Drumbeat: April 11, 2012

Fuel to Burn: Now What?

THE reversal of fortune in America’s energy supplies in recent years holds the promise of abundant and cheaper fuel, and it could have profound effects on what people drive, domestic manufacturing and America’s foreign policy.

Cheaper fuel produced domestically could reduce the cost of shipping and manufacturing, trim heating and cooling bills, improve the auto market and provide tens of thousands of new jobs.

It might also pose new environmental challenges, both predictable and unforeseen, by damping enthusiasm for clean forms of energy and derailing efforts to wean the nation from its wasteful energy habits.

But for Americans battered by rising gasoline prices, frustrated by the dependence on foreign oil, skeptical of the benefits or practicality of renewable fuels and afraid of nuclear power, the appeal of plentiful domestic oil and gas could far outweigh the costs.

Price of natural gas falls below $2, a decade low

U.S. natural gas futures broke below $2 (U.S.) per million British thermal units on Wednesday for the first time in more than 10 years as extended mild weather forecasts plus worries about record-high supplies pressured prices.

It was the third straight day that the nearby contract struck a 10-year low, after one of the mildest winters on record sharply stunted demand for gas and sent prices spiraling lower.

US Cash Products-Gulf Coast gasoline slips as refinery returns

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Gulf Coast gasoline and diesel differentials fell on Wednesday after Valero Energy Corp restarted production units at its Louisiana refinery.

Conventional M2 gasoline differentials fell 2.00 cents a gallon to 15.50 cents under May RBOB futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX), traders said.

U.S. sees glut of natural gas, falling prices

The soft demand for heating left the nation with more natural gas than in any March on record. Storage facilities are holding 60 percent more natural gas than usual, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The abundance has pushed prices down to just over $2 per million British thermal units from $14.32 in 2005. Gas closed down 7.6 cents at $2.031 in Tuesday trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

That can mean lower utility bills for consumers. But it has sent natural gas producers scrambling to relieve their portfolios of the low-value commodity.

Natural Gas Signals a ‘Manufacturing Renaissance’

AS horizontal drilling and the controversial extraction technique known as fracking have made domestically produced natural gas more available and sharply cheaper, that gas has been widely embraced by industry, electric utilities and trucking fleets.

The rapid development of shale gas technology has helped reduce energy imports and, in some cases, encouraged companies producing petrochemicals, steel, fertilizers and other products to return to the United States after relocating overseas. Natural gas exports are growing and terminals built to hold imported supplies are being repurposed for international sales.

U.S. not 'prejudging' natural gas export plans

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) -- Low natural gas prices are helping U.S. manufacturers gain an edge over foreign competitors, but the Obama administration has to consider a lot of other factors when determining whether to approve proposals to export U.S. natural gas that are likely to raise the prices, a top Energy Department official said Wednesday.

Energy costs raise concerns on growing economy

The U.S. economy kept growing moderately in the late winter months but rising prices for gasoline and other energy products were beginning to worry producers and consumers across the country, the Federal Reserve said on Wednesday.

Peak oil spells disaster

GLOBAL oil shortages and rising fuel costs could spell disaster for Australia's agricultural industry.

That's the dire warning from Australian Association of the Study of Peak Oil and Gas (ASPO) convenor Bruce Robinson.

He said farmers needed to be more alert to so-called peak oil, estimated to occur within the next five years.

"We have a crazy situation where we operate under the assumption that fuel availability will remain the same as it is now," he said.

"Currently governments, economists, industry, investors and the community are all turning a blind eye to the probability of serious oil shortages and ongoing oil scarcity within a few years."

Extending the Life of Oil Fields, Revitalizing Waterfloods Using Pulsed Injection

Yet Deffeyes and all the other “peak oil” theorists who have emerged since Hubbert first published his claims in 1956 have failed to ponder one major influence on oil production: the advent of innovative technology. The fact is that continuing innovation in oil extraction, including the use of pulsed injection processes, offers fresh life for oil fields once believed to be depleted, making it difficult to identify a past or future “peak” in production.

Why Buying A Refinery Could Be A Disaster For Delta Air Lines (Even With JPMorgan's Help)

Delta Air Lines is eyeing ways to get a handle on rising jet fuel costs, and reportedly talking to ConocoPhillips about buying its refinery in Trainer, Penn.

CNBC’s Kate Kelly reported Wednesday that JPMorgan Chase is now getting involved, and talking about coming on as a financing partner that would pay for the crude oil that would go into the refinery, then selling the refined products to Delta (at around cost) and to the broader market.

Russia to increase oil exports from Ust-Luga in May

(Reuters) - Russia plans to export up to 15 parcels of Urals URL-E crude blend from the new Baltic Sea port of Ust-Luga in May, a spokesman for state oil pipeline monopoly Transneft told Reuters on Wednesday, an increase on the previous month.

He said that in April Russia will ship ten cargoes from the port, up from previously planned nine.

ONEOK Partners to build 1,300-mile pipeline from North Dakota to Cushing hub

Tulsa-based natural gas transporter ONEOK Partners LP announced Monday that it plans to enter the crude oil business by building a 1,300-mile pipeline from the Northern Great Plains to the Cushing hub in central Oklahoma.

The Bakken Crude Express Pipeline project, scheduled for completion by 2015, will cost $1.5 billion to $1.8 billion, ONEOK said. The line will deliver light, sweet crude from the Willison Basin wells to Cushing, one of the nation's largest oil storage hubs.

Pemex Sues ConocoPhillips, Shell in New Stolen Gas Lawsuit

Pemex Exploracion Y Produccion filed a new lawsuit against six U.S. energy firms, including ConocoPhillips Co., after a judge refused to add the firms to a previous case seeking more than $300 million for stolen Mexican natural gas condensate sold in the U.S.

Kindergarten sues TEPCO for damages

A kindergarten has sued Tokyo Electric Power Co. for 420 million yen in damages, claiming that the crisis at the utility's Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant forced the institution to halt its operations.

Road trip! Electric vehicle-aficionados charged up to drive cross-country

Organized by Men’s Health magazine, the 2012 Electric Car Challenge (ECC) proposes to set a new record by making the roughly 3,000-mile trip without stopping at a single gas station.

GM says battery blast at lab unrelated to Chevrolet Volt

Two employees were injured Wednesday in a lithium battery explosion that forced the evacuation of about 80 other employees at a General Motors facility north of Detroit, the Associated Press reports.

Real-Time Data to Reduce Electric Use

WHEN Max Dunn walks through his kitchen in San Jose, Calif., he often glances at the home energy monitor that sits on the countertop. The monitor resembles a car’s GPS device and connects wirelessly to the home’s power meter.

The display tells him at any given moment how much electricity the house is using, and on a recent afternoon, the reading was higher than usual for that time of day. So he turned off a home computer that no one was using and the lights in an unoccupied room.

Court: Detroit Edison shouldn't have hiked rates for smart meter program

Detroit Edison never should have been allowed to hike rates by almost $37 million to pay for its smart meter program, the Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday.

In his opinion, Judge Henry Saad wrote that evidence was lacking to show the meters were needed, or would provide a benefit to customers, and that the rate increase was "unreasonable because it was not supported by competent material and substantial evidence."

ComEd to create outage command centers in suburbs

Hoping to avoid a repeat of the chaos caused by widespread outages during last summer's storms, Commonwealth Edison announced Wednesday it will set up temporary operation centers in areas where 20 percent of customers go without power for three hours or more.

Sidewalk Science

Several decades earlier, Whyte, in his films of New York City street life, identified the street corner as an important factor in urban dynamics. Here was a zone of serendipity where people encountered one another beneath the blinking walk man, where they paused to chat before parting, where they formed small convivial islands just as pedestrian flow was surging most strongly. Even today, corners offer new uses; one often finds people talking there on their mobile devices, either held up by the signal or forgetting to move after the signal has changed. Either way, the corner is urban punctuation, a place to pause, essential to the whole civic grammar.

Subtly Selling ‘Green’ to the Flat-Screen Crowd

If you stare longingly at the set, a sales associate may begin quizzing you about your brand preference, price point and the size of your TV room.

Is energy efficiency important to you? That kind of question might be more standard for potential buyers of the store’s front-load washers and kitchen appliances. Even so, roughly a third of the television models on display bear a small orange label with a fast-forward button on it and a message that says, “Most efficient. Engineered to be the best of Energy Star.”

Out of Africa (and Elsewhere): More Fossil Fuels

The quickening pace of exploration in East Africa is part of a wider shake-up in the global energy industry as it scrambles to adapt to a series of major changes. Those range from the nuclear disaster in Japan last year, to slashed subsidies for alternative energy amid Europe’s economic crisis, to a boom in unconventional fossil fuels like shale gas that has spread across continents.

The changes have been particularly drastic in fast-growing China, now the world’s largest energy user and emitter of carbon dioxide. Since opening its economy over three decades ago, the Asian giant has become an insatiable consumer of natural resources. The country still relies predominantly on dirty coal for its electricity, but has fast-tracked oil production, as well as newer technologies like shale gas, and hydroelectric and wind power, to maintain its high levels of domestic growth.

With demand from emerging economies continuing apace, the quest for new fossil fuels is opening up unexplored territories for production. That may help to offset the effect of rising oil prices, which have reached almost record highs.

“The demand from billions of people worldwide to consume energy isn’t slowing down,” said Adi Karev, the global head of the oil and gas practice at the consultancy Deloitte in Hong Kong. “Companies’ ability to find new energy reserves, especially in remote locations, is altering the global market.”

Oil Rises From Eight-Week Low as China Car Sales Expand

Oil rose from the lowest close in almost two months in New York after a European Central Bank official signaled the lender may act to stem the spread of the region’s debt crisis.

Futures gained as much as 0.7 percent as the euro strengthened against the dollar after ECB Executive Board member Benoit Coeure suggested that the bank may restart bond purchases for Spain. Crude declined yesterday after an industry report showed U.S. stockpiles rose for a third week. The Energy Department will release its inventory report later today.

UBS Raises Oil Forecast On Likelihood Of Lower Iranian Exports

LONDON – UBS AG (UBS) raised its forecast for Brent crude oil prices in 2012 to $112 a barrel, from $105, citing recent price strength and the increasing likelihood that sanctions on Iran will curtail its oil exports, according to a note published Wednesday.

Gas prices, now averaging $3.92 a gallon, may have peaked

This year's surge in gasoline prices appears over, falling short of the record highs some had feared heading into peak summer driving season.

..."By the behavior of the market, things are just running out of steam," said Patrick DeHaan, senior analyst for price tracker gasbuddy.com. "Barring any major event — refinery problems, Iran — I think prices have peaked."

Summer gas prices will climb 6%, Energy Department forecasts

Although gas prices have been easing lately, the Energy Department has predicted that U.S. motorists will be shelling out an average of 24 cents a gallon more for gasoline during the peak summer driving season, defined as April through September.

Peak prices will average $3.95 for a gallon of regular gasoline, up 6.3 percent, or 24 cents, from last year's April-September driving season, according to the agency's monthly Short-Term Energy Outlook. That represents an increase from last month’s peak season prediction of a $3.295 average.

Oil Traders Defy Naimi Pledge, Betting on Higher Prices

Oil traders are paying scant attention to assurances from Saudi Arabia that it can raise production enough to cap crude’s advance, after the commodity climbed to the highest level for any quarter since 2008.

Futures have slipped less than 4 percent since March 20, when Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said Saudi Arabia could boost output by 25 percent immediately if needed. Brent for delivery in July, when the European Union’s ban against Iran comes into force, is at about $119 a barrel, almost 20 percent above al- Naimi’s $100 target. The six most widely held options are bets on rising prices, with the most popular being $140 in June, data from London’s ICE Futures Europe exchange show.

Record Saudi state spending likely as oil revenues surge

Record oil revenues coupled with higher than expected output will boost Saudi government income to an all-time high of 1.15 trillion riyals (Dh1.12tn) this year, says Jadwa Investment.

The country's current account surplus will reach US$154 billion (Dh565.6bn), equivalent to 25 per cent of GDP, the bank said. As a result, GDP would swell by 5.1 per cent this year, rather than the 3.1 per cent the bank had projected in December. Growth was still down from the 6.8 per cent the bank forecast for last year.

The extra revenues should help to support a raft of projects under way across the country.

Emirates NBD raises break-even price of oil

Higher spending has pushed the UAE's break-even price for oil - the price per barrel needed to balance government books - to US$107, the highest in the GCC, according to Emirates NBD.

Only five years ago, the break-even price was assumed to be about $30 a barrel, but spending has ballooned because of the financial crisis, rising social outlays and heavy investments in infrastructure.

Rising oil prices cost importing countries $5.5 billion a day

If oil this year averages $120 per barrel (Brent crude is currently around $122 per barrel, while West Texas Intermediate is just under $103 per barrel), the world’s oil-importing countries will spend a record high of $5.5 billion per day on net imports. That’s $2 trillion over the course of a year.

“The current price levels are on average higher than the awful year of 2008, and as such have the capacity to tip the global economy back into recession,” Birol said.

China alone has seen its spending on oil and gas imports more than double between 2009 and 2011.

Russia's May crude export fee seen falling

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's duty on crude oil exports for May will likely decline to between $448.3 and $451.6 per tonne from $460.7 in April after oil prices weakened, calculations by the finance ministry and Reuters showed on Wednesday.

Baghdad works hard to lift oil output

Iraq's ambitious oil production targets of 12 million barrels per day (bpd) are quietly being revised, but the country is nevertheless working hard to ensure a more modest amount makes it out of the country.

In February, Nouri Al Maliki, the country's prime minister, inaugurated the first of five planned single-point mooring terminals, located on the shores of Basra.

Japan's Cosmo Oil buys Saudi crude from Okinawa storage -sources

(Reuters) - Japanese refiner Cosmo Oil has bought 200,000 kilolitres (1.26 million barrels) of Saudi Arabian crude from storage in Japan to fill its spot requirements, industry sources familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.

The May-loading crude will be shipped from Saudi Aramco's leased storage in the southwestern Japanese island of Okinawa, the sources said, adding that this marks the first time that a Japanese refiner has bought a spot Saudi crude cargo from Okinawa.

Billionaire’s India Strategy Dims as Oil Deal Deadlocked

Evtushenkov, with a $7.7 billion fortune according to Forbes, wants a bigger energy company and more phone clients among India’s 1.2 billion people. He pitched the Bashneft deal as the first step in creating a venture with India’s largest oil explorer to help double annual output to 60 million metric tons.

LNG ships in big demand - for now

There is a bubble in global shipbuilding - and not only is it growing every day, it is keeping the entire industry afloat.

The bubble is demand for the ships that carry the world's fastest growing energy source, liquefied natural gas, or LNG.

However, when the bubble bursts - and many analysts believe they already know the date, some three years hence - there will be many expensive ships lying idle. It is, they say, like watching an accident in slow motion.

UK gas market undersupplied despite low demand

(Reuters) - British prompt gas prices were little changed on Wednesday as Total's gas leak in the North Sea kept supplies tight, offsetting the impact of milder weather, and analysts said they expected the sideways trend to continue.

Welcome back, old friend

Good news, Ohio. Our old friend, cheap natural gas, is back. And shale formation development promises a long-term, stable supply of natural gas for the foreseeable future.

Gas Producers’ Credit Lines Shrink With Price: Corporate Canada

Perpetual Energy Inc. (PMT), which owns almost a decade worth of natural gas reserves in Canada, has lost half its market value in five months as the price of the fuel has plummeted. Now it’s lost part of its credit line too.

With natural gas reaching its lowest price in more than a decade this spring, Calgary-based Perpetual’s credit lines were cut by 10 percent or C$20 million ($20 million) on March 1 by banks including the Bank of Montreal, reflecting the drop in value of the company’s reserves.

Insight - China's coalbeds spur unconventional gas supply boom

(Reuters) - After more than a century ripping out its insides to supply coal to the rest of the country, the heavily mined and polluted province of Shanxi in northern China is in the midst of a gas boom.

Wheat Seen Declining as Stockpiles Expand to Record: Commodities

Wheat prices are falling for a second year as a glut of supply expands global stockpiles to an all-time high and farmers prepare to reap the third-biggest harvest on record.

Why Rising Oil Will Support Slumping Silver Prices

Solar energy becomes ever more affordable compared to oil over time due to the increase in oil costs and cost-saving advancements in solar technology. The use of silver in solar cells should help industrial demand over the next few years. About two-thirds of a troy ounce of silver are used in a typical thick film solar panel.

Milton Friedman Proved Wrong by Aluminum Market

Commodity prices have fluctuated substantially over the past few years. The controversial question is, are financial speculators to blame?

The President, Gas Prices and the Pipeline

The economic impact of rising energy prices in itself is considerable, but the psychological toll on voters is just as significant, as tens of millions of motorists are reminded by large signs on almost every street corner of the financial pain of filling their gas tanks. Obama and his political lieutenants are acutely aware that this growing frustration has the potential to complicate an election year that otherwise seems to be shifting in the incumbent’s favor.

Iran-fueled oil price spike biggest threat to economy

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- An oil price spike caused by a confrontation with Iran is now seen as the biggest threat to the U.S. economy.

That's according to nine out of 18 economists surveyed in a recent CNNMoney poll, who say rising oil prices now outweigh the risks posed by the European debt crisis, ongoing gridlock over the budget in Washington and fears of a slowdown in China.

Iran imposes oil "counter-sanctions" on EU: TV

DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran has cut oil exports to Spain and may halt sales to Germany and Italy, Iran's English-language state television reported on Tuesday, in an apparent move to strengthen its position ahead of crucial talks with world powers later this week.

But, in an indication that Tehran's "counter-sanctions" were of little impact, Spain's biggest refiner said it had already replaced Iranian crude with Saudi Arabian oil months ago.

US-India ties hit rough patch over Iran

Less than a year ago, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited India and declared that the relationship between the world's two largest democracies would shape the 21st century.

India and the United States are now navigating some of the rockiest waters since they began to build closer ties in the late 1990s, with Washington weighing sanctions unless New Delhi significantly cuts oil imports from Iran.

Turkish PM says Syria violated border; Turkey assessing possible response

ANKARA, Turkey - Turkey's prime minister has accused Syria of infringing its border and says his country is considering what steps to take in response, including measures "we don't want to think about."

Envoy seeks Iran's help in Syria crisis

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) – Special envoy Kofi Annan said Wednesday in Tehran that Iran could help solve the crisis in Syria, where activists reported fresh violence a day before an international cease-fire is supposed to take effect.

Russia Under Pressure to Get Tougher on Its Ally Syria

Pressure mounted on Russia to back stronger action against its ally Syria after President Bashar al-Assad failed to meet a United Nations cease-fire deadline.

“The Russians have continuously said they want to avoid civil war, they want to avoid a regional conflict,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said yesterday at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. “But their refusal to join with us in some sort of constructive action is keeping Assad in power, well armed, able to ignore the demands of his own people, of his region and the world.”

Russian Gazprom Neft increases oil pledge to Czechs

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Gazprom Neft has nearly tripled its planned volume of crude destined for the Czech Republic this month, but the total in confirmed shipments from Russian oil companies still falls short of ensuring the country gets sufficient supplies.

The increase in promised barrels came after reports that Russia had slashed oil deliveries to the former Soviet satellite as it seeks to divert pipeline supplies to its own ports.

WikiLeaks: China looks elsewhere for energy

New York, NY - Though the so-called "cable gate" scandal has largely vanished from public view, revelations from classified US State Department correspondence continue to illuminate present day geopolitical dilemmas. Take, for example, mounting tensions in the Middle East and, specifically, the Persian Gulf. China, whose energy needs have grown by leaps and bounds, relies extensively on Iranian oil and views unfolding friction between the Islamic Republic and its enemies with increasing concern. In an effort to diversify its energy portfolio and avoid the pitfalls of the Gulf, China has sought out alternative sources of oil.

According to secret cables published by whistle-blowing outfit WikiLeaks, China is pursuing a "strategy of securing direct oil contracts around the world to reduce [its] reliance on oil shipped from and through hotspots such as the Persian Gulf and the Straits of Malacca".

Though China's big push into Africa and specifically Sudan has received a decent amount of media scrutiny, the Asian Tiger's presence in South America has been largely overlooked.

China reaffirms position on oil, gas exploitation

China on Tuesday reiterated its position opposing any other country that exploits oil and gas resources in Chinese maritime areas without permission of the Chinese government.

"China has always opposed the exploration and exploitation of ocean oil and gas resources in Chinese sea territories without our permission. We have made representations and taken measures to stop these illegal activities," Deng Zhonghua, director general of the department of boundary and ocean affairs with the Foreign Ministry, said in a Web chat hosted by the website of People's Daily.

Eni, Cnooc Ink New South China Sea Exploration, Production Pact

BEIJING – Cnooc Ltd. said Wednesday that its parent company, China National Offshore Oil Corp., has signed a production sharing contract with Italian company Eni China B.V., a unit of Eni SpA, for deepwater Block 30/27 in the South China Sea.

EDF Requests Extraordinary Edison Board Meeting- Sources

PARIS/ROME -(Dow Jones)- French power group Electricite de France SA has requested an extraordinary meeting of Edison SpA's board for Monday, to discuss the Italian utility's financing needs and a potential capital increase, people familiar with the situation said.

The Economic Implications Of Peak Oil

Something happened from 2004 and onward. These two charts below, one of the food price index and the other of regular gasoline price, speak volumes as to the implications of this peak of world liquid fuel production.

Peak oil, economic growth and the big lie

The ‘Big Lie’ of our economic system is that anyone can get rich. Most of the world’s population will not see wealth in their lifetimes, either because of the circumstances of their birth, or because they chose the wrong career path, did not work or study hard enough or did not think it so important to pursue personal monetary gain.

However we all take comfort from the idea that it might be possible to improve our lot or even that, if we make the right choices, we could become rich. Most of us believe that anyone can become wealthy if they truly work hard enough for it. But in a world where finite resources are passing their peak extraction rates this is no longer true: if it ever was.

The Return of The Limits to Growth

Recently, the web has been abuzz over an MIT study predicting 'global economic collapse' by 2030. Ugo Bardi, who recently published the book The Limits to Growth Revisited, shares his views on this study and its implications.

Pemex Can’t Add ConocoPhillips, Shell to Lawsuit Over Stolen Gas

Pemex Exploracion Y Produccion can’t sue six U.S. energy firms including ConocoPhillips Co. as part of a lawsuit seeking more than $300 million for Mexican natural gas condensate allegedly stolen by bandits and sold in the U.S., a federal judge ruled.

For Job Seekers, a Fracking Fair

Undeterred by New York State’s delays in deciding whether to allow fracking for natural gas, Broome County Community College, a business group and a coalition of landowners are holding a “career and education expo” on Wednesday for residents interested in learning about jobs in the gas industry.

Nuclear Power’s Death Somewhat Exaggerated

NUCLEAR energy is going through an odd patch. It refuses to die, but it does not prosper.

This is how modest the nuclear industry’s prospects now look: Senator Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican who has called for building 100 reactors in the next few years, told a conference of industry specialists in late March that the long-ballyhooed “nuclear renaissance” did not really exist anymore. Now, he said, it is an “awakening to the awareness of nuclear.”

But it is an awakening with a price of $30 billion or more.

U.S. fuel economy tops 24 mpg for first time

The fuel economy of the average new vehicle sold in the United States has topped 24 miles per gallon for the first time ever, according to researchers at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.

Hybrid owners unlikely to buy another one, study shows

Despite previous sales surges tied to past petroleum price hikes the U.S. hybrid vehicle market hasn’t been able to maintain its momentum and the Polk study apparently explains why. After living with the high-mileage technology, nearly two of three hybrid owners wind up returning to a more conventional vehicle when it’s time to trade in.

EDF Study Draws Wrong Conclusions about Natural Gas Vehicles, According to NGVAmerica

WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Yesterday, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) released a study titled “Greater Focus Needed on Methane Leakage from Natural Gas Infrastructure.” One of the study’s conclusions is that “a shift to compressed natural gas vehicles from gasoline or diesel vehicles leads to greater radiative forcing of the climate for 80 or 280 yr, respectively, before beginning to produce benefits.” Because of significant uncertainty in the data on which the study is based and significant uncertainty in the assumptions about climate relationships in the study’s model, there is no reason to believe that EDF’s conclusion is accurate. As a result, policy makers would be mistaken to withhold their support for natural gas vehicles based on EDF’s conclusions, according to NGVAmerica.

The surprising reason for record new car prices

Buyers are paying record average prices for new cars. But it's not gouging by automakers. Rather, more customers are ordering all the frills.

The Crisis in American Walking

Simply by going out for a walk, I had become a strange being, studied by engineers, inhabiting environments whose physical features are determined by a rulebook-enshrined average 3 foot-per-second walking speed, my rights codified by signs. (Why not just write: “Stop for People”?) On those same signs in Savannah were often attached additional signs, advising drivers not to give to panhandlers (and to call 911 if physically intimidated), subtly equating walking with being exposed to an urban menace — or perhaps being the menace. Having taken all this information in, we would gingerly step into the marked crosswalk, that declaration of rights in paint, and try to gauge whether approaching vehicles would yield. They typically did not. Even in one of America’s most “pedestrian-friendly” cities — a seemingly innocent phrase that itself suddenly seemed strange to me — one was always in danger of being relegated to a footnote.

Which is what walking in America has become: An act dwelling in the margins, an almost hidden narrative running beneath the main vehicular text. Indeed, the semantics of the term pedestrian would be a mere curiosity, but for one fact: America is a country that has forgotten how to walk. Witness, for example, the existence of “Everybody Walk!,” the “Campaign to Get America Walking” (one of a number of such initiatives). While its aims are entirely legitimate, its motives no doubt earnest, the idea that that we, this species that first hoisted itself into the world of bipedalism nearly 4 million years ago—for reasons that are still debated—should now need “walking tips,” have to make “walking plans” or use a “mobile app” to “discover” walking trails near us or build our “walking histories,” strikes me as a world-historical tragedy.

America's greenest cities

To determine the greenest cities, we tallied the results from three survey categories: cleanliness, pedestrian-friendliness and public transit, and great public parks, which offset that urban asphalt and improve air quality. The high-ranking cities support other green initiatives that benefit travelers as well as locals: in Denver, the Brown Palace Hotel uses water from its own artesian well. Minneapolis offers cheap, easy-access bike rentals.

Lush Walls Rise to Fight a Blanket of Pollution

MEXICO CITY — “We must cultivate our garden,” Voltaire famously wrote at the end of “Candide,” but even he could not have imagined this: a towering arch of 50,000 plants rising over a traffic-clogged avenue in a metropolis once called “Mexsicko City” because of its pollution.

The vertical garden aims to scrub away both the filth and the image. One of three eco-sculptures installed across the city by a nonprofit called VerdMX, the arch is both art and oxygenator. It catches the eye. And it also helps clean the air.

Coaxing American Chestnuts Back to Appalachia

Old swaths of Appalachian forest land left barren by decades of coal mining may find their past is their future, if efforts to restore the American chestnut tree in reclaimed coal fields are successful.

Businesses are missing out on easy ways to save on energy bills

Nearly half (47%) of all businesses are overlooking simple opportunities to save thousands on their energy bills, despite more than two-thirds (68%) prioritising operational efficiencies in 2012, according to new research by British Gas.

The businesses that are focusing on driving efficiencies from their energy spend are seeing savings of up to 20% on their bills through simple efficiency steps such as installing a smart meter, according to the study.

£540m insulation scheme targets fuel poor households

Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg has today announced a series of measures designed to help alleviate fuel poverty and drive demand for insulation and other energy efficiency improvements.

Freeing Kilowatt-Hours From a Jail

Constellation Energy keeps a list of buildings that would benefit from energy efficiency improvements, and it has identified an unusual candidate near the top: prisons.

Their lights, heat and air-conditioning run 24 hours a day.

Rousseff Roils Amazon as Brazil Hydropower Makes People Homeless

“This dam has made it impossible to live a normal life,” he says. The dam -- called Belo Monte, which means Beautiful Hill in Portuguese -- will divert the Xingu, depriving the tribe of the waterway it needs to survive, Arara says. “So much sacrifice,” he says. “And for what?”

Dilma Rousseff, a Workers’ Party member who won Brazil’s presidency in 2010, says that the country needs more electricity and that the best way to get it is by damming rivers in the Amazon. Brazil’s gross domestic product grew 51 percent from 2002 to 2011.

Dong Energy to Spend $794 Million Turning Fossil Plants to Wood

Dong Energy A/S, Denmark’s state- controlled utility, plans to invest about 500 million pounds ($795 million) to convert three of its coal- and gas-fired power stations to generate heat and electricity from wood pellets.

Wind Power Seen Surging as Custom Barges Cut Set-up Costs

Offshore wind-power producers from Dong Energy A/S to RWE AG are building custom ships at record rates to reduce the cost of the technology that’s three times as pricey as electricity from coal plants.

As many as 20 vessels, some with movable legs that reach the seafloor, will come onto the market in the next few years, reducing chartering costs of as much as 200,000 euros ($261,000) a day, said Marc Seidel, an offshore engineer at Suzlon Energy Ltd., which supplies turbines to Germany’s RWE.

China Sets Waste-to-Power Price Double That of Coal-Fired Plants

China, the biggest carbon emitter, set a price for electricity generated from waste-to-energy plants that’s double that paid to coal-fired projects to encourage renewable-energy development.

Spot Polysilicon Drops 4.1% to $24.70, PV Insights Says

The spot price of solar-grade polysilicion, the main raw material for photovoltaic panels, tumbled for a sixth straight week, according to a survey by PV Insights.

Polysilicon dropped 4.1 percent to $24.70 a kilogram from the previous week, accelerating from a 2.1 percent decline over the previous seven days, the research company said on its website. Solar panels fell 1.7 percent to 87 U.S. cents a watt.

Drilling fees pay for new national forest lands

Offshore drilling fees are financing the purchase of $41.6 million worth of new national forest lands in 15 states.

Doomsday shelters line Kansas missile silo

SALINA, Kansas — Tucked deep beneath the Kansas prairie, luxury condos are being built into the shaft of an abandoned missile silo to service anxious -- and wealthy -- people preparing for doomsday.

So far, four buyers have plopped down a total of about $7 million for havens to flee to when disaster happens or the end is nigh. And developer Larry Hall has options to retro-fit three more Cold War-era silos when this one fills up.

Climate change won't boost plant performance

Plants may thrive in the initial stages of global warming - but not for long. A study from Northern Arizona University shows that any improvements in growth caused by climate change disappear within ten years.

"We were really surprised by the pattern, where the initial boost in growth just went away," says doctoral student Zhuoting Wu. "As the ecosystems adjust, the responses changed."


(note to mods: this is original writing – no copywrite violations)

Note to readers: This is a review I had to produce for a project. I saw some Peak Oil connections and modified it slightly. I hope you find it interesting.

Why America Failed: the Roots of Imperial Decline, is Morris Berman’s third book about the fall of the US empire. The central thesis of the book is that the nations’ fundamental flaws are not due to control by corrupt elites or the 1 percent. The real problem lies in the 99 percent; it is American culture, in general, which sows the seeds of the nation’s demise. The problem is in the average US citizen. Americans are a money-centered “hustling” people who have trashed friendship, honesty, community, nature, intellectual curiosity and even spirituality in a relentless pursuit of the dollar and “more stuff”. It is our own culture which is killing us- everything else is reflective.

To back up his claim, Berman starts at the nation’s founding (as a business enterprise) and uses early writings from Colonial times to show that, from a very early age, Americans came to value wealth above all other things. Many foreign visitors to the Colonies note a total obsession, by Americans, to become richer. Even the Pilgrims quickly transformed their sense of “community” to align with the “hustling” ethos (thus destroying community). Religion bowed to commerce.

The Birth of a Dangerous Myth
During the Revolutionary War, America found its identity not in what it was, but what it wasn’t: Europe. A myth was necessary to bless the endless pursuit of property so Americans convinced themselves that they were a shining city on a hill, a better people who have a divine obligation to spread the American way of life (and get rich while doing so). America’s holy war for profits began with the taking of Native American and Mexican land- and has never stopped since.

The Destruction of the last remnants of the Feudal Order
The Civil War represented the last stand of an alternative culture to the Yankee hustling: the gentlemanly, old world, ways of the South. Berman acknowledges the horrors of slavery (and how free labor supported “Southern Hospitality”) but maintains that this doesn’t change the fact that the slower paced life of Dixieland represented a real threat to northern businessmen who felt the need to wipe out any alternative to unrestrained capitalism and “modernize” the South. Total war against the South (ex: the burning of Atlanta) by the North reflected a violent industrialized mindset that couldn’t conceive of any other way of life than its own.

A Strange Interlude: Jimmy Carter
Much of the later years of America represent the now familiar theme: plundering other nations while claiming to be bringing the progress of the American way of life to the world. US imperialism spreads from the Spanish American War to the Cold War. The only major challenge to this consensus occurs in the 60’s when many begin to question the life of acquisition. Due to this brief counterculture trend, and a freakishly bad set of events for the Republicans, Jimmy Carter is elected. Berman seems to view him as an accidental president. Carter’s concern about the lack of happiness money can buy, and his interest in energy conservation, turn out to be dangerously out of step with the dominant “hustling” culture embraced by average Americans. He is soon rejected by the nation as a foreign body.

The Return of the King: Reagan
With the election of Ronald Reagan, Americans returned to “one of their own”. Reagan ripped out solar panels and sold Americans on a fantasy of borrowing without pain. America loved this. In fact when, 4 years later, when presidential candidate Walter Mondale suggested paying the bills the nation flatly rejected him. In Reagan’s election, Berman sees the nation making a final and tragic decision to commit completely to the unsustainable and maintain the American value system at all costs. Realism and limits are rejected for fantasy- and greed is once again embraced as “good”. At this point, the financial crisis was all but guaranteed and so is America’s eventual future collapse.

The Final Act
In the final section of the book Berman gets personal and talks about his increasing alienation in his own nation. He checks out other places and decides to become an expat in Mexico. Despite publicity about drug violence in major cities, he finds the countryside to be quite safe and extremely gracious. He is relieved to be away from what he sees as the competitive interactions which characterize the shallow, manipulative, “relationships” of US citizens.

Berman does not have a happy ending or a “call to action” section of his book. He does not see any hope for the US because the problems are too hardwired into the average American, who tends to be hyper-individualistic, egotistical, mistrusting, greedy and violent. Although he doesn’t spend much time on Peak Oil or Global Warming, Berman does not think Americans will be up to face the challenges they will confront. Climate change and resource depletion require community action, cooperation, a desire to stop making a “buck,” and many more traits that mistrusting, isolated Americans do not possess.

From the viewpoint of this book, it is hard to see Americans creating transition towns, high speed rail systems or even new urbanist designs. Our focus on money causes us to mistrust each other and our individualism makes it an upward climb to get massive government projects completed. Anything that seems community oriented or cooperative is labeled “socialistic” or “un-American”. Any suggestion of a steady state “no growth” economy seems to interfere with the prime directive to hustle for more money. Our national belief in our exceptionalism inclines us to reject the solutions of other nations to PO.

If this book is correct, as Peak Oil hits harder the typical US response will probably not be to become sustainable but to attack others for their resources (justified by a higher motive, of course). However, our inability to work together or create a trustworthy government might undo much of what we gain. Later, as resources deplete everywhere, attacking others may not bring in very much anyway. At that point, the game will be up and we will be forced to either choose a new sustainable culture or perish as a people- like a crew fighting each other on a ship heading toward a waterfall.

I’m not sure if I agree with this Berman’s view, but the book was very stimulating to read and I recommend it. I throw this book out there to the TOD community because I am interested in how Peak Oil will interact with US culture. Often, a nation will accept or reject a PO solution not based on its technical merits but because of cultural norms, values, etc. This is sometimes overlooked.

1. Is Berman correct in his assessment of the American people and their future?

2. Is the problem not mainly with the top 1% but with the bottom 99%- as Berman maintains?

3. How will American CULTURE respond to Peak Oil?

I would love to hear from you- in any case, thanks for reading- C8

The Civil War represented the last stand of an alternative culture to the Yankee hustling: the gentlemanly, old world, ways of the South. Berman acknowledges the horrors of slavery (and how free labor supported “Southern Hospitality”) but maintains that this doesn’t change the fact that the slower paced life of Dixieland represented a real threat to northern businessmen who felt the need to wipe out any alternative to unrestrained capitalism and “modernize” the South. Total war against the South (ex: the burning of Atlanta) by the North reflected a violent industrialized mindset that couldn’t conceive of any other way of life than its own.

I would certainly disagree with this analysis. What Berman fails to realize is that the "gentlemanly, old world ways of the South" were simply another way of hustling. To be a proper gentleman required money, and, at least in good times, the slave economy was capable of generating a great deal of it. This was accomplished by expropriating the wealth generated by slave labor and transferring it to the slaveholder -- because everybody knew you couldn't make a buck by trying to grow cotton using free labor. In 1860 the greatest single property interest in the United States was property in slaves.

to suggest that how the war turned out exactly the way northern capitalists expected is to misunderstand the Civil War. The conventional thinking at the start was that it would be over within 90 days. Sherman who understood the implication of the war was declared insane when in the early days he thought that it would take over 300,000 men and years to fight the war. (what was that about history rhyming).

It was only about 2 years into the war that Sherman and Grant realized that the South would have to be crushed -total war-before they would give up the fight. Incidentally there is great controversy regarding the burning of Atlanta- whether it was deliberate act on the part of the Union, or the result of the retreating south setting fire to the remaining cotton or from looters.

I'll shame myself and quote Wikipedia: "Total war is a war in which a belligerent engages in the complete mobilization of fully available resources and population." The CSA came much closer to doing that than the USA.

I don't know about 1 and 3 (i've never been in the US), but I can certainly relate to question 2. It is the 99% that votes the 1% in office, it is the 99% that idolizes the 1% lifestyle, it is the 99% that by and large refuses redistribution of wealth from the 1% to the 99%. The fact that socialism is a dirty word speaks volumes.

I agree with you here. But I would also add that the 1% fuel the actions and desires of the 99% through their corporate media and advertising firms, etc. So really, I think we Americans...whatever percentile you fall into are all at fault, 100%. And the ones who realize it and are trying to transition or live more sustainably, locally etc are taking steps to change the culture in their own small sphere of influence.

"The fact that socialism is a dirty word speaks volumes." << Indeed.

I'm on the same page as PeakBeach. The 1%, are heavily involved in promoting the lifestyle to the 99%. The later are gullible, and buy it hook line and sinker.

Winners make it to the final 4 and then prevail. Winners take the last 'musical' chair.
Winners drive nice cars, live in large houses, eat out a lot in exotic locations and have great credit scores. They megamillion and powerball against all odds. Losers ride bikes, use public transportation, and walk, they eat lower down on the food chain, they live in little boxes and shop 2nd hand.

Resource constraint and financial collapse make this kind of winning less likely and more disparate. Indeed, media, business, and sports, do tend to reinforce the dominant cultural meme. Calvinism and Social Darwinism met American Exceptionalism and a lot of land.

Today's translation; Eat junk, watch Survivor, and get a payday loan. Or for about the same admission fee eat healthy, exercise your way around, keep a small pad, pick out an enterprize that make sense, and let this hollowed out shell of a dream expire.

It's 'American Losers' a new reality show coming soon to a theater near you.

Sorry.. not everyone is out there watching Geraldo. It's dangerously inaccurate to portray and extend this 99% into 'That portion of the world's or the West's people that idolize and buy into the Bazillionaire fantasy as played by the far fewer than 1% who are trying to sell such a fantasy as its Soma tablet.

I would love to be making more money, as would almost anyone.. but that doesn't mean that I'd be in the market for a Golden Humvee, a Palace and Jetski Lake.. 'The Latter' contains a very wide range of views and experiences, and deserves far better generalizations than the one you have offered them.. us.

It is the 99% that votes the 1% in office

The 1% is not in office.

The people in office can't be selected by the 99% when the voting %age of the population isn't even close to 90% let alone 99%

Amazon link: Why America Failed: The Roots of Imperial Decline

The problem is not the 99% and it is not the 1%, the problem is in our nature. Pointing the crooked finger of blame at any particular group or culture is just wrong.

- As for pointing to our mental failures with scorn or dismay, we might as well profess disappointment with the mechanics of gravity or the laws of thermodynamics. In other words, the degree of disillusionment we feel in response to any particular human behavior is the precise measure of our ignorance of its evolutionary and genetic origins.
- Reg Morrison, The Spirit in the Gene

Berman is wrong to attribute the collapse to the American people. While we, along with the Canadians, consume more per capita than anyone else in the world, that is just the culture that has evolved over the last two hundred years or so. We were born into it and responded to that culture in a way that seemed natural to us.

How will American culture respond to peak oil? Well just look around you. You are witnessing their response right now. Of course it will get worse but people will continue to blame the President, or Congress, or the oil companies or someone else. Blame, blame, blame that is what we will do. And the deniers, who currently have a huge majority, will prevent any action to soften the blow.

But the biggest mistake of all is to assume this is an American problem. This is a world problem. So the question should be: "How will the various cultures of the world respond to peak oil?" They will respond by blaming their governments, blaming the oil companies, blaming the Americans, blaming OPEC, blaming the capitalists, blaming the communists, and even blaming the Catholic Church for their policy on birth control. They will blame everyone and everything except the true culprit and that is the evolutionary success of their own species.

Ron P.

Well said, Ron. Unfortunately, I'm afraid you're right. The more books about societal crisis and collapse I read—about resource depletion (and peak oil, specifically), environmental degradation, climate change, declining marginal returns in complex societies, and so on—the more I think back to William Catton's OVERSHOOT: THE ECOLOGICAL BASIS OF REVOLUTIONARY CHANGE. He had so much of it right as long ago as 1980.

Ron is entirely correct here especially with his last paragraph. And becoming an ex-pat American in Mexico or Belize or Chili or anywhere else is not going to save your ass. Our collapse will be global, no place will be safe. My suggestion for understanding the problem is a reading of Too Smart For Our Own Good by Craig Dilworth, one of my all-time favorites.

Am reading Dilworth's book right now. It is very good indeed—comprehensive and incisive—and precisely to the point Ron was making.

Becoming an ex-pat in Mexico allows an American who is only moderately well-off to live fairly royally. In fact, it would probably mirror the life-style of the plantation owner in the old South.


I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment of the blame game. In my experiences being a member of various multi-disciplinary, multi-agency working groups, red teams, tiger teams or advisory boards there was almost a universal tendency for everyone to focus on proving that they or their company/agency were not to blame, while making an equal effort to pin the blame on some other individual or group.

My philosophy, which worked well for me to the frequent annoyance of my employer was always this:

Look Inward for the Problems and Outward for the Solutions.....
Before Looking Outward for the Problems and Inward for the Solutions

NOTE: My pension would be at least 20% higher had I not espoused that philosphy!!

Darwinian, as always, makes a good case that trying to say one or the other group is to blame is simplistic and lets others off the hook too easily.

That being said, there have been tens of thousands of distinct cultures in the history of humans' existence on earth, but only one--Modern Euro-American Industrialism--has:

--prompted a planetary mass extinction event,

--fundamentally altered the chemical structure of the atmosphere in such a way as to deeply disrupt climactic patterns in ways not seen for millions of years,

--through the above and through production of soot, pushed one of the poles past a tipping point to where we can confidently predict that it will be without an ice cap soon,

--altered the chemistry of the oceans to become more acidic which, together with its heating, has cut in half the population of phytoplankton that produce half the planet's atmospheric oxygen...

There have been some pretty spectacular collapses of civilizations in the past, but none compare to the global, planetary effects of the current and imminent collapse.

To the specific point of question #2, the very fact that there was a counter-culture in the '60s and that Carter was elected means that US culture is not monolithic. IIRC, polling immediately after Carter's famous cardigan speech showed widespread approval. It was a subsequent, conscious, planned campaigned of what we can call the 1% that turned it into the new third rail in politics. The PTB were totally freaked out that the ethos of the counter-culture and Carter would overtake their religion of consumption, and worked very hard to take the culture over, and they have largely succeeded.

Dohboi, your blame finger misses a lot of people. How about Asian Industrialism. We have Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and now China. And there is India, Pakistan, Bangladesh who are contributing to air pollution and water depletion as well as the destruction of forest, fisheries and topsoil. If you are going to point the crooked finger of blame, don't leave these guys out. And together we make up at least two thirds of the world's population. And the other one third are increasing the size of the Sahara and killing off all the animals in Africa for bush meat. Hell, we can blame them also. (Actually at about 1 billion people they are far less than one third the earth's population, but you get my point.)

Someone must be blamed for this damn mess right? Let's all play the blame game because it makes us all feel better, it makes us literally feel sanctimonious.

- The destruction of the natural world is not the result of global capitalism, industrialization, 'Western civilization' or any flaw in human institutions. It is a consequence of the evolutionary success of an exceptionally rapacious primate. Throughout all of history and prehistory, human advance has coincided with ecological devastation.
- John Gray, "Straw Dogs"

Ron P.

All good points, of course.

It is a Euro-American Industrial Culture that has now gone global. But we Euro-Americans created this monster in the first place and had the earliest 'benefits' from it, so I think it is particularly incumbent on us to examine it and consider how it might be effectively countered.

I do think industrialism becomes kind of an addictive culture, but it is one that we have been pushing hard for centuries around the world. Perhaps you think pushers shouldn't be blamed for those they get hooked on their drugs, since it is the users that are voluntarily shooting it into their arms...?

The only thing worse than "playing the blame game" is refusing to accept any blame for something one clearly does have some blame for.

It is very true that many Chinese and many other Asians in particular are quite avid entrepreneurs and were so even before influence of the west--this is actually onne of my critiques of the book. But Chinese, for example, who have been trading throughout the East and beyond for centuries, did not pose a threat to life on the planet until they adopted a number of western ideologies, particularly industrialism and a now very virulent form of state capitalism.

The point is not to hold anyone blameless. The point is to identify the main vectors of destruction, just in case any opportunity arises to alter our course.

It is a Euro-American Industrial Culture that has now gone global. But we Euro-Americans created this monster in the first place and had the earliest 'benefits' from it, so I think it is particularly incumbent on us to examine it and consider how it might be effectively countered.

I do think industrialism becomes kind of an addictive culture, but it is one that we have been pushing hard for centuries around the world. Perhaps you think pushers shouldn't be blamed for those they get hooked on their drugs, since it is the users that are voluntarily shooting it into their arms...?

I agree completely.

The only thing worse than "playing the blame game" is refusing to accept any blame for something one clearly does have some blame for.

You totally miss the point. I will try one more time. Are people to blame for living their day to day lives in the only way they know how? Everyone on earth lives the life they were born into. You wish to blame the Europeans and the Americans for the life they live. This is the only life we know. We are all molded by our heredity and environment. We know this because there is nothing else.

As Reg Morrison put it, the degree of disillusionment we feel in response to any particular human behavior is the precise measure of our ignorance of its evolutionary and genetic origins.

People are just being people, trying to keep the wolf away from the door, trying to provide food and shelter for their families. And if you, or I, were in their shoes we would do the exact same thing. If we had their genes and all their past environment we would be them and we would behave exactly as they do.

Ron P.

"Are people to blame for living their day to day lives in the only way they know how?"

Good question. You presumably intend it to be rhetorical, but I wonder about it. To me it is related to the question--"Are people responsible for their ignorance?"

To some extend I think we all have to be partly responsible for our ignorance, or at least mindful of it, and mindful that decisions that we make and actions we take in our (necessary) state of not having anything like full knowledge may create unintended consequences that could be disastrous for ourselves or others.

But really most people have some access to at least knowledge of alternatives to how they live and to information about how their lifestyles may be affecting others.

A lot of 'people who are just people' did become aware of the hollowness of pursuing material goals and the negative environmental consequences of the same, and they changed, or at least tried to change themselves and even the culture, in the '60s and '70s. That the culture eventually plowed them under does not negate the fact that these and others were not just some kind of biological automatons.

I am sometimes disillusioned by the sentences that come out of others (and sometimes my own) mouth (and fingers). But I don't think it is because I am "ignorant of [that sentence's] evolutionary and genetic origin." (But perhaps we shouldn't go down that whole philosophical rabbit hole again?)

Dohboi, just ask yourself these questions: "Who is to blame for the deep overshoot we find ourselves in, who is to blame for the seven billion people on earth?"?

Well we can blame the industrial revolution for providing jobs and a lively hood for all those people. We can blame the green revolution for all that extra food it provided. We can blame the medical revolution for allowing people to live longer, for lowering the infant mortality rate, for lowering the percentage of women dying in childbirth and for curing all those diseases that used to kill so many people in their prime of life.

But are the people who did all these things, very good things when they were done, culpable? The world cannot possibly support, long term, seven billion people. Short time, sure but long time, absolutely not.

So who are the culpable sons of bit**es? Please let me know for I really need someone to blame. It would make me feel a lot better if I could find someone to condemn for this damn mess.

Ron P.

"But are the people who did all these things, very good things when they were done, culpable? "

Yup, at least partly. And of course partly all of us.

It is partly a personal question, since my dad was the medical director of the Peace Corps for a while, and certainly he had goals of lowering infant mortality around the world. But he came away seeing many cases where Westerners come in with great ideas for improving peoples' lives, only to see that when the ideas are implemented, in the (sometimes not very) long term, things generally got worse.

So at the root of much of the examples you pointed to was a kind of naivete, and at the root of that, I think, is exactly the point I am making--the sense that one is not responsible for one's own ignorance. That one can march proudly ahead with whatever shiny new technology or idea one has and bring it to the world and it will make the world better because your intention is good.

But I don't know if I have the words or clarity yet to articulate what the nature of that mindset is, how it can be seen as culpable. If you have insights (or, of course, objections), please do chime in.

I have no plan, by the way, to identify THE five (or however many) people who are most responsible for the world of bad we are in now. I am interested in finding out what the self delusions were that most influenced our bad decisions, partly for purely academic interest, partly in the mad hope that if, somehow, we avoid the worst going forward, we will have some glimmering idea of how to avoid throwing ourselves back in the fire.

But I am also not over-eager to let anyone off the hook who should have known or do know better, or, like a number of powerful people today, know full well that their carefully planned and disseminated lies and distortions will bring misery to many millions.

But I am also not over-eager to let anyone off the hook who should have known or do know better,...

Yes, yes, Edison, McCormick, Whitney, Pasteur, Flemming, and all those guys who made the population explosion should not be let off the hook. Dammit they are to blame and they should be dammed for the culprits they are, even though they are all long dead. But unfortunately the only hook to be let off of belongs to Mother Nature. And I really don't think she is going to let any of us off.

But you can rejoice in the righteousness of it all, saying we all deserve it because we are all culpable. But I do not have that outlet, I cannot relieve my sadness by saying: "At least everyone got their just desserts," because I don't believe anyone got their just desserts.

I don't blame anyone and you blame almost everyone. There has to be a moral in there somewhere but right now I just cannot figure out what it is.

Ron P

Wisdom? The saying "God grant me the will to change what I can, the grace to accept that which I cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference" is still pretty good regardless of the God part of it.

I blame nature. For eons, it has only rewarded the selfish. We have evolved to do exactly what we do. When our ancestors figured out how to enrich their lives through fossil fuels, who could have foreseen the problems it would create? The only thing evident at the time were the problems that it solved. I'm with you Ron P. To lay blame on anyone, only serves to massage ones own sanctimonious douche baggery. It's like blaming a pack of wolves for being violent killers while eating a baloney sandwich.

I believe that it is likely that we are witnessing the beginning of another mass extinction level event. That being said, I'm not sure I would have it any other way. Someday when another species arises with intelligence, after perhaps a few hundred million years; what a fascinating species we will be to dig up.

So is there anything you would blame anyone for ever?

I hesitate to intrude on this lively debate, but I would just say that "blame" implies someone knew it was wrong and did it anyway. I don't think that's the case with a lot of the examples used above. They thought it was the right thing to do. It's only recently, really, that we are learning the consequences of those past actions.

There were many voices pointing out problems of industrialization and most other major developments.

Agreed, but there's always people saying stuff. But there was no proof, and in face of the obvious and present benefit, no one really wanted to bother too much about it.

Unfortunately, now we are starting to have proof that maybe we made a mistake. But I don't think it's right to blame the people who did it back then.

But I don't think it's right to blame the people who did it back then.

Maybe not to blame the hoi polloi. But what about those who choose to deliberately spread disinformation? Deliberately trashing LTG, based upon deceptive rhetoric, etc. Accountability requires the concept of responsibility, and both are necessary to incentivize behavior.


Maybe I wasn't clear. Deliberate = Bad (blame); Ignorant, or just not convinced = Blameless.

I agree that deliberate lying and evil doing is particularly culpable.

But that kind of suggests that one should try to stay as ignorant as possible about the possible consequences of ones actions, and then you can get a 'get out of jail free' card by pleading ignorance.

That's why I claim there is a moral obligation to really work to understand the major negative consequences that are likely to result from ones actions.

But apparently that may just be me.

Ignorant, or just not convinced = Blameless

We need a new level of responsibility, the responsibility to make a good faith effort to learn about issues that you have input in deciding. Its fine not to know about something -in fact to know everything is impossible, but if in ignorance the responsible thing is to defer to those that do know. This is a change needed in the culture, not really an indictment of the people in the culture. Of course there also has to be penalties for deliberately spreading disinformation. Otherwise people can in their own good faith be mislead into following false experts.

The gotcha is that no matter what you are trying to do, somebody will find a potential problem with it.

Since omniscience is not a human trait, I consider that anyone who is making a good faith effort to do the best they can is blameless should it all go pear shaped several generations later due to their actions.

Well, that pretty well sums up the American/Western view.

Intentions, in fact, are not sufficient. And you would realize that you know this perfectly well, too, if you thought about it for half a moment:

Would you want someone who thought they were a great surgeon though they were in fact completely un-knowledgeable, un-skilled and unpracticed in that trade to perform brain surgery on you, no matter how strongly they professed the "best of intentions" to do right by you?

One needs to, at minimum, be somewhat aware of ones own ignorance and limits, and aware of the basic reality that actions taken in ignorance are highly likely to result in great harm, even if unintended.

One needs to, at minimum, be somewhat aware of ones own ignorance and limits, and aware of the basic reality that actions taken in ignorance are highly likely to result in great harm, even if unintended.

My take is, that whether by design or unfortunate accident our nation as a whole seems to be suffering from a bad case of The Dunning–Kruger effect! I think it at least partly explains the Average Joe's belief in American exceptionalism.


The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than average. This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their mistakes.[1]

Actual competence may weaken self-confidence, as competent individuals may falsely assume that others have an equivalent understanding. As Kruger and Dunning conclude, "the miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self, whereas the miscalibration of the highly competent stems from an error about others" (p. 1127).[2]

...Although the Dunning–Kruger effect was put forward in 1999, David Dunning and Justin Kruger have quoted Charles Darwin ("Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge")[3] and Bertrand Russell ("One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision")[4] as authors who have recognised the phenomenon.

Also see: Illusory superiority:

Nice point, Magyar. I hadn't made that connection before.

The quotation of B. Russell amazingly puts words on the diffuse feeling I've been struggling with since I educated myself on all those subjects, and clearly reflects my current state of mind.

You seem to be suggesting that we demand perfection from everyone in every action they take.

Good luck with that.

A person can't do just one thing, ever, and the effects of inaction can be worse than the effects of any particular action.

So you do the best you can with the information you have and hope for the best.

Your example of brain surgery is particularly appropriate. For quite a long time there were no qualified brain surgeons because nobody had figured out how to do the work safely, and even now if you need brain surgery your odds aren't 100%.

Surgery from a qualified surgeon can still cause more harm than good, but if the choice is extended suffering or death most people will choose to go under the knife and hope for the best.

Ah, then the switch to binary, all-or-nothing thinking.

I never came close to suggesting that there was ever 100% safety in anything.

But I presume you don't wake up every morning and say, "There is no perfect safety in anything, so I am not going to look both ways before I cross the busy street, because, even if I did, I might still get hit."

It is exactly because we know that there is no safety that we rationally look to increase our odds by taking the relatively safer path whenever possible.

Unless one is delusional (or suffering from DK, as Magyar suggests), one factor you weigh in when making decisions about the wisdom of any action is your competence to do it in a way that is likely to be reasonably safe for everyone involved.

Of course, that means often opting NOT to act when it would be imprudent, and NON-action is not a very highly valued approach in our culture.

My favorite parody of acting rashly in the absence of full knowledge, with farcically disastrous consequences, is, of course, from those geniuses of irony, MP:


A fairly good picture of what we did in Iraq, actually.

Yet you were suggesting that we should blame people for the outcome of actions that they could only know would cause harm if they had perfect knowledge, while at the same time dismissing any good those actions may have had in the meantime.

Only looking at one side of an action is the classic route into hard-core binary thinking.

acting rashly in the absence of full knowledge

So you post a youtube video, not knowing that I have disabled flash on my system to escape annoying noisy advertisements.

Maybe I can watch it, maybe not, but I find the philisophical irony entertaining nonetheless.

It's the acting rashly part that is crucial to avoid, and that is exactly because we can't have full knowledge.

We can't have full knowledge, so we should be aware of doing things that might cause permanent harm. Meanwhile, we should do all we can to try to figure out what the consequences of any action we feel compelled to take may have.

I do not consider the consequence of your not being able to access a video to be particularly threatening to life on the planet.

But when is an action rash?

An action that seems to have been rashly executed in hindsight may have been urgently needed at the time.

Do you bless Edward Jenner for inventing vaccination and saving billions of people from death and suffering, or do you damn him for the billions of extra people that his invention has allowed to be alive now?

In the current discussion you are leaning hard on the button of damnation, when in fact neither position is fully correct (nor even both taken together).

Any time something drastically upsets balances that have been in place for a long time, one should take pause and consider consequences.

If you were raising gerbils in a smallish cage in your bedroom, and you found a way to make sure none of them died, it would behoove you to be sure that they were not likely to reproduce rapidly, or they would quickly outstrip your ability to house or feed them.

Why shouldn't someone involving themselves in innovations that will deeply disrupt balances similarly be held responsible to consider the likely consequences?

Maybe not to blame the hoi polloi. But what about those who choose to deliberately spread disinformation? Deliberately trashing LTG, based upon deceptive rhetoric, etc. Accountability requires the concept of responsibility, and both are necessary to incentivize behavior.

I agree with enemy of state

There must be some people in the "ruling class" who know better but care more about short term gain than sustainability.

Not to mention, I'm sure a herd mentality also plays a role. If you are a "mover and a shaker" and know better, it's hard to so something without getting ridiculed, though some have tried

Branson, Rainwater..., who else...

If you can't blame people at the top who do know better..., why should they be let off the hook.......


What proof....

You mean evidence?


Sure, but it's a little more complicated then a yes or no.

If my daughter fails to turn in a homework assignment out of pure laziness, I blame her.

If my daughter fails to turn in a
homework assignment because she falls deathly ill the night before, I do not.

I see blaming humanity for our current situation, a little like my second example, in that we could not help ourselves. If you look at everything that has been done in history, it can always be traced back to the propagation of our species. This is the very purpose of "the selfish gene" that is central to the theory of evolution. Ironically, "the selfish gene" will probably lead to our eventual extinction. Perhaps there is a master plan.

I agree that things are rarely black and white, yes or no. But I must admit that I cannot easily connect your analogy to the reality it purports to represent.

First, I did not exactly blame all of humanity equally. But in any case, in what way did humanity suddenly "fall deathly ill" that they were somehow compelled to destroy the planet? There were always choices along the way.

There is limited value in belaboring this further.

Keep in mind that, as someone else pointed out, we are the products of the people who rationalized their depredations of their neighbors for millennia, so I find it not surprising at all that the clever posters on this thread can come up with multiple rationalizations for their own and their fellow kudzu monkey's behaviors.

But I must say, "we were deathly ill so we just had to destroy the planet" is one of the more bizarre rationalizations I have heard to date. Good illustration, though of how far we'll go to let ourselves off the hook.

"we were deathly ill so we just had to destroy the planet"

You left half of my analogy in metaphorical form :)

Let me complete the conversion for you.

"Nature sculpted us to be selfish so we unwittingly caused our own extinction by competing to procreate our genes"

As for the planet, I am with George Carlin. It will still be here long after we are gone.

"Nature sculpted us to be selfish..."

So says someone from what is often considered the most selfish generation(s) in history.

Do you have enough perspective that, in this case at least, you can see that where you sit in history may have a bearing on where you stand on this issue?

So is there anything you would blame anyone for ever?

I don't about anyone else, but I'd love to find a scapegoat

For eons, it has only rewarded the selfish. We have evolved to do exactly what we do.

This is terribly ahistorical ... for many groups and cultures right throughout history (and prehistory) it has been cooperation (and including overtly altruistic behaviour) that has seen Homo just survive the tough times, and thrive in the good times.

The breakdown of community and family (up to the atomised ultra-individuality seen today) is of fairly recent origins indeed.

Personally I blame Rupert Murdoch and his ilk - they gave the great unwashed, and also the middle class, "permission" to be whingeing, whining, selfish little brats - encouraged to blame everything and everyone else for all the disappointments and pitfalls of life. You wind up with Tea Partiers.

With religion and community gone - and the cities divorcing everyone from Nature - the pursuit of money in soulless jobs became not just the best thing, but the only thing.

This is terribly ahistorical ... for many groups and cultures right throughout history (and prehistory) it has been cooperation (and including overtly altruistic behaviour) that has seen Homo just survive the tough times, and thrive in the good times.

So people form groups, and cooperate inside them, then that group acts in it's own self interest. Sometimes cooperation with other groups serves its self-interest, sometimes not. I'm not sure why you believe adding groups to the discussion changes anything. I am also not sure why "cooperation" doesn't serve self interest. I think it does.

Why not say that self-interest serves cooperation, so everything really boils down to efforts to cooperation.

Most people who have decided resolutely to define everything in the universe by the one central tenet of their own narrow ideology have managed to do so quite well.

I remember well when some teacher in high school presented us with the old "everything we do is done for our own selfish interests" meme. It disturbed me greatly at the time (because I thought that it meant there were no altruistic motivations) and I thought about it a lot - I was unable to show it was wrong. Eventually I came to understand that it is not wrong, it's just too simplistic to mean anything. Yes, 0 does equal 0, but so what? It's just a cynical bit of dross intended to justify one's selfish actions.

I suspect altruistic people get enjoyment out of being altruistic. Should we consider them to be selfish oofs, because they do it to make themselves happy. I think our species spent long enough as hunter gatherers for some altruistic (towards the group) characteristics to be selected for.


I'm not a selfish oof.......

I can only reiterate that I find this problematic:

For eons, it has only rewarded the selfish. We have evolved to do exactly what we do.

It is just another re-wording of the sociobiological rabble-babble from Darwinian.

The implication is that the individual human being is hard-wired to be selfish and totally individualistic, because environmental pressure selected for these traits over many generations.

And further, that these traits have led to modern human beings being as they are - totally selfish, living for the here and now - with no investment in the future.

I think it's complete nonsense, on two levels: (1) there is lots of archaeological and other evidence to suggest that the success of humans (and no doubt many other species, both primate and not) in winning the existence race, has been by being highly cooperative, and (2) the vastly more important influence on modern human behaviour is social, cultural and economic.

There is hardly anything (outside of breathing and similar functions) that can USEFULLY be ascribed to genes and evolution - everything of any importance and interest is from history (and history is all about the battle between the ruling class and all others - nothing else).

I believe in sociobiology, and am a big fan of EO Wilson.

But I also believe that it has shaped us for cooperation as much as for conflict. I'd guess most of us fall somewhere in the middle in a gaussian distribution. At one end is a thin tail of extremely altruistic people - Mother Theresa types, the ones who always get taken by every sob story, etc. At the other tail are sociopaths - you know, serial killers, CEOs. ;-) Because sometimes, conflict is the best strategy, and sometimes cooperation is. Most of us use both, depending on the circumstances.

There is hardly anything (outside of breathing and similar functions) that can USEFULLY be ascribed to genes and evolution - everything of any importance and interest is from history (and history is all about the battle between the ruling class and all others - nothing else).

To say that intelligence is not genetic is to say that it did not evolve. If a person believes in evolution then you must believe that every human characteristic evolved. If you don't believe in evolution then the debate is over.

Anyway almost every human characteristic is a combination of genes and environment. It is like a musical talent. You naturally have the innate talent, (called a gift by some), and you can either develop it further and it will be enhanced, or never practice at all and it will languish.

Some characteristics are far more molded by the environment than others. But others like temperament characteristics such as jealously are far more genetic than environmental.

However you would do well to read Fred's link above Dunning–Kruger effect, concerning those who are most certain of their opinion.

Ron P.

those who are most certain of their opinion.

Actually, this is historical. Altruism is an extermely rare trait. Of the millions of species that have evolved on this planet, those expressing altruistic traits are rare, which is what you'd expect from evolution's slot machine. It just so happened that altruistic behavior allowed those creatures to fit their environment better and produce more offspring. Those species hit the jackpot.


Actually, altruism is a universal trait in all animals. Parents of most animals, for example, sacrifice much of their own comfort and energies and even their lives to foster and protect their young.

Of course, in our utterly selfish and materialist society we try to redefine all such acts as selfishness.

This says volumes more about us and our needs to rationalize and valorize our own despicable acts than it does about nature.

Dohboi, what you are describing is not altruism. It is the preservation of one's own genes in the form of one's offspring. And, as a matter of fact, most animals abandon their young to fend for themselves. Turtles, for instance. And lobsters, and flies, and anything else that lays eggs and goes away. Birds, mammals and maybe a few others actually care for their young, and then only for the brief time until they can take care of themselves.

Altruism is an act of helping another creature with whom one does not share a majority of genes. If I aide my children, I am aiding 50% of my own genes. No altruism here. My nephews and nieces share 25% of my genes. I may be caring towards relatives a few times removed, but the strength of the bond grows weaker. At some nebulous point that person is not sufficiently ‘of my stock’ for me to have any interest in preserving it. That’s where altruism begins.


Many animals will foster the young of others, even of different species.

The opportunity doesn't arise often, but it has been observed and even taken advantage of.

You are proving my point perfectly.

It is all too common for members of the most selfish generations in history to redefine all other activity in culture and nature as motivated by selfishness. Most other societies and cultures did not see things that way. Are they all wrong, and only our culture right on this one?

You are a product of a selfish society.

Take a moment to ponder the implications of that.

I ponder it every day. Do you?

I am aware of it, but I do not dwell on the topic.

Ah, I see. By 'proving my point perfectly' you mean 'saying the exact opposite.' I must file that away in my copy of Aristotelian Syllogisms for Dummies. :)

My point is that altruism is very rare in nature. You really don’t want to make an appeal to nature by declaring what is a ‘universal trait in all animals.’ Most animals just deposit fertilized eggs somewhere and then slither back into the swamp. Altruism evolved in our ancestors the same way everything else evolved, by chance, and then proved to be successful and so was selected. It became one of the tools in the toolbox of evolution.


We are talking in circles so no use continuing. Just to point out, I am challenging your definitions of selfishness and altruism and suggesting that your culture has influenced you to see them in a particular way. Nothing illogical about that.

Best wishes, and thanks for the fish.

Hmm. So am I now to understand that 'talking in circles' means 'redefinng the dictionary?' I should write these down......

Seriously, dohboi, why are you on this list if not to compare your ideas with those with whom you disagree? Just a question.


I often (sometimes) think about this:

Climate change, and the mechanics of this, was understood during the first half of the 19:th century. When the oil well at Spidletop was opened up, we already knew what burning those hydrocarbons would do to the climate. We just never believed we would ever reach the emissions levels to get those results.

But we also had the knowledge of exponential growth. The math was old enough. If we start out with 1000 barrels of oil a day in year 1860, and increase with 2% every year, we will evetually reach todays CO2 output.

This is enough that somebody should have been able to say "guys, lets have a look at this", and then figure out what would happen in 200 years. The next step would be to build up a plan for how to use the amount of emissions we can "afford" in the most wise way. With the target set to find a route towards renewable energy from the first day.

The end product would have been a smaller, more local, less is more-type of society. I think I would have liked beeing there better than here. If I was one of the 2 billion people alive today.

But we never did this. I don't know who to blame, but we did waste the oppurtunity.


Surely you are joking.

No civilization in the history of the world has ever successfully engaged in such long-term planning as you outlined here.

The human species is not designed to do so.

To have expected it is ludicrous.

Jedi Welder wrote:

I often (sometimes) think about this:

Climate change, and the mechanics of this, was understood during the first half of the 19th century. When the oil well at Spidletop was opened up, we already knew what burning those hydrocarbons would do to the climate. We just never believed we would ever reach the emissions levels to get those results.

But we also had the knowledge of exponential growth. The math was old enough. If we start out with 1000 barrels of oil a day in year 1860, and increase with 2% every year, we will evetually reach todays CO2 output.

This is enough that somebody should have been able to say "guys, lets have a look at this", and then figure out what would happen in 200 years. The next step would be to build up a plan for how to use the amount of emissions we can "afford" in the most wise way. With the target set to find a route towards renewable energy from the first day.

The end product would have been a smaller, more local, less is more-type of society. I think I would have liked beeing there better than here. If I was one of the 2 billion people alive today.

But we never did this. I don't know who to blame, but we did waste the oppurtunity.

"No civilization in the history of the world has ever successfully engaged in such long-term planning as you outlined here."

I'm not sure if you think it comparable, but one could claim that in the Tokugawa Era in Japan, just that sort of long-term planning took place.

They had been fully exposed to much of western culture and nascent industrial potential, and they chose to adopt almost none of it for about two hundred years. They also engaged in a very careful, long term plan to manage their forests sustainably.

Eventually gun boats "changed their minds," of course, but that hardly takes away from the long term effort to choose a path because of other criteria than maximum exploitation of every resource as fast as possible.

OK- shouldn't have said "no civilization".

But it is rare- especially a civilization that is not actively practicing isolationism based on religious/cultural traditions (Japan is a small island country, so its traditions pretty much dictated that it would have to manage its forests in a sustainable manner).

Notice that as soon as it allowed itself access to a greater pool of resources, it acted in exactly the manner that 99% of human civilizations would.

And finally, while the scientific principles behind the greenhouse effect may have been known in the early 1900s, I'm willing to bet it was not widely known...certainly not to the point where a centrally managed economy would emerge in a country to which such a thing was anathema.

(Japan is a small island country, so its traditions pretty much dictated that it would have to manage its forests in a sustainable manner). (/blockquote>

Feudal Japan could have chosen to go down the road of Easter Island....

They chose not too until forced by the West....

They could have...I agree.

But their choice was rare among human civilizations unless faced with easily visible constraints.

Given abundant resources, almost no civilization has chosen to conserve for the future. Human brains are hard-wired to value the present more than the future.

Which makes sense given the human brain evolved when humans were hunter-gatherers.

Take some time to study hunter-gatherer and other traditional societies.

They almost all have complex sets of rule, or 'taboos,' many of which are designed to insure that they do not over exploit resources.

It is very easy to project one's own culture's values on to other cultures or onto nature, and this of course is a way to rationalize and validate ones own action and the actions of one's culture, even very harmful actions.

Modern industrial culture is the only one I know of that has come up with the insane ideology that maximizing individual gain is the highest good, and that infinite economic growth is not only possible but absolutely necessary and the other highest good.

No point in qouting my entire post, it is still there on the web page.

But... What I said is that at the time we had the chance to do it right, but we did not take it. And now we are here. It is mostly a speculation of what could have been.

Seven generation sustainability

"It originated with the Iroquois - Great Law of the Iroquois - which holds appropriate to think seven generations ahead (a couple hundred years into the future) and decide whether the decisions they make today would benefit their children seven generations into the future."

Planning for Seven Generations Conference: Indigenous & Scientific Approaches to Climate Change

So, you are quite right.

In America, the native peoples they had just finished wiping-out used to do things like plan 200 years into the future... but there's no quick money in it... and the next financial quarter can look terrible!

What's really funny is that a lot of the conquest was about fur... and now all the fur frills and hats have rotted.


Protecting the Seventh Generation: Saginaw Chippewa Tribe serves as natural resources trustee

So while people have understood the math for a long time, it didn't help at all to understand the risk. In other words, understanding the math did not in practice translate to better "risk intelligence", as described in the thread below.

Given what people kept saying (and mostly believing), but all the good inventions have already been created -not much advancement left to do.... If you take that belief as a starting point, then hitting a nearterm plataeu after initial exponential growth follows. They just couldn't concieve we could stay on the exponential nearly as long as we have.

But we also had the knowledge of exponential growth. The math was old enough. If we start out with 1000 barrels of oil a day in year 1860, and increase with 2% every year, we will evetually reach todays CO2 output.

This is enough that somebody should have been able to say "guys, lets have a look at this", and then figure out what would happen in 200 years. The next step would be to build up a plan for how to use the amount of emissions we can "afford" in the most wise way. With the target set to find a route towards renewable energy from the first day.

Those people smart enough to know better also knew they didn't have to worry about the problem in their lifetimes.....

There's plenty of time for things to change and life is good and getting better

why rock the boat

Did Einstein ever show indication he was the slightest bit concerned about depletion...???

Surely he would have known better than to believe in infinite growth on a finite planet

So somehow we destroyed the whole world, but no one needs to feel bad about it. Fine.


If blaming people for what was inevitable helps you sleep better at night, knock yourself out. As for myself, I will simply accept what is much bigger then myself, and do my best to enjoy my life.

Blame is really the wrong word when everyone throughout 100 years of history is "to blame". It just gets silly. It also implies that we are not allowed to make mistakes.

For example the only reason we know about global warming is because we went and caused it, then measured the changes. There was no way we would have known at the beginning what we were doing.

Our biggest failing is actually doing things that cannot be "undone" after the experiment. Or refusing to do so.

The industrial revolution is generally considered to have really gotten going in the 1800s. That happens to also be when Arrhenius figured out the global warming properties of CO2.

Yes, we knew exactly what we were doing from the beginning.

I wouldn't say "we" knew exactly what we were doing . . . a tiny number of people understood. 99.9+% didn't. Most still don't. Some can't understand the science. Some are too busy. Many don't care or figure it is someone else's job to understand. Many are too smitten by their religion or ideology to accept it.

So humanity is doomed to do stupid things it will regret later. Education is the best tool we have. But propaganda, tribalism, ideology, religion, and other things often defeat it.

But you don't need the 99.9% to know, especially not at the beginning. You just need a few decision makers to know. Any most of them were educated to look up--if they had the intellectual curiosity and the basic sense that vast new endeavors can go wrong in unpredictable ways--to track down this and other firmly established early studies to see what would happen if we went down this path.

If you pick up a contraption in the woods, are you responsible for lives you take, if you immediately point it at crowds of people and pull the trigger before trying to find out if it is a machine gun? That the precautionary principle was so little heeded does tell us a lot about the attitude of most of those captains of industry. But what it tells us is not altogether flattering to them.

Yes the facts were there more or less, but that isn't really the problem. I don't think people in the early 1800's would ever have believed what we do and the scale we do it today. People today can't even comprehend it, the numbers are just too big. Every step of the way was reversible, until it wasn't and too many people were involved and it had taken on a life of it's own.

It's a little like kicking a small snowball down a hill, then half an hour later hearing about a village being wiped out by a giant snowball. The connection is there in hindsight but at the time it was such a tiny, innocent thing.

Well put.

Just keep in mind that at pretty much every turn there were people that recognized that this was a bad direction to be going in and were horrified by the eventual, and often the immediate, consequences. And the number of those people has grown. Most people today think that carbon emissions should be limited. It doesn't happen because there are a few very powerful people and institutions/corporations that are profiting enormously (over the short term) from using our atmosphere as their free cesspool to dump their toxins into. And they are spending lots of money and effort to intentionally spread as many lies as widely as they can to sew confusion and anger, and to prevent clarity and effective action.

I just happen to not want to let those folks of the hook.

It's easy to live within limits that you can see.

Modern society is global, even for people who know where the lines are drawn visualization is challenging, and making those limits visible to others so that they will accept controls on their own behaviour based on those limits has thus far proven impossible.

"making those limits visible to others so that they will accept controls on their own behaviour based on those limits has thus far proven impossible."

Great point.

Any ideas on how they could be made more visible?

That is a subject that I *have* obsessed about, and so far I'm still stumped.

I think the industrial rev grew slowly at an increasing rate over a long time. Dutch Windmills and water powered mills, were later supplemented with peat fueled industry, then later England added coal power to the mix. Progress during the first century (say 1650 to 1750) would have been nearly imperceptable, but was important in laying the foundations for what followed.

Good points. I meant when the fossil fueled industrial revolution really got going on a major scale.

But keep in mind that earlier than that, many poets and others were railing against the 'Satanic mills' of early industrialism and what it stood for.

That one ignores voices of caution is no great defense.


You are eager to let everybody, apparently especially yourself, off the hook, so you can just forget about it and enjoy life.

I am eager to continue to be a thorn in the sides of those who want to shrug off their responsibility and culpability.

If blaming people for what was inevitable helps you sleep better at night, knock yourself out.

Ron, aren't we straying into the argument over the existence of free will? We could postulate that human behavior is solely determined by genes plus environment, hence is completely determined. But, then the environment includes cultural incentives for behavior modification. And these are themselves partially mediated by belief in (or against) free will. If I say its just because of our genetic inheritance, then there is little incentive to change behavior. If instead society strongly says, it is the responsibility/blame of the individual (and we will reward/punish besed upon that conviction), then individuals have a lot more incentive to change. Much of the societal pressure/incentive is created by status seeking behavior (I can't be seen discarading plastic bags, cause that would imply I am not green etc.). I suspect that culture has a big effect in promoting or demoting this sort of behavior.

For the purpose of this discussion, wouldn't culture be considered part of environment? I can see no reason to separate them.

Ron, aren't we straying into the argument over the existence of free will?

Of course we are but only a tiny few understand this argument and all discussing it does is generate heat by those who don't understand it at all. I try to avoid bringing it up, but since you did...

If I say its just because of our genetic inheritance, then there is little incentive to change behavior.

If you believe that then this proves you don't understand the free will argument either.

If instead society strongly says, it is the responsibility/blame of the individual (and we will reward/punish besed upon that conviction), then individuals have a lot more incentive to change.

Of course, that's the point. The retributive urge evolved for a very good reason, it has a practical reason for its existance and a normal society would be impossible without it. Prisons are part of our environment and therefore alters behavior. The threat of punishment is a cause, it causes people to alter their behavior. If people were excused because it was argued they do not have free will, the world would be impossible to live in, the crooks would rule the world.

Ron P.

"If people were excused because it was argued they do not have free will, the world would be impossible to live in, the crooks would rule the world."

So says the one who wants to excuse everyone involved for the worst crime in the history of the planet.

Dohbai, people going about their daily lives in the only way they know how hardly qualifies as the worst crime in the history of the planet. Talk about exaggerated hyperbole...WOW! I don't excuse anyone because to excuse them implies that you think they have done something wrong. I do not believe they have.

Anyway Enemy and I were debating free will. You obviously did not recognize that fact. For a determinist, like myself, to say we need punishment and prisons does not imply that I am accusing anyone or excusing anyone. I was only saying that the retributive justice system we have is absolutely necessary for a society to function regardless of whether true blame can be placed or not.

To quote Jimmy Carter, "Life is unfair." That statement is sometimes wrongly credited to John Kennedy. But the point is even when retributive punishment is unfair, it is still necessary.

Ron P.

Good luck getting this sort of discussion around the dinner table of my fellow Joes and Janes! :)

Cheers, Matt

The people torturing and mass murdering the Jews were also going about their daily lives, so presumably they are off the hook, too.

I happen to call bringing about the end of most complex life on the planet a crime. What do you call it?

It's fine with me if you want to call it merely a consequence. But be consistent and considerate, and tell all the good people reading these threads what other acts you consider to not be crimes or blame worthy that most people would.

Now you're off the rails.

There is a clear distinction between doing something that is obviously and immediately morally wrong and doing something with effects you do not know about.

There is an even clearer distinction between such and having someone doing something immoral in your name without your knowledge or consent.

Taking your argument as it sits, you are evil because you allow people to pollute the planet on your behalf.

So you would say that the Germans that were down the road from the gas chambers and could smell the burning flesh, and could see the endless trains going in with no one coming out...can be held completely blameless, since they were just going about their daily business and didn't really know for sure what was happening?

And yes, I do not hold myself blameless for the pollution that is going on. Do you?

(And what's so fun about staying on the rails all the time, anyway? '-)

If there are men with guns saying that you are welcome inside if you try to interfere, I'd say you can indeed be held quite blameless (or dead).

They can't. In truth they weren't held blameless even if they were "just following orders".

You are trying to draw a moral line of responsibility well beyond an individual's knowledge or ability to act, and that is not a rational position in my opinion.

I guess we just have to agree to disagree, then. But certainly today, no one can say that they weren't informed that their daily activities that use ff were contributing to the end of complex life on earth.

The information is certainly available to anyone with eyes to see and a mind capable of comprehending the consequences, but I have a suspicion that comprehension from abstract data is something that most people aren't adequately trained for (if they are even capable of it to begin with).

everyone == nobody

Example: I often say "all members of minorities are evil". Now, since everyone is a member of SOME minority, I have now insulted everyone, and by using the very strong term 'evil' I have done it with force. However, no one ever gets angry with me for saying so. Because no one take it personal. It is just to big.
Everyone is no one.

This whole conversation rambles around what I think is the most interesting question in the whole study of history:

Why did the European awaking, which led to the industrial revolution happen in Europe and not China or India, much older civilizations? I've seen many historians address the question but never to my satisfaction.

Is there something fundamental about European culture that created a violent, materialistic culture or did something totally benign just happen to occur in Europe?

Whatever it was the European materialistic culture(now caricatured in the US) is the dominent paradigm worldwide.

edit: grammar

Well, do we start the Industrial Revolution from the invention of the steam engine? The one that was invented to pump water out of coal mines in England?

Then the question becomes: how come England used/needed the coal so bad compared to anywhere else?

As to the culture that turned a coal-fired water pump into the Industrial Behemoth we see around us, maybe that's just a happy accident, maybe not.

Facinating question, and one that may be very instructive if we understood the answer.

Then the question becomes: how come England used/needed the coal so bad compared to anywhere else?

Because a fertile temperate island became heavily populated, and they ran out of trees to burn. The rule of law was in place as well, at least since Magna Carta (mostly dealing with land & forest rights).

But I think the dominance by Western Europe (England, France, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, etc) was a result of their being the best sailors with the best ships. They could plunder the world for the most valuable natural resources, and this drove industrial processes to turn them into objects of much higher tradeable worth.

The Enlightment was well under way before Europeans sailed off and stole everything.;>)

The ships, and the ability to navigate them was just another result of the mindset that gave them a competitive advantage, not the cause.

Its the mindset, to focus on the acquistion of wealth rather than family, community and spirituality that formed so uniquely and virulently in Renaissance Europe.


"But I think the dominance by Western Europe (England, France, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, etc) was a result of their being the best sailors with the best ships."

China had much better ships and sailors much earlier than Europe.

But as Diamond points out...at the height of their power, the emperor made building ships illegal.


"Why did the European awaking, which led to the industrial revolution happen in Europe and not China or India, much older civilizations?"

Best book I've found on that is "Dawn of Modern Science" by Thomas Goldstein, 1980. My paperback version is Houghton & Mifflin, 1988, with the bonus forward by Isaac Asimov.

Short version; small, closely located, and very competitive city states let the best and brightest vote with their feet. And the Black Death had previously broken the authority of the religious hardliners. They obviously knew less than they claimed, so what else were they wrong about? And this happened just as Islam decided that any knowledge not in the Koran was blasphemy, so those scholars were looking for a new home as well.

China was a unified empire that discouraged innovation, as that could only upset the perfect order. Not sure what India was doing about that time.

Thanks for the book recommendation. Keep in mind that, as someone else pointed out, the church had provided them with a frame work of a universe governed by universal laws.

Most likely the industrial revolution began in Europe because it already had pre-industrial cultures. Leverage of mechanical and chemical energy were already well mastered long before the ability to convert chemical energy to mechanical energy lit off the industrial revolution.

Energy has often been at the cusp of civilization changes. Nuclear was perhaps the last, but currently incomplete, such change.

Keep in mind that the piratic 'colonial' global expansion of Western European nations in the 16th and succeeding centuries was just the last of a long series of violent expansions of speakers of various Indo-European languages. Going backward in time (and leaving many minor ones out):

--Normans conquest of England (really a continuations of:)
--Vikings expansion from a tiny area of Scandinavia to Russia, the Mediterranean, much of northern Europe, the British Isles, Iceland, Greenland, the New World...
--Germanic explosion from a small area of northern Europe into pretty much all of the rest of Europe, England, and north Africa, bringing down the Roman Empire in the process
--Roman Empire starting from a tiny area in eastern Italy eventually covering most of the known world
--Celtic expansion during the first millennium BCE from a small area of northern France to Anatolia (Gallatia), the Balkan peninsula, the Italian peninsula, the Iberian peninsula, and the British Isles.
--Greek/Macedonian Empire of Alexander, again covering most of the 'known world'
--Persian Empire extending well into central Asia, Africa and the Balkan peninsula
--Expansion of Indo-Europeans into northern India in the second millennium BCE
--Establishment of the Hittite Empire in the same period in Anatolia extending into the Middle East
--The original expansion of the Indo-Europeans from a small area, probably north of the Black Sea, to central Asia (Indo-Iranians), Greece, Italy, Western Europe, Northern Europe, Eastern Europe, Anatolia...

This is just the last of a long series of explosive expansions from a particular lingusitic/cultural group that seemed to have a penchant for it.

Warning, what follows is mostly personal speculation!

I think it had a lot to do with the then value systems. Most of the arly scientists, were motivated to learn to better understand the mind of god. So while science and Christianity became mutual antagonists later on, religious beliefs I think were a strong motivation for learning more about nature (god's creation).

It also had a lot to do with the valuation placed upon economic/business/industrial innovation. Suddenly in a small corner of the world (I would include England, and the low countries -Denmark, Holland etc.), it became a favored mode of advancement, and things snowballed from their.

I was reading about the revolution of 1688 (Pincus) recently. In some ways this was the English throwing out one king (James the second) who wanted to emulate the French (Louie the 14th) absolute monarchy, and replaced him the a Dutch import (William and Mary), who were for a more open society -especially concerning parlimentary checks upon the power of the monarchy. One aspect of the two sides: the old order believed all value came from land ownership, and hence economics was a fixed zerosum game. The modern revolutionary replacement placed wealth creation by human effort and innovation at the fore. They believed the later forces meant there were no limits on potential wealth creation (the beginning of the economic belief in infinite growth).

Pretty darn good for 'personal speculation.'

As we wade into history, one can identify many turning points, and it is hard to weigh one against the other.

A major one for me was Fibonacci's importation of the Arabic (really Indian) numeral system into Europe. It could be argued that this acted as a kind of invasive exotic weed. In its native environment, zero (the primary innovation of the system) evolved in the context of a broader philosophical (and interestingly, also linguistic) concept of the value of nothingness.

Stripped from these philosophical underpinning, barbarian materialistic Europe utilized the concept not to contemplate the metaphysical nature of nothingness, but to compute how to maximize profit, and measure-to-exploit the world.

The Story of 1 is a BBC documentary about the history of numbers, and in particular, the number 1. It was presented by Monty Python member Terry Jones.

The Story of 1 (One) - Terry Jones - BBC

Thanks for the link. I'm a big fan of Jones--even got to meet him once.

Why did the European awaking, which led to the industrial revolution happen in Europe and not China or India, much older civilizations? I've seen many historians address the question but never to my satisfaction.

I think, Jared Diamond, in his 1997 book titled Guns, Germs and Steel gave it a pretty decent shot!

Guns, Germs, and Steel
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies is a 1997 book by Jared Diamond, professor of geography and physiology at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). In 1998, it won the Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction and the Aventis Prize for Best Science Book. A documentary based on the book, and produced by the National Geographic Society, was broadcast on PBS in July 2005.[1]

It was also published under the title Guns, Germs and Steel: A short history of everybody for the last 13,000 years.[2] The book attempts to explain why Eurasian civilizations (in which he includes North Africa) have survived and conquered others, while refuting the assumption that Eurasian hegemony is due to any form of Eurasian intellectual, moral or inherent genetic superiority. Diamond argues that the gaps in power and technology between human societies originate in environmental differences, which are amplified by various positive feedback loops. When cultural or genetic differences have favored Eurasians (for example, written language or the development among Eurasians of resistance to endemic diseases), he asserts that these advantages occurred because of the influence of geography on societies and cultures, and were not inherent in the Eurasian genomes.

I agree. I found his arguments pretty convincing. He points to the environment as the difference. For example, the north-south layout of the Americas meant crops and domesticated animals could not be spread easily, while Eurasia's east-west layout meant they could be. Eurasia also had grains that were more easily farmed than corn, the staple of the New World, which allowed denser populations (and all that went with that, good and bad).

Eurasia had several large, domesticable species that could be used as working animals: horses, oxen, camels, donkeys. That led to the invention of the wheel, which led to all kinds of other tech (mill wheels, water wheels, etc.). In the Americas, the largest domesticable animals were llamas and dogs, which were too small to carry a rider or pull a wagon (or even a plow). They could be used as pack animals, and dogs were used to pull sledges, but wheels would have added so much weight (relative to the animals' strength) they wouldn't be worth it. The wheel was invented in the New World, but was used only as a toy.

It turns out that relatively few animals can be domesticated. I hadn't realized this before reading Diamond. Many animals can be tamed, but if they don't breed in captivity, you can't domesticate them. Horses can be domesticated, the closely related zebras cannot be. Water buffalo yes, bison no.

He also points to the geography of Europe, which encouraged the development of many small nations. The conflict between them drove technological innovation. He argues that contact and conflict with other cultures helps preserve and encourage technology. China had many of the advantages Europe did, and indeed, they were the most advanced civilization on earth for a long time. But their geography allowed a vast monolithic culture to evolve. That meant eventually, they stagnated and other cultures passed them by. He also points to the Tasmanians as an extreme example. They were cut off from the world for 10,000 years, and lost much of the technology they arrived with. The archaeological record shows they used to make and use bone fishhooks, but by the time Europeans arrived, they no longer fished (or used any bone tools, for that matter).

You miss out one other thing. In most of the world, religion teach us that the world is a combat zone between forces of order and chaos. If good or bad stuff happens depends on wich force (god/group of gods) have the upper hand at the moment. We humans can alter the balance by sacrificing or praying to the gods.

In medevial Europe, philosophers came to another conclusion: The Universe is guided by laws. These laws can be explored. Theologicans then argued that these laws was the domain of God, and humans shall not play God and investigate them. However, the idea that the Universe is guided by laws were there, and people begun investigating it. Thus, science was born.

I wonder who gave those philosophers that idea?

Good points. At the time he wrote it, Diamond was a pretty thoroughgoing materialist. Materialists can almost always find purely materialist explanations for anything, especially ones as clever as Diamond (though he was mostly drawing on the ideas of others).

But in public discussions I saw him in afterward, and in his later book, "Collapse," he acknowledges that there can be other cultural influences that can have as strong an impact as the material conditions, sometimes stronger.

I would say that pretty much every small-scale, traditional culture which had existed in one are for any length of time (hundreds of years, at least) in one area, had to come to some understanding of how to live sustainably within the confines of that ecosystem.

(Certain) Europeans, from the period of colonization, at least, learned that by eternal conquest they could live well beyond the confines of their immediate ecosystem. That lesson and assumption is what now dominates global industrial culture.

It is in now in the process of coming to the end of that rope.

Eric Wolf's 'Europe and the People without History' gives an interesting view on the evolution of capitalism in Europe starting from the year 1700. His take is that the merchants, who brought the end of the Silk Road to England, needed to insure a stable market for their wares. If England had had a bad winter nobody would be selling wool or buying spices, so the merchants would have to bring their stocks back to Venice without anything to trade. The first step was when the merchants rented better looms to farmers, in exchange for the guarantee of a minimum number of bolts of fabric to purchase the following year. The next step was when the merchants (nascent capitalists) assembled the machines in a dedicated building (thus ‘alienating’ the worker from the means of production, as per Marx) and contracted directly for the locals’ labor. Thus was born true capitalism and a further step along the path of division of labor and increased efficiency.


Doubtless a crucial turning point (and thanks for the book recommendation). But there are a number of others.

Ultimately you have to look to the beginning of the idea of property. For that do you go with the feminist historian Gerda Lerner who claimed that control of womens' bodies and reproductive lives was the origin of all property. Others say it evolved from the transition from following herds of cows and other grazing animals to domesticating and owning them. Others that the domestication of dogs lead to puppies being imprinted on only one of the tribe members and so becoming essentially property of them.

All, of course, could have played a roll in its development. But it is clear that without the even more basic idea of individual property, much of the rest (especially of capitalism) would not have developed as it did.

Dohboi, I find Riane Eisler (Chalice and the Blade, Sacred Pleasure) fascinating in this context.

Me too. Early on, on my own I had come to similar conclusions as Eisler did, and I spent much time studying Indo-European languages and culture to try to understand what turned them so heavily toward such a (mostly) destructive path. Early domestication of the horse and cow, were doubtless important, as others have pointed out. But there were elements of the culture and language that both reflected and, I believe, encouraged certain agressive and destructive traits. But going into that would take us too far afield, I'm afraid.

Well, now you’re pushing the discussion quite a bit further back in time. I agree that the limiting of female mobility, as it’s sometimes called, is the basis of civilization. Every civilization has some form of control it enforces upon women, be it token or severe, which serves to limit their freedom. One thing that some female anthropologists find unsettling is who’s doing the limiting. They assume that men control women and make them property. But what we often see is women controlling other women, usually in the name of ‘purity.’

The idea is that when women first started to share child rearing tasks, it created a blessing/curse environment. Blessing in that young women could get pre and post natal care from their sisters and cousins. Curse in that the female support system could now impose rules of conduct. Women who agreed to abide by the conduct (or who were intimidated into it) got access to support and had more and healthier children. Those became the founding mothers of todays ‘sheeple.’ Those who resisted were shut out and received less care and had fewer surviving children. They remained feral humans. More children who themselves grow up to have more children equals selection.

This is simplistic, of course. The dynamics of how men and women created each other through hundreds of thousands of years of social domestication is a mystery we can only guess at. I wrote an essay along these lines called ‘Well Governed Sharks’ where I develop the idea of self-domestication further, if you’re interested.


Thanks, Jon. Do you have a link that goes directly to that essay rather than to the general blog? Or indicate where we should look for it in your blog. I am interested.

Dohboi, that link should bring you directly to the article. If not, just look for Well Governed Sharks on the blog.


There's an extra trailing quote on the URL.

Thanks. There's always one more conditon to test, isn't there?


Found it. For others interested--it's under 2011, May.

I also find that Richard Manning's "Against the Grain" provides pertinent analysis that informs my understanding of the process that led us from where we were, to where we are - on the precipice, so to speak...

In this controversial and prodigiously researched condemnation of our current and past systems of growing grain, Manning (Food's Frontier: The Next Green Revolution) argues that the major forces that have shaped the world-disease, imperialism, colonialism, slavery, trade, wealth-are all a part of the culture of agriculture... Manning skillfully details the historical spread of agriculture through the conquest of indigenous peoples and describes how this expansion led to overpopulation, famine and disease in Europe, Asia and Africa. Sugar agriculture was supported by slaves and farming by laborers who grew produce for the rich while the workers ate a high carbohydrate diet (potatoes, rice, sugar, bread) and ingested no protein. In the U.S., modern agriculture has evolved into an industrial system where agribusiness is subsidized to grow commodities like wheat, corn and rice, not to feed people but to store and trade. According to Manning, agricultural research focuses on just these few crops and is profit driven. Although he succeeds in drawing attention to critical problems caused by agriculture, such as water pollution and malnutrition, he is pessimistic about reform coming from political systems.

Is there something fundamental about European culture that created a violent, materialistic culture or did something totally benign just happen to occur in Europe?

It's simply because Europe is too far from the Equator compared to the other countries. Violence is correlated to distance from the Equator.

I don't have the impression the Inuit are especially violent.

Where did that cockamamie theory come from? First thing that comes to mind is New Guinea--very close to the equator and traditionally very violent:

"The Germans, the Dutch and the British tried to suppress warfare and headhunting, which was once common between the villages of the populace."


This whole conversation rambles around what I think is the most interesting question in the whole study of history:

Why did the European awaking, which led to the industrial revolution happen in Europe and not China or India, much older civilizations? I've seen many historians address the question but never to my satisfaction.

There may be know good answer to that question...

Maybe it was a happy accident...

"You totally miss the point. I will try one more time. Are people to blame for living their day to day lives in the only way they know how? Everyone on earth lives the life they were born into."

Nah.. My life is very different from the life I was born into, a choice, and I know plenty of folks who are fully aware of the whole finite planet thing, agree that global warming is man made and important, etc. They simply don't care. They live in the now, feathering their nests because they can. Do you think that the settlers in 19th century America were blind to the suffering and genocide they were causing among the natives? While they may have been acting according to the stories they were being told, many chose to selfishly, as many folks today choose environmentally and economically destructive paths. I do not forgive them, for they know what they do. I began spotting them at Easter Egg hunts when I was about three; a minority perhaps, but they don't care if they spoil the party for everyone else.

Do you know any Baptists, born and raised to follow the Ten Commandments, who have coveted their neighbor's wife? Just askin'...

"I began spotting them at Easter Egg hunts"

People like this, perhaps?:


a woman was hurt and several kids were trampled on at previous hunts as aggressive parents tried to get more eggs for themselves or their children

(Full disclosure: I used to live in Macon, GA, but neither I nor my wife or daughter ever participated in these egg hunts--I did occasionally feel like trampling some people, though '-)

... the degree of disillusionment we feel in response to any particular human behavior is the precise measure of our ignorance of its evolutionary and genetic origins.


And if you, or I, were in their shoes we would do the exact same thing. If we had their genes and all their past environment we would be them and we would behave exactly as they do.

This is veering terribly closely towards sociobiology. I think it is highly suspect indeed (and often reactionary) to ascribe human behaviours to genetic make-up and evolution. It is far too coarse a filter, in my view.

Genes control all manner of biological functions, including some specific social functions related to group behaviour, but do not decide whether you're a Gordon Gekko or a tree-hugging hippie.

But my main concern with the book (at least as described in the review above) is the extent that it continues the Exceptionalism meme ... lots of capitalist countries share many of the traits described. And the 1%-99% notion is so ahistorical as to not be particularly useful, outside an Occupy demo.

I agree with much of what you say. But could you expand on your critique of the Occupy stuff as a-historical?

I certainly don't think the Occupy movements are a-historical, or irrational, or unreasonable. I just find the 1%-99% notion to be un-strategic and not grounded in reality.

There is a continuum from zero wealth through to extreme wealth, and everyone has a relationship to the ownership and control of the means of production (as Marxists would say), and that continuum has to be worked, educated, and exploited, in order for movements to prosper.

I just think 1%-99% is a slogan of not much value - and in fact the 1% will appropriate it for their own use (if they haven't already).

I, and most people on this site, belongs to the 1% of the world.

This is veering terribly closely towards sociobiology.

Of course it is. And no one is ascribing everything to the genes. Your environment plays an equal part in everything, more or less. Genes and environment control everything. That is, everything you were born with and everything that has happened to you since. That is true because there is nothing else. That is basically all that sociobiology is about. Sociobiology does not claim that the environment plays no part. The environment is the "socio" part of it and the genes are the "biology" part.

- Of course, you can argue with the proposition that all we are is knobs and turnings, genes and environment. You can insist that there’s something...something MORE. But if you try to visualize the form this something would take, or articulate it clearly, you’ll find the task impossible, for any force that is not in the genes or the environment is outside of physical reality as we perceive it. It’s beyond scientific discourse.
- Robert Wright, "The Moral Animal"

Ron P.

Everyone on earth lives the life they were born into.

There are tales of folk who come from dirt floors who grew up, moved on and are no longer living with dirt floors.

You wish to blame the Europeans and the Americans for the life they live. This is the only life we know.

Again, not correct. One can read books, watch TV or movies and learn about other lifestyles. Some change their behaviour based on what they have learned. (see the TV show Doomsday Preppers for examples of people changing due to what they learned of)

We are all molded by our heredity and environment. We know this because there is nothing else.

Once again an incorrect position. We know there are other lifestyle choices because people can change. Rainwater, Nate-of-TOD, Todd-of-TOD are examples.

Ron, I don't comment much but enjoy your posts. I really liked the last paragraph, "People are just people...." and the last sentence especially "If we had their Genes...". With that logic, if I extend it, this would mean I am (my actions and thoughts) essentially a computer program in action with no free will. I really like to think of myself as having free will, but boil it all away and in the end all that's really left is a highly developed program that's all. Its difficult to get the ego out of the way.

I think many people like to take personal credit for having above average intelligence, work ethic, immune system etc etc yet they are really just following the program they were born with. Seeing or "understanding" things like "peak oil" before other segments of society it becomes easy to start pointing fingers at these programs that, "If we had their genes and all their past environment we would be them and we would behave exactly as they do."

Dave, the determinism-free will debate is the most difficult to explain. I don't think it is something you can convince anyone of unless they are already inclined to such a position. The free will illusion is extremely strong and we must all live our lives as if it were a fact. It is an illusion that we all pretend is not an illusion, including myself.

There is no such thing as free will. The mind is induced to wish this or that by some cause and that cause is determined by another cause, and so back to infinity.
- Benedict Spinoza: Ethics, 1677.

Ron P.

For the record, I think free will is largely an illusion. I like to think I at least have the free will to come to the conclusion that it is largely an illusion, though '-)

Sure no nation is going to respond optimally, but contrast say the Scandinavian response with the US response. The genes have little to do with this rather gaping difference, the culture is the big determinant of the difference. At least most of westerm Europe is groping for solutions, however imperfect or half hearted the groping is.

And then there are the exceptions -- people who don't seem to fit within the genetic framework you describe.


It is my opinion/observation that no animal is self-moderating to be sustainable. It seems all animals are bounded by _external_ forces, including humans.

Just because we are sentient does not change my observations/opinions that we, and all animals, just can't.

Perhaps someday in the future an animal will evolve to be self-moderating of their resources, but I do not think it will be anytime soon....

I think you're 100% right about the external factors. However, I don't think that there will ever be a self-moderating species in the future as they would be out-competed the moment a 'selfish' member of the species, or a selfish competing species arose. For example, the over consuming species would consume the resources and reproduce in greater number than the self-moderating one. I imagine this would eventually lead to decline of the self-moderating species or total collapse for both once the resource base drops and the species are both in overshoot.

Have you studied any species?

All species have to 'fit' into an ecological niche. If they rapaciously consume everything in their environment, they may thrive for a short while, but will quickly thereafter succumb to depletion of sources or to some virus or bug which has figured out to exploit this new food source.

That's why ecosystems work, at least until we come along and mess them up.

Yes, as I do have a masters degree in biology! :P

What I was trying to say is this: If a self-moderating organism is filling a certain niche and another organism that does not 'self-regulate' starts to compete in the same niche then it is likely that the over-consuming creature will dominate the other due to having access to more resources.

Simply put, more resources = more food = more reproduction. (Less for the other species).

Great. Thanks for the clarification.

Perhaps you can help me with a question I have, then: Since it is so advantageous to have access to more resources, why haven't more species evolved to be omnivores?

(And is it just rats and us that are omnivores, or are there lots of other omnivores I don't know about.)

I have seen cats eat mice, rabbits, squirrels, lizards, locusts, moths, birds, gofers, grass, corn and pinon nuts. They seem to like a variety.

Good point. Of course, even we are not true omnivores--we famously can't eat grass (to our caloric benefit, anyway.) That's why we love our cows (and goats...) so much, since they can do it for us and we can get the secondary benefit from their milk (and their flesh, if we are so inclined).

Wiki has some thoughts on the matter, be that as it may..

It has a pic of a Raven up top.. and I was thinking of Icterids (Ravens/Crows), and our Omnipresent Seagulls as very familiar Omnis around here. Also 'Coons, Bears, Goats and Pigs.. tho' the following must be remembered..


Omnivore, omnivory and similar derivations are terms of convenience; their significance varies according to context and the requirements of communication in a range of fields in which such attributes are matters of both kind and degree. No rigid non-fuzzy definition therefore is either possible or necessary. Traditionally the definition for omnivory is some variation of the form: "including both animal and vegetable tissue in the diet",[1] which is clear enough for most purposes. However, it is neither absolute nor yet precise, either exclusively or inclusively.

Since it is so advantageous to have access to more resources, why haven't more species evolved to be omnivores

To eat 2 very different things you need the teeth and stomach to deal with both. You need to also have a body that can hunt both. You also need twice as much knowledge to know what versions are dangerous or useless. It is the difference between being a specialist and a jack of all trades and this tradeoff isn't always going to pay off.

Also, specialise and you can be top dog in your area for that resource. Crowding out a mere jack of all trades in an area it tries to exploit. Even if they can handle 5 different resources, they will still be competing with specialists in each of those areas.

Of course if one of those areas can be exploited by the the jack, but not others because of competition, that will force the jack to start specialising in that area for maximum results.

Thanks for the info.

Of course, a lot of 'consumption' is also to the benefit of the thing consumed--spreading seeds, thinning the weakest out of the herd...

So the whole thing could be seen as a vast cooperative enterprise if one was so inclined.

In a sense, you are right about other species. As far as we know, humans are the only species that consciously engages in, for example, fasts.

But most animals are self-limiting by instinct or biology--they will eat some things but not others. The famous example is the koala bear who apparently eats only eucalyptus leaves.

But the fasting example shows that humans can, in fact, self limit. It is interesting that the one animal who does have this capacity has so powerfully turned away (or been turned away) from it in our industrial consumerist society, with horrific consequences for most other species and ultimately our own.

But most animals are self-limiting by instinct or biology--they will eat some things but not others. The famous example is the koala bear who apparently eats only eucalyptus leaves.

Not sure that speaks to my point. Seems more of an example of what to eat, but not how the species self-regulates their population and use of resources.

humans are the only species that consciously engages in, for example, fasts.

Okay, shows individuals can consciously endure below-sustaining intake. But I still think does not speak to a large group of humans (city, village, region, etc) being self-regulating on their use of resources.

Ummm, Lent? Ramadan?...

Ummm, Lent? Ramadan?...

And what are the populations for those cohorts that engage in those two rituals, say, for the past 100years?

I am not talking about "oh I gave up chocolate" of individuals. I am trying to speak of larger groups, and longer time periods than Lent or Ramadan, or the latest fad diet ;)

I am trying to speak to: "show me any animal population that is self-regulating in resources for a generation, or many generations."

I know of none.

"show me any animal population that is self-regulating in resources for a generation, or many generations"

Most traditional, small scale societies (people who were generally considered 'savages').

They had/have an elaborate system of taboos, many of which have to do with not hunting a certain animal at a certain time.

It is only modern humans who have by and large thrown such taboos out the window, labeling them as 'superstitious.'

But it is true that we would have had to hurry up to create a new taboo about exploitation of ffs quickly upon discovering them and their enormous power. There were no traditional taboos against using the stuff.

But in general, a recognition of the destructive tendencies of humans (an observation that is never hard to make) should have lead many to realize that maximizing human potential, through ff use or by any other means, is not a particularly good idea. But instead maximizing human potential has become something of the mantra of modern society (even if many humans don't particularly benefit from it.

"show me any animal population that is self-regulating in resources for a generation, or many generations"


The Black Rat of the Indian bamboo forests - they'll eat their young when there is insufficient food, but will spare their young during a bamboo's flowering which occurs 65 or more years apart. Granted, that's more akin to abortion (which humans do in the name of irresponsible unencumbered sex) than the parents sacrificing themselves.

Coyotes are an expansionist species that has adapted somewhat to anthropic habitat and may be in the process of self-domestication.

They are hardly self limiting.

They self-restrict breeding to one alpha pair in a given area. Of course, if there are new open areas, they will expand into them.

We're all to blame but some of us are more guilty than others


Thanks for sharing your book review. You have provided a very well organized and concise review. Not only that, you gave a homework assignment to the TOD community with the questions you asked. That should keep this thread alive and lively for the next 48 hours.

1. Is Berman correct in his assessment of the American people and their future?

Basically, at least in the sense of how Americans see themselves as exceptional and entitled. Success in two 20th century world wars against the 'Old World Order" (over there), made possible mainly by location and an abundance of secure resources, reinforced this imperial level of self-esteem. The USA still refuses to adopt simple international standards of measurements, etc., one small example of how Americans view themselves.

2. Is the problem not mainly with the top 1% but with the bottom 99%- as Berman maintains?

To say yes or no would be too simplistic. The mindset is the same, though some have been better at exploiting the rest. Even sour cream rises to the top. Also, some of the 1% aren't even Americans.

The myths of exceptionalism and growth held by the individual have been wide open to manipulation. That this isn't a case of human exceptionalism at all, but a situation of abundance of basic resources, is unthinkable to most. The 1% are very adept at perpetrating this fable.

3. How will American CULTURE respond to Peak Oil?

That depends on how things play out. IMO, Americans need to be gobsmacked out of their stupor, awakend from this dream that their empire is somehow immune to the fate of all empires who've outgrown their resource base. Most refuse to even entertain such thoughts and won't react well, as the blame must lie elsewhere. It's been too long since a generation has been tested. Glued to our seats, we are, watching as if it's all some reality show on TV.

For a lengthy interview with Berman, I recommend this podacast:

He doesn't pull any punches.

Interesting. It hadn't occurred to me that Americans were more wealth-obsessed than the rest of the world, from such an early period.

There is a difference in cultural attitudes toward wealth. In societies where it is not possible to store wealth, the idea of accumulating stuff is foreign. People in these cultures were often excoriated as lazy by westerners, because they only worked the minimum amount necessary. They didn't see any point in working more to get stuff they don't need. Sure, they like new stuff...but not enough to work for it.

If it's true that we have been more materialistic than most since our founding days...well, that's kind of depressing. It doesn't bode well for the future.

Still, I'm hopeful that we can change - at least if we have to. There was an article I posted awhile back, about how renting possessions is becoming very popular, especially with younger people. It's not just the economic and environmental benefits. It's technology, which makes it easier to rent everything from a dress for the prom to a telephoto lens to a Zip Car, and it's a change in attitude. Kids these days share things on Facebook and Twitter their parents would never dream of sharing, so why not share possessions, too?

Perhaps the reason that Americans were so much more materialistic than Europeans from the get-go is that we lacked an titled aristocracy. The obvious alternative for asserting high status was to have a lot of money (or make it appear that you had a lot of money, which can work for a while).

The alternative for asserting high status, I suppose, was to prove that you were smart, but that hasn't played well in America with its anti-intellectual tradition. And it has always left you potentially vulnerable to that most American put-downs, "Oh yeah, if you're so smart, how come you ain't rich?"

Interesting point.

As a historical counterpart--there are many early Icelandic sagas, some of which have parallels in English or continental stories. The difference is that early Iceland had no kings--much of the population was people fleeing what they saw as the oppression of Harald Longhair, the first king of Norway.

Part of the _Beowulf_ story shows up in _Gretis Saga_, but in the place where the English _Beowulf_ portrays a king (Hrothgar), the saga has a wealthy landholder.

So perhaps it is inevitable that kingship be replaced with more directly material element of power.

While I don't agree with some of the simplistic conclusions the book seems to come to, I have for sometime recognized the power of what I have been calling our 'culture of hucksterism' to shape what it is we are even able to hear or comprehend, something very relevant to those frustratedly trying to communicate important truths about PO or GW.

The best archetype of this I can think of is one of the early scenes in the musical "The Music Man" where he convinces the town that the pool hall that just opened is the ultimate threat to everything they believe in. Of course, then he proposes his marvelous 'solution'--a boys' band, that he will happily provide instruments and uniforms for if they will kindly part with their hard-earned cash.

I think we interpret nearly any message that involves a problem through this lens. We hear the problem, and like the people of River City, wait for the other shoe to drop--to hear the handy little solution that we can address the problem with, usually by spending money.

Messages that just present predicaments are almost literally incomprehensible to most people. It's like telling a joke with no punch line. It is not a genre that computes.

As we move further and further from the point when any response will do very much to avert absolutely horrific consequences of PO, GW and most of our other ever-worsening predicaments, it will, therefore, become harder and harder for most people to even begin to comprehend accurate messages many of us are trying to convey.

Ultimately there may be some kind of crisis of consciousness, when the consequences are so obvious most people will just have to accept reality.


But the ability of people to deny obvious realities that are right in front of them seems to be enormous.

We are in an Oedipus moment, though not exactly in the Freudian sense. We have f'd mother nature out of all recognition, and as some start to sense this reality, they simply stop seeing--essentially putting out their eyes (denying scientific fact)--this would include all the Republican presidential candidates and most of their followers.

In Oedipus's case, as Sophocles tells it, he actually gained wisdom after blinding himself. I have yet to see any wisdom coming from the willfully self-blinded Republicans so far. And of course, if they get in full power, they will do everything they can to 'blind' the rest of us--de-funding science on all fronts. (This is not to say that many Dem's have distinguished themselves as shining examples of truth-telling...)

I think you hit the nail on the head, Leanan. It is our materialism that drove our empire, but it does not bode well in a future of limited resources.

I am not as hopeful as you that we are capable of enough change though. If you look at many indigenous cultures, of which most (if not all) were detestable from a western industrial capitalist perspective, they actually valued the quality and quantity of interpersonal relationships above material gain. This put them at a disadvantage and most have been destroyed or are in final phase of destruction today.

Capitalism is totally sacrificial of interpersonal relations. I realize there is a sliding scale for this as we look at different cultures, and the US is probably on the extreme materialistic end of the scale - I guess that is my point.

The catch in changing to a less consumptive/materialistic economy is that it is consumerism/materialism that drives much of economic growth. A major percentage of the population relies on this waste-based flow of goods for their income and survival; governments rely on this level of "productivity" for revenue, and especially to pay future debt-based liabilities; and growth is necessary to maintain an expanding service sector.

This is the nature of overshoot, and pulling back will be messy and difficult; impossible without a debt jubilee of, IMO, massive scale. The idea that an economy can reset itself gradually and gently is naive under current conditions, especially as we go farther into resource decline. The scheme of paying off debt with more debt is like walking the plank, driven by swords of the past. Meanwhile, the sharks are circling...

Exactly! Some people just seem to think that all we have to do is consume less and everything will be okay. Perhaps half the nation is employed producing things we can, and will do without. And when we do these people will be unemployed.

I really don't think a debt jubilee is possible, not even gradually. One man's debt is another man's asset. Wiping out debt would mean destroying assets and every bank would go bust. Also there would be no money to loan to anyone. The vast majority of homes are bought with debt, ditto for cars and even office space. All private construction would stop. Millions of construction workers would be unemployed.

Ain't no way.

Ron P.

I didn't mean to suggest that a debt jubilee will be by design or voluntary. It will be (is being) forced, by governments and central banks attempting to keep this amazing dream-state going in perpetuity; by any other name, still default on a massive scale. The math doesn't work any other way.

As a case in point, look at Las Vegas That city consumes an inordinate amount of electricity and water just to support the so-called "Gambling Industry" which does employ 10s of thousands of people. This is an industry that does not produce a single physical product that is essential to society. It does however, do an excellent job of creating wealth for the few at the expense of the many, albeit on an entirely voluntary basis.

"half the nation is employed producing things"

I didn't realize half the nation was producing anything at all '-)

There is no remotely smooth way forward. Anyone saying otherwise is, as they say, either trying to sell you something or trying to get elected (or both).

But the main thing that has brought us to this point is massive over-consumption.

A rapid reduction in this massive historical error is long overdue. But, no, at this point, that will have its own consequences. But so will every other way forward.

Ron - Exactly one of my biggest irritations: cornucopians who think good intentions don't have serious consequences. It would be great to reduce demand especially for the relatively unimportant products/services. Maybe because I've suffered through a few bust in the oil patch where my skills had very little demand in the market place: i know firsthand the frustrations of having abilities no one willing to pay for them. Now consider someone without good tech skills or even a good basic education. I'm the first one in my family to graduate high school let alone college. I know what a dead end life looks like up close and personal. As been pointed out many times you're not going to train a former McDonald's employee to be a solar panel installer let alone a designer. And even if they were capable of being trained in an area where there is a demand how could a society with such unemployment levels afford to pay for that training and to support that person while being trained?

This is the source of my greatest doom expectations. During the times of abundant milk and honey a large portion of our population has been barely able to support themselves. And when the "good times" have passed...what then?

I am no cornucopian, but employment is a faux problem.

We could have full employment tomorrow if we wished. Just reduce the work week to 30 hours.

Everyone doesn't have to be able to build solar panels. Ag without ff will require lots of bodies working in fields wielding hoes.

Do I think this is what will happen. Almost certainly not. We will ride this train as hard and as fast as we can till it utterly smashes on the rock of reality.

But is that absolutely the only possible way we can imagine our future unfolding? Perhaps for many. But Astyk, Heinberg and many others have made other suggestions that are neither cornucopian nor myopic about resource constraints. No utopias are in sight, of course. In fact no future that doesn't include lots of suffering and early death for many is in the cards, as far as I can see. But some problems involve hard limits, like geological limits, others, like full employment, involve essentially trivial and arbitrary decisions of our own (or of somebody's) making.

dohboi - OK...you're the business owner. So you're going to pay an employee the same salary for working 30 hours as 40 hours? That's very generous of you. And I assume that other 10 hours of pay you give to your new employee will be conming out of your profits. Again, very big of you. LOL. Of course I assume you'll be paying that 10 hour employee as much as the 30 hour employee...otherwise you're not helping him very much.

I started to make this point earlier: unemployment is not the issue IMHO. It's income. If we had zero unemployement tomorrow but if everyone's income were reduced proportionally that would be great (to a small degree) to the currently unemployed. But what about the workers who can barely make their mortgage payments or keep the gas tanks full now? How are they going to fare with a reduction in income?

Who said anything about the same salary?

Mortgages are another faux problem.

We just dumped trillions into the coffers of the banks that set up these mostly fraudulent mortgages. Would it be the end of the world to direct some of that to the victims of these fiascoes? Or just declare partial or total debt forgiveness for them, especially the ones that were most aggressively pressed on those least able to afford them?

But really, lots of people have been and will continue to have to move in with relatives...

This is not an entirely bad thing in the big picture--more efficient use of space available and all that. Of course, it can totally suck for some of the individuals involved.

Most people get into financial problems from housing and health care. Take the profit out of those and most of the problem goes away. Is it going to happen? Probably not. But I just think we should be clear about the problems that are physically unavoidable and those that we bring on ourselves with stupid policies that benefit the few.

dohboi - So you're expecting the employed to be willing to give up part of their paycheck so everyone can be "employed"? That's OK: I'll defend your right to such optimism with my dying breath. Really. Just don't expect me to agree with you, friend.

I think it's possible. It happened before. In the 1930s, a 30-hour work week almost passed. FDR vetoed it.

Kellogg went to a 30-hour work week anyway, and people loved it so much they couldn't get them to go back to working 40 hours (though they tried). They preferred the extra free time to more money. Some were still on it into the 1980s.

There's also this: the average worker cannot know whether they will be the one working 40 hours or the one working none. Having more 30 hour jobs available is a good thing from the workers' POV.

Also, the cut in pay would be relatively painless if it affects everyone. What you make is not nearly as important as what you make relative to everyone else. Better to make $30,000 when the average person makes $25,000 than to make $70,000 when the average person makes $80,000.

I also think this very much depends on the circumstances under which this work needs to be done... there may be a certain amount of bias built into analyzing current job requirements based on a hell of a lot of us sitting around and clicking away at a computer for 40 to 80 hrs. per week. Plenty mentally traumatizing but not necessarily physically taxing...

However if all the things we talk about on here daily come to pass and we really rely more and more on physical labor alot of desk jockeys like me are going to be begging for at least a 20 hr cut in the work week, regardless of the implications for the paycheck. :)

Seriously though Rockman's point about people not willing to give up some of their paycheck so that others simply can have some kind of paycheck really does sum it up... If push comes to shove and people really are willing to guarantee sinking the entire ship simply so they can keep their head above water as long as possible rather than sacrificing some of their position in the hopes that the ship can limp to shore - if that ultimately is what human nature is about - then I'd say we really are well and truly... sunk.

Of course then I'll show how naive I am and say something like "well, if we truly had a functioning government who had the interests of the GREATER good in mind then there would be programs insuring that work was distributed to people - no more working 120 hr weeks - return to doing something on a sane, human scale... if you are working that much you cannot possibly be good for society, your family, your own health etc. etc. - there must be another way to approach the problem." I'm probably just not quite cynical enough yet, I guess...

Seriously though Rockman's point about people not willing to give up some of their paycheck so that others simply can have some kind of paycheck really does sum it up... If push comes to shove and people really are willing to guarantee sinking the entire ship simply so they can keep their head above water as long as possible rather than sacrificing some of their position in the hopes that the ship can limp to shore - if that ultimately is what human nature is about - then I'd say we really are well and truly... sunk.

I think he's wrong. Many workers have agreed to take pay cuts so their colleagues aren't laid off. Often without even getting compensatory time off. A lower paycheck because you're working less - I think a lot of people would jump at that.

I think you are exactly right. It would take me less than 5 seconds to agree to that. The trouble becomes the all or nothing benefits situation and the totally screwball maths applied by the companies. I work 40 hrs. - 100% coverage. I work 39 hrs. - 0% coverage. If I could give up 1/5 of my pay for 1/5 more of the week off I refer to the 5 second decision time frame... but more likely it will be "oh sure - have another day off but we'll only pay you as part time - which is half your current salary..."

Another good indicator of the level of insanity that is currently accepted as "normal" and even "logical"

Government could challenge this in the name of - oh the humanity - something beneficial for the citizenry but they are used to cowering in fear from the hollow threats of the corporations... "So you don't like the new policies - fine - shut your doors, close up shop - threaten us with almost complete unemployment... whatever - on the whole it can hardly be worse than the path we've followed - the vacuum will quickly be filled by those who can deal with the new policies."

Many of these voluntary paycut arrangements are successful because few of the workers know if it's themselves or someone else that will get laid off if the deal doesn't go through. "Eveyone takes a 20% pay cut, or 20% of you lose your jobs" makes it a little easier to be magnanimous.. and these folks often know each other which is different than screwing someone you'll never meet.

Yes, and that is the situation most people will find themselves in.

However, many public service unions - police, firefighters, teachers, etc. - have agreed to take paycuts to preserve jobs. Even though the seniority system they work under means people know exactly who will be laid off if they don't take the paycut.

Leanan, one thing to consider are the potential unintended consequences of what people will do with their extra time off when only working 30 hours/week.

While some will have more time for gardening and furthering their education others will decide to spend that extra day 4-wheeling in their gas guzzling pickup trucks. In my part of Texas I'm afraid that the vast majority would opt for the prize behind Door #2.

In the future this will be self limiting by the higher cost of gas and lower paychecks due to shorter work weeks :)

Exactly. IMO, worrying that people will spend their free time cruising around in SUVs or going to the mall to buy crap is the least of our worries.

Many workers have agreed to take pay cuts so their colleagues aren't laid off.

Been there, done that. Mainly because I got a 4 day work week and because two guys working 8 days was better than me left doing everything on my own. I didn't want to lose his skills.

Unfortunately the end result was that the other guy needed more money to match his outgoings due to his debts and dependents (just out of university) and found another job. I was fine due to better circumstances.

This is one of those things that works sometimes and not others and will change over time. Frankly if work is slow, i'd prefer the unpaid time off. In fact I am going to suggest a small reduction in hours as a possible alternative to a pay rise at my coming review.

Thanks, L, I was about to bring up the Kellogg example, but you seem to have the data more ready at hand.

Good to hear I am supported in my optimism?

To be clear, I do not consider myself, nor does anyone that knows me very well, consider myself an optimist. I think it likely, for example, that we are currently in what will turn out to be a very rapid and extreme 'phase shift' that will sink us into an essentially unlivable planet by the end of the decade. I hope I'm wrong. I also regularly point out to people who come out with George Carlin's (bless his profane soul) quip "The earth is fine; it's the humans who are f'd"--that there is no way to know how well or if ever life on the planet will recover from our predations. Most people look at me in horror when I say these things; few call me a wild-eyed optimist.

But reality tells us that humans are the most changeable of creatures. Tens of millions literally forsook their 'daily bread,' a staple of existence for European-based cultures for thousands of years. And they did so, essentially, on a whim.

Of course, as long as vast numbers are glued to corporate controlled propaganda machines, errr, TVs, it does seem rather unlikely that much will change.

I totally agree with you dohboi - this employment situation is a complete charade.

If this country / government were serious for a moment about actually thinking outside the box a bit and making it happen - it could happen.

Oh how the people would moan and whine and stomp their feet and have their little temper tantrums... Until 99% realized that they were no closer to the promised land working 40 hrs. than they are at 30 hrs. and - hey, wow ! those extra 10 hours a week are pretty damn nice. I can actually be a social animal again - some balance has been restored.

Here's an idea - let those who are really unbelievably fixated on their work and just can't stand the thought of spending less than 3/4 of their waking existence working - let them be conscientious objectors and opt out of the whole scheme of better distributing employment... By all means have at it... The rest of us will welcome a slight return to sanity.

The fact that this country is chronically overworked (or at least that the work is very poorly distributed) is a huge problem - yet we glorify it and wear it like a badge of courage. The end result though is that nobody has the time or energy to pay attention to anything of substance and requires near constant application of medication (pharmaceuticals, alcohol, drugs, TeeVee) to numb the pain or stimulants (Red Bull, 5 hour energy anyone ?) to stay awake.

Catskill, I'm from South Louisiana I don't know many people that only work 40 hours per week. What about the people that work 60 to 70 per week? How do we get them to accept the pay cut of 30 hours per week? That would be cutting a large chunk out of they're salary and bankrupt many.

Most of them are working to pay for mortgages that were sold to them under false pretenses. Cut or forgive their mortgages, and much of their financial problems go away. Extend medicare to all, and the financial burdens that sink so many families now go away. Forgive all credit card debt and forbid high interest rates on them in the future, and all the misery that that institution of modern usury has inflicted on citizens goes away.

We have to decide whether we are a society whose main purpose is to enrich the few to the maximum extent while increasing the suffering of the many to the max, or whether are real priorities are elsewhere.

So would you do away with credit and most banking services after we forgive all of this personal debt?

"We have to decide whether we are a society whose main purpose is to enrich the few to the maximum extent while increasing the suffering of the many to the max, or whether are real priorities are elsewhere."

My personal priority is just to live free. I don't care if someone becomes filthy rich, I don't care if I end up poor, as long as I'm free to succeed or fail on my own. I don't want to attach my goals to "society" and I don't want them to attach thier goals to me. I'm not affraid to die because of a lack of healthcare. Death is going to find me and we all share that eventual outcome, but only few during this planets history can say they really lived free.

Did we do away with all banking after bailing all the big ones out?

I do think there should be an active effort to move people away from credit cards. Perhaps the "price" of having your credit card debt forgiven is that you can't have another one, or at least not for seven years or something.

Good luck being totally disconnected from the goals of society. You may not care about TPTB, but they 'care' about you.

I have managed to get myself and my family completely out of all debt at this point. But with a kid wanting to go to college, we may soon be right back in that fiery frying pan.

Dohboi, had we not bailed out the banks the surviving banks would have had policies that would have not allowed future credit crisis. Forgiving credit obligations is like allowing theft. If you did that you get more theft. Bailing out bad banking practices will get you more bad banking practices.

What's TPTB?

No one knows for certain what would have happened.

We were told a scary story so we opened our collective wallets and they took the last scraps we have.

I'm glad you have perfect knowledge of what would have happened, though.

dohboi So what, now your for the bank bail outs?

Sure we know what would have happened a bunch of banks would have failed and we would have purged the bad players. If we had trusted capitalism poor judgement and true greed doesn't get rewared it gets punished. Malinvestment has consequences and it teaches lessons through pain, but the people that create the malinvestments have to be allowed to feel the pain.

In Crony capitalism big companies want to socialize the losses and let the free market give them the profits. I don't have perfect knowledge but I can tell you it's not over yet.

The funny thing is, it took less than a decade after the repeal of Glass-Steagal for the banks to get themselves into exactly the sort of bad situation it was meant to prevent (and did for almost 70 years prior).

We should have nationalized them for their incompetence, I'd love to see a bunch of bankers working for GSA wages and whining about how unfair life is.

We should have nationalized them for their incompetence

IOW! But the republicans were going to paint Obama as a commie, if he did that. And in America being accused of that, is the worst possible fate (other than being caught sexting interns). So that was a road not taken. It might well have been a mistake. It was primarily the perception that we gave zillions to the banksters, that fueled the tea party stuff.

"dohboi So what, now your for the bank bail outs? "

Where the f did you get that idea.

It seems as though our ability to communicate has broken down--best to leave it here.

Just lettig the chips fall where they will (Austrian style), imposes a great deal of suffering upon the population. Most of those who suffer, weren't those responsible for the mistakes. This can generate political instability -one could argue that economic pain endured during similar economic stress created the conditions for the rise of Hitler. We really can't afford to risk the full Austrian treatment program, the patient may die of the cure. Thats why Keynesianism was invented. Keynes claimed looking at economics as morality is the problem. Looking at econ as a technical issue to be manipulated (engineered) is far more productive. After all economies are an invention/creation of humans, and should be modifiable by humans?


TPTB is a popular acronym to represent the most powerful group in any society. It stands for "the powers that be".

It actually has a biblical background. It occurs in the first great translation of the bible into English by William Tyndall in 1526. He translated Romans 13:1 as "For there is no power but of God: The powers that be are ordained of God".

Tyndall gets most of the credit for creating what came to be biblical English. His phrases were considered so beautiful that they were incorporated into later translations such as the King James version of the bible.

For his efforts in translating the bible he was hunted down by TPTB and burned at the stake.

Freedom means different things to different people. Some might defend freedom from personal dishonor and as a toy example, the right to kill those dishonoring you. Generally, we limit the concept where it impinges on the ability of others to enjoy the same level of freedom. It appears your concept of freedom includes a right to exploit air, water, space, and other resources, since such are (at some level) necessary to support life. However, without limits on your (and other's) personal freedom to exploit such resources, your freedom becomes, eventually, the freedom to asphyxiate (starve, freeze, whatever). Where the limits must be is a valid subject of discussion; that some limits to your personal freedom must and shall exist is non-negotiable, you do not have a right to gas your neighbors by the release of toxic levels of nerve gas from your home laboratory, even though you may be curious about the properties of sarin. Invoking the word "free" as a magical talisman does nothing to clarify the situation. One's exploitation of natural or economic resources has consequences (create limits to the freedom of) to others, and to the extent your liberties exceed those limits you impose on others, the limits are your responsibility, else you are depriving them of liberty in the same fashion, if different measure, than a slaveholder.

wildbourgman -

I fell into my own trap assuming that 40 hrs was a standard work week so I was biased to compare everything to that. As is the case in most everything we debate here it of course won't be feasible to apply this as a blanket policy - i.e. make everyone go to a certain number of hours... Perhaps since we typically think more in terms of the work week it would be giving up a day - if you are used to working 6 days - in a given field work 5 and have a newbie working for that extra day along with a more experienced person who happens to be working that day also because some else gave up a day. If it's a large industry with lots of employees - maybe 4 or 5 less hours a week - one half of a day - can go to a "pool" of time that is then used to hire maybe even just part time another few people...

As always the devil is in the details and I suspect this situation is particularly devilish... but I also doubt we could do much worse than the disaster we currently appear to be in the midst of...

Also - as I said - let people opt out if the idea of working too little just completely offends their sensibilities. Do some kind of pilot study - see how receptive people are to the idea - it's not like every single job in the country is a good fit for this but I think where possible the results just may be VERY eye opening... Part of the reason this probably wouldn't be embraced is because the serial workaholics who are used to having the unemployed / lazy etc. as their go-to scapegoats won't be able to conveniently complain about being overworked while others sit on the couch all day... well, with this program - you too could have the chance to at least lighten the load while getting others back to some degree of work... but I doubt they would take that offer - "I'm not giving those lazy good for nothings any of my work / hours..." :)

We could start by narrowing the FLSA definition of an exempt employee to no longer exempt anyone not receiving at least 6 weeks paid vacation in addition to certain minimum values of holidays and sick time (totaling no less than 8 weeks PTO), and a salary more than double the median wage, as well as requiring that non-exempt employees accrue PTO at a rate of at least 10 percent of hours worked (including holidays and sick time). Adding a 3rd category of worker (a non-exempt supervisory or technical employee) with intermediate rights (supplemental pay if work averages significant overtime, for instance) might also make sense.

Companies have reacted the same way in this recession that they also have -- try to increase productivity by having fewer workers produce the same amount of products/services. Once the recession ends the economy is then able to employ everyone again and produce even more products and services than it did before the recession. This recession is different because we are running into resource limits. We cannot come out of this recession with everyone working AND producing more products and services than before.

It is important that people are gainfully employed, for their mental health as well as a way to provide the necessities of life. How do we employ everyone without growing the economy and using even more resources? There is no easy answer to that question, but reduced working hours could be part of the solution.

I think this would be the most painless way of transitioning to a steady-state or contracting economy. It would give people extra free time, that they could use to learn new skills, start small businesses, or just put toward the "household economy": gardening, cooking, sewing, etc. That could help make up for the loss of income.

But I don't see it happening as long as we are competing in a global economy. I think it will have to wait until globalization collapses.

A friend of mine is involved in an organization called, "Take Back Your Time", which discusses many of the issues being raised here. For anyone interested it can be found at:


Rockman, think about this maybe Americans could afford to only work a 30 hour week without the cost welfare programs. If we had full employment we would have less entitlement cost and lower taxes. WIth lower taxes I could afford more leisure time.

How do we get able bodied people, those that are longterm unemployed and those that were never employed to take available jobs even jobs they may not want to do?

even jobs they may not want to do?

The much bigger problem today is that employers don't want to offer them jobs. We also have to consider the sustainability of the work; give the average 60year old a job digging ditches, and he/she will soon develop physical disabilities.

Ok, I have an anecdote that has been told all though rural areas in my case in the South. Many medium to small farmers in the 1950's and 1960's used to drive into poor areas with a pick-up truck and blow the horn two times then drive off with a pick-up full of day workers. After Great Society programs (welfare, foodstamps, ETC) they couldn't fill the pick-up truck anymore. Now there were still available people that could do the work in the area but they didn't need the extra cash because the government had filled that need.

I would guess that you could probably connect the influx of illegal migrant workers to the retreat of poor young Americans from the fields of rural America, but it's all a consequence of government action. There have been jobs for Americans but government actions continue to have bad consequences. Obamacare for example will cost many more jobs. We need to learn from the lessons of Europe, not emulate Europe before it's too late, but if you look at our debt to GDP ratio in America it may be too late.

"(CBO) Director Doug Elmendorf confirmed that Obamacare is expected to reduce the number of jobs in the labor market by an estimated 800,000'

Anectodal stories like that are always available to prove someone's prior predjudice. I'd like to see some well documented study on such a story before making it the basis of any decision.

Mt right-wing-evangelical nutcase brother has a quiver full of nonsense stories to justify his self-righteous, hate-filled agenda. So do the local left-wing, anti-wifi, anti-smart meter, nutcases.

I would have to ask how old are you and what type of area do you live because it's fairly common knowledge that prior to the late 1960's poor American people in rural areas did the majority of farm labor that is now done by migrant workers from other countries. If that part of the anecdote is true, then the only discussion is what changed and why.

Doesn't it seem reasonable that if you no longer need to slave in the fields because you won't starve after Great Society entitlement programs were enacted that you wouldn't? I'm following the logic. Do you have a better answer?

"it's fairly common knowledge that prior to the late 1960's poor American people in rural areas did the majority of farm labor"

That includes me as well, picking contract cucumbers in Wisconsin. Man that sucked. A job fit only for robots. And if a "robot liberation front" showed up to picket I wouldn't be a bit surprised.

PVguy, I hated picking potatoes and okra. It's hard work but it's honest work that can teach someone to try as hard as possible to do something else. That's a good thing!

Picking 5 gal buckets of cucumbers as a young kid turned me into a lazy IT professional ;-)

A few guys responding to incentives to rise above does not make a succesful policy. Many more (in the old system) had no real way out/up. And doing such backbreaking work, its only a matter of time before some physical ailment (bad bad probably), ruins ones prospects. I don't regret giving the poorest segments of society a few options, I think it was the only "moral" thing to do. We used to have a saying, "there but for the grace of god, do I". Of course I was a Buddhist for many years, the concept of Karma would imply those who exploit the poor will end up as exploited poor themselves (perhaps even in the current lifetime).

EOS can you be specific about how you would get able bodied people on government assistance of all types to take available job in the area?

Or should we not try, because it may be "backbreaking work" or they may eventually have a "physical ailment"?

To be clear I'm talking about able bodied American's that are currently not employed being nudged into taking jobs that are currently done by migrant workers. Some of those entry level jobs are but are not limited to, various agriculture workers, roofers, packing plant workers, low level ship yard workers, ETC. I can tell you that on any given day I can take a ride by housing projects and see young men milling around with nothing to do within walking distance of a work crew of possibly undocumented workers that look pretty buissy.

I guess no one has a problem with this? Because these jobs are ok for latino's but it's too "backbreaking" for Americans. Is that mindset sustainable with the debt load that the US now carries?

The problem is not that the work is backbreaking or doesn't pay enough. The reason these jobs are undesirable is that they are temporary. Typically they are only for a few weeks.

I hadn't thought of it that way before.

So of course the reason the Mexicans are willing to take them is *because* they are temporary, and they don't want a permanent job tieing them down so far from home. They want to do the job, get paid, and get out.

Actually, most would probably rather have steady jobs. They just have to take what they can get.

One reason farms are having trouble getting the migrant labor they used to get is that many Mexicans are working at McDonald's or in construction instead. McDonald's actually pays less per hour than fruit picking, but it's steady work. You can send your kids to school, rather than dragging them all over the country, following the crops.

I worked the harvest circuit for a couple of seasons between college and Navy. Started out as a packer (most gringos didn't pick even then), and then drove forklifts. I , and many folks, liked it because it was good money, long hours, and there wasn't much time to spend it. We then had time off for a couple of weeks to do whatever we wanted. Just show up at the next job on time. When the season ended I was free to travel about with a wad of cash (if I was careful). A bit like fishing for crab, etc., I guess. I liked this type of seasonal schedule; work your butt off for part of the year, bank a chunk of money, then take part of the year off.

It can be a good job if you don't have a family. Last time I checked, fruit picking paid roughly twice what working at McDonald's paid.

My first job was picking nuts on a farm. I was a teenager living at home, so the fact that it was a temporary job didn't matter.

In Iowa, even city kids signed up in the late spring and early summer to detassel corn when they couldn't find other work. Hard, but it paid a bit better than flipping burgers.

So we should continue the status quo?

Leanan, the reason they won't take the temporary jobs is because they currently don't have to. It's as simple as that. All I'm saying is that if we make minor adjustments where we nudge people in the direction of those jobs and then we nudge the employers into not using migrant workers exclusively as they currently do, maybe we can get mainly young people solid work experience, work ethics, and a reason to move into the real workforce ASAP.

I can tell you that plenty of offshore rig workers went work as roughnecks, because it was a big step up from farm work and the timber industry. Heck they thought it was easy by comparison. The main problem I see is that people on this forum are finding excuse after excuse to not prod folks into available labor, so imagine how easy the excuses are for them when they would be the ones doing that labor?

I think most of us just don't see it as a big problem. Government benefits are limited, unless you are so disabled you can't work. Welfare and unemployment are temporary assistance programs, and there's a time limit on them. You can't live off just food stamps. People have plenty of incentive to work. Peak oil likely means they will have even more in the future. IMO, this is a non-problem. Or at least, way, way down on the list of things we have to worry about in an energy-scarce future.

I think the numbers that get thrown around are that 50% of Americans get some type of government income. That's a problem.

Yes in the 1990's Welfare had some limits placed, but what not widely known is that many families were switched to SSI. Low income children supposedly had mental issues or other learning disabilities that allowed them to simply transition from Welfare to SSI.

If as you say people have plenty incentive to go to work, then why don't they take the available jobs that we know are there? There's a rational answer there.

With Peak Oil being a biggie on my problems list my thought process as a rather upbeat prepper is that we can prepare people for peak oil and other catastophes. One of the ways I see to do that is by getting folks to have a stronger work ethic, because we are going to have to do some things we haven't done before in order to make it work as smoothly as possible.

I think for intelligent people on this forum that want to keep the status quo for the poor, because it's tied to they're past political leanings, when we all know whats coming is not compassionate at all.

If as you say people have plenty incentive to go to work, then why don't they take the available jobs that we know are there? There's a rational answer there.

There are lots of reasons. The people who need jobs are not necessarily where the jobs are. If I needed a job, I'd probably head to South Dakota. But not everyone can afford to do that, and I doubt it would be legal to force someone to move. People who are on unemployment have reason not to take a temporary job like fruit-picking, because they'd lose their benefits, and have nothing when the temp job ended. One way to encourage them to take such jobs would be to allow them to resume collecting unemployment afterwards, but with budgets as they are, I don't see that happening.

"One way to encourage them to take such jobs would be to allow them to resume collecting unemployment afterwards,"

See now we can agree. I know people that have turned down jobs because they had 3 months of unemployment checks still to collect and they didn't think the job that was offered them would last more than three months. People are currently boxed in because of logical choices being on the wrong side.

If your getting foodstamps, free school lunch, HUD assistance and unemployment and then you'll loose all of it if you take the RISK of getting a job, your putting a person in a bad situation where we reward them more to stay unemployed. That has to change! People shouldn't look at a job opportunity has a higher risk than government assistance. I think we can agree on that can't we?

I don't think it has to change.

It's temporary. Eventually, unemployment runs out. Is it such a terrible thing, that someone puts off taking a temporary job for 3 months?

Do these jobs come with creche facilities, and health insurance covering the increased risk from demanding physical work over long hours?

You're going to need a damn site more than a prod when you are offering temporary, poorly paid menial work with few benefits, and downsides that may be deal killers to some people.

In most cases, unemployment insurance is reduced for income earned after a claim, but how much is different by state (in a lot of cases it is one for one on the contemporaneous check). Typically temp work merely has the effect of pushing out how long one can collect, and making the paperwork more complicated. It actually has the benefit of creating additional income to draw unemployment later on a later qualifying period. LOSING your unemployment is a misnomer in many (but not all) circumstances. For instance, my sister successfully worked multiple short-term jobs during her period of unemployment from Jan 2009 until late in 2010. She still had a long benefit left (though it would have been nearly exhausted without the temp work) when she decided to go back and finish her 4 year degree 'full-time' (in which case she lost her unemployment, speaking of disincentives). Shortly after finishing her degree (she had less than a year left after a 5 year gap in schooling) she got a dream job as a city librarian (which is hilarious considering most of her coursework is in engineering). She had actually applied as a page while still in school and looking for something requiring limited qualifications, but they were so impressed with her resume and interview that they set her application aside and called her when they had an opening in a position usually going to library science folks.

By my lights, 100percent of the population receives a government income. I disagree that that is a problem; it is the purpose of government. Definition of your terms is important. You appear to wish to conflate receipt of government services with being a drain on society.

"I’m a Democrat. But I believe what Republican Abraham Lincoln believed: That Government should do for people only what they cannot do better by themselves, and no more. That’s why my education reform offers more competition, and more control for schools and States. That’s why we’re getting rid of regulations that don’t work. That’s why our health care law relies on a reformed private market, not a Government program."

- President Barack Obama, State of the Union address, 2012.

benamery21, I tend to mostly agree with our president on this one. Certain government services are a severe drain on society, infrastucture on the other hand can lead to major efficiencies that we all share in . Our society in America just as in some European countries are going to have some major pain as a result of our dependence on these services. The federal bureaucracy is an ineffiecient use of our resources just as it's been in almost every aging empire that I've ever read about. My hope is that we can have a nice soft landing where we may have less services, due to our lower economic standing in the world but at least we don't loose freedoms while gripping to the last throws of a failing empire.

The services our government currently provide are simply vote buying schemes or political paybacks to industry and the super rich, that has to stop.

I agree with Abraham Lincoln's statement. I add: 'no more and no LESS.' I maintain: 100% of Americans receive a government income today and that is as it should be, since provision of public goods (including but not limited to infrastructure) is a key function of government which it does better than the private sector. You appear to agree. I suspect that where we disagree is in WHAT things are better done by government than by the private sector.

I watched a new PBS series last night, part 1 of "America Revealed" called Food Nation. The series is a good look at the systems that sustain and move us around, and how screwed we are when these systems become unsupportable:

In this first episode of America Revealed, host Yul Kwon explores how this machine feeds nearly 300 million Americans every day. He discovers engineering marvels we’ve created by putting nature to work and takes a look at the costs of our insatiable appetite on our health and environment.

Well worth watching. One combine harvests 8000 bushels of wheat per day. Imagine how many humans that would take. Oh, I think we'll have plenty of work for the willing desperate.

America Revealed website.

Good find!

Perhaps we should repost the link down below with Leanan's permission; seems like relevant material. Many folks lose sight of the big pictures involving how massive and optimized our systems are, not to mention vulnerable. These farmers seem to get it. I especially enjoyed the GPS tracking of stuff like the bike pizza delivery guys in NYC. Comparing the highly specialized production of the perfect 'blooming onion' for Outback Steakhouse to the urban farmer in Detroit is a nice contrast as well.

That is an excellent program. Thanks for linking it here. It effectively highlights the vast scale and complexity of the industrial food system. While watching the credits at the end, I was struck by how many people were involved in producing the video and where our labor priorities are concentrated these days.

Thanks for posting. I wanted to watch last night, but was busy with other things.
The background music is so happy, and the people so smug - personally, I think it calls for the soundtrack from "Psycho".

One can't help wondering what happens when gasoline starts dropping out of the picture - an item which isn't mentioned at all.

a) A lot of that labor is waste
b) labor that ISN'T waste, like picking crops or some manual labor that you seem to suggest, is often run like slavery
c) the ones being idle and unemployed have some system of support, otherwise they'd be homeless, which more and more are
d) they don't have skills or experience in manual labor, which they could get, but no labor is absolutely unskilled
e) people that "aren't moving into the real workforce" usually aren't because there are no jobs - NO JOBS

The importance of b) can't be understated. Undocumented people and the very poor make up an easily exploited workforce. The laws are trampled on to say the least. Nobody who had ANY choice would do many of those types of jobs, because they will be exploited. If you want people doing this, PAY THEM.


Oil workers make a lot of money. As far as I can tell, the forestry industry is still employing (a small number of) people with good pay. But there just aren't many jobs in those two professions. Agriculture is a relatively small part of the economy in terms of numbers of workers, employing very few people overall. You can't employ everyone with these types of things right now unless you were to intentionally create work. And unless you force people into it, by arresting them or similar, a lot of people simply won't do work that is like slave labor as long as they have even a bad alternative. Even homelessness, in some cases.

Offer $25 an hour and people will RUN to pick tomatoes. Offer less than minimum wage... And they'll tell you to stick it where the sun don't shine. Does this surprise you? There is nothing right about paying people so little they can barely survive.

"Offer $25 an hour and people will RUN to pick tomatoes. Offer less than minimum wage... And they'll tell you to stick it where the sun don't shine. Does this surprise you? There is nothing right about paying people so little they can barely survive"

If you offer $25 an hour food prices will have to rise in order to accomodate that wage and that's fine. If people had little choice either take the wage thats offered or be very uncomfortable they would take the job and that's a right of contract issue between two adults that no one should intervene in.

Paying people less than what it takes to survive is very subjective. Henry David Thoreau proved that it doesn't take as much as we might think to survive or even thrive. With peak oil issues and/or possibly a currency collapse hits America people won't have a choice as they do now.

What I'm really talking about is entry level young workers that are currently idle being pushed into doing available work. That available work in todays economy is probably not comfortable but standing in a soup line for your meals for instance, may be less comfortable.

I have to go, later all!


Henry David Thoreau proved that it doesn't take as much as we might think to survive or even thrive.

And didn't he have someone pay his taxes for him?

The 'mandatory expenses' like taxes tend to be a burden.

We have to recognize that we have a percentage of working age people (say ten to twenty percent), that through visable or not so visible disability (including psycholgical ones), or simply not having learned any useful skills, are unable to be profitably employed at any "living" wage. If we are not tolet them starve, their existence has to be subsidized in some manner. We have such a person, that my boss employs out of charity, she empties office waste bins. It takes her a whole day, -but any able-bodied person would do the job in under an hour! So if we had enough charitable employers willing to take on such people as "loss-leaders" we would be covered. But, don't expect charity to cover this problem. That leaves government as the only effective solution. Note we could still make "jobs" for these persons, but given that the value of their output is less than their pay, its more like makework (and somehow society has to make up the difference).

Besides the wifi(microwave-RF emissions), and extensive privacy issues.

Most of these new smart meters are programmed not to give a credit for energy returned to grid. That can be a problem with underloaded reactive loads like electric motors used in poop pumps, compressors, etc, that may return some power back to grid.

I suspect the net over billing could be several percent, maybe more.
Additionally these meters are not suitable for grid tied PV installations.

Second, nearly all of them have remote power interruption capability. Thusly, your power can be remotely interrupted at any time, by the power co or by some hackers(it's just a matter of time). And your neighbors will be none the wiser unless they go inside your house or notice something odd.

This could easily inflict major losses on the electricity consumer. Spoiled food, disabled alarm system, toxic conditions in an aquarium, or worse.

Thirdly, unlike mechanical meters where the mass of the disk act likes low pass filter, these smart meters can be susceptible to RFI generated by the load, this could result in gross billing errors. Note: There is no way to real way to test for these types of problems in advance.

Lastly, these meters could easily be programmed to cheat(overcharge) the customers and a vast majority would be not aware of the fraud.

Mine worked fine (with PV) for three weeks until they replaced it with a net meter (which is harder to read). Almost all meters can run backwards. However reactive loads only draw negative power for a few milliseconds -maybe twice per 1/60th of a second period. A more legitimate concern (for some), is it will enable time of day (of spot pricing) of power (which is actually a good thing, encouraging overall better usage of the system). The reality of pricing is that public utility commisions cap the level of profit for the utility, so they can't on average charge more, i.e. with any billing method change some will gain and some will lose. And if you pay attention, you can almost certainly be on the win side.
The folks worried about RFI are delusional idiots.

Obviously electronic meters handle reactive loads and RFI correctly. There are a list of ANSI standards they're required to meet. If you don't trust it, just have a second meter put in... any electrician could do it. Meters are legal tools, and credible evidence of fraud/inaccuracy would be big news.

Remote power interruption is not as rare as I thought, as half of utilities are considering it: http://www.globenewswire.com/newsroom/news.html?d=79306 Half considering is a long ways from 'nearly all' though. Computer-controlled switchgear is already universal... if these things were that easy to hack it would already be a problem.

Some meters do net-metering, some don't, even in purely mechanical meters. I think many states have net metering requirements for PV installations, although that doesn't mean the power companies install net-metering universally.

Even if they don't use AMR disconnect feature, I'll bet good money that it is being ordered and installed on most of them. For instance, ALL of FPL's (4.4 million) new residential smart meters have both full disconnect and partial disconnect features installed.

I called up GE and talked to an engineer about the various undocumented ordering options, some of designations for the GE I-210+ are,

O = AMR,
V2 = Simple Voltage event monitor,
F2 = Demand limit,
J2 = Emergency Load reduction(same leg of 110V connected to both sides, no=220v appliance operation.)
U2 = Remote disconnect & Prepaid disconnect.

designed for a 5 to 7 year lifespan.

Lastly, replacing a mechanical filter(Al-disc) with an electronic filter(capacitor based) is almost guaranteeing early failure. (Just how many early cap failures have you seen in modern electronic devices 10,20,30%??)

You really are on a mission, aren't you.

"You really are on a mission, aren't you."

Who me? No I'm just bored.

Let's do away with all government, so we can have slaves in the fields again. That's the ticket!

"Let's do away with all government, so we can have slaves in the fields again. That's the ticket!"

See you guys always go to extremes when you have no argument. Maybe I'm tired of being a slave to the people on these programs. If asking an abled bodied person that's on government assistance to go to work when work is available is slavery, then you have a real problem.

I even think it borders on racism to say that working in the fields is ok for Latin migrant workers but the same work is slavery for American's. Is that what your saying?


No, that's not what I'm saying. You are being obtuse.

I guess I'll have to look up the definition of "Obtuse" now!

Please find another way to entertain yourself than posting "anecdotes" here.

Leanan, I've posted the link of the UC Davis study that shows people on AFDC live in the areas where work is available that's no anecdote. I'm sure I can find proof positive evidence other than that old study to back up my claim but my claims and anecdotes are common sense that could stand alone.

TOD wants scientific thoughtful content, well good. How can the people on the other side of this argument deny that we have to find approaches that work when dealing with our National Debt, and over population? If we put idle people to would rather than finding excuses, shouldn't the welfare state starts going in a direction that lowers the debt, if people are working all day and not getting rewarded by the government for having more children, then maybe the population declines will occur among lower income people.

We should incentivise good behaviour and have disincentives for bad behaviour, that's the same thought process behind cap and trade!

Probably most of us here would get behind eliminating incentives for having more kids.

But it's not going to happen. A shrinking population is seen as a problem, not a solution. That's why both parties are pro-immigration: natural born citizens aren't reproducing fast enough to support the growth paradigm.

As for AFDC...that program is no more. It's 15 years dead and buried. Why argue about it now?

Twenty-five years ago young Americans had a chance.

In 1984, American breadwinners who were sixty-five and over made ten times as much as those under thirty-five. The year Obama took office, older Americans made almost forty-seven times as much as the younger generation.

This bleeding up of the national wealth is no accounting glitch, no anomalous negative bounce from the recent unemployment and mortgage crises, but rather the predictable outcome of thirty years of economic and social policy that has been rigged to serve the comfort and largesse of the old at the expense of the young.

Read more: http://www.esquire.com/features/young-people-in-the-recession-0412-3#ixz...

Please take your boredom out on some other demographic. My generation is already going to be eating your generation's sh!t for the rest of our lives [global warming, endless war, erosion of rights]. Stop calling us lazy. If you want us to get a job, how about you stop hogging all the opportunity?


You just reminded me of what it is like to search for work in the midst of a recession. A few years after I came back from Vietnam I "knew" that I was going to go to work for Univac......Univac "knew" that I was going to go to work for Univac. Six weeks before I was due to get out of the Marine Corps, Univac announced a corporate-wide hiring freeze due the the recession of 1974. Not having had the foresight to having a fall-back position, I ended up working for a subsidiary of RCA in Thule, Greenland. Not only was that not a very lucrative assingment, to add insult to injury, I got there in the dead of winter (total darkness). That experience did teach me to always have some plan and sense of what I would do if my current employment suddenly expired.

I really don't think a debt jubilee is possible, not even gradually. One man's debt is another man's asset. Wiping out debt would mean destroying assets and every bank would go bust. Also there would be no money to loan to anyone. The vast majority of homes are bought with debt, ditto for cars and even office space. All private construction would stop. Millions of construction workers would be unemployed.

Since I believe what you describe in essence is what I call BAU and as I see things, BAU, is patently unsustainable, therefore I guess that all of what you say will come to pass, perhaps not voluntarily... call it collapse, tipping point or some other name if you prefer.

The current economic paradigm is already kaput! If something more sustainable doesn't rise to fill the void then it will be game over regardless.

Best hopes for a new paradigm.

It hadn't occurred to me that Americans were more wealth-obsessed than the rest of the world, from such an early period.

First time I look back at TOD and there is this. No surprise though, about our long-term obsession with money. Learned that way back in college, in American History I. It was called the "Weber Thesis" and detailed a theory that Protestant Theology from the earliest days of our presence in America drove this.


Well, back to reality. Will check back in a week or two.


For what it is worth the obsession with money & status is far worse in India. It is a very corrupt country where you cannot trust anybody unless they are inside your circle of family and friends. Those who are somewhat high on the ladder ruthlessly exploit those who are below them. The rich cheat on taxes and no one ever gets prosecuted or goes to jail. Bulk of the public funds meant for infrastructure development and helping poor people are stolen.

At least the rich Americans give a lot of money to charity. Bill Gates and Warren Buffet have pledged to give away most of their money to charity. Rich Chicago families donated much of the lakefront property to a trust hundred years ago. Now that land contains beautiful parks, museums, picnic areas, bike paths & jogging trails which are open to everyone. There is no comparable culture of charitable giving in India. Outside the Zoroastrian community, very rich Indians give hardly any money to charity.

Thanks for the perspective.

Would you say that the caste system restricts people from considering themselves to have any responsibility beyond their immediate circle? Do you know anything about why the Zoroastrians have such a different perspective?

There is no "caste system" in India as such any more. Anybody can do anything as long as they have money and power. Thanks to the quota system in educational institutions and government jobs, and one person one vote democracy, there is now a large class of "lower caste" people who are in positions of power. When they are in power they are as ruthless, greedy and unethical as anybody else. However there is still a correlation between caste and class (similar to the US where there is a correlation between class and race).

I think the issue is that for a majority of Indians their loyalty to their family and extended family takes precedence over anything else. There is an obsession to create a large inheritance for your kids so they don't "suffer" like you did when you were a kid.

Another issue is that there is no fear of the law. The police and judiciary is corrupt, witnesses can be easily bought and the criminal justice system is a big joke. It is very rare for someone to go to jail for corruption and nobody ever goes to jail for tax evasion. You can commit serious crimes and it can take decades to get convicted; if you get convicted you can file an appeal and buy a few more decades. In the meantime you would be out on bail. A few years ago a famous movie star got drunk, drove his Toyota Landcruiser over poor people sleeping on the sidewalk, and killed a few of them. He was convicted, but is out on bail while his appeal is pending. He is busy making a lot of money and enjoying his life. There are many such stories.

Suyog is correct in saying that caste system does not work the way it did 200 years ago. It's a big hotch-potch nowadays, but it still exists and has an iron grip over the society, marriages outside your caste group are still rare outside the big metropolitan cities and one can get killed if one dares to marry one's 'love' if they happen to be from outside one's 'caste'.

In many rural areas dalits(the lowest caste) still can't enter places of worship or drink water from wells and still engage in manual scavenging. Voting is also mostly according to caste. As in people vote for their caste leaders first. The major improvement one can see today is that lower castes now have more economic opportunities of starting businesses or migrating to the cities where caste boundaries are less visible, this would have been impossible even 100 years ago.

So it's not like it's disappeared altogether and as FF's decline and society goes though a pinch, I'm sure it will rear it's ugly head again.

Zoroastrians (locally known as Parsis) also have tight knit family structures and clan loyalties, though they do not have any classifications within their society. They are also very secretive about their religious practices, outsiders cannot enter their temples and see their rituals.

"marriages outside your caste group are still rare"

That is where I have encountered it--a friend from India who was looking for a bride but had to deal with trying to find someone in his own (sub-)caste. I do realize that the caste system was officially abolished, but these things have a tendency to persist in various ways.

IIRC, obligations to help the poor are basic tenets of the Zoroastrian faith. I don't recall if such obligations are prominent in the major Hindu texts.

I don't recall if such obligations are prominent in the major Hindu texts.

Yes it's there. Actually Hindu literature is so vast that you will find anything under the sun in there. Ground realities may differ though.

"Hindu literature is so vast that you will find anything under the sun in there"

Good point.

The only Indians I've known were expats working in high tech. These are mainly high caste. They would complain about the quotas based upon caste membership, which made things very competitive for those of high caste. Many would go the Europe or America for college or grad school.

zaphod42, thanks for that reference.

"Calvinism, Weber argued, changed the spirit of capitalism, transforming it into a rational and unashamed pursuit of profit for its own sake."

Now Calvinism has run amok and the pursuit of profit for its own sake has become irrational. Oh what shall we do?

Many foreign visitors to the Colonies note a total obsession, by Americans, to become richer.

That's not too surprising. In most of Europe in the 17th century, you were born into your station of life, and there was essentially nothing that could be done about it. In Yankee America, there was a reward for working hard and being business-savvy.

Total war against the South (ex: the burning of Atlanta) by the North reflected a violent industrialized mindset that couldn’t conceive of any other way of life than its own.

Nope. Total war is pretty standard in human civilization. The winners kill all the post-puberty males, enslave/castrate the pre-puberty males, and take the women and property. Sherman's March is just another Mongol invasion or Tawantinsuyu ("Incan") conquest. Laws of War, war crimes, and POW conventions are new inventions in human history. (And good ones, too.)

Somewhat unnervingly, we are the descendants of the successful murderers, rapists, pillagers, and slaveholders. Their victims rarely passed on their genes.

The most enduring of hierarchical cultures on this planet (I'm thinking, Chinese, Indian, both of which lasted little changed for thousands of years) had very strict class boundaries based on birth. The Indian Caste system being the extreme example. Does the success of the society depend on the strict hierarchy, or does the hierarchy need thousands of years of stability to evolve? Or maybe a bit of both?

You don't call Britain an enduring hierarchical culture? It may not be as old as the others you mention, but at a thousand years it still is pretty "enduring" with only the brief interruption of Oliver Cromwell.

As for hierarchical cultures producing successful societies, I would only observe human nature is corruptible regardless if it is attired in robes or not.

Don't forget the cannibals! Yeah, we're descended from a righteous lot. And it'll be ugly again when the food runs out.

"Somewhat unnervingly, we are the descendants of the successful murderers, rapists, pillagers, and slaveholders."

Good point. And as such, we have become experts at rationalizing our (and their) crimes to assuage our consciences.

Nobody's ancestors are blameless all the way back through history, so the crimes of our ancestors are irrelevant.

A person should be judged only on their actions, for those alone they have control over.

Nobody's ancestors are blameless all the way back through history, so the crimes of our ancestors are irrelevant.

Irrelevant to my blame and innocence? Sure. Irrelevant to a proper understanding of history and humility in advantages? Not at all.

Nicely put.

Good point, I'm just referring to the popular trend of "inherited blame" that keeps the pot of violence boiling in so many parts of the world.

1. Is Berman correct in his assessment of the American people and their future?

2. Is the problem not mainly with the top 1% but with the bottom 99%- as Berman maintains?

3. How will American CULTURE respond to Peak Oil?

When I was about ten years old (many decades ago) my father acquired from somewhere an issue of Fortune magazine which had an article in it about the differences between the U.S. and France. I remember one way the writer described it: "When a Frenchman sees a chauffeur-driven limousine drive by, he dreams of the day when the passengers will have to walk like everyone else. When an American sees a chauffeur-driven limousine drive by, he dreams of the day when he will be the passenger."

Now this attitude can certainly be construed as a worship of wealth, so in some ways Berman is correct in his assessment of the American people and their future. But I don't think he is quite right. I've lived for significant lengths of time in Australia, Denmark, Indonesia, the Philippines, U.S.A. and Mexico, and have visited a number of other countries for short periods. I don't think the endless pursuit of material things is a unique American characteristic. It is perhaps more successful in the U.S. than in other countries due to the relative weakness of tradition, and to the cultural melange, at least in in most of the big cities. This worship of wealth is not a peculiarly American flaw, it is a human flaw.

If the problem is a human problem, it is a problem at all levels of the society: from those in limousines (or in private jets, to bring the metaphor up to date) to those who have to walk (or in today's America, travel in the highly subsidized public transport). As the 99% are far more numerous than the 1%, they are the main part of the problem.

In the past, American culture has responded quite robustly to economic disasters. The Great Depression spawned the New Deal, for example. As the U.S. has far more resources than any other country of comparable size -- the ability to feed itself, for example -- I think when Peak Oil really hits home American culture will be more resilient than many people think. When Peak Oil has unmistakably arrived, cutting oil consumption will take place in an almost automatic fashion. People will start to walk, ride bicycles, car pool, work from home, drop out of the workforce, etc., just as a reaction to rising prices or rationing. It's happening already.

Other countries will not be so lucky, and I think Berman's move to Mexico will prove to be a disaster: Mexico is clearly unable to feed its present population, and the people are unlikely to give up food and fuel subsidies easily.

"In the past, American culture has responded quite robustly to economic disasters."

...enabled almost entirely by increased resource consumption and debt. What now? The idea that we'll all start walking or riding the bus, or start sharing things, is at first obvious; folks won't have much choice. The idea that this will somehow limit the magnitude of economic regression and social change required to reach some new equilibrium is fantastic, IMO. "The bigger they are, the harder they fall" applies. Welcome to the biggest economy, and largest debt bubble (by far) in history.

While trying to understand how we got to this point may be useful in an educational sense, any thoughts that we can somehow back out and try again by a different path have limited usefulness. We have, quite literally, burned the bridges that got us here.

As the U.S. has far more resources than any other country of comparable size -- the ability to feed itself, for example -- I think when Peak Oil really hits home American culture will be more resilient than many people think.

You are talking about food production - not resources. Food produced (today's model) will go to the highest bidder. AFAIK it is not produced for charitable purposes i.e., the local community.

In any case, do you honestly believe that industrial food production will not be limited by oil scarcity? I think a more accurate comparison might take into account sustainability of food production within the constraints of soil depletion, peak oil and climate change.

The point about America having more resources and better technology at its disposal still makes sense. Post-peak decline will not happen smoothly or without conflict anywhere, but at least in the U.S., we have more and better options than just about anywhere else.

There are places that won't feel oil's decline as sharply. Norway

Some will have no clue if some elsewhere "civilization" stumbled.

The wealth is concentrated to the few in America. The few possess the well-equipped guardians of their lifestyle, enforcers of their will, and criers of their "news". America is already a fascist police-state. Great efforts are being made to add "theocratic" to that description. Being able to fund the creation of an even deeper dystopia may be the genesis of scary-bits remembered in future fairy-tales.

America's population is dis-joined by so many factors... each point a nucleus for the possible condensation of separate camps.

Americans are armed to the teeth. Americans are kept dumber than a bag of hammers. Americans are fed a brain-popping diet of hate, fear, and outrage. Now... remove the restraints...

America has been cashed-in. The hope being held out to the masses is that they can win the race to the bottom of the world's pay-scale in a landscape newly unprotected from exploitation and ruin.

If I were young and full of the future, I would get out of here.

The desire for wealth may be a universal human urge, but it is one more highly esteemed, valorized and romanticized in America than most other places (and times). One hears very little about sin in general in modern America (except perhaps for certain sexual practices), and even less about avarice being one of the seven deadly sins. I think it was Daniel Quinn who noted how infrequently the passage about considering the lilies of the field is quoted from pulpits in the US.

Turning desire from wealth, something looked down on in most cultures in most periods, from a sin to the highest goal of homo-economicus is a unique feature of western culture which has now spread world-wide with horrific results.

I have a general set of thoughts that goes to all three questions. Like many on TOD, I'm a big fan of Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel, and believe that much of his historical analysis is relevant to these questions.

American colonists sensed immediately what they had: a vast frontier that was essentially a virgin version of Europe, to be had but for the running off of a few pre-industrial natives (numbers greatly reduced by disease and warfare) and less well positioned European colonial powers. The founding fathers sought to constitute a society that explicitly modeled the Roman Republic (with explicit designs of Empire as well), but with adequate checks on government power and a commitment to democratic principles that would incentivize individuals, thus attempting to avoid the errors that brought Rome down.

So Americans obsessively pursued wealth because they were sitting on a pile of wealth that they could obsessively pursue: timber, fertile soils, minerals, fossil fuels, precious metals all close at hand in a familiar temperate climate. The scale of available resources was such that anyone willing to work hard could be accommodated to great wealth or at least a level of material comfort not available in picked-over Europe.

As to the last question, I think it may take a while longer but America will become more like Europe: built out, picked-over, and increasingly stressed for available capital wealth. The economy will rationalize and become increasingly efficient and individuals will respond to the new environment as the obsessive pursuit of wealth becomes unseemly and untenable.

Collapse is also possible, I guess, but it seems a little unlikely because America's store of capital, while less than the time when a few millions clung to the Atlantic coast, is still very large. It can withstand a few unexpected shocks. Will we get more than a few? Time will tell.

"So Americans obsessively pursued wealth because they were sitting on a pile of wealth that they could obsessively pursue"

Wellll, weren't the Native Americans "sitting on" the same "pile of wealth," and yet they did not "obsessively pursue" them, by and large.

Clearly, something more than mere availability is involved here.

Wellll, weren't the Native Americans "sitting on" the same "pile of wealth," and yet they did not "obsessively pursue" them, by and large.

This is where the Jared Diamond thesis is most explanatory, in my opinion.

Native Americans were well on their way to exploiting the American resource base, having developed very large societies rivalling in population the great cities of Europe (see for example the book 1491). But the domesticable plant species had nowhere near the productivity of the strains originating in the Middle East, and Native Americans did not have beasts of burden, forcing these societies to rely to a much greater degree on human labor for agriculture, digging with wooden tools. So their societies were delayed in industrializing compared to Asia/Middle East/Europe - their obsessive pursuit of wealth was constrained to a crawl.

The arrival of European explorers further brought diseases to which the natives had no resistance, decimating the native populations in a very short period of time. The result: lightly populated and, from an industrial perspective, untouched land. Let the grabbing begin!

Interesting... but I wonder about the characterization of native culture into a "delayed industrialization" package just to prove a theory. After all, there exists a whole spectrum of cultures, many of which are not fixated on accumulation of wealth and dominion over the landscape. In a sense it was this misunderstanding and concomitant superiority complex that led to unobstructed destruction of diverse cultures leading to monoculture.

In a sense it was this misunderstanding and concomitant superiority complex that led to unobstructed destruction of diverse cultures leading to monoculture.

I'll concede I could be pushing the 'native industrialization' point a little hard. It is speculation to assume native americans would have 'raped and despoiled' the land if european colonials hadn't beaten them to it.

I would be a little careful though about assuming the opposite i.e., that native americans lived harmoniously within the Garden of Eden until the white man showed up and trashed the place.

"I would be a little careful though about assuming the opposite i.e., that native americans lived harmoniously within the Garden of Eden until the white man showed up and trashed the place."

Especially when we know they didn't. Diamond's book has at least two case studies of native civilizations outstripping the capacity of the local or regional environment to support them, even claiming that one reason the American southwest is so arid is because of the devastation wreaked on the area by earlier civilizations.

Be these were all local/regional. Most of those that survived to the point of Western contact had learned how to live sustainably in their region, as far as I can see (although the Iroquoi did seem to have expansionist tendencies).

The world, and even generally localities and regions, can fairly quickly recover from short-term over exploitation over a limited area. It cannot readily recover from the universal destruction currently being visited upon it by our now-global consumerist industrial ff-driven society.

"I would be a little careful though about assuming the opposite"

Good point.

cinder-block . . alcohol . . TV

Exploding Chippewas

JD, bless his heart, is a basically a materialist (particularly in GG&S, so he looks for materialists explanations for things. And when you look for something hard enough (and when you are as smart and ambitious as JD is), you usually find it.

But in Collapse, though, he certainly admits that societies that recognize that they are reaching resource limits, and who adjust their societies accordingly, tend to survive longer than those who just plow ahead without recognizing or responding to said limits.

I don't think we should ever ignore materialist arguments; they just rarely give the whole picture.

1. Yes
2. No, it's all americans in the pursuit of wealth
3. How are they responding?, should be the question because it is our current situation. Buying more fuel efficient vehicles is the trend, and as prices rise the trend will continue, but even though someone cannot afford to pay more for fuel they will continue to dream of having enough to own a Hummer. That gets back to #1.

I agree with his assessment on american greed and the reduced interpersonal connections that occur as a result.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: If you think Jimmy Carter said something different about energy, go back a actually read those speeches. They are 100 percent exactly the same as what "leaders" are saying today. Carter said we had more oil at home than exists in Saudi Arabia, if only we'd develop that "shale oil," i.e. that keragen. He said our problem was "foreign oil," not the demand for oil. He said we could not consider changing our lifestyle or our emphasis on "the market" or our reliance on automobiles. I'm not exaggerating. Go back and look.

Carter was a self-cancellation, as everybody at the time knew. He also escalated the Cold War before Reagan took over. Putting solar panels on the White House was a genius ploy, as it succeeded in keeping most greens from paying attention to how utterly conventional Carter's actual analyses and proposals were.

The fact that Berman can't get such simple history correct tells you all you need to know about how he works. He's got his story and he's sticking to it, the facts or the standards of evidence in social science be damned.

Carter 14Apr1977 address to the nation:

Many of these proposals will be unpopular. Some will cause you to put up with inconveniences and to make sacrifices.

Please point out the inconvenience and sacrifice part that Reagan, Bush, Clinton, etc pressed on about.

While your at it, please tell us how this fits in with anything you said:

The world now uses about 60 million barrels of oil a day and demand increases each year about five percent. This means that just to stay even we need the production of a new Texas every year, an Alaskan North Slope every nine months, or a new Saudi Arabia every three years. Obviously, this cannot continue.

Please point out the sacrifices Carter proposed or the policies he recommended that had any serious chance of altering the rate of oil use. There are none. He was right about the trajectory of the problem, but entirely unserious about addressing it.

In 1977, he proposed goals, not policies, and the goals were utterly pathetic. Meanwhile, this: "We need to shift to plentiful coal." And this: "Economic growth must continue."

In 1979, he was even less specific, and added in the keragen schtick: "We have more oil in our shale alone than several Saudi Arabias." Hurray!

Interestingly, even in the 1977 speech, when it came to reducing the demand for oil, the only question is which was worse -- the weasel-wording or the laughable scale of the proposal. "Reduce gasoline consumption by ten percent below its current level." "Reduce," of course, is not "cap." And ten percent? Ten percent?


You're moving the bar. "..That had any serious chance.." pretty slippery new demands to meet there..

He spelled it out, he did what he could, wore the sweater, put up Panels, brought down the thermostats at the WH..

But we do have a choice about how we will spend the next few years. Each American uses the energy equivalent of 60 barrels of oil per person each year. Ours is the most wasteful nation on earth. We waste more energy than we import. With about the same standard of living, we use twice as much energy per person as do other countries like Germany, Japan, and Sweden.

One choice is to continue doing what we have been doing before. We can drift along for a few more years.

Our consumption of oil would keep going up every year. Our cars would continue to be too large and inefficient. Three-quarters of them would continue to carry only one person -- the driver -- while our public transportation system continues to decline. We can delay insulating our houses, and they will continue to lose about 50 percent of their heat in waste.

We can continue using scarce oil and natural [gas] to generate electricity, and continue wasting two-thirds of their fuel value in the process.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/primary-resources/ca... .. and was being roundly tarred and feathered for it.

Carter, like any politician, has to float their ideas, try to get them through.. but Presidents are there to work with Congress and Navigate the 'art of the possible' amid public perception and the political climate. None of them is a king.. they can tell some truths, they can try to razzle dazzle, and flatter their way to public acceptance.. but they can't make people do what they don't want to do, or somehow teach them things that the rest of the society is furiously working to keep them from learning.

He made a braver stab at it than anyone so far, but as we all know, the assumptions of the country and the corporate power structure had other ideas. I think you need to have a more realistic understanding of what the role is, and what constraints that position carries with it.

Yes, we should all appreciate the constraints of being the President of the United States, especially in a thread with a topic of how idiotic every citizen is! Seriously? Wow. You beg understanding of constraints and situations in the case of the most power single person in the world, all while concurring with somebody who denies all discussion of situations and constraints to Joe Sixpack, not to mention Joe Blackpack.

You are quoting the abstract background, and I do not deny that Carter cared to some degree, which is the exception to the rule of corporate politics.

But the point stands: As you yourself have to admit, he himself shot his own feet off, and also participated in the very forces that hate the whole idea of energy sanity.

The interesting fact that seems extra appropriate here is that the American public were something like 90/10 in favor of a serious discussion of energy conservation in 1976/1977. Again, go back and look. I am old enough to remember it. Carter's pathetic response pleased nobody. He was a triangulator, like all Democrats.

P.S. Carter is still alive, as he has been for decades post-WH. Where is his present radical demand? Nowhere, that's where.

You've clearly not been paying attention, then.

Most of the public activity he is engaged in has been radical, from Building a System for creating housing for the poor, to election monitoring, to the Israel/Palestine peace process..

"Nowhere, that's where.." sorry, that's simply willful ignorance.


"I picked up Jimmy Carter's new book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid at San Francisco airport, and zipped through it in a day. It's a good, strong read by the only American president approaching sainthood. Carter lists the outrageous treatment meted out to the Palestinians, the Israeli occupation, the dispossession of Palestinian land by Israel, the brutality visited upon this denuded, subject population, and what he calls "a system of apartheid, with two peoples occupying the same land but completely separated from each other, with Israelis totally dominant and suppressing violence by depriving Palestinians of their basic human rights".

Carter quotes an Israeli as saying he is "afraid that we are moving towards a government like that of South Africa, with a dual society of Jewish rulers and Arabs subjects with few rights of citizenship...". A proposed but unacceptable modification of this choice, Carter adds, "is the taking of substantial portions of the occupied territory, with the remaining Palestinians completely surrounded by walls, fences, and Israeli checkpoints, living as prisoners within the small portion of land left to them".


The Carter Center today announced its support for the Declaration of Global Principles for Nonpartisan Election Observation at the official launch of the document at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. The declaration was developed through a consensus process with representatives of domestic monitoring groups from West Africa, Southern Africa, East Africa, the Middle East and North Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe and Eurasia, and Latin America and the Caribbean.

May I kindly ask what your perspective is on this. How old are you?

I sort of understand your viewpoint on the Dems in general. The lack of courage from those that should be leaders in these issues is depressing. But, I believe you are judging unfairly the only president that paid any serious mind to the issue of overconsumption and lack of global supply. He was well hated for it.. tarred and feathered for it he was.

Carter was the only President in my memory (or anyone's) who actually *tried* to sell the public on the idea of reduced consumption and conservation. And as so many others have pointed out, he was villified and run out of office for it. And consider who replaced him.

There are enough *real* villains out there (Darth Cheney anyone?) without us having to treat the few good politicians out there as though they were villains.

He spelled it out, he did what he could, wore the sweater...

And even that laughably modest program was a (political) bridge too far. He was soon replaced by Reagan, and the pendulum (wrt LTG) swung massively in the opposite direction.

Carter created the Cabinet level Department of Energy.
The 1978 Energy Act included PURPA (required utilities to buy power from cogens/renewables and pay at least avoided cost). It also included tax credits for residential solar (my father took this credit for solar DHW and also insulated the house), wind, and geothermal. The credits were increased in 1980 using money from oil company windfall profits taxes (which were eliminated in 1988). It also instituted the gas guzzler tax on individual cars. It also included the Natural Gas Policy Act, which ended natural gas shortages (among other things) by allowing wellhead natural gas prices to rise briefly spurring increased production and reduced consumption, until the effects of the Powerplant and Industrial Fuel Use Act (which effectively stopped construction of non-cogen oil/gas fired power plants) caused consumption to drop dramatically, and prices fell farther. FUA was reversed in 1987 which caused natural gas consumption to trend upward. In 1981 Carter's NHTSA noticed a schedule for increasing CAFE standards to 48mpg by 1995. Reagan reversed it 3 months later.

U.S. oil consumption did not exceed 1978 levels until 1998.

I agree with Berman, but I don't feel proud of it.

Don't shoot the messenger!

So, why do you bother? If he's right, if ordinary Americans are hell-bent on perpetuating BAU and would reject any chances to make any meaningful changes, why read things like TOD? If Berman is correct, aren't we all going to insist on burning all the oil and/or WWIII?

For that matter, what evidence do you have to support such a radical conclusion? When has there ever been open access to the information and choices in question? When has basic infrastructure and energy policy ever been subject to robust democratic debate? When have popular preferences been as organized or as powerful as corporate lobbying in this (or any) area?

The only answer I can think of is that you somehow think people could have spontaneously plugged their ears against all the corporate propaganda and independently discovered and elected and pressed into action some un-named representatives who were above cashing in and would have blocked the heedless pursuit of cars-first transportation and cities. Not seeing this, you conclude, with Berman, that we all bear equal blame.

Either that, or Berman is wrong.

The irony is that, by concurring with Berman, you deny the very possibility that, when the cracks in the status quo get bigger and more burdensome, ordinary people just might rise up and rebel, as you expected them to do when everything seemed to work as promised. Built-in defeatism. Just what we need.

Steve Jobs stayed in the same house and drove teh same car as a billionaire that he had when he worked at NeXT and was a middle class shlub like me.

Until the last year of his life, it was still possible to go around the alley and enter his house through the back.

This is not to say that American culture isn't materialistic. But as a naturalized American, I know first hand just how the rest of the human race is just as bad.

Dang, C8... That's a lot of sub-threads to your post (must be close to a record!! :)).

IM (very average) O, I believe the term "Peak Oil" will never enter mainstream discussion. Why would it? TPTB will always counter, "There's plenty of oil" and my fellow Joes and Janes will believe it; what's the alternative? To be honest, a better phrase (other than PO) needs to be tossed up to describe, "End of easy oil".

Cheers, Matt

On President Carter:

I do not take seriously any assertion that his presidency was significantly different than any other post FDR president.
While he spoke differently and was somewhat pragmatic, he was a true neoliberal (using the accepted wikipedia definition).
On oil, no one here needs to be reminded of the Carter Doctrine and the Reagan Corollary to it.

As much as any one man at the rudder can be responsible, he shares in where we have steered the ship of state (or allowed it to head by inaction). Other first worlders have done/are doing the same. Neoliberal (called neoconservative in the US) politics won-- that fight has been over. I do not think victory will be something to cherish in the long haul. This isn't partisan politics any more, these are matters of history. Some may gasp and clutch their pearls in claims of party loyalty, but that's such a waste.

As for the questions, my $.02 isn't worth much, but Berman is probably mostly correct. He's spot on with Q2. As for Q3, no one can say. It'll either be a period of unity like WWII or dystopian fantasy come true.

Thanks for the write-up.

Thanks all for a lively, informative, thoughtful, and thought-provoking discussion.

Space Policy Expert: Companies should buy land on moon, planets

"For those wondering if mining bodies in space would be profitable, the moon has vast amounts of water ice, helium-3 and graphite. This would generate billions of dollars in profits and settle some of the resource shortages (in the short-term), such as the shortage of helium-3, which has forced the price to soar from $150 per litre to $5,000 per litre."

There is, of course, another angle on this other than reources. I listened to a radio interview Mr Simberg gave, where he said that, if billionaires could buy land on other planets, they could "continue social experiments" (such as Libertarianism) up there outside of existing regulation.

Here's a thought for the day : are billionaires planning on leaving Earth for other planets ?

Moonbase 3 : The next private club ?

are billionaires planning on leaving Earth for other planets?

Now there's an idea I can really get behind! What could possibly have a better impact on Earth than to load some billionaires onto rockets and send them off the planet?

What could possibly have a better impact on Earth than to load some billionaires onto rockets and send them off the planet?

They could employ the phone sanitizers on the Golgafrinchan "B" ship.

For the first colony to be established on another planet, I would hope we designate Newt Gringrich as the "Emperor" and Rick Santorum as the "Pope". This might be a good use of taxpayer funds, kind of the way the Britsh sent their felons to a penal colony in Australia.

However, enroute to their new home, they must orbit Venus several times to get a good feel for what happens when you have too much CO2 in the atmosphere.

Why should such important and worthwhile individuals be made to settle for grubbing in the dirt on a lowly planet? They are made for greater things than that. They should be given the most important body in the solar system, let them establish the first colony on the sun.

This might be a good use of taxpayer funds, kind of the way the Britsh sent their felons to a penal colony in Australia.

Hey - I'm a seventh generation descendant of those British felons ... and we have done pretty well. Best taxpayer spend in history, I reckon.

"True patriots all, for be it understood,
They left their country for their country's good."

Ruling their empires from afar and exporting resources to sustain them would generally make things worse.

In a related story, the following item was posted on EnergyBulletin today.

Get your subterranean doomsday condo — while supplies last!

More about people selling old missile silos. Not news here. The part that caught my attention, though, was this :-

"But more important, we should consider what Hall’s silos represent: His clients — undoubtedly some of the most influential people in their respective communities — are essentially checking out.

Andrew Szasz, a sociologist from the University of California at Santa Cruz, noted this trend in his book "Shopping Our Way to Safety: How We Changed from Protecting the Environment to Protecting Ourselves." Americans, he observes, increasingly believe that if they buy things like bottled water, duct tape for sealing windows, sunscreen, and organic food, they can insulate themselves from threats in society and the environment. The problem is that this “inverted quarantine” provides a false sense of security, and it doesn’t help people address problems that are best tackled collectively."

I've long been of this opinion - that running away from the peak oil/climate change problem is short-sighted, at best. At some point, one has to come back and deal with real life.

In a way, it ties in with the lead post - people who came to the "New World" found what they considered to be an empty land, for the taking. Never mind about indigenous people. Folks have been running from their problems for as long as they could appropriate someone else's territory.

At some point, we have to acknowledge there is no place left to run.

Even if billionaires relocated to the moon, the rest of us would be wrestling with the same unsolved problems, right here on Earth.

NYT OpEd by Joseph P. Kennedy II:

The High Cost of Gambling on Oil

THE drastic rise in the price of oil and gasoline is in part the result of forces beyond our control: as high-growth countries like China and India increase the demand for petroleum, the price will go up.

But there are factors contributing to the high price of oil that we can do something about. Chief among them is the effect of “pure” speculators — investors who buy and sell oil futures but never take physical possession of actual barrels of oil. These middlemen add little value and lots of cost as they bid up the price of oil in pursuit of financial gain. They should be banned from the world’s commodity exchanges, which could drive down the price of oil by as much as 40 percent and the price of gasoline by as much as $1 a gallon . . .

Eliminating pure speculation on oil futures is a question of fairness. The choice is between a world of hedge-fund traders who make enormous amounts of money at the expense of people who need to drive their cars and heat their homes, and a world where the fundamentals of life — food, housing, health care, education and energy — remain affordable for all.

"Affordable for all." No discussion of any constraints on global oil supplies. The implication is that, if we banish the evil oil speculators, we can have reasonably priced oil forever--presumably for the many billions of people who may "need to drive their cars and heat their homes."

I read this too. Over on "Decline of the Empire" Dave has been talking about speculation boosting prices for a while. Somehow I can't believe that 40% of the price is in speculation, especially when these high prices are global, and with the WTI/Brent spread being clearly linked to lots of oil being stuck at Cushing for the time being (the Seaway pipeline is planned to be reversed before the end of the year, and that's just the beginning).

There just ain't enough to go around at $60 a barrel. Maybe speculation is pushing prices by 10%. Maybe. But 40%? Get real.

I'm sure they'll eventually make it illegal, and then find out it doesn't help, then they'll find something else to blame. I don't expect people to "see" that oil production can't rise until we're into a decline phase. Right now everything is going in to try to keep up supply for liquid fuels, they're even starting GTL, which will just steal one resource to make another. Would they be producing oil sands if there was more than enough oil? Would they even so much as suggest GTL? I don't think so. The price is fundamentally due to intense demand and limited supply.


Since the thread appears dead I'll post here if that's OK.


"... the French oil major planned to carry out a successful "dynamic kill" on the leaking G4 well...by the end of this month. Total had said it would take weeks of preparatory work, including several helicopter flights to transport equipment onto the rig, before a procedure to kill the well could begin. Total plans to pump mud into the well to stop the gas leak after a reconnaissance team found that conditions were safe enough to allow the operation."

Well I sure wish them good luck and hope for a safe effective kill job!

wildman - Yep...lots of luck. When was the last time you were next to a well blowing 7 million cf of NG into the atmosphere around you and the word "safe" popped to mind? LOL.

I was once near a blowout well which was blowing 100 million cubic feet of gas per day into the atmosphere, the gas was 30% hydrogen sulfide, and the word "safe" didn't pop into my mind at all. "Survival" I think was the word uppermost in my mind.

The well control company our company hired tried to drop the drill pipe down the well so they could cap it, but it wasn't successful. The drill pipe went 400 feet into the air, hit the rigging, caused a spark, and a quarter square mile of knee-deep condensate went up in flames. The two well control employees who released the pipe brakes survived, but you've never seen two guys in asbestos suits run so fast in your life.

They had already had two employees killed by the H2S, so our company told them they were not going to put the fire out but cap the well while it was still burning. They didn't feel they were up to that challenge, so management fired them and brought in Boots & Coots, who were up to the challenge. It took a few months but they did it. My brother has the videos, they are very entertaining (but probably not coming to a theater near you any time soon.)

Rocky - I'm sure you're as amazed as I am about the lack of coverage. Total certainly has no interest in daily updates. Even when I was in Africa hooked on Al Jazeera there was little coverage. The MSM is following their mantra: if it ain't bleeding it ain't leading.

I just can't stop wondering what Wild Well is paying those hands.

Rockman, yes it is amazing how little news coverage the TOTAL blowout in the North Sea is receiving. I guess it's the total lack of oil-covered birds and fuzzy animals that reduced MSM interest in it.

I don't know how much the well control companies pay their workers, but I suspect it's pretty good.

During the monster blowout I described, the local men who did most of the grunt work learned a lot about putting out well fires. Somewhat later, after Iraq invaded Kuwait and set all the oil wells on fire, they went to Kuwait and spent a lucrative 8 months putting out the oil well fires there. After our blowout, extinguishing the Kuwaiti wells must have seemed like a walk in the park to them.

They were putting out about 1 well per day - get up, have breakfast, set up the equipment, have lunch, snuff the well, cap it, have dinner and go to bed. Repeat daily for 8 months. At the end of it all, go home, buy that new house your wife always wanted, plus a new 4x4 for you, and pay cash.

it is amazing how little news coverage the TOTAL blowout in the North Sea is receiving. I guess it's the total lack of oil-covered birds and fuzzy animals that reduced MSM interest in it.

Or like the people who the other day were complaining about the "now another problem with Fukushima" posts it is possible the people who track what coverage keeps people watching have determined the public has 'had enough' of bad news about oil leaks and decided to not cover the event.

I assume that you and the Rock have seen the movie "The Hellfighters," based Red Adair, and starring John Wayne, but for the benefit of readers, it's a good movie and one of the fires they put out in Indonesia was a high concentration hydrogen sulfide gas well.

Back in the Sixties, my father took me to a slide presentation by Boots or Coots, I don't remember which one, on the wells that Red Adair and his team had put out. It was very impressive.

Actually, I have never seen the movie, "The Hellfighters". I have only seen the real thing, and then only by video. They don't like a lot of people standing around too close where they might get killed - and there were two people killed capping this blowout.

The real thing is very impressive, although there were months of prep work leading up to the big event. They had two guys walking behind a big metal shield about the size of the side of a barn, carried by fireproofed, tracked vehicles, with a bunch of fire hoses on (tracked fireproofed) cranes pouring water on the shield and everything else around, with the water flashing to steam instantly.

Then, a tracked, fireproofed crane rumbled up, lowered the new wellhead onto the well, and the two guys bolted it in place with a 100-foot flame roaring out of the top of it. Then, after everything was firmly bolted in place, they closed the valve on top, and *POOF* the fire went out. Big round of applause.

I don't know if "Hellfighters" was anything like that.

You can watch the Imax Fires of Kuwait in four parts.

At about 5:20 of Part 2 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=whxPMsArp64 you can see them "raise the plume".

Part 3 has some good video of them capping a well.

Good Point! Safe as possible,,, maybe?

I much rather intercept the blown out well downhole and kill it from a rig sitting a mile away. In my formative years I would volunteer for the high pressure kill jobs, snubbing (rig assist) jobs but now, not so much.

That is why IF the flow is up through the 30" conductor AND if the surface pressure is 5 bar, the simplest and safest way to kill the well is to hot tap it just above the mud line. Down 300 feet below the surface there is no oxygen to support combustion and the hydrostatic head is greater then the pressure inside the conductor, so you won't get flow from the inside outwards.

You could do that with an ROV and a drill from one mile away.

EDIT - You guys will probably be interested in the court proceedings regarding the Deepwater Horizon.

Lots of juicy news there!





Just flood it with groundwater in other words?

Not ground water, sea water.

One point that has become obvious to me is the way the system sets incentives for successful well control efforts. There is a disincentive for doing a quick, effective job (i.e. being a "well asssassin" for all you DWH veterans) if you are paid on a time and materials basis as a well control contractor. Look what I did to the balance sheets of Red Adair et al in Kuwait! "Raising the plume" meant a job that was supposed to take four years was finished in 8 months! Good for the Emir of Kuwait, bad for Red Adair's bottom line.

Look at DWH. The government's plan, which BP had agreed to, was to do a brief well integrity test as a way to evaluate the ability to put some backpressure on the wild well as they made the intersection with the relief well. This was so that the heavier mud in the relief well did not simply run down the relief well, then up the wild well and spew out onto the sea floor, resulting in a blowout of the relief well too! DOH!!!!

So based on my nagging, they left the capping stack closed through "Hurricane" Bonnie and when it survived, they were more open to my static kill idea. The static kill worked just as predicted!

At a government estimated 52,000 bpd flow and a fine of $1,100 per barrel, BP saved a minimum $57,200,000 per day for each day they did not have to open the wellhead to re-attach the Rube Goldberg oil collection system.

What did I get? NADA!

Given that those in the industry learn on-the-job, they tend to be mimics. They are NOT original thinkers. As such, they are very poorly adapted to novel situations. DWH had issues with the floor of the relief well being nearly a mile above the wellhead of the wild well. Here we have the opposite, an opportunity to take advantage of having the "floor" of the de facto relief well at 9 barg and 300 feet below the wellhead of the wild well, making a kill that much easier. But will anybody have the IMAGINATION to be able to see that?

"Gas prices, now averaging $3.92 a gallon, may have peaked"

Um, have we even switched to summer blend yet? I seem to recall that being good for a 5-10% price bump.

Bill Reinert: Conference on World Affairs Q&A

1. When do you think we will reach peak oil?

I was thinking probably in 2021 or 2022 -- maybe a little bit earlier. We've probably shifted that back five years because of all the shales (that are being fracked or that may be used in the future for oil shale production). You shouldn't let that lull you to sleep. It's only a respite, not a reprieve.

I think even a lot of peak oilers are in denial. We are definitely on the peak oil plateau right now whether you agree with JODI or the EIA data. And all the data from the EIA, IEA and BP agrees that oil available to all importing nations peaked in 2005. That is the one very important point no one is paying any attention to.

Ron P.

That is the one very important point no one is paying any attention to.

I think that perhaps 0.1% of the world might have some degree of understanding of "Net Export Math," which is not to say it's a difficult concept--just extrapolate two exponential functions, and subtract--but we all know what Dr. Bartlett said about exponential functions.

But even people who have some understanding of Net Export Math tend not to understand how rapidly we are depleting post-2005 Global Cumulative Net Exports of oil (CNE), or they basically choose to ignore the numbers, which I suppose is understandable. Net Export Math tends to freak out even Peak Oilers.

Of course, the solution is to destroy economies' ability to use up their own resources. We've seen Africa kept under-developed for centuries, Iraq's infrastructure was set back a decade or more, even "cooperative nations" have been kept in check, with the resource wealth reserved mainly for the participating elite. Iran? Afganistan? FSU states? While globalisation has interfered somewhat, I expect that this mentality is alive and well, especially in the west and China. There are lots of ways of accomplishing this task.

Then, again, when the inevitable comes and the little people can't afford the basics, you get 'Arab Springs' and such; coming soon to a Walmart near you.

Coming soon to Greece. I'm looking forward to the May elections. I suspect they will not make the EU happy. The place is on the verge of a revolution already, if it doesn't happen peacefully through elections it will happen on the streets.

What's amazing is that it's become so that Europe is actually willing to impoverish it's own South in the name of finance... Modern global financial capitalism is dead, has been since 2008, and eventually the corpse will rot and it will be cremated or buried.

I think you are right, it requires a sort of 'second order' thinking. If you just fit a Hubbert Curve to world oil production, the large size of the reserve base can imply a function that can be at or near the peak for a fairly long time, maybe 20 years. Maybe we can even goose the plateau a bit with unconventional plays, GTL, CTL, biofuels, as long as world economies can accommodate a structurally higher price.

But the plateau changes the game, right? Now it's a zero-sum game, and the ELM model hints that the winners will be exporters (as long as they can continue to export) and those countries with economic wind in their sails (e.g. China and India, with Brazil and Russia as resource players).

I'm working on updating our global net exports paper. Some more C/P numbers. I am using "Cowboy" integration to estimate post-peak Cumulative Net Exports (CNE). Net export declines tend to show a shark fin pattern, so I simply take the net exports at peak, converted to annual volume, times the projected number of years to zero net oil exports (C/P ratio hits 100%) times 0.5 (to get the area under a triangle).

I summarized three former net exporters (IUKE, Indonesia, UK & Egypt) and then I compared the predicted C/P values for Saudi Arabia and for GNE in 2010, based on 2005 to 2008 rates of change, to actual values in 2010:

(For the 30 second version, skip to the bottom.)


1991-1994 C/P ratio increased from 42% to 52% : Three year rate of change: +7.1%/year

Projected to hit 100% in 13 years. Est post-1991 CNE: 2,300 mb.

Actually hit zero net oil exports in 12 years (2003). Actual post-1991 CNE: 2091 mb


1999-2002 C/P ratio increased from 59% to 69%. Three year rate of change: +5.2%/year

Projected to hit 100% in 11 years. Est Post-1999 CNE: 2,400 mb.

Actually hit zero net oil exports in 6 years (2005). Actual post-1999 CNE: 1,203 mb


1993-1996 C/P ratio increased from 45% to 55%. Three year rate of change: +6.7%/year

Projected to hit 100% in 12 years. Est post-1993 CNE: 1,120 mb.

Actually hit zero net oil exports 17 years (2010). Actual post-1993 CNE: 1,337 mb

IUKE Summary

Sum of predicted post-peak CNE for IUKE: 5.8 Gb. Actual value: 4.6 Gb. Actual post-peak CNE value was about 80% of predicted sum of post-peak CNE.

Two current examples, plus ANE:

Saudi Arabia:

2005 to 2008 C/P ratio increased from 18.0% to 22.0%. Three year rate of change: +6.7%/year

Projected to hit 25.2% C/P ratio in 2010. Actual value in 2010: 28.1%.

Based on 2005 to 2008 data, Saudi Arabia would be projected to hit 100% in 26 years, in 2031. Est. post-2005 CNE would be about 43 Gb. Post-2005 Saudi CNE for 2006 to 2010 inclusive: 14.6 Gb, which is about 34% of predicted Saudi post-2005 CNE (based on 2005 to 2008 data).

Global Net Exports* of oil (GNE)

2005 to 2008 C/P ratio increased from 26.9% to 29.2%. Three year rate of change: +2.7%/year

Projected to hit 30.8% C/P ratio in 2010. Actual value in 2010: 31.1%.

Based on 2005 to 2008 data, GNE would be projected to hit 100% in 49 years, in 2054. Est. post-2005 Global CNE would be about 410 Gb. Post-2005 Global CNE for 2006 to 2010 inclusive: 80 Gb, which is about 20% of predicted global post-2005 CNE (based on 2005 to 2008 data).

*Top 33 net oil exporters in 2005, Total Petroleum Liquids, BP + Minor EIA data

Available Net Exports** of oil (ANE)

2005 to 2008 Chindia net imports as a percentage of GNE (CNI/GNE) increased from 11.2% to 14.4%. Three year rate of change: +8.4%/year

Projected to hit 17.0% CNI/GNE ratio in 2010. Actual value in 2010: 17.6%.

Based on 2005 to 2008 data, ANE would be projected to hit 100% in 27 years, in 2032. Est. post-2005 CANE (Cumulative ANE) would be about 197 Gb. Post-2005 CANE for 2006-2010 inclusive: 68 Gb, which is about 35% of predicted post-2005 CANE (based on 2005 to 2008 data).

**GNE less Chindia's combined net oil imports

What does it all mean?

The three case histories, of former net exporters, suggest that in total projecting the initial rates of increase in the C/P ratios tends to produce optimistic projections.

If we project the initial three year rates of increase in the ratios for Saudi Arabia and the world, and for ANE, the actual values in 2010 were all in excess of what the 2005 to 2008 data projections suggested, in other words, the projected values were also more optimistic than the actual data.

In any case, let's imagine that the total volume of post-2005 oil that would be (A) net exported from Saudi Arabia; (B) Net exported around the world and (C) Net exported to importers other than China & India are in three big tanks: In tanks A, B & C. The 2005 to 2008 projections, which have been on the optimistic side already, show that these tanks are presently depleted (through 2010) by the following percentages:

Tank A (Saudi Arabia): 34% depleted

Tank B (GNE): 20% depleted

Tank C (ANE): 35% depleted.

In five years.

Scary stuff. It must be gratifying to you that some mainstream media are now on board with your Export Land Model. In my opinion (assuming it continues to pan out) you should be up for some prize - much more so than Obama getting the Nobel Peace Prize.

However, should countries such as Saudi Arabia be able to see what's coming and change destructive behavior like subsidizing their internal oil consumption? Numbers don't lie, but behavior could change. I believe Sailorman had mentioned this possibility.

Denmark is a case history of a net oil exporter, showing a production decline, that taxes fuel consumption and that has "successfully" cut their consumption. Their 2004 to 2010 rate of change numbers (BP, Total Petroleum Liquids):

(P = Production, C = Consumption, NE = Net Exports.)

P: -7.5%/year
C: -0.5%/year
NE: -18.0%/year
C/P: +6.8%/year*

*C/P ratio increased from 48% in 2004 to 72% in 2010, which implies that Denmark will approach zero net oil exports in 2015, versus net exports of about 0.2 mbpd in 2004. Denmark is one of 21 of the top 33 net oil exporters in 2005 that showed declining net oil exports from 2005 to 2010.

Sweden lose one of its 3 main suppliers in 3 years from now. Oh well, lets put our hope on Norway and Russia.

Is there any chance of having access to your numbers on the expected projection of net exports by country. Do you have numbers for 5, 10 years from now? And/or for 2020?

I am considering working with others to publish a public report on current and expected oil exports and your calculations would be very helpful. I will give you full attributions on the information.

I am working on projects designed to counter the challenge from oil depletion. Your information would both help us to promote the projects and provide insight in to the amount of shock and dislocation which might be expected due to the time required to scale up the projects.

The economic crisis in many nations lowering demand has pushed back the effects of peak oil. The shale plays are a result of high oil prices because, they would have never been drilled if E&P companies didn't know that even higher prices were coming soon to a pump near you.

We'll see I recon!

It may be that "the economic crisis in many nations lowering demand" is an effect of peak oil rather than has "pushed back the effects of peak oil"...

I think that may be true, but the effects of poor macro economic and fiscal policy from western countries is catching up to us. We've switched our main energy sources before and we can make adjustments in the future, but all of these problems hitting at once is very dangerous.


Am I correct in assuming, from what I've learned here on TOD in the past few years, that the plateau, since 2005, is being maintained by producing products with the use of extraction techniques that have very high depletion rates??

Well that is perhaps half of it. But also very high prices have enabled deep-sea drilling and sub-salt drilling that was not profitable when prices were much lower. Also high prices have enabled fracking and recovery from very small reservoirs that was not profitable with lower oil prices.

High oil prices have lead to near heroic efforts to produce more oil.

Ron P.

jarhead - Eating lunch now so I'll jump in on Darwin's possible answer. More than just production techniques IMHO. Consider Deep water GOM: many of the production methods used are decades old. But the nature of offshore production, especially DW, pushes companies to max production rates at the expense of URR. The capex costs are so high they need the rates to reach an acceptable ROR. So you get multi 100's of thousands of bopd added overnight it seems. OTOH most of those fields deplete to a great degree in 5 to 7 years. But as the new fields come on they replace the old fields. But as with every trend the day will come when there are few if any new fields coming on line and the plateau will lose that bit of support.

The shale plays appear to be supporting the plateau to some degree...even giving a bit of a bump up. Again, the horizontal and frac tech isn't new. And the plays have been known for decades. But high prices (NG initially...not so much now) made the tech and such plays viable. As well as the demands made of public oils that have little other opportunities then these plays. As long as prices stay high these plays will help maintain the plateau. Of course, now only for oil...NG under $2.50/mcf won't hold a NG plateau. But the same rules apply for the oil-rich shales: they need the price support. But there are also two potential problems with their plateau support IMHO. First the obvious: there are a finite number of locations to drill. Once most of the economically viable Eagle Ford/Marcellus/etc locations are drilled the plateau support stops. But there also appears to be some weakening capex support for continued development even at today's high oil prices. Between the high capex requirements, high decline rates (and thus lower cash flows) and perhaps less capital available to borrow, we may see a slow up in drilling. Add that to the 50% to 90% decline rates of most of these trends their contribution to the plateau could slide very fast.

For all the hype about new tech and new plays the plateau has developed more as a response to prices IMHO. Horizontal holes, big fracs and shale production won't build a plateau when oil is selling for $40/bbl. But even if prices were to hold (or increase in the case of NG) there are still a finite number of wells left to drill. At some point there will not be enough new tech, enough new trends or high enough prices to support drilling prospects that don't exist. And thus arrives the end of the plateau IMHO.

I know that Rockman has repeatedly discussed the number of holes and the amount of capex invested in US production. That was driven home (again) in the recent New technologies put Kansas on cusp of oil boom article. 3 wells per square mile, $700M investment this year.

smash - In a way the public could take some satisfaction in such booms. Besides generating some additional energy for the country, these plays represent a huge wealth transfer from the oil industry to the citizens through lease and royalty payments as well as some local jobs. And the state get's a share of the pie from production taxes. Many public companies have benefited greatly from higher oil prices. These plays offer the opportunity for much of that revenue to be transferred from the shareholders in those companies back to the public.

And keep an eye on those "midnight haulers" trying to dump those nasty frac fluids on the ground. Not sure but I think Kansas has some good regs in that regard.

These marginal plays do involve a huge transfer of money from oil companies to ordinary citizens. Unlike Texas, in Alberta, the government owned most (but not all) of the mineral rights, so the oil companies (usually) didn't have to pay the landowners for mineral rights, they only needed to get a surface lease from the relevant farmers for 4 acres for their wellsite and access road.

However, as they wound up the deal for surface rights, the landman would usually say, "By the way, do you have any sons who might be interested in working for an oil company?" Usually the farmer did, and the oil companies liked this because the farm boys were used to working long, hard hours of manual labor for free. Unlike their fathers, the oil companies were willing to pay actual money to employees who didn't mind doing a little hard work under difficult conditions.

So, the oil companies got employees who were used to working hard and didn't quibble about a little extra overtime, and the farm boys made more money than they could ever make down on the farm. Some of them even ended up being presidents of multibillion dollar oil companies, but that that's just what happens when you are ambitious and are there in the right place at the right time, and don't mind hard work.

"Midnight haulers" there was something in the news or paper awhile back on spreading dirt from drilling over pasture in Kansas ?

Vapor – Not sure what a Kansas midnight hauler is but in Texas it’s a tanker truck that illegally dumps nasty liquids on the ground: anything from salt water to frac fluids. I’ve spent $million over the last 36 years properly disposing such liquids. It might cost me $2/bbl to have the liquid hauled and $5/bbl to have it injected in a disposal well. So a 200 bbl tanker might cost me around $1,400 to get rid of the nasties. But instead of hauling it to a disposal well the truck stops on the side of the road at 2 AM, drop a hose into a creek and dumps the load in 10 minutes. Then the hauler pockets the $1,000. Easy money. And as the operator I’m not responsible because I paid the market price for disposal and the nasties didn’t belong to me when they were dumped. Texas and La, try to keep this process certified to cut down on cheating and it works rather well but not perfect. Crooks do find ways. And they do get caught from time to time and often with the help of oil field hands…were often on the road in these wee hours. I’ve mentioned in many times: I’ve helped bust two midnight haulers. And we do it for a simple reason: many of us have families that drink well water every day.

Also I've spread drill cutting and water based drilling mud across pastures 100's of times. All very legal and not harmful as long as you comply with the regs. Typically I'll pay the landowner to do it: he can usually do it cheaper than anyone else. But if the drilling mud is oil based it has to be hauled off and disposed of properly.

Rock,I don't see it as much as I used to but running down highways I've seen a liquids trail for miles usually a couple of inches wide and dry.I oten wonder if illegal dumping was done by electronic dump valves as there would be breaks in the trail only to resume.

vapor - Could be intentional but also just poor maintenance. Many liquid haulers rate right up there with some gravel haulers as far as poor equipment goes. Dribbling liquid while going down the highway would be easy to be seen by authorities unless it was at night on a quit road.

This may distress a lot of people, but disposing of drilling waste by spreading it on farmers land is a legitimate way of getting rid of it.

Drilling mud is largely bentonite clay, and if you put it into farmland, it improves the water holding capacity of the soil. Sure, there's some oily waste involved, but if you put some oil eating bacteria into the soil and turn it over every so often, it will turn into highly fertile dirt. There might be some rock cuttings in it, but topsoil usually contains some rocks anyway, and they don't make much difference.

We used to do soil tests on the farmer's land to determine the exact amount of oilfield waste it needed, plow it in, add fertilizer to improve the soil fertility, turn it over a few times, and give it back to the farmer. After we did this a few times, the farmers were lined up to dispose of our drilling waste because their crop yields were so much higher afterward.

Unlike in Rockman's case, we were allowed to dispose of oily waste on farmland because of the oil-eating bacteria approach. You just pour the oil on the dirt, add the oil-eating bacteria, turn it over every so often to aerate it, and after a year or so the oil is gone and it's all dirt. It's what nature does with oil seeps, but we were more scientific and efficient about it than mother nature.

I had to do a double take when I saw this

Dong Energy to Spend $794 Million Turning Fossil Plants to Wood

At first blush I was wondering if a Petrified Forest had been sold....

Decision-making can and must be learned -- new test measures risk intelligence

... It emerged from these tests that highly-educated individuals often have difficulty interpreting information on risk probabilities. “However, if we want to have educated citizens who make decisions based on information, we need people who understand information about risks,” explains the scientist. Seen in this way, risk intelligence is just as important a skill as reading and writing. “Fortunately,” he adds, “it can also be learned.”

In fact, as the researchers discovered over the five years of testing various tasks, risk intelligence is closely linked with mathematical skills. They designed their test accordingly: all three tasks are based on the field of percentage calculation.

"Berlin Numeracy Test" Are you risk literate? Take this three-minute test and find out!

Take this three-minute test and find out!

Well, it was 3 minutes just because the site is unbearably slow. Too many folks taking the test right now..?
It took it at least one minute to respond with a new question. :/

Congratulations on completing your statistical and risk literacy test!

Your numeracy score is better than about 75-100% of all college educated individuals. Roughly, this means that out of every 100 people who take the test, you will do better than about 90% (90 people) of all other people. This is the highest score one can receive on this test.

This result didn't make me happy at all. 90% will do worse than me? On those easy-peasy questions?? No wonder we as civilization are deeply in the doodoo... :-S

I suspect anyone who is both numerate, and understands basic statistical inference will ace the test. And most others will blow it.

I thought there would be more about how poorly humans natural wetware weighs relative risks, i.e. a risk of something that we can vividly imagine always seems much much more probable, than a risk of something that doesn't so exercise the imagination. I don't think being numerate is much of a shield against this effect, although being able to think in terms of numbers/algebra and having some confidence in the math sure helps.

And we have psycholoical studies that show even highly math numerate people typically pick a typical answer over a more general answer (which includes the special case picked as more likely). The famous test case involves Linda, who was a smart liberal college graduate, and is now a bank teller. Which is more likely
(a) Linda is a bank teller.
(b) Linda is a bank teller who is a feminist.
(c) Linda is a bank teller who is not feminist.
Most people choose b, when in fact P(a)=P(b)+P(c), i.e. we can easily Prove a is correct! The test was completely orthogonal to both of these pschological properties.

Are we sure the answers to two questions is statistically significant? :-)

My thought exactly. But when people flatter you, don't interupt them.

"Indeed, your levels of numeracy reflect a skill level that very few people ever achieve… one that is the result of considerable practice."

Remember that these aren't multiple choice questions, you actually have to type in the correct answer (percentage). The odds of getting both correct answers by typing in two random percentages is 1 in 10000.

Is this Berlin Numeracy Test adaptable based on immediate performance? I only received two questions.

Your numeracy score is better than about 75-100% of all college educated individuals. Roughly, this means that out of every 100 people who take the test, you will do better than about 90% (90 people) of all other people. This is the highest score one can receive on this test.

Unfortunately risk intelligence is discouraged in industrial culture. Rather, risk-taking and the prospect of growth and "making it big" are rewarded. The powers that be want you putting your savings into the artificially-propped up stock market, bonds that are returning negative interest, or loans for things that you don't need and will just bury the world deeper into debt. Risk be damned!

Unfortunately, our systems have grown to the point at which they may be too big to manage responsibly with this risk-on mindset. They are now out of control and the fact that risk intelligence is noticeably absent in both our leadership and our citizenry just adds insult to injury.

That test reported that I am the most statistically literate person in the world. I think they should have said among the most ...

After question 1 (something about "preaching to the choir" I think...) I could readily determine that the rest of the test was way too risky to take, therefore IMHO, looks like my risk assessment skills are outstanding!

I just hope "getting at least one of the questions right" was considered average. Otherwise i'm going to have to go away and pretend to cry for humanity.

You made me curious. I intentionally only answered one right, and got this:

Congratulations on completing your statistical and risk literacy test!

Your numeracy score is better than about 50-75% of all college educated individuals. Roughly, this means that out of every 100 people who take the test, you will do better than about 2/3 (66 people) of all other people.

Technically, relative to the general population, you are quite statistically literate.
Based on your score, you are not very likely to experience the extreme difficulty most people have when faced with common types of statistical thinking.


Oh. My. God.

Rage against the machine

April 2012 marks the bicentenary of the high-water mark of the Luddite rebellion – but new research suggests that the movement may be celebrated for the wrong reasons.

For historians, the revolt has traditionally been seen as a watershed moment in which the industrial working classes made their presence felt as a political force for the first time. This supposedly laid the ground for later reform movements, such as Chartism, as well as the Trade Unions.

Now a study by Richard Jones, a research student at the University of Cambridge, suggests that Luddism may be celebrated for the wrong reasons. He argues that it was not a movement which represented the concerns of the working classes at all – rather those of privileged professionals with disparate, local concerns. In a British textile industry that employed a million people, the movement’s numbers never rose above a couple of thousand.

Jones believes that this smallness of scale reflects the fact that Luddism was far from a genuinely pan-working class movement. Instead, Luddites were skilled workers – a relatively “elite” group, whose role had traditionally been protected by legislation regulating the supply and conduct of labor.

Interest in Gourmet Fungi is Mushrooming

... With shiitake mushrooms selling for $12-16 per pound, a relatively small investment of work can yield a tidy supplemental income. With 100 inoculated logs per year, and each log producing for three years, an annual gross income after four years would be around $6,000, Mudge said.

"There have been very few attempts to grow lion's mane [mushroom] as a forest farming crop, and we think it has a lot of potential. It's considered a real gourmet item," he added. "We see it as a great way that a mushroom farmer can diversify."

He will introduce farmers to the cultivation of shiitake and lion's mane mushrooms at Camp Mushroom, a two-day workshop at the Arnot Teaching and Research Forest, April 13-14.

Someone I know had dozens of logs in his back yard growing Shiitake (and other, iirc) gourmet mushrooms. The city cracked down on him, but I believe he found some other properties to use for his mushroom farm.

I believe these are quite straightforward to grow, provide high-quality protein, and can be very tasty '-)

There is an annual mushroom class every spring at a local community center. Folks bring their logs and set up an assembly line to plug them with shiitake culture. I have several down by my creek. It's easy as long as you don't let your logs dry out. A guy I met at the workshop makes good money with his ricks of various 'shroom logs; uses drip systems to increase yields.

Were trying morels this year; much more difficult, and lucrative.

I have shiitake in flush now.

Morels have symbiotic mycorrhizal relationships, although some act as saprotrophs possibly.
They are almost impossible to domesticate, although the Chinese have claimed they have.

Sorry, but I can't help but see this as just another get rich quick scheme in your big backyard.

They come and go like clockwork...the one I'm recalling now, besides ginseng, was ostriches. We're not in Australia. The hype was: Sell feathers, meat, eggs, birds!!! Booths at the trade shows. One enterprising soul blasted the radio waves with ads each spring, targeting farm wives, to buy for Father's Day. "you may think he has everything, but this year, give him the bird." Quite cute, but it did get old.

From Fed. Reg. US Boosts Middle East Oil Deals in Israel

... The United States Department of Commerce (DOC), International Trade Administration (ITA), U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service (CS), is organizing an Executive-led Oil and Gas Trade Mission to Israel, October 27-October 31, 2012. This mission is designed to be led by a Senior Commerce Department official. The purpose of the mission is to introduce U.S. firms to Israel's rapidly expanding oil and gas market and to assist U.S. companies pursuing export opportunities in this sector.

In 2009 and 2010, the greatest natural gas discoveries of the decade were made off the coast of Israel: The Tamar and Leviathan fields. These fields may have the capacity to support Israel's domestic gas consumption with reserves left for exports, and related platform chemicals. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that there are 122 TCF of recoverable gas in the region, most of it in Israeli waters.\1\ In March 2012, another offshore discovery was made by Modiin and Adira Energy northwest of Tel Aviv, with an estimated 1.8 TCF of natural gas as well as oil.\2\

... The Committee on Energy Policy, recommends setting aside 50 percent of the Tamar and Leviathan gas resources for export. Final decisions on exports will be made in the coming months. All natural gas export facilities will be located in areas under Israeli control. Opportunities exist for prospectors, operators, pipeline construction, logistical services and ship manufacturers. Technical training services are required to build a workforce and there are opportunities for academic cooperation with local universities and colleges.

... In March 2010, the U.S. Geological Survey reported that there is an estimated 1.7 billion barrels of recoverable oil in Israel\3\. The World Energy Council estimates Israel's shale deposits could ultimately yield as many as 250 billion barrels of oil\4\. In May 2011, the Russian energy company Inter RAO announced that it had received a license to develop oil shale resources in the Negev desert.

... or we could just invade them

....so is it oil shale or shale oil? Just askin', since most folks don't know the difference.

From the link ...

Sizeable deposits of oil shale have been discovered in various parts of Israel, with the principal resources located in the north of the Negev desert. Estimates of the theoretical reserves total some 300 billion tonnes, of which those considered to be open-pit mineable are put at only a few billion tonnes. The largest deposit (Rotem Yamin) has shale beds with a thickness of 35-80 m, yielding 60-71 l of oil per tonne. Generally speaking, Israeli oil shales are relatively low in heating value and oil yield, and high in moisture, carbonate, and sulphur content, compared with other major deposits. Following tests in a 0.1 MW pilot plant (1982-1986), a 1 MW demonstration fluidised-bed pilot plant was established in 1989. In operation since 1990, the generated energy is sold to the Israeli Electric Corporation, the low-pressure steam to an industrial complex and a considerable quantity of the resulting ash used to make products such as cat litter which is exported to Europe.

Throw in the water requirement [you'll find a lot in the Negev Desert], and the 250 billion bbl estimate is pure BS. Doesn't look like they're sitting on another Ghawar

Ghung - Sounds like kerogen: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/mining-energy/oil-shale-reserve...

"The extraction process involves heating the rock underground, using electric heaters, to approximately 325C, the level at which the carbon-carbon bonds in the rock start to "crack". The oil produced by the process is light and easily refined to a range of products, including naphtha, jet fuel and diesel."

Note:"...if Harold Vinegar and his colleagues get their way. Dr Vinegar, the former chief scientist of Royal Dutch Shell, is at the centre of an ambitious project...". Probably not a coincidence that he's former Shell. Likely using that as part of his pedigree in the effort to raise capital. Just MHO but the article it sounds like a promoter's fantasy. From what I could tell so far they've produced one small vile of oil.

I like Schlumberger's description of kerogen: "The naturally occurring, solid, insoluble organic matter that occurs in source rocks and can yield oil upon heating. Kerogen is the portion of naturally occurring organic matter that is nonextractable using organic solvents. Typical organic constituents of kerogen are algae and woody plant material. Kerogens have a high molecular weight relative to bitumen, or soluble organic matter. Bitumen forms from kerogen during petroleum generation." I especially like the "...is nonextractable..." portion of the the description.

Thanks, y'all. Kerogen was my take; just making sure we had our perspective straight. EROEI of maybe three? CO2 debt about like brown coal? Dr Vinegar is the perfect name for this scheme's promoter :-0

Ghung - Given AFAIK that no one has built a commercial kerogen conversion operation yet I would say a EROEI of 3 is a tad optimistic. LOL, I also caught a note in the report that the Israel oil shale isn't as good a quality as our Green River Shale. That's certainly encouraging.

If I recall the numbers from a presentation by Shell systems analysts correctly, then yes, EROEI of about 3:1 for their in situ process, assuming electricity for the heaters and refrigeration from a combined-cycle NG-fired plant at 60% thermal efficiency. I am more concerned about the absolute size of such a project rather than about EROEI: again from memory, a million-barrel per day operation would consume just about as much electricity as is currently generated in Colorado. No matter how you produce that much power, it's an enormous drain on other resources in and around the Green River basin.

If you assume wind/solar/nuclear for the electricity, then the total CO2 probably isn't much worse than any other petroleum-like liquids. Maybe better than heavy crudes, since the in situ processing yields pretty light stuff, leaving a lot of carbon in the ground.

I'm still on the page that you've got to be truly desperate to try to squeeze liquid fuels from the kerogen deposits. And that you're better off following electrification paths away from BAU, rather than continuing along the liquid-fuel road.

Satellite proposed to send solar power to Earth

Artemis Innovation Management Solutions has been given some seed money by NASA to look deeper into a project the company first proposed last summer; namely, building a satellite that could collect energy from the sun and beam it back down to Earth to add to the electrical grid. Building such a satellite has been bantered about for several decades by various groups and scientists, but until now, no one had come up with a design that would work given all the constraints of the time. But now, an idea proposed by longtime NASA engineer John Mankins, now with Artemis, has clearly created enough interest within NASA that some money to investigate the idea is being offered.

EROEI = -0.001?

Interesting to me is how many of the comments proved Berman's perspective. Certain amount of "America will surmount this problem as we're smarter, quicker and just plain better". And of course, the typical American self centeredness of "if it works for me, it'll work for everyone". We've, certainly, slaughtered enough of the planets inhabitants trying to prove that one. Very slow learners, Americans. As a child I remember looking through a small telescope and marveling how from one perspective the world became larger and closer while from the other end it became small and far away. I'm afraid Americans, most definitely, view the world from the small and far away perspective.

I've been watching this oncoming debacle for decades. So far I don't see a single bit of evidence disputing that we will ride this to the bitter end blaming someone else for the problem. Unfortunately for the rest of the planet, our love of killing is going to be devastating.

To me, he's absolutely right, it is the 99%. The 1% BS is so typical of a country with a strong hatred of government until, of course, they want a handout. Unfortunately, the bottom 1% get least of all but we don't like to talk about those folks. They deserve to be where they're at. As far as I can tell, everyone stands at the government trough. The big pigs get the most but we all are hustling our butts off to get bigger so we can get more.

As with Berman, my research of American history shows a people hell bent on conquest, getting rich and using slave/semislave labor to do so. We haven't ever cared about the lowest classes other than as a cheap source of labor. America has always been about grab all I can and walk right over anyone who gets in my way.

I don't agree with Berman totally but I think he expresses many points that Americans simply don't have the humility to face.

Zeke, I disagree with many of the negative generalizations you offer. Those negatives about US culture certainly exist, but they are not alone, and the ones that seem to predominate in the quiet and selfish BAU days can often swing when we find ourselves in a crisis. EDIT: For example, if we had been told NYC was going to get a 9-11 attack >>, and were asked how we thought the city would respond, I highly doubt many people here or anywhere would have guessed how much cooperation and goodwill was Immediately and Persistently available for months afterward. I'm sure we would hear all sorts of sorry assurances about how chaos and cruelty would be simply the order of the day.

I'm not saying it turns into a Shangri-la, but I hope you are willing to step back and look at both the positives and negatives of the US. They do both exist, and focusing on just one pretty much sets your course FOR you, and closes off many possibilities.

I think this is about the worst time to try to convince yourself that the negatives are simply inevitable.

You get to pick which wolf you should feed. http://www.feedthewolf.com/

What Will It Take To Get Sustained Benefits From Natural Gas?

An enhanced method for assessing climate impacts from natural gas development and use is offered in Greater focus needed on methane leakage from natural gas infrastructure, a scientific paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences co-authored, with others, by EDF scientists Ramon Alvarez and Steve Hamburg.

The paper illustrates the importance of accounting for methane leakage across the value chain of natural gas (i.e. production, processing and delivery) when considering fuel-switching scenarios from gasoline, diesel fuel and coal to natural gas.

Key Findings: ...

At current leakage rate estimates, converting a fleet of heavy duty diesel vehicles to natural gas would result in nearly 300 years of climate damage before any benefits were achieved.

Is Media-Driven "Pseudo-Reality" the Future of U.S. Politics?

... "Politically, we may be moving more and more toward a world where our beliefs are shaped not by what is really true, but instead by the pseudo-realities created by talk shows and political pundits," says Dietram A. Scheufele, the John E. Ross Professor of Life Sciences Communication at UW-Madison and an expert in public opinion research.

... "Most citizens observe the political theater in Washington indirectly through the lens of mass media. And our findings show that misinformation about what politicians say or do can become fact in voters' minds if it is just repeated often enough in news media."

S - "...we may be moving more and more toward a world where..." MAY??? I think that ship has sailed many, many years ago. LOL. Perhaps the only significant change in recent times is that now such foolishness can be transmitted faster/farther through the web.

"But the most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly and with unflagging attention. It must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over. Here, as so often in this world, persistence is the first and most important requirement for success." "War Propaganda" Mein Kampf


Reality, News Perception, and Accuracy

... Reporters are society’s witnesses who record history by interviewing other witnesses, and they all make mistakes not because they want to but because everyone’s experiences and perceptions fog reality.

Pick a candidate—any candidate, any party—and we think we’re “fair” because we record what he or she said, even of it’s a lie, a half-truth, an exaggeration, a distortion, or a misconception. Perhaps American politicians have internalized the wisdom of Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels who said “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.

Quoting people isn’t journalism—it’s clerking.

Yes, a lot of the "news" is filled with the words issued forth by the players... presented without any history of the subject or any counterpoint: it is just the "on message" message repeated again.

Joseph Goebbels who said “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”

There seems to be some quibble about whether these are Hitler's words describing the "big lie" concept being restated and remembered as Goebbels'. Either way, the American corporate media has learned its lessons well.

Another lesson was learned in Vietnam... and ever since, the presentation of our wars has been so very... sanitary, neat and clean, bloodless, gutless... with nary a flag-draped coffin.

Slashdot has a piece up today with answers from MIT fusion power researchers to questions posed by Slashdot readers. For the fusion optimists, MIT's current take on the ITER-based schedule is

  • ITER construction done 2022
  • 10:1 energy gain in ITER around 2028 (DEMO design can begin)
  • DEMO online with watts to the grid (at an economic loss) ~2040
  • First commercial plant ~2050

My suspicion is that this is too late, in the sense that most of the developed world -- the part that's footing the ITER bill -- will have to commit to different paths before that point. I'm assuming, as always, that at least parts of the world continue with a modified low-energy (and mostly electric) high-tech course. In the US, essentially the entire commercial nuclear power fleet will be retired over the next 25 years. If anything is to be done about CO2 in a timely fashion (you don't have to jump on me, I admit that we may have reached a tipping point already), lots of coal burners will be retired over the next 25 years. Whatever choices have been made to keep the grid(s) up and going -- NG/renewables/fission -- will have been made before 2050, and it will be much easier to continue down those paths than to jump to fusion.

My suspicion is that this is too late


In other news, I see that at some times of the day, CAISO shows that over 10% of the utility electricity generation for their part of California is over 10%.

I also think Treehugger had a recent article with 'feel good' graphs of trends in the US of renewable percentages, though none are high enough for BAU, in my opinion.

Considering the many billions of dollars already spent on fusion research by various countries, and that these teams presumably included some of the top physicists and engineers, my gut feeling is that fusion will never be commercially viable. It seems to be the same story with breeder reactors -- numerous countries have thrown some of their best people and billions of dollars at the problem and not come up with a working solution. To be commercially viable it isn't enough that the top people are able to get a plant working -- the technology needs to be understood and simplified enough that people of lesser ability are able to design, build and operate it.

For an interesting report on what some fusion researchers have to say, check this out:


I learned a lot from it.

"The amount of money that is being spent, especially in the United States, on fusion is far lower than the field deserves, given its track record and potential. ... the fusion budget is far lower today than it was thirty years ago, even as we continue to make steady progress toward a reactor and the seriousness of the coupled energy/climate problem becomes more obvious."

We spent the money on wars and financial shenanigans, instead.



The deflagration gun: a coaxial cylindrical electrode set operating in deuterium.

Q: "Why aren't IEC reactors based on Farnsworth's designs taken more seriously? From what I understand, IECs have been more effective at producing fusion, and they are cheap to build. People even build them in the garage. From everything I've read, no one really takes the "fusor" seriously in the fusion science realm, and it's considered a dead line of inquiry. I've never understood why."

A: "None of us are experts on inertial electrostatic confinement, magnetized target fusion / dense plasma focus, or Polywells, and so we don’t want to say too much about the specifics of those designs."

Don't entirely read the answer as "None of us are experts on unicorns..." - for you can buy an IEC or a plasma focus device and liberate neutrons right on your desktop.

http://www.vniia.ru/eng/ng/karotazh.html - NEUTRON GENERATORS FOR WELL-LOGGING EQUIPMENT

Common to all the approaches, it is a matter of scaling.

A Farnsworth device is useful as a neutron generator and nothing more because grid losses guarantee that it can never hit breakeven (this was proven quite some time ago). That said, they are darn useful neutron generators.

The point of the Polywell devices is to eliminate the grid losses by using magnetic fields to create a virtual grid.

It might not be enough to get to breakeven, but finding out whether it is or not is costing us orders of magnitude less than the Tokamak experiments and should yield valuable insight into plasma containment in the process.

With regards to generating net power, the fundamental problem with these driven ion approaches like a Farnsworth Fusor is that when ions are driven to energies of optimal cross section for fusion (100 KeV), in any given ion encounter scattering is still far more likely than a fusion event and the substantial ion energy is apt to be lost. In a neutral plasma, there's also inevitable energy loss ion-to-electron, and they in turn bleed energy via EM radiation. For a time there was some tinkering about recovering the 'foul tip' ion energy in static electric fields (like a Fusor) and the like, but that was eventually shown to be ice skating up hill against thermodynamic limitations.


I think you are being generous by even assuming it will work. Any time I see some technology road-map with commercialization some 40 years from now, I think that is basically just saying "We don't really know how to do it but we hope to figure it out by then."

Iran Crude Carriers Liable Under Japan Shipping-Insurance Rules

Tankers using Japan’s shipping- insurance association to purchase coverage for Iranian crude cargoes will be liable for any costs not recovered through reinsurance due to sanctions against Iran.

The Japan Ship Owners’ Mutual P&I Association said in a letter on its website that shippers buying liability insurance for Iranian crude after European Union sanctions take effect in July must agree in writing to pay for damages or other charges that the association’s Europe-based reinsurers are unable cover.

Hate Group Formation Associated With Big-Box Stores

The presence of big-box retailers, such as Wal-Mart, K-Mart and Target, may alter a community's social and economic fabric enough to promote the creation of hate groups, according to economists.

Interesting read. I wonder how/if Wal-Mart domination of rural markets factors in?

Say it ain't so, Barnes & Noble.

Oil Supplies increase, gasoline supplies fall as demand claws its way back

Summary of Weekly Petroleum Data for the Week Ending April 6, 2012

U.S. crude oil refinery inputs averaged just under 14.4 million barrels per day during the week ending April 6, 395 thousand barrels per day below the previous week’s average. Refineries operated at 83.8 percent of their operable capacity last week. Gasoline production decreased last week, averaging 8.9 million barrels per day. Distillate fuel production decreased last week, averaging about 4.3 million barrels per day.

U.S. crude oil imports averaged 8.5 million barrels per day last week, down by 1.3 million barrels per day from the previous week. Over the last four weeks, crude oil imports have averaged 8.9 million barrels per day, 38 thousand barrels per day above the same four-week period last year. Total motor gasoline imports (including both finished gasoline and gasoline blending components) last week averaged 705 thousand barrels per day. Distillate fuel imports averaged 64 thousand barrels per day last week.

U.S. commercial crude oil inventories (excluding those in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve) increased by 2.8 million barrels from the previous week. At 365.2 million barrels, U.S. crude oil inventories are in the upper limit of the average range for this time of year. Total motor gasoline inventories decreased by 4.3 million barrels last week and are in the upper limit of the average range. Both finished gasoline inventories and blending components inventories decreased last week. Distillate fuel inventories decreased by 4.0 million barrels last week and are in the middle of the average range for this time of year. Propane/propylene inventories increased by 0.7 million barrels last week and are above the upper limit of the average range. Total commercial petroleum inventories decreased by 3.9 million barrels last week.

Total products supplied over the last four-week period have averaged about 18.3 million barrels per day, down by 4.3 percent compared to the similar period last year. Over the last four weeks, motor gasoline product supplied has averaged 8.6 million barrels per day, down by 4.0 percent from the same period last year. Distillate fuel product supplied has averaged just under 3.6 million barrels per day over the last four weeks, down by 3.6 percent from the same period last year. Jet fuel product supplied is 0.1 percent lower over the last four weeks compared to the same four-week period last year.


Despite the biggest three week increase in oil inventories since 2009, gasoline inventories continued their fall. Gasoline supplies in the Northeast region were still suffering from refinery shutdowns and slowdowns, maintenance in preparation for producing summer blends of gasoline, and generally falling imports from Europe. In addition, all indications are that gasoline exports available from Europe will fall even further in the coming weeks.

On the bright side, there is enough winter blend gasoline left to get the Northeast supplied up until the start of the summer driving season and enforcement of various EPA summer fuel standards around June 1. It remains to be seen after that if NE gasoline has sufficient supplies to keep up with gasoline demand - that has clawed its way back some even in the face of average retail gasoline prices nearing record levels. Both the EIA and MasterCard’s Spending Plus weekly reports indicate that gasoline demand is down about 4% from last year – but that is an improvement from a drop of 6 to 7% about two months ago.

Most of the buildup in oil inventories the last three weeks has been in the Gulf Coast region. It is possible that a good part of this build up has been intentionally engineered to accommodate the re-launch of the Motiva refinery in Port Arthur, Texas. Jointly owned by Saudi Aramco and Royal Dutch Shell, oil supplies for the refinery may well be coming from the Saudi owned shipper ‘Vela’ – which has greatly increased oil shipments from Saudi Arabia to the Gulf Coast since about March 15. Saudi oil imports into the US have averaged 1.5 million bpd in recent weeks, up from about 1 million bpd level that prevailed around the end of 2011 and the beginning of 2012.

On a side note, while the Keystone XL pipeline development has gotten a lot of attention, there are many other pipeline projects planned or already in progress. Check the link below for more specific information:


I've a question: Do the VLCC's 'backhaul' gasoline or diesel to say - Europe ?

My understanding that this does not happen very often, mostly because large tankers (VLCCs) are mostly used just for oil and smaller sized tankers are usually used for gasoline, gasoil, diesel, etc. Also there is the additional problem of mixing different types of cargoes. Shippers to the US generally send most of their VLCCs back to oil exporters empty.

Re: Freeing Kilowatt-Hours From a Jail

We're currently retrofitting the lighting at a major correctional centre. Last month, we replaced one hundred and twenty 400-watt high pressure sodium pole lights (460-watts with ballast) with a combination of Philips 330 and 205-watt AllStarts driven by new pulse start retrofit kits (the shorter poles received the lower wattage version). We also replaced seventy-two 150-watt HPS wall packs with 100-watt metal halide equivalents. A huge improvement in light quality which was the primary driver behind this work, but we still bagged more than 80,000 kWh a year in the process.

A "before" picture of some of the original HPS lighting: http://i362.photobucket.com/albums/oo69/HereinHalifax/CC-A.jpg and this same area, post retrofit: http://i362.photobucket.com/albums/oo69/HereinHalifax/CC-B.jpg

A couple more areas that were likewise retrofitted: http://i362.photobucket.com/albums/oo69/HereinHalifax/CC-C.jpg, http://i362.photobucket.com/albums/oo69/HereinHalifax/CC-D.jpg and http://i362.photobucket.com/albums/oo69/HereinHalifax/CC-E.jpg

Last week, we started on the inside work -- one hundred and forty-one 250-watt metal halides in the gym and day rooms are being replaced by 4-lamp T8 high bay fluorescents, which cuts this portion of their lighting load by 20.4 kW.

We're also replacing 1,500 32-watt T8s with 28-watt high performance T8s and, along with this, 600 electronic ballasts with lower-output NEMA Premiums. Replacing the high bays and re-lamping/re-ballasting the hallway fixtures that operate 24/7 will net us another 200,000+ kWh a year in energy savings.

There are another thousand or so T8 fixtures that will be re-lamped with 28-watt T8s in due course, but this work will be undertaken by their own in-house staff as it doesn't involve a ballast change.

Without a doubt, if you want to scoop-up as many kWh as you can (and at the lowest possible cost), you need to target hospitals, prisons, all night convenience stores and any other facility that operates 24/7.


A quick update on our interior work...

The gymnasium both before: http://i362.photobucket.com/albums/oo69/HereinHalifax/CC-F.jpg and after: http://i362.photobucket.com/albums/oo69/HereinHalifax/CC-G.jpg In this area, the lighting load was cut in half and light levels effectively doubled.

One of the dozens of hallways: http://i362.photobucket.com/albums/oo69/HereinHalifax/CC-H.jpg Each 2-lamp fixture drops from 59-watts to 43, and 3-lamp fixture from 88 to 64, which isn't a huge savings in and of itself, but it still works out to be 140/210 kWh per fixture, per annum, and there are literally several thousands of fixtures in this complex.

Here we're working on one of the day rooms: http://i362.photobucket.com/albums/oo69/HereinHalifax/CC-I.jpg and this is how it will appear when completed: http://i362.photobucket.com/albums/oo69/HereinHalifax/CC-J.jpg As with the gym above, the lighting load has been cut in half and the space is considerably brighter. The entire complex is air conditioned near year round, and so as you reduce your lighting load you also lessen your cooling requirements.

Other benefits: the metal halide fixtures buzzed loudly and in an acoustically hard space such as this it wasn't very pleasant; the T8 high bays are completely silent which makes it more pleasant for the inmates and staff alike. They also re-strike instantly, so in the event of a momentary power bump you're good, whereas the original metal halides would take ten to fifteen minutes to cool down, re-strike and then come back to full brightness; in this type of environment, that's a pretty big plus.

Main takeaway: even in relatively new and energy-efficient buildings, you can often wring-out extra energy savings at a very reasonable cost and, at the same time, improve upon what you have in other ways.



"2 Massive earthquakes out of the Sumatra coast, Indonesia – Tsunami alerts cancelled for Indonesia and the Indian Ocean countries"

Apparently the main movement was horizontal, so even though these were in the 8.5 range, now tsunami resulted, thank goodness.

Natural Gas Signals a ‘Manufacturing Renaissance’

AS horizontal drilling and the controversial extraction technique known as fracking have made domestically produced natural gas more available and sharply cheaper, that gas has been widely embraced by industry, electric utilities and trucking fleets.

The rapid development of shale gas technology has helped reduce energy imports and, in some cases, encouraged companies producing petrochemicals, steel, fertilizers and other products to return to the United States after relocating overseas. Natural gas exports are growing and terminals built to hold imported supplies are being repurposed for international sales.

Aside from truck fleets, another obvious use in the U.S. for plentiful, cheap natural gas is to add electric power plants and convert much of the main-line railroad network to electric operation. Some passenger systems have long been electrified -- Amtrak's Northeast Corridor and SEPTA in the Philadelphia area -- come to mind, and two California commuter rail operators -- Caltrain on the SF peninsula and Metrolink in the LA area -- are planning to do so if they find the money. The major freight railroads in the U.S. have historically resisted electrification, but they may change their tune if natural gas becomes significantly less expensive than petroleum.

another obvious use in the U.S. for plentiful, cheap natural gas is to add electric power plants and convert much of the main-line railroad network to electric operation.

Would be interesting to see if non-electric rail finds an electric conversion economic. I doubt it, and suspect in a very expensive diesel world they would switch to natural gas directly before hanging all that power cable across the hinterlands. Anyway, from an overall national liquid fuels perspective rail conversion is in the noise, comprising ~2% of just the highway vehicle fuel consumption.


It is already economic for railroads to convert their main lines to electric power, and has been for some time.

The only thing is that the railroads don't like to spend large amounts on capital investments (they are already very capital-intensive), and they have a lot of money invested in diesel locomotives. However, over the long term it would be profitable for them to switch to electric locomotives.

Passenger trains already are 3/4 electrically powered in the US because the lower pollution, lower noise, faster acceleration, and higher top speed of electric trains are more important in passenger operation than in freight.

Yes, clearly electric rail *can* be economic, especially passenger. But capital costs amortized over the life of the system are a part of the total economic calculation. As I mentioned earlier, freight runs cover long distances (relative to busy passenger runs); that's a great deal of overhead cable to run. It is not clear yet if it makes economic sense to electrify a 1000mi of great plains rail when diesel locomotives are already highly efficient. Switching locomotives from diesel to cheaper natural gas likely can be done on a retrofit basis, and requires no electrification capital.

Why Buying A Refinery Could Be A Disaster For Delta Air Lines (Even With JPMorgan's Help)

Why would an airline whose debt is already at junk bond levels buy a Northeast oil refinery which an old, established oil company thinks is uneconomic?

Edward Hirs, a professor of energy economics at the University of Houston, says he can think of one reason why Delta would try to get into the refining business: “because they’re stupid.”

It's not my words, although I would tend to generally agree with him. Really, the only solution for the Northeast US is wind powered electric rail, which I have ridden often (although in Western Canada) and found to be inexpensive and highly usable compared to the alternatives, which are bicycling and walking. If you don't like it, feel free to buy Delta stock and follow them down the oil decline curve.

This may be for Delta something like setting up a life boat business on the Titanic - for a brief period it may seem like a good idea.

Or they could take your advice, and try to get off the ship before it sinks.

Was it realy THAT deep?


I hope he didn't open the door, it's the drain on the ocean...

I saw another cartoon and that had a giant sink plug down there :) I remember someone actually doing that on a canal back home. Drained a whole length of it.


No, it was a door to one of the LOST complexes. The series realy was a drama documentary. Realy.

The pressure equivalences are fun!

2000 meters: "At this depth, if you shoot a hole in a pressurized scuba tank, instead of air rushing out, water rushes in."

Gravity fed pressure from a water storage tank on a tower or a hill: 1 PSI for every 2 feet of head.

IIRC, it's 0.434 psi/foot, or 4.34 psi per 10 feet of static head (pure water).

Silly US metrics....

I would be interested to hear what our geologists have to say about the pulse-enhanced oil production noted above:


jj - It might be unfair but I take most of this guy's pitch an effort to boost his company's revenue more than anything else. Did you notice that his company doesn't produce any oil? For a consulting fee they tell operators how to use this method. IOW they make the same profit whether their recommendations yield a profit for the operator or not. That's not a criticism in and of itself. I've sold my recommendations on a consulting basis for most of my 36 years. A new method? First time I saw a water flood pushed by intermittent injection was over 30 years ago. It can provide some marginal improvement from reports I've seen but IMHO many operators have chosen to not make the minor investments to add such systems. Again, it could improve URR but I would say more on the order of single percents. Probably small percents.

As far as his claims of the technique significantly delaying PO is pure BS IMHO. He immediately mixes URR with flow rates. Throws out huge recovery gains and not one detail of increased flow rates. And for good reason: there are many EOR methods employed over the decades that have greatly increased global URR. But with the exception of horizontal wells the increase in production rates are generally very small but can continue for decades. Tha'swhere the jump in URR comes from...long term. If everyone in the country sent me a penny I would have $3,000,000 right now. That theory is rock solid. So is his theory of increased URR if everyone did everything possible to increase recovery. OK..ready...set...start holding your breath. LOL.

Thanks Rock. As always I value your insights.

This is potentially BIG:

Gran Tierra Energy Confirms New Oil Discovery with 2,525 BOPD Production Test at Ramiriqui-1, Colombia

The Mirador formation has 130 feet gross thickness and was perforated and tested from 17,610 feet to 17,630 feet MD in the uppermost primary reservoir interval. The interval had natural flow rates, without pumps, of up to 2,525 barrels of oil per day ("BOPD") gross over 32.5 hours with a 28/64 inch choke and a 0.12% watercut with 26°API gravity oil. The Ramiriqui-1 well flowed at a restricted rate due to gas flaring limitations.

The prospect offsets Cusiana and Cupiagua.

Low Rideau Valley water levels spark conservation advisory
Flow just 15.4% of April norm

It's without doubt the weirdest time of year for a low water warning, but that's what April in the Rideau Valley looks like.

The water level "is low, even for July," says Patrick Larson of the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority.

The agency measures water flow at various points in the system, and at this time of year it expects about 181 cubic metres of water every second to flow past its gauge in Ottawa.

The actual flow is 27.9 cubic metres per second, or 15.4 per cent of the norm for early April. (One cubic metre is 1,000 litres.)

The Rideau always varies a great deal between spring and summer, but today's flow is low even by midsummer standards. A typical July flow would be about 40 cubic metres per second in Ottawa.

That's why the conservation authority has already taken the unusual step of asking residents of the Rideau system to be careful using water, and to use rain barrels for watering lawns and gardens.

This year's low flow also raises the possibility of increased algae growth this summer.

The current problem began with a shortage of snow, Larson says. (Ottawa had 104.2 centimetres of snow this winter; the average is about 203 cm) Then we had the heat wave of March.

"The spring melt came early: mid-March is two weeks earlier than normal." Even then, the peak water level was one of the lowest on record.

Could be a long dry summer in much of eastern North America?

Looking that way.


What are the fires up to today? Heard that in MD, it seems like California, very hot dry, and windy. Maybe the midwest cold snap will move in, help put them out.

More unmasking of the great savior:


It just keeps on coming.

Truth, but can you see Romney doing anything but accelerating the process? By his speeches he can't even comprehend that any of this is a problem.

I look at the works of the American political system and despair for this country.

The period examined excludes 2011 and 2012, plus part of 2009. I suspect if you add those periods in and then compare them to the Bush years, the 1% are doing about the same under Obama as they were under Bush.

It may be in many ways that Obama has continued Bush's policies, especially towards big business and Wall Street. But if things were actually better under Obama for the rich, then why are they complaining about him so much?

I suspect that Obama's view of being "centrist" is to try to keep BAU going by feeding the banks, major corporations, etc (and big sources for campaign funds) while trying to soften the blow on the under classes. It is pretty clear that the wealthy aren't going to earn enough to pay for all of the people falling out of the society. The expenditures are going to damage the currency and therefore hurt the wealthy. They see the Rs as being willing to throw the 99% under the bus to keep things going. Obama's world view can't allow that.

Basically no world view that wants to keep this circus going is likely to last very much longer. Sorry to say the Dem party has a less viable plan. The Repubs are trying to save the wealthy only. that might work for a while longer.

In all periods, the rich always got richer.

Sometimes it seems the world has gone mad and I see little hope.

I just heard they are trying to pass a bill here in California to cap/reduce taxes on gasoline, and only charge sales tax on the first four gallons.

Sounds great, right?! Except the state is beyond broke, so I don't know where people think the money is going to come from.

And what really gets me down, is I have a good idea how it will play out. Revenue goes down. Infrastructure (mainly roads) begin to need repair. Voters pass a bond measure (through the initiative process) to fund highway projects (so, with interest, it costs about twice as much).

That sound about right? 'Cause I'm scaring myself here.

Naw. They get forced to axe yet more social programs, and raise tuition of state colleges etc. Its just more of the usual idiocy.....

Well, that's sort of what I'm talking about. I forget what portion of the state budget goes to debt and interest payments, but it's a lot. Like half. So we lose half our money right off the top from all the borrowing we did in the past. Then we look around and go "Gee, we need more money". Then we go borrow some more, never realizing that if we weren't paying all that interest we would not need to borrow money at all.

I figured this out in my early twenties when I realized I was paying over $300 a month in credit card interest. I started to think "Man, what would I do with an extra $300 every month? I wouldn't need to use my credit card for car repairs or whatever, I could pay cash!"

I took severe austerity measures, and it took about 10 years, but I am now, very happily, debt-free. I wish I could convince my fellow voters of this approach. Cutting taxes and borrowing to make up the difference (and then some) is just... irresponsible.

The dept concerns me. It seems like a time bomb waiting to blow up, but I'm not sure how simple solving it really is. My reason for thinking this is the connection between energy and economic activity. If the government stops giving people money than people will have to work more to compensate for it(assuming they can find work). If people work more than they use more energy, and the amount of energy is limited. The limited amount of energy would than seem to imply limits for job growth beyond people simply wanting to work. If you think about it logically, if the goal is to maintain the current population while using the minimal amount of energy than all the people not necessary for maintain the current population need to use as little energy as possible. I'm guessing that in the real world this would entail keeping those people in a state of poverty, but not to such an extent that they would rebel. Keeping people poor seems like a crappy option to me. Also problematic is that if you take away from the people who are doing a lot to maintain society and give to the people who aren’t doing as much you create resentment. I’m not really sure what the solution is except maybe to try and do more economically with less energy somehow, or maybe if people could be more independent? I don’t know, hopefully people smarter than me will work things out somehow. Sometimes I feel more confident in that happening than others.

What works in a micro-econ sense, doesn't work the same on a system wide collective scale. A smallish entity, can get out of trouble via austerity, relying on economic demand by others to maintain the economy. Even a smallish country, with control over its own currency can get out of trouble via austerity coupled with an export drive. But a large country, it simply crashes demand and makes regaining healthy financial status into a receding horizons problem.

So we just keep on borrowing until interest payments are 100% of income, or more?

I've been reading about oil production lately, but there are things I don't quite understand. I would like to ask several questions:

1) Does reservoir rock porosity decrease when the reservoir pressure decreases due to oil extraction? At a first glance, it would seem that it should, because the rock would bear more load itself and the pores would be crushed due to extreme pressure. Maybe the porosity begins to decrease only after some threshold is reached? If the decrease of porosity and permeability is significant, does this mean that it's economical to begin water injection just after the production from a field has been started.

2) Does the drill pipe always rotate while drilling? At a first glance it would seem that the bottom hole assembly could include a fluid-driven motor which would be driven by the difference of mud pressures between the annulus and the drill pipe.

3) How the drill pipe or casing is bent in horizontal wells (or any wells where the borehole is not straight)? Is it just pushed to / pulled from the well with a large force? Does this affect the mechanical properties of the pipes in any significant way?

Thank you in advance.

Does reservoir rock porosity decrease when the reservoir pressure decreases due to oil extraction? At a first glance, it would seem that it should, because the rock would bear more load itself and the pores would be crushed due to extreme pressure.

I can answer that part: Yes. For normally (hydrostatically) pressured reservoirs, the compressibility is on the order of x e-6 vol/vol/psi. In that case, the fluid does not support the overburden.

For an overpressured reservoir, fluid in the pore space supports the overburden. Compressibility varies, I submit that compressibility of the pore volume approaches reservoir volume of oil,water and gas produced/reservoir pore volume/psi.

For a naturally fractured reservoir pore volume compressibility is high and extremely difficult to determine. One credible reference I have seen(on the ND bakken) estimates that (fracture) pore volume compressibility is on the order of 80 e-6 vol/vol/psi. Maybe 20 x normal intergranular pore volume compressibility.

In that case, the reservoir was abnormally pressured, but the cross-section area of all the fractures is very small (these are predominately vertical and near vertical fractures) compared to the bulk area of the reservoir. The compressibility of the fractures resolves itself horizontally. Hope that makes sense.

PLL2 – There are two primary reservoir drives at the extremes: water drive and pressure depletion. And varies mixtures of the two in between. In a WD reservoir as the hydrocarbons are produced a large water aquifer will continually feed into the pore spaces previous filled with the oil/NG. Reservoir pressure decreases very little if at all. So no loss of porosity from compaction. If it’s limited WD reservoir there may be a small loss of porosity but injecting water (a water flood) can significantly increase URR.

In pressure depletion drive there is no movement of water into the pore spaces. As the pressure in the reservoir declines loss of porosity/compaction can be severe. That 30 psiin your tires eep a 5,000# truck from compessing them flat. Now slowly let the air out. Similar effect in a pressure depeltion drive. I’ve drilled through such depleted zones and they can be almost as hard as solid rock. But not always. But the URR from such reservoirs is typically very pore. Without reservoir drive there’s no energy to push the oil to the wells. Just the column of oil in production tubing can provide enough back pressure to prevent production. That’s why such systems as pump jacks are used: they remove that back pressure and allow the oil to flow into the well bore. Mexico’s Cantrell Field is a good example of how injecting a gad into a pressure depletion drive reservoir can greatly increase URR. The largest nitrogen production plant in the world has been injecting N2 into the top of the structure for years. This expanding gas cap has been pushing the oil into down dip wells. Something like the opposite of a WD reservoir where the water pushes the light oil up dip to the producers. But as the expanding N2 gas cap reaches a producing well it’s shut in: no point in depleting reservoir pressure if it’s not recovering oil.

Rotating drill pipe. Was once the only way to drill. But now we have equipment like “mud motors”. The drill bit is attached to the MM and as drilling mud is pumped through the MM it cause the bit to rotate. Thus the drill pipe doesn’t rotate…although it can if there’s a need. This tech has made it much easier to drill horizontal wells.

Bending drill pipe 90 degrees. Actually it’s very easy. It doesn’t look like it when you see an illustration of a horizontal well because the vertical and horizontal scales are not close to proportional. Despite the way the diagrams look the hole angle often changes only a few degrees per every hundred feet of hole drilled. You can lay drill pipe on the ground and with that rate of curvature you can make a complete circle with it. In fact I saw a film 30 years ago when a blow out shot 16,000’ of drill pipe out of a well and it made giant loops around the drill rig without breaking. With the right equipment you can make a hole go from vertical to horizontal in as little as a couple of hundred feet.

I remembered findging a picture, on the web, of that but couldn't find it again when I tried earlier, poor google-fu. I did find this video of pipe that illustrates what you say



NAOM - Very good...thanks. For those that look at the clip the equipment screwing the drill pipe together is often called an "iron roughneck". The alternative is swinging a chain around the pipe and doing it by hand. Chains have taken quit a few fingers and a few hands.

Without reservoir drive there’s no energy to push the oil to the wells.

Gravity ?

bud - True but I didn't care to go into minor drive systems like gravity, solution drive, etc. I tend not to make most of my answers to the TODsters too detailed. Defeats my goal of inflicting some general knowledge.

Last gravity drainage field I worked on the wells were averaging 1/2 to 1 bopd. But the good news: it will keep producing that volume for the next 50 years...or until the casing rusts away. LOL.

Ever hear of Yates, East Texas, Phrudoe Bay, Abqaiq, Ghawar, indeed Cantarell ?


Ghawar pressure before water injection (~1974), and after:


How does a gravity drive work? The oil reservoir up in the mountains, you drill in the valley and intercept the strata?


Get a drinking water glass, empty.

Add some cooking oil to it. Observe.

Then add some water to to the glass while leaving the oil in it. Observe.

Expected result:

Water denser than oil. Water should go to bottom of glass, oil to top.


In the ground, pump water to where the oil is. Hopefully oil will rise up to be collected from 'top' of reservoir.


I might be confusing gravity drive with water injection terminology.

I might be confusing gravity drive with water injection terminology.

The two occur simultaneously. Gravity dont punch a time clock.

By the name, I assume you drill a hole to the lowest point of the strata, and then install a pump there. Gravity will move the oil towards that point slowly, and then you pump it up.

How does a gravity drive work?

Drill a hole in the ground and turn the world upside down.

Drill a hole in the ground and turn the world upside down.

A TV commercial keps telling me that the earth's gravity field will reverse on December 21st this year! And anything you hear repeatedly on TV has to be true.

I downloaded and listened to a biblestudy of Ephesians chap 1-3 yesterday. At one point the guy say "and this will remain like this untill the end of this era. Or may 21". The audience laugh. The guy continued "We will keep joking about this, untill the date come and go". Gave me a good laugh.

Gravity is what separates oil from water. That is how the oil got there in the first place. Gravity is at work on every oilfield, all the time and not always in a nice way.

Reservoirs such as Yates, East Texas, Prudhoe Bay, Abqaiq, Ghawar and Cantarell dip (or incline) steeply enough that the vertical component of gravity is a significant factor. Check the % of OOIP produced from each of these fields(or parts of the field) and it becomes apparent that recovery is exceptional. High permeability and low oil density and viscosity also matters.

Time is a factor. Drain (or displace) oil from a reservoir at a high rate and recovery will be lower.

Also you can try this experiment. Drain the water from your sink and notice that a vortex developes - gravity at work 24/7/365 or 366. If your sink doesn't drain that fast, call a plumber.

doug - I've only dealt with one gravity drainage field. Once the reservoir pressure was depleted (no water movement to maintain that pressure) the oil literally leaks slowly (1/2 to 1 bopd) out of the reservoir and drips to the bottom of the production tubing. And then every 24 hours a small (2' tall) electric pump jack clicks on for an hour or so and lifts it to the surface. Then shuts down and waits another 24 hours. The one operator I was dealing with has been making about 15 bopd for about 30 years. may not sound like much but those pissy little wells are making about a half $million gross annually for him and his one field hand...his wife. LOL. As long as the casing doesn't rust away those wells could still be producing in another 50+ years.

Don't confuse gravity drainage with water drive. The differential gravity of oil to water makes the oil float on water. But the force involved is buoyancy and not gravity.

...the force involved is buoyancy and not gravity.

Bouyancy is the manifestation of gravity. No gravity, no bouyancy the only thing left is surface tension and possibly capillary pressure.

F = mA.

mrflash has it right:

Water denser than oil. Water should go to bottom of glass, oil to top.

Why the anti-gravity propaganda ? Could it be that Ghawar and Abqaiq are fine examples of gravity segregation ?

Economist Blasts Rosy Reports on Canadian Oil Economics

Four documents extolling oil sands and Gateway pipeline more 'propaganda' than business cases, says Robyn Allan.

More than 80 per cent of Enbridge's alleged $270 billion boost to GDP growth, for example, disappears when fair and reasonable exchange rates are accounted for, says Allan. Both the Enbridge and Wood Mackenzie reports assume that the Canadian dollar will remain at 85 cents in value to the U.S. dollar for 30 years in the Enbridge case and 10 years for Wood Mackenzie. Allan calls that assumption "a ridiculous" scenario that even confounds Bank of Canada forecasts.

"If the dollar is at par and oil sells for US$100 per barrel, gross revenue is CDN$100 per barrel," explains Allan. But if the dollar rises to $1.05 that same barrel is worth $95.24 Canadian, a decline in gross revenue of 4.76 per cent."

The appreciation of the Canadian dollar, now driven by oil and commodity exports, not only squeezes the oil industry and reduces royalties. It also increases the cost of exports and leads to slower growth and job losses for the entire economy, a phenomenon known as the Dutch Disease.

The Canadian dollar is trading at $1.00 American at this point in time. Sure, Canadian exporters would like to pay their employees in 85 cent dollars, but that's not the way it's working now, so they should sharpen their pencils and deal with having to pay a dollar's wages for a dollar's worth of work.

As far as the oil business is concerned, it's really quite simple:

North Sea Brent Blend $119.79
OPEC Basket Price $119.38
West Texas Intermediate $101.02
Western Canadian Select $80.92

Producers of Western Canadian Select (a blend of different types of oil sands bitumen, heavy oil, syncrude and light oil) would really like to put their oil into the Brent or Opec market, but that requires a pipeline to the West Coast. Various Canadian governments have their own dogs in this fight because they are collecting billions of dollars in taxes and royalties on this oil, and if prices were higher they could collect billions more.

Furthermore, the fairly tight and longstanding relationship between energy prices and the Canadian dollar implies that fluctuations in oil prices affect the overall competitiveness of Canadian exports in the rest of the world.

Above from Bank of Canada: The Role of Financial Speculation in Driving the Price of Crude Oil (pdf)

and the...


The weight of the evidence indicates that macroeconomic fundamentals can explain the 2003–08 increase in the price of oil. Financial speculation seems to have played a modest role.

Rising oil prices will be bad for the Canadian economy.

Rising oil revenues will help pay for universal medicare and all the other government programs.

It better since it will also depress the rest of your economy. FX is a zero sum game. Canada would be better off if it limits oil production to only what it needs to maintain balanced trade. The other route is to follow Norway and blow your sovereign wealth fund on Greek bonds or perhaps US treasurys.

We .. don't have a sovereign wealth fund. Even Alberta is broke. The rest of the country is really broke. Not as bad as the US or Greece, but pretty bad. Universal medical is eating up 40% or more of every provincial budget and the boomers are only just starting to retire. And that's why the pipeline to the west coast will happen.

Tighten shale-gas exploration rules, Quebec committee report recommends

A committee named by Quebec Environment Minister Pierre Arcand, to determine whether shale gas can be extracted while respecting the environment, released plans Tuesday for further study and recommended that the minister not authorize hydraulic fracturing, even for research purposes.

A de-facto moratorium?

Canadian Hinterland Who's Who. Is that you in this video?


Yes, but where's the grizzly bear? It looks exactly like my back yard, but there's some guy with a flute, and no grizzly bear to interrupt his musical interlude. (That's not me with the flute, I play an harmonica.)

recommended that the minister not authorize hydraulic fracturing, even for research purposes.

It's kind of like the Titanic, but with fewer lifeboats.

Quebec has no significant oil or gas resources, except the ones they might be able to produce through hydraulic fracturing. They should not expect the other provinces who have frac'd hundreds of thousands of wells to produce oil and gas to bail them out when TSHTF, because we've done that too often before and it gets tiring.

Like we'll have a choice.

Real-Time Data to Reduce Electric Use

Does anyone make circuit breakers that can measure the current of the local branch circuit? (I know there are controllable circuit breakers.)

Knowing the aggregate power usage of your house is not very useful. If it is suspiciously up, do you then have to hunt around the entire house to find the culprit. But if you could look at your home web site and see the loads of each branch circuit, that would be so much more useful.

Having a chip in there that could measure the data and make it available on local Wi-Fi would be cool. But I guess the hard part would be creating local DC power. And RF issues could be a mess too I guess.

Hmmmmmmmmmm... interesting

Here is the obvious approach:
...with a Current Transformer on every line.

You could make a product that was a (clamp-on) current transformer with its own AA battery and wireless transmitter transmitting to its own display. One could start with $10 indoor/outdoor wireless thermometers from Walmart. The display could be a clip-board with that many little housings Velcroed to it. If really necessary, the AA battery local-power could be tapped from the current transformer itself with, ultimately, no reading available below a threshold-of-operation current.


Also check out BrulTech


I'm waiting for the advertised GreenEye to come to market. They say it should be before end of April.

I've wondered about this, too.

Here is one system, made for businesses more than residential, it seems, and the price makes sense for the level of detail it offers, but I think it's what you'd be in for, unless such things were made for a broader market..

http://www.smart-watt.com/smart-pdu/ ($600 for the basic 42 crct unit.. $100 for the 2-circuit.. plus $20-40 for the transformer component, it seems) *((.. actually, you may require a transformer for each circuit, if this works the way Amp-probe meters do, by wrapping a split-core transformer circuit around each circuit's hot output leg..))

Each Energy Center cabinet supports up to 21 BladeMeters™ so you can monitor between 2 and 42 individual circuits from a common power distribution panel. By utilizing split-core current transformers, installation can be accomplished in just a few minutes per circuit without any interruption of power.

Here's another commercial product (Pending I believe.. this is a Press release.)


Telect's nrgSMART™ Power Distribution With Individual Circuit Metering to Revolutionize How Communication Networks View Energy

"...Utilizing standard breakers and fuses, the modules are essentially invisible to system installers and field technicians within existing distribution form factors. A single cable provides plug-and-play communication from device to device back to a single IP based site controller,..."