential Wukans across China, all small, locally run villages that frequently suffer the sorts of injustices that prompted the outburst this month in Wukan.

Shell Says Oil From Bonga Facility Leak ‘Continues to Thin’

Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSA) said oil that leaked from its 200,000 barrel-a-day Bonga field in Nigeria “continues to thin.”

“Surveillance and aerial photos show the spill is breaking up into patches surrounded by clear water,” Shell said in a statement on its website. “The spill remains offshore. We continue to monitor its movement using satellite imagery and vessels in the zone.”

Shell spots ‘third-party’ spill near Bonga leak

Shell has said a “third-party” vessel spilled oil near where one of it floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) units spilled around 40,000 barrels of oil off Nigeria last week.

Fracking Opens Fissures Among States as Drillers Face Many Rules

A boom in gas production using hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has led to a patchwork of local drilling standards. Now, several states are revising or formulating rules, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is studying the effects of fracking on drinking water and weighing nationwide regulations.

Genkai No. 4 reactor shut down; only 6 reactors now operating in Japan

SAGA — Kyushu Electric Power Co said Monday that it has shut down the No. 4 reactor at its Genkai nuclear power plant in Saga Prefecture for routine inspection. The shutdown now leaves Japan with only six of its 54 nuclear power plants in service.

Kyushu Electric said the reactor, which was shut down on Sunday night, provided around 40% of the electricity in Kyushu. Homes and businesses in the area have been asked to reduce their power consumption by 5% between from now until Feb 3.

Report Condemns Japan’s Response to Nuclear Accident

TOKYO — From inspectors who abandoned the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant as it succumbed to disaster to a delay in disclosing radiation leaks, Japan’s response to the nuclear accident caused by the March tsunami fell tragically short, a government-appointed investigative panel said on Monday.

The problems, which the panel said had exacerbated the extent of the disaster, were outlined in a 500-page interim report detailing an investigation into Japan’s response to the calamitous events that unfolded at the Fukushima plant after the March 11 quake and tsunami knocked out all of the site’s power.

Toyota launches world's most fuel-efficient hybrid

TOKYO: Toyota Motor Corp on Monday launched the world's most fuel-efficient hybrid car, as the company looks to fight off competition from pure electric vehicles.

The compact car, dubbed 'Aqua' in Japan and the 'Prius C' overseas, has a listed fuel efficiency of 35.4 km/litre (83.3 mpg), beating the current top Prius, which gets 32 km/litre.

U.S. Bus Riders Surge as Free Wi-Fi Beats Driving

Higher gasoline costs make driving a car more expensive at the same time as buses offer access to free Wi-Fi and cheaper fares than on planes and trains, Schwieterman said. Once viewed as a last resort in the U.S., bus travel is now attracting more affluent riders, students and women traveling alone, he said.

“Bus travel is suddenly cool,” Schwieterman said. “There’s a fatigue over driving combined with a revitalized image of the bus.”

A123 Says Batteries for Fisker Have Potential Safety Issue

A123 Systems Inc. (AONE), the maker of batteries for electric vehicles, said it found a “potential safety issue” in batteries it supplies to Fisker Automotive Inc.

Portland Plan: City must prepare for potential economic shocks

Despite its commendable emphasis on equity and its many innovative, aspirational goals for education, the local economy and neighborhoods, the plan falls short for us in the 99 percent in some fundamental ways.

Notably, the plan assumes economic growth.

But growth is far from guaranteed. In a recent city-sponsored talk, energy expert Richard Heinberg joined the National Intelligence Council, environmental economists and retired Wall Street and government insiders in predicting a future characterized by declining tax revenues, persistent high unemployment, falling household income, increased demand for social services, higher energy costs and continued financial system instability.

Resilience: The Next Big Word for 2012

Watch for another word, which is hardly new, to gain traction during 2012. If that Mayan prediction that the world will end–almost end–rings true, this word will surge in use and popularity at the perfect time. And mercifully, it will not be “occupy.”

Resilience is a word that captures much of what has occurred over this past year: the Arab Spring; the anger that has boiled over into first the Tea Party and then the Occupy movements; strapped municipal budgets; and coping with an onslaught of natural and man-made disasters around the world. Whether we are talking about economic resilience, political resilience or social resilience, the R word captures what many at the grassroots are facing at a volatile time.

Total ‘Doubling Down’ on Solar Energy, Raises Stake in SunPower

(Bloomberg) -- Total SA, Europe’s third-largest oil producer, raised its bet on solar energy by boosting its stake in SunPower Corp. and selling its renewable energy development unit to the U.S. company.

Killing Environmentalism to Save It: Two Greens Call for ‘Postenvironmentalism’

Environmentalism, like politics in general, is depressingly polarized these days. On one side, alarmists like the activist Bill McKibben, climatologist James Hansen and blogger Joe Romm warn that if we don’t cut way back on fossil fuels—now!—civilization may collapse. On the other side, deniers, including most of the current GOP candidates for president, won’t even accept a causal link between surging carbon emissions and warmer temperatures.

Are Climate Change Reporters an Endangered Species?

A recent report called "Poles Apart: the International Reporting of Climate Scepticism" released by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University (RISJ) gave us good reason to believe that those of us in the UK and the U.S. could be getting a different view of the climate debate than the rest of the world.

Famine early warning system gives Africa a chance to prepare

US government system, using ground sensors and satellite imagery, helped to predict this year's drought in Horn of Africa, allowing aid groups and governments to prepare relief.

The colder war: U.S., Russia and others are vying for control of Santa’s back yard

The Arctic region — covering more than 30 million square kilometers and stretching around the territorial borders of Canada, Denmark (via Greenland), Norway, Russia and the United States by way of the Alaskan coastline — is transforming before our eyes. And not just because the ice is melting. It’s increasingly the site of military posturing, and the United States isn’t keeping up with the rest of the world.

Two Big Myths About Non-OPEC Oil Production

The result is that Russia in the past decade has accounted for nearly all of the supply growth in crude oil, among Non-OPEC producers. Indeed, without Russia, Non-OPEC supply would be in steep decline. Instead, it’s merely flat.

Also Russia is one of the few large producers who's net oil exports have actually increased since 2005. But if the EIA is correct and Russia actually peaked in 2011, then net oil exports should increase their already precipitous decline.

Ron P.

Russia is one of 12 of the top 33 net oil exporters that showed an increase in net exports from 2005 to 2010, although Russia's five year rate of increase in net exports was the lowest of the 12 that showed increases. Table showing five year rates of change in net oil exports for the top 33 net oil exporters in 2005:


Saudi Arabia and Russia combined accounted for about one-third of Global Net Exports of oil (GNE) in 2005. Here are the numbers for recent Saudi and Russian net oil exports (BP, total petroleum liquids):

Saudi Arabia & Russia respectively, mbpd:

2005: 9.1 & 6.8
2006: 8.8 & 6.9
2007: 8.3 & 7.1
2008: 8.5 & 6.9
2009: 7.3 & 7.1
2010: 7.2 & 7.1

Their combined net oil exports increased from 12.2 mbpd in 2002 to 15.9 mbpd in 2005 (an 8.8%/year rate of increase), but then fell to 14.3 mbpd in 2010 (a 2.1%/year decline rate).

I estimate that the BP data base will show 2011 Saudi net oil exports at between 7.5 and 8.1 mbpd (much depends on how much of a discrepancy we see between the BP and EIA data bases).

Last spring Russians experienced a gas shortage:


Russian oil companies were exporting rather than selling domestically because export prices were higher. Putin increased the export tax so that in effect the prices received by oil companies were the same for export and domestic sales.


It seems to me this means that Russian oil exports will likely stagnate of even decline in future as export taxes are raised to guarantee domestic supply.

Furthermore, if crude importers want Russian oil they will have to out bid both Russian export duties and Russian domestic demand.

As Greenish is prone to remark, a probabilistic point of view is the optimum way or looking at things, and there is no doubt in my mind that we are heading for a pretty hard crash,and probably before too many more years pass, as peak oil and peak finance take shark sized bites out of bau.

But we could concievably be writing off bau a few year or even a decade or two early.

I haven't ridden motorcycles on public roads since the seventies, but I just recently bought one-an elderly low mileage Honda Rebel 250.It will keep up with traffic and get seventy five mpg.
It seems that Honda has just marketed the latest version of the Prius which doesn't miss that mark by a whole lot on short trips.

I'm going to hold onto it in case gasoline hits ten or fifteen bucks and/or is very tightly rationed.It'll be scary, but I will ride it on the highway if absolutely necessary.Traffic will be light !

A minor poInt, OFM, but the Prius is manufactured by Toyota, not by Honda. We just bought one a couple of days ago. But I wholly agree with you that I am going to hold on to it for the next 10 to 15 years. And that's a good point about traffic being a lot lighter in 15 years. That had not occurred to me.

Senior Moment!Red Face!

I would buy a Prius if I could afford a new car, but I can't, and at any rate I would never drive it enough anyway to justify the investment in it.

The motorcycle will probably be good for ten to fifteen thousand trouble free miles and I paid only 500 bucks for it.It will suffice for a trip to the drugstore or for visiting and so forth in fair weather..

We will have a truck either until I am unable to drive or else no gasoline at all is available.Ten dollar, even twenty dollar gasoline is cheaper by far than hay and grain for a draft horse.

In that case, if I am still able, my long ignored wood gas powered granny geared 4x4 f100 hobby truck will get dragged out of the tall grass and into the garage and finished and I'll fuel her up at the woodpile!

A ride to town on the hay wagon towed behind will cost a wheelbarrow full of finely split dry oak or the equivalent in labor or produce.;-)

If any body here is building or has built a wood fired vehicle, I would like to get in touch with them.Plans are one thing, practical considerations involving substituted materials and improvisations necessary due to lack of a fully equipped machine shop are something else altogether.

OFM get a 100 cc bike, we have lots of em in India. One of the best selling models gives the equivalent of 170mpg. Pricetag of a $1000.

I too go through moments of anxiety about how to cope when there is only a little oil to be had; will my efficient diesel Citroen C4 still work for us, should I buy a 50cc step thru to run the 40km to the nearest biggish town...?

But then I remember that I've already done that thinking: If our country cannot pay the going price for crude oil. Then simply, we wont get any.

There is not a snow ball's chance that somehow the falling supply will get allocated uniformly among the increasing demand. Russia, the House of Saud, The Imperial States of America, Venezuela, Iran, Iraq, China, any place with production will favour keeping internal civil order against releasing its oil to keep the 150 other small nations going.

And even within 'big' countries producers and refineries will suffer from the problem that if production or refinery costs are greater than the money they get, then they will not produce at all. They wont say "We are not getting consumers to pay $150 a bbl, so lets halve production and try and sell that for an overall operating profit." It just wont work that way.

So either you'll be able to run you SUV and big petrol-guzzler, or you'll be walking. Either. Or. Don't fret.

There is not a snow ball's chance that somehow the falling supply will get allocated uniformly among the increasing demand. Russia, the House of Saud, The Imperial States of America, Venezuela, Iran, Iraq, China, any place with production will favour keeping internal civil order against releasing its oil to keep the 150 other small nations going.

I think this is totally incorrect - the USA has not built the biggest military arsenal over the last 50 years for no reason ... the US will take all the oil it wants from wherever it can take it, for the next x decades (while it can).

It is the same reason that the perfectly rational question from westexas regarding rapidly falling oil exports isn't so big - ("Why isn't this the biggest news story in the world?) - it's because the US will never allow imports to decline below its needs - it will take them militarily - and at will. Is there any real doubt about that?

Yup. I doubt it. Too many unknowns that would unravel such plans very quickly. If they even had chance to start them before it was too late.


I think Cargill is exactly right in terms of "the plan." But I agree with you that it is likely to unravel in ways that can't be predicted.

As far as "the plan" - start with The Carter Doctrine... the intelligence agencies have been watching and planning for several decades. They have Plan A, B, C, D, etc.

We the people are naive and distracted - just the way they want us.

(re. "conspiracies" - see the media and the Ron Paul Black Out/smear campaign for Goebbles'Lesson #1))

I must agree that the American plan , in the end, will consist of simply taking the oil, so long as we can, regardless of who occupies congress and the White House.I have often remarked here that our troops will be in sand country either , one, until the oil there is sufficiently depleted that is occuptaion is no longer worth our while, or two until such time as we are unable to maintain the troops in the field.

They may withdraw from any actual given piece of ground, such as Iraq, but not very long or very far as I see it.

Modern day Western imperialism is a wolf dressed in a nice femininist /pc business suit and clean white gloves.We are the worst sort of cynics and hypocrites because we are mostly stealing the oil by the simple expedient of swapping electrons for it, which (paradoxically) truly do possess magical properties.Otherwise university trained business folks , tempered in the furnace of cutthroat reality, would not be so eager to deliver their goods to us for these magical electrons.

Unfortunately for them, they are going to find out before too long that these particular magical electrons are perishable- you can't count on storing them up like corn in a crib, because the rot like eggs or milk.

But the gullibility of the world is not to be overestimated.Even here in this forum we mostly seem to hold to the idea that oil will always be sold to the highest bidder.Reality is a bit more nuanced;oil will be sold to the highest bidder among those countries with the military wherewithal to remain on the bidder's list, and a little after that, by simple barter.

We will figure out a way to load the tankers going the other way( both ways under escort) with grain and chicken legs.

The Chinese are "like , you know , totally" aware of the difficulties they will eventually face in actually bringing home the oil they are buying up in the ground anywhere and everywhere they can.They are also comfortable with their ability to deal with this problem for a long time thru ordinary channels of bau, excepting maybe places like Africa where bau is all too often machetes and machine guns.

But the weight of public opinion and all commercial bau precedent is going to be on their side when the day arrives to yak yak in places like the UN when they show that they faithfully fulfilled their end of the bargain.

They may be able to keep the yak yak going long enough to get most of the oil in most of the places they have invested before it becomes necessary to fight fight-at which time they will be able to cherry pick their fights.

Of course the bau whole shooting match may collapse into a real shooting match at any time.

If that happens, pipelines running well away from seacoasts are going to be the only way to reliably move oil in serious quantities except maybe by train where track and tank cars are available.Being an unashamed yankee realist , I would just as soon we have as many such pipelines as we can.

I do believe it is highly likely there will be a time when oil is extremely expensive but still readily available, most places and most of the time.Small Japanese motorcycles will be priceless.Chinese motor bikes ans scooters bikes will be worthless , as they are now for all intents and purposes, since you usually can't get parts for them.The local scrap metal buyer gets a few nearly new ones every month with a couple of thousand or less miles in the odometer.

(My 250 Honda will probably get over a hundred mpg if ridden at the low speeds usually attainable with fifty cc bikes.It also has enough power to tow a small trailer, which I can fabricate myself.You seldom ever need parts for a Honda, excepting the standardized generic routine maintanence items such as tires, batteries, and drive chains.)

At that point in time, suvs will be essentially worthless except for use as storage sheds. Some will be converted into ersatz trucks, which will be the last vehicles on the road.Any reader who tries this must understand that the best results depend on starting with one built on a real truck chassis-the body needs to be separate from the frame.

If I can get my old ford 4x4 running on oak chips, I will be a man of some consequence in the neighborhood.;-)

A hundred pounds of dry chips will be enough to haul a big wagon load of produce to town, along with a half a dozen or more neighbors along for the ride.

Things are more complicated than that. Who are "we"? The world does not run on nation-states any more. The multi-national corporations are in control. Of course, they try and maintain the illusion of the nation-state going for as long as possible, since they benefit from that. In particular, the following has been happening in the USA simultaneously:

* the corpos dismantled the industrial base and move production overseas (to make more money)

* the corpos bought congress so as to approve endless military spending, not to help Americans in general, but to help the corpos

* American taxpayers are footing the bill to protect the corpo interests (in places like Iraq) while not getting any discount on the price of oil: they are exposed to the world supply and demand situation to set the price.

Some countries may be doing somewhat more to protect their flesh-and-blood citizens, e.g., by developing railways, taxing fuel (to cushion the coming shock and to pay for the rail), arranging not-for-profit health care, etc. But not here in the USA.

So yes, I think we'll always have access to some oil here, but at the world market price, plus the taxes we'll be forced to keep paying under the pretense that it gets us the oil.

Note that as we speak oil consumption is dropping in many countries (including the USA), due to price, not availability (although there are some spot shortages in some countries). That is what you'd expect under corporate rule.

That's interesting. I hadn't realized that the United States flag was identical to the British East India Company flag at the time of the Revolution, except that the Union Jack in the upper left corner of the BEIC flag was replaced by 13 white stars on a blue background.

Or that George Washington's headquarters flag was 13 white stars on a blue background. Washington's stars had six points rather than five points, though. I've heard that Washington wanted to put six pointed stars on the flag, but Betsy Ross changed them to five pointed stars when she sewed the first flag.

It's probably one of those, "things we don't like to elaborate on in high school history class" issues.

"We don't want taxation without 'corporate' representation" is probably the real theme behind the declaration of independence.

We know from modern examples the typical civil dispute doesn't usually get anywhere without outside aid. None of the dictators which were toppled in the 'Arab Spring' would have been removed without backroom deals from western powers.

I can hear Betsy Ross saying, "Yes General Washington," when instructed to sew 6-point stars.

And then after he left, she mumbled, "6-point stars my ass, he doesn't have to sew this thing, and my arthritis is flaring up, and that damn stove needs a chimney sweep..."

British East India Company Flag (1776)

Notice any similarities?

The (arguably) first American flag was identical to this.
The Grand Union or Continental Colours or Cambridge Flag decided on in 1775 (by a committee of 3 including Ben Franklin in Cambridge, MA in response to a letter from Washington requesting a standard standard and suggesting the Pine Tree flag) was first flown by John Paul Jones on Dec 2nd, 1775 aboard the Alfred and was hoisted by the Continental Army on New Years Day 1776 while beseiging British occupied Boston. The change to Stars in the canton did not occur officially until June 1777 (unofficial use is thought to have begun in mid-1776 around the time of the Declaration). The striped flag with Union Cross (of Scotland and England) in the canton, was decided on as a protest flag, since merchantmen other than the Company were supposed to use a full red ensign with the Union Cross in the Canton. The Company was not allowed to fly this flag in British waters (they were to fly the normal red ensign). Prior to 1630 (when use of the red, white, and blue ensigns commenced) most English merchantmen flew a red-and white striped ensign with St. George Cross canton. 13 stripes was a common number for dimensional reasons but 9 and 11 were also common numbers.

When it was flown in Boston, the redcoats misunderstood and thought they were surrendering. They ordered a 13 gun salute!


Everything you ever wanted to know about flags (49,000 pages).

That majorityrights.com is quite a nutjob website indeed!

Note that as we speak oil consumption is dropping in many countries (including the USA), due to price, not availability

Back in my undergrad days when I took Econ101, we studied the law of supply and demand. We did not study supply in one chapter, demand in another, and price in a third chapter. It was all in the same chapter because it is all one law.

In a reasonably free market, we will have a supply curve and a demand curve, and the price is determined by where the two curves cross.

To summarize the whole thing, supply will always equal demand, and vice versa, with prices going to whatever level is necessary to insure that supply still equals demand.

I think that's a little glib.

The US may have every intention of acquiring the oil it 'demands' by any means necessary, but part of the point of the growing constraints is that as big as our military is, we still don't necessarily have the means we think we do, IMO.

Look at the 'quick, cheap little war' that GWB and Co. thought they were in for.

No matter how jaded you are, sometimes the 'quick and dirty solutions' only end up being dirty, and miss those other goals entirely.

The US may think it can 'take' oil, but (as I think Westexas or OilMan pointed out a while back) all the recent wars in Arabia have not really seen a single additional tanker load of oil arrive at a US refinery.

Besides, when you try and 'take' oil, its pretty easy for the folk you are taking it from to make that rather problematic, remember:

Those past wars made a lot of money for those who run the war machine but I bet they used a lot more oil than they 'won'. If the EROI of a future oil-grab war is negative, then its a waste of effort. You will be worse off, and even fewer people than before will care!

If it gets to shedding blood to bring home oil, Joe Average will not get any of it.

And even if the army does score a few tanker loads, do you think they will run it through your local service station for you to trundle down to the store to buy a packet of fags or to take the family off on a Sunday outing? Not pygmalion likely!

Hopefully they will send it to all your nuclear power plants to keep the emergency generators and pumps running in perpetuity to cool the spent fuel ponds after the national power grid goes down, else you will all be glowing in the dark!

That same bike, if it were available here, would more than likely cost three to five times as much.This is why I contend that statements along the lines of "people living on less than two dollars a day" are meaningless and (worse) misleading, although they are technically true in some respects..

This sort of talk is propaganda , in service of a good cause no doubt, but still propaganda, and it is so effective most of us swallow it hook, line , and sinker. To the typical person who reads it, the emotional interpretation is that the people in question are living on living on what could be bought here for only two bucks.Those who think a bit more may convert the money into the local currency of the country in question, but the arithmetic still doesn't compute.

I have put a couple of hours into locating the cheapest possible housing in America, excepting for squatting outright.The cheapest actual example I can turn up in a few minutes inquiry is sixty dollars a month right here here in the backwoods of Appalachia, and only a couple of miles from our house..That's for a very decrepit camper on a farm . Water is supplied at no extra charge , but there is no electricity at that price, no working toilet,etc.

The rent is paid in kind by helping the landlord, who survives on a small ss check, get up his own firewood and so forth.That's two bucks a day right off the top.

The tenant has a very small wood stove with the pipe running out the window. He gets his wood free for the gathering -worth here in the US maybe another dollar or two-or five- per day during the heating season.In better weather he cooks mostly outside on a stove made out of a small metal drum, as that takes less wood than an open fire, and is also safer, easier, and more convenient than an open fire..

This camper is not really any better in the condition it is in than a sheet metal and cardboard shack in Bangladesh.About all that can be said for it is that it is mostly dry inside, and not too awfully drafty.

I hire the tenant to help me a day around the place occasionally when I can spare the money, and give him-and his "landlord"- some of our excess produce in season.The landlord reciprocates, and since blight got our cucumbers this past summer, I was glad of a dozen from his garden whenever our paths crossed.

I know of several people within easy driving distance who are living in campers and old farmhouses and partially converted barns for no rent at all, but that is charity pure and simple.

In the case of an old farmhouse that would otherwise be unoccupied, it is also good management-empty houses rot down faster than ones with people living in them.It also makes it easy to keep the electrical service on and vandals away and so forth.

I believe a fair rough estimate of "K"'s income would be about six to eight dollars a day when he is short of work-let us say three dollars for shelter, fuel, and water, and four or five dollars for beans, potatos, bread, clothing, tobacco , and an occasional piece of fatback or head of cabbage.

He is often able to earn two hundred or even three hundred dollars cash per week during the busy seasons for farmers,but he invariably drinks and smokes it it up in short order.But so long as he has a twenty left, he will share his beer freely, and treat me to dinner at his "house" under the trees.If he's flush, dinner will be bbq chicken or burgers with the trimmings coming from the supermarket deli.

I always accept if time permits as this goes a very long way to preserving his self respect and allows him to feel welcome at our table even when I have no work for him. "But for the grace of God"-or simple luck of the draw in the lottery of life-our places could be interchanged.

It is legal to camp in undesignated areas on most federal lands for two weeks at a time, with a minimum distance move required after each two weeks if the ranger is on the ball.

Then there's Slab City:


In the third world if you don't have the money to pay rent, you live with your in-laws.

If you can't do that you (and a group of others) move into an undefended piece of land. It is usually available because it on the edges of the city and is steep and landslide-prone, or swampy, or under a freeway. You build your house one bit at a time, acquiring whatever materials you can whenever you can. Packing crates, tape-reinforced cardboard, sheets of zinc etc are the first materials used. If you are lucky no-body runs you off and with time your house can be built up into something decent. You don't pay, except in "favors" to your friendly neighborhood gang.

If you can't afford fuel you scrounge up some "fire-wood" and you can bet that includes some nasty plastic or other chemical residues. Food is basic - rice and beans, perhaps some scavenged fruit in season.

If you want electricity you run wires out to the nearest power line and steal it.

You can only escape through alcohol or other drugs if you can get them.

Not only is your life expectancy shortened, your morbidity rate increases. But at the end of the year it is possible to have survived (and even reproduced) on US$365 - US$730

Oldfarmermac -
As a hill-farmer on only 160 acres I can't justify the outlay on an alternative-fuelled heavy haulage vehicle, which I guess will be operated at community scale or greater to get sensible usage-hours per year. For light transport, the electric trike looks good to me for small loads.

That said, sustainable forestry is likely the best source of fuel for haulage vehicles in areas where non-farmland is available. Yet it is worth noting that wood is way sub-optimal as a fuel - its tar content, dust etc impose serious ongoing maintainance and reliability problems.

The top end alternative - that may well become available on a community scale - is the conversion of wood to syngas to methanol - which you'll maybe know has unique merits as a clean-burning fuel for SI engines.

It seems to me that the practical compromise option is to convert wood to charcoal and bag that as the source of clean syngas (mostly CO) for heavy road transport. An old friend who worked in E. Africa pre-WWII used it as standard transport up country, and told me that it was very reliable if the charcoal was well cooked - i.e. cleaned of the wood's tar content. The far greater energy density of charcoal than wood makes it look a far better option for effective haulage. Ditto using cordwood in a charcoal kiln, thereby avoiding (manual?) logging down to dimensions suitable for a vehicle's wood-gasifyer.

Best of luck with your vehicle - we need such practical innovations urgently.



Thank you, Backstop

I have a number of saved general information collected from the web and so I am aware of the advantages of using charcoal rather than using wood directly.

Your friend was right-charcoal is a far more satisfactory fuel than wood itself for an ice in every respect.

If I can get one running , I can then consider the problems involved in the small scale manufacture of charcoal and perhaps build a second one.

My real problem is that I have not been able to find clear and unambiguous drawings or close up photographs of actual shop built wood gasifiers, and I don't have the time or money to more or less reinvent this machine-I need to be sure my first one will work ok once built with only minor modifications.Putting a half dozen prototypes on the scrap pile is not an option.

Having a bunch of the components custom made at ninety or a hundred dollars an hour is not an option either-at least not the first time around.

The engine contamination problem has been mostly solved by later designs which have far superior filtering systems to get out the ash and tars as compared to WWII era shop built gasifiers which had rather primitive filtering appartus.

Somebody somewhere has the hands on expertise I need and will share it-he will turn up eventually.

It is hard to believe that at least a handful of these machines were not preserved in museums , or by folks who put them into storage them as memorial keepsakes in remembrance of their Daddy or older brother who built it, but I haven't located one, nor anybody who has built one who lives within five hundred miles.

Just in case anybody here might find one someplace and try to start it:

These machines generate enormous quantities of carbon monoxide and lighting one off inside a garage is apt to produce a fatal dose in as little as thirty seconds or even less....Hardly anybody realizes that nearly all cases of CO poisoning are caused by only tiny trace amounts of this colorless and odorless vapor.One whiff of the concentrated stuff is enough to do you in.

The first rule is that they never be lit up inside, and the second is that your life depends on good tight sturdy plumbing of it to make sure the gas generated does not find its way into the passenger compartment of the vehicle.

IIrc, it was once a common practice for babies and toddlers to be put in cold ovens for a minute or so by ignorant or ill tempered nannies to stop them from crying back in the days when "town gas"-mostly CO- was manufactured from coal and piped into many urban homes.

No doubt many died as a result.

One last tip for anyone who might want to set aside a truck -get an old one with a big low speed engine , a breaker point ignition, and a carburetor.The last such trucks were built here in the eighties for the most part.

Newer ones are MUCH harder to convert due to the advent of fuel injection and computerized controls.Carbon monoxide is not well suited as fuel in a high speed engine and even in the best case, with a well selected engine, horsepower will be off by a third to a half.

My Ford has what they used to call the "big six"-three hundred cubic inches, about five liters.

Wood Gasifier info

DHS/FEMA seem to have done very little work on how to prepare for and administer a major oil supply shock, but one of their few publications on this topic is this detailed "how to" paper on wood gasifiers:

You've probably already seen this:

And this shows a converted Mercury:

To add to what Rick M has to say;

The GEK gasifier has their plans, available from their website for free.

I have downloaded and printed a copy for possible future use, in case their policy changes.

The GEK gasifier has had several hundred built, the design has been imporved, and it is pretty much guaranteed that if you build it, it will run the first time.

It can run engines up to about 25kW continuous power.

AS for woodgas for a truck, Wayne Keith and this outfit in Alabama probably knows more than anyone;

Thanks for the links guys!

One warning sign of Carbon Monoxide poisoning is a headache, go into fresh air and it clears pretty quickly. For people playing with this sort of stuff don't ignore a headache - get fresh air.


We get Amtrak (at least some of us), while the Chinese....

BEIJING — China launched a super-rapid test train over the weekend which is capable of travelling 310-miles per hour (500 kilometers per hour), state media said on Monday, as the country moves ahead with its railway ambitions despite serious problems on its high-speed network.


I guess when you choose high priced weapon systems over infrastructure...

Meanwhile, the best public transportation we have here in Central Maine is a bus service that goes from Augusta to Portland in one hour, at about 65 miles per hour. The related problem is that the bus station is about three miles northwest of downtown Augusta, out past the Interstate, and it is not easy to get there without a private car.

And yet.. there is a little bit of chatter growing as the Downeaster passes its 10th birthday this month, and we look towards the next stretch bringing the connection up to Brunswick next year, and Camden sometime later..

Freeport looks to add ways to move public

Freeport town officials and business leaders are investigating ways to increase public transportation around town before the Amtrak Downeaster brings train service next fall.

Knock Wood..

That is always the killer - the last mile, the last half-mile, the last kilometre ... it always makes public transport problematic. I'm not sure what the answer is to this - but at least some people recognise that it's a big issue, in getting people out of their cars.

One answer is a bicycle. I rode my bike over 1000 miles last year doing that last mile connection (longest segment 1.7 mi) between the two modes of transit I use and my workplace to do my 100 mi roundtrip commute. And lest someone say that kind of thing is for young folks, I'm 63 and my BMI is north of optimal.

And if it's a pain to take your bike on transit, there are decent folding bikes available.

Is this 500 km/hr sled Electric? As in no dinosaurs are harmed?

All electric.

In China quite a few ancient bogs are burned to make the juice though.


Is this 500 km/hr sled Electric?


a little blurb:

22,800 kW is 30,575 horsepower, per 6 car set. A prime mover (e.g. diesel or turbine) on-board would be too heavy, thus electric fur sure.

more at:

finally a pic of the pantograph in here (8 down):

Looks like the whole front of the nose folds up for the coupler unveiling (so it can be pushed around on un-electrified track like the yard photo from chinadaily), unlike the typical clamshell up front on other high speed trainsets.

An LA class submarine has a 30,000 HP main engine, for comparison's sake. The Perry class frigates are 40,000 HP.
This train has the power of a warship.

You know... looking at the extreme streamlined lines of the train, it might not be too fatal if one got hit with it. ;)
Maybe more the landing...
Then again, at 500km/h, almost any angle less than parallel with the land and you might as well be hitting a wall at 100km/h.

...But all the high-tech in the world won't save us from fundamentally un-hyperdemocratic governments.

"un-hyperdemocratic governments"

- I'd settle for plain democratic ones, in lieu of hyperdemocratic ones... :-)

I'd also settle for plain passenger rail, in lieu of pipe-dreams of high-speed rail that we (in the USA) are now too broke to pay for.

We can still borrow the money at negative real interest rates to build federally funded high speed rail. We (the PTB) just don't want to do so.

Hey hey Tribe Of Pangaea,

Re: China and un-hyperdemocratic governments

The terminology that you are using isn't really applicable in the situation. It's like calling China communist. Communists countries don't have stock markets or housing bubbles. Of course China isn't capitalist either. The terms don't apply in the sense that we are used to.

China has regular elections on a very local level, and then the elected officials elect the representative government at the level of them, then those elected officials elect still higher ups. It is representative government, but not like we are used to. The communist party in China likes to have the 1/3 of the National People's Congress represent noncommunists parties. The terms we use like, capitalist of democratic, for western nation states aren't very accurate descriptors for what China is doing. It is something else and probably needs a new term.


"We get Amtrak (at least some of us), while the Chinese...."

Mother Nature says, "Just add it to the wall..."

Half as Good as it Gets

(h/t Denninger)

Maybe we should all review Nate's piece, "We're Not Facing a Shortage of Energy, But a Longage of Expectations."

Perhaps Killing Environmentalism to Save It: Two Greens Call for ‘Postenvironmentalism’ should have been titled "Embrace Your Inner Technucopian".

John: What is your biggest source of optimism?

Michael: I think my biggest source of optimism is the progress made by the human species. We are a far more intelligent and humane species than we were 100 years ago—not to mention 200,000 years ago! When I hear people worry that because humans evolved on the veldt we don’t have it in us to manage large complicated systems, I think that’s ridiculous. We never stopped evolving—physically, culturally and intellectually. At bottom, I think humans are more than up for the task of being responsible Earth stewards.

Once again, the authors ignore hard limits; that humans have dramatically depleted billions of years of resource deposits in a few hundred years. Civilization as we know it can't run on fairy dust for long, not on the scale they seem to expect. It's as if they expect to wave some societal-change magic wand and get 7 billion humans to alter course within a few decades.

We'll change alright, but it won't be magical... Salvage society, here we come.

Wow...arm-waving on a grand scale!

The Army has a saying: Hope is not a strategy.

Best hopes for more logical, structured, critical-thinking analysis.

A new chapter in the Human Story "Anthropocene, the Revenge of the Dung Beetles."

I think my biggest source of optimism is the progress made by the human species. We are a far more intelligent and humane species than we were 100 years ago—not to mention 200,000 years ago! When I hear people worry that because humans evolved on the veldt we don’t have it in us to manage large complicated systems, I think that’s ridiculous. We never stopped evolving—physically, culturally and intellectually. At bottom, I think humans are more than up for the task of being responsible Earth stewards.

That statement is laughably silly. Sure humans are a more intelligent than they were 200,000 years ago but not 100 years ago. Evolution of intelligence is controlled by Natural Selection. Nature has done little to select out the least intelligent and select for the most intelligent in the last 100 years. What we do have, thanks to scientific advances in the last 100 years, is a lot more knowledge.

But that is not the main reason the statement is so silly. The silly part is the "optimism" that we will fix everything because we are so smart. Most of the world believes there is nothing to fix. And those of us who realize just how screwed up everything is are so few in number that there is nothing we can do, or will do, to fix everything.

We Homo sapiens, "wise men" have simply multiplied our numbers to the point that we are stripping the earth of all the resources required for our long term survival. We are deep, deep into overshoot and every day we dig into that hole a little deeper. There is no cure for overshoot.

No one appointed us "Earth's stewards". And even if they did we sure don't appear to be responsible stewards. We are going through our natural resources like a drunken sailor going through his rich uncle's inheritance. And we are killing off the earth's wild species as if no other life other than human life matters at all.

Ron P.

From the article:

We are now, through our daily existence, modifying the environment on a planetary scale. The choices we face are not whether or not to modify the environment but how. We will exercise those choices through the ever more powerful social and technological tools and the enormous wealth and resources that we now have at our disposal.

[scratches head] Yes, yes we will, just as we've been doing, until we can't...

These guys are delusional. I think they looked into the abyss, and the abyss looked back at 'em, and they recoiled back into technocornucopian "optimism", based on nothing but wishful thinking. The old futurist "we will... we will... we will...". Why, because they say so? Who's "we", anyway?

I think you are right about these guys looking in and curling back in denial, but I have the feeling that what makes them like they are - which, in my opinion, is a more than a little bit evil - is that they looked in, saw that BAU didn't work, and opted to try to support it anyway. Then they had the guts to sell this as "environmentalism".

Nuclear is the answer? More intensive agriculture (sounds like factory farming)? I bet these guys think geoengineering is a good idea too. I don't trust them, because I think they are more concerned for maintaining their own lifestyle than they are concerned about the environment. These people have become the dominant voice of "environmentalism" over the past 5-10 years, starting with people like Bjorn Lomborg.

In my opinion environmentalism died the day "global warming" became a catchphrase and more imporant than habitat and species loss. Let's be honest here; if we've paved and flattened everything, and killed off the animals and plants, then who does global warming matter to? US - human beings. Global warming was the death of environmentalism as a movement that cared for nature and the birth of "environmentalism" as a empty shell of an ideology that could be used to sell products like hybrid cars (not that hybrid cars are bad in relation to their regular alternatives, but to buy a hybrid car for the environment is to dodge the issue of car culture as poisoning the environment). The "environment" no longer means a world with other non-domestic species and wild places, and with that gone, it sure doesn't seem to mean much.

What happened to environmentalism is that the other side won. A lot of this is due to the environmentalists themselves laying down their arms when they saw that their own lifestyle depended on BAU. They saw they couldn't get the dream of wealth and power and still be "green", and so a lot of them defected. You see a lot of people like Patrick Moore who just changed sides. I think the realization of the scope of the challenge has also widened, and most of the environmental groups don't know how do deal with it. Fisheries is one example - there are "red lists" and the problems are known, but the scale of the change necessary to change things in not trivial - large areas need to be marked off from any form of exploitation, rivers have to be cleaned up of pollution emanating from far from their mouths, dams have to be taken down. It's one thing to take down a dam on a river in the middle of nowhere, but what about the dams on the Colorado? Even just getting reasonable fishing quotas is nearly impossible.

Much of your post makes sense. But your last paragraph starts:

"What happened to environmentalism is that the other side won"

But ends:

"Even just getting reasonable fishing quotas is nearly impossible."

That doesn't sound like winning to me. Am I missing something?

You've got a point - fishermen who depend on fish stocks should be the first ones in line to protect them. And the scientists who help regulate them should have some idea of the the advantages and disadvantages of quota systems. Quotas alone actually tend to cause a lot of problems, but the better solution - no-take zones - aren't very popular. Fishermen feel very threatened by the government, but then in many cases they ARE fishing all of the fish out of the sea. So who's fault is it when they lose their livelihood? But then again, isn't it also our fault if we eat the fish? Diffusion of responsibility is part of the problem.

It doesn't sound like winning when we destroy what we love, does it?

I use this as an example, but the same could be said about global warming or just about any environmental issue, as we depend on the environment for our survival. It's a path to self-destruction to expoit it recklessly. Strangely, there are tons of people who are fighting for the "right" to continue down this way. What can I say?

"fishermen who depend on fish stocks should be the first ones in line to protect them"

- Alas that's not how the world works. The dominant religion ("economic growth") promises us "pie in the bank", as in "money investment always gains several % per year in the long run". That's about to be proven wrong, but it will take at least several more decades before that lesson sinks in.

Thus, if you own a natural resource that grows very slowly, if at all, say whales, or big tuna fish, or fossil fuels or groundwater, it is "more profitable" (according to that quasi-religious dogma) to liquidate it and invest the money thus gained, than to live on the trickle of sustainable income the resource can provide.

Even more so when the resource is not privately owned, nor effectively collectively managed. I.e., if fishermen can harvest the fish unsustainably, because regulations are unenforcable, then those who refrain just miss out on the money-accumulation party.

I don't know why so many these days try to claim that Garrett Hardin was "proven wrong" regarding the "tragedy of the commons". Seems like he was as right as the other "proven wrongs" from Malthus to Peakists.

Yes I know there are exceptions, such as the self-regulation of the Maine lobstermen, but those are exceptions. For the rule, look all around you.

Environmentalism was never marketable. It was always ripe for false prophets. We soon forgot to be grateful for being the only species who could avoid being eaten alive.

Environmentalism was never marketable.

It was as long as it could be sold as a fashion statementaccessory. Cloth bags instead of disposable plastic, a hybrid car, and a box made from recycled paper. As long as the changes required were merely cosmetic, and could be made to enhance one's self image, it was easy.

But just because the 'Green Industry' paints itself as the face of modern environmentalism doesn't mean we have to be credulous enough to accept those terms. We've seen enough advertizing to know how the game works, haven't we?

I hope folks aren't really falling for the game of validating someone's claiming of such titles, simply because they are the ones you can point to on TV or on the Store Shelves. It seems that might actually be the very thing that INVALIDATES them for the credentials of belonging to the real environmental movement, even if some of these products have helpful aspects about them.


"That statement is laughably silly."

The whole article was laughably silly. Just another couple of self-professed "greens" jumping on the technocornucopian bandwagon that Stewart Brand exemplifies. More tech! More tech! Optimism! (because pessimism is "shrill" and not good marketing for "the cause", whatever that might be).

These guys are a couple of opportunistic jerks. IMHO.

According to this article focusing on then Senator Gingrich's 1884 book,'Window of Opportunity', candidate Gingrich is something of a technocopian.


I am not against scientific/engineering advances, but I am considerably more skeptical (than I used to be)that we will pull giant world-fixing rabbits out of our hat...

Not to nitpick but Gingrich was never a Senator. He was a Representative from Georgia for 20 years, the last four he was Speaker of the House.

Ron P.

Ron, not a nit-pick at all, a perfectly valid correction for my sloppy error!

My Thanks!

To continue the thought:

Article on New Scientist Titles "I'll put millions of people on Mars, says Elon Musk'....unfortunately behind the paywall.

ummm...yea, right!

Musk's Space-X Falcon launchers seem credible, but millions of people to Mars?

Musk sounds a bit like the guy who founded Eclipse Aviation (right here in Albuquerque)...a Microsoft Vet who thought he was going to revolutionize the jet charter business with his very inexpensive very light business jests, so cheap that air taxi services would proliferate...the reality turned out that while the guy was good at making software at MS this didn't translate into his being a captain of the business jet industry...


On the other hand, I assess goof likely-hood that the Stratolaunch concept (or something liek it) will prove viable...


This concept seems credible, mainly because Musk and PaulAllen hooked up with Burt Rutan, who has a good track record so far.

So...Musk and Space-X seem to have a good launcher with the Falcon series, and have a credible idea with Stratolaunch, but Musk is over-reaching when he tries to connect dots to 'millions of people on Mars'.

Millions-To-Mars reminds me of the hype over Skylon and how it would be the space-age DC-3 to enable the feasible building and maintenance of fleets of Space-based Power Sats, with hundreds if not thousands of humans working and living in orbit.

Dreaming is nice, but folks need to keep it real at the end of the day.

Ah, yes, the Stratolaunch concept. Trouble is, that launch concept is not really new, just a larger version of what's been done before by Orbital Sciences Corporation. While launching the rocket from 40,000 feet elevation might seem to be a good idea, there's still the problem of acquiring the delta V to reach orbital velocity. My WAG is that there is only a small advantage to launching from altitude in terms of the payload weight, which is the result of launching where the atmospheric drag is only some 1/4 that at the surface. As for Burt Rutan, please recall that he has not orbited anything so far, only providing short high altitude scenic tours.

Still, I wish them the best of luck on their launches...

E. Swanson

Energetically, the difference between making low earth orbit, and ballistically reaching 100KM is huge. A circular low orbit requires the same energy as climbing half the radius of the planet against 1G. So the comparison is 2000 miles versus 60. So his space plane is actually totally pathetic.

Well, there is many gains, when launching from altitude. First we don't a huge amount a few going up. This is some delta_v saved. You also save some delta_v thanks to the forward speed of the airplane. You save delta_v due to the reduce air density. Hence, the saving is significant just because, you launch from altitude, because the airplane replace the first stage of your rocket.

But there is others advantages. High altitude launch means that your motor is closer to be optimum for vacuum operation. This make it lighter and more efficient. In addition, a very significant impact is that noise and vibration load are much lower. This reduced stress on the rocket and satellite structure.

Overall, the gain of launching from a plane provide a significant performance gain.

Perhaps. You can allow the rocket to actually lose some elevation at liftoff, i.e. the max acceleration required is lower. Also the maximum aerodynamic drag (some combination of speed and air pressure as you can velocity but go through lower air presure), could allow for a lighter structure. But I doubt these are large factors.

There are other penalties not yet mentioned. The launch aircraft must be man rated, as in, there's a pilot/crew. The launch aircraft is likely to be quite massive, as the wing loads will be spread over a long wingspan, thus the airframe weight will be substantial, even if it is totally carbon fiber. The design presented shows straight wings, which are not good at high speeds near supersonic, whereas all high speed jets use swept back wings. The air drag on the massive structure will require considerable fuel during take off and climb and there must be enough fuel on board after launch to return to base and land. Lastly, the vehicle must be able to land fully loaded in the event of a system failure on the rocket before separation, thus the need for robust landing gear and structure. Overall, I suspect that the weight penalty for the launch vehicle will likely be quite large, thus reducing the ultimate payload to be lifted into orbit.

As I recall, Orbital Sciences aircraft launch concept was their earliest approach (first used in 1990), which I suppose was intended for quick launches, such as for ASAT purposes or small scientific missions. They have not scaled up this approach over the years, instead turning to more conventional vertical launch vehicles. After all, an L-1011 is a rather large aircraft. One can calculate the payload mass which they are able to put into orbit for the total mass of the system on the runway to arrive at an estimate of this new concept's results. From the Orbital Sciences web page, we find this:

The three-stage Pegasus boosts small satellites weighing up to 1,000 lb. (450 kg) into low-Earth orbit. Pegasus is carried aloft by an L-1011 carrier aircraft to approximately 40,000 ft. (12,000 m) over open ocean, where it is released and then free-falls in a horizontal position for five seconds before igniting its first stage rocket motor.

E. Swanson

I assume that the straight wings are optimized for high alititude rather than high speed. Regardless, one substantial advantage of the arial platform is the ability to fly toward the equator before launch, thus getting a considerable boost from Earth's rotational speed.

Please explain. I'm unable to visualize how flying to the equator speeds up an aircraft ... or is it I've been missing what pilots have known for years that they get a free ride similar to finding the right jet stream? I can see some advantage there, but rotational speed?

Have you never noticed that the shuttle always launches to the East and always comes back in from the West? That's about the Earth's rotational speed, which can be (mostly) ignored with respect to land speed (i.e. airplane flight) but makes a big difference relative to items in space and escape velocity.
The rotational speed at a given altitude is higher the closer you are to the point of maximum circumference (the lower the latitude). This is not an advantage (of air or water launch) unless you don't have access to a land-based launch site at the equator (i.e. it's a political problem, not a technical one).

The Earth rotates west-to-east at over 1000 mph at the equator (24900 miles / 24 hours = 1037.5 mph), but 0 mph at the poles, and rotational velocity gets added to orbital speed if satellites are launched west-to-east. It's not an inconsiderable boost to the launch speed, so launch sites are usually as far south as possible (e.g. Cape Canaveral, Florida).

If satellites are launched north or south into polar orbits it doesn't make much difference, but usually only spy satellites go into polar orbits. All geosynchronous communication satellites are launched into equatorial orbits.

Correction: The sidereal day is about 23 hours 56 minutes instead of 24 hours, so the added velocity at the equator would be closer to 1040 mph.

Gosh, sometimes the guy looks old, but I had no idea... ;)

Not to nitpick but...1884?

sgage says: "These guys are a couple of opportunistic jerks"

For those joining mid-thread, he is talking about an interview where author John Horgan is talking to Ted Nordhaus and to Michael Shellenberger of the BreakThrough Institute and he is talking more specifically about the last paragraph in this interview report where Michael Shellenberger answers that he is "optimistic".

Calling M. Shellenberger a "jerk" is an ad hominem attack that does nothing to advance the debate and in fact helps the "other side" to win over those who join the debate midstream.

Many people are ill informed about "evolution" and how it works.
M. Shellenberger is either ill informed or, worse yet, intentionally manipulating those who are ill informed.

Evolution does not mean positive progress.

It merely means change.

Change comes in many flavors.
And usually it is random and dysfunctional.

Just like evolution, "optimism" can be dysfunctional and can take us down the slippery slope toward extinction.
But you will never convince the blindly optimistic (image) of that possibility.
They only see the street signs that point to positive change.
Not the ones that say "This way to cliff".

footnote: image for blind optimism comes from this financial woes article
footnote2: image for another "step back" from cliff sign is here

I wasn't trying to convince anyone of anything, just expressing my feeling about this type of grandstanding.

Calling someone a jerk is not an "ad hominem" - merely juvenile name-calling, or venting if you well. Saying someone is a jerk and _therefore_ his argument must be wrong is the "ad hominem" fallacy.

Yes, I know a lot about evolution, having taught it at the college level for some time.

Evolution (in the biological sense) does not "simply mean change" - it means change as shaped by natural selection. Two steps - variation arises in a population via mutation, recombination, what-have-you. Then these variations are tested against the real world. Since the real world is always changing, it's nice for a population to maintain a certain amount of genetic variability - you never know what might come in handy down the road...

(I will be away for a couple of days and won't be able to respond further.)

I wonder how come techno-optimism is never described as "shrill" -- and on reflection I suspect this is another of those not-so-subtle gender slurs. "Shrill" after all is "high pitched" or "hysterical," i.e. stereotypically "womanish" or "sissy." Pessimism means worrying about consequences, and only "a bunch of nervous old women" worry about stuff like the consequences of your actions coming back to bite your ass, fret over potential harm to living critters, or expect you to clean your room -- y'know, that kind of boring, irritating wifely/motherly stuff. Guys just wanna have fun, jeez, quitcha nagging! Hence the imho sexist, dismissive adjective "shrill" trotted out to diss voices of alarm, caution, moderation, warning, etc.

So techno-optimism is manly, positive, fearless, etc. Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead! (AKA desperately bluffing yer way through a crisis of existential panic, for fear of being thought less than perfectly, assuredly dominant and in control).

last few paragraphs of Ilargi's latest introductory comments at TAE seem appropriate:

"We have done exactly the same that any primitive life form would do when faced with a surplus, of food, energy, and in our case credit, cheap money. We spent it all as fast as we can. Lest less abundant times arrive. It's an instinct, it comes from our more primitive brain segments, not our more "rational" frontal cortex.

It's not that we're in principle, or talent, more devious or malicious than more primitive life forms. It's that we use our more advanced brains to help us execute the same devastation our primitive brain drives us to, but much much worse.

That's what makes us the most tragic species imaginable. We’ll fight each other, even our children, over the last few scraps falling off the table, and kill off everything in our path to get there. And when we're done, we’ll find a way to rationalize to ourselves why we were right to do so.

We can be aware of watching ourselves do what we do, but we can't help ourselves from doing it. Most. Tragic. Species. Ever."

It's an instinct, it comes from our more primitive brain segments, not our more "rational" frontal cortex.

Exactly! Thanks for posting this and the link Reed. I probably would have missed it otherwise. I often read The Automatic Earth but there are just so many blogs on the subject out there that I cannot catch them all. But this article hits the nail on the head. Loved every word of it.

Ron P.

You may enjoy this post from last week as well:

Ilargi: Haven't we been here before?

It's the sort of question you would expect a child to ask in one of those Grimm Brothers fairy tales, a child that walks so far into the woods that it gets lost, and takes another wrong turn and then another, and the forest feels denser and darker all the time, and it doesn't even run around in circles to return to its trail of breadcrumbs, or it doesn't know, because they've all been eaten by the animals. And then night falls slowly.

That's how I increasingly picture our financial situation. We march forward full of faith and feigned innocence into uncharted territory, telling ourselves we will and must find a way out of this mess, boosted by the high priests of our economic belief systems, the media, economists and politicians.

The children in the fairy tales always escape from the dark in the end, but we're not those children. Getting lost in the woods because you ignore the warnings is in general not an act of bravery, but one of stupidity.

Lost in the dark, indeed...

"Getting lost in the woods because you ignore the warnings is in general not an act of bravery, but one of stupidity."

But isn't it amazing how "confident" we feel as we're doing it (getting deeper into the woods)?

Image: Trust in me, thou are not lost

Sorry missed your post earlier. i want to point one thing out, your referencing the more recent translations of those fairy tales. the actual grimm tales most of the kids die..

Yes, the originals are a bit...grimmer than the Disney versions. They also tend to include lovingly detailed accounts of how the bad guy or gal was tortured to death in various clever ways, like tying red hot irons to their feet so they do a pretty dance before they die...


Agreed. Except maybe in needing to fix "everything." (At least, all at once.)

The likelihood of our responding well, to every or even most things, is very low. And, there are so many technical and socio-biological ways to explain why we can only fail.

Yet, if those of us who realize how messed up it all is will do nothing to fix anything, then the outcome may be self-fulfilling. Such lack of effort is, to me, a failure of another kind.

So, how do we, with our unshakeable and realistic pessimism, nonetheless try to do something?

And, as a practical matter, what to do first and what can wait?


"And, as a practical matter, what to do first and what can wait?"

Clean up our own act, our own house first. I have discovered that the responses to the symptoms and responses to the causes are the same: Get local; power down; "reduce, reuse, recycle"; Greer's "voluntary poverty, appropriate tech" thing; avoid debt; modify expectations, etc. What to do first? Depends on your circumstances, but it's a lifestyle more than a series of concrete steps. Waiting for mass social, political or economic change is a fool's game at this point.

So, maybe this is an:

Oxygen-mask principle: People in transition should organize their own localities before reorganizing any other level. Only when there are surpluses locally—in water, food, even time and skills—does one look outward. If higher levels of authority are needed to ensure local provisioning, then one organizes at those levels. Otherwise, one looks first inward, drawing on local capacities to provide for local infrastructure and needs.

In the era of cheap and easy energy, it may have made sense for local economies to be tightly interdependent with national and global economies. Without cheap energy, it makes more sense, from a resilience perspective, to secure the basics. The sense making of the petroleum era was narrowly economic (if GDP or trade increased, it was good); the sense making of the postpetroleum era is the predictability and security of basic needs (it is good to know clean water and healthy food are reliably available).

There are some who will protest that an oxygen-mask or subsistence principle is protectionist. Wendell Berry says “that is exactly what it is. It is a protectionism that is just and sound, because it protects local producers and is the best assurance of adequate supplies to local consumers.” He then makes a crucial distinction. A just protectionism is “the best guarantee of giveable or marketable surpluses. This kind of protection is not ‘isolationism.’”

I agree; personal adaptation is the key. Adapt at a local level, starting with you and your family at home, and later expanding to include friends and neighbors in your adaptation and preparation plans. If you can, growing food at home is a good start. Be careful and picky when choosing people and do it gradually. Disclose information about your plans on a need to know basis.

Yet, if those of us who realize how messed up it all is, will do nothing to fix anything, then the outcome may be self-fulfilling. Such lack of effort is, to me, a failure of another kind.

Thanks for the response RDY, but I really don't think you understand my position. And that position is that there is nothing that can really be done to avert the coming catastrophe. Oh there are band-aids that may help prolong the agony but nothing can As the late Dr. David Price put it:

Today, many people who are concerned about overpopulation and environmental degradation believe that human actions can avert catastrophe. The prevailing view holds that a stable population that does not tax the environment's "carrying capacity" would be sustainable indefinitely, and that this state of equilibrium can be achieved through a combination of birth control, conservation, and reliance on "renewable" resources. Unfortunately, worldwide implementation of a rigorous program of birth control is politically impossible. Conservation is futile as long as population continues to rise. And no resources are truly renewable.
Energy and Human Evolution

The earth has seven billion people. That is about twice as many people that the the earth can support, long-term, even if fossil fuels lasted forever. And about six billion more than the earth can support without fossil fuels.

And, as a practical matter, what to do first and what can wait?

Well that all depends RDY, what do you hope to accomplish?

Ron P.


I really don't think you understand my position.

I think I do. Your writing is clear, you post enough for a good sampling. I share much of your position; although not all, or why bother conversing.

I fall in Greer's long descent camp, punctuated with Foss on the downside and who-knows-what-to-call-it (a Homer-Dixon period?) on occasional upsides. I subscribe to Gramsci’s notion of “pessimism of the intellect; optimism of the will.” And conducting lots of small experiments seems useful for dealing with the future (easy to get burned following only forecasts/extrapolations). That's my position, hardly unique on TOD.

And about six billion more than the earth can support without fossil fuels.

Suggests one billion is "sustainable indefinitely... ." So an interesting question is over what time span does the descent occur? The answer to that probably separates us into different camps, and affects how we imagine we'll respond, no?

BTW, I just found that globally we were at one billion sometime between 1800 and 1850, more recently than I'd thought. Of course, remaining resource capital was vastly higher then. Today we might claim greater scientific capital of all sorts; helpful only if we use it well.


What to do first?

A Village in Revolt

...Occupy Wukan is another matter entirely.

The state press has been all but mute on why 13,000 Chinese citizens, furious over repeated rip-offs by their village elite, sent their leaders fleeing to safety and repulsed efforts by the police to retake Wukan.

But the village takeover can be ignored only at Beijing’s peril: There are at least 625,000 potential Wukans across China, all small, locally run villages that frequently suffer the sorts of injustices that prompted the outburst this month in Wukan.

Are zombies sustainable?

Is it against the law to kill zombies ?

I think humans are more than up for the task of being responsible Earth stewards.

Well, why haven't they been so far? Someone would have to be really delusional and out of touch to come up with a line like that. So far greed has been the main focus, not words like responsibility or being good stewards. In fact, people aren't even good stewards of each other. Oil rich country's have little to show for their wealth in regards to their people. Look at Libya. 1.8 mbd exports but near the very bottom in education in the World. Abject poverty for those in Nigeria. We need to start trying to be reasonably good stewards of one another, before we can even start to talk about being better stewards for other lifeforms, or the Earth.

Well, why haven't they (/we) been so far?
... good stewards of one another and of the Earth, that is

I suspect that in the last couple hundred years, our cultures have been infected by a viral cult religion called, Greed is Good and Absolute Greed is even better.

Throughout history whenever people discover some new resource they inevitably exploit it to its limit, expand their numbers and society to an unsustainable size, followed by decline, followed by a painful adjustment to stability. The past couple of hundred years is just the same tired old pattern. Nothing special, except in the scale of the expansion.

I always distrust any statement that starts 'throughout history.'

I very much doubt that this claim is based on a thorough study of every culture and every period. Short of that, such a claim is just a justification of ones own assumptions by randomly projecting them throughout time and culture, universalizing them.

All traditional cultures I know of have a wide range of strict taboos on using various 'resources.'

A central part of modernity has been the process of disparaging any such taboos.

I would dare guess (without study of ALL past cultures :-) that the ancient cultures that have "taboos" are fairly sustainable, and have developed the "taboos" as part of their long adjustment to living within limits. OTOH, the cultures that did not live within their limits soon overshot and collapsed. Thus, you won't find out about the taboos of the Anasazi, or the Mayans from their imperial period, etc, exactly because they're no longer here. Of course some of their descendants are still here, but their culture changed.

Balinese Traditional Water Management is a famous example; what early, arrogant "civilised" tourists described as "backward" and "superstition" turned out to be elements of a very sophisticated and successful system for managing the water commons. Some folks think that the elaborate kapu system established in Hawai'i at the time of first Anglo contact was in part a response to population growth on the islands and overfishing of near shore waters: certain species of fish were kapu, and iirc it was a death-penalty offence to catch and eat them. That's some serious conservation.

It's been suggested that the evolution of extreme wealth disparity (a tiny luxurious elite and a huge mass of immiserated labourers) is one human adaptation to a scarcity of resources: that abundance nurtures freedom or egalitarianism, but increasing population and tightening resources leads to social strictures on consumption and a hidebound, rigid social order to enforce 'em. If so, then our future doesn't look too cheerful... and the triumph of the 1 percent (as of the present state of play) could be early manifestations of the nouveau aristocracy...

And then there is always Tikopia, which has hereditary chiefs but (so I'm told) not so oppressive a social structure, and a culture that has survived for centuries on one small island w/o crashing itself. How come they are so smart? How come we are so dumb?

The kapu system not only protected certain species, it protected entire areas - the ancient Hawaiian equivalent of national parks.

But generally, it wasn't a blanket prohibition. Often, certain people were allowed to eat the kapu foods or fish in the kapu waters. The elite, of course. Many of the most desirable foods were forbidden to women (which may be why all food production and preparation was done by men - because the women would eat the forbidden fruit, even on penalty of death, given the opportunity). There were also certain foods that were reserved for the alii, the chiefs. Feathered clothing was also reserved for the alii, as it took thousands of feathers to make a garment and there just weren't that many birds.

The situation was rather like the deer parks/king's forests in England, where the king was allowed to hunt and take wood, but the peasants were not. (So far as I know, there was never any equivalent of Robin Hood in Hawaii.) This is of course not very egalitarian, but as Jared Diamond points out...conservation only occurs if it benefits someone. Usually the people in power.

Kapu is actually the same word as tabu. Polynesian *t changed to k in Hawaiian.

Steve Lansing, who figured out why and how Balinese water management worked, was a colleague years ago; he could tell stories of the Balinese practices that captivated. His book, Priests and Programmers, has some of those great stories.

Maybe we're not so dumb. Elinor Ostrom's work on the commons (which won the 2009 Nobel in economics) is based on many hundreds of case studies of successes. Some are resource commons that operated for centuries (e.g., irrigation systems in Spain, forestry commons in Japan). Boulding's quote, "if it exists, it's possible" comes to mind.

As Leanan (citing Diamond) notes above, self-interest matters. But that self-interest can be of the entire group managing the commons. It needn't be only the self-interest of just a small number of elites (although that works too, it seems to have become the dominant story).

BTW Hardin got it wrong. His title was "tragedy of the commons" but what he actually described was the tragedy of "open access." It took decades to clear that error up (although word hasn't gotten out to everyone).


If you think that piece is ridiculous, take a look at the underlying source, the truly comical Breakthrough Journal. I don't think I've seen a more deluded thing (purportedly) outside the prevailing stream of Dem-Rep fantasy peddling.

Postenvironmentalism : false hope is better than no hope and it's a lot easier to implement.

Coming up: the next fancy-fool'em word of the weak*: "Postextinctionalism"

*(sic)= bold new words for this week's weak minded fools of the Earth

We have long been past the point of the planets carrying capacity for our species. This is truly amazing and does reflect on our intelligence. Never before in history have so few been able to feed so many, of the 7 billion of us 1 billion plus do not need to worry about daily survival. Even in the underdeveloped third world countries infant mortality rates are far below the 20% they were in the modern world just 150 years ago. As a result of our genius we have put ourselves into overshoot by a factor of maybe 10. But nobody not religious groups, or right or left wingers or world governments (save one who only gets scorn and ridicule for thier social engineerng experiment) ever suggets that the first place to start on ALL environmental, economic, resource etc. etc. is for us to simply stop having so many children. You are labeled and extremist if you state your carbon footprint drops to zero if you do not exist same with unemployment. There are too many of us here and now, and no green movement/drill baby drill/insert newset buzzword here can fix it. If you read this far I do apologize for stating the obvious.

First rule of holes: When your in one stop digging.

The blenders tax credit of 46 cents per gallon of ethanol was set to expire in 6 days unless that tax break was renewed.
Does snyone know the offical status of this tax credit since congress is finished for 2011?

US Congress adjourns without ethanol tax credit renewal

December 26, 2011

In Washington, the 112th Congress adjourned without renewing the $0.45 VEETC tax credit for blenders of corn ethanol and the $0.54 per gallon tariff on imported ethanol. “With Congress in recess, there are no opportunities for further attempts to prolong the tax credit or the tariff, so we can confidently say these support mechanisms will be gone at the end of 2011,” said the Washington Representative for the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA), Leticia Phillips.

The tax credit and ethanol tariff will both expire. The industry is allowing the VEETC to go without a fight this time, but they don't want to lose the tariff. I suspect we will see that battle continue in 2012.

Are there any Brazilian facilities registered to produce ethanol for the RFS mandate, or is that pretty much just grandfathered American/Canadian at present?

At this point in time, environmental regulations have become sufficiently weird that the US is importing ethanol from Brazil, and then turning around and exporting even more ethanol TO Brazil.

U.S. Importing, Exporting Ethanol To and From Brazil

Flawed carbon accounting schemes at both the federal and state level are creating a dynamic where the U.S. is importing ethanol from Brazil while simultaneously exporting greater volumes back to Brazil. This “ethanol shuffle” is occurring exclusively as the result of state and Federal fuel regulations that “treat Brazilian sugarcane ethanol as if it were the Holy Grail of biofuels,”according to Geoff Cooper, the Renewable Fuels Association’s vice president of research and analysis.

In his recent blog post, “The Ethanol Shuffle,” Cooper explores this convoluted trade relationship and how U.S. policy is turning world ethanol markets upside down.

The heart of the issue is how both the EPA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) are calculating carbon emissions for corn-based ethanol and Brazilian sugar ethanol. Under both the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and the California Low Carbon Fuels Standard (LCFS), the carbon footprint of Brazilian based sugar ethanol is deemed far superior to corn-based ethanol. This results in a growing incentive for imports of ethanol from Brazil to meet increasingly aggressive carbon standards.

At the same time, a struggling Brazilian ethanol industry cannot meet its own domestic demand. As such, Brazilian ethanol producers are finding it more valuable to export their product to America (and the carbon emissions that go with ocean transport) and import growing volumes of U.S. ethanol (and the same carbon emissions).

Totally nuts. Ethanol is ethanol. Some think that the burning of cane fields in Brazil makes cane ethanol more polluting than corn ethanol. In any case the amount of pollution created in the world is not reduced by this nonsense.

Ethanol use in the U.S. is maxed out due to falling gasoline consumption, the blend ceiling and distribution obstacles. Of course some just hate ethanol. That may change as gasoline prices rise.

So for now export is the only option for producers and Brazil is the largest market. Cane ethanol production may appear energy efficient because much of the energy that goes into harvest is human sweat.


Brazilian agriculture is on a tear. This video shows soybean, fruit, ethanol, cayman, and cattle production in Brazil.


If this three stooges meets I love lucy muddle in the importation and exportation of ethanol doesn't suffice to illustrate my philosophical argument for small government well enough for the average reader to get it, I suppose I should give up.

There would be no mic if there were no big government.

There would be no multinational too big to fail banks if there were no big government.

There would be no drug war if there were no big government.

We need a carbon tax-which could be implemented by a smaller government.

We need a banking system composed of banks small enough that the failure of the three or four biggest ones would create no problem.

We need civil liberties rather than a drug based judical / legal/ prison/ cop based industry.

People are allowed to kill themselves with beer and liquor, cigarettes and fast cars, sickening fast foods, prescription mood altering drugs by the drug store full legally dispensed by a medical/ insurance/ regulatory bureaucracy industry made possible by-big government.

Why shouldn't they be able to smoke pot or snort heroin if they have no better sense?

If heroin were legal, it would cost less than beer in a free market.Nobody would get robbed or burgled by an addict, he could work out his habit easier and faster washing dishes.

OF course I understand that small government is not a panacea, but nearly everybody seems to have lost sight of the basic principles of common sense.Nobody will ever look after your affairs so well as you do, personally, if you have good sense.

Our biggest single problem is overpopulation, and we are all going to die anyway.If we had good sense , we would stand aside and allow the darwinian process to do its work in a more gradual fashion , rather than all at once. This would not be sufficient to prevent collapse a of course, but nevertheless it would help the more intelligent ones of us to focus on reality.

This last may be interpreted as sarcasm if the reader so desires.

But most people don't even want to hear the word overpopulation. My wife and I chose to live childfree, and I had a Vasectomy instead of children. We believe humanity will destroy the world in the coming decades and we didn't want our children to have to live in that kind of world their whole lives. I hope we are wrong, OFM.

Well part of the problem is that people think they are going to live forever, and because of that the concept of inheritance and passing down culture has been lost.

I think it's perfectly reasonable for a woman to have, say, 1-2 kids, and for the elderly and society to accept when it's the end of life rather than opt for expensive respirators and unproven treatments.
Then, kids can inherit wealth intact, and not have to worry about supporting the elderly indefinitely.

If people don't have kids, then humanity doesn't have a future anyway, in which case it's not even worth worrying about what happens. It's a catch 22 if there ever was one.

The idea that limiting our own population is absolutely impossible and will never happen is deeply rooted in the culture of this forum.

It seems difficult for some folks here to accept the idea that human behavior does not obey fixed laws in the same way that the physical universe does. The temperature at which water boils at a given atmospheric pressure is the same as it was at the dawn of civilization. Our reproductive and sexual behavior, however, has not been nearly as predictable.

I would rather proceed on the assumption that our entire species is capable of developing a common cultural constraint on our own population. This isn't magical thinking or idealism. It's more like quitting smoking. At one point, something that seemed absolutely necessary for survival seems like it will terminate survival. You throw away the pack, you never pick up another cigarette, and before you know it, all your friends are doing the same thing. 20 years later, you all sit around a coffee shop and wonder, "That was weird. Why were we all doing that? What the hell were we thinking?"

Wow, "the more intelligent ones of us," as if you know for sure that intelligence is being, or would be, selected. How do you know that? You don't know that.

Meanwhile, in order for intelligence to be a Darwinian force in this species, all members of it would have to start from the same beginning conditions. Otherwise, poverty and oppression and other social disadvantages would continue to mask that factor.

P.S. We have big government because we have corporate capitalism, which requires big government in order to keep itself out of permanent Great Depression

to be a Darwinian force in this species, all members of it would have to start from the same beginning conditions.

Not really, we just need a positive statistical correlation btween breeding success, and whatever it is we want to promote. The lower the correlation the longer it will take. We impose such programs (of sorts) on our dependent species (animal and plant), with rather spectacular results. However, we aren't doing it upon ourselves, although I bet some qualities are being selected for and some against, however it is not done according to some plan.

I do believe average intelligence has been improving, due to better conditions, like nutrition, and accumulated knowledge of early childhood education etc. That doesn't imbed itself in the gene pool, but it can have a societal effect. Many claim the substantial decrease in crime we've had the past couple of decades is largely due to the reduction in lead exposure.

Enemy, I think you have a good handle on it. Intelligence did evolve and no one started from the same beginning conditions. Yes early diet can have an effect on intelligence and you are also correct that this does not affect the gene pool. Many psychologists maintain that this is what the Flynn Effect is all about.

But it is likely that the gene pool is being affected in an adverse way. If the brightest among us have fewer children, for social reasons, and those not so bright have the most children, then the overall effect will be... Well I must stop here else I will get politically incorrect. But I am sure you understand.

Ron P.


But it is likely that the gene pool is being affected in an adverse way. If the brightest among us have fewer children, for social reasons, and those not so bright have the most children, then the overall effect will be... Well I must stop here else I will get politically incorrect. But I am sure you understand.

So if we take this to its logical conclusion then any royal/noble famil(y/ies) ought to be full of relatively unintelligent human beings since they many of them have been shielded from natural selection pressure for many more generations than the rest of the population and they have tended to interbreed. Have you noticed a tendency for nobles to be drooling halfwits?

Squilliam, being shielded from natural selection for many generations does not mean we would regress to halfwits. There may be some very slow regression, as in "regression toward the mean" but it would take many generations for any noticeable effect. And even then it would not likely be that great.

Of course interbreeding could have unpredictable consequences. Any characteristic possessed by such a group of people would be amplified by interbreeding. Domestic breeders of dogs or other animals is familiar with this phenomenon. Interbreeding could produce blooming idiots or real genius.

But I must ask the question, if my position about intelligence is incorrect, then what would you think would be correct. Think about it, intelligence would never have evolved if the more intelligent had no survival and/or reproductive advantage over the less intelligent. And if intelligence did not evolve then... well I am not a believer in intelligent design so I believe intelligence did evolve.

Ron P.

I suspect intellegence was largely breed through social selection. Those with certain favored characteristics had better breeding prospects. For example I suspect that selction pressure for intelligence was high during Elizabethan times, if you couldn't make much money you couldn't have surviving kids, and those that did well had many. In most recent welfare states, that dynamic has been turned on its head. But clearly the modern situation looks to be a transitory state of affairs. We know BAU has little future, we just don't know what will replace it.

Social selection is natural selection. The peacock's tail is a serious disadvantage when being chased by predators but the ladies just love it. The peacock with the finest tail gets the highest social standing among the peahens and he gets the most... err... peahens.

I don't disagree with what you say about Elizabethan times. I am not sure how much effect it would have over such a short time span however.

That being said, there is a certain group of people, the Ashkenazi, who have been persecuted for a Couple of millennia and often had to survive by their wits and not much else. The Ashkenazi have earned 27% of the Nobel Prizes awarded to Americans, 25% of ACM Turing Awards, and 26% of the Fields Medals. They account for more than half the world chess champions. They make up 30% of elite-college faculty, 30% of Supreme Court law clerks, and 27% of Ivy Leaguers. And they are two percent of the American population.

But now I am venturing way, way too far into the field of the politically incorrect so I had better just shut up.

Ron P.

The Ashkenazi, are an interesting case. The European jewish experience apparently created some serious evolutionary pressure to increase IQ. So they increased it rather dramatically within a span of a few hundred years. Supposedly there are certain mental health effects also, that they suffer in higher than normal numbers. So I guess the bottom line, is that there was a tradeoff, and (groupwise) they are both beneficiaries and victims of some rapid "evolution". In any case it should be a lesson to those who may want to impose a regime to create rapid evolutionary change, that there could be serious negative health consequences....

Actually, idiocy, madness, and other mental peculiarities are pretty well attested among royal families in the historical record. Mad King George is one example that springs immediately to mind. Whether the madness is generated by the privileged lifestyle (the infantilising and destabilising effects of a life divorced from reality and responsibility) or whether it's due to inbreeding (the Hapsburgs kept marrying their cousins, iirc), who knows. But yes, aristocracy/royalty and madness/imbecility are somewhat correlated, I guess increasingly after the 3rd and 4th generations...

People can survive, reproduce, and even thrive despite "poverty and oppression and other social disadvantages".

I have true optimism in the thought that the human beings who survive the coming crisis WILL EVOLVE beyond our limited intelligence.

I have true optimism in the thought that the human beings who survive the coming crisis WILL EVOLVE beyond our limited intelligence.

Well if that happens I don't see it as a reason to be optimistic. If higher intelligence is selected for then those less intelligent must be selected out. That means the less intelligent would not survive and/or reproduce in large enough numbers to move the average intelligence higher.

Evolution is as much about not surviving as it is about surviving, as much about death as about life. The survival of the fittest means that the unfit does not survive.

Of course for this to happen there would have to be a reason that the most intelligent would survive and the less intelligent would not. And that is exactly what was happening during most of our hunter-gatherer days. Those were very tough times.

Ron P.

that is exactly what was happening during most of our hunter-gatherer days

My point was that those who thrive despite "poverty and oppression and other social disadvantages" are surviving by their wits. They are more likely to continue on when things change dramatically. It is we who (relying on the benefits of our modern wasteful lifestyle) will more likely perish.

It seems as if I am learning how to push the hot buttons-another good discussion.

The basics of inheritance are well established, and only the pc types deny that intelligence is highly influenced by heredity nowadays.

I'm no statistician, but standard practice on the farm is to cull out animals and plants that don't perform up to the desired standard, thereby raising the bar of the average.

It seems to be perfectly obvious to me at least that over any substantial period of time, smarter individuals and parents will prove to be more adept at preserving themselves and their off spring from the risks of day to day life than those gifted with less intellectual horsepower.

It takes only a very small differential in surviving productive off spring to establish or extirpate a given heritable trait within an astonishingly short time frame in biological or evolutionary terms.Flies adapted to DDT in only a few years.

Of course humans breed slowly by comparison and achieving a noticeable effect on average intelligence would take a VERY long time if the variable consists of removing only a relative handful of dimwits at a time.

Furthermore,intelligence and behavior are not too strongly correlated even at the group level..

Nurses for instance are a well educated specific group of people of higher than average intelligence, but a quick look around the premises of any hospital is enough to convince you that most of them don't eat right or exercise, even though their professional training emphasizes both exercise and nutrition.

The basics of inheritance are well established, and only the pc types deny that intelligence is highly influenced by heredity nowadays.

I don't think that's true at all, and pc-ness has nothing to do with it.

The basics of inheritance are still barely tapped into, IMO. Modern genetics is going places that Mendel and Crick and Watson never dreamed of. Is intelligence partly due to heredity? Probably, but they now think there may be thousands of genes that affect it. That makes it dicey to try and breed for.

And how much is based on heredity is also still in question. This article appeared yesterday:

IQ isn't fixed at birth, can increase with education

Even with animals as simple as mice, teasing apart nature and nurture has been difficult. There was a case where lines of mice bred over many generations to be intelligent and unintelligent were tested in a blind test. It turned out that the key factor in their performance was not their genetics, but what the researchers expected of them. The mice labeled "smart" did better than those labeled "dumb," regardless of whether the label matched the genetics - apparently because of unconscious bias on the researchers' part.

It seems to be perfectly obvious to me at least that over any substantial period of time, smarter individuals and parents will prove to be more adept at preserving themselves and their off spring from the risks of day to day life than those gifted with less intellectual horsepower.

I think that only holds if intelligence is independent of all other traits, which likely isn't the case. Some studies have found that intelligence is linked with lower fertility, for example. If that's true, then smarter parents might not outbreed the rest.

In any case, the real issue here seems to be whether the poor and oppressed are smarter because they have survived a more difficult situation, or dumber because their lack of success is indicative of their intelligence. I don't think there's enough evidence to say, one way or another. There is the interesting point that poor immigrants are far more likely to become millionaires than poor born citizens. But that might be due to self-selection - maybe those who actually manage to get here are unusually intelligent, talented, determined, etc.

IQ isn't fixed at birth, can increase with education

Leanan, only a fool would claim that any heritable characteristic is fixed at birth. (Except for physical characteristics of course, and not even all of them.) For instance some are born with a natural talent for music. But if that talent is not practiced and developed it will eventually languish and decline. Likewise natural born intelligence, if not used and practiced, and yes, even improved, will languish and decline. That was never the argument. The argument is: Is intelligence, or high IQ, heritable at all? The answer is quite obviously yes even though it is very politically correct to deny such an obvious fact.

The blank slate myth is alive and well in politically correct circles.

Ron P.


"At birth" is just another of the many delusional stories we tell ourselves.

The moment of birth (although labor often goes on for many hours) is merely one of many spots along the developmental trajectory of a human body. We continue to "develop" even to the moment of death, although the end of days "developments" are oft not welcomed ones.

As part of that overall developmental trajectory, the brain itself is constantly developing and changing.
Intelligence should be seen as a constantly unfolding process rather than one whose parameters are fixed "at birth".

Why, just by reading this, someone's brain out there just "developed" a new understanding of the "real story".

Step back, of course we continually develop our mental ability over the course of our lifetime. But that completely misses the point. Here is the question: Are some people born with the capacity to develop higher intelligence than others? Or to put it another way: Did Einstein or Newton have an innate advantage over the average person born around the same time and experienced approximately the same environment? Or to put it into plain language, is the ability for higher intelligence genetic?

The very obvious answer is yes.

That is what the debate is all about and that is my answer. But if you think different then you believe in the tabula rasa theory. In English that translates into "Blank Slate".

And to be absolutely clear, I am not telling myself any delusional stories about anything. I have been studying this subject for about forty years and am well familiar with every side of the subject.

One more very important point: The term "at birth" should be changed to "at conception". Our prenatal environment can dramatically change who we are but our genetic code is set at conception. That cannot be changed.

Ron P.

The argument is: Is intelligence, or high IQ, heritable at all? The answer is quite obviously yes even though it is very politically correct to deny such an obvious fact.

I don't think that's the argument. It's not whether it's heritable at all, it's how important a factor heredity is vs. environment. For example, if only 2% is due to heredity...who cares? It's just not enough to make a difference.

There's also the question of what, exactly, we're measuring with intelligence tests, and whether they really predict success. Is intelligence the most important predictor of reproductive success? I think the jury's out, but I'm inclined to think no. That is, it's far from the most important factor.

When a man goes looking for a mate, does he head straight for the nerd wearing thick glasses with her nose buried in a book, or is he more interested in the hot cheerleader? When a woman looks for a mate, is the physics professor more desirable than the baseball star or the multimillionaire? Either a lot of people are acting against their own self-interest, or intelligence is just not that big a factor in reproductive success.

I doubt seriously that 98% of Einstein's or Newton's intelligence came from their schooling. I have seen estimates that intelligence is 60% heritable but there is no accurate way to measure it.

Intelligence is not the best predictor of success. There are many other things involved like how much money does your family have.

Our intelligence evolved mostly during our hunter-gatherer days. There were no nerds wearing glasses in those days. The man who could provide the most meat won the most favors from the women of the tribe. Intelligence obviously made a difference in that task else it simply would have not evolved.

That is the very most important thing to remember: Intelligence Evolved, else we would be no smarter than the apes we evolved from. No characteristic can evolve unless there is variation. And that is the point of contention, is there natural genetic variation in the intelligence of human beings? If the answer is no then intelligence must have been implanted in each person... equally... by the hand of God.

Ron P.


I suspect that we less intelligent mortals (less intelligent than Einstein or Newton) use ridiculous noise words like "intelligence" to represent a much more complex set of neuro-biological processes.

I'll agree with you that DNA probably sets a fuzzy upper limit (initial boundary condition) on what type of cognitions a given critter (human or otherwise) is going to be capable of having with all other factors being equal.

In other words, Tarzan's Cheetah would probably never advance to the capability level of doing Laplace transforms (a method of solving certain linear differential equations) whereas Web Hubble Telescope's 5 year old son probably solves them with ease on the back of his Happy Meals napkin during lunch hour.

But so many other things can happen in the development trajectory of an Einstein-equivalent brain, like exposure to mercury, lead or other neuro toxins; or exposure to cultural programming.

I suspect all of us have been exposed to one degree or another in this more modern world of ours.
That probably explains the state of our Idiocracy.

Step back, so you think "intelligence" is a ridiculous noise word. Understand that we must use some word, or some term to describe this "complex set of neuro-biological processes" as you call it. What word would you substitute? How about g factor?

The g factor, where g stands for general intelligence, is a statistic used in psychometrics to model the mental ability underlying results of various tests of cognitive ability. Developed in 1904 by psychologist Charles Spearman to account for imperfect correlations in IQ tests, this model is considered the first theory of intelligence.

But that just means "general intelligence" so we are still left with something many people seem to dislike immensely. I simply cannot understand why. And for sure we are not talking about any kind of "upper limit". We are talking about the general cognitive ability. And if we believe in evolution, and if one also believes that general cognitive ability evolved from the our ape ancestors to where we are today, then we must believe that there is variation in the general cognitive ability among individuals. Variation is the driving force of evolution because without it evolution is impossible.

But for some reason many people, even though they believe in evolution, cannot believe that there is any heritable difference in general cognitive ability between people. In other words they simply cannot believe in the very thing that made the evolution of general cognitive ability, from apes to humans, possible.

Yes I have met many people who believe in two totally contradictory principles at the same time. But still it always baffles me. But there are others who believe that there is a great and heritable variation in general cognitive ability but just cannot bring themselves to admit it.

Ron P.


I fear that perhaps, you can't Paint with all the Colors of Wind

or hear the blue corn moon cry.

There are many forms of cognition and levels of intelligence.

Very poetic Step Back, but people who score high on one type of test also tend to score high on most others. Ditto for those that score lower.

What you are trying to do is say "actually we are all equal, that some are smart in one area but dumb in others... and vise versa." Well if there were some great power in the sky dictating that if all types of intelligence in all people must be equal when summed then that might be the case. I don't believe that there is any such big guy in the sky dictating any such thing.

Therefore I must believe that there is such a thing as general cognitive ability and this ability is not equal in all people.

Not very poetic I know but like it or not that's just the way it is. Life is horribly unfair and you cannot make it fair by simply believing that it is.

Step Back, I am a bleeding heart liberal. If believing life was fair would make it fair then I would believe it with all my heart. But believing it just don't make it so. I desperately want life to be fair. I desperately want every child to have every opportunity to have a good and fruitful life. They don't and I can't make it so.

Ron P.

See The Woman Who Thinks Like a Cow

I'm not grocking what you mean about the "fairness" thing.
Where did that come in from?

I'm merely saying that "intelligence" is a multifaceted thing (many different kinds of intelligences)

How is your intelligence in grocking what reflected ultrasonic pulses mean? Bats and dolphins are pretty good in that area of "intelligence". Me? I'm really really dumb in that area of cognitive "abilities". So who is more "intelligent"? Me or a blind-as-a-bat bat?

Step Back, your posts all seem to want to deny that some people are just smarter than others. You seem to want to find ways to say that, when all types of intelligence is considered, we are all equal. Well if life were fair than that's just how it would be. But life is not fair and no two people on earth are equal. That is no two people on earth have an equal chance at success, or have an equal chance of living a rich full life, or no two people on earth are equal in cognitive abilities. That ain't fair, that's just the way it is.

Now you compare us with bats and dolphins. The ability to use sonar, or air sound reflection as bats do, is a Darwinian adaptation and has nothing to do with intelligence, just as a dog's sense of smell is not a form of intelligence.

You are trying desperately to make all humans equal. And now you are trying to make all animals equal in cognitive ability to the human animal. That just ain't the case.

Sorry about that.

Ron P.

Step Back, your posts all seem to want to ...

Sorry Ron, I don't know what to make of your comments.
One possibility is that you are simply toying with me.
Another is that you sincerely believe my posts "want to" say things I never said.

I was never arguing that all people are of equal "intelligence" (assuming that thing can be measured, for example by an IQ test).

What I was instead arguing is that "intelligence" is a complex and multi-faceted thing. A single word (or other sound bite) does not do justice to what "intelligence" is is.

Go in peace.

Sorry if I misinterpreted your posts. It is just that it has been my experience that many people deny differences in levels of intelligence by claiming that there are different kinds of intelligence. And those who were deficient in one type made it up in another. Therefore all humans were equal in intelligence.

If you do not make that claim then then obviously you are not in that camp. Most psychologist argue that there is a g factor or general intelligence level that can be measured with a bank of many tests. And the sum of all those tests give the person's IQ or general intelligence level. I agree with them. And since you argued that there were different kinds of intelligence I just assumed that you did not. Sorry.

Go in peace.

Ron P.

you sincerely believe my posts "want to" say things I never said.

I get that all the time. I am wondering if a person who doesn't believe in god, can believe he or she is god

Press on a watermelon seed and see what happens: it gets slipery.

"Are there any Brazilian facilities registered to produce ethanol for the RFS mandate, or is that pretty much just grandfathered American/Canadian at present?"

I have just finished off the ethanol chapter in my book, and I covered these issues in some depth. RockyMtnGuy did a good job of highlighting the key issue above. In a nutshell, since sugarcane ethanol is treated as an advanced biofuel, there is significant demand for those imports even as we export corn ethanol. We also import sugarcane ethanol from Brazil here in Hawaii; it is just much cheaper than shipping corn ethanol from the mainland.

The long-cited justification for the tariff was always to keep foreign producers from collecting the VEETC, but since that is expiring that justification is gone. But I still expect them to push to have the tariff reinstated in 2012.

What do you think the odds are on reinstating the tariff? I'd guess it's impossible to predict, but what is your take--that with the credit over, the tariff will be reinstated as a nod to the industry?

I won't be surprised if it is reinstated. I am certain there will at least be an attempt. Which to me is ludicrous; we don't have a tariff on imported oil but we do on imported ethanol.

Shipping ethanol from Brazil, on the other side of the Americas is cheaper than ethanol from the west coast USA? I find that amazing!


Shipping from the West Coast to Hawaii is the cheap part. Moving ethanol from the Midwest (Iowa, Nebraska, Illinois, South Dakota, Indiana are the big producers) to the West Coast by rail (or, God help us, by truck) is the expensive part.

I am curious if any one here has a strong opinion as to the overall level of OPEC exports in 2012 as Libya recovers increases its exports. My opinion is that they will maintain their export levels the same in the first half of 2012 (of course assuming the next Arab Spring doesn't show up).

Right now, in latest three weeks of December, OPEC members have cut exports just about exactly equal to the increase in Libya's oil exports. As far as I can determine, Libya is exporting 700,000 bpd right now and plans to increase that amount by another 600,000 bpd by mid-2012. That is roughly an increase of about 100,000 bpd per month, although the rate of gain will be faster early in 2012 and slower later on. I don't think Libya will meet its entire output goal, and even if so, probably not by mid-year. But assuming that they do, I still expect other OPEC members to ship less exports to balance out any gains from Libya.

My reasons are as follows: 1) the recent OPEC agreement establishes an overall production limitation (although export amounts are not mentioned) 2) OPEC still faces depletion of existing fields, not keeping up with new fields coming on line 3) internal usage is growing 3) they don't want to allow Iran to increase its exports (whether or not that is possible) and may want their exports reduced due to international pressure 4) they want to maintain high prices (although not high enough to push the US into recession) to pay for social programs and head off the next Arab Spring.

Charles, everything is just a guess of course. But I expect all OPEC nations to continue to produce flat out 1n 2012. So their exports will up by the amount of Libyan increased exports but down by increased internal consumption plus down by the amount of depletion. So, I expect OPEC exports to be between flat and down slightly in 2012.

Ron P.

Odds that one or more OPEC exporters experience serious political instability in 2012 and that exports decline slightly overall is pretty high in my knee jerk opinion.

Good points, Darwinian and benamery21.

I am particularly interested in the change of the level of OPEC exports as they have a close relationship to the change in the amount of US oil imports - for various reasons which I have described in some detail during 2011 (those reasons being chiefly OPEC has shifted more exports 'East' and the lower US price for oil vs. the rest of the world has resulted in the US being 'outbid' for supplies, whether intentional or not).

So any disruptions in the level of OPEC exports could have a fairly immediate - and negative - impact on the US economy.

A re-ignition of Arab Spring in Algeria, a failure of the Libyan transition, a failure of the standalone Iraqi shared government, a confrontation between Iran and the West, a succession leading to a change in production strategy in KSA or succession problems in KSA or a confrontation of KSA with the international community over more dramatic violence in Bahrain, spillover of problems in Syria, Iraq, and Egypt to KSA or Kuwait or Iran (or power struggle between Iran and KSA), escalation of sectarian conflict in Nigeria, etc.

Any one of these negative events could cause significant drops in OPEC output, with other members unable to pick up the slack.

Might be a whole new kind of "Arab Spring" next year as Syria moves into all-out civil war. And as al-Maliki tries to tighten his grip on Iraq. He is a Shiite and the now powerless Sunnis, and the Kurds, won't stand still for it. Won't be surprised to see Iraq split apart this coming year as they reject the gift of democracy that we worked so hard to give them. All with consequences for oil output.

Had dinner with some friends who are Orig. from Baghdad, heard some interesting thoughts on Al Maliki and his lip service towards Democracy, and his quick removal of a Sunni deputy, as soon as the US troops were out.. he didn't expect that regime to hold. Also of the nature of that city, which was multicultural and 24-hour to its core. They would have Eid with their Muslim kin, and Christmas with their Christian Neighbors, and Hanukah with their Jewish Neighbors.. you could go into a mosque and pray Christian style, and not raise an eyebrow, it was a commonplace thing.. Sounds like a place I would have liked (in the 70s anyhow)

I didn't know that about Baghdad back then (but of course I've never known anything about the city and have never visited that part of the world). But the city back then sounds Like a fascinating mix of cultures. But It makes me want to just scream in frustration when peoples who have been living in close proximity and reasonably harmoniously turn around and take up guns and start killing and mistreating each other. Humans can do some wonderful things, but the stupidity and cruelty we are capable of never ceases to astound me.

We were comparing Baghdad with New Orleans, as cities with rich and deep cultures and character to them, and what are the odds that such a place can regrow its inherent 'nature' after it has been so deeply hit.

Of course, noone really knows the answer. (Except perhaps some posters here, who might Know that they Know.. whether or not it's so.. ) But I love a good city with a deep soul.. and culture is sometimes like bamboo, and is very hard to wipe out the deep roots and lifeforce.

Brazil economy overtakes UK, says CEBR

Brazil has overtaken the UK as the world's sixth largest economy, an economic research group has said.

The Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) said its latest World Economic League Table showed Asian countries moving up and European countries falling back.

The CEBR also predicted that the UK economy would overtake France by 2016.

It also said the eurozone economy would shrink 0.6% in 2012 "if the euro problem is solved", or 2% if it is not.

CEBR chief executive Douglas McWilliams told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that Brazil overtaking the UK was part of a growing trend.

"I think it's part of the big economic change, where not only are we seeing a shift from the west to the east, but we're also seeing that countries that produce vital commodities - food and energy and things like that - are doing very well and they're gradually climbing up the economic league table," he said.

It also predicted that by 2020, the current 4th and 5th place countries, Germany and France, would be replaced by Russia at #4 and India at #5. Brazil would stay at #6, Germany would move down to #7, the UK would move down to #8, France would move down to #9, and Italy to #10. The US, China, and Japan would continue to have the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd largest economies in the world.

By 2020, all of the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) would have bigger economies than any of the Western European countries.

While not mentioned in the above link, Brazil has only managed to improve its economy by importing more gasoline (see below), diesel, ethanol (see further above) and even oil during 2011:

Petrobras’ fuel imports at peak
December 11, 2011

SAO PAULO: Petrobras is importing more gasoline than ever to keep Brazilian filling stations from running dry, its supply director said, a far cry from 2009 when the state-run oil company was a net exporter of the fuel.

Petrobras, which exported 100,000 barrels per day (bpd) two years ago, has been active this month in the European and US Gulf coast fuel markets, buying a record 70,000 barrels per day , Supply Director Paulo Roberto Costa told Reuters.


I can't provide a link on their recent oil imports, but according to shipping sources last week, Brazil will increase its oil imports for delivery in January.

Or in other words, Brazil ironically needs more oil imports now to develop those deep sea, pre-salt oil fields for future oil exports.

The web site for 'Mish', well known for his deflation and depression predictions, seizes upon the CEBR report - but it's not clear where he gets his 'facts' about oil and ethanol in Brazil:

Is Brazil Fundamentally Different?

This reminds me of forecasts that China will soon overtake the US. China won't and energy is the reason. Is Brazil fundamentally different?

Please consider the American Thinker article Import Brazil's Oil Policy, Not Brazil's Oil

In 1980, Brazil imported 77 percent of its oil. Now it imports 0.0 percent. During that same time period, America increased its oil imports from roughly 30 percent to 70 percent. If Brazil can become completely self-sufficient in oil, why can't America start becoming more self-sufficient?

To answer the question, Brazil can produce relatively cheap energy from sugar cane, something that cannot be said about ethanol from corn.

Fundamentally, if Brazil can produce ethanol cheaper than the US, then the US should indeed import Brazilian ethanol, contrary to the opinion expressed by American Thinker. Furthermore, the US certainly can and should end agricultural tariffs that drive up the price of corn and ethanol.


I am mostly not against what he says about the value of US ethanol, but where did he and others get the idea that Brazil is self sufficient in oil and oil products - when even the Brazil government recently reported that oil/oil products imports (grouped together) are up 23% so far this year?

Brazil's oil imports, while small, are increasing. For example, the very large tanker HAWTAH reaches Ras Tanura on Janaury 3, and is being hired to transport oil to Brazil by Petrobras, leaving Saudi Arabia on January 5. There are other examples, this is just the most recent.


Dec 13, 2011
Brazil’s crude and oil product imports rose 23 percent this year, the trade ministry said.


Dec 23, 2011
A diesel shortage in Brazil as refining capacity fails to keep pace with growing industrial demand is expected to boost the country's imports of the fuel from Asia and the Middle East for the next two years.


This is a general question to the people following the data out there(Westexas, Darwinian, perhaps other's too. Anyone can join)...

Basically, I am under the impression that the oil depletion is around 3.5 mb/d in the world. This is lost forever and must be replaced with new sources. But what's going online is aroun 1.5 to 2.0 mb/d if I am correct each year(again, shaky numbers which I heard in a recent Skrebowski interview).

My question is, oil in all it's forms stand stagnant at 82 mb/d(counting all oil liquids) and crude oil has basically gently declined since 2006(but is still basically at the same level in the larger context of things), and total liquids(including biofuels and other liquids) production is standing at around 89 mb/d right now, what's holding back the production decline?

I mean, looking at the discoveries in the last 20 years is pretty humbling compared to what we saw in the 40s, 50s, 60s and to some extent the 70s. Kazakhstan could produce around 3.5 mb/d in 2015 if all goes well. Libya can go to 3 mb/d or so, Iraq could in theory get to 10 mb/d but most likely will struggle with anything above 6 mb/d even if we do not get a sectarian conflict.

Saudi Arabia is essentially very close to their limits. Maybe they can get to 11 mb/d in the best case scenario, but probably not further. The same is true for Russia. America might get a few mb/d extra from shale oil.

So you'd think "well all these new production places will come online", but what happens to the oil depletion? Shouldn't it cancel out all the new production coming on and more? The obvious question may seem 'well, yes', but if that's the case shouldn't it have done so since a few years back already, instead we see a stagnation in crude oil production(essentially) and ever-higher total liquids production.

Can someone explain to me the nitty gritty parts of oil depletion and why it hasn't had a much bigger effect yet?


First, it helps to clarify some terms. Depletion is a one way street. Think of a bottle full of water. You can pour the water out at different rates (increasing, stable, or decreasing), but the volume of water in the bottle is always decreasing; it is always depleting. Incidentally, the faster that one pours the water out of the bottle, i.e., the higher the production rate, the higher the depletion rate.

In oil terms, with annual global C+C production of about 74 mbpd, or about 27 Gb/year, this crude oil is gone forever. Depletion marches on.

Regarding global production rates, five annual "Gap" charts follow, showing the gaps between where we would have been at the 2002 to 2005 rates of increase, versus the actual data in 2010 (common vertical scale):

EIA Total Liquids (including biofuels):

BP Total Petroleum Liquids:

EIA Crude + Condensate:

Global Net Oil Exports (GNE, BP & Minor EIA data, Total Petroleum Liquids):

Available Net Exports (GNE less Chindia’s net imports):

I would particularly note the difference between the first chart, total liquids (showing a +0.5%/year rate of change from 2005 to 2010), and the last chart, Available Net Exports (ANE), showing a -2.8%/year rate of change from 2005 to 2010. I estimate that the ANE decline rate will accelerate to between 5%/year and 8%/year from 2010 to 2020.

Regarding the overall decline rate from existing fields, which I what I think that you are focused on, ExxonMobil put the global decline rate from existing wellbores in the 4% to 6% range. So, focusing on crude oil, existing wellbores would seem to be declining at about 3.0 mbpd to 4.5 mbpd per year. New fields, new wellbores, enhanced recovery techniques, etc. have so far replaced the production lost from older fields since 2005, but the global industry has not shown any material increase in global crude oil production. In other words, all of the money spent globally in the past six years has served to keep global crude oil production flat (this is in marked contrast to the 2002 to 2005 pattern, as shown above on the C+C chart).

But as noted above, the GNE & ANE (total petroleum liquids) declines continue, and I suspect that the GNE & ANE declines rates will accelerate.


Great charts, they tell a pretty clear story.

Please keep 'em coming!

When gasoline prices in the U.S> head back up North of 4 bucks a gallon and stay there/keep rising, more of the general public will be interested in these carts, as we currently are.

I gotta wonder what the top dogs in the EIA/DOE/EIEEO amd the Presidents/other World leaders really know/think they know, behind closed doors.

This chart shows some net export decline case histories for the "Export Land" Model, for the UK, for Indonesia and for Egypt:

Post-Peak Cumulative Net Exports (CNE) would be the total "fuel tank" that these exporting countries have to (net) export, after a final production peak. Note that the "fuel tanks" tend to be about half depleted about one-third of the way into the net export decline periods. For these net export decline case histories, the initial depletion rate, the rate at which post-peak CNE are being depleted, tends to exceed the initial rate of decline in net exports.

Leiten – And to add a bit of non-quantitative color to westexas’ great body of work: there are two general rates of depletion in the world IMHO. And I suspect the contrast between them will become even greater as we stumble down the PO path. The US decline rate is heavily impacted by the combination of private mineral rights and the efforts of the SIP’s (small independent producers). OTOH most of the rest of the globe is dominated by govt ownership of mineral rights and the NOC’s/ MOC’s (Major Oil Companies).

The average US oil well produces less than 10 bopd thanks in large part to the SIP’s. Those wells represent small fields the SIP’s developed and wells in larger fields that the MOC’s divested because they couldn’t be maintained efficiently as they declined to low flow rates. Had the SIP’s not played their role the historic US decline rate would be much higher IMHO. Just my WAG but perhaps as much 50% or more of our current production (remember we are the 3rd largest oil producer on the planet) wouldn’t exist.

Regardless of the amount of oil remaining in the rest of the planets existing oil fields, it’s not difficult to imagine they won’t see life extending to the level US production has. I know of many US wells that are producing today because a SIP is netting less than $3.00/day from each of his wells. Difficult to imagine ARAMCO or BP maintaining such wells. Again, I won’t offer some made up meatball number in an effort to quantify the difference but common sense would seem to dictate that the eventual average production rate of the rest of the world’s oil wells will never approach the level we have in the US. And that would equate to all those wells being plugged and abandoned (the definitive moment in a well’s depletion profile) much sooner than many might project. Probably won’t be a “cliff’ but could be a much accelerated decline rate compared to current models.

Over Christmas I had the opportunity to drive through the Permian Basin area, going West on I20. About half of the dinker wells operated by those SIPs were idled in any given field, which I suppose is to allow the oil to concentrate enough to pump for a few days/weeks, and then go idle again. Even the wind farms were less than 75% active at the time. Of course demand was low, but it was interesting to observe.

The pace, which I have commented on in the past, is quite leisurely, and well suited to a future of low expectations. A future where, maybe, big is not always such a benefit, there are fewer ARAMCOs and BPs, and more there are more and better small communities.

This would be in accord with a well paced contraction/melt down, ala Greer. Sure hope things go smoothly; not for me, but my grandchildren will have to deal with the worst of it. I will be well past doing or caring by then.


Oil wells commonly have pump-off controllers which shut off the pump for periods which are determined by a timer. Rather than having the pump running all the time and wasting energy, they shut it off and allow oil to accumulate in the wellbore, and then start it up and allow the accumulated oil to be pumped out. They adjust the timers to optimize this process based on the characteristics and depletion of the well.

So, when you see a well sitting idle, it may not actually be idle. It's just resting until it starts up again.

If it was a high production well, they wouldn't need a pump-off controller, but high production wells are rather rare in the US nowadays.

Incidentally, regarding the ELM, note that the specified production decline rate is 5%/year. Given that the post-peak CNE supply is down by 60% three years after the production peak, the CNE depletion rate over the first three years is 31%/year, versus a production decline rate of 5%/year and a net export decline rate of 15%/year.

In other words, at the end of Peak + Three Years for "Export Land":

Production declined at 5%/year (down 14% from the peak);

Net Exports declined at 15%/year (down 36% from the peak);

But post-peak CNE, the post-peak net export "fuel tank," declined at 31%/year (down 60% from the peak).

Therefore, over the initial three year decline, the net export "fuel tank" was declining at a rate six times faster than the observed rate of decline in production, and twice the rate that the volume of net exports was falling. This the key problem. Not only is almost no one focusing on the ongoing decline is GNE and ANE, mathematically, the post-2005 CNE (for both GNE & ANE) depletion rate almost certainly is exceeding the GNE & ANE decline rates. We are consuming our remaining supply of post-2005 global net exports at a rate faster than the (so far) relatively slow decline in GNE & ANE (actually not so slow for ANE). And virtually no one is paying any attention.

If we extrapolate the 2005 to 2010 data, the post-2005 CNE depletion rate for ANE (which we could call CANE, or Cumulative Available Net Exports) is now on the order of about 9%/year, versus a 2005 to 2010 rate of decline of 2.8%/year in ANE. In other words, the remaining post-2005 supply of cumulative net exports available to importers other than China & India (CANE) may be falling at a rate about three times higher than the rate of actual rate of decline in ANE.

To add to WT's fine comments I must add that your expectations of some producers are way beyond all reason.

Kazakhstan could produce around 3.5 mb/d in 2015 if all goes well.

Not even close. Kazakhstan is currently producing about 1.55 mb/d and except for Kashagan has peaked. Kashagan Phase 2 comes on line in 2019. That is a long way off. And even then both Phase 1 an Phase 2 combined will only add 1 mb/d to production at best. That would bring Kazakhstan to 2.5 mb/d at most. But their old fields will by then be in steep decline. I doubt that they will reach that figure. But by 2015 they will still be producing well under 2 mb/d.

Libya can go to 3 mb/d or so,

I have no idea where you got that figure. Libya peaked at 3.3 mb/d in 1970. Before the revolution their production had declined to about 1.5 mb/d. There is just no way under the sun that they are going to more than double their pre-revolution production in just three years. In fact by 2015 they will likely be down to about 1.3 mb/d. Wikipedia Megaprojects gives them almost nothing coming down the pike.

Iraq could in theory get to 10 mb/d but most likely will struggle with anything above 6 mb/d even if we do not get a sectarian conflict.

I would say Iraq could eventually go to 4 or 5 mb/d at most. Of course that is just a guess but all reports two years ago had them at 5 to 6 mb/d by the end of 2011. They are at less than half that today and nothing is happening very fast.

Russia is at her peak. Even the EIA says Russia has peaked. They could produce one or two thousand barrels per day more than right now but that is unlikely. Russia will be in decline, producing about .5 to 1 mb/d less than they are today in 2015.

I am not predicting what production will be in 2015 except that it will be less than what it is today. With Russia, the world's largest producer peaking, and all the other problems, I expect the decline to begin by mid 2012 or 2013 at the latest. That is my guess anyway. And that's all it is, a guess. But I consider it an educated guess.

Ron P.

But what's going online is aroun 1.5 to 2.0 mb/d if I am correct each year(again, shaky numbers which I heard in a recent Skrebowski interview).

There's the rub. The mega projects approach ignores the not-so-mega projects.

Westex touches on it here:

New fields, new wellbores, enhanced recovery techniques, etc. have so far replaced the production lost from older fields since 2005, but the global industry has not shown any material increase in global crude oil production.

al-Husseini clarifies it here:

Saudi Aramco drilling-rigs count to jump 12% in 2012

The oil drilling is mainly to “replace capacity declines that result from ongoing production” and “will not add new capacity, except for the Manifa drilling,” al-Husseini said.


Summary: Decline ~ mega projects + not-so-mega projects

$100 oil has the aforementioned not-so-mega projects coming out of the woodwork.

That may be what Rockman is saying in a round about way(he will have to interpret).

Ban – I’ll make a simple model I can’t back up but it’s only a model…not a prediction. Consider 50,000 wells producing 50 bopd each. In the US the SIP’s will keep them producing at least down to 10 bopd. Now consider those 50,000 wells being operated by an NOC that stops maintaining them at 50 bopd: just not enough infrastructure/personnel to handle the work. Not unreasonable when you consider how the MOC’s walked away from such wells in the US. The difference? The world loses 2.5 million bopd. But what if the NOC walked at 500 bopd? The world lose 25 million bopd? I have no idea what the threshold would be other than somewhere well north of 10 bopd.

So what are the real numbers? In 2009 there were 368,000 producing US oil wells.


Almost 80% (286,000) of those wells were producing 10 bopd or less. But 97% of our wells were producing 50 bopd or less and yielding 620 million bo/year. If those wells had been abandoned at 50 bopd we would have lost 38% of our current US oil production.

How many oil wells are there outside the US? Couldn’t find what I felt was a reliable number but maybe around 140,000.


And how old are many of those wells? From the same source: global oil supply is 70% from pre-1972 wells. So the majority of global oil production is coming from wells much closer to their MOL than their prime. But when will we see those wells being abandoned? No idea other than much earlier than they would be if they were being operated by SIP’s and not NOC’s/MOC’s IMHO.

I think that's a very critical factor no one has offered when discussing global decline rates: the MOL (minimum operating level). I suspect most assume (without knowing it) that the non-US wells will be produced down to the level our SIP’s have done. IMHO that could be a significant blind spot. How big? Don’t have a WAG…but I suspect big.

You seem to be saying that different companies have different economic limits. Do you agree that $100 oil has not-so-mega projects coming out of the woodwork ?

I am refering here to not-so-mega projects such as the Bakken and Eagle Ford Shales and other unconventional hz oil plays which don't show up in the mega projects because each well is a not-so-mega project.

I am also refering to the not-so-mega projects such as Anadarco's CO2 project at Salt Creek, or Devon's Beaver Creek project, both in WY, to name two.

I don't see any of these in the mega projects list.

ban - Not so much economic limits but limited ability to apply efforts to smaller cash flow projects. But there is another major factor supporting your "not-so-mega project development: public companies near manic obsession with adding reserves to their books. And I don't say that for dramatic effect: I've seen such extreme levels of anxiety in pubcos first hand. Some folks may think it's based on a desire by management to bump their bonuses up. In most cases it's a matter of not getting run off. For every hour I've spent in meetings discussing profit margins I've spent 5 hours discussing how to up the booked reserve count. And often with little or no concern over profitability.

I'll say it again very clearly: even if every resource well just returned the capex spent to put it into production the pubcos would still be drilling as fast as possible IMHO. The profit is there but it's realized in the stock price movement and not the cash flow. Which isn't to say the current plays aren't generating profitable cash flows but that the activity isn't proportional to the rate of return. But it can lead to what appears to be extreme illogical situations. I'll mention it again if you haven't seen it: as a consultant I once drilled four horizontal wells that actually decreased this pubco's net present value and knew that it would do so. But Wall Street didn't care about that metric. What got them excited was that I increased companywide production rate by 400%. And as a reward WS ran our stock up over 300% almost overnight. Management was happy, employees were happy, the WS brokers who collected their fees were very happy, and I was very happy since I got a nice bonus for intentionally drilling wells that lost money for the company.

That's been the basis for so many debates over the viability of the resource plays. On a purely rate of return basis many don't see them as significant long term contributors. But on the other side of the argument is the rig count and flattening of the US oil decline rate. To a fair degree both sides of the argument are correct. And both incorrect to a degree. Petrohawk shareholders could care less how small the ROR will be of their Eagleford wells they drilled: they cashed out for $12 billion. OTOH the new owners have to continue drilling to offset the high decline rates of their new wells. How does one confidently project the gains from projects when their economic viability hinges on such dynamics? ROR metrics appear to diminish their potential yet the effort for pubcos to satisfy WS won't be denied either. Not quite as bad as a true Ponzi scheme but it does share some of the traits. It works adequately...until it stops working. And when will that happen? There's the real question IMHO. And I personally have no freaking idea.

I am not making the claim that all these not-so-mega projects(NSMP) are economical. Some are.

I am not making the claim that all these NSMP's(+mega projects) will continue to offset decline. NSMP's (+mega projects) could more than offset decline, also.

They certainly can. But once you offset decline you open the door to steady increasing production. And once you begin increasing production...again...you run the risk of repeaking the entire region/country whatever. And you will almost never see any accounting of these reversals in peak oil predictions. If you did, this wouldn't be a surprise.


ban - Given all the future unknowns you could be correct about the offset. But given the high decline rates of the resource plays it will require a constant development of those plays. And that's diffficult to predict with much certainty IMHO. But even if the pubcos keep pushing, all plays are eventually drilled up. They could push US production flat (bumpy plateau) for some time. But globally I doubt their impact will be noticable. Maybe in the rear view mirror we'll see that the mega projects had a similar impact on stablinzing global decline to some degree. But there's still ELM working against maintaining oil exports at current capabilities.

Just no very confident future model out there IMHO. Too many what-ifs.

Just no very confident future model out there IMHO.

But have you considered the Wise Men of Gotham Model ?

The wise men of Gotham were reportedly so smart, so intelligent, so quick and with such reasoning powers they derived equations. One was this complicated monstrosity:

C = a + b

This complex math was also necessary to the development of ELM.

Anyhow, the Wise Men of Gotham Model or simply WGM, alternately FOG(Fools of Gotham), holds that something is equal to something plus something else. In this case C is worldwide oil production decline, assumed constant for the history phase. a is mega projects additions during this history and b is not-so-mega project additions derived historically. The equation can be altered such that b is a function of a [b = f(a)]. a is available from the Oil Mega Projects and b is derived from b=af(a)on a historical basis. a and b can be tabulated and short term forecast(s) extrapolated therefrom.

Some background:

Wise Men of Gotham

The story is that King John intended to live in the neighbourhood, but that the villagers, foreseeing ruin as the cost of supporting the court, feigned imbecility when the royal messengers arrived. Wherever the latter went, they saw the rustics engaged in some absurd task. John, on this report, determined to have his hunting lodge elsewhere,

King John's messengers "found some of the inhabitants engaged in endeavouring to drown an eel in a pool of water; some were employed in dragging carts upon a large barn, to shade the wood from the sun; others were tumbling their cheeses down a hill, that they might find their way to Nottingham for sale; and some were employed in hedging in a cuckoo which had perched upon an old bush which stood where the present one now stands; in short, they were all employed in some foolish way or other which convinced the king's servants that it was a village of fools, whence arose the old adage, "The wise men," or "The fools of Gotham."


Summary: Decline ~ mega projects + not-so-mega projects.

No, you are laboring under a false assumption. You assume that these are small projects, or small fields not large enough to be considered mega projects. No, that is not the case at all. This is infield drilling in order to keep the decline rate to a minimum.

Saudi Arabia's Strategic Energy Initiative: Safeguarding Against Supply Disruptions

Without "maintaining potential" drilling to make up for production, Saudi oil fields would have a natural decline rate of a hypothetical 8%. As Saudi Aramco has an extensive drilling program with a budget running in the billions of dollars, this decline is mitigated to a number close to 2%.

In other words existing wells are declining at an average rate of 8 percent but they just drill a lot more wells and get the total decline rate down to almost 2 percent. This will decrease the decline rate but will increase the depletion rate. They are just sucking what's left out at a higher rate. Sooner or later they will hit a cliff. This was posted in 2006 but they started this program of infield drilling with new horizontal wells over ten years ago. They are no doubt close to the cliff today.

Ron P.

No, you are laboring under a false assumption.

I think you are laboring under the false assumption that there are no projects offsetting decline except mega projects. I cited a few examples above.

In other words existing wells are declining at an average rate of 8 percent but they just drill a lot more wells and get the total decline rate down to almost 2 percent. This will decrease the decline rate but will increase the depletion rate.

So what ? Leiten was refering to production rate, and my equation is too. You seem to be fretting over something besides what the equation says.

No, I fully realize that there are many smaller fields being found around the world that are not megaprojects. What I was responding to was this quote you placed in your post by al-Husseini:

The oil drilling is mainly to “replace capacity declines that result from ongoing production” and “will not add new capacity, except for the Manifa drilling,” al-Husseini said.

You assumed that al-Husseini was talking about opening new smaller fields, or mini projects if you will. You are wrong, he was not, he was referring to new infield drilling in very old fields, getting their decline rate from an average of 8 percent to almost 2 percent as explained in the link I posted. Read it!

I am not fretting about anything I am just explaining that you got al-Husseini's meaning all wrong. New drilling, except for Manifa, will not add new capacity. Manifa is the only new field he is talking about. He was not referring to new capacity from any other new field.

Ron P.

I read the link.

Now, you seem to be claiming that Manifa is not a mega-project. My equation includes mega projects and not-so-mega projects.

As far as I know, Saudi Aramco doesn't do not-so-mega projects. That doesn't mean they are not adding capacity in what you refer to as infield wells by opening new areas of existing fields, accessing oil in place not being effectively drained by existing wells. Infield wells can also be drilled deeper to other zones not currently on production. It is not black and white, wells can be either or both.

While it is true that Saudi Aramco can't maintain production with their hands tied behind their back, there is no evidence that SA has their hands tied (anywhere).

Niether does it mean that others worldwide aren't engaged in developing not-so-major projects.

Maybe this will clear it up for you: Not-so-mega projects(as I have defined here) include all the drilling and development worldwide both for maintaining production from existing fields and increasing production from new fields that are not big enough, individually, to make the mega-projects list.

How could you interpret my equation to mean anything else without claiming that the whole world is lying about production ?

Now, you seem to be claiming that Manifa is not a mega-project. My equation includes mega projects and not-so-mega projects.

Good God! You seem to have the ability to see things that are not there and completely overlook the very obvious. Of course Manifa is a maegproject. Nothing that I wrote even remotely suggested such a thing.

As far as I know, Saudi Aramco doesn't do not-so-mega projects.

Saudi will do anything possible to find more oil. The Hawtah Trend fields were supposed to be megaprojects. They turned out to be not so megaprojects. They were a great disappointment for ARAMCO.

I know what you mean by not so megaprojects. It is anything so small that it does not make the Wikipedia Megaprojects list. That seems to be anything expected to produce less than 10,000 barrels per day. That is the smallest number I could find on the list.

That list has just been updated. "This page was last modified on 25 November 2011 at 07:19. So many people read the update number up top, "last update: 18-JAN-2010" and assume that it has not been updated in almost two years. No, I think that was the last time the format was changed but I am not sure. But the date near the bottom of the page is when any new megaproject gets added or old one changed.

Ron P.

Saudi will do anything possible to find more oil. The Hawtah Trend fields were supposed to be megaprojects. They turned out to be not so megaprojects.

You agree then that: Decline ~ mega projects + not-so-mega projects ?

ARAMCO ceased to exist in 1989 and was replaced by Saudi Aramco.

Of course all new fields, big and small, add to whatever new oil comes on line each year. But you seem to think these small fields, less than 10,000 bp/d, adds up to a lot of oil. I don't have the facts and figures but I doubt it seriously. And the only new projects ARAMCO has going right now is Manifa. But they are looking for more oil very diligently. They are searching the mile depths of the Red Sea and looking below the 7,000 feet of salt that lays below the Red Sea.

And we still call it ARAMCO. I worked for ARAMCO for five years, 80 till early 85. It was Saudi Aramco even then but everyone there called it ARAMCO. I have a son who has worked for ARAMCO for over 20 years. They still call it ARAMCO.

Ron P.

Well, except when they don't.


Sounds like they are ambivalent on the topic.

Sounds like a pixxing contest too.

But you seem to think these small fields, less than 10,000 bp/d, adds up to a lot of oil.

Going back to Leiten's original question, these small fields add up to at least 3.5 million barrels per day minus 2 million barrels per day, or at least 1.5 million barrels per day. That is a lot of oil.

I don't have the facts and figures but I doubt it seriously.

You are in luck ! I just posted the figures for you.

You are in luck ! I just posted the figures for you.

No you didn't do anything of the sort. Leiten did not post any link. And his figures are what he thought he remembered from some Skrebowski interview. I don't think his numbers are correct, especially his decline rate numbers. The below numbers are far more likely closer to the actual decline rates. They were calculated by the IEA. If anything the figures below are very conservative. I have articles that put the decline rate of existing fields as high as 6.5 percent.

The IEA data below only includes Super-Giants, Giants and Large fields. And the world decline rate for all these combined is 5.1%. If we include Medium, Small and Very Small fields then quite obviously the decline rate would be much greater. But then I doubt that a very large percentage of the world's oil comes from such small fields.

The Oil Drum Analysis of Decline Rates Posted by Sam Foucher

Phase 1: field is in a production plateau above 85% of peak annual production.
Phase 2: field is past plateau and above 50% of peak production.
Phase 3: production is below 50% of peak production.

Decline rate averages are computed for each size and decline category which give the following table:

Phase 1
Phase 2
Phase 3
Super-Giants 0.8%




Giants 3.0%




Large 5.5%



World 1.4%  3.6%
6.7%  5.1% 

So if you have a link from the IEA, BP or some other agency that has done the research, that shows the percentage of oil coming from mega projects verses the percentage coming from not so mega projects then please post it. If not then just be honest enough to say that you don't have the data... as I did.

Ron P.

Leiten did not post any link.

OK, I can clear that up for you:


I don't think his numbers are correct, especially his decline rate numbers.

You will have to listen to the interview.

Skrebowski puts his number at 4 million bpd, The 3.5 million bpd is the average of his number and the IEA number(3 million bpd) and that was discussed in the interview also.

What is your point ? You have been all over the map here and frankly, I have forgotten what your point is or if you even have one.

The equation I proposed works no matter what the decline rate and mega-projects additions are, as long as crude oil production is more or less flat. Plug in your number and see if the not-so-mega project additions arn't a lot of oil.

Go ahead, engage in your gratuitous dead horse beating. I don't care, I can stay awake all night.

Go ahead, engage in your gratuitous dead horse beating.

Banned, let's keep it civil. If you are going to engage in that kind of nonsense then go somewhere else. I will not engage you in any further conversation if you post another outburst of such language.

Your point was Saudi's al-Husseini was talking about "not so mega projects" when he talked about "The oil drilling is mainly to “replace capacity declines that result from ongoing production”. No he was not. Saudi has no new projects except Manifa and one small project in the neutral zone currently underway. He was talking about infield drilling. And I posted the link to prove it.

The link you posted led to three one hour programs. You want me to listen to all of them to try to find out where where Chris Skrebowski said the things you claim. Anyway, you are completely off base. You wrote:

Going back to Leiten's original question, these small fields add up to at least 3.5 million barrels per day minus 2 million barrels per day, or at least 1.5 million barrels per day. That is a lot of oil.

Leiten's post did not even deal with "these small fields' as you put it. What he wrote was:

Basically, I am under the impression that the oil depletion is around 3.5 mb/d in the world. This is lost forever and must be replaced with new sources. But what's going online is aroun 1.5 to 2.0 mb/d if I am correct each year(again, shaky numbers which I heard in a recent Skrebowski interview).

You are talking about small fields, or "not so mega projects" and Leiten's post did not discuss anything of the sort. He was talking about barrels per day of depletion from year to year and you are talking about barrels per day from small fields.

Gad! I should have caught that sooner. It is my fault for thinking you knew what you knew what he was talking about. I should have read his post when you quoted him then I would have realized you had obviously misread his post.

Oh, Leiten says that depletion is around 3.5 mb/d and 1.5 to 2 mb/d of new oil is coming on line each year. That leaves a true decline of 1.5 to 2 mb/d. That has nothing to do with "not so mega projects". I don't agree with that at all. Depletion is about 27 billion barrels per year. (Westtexas pointed that out in the next post.)Decline rates and depletion rates are two entirely different things. But I think he may have meant decline rather than depletion.

Anyway, what's your point. You are all over the map, confusing depleaion with not so mega projects.

Ron P.

Another impressive display of gratuitous dead horse beating.

Are you sure you know the meaning of gratuitous ?

You did not reply to my post. I guess you finally figured out you completely misunderstood Leiten's post. He was talking about decline, though he said depletion, and you were talking about "not so mega projects". Not even close. And of course you were dead wrong about everything.

Ron P.

Dead Horse Abuse !

Enough. If you don't want to address the points he brought up, do not reply. Don't post useless comments like this.

All the poster's 'points' are and were addressed with this simple equation:

decline ~ mega projects + not-so-mega projects.


decline(whatever it is from whatever source) ~(is roughly equal to) mega project additions + not-so-mega project additions(from whatever source everywhere in the world including not-so-mega projects such as infill drilling for the purpose of reducing decline, enhanced recovery projects, exploration and development drilling, and workovers and recompletions).

That is a fundamental property of plateau production. Perhaps, you can see why this is a dead horse ?

It don't matter if the equation is written in barrels per day per year or in terms of depletion(fraction of ultimate recoverable oil), or in terms of depletion(fraction of remaining oil).

Leiten posted:

what's holding back the production decline?

The equation was my response to: ' what's holding back .....'

That's how it works, someone posts a question and someone responds ?

It don't matter what Leiten was using, the equation is my equation posted in response to Leiten's question. As far as I know, no one can dispute that simple equation or choses to ignore it. Those who can't, or won't, grasp the concept, are in a tragic state of ignorance or denial.

The poster seems to be either intentionally obtuse or lacks elementary algebra skills.

It is my best guess that the fundamental property of plateau production doesn't fit Darwinian's hard line doom and gloom outlook and his hard line doom and gloom outlook depends on his not understanding that fundamental property of plateau production.

In summary, there is no way to obfuscate away the not-so-mega projects. $100 oil has that effect.

Thanks for all the replies.

So, correct me if I am wrong, the reason why depletion has not made a bigger dent is because of the increased recovery rates from existing fields that cover the gap left by insufficient new production from new fields?

My follow-up question is, then, if depletion is around 3.7 mb/d(which seems like a reasonable number), and new production capacity coming online is.. what 1.5 mb/d or even less, can really getting more oil out of old fields bridge a gap that big?

Does anyone have a detailed chart of the break-down of the oil supply that replaced the oil depletion that went in, say, 2010 and was 'lost forever'?

I'd like to see the data with my own eyes, just how much was added to offset depletion and how was it structured, what were the groups?

It sounds odd that so much of the decline that would happen naturally by depletion has been offset by horizontal drilling and the like, it sounds a tad cornucopian if you'll excuse the expression. 3.7 mb/d(or more) is lot of oil, and since new production coming on is very minor, it just sounds well... you get it. Anyone got flowcharts, tables or detailed statistics?


I'm editing Euan's quote so it goes one line at a time, so that it can sink in a bit. Look at the Graphs WT provides right after this quote. Peak production for the world is going to be past-tense very soon - Danny Yergin and company have already started their mantra of "peak consumption."

Currently we are experiencing the "Plateau" fallacy/effect = that disturbingly "Mmmm, this isn't so bad..." feeling just before sudden impact ;)

A Monster from the Deep

Euan Mearns on December 21, 2011 - 5:45am

With global liquids "production" running at 88 mmbpd, and assuming 5% declines, we need to add 4.4 mmbpd new capacity every year to stand still.

So you are right, this one field will offset about 10% of global declines for 1 year.

We need to discover about 10 of these every year.

In the North Sea, we are running at about 1 every 10 years.

the last was Buzzard back in 1999 (?)

I don't have stats, but anecdotal evidence suggests that MENA countries are actively trying to reduce their own dependence on Oil(eg: Iran's attempt at subsidy reform or the Saudis trying to build rail lines), and IMO it's not a very hard thing to do, since a lot of gas is wasted in their countries as oil is so cheap, a lot of savings are there for the taking.

ANE may rise as well in future or at least stay stable for some time. ELM is not a one way street.

Edit : If demand destruction in US can cause US imports to drop then same thing can cause exports to stay stable in MENA countries.

Yes. I have been tracking many of these efforts.

IMHO, the easiest way to reduce domestic oil consumption in MENA is reduce the oil burned to generate electricity.

Higher prices + education @ efficiency > less electrical demand is the fastest, simplest and most economic way to do this.

Best Hopes for Efficiency Everywhere,


The reason consumption is going up in many MENA countries is because of their very low gasoline and diesel and electricity prices. Their population is growing and demanding to move into the middle class. Their governments are keeping them happy by giving them subsidized electricity and transportation fuel.

Gasoline prices in Saudi Arabia are about 91 cents a gallon. In Venezuela it is 12 cents a gallon.

Gas prices around the world Click to get the full list. Here are the bottom 5.

Saudi Arabia 	Riyadh 	        $0.91
Kuwait 	        Kuwait City 	$0.78
Egypt 	        Cairo 	        $0.65
Nigeria 	Lagos 	        $0.38
Venezuela 	Caracas 	$0.12

Ron P.

We shall see what happens in future years, but here is what happened from 2002 to 2010. Normalized oil consumption for China, India, top 33 net oil exporters and the US (BP, 2002 = 100):

As previously noted, if we extrapolate the 2005 to 2010 rates of changes for key production & consumption variables for China, India and the top 33 net oil exporters, the 2010 to 2020 ANE decline rate will accelerate to about 5%/year, versus 2.8%/year from 2005 to 2010. This assumes basically flat production among the oil exporting countries.

A slight production decline of about 1%/year, among the oil exporting countries, would cause the ANE decline rate to accelerate to about 8%/year from 2010 to 2020 (other rates of change stay the same).

Note that a key variable is China's domestic production, which may be hitting a peak/plateau. The US production peak caused our rate of increase in net imports to accelerate from 1970 to 1977.

If demand destruction in US can cause US imports to drop then same thing can cause exports to stay stable in MENA countries.

There is a big difference between demand destruction in the US with its implication of each individual driving less or driving a smaller vehicle; and demand destruction the the developing world with its implication of no work - no electricity - no water. The per capita consumption in the the Middle East as a whole is still quite low compared to the US and the societal benefit provided by oil consumption proportionally higher.

I am quite confident that internal consumption in the Middle East and North Africa will continue its upward trajectory.

From the Energy Export databrowser:

Written by Leiten:
My follow-up question is, then, if depletion is around 3.7 mb/d(which seems like a reasonable number), and new production capacity coming online is.. what 1.5 mb/d or even less, can really getting more oil out of old fields bridge a gap that big?

Where did you get ~1.5 Mb/ of production capacity coming online? This number is much too low. Wiki Oil Megaprojects which has not been updated since January 18, 2010, and includes only large fields, estimates 3.2 Mb/d of new crude oil production in 2011. If the new, small fields were included, then the estimate would be even higher.

My follow-up question is, then, if depletion is around 3.7 mb/d(which seems like a reasonable number), and new production capacity coming online is.. what 1.5 mb/d or even less, can really getting more oil out of old fields bridge a gap that big?

Again, 100% of the crude oil produced in 2011--around 27 billion barrels of oil (Gb)--was lost due to depletion. What you are referring to is the decline in production from existing fields.

But the bottom line is that all of the new production put on line from 2005 on was not sufficient to keep global crude oil production on an upward slope:

New conventional discoveries, developmental drilling, enhanced recovery and rising unconventional production have helped, but the total efforts of the global oil industry--and cumulative massive expenditures from 2005 to 2011--have so far only served to keep global crude oil production on the plateau. And as noted above, we have seen a measurable decline in GNE & ANE*--and I suspect that the GNE & ANE decline rates will accelerate with time.

*Total petroleum liquids

Incidentally, in regard to Peak Oil Prognosticators and energy analysts, Deffeyes predicted a global C+C peak between 2004 and 2008, most likely in 2005.

In 2005, Yergin was on record calling for a 3%/year rate of increase in total liquids "Capacity." 86 mbpd of global C+C production in 2010 would have been consistent with Yergin's prediction.

So, who had the most accurate prediction? IMO, it's not even close, yet Yergin is the one who is all over the MSM.

and since new production coming on is very minor, it just sounds well...

Where did you get that idea ?

The ND bakken alone amounts to about 400,000 bpd, nearly all new production since 2004. Columbia increased production 250,000 bpd in that time frame. Niether are on the mega projects list. Colombia is not on the list at all. Certainly not very minor, not minor either.

Eagle Ford, Niobrara, Frontier, Woodford, Granite Wash, EOR projects in the Permian Basin, Texas Panhandle and Wyoming, none of them on the list, either. Not one.

The mega projects are a fraud for forecasting future rates.

Nice entry Leiten.

Here is a chart that may expand to the understanding of things to come, brought to my attention by the Norwegian oil-blog www.oljekrisa.no

Obviously it is 'old oil', in a double meaning, that is running this world.
I wonder where the curves representing the various decades would have been today- without enhanced recovery methods? Oh yeah!

Excellent chart. And the bands keep getting thinner starting from 60's. That's four decades of smaller and smaller oil finds. Any argument about the time lag between oil finds and production gets killed by this graph.

... gets killed by this graph

I don't think your average economist will be capable of "reading between the lines".
They will just flip the chart over and gloat over the bottom line:

Economist: "See? It just keeps getting better and better. All praise and glory to the free markets system. In Dollar Bill we trust."

Yes, excellent chart.
But the 50s discoveries seem to be producing more than they ever did?

That's my question also: Where is the depletion? Or is depletion restricted to the 1930's and 1940's? Has reserve growth been that large and spread over that long a period of time?

The implication of this chart is that we are in for a looooong plateau, stretching many years into the future.

Has reserve growth been that large and spread over that long a period of time?

Tricky question...one usually best avoided lest TPTB become enraged.
Having said that, I will explain why. For starters, you should understand that the backdating of reserves (ala Colin and Co) is a process designed to hide the answer to that question.

For example, Sem and Ellerman (1999) published a paper which determined that by that point in time, 25% of total production from the North Sea was originating from reserve growth. That estimate comes only some 25 years after North Sea production began perhaps? So....given the larger size, and older nature, of the fields onshore scattered across the rest of the world, I would say you might be on to something.

There is really no such thing as reserve growth - the oil reservoirs are the same size they've always been. It's really an artifact of the classification process.

Oil companies in the US normally report their reserves at the P1 level (Proven reserves) due to stock market rules. They have to "prove" they have the reserves. Normally as they drill out an oil field, the "Proven" reserves will increase, but all that is happening is that they can "prove" they have more oil.

Internally, oil companies work at the P2 level (Proven + Probable). Their geologists make a best-guess estimate of the ultimate size of the reservoir. Companies outside of the US may report their reserves at the P2 level, which is something you have to watch out for. P2 reserves may either increase or decrease as a field is developed, but if the company is being honest with itself, on average its P2 estimates will stay more or less the same. This is true, for instance, of BP's internal estimates of its Alaska North Slope reserves.

The one you really have to watch out for is the P3 reserves (Proven + Probable + Possible). These will almost always decrease as an oil field is developed. This is fine for internal company planning, because they will "risk" these reserves - multiply them by a probability factor.

It is really bad when the mainstream media gets hold of P3 reserve numbers, because they think it is real oil, when in fact they may be just the gleam in the eye of a geologist. Only 10% of wildcat wells are successful, so they will probably turn out not to be there. On average, only about 10% of "Possible" reserves will turn out to be real, but that's where the geologists and stock promoters earn their salaries, so they are really keen on them. For stock market investors it tends to be where they lose all their hard-earned money.

There is really no such thing as reserve growth - the oil reservoirs are the same size they've always been.

I can't believe someone who claims to be an experienced oil and gas techician would post such a thing. Reserves are the estimates of the recoverable part of whatever size the oil reservoirs are. Oil in place estimates change with time too, due to development drilling which can include drilling deeper or testing zones not previously tested or brace yourself for this - stimulating zones not previously stimulated - to wit: frac'ing.

Recoveries change too because of performance and enhanced recovery.

Neither can I believe ObiWan let it slide. Campbell used to think that Ghawar's EUR was about 65 Gb, that is, i presume, until production exceeded 65 Gb.

Cumulative production until April 2010 has exceeded 65 billion barrels (10.3 km3).[7]


When appraised in the 1970s, the field was assessed to have 170 billion barrels (27 km3) of original oil in place, with about 60 billion barrels (9.5 km3) recoverable (1975 Aramco estimate quoted by Matt Simmons). The second figure, at least, was understated, since that production figure has already been exceeded.[9]

ref [7] ^ based on Croft

ref [9] ^ a b Simmons, Matthew (2005). Twilight in the Desert - The coming Saudi oil shock and the world economy.. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 047173876X.


If you are stuck thinking Ghawar will recover 35% of OOIP, you should wake up and smell the coffee.

Only 10% of wildcat wells are successful...

What decade is that statistic derived from ?

Reservoir and production data on Ghawar is a Saudi Arabian state secret, so nobody except Saudi Aramco has enough data to make a reasonable estimate of the oil in place or the ultimately recoverable reserves. Saudi Aramco can release their reserve estimates, but we don't really know if they are being honest with us or themselves. With Ghawar we just don't know what is going on. Frankly, it doesn't look that good, but that's just based on outside information.

As a worst case Ghawar could do the same as Mexico's Cantarell field, which was once the second largest oil field in the world by production. It peaked at 2.14 million barrels per day in 2003, and crashed to less than 500,000 bpd seven years later. This apparently came as a complete surprise to Petróleos Mexicanos, although not to a few outside experts. At least with Cantarell the critical data was publicly available to the outside experts so they could second-guess Pemex. They were right, Pemex was wrong.

Only 10% of wildcat wells are successful

What I meant by that was that 90% of rank wildcats are economically unsuccessful. It's very difficult to find a place to drill in the US far enough from an existing well to qualify as a rank wildcat. If you start doing things like drilling off Greenland or the Falkland Islands, you'll find the 10% success ratio still holds.

Reservoir and production data on Ghawar is a Saudi Arabian state secret, so nobody except Saudi Aramco has enough data to make a reasonable estimate of the oil in place or the ultimately recoverable reserves. Saudi Aramco can release their reserve estimates, but we don't really know if they are being honest with us or themselves. With Ghawar we just don't know what is going on. Frankly, it doesn't look that good, but that's just based on outside information.

As a worst case Ghawar could do the same as Mexico's Cantarell field, which was once the second largest oil field in the world by production. It peaked at 2.14 million barrels per day in 2003, and crashed to less than 500,000 bpd seven years later. This apparently came as a complete surprise to Petróleos Mexicanos, although not to a few outside experts. At least with Cantarell the critical data was publicly available to the outside experts so they could second-guess Pemex. They were right, Pemex was wrong.

Only 10% of wildcat wells are successful

What I meant by that was that 90% of rank wildcats are economically unsuccessful. It's very difficult to find a place to drill in the US far enough from an existing well to qualify as a rank wildcat. If you start doing things like drilling off Greenland or the Falkland Islands, you'll find the 10% success ratio still holds.

Tricky question...one usually best avoided lest TPTB become enraged.

If you wade around down here in the 4-day-old bread, you have more freedom.

That is a cool chart.

To answer your question, I think you would need a chart for each discovery period separately to get a clear picture. Also, where the discoveries were, rate of water-cuts, number of wells, etc...

It looks like a lot of the 50's and 60's fields came from the middle east and from the "other" category, which appears to be the area of greatest expected decline going forward based on this "2004 model."


phil - A number of factors. The chart represents actual production rates and not potential. During the global recession of the 80's much production was voluntarily curtailed. There have probably been other such periods but to a less dramatic degree. There are also a couple of technology factors. Improved production methods accounted for a significant bump in Texas production during the late 60's/70's that allowed many water drive reservoirs to more than double their somewhat depleted flow rates. And then there's the obvious gain from horizontal well bores in the last 25 years or so. I suspect similar events occurred across the globe at later times. Improved seismic technology also allowed for discovery of deeper reservoirs under existing fields and would have been added to each field's stats.

I think the chart highlights a good argument against cornucopian expectations of increased recovery from older fields. Texas is the example I know best: enhanced oil recovery techniques have been aggressively applied here for over 40 years. Even the utilization of horizontal well bores isn't exactly new. In fact, very little use has been made of hz tech in older conventional Texas fields due to the high recoveries of more traditional EOR methods. Lots of hz wells in the new plays...very little in the old heritage fields. Globally hz tech may have had a greater impact in older fields especially the biggies like Ghawar. Don't have any stats but the KSA did undertake a big hz drilling effort in the 90's.

And these techs may also put a crimp on expectations for long future sustained production rates. New field development are using advanced drilling and production tech to max flow rates. While this allows for a nice bump in rates it also provides for much quicker depletion and thus shorter field lives. Mexico's Cantarell Field is a good example of that good news/bad news aspect. Because of falling production, in 1997 Pemex started a massive nitrogen injection project to maintain oil flow, which now consumes half the nitrogen produced in the world. As a result of nitrogen injection, production at Cantarell rose from 1.1 million barrels per day in 1996 to a peak of 2.1 million barrels per day in 2004. But as the N2 gas cap expanded it eventual reached many of the producing wells at the same time. Once these wells "gas out" they are gone...forever. This resulted in a decline of total Mexican oil production declining by 9.2 percent from 3.1 million barrels per day in 2007 to 2.8 million barrels per day in 2008, the lowest rate of oil production since 1995.

The most important take away from the chart IMHO is how little of the current oil production is coming from newer fields. Combine that fact with the technologies used today to max flow rates/recoveries from these fields and there should be little expectation this latest batch of reservoirs will be the future "heritage fields" of the next generations. Again, why I tend to slam debates over URR of any of the current hot resource plays. While they may provide a bump up on the current plateau they cannot (thanks to their high decline rates) come close to matching the long term delivery of the older conventional fields. For all the hype and $trillions spent developing them so far they stand insignificant (in flow rate contribution) compared to fields discovered over 30 years ago.


At times that chart looks like a Rorschach ink blob. You might read anything into it.

I agree "The most important take away from the chart IMHO is how little of the current oil production is coming from newer fields." But if you concentrate on green and below, from 1975 on, it seems the old bumpy plateau will ride off into the future. I was really surprised to see the amount of production still coming from prior to 1930's wells. First guess would have been they were less a quarter. And 1950's oil, such a wider swath 2005 on.

The other big take away is the major decline in all colors in the late 70's. Has to be more than just the US peak, the chart data I assume is worldwide. I'd think this is introduction of EOR techniques, and it has bumped up all classes of wells.

The graph is NOT well vintage, it's field vintage by discovery date not production date.

Still that does not change the observations or the trends.

Rockman, you are right.

Cantarell provides a good example of what happens when you step up production on an oil field without doing anything that improves the recovery factor. Unlike carbon dioxide, nitrogen is immiscible in oil, so it doesn't thin it and allow it to flow easier. Pemex was injecting half the nitrogen produced in the world into the Cantarell field to repressurize the reservoir, but all that did was to produce the same amount of oil more rapidly. As a result, when production crashed, it crashed hard.

As someone said, it was like shaking up a can of beer to get the beer out faster, and then using a funnel and a hose to drink it. Some people like that kind of thing, but I don't go to their kind of parties.

It is quite true that very little of the current production is coming from new fields. Most of it is coming from fields that are much older, most of them in the Middle East. When those fields go into decline, world production will go into decline, and that may already be occurring. We don't have enough data on the Middle Eastern fields to be sure.

And, as you said, URR is not really meaningful. The extreme example of that is the oil sands of Canada and Venezuela. The URR of the oil sands is astronomical, but in the global context that means nothing. Venezuelan production is declining because of political problems and bad economics, and Canadian production is rising very slowly because there simply aren't enough skilled oil workers in the oil sands areas to build the massive facilities that are need to produce it. Notwithstanding URR, you can't expect to see high flow rates out of these resources comparable to the big Middle Eastern fields.

Thanks Rock.

there should be little expectation this latest batch of reservoirs will be the future "heritage fields" of the next generations.

That seems to be the nub of it. Those 'old' early fields were different in kind than later discoveries. Hence the long discussions (speculations) about Ghawar in KSA that I read on TOD when I first looked in nearly 5 years ago. Those 'old fields' look as though collectively they will continue to produce large quantities for many years unless and until some of the real giants suffer a sudden end, water cut or whatever? Despite this there have been and are significant declines that have barely been replaced by discoveries so far. We look as though we have discovered at last the zenith (PO!) of global oil production?

I hope TOD keeps coming back to this chart.
The more I look the more interesting it is.
I raise again my earlier point: reservoirs discovered in the 1950s in aggregate seem to be producing more now than they ever did!
I found it interesting to look at 'peak oil' as if each successive decade did not have any following decades. If there had been no further discovery of reservoirs after 1959, clearly there would not have been any growth in total world oil supply after 1970, but there would still be oil supply even now, and it would still have increased again from a '1985 low' right up to 2008!
Then superimpose the unique (in terms of scale) USA supply/demand picture and we begin to see the modern predicament? The USSR/FSU, (Russia alone now is the world's biggest producer), did not follow the USA's trajectory of increasing demand for petroleum after the 1970s, despite producing more oil than they consumed. In contrast the USA after its brief dip in demand in early 1980s continued to power up its demand for oil right up to 2008, despite being a net oil importer. We truly lived in a USA-centric world in those years!
EDIT China though is not the USSR!

New doomer video from the Post Carbon Institute

YOU ARE HERE: The Oil Journey:


Post Carbon Institute You Tube Channel:


Are either of those really worth the time investment?

Yes! Both are excellent videos. But I cannot believe you even bothered to watch either.

Thanks for the link X.

Ron P.

I didn't bother to watch either. I asked for an opinion on their quality prior to wasting any time on watching them, from someone who had perhaps had already done so. It is a reasonable question, considering the resource credentials displayed by the founder and current board members.

Thank you for continuing to remind us sober ? but maybe ? senile gray haired old farts that we are hanging around herein this forum like a bunch of little girls hovered around a campfire listening to ghost stories.

The Oil Journey is a half-hour intro level introduction, so I'd say No given the knowledge base here. I watched it a couple days ago and was distracted by the inaccurate transcription of the audio to the subtitling (M. King Hubbert, for example, becomes "Mary Ann", "relocalize" is "relo collides", and "depression and exercise" are noted for their benefits in coping). I was also surprised that after seemingly cozy, sepia-tinted family photos and stories were used to illustrate the narrator's American dream success story from 1890 onward---and corresponding increasing energy usage--that there was a disclaimer at the end that those warm and fuzzy family stories, were, ah, fictional. I'll mail Asher my feedback because I do wish them well, and visit The Energy Bulletin frequently.

These videos were not made for petroleum geologists and engineers, they were made for people who were not science majors. I love TOD but you're not going to get the general public to read it. These videos are designed to educate a wider audience.

This is a good point. I learned about peak oil and alot of other things in 2008. Coincidentally, I've only been working sporadically which has given me time to inform myself and digest what's going on.

Really I'm "peak oiled out." These types of videos don't do much for me. Although the real descent and fireworks have yet to begin, we have alot of idea of what to expect. The trends are clear to see for any thinking person. Ongoing energy decline and economic depression. Political and financial instability with engineered biflation/stagflation. Resources wars. Authoritarian and military responses. A stabilization and decline in the human population. Massive and unprecedented social change.

I'm preparing for the above scenarios, and no amount of new info is going to change my mind now. I'm at the acceptance stage basically. Whatever happens, it will be interesting, and hopefully most of us will at least get to decide how we live and die.

I think The Oil Journey is pretty good for what it's meant to be. I posted a link last week, that had a bit of an explanation. It's not meant to entertain or education hardcore peak oilers. It's meant for peak oilers to use to educate others who don't know about peak oil. It's what they made with the donations they asked for earlier, and is meant to be customizable, so you can use it for local presentations.


Following up on a thought I had recently re: PO vs. Peak Plateau. And that relationship to my consistent sarcasm about the debates over how much proven reserves are left in the ground. IOW reserves in the ground don’t drive the economies of the world…only produced reserves do and thus the emphasis on rates and not URR. Then add the comments on TOD of many who recount their frustrated efforts to communicate the PO message to folks who have trouble taking in the technologies supporting the discussion. And there will always be those folks who won’t let go of their denial even if they have the intellectual capability to analyze the info out there.

And this brought to mind all the folks who seem to thrive on arguing the proof supporting AGW. And if you’re one of those folks please don’t take offense: please stop trying to teach the denialist pigs how to roller skate…it only frustrates you and p*sses them off. LOL.

Maybe there is ultimately a more effective approach. Perhaps a better tack to selling PO and AGW to the general public is to stop trying to sell them. Geologists have a well deserved reputation for not knowing when to stop selling their prospects. IOW they don’t know when to shut up and close the deal. The source of this tendency is similar to what fires up many on TOD: too much knowledge and the unflappable belief that if you keep repeating it enough everyone will eventually “get it”. At some point the target audience has absorbed as much as they are able to or are willing to.

Not really sure how affective it would be but in the case of PO perhaps the topic should just focus on dealing with the loss of cheap oil and the potential volatility of the market. Cornucopians can blabber all day about new technologies and new discoveries that will save the day. But they can’t deny the current price of oil. They can argue all they want about future prices and URR but the public tends to focus on what they see today…not on future promises.

And the public seems to know prices are linked to how much oil is being exported. They don’t need (nor are really interested IMHO) to know why that volume is what it is. But ELM, if explained to them in a simple non-tech approach, could be a great lever to push them closer to the reality of the situation. Everyone can understand population growth: more consumers in the exporting nations means more internal consumption. And then point out the freaking baby boom going on in some nations (like the KSA) and let everyone add 2 + 2 themselves.

Yergin et al can go on all day about URR, frac’ng shale, retorting oil shales in-place, etc. But unless they pull the standard “speculator” rabbit out of the hat they can’t deny what’s posted everyday: the price of oil. Today I don’t really think the public is very accepting of anyone’s promises (politicians, cornucopians or doomers) about the future. But current dynamics slap them upside the head daily: gasoline is expensive by their experience and lots of folks are unemployed. Get the public to link PO to such daily realities and maybe, just maybe they might see the need to begin adjusting to a longer time frame than just the next presidential election cycle.

Or maybe they won’t.

Rock, I am in the choir.

However, I can distill the current 'facts on the ground' in Albuquerque, NM:

Today's gasoline prices range from $2.64 - 2.89 per gallon.

Our lower-than-average gas taxes account for some of this...


This chart, if accurate, puts the matter in an overall U.S.-centric persoective:


Granted, gasoline prices are way more than in 2001, say, but they are way less than the >$4.00/gallon we saw in ABQ a few years back.

Show must bubbas and bubbettes our PO graphs and charts and tables...and these folks, knowing what the placard said at the last fill-up, will likely look at your presentation materials like a pig looking at a wristwatch (I stole that line from a 3-star general...he said those words about himself while viewing a classified analysis of a certain subject projecting trends and estimated root causes out through 2050...one of the funnier things I have heard a GO [General Officer] say!).

I guess all we can do is keep on keeping on...but while gas prices remain relatively 'low', the messaging will be an uphill slog.

Stay safe on those rigs getting us our black gold! You are a brave man...

H - I agree the new "normals" won't make the pitch easier...my Chevron is down to $2.97/gal. But for a lot of folks in Texas driving PU's that get 16 mpg it still stings a might. And then there's NG getting close to $3/mcf. But those facts also play in favor of the strawman argument that we aren't "running out of oil".

But long before anyone can prove the URR of Ghawar we'll have price spikes in fuel and NG IMHO. And that's when we can get the public's attention. But today? You correct...not so much. Which is why all the tech arguments also fall flat on their face. Same ole human nature: when the sun is shinning and the seas are calm no on looks under their seat for a life preserver. Unlike I do every time I get on a work boat.

Me brave??? Hardly. The bravest thing I might do on a well is eat a day old fish sandwich from Sonic. I usually sit nice and snug in my metal box while the boys are on the floor sling that dumb iron around. Like I explaind to my wife long ago: I don't work on drill rigs...I watch others work on drill rigs. And am well paid for it...a really great job. LOL.

Granted, gasoline prices are way more than in 2001, say, but they are way less than the >$4.00/gallon we saw in ABQ a few years back.

Yet on a yearly basis 2011 has been the most expensive year ever for gasoline in the USA. In 2008 (previous peak) the annual average gasoline price was $3.30. In 2011 (based on EIA data through to 19th December) it was $3.58

So 2011 has seen on an annual basis both the most expensive world oil and the most expensive US gasoline.

Here is the EIA annual gasoline chart with my roughly added point(big red dot) for 2011 based on prelimnary data.

This reality that you point out just serves to underscore how challenging it is to get folks to 'get it'. Annual averages are meaningless to most folk. All that matters is 'what did I have to pay today?'. It's the old adage, 'what have you done for me lately?', merely inverted. We are a short-sighted species to the core - at least on average...

... comments on TOD of many who recount their frustrated efforts to communicate the PO message to folks who have trouble taking in the technologies supporting the discussion

(quote is from ROCKMAN's post above)

I think the real shocker to most of us has been the growing realization of how mentally limited most of our species mates are.
I had always expected much better of mankind.
But then again, I grew up in the George Jetson 1960's era when it was clear that we were soaring to the moon and beyond.
Maybe the newer generations have a lesser expectation for our species and its mental abilities.

@ step back

"Maybe the newer generations have a lesser expectation for our species and its mental abilities."

The word 'maybe' is pretty key, here. No, the newer generations do not have lower expectations for material entitlements, imho. Plus, they want it right now! The idea of people as 'species and mental abilities', requires thought and evaluation of what is and what could/should be. The newers might suspect the numbers are not adding up, but still want what mom and pop raised them to take for granted. Furthermore, their addiction to electronic gizmos and superficial communication via tweets/ facebook postings/other instant communication avenues, substitute communication for discourse, instant replies for thoughtful response, and entertainment for critical thought. If I were a conspiracy wank I might think it is a plan to keep 'em dumb and busy if you can't get 'em addicted on some drug. Sadly, the young are victims of circumstance and invention. I had hope with Arab Spring mobilization (via electronics), but then I see the kids in town texting as they head to the mall and know it was a blip. Furthermore, the rare minerals, wasted environments, and virtual slave labour used to produce these superficial widgets bring to mind the past employment of poor folk crawling about on hands and knees to clip 'English' lawns by hand as the (English) occupied their Asian outposts, or the current industries of ship breaking in Alang and Bangledesh. These 'newers' are viewing the world through a kaleidoscope of want, and have mistaken information for knowledge and wisdom.

I have a terrible vision of the poisoned ships being broken up by shirtless poor men utilizing hand-held torches, and then recycled into rebar for empty condos built in China (to keep the top spinning); ships used up that hauled the Walmart/Target crap we didn't need, and the rickety tankers that hauled the oil we wasted, full of asbestos, PCBs, and God know what else?

Steinbeck wrote Grapes of Wrath out of conviction. I remember reading it in high school and it probably changed my life. The movie was in black and white which emphasised 'the message' and story. Do you think the young will have the patience to watch such in anything less than Pixar special effects mind numbing glory with a mega bucket of over-priced popcorn wedged between their knees? I don't.

No, it will take some downtime from the hustle and bustle of our modern consume-fest for people to rediscover enduring values and a reasonable scale of personal accomplishment. I just hope it is Greer's vision. I suspect it will mimic history, with some places okay and others a living hell. 'The Killing Fields' happened in the best of times. It could be a very bumpy ride.


Furthermore, their [--the younger generation's] addiction to electronic gizmos and superficial communication via tweets/ Facebook postings/other instant communication avenues, [are no] substitute for thoughtful response, and ... critical thought.

Good point.

I hadn't considered that angle enough.

What you say is true for many young people I encounter.
The Magic of the Mall (the shopping one) lures them into believing in an invisible technology genie who will continue to deliver ever more amazing gizmos from here to eternity and even thereafter.

Then again, every once in a while I encounter a well educated member of the younger generation who knows what is going on.
So I have hopes. Perhaps blind optimism. But it's a hope.

footnote: text part of image link above is here (the magic of the movies at the mall)
p.s. another magic image here (magic planet, Dubai)

I'm young (24) and even worse I studied economics yet I still get that continuous economic growth is impossible especially in regards to limited resources and the soon to be decline of global oil production. I didn't get it until a few years back when people kept talking about BRIC's this or BRIC that. I mean even from a very young age I had a intuitive feeling that my way of living was somewhat unsustainable but seeing as it was only Europe and America who was in the act, it would be okay for quite a few years however once it became clear that other major nations started developing and not only developing but wishing to overtake the West I began to have serious doubts over not just the future of my children but the future for me!

In all fairness some of my teachers did point out some of the fallacies and weaknesses of free markets, the basic assumptions it is built on, how it could be defeated and how substitutes worked out from a textbook do not always work out so easily in real life. Their general believe was while economics can provide you with a general guide of how things work many of the theories do have their weaknesses and gross assumptions must be acknowledged and factored in, not just to yourself but to the public at large. Unfortunately the economists in prominent positions often have a sponsor (corporations or government) who have a real vested in maintaining the business as usual philosophy and the ones who speak out are silenced systematically and not given any significant positions. So if they do say something they don't have the status and prestige to convince the public.

Plus the general public will see 200 years of economic growth and naturally project that growth into the future so you have an uphill struggle convincing them. On top of all that bad news is simply bad for business and belief systems even if it is true. The fantasy is what people buy into and believe in. Nothing will change unless something really bad happens and even then we cannot be certain the overall status quo will change; periods of growth may simply be punctuated with periods of collapse, resources war and whatnot. I would like to believe this period of industrial growth has made humans more intelligent and humane and they would seek to live within their means after this coming disaster but I cannot be certain it will happen. People may simply desire to grow at all costs and will resort to war when their needs cannot be met.

I'm young (24) ...

That's truly young to be on this geezer's website.
You're young enough to be my child (I have one that age, one who thinks PO is an old man's delusion).

My theory is that for most people, by the time you've figured out how things work, it's too late.
So good for you that you are figuring things out on your own instead of simply going along with the mindless mobs.

Thank you. I have an interest in economics but I like to hear the whole story and not just the one the media or even publications cook up.

None of us will ever know the whole "story".
There is no whole story.
Have you read "The Black Swan" by Nassim Taleb, the part about comforting but false narratives?

I think its fair to read monsta's 'whole story' as meaning 'a well-rounded story'.. a view from many POV's..

Thank you jokuhl for clarifying my statement; that is exactly what I meant. I understand one can never have the whole story but I just wanted to know the real truth (or at least as close to the truth as possible) and have always felt the media does paint a rosy picture on certain topics, I notice the American media is particularly bad in this regard. I came to this website as it provides a great source of information regarding oil and other fossil fuel energy and I do recognise how critical energy is for the world economy.

I am a lurker because I don't know much about this topic compared to other posters here but I do learn a lot by simply following this website.

As to your question set back, I have not read the Black Swan as I have heard the author is somewhat arrogant and condescending to his reader and does not provide any meaningful conclusions. But that is only what I heard; if it is a good book I will consider adding it to my wish list of books to read. I do think the financial crisis was not a black swan event and could have been predicted. The only unknown was when it would occur so at best the event was a grey swan event. I am sure the banks knew it would blow up (despite their apparent shock) they just knew they would be bailed out so there was no consequences to their actions.

It is my belief the rise of the financial industry was a product of the 1970's oil crisis as it was needed to enhance the spending power of the western citizen which was diminished after lower consumption of oil. Per capita oil consumption peaked and plateaued in the 70's and then declined from the 80's onwards. This per capita oil consumption is almost a mirror image of where the average American real income has gone. That is no consequence. Credit was needed to enhance spending power and cheap labour via globalisation reduced the supply-side costs so the West could enjoy their standard of living. The problems of the 1970's were not solved; the symptoms were merely removed. But as with all credit binges it is entirely predictable they will blow up at some point. And now we have to face the real problems all over again but now our old cures are no longer effective to our predicament (and unlike the 1970's this is no longer a problem).

It was all predictable so I do not buy the Black Swan idea that the bankers tried to peddle. But if the book has other merits I would certainly consider reading it.

The link between reduced oil consumption and reduced real income for the average American is illusory over the time frame you mention (it is starting to pinch now, and did so for two short periods in the past). Look at labor productivity against the average wage. The wage is down because that correlation was broken by government policies starting in the early 80's. Income was distributed upward via tax, labor, antitrust, and regulatory policy. America is dramatically richer (about 65% higher GDP per capita) than when I was born in 1978, but the gains have primarily gone to the wealthy. When you were born was the first year since WWII that had a top marginal tax rate less than 38.5% since 1931. 1982 was the first year since 1931 when it was less than 50%. The U.S. oil peak in the early 70's, and the two oil crises when OPEC started capitalizing on it, just made folks use oil/energy less wastefully. Before then, most houses were uninsulated, had single pane glass, and inefficient furnaces, most cars got less than 12 mpg (less than in 1949), most lighting was incandescent (even commercial and industrial lighting), we still burned gas for lighting (there was one at the end of my street), we burned oil in power plants (peaked the year I was born, now 10% of those levels, while coal has doubled, and gas gen and nuclear gen have tripled), coal wasn't mined west of the Mississippi (So Cal was on oil), in houses we still burned coal (1/3rd of household use in 1949, still in 1.8million households in '70) and oil (household use peaked in '72), etc.

It is a tricky question to answer because whilst I would agree a lot of the tax and regulatory policy has contributed towards the redistribution of wealth in the American economy I think there is more to the story than that. What has also allowed America to escape the stagflation problem of the 1970s was the supply-side economic policies followed. So this enabled purchasing power to increase somewhat. However the main area that makes me tilt towards a decline in real wages is in regard to how actual inflation is measured by the government. The way this figure is generated particularly through and after the Clinton administration suggests - to me at least - that actual inflation has been understated thus creating the mirage that wages are rising faster than they have been in reality.

Then again I am not from America so my knowledge is limited. You could well be right. I can recognise that efficiency gains can allow economies to achieve some limited decoupling from energy and by extension oil consumption but I would argue that the biased inflation statistics have skewed these gains painting a more optimistic statistic than is warranted. In short, I think the truth lies somewhere between both our statements. Incomes have risen per capita but not by 65% and also a lot of the wealth of the richest Americans has been increasing their wealth in large part by using cheap labour found in the developing countries. So they are not just stealing the wealth of Americans but also citizens of other countries.

"What has also allowed America to escape the stagflation problem of the 1970s was the supply-side economic policies followed." No. Supply-side economics is voodoo. U.S. per capita real GDP growth was almost exactly the same (about 25% per decade) in the 70's and 80's. Inflation was crushed via Fed monetary policy in the late 70's and early 80's (the deepest postwar recession until now).

The CPI inflation index has some of the same problems as the GDP per capita, it reflects the typical person less well than it did when incomes were more evenly distributed. The CPI underestimates inflation for those at the bottom and middle.

Neither metric is perfect, but they do measure what they are defined to measure accurately in my estimation. That isn't necessarily the same as what we would like them to measure.

The BS is not without merit, however the takehome insights aren't numerous to deserve hundreds of pages. Going from memory they are:

(1) A lot of important distributions are non gaussian (the familar bell shaped curve for the non initiate), and have fat tails. Theories developed around the gaussian assumption can seriously underestimate certain kinds of risks.

(2) Modern tech has seriously contributed to a winner take all economy. His favorite example is music. In the old days, a mediocre piano player could make a decent living, as he could play in small towns and the people would be grateful for the chance to hear great playing. Now, you buy a $10 CD. Why waste your money on a second rate artists, you buy a CD from the best player in the world. The second best player, is out of luck, no-one wants his CDs.

(3) His favorite example of underestimated tail risk, was of a Turkey on the day before Thanksgiving. The turkey has lived in a Panglossian world, being everyday pampered by the farmer. He can only imagine more pleasurable feed as the farmer approaches on this day of days. {What could possibly go wrong}

(4) Mainly he contributed the term Black Swan, to the unexpected appearance of a (usually highly negative) undrappreciated tail risk. In terms of the financial crisis it was that a package of loans couldn't go bad, because the loans are uncorrelated -a few may go bad, but many others would be fine. But is reality, they ALL depended upon the housing bubble, they were in fact highly correlated. The more technical explanation of the black swan event is "all correlations go to one", which means for certain types of events, all (or at least way more than the system can accomodate) loans can fail at the same time.

So a few paragraphs rather than a book would have been sufficient, to get all these good points across. [I do think the book was a bit arrogant]

I have not read the Black Swan as I have heard the author is somewhat arrogant


Not true. (The arrogance part.)
And well worth your time to get a copy of Taleb's book (even if used)

It doesn't spend its time focusing on the Black Swan effect. That's just one small part.
Maybe he thought it would be a catchy title for selling his book.

The bigger story is about 'narrative fallacies' (the many false "truths" we tell ourselves).
Since Taleb has written a whole book on it, I won't try to replicate his work here

For what it's worth, alot of people in their 30s and 40s know the score. They are living it every day. Then again, Gen X always thought of itself as screwed.

Hard to say if >65 boomers will understand that their 401ks and pensions and "sickcare" will disappear, and hard to say if < 30 millenials will understand how meaningless their smartphones and ipads are.

Speaking of us old farts' concerns about the upcoming generation -- what do we make of the growing ranks of the hikikomori? (The wikipedia article doesn't seem to draw much attention to the internet-obsessive aspect but in my anecdotal experience it seems fairly important.)

I have one in my extended family: a young man of 30 who seems completely unable to interact with other people in real life, spends 18 hours a day in front of his computer immersed in VR gaming, online chat, and who knows what all else. He is serenely detached from anything that happens in the real world, but passionately engaged and vibrantly alive when interacting with virtual friends online. I honestly suspect that if his internet connection were shut off, he might commit suicide -- or turn to crime or prostitution to fund its restoration. It seems to be his entire world.

There may be other issues in play (Aspergers? developmental delay?) but what we see on the surface is an overgrown adolescent, literate, courteous, pleasant of manner in an earnest, plodding, informative way -- rather bright really, with excellent verbal skills -- but no *conversational* skills, no social skills, no ability to function in the real world; no ability to keep a promise, keep a job, make friends (except online), etc. A dreamer with no follow-through at all, in pathetic physical condition, always "going to" get his life together and never managing to do so, a constant heartbreak to his father... who has finally been reduced to supporting him as the "boy" has become unemployable and seems utterly unconcerned about his own future. No savings from all the years he has worked (in online call centre jobs) -- all spent on techno toys, high speed internet, fancy phones, etc. No interest in dating anyone of either gender, no interest in ever leaving his room except to waddle laboriously to the grocery store and bring back more food to eat in front of the screen. No interest in his own declining health. A puzzlement and a tragedy: a child of considerable promise, throwing his life away with both hands. I'm close to his father and have seen the grief, anger, and frustration of a parent watching their child fail to grow up, fail to leave the nest -- just plain fail -- for no obvious reason.

This is not an isolated case, from what I hear. Families all over the place have some member, usually a young man, who has "failed to thrive," boomeranged home to live off his parents, and is lurking in a basement or an upstairs room with his computer, never venturing outdoors, bringing bafflement and despair to the rest of the family. Is this some kind of weird "terminator gene" adaptation that will in time reduce our numbers? An unforeseen side effect of computing technology? Some subtle outcome of industrial toxicity? It's not likely to be inherited, since most hikikomori will never reproduce ... but it's rather worrisome all the same.

What will happen to these strange, sheltered, skill-less, techno-addicted, alienated, nonfunctional humans when the lights go out? Hell, I myself feel kind of underprepared for Orlovian conditions, too soft and spoilt by consumer culture, too ignorant of baseline survival skills; but the hikikomori are gonna be like hermit crabs with no shells. I worry about them, when I have time to spare from worrying about everything else.

Thanks for the link and story.

Why doesn't his dad seek professional therapy and/or tough love?

"overgrown adolescent" eh?
Like, say, about 95% of Congress? and the voters.

Biology makes an adolescent, but it seems to me that a choice to be responsible for one's life makes an adult, and that choice is not automatic.

In earlier times, when the average lifetime was shorter, people saw parents die much sooner, and realized they likely had but a short life, and needed to step into the role of adulthood.

In earlier times, the young apprenticed to adults in more-or-less a one on one situation, even if the apprenticeship was to one's own (step-)parent. They saw adults functioning as adults in all manner of situations, being responsible for their actions. The child/adolescent was held accountable by the adult(s), and while the child/adolescent had peers, they were not more important than the adult(s).
With the late industrial revolution, not only was there a need for a more educated workforce, but enough wealth was generated so that "do-gooders" had the time/resources to send all children off to school and save them from the factories.
But now kids spent most of their formative years in an artificial learning situation, with one adult modeling an authoritarian model, and 20-30 peers, who on the advent of puberty (sexual/social politics) become much more important than the adult. (now add the profession educators and advice givers who claim that children need their freedom).
Now instead of looking forward to taking over a/the family farm or getting one's journeyman papers from a guild, kids look to getting out of school "then I'll do anything I want!".
Iterate over a few generations.

I'm doing some self-work now about maturing my adolescence, and I'm past the half-century mark!

But look around - what are adolescents about?
* frightened of the changes they're experiencing (against their will).
puberty, economics, resources, ... --> seek distraction/safety outside themselves.
* because they're frightened and can't figure out what to do,
they deem themselves incompetent, and so lack self esteem,
and don't want their failings exposed. --> seek hiding.
* seeking comfort in groups
think of the crazy high-school cliques, and their conformist beliefs/dogmas.
--> manipulative/insatiable "leaders", conformist/compliant followers.
being bright enough to think a little for themselves, being overcome by the craziness of the world, yet not having internal resources to deal with it, seems like a recipe for hikikomori to me.

And here it is, midnight, I "was gonna" get my life in order by going to bed earlier, ... yikes.

I'm thinking I wish there were a provision for editing one's own comments... probably a bit TMI (personal stuff) in my original story (late night verbosity got the better of me, plus strong feelings about the situation). Wish I could redact a few sentences. I doubt there is any chance of anyone in the family stumbling on my post, but some phrases could be hurtful if they did. No provision for deleting or editing one's own prior posts eh? too bad.

[attempt to edit this post was successful] Oh, I see. There's some kind of time limit on edits, I guess it expired before I had my 2nd thoughts. Hmmm. One could wish for a somewhat longer time limit :-) sometimes I don't cool off and think better of my colourful language until a few hours later!

@Leanan, is there any easy fix? I really must be more careful of what I write in indelible fora.

You can only edit a post when there are no replies to it, before it has a 'subthread' hanging after it..

Best of luck to these friends. I sometimes feel I only partly dodged the same bullet.. 'If coulda been, what I coulda been..' (from the Studs Terkel musical WORKING) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JRa9kiMFL2E

There are millions of web sites in the internet Universe
The chances that one of your relatives will stumble across TOD, and then across one of the thousands of DrumBeats and then across your specific comment among the many hundreds is ... well you do the math (=1/10^6*10^3*...)

And before you feel alone, I personally know someone with a son like that (sits all day in the dark in front of computer)
One of my kids of same age is also twisted, but in another way

What made this happen to that generation?
We don't know
Maybe it's some toxic chemicals in the water
Maybe it's being exposed to too many flashing lights during the neuro-developmental phase of adolescence
Who knows?

Well... step back...

I think the real shocker to most of us has been the growing realization of how mentally limited most of our species mates are.

One of the easiest ways to con people into making a dumb decision is to first convince them of how smart they are. People simply don't really understand that if their mind was a calculator they'd want to throw it out and find one that actually gives consistent results. You can write a whole shelf of books about how the human mind is flawed, how people spend more time choosing a pair of pants which are one size too small for them to 'shrink into' than to actually write even a basic financial plan.

[But] first convince them of how smart they are.

That's the very first thing the tailors do in The Emperors New Clothes

i am trying to frame my mitigation (*NOT* solution) approaches in ways that appeal to different parts of society.

National Security

Economic "Growth" (or less shrinkage)

Environmental Benefits (no sale in Texas >:-P


Arguments for each group.

Best Hopes for a Diverse Coalition,


I am with Rockman - but am trying to tell it even more simply.

Human beings are not creatures of facts and logic - they are people who live in stories. This is not new - it has always been that way. We have certain collective narratives that almost everyone automatically accept without further thought. It is how we make sense of the world. These narratives keep us sane by allowing us to filter out the hurricane of information swirling around us daily and making some sense of it. The current narrative that most people subscribe to is that economic growth will eventually return or we have plenty of oil but the government is not letting is drill for it.

For that reason I am not convinced that you will ever convince the average citizen (not a technical person) by showing them data. I am a data person and I have tried it with my family and their eyes glaze over.

So I think you can only change people's views is by constantly telling them a different story - one that is consistent with their current experience. It worked pretty well with my family. A story something like this:

If peak oil is a possibility - what would it be like? Well for starters the peak oil story is not about potential oil under the ground. That oil is irrelevant because it cannot be used. Peak oil is only about one thing - the ongoing flow rate of oil into the economy. For all of the last century and up until about 2005 that flow rate grew steadily. But that flow rate pretty much came to a halt in about 2005 and for the last half decade could not grow. And as you would expect the global oil price started to rise. That's what happens when supply cannot keep up with demand. Economists told us not to worry - Mr. Market would immediately react with increased supplies, reducing price - but it did not happen.

The global oil price (Brent Crude) is now consistently above $100 per barrel after staying below $20 for most of the last century. This is what peak oil is like. This is what peak oil was predicted to be like. High energy prices eat away at the economy by pouring sand into the gears of the economy. Every country in the world tried to compensate for this slowdown by increasing debt. The world is now ludicrously broke - with no chance of paying off this debt bubble. This is peak oil - it is not about resources under the ground - it is about oil production rate - and high oil prices. Don't tell me peak oil cannot happen - it is happening.

I have personally found that my family is stumped when I present this story in this way. They don't have an answer. But the story caused a few of them to ask to see some data. Then I showed them the data. Now they are worried and they hate me :-)

Tell your family T_E not to shoot the messenger. That's another odd form of behavior I've noticed with people, they dislike the messenger more than the information, as if to say the information didn't exist prior to the message. Well, maybe not in their minds, but it did exist, they just weren't aware of it.

Your post is a really good way to tell the story. It highlights the important bits of information, without going into so much detail the average person loses the message.

I particularly liked this part:

High energy prices eat away at the economy by pouring sand into the gears of the economy. Every country in the world tried to compensate for this slowdown by increasing debt. The world is now ludicrously broke - with no chance of paying off this debt bubble.

It's amazing how the idea that growth will kick in at some point provides the impetus for continued borrowing, even as that debt rises to astronomical levels, e.g. Japan.

Another way of telling the story:

We have used up the $20 oil.
We have used up the $40 oil.
We have used up the $60 oil.
We have used up the $80 oil.
We are now using up the $100 oil.
Take a guess where we will be in the future.

aardi - Look at that chart up top re: the age of our current oil wells. What may be shocking to some is that 60% of current global production is coming from fields over 40 yo. IOW from fields discovered when oil was selling for $20/bbl...or less. Only 20% of the production is coming from wells 20 yo or less. So in reality we are still using up the cheap oil. What we haven't been doing for sometime is replacing much of it with cheap or expensive oil. In fact, it doesn't look like we've been doing a very good job with replacing it with $100/bbl oil but that's still a work in progress.

The way they are telling the story outside of TOD...,

$20 oil, everything is normal
$40 oil, what's going on?
$60 oil, speculators
$80 oil, Speculators
$100 oil, Do something about those SPECULATORS...!!!

Time to punish the Party in power and punish incumbents

(I won't even discus PO with my family anymore, got tired of all the ridicule)

The real speculators are the people who fill up their cars. Every time they fill up, buy a car etc they take a short position on the price of oil. The reason why the price of oil is so high is that noone is really willing to give up their lifestyle, their short position on the price of oil.

That old speculator rabbit is one mean rabbit.Mean enough to get between Exon and BP and Chevron and Saudi Aramco and their collective customers and siphon off their rightful profits without them even complaining about it they are so scared of him.

I expect that when speculator rabbit goes on vacation, he camps out in the backwoods and catches wolverines for his breakfast- he eats them raw of course.Probably still scratching and biting and trying to get away.

I'm glad we don't have no speculator rabbits around here 'cause I would have to tote my shotgun loaded with buckshot every time I went outside.

I keep reading, outside TOD, that the "world doesn't have a supply problem."

Whenever I mention world oil production being on a plateau since 2005, I never get a response.

No one wants to hear the bad news.

We are scr#@#&....


Outside of TOD, the high price of oil is due to Speculation.

Oil production to peak in the mid 2030s.

Drilling for dummies

Though the theory has been shown to be largely true — some analysts claim that oil production worldwide is declining, with one barrel of oil drilled for every four barrels that are consumed. Peak oil is based on a number of assumptions that also serve to discredit it. For instance, the theory considers only those fields where extraction is commercially feasible. As technology has progressed, fields earlier thought commercially unviable have been brought into production. As well a number of new fields have been discovered. This has pushed the date of reckoning further back — from the early 90s to 2005, then 2007 and now, finally sometime into mid-2030s.

We are such dummies, we consider only fields that are commercially feasible. All the time we thought Peak Oil was about the peaking of world oil production.

Ron P.

Seems that the author, whose qualifications are ... well ... something concerning speech recognition, agrees that these advanced oil technologies are "feasible only when the international price of oil rises to stratospheric heights".

So can he tell us "dummies" just how high oil will have to rise to make it to the 2030s in good shape?

I offer this only as an example of delusional exuberance about a minor uptick in US oil production, which seems to becoming popular in the MSM these days in the face of all evidence to the contrary.

‘Tight oil’ holds promise of ending U.S. oil imports

This is the place the energy companies call the Bakken, an oil play that has erupted across a forgotten corner of the U.S. It is a frenzy of drilling and pumping and moneymaking. It is also a place where a new energy future is emerging, one that holds the promise of ending U.S. dependence on overseas oil and kick-starting the country’s stagnant economy. Government estimates suggest it could yield 4.3 billion barrels of oil. One industry estimate is five times higher, which would mean the Bakken alone could hold as much recoverable oil as the rest of the country. And it’s just the beginning.

And then the other shoe drops.

But clouding the outlook is a substantial degree of uncertainty. For one, the entire Bakken play is so new that it’s difficult, if not impossible, to predict how much oil will ultimately come from a well. Bakken wells are volcanoes: they briefly shoot out a tremendous quantity of oil, then quickly slow. A well that produces 1,000 barrels a day in the first 30 days – they start anywhere from 300 to more than 1,000 – is unlikely to produce much more than 150 barrels a day 12 months later.

Come on, media guys, pay attention, you are saying that there is a huge amount of initial production out of these wells, and all our oil problems will be solved, and then you turn around and say that after an initial burst of oil, the production from these wells crashes like a rocket in reverse. What do you think the long term results will be? Do you think there actually will be a long term?

And then there's the promoter behind these extravagant claims.

Harold Hamm, the billionaire chief executive of Continental Resources Inc., which holds the largest Bakken land position and is among its most bullish promoters, has said it is ushering in “a new era in the American oil industry.”

“We can be the Saudi Arabia of oil and natural gas in the 21st century,” Mr. Hamm said.

Or not. After having seen more than a few of these resource booms flare briefly and burn out, I would be inclined to put my money on not.

My "Old Pa", my maternal grandfather never had ac chance to go to school a day in his life, but he could count money and add ans subtract and multiply in his head to an amazing degree.He could for instance total up a load of produce coming to a couple of thousand dollars with odd amounts of a half a different dozen fruits and veggies all priced differently in a couple of minutes.

But he couldn't figure into millions and billions as he had no need;he once asked me how much a million was and I told him, a thousand thousands.After a minute, he said he had never imagined himself as a millionaire as he had obviously never had possession of a million dollars all at once, but that he had handled that much totaled up, over the course of a long life, so he was a sort of a millionaire, one way of looking at it..

If he were still around, and used to millions and billions, he would say something to this effect if somebody told him about the Bakken..

Now jus for a rough guess, let's say we gotta have twenty million barrels a day, and that'd be a billion barrels burnt and gone in less'n than two months.The whole kit'n kaboodle of it wouldn't last out a year.Maybe three or four years at the outside.

He never had any trouble thinking for himself.Maybe that is because he was never taught not to in school.

because he was never taught not to in school

So true


Critical thinking is neither taught to nor expected from most students these days. If only the world had more teachers and professors like this.

When I was in school, as part of the curriculum, the teachers were supposed to "teach the students to think". I thought it was rather presumptuous of them, since they weren't really capable of doing much thinking themselves. They were mostly repeating the course guidelines to us.

There was a typical case around grade 8 when the science teacher called me up to the blackboard and asked me to write the formula for "a reaction" on the blackboard. Since he didn't specify what kind of "reaction" he wanted, the possibilities were endless, and plain old chemistry was so boring, I wrote down the equations for carbon-catalyzed thermonuclear fusion. Stunned silence.

It wasn't as traumatizing for them, though, as the time I brought a dinosaur bone I had found sticking out of a river bank to Sunday School, and asked the teachers to explain how it got there. They told be not to ask questions like that, which actually answered a lot of my questions.

I brought a dinosaur bone I had found sticking out of a river bank to Sunday School, and asked the teachers to explain how it got there.

Had you been really a whiz kid you could have quoted them chapter and verse from 2 Ezra and asked if it was a body part left over from Behemoth (the great land monster) or Leviathan (the great sea monster)? Being that it was found at a river bed your confusion would have been understandable. Mind you, the fact that your Sunday School closed down the debate gives me a pretty good indication your particular church community probably didn't know, little less quote, the Apocrypha much.

For what it's worth, traditional and orthodox Christianity sees reason and faith as mutually supportive, not conflicting. Biblical literalism is a fairly modern and non-conformist Protestant adaption. Your Sunday School Teachers, like the secular equivalents, were in all likelihood just being lazy in the thinking department. A good comeback when dealing with intellectually slothful Christians is: "God gave you a brain, it's sinful not to use it."

I had a pretty good idea what it was because paleontologist had identified about 25 different species of dinosaurs in the river valley near where I grew up (there are specimens of them in museums all over the world), and I had read the scientific reports.

I had already read enough of the Bible (albeit not the Apocrypha) to know that there wasn't anything in it similar to what I had found. What I wanted to know was if my Sunday school teachers could come up with some kind of convincing explanation of it, and the fact they told me to shut up indicated that they couldn't.

Things have changed since then, and the region now has the Royal Tyrrell Museum, which has one of the largest collections of complete dinosaur skeletons in the world. Some of the people in the area still think the Earth is only 6000 years old, though. It's tough to hold a rational conversation with them, under the circumstances.

Hi Rocky,

It is interesting that I live in the heart of the American Bible Belt surrounded by fundamentalists, including most of my family.None of them seem to have ever heard of Bishop so and so who came up with that 6000 year age for the Earth.

They take the KJB as the drop dead serious literal word of God of course, but they don't believe the world is any particular age.The dumber ones do believe in a very young earth.

And if you get any of the more intelligent ones aside and they really trust you , you will find that they mostly believe in geological time, after a fashion.Expecting them to admit that in public however is about as likely as admitting they murdered somebody.

It is obvious that even television is not totally worthless, as most of what they do know about the larger world, they learned watching the idiot box.

In the end, it seems to me that these people are hardly any more deluded, after allowing for their average educational status, than the liberal arts faculty of most universities.

This remark is not a defense of the fundamentalists but rather a well deserved swipe at the supposedly better educated elite.

As a matter of fact, a couple of the best thinkers( now deceased) I have ever had the privilege of knowing were illiterate.They based their thoughts on a lot of assumptions I knew to be mistaken, but they could arrive at logical conclusions quickly and surely.

I brought a dinosaur bone I had found sticking out of a river bank to Sunday School, and asked the teachers to explain how it got there. They told be not to ask questions like that, which actually answered a lot of my questions.

That reminds me of a similar incident that happened to me. I was about 17 I think, but I asked my Dad: "Dad, how did them kangroos get from Australia to where Noah's Ark was, and how did they get back>" Dad jumped to his feet, stuck his finger right in my face and yelled: "Son, that is the word of God and that is not for you to question." That answered my question well enough.

Ron P.

Not to mention other obvious questions, such as: What did the lions and tigers (and all the other carnivores) eat during the 40 days on the Ark? How much food was taken on board for all the plant eaters? What about fresh water storage? If the entire Earth were flooded, what did any of these critters eat after The Flood, given that all the plants would have been killed by The Flood? Of course, who shoveled all the poop overboard everyday?

Or, just maybe, all those critters were actually just DNA stored on a spacecraft for the 40 light year jump from Planet X to Earth as the local star began to die. That scenario is slightly more plausible than the Biblical story of The Flood..

E. Swanson

What did the lions and tigers (and all the other carnivores) eat during the 40 days on the Ark?

Of course, the lions and tigers feasted on unicorns, satyrs, cockatrices, vampires, zombies, and behemoths and other creatures mentioned in the Bible, and that's why we don't have any of them today.

I can make these things up as well as any amateur Bible thumper.

More imaginative ones would claim the lions and tigers wiped out the dinosaurs since they had nowhere to escape on the Arc. They would even think of some way the lions and tigers could do this even though a lot of of the dinosaurs were much bigger and more ferocious than they were.

+1 LOL


There was a typical case around grade 8 when the science teacher called me up to the blackboard and asked me to write the formula for "a reaction" on the blackboard. Since he didn't specify what kind of "reaction" he wanted, the possibilities were endless, and plain old chemistry was so boring, I wrote down the equations for carbon-catalyzed thermonuclear fusion. Stunned silence.

You wrote a carbon catalyzed nuclear fusion reaction on the blackboard when you were 13-14? Wow. It sounds like you were so ahead of your class you could have been bumped up a couple of grades.

My mother, being a wise woman, didn't believe in advancing children beyond their age level on the grounds that even though they were smart enough, they weren't mature enough for the higher level grades. There were some non-academic skills to learn such as when it was time to fight, and when it was time to run from a fight, and it wasn't good to be the smallest kid in the class when push came to shove.

In retrospect, what I needed is a more rounded education, with some languages, guitar playing, economics, business skills, and other stuff that kids don't usually get in school.

With a little more challenge I might have learned some work habits, which was the greatest shortcoming I had when I hit university. In high school I never had to do any work, and I could just sop up the course material up by osmosis. That didn't work in university where I was expected to do some serious research to pass the courses.

And realistically I should have started on languages and musical instruments when I was much younger. Kung fu would have been useful in high school, too.

My experience was that even when skipping up, public school didn't offer enough challenge to instill work habits, and I would have no work ethic except that Dad was self-employed, had us working from age 6 or so, and had a firm hand with the rod. My younger siblings are fairly well adjusted, and I think I'm less messed-up than I would have been had I not skipped up (which is a pretty low bar).

My parents took the opposite tack on 'skipping' grades (all 3 of my younger sisters skipped multiple grades in elementary school, and I went to 9th grade after 4th thru 6th, where I had a much better social life than in my 'age-peer' group). Both parents took seriously teaching academics, business, trades, and life skills outside of school, but I totally missed out on the cultural enrichment side of things (we did 'learn' instruments in school programs but were never very talented), since neither of them had much to teach on that front except some literature, and we didn't have money/time for outside programs. Languages early would have been good, none of us got serious about it until adulthood (my parents and one sister(fluent) speak Mandarin, one sister is fluent in Spanish and another is moving to Peru to become fluent, and an older brother learned conversational Arabic and German in military postings, although they have atrophied pretty badly). My paternal grandfather was raised in a multilingual immigrant household and then spent WWII in the Pacific, he spoke seven languages but did not impart them to his children.

I am not surprised to see that CERA is the source of that bold prediction to "reduce US oil imports to zero". Neither am I surprised that CERA does not exactly explain how to get to zero - when the article only states it might be possible that the Bakken can hold as much oil as the rest of the country.

Doing some very simple math, the US would actually need about two Bakken regions of the reserve size CERA expects to "get to zero" imports - although CERA admits "That’s a really optimistic case". Indeed.


The cost of flying airplanes across the sky has eclipsed the ability to support it at many communities


Prospects are dim for improving existing train travel, let alone expanding it into national networks of high-speed intercity routes....

the most ambitious major project that is still alive, the proposed high-speed system linking California cities from San Francisco to San Diego. At a cost now estimated at $98.5 billion, that project, still in the planning phase, is already 13 years behind schedule.

Along with predictions for oil rising well over $100 in 2102, looks like we'll be staying home.


Look there's no particular reason why the world even needs long distance passenger trains, let alone airplanes. Cargo, yes, but not passenger.

I think of the future, and I see medieval, poor, crowded cities in which people get around by some combination of foot/bicycle/moped/small car, and very little traveling / badlands in between.

That's the only solution to energy decline.

America as this gigantic enterprise where people go from N.Y. to L.A. willy nilly without even a second thought is over.

The energy consumption to travel by train cross-country is not particularly high. Practical high speed rail in current use consumes about 0.1kwh per passenger-km. This goes down for slower speeds and higher ridership. The average American currently only travels 3000 km per year by plane (No we are not all jumping back and forth between LA and NY on a whim). That's only 300kwh/yr (34W continuous) if replaced by HIGH-speed rail, less for slower travel. Without that level of infrastructure, buses are pretty efficient.

That article is rather dismal, although perhaps realistic. Other than for the money-is-no-object "business traveler" (an endangered species), $500 train trips are not a solution. And yet, in India (and China) the masses travel in (and on, and hanging off of) trains. Is there any way, given our political and economic situation in the USA, to increase passenger rail service?

Is there any way, given our political and economic situation in the USA, to increase passenger rail service?

Short answer: No.
Short reason: The State doesn't own the track and right-of-way.

As far as I know, in every other civilized nation the State owns the track and right-of-way while private corporations own at most a portion of the rolling stock. This is the same as the US situation with respect to roads, airports and ship terminals.

For railroads, however, the US turns this logical system on its head. Private corporations own pretty much every bit of inter-city track and right-of-way while the government owns the passenger rolling stock. This situation is unlikely to change anytime soon.

Individual metropolitan areas can develop subways and metro systems that provide commuter rail. But solving the inter-city rail problem for passengers simply will not happen until/unless track and right-of-way is transferred to public ownership.

Well, most people in the US do not see themselves as potential train riders, partly because it takes forever to get anywhere on most of the current system, partly because so many people are a hundred or more miles from the nearest stop, and partly because the current trains are so infrequent. So good luck getting them to pay extra taxes to buy up the rights-of-way even if the lobby stayed silent, which it wouldn't. Why pay taxes for somebody else's trip?

And of course the very reason to take the rights-of-way into public ownership would be to provide a massive implicit subsidy to passenger service. In a scenario where a lot of voters came to want that, the government would probably be just too strapped financially to pull it off - especially since the voters have a very long history of wanting all sorts of stuff without paying for it.

Well, there's the rub, the part about the $500 trips. The Shinkansen in Japan run about 40¢ to 80¢ (US) per mile, depending on circumstances and exchange rates. So $500 might buy you, say, a round trip to a place 400 miles away, which is significant in small, hypercrowded, nearly-linear Japan, but nothing in the US. And, for regular people, ordinary intercity local trains may not be a viable alternative since the sheer time consumed to get anywhere will often be a stumbling block. (Plus, Amtrak often gets you someplace in the wee hours of the night, and in some cases no sane person wants to be out and about in that neighborhood in the wee hours.)

So people will (mostly) drive until and unless they can't. And in the meantime they will not see themselves as potential train riders - too expensive, time-consuming, or both - so they're not going to tax themselves to pay for somebody else's trip. Perhaps it would be different in an "alternate time line", starting from a tabula rasa, but of course the starting-point is the here-and-now rather than a blank slate.

To what extent are single track rail lines a problem?


All but about 16,000 miles of rail track in the USA are single track.

Some massive double tracking projects have been built. Double tracking Abo Canyon left just two short sections of single track between Chicago and Los Angeles.

And even with these two sections, BNSF can now run 130 trains/day (up from actual 80 trains/day).


One of the two single track sections will be double tracked in 2012. the other is a major river bridge.

Best Hopes for More Double Tracking,


It's WAY past the time we should have put a stiff tax on aviation fuel.

And motor fuel, of course.


How about an exclusive "2012 predictions" thread?

Canada quietly shipping bomb-grade uranium to U.S., says 'Secret' federal memo

Weapons-grade uranium is quietly being transported within Canada, and into the United States, in shipments the country's nuclear watchdog wants to keep cloaked in secrecy.

A confidential federal memo obtained through the Access to Information Act says at least one payload of spent, U.S.-origin highly enriched uranium fuel has already been moved stateside under a new Canada-U.S. deal.

The shipments stem from the highly publicized agreement signed last year by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and U.S. President Barack Obama, amid fears that nuclear-bomb-making material could fall into the hands of terrorists.

The Canadian stash gradually being shipped from Chalk River, Ont., contains hundreds of kilograms of highly enriched uranium — large enough to make several Hiroshima-sized nuclear bombs.

I don't know if the risk of it being stolen by terrorists is any higher in Canada than the US (particularly since they didn't know Canada had any weapons-grade uranium), but maybe the US was getting concerned about Canada having all that bomb-making material.

This is most likely fuel that had been intended to be used in the two Maple reactors. The Maple reactors were to replace the now 50+ year old NRU reactor for the production of medical isotopes. The Maple reactors have essentially been abandoned due to an unexpected technical problem with their design. The NRU reactor also uses highly enriched uranium as fuel. The US government would certainly prefer that use of HEU in reactors be discontinued.

Now that Xmas is over, oil is free to rise over $100 and some retailers will close some stores. There will be a few more than just Sears and K-Mart joining that club.


Good little read at ZH showing some atypically "positive" comments about the future.


...and as for 2012 predictions:


Japan 'was unprepared' for nuclear disaster

TOKYO — The operators of the tsunami-stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant and government regulators were woefully unprepared for disaster, the first official probe into the March 11 catastrophe said Monday.

"TEPCO did not incorporate measures against tsunamis exceeding the design basis. This indicates the limit of voluntary safety measures."

The panel's interim report sharply contrasted with TEPCO's own probe, which said the utility could have had no way to prepare for the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and giant waves that sparked meltdowns and explosions at the plant.

TEPCO's accident management programmes assumed only relatively minor internal incidents such as mechanical failures and human errors, the panel said.

Risks such as "earthquakes and tsunamis were not included in the scope of consideration ...

The government decided to withhold simulations of how radioactive materials from the wrecked plant could spread, while repeatedly playing down health worries.

Summary of Interim Report: http://icanps.go.jp/eng/111226ExecutiveSummary.pdf

Collateral damage from Fukushima hits Europe

Several leading European electricity providers and nuclear power plant constructors now count as part of the collateral damage caused by the tsunami that destroyed the Japanese nuclear power plant of Fukushima last March.

In reference to the German government's decision to phase out nuclear power soon after the meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, Johannes Teyssen, CEO of E.ON, one of Germany's leading electricity providers and power plant operators, warned the public that the industry's balance sheet would be affected by "extraordinary costs caused by (these) market shifts and regulations".

Data tabulated by the Free University of Berlin suggests that each of the eight nuclear power plants, had they remained in operation, would have generated a net income of one million euros per day for E.ON and other providers.

Earlier this month, E.ON, along with Germany's three other leading electricity providers RWE, Vatenfall and EnBW, announced plans to slash 20,000 jobs, and braced themselves for losses amounting to billions of dollars.

Japan may put nuclear power firm under state control

Japan's government on Tuesday floated the idea of putting the operator of the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant under temporary state control, as it asked for $8.9 billion more in compensation aid.

Yukio Edano, the minister of economy, trade and industry, told Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) to consider "every possibility including temporary state control" to strengthen its financial base, the Jiji and Kyodo news agencies reported.

Sunlight and bunker oil a fatal combination for Pacific herring

The study, to be published the week of Dec. 26 in the early edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that even small oil spills can have a large impact on marine life, and that common chemical analyses of oil spills may be inadequate.

... Specifically, the study found that components of Cosco Busan bunker oil accumulated in naturally spawned herring embryos, then interacted with sunlight during low tides to kill the embryos. Laboratory fertilized eggs, caged in deeper waters, were protected from the lethal combination of sunlight and oil, but still showed less severe abnormalities associated with oil exposure.

An Urban Archaeologist's (Dumpster Diver's) Holiday Observations

... Between us, my husband and I have about ten dollars to last us until the end of the month. So, for the moment, it is all about aluminum and copper. Aluminum brings $0.45 to $0.60 per pound in cash at recycle, and insulated copper (cords cut from appliances, telephones, or anything that plugs into a wall except for cable) brings $1.00 per pound. Add another dollar per pound if you are willing to strip the cords. January is the best month of the year for divers because Christmas is now a disposable holiday and Christmas lights are, quite literally, the gift that keeps on giving. We will keep eating this month because we know how to dive for survival.

... After the first of the year, the land of dumpsters is a cash cow. [Chrismas] Lights out the ass. Rejected presents, New With Tags. Fully decorated trees. Appliances, if new gifts replace the old, and even furniture, again if old must be discarded to make way for new. We have not been to the mall in years. Every appliance we have was retrieved, new, boxed, and never used, from dumpsters.

Hmmmm. Must check out the back alleys more carefully these days. The cat and I go for long walks around the alleys where the dumpsters are. I dive, he checks his pee-mail...Pickings are pretty good. Be nice to find another lamp. So far this year, I've bagged a chest of drawers (needed alittle work), a nice rug (just wash well in tub with strong soap), bunch of dishes (soak them in bleach).

How Right-Wing Conspiracy Theories May Pose a Genuine Threat to Humanity

... Diamond, in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, said, "one always has to ask about people's cultural response. Why is it that people failed to perceive the problems developing around them, or if they perceived them, why did they fail to solve the problems that would eventually do them in? Why did some peoples perceive and recognize their problems and others not?" Diamond explained:

A theme that emerges...is insulation of the decision-making elite from the consequences of their actions. That is to say, in societies where the elites do not suffer from the consequences of their decisions, but can insulate themselves, the elite are more likely to pursue their short-term interests, even though that may be bad for the long-term interests of the society, including the children of the elite themselves.

Today, oil and gas corporations are still funding a bunch of crank climate change deniers in order to avoid regulations that might slow their "short-term interests" in extracting as much wealth as they can from traditional hydrocarbons. And here we have Tea Partiers -- a "movement" nurtured by business-friendly Republican operatives and backed by the Koch brothers' dirty energy money -- being whipped into a frenzy by the likes of Glenn Beck and shouting down local planners trying to do something about rising water levels. They're freaking out about energy-efficient lightbulbs and bike-sharing programs, the very sorts of things we need in order to stave off disaster.

The problem with conservatives is that they're right as often as they're wrong. The problem with liberals is that they're wrong as often as they're right.

What the conservatives really wants is for the liberals to stand up and say what the real consequences of moving away from business as usual really are. The whole reason why these conspiracy theories exist is because there is a very real sense amongst conservatives that the liberals aren't telling the whole story. They are right to feel this way because the liberals aren't telling the whole story. How many liberals have actually taken the time to consider what the 'end game' consequences are for a decarbonised, renewable, egalitarian society really is?

How many conservatives [forum members excluded] have actually taken the time to consider what the 'end game' consequences are for a carbonised, fossil-fueled, capitalist society really is?


How many conservatives [forum members excluded] have actually taken the time to consider what the 'end game' consequences are for a carbonised, fossil-fueled, capitalist society really is?

The consequences of not using fossil fuels are still significantly worse than the consequences of using fossil fuels. Replacing fossil fuels with renewable infrastructure likely means the burning of all known fossil fuel reserves as well as digging up all known ore resources and then some more. If you're the CEO of an oil company then you'd have to understand the economics of resource extraction, what applies to oil likely also applies to copper and iron and coal and anything else you care to mention. If the executives of Exon-Mobil know that they cannot simply turn the tap and produce more oil then they ought to know that copper mines cannot do the same either. I personally cannot distinguish between conspiracy, self interest and enlightenment.

Perk Oil

Living in balance with our environment, even if that means fewer after market mufflers and the oversized trucks their attached to, less meat consumption (even if that means less heart disease). You mean a quieter, less disease ridden world? Sure, sign me up. Maybe instead of spending 750 billion on defense, we can spend 1/2 of that on renewables like solar for every residential house.

What about living in balance with the environment in balance also with the rest of the world? Surely if you take the argument to its' natural conclusion then why not also try to be equal with other countries as well? The world average income is $8000. If you take away the overshoot then the world is sustainably earning about $6,000 per person per year. Only with extreme surplus can fossil fuels actually subsidise the creation of massive renewable energy and that simply isn't possible in an egalitarian world. I guess you could say "either we're both screwed or you're screwed more and I'm not".

"The consequences of not using fossil fuels are still significantly worse than the consequences of using fossil fuels."

An unprovable conjecture.

At this point, there is no easy way forward, even if we could somehow bring some speck of sanity into political discussions.

But GW can get pretty darn bad--read Mark Lynas's 'Six Degrees' for a quick primer.

Humans lived millions of years without using ff. Humans have never experienced the climate chaos that is coming down the pike in the very near future.

Fatih Birol is taking about six degrees by the end of the century. Even half that, by most estimates, would end much of civilization as we know it.

Yeah I know climate change is bad but at the same time peak oil is a more immediate concern than climate change in terms of the next 20-30 years.

at one time I would've agreed with you but now am not so sure.

immediate impacts of climate destabilisation are being felt, and they affect marine ecosystems, forests, watersheds, rivers, etc -- all the stuff we humans need in order to eat, in other words. when the food supply is at risk, other impacts (like not being able to drive your car or fly to Hawai'i for vacation) seem less important.

and yes I know, we put 10 calories of ff into each calorie of industrial ag "feedstock" (I can't quite bring myself to call it "food"). so shortage of ff looks scary and looks like it imperils our food supply. but we don't *have* to do our farming in this stupid, wasteful, destructive way. there are other ways to produce food. if the climate goes haywire, if droughts and flooding become commonplace over wide regions, if pest species multiply unpredictably, then even our fallback methods of traditional agriculture (or cutting-edge sustainable polyculture) become harder to maintain. they are more resilient than fragile industrial monocrop, but they are not infinitely resilient.

if we don't eat, we die. pretty simple really. imho any damage to our collective ability to produce food *sustainably* over many generations, is equivalent to a war crime. but I realise this is a minority viewpoint...

FF use isn't just in production but in transportation and the maintenance of roads. In the case of shortages much of the farmland would become nonviable to even farm due to distance from major rail hubs. It doesn't matter how you farm if you can't bring what you farm to market at a reasonable price. So whilst we are damned eventually from fossil fuel use, we're damned immediately without fossil fuels. It is a genuine catch 22 in which the sins of the fathers and mothers really have carried down through multiple generations.

Well put. The last forty years, especially, of idiotic decisions have left us with no good future paths.

I just would like to see us reverse our tendency to dump our problems on the future and for once take the lumps now so that future generations might have the slim chance of being left with a habitable planet.

But I guess that's just me.

How many liberals have actually taken the time to consider what the 'end game' consequences are for a decarbonised, renewable, egalitarian society really is?

Living in balance with our environment, even if that means fewer after market mufflers and the oversized trucks their attached to, less meat consumption (even if that means less heart disease). You mean a quieter, less disease ridden world? Sure, sign me up. Maybe instead of spending 750 billion on defense, we can spend 1/2 of that on renewables like solar for every residential house.

I suppose I'm a different kind of conservative-certainly I do not fit into the scoffing stereotype descriptions of conservatives usually found here in this forum.

Neither a conservative nor a liberal can do any good deep serious thinking about our situation unless he is reasonably intelligent,reasonably well educated in the basic sciences, reasonably well acquainted with the day to day reality of politics -local, national,international- and most important of all , a realist.

I agree with my liberal acquaintances in nearly every case as to what are desirable goals.We all agree we should look after the environment, etc.

The only real difference is that I think there are better means of achieving the goals, and that these means involve conservative/libertarian philosophical principles.

It is not true conservatism to believe in unfettered property rights for instance;YOUR( RHETORICAL) property rights need to be restricted to the extent necessary to prevent undue injury to MY(rhetorical) health, wealth, and welfare-in short, protecting the commons comes first, because in the end, we ALL depend on the commons.

Nobody no matter how wealthy he may be will ever eat a lobster again if there are no more lobsters..

My never ending "beef" with liberalism is based on the observation that liberals even more so than conservatives are naive and unrealistic in their estimations of human behavior.But the behavior, naivete, and hypocrisy of both factions is breath taking to say the least.

Thank you OFM for pointing out that the conservation of the commons is the deepest and most honourable kind of conservatism.

Today's "conservatives" with their absolute, hardline denial of the very concept of the commons, are not conservatives at all but wild-eyed and incredibly destructive radicals...

What the conservatives really wants is for the liberals to stand up and say what the real consequences of moving away from business as usual really are.

Americans consume 12kW/capita.

The Swiss consume 5kW/capita, and are studying how to bring that to 2kW.

An end to business as usual is nothing to be afraid of, if you don't listen to the right wing propaganda fear mongers.

I don't see it as fear mongering really. It isn't exactly apples to apples when you're comparing one single 'state' to a group of 50 states especially as they have developed according to different paradigms.

...insulation of the decision-making elite from the consequences of their actions...


To what degree, I wonder, does this apply to each of us individually?

Even if we are not a member of the elite (e.g "I just work for them..."), how insulated are each of us from the actions of our culture?

"I want high-speed rail for christmas" ... follow that through the supply chain and see who pays for it, and how each of us is protected from paying for it.

As long and as much as each of us participates in this culture is as long and as much as each of us is "insulated from the consequences (our culture's) actions."

I was thinking the same question.

Our culture is one that provokes each of us into neatly insulating ourselves from consequences.

"insulated from the consequences (our culture's) actions." Might be a good, new definition of "Doomer"

Trying my best to get as "insulated" as possible.

Don in Maine

Iran to 'block' Gulf oil if sanctions proceed

No oil will be allowed to pass through the Strait of Hormuz if the West applies sanctions on Iran's oil exports, Iranian Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi has warned.

The threat was reported on Tuesday by the state news agency IRNA as Iran conducted its fourth day of naval drills near the Strait of Hormuz, at the entrance to the oil-rich Arabian Gulf.

"If sanctions are adopted against Iranian oil, not a drop of oil will pass through the Strait of Hormuz," Rahimi was quoted as saying.

Seems more like a promise than a "threat" to me.

I haven't seen any link to Pepe Escobar's latest installment of Pipelinestan: Playing Chess in Eurasia. Many of the articles he cites and links to should have appeared in Drumbeats.

Easy for me to imagine things going to heck in that proverbial handbasket. To their people, they are just peacefully responding to aggression. Then when we discover they've closed it, we can plausibly argue (to our citizens at least), that they started it. Then when the strike back, that only proves how evil they are, killing our brave military personell and all. So everyone can feel that they are on the right side, and that escalation has been blessed as sanctioned bu god himself.

News: FDA Won’t Act Against Ag Antibiotic Use

With no notice other than a holiday-eve posting in the Federal Register, the US Food and Drug Administration has reneged on its long-stated intention to compel large-scale agriculture to curb over-use of agricultural antibiotics, which it had planned to do by reversing its approval for putting penicillin and tetracyclines in feed.

How long-stated? The FDA first announced its intention to withdraw those approvals in 1977.

... In the Federal Register, the FDA says that it plans instead to “focus its efforts for now on the potential for voluntary reform and the promotion of the judicious use of antimicrobials in the interest of public health.”

... from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association

NCBA supports the role that FDA plays in making science-based decisions regarding the safety and efficacy of antibiotics and antimicrobials used in animal agriculture… However, this (sic) is no conclusive scientific evidence indicating the judicious use of antibiotics in cattle herds leads to antimicrobial resistance in humans.

It is not correct that there is no such evidence: There are dozens of good scientific papers on the link between antibiotic use in animals and antibiotic-resistant illness in humans. (Good bibliographies are maintained by the Pew Charitable Trusts and by the group Keep Antibiotics Working.) The link is so robust that in Europe, subtherapeutic or “growth promoter” dosing of feed has been banned since 2005.

Who needs organic promotions when you have the FDA?

Another example of the tragedy of the commons. Or, as Greer said, Survival isn't cost-effective

FDA is a tool of the ag industry.

Even more scary is that the FDA is also a tool of the drug industry.

We get the same in the oil industry, the NDIC(North Dakota Industrial Commission) is a tool of the oil industry. Others states are similar with their regulatory agencies.

Global warming? Another 8 gigawatts of coal power coming soon...

Shenhua Group Corp. plans to build Asia’s biggest coal-fired power plant in China’s southern province of Guangxi to help reduce electricity shortages in the region, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

The parent of Hong Kong-listed China Shenhua Energy Co. (1088) signed an agreement with the local government to build an 8- gigawatt plant at the port city of Beihai, Xinhua said in the report today, without citing anyone. Construction will take about five years, it said.


Wow, throw caution to the wind on AGW. Let's get crazy!

The part I like? is that it's being built in a coastal port so it can be (without high transport costs) run on imported coal from mines China already owns in Indonesia and Australia.

Taking the pulse of Ngozumpa

"It's widely recognised that the glaciers in this region are melting down as a result of global warming, but what hasn't been realised is that they're also being eaten away from the inside as well," he says.

"These glaciers are becoming like Swiss cheeses, so everything is happening more rapidly than is apparent by just looking at the surface."

France has had hottest year since 1900

This year was the hottest in France since the start of the 20th century, Meteo France said Tuesday, with average national temperatures 1.5 degrees Celsius warmer than the norm.

This year's spring was particularly warm, with temperatures an average 4.0 degrees Celsius warmer than usual in April. The "norm" is the average temperature from 1971 to 2000, Gourand said.

FACTBOX-Will 2012 top 2011 for record weather disasters?

From floods that crippled countries, to mega cyclones, huge blizzards, killer tornadoes to famine-inducing droughts, 2011 has been another record-breaker for bad weather.

While it is too early to predict what 2012 will be like, insurers and weather prediction agencies point to a clear trend: the world's weather is becoming more extreme and more costly.

Following are details of major weather disasters for 2011 and some early forecasts for 2012. ...

Floods derail iron-ore train in Australia

SYDNEY — Heavy flooding following a tropical cyclone in northern Australia swept a 20-carriage freight train off a bridge Tuesday, injuring the driver, as the storm system threatened to intensify.

The iron-ore train derailed following torrential rain in the Northern Territory caused by Grant, a tropical cyclone that triggered heavy flooding in some areas, swamping roads and stranding scores of people, police said.

also http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-16336578

The weather pattern seems to guarantee a repeat of the massive flooding Northern Australia experienced last summer (our winter).

Not to forget the other Asian flood story, here's an update from the BBC on the floods in the Philipines:

Philippines Typhoon Washi death toll reaches 1,249

Many of those who died were sleeping as Typhoon Washi caused rivers to burst their banks, leading to landslides. Entire villages were washed away.

E. Swanson

Saudi production to fall by 400,000 bp/d next year to 8.8 mb/d.

Saudi Oil Break-Even Price Rise to $71.5 Next Year, NCB Says

Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest crude exporter, is expected to produce 9.2 million barrels a day on average in 2011, Jarmo Kotilaine, the bank’s chief economist, said today in response to e-mailed questions. The lender, known as NCB, forecasts the country’s average oil production to fall to 8.8 million barrels a day in 2012, he said.

According to OPEC's Oil Market Report Saudi produced 9,597,000 bp/d in November and for the first 11 months of the year they have averaged 9,217,000 bp/d. That is crude only and does not include condensate.

Ron P.

Saudis Need $74 Oil Price to Balance 2012 Budget, Jadwa Says

Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, needs $74 a barrel for its crude exports next year to balance its budget, Jadwa Investment Co. said.

For Saudi oil prices to reach $74 a barrel, the kingdom needs around $70 a barrel for WTI and $78 a barrel for Brent, Jadwa, a diversified investment business based in Riyadh, said in an emailed report today. Saudi Arabia, the largest Arab economy, forecast a budget surplus of 12 billion riyals ($3.2 billion) in 2012 in a statement yesterday.

Daily Saudi production next year may average 8.8 million barrels and domestic consumption will average 2.4 million barrels as the country consumes more natural gas locally instead of crude, according to the statement.

Saudi Arabia: spend it while you can

... In addition to Saudi Arabia’s ambitious housing plans and government hand-outs to citizens – announced earlier this year to inoculate the country against turmoil elsewhere in the Arab world – much of the largesse will be showered on healthcare, education and defence.

The government spending splurge expanded Saudi Arabia’s economy by 28 per cent in nominal terms last year, the fastest rate of economic growth since 1980. Adjusted for inflation, the economy expanded 6.8 per cent, according to the fresh but preliminary government figures.

also Saudi 'needs $74 oil price to balance budget'

Or more?
Saudi Oil Breakeven Now at $91, Moubayed Says, Dec. 21


I can't see videos, just noticed the link. Seems alot of analysts are pushing the "break even" up. Break even for state revenue, not oil production cost. That number may be lost to even the Royals.

On a related note, Saudi reduces national debt (and could pay it off 100%).



Oil on Nigerian coast after major Shell spill: NGO

LAGOS — An environmental group said Tuesday that an oil slick had approached Nigeria's coastline after a major Shell spill last week, but the company insisted that its spill had been largely dispersed.

Nigerian group Environmental Rights Action, which closely monitors oil spills in the country, said oil was reported along the shoreline of fishing communities in Bayelsa state as well as Delta state.

... A Shell spokesman in Nigeria told AFP that "if there was any more spill found on the coastline, it must have come from a third party."

Iran: no oil will be allowed to pass through Strait if West applies sanctions:


None shall pass:


Actually a pretty smart threat on the part of Iran. They knew their previous threats to close the straits of Hormuz had worked (so far) against military strikes, therefore they figured why not use the same threat in the case of sanctions to slow or stop the flow of oil out of Iran.

The West on the other hand perceived that although a direct military strike might cause the closure of those straits, with oil price spiking and in turn slowing western economies, they thought sanctions would not.

Many of those decision makers are now probably thinking,

"Well, that didn't work!"

Many of those decision makers are now probably thinking,

No. They are thinking it would be a totally suicidal irrational move, so just like attacking Pearl Harbor 70years ago, we don't have to worry about such a crazy plan. Its really hard to understand your opponents desperation, when you've trapped him into a corner, that to you just feels like the right place for him to be in.

I read your post twice but still do not understand it. Can you word it differently?

The idea, seventy years ago, was that an attack on Pearl was too crazy for the Japanese to do it. Too provacative. Too, expensive in terms of scarce fuel (which it was). Plus we thought too highly of our defensive capabilities. So it was not considered as a credible response.
Now Iran blocking Hormuz would lead to some sort of military response, so we naturally assume, they wouldn't consider actually doing it. Since they "won't call our bluff", we are free to back them into the proverbial corner.......

Thanks, I get the drift now. At this point it's all bluff, both ways, as we threaten to stop or greatly reduce their profits from oil exports and they threaten to cut off oil exiting the straits of Hormuz. Which one takes the other seriously or not is very hard to know at this point. However, my point was in this game of high stakes bluffs, the Iranians played their hand well today.

1/3 of all world oil exports leave those straits, so if anything happens there it affects many other ME exporters, and plummets world economies as oil price spikes wildly. Rachel Maddow on her show tonight said that an expert on the subject told her that in 2012, watch for Iran, Iran, Iran.

If Iran did sink ships in the channel through those straits, how long would it take even after an incursion is over to remove them?

The drumbeats of conflict are getting louder, and it will turn ugly at some point if Iran does not decide to take their own nuclear enrichment off the table. But it might just as well get ugly for us as well with an oil price spiked recession.

Well said.

Some people argue that the "economically" smart thing to do is forgo solar & windmills, and let the "free markets" dictate the course of our ship of state.

But one wonders exactly how wise these money-maddened mobs are when Iran reminds us of that little Inconvenient Geographic Truth, namely, the placement of the Straits of Hormuz.

I have read three or four thick books about Pearl Harbor.I'm not at all into conspiracy theories, but if there was ever a case wherein the evidence indicates a confluence of arrogance, miscalculation, stupidity, and professional malfeasance with a strong hint of events being "steered" with one of Greenish's metaphorical crowbars applied at just the right time and place, Pearl Harbor fits the bill perfectly.

The loss of the fleet and sailors was nothing, in terms of the big picture, in comparison to the effect produced by it.The country went morphed from isolationist to the warpath virtually over night.

The best officers and diplomatic personell in both Germany and Japan issued solemn warnings against awakening the sleeping American giant, knowing that given our latent industrial capacity and our being protected by two broad oceans they could not hope to bring war to us;whereas we could, given the fact that we had allies on the European and Asian sides, effectively bring war to them.

In the end , I decided that the odds are ninety nine to one that Pearl Harbor was NOT a trick engineered at the highest levels of the White House and the military establishment to sucker Japan into enraging the American public.

But that last one percent haunts me sometimes....

University of Tehran professor analyzes tensions:


Gas drilling boom good news for sand suppliers in Ohio

AKRON -- The boom in drilling for natural gas trapped in layers of shale has been good news for a handful of Ohio companies that supply the type of sand needed for such drilling.

Rob Sidley's family-owned company in Thompson in northeast Ohio processes sand that is perfect for the drilling process because it's almost 100 percent quartz as well as round, hard and water resistant. It flows like liquid and can survive heavy pressures underground.

The Akron Beacon Journal reported Monday that companies such as Sidley's have a valuable commodity because 6,000 to 8,000 tons of sand are needed to drill one well. A decade ago, such sand sold for about $35 per ton, compared to $60 to $80 per ton now.

Beijing Lets Natural-Gas Prices Rise in Two Areas

BEIJING—China will test natural-gas-price reforms in select locations, in the latest in a string of moves intended to help rebalance China's economy and encourage its industries to become less energy intensive.

The programs will take place in China's southern Guangdong province and the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, the National Development and Reform Commission said Tuesday. The move, effective immediately, will see prices in the two areas linked to the market rather than kept artificially low, which has been the government's way of holding down inflation.

In the first 11 months of the year, China's natural gas consumption rose to 115.9 billion cubic meters, up 20.5% from year-earlier levels, the NDRC said earlier this month. Imports of natural gas over the same period surged to 28.1 billion cubic meters, up 91.5% from a year earlier, it added.

Natural gas fueling plans may spur vehicle growth

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The United States has record supplies of natural gas and plenty of reasons to promote natural-gas powered cars, but so consumers, manufacturers and fuel suppliers haven't shown much interest.

Now, a major natural gas developer's plans to vastly increase the number of truck stops that offer liquid natural gas could help boost its use in the vehicles that burn the most fuel, while promoting its availability to a wider market.

Lots of natural gas is available, if U.S. drivers decide to use it.

also http://www.mlive.com/news/muskegon/index.ssf/2011/12/three_natural_gas-p...

India 'Won't Sign Binding Emissions Pact': Minister

India said Tuesday it would reject any global pact legally binding it to cut greenhouse gas emissions as such a move could stifle economic growth needed to eradicate poverty.

... "Our emissions are bound to grow as we have to ensure our social and economic development and fulfil the imperative of poverty eradication," the minister added.

Civilizations die from suicide, not by murder. Arnold J. Toynbee.

... India opts for suicide

There was a period in the middle ages, it eradicated poverty like never before or since, overnight in some cases vast amounts of wealth were moved and concentrated inside of families in some cases the wealth an entire village was placed into the hands of maybe a dozen or two previously very poor individuals, and around 1/3 of the population of the world died. A mass die off seems a good solution for green house gas emissions and poverty.

People in India still think they can enjoy a western lifestyle, at least a European one if not an American one. That's the blue pill everyone is taking.

You're Indian right? It seems inconceivable that another billion people could live as good as Europeans do even. Hope flows better than oil from the ground I guess... :-(

Yes. What can one do? People need some opium to keep themselves pacified, hope is the best one at this point. Indian society is fractured along multiple lines, in fact contrary to popular perceptions there is no 'Indian culture'. It's like Europe on steroids, can you imagine the French and Greeks living under one government for long, well that's the experiment going on right now for about 60 years.

Some handful of symbols are common but that's about it. Hope is the glue that keeps everyone together.

Michael's wrote that once "progress" united the disparate "us" (he was talking about the USA and material progress). We now know material progress "worked" while we had cheap and abundant fossil fuels to extract. After that no longer worked, we'd give hope a try. After that... was too far off to worry. That later time is now coming. [ Michael, D. & W. Anderson (1987) "Now that 'Progress' no longer unites us." New Options. 33:1-2. ]

Hope keeps showing up in human affairs. When that happens you have to ask what adaptive role it plays/played. Hope might smooth out the psychological effects of a bumpy plateau/descent; keep us functioning in the face of unnerving change.

(There was an old saying, something like, "Prepare for the worst, hope for the best, take what comes.")


Israel energy ministry to set up team to deal with gas shortage

Israel's Energy and Water Ministry has ordered the setting up of a team to deal with a gas shortage in the country which is likely to peak mid-2012, a ministry spokesman told Platts Tuesday.

The team will be tasked to come up with a plan by the end of January for fuel use for IEC and other industrial users over the next 18 months before gas production starts from the huge Tamar offshore field. This will include possibly using more gasoil and coal at power plants and a further easing of the ban on fuel oil, the spokesman said.

In December 2010, Israel's Environmental Protection Ministry banned the use of fuel oil at all power plants due to environmental concerns. But the ministry agreed earlier this year to a Finance Ministry request to allow IEC to use fuel oil at some of its units following the cutoff in gas supplies from Egypt.

The country is facing a gas shortage, with Egyptian supplies not expected to resume in 2012 and rapidly declining output from the Mary B well off Israel's southern Mediterranean coast. Last week, the Yam Thetis consortium, which operates the Mary B well, said it was cutting gas supplies to IEC and other domestic users by 20-25% due to lower production.

Arab Spring creates gas shortage.

Is Egyptian gas a National or Private supply, and how much cash is not coming into Cairo with that Gas cut off?

Hope they're being careful what they wish for..

Egyptian gas is nationalized. Israeli cash for that gas is not going to make or break
Egypt's economy, but none of Egypt's other cash sources are looking good either right now.

For a people that import half their food, the Egyptians really don't pay close attention to how they're going to get it.


My Baghdadi friend is trained as a biologist, and I asked him about the thinking around rebuilding soils that have become desertified. He said in Baghdad, there had been a law requiring every household to have a Date Palm and an Olive Tree planted in their yards, and that there was work looking at how the 300 varieties of Date Palms in Iraq worked with their varying and very broad (Nature's horiz. drilling?) root systems, being so effective at holding the ground together.. but alas, current political thinking has grown towards 'building a wall' to hold back the migrating desert..

"The relentless math:

Population 1960: 27.8 million
Population 2008: 81.7 million
Current population growth rate: 2% per annum (a 35-year doubling rate)
Population in 2046 after another doubling: 164 million

Rainfall average over whole country: ~ 2 inches per year
Highest rainfall region: Alexandria, 7.9 inches per year
Arable land (almost entirely in the Nile Valley): 3%
Arable land per capita: 0.04 Ha (400 m2)
Arable land per capita in 2043: 0.02 Ha
Food imports: 40% of requirements
Grain imports: 60% of requirements

Net oil exports: Began falling in 1997, went negative in 2007
Oil production peaked in 1996
Cost of oil rising steeply
Cost of oil and food tightly linked

The future of Egypt will be shaped by these few biophysical facts"

Egypt is burning through its cash on hand. It will soon join Cuba and North Korea as a self sustaining country. Looks like they will be out of money by April 2013.

If I was an Egyptian I would try to find a way to leave if those trends hold. No wonder the military can't keep a lid on things, people are pissed in general because life is so hard. Even if they had flowers in every barrel of every gun they'd probably still have unrest.

"In a country where around 40 per cent of its 85 million population live on $2 a day, subsidies are a must to make ends meet, analysts say.
Roughly 20 per cent of people are completely impoverished, living on $1 per day, according to World Bank data.
The price of butane cylinders has jumped to LE40 or more from LE2.50 due to distribution problems.
Subsidised (baladi) bread sells for PT5 (LE0.05) per loaf, while each loaf costs the State budget PT25, according to data released by the Ministry of Social Security.
“Fuel and food subsidies are a must to fight poverty in Egypt. Social injustice and unequal distribution of income sparked the revolution,” Shawqi stresses.
More than 65 million Egyptians benefit from ration cards, getting foodstuffs such as cooking oil, sugar and rice at low prices, according to official reports.
“Subsidy schemes will remain in 2012. No government can scrap them,” he adds."

From the Egyptian Gazette yesterday.

The trouble with subsidies is that it a zero-sum game. The country has a limited amount of wealth to distribute, and subsidies don't increase the amount of wealth available to distribute. In fact they reduce it because bureaucratic overhead consumes a lot of the wealth. In some third-world countries, bureaucratic overhead uses up most of the wealth the bureaucracy is redistributing.

Of course, the bureaucracy will argue that it is redistributing the wealth from the rich to the poor, but in third-world countries that never happens and they end up redistributing wealth from the poor to the poor, and making the bureaucrats richer in the process.

So, really, the Egyptians are just kidding themselves that subsidies are doing any good. In the long term they are making things worse because they are allowing people to exist on government subsidies without dealing with the underlying problems - inadequate food and energy production, and an incompetent and corrupt government.

Yes, I thought it was obvious that this (subsidies to the majority of the population based on oil wealth) became unsustainable the moment that net exports crossed zero. I wanted to point out that reality hasn't set in yet. Egypt transitioned from moderate amounts of oil but moderate population to moderate amounts of oil but lots of population, and is now transitioning to not so much oil but lots of population. They will start exporting people a lot faster, I would guess.

It isn't policy, it's political vandalism of the pipeline due to the lack of a strong police state. Egypt’s natural gas pipeline to Israel and Jordan has been bombed ten times this year.

Import half their food...

Thats bad, but imagine how fragile Saudi Arabia is - they have made a POLICY DECISION to import ALL their food from 2012 on. Its not only oil that passes through the Straits of Hormuz, but food. Talk about life out on a limb!

UK imports most of its food. I have not been able to get a recent estimate of imported food as calories, but in mid 20thC imports commonly accounted for 70% of calories. We do not currently eat the same grains plus legumes 'basics' as Egyptian lower income population, but, we do not have any real choice, we will still have to pay for obligatory imports, whatever happens. (Roughly 6M hectares of arable for 60M+ population.)

An interesting historical UK datum is available to compare with current Egyptian poor (latter is the 20 to 40% of population living on less than 1.25 dollars per day). Some very reputable historians (see for instance Mark Overton in BBC online history) have produced a self-consistent estimate of per capita GDP in England over the long period of 1270 - 1770 and GB 1770 - 1870, and made comparisons with Holland over similar spans. Per capita income in England in pre-industrial late Middle Ages at around $1000 per year was more than double the current Egyptian poverty level of $1.25 per day. See Table 24 in download at http://ideas.repec.org/p/cge/warwcg/35.html

Very interesting (the attempt to figure out per capita national "productivity" or "income" over long historical periods).

One issue of course is wealth distribution. If you have 100 people in a room, and one guy has a million dollars and no one else has a red cent, their per capita (averaged) wealth is 1 mio/100 or 10,000 dollars each. This however does little to alleviate the poverty of the 99 who have nothing.

I'd like to know the time-adjusted Gini coefficient for the two cultures as well as the GDP. A lower overall "GDP" might still mean a higher standard of living if there is less inequity of distribution.

Another issue is the externalised costs never figured into GDP: what proportion of the "wealth creation" in the UK over the long period of study was the result of liquidating national resources (such as forests), leading to a net loss of biodiversity, timber, etc? We would see a rather high GDP for the period when ancient Rome was factory-farming grain in N Africa, but the increase in desertification which followed on the stripmining of topsoil should be figured in the loss column... and so on.

Down near Nanaimo on Vancouver Island is a small timber operation called Wildwood. The family has been logging their private forested land for hmmm... 2 generations now. There are more trees on the property than there were when they started, and they've made a good living the whole time. That is what I call positive GDP :-)

I would imagine that much of the food comes through the Red Sea ports of Saudi Arabia.


Most of Saudi Arabia's imports come in through ports on the Red Sea, rather than the Persian Gulf. The largest of these ports is Jeddah, which handles 59% of Saudi Arabia's imports.

Most of Saudi Arabia's oil export ports are on on the Persian Gulf, but it does have an east-west pipeline to the Red Sea with a capacity of 5 million barrels per day, or about half of the maximum production. It also has some export capacity across neighboring countries.

Saudi Arabia isn't completely unaware of its strategic vulnerability, and has taken steps to mitigate it. The big problems will come when the oil runs out, as it inevitably will in the long run. Then what do they do to pay for food imports for a population that will probably exceed that of Spain by that time?

Citizens to brave power crisis in 2012

ISLAMABAD: Adding to the misery of the people of Pakistan apart from gas load shedding, the power generation has topped the agenda as it has declined to 7,500 megawatts (MW) due to closure of major power plants, which is expected to spark serious economic and law and order trouble.

The country’s power demand is 12,000 MW, out of which only 7,500 MW is being generated, reflecting a shortfall of 4,500 MW.

Putting that 7500 MW into context ... all of Pakistan's [pop. 177 million] current power generation could be supplied by China's new 8 GW coal plant listed above http://www.theoildrum.com/node/8766#comment-860383 This is also approximately the peak power demand for the state of Connecticut [pop. 3.5 million]

Another way to put it into perspective: 7500 MW for 177 million people is a whopping 42 watts per capita. So for a family, you can choose between a refrigerator and a few CFLs, but not both. Of course that's an average, the distribution must be extremely skewed. And the supply is intermittent.

For comparison, when some European countries are planning for an energy efficient society they're aiming to reduce their total energy consumption (not just electricity) to the equivalent of 2000 watts per capita.

Note about units, although most TOD readers know this: a watt (power, energy per unit time) is not the same as a watt-hour (energy). 42 watts of power uses 42 watt-hours of energy every hour. Over a month, that would be 42x24x30 = 30,000 watt-hours or 30 KWH. Compare that with your electricity bill.

To be fair, that's only about 60% of what they usually have (still tiny by U.S. standards, of course). If I understand correctly the problem is reduced hydroelectricity supply due to drought.

6.4 average people per household (at 42 watts per capita that's 193kwh per household per month). Consumption in 2008 was 49W continuous per person, but only 62.4% of households (92.5% in the Punjab) had an electricity connection in 2009 (45.6% of national consumption was household electricity in 2008 (so that's down to 36W continuous per person living in a household with a connection). 84.2% of households (with connections) in Lahore used less than 300kwh per month (most used more than 100kwh), and 88.6% of households in Punjab outside Lahore did likewise. Only 12% nationally used electricity for cooking. A refrigerator (typically mini) was in 40% of Punjab households (one in the local market for the rest of folks). Residential use is going to be a light bulb (100% of those with a connection, 36% still used incandescent nationally) for a few hours in the evening, a fan (86.4% in Punjab) in summer, a cellphone charger in almost all households with a connection (there are 100M cellphones in Pakistan, 96 percent of Pakistanis had used a cellphone within the three months preceding the 2009 survey), a sewing machine (72.7% in Punjab), a radio (24% owned a radio in 2009, 40% in Punjab), a TV (there were 22M TV's in 2007 but not all of them in residences of course, cable cost $3.50 per month, 63.2% of households in Punjab had a TV), a water pump in 54.5% of households in Punjab (91% of households had access to an improved water source in 2004, but just 27% had a house connection, and even then service tended to be intermittent), a washing machine in 48.8% of households in Punjab, computer/A/C in wealthier households (typically laptop) there are ~14M in the country (not all residential, 8.5% of households in Punjab).

Kind of disconcerting, the amount of newspeak going on.

*edited to omit

In the articles, that is.. Excellent comments tho (if those are newspeak then I guess I'm suckered ;).

Some notes from an off grid journal. I performed my early winter maintenance today; sort of a holiday tradition.

Did maintenance on the diesel generator this morning: oil and filter change, fuel filter, air filter OK.

I burned about six gallons of diesel doing an all day battery equalization. I do this several times a year: hot charge the batteries to equalize the cells and desulfate the plates. We have twelve 2200 amp-hour two volt batteries which provide 52.8 Kwh storage (about 60% usable), at 24 volt DC. I derate to about 80%, partly for efficiency losses, but mainly to extend battery life.

Washed the PV panels and checked the connections, good chore for a cloudy, rainy day.

While the battery charge was underway I used the excess power to perform other tasks. I hot-fired the wood stove to bring our 450 gallon water tank up to 165 degrees (f); sterilizes the system, and I used the opportunity to 'hot charge' the floor in our house. We have a six zone radiant slab heating system, each zone with it's own pump. It's nice to use the generator and wood stove to heat all zones up, banking energy for expected colder weather. With great insulation and passive solar input, I expect to have a warm house for a while with very little additional energy inputs; a short burn of the wood stove every couple of days keeps DHW nice and hot for the wife. I also used the opportunity to do other tasks, laundry, vacuuming, etc., while the dogs curled up in front of the wood stove.

Best hopes we stop taking our energy sources for granted..

Washed the PV panels and checked the connections, good chore for a cloudy, rainy day.

We have very bad mineralized (Calcium?) water around here. I prefer a rainy day for PV washing, I don't want Calcium deposits of the panels. So I often postpone cleaning until the weather is cooperative. I'd rather pay a shortterm dust penalty, than gradually degrade the clarity of the glass. If we get hard heavy rain, then I'm really in luck, and can just let Nature do the washing.

six gallons? danm

About 0.6 GPH for ten hours. A good equalization charge takes a while; in my case I get the battery up to 30 volts and hold it there for several hours, difficult to do on PV alone. Not doing occasional equalizations results in dramatically reduced battery life. I also check that the battery watering system is functioning properly and check the cells with a hydrometer after the charge. If one cell seems a bit weaker than the rest I'll tag it to be moved forward in the series (toward the positive end). I usually do this full maintenance twice a year around the solstices.

It's not as big a chore as some may think. I know folks who put more time, money and effort into washing their cars.

If one cell seems a bit weaker than the rest I'll tag it to be moved forward in the series (toward the positive end).

Interesting ! Why ?

Just wondering.


I'm not quite sure of the physics, though I'm sure that resistance is involved. Experience has shown me that cells toward the middle of a series don't seem to get as fully charged as the ones toward the ends, especially the positive end. The busses, cables and connections are the same. This is consistent with the fact that the batteries on the ends use a bit more water. I've found that regular equalization and occasionally moving the batteries around in the series helps them age at the same rate. A battery series is only as good as it's weakest cell.

My last set was twenty 6-volt L-16s: five strings (in parallel) of four batteries; sixty cells total (vs. twelve now). What a nightmare. The set lasted less than ten years due to some cells failing. I was able to salvage about half of the L-16s for a friend's smaller setup. Still doing well after 14 years. I always recommend using large 2 volt cells (like forklift batteries) for larger battery sets. Big and heavy (mine are 230# each, 28 inches tall) but much simpler and easier to care for. Best hopes for many more years of service!