Drumbeat: March 2, 2012

China's growing strategic stake in the Middle East

U.S. oil imports are set to almost halve between 2000 and 2035 owing to rising domestic output from both conventional and shale fields, increased ethanol blending and improvements in vehicle efficiency. By 2035, the United States will be importing just 6 million barrels of oil per day (bpd), down from almost 11 million b/d in 2000.

In contrast, China's oil imports are set to surge from around 1 million bpd to more than 12 million by the end of the period. India's import needs will soar from less than 2 million bpd to around 7 million. Members of ASEAN will be importing almost 4 million bpd.

China will overtake the United States as the world's largest oil importer by around 2020, according to the IEA, with other Asian customers adding to regional import needs.

Oil Is Poised for Weekly Decline After Saudi Denial of Pipeline Explosion

Futures slid as much as 1.1 percent after climbing to the highest price in 10 months yesterday. There was no sabotage at oil facilities in the Qatif area, according to Major General Mansour Al-Turki, a spokesman for the Saudi Arabian Interior Ministry. Prices rose above $110 a barrel for the first time since May after Iran’s Press TV said an explosion hit pipelines in the area, home to Saudi Arabia’s largest refinery.

“The report of the pipeline fire seems to have been a very successful scam by the Iranians,” said Filip Petersson, commodity strategist at SEB AB in Stockholm. “They want higher oil prices to compensate for lost export barrels and are obviously using various means to achieve it. The success clearly shows how nervous the market is.”

Russia's oil output stays at post-Soviet high

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Oil output in Russia, the world's top crude producer, stayed at a post-Soviet monthly high of 10.36 million barrels per day (bpd) in February as companies tried to reap extra gains from high oil prices, the Energy Ministry said on Friday.

The same level was reached in January, while Russia's previous oil production record of 10.34 million bpd was hit in November and October.

Russian oil production remained ahead of Saudi Arabia output, which rose to 9.85 million bpd from 9.75 million bpd. according to a Reuters survey published on Wednesday.

Tensions raise specter of gas at $5 a gallon

HOUSTON — Gasoline for $5 a gallon? The possibility is hardly far-fetched.

With no clear end to tensions with Iran and Syria and rising demand from countries like China, gas prices are already at record highs for the winter months — averaging $4.32 in California and $3.73 a gallon nationally on Wednesday, according to AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge Report. As summer approaches, demand for gasoline rises, typically pushing prices up around 20 cents a gallon.

And gas prices could rise another 50 cents a gallon or more, analysts say, if the diplomatic and economic standoff over Iran’s nuclear ambitions escalates into military conflict or there is some other major supply disruption.

What Next for Gas Prices?

Those who track the supply and demand fundamentals say the price of oil should be about $80 a barrel and gasoline prices should be as much as 50 cents below where they are. But throw tensions with Iran into the mix, and you get scary prices. Investors – called speculators by many – see the fear and they throw money into oil futures contracts. That raises all of the benchmark oil prices well over $100 a barrel.

Saudi says no pipeline sabotage on Thursday

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia said on Friday there had been no attack in the kingdom, a day after an Iranian media report of an explosion on a Saudi oil pipeline helped Brent crude prices hit their highest since 2008.

"There were no acts of sabotage in the kingdom yesterday," Interior Ministry spokesman Mansour al-Turki told Reuters. He did not elaborate.

Facing costly fuel, US airlines push fares higher

U.S. airlines blame soaring fuel prices, which could cost them billions more than last year. That means fares, which normally rise as the summer travel season nears, could increase faster than normal.

Airlines have already pushed throughout two major price increases this year, and it's only February, when leisure travel is slow.

It's a sign of things to come.

Soaring Gas Prices Produce Business Winners — and Losers

Every economic development produces winners and losers. A trend that is a kiss of death for some businesses may prove to be the gift of life for others. That's certainly the case with the recent rise in the price of oil, which was pushing $107 per barrel on Tuesday.

They’re Back: Rising Oil Prices

Last year a similar surge in the oil price left global growth weak and vulnerable to European and US debt scares in the September quarter. So what is the risk this time around?

Editorial: Latest gas price spike spawns bad ideas

If political pandering and half-baked ideas could fill Americans' gas tanks, the latest price surge at the filling station would be no problem. As typically happens when gas spikes, politicians are providing an oversupply of blame-shifting and cluelessness. If there's a good energy strategy in all the criticism, it's well hidden.

Opposing view: It's time to tap Strategic Petroleum Reserve

High oil and gasoline prices strain families' budgets and slow economic growth. But we have a proven tool to temporarily reduce prices: sell oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Doing so would boost world oil supplies, which can cut prices and burst the "bubble" caused by speculators driving up oil prices for a quick profit.

The countries with the cheapest gasoline

While Americans and Europeans bemoan the cost of gasoline at the pumps, people in some other parts of the world enjoy filling up their tanks cheaply thanks to subsidies provided by wealthy, oil-rich governments. But fuel subsidies tend to benefit the rich (who own motor vehicles) more than the poor. The IMF estimated that 65 percent of the fuel subsidies in Africa benefit the richest 40 percent of households (2010). Only 8 percent of the $410 billion in government fuel subsidies worldwide went to the poorest 20 percent of the population.

The British insurance firm Staveley Head has released the latest list of the world’s gas pump prices. Here are the 10 cheapest countries on Earth to fill a gas tank.

For more oil, U.S. should look to Mexico

In the summer of 2008, I pulled up next to a gas pump off a major highway in Southern California where -- apparently, a few minutes earlier -- a recreational vehicle, which held more than 100 gallons, had stopped to fill up. The price was still on the screen: $500.

Can you imagine paying $500 to put gas in your vehicle? For many of us, that's more like a monthly car payment.

Crude Oil And Inflation Economic Crisis

Conventional wisdom says high oil prices raise inflation and slow down economic growth. Recessions are therefore caused anytime oil prices spike, we are invited to believe. In the real world, European Central Bank president Mario Draghi has lowered interest rates twice since he took over as head of the ECB in November, as oil prices went on rising, but economic and finance observers claim that keeping borrowing costs down will get harder as oil prices cruise to record levels in euro terms.

Inflation: Not as low as you think

Forget the modest 3.1 percent rise in the Consumer Price Index, the government's widely used measure of inflation. Everyday prices are up some 8 percent over the past year, according to the American Institute for Economic Research.

The not-for-profit research group measures inflation without looking at the big, one-time purchases that can skew the numbers. That means they don't look at the price of houses, furniture, appliances, cars, or computers. Instead, AIER focuses on Americans' typical daily purchases, such as food, gasoline, child care, prescription drugs, phone and television service, and other household products.

Obama, Republicans spar over gasoline prices

Global oil prices have been rising sharply because of stronger demand from the United States, India and China and worries about supply disruptions from Iran. There are rising tensions between the major OPEC producer and western nations over the aims of its nuclear program.

That has caused pain at the pump for Americans, who have now endured more than a month of gasoline price rises, and sparked fears that prices could rise even further, from an average cost of $3.74 a gallon now to up to $5 this summer.

Obama calls on Congress to end fossil-fuel subsides

President Obama has called on the US Congress to vote to an end to fossil fuel subsidies.

Speaking at Nashua Community College in New Hampshire President Obama called on Americans to contact their representatives and call on them to vote out subsidies under the 2013 budget.

Obama: Rivals ‘Licking Their Chops’ on Energy

President Barack Obama said his Republican critics are “licking their chops” at the prospect of rising gasoline prices as higher energy costs threaten to crimp the economic recovery.

Romney Names Oklahoma Oil Billionaire Harold Hamm Campaign Energy Adviser

Mitt Romney, the front-runner for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, appointed Oklahoma oil billionaire Harold Hamm as energy adviser to his campaign.

Hamm, the 66-year-old founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Continental Resources Inc., will be chairman of Romney’s Energy Policy Advisory Group, the candidate’s campaign office said in a statement today.

Dubai mulls gas-trading hub plan

Depleted oil and gas reservoirs in Dubai could become the basis for a new source of income for the emirate. The Supreme Council of Energy is considering a plan to build a trading hub around these geological structures, which are currently used to store gas for domestic consumption.

Has the 'Peak Oil' Tipping Point Arrived?

"Peak oil" is one of those ideas that used to be the province of commodity speculators and zanier environmentalists, but is now entering the mainstream of the energy policy debate. The idea is simple on its face: For one reason or another (which one does it matter), we are approaching a limit to global oil production; thereafter, it must fall. Does this magic moment/number matter? Yes, if, as many suggest, the post-peak era is bound to be one of sharply higher energy prices that disrupt the global economy or, at very least, reduce the potential for economic growth just when the globe's have-nots seem to have a chance of joining the middle-class.

Like many other economists, we think the concern with peak oil is overblown. (For a lucid explanation, check out this jargon-light article by Oxford University's Dieter Helm.) But to cut to the chase, the explanation is straightforward: Markets generally adjust to supply and demand changes in ways that facilitate adaptation. We'll concede, though, that a smooth adjustment is not guaranteed—that the revelation of peak oil could lead to price spikes that generate significant economic pain.

Is the U.S. on Track to Join OPEC?

This weekend, Thomas Friedman posed a question in his Sunday New York Times column: “Should the US join OPEC?” I generally don’t like to get into Friedman’s columns, as his name-dropping and taxicab reporting will drive you crazy. However, he probably has the widest readership of anyone in this field, and he does a good job of simplifying complicated issues.

Statoil Says New Rig Concept To Increase Recovery Rate

OSLO -- Norwegian oil and gas giant Statoil ASA Friday said it is introducing a new drilling rig concept for mature fields on the Norwegian continental shelf, in a move to increase the recovery rate from its wells and reduce costs.

The new rigs will cut production costs by around 20%, cut yard delivery costs by 10%, and increase oil recovery, the company said, essential at a time when production from its existing fields is falling by about 5% a year.

Surgut Revealed as Best Russian Oil With Sleepy $28 Billion Secret: Energy

Russia’s fourth-largest oil producer pumps more crude than the U.K., employs 100,000 people and trades on stock exchanges in Moscow, London and New York. What’s not disclosed is how much cash OAO Surgutneftegas (SNGSP) holds and the identity of its biggest shareholders.

Eni, Gazprom to revise gas contracts

MOSCOW (UPI) -- Russian gas company Gazprom said it agreed to revise its gas supply contract with Italy's Eni during bilateral discussions on the South Stream pipeline.

China reaches agreement with Russia on oil price

(Reuters) - China said on Friday it had reached a consensus with Russia over a dispute on the pricing of Russian crude oil it receives via a pipeline.

Lithuania inks LNG deal in blow to Russia's Gazprom

VILNIUS (Reuters) - Norwegian LNG service company Hoegh LNG on Friday signed a deal to supply a floating LNG import platform to Lithuania, in a move that will cut the Baltic country's dependence on gas imports from Russia.

The deal includes the 10-year lease and operation of a 170,000 cubic meters floating storage and regasification vessel (FSRU) with Lithuania's majority state-owned terminal Klaipedos Nafta at a cost of $156,200 per day.

Nigeria MEND militants claim attack, threaten oil ships

YENAGOA, Nigeria (Reuters) - A Nigerian militant group based in the oil-producing Niger Delta claimed an attack on a police checkpoint on Thursday that killed four people, its second such claim after it said it blew up an oil pipeline last month in Africa's top crude producer.

Talk of Israel strike on Iran soars but is it bluff?

LONDON (Reuters) - As tension rises over Iran's disputed nuclear programme, chatter indicating a potential Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear targets has never been higher.

But in the smoke-and-mirrors world of Middle East geopolitics, such talk can often be a diplomatic weapon in its own right and sometimes an alternative to genuine action.

In interview, Obama says he's not bluffing on Iran, warns against premature strike by Israel

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama says he means it when he insists it's unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon. "I don't bluff," Obama said in an interview published Friday.

In his most expansive remarks on the issue, Obama told The Atlantic magazine that Iran and Israel both understand that "a military component" is one of a mix of options for dealing with Iran, along with sanctions and diplomacy.

India cancels Iran oil shipment due to sanctions

NEW DELHI/SINGAPORE (Reuters) - India's largest shipping company was forced to cancel an Iranian crude oil shipment last month because its European insurers refused to provide coverage for the vessel on the grounds of tightening sanctions on the OPEC member, industry sources said.

India refuses government guarantee on Syria oil imports: sources

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India has refused to provide its sovereign guarantee for oil imports from Syria, two government sources said, frustrating refiners looking for alternative sources of crude to hedge against possible supply disruptions from sanctions-hit Iran.

The Oil Ministry had hoped that the government would underwrite Syrian oil cargoes after Indian insurance firms failed to find re-insurers for shipments from the Middle East nation, which is also targeted by Western sanctions.

Keystone Pipeline Brings Pain at Pump, Few Jobs

“I’ll get us that oil from Canada,” Mitt Romney said in his victory speech after the Michigan primary. He was referring to Keystone XL, the crude-oil pipeline that has become a top-tier campaign issue for Republicans.

Problem is, the tar-sands oil in that pipeline wouldn’t be coming to “us.” It would go directly from Canada to refineries in the Gulf region en route to export markets in Latin America and Europe. The U.S. would be used as little more than a transit corridor.

Keystone pipeline claims just don't add up

ANALYSIS: Proponents of the Keystone oil pipeline argue the $7 billion project will create hundreds of thousands of jobs, give the economy a shot in the arm, lower gasoline prices and wean the U.S. from foreign imports.

Too bad the claims don’t hold up.

To Avoid Last-Minute Suit, Shell Asks U.S. Court to Rule
HOUSTON — In an attempt to avoid a last-minute challenge from environmental groups that could delay its plans to begin drilling for oil this summer off the coast of Alaska, Shell asked a federal court on Wednesday to review its Alaska Arctic oil spill response plan and decide whether it complied with the law’s requirements.

BP Faces Ruling on Gulf Liability as Pressure for $14 Billion Deal Mounts

BP Plc, Transocean Ltd. and Halliburton Co., with billions of dollars on the line, are set to find out from a federal judge who among them is to blame for the April 20, 2010, explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico.

Vietnam’s Nuclear Dreams Blossom Despite Doubts

HANOI, Vietnam — Inside an unheated classroom at the Institute for Nuclear Science and Technology here about 20 young government technicians from Vietnam’s incipient nuclear power industry kept on their winter jackets on the first morning of a 10-day workshop on radiation.

Japan government to take majority stake in Tepco: Asahi

TOKYO (Reuters) - The Japanese government is set to take a majority stake in Tokyo Electric in return for injecting about 1 trillion yen ($12.4 billion) in public funds, the Asahi newspaper reported on Friday, in what would be a political victory for the trade minister in his battle to reform the once all-powerful utility.

Trade Minister Yukio Edano, who oversees energy policy, and the operator of the tsunami-struck Fukushima nuclear plant have been fighting over how much say the government will have in the utility's management in exchange for what would be one of the world's biggest bailouts outside the banking sector.

Sizing Up Health Impacts a Year After Fukushima

Health impacts from the radioactive materials released in the Fukushima Daiichi meltdowns will probably be too small to be easily measured, according to experts assembled by the Health Physics Society for a panel discussion on Thursday. And the area cordoned off by the Japanese government as uninhabitable is probably far too large, the experts said.

Fukushima 'punks' rage against evacuation

Tokyo (CNN) -- You wouldn't know the punk band was Japanese, a culture self-programmed for propriety.

I can't write the chorus (sung in English) of the band's favorite song here, as my editor would first delete the offensive word and then report me to my superiors.

Salt Water or Frack Fluid? Tburg Residents Question Road Brine De-Icer Use

A New York state Department of Transportation truck that sprayed anti-icing fluid on Main Street two weeks ago has a number of Trumansburg residents questioning whether the brine used was actually a carcinogenic gas-drilling byproduct.

How a billionaire fills gas tank for $1 a gallon

Long Beach, California (CNN) -- Gasoline at $4 a gallon is no worry for T. Boone Pickens, the billionaire energy investor from Texas. He drives from his home to his office in a car that runs on fuel costing less than $1 a gallon.

His method: He has a device that fuels his Honda Civic GX with natural gas from the pipes that serve his home. And he thinks there's a lesson there for America's energy woes.

New Energy-Dense Battery Could Enable Long-Distance Electric Cars

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md.—A company founded in the Palo Alto public library has taken a dose of government money and technology and turned it into the most energy-dense battery ever. Envia System's new lithium-ion battery packs roughly twice as much energy per gram as present batteries, the company will announce here at the third annual summit of the Advanced Research Projects Agency—Energy (ARPA–e).

The Peak Oil Crisis: A Breakthrough?

For many months, U.S. Energy Secretary Chu, the guy with the Nobel Prize in physics, has been running around the country telling audiences that big breakthroughs were coming for electric vehicles. Well, this week the other shoe dropped when an announcement was made of an advance in battery technology that has the potential to change the motor vehicle industry as we know it. The announcement was made at the Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects-Energy conference by a California startup called Envia that has received funding from DOE, the California Energy Commission, and General Motors among others.

How To Play The Coming Boom In Electric Vehicles

As I noted in my recent article on gas prices, the sharp increase in prices is only going to continue. It's time to adjust to the new paradigm of perpetual currency devaluation (which also has the effect of centralizing wealth) and peak oil. I believe this will create an opportunity for new forms of transportation systems built around electric vehicles.

Pollution from EVs versus petrol cars kicks up an electrical storm

It's been a very tough week for environmentalists. First, so desperate is the US administration to promote "green" cars that it is considering raising the incentive to buy electric vehicles from the generous to the exorbitant. But even that may not be the environmental panacea everyone expects since a new study says that, in China at least, EVs are actually responsible for more health-affecting pollution than petrol-fuelled cars when their energy comes from fossil fuel-based electricity production. And, to cap it off, another research study claims that coal, not oil, is the real "greenhouse" killer.

Like I said, it was a bad week for environmentalists.

High Voltage Oil Saving - Last Chance For The Electric Car

Whether its the French-Japanese Nissan Leaf or the all American Chevrolet Volt, Chinese-American BYD and India's Reva, small scale producers of all-electric vehicles in other countries, and the infant industry's derived service providers like Israeli majority owned Better Place, times are very hard. Sales are in no way "exploding" and the reasons are starkly clear.

10 Huge German Solar Energy Myths Bjørn Lomborg is Trumpeting

No doubt, you’ve heard about Germany’s likely decision to quickly and severely cut its solar PV feed-in tariff policy, a world-leading solar policy that has made Germany a solar power hero of sorts. A friend recently shared a story by Bjørn Lomborg on these cuts with me and asked me for my opinion. It’s taken me a few days to get to it because Lomborg’s piece is so full of myths and lies, but before I get to debunking Lomborg’s claims, let’s have a little context.

Green Tech After the Arab Spring

Long blessed with a wealth of natural resources that has served to both enrich and isolate, North Africa has always been viewed by Europe, the US and Asia as a valued potential building block for energy policies. Libya alone boasts Africa’s largest proven reserve of oil, while Algeria’s natural gas has emerged as Southern Europe’s ideal option for scrapping their delicate dependence on Russia.

However, over the last few years, policy makers from Tangiers to Cairo have begun to promote the very real and very viable potential of the region’s renewable resources.

Wyoming narrowly defeats measure to prepare for apocalypse

CODY, Wyoming (Reuters) - In a sign of rising consumer confidence prevailing over go-it-alone pessimism in the Cowboy State, Wyoming lawmakers on Tuesday narrowly defeated a "doomsday bill" to help the state prepare for a total collapse of the U.S. government and economy.

A farewell to growth?

In that sense, our problem is less that we have reached the limits of the existence of renewable resources, but more that the consequences, which are associated to Green House Gas (GHG) emissions, will be and already are dire. It is very likely that climate change caused by GHG emissions will lead to increasing costs in terms of food shortages, for example. But the question there is less that we cannot grow [the Malthusian thing, food does not grow as fast as population; the quintessential anti-Malthusian was Ester Boserup, an early feminist economist, that showed that agricultural productivity was determined by population dynamics; in other words, higher population growth led to increasing agricultural productivity], but who bears the costs of growth.

A Bold Plan to Reshape the Central Valley Flood Plain

Some farmers are angry because the plan, they said, enhances the environment and protects urban dwellers from floods at the expense of agricultural jobs and the rural economy. They also criticized state planners for failing to identify which parcels of land would be affected.

An Eye on the Sky for Texas

John Nielsen-Gammon, the Texas state climatologist, has a standard joke: A few years ago, before the start of the most intense drought in state history, almost nobody in Texas knew he existed.

“It’s quite possible even Rick Perry didn’t know we had a state climatologist,” he told an Austin audience recently, to chuckles.

Michael Mann's counterstrike in the climate wars

Mann's book is a fascinating successor to "Merchants of Doubt," picking up where Oreskes and Conway left off by telling the detailed story of his own very recent battles with the denialist machine. Its greatest strength is also its biggest weakness: In countering the many attacks against his work, he must delve into the complex statistical methodology and the arcane details of measuring ancient climate changes using things like coral or ice cores, topics that for the lay reader are about as exciting as reading a chemistry textbook. Yet without understanding these details, it's impossible to understand the scientific criticisms of Mann's work that have been leveled by multiple challengers -- today's successors to Seitz, Singer, et al. In the end, Mann demolishes every one of them -- and unlike his critics, his defense is backed by multiple peer-reviewed studies and the testimony of prominent climate experts.

When It Rains, It Will Really Pour

Early last year I attended a conference in Sacramento where state and federal scientists warned emergency planners, insurance executives and others about the danger of a superstorm‘s riding into California from warmer Pacific waters on an “atmospheric river” and inundating everything in sight.

Now comes a parallel prediction that throughout the Western states, the power of extreme winter storms will increase by more than 12 percent over the next 20 years, and more thereafter. The projection, outlined in the latest publication of the journal Geophysical Research Letters, explains how climatologists at the University of Arizona used a suite of regional climate models to simulate future patterns of rain and snow.

Putin urges joint Arctic scientific council with Canada

Russian leader Vladimir Putin challenged Canada to set up a joint scientific council with his country to investigate issues over Arctic sovereignty and help the United Nations draw new boundaries in the northern regions, where fast-melting ice is opening channels for oil drilling, mining and shipping.

Arctic's old ice vanishing rapidly, NASA study finds

(livescience.com) The oldest and thickest Arctic ice seems to be vanishing faster than the younger, thinner ice at the edges of the Arctic Ocean's floating ice cap, a new NASA study finds.

Kiribati eyeing land in Fiji as sea levels rise

The central Pacific Islands of Kiribati are planning to buy land in Fiji in case rising sea levels make the country unliveable.

Kiribati president Anote Tong has confirmed to Fiji TV that a local land agent has identified 1500-2000 hectares of freehold land on the island of Vanua Levu.

Q&A: What's Going on With Gasoline Prices?

Q: Do you have any good news to share?

A: Not really. New shale oil finds in North Dakota might increase global supplies a bit, but probably not enough to make up for increasing demand from China and other emerging economies. Basically, prices are going to stay high for the foreseeable future; even small supply disruptions are likely to cause big price gyrations; and big supply disruptions are likely to cause full-blown recessions. Like it or not, this is our future. I recommend you buy a motorcycle.

This article is really on the mild side, but at least it's something.

The ignorami show up in the comments though:

Price fixing. And, along with more $$$ in the pockets of our Kochsucking villainaires, it's also merely more karlroving MSDing (manipulating, spinning, distracting). How better to gain power over and completely control we the sheeple than to destroy our economy with fully contrived collapse of the economy and ongoing defrauding via such pricefixing on gasoline, sending jobs abroad, etc. evil etc.?

The first link, "Regular Gasoline Retail Deliveries by Refiners (Thousand Gallons per Day)" is rather dramatic. In October, November and December deliveries dropped just over 10 million gallons per day or about 28 percent over the previous three months. That is one strange three month drop.

Even stranger is the fact that gasoline deliveries from refineries stayed on a relatively flat plateau from June of 2000 to October of 2008, then the bottom fell out. Average 2011 deliveries were down about 36 percent from that plateau.

But to answer your question, no that is not what is going on with gasoline prices. Refineries deliver what their customers call for. That is all they ordered because that is all they could sell at that price. The culprit is in supply. Refineries had to pay more, they had to charge more, so the higher price created demand destruction. And during the last thee months it appears there has been quite a lot of demand destruction.

Ron P.

I've been wondering how to interpret that data...Charles Hugh Smith kicked off quite a bit of discussion on this recently, suggesting economic collapse or some such. My smarter, elder brother suggested it was just missing data. I saved off the spreadsheet from the previous month:

Sep-2011 Prev: 41972.6 Rev: 41972.6
Oct-2011 Prev: 32015 Rev: 32015
Nov-2011 Prev: 30934 Rev: 30972
Dec-2001 New: 30414

There was a slight upward revision to November, but no change to data for October or September. It doesn't look like missing data. Any one have a better understanding of just what this data represents, and how to account for such a sharp drop?

Looks like a typo: probably the last three months are 10k higher than shown.

There is not any chance it is a typo. The EIA might make a typo of the data for one month, but to make the same typo three months in a row is outside the circle of probability.

Ron P.

Changed methodology?

New tax dodge approach?

That change is so massive as to be unlikely to be due to real loss of demand.

You have to be careful with using that statistic. It is retail deliveries by refiners, which means stuff that was sold and delivered directly to gas stations and end users (maybe a corporate fleet, or something) , but not stuff that went into pipeline to be shipped out of state.

Look at the numbers - 40 million gal per day - that is just 1 million barrels per day, and we know that gasoline is actually closer to about 8-9mbd, so clearly this statistic is only a very small piece of the pie.

It doesn;t really say anything about demand destruction either, just that not much is being sold retailed by refineries, they may be doing more wholesale/pipeline sales.

My guess is that this reflects the closure of a refinery(s) that used to do lots of direct sales to retailers - likely one of the NE refineries. Those retailers are now getting their product from somewhere else.

The data to look at is the ,a ref="http://www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/hist/LeafHandler.ashx?n=PET&s=MGFUPUS2&f=M">US Product Supplied, which adds up all the production, and backs out imports, plus internal use by refiners. It is the closest measure we have to actual US consumption, and when you look at gasoline, the demand has changed surprisingly little in recent months and years;

Comparing the last eight months of 2011 with 2010, it looks like a decrease of about 300,000bpd, which is 3.3% of total.

More interestingly, is that since the all time high of 9.64 mbd in July 07, it has only declined to 8.96 in July 2011 -all of a 7% decrease.

More importantly, represents only 0.7mbd of crude equivalent, yet in the same time period, total oil products consumption has decreased by 2.2mbd - so most of the decrease is coming from sectors other than car drivers.

A look at some of the other categories shows reductions in jet fuel, diesel, petrochemical feedstocks, residual fuel oil (heating oil), petroleum coke and road asphalt.

In fact, petrochemical feedstocks and road asphalt are each down by more than a third - that is what I would call demand destruction - gasoline usage is surprisingly steady, considering this recession...

US population growth is about 1% per year, so a decline in FMG of 7% absolute means a decline of about 11% in per capita terms. Pretty significant. But yes, the asphalt decline is more dramatic.

Thanks. That was the answer I was looking for. I suspected it was predominately a refinery closure issue. There was a bit of a tempest in a teapot dome over at http://www.oftwominds.com/blogfeb12/gasoline-tanking02-12.html over this that got picked up all over the internet.

But look at US gasoline supplied on the more current weekly data

Compared to last year, the latest 4 week running average of 8.3 mb/day is 0.6 mb/day below the same period in 2011, which is a decline of 6.7%. Total product supplied is "only" down 6.2% on last year.

I wonder how much of this is from driving fewer miles per unit of time and how much is from increased vehicle efficiency?

Latest US Vehicle Miles Traveled (through December 2011)


Mostly efficiency: vehicle miles are down about 3% from their peak.

But if you look at gasoline supplied, we are only about 1 million barrels per day higher than 1980, but miles driven has approximately doubled. The fact that it has been steady to declining, must mean that we are at peak efficiency right now.

It is interesting that gasoline exports are exploding:


What refiner's can't sell here, they are selling overseas.

The decline in road asphalt use is probably due to a reduced number of new subdivisions built, as well as reduced maintenance of roads overall.

There could also be some change in the economics of laying concrete (processed largely with coal and natural gas) versus asphalt (with a large direct use of oil.

Thank you all for your useful information...it seems that improvements in efficiency have a much greater impact than former Vice President Cheney imagined...

...and we have only scratched the surface of efficiency improvements in the vehicle fleet...

An opinion piece from a branch of the Murdoch empire, the WSJ (emphasis added):

Gingrich's Energy Charge

For decades the nation has deadlocked over America's supposedly limited natural resources, fighting over whether high gas prices made it worth touching, say, the supposedly pristine Alaskan wilderness. It's been a debate in the context of scarcity.

Mr. Gingrich's savvy has been to grasp that this is over, done, passé. America is embarking on a seismic energy shift. A decade of technological advances—from 3-D mapping, to fracking, to horizontal drilling—has turned this country into a resources monster in oil and gas and coal. The old, tired GOP argument is that we need to drill for energy security. The new, rebooted argument is that America is primed to become the largest energy producer in the world, with all the money, jobs and benefits that come with it.

Well, that's a relief to know that America's natural resources are not "limited."

Who knew that the editors at the WSJ thought the Earth was flat? Even the Catholic Church had to admit that the Earth is round, although it took them about 500 years to say it. Do you think Ol' Loonie Newt has figured it out yet? I want my $2 a gallon gas, (delivered to my door in a solid gold BMW with a magically refilling gas tank, while you're at it)...

E. Swanson

Who knew that the editors at the WSJ thought the Earth was flat? Even the Catholic Church had to admit that the Earth is round, although it took them about 500 years to say it.

You're not serious right...???

The fight was whether the Earth or sun was at the center of the universe....

Everyone who was educated knew the world was round in his day...,

The tip-off comes in your reply: "Everyone who was educated...."

Remember about whom we are talking here.....

Oh but Newt promised $2.50 a gallon gas :) I always wonder why $2.50 and why not $1 or $.50 while he is at it :)

If he made it $0.50 poor people might benefit and we can not have that. Set it at a level that benefits highway construction workers and no longer. If it helped the poor that would be communism or socialism or some bad word.

I think he choose $2.50, because he could claim to be a 'serious person'. If he had gone for $1.00 or $.50 even JoeSixPack would consider it preposterous.

Re: China's growing strategic stake in the Middle East (uptop)

Here is what BP shows for changes in total petroleum liquids consumption for China, India and the US from  2005 to 2010:

China:  +2.2 mbpd

India:  +0.7 mbpd

China + India:  +2.9 mbpd

US:  -1.7 mbpd

Chindia's combined net oil imports rose from 5.1 mbpd in 2005 to 7.5 mbpd in 2010 (BP).  Over this time frame, Global Net Exports of oil (GNE*) fell from 45.5 mbpd to 42.6 mbd.  

Therefore, Chindia's combined net oil imports, as a percentage of GNE, increased from 11.2% in 2005 to 17.6% in 2010.  If, and it is a big if, but if we extrapolate this trend, the Chindia region would consume 100% of GNE in only 19 years.

*Top 33 Net Oil Exporters in 2005, BP + Minor EIA data, total petroleum liquids

Humans are interesting creatures. In theory repetition should not strengthen the argument but in reality your continual (is that proper english?) beating of the same dead horse works. I was speaking with a multi billionaire at a social event who actively invests in all kinds of things, including commodities and real assets through private equity who told me that "what matters is not production but exports." In other words, your message is getting around.
Good for you, and hopefully humanity (although the odds are not in our favor)


The article lists Chindia's combined oil imports at 3 mbpd currently. I suppose it might be correct if the author of the article is just talking about crude oil, but I doubt it. As noted above, the BP data base shows combined (total petroleum liquids) net imports of 7.5 mbpd in 2010.

No need to only implicitly acknowledge expressions of appreciations of your contributions.

Good move. To retain the attention span requires a simple yet powerful argument and repetition of how effective it is. The worse that someone can say about it then is that it has become boring. The comeback is that we are really not here to entertain you.

It takes many hammer blows to drive a big nail into hard wood.


In some situations, a screw is a better strategy ...

continual (is that proper english?)

Yes - it is correct. If a bridge is opened continually, it means regularly over time. If a bridge is open continuously, it means without ever being closed (ie unstopped, unbroken activity). Westexas does certainly post about GNE/ANE continually, but presumably he has to make a living somehow, so thankfully he doesn't post continuously!

Thanks. That was helpful for a dumb foreigner!


a dumb foreigner!

I very much doubt that ... your capacity with English is far greater than my capacity in any other language! One of the curses of growing up an English speaker in an English-dominant society is that there is NEVER any incentive to learn a second or third language at all.

Now I can see the little immigrant kids in this neighbourhood (almost any neighbourhood) and they are effortlessly bilingual, and in some cases trilingual. Lucky buggers.

If a bridge is open continuously

Sorry, it's more complicated than that.

Continuous is an adjective (a description of the object as open), continually is related to the action (the bridge is being opened).

BUT past tense needs to be used when describing something being done repeatedly and that is more important for being understood.

So it's open continuously (open all the time as a description of the object) and opened continually (repeatedly opened as an action from the past to the present).

I am so very, very glad i never had to learn English starting as an adult.

Therefore, Chindia's combined net oil imports, as a percentage of GNE, increased from 11.2% in 2005 to 17.6% in 2010. If, and it is a big if, but if we extrapolate this trend, the Chindia region would consume 100% of GNE in only 19 years.

It is not a big if, it is impossible. If past years trend continues, the world economy has collapsed long before 2030.

I note you said "world economy." I think there's a high possibility the world economy will devolve into several distict regions prior to wholesale collapse around 2100.

The impacts of biofuel production in developing countries

In order for the United States to solidify its position as having the #1 largest GDP in the World, and to expand the margin of its dominance in this overpoweringly important be-all, end-all metric, the course of action is clear: We need to make more U.S. Americans, either by native in-country births or by immigration, or both!


On the other hand, imagine the U.S. population grew just a bit faster -- to, say, 450 million by 2050. The country would then remain the world's economic superpower in terms of what it could buy globally, with a market income more than $3 trillion larger than China's.

Go Forth and Multiply
Want to stop the slide in U.S. dominance? Make more Americans.

I am all for having a wide diversity of people in the U.S....however, the impacts on our environment and the Limits To Growth implications hang over us all like the Sword of Damocles...

...incredible that people have this 'growth is the answer' mindset...what was the question, again?

I have this vision of a modern-day Titanic slipping beneath the waves, packed with people all raising their arms in unison and chanting 'U.S.A.! U.S.A.! We're number 1! We're number one!'

The only way we know to create more jobs is to increase the rate of real (corrected for inflation) GDP. That is why economists and politicians pay so much attention to the rate of growth in GDP. The reason why we have so many more unemployed is that since about 2005 there has been slow or no growth in GDP.

The strong consensus among economists is that the U.S. needs a long-term rate of growth in real GDP in the 3% to 3 1/2% range to get the headline rate of unemployment down to about 5%. It is flat out wrong to deny the importance of the rate of growth in GDP.

Over the next twenty years I think there will be substantial decline in the U.S. GDP--perhaps to about half the current level. That means there will also be a drastic decline in the number of jobs and a major rise in unemployment.

I'm a follower of Herman Daly--an economist who advocates zero growth in real GDP for rich countries such as the U.S. However, I do not believe his ideas are politically possible to implement at this time.

From an environmental perspective, Herman Daly's Steady State Economics would seem to be a minimum for sustainability. However, the steady state alternative, (Lester Thurow discussed in "The Zero-Sum Solution"), might not turn out so well if the distribution of resources favors one group over the rest. Our recent experience, with a massive transfer of wealth to a small minority, may be the tip of the proverbial ice-berg. Then too, population limitation is an implicit necessity for steady state economics to actually work...

E. Swanson

Lester Thurow is a socialist economist and is widely respected in the economics profession even by those who do not share his political beliefs. For many years I used a textbook co-authored by Thurow. The senior author was Robert Heilbroner, another socialist and one of my all-time favorite economists. Indeed if you want to educate yourself in economics, one of the best ways is by reading the many books authored by Heilbroner and available used and very cheap at amazon.com.

Thurow favors a big redistribution of income. Politically this is unlikely to happen, because of the political power of rich individuals and huge and wealthy corporations. One of Thurow's best books is "The Zero Sum Society." It is easy to read. The problem he deals with is that if economic growth stops, then the society becomes essentially a zero-sum game. Until recently, modern societies relied on economic growth to make everyboody better off. This is a society has real GDP growth in the 3% + range over time we can put more more into transfer programs that subsidize the poor, spend more on the military, on space travel, and easily service a national debt that grows no faster than the real GDP does.

What are your views of Ayer's dematerialization notion?


I have not read anything by Ayers. Can you recommend a book or an article in which dematerialization is discussed?

My reading in economics now is limited to a few books per year plus reading "The Journal of Economic Perspectives." As a member of the American Economic Association I have online access to several major journals.

My bad, I misspelled his name. it should be

The link has a number of his publications listed in it.

Some of his work talks about that what people want the utility provided by objects rather than objects themselves.
Think music. We used to buy LPs, CDs and cassettes not because we desired the physical objects but we desired what those objects contained (music).


people want the utility provided by objects rather than objects themselves

With the greatest respect to our Robert Ayres, that is hardly a ground-breaking insight.

Some of his work talks about that what people want the utility provided by objects rather than objects themselves.

Exactly. Well, sometimes we want the objects - the status conferred by driving a $200,000 sports car, say, even though a $20,000 car might be more convenient and comfortable. But assuming you don't have money to burn, you want the utility, not the objects.

This was implied in that logistics organization's peak everything report. Their second scenario postulated that people would rent rather than buy most of the things they needed.

Sharing was a big part of traditional cultures. In some places, you have to be careful what you say; if you tell someone their scarf is pretty, they'll take it off and give it to you. Sometimes the tradition is to return it after you've used it awhile. In any case, possessions tend to be circulated within the community, so people can enjoy something new (to them) without actually buying it.

If there was a Zipcar around here I would sign up in a heartbeat.

I don't need a car daily. I can walk or bike most places I need to go. But the public transportation system is pathetic, and it's not safe to walk or bike at night or during bad winter weather. I checked out carshare programs before I bought my car, but they are all in big cities. Basically, the kind of place that already has a good public transportation system.

They're expanding reasonably fast, and the older companies like Hertz are moving in that direction.

Not as fast as we'd like, but we are seeing progress.

I find Ayres work on production functions and growth models interesting. Short version, with energy adjusted for quality, he finds that increasing energy use over time accounts almost exactly for the Solow residual. He and Benjamin Warr have also built dynamic models that extrapolate from the current US situation using some estimated values for efficiency gains and limits on energy supply; unsurprisingly, they look much like the results from Limits to Growth. Much of their work is collected in The Economic Growth Engine: How Energy and Work Drive Material Prosperity, by Ayres and Warr.

I find the dematerialization work less interesting, or perhaps merely more obvious. The basic points are huge gains in energy efficiency, rapid shift towards renewable energy sources, replacements for scarce metals and such, the three R's (repair, reuse, recycle), economic growth based on services that require neither large material nor large energy inputs. This paper is an example I have at hand, although not perhaps the best one.

I find the dematerialization work less interesting, or perhaps merely more obvious.

Ah, if only it were that obvious to everyone!

as an Economist you will probably know the name "Dr. Chris Martenson". This little Video is an eye opener regarding GDP and inflation.

Dr. Martenson traces the social impact of these shady statistics, and finishes by showing how a dishonest determination of inflation further deforms an already flawed GDP calculation.



I took two semesters of graduate seminars on the theory and practice of constructing indices of inflation. It is a much tougher problem than non-economists realize. Briefly, because of theoretical obstacles, there is no way to construct a valid price-level index. How accurate are they? My prof in Economic Statistics, just chuckled and said, of price level indices that cover several decades, "We're lucky if the first digit is right."

Most economists think the GDP deflator is a better measure of inflation than the Consumer Price Index. I think the GDP and other national income numbers are now closer to reality than when I was in graduate school, some forty years ago.

I do not think U.S. government statistics are manipulated for political reasons. The main reason I think this way is because of how the discipline of economics works. In economics, no idea or data is taken seriously until it is published in a major journal, such as the "American Economic Review" or "The Journal of Political economy." After an article is published, it is scrutinized by at least 10,000 both domestic and foreign Ph.D economists. If anybody then publishes a paper that shows a fallacy or questionable set of numbers, then a debate begins (which sometimes lasts thirty years or more). Thus, continuous scrutiny by experts who can gain tenure or prestige or more grants for research--strong incentives--come to the professor who has successfully critiqued a government-published number or set of numbers.


..... then a debate begins (which sometimes lasts thirty years or more)

so - if I understand you right - in about thirty years - or so - we will know if the governments were willfully misleading us today.

Very comforting!


Another reason why I am pretty sure that GDP and national income numbers are not fudged is that to be successful in manipulating the government numbers for political purposes a conspiracy of at least 200 and perhaps as many as 2,000 statisticians and economists would be required.

I find it highly implausable that such a conspiricy could last for more than a few days without being exposed.


...such a conspiricy could last for more than a few days without being exposed.

But it is exposed - see my link for Dr. Chris Martenson!

And there is that famous quote: "it is almost impossible to get somebody to understand something, if his pay-check is depending on him not understanding it" or some such.

No conspiracy necessary.


I think Martinson is wrong on this issue. I've known some people (including my eldest daughter) who gather and compile data for the government or for the Federal Reserve System. As they have described to me how they do their actual job of collecting and interpreting economic statistics, I was struck by what a difficult job it is. Furthermore, I stand by my position that it would require a massive secret conspiracy to fudge the numbers in governmental and Federal Reserve statistics.

I agree with Don here, numbers are not fudged. They just changed the criteria, it's easier, it's legal and works much better. If you just use the CPI from 90's you will get an entirely different number. Same thing going on everywhere, in my country too the govt decided that inflation numbers shouldn't be released every two weeks as was the case till now.

You see inflation is too trivial a matter to be bothered with every two weeks.

And the clever fellows are at it again. http://financialducksinarow.com/4049/proposed-changes-to-the-inflation-i... May as well take it out of the elderly. They all need to lose weight and stop driving anyway.

Thank you.

Now please explain this logic to the climate deniers out there re: climate science/research consensus on Anthropogenic Global Warming and Climate Change.

I do not think U.S. government statistics are manipulated for political reasons.

Fair enough, but you have said before that you think Shadow Stats has a better measure of real inflation than the official numbers - you can;t be the only well trained economist that thinks that.

So clearly, the numbers are being manipulated for *some* reason. Even if it is just that the old CPI measure is outdated, but if they know that and don;t change it, then that is a form of manipulation.

And, even if the figures aren;t being manipulated for political reasons, clearly, these manipulated figures *are* being used for political reasons, so is the end result almost the same?

The newer way to calculate the Consumer Price Index has been widely critiqued by economists. In my opinion, the older technique (while imperfect) was better than the current technique, but maybe that is just because I'm an old fuddy duddy.

John Williams at Shadowstats makes adjustments to government data--but he always starts with the government published numbers. One problem with Shadow stats is that Williams has never revealed how he gets his numbers. My suspicion is that he uses a lot of intuition, casual empiricism, and subjective analysis. In other words, I do not believe that he is objective, nor do I believe that he uses scientific methods in making his adjustments to government numbers. My opinion that his numbers are better than the government's numbers is based on my own casual observations and other subjective factors.


I do not think U.S. government statistics are manipulated for political reasons. The main reason I think this way is because of how the discipline of economics works.

Sometimes I have a hard time to distinguish if you mean what you say in a sarcastic way or not. Because in light of what is here on TOD discussed it is plain obvious that most what we are getting feed trough the different channels is "adjusted" to say the least.

Have you watched the Docu from Sony Pictures: Inside Job?

It is worth watching the movie! An eye-opener!


Thanks for the recommendation; I'll put "Inside Job" on my Netflix queue.

I second "inside Job" it is pretty much yesterday's news until you get to the academic part.


Most economists think the GDP deflator is a better measure of inflation than the Consumer Price Index.

IIRC, the GDP deflator generally seems to indicate that inflation is slightly lower than the CPI. Below you indicate that you prefer the older method of calculating inflation, which would generally produce higher numbers than the current technique for calculating the CPI.


You are correct in your interpretation of my remarks. Consider the difficulties in measuring production: How do you measure the productivity of a lawyer? A doctor? A school teacher? When GDP was primarily goods--tons of wheat or steel--it was relatively easy to get good measures of production and productivity. Now that most of our GDP is services rather than goods it becomes much much harder to create valid measures of production or inflation.

But, but,

Would you guess that the current CPI is a bit high, or a bit low in it's estimates of inflation?

I really have no way to answer this question.It would require at least ten or twenty Ph.D. dissertations on this topic to get a strong and satisfactory answer to your question.

In my almost purely subjective opinion, sometimes the CPI has overstated the rate of inflation (back in the 1960s for example). Sometimes the CPI has understated the rate of inflation, as it has done (IMHO) the last ten years or so.

It's a very tough problem.

Housing, for instance: it seems to me that the rent-equivalent approach understated inflation in the bubble, and overstates inflation now, while home prices are falling.

Don, I have a friend who has been sending me info on Modern Monetary Theory. I wonder what is your take on this?

My own assessment is that it sounds fine, except for the fact that those in charge can always f**k things up no matter what the system.

With only a casual reading I found several serious mistakes in the "Modern Monetary Theories."

There are much better sources on monetary theory--for example check out the free publications put out by the various Federal Reserve Banks. Or look for books on monetary theory (cheap used books) at amazon.com

The only way we know to create more jobs is to increase the rate of real (corrected for inflation) GDP.

This is totally within the dominant paradigm, or ingenuous, at best. There are many many ways to increase employment - good meaningful employment - without a blind adherence to further "GDP growth" - that is so 20th Century!

Can you name one single country, anywhere or at any point in history, that has increased employment or decreased unemployment without at least a 3% annual rise in real GDP?

Demographics affects this, a lot. Japan's real GDP growth has been less than 3% for the past two decades. However, there was a significant decline in unemployment from 2003 to 2007. Real GDP per working age population would put your question on more solid ground.


I respect you, and acknowledge your expertise in economics...but the crux of my question here is whether it is necessary, wise, or even true that a country can increase its GDP for long periods of time (OK, let's go for broke, according to some folks apparently indefinitely) by increasing its population.

If population stability (or decrease) can be achieved in a country (or the planet), then does GDP have to increase to meet some perceived needs?

Looking at the U.S....how much more could people want?

Housing, vehicles, furniture, TVs (flat screen, large screen, LCD, LED, hi-def, 3-D, EIEIO), computers (desktops, laptops, netbooks, ultrabooks, tablets, pads, etc), cell phones, etc.), clothes out the ying yang, a cornucopia of food...clothes washing machines and dryers, and on and on...

...at some point folks have everything they want, and there are only 24 hours in a day...once everyone has all the stuff they want, then we can calculate the number of people, the life cycle time of each of the 'stuff' times the number of 'stuff' items, and calculate from that the steady-state replacement GDP, no?

I am being somewhat facetious, but not much...

The U.S. increased both its total and per capita G.D.P. for more than two hundred years, with a few periods of panics, recessions, or depressions.

I think (and there is a lot of evidence to support me) that the great majority of U.S. residents want MORE. Bigger SUVs, bigger houses, more expensive vacations, that's what most Americans want. Now, because of things like television, the Chinese and the Indians are getting to want the same things that most Americans have. For example, note the rapid increase in the sale of German luxury cars and SUVs in China.

If the U.S. could stabilize its population, it could probably get close to full employment by letting old people retire earlier to create more jobs taking care of old people. This result may cause U.S. GDP to stabilize or to decline, but it is one way in which jobs could be increased without growth in GDP. To some extent, this has been happening in Japan over the last twenty years as their population has rapidly aged and GDP has remained approximately zero growth.

the great majority of U.S. residents want MORE. Bigger SUVs, bigger houses, more expensive vacations

I'd say people everywhere in the OECD want more services. Hard goods..not so much.

The US RE bubble was a bubble because we really didn't need that much more housing. Auto and appliance sales have been flat for decades.

Sales of new cars in the U.S. are now and have been for a considerable time well below its peak. I think the main reason for this decline has been stable to falling per capita real disposable income. In other words, many people who used to buy new cars are keeping their old car on the road for another couple of years and then just buying a newer used car when they can afford to. Note also that the unemployed are in no position to buy a new car, and we have a lot more unemployed now than we did five years ago.

If there is a vigorous recovery with real GDP going up perhaps five percent a year for a couple of years, I think the sales of new cars in the U.S. by perhaps two to four additional millions of vehicles sold each year.

I do not expect a vigorous recovery from the recent recession I doubt that real GDP growth will exceed 2% (which is about 1% per capita) this year, and it could be much lower and go negative if TSHTF in Europe or in the Middle East. Note that recession in Europe will drag down U.S. real GDP growth, and Europe appears to be going into a recession right now.

Don and Nick,

Thank for your insights.

Perhaps we should closely study the Japanese experience over the past few decades...

It's not so much a decline in per capita income as a decline in per capita income among the majority--a concentration of income among a few. The median American makes less in a year than the average cost of a new car.

The median American makes less in a year than the average cost of a new car.

Aw Ben that can't be right:-) "Nick" has ben telling us for years that we need to "just buy a Prius" to save America, because it costs less than the average new car (including SUV's). Does your average "new car" price include SUV's?

The trend is quite the opposite of what you claim, car-wise. "The purchase and financing of an average-priced new vehicle took 23.1 weeks of median family income in the fourth quarter of 2011, the best affordability reading since the third quarter of 2009."

Could you give a link? Is there data further back in time?

Stolen from sadowski AT udel in 2009:

"In 1973, for example, median family income (in nominal dollars) was $12,051 (median family income data is available from the Census as far back as 1947). The average price of a new car was $4052 (U.S. Department of Energy has data on that as far back as 1970), or about the price of a Chevrolet Caprice. Thus it took 17.5 weeks of gross income to buy a new car."

Note that the labor force participation rate for women age 25-54 increased by about 44% during the period from 1973 to now, see BLS.

As far as I can tell, the car you could buy for $4k in 1973 is roughly comparable in features and reliability to one you could buy in 2012.

IOW, a new average car in 1973 is about equivalent to a 15 year old Camry now.

Hhmmm. Maybe not - the Camry is almost certainly much better than a 1973 Chevrolet Caprice.

The graph can be found here. I found a graph with longer history here. Something obviously happened in 1980. The question is what. Did they start to calculate family income in some new way, or did people start buying much more expensive cars? Some kind of regulation regarding what cars you could buy?

Instead of average priced cars, it would be more interesting to compare with basic/low-end cars. "Average price" can be relied on to follow incomes to some extent for status related goods like cars. I don't have the time to research that, though.

The number of cars a family 'needs' is highly correlated to the number of incomes in the family. I feel individual income is a better comparison.

It should also be noted that this is 'family' income, not household income. Non-family households are excluded, which skews the data. Among family households, much of the story is increasing labor force participation among women, whose unpaid labor was not previously counted in income, but the loss of which drives significant expenditures from taxable income (such as childcare and an additional auto).

As stated below, I feel personal income is a better metric to compare to auto prices.

Do you have a source for the argument that median individual income has fallen since 1973 (the effective beginning of the plateau of car sales?).

Have you looked at median household income, which is a more useful measure?

Sales of new cars in the U.S. are now and have been for a considerable time well below its peak.

Since 1973.

I think the main reason for this decline has been stable to falling per capita real disposable income.

Per capita real disposable income has risen quite a bit since 1973. US GDP has risen more than 150% since then.

It was a bubble because of the price level, which only happened because of insatiable (ok, not literally) demand and limited supply, accompanied by excessive credit. Given adequate credit or income, all of those houses would be full right now. About a third of adults in the U.S. live in "doubled-up" households.

A bubble, almost by definition, means supply exceeded demand: many units were built without buyers, in the expectation of "greater fools".

Yes, demand for almost anything can be created with a low enough price.

About a third of adults in the U.S. live in "doubled-up" households.

How much higher is this than it was 10 years ago -do we have good data?

No, that is not the definition of a bubble. When supply exceeds demand, prices go down, unless there is a bubble. The key factor in the bubble is that prices are and remain unsustainably high and that this drives uneconomic activity (potentially but not necessarily including oversupply at a reasonable price, oversupply is only necessary at the unsustainable price). The key factor, for this bubble, in why prices remained unsustainably high was the extension of credit (mortgage debt) without adequate collateral (high-LTV based on bubble valuation) or capacity (income sufficient to pay mortgage) or credit. This happened because the risks of extending the loans were largely divorced from the folks making the loans, but the rewards were not (due to deregulation and financial 'innovation' -- also known as racketeering).

You can easily have a bubble with a fixed supply.

Think farmland.

Supply greater than demand is necessary but not sufficient.

Don't forget that a big part of the bubble was both owners and investors building and buying property in expectation of a greater fool to sell it to.

There were many empty units, built in expectation of buyers that didn't exist.

I'm puzzled by this article. Is it fair to conclude that the number of households that formed during the last several years was reduced about .8% due to the recession ("doubled-up" households increased by about 2.1M, and the average household size is about 2.6 (120M households in a population of about 310M))?

If the U.S. could stabilize its population, it could probably get close to full employment by letting old people retire earlier to create more jobs taking care of old people.

I don't think that will work. Unemployment is a societal construct. We have created both barriers to entry and rewards for staying out of the labor market, and that will apply even if we exclude a proportion of the people. The only way is to get rid of unemployment is to collectively decide to free the labor market.

It is amazing that the "growth is the solution to everything" mantra is still alive and well given that it is now very apparent that most of the growth in the US over the last 30 years was due to a debt boom that has now run its course. Your vision of a modern-day Titanic would probably be the most ideal from the perspective of the rest of the world but not one that the US will embrace without a struggle to maintain the status quo.

"Growth" just got the global bankers 16 trillion dollars and is getting the global corporations zero interest loans. It seems to be working for the people that matter.

You know the answer. The political leaders that want more power and who do not think about sustainability issues want more people. It gives them a bigger army, bigger tax base, bigger ego boost. They can hire workers who are better educated and will work cheaper with unlimited immigration. IBM Fishkill, New York is 1/3 Chinese, 1/3 Indian and 1/3 locals.

Our interests as citizens and their interests as rulers, owners are different. Would you agree to close the borders to immigration?

Policy is made by the owning class and the ideas are controlled by the media owned by the owning class. We can come up with all the great ideas in the world here in the echo chamber but it will not effect policy. We do not own Foreign Policy magazine.

The London double-decker buses have returned...so far, all eight of them...at a cost of $36,000 per seat!


I didn't look closely at the articles...was that $36K based on the acquisition cost (RDT&E and production) only? If so, what is the projected life cycle O&M costs?

Of course, to be fair, let's run the same calculations for the Underground, above-ground trains, and the entire fleet of personal vehicles over the same analysis time span.

Moving lots of people over long periods of time is expensive...

The future may be lots of walking and bicycles...

Our new corporate HQ building was going to integrate a parking garage. The math worked out to $20,000 per parking space. We bought and leveled the building next door and turned it into a parking lot, even with all that cost ended up at about $1200 per space, and we got a little green area out of it as well.

Building parking space is unbelievably expensive. It is estimated that there are a total of four parking spaces available to the average American car, and the total cost of the parking spaces exceeds the cost of the car.

I was on the local town Planning Commission, and you kind of get a feel for how expensive parking is when you tell a building developer he has a cash-in-lieu option - $15,000 per parking space, and he cheerfully signs the cheque over to you rather than build the spaces.

Of course, then the town is supposed to build the parking nearby, but when you look at the cost, you start to think, "Well, maybe it would be better if we put in a lot of bicycle stands and encouraged people to walk more...."

The solution, of course, is market pricing.

If towns would stop building free parking, stop requiring developers to include free paking in their commercial space, and price both structures and on-street parking properly to include all costs, we'd see whether people thought vehicles were worth the cost.

If towns stop building free parking, people will simply drive to the mall where there is plenty of free parking. This has been a problem in towns and cities ever since the first shopping mall was built.

All the city has to do is place a suitable tax on any and all open air parking spaces (this includes those that are single level carports, but not multi level parkades).

All the parking areas contribute dramatically to urban sprawl. The example given here shows a piece of useable, utility and road serviced land, being given over to a low value use like parking. If at some point, anew office building is to be added to the city, it likely won't be there, and will have to be on the outskirts, requiring additional mileage of road and utility lines (and additional driving).
It also makes the business areas less dense, meaning transit is even less cost effective.

Taxing the parking spaces that cause these cost increases is a reasonable way to go, IMO.

The malls will then evaluate how much parking they really need, and use up less land space to do so. They will also be more receptive to transit options.

Hey Paul Nash,

Remember what happened when the city of Vancouver taxed parking spaces to fund trans link? Good idea, but people went nuts and they stopped it if I remember correctly.


I think ET is pointing out the problem of competition between cities.

There is no such thing as "free parking" - I assume you mean parking spaces for drivers that they don't pay for.

But the reality is, the people who use shopping malls are generally the brain-dead under-employed (or at least cerebrally challenged) who go shopping each day, rather than actually doing anything productive.

The real issue is about workers downtown, and whether they should pay for the right to drive to the centre or not, and if so, how much.

If a parking space costs $26,000 to build, the you need to charge at least $200 for Mon-Fri usage. Is the average car traveller in Podunk Indiana willing to pay $40.00 per day for parking? Seems fair to me.

That's true - There's no such thing as "Free Parking". There is a book which discusses the issues at length which I can recommend called The High Cost of Free Parking by Donald C. Shoup.

But that's correct - the average car driver would be paying $40/day for his "free parking" if he had to pay all the costs of providing it. In fact, he is paying all the costs of providing it, but he doesn't realize it because it is included in the costs of his goods and services and in his local taxes. He just wonders why everything is so expensive and his taxes are so high.

Before Calgary built its LRT system, the planners sat down and figured out the numbers (I had a close look at them), and the result was that they found it was much cheaper to put in a light rail system than provide freeways and parking for all the cars. The LRT system provided the capacity of a 16-lane freeway on one narrow downtown street and no downtown parking was required. Most cities didn't do this exercise, and in the US it was the automobile and oil lobbies that triumphed.

Heck, in large part it wasn't even a planning problem: GM and it's allies tore up light rail in many cities post-WWII.

The article you're linking to is omitting the fact that there are lots of double decker busses in London. I took them every day when I was there a couple of months ago. This may be a new model but double decker busses are all over the place in London. Any locals who can chime in?

DDBs are common throughout the UK, always have been in my lifetime, and I'm 49. The old Routemaster model just happened to survive a lot longer in London than in other areas, and appeared on a lot of postcards going over Thames bridges, passing famous landmarks like Big Ben etc, becoming a London icon.

The new Routemaster appears to be just another DDB model, borrowing some styling cues (notably the hop-on hop-off platform) from the earlier one. The hop-on hop-off open-backed design fell out of favour in most places, many yesrs ago, for several reasons:

1. It's dangerous because passengers can easily get on or off at inappropriate places, and whilst the bus is moving. In super-congested central London where traffic speeds are low, that's probably less of a problem that elsewhere.
2. When the ambient temp is very cold, it makes the bus very cold and is uncomfortable
3. Most importantly, it requires a conductor in addition to the driver, so much more expensive to run (but better average speeds because the stops are shorter when the driver doesn't need to deal with fares).

Regards Chris

It's a long time since I have been in London but I did work there off and on over the years. There are a LOT of DD buses though they do tend to hunt in packs. What I saw is that they became more and more complicated with more and more features. If this trend has continued then they would be better off stripping down the design to the basics of what is actually needed not what is nice. Money could be better spent on flow control and passenger information.


And.... I intended but forgot to post this link to a piece of classic English humour on the subject: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mVHbF0jAzMw

Double Deckers are actually very common in every UK town and city.

The previous Mayor of London (a politician, not to be confused with the Lord Mayor) introduced the infamous 'Bendy Buses':

They were a complete and utter disaster. They were so long that at bus stops would block the joining roads and all traffic ground to a halt. Thank heavens they have been ditched.

Here in Brighton & Hove I can travel effortlessly on public buses all over the city for £3.20 - unlimited. Why anyone would want to drive here is beyond me. The buses are clean, frequent and go everywhere. All for less than the price of a pint. Which is of course is the best benefit of using public transport - being able to jump off and top up down the boozer with out worrying about drink-driving.

Oh yeah, and I can get a travel card to London including Underground and Buses for £9.90 for the day - unlimited travel. Public transport rocks!

The article noted that this is a prototype, and I'm sure you realize one-offs are always ridiculously expensive; this type of article is usually written by someone who doesn't understand manufacturing or has an axe to grind. I would expect production models to be closer to the $300,000 a copy quoted for standard double-deckers.


What is the cost of a conventional bus seat?

About £1.50 return! ;)

Here, 6.5 pesos ($0.5 US) to go anywhere in town 50% chance of a seat. Yes, it is operated commercially and they make a profit on that.


Per the article, the cost of an old-style London double-decker bus is about $300,000, and it has a few more seats, so the old-style buses cost about 1/8 as much per seated passenger - i.e. $4,500 per seat. That's a lot more reasonable.

And you have to keep in mind that multiple people will use that seat during a day, and that buses last several times as long as cars - a million miles, typically.

I think the fact it is a prototype has a lot to do with the high cost. Prototypes are largely hand-made. If they made it on an assembly line it would be a lot cheaper.

Good discussion on the London buses...here is hoping for an more efficient transportation mix...and finding ways to have to move fewer people per day.

buses can operate for a million miles!

finding ways to have to move fewer people per day.

Less people.


The London double-decker buses have returned...so far, all eight of them...at a cost of $36,000 per seat!

What on earth is this about? We were in London in November - there are hundreds of double-decker buses - in fact we didn't travel on (or in fact see) anything other than double-decker ones. Something odd here.

But is was great to see the old open-backed ones ... my goodness ... exactly the same model that I travelled to school in in Sydney in the 1960s.

Peak Oil from Google Trends

And, "sustainability", from the brilliant site XKCD;


Good use of humor to point out that straight-line extrapolation of trends usually ends up with ridiculous results.

I'm sure that Google could come up with a similar graph, with ominous discussion of how the population of Japan will fall to zero sometime around 2209. When a 12 year old can make the equivalent of $15 an hour after school feeding elderly Japanese in nursing homes, the population will recover.

That which isn't sustainable won't be sustained. There, I did my part to support the trend.

XKCD love that site.

Sustainable is the magic safe word. What to say "I support growth" instead say "I support sustainable growth" now you are safe.

"I want more resource extraction" -> "I want more sustainable resource extraction"
"I want bigger cars" -> "I want sustainable bigger cars"

Without sustainable growth our economy is doomed. We must teach students to use sustainable methods in the new economy in order to sustainably grow our way out of problem x y and z.....

I've noticed an increase in the use of the word sustainable at my place of work. We recently had a meeting with video presentation outlining the company's sustainably activities. Most of the shown improvements are related to reusing packaging materials, printing less, scheduling work flows so that manufacturing machines are powered off if there is no material to process. The video was also interlaced with images of green areas around the facility and happy faces.

Helps the company save a little money so that we can stay in business longer processing material made from oil. Sustaining the unsustainable for as long as possible.

Most everything my employer manufactures is made from oil and will be in a landfill within 10 years of selling it.

This reminds me of an old physics joke.

There was a story that the rate at which library shelf space that is used to shelve scientific journals would soon exceed the speed of light. But this wouldn't violate the theory of relativity because no information would actually be exchanged.

That was a good one :-)

Is it my imagination or has tornadic activity in the mid-section of the U.S. become a year round possibility rather than seasonal?

Storm, tornadoes damage Missouri, Illinois, Kansas; kill 9


Dr. Jeff Masters would probably tell you that it isn't your imagination.

High risk of a major tornado outbreak today; 13 dead from Leap Day outbreak

Meteorological Spring begins on 1 March, not at the Equinox which might better fit the weather experienced in Europe. But, as I recall, tornados have been observed during all months of the year. The better question is, what might be the trend in the number of tornados during a year. That one is difficult to answer, since we now have much better reporting of events compared to previous decades. Some research suggests that there will be an increase in weather extremes, which might imply more tornados...

E. Swanson

It certainly seems to have caught people unawares. There is a precedent for tornadoes in March, and even earlier, although infrequent, during December - February.


Someone might find it of interest to plot the data at the above link and see if trends are changing i.e. frequency, severity, time of year. Somewhat limited data set, but may show a general trend.

Anecdotally, I can report the maples here are flowering several weeks early.

EDIT : Just heard on "Nightly News" :-

"Unprecedented to see this kind of activity this early in the year... Definitely a sign the climate is changing"

I'd say so....things do seem to be getting much more vigorous, weather wise.

Indiana bears brunt as US storm system inflicts 'extreme damage'
At least three fatalities reported in fresh rash of storms in Indiana as destruction worsens across American midwest and south



But so far the 2012 tornado season has got off to a much quicker start than normal. In January 2011, 16 tornadoes hit America. But in January 2012, that number jumped to 95

I realise that two years do not a trend make: however, if a person's hemorrhoid count displayed a sixfold increase within, essentially, one year, said person would probably assume something was awry.

From above...

How a billionaire fills gas tank for $1 a gallon

no worry for T. Boone Pickens, the billionaire energy investor from Texas. He drives from his home to his office in a car that runs on fuel costing less than $1 a gallon.

His method: He has a device that fuels his Honda Civic GX with natural gas from the pipes that serve his home. And he thinks there's a lesson there for America's energy woes.

Wow, T. Boone is just like me. I drive a Civic too, not a natural gas fueled Civic but they look the same except mine is 13 years old and looks like crap. But I can't help but feel that T. Boone and I are kindred spirits. Who knew I'd have so much in common with the 1%, or even the 0.01% like T. Boone.

Lots of folks buy new cars each year. They aren't all in the 1% crowd and a Civic GX retails starting at $26k (excluding tax, license, registration, $770.00 destination charge and options), so it's within the price range of many purchasers. As for your particular situation, your implied inability to buy a new car must be all your fault, (as the Rethugs would likely say). Go out there and get a job, so you can buy a new car and add your consumption of resources to that of all the other unaware sheeple!{/sarcasm}...

E. Swanson

I really get tired of the articles when they express some crap like $1 a gallon. We can get into energy density and all that, but how about something simple. How much does it cost per mile in the NG Civic versus a Gasoline Civic (extra points if you can compare it to a diesel as well?)

Even with all the energy density problems NG is still way cheaper to drive at current prices ($2/MMBtu, Henry Hub). If prices spike to 2008 levels, it's a different story though.

I have a question. Can someone post the formula for MMBTU to Barrels of Oil? How is the conversion done? And how does MPG for a CNG car compare with a Gasoline car? Thanks

Just do a Google search for "barrel of oil equivalent" and you will be given plenty of links that will tell you it is 5.8 MMBTU, or 6.1 GJ

According to Honda. the EPA rating for the Civic GX is 27 city / 38 hwy/ 31 combined, in Gasoline Gallon Equivalent (GGE). The fuel tank holds 8GGE, so the range would be about 300 miles.

Now, if you have the home compressor station, and are indeed paying $1/GGE ($0.90/therm, or $9 per GJ or MMBTU), then your per mile cost varies from 2.5 to 4c.

Assuming a normal Civic has similar mileage, the cost per mile, at $4/gal, will be from 10 to 16c. For the 15,000 mile per year car, that difference is about $1400/year.

So the result is the same as it always has been for propane/lpg conversions - it is worth doing if you do lots of miles. The NG option of the home compressor station is also worth doing if you do lots of miles.

Even more so if you share it with your next door neighbour who also has an NG car....

One minor detail, the home refueling station costs $6000 installed minus some tax incentives and takes all night to fill it because it works at low pressure. http://www.autoobserver.com/2011/03/brc-fuelmaker-again-selling-phill-ho...

If you were to refuel at a CNG filling station, it's closer to $2.80/GGE at least around my parts. Easy to look up at http://www.cngprices.com.

I tried to find some information on that but a lot of pages 404ed. If it is compressing to 3000psi then the compressor will need plenty of maintenance. For diving we use 4 stages with intercooling and they can get cranky however we are pumping at a much higher rate.


Thanks. I did a google search but there are many confusing links out there. So this indeed answers my doubt, if NG costs even go up to their 2008 levels all that cost advantage would vanish.

I drive a Civic too...

Of course, one of Mr. Pickens' other vehicles is a Gulfstream V jet. Bet he logs a lot more miles in the jet than he does in the Civic :^)

I have rarely been so confused. This they threw the kitchen sink at this story.

Bloomberg: U.S. Housing Lays Foundation for Recovery

“Either those builders are insane or they’re getting some traction selling new homes,” Kowalyshyn, 40, said in a telephone interview from his house in Eastvale, California, 45 miles (72 kilometers) east of Los Angeles. “I think we’re seeing the beginning of a recovery.”

After several false starts, housing is flashing the strongest signals yet of a sustainable rebound.


While foreclosures continue to depress prices...

Blow baby, Blow, I'm sure that bubble can be re-inflated!

The oil that we were consuming, the last time we had a housing boom, is no longer available. China and India took it.

Mass. foreclosure activity soared in January


However, when viewed through the requisite rose tinted spectacles (from the article).....

“Banks were slow to initiate foreclosure petitions in much of 2011, so now we are seeing the backlog of foreclosures work through the system,” Warren Group chief executive Timothy M. Warren Jr. said in a statement. “The increase doesn’t necessarily indicate a declining economy, but rather a step toward seeing a clear picture of the market.”

Now that's what I call a dead parrot.

Owner : No, no.... No, he's stunned.

Mr. Praline : STUNNED?

Owner : Yeah! You stunned him, just as he was wakin' up! Norwegian Blues stun easily, major.

Mr. Praline : Look my lad, I've had just about enough of this. That parrot is definitely deceased, and when I bought it not half an hour ago, you assured me that its total lack of movement was due to it being tired and shagged out after a long squawk.

Owner : Well, he's... he's, ah... probably pining for the fjords.

Mr. Praline : PININ' for the FJORDS? What kind of talk is that? Look, why did he fall flat on his back the moment I got 'im home?

Owner : The Norwegian Blue prefers kippin' on its back! Remarkable bird, isn't it, guv, eh? Lovely plumage!

Mr. Praline : (coldly) Look, I took the liberty of examining that parrot when I got it home, and I discovered the only reason that it had been sitting on its perch in the first place was that it had been NAILED there.

This old Monty Python skit is equally appropriate to the above story concerning Mr. Gingrich's stupid comments on energy. You can nail it to the perch but sooner or later it will become apparent that the thing is dead.

I'm usually driven to comprehend the big picture while attempting to understand the details, all the while trying to keep the view of "forest and trees" in balance, so I try to fight the urge to over-analyze things. I've gained a lot from Greer's recent series on Empire where he describes empires as "wealth pumps" designed to move wealth from the periphery to the imperial core. An article over at TAE caught my attention and is very much along these lines, with a perspective on poverty, and goes to why we do the things we do, especially since we humans have gone global:

Modern Myths that Destroy Humanity

Indeed, the disease is continuously being offered as the cure right now. On the surface and in the spin rooms, they call it more "growth", more credit availability, more "innovation", etc., but, make no mistake, it is really more wealth extraction, more monopolization/centralization of industry and resources, more unproductive debt burdens, more environmental destruction, more slavery and more genocide. Only those with narrow, goal-seeked or malicious perspectives will fail to see how all of those things are extremely inter-connected.

The "war on poverty", like the "war on drugs" or the "war on terror", is simply another means of keeping people in an habitual system of poverty, disease and war through perception management (propaganda), skewed incentives, economic/physical coercion and structures of inter-dependency. In fact, it has helped ruin the one thing that "poor people" have used to find peace within their materially modest and increasingly uncertain lives – traditional customs/lifestyles structured around a rich natural ecology and environment.

It's all about keeping the wealth pumps going, it helps explain why we have a remarkable system of lying to ourselves, and most of all, it shows us where we are in our imperial evolution. When the system of pumping wealth from the periphery begins to break down, either through fundamental resource depletion or simply that the empire has become too large, complex and expensive to maintain, the imperial core begins to consume itself, as does the periphery. The signs are there, easy to spot if one steps back a bit to take it all in:

"Drill, baby, drill" and the farcical calls for energy independence. Bargaining with reality on a massive scale.

A total lack of reality and coherence in the media.

Corrupted political, legal and economic systems.

Society's rapidly increasing inability to solve basic problems, begetting complex predicaments.

A deluded and misdirected populace slowly sliding into poverty; consuming itself.

A mad and blatant drive by those in power to consolidate and hold real wealth (see Wharf Rat's link regarding the theft and exploitation of agricultural lands in the third world).

The subversion of national sovereignty by central banks and international consortia, i.e. Greece.

Deteriorating infrastructure at the core.

Shrill calls for absurd solutions and divisive policies. Protectionist and xenophobic sentiments (seen the adds for curtailing 'legal immigration' lately?).

Perpetual war.... real or virtual (NFL, NASCAR, video games...)

Neglect of most things that matter. The environment tops this list.

etc., etc., etc.....

Just some thoughts on a rainy Friday, here near the end of (likely the last great) empire. Embrace your poverty when you can no longer ignore it ;-/


Excellent summary Chung - that's a saver.

When I present lists of the major trends that are happening (like your list) to friends and family I often get nods of agreement. But the very next comment is "Don't worry - they will figure out how to get us out of this". Without defining who "they" are.

That response must be a prime example of what Greer calls today's dominant world religion - the religion of perpetual progress.

"...the religion of perpetual progress..." may have a biological basis. Not sure how we overcome that, though nature certainly will.

Greer is a deceptively dangerous analyst. His reasoned tone and admittedly deep grasp of likely ecological futures masks his radical closed-mindedness and the key spots where he is merely another ideologue.

First of all, empires do not direct wealth to imperial centers, if by that we mean the core nations-as-nations. If that were true, how would one explain the heedless, runaway wealth and power of the 1 percent within the core societies? The reality is that empires are vehicles and by-products of class domination. The imperial centers are merely the home bases for the rulers, who are not nations, but (in modern times, at least) capitalists. Empires enrich emperors, who are human individuals who enjoy the situational advantages that comprise social overclasses. But Greer isn't interested in such facts, as he is committed to his claims about "culture" and mass worldviews, as well as his barely concealed -- despite his professed valuing of dissensus -- a priori hate for all things socialist and macro-political.

As for a national religion, that's simply hyperbole. There is a big gulf between prevailing "mainstream" (meaning commercial-media, ergo heavily sponsored) discourses and what ordinary people want and are interested in debating, even without any serious mainstream leadership. A solid majority of Americans, again without any leadership, thinks we need to do more about the environment. Talk, meanwhile, to ordinary people. Sure, maybe a third are Tea Party proponents and/or conventional "free market" parrots. But the other two thirds are darned concerned and frustrated. Telling them they suffer from a made-up and imputed "religion" rather than from powerlessness within a super-capitalist system is both wrong and a recipe for needless alienation and defeat.

We should be speaking up for ordinary folks, not dousing them with insults and patrician just-so stories. People have yet to gain access to the macro-level decisions for which half-informed demagogues like Greer blame them. "They who have put out the people's eyes, reproach them of their blindness."

I don't see why you feel it must be one or the other. You'd have to be willfully blind not to acknowledge the wealth advantage of a typical American citizen enjoys compared to those on the periphery. I certainly have no trouble seeing in in my life and those all around me. But that does not mean that wealth is not being concentrated within the society, as it obviously is - and will be much, much more. The problem is that there isn't enough now for the wealthy to have theirs and to have a large middle class too - so there will no longer be a large middle class, just as there wasn't before WWII either. Nor will there be the stability it brought either.

Why don't you just hop on over to his blog with this diatribe, and see if he can explain himself. It sounds to me like you are very much misunderstanding what he's talking about.

Whatever else he is, JMG is not a half-informed demagogue. You sound like someone with a real grudge.

Greer is an interesting social critic and historian of ideas, but his lack of technical training and experience1 makes his energy analysis completely unrealistic. He simply assumes that fossil fuels are essential: he provides no evidence for this, or detailed information about energy (resources, depletion, substitutes, etc, etc). An examination of "The Long Descent" and his comments on The Oil Drum finds that his discussions of wind and coal are extremely superficial and entirely inaccurate.

Look in the index under wind: there are only two entries, both of them brief and superficial. If we look at the first, on page 17, we see that he mentions it in one overview sentence in the 2nd paragraph, and then moves away to a red herring, ethanol. The 2nd index entry on page 82 is similar - a single superficial, dismissive sentence. A search through the book finds nothing better.

He doesn't even mention electric vehicles - he apparently assumes that the only way to move a vehicle is with liquid fuels.

His novel contribution is speculation that an "inevitable social collapse" into a pre-industrial condition will happen gradually over a period of a couple of centuries ( http://www.oilcrisis.com/whatToDo/decline.htm ). Oddly, this idea eliminates the only vaguely plausible argument for social crash - that is, that it will be so fast that a transition away from fossil fuels will be impractical.

If you feel that Greer actually does provide an argument for this, and some evidence of some sort, please just point me to the page.

1I discussed this in detail here: http://www.theoildrum.com/node/6890/709260 . Greer replied (see the comments) that he has "training in the appropriate tech field back in the 1980s", but when asked for more detail he didn't reply. In his blog bio he describes himself as "the Grand Archdruid of the Ancient Order of Druids in America and the author of more than twenty books on a wide range of subjects". None of his books provide information on technical training or experience. The most detailed bio came from http://www.aoda.org/about/greerbio.htm:

Education: University of Washington B.A. in the Comparative History of Ideas.

Training: Order of Bards Ovates and Druids (OBOD) correspondence study program - three degrees of Bard, Ovate and Druid, certificate as a Druid Companion of the Order. OBOD's Mount Haemus Award for Druid scholarship."

Experience: philosophical/religious writing. No energy, or economics related education or experience. No quantitative or technical education or experience.

Why snipe at him here when you can put these issues to him on his blog? He responds to just about every comment made there.

All your "completely" this and "extremely" that and "entirely" the other come across as rather totalizing, and frankly, absurd. In any case, you should be posting at his website.

And then you get ad hominem, in the true sense of the term, footnotes and all. Look, he's gored one or two of my oxen in the past, but he's not some clueless idiot as you and the other poster above make him out to be.

Oh, I don't think he's clueless in general, I just think he's clueless about energy.

I don't really care about arguing with him - I just hate to see people use him as an authority on energy-related matters, when he's really not.

I did have a couple of emails with him a year or two ago. He admitted he didn't do technical ot math related stuff. I offered to help, but nothing came of it. Seems the best thing to do would be to hook him up with a technical collaborator.

Mr Greer and I are about the same age but have very different different backgrounds. I am an electrical engineer who's been doing detailed circuit and product design in the electric utility industry for 25 years. Mr. Greer's is quite different as you point out, yet he's given some of the best explanations of entropy and thermodynamics I've read - far better than anything I got at school. He's attained an amature radio licence, something this crotchety analog circuit designer has never done. He's given many other explanations that make a lot of sense, both to my engineering mind and otherwise.

I wouldn't give you 2 cents for the possibility of electric vehicles being a viable substitute for ICE ones or for wind power being able to keep a power grid with totally asynchronous, unplanned power draw going. Mr. Greer has contributed greatly to my understanding of the reasons why these things can't be, but you will discount them because he has not produced an equation to show it. From reading your comments, it also appears to me that you have not read much of his work, or have not understood it, as he has indeed provided reasons why fossil fuels are essential and why other substitutes are not viable.

Your chief issue appears to be that you feel Greer is not qualified to offer an opinion on these technical subjects, which essentially means you're looking for an excuse to block out unpleasant ideas - or perhaps concerned that listening to someone with Greer's qualifications would hurt your social credibility. I am looking for ideas that make sense, and I'm not concerned with whether the people who have the ideas are properly sanctioned or not. I find that people from varying backgrounds often bring interesting perspectives. You may continue to pay attention to only those with education in traditional technical or economic areas - which are certainly doing quite well for us, aren't they?

He's attained an amature radio licence

Not only that, he has the Extra class license. That's the most advanced class of HAM license. That requires a decent amount of technical knowledge.

August Johnson KG7BZ

My original comment was as much about Ashvin Pandurangi's discussion of Vandan Shiva's take on these things...

I'd like to take this opportunity to comment on an oldie but a goodie from the Indian environmentalist, Vandan Shiva. In her brief article for Odewire, "Two myths that keep the world poor", Shiva tears apart the logic of Harvard economist and neoliberal (-feudal), economic "shock therapy" advocate Jeffrey Sachs with all the force one would expect from the God of destruction. It was in response to a book written by Sachs called The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities of Our Time, which featured all the nonsensical arguments that “liberal progressives” like to spout off in magazines and on television these days.

...as it was about Greer's conclusions (which usually aren't really conclusions, as I find that they evolve over time)....


The rhetoric from "respected economists" like Jeffrey Sachs has only escalated since Shiva wrote this article in 2007

2007... so these ideas and discussions aren't new, and certainly predate Greer's current series. Interesting that the ArchDruid has drawn so much criticism. Shoot the messenger?

I have a fairly strong technical/engineering background tempered with a sense of history and liberal arts, I've also traveled quite a bit, and find this line of reasoning compelling. While I've said before that I believe that "this time is different in some ways", not in the ways that make our 'imperial evolution' very different from previous empires.

One aspect I consider is that our relationship to technology is very different than in the past; we've become slaves to our energy slaves. In contrast, the Amish, as I mentioned earlier this week, have a very carefully considered relationship to any technology they adopt, more in line with previous civilizations and empires. It occurs to me that our current utter reliance upon technology for all things will accelerate our decline as these things can no longer be supported and begin to fail. We are not only physically reliant on these things, but also emotionally and rationally. One wonders if 15th century farmers wrote songs about or named their wagons? ( "she's my little duce cart, you don't know what I got...')

Best hopes for folks here discussing the ideas rather than attacking those who forward them...

One aspect I consider is that our relationship to technology is very different than in the past; we've become slaves to our energy slaves. In contrast, the Amish, as I mentioned earlier this week, have a very carefully considered relationship to any technology they adopt, more in line with previous civilizations and empires. It occurs to me that our current utter reliance upon technology for all things will accelerate our decline as these things can no longer be supported and begin to fail. We are not only physically reliant on these things, but also emotionally and rationally.

I think there's a couple of things going on there - One, we're more highly specialized due to our greater access to energy. There's just a lot of things we cannot do.

Two, thanks to our isolation brought on by life-long assistance of energy slaves, we have trouble sorting out our relationships with objects and people, treating people as objects and objects as if they had consciousness. Computers and animation don't help this.

"Computers and animation don't help this."

As this discussion wouldn't be occurring without computer enabled 'social media', one has to weigh the benefits, as always. Moving back towards the original discussion, an interesting perspective on technologies as wealth pumps:

Eric Ehrmann contends that social media in the form of public diplomacy creates a patina of inclusiveness that covers traditional economic interests that are structured to ensure that wealth is pumped up to the top of the economic pyramid, perpetuating the digital divide and post Marxian class conflict. He also voices concern over the trend that finds social utilities operating in a quasi-libertarian global environment of oligopoly that requires users in economically challenged nations to spend high percentages of annual income to pay for devices and services to participate in the social media lifestyle.

Matthew Auer casts doubt on the conventional wisdom that social media are open and participatory. He also speculates on the emergence of "anti-social media" used as "instruments of pure control".

...yet we are told that our smart phones will liberate us. Funny, that.

Heck, relating to things as having personality is as old as time.

Ancient sailors named their ships, tools were friends, and every tree had a name.

Your chief issue appears to be that you feel Greer is not qualified to offer an opinion on these technical subjects,

No, my chief issue is that he's wrong. The straightforward explanation is his lack of expertise in the area.

I wouldn't give you 2 cents for the possibility of electric vehicles being a viable substitute for ICE ones or for wind power being able to keep a power grid with totally asynchronous, unplanned power draw going.

Well, let's talk about that - why do you feel that way? I'm confident that I can change your mind, if it's open.

For instance, I see no reason to assume "totally asynchronous, unplanned power draw". I expect Demand Side Management to be a key element in grid management.

So, Nick, it's your contention that, since Greer is weak on technology he's wrong on everything? You imply that our technology will save us while Greer's assertion is that it can't, that our problems and predicaments go much deeper. IMO, he does a much better job than you of putting his conclusions into context, providing sources and citations, historical background, as well as relying on others' work to back his claims. I find his line of reasoning, shared by many others (who actually have the technical qualifications you deem necessary) far more compelling than "we'll invent our way out of this mess". Our decline is deeply systemic and sociological, something technological band-aids will do little to avert. As a former technologist, my 'open mind' has little doubt left. The math relating to finite resources vs. infinite growth is irrefutable, IMO. The trend is conclusive at this point.

it's your contention that, since Greer is weak on technology he's wrong on everything?

Not at all. Greer is wrong on energy, and his weakness on technology is simply the simplest explanation for that.

he does a much better job than you of putting his conclusions into context

Could you point out where? Please see my original comments: http://www.theoildrum.com/node/8991/877150

far more compelling than "we'll invent our way out of this mess".

We don't need to invent out way out - the tech is already here.

Our decline is deeply systemic and sociological, something technological band-aids will do little to avert.

That appears to be a whole different argument than LTG.

The math relating to finite resources vs. infinite growth is irrefutable, IMO.

There are very, very few people making arguments that are anywhere in the neighborhood ofinfinite growth - that's effectively a strawman.

I've seen enough of your posts to expect there's any chance you'll step outside of your techno-fantasy.

I understand that the electric grid is a system designed and built a long time ago to distribute fossil fuel energy (and later, a bit of hydro power too). I've made a career working on it. It's old, poorly maintained, and designed to distribute power from fixed generation sites to fixed load locations. Sorry to say, I'm one of the people who are designing the "Smart Grid"TM. It's bunk. We are unable to afford to make the investment in increased generation and distribution capacity, so we're trying to substitute a (theoretically) smaller investment in a fancy communication and control system instead. Then we can manage the loads (which wouldn't be asynchronous anymore), with the goal of freeing up enough "spare" capacity so we can put our cars on there too. The end result of this would be to run the system at even higher max rate at a much higher duty cycle, which sounds wonderful right?

Wrong, it sounds like the kind of naive fantasy a manager would think was a good idea. An experienced engineer knows that running complex systems at max throughput all the time leads to catastrophic failure. But don't worry, because no one is making any investment anyway. At the conferences where the tech guys and the consultants go to hawk their stuff things are going great guns - papers and standards galore, it's like the Futurama. But in the real world no one is implementing anything beyond automated meter reading (because that makes it cheaper to bill people by reducing labor costs). Nothing. It's not happening, and there is no money to fund it. And there won't be either, any more than they'll start spending money on basic maintenance. They've got no engineering staff left, no line crews, they don't even trim trees, but somehow they're gonna rebuild the grid to run your car.

As for EVs, of course you can hook up an battery and motor and make it go, we've been doing that for as long as we've had cars. But the problem is that the equation for energy is E = I x V x T. Everyone wants to ignore T, pretend it isn't there - maybe they can manage it by controlling when it happens, or turn off something so it can happen (hey, maybe I'll turn off something of yours so I can charge mine!). But it doesn't go away. Think of every car, every fill up changing from minutes to hours, and that changes the entire paradigm into something that won't work.

So yes there will be some EVs, but they cannot be used to replace the ICE automobile in the ways we use them now. And there will be local renewable energy used, but it will not do much to preserve the viability of the centralized power grid. These technologies are useful (as Greer agrees), but they need to fit into a very different use. And they will not prevent us from having to experience radical change.

Oh, and I've worked with engineers who designed DSM controllers with funding from local utilites - of course that was in the early 1980's. These are old ideas, nothing more now than magic incantations to make you feel better.

You overstate your case a bit, but I feel your pain. I work for an IOU as a senior engineer. One of the primary initial "benefits" for an IOU of AMI is not actual cost savings, but cost conversion from O&M (pass-thru) to capital (with a guaranteed return).

The biggest barrier in the utility industry to improving the grid is not lack of money, it's poor cost-efficiency. We can't get anything done for what I consider a reasonable price.

We can't get anything done for what I consider a reasonable price.

Could you expand on that? Why is that?

Societal rot and general incompetence. No, I can't explain the particulars of my company's internal/external inefficiencies to you. All I can say is that judging from national retail power prices net of fuel cost and from conversations with other folks at other companies, we aren't the only ones. I blame it on lawyers, MBA's, customer reps, accountants, environmentalists, and IT pukes who have no conception of how things physically work, and no experience of doing useful work. I blame it on a management culture that thinks most employees only need to know how to do their own (narrowly-defined) work and follow process/standards. I blame it on retirement or co-option of most of the employees who remembered making it work and kept trying. On my darker days I suspect massive corruption, though I generally am content to blame incompetence (that we are too big and stupid to get out of our own way). There is a reason the Dilbert strip is massively successful.

A few anecdotal comments: I have worked for the same employer for 13 years. In that time the cost of building the same distribution circuit has increased by a factor of 4-5X. My father is an electrical contractor, and I used to estimate work for bid (I work here partially because in 1998 I missed a $2M bid by $10K and didn't get the project to keep myself busy for the next several years). The rise should have been more like 1.5X.

My father's company has never done $1M gross. My company spends more than $10B/yr. I have known him to repeatedly buy identical material (which we purchase in quantities 1000's of X's greater and which isn't even in his usual mix of purchases) for lower unit cost. I have seen him do FEDERAL work for 25% of what it would cost us (although I tend to think DOD even worse than us, based on my interaction with them).

When I started this job, permitting a typical new small distribution substation or subtransmission line took 18 months, now it's up to about 6 years.

I routinely made decisions as a new entry level engineer 13 years ago, which I cannot make alone today, despite 4 promotions.

The sad part is that some of our peers are worse.

Engineering is out of fashion, so I suspect entry level engineers are less competent than they used to be.

We are unable to afford to make the investment in increased generation and distribution capacity

You're too close to the trees to see the forest. A massive increase in investment in the grid might raise average transmission and distribution costs from very roughly 5 cents per kWh to what....6 cents?? That's hardly TEOTWAWKI.

The fact that we're not doing it now doesn't mean we couldn't. There are a lot of good, easy, effective things that we could do, and we're not. That's a lot of what I'm arguing here.

Think of every car, every fill up changing from minutes to hours, and that changes the entire paradigm into something that won't work.

How long does it take to plug in your car at night? About 15 seconds.

there will be some EVs, but they cannot be used to replace the ICE automobile in the ways we use them now.

How about EREVs, like the Chevy Volt? I understand that EVs will be a big change for most people - personally, I prefer the idea of taking rail for long trips, and using car-sharing once I get there (like WWW.zipcar.com), but that's not for everyone.

there will be local renewable energy used, but it will not do much to preserve the viability of the centralized power grid.

You haven't really said why.

...I've worked with engineers who designed DSM controllers with funding from local utilites - of course that was in the early 1980's. These are old ideas

Of course. Old, and well known. They do work.

100% wind penetration is a strawman, but ... Synchronous condensers, massive overcapacity, and ultra-DSM?


His reasoned tone and admittedly deep grasp of likely ecological futures masks his radical closed-mindedness and the key spots where he is merely another ideologue.

It is a given that some people don't like to hear what is behind all the hubbub we hear lately.

....empires do not direct wealth to imperial centers

so what would you call the concentration of wealth and power by the 1%?

As for a national religion, that's simply hyperbole

Just replace the overused word "religion" with "believe system" and you get what he is talking about. Watch Adam Curtis's docus The Century of Self and others, than you will realise that most people were/are brainwashed into a new "believe system" which tells them what to buy, consume, etc.

We should be speaking up for ordinary folks

What did you have in mind?


"Greer is a deceptively dangerous analyst."

While I've never sensed any deception in Greer's writings, I can certainly see how he may be considered "dangerous" from a certain point of view. Those who challenge our most deeply ingrained myths about ourselves usually are.

"...he is merely another ideologue."

One of about 7 billion. Your ideology may vary.

"First of all, empires do not direct wealth to imperial centers, if by that we mean the core nations-as-nations. If that were true, how would one explain the heedless, runaway wealth and power of the 1 percent within the core societies?"

The "1 percent" is the core, especially in these days of virtual wealth. Their physical location just happens to be the most advantageous place from which to conduct their affairs, and where they can nurture a system of government, laws, and control. While location is important, it is mainly important in the sense that it is where the "Emperors" reside, and where the population and military enforcement place their allegiance. Of course, empires can exploit religious, ethnic, racial, ideological, economic, etc. commonalities as their "glue". Myths and stories are formed to perpetrate this imperial cohesion to great effect, as we see so much of these days.

"But Greer isn't interested in such facts, as he is committed to his claims about "culture" and mass worldviews, as well as his barely concealed -- despite his professed valuing of dissensus -- a priori hate for all things socialist and macro-political."

Equating a disdain for that which hasn't worked sustainably in the past for hate isn't accurate, IMO. How many "macro-political" systems can you point to that didn't involve the degradation of planetary systems, exploitation of other cultures, warfare ...? Some of us are indeed blind to our past and doomed to repeat it (until we can't). Others seem committed to salvaging something from our mistakes, and especially our successes. I put Greer in the latter group, even if I don't agree with some of his conclusions.

"As for a national religion, that's simply hyperbole."

I prefer "myths" when referring to the stories we tell ourselves, not being a deist, and we, collectively, have been telling ourselves some whoppers as of late.

"A solid majority of Americans, again without any leadership, thinks we need to do more about the environment."

How many are actually making the hard choices, willing to evaluate and sacrifice their consumptive lifestyles? How many are simply trapped in our collective myth of perpetual growth? The planet doesn't care either way. It's just a ball of rock and stuff that is currently suitable for human habitation.

"We should be speaking up for ordinary folks, not dousing them with insults and patrician just-so stories."

You imply judgment where I see none. That said, the bombardment of "just-so-stories" we are currently subject to is beyond patronizing and insulting. I consider them criminal. I see the conclusions being forwarded by the likes of Greer as infinitely more respectful and constructive. I also enjoy having my prejudice and biases challenged, whether or not others do.

couldn't agree more..


... and who should know more about the rise and fall of empires than an Italian ;-)

just half - mothers side - but it is true. Standing joke over there!


Edit: revering to my comment further down regarding Italian's and hand movement

by the way, I really liked your summery up top (9:35 am). Your way of writing is just more to the point then what I could do (English not my mother tong).


Ghung, I'm not saying Greer is a liar. I'm simply saying that he has his own stubborn baises, despite his self-presentation as the very voice of reason and dissensus. I think he's dead-on and very useful about the likely course of post-peak-everything societies. But he has decided collective politics is a losing proposition, and he exhibits no signs of having either openness to nor serious knowledge of, the major counter-argument there. And he also discourages close attention to social class, preferring to lump all Americans together and talk about "our culture."

I'm not saying that's inarguably the wrong choice. But it certainly might be. If so, closing that door and socializing the blame onto everybody would be a way of making an invalid excuse for the status quo and its primary beneficiaries.

As to the "belief" or "religion" or "myth" of unending growth, please name the evidence such a thing actually exists. One hears greens say this kind of thing all the time. But what if the population has simply not yet had serious, substantial access to the information and choices from which reality gets made? Again, public opinion polls show people are thirsty for better, more mature discussion and choices. But those choices are squarely off the table in our money-drenched, advertising-run politics. So, again, why say the least among us are as guilty as the fat cats?

Of course, ordinary people have been brainwashed about economics and growth. In my experience, that's all a mile wide but only an inch deep, if that. These days, if you ask around, I actually think you'll be pleasantly surprised what people would like to have the chance to discuss and change. Personally, I don't buy the notion that the masses demanded all this, or even approved of it. How and when would they have done that? Being lured into a trap isn't the same thing as building the trap.

I do not recognize the Greer you paint: you seem to put words in his mouth.
Yes the guy has limitations but he is thoughtful about his own limitations and learns as he goes along.

I am uncertain as to where you Michael are coming from. It could be inspirational to think collective politics could be organized for a very serious change in direction: perhaps 180 degrees? Could you sketch out a credible political platform, please, (make it personal with conviction, but I assume you are talking practical collective politics in the USA)? You might need a bit of faith thrown in? One of Greer's arguments is that such a discussion if it could have been translated into political reality might just have worked if it had begun in earnest 30 or 40 years ago and if it had stayed the course ever since.


Good points Ghung.
Also Greer makes the point that the American middle class is (still) in world terms part of the relatively small number of the immensely privileged. He simply points to the resource consumption numbers. By whatever system it has been arranged, the pumps have been working overtime for a long while as the actual stuff flows in from all over(and that is without any explanation of concepts such as repatriated profit). Where on earth do Americans think you get it from? And if you have been paying a 'proper' price, why are the places, or at least most of them that supply most of your wherewithal a very great deal poorer than you?
We sub-Americans elsewhere have a part of the same franchise.
(Was born part of something once called the British Empire and still living in comfort, though feeling it to be a bit fragile these days.)

I agree---
I find Greer lacking in in depth analysis.
He is a good writer, but puts me off.
Can't really put my finger on it, but the whole Druid thing makes the whole process suspicious.
Some good thoughts, but lack of scientific knowledge.
I would love to take a writing class from the guy, but not one dealing with evolutionary biology or thermodynamics.
His postmodernist view toward reality is discerning.

I think your view of the society as an empire built on class domination is quite dated and much too negative.

The conceptual framework of closed versus open social access orders provides a modern, insightful, powerful and (incidentally) more positive world view. It is important to realize that throughout history, social order have been maintained by rent-seeking elites that have colluded to limit the entry to positions of power and wealth. However, a few dozen countries have created open access orders, where social order is maintained by competition and free entry (both socially and politicially). The open access orders has made these countries enormously successful, since open access promotes efficiency by, for instance, Schumpeterian creative destruction.

Political and economic competition help sustain one another. We should be mindful of the great advantages of the open access orders, and how they have acted as an engine to help lift 28 (limited access) countries from low-income to middle-income status the last decade alone, and how they have succeeded in lifting 500 million people out of extreme poverty. We should also pay attention to the struggles of some countries to become open access and how and why they often fail, like Russia, and the real risk for countries such as Greece to switch back to limited access order. We should understand the important doorstep conditions required to create open access orders. We should realize that heavy socialism is, fundamentally, a limited access order.

It may be the case that there is something even better waiting to replace the open access order. But it is not socialism and it will not happen through socialism. That path is not only a theoretical failure - it has also been empirically tried many times and have always failed.

(not a rant at you Ghung)
The whole notion of "environment" is nonsensical. That term hints that humans are separate and distinct from everything around them. Try going without air for a couple of minutes. Humans are participants in a dance which encompasses many actors and components. We are not observers of that dance.
WP on a dreary afternoon

Not sure where you are going with the comment about curtailing legal immigration. Immigration which feeds population growth is part and parcel of the debt/growth paradigm. A sustainable future has no chance as long as the population continues to grow.

"Not sure where you are going with the comment about curtailing legal immigration."

I wasn't going anywhere with it. It's just something that someone is spending a lot of money to promote, as if it's going to solve our economic and employment issues. We're seeing a lot of overly-simple 'answers' to predicaments that have none.

Your right in that it won't solve all of our problems, particularly in the short term, but population stabilization is critical to getting a handle on a lot that does ail us in the longer term. If we aren't going to start dealing with it now, than when? It does seem a little absurd to continue to import more labor when we already have a large surplus of labor.

My impression of the ads is that they are not suggesting that reducing legal immigration is going to fix all of our problems. I would ask though, what are we achieving by maintaining a high level of immigration (into Canada and the US) when we have a very low rate of economic growth and given resource constraints, are unlikely to go back to the robust level of growth we had been accustomed to?

It seems to be the fashion to label anyone who suggests that the level of immigration be reduced as being rascist or xenophobic. In fact, both of my step children are married to immigrants and the majority of faculty in my department are from outside of Canada so I know a lot of great people who didn't happen to be born here. Nevertheless, I do have to question the overall amount of immigration given that having a "growth based" economy doesn't seem viable or even desirable anymore.

I certainly would not advocate the elimination of immigration. We do have some skill shortages in Canada at the present time -- especially in regards to oil sands development in Alberta, and there will always be jobs where it is desirable to recruit the best candidate you can find world wide. I just want to bury this idea that we must have immigration just to continue to grow our population.

I certainly don't want to use that broad a brush. I'm fine with people aarguing from a policy perspective, I wish we'd do much much more of that. At least in the US, we have a sizable group who spews falsehoods about dirty brown illegals bring in germs and spawning crimewaves etc. I think these sorts outnumber thoughtful analytical types.

I do agree, that a longterm cost benefit analysis, taking population into account, would skew more towards limiting immigration, than current policy. Its just that those aren't the arguments that have emotional salience -at least in the US.

Business policy goals are not the only legitimate policy ends of immigration. Economic immigration provides a low-cost path for developed countries to aid people in developing countries (significantly cheaper than direct aid). Family immigration allows families to live together. For instance, 60% of people in Mexico have a close relative in the U.S.

Policy in the U.S. on a variety of issues is broken and tends to work on the principle that problems don't get mitigated (almost nothing ever gets fixed) until they exceed a certain 'pain point.' The mitigation relieves the pain, and a rough equilibrium at the pain points is maintained over time. The pain points are basically independent of immigration in my view, so even when immigration increases pressure on issues requiring policy changes, they don't necessarily shift the pain points, they just change the policy mix needed to maintain the pain.

I think its more for political effect, playing to an angry nationalist cun racism audience. They aren't really thinking too much about the policy implications.


I've gained a lot from Greer's recent series on Empire where he describes empires as "wealth pumps" designed to move wealth from the periphery to the imperial core.

That sounds an awful lot like the continual effort over decades and now with every R candidate to shift tax burden away from the wealthiest to the middle and lower income brackets.


'The Atlantic Mitt Romney's Tax Plan Is a Moral (and Mathematical) Failure'

Scroll down to the chart showing how much tax savings shift to the wealthiest. Looks like a plan to move money from the periphery to the core. Since all the R's have similar plans it would seem Greer makes a valid point.

By the way, good summarization of the complexity of an empire quickly breaking down.

I also read Ashvin's post after Greer's and was struck by how well they fit together.

At least is it nice to have company. Great post. Spot on.

Link up top: Has the 'Peak Oil' Tipping Point Arrived? The fix is so, so. simple.

If climate change is the issue, the simplest, most efficient fix is to tax carbon emissions. If excessive energy use is the problem, the way out is to tax energy use. No muss, no fuss (in theory, anyway); just set taxes equal to the negative spillovers created by the harmful behavior.

Just put a tax on whatever the problem is and that will fix everything. But I doubt that the Chinese or Indians would agree to such a tax on either emissions or energy use.

Gad! Everyone from politicians to media pundits see every problem as a local problem that can be fixed with local measures. I really don't understand that. They cannot possibly be that stupid.

Ron P.

Even if it were a solution, Grover Nordquist wouldn't approve it. Of course, a lot of people opposing any new taxes don't believe there's a problem anyhow.

New from Congression Research Service [CRS] ...

The Eurozone Crisis: Overview and Issues for Congress

The United States and Europe share the largest bilateral economic relationship in the world, and there are concerns about the exposure of U.S. financial institutions to Europe and U.S. exports to Europe. Treasury officials have emphasized that U.S. exposure to the Eurozone countries under the most market pressure is small but that U.S. exposure to Europe as a whole is significant. To date, it is not clear that U.S.-EU trade flows have contracted, although risks may remain

also Sovereign Debt in Advanced Economies: Overview and Issues for Congress

... Some economists caution that the rise in sovereign debt among advanced economies during the financial crisis is only the start of more serious debt problems to come. Specifically, there is concern that aging populations in many advanced economies will cause public debt to skyrocket, as a shrinking workforce will result in lower tax revenue while more retirees will require an increase in government spending on pensions and healthcare. Among OECD countries, for example, there were about 27 retirees for every 100 workers in 2000.23 By 2050, the OECD forecasts about 62 retirees for every 100 workers.

Economists at the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) suggest that the unfunded contingent liabilities associated with aging populations in advanced economies have not been definitively or comprehensively accounted for in government balance sheets or in budget and debt projections.

These economists argue that properly accounting for increases in age-related spending would result in significantly higher forecasts of debt levels. According to their calculations, debt-to-GDP ratios could rise by 2020 to 300% of GDP in Japan, 200% of GDP in the United Kingdom, and 150% of GDP in Belgium, France, Ireland, Greece, Italy, and the United States.

When social security was started the odds of living to age 65 were 50/50. All we need to do is move the retirement age to whatever gives us 50/50. For the US that is age 78 now.

It seems simple, no money, so, work or starve.

I am all for taking from the 1% but I expect that will not be done, as it has not been done in the last 350 years in America.

With automation and a supply of energy we ought to be able to support everyone with 20 years of work per citizen per life. But of course we have endless wars to fight for ??? And we need 16 trillion for the global bankers. American society is a wealth extraction system the tends to flow to the top. It is not about "the common good".

Taking from the 1%, has been done. Prior to Kennedy's tax cuts the marginal tax rate was 90%. Even I (a wild eyed flaming socialist), think 90% is too high. It could be dome again, if we got our act together. In my opinion a proper rate is probably more like 40-50%, which really is only setting the clock back a couple of decades.

One problem with raising SS rates, is that the change has serious class/race/sex issues. Poor people, and minorities, and males, don't live as long, so any increase in the retirement age is not class/race/sex neutral.

The best reason for raising the SS income cap is to address the very regressive nature of social security. It is a well established fact that longevity is related to income.Wealthier people in white collar jobs live longer on average than poor people in blue collar jobs. Eliminating the income cap will bring back a balance between what people pay into the system and their expected longevity.

Liquid battery could charge green energy

Engineering professor Donald Sadoway on Thursday used an old-school chalk board at the prestigious TED gathering to write the formula for a liquid battery that could one day cut the need for new power plants.

also Reinventing the battery: Donald Sadoway at TED2012

A new weapon against 'free speech' ...

Researchers develop 'SpeechJammer' gun that can quash human utterances

Imagine sitting around a conference table with several of your colleagues as you hold an important meeting. Now imagine your boss pulling out what looks like a radar gun for catching speeding motorists and aiming at any of you that speak to long, very nearly instantly causing whoever is speaking to start stuttering then mumbling and then to stop speaking at all. That’s the idea behind the SpeechJammer, a gun that can be fired at people to force them to stop speaking.

already built, ... it works

It sounds great! I know a lot of people I would like to use it on. It could really shorten a lot of meetings and stop idle chatter from people you don't really want to talk to.

I know it works because I've had the principle demonstrated on me. If somebody transmits your words back to you with a 0.2 second delay, you have no idea how badly it screws up any attempt to speak. Your mind just gets totally locked up in a feedback loop.

It's almost as good as the cell phone jammer someone was using to get some quiet on the buses in Philadelphia. In Russia they seem to be becoming public policy. See Phone jammers: “subscriber out of coverage”

Russia’s Ministry of Communications plans to use cell phone jammers to block all phone signals in theaters, schools, churches and other public places. Officials state that whether or not to install this device will be decided by the premises management in each particular case.

Today, the use of phone jammers is not subject to any official licenses or regulations. The Ministry of Communications wants to legalize their use.

In the US, that would be illegal, but maybe you could use a speech jammer to jam their minds rather than their cell phones. It's worth a try.

Simpler, mirror the person's body language and hand movements back at them. If they use their hands as they speak they come to a halt in seconds. Knew one person who used their hands a lot and gently holding their hands prevented them from talking.


must have been an Italian!


I can't say but a similar culture. It wouldn't surprise me if it worked on Italians though :)


Because the boss couldn't just tell his employees to stop talking? Maybe they were hoping the employee wouldn't notice?

Behind Saudi Pipeline Story: Nervous Traders—and Distrust

... It would not be the first time that the security of the Kingdom’s oil infrastructure is questioned by traders. The “terror premium” of 2003/2004 quickly comes to mind, set in motion after a domestic terror wave began.

Terrorists attempted to disrupt oil production, stormed the US Consulate in Jeddah and bombed residential compounds of expatriates. Conservative estimates by experts at the time placed the “terror premium” at around $5 per barrel. Taking an oil price of $40 per barrel then, the premium translates into 10-15 percent, equivalent to at least $12 a barrel today. And as is the case now, OPEC’s spare capacity was running thin.

Iran, which like Saudi Arabia heavily depends on oil exports for its government revenues, has made no secret of its reservations about Saudi Arabia’s pledge as a swing producer to keep global markets well supplied.

Virginia high court rules in favor of climate scientist

The supreme court of Virginia on Friday ruled in favor of a prominent climate scientist, blocking a two-year bid by state officials to get access to his university emails and grant materials.

The case was brought by state attorney general Ken Cuccinelli, a skeptic of global warming, against the University of Virginia where well known climate scientist Michael Mann taught from 1999 to 2005.

Cuccinelli had tried to obtain Mann's communications relating to grants he received to conduct climate science research, alleging there may have been data manipulated to show a rise in global temperatures linked to fossil fuel use.

... "I'm pleased that this particular episode is over," Mann said in a statement.

"It's sad, though, that so much money and resources had to be wasted on Cuccinelli's witch hunt against me and the University of Virginia, when it could have been invested, for example, in measures to protect Virginia's coast line from the damaging effects of sea level rise it is already seeing."

And Bjorn Lomborg is caught telling lies....again.

Seems like nothing changed.

NASA Finds Sea Ice Driving Arctic Air Pollutants

Drastic reductions in Arctic sea ice in the last decade may be intensifying the chemical release of bromine into the atmosphere, resulting in ground-level ozone depletion and the deposit of toxic mercury in the Arctic, according to a new NASA-led study.

The connection between changes in the Arctic Ocean's ice cover and bromine chemical processes is determined by the interaction between the salt in sea ice, frigid temperatures and sunlight. When these mix, the salty ice releases bromine into the air and starts a cascade of chemical reactions called a "bromine explosion." These reactions rapidly create more molecules of bromine monoxide in the atmosphere. Bromine then reacts with a gaseous form of mercury, turning it into a pollutant that falls to Earth's surface.

19 People Kicked Off Flight Bound for Milwaukee Over Fuel Issue

DETROIT - 19 people were apparently kicked off a Delta Airlines flight from Detroit to Milwaukee Friday morning. The issue is apparently related to the problem with a fuel pipe in Milwaukee.

... Christ says workers told him the issue was because of a fuel shortage in Milwaukee. "They had to carry enough fuel to make it from Detroit to Milwaukee to Memphis, which was their next scheduled destination today," Christ said.

Airlines have either had to truck in fuel, or fly into Milwaukee with enough fuel to make it to their next destination since a pipeline started leaking fuel earlier this year. That pipeline has been shut down for repairs.

A spokesman for Pinnacle Airlines confirmed the flight had to carry extra fuel due to limited supplies in Milwaukee for the return trip.

It's the start of Canada's quest for global domination, but Canada is going to start small - by drawing Iceland into the... Loonie Zone!

Iceland considering switch to Canadian dollar

Will ongoing economic uncertainty about the eurozone push Iceland into the stable arms of the Canadian dollar?

While the question may have seemed a loonie one only a decade ago, the idea has been gaining traction recently among Icelandic investors like Heidar Gudjonsson. Gudjonsson is an economist at Iceland's Research Center for Social and Economic Studies.

He recently stated that Canada and Iceland share Arctic geography and export-driven economies. Gudjonsson also noted that Canada's sound economy is buffered by a wealth in natural resources like oil and water, making the loonie a stable long-term bet. "Their export mix is very, very similar to ours," he said in November.

Iceland is still reeling from the 2008 economic collapse, which destroyed the country's banking system.

Now, with the eurozone facing ongoing debt issues, Iceland is looking west for a currency solution. It seems Canada is also warming to an alliance between the two frosty nations.

Iceland's RUV media reported Friday that Canada's ambassador to Iceland will touch on the matter during remarks Saturday in Reykjavik. Ambassador Alan Bones is expected to say that Canada is open to discussions over the plan.

LaRouche loves to talk about the common interests of the northern peoples. He has elaborate plans for massive economic development projects for the Arctic zone. He sees it as people who have not given up on science and progress (read growth, don't shoot me it is not my idea).

Canada, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia. Hard working, good education systems, lots of natural resources, lots of empty land. All they need is energy. LaRouche proposes nuclear in a big way. With no energy source LaRouche sees die-off in a big way. Nuclear power or death well when you put it that way.....

Maybe Alaska can seceded and join. We need a name for this union. Asgard Alliance ;) The Loonie Bin?

I'd love to see Iceland joining Canada. Icelanders are the best educated people on Earth and don't put up with a lot of BS. I like the way they let their banks fail in 2008 instead of propping them up like all other contries attempt to do. After our homegrown Canadian housing bubble pops, our "well managed" banks will no doubt be looking for government bailouts. With enough Icelanders in parliament, this idea would come to an abrupt halt.

With a hundred times the population of Iceland, I fear the Icelandic merits would be too watered down to make a difference.

Sounds good to me - Icelanders are great people.

We might as well include Greenland while we're at it - we might yet be able to sell all that glacial meltwater to someone, and then they (the Greenlanders) don't have to deal with the Danes anymore.

After all, we have much more experience at mismanaging Arctic islands and people than the Danes ever will.

After all, we have much more experience at mismanaging Arctic islands and people than the Danes ever will.

Amen, brother, Amen.

Greenland would be a very nice addition. Check out the capital city, Nuuk.

They get the loonie and we get the Nuukie...

... on second thought, that could be "spun" as quite the pleasant trade.

Volt production has been halted due to backlog of vehicles.

My problem with the Volt has always been the price. For the money, I'd go buy a Toyota Yaris and save the extra $20K or whatever. That is a whole lot of fuel, even at $4 a gallon. The price has to come down or else its just a toy of the rich.


The price is indeed the biggest problem with the Volt. They need to get the price down. Comparing it against the near-bottom-of-the-line Toyota Yaris isn't exactly a fair comparison though . . . the Volt is loaded up with extras. It still isn't completely clear whether the pure EV or the plug-in hybrid model is the better way to go but things seem to be tilting toward pure EVs. Having both electric and gasoline drivetrains in the same car just makes it really expensive. Perhaps it is better for a two-car family to have a pure EV and a hybrid for long drives.

I wish I could get gas at $4/gallon . . . out here in California it has taken a sharp jump up.

Yes, here in "upstate" New York it is over $4 now. Say 4.10 to 4.20

Well, it's $4.50 here in my corner of NW California. Betcha can't catch us!

We're a couple hours drive north of SF, CA, at 4.40 - at least that was on Wednesday. Not far from what it was in 08 when all hell broke loose. However, that was a combination of mortgage meltdown and high fuel prices. I wonder what the price threshold + time interval at high prices will be this time to cause a downturn? Maybe once again in July?

The situation is exacerbated by Obama wanting to end oil subsidies while the R's want to keep them. This gives the oil company's incentive to keep fuel prices high to help the R's get Obama out and the R guy in. We The People are going to get the shank!

I'm predicting 5 dollar a gallon in CA unless Obama releases kajillions of barrels out of SPR.

Frankly, I'll be really surprized if we don't get to $5 this year, especially considering where we are on March 1 and how fast it went up. I think it went up 30-35 cents in about 10 days. If it does that again, we're practically there.

But, I was surprized how things went at the end of 2008, so who knows? Interesting to think that no apparent bubble bursting (like in 2008 with housing) might give the economy a higher price that it can tolerate before tanking than it did before. Plus a little for inflation, I suppose.

Interesting to think that no apparent bubble bursting (like in 2008 with housing) might give the economy a higher price that it can tolerate before tanking than it did before.

Certainly suggestiable as an in-house or guest article to explore that specificially and prognosticate on suggested tolerance fuel price point before next step-down. Just how hot can this pressure cooker get until a threshold percentage of consumers hit the breaking point, and steam lets out signifying a burst of more disenfranchised? Some have suggested those that stayed above the fray thru the 08 downward slide are better prepared to handle higher prices. Guess we're going to find out just how much that frog we call the economy can handle.

Central Banks don't use oil or energy to swell their balance sheets and inject money into the financial system. I believe this has had the effect of making it seem as if the economy is growing while oil use actually declines. Just an illusion. High oil prices will adversely affect what's left of the real economy that still uses energy, but will have less affect on the make-believe economy created by the central banks. Therefore making it appear as if high oil prices have less effect this time around.

For everyone in the real economy, well they're going to get panned.

$4.259 today, spent $26 to fill up the Prius. So far plug in hybrids don't look all that attractive. I thought GM made the wrong compromise, too much battery capacity, serial hybrid, which costs hybrid milage. Even the coming Prius hybrids, with a better balance -not pretending it is pure electric even for short trip, and much smaller batteries, is questionable from a cost standpoint. We really need those battery breakthroughs.

"the Volt is loaded up with extras."

Not just the Volt. It's getting hard to find a car that does not have a hundred extra useless and breakable things.

No, I don't want an automatic transmission, power door locks, power windows, power mirrors, power seats, GPS, ABS, traction control, driving light, fog lights, a CD player (why are they still putting those in cars anyway?)

I don't even have air conditioning in my car. (Salesman nearly stroked out when I said no AC). If I was back in Nevada I would have gotten the AC, but up here? Nah. Cruise control would be nice, but not worth the $2000 they wanted for that option.

The key word is transportation appliance. Get me to work without either pedaling or freezing or getting wet. Everything else is just a distraction.

In the summer I ride a motorcycle. I'm willing to compromise on the not getting wet part if it's warm enough.

automatic transmission
My Jeep would never select the right gear and the mountain roads always threw it out, wouldn't want anything but manual in the future.

power windows, power mirrors
Not sure but I think these help safety. Being able to adjust without contortions is a lot safer.

Big help when you meet other id10ts

driving light
Essential here, no big help where I was in the UK

fog lights
Reverse of the above

a CD player
Have you tried listening to the radio stations around here?


Yeah, don't get me started on that rant. I hate most of the extras thrown into modern cars. All they do is lard up the car with increased weight, increased power consumption, provide something else that can break down, and increase the cost of the car. KISS principle!

And much of the modern electronics should not be tied to the car since they depreciate at a much faster rate. I don't want some expensive built-in navigation system . . . the one on my cell phone is free will get progressively better over time. And I can switch cellphones if I want updated hardware. And just give me a sound system with a simple input . . . I can provide sound from my cellphone and/or MP3/radio thing.

Hey there,

Commuting 50 miles in a Yaris for two years...best car I ever had or will have. A lttle light in the snow, but is sure beats the caddies my old man used to drive. Why buy a North American unproven car when you can buy a 'Yota?


How successful are humans at “voluntarily” suppressing their urges to acquire pleasure? Not too successful. The subconscious mind dominates the “will” in its quest to experience pleasure. Much of our planning revolves around using resources, labor and time to acquire rewards. In other words, we can chart a course to a reward that is not immediately available by using the prefrontal cortex

We compete for pleasure, whether it be an object, a mate, social standing or an experience. We sometimes lie, cheat and steal to access that pleasure. Should you garner the will to reject an available pleasure, it is almost guaranteed that the person next to you will have no such reticence. In fact, most people will enjoy surplus pleasures even as others struggle to satisfy the bare necessities of existence.

Most of the people I've observed are trying to hit the pleasure bar as many times as possible and it shows in their physiques and is evident in their vacuous minds and accumulations of stuff. Restaurants, vacations, TV, electronics, McMansions, Hummers, porn, drugs, Starbucks, videos, games, ............... Aaaahhhhh. Pleasure makes the world go round and people aren't about to stop, they can't, they're not in control. From the wealthiest billionaire, to the most wretched heroine addict, pleasure reigns supreme.

Now billions more people in Asia are sampling the delights of industrial production, virtually, through the advertisements of industry or in reality, and once the hypothalamus, hippocampus and amygdala tuck that feel good memory into the temporal lobe and elsewhere, it's too late, the pattern is set and to be repeated until................what? Until every last resource has been spent in satisfaction of pleasures that were supposed to guide our survival effort, but unleashed by exergy, will guarantee our demise.

I don't think it's that simple.

In fact, in many cultures, the way to success was through sacrifice. The chief was the poorest man in the village, because he achieved his position by giving away everything he could to his followers.

Hawaiians had a hard time adjusting to the European economy. In the Hawaiian culture, you worked when there was work to be done, and stopped when the job is done. The idea of working more to earn money to buy stuff was simply foreign. Sure, they liked stuff - but not enough to work for it. This of course made them slothful in European eyes. But in Hawaii, there was no way to store wealth. The staples were taro and sweet potatoes, which don't keep in a tropical climate. So there was no point in working extra.

Under various environmental circumstances the total amount of pleasure that can be derived will vary, as will the distribution of the rewards. Sacrificing opportunities to indulge was like putting money in a bank as each recipient would owe the chief loyalty and future favors. And being the chief, you can take quite a bit of pleasure and still have plenty to give away.

The Hawaiians probably managed to maximize their pleasure and minimize their pain until they were christianized and their natural lifestyle became sinful. I can imagine a bunch of easy going Hawaiians being converted into industrious puritans, to create an exportable surplus, to get money, to buy stuff. I've also read that girls would swim to the ships to exchange sex for iron nails (and that the ships came apart in the harbor because so many nails had been removed.) Anyway, with regard to Hawaii, I'll just say “Pass me a doobie.” Maybe that's the answer, cheap SOMA for everyone.

It didn't really work that way. The chief couldn't really call in favors. His responsibility was to provide for his people. Keep in mind that he was often closely related to them all. So he was more like a father going hungry so his children could eat than someone planning to call in favors later.

I bet "The Chief" didn't give his wives away nor his access to mistresses.
The undeniable premise without cherry picking is that humans are pleasure seeking.......because we can. Given the opportunity we are always looking for happiness, and no matter what level you are on on the happiness graph there would always be a need for more. Billionaire or pauper everything is relative on the happiness scale.

To an alcoholic a bottle of 25 y/o Scotch is just another drink, the same thing brings pleaure or happiness in different ways. Simply having the means to avoid pain or displeaure is a goal to strive for. Striving for happiness is what defines the human race, it got us to this stage in our evolution. To find sustainability we would have to suppress most of what makes us human. We need to reset so we can do it all again, even pleasure has an EROEI limit.

I think you'd be surprised. Slaves were among the "goods" redistributed.

Humans are pleasure-seeking, yes - that is what nature intended. Pleasure is a reward for doing what we were meant to do. But it's not the only thing that drives us. There are other things that drive us as well, and social ties for most are a greater incentive than pleasure. We are social animals in the end, and our place in the tribe is important to us. If rank and respect come via consumption, that's what we do. If it comes via redistribution, well, that's what we do, too.

Remember that consumption for the sake of consumption wasn't necessarily something that came naturally. The "Gospel of Consumption," as one industrial consultant put it in the late '20s, was created by industrialists who feared the slowing of growth and increased leisure that would happen if people ever became content with what they had.

I read that on average the ratio of gold to oil cost is one ounce of gold for 10 barrels of oil. With gold at $1700 that would be oil at $170 per barrel. Or about 50% more than today. So gas at about $6 per gallon. Considering the massive inflation that has been going on this seems reasonable.

I am guesstimating gas at $6 by June, 2013.

here you go;

Today, you would need about 70oz of gold to buy 1000 barrels of oil, so right in the middle of the historic range.

I'm sure some people in India are working out how much gold they need to buy how much Iranian oil...

Fascinating lecture and presentation, well worth a watch IMO.

TOC 2012: Clay Johnson, "Is SEO Killing America?"


Sending massive amounts of our manufacturing jobs to China was a great idea wasn't it? We get goods produced a lot cheaper. Of course they don't buy much from us so they end up with a trillion dollars of our currency that they can then use to buy large quantities of finite resources or buy US properties. And the other problem is that it's not sustainable. Eventually we will have to sell them as much as they sell us. Good luck with that.

Pakistan defends Iran gas pipeline deal

Pakistan says the pipeline is crucial for its national energy supplies


Thank you I love this site. It is nice to see a place where I can have an intellegent discussion on things. The news is crap and I have been trying to tell family and friends about Peak oil. They are all in this fairy tale land that it will not happen in my life time, we will invent something new, or it will not happen here. Mike Ruppurt had a good comment on his site today about Saudi Arabia that if there is unstablity there things will get really nasty really quick if there are oil disruptions.I think I am living in one the most scarest times in my life right now. Between the environmental, economical, political, and social implications of what is comming here to the US. It almost appears that the US is trying to be the last man standing while intimdiation of other country and gutting our resources in the process. There will not be anything left for any of us no clean water, air, food or anything? I don't know I keep shaking my head. I graduated last may with my maters in Water Resources Engineering and there are no jobs? I see droughts, the Ogellala Aquifer is almost completely depleted. I feel so helpless in this whole process. The more I read and learn the angerier I get. I keep wondering how angry people in the us will get when they realize we have no more oil and they have believed these lies all along.Not only that but our poliitical system is hurting the whole process.

"How fortunate for governments that the people they administer don’t think." - Adolf Hitler

Most people get angry because the System is doing nothing to mitigate and solve the obvious problems which are looming. As individuals cannot solve the problems themselves nor can they make TPTB take positive action, so people feel helpless. Usually the attention then focuses on educating people so that public opinion is brought to bear upon the TPTB to force them to do something. This process gets bogged down in public debate, propaganda, disinformation and organised opposition by the threatened system resulting in confusion rather than education.

Basically nothing is going to happen until the System is itself threatened by events, then the action will be reactionary causing more damage than good (eg. the current financial crisis). People will be left to fend for themselves or coerced into the Systems attempts to save itself (Greece for example).

So in the end you're left only with the option to find a way to live without being trampled upon by events you have no control over. To do this you need to live in a way that is resilient, flexible, adaptive and independent from (ie. disconnected) from collapsing and vulnerable systems (eg. the economy).

The challenge if you wish to accept it; is to survive as the primary economy (everything nature provides), the secondary economy (production, resource transformation and real work) and the tertiary economy (finance, services and make-believe work) all collapse. And you must do this on your own or with a community and without the help of governments, institutions, the global economy or a functioning society. Good luck.

hagarrish and all,

Water scarcity?

Not according to Peter Diamandis!

He says 'Abundance is our future'!


He says that "scarcity is just contextual, and that technology is the great liberating resource"

He cites at least 10 broad 'technology areas' which according to him obey Moore's Law...the first being 'Infinite Computing'.

He cites some guy who is developing a technology called 'slingshot; which he alleges is the size of a small dorm refrigerator, and can make pure drinking water out of any source (salt water, urine, etc) for $.02 *two U.S. cents) per liter, at the rate of 1,000 liters per day!

He helped launch 'Singularity University' with Ray Kurzweil.

A reverse osmosis unit that desalinates seawater or brackish water, is the size of a small refrigerator, and can produce 1,000 litres a day is highly doable, and they are available off the shelf. They are extremely useful on big, bluewater sailing yachts, where they typically run them off the auxiliary diesel engine while they are recharging the batteries since the engine has a lot more power than is needed just to recharge the batteries.

I don't know about the 2 cent per litre cost, though, since these things are very expensive. It probably doesn't include amortizing capital or installation costs since those are very high.

OTOH, big municipal-sized units can produce desalinated water for considerably less - typically 1/10 cent per litre. That's actually high for municipal water systems, and completely uneconomic for irrigation systems, but it sure beats the cost of buying bottled water.


Thank you for clarifying information.

I am somewhat familiar with reverse osmosis...we had a hand-pumped unit in our survival kits to use if we had to bail out...

My question is about the idea this guy promulgated on stage during this TED talk video that these units were 'the answer' to providing necessary pure drinking water to the World's teeming masses.

H also causally mentioned that very soon solar PV electricity would be ~ 6 cents per KwH and implied that this was the answer to World energy needs...

His talk was a facile assertion that technology will allow us to solve any of our World problems in the future...no mention of Limits To Growth, including pollution, soil depletion, ocean acidification, and on.

I imagine if he talked a little longer he would pimp the idea of growing megatons of meat in industrial complexes using the 'petri-dish' animal-less processes being worked on, and that we could get all of our veggies etc. from vertical high-rise urban farms.

Anytime I see these technological solutions forwarded I usually get a sense that these folks have no concept of the scale of our consumption. They haven't done the math. I recently looked at a micro-hydro site for a guy who was convinced that it could provide all of his electricity. We measured the flow and got a good estimate of head (elevation) and I did the math. He can produce about 4 KWH/day. "Thats a lot, isn't it/!", he asked. When I told him that it's about one tenth their current consumption (or about 40 cents worth at his peak rate), he wouldn't accept it. When he said he could build a bigger pond upstream, I told him that he was only storing energy, not significantly increasing his total available energy over time. I doubt he'll call me back.

Wish I had access to such a site. It would provide for 2x our household usage. And yet, I believe I still suffer from, as Nate Hagens puts it, "a longage of expectations..."

Not a lot, at 160W, to be sure, but that doesn't mean it might not be worth doing.

there are a couple of very small hydro units available now;

The water buddy at $700;

Some other ones from this company in S Carolina;

and a diy kit from Motenergy, which the S. Carolina ones are based on;

Surprisingly cheap options, for 24hr power...

Just checked my last bill, 3kWh daily. The 4kW would easily cover my base load, half of which is the fridge.


Reverse osmosis is the solution for places that have a lot of people, a lot of money, cheap energy, and very little fresh water. Saudi Arabia is the classic example, and more than half of the drinking water in Saudi Arabia is supplied by reverse osmosis.

The problem is that it is not a good solution for places that don't meet those criteria, and even for Saudi Arabia, it is cheaper for them to import food than produce it themselves using irrigation. Reverse osmosis is expensive and completely uneconomic for irrigation systems.

Solar PV is not very economic for large scale power supply, and the cost of 6 cents per kWh quoted is completely delusional. In reality, it is uneconomic for industrial and commercial power supply, but for individual homes with no electrical grid connections and/or expensive power sources it could make a lot of sense compared to the cost of bringing in commercial power.

@Hagarrish- I can definitely relate. The sheer number of crises pilling up is daunting... I find myself questioning the severity because it hasn't really sunk into the mainstream, and the news seems to care more about whichever celebrity has recently died (at least here in the US). But looking at the facts objectively as I can, they simply cannot be ignored and are not the stuff of conspiracy theories.. the "disconnect" can be pretty hard at first. I've tried discussing it with family, but I usually get unconcerned indifference, 100+ yrs of natural gas, or simply cannot wrap their minds around it. It is really shocking to see the industry propaganda on tv without feeling a sense of disbelief or anger.

These days though, I've accepted that I cant control a lot of the BS. I cant control what others think either and only drop the occasional comment...the denial and/or the broken narrative they cling to can only go on so long anyways. Any Political response I pretty much regard these days as useless noise. A certain amount of apathy to the mess makes it easier to direct the anger/fear/whatever towards action.

I agree with Burgundy, try and create whatever resilience in your life you can and be as flexible and adaptable as possible to situations as they arise. Good luck all!

Oil rigs at a 25 year high and ng rigs went below 700 this week. The prior analysts I read predicted falling production with a rig count below 800.

US natgas drilling rig count at 31-month low

But in a report last week, Bernstein Research said the gas-directed rig count would have to drop to about 600 before
they would be comfortable forecasting flat to falling production.

Arctic's old ice vanishing rapidly, NASA study finds

This article says:

Results showed that the extent of multi-year ice, which includes areas of the Arctic Ocean where multi-year ice covers at least 15 percent of the water's surface, is shrinking at a rate of 15.1 percent per decade.

The problem with that 15.1 figure is that it is a snapshot in a non-linear progression. In other words, it leaves out the reality that this is a non-linear, accelerating phenomenon.

The figure will increase each year (15.1 + n), so the ice will not melt at a 15.1/100 rate (taking 6.6 decades) in linear progression.

It will happen faster than that.

I ran across this site which features maps of various phenomena...

here is 'Oil through the ages' (actually from 1960 through 2010)


The page has a few oil articles...


The site has an overall 'sustainability' section, including maps on 'car culture' and 'electricity):


It would be interesting to construct a mash-up site of some of these maps with maps such as these:


Perhaps a project for the day my meal ticket expires...if I can afford internet and trons and the roof over my head!

Question for Ron and others who have worked in KSA, please.

Last night on the tube I watched a movie called The Kingdom...about FBI investigating compound bombing terrorists, etc.

Have you seen it? Has anyone on TOD watched it? If so, how accurate are/were the security precautions (excess speed, convoys, no-go areas, etc) and was the disconnect between the royalty and citizens an accurate portrayal?

The movie scared me because I felt that if it was accurate it would be a very short time before KSA falls apart. Also, I was manipulated even though I knew it was manipulating me. A little righteous anger feels good once in awhile, even though there is obviously much more to the story.

Thanks in advance....Paulo

Paulo, I have not seen the movie and have no idea as to its accuracy. I searched for the movie on the Direct TV search function. Apparently that was a one time showing because it shows no future showings, in the next week anyway.

Sorry I could be of no help.

Ron P.

Wikipedia has a section on reactions to the film. Sounds like you shouldn't take it too seriously.