Drumbeat: April 20, 2012

Feeling peaky: The economic impact of high oil prices

AS THE developed-world economy tries to gain momentum, it faces a persistent headwind. The oil price remains stubbornly over $100 a barrel, acting like a tax on Western consumers. Some blame the high price on evil speculators—Barack Obama unveiled plans to increase penalties for market manipulation on April 17th. But there is a simpler explanation: that supply is inadequate to keep up with rising demand.

The concept of peak oil—the idea that global crude production may be at, or close to, its limit—is far from universally accepted. One leading asset manager talked recently of the world being “awash with energy” because of the exploitation of American shale gas. Nevertheless, oil is still the main fuel for cars and trucks. And crude output (as opposed to alternatives such as biofuels and liquids made from gas) has been flat since 2005.

Peak oil goes mainstream (again)

Well, The Economist is talking about it in a non-sneery way.

Okay, perhaps that’s not fair — only in February the newspaper likened oil markets to a horror movie: with prices likely to stay high and tight capacity raising the risk of future price spikes.

Still, it’s interesting, in this time of triumphalism over shale gas and oil, to see such a pessimistic piece.

A Primer on Peak Oil

I ran across three separate articles on peak oil at well-regarded financial news sites today: The Economist, The Financial Times and Le Figaro. I thought I’d give you a run down of what they were saying and what it means for the economy and investing.

Peak Oil Off: Great Game On

Peak oilers have had a pretty hard time lately. Not only have global unconventional finds flattened Hubbard’s ‘peak’, more and more conventional plays are cropping up. ‘Running out’? We have more than enough of the black stuff to incinerate ourselves several times over. Such supply side bounty has been well documented in the Americas – not just in the US and Canada, but across Latin America, offering a second pass at resource riches. Head all the way over to Australia, and you’ll see a dazzling display of unconventional technologies rapidly increasing kangaroo LNG production. The North Sea can squeeze out a few more drops; Europe can finally get it’s ‘energy sovereignty’ back from shale plays, all while the Arctic offers Russia untold oil riches. Anywhere you look, the narrative is the same. But just when we thought the global hydrocarbon map was complete, another serious player has cropped up, and it comes in the form of East Africa. This is the new African oil rush, and the race to secure regional riches between East and West is on. Nobody wants to lose: Peak oil is dead, the Great Game is back.

How to Lower the Price of Oil

Saudi Arabia is ready to increase its already high production volume further to 12.5 million barrels per day, an all-time high, and its storage facilities abroad have been filled to the brim, according to Naimi's article. It is anxious to assure international buyers that it could meet any shortfall of supplies -- for example, if Iranian oil disappeared from the market. Saudi Arabia may not want to be seen as actively undermining Iranian oil exports, but it is in fact doing just that.

So, why do oil prices remain stubbornly high? Why does the market behave irrationally and not want to listen? The reason is simply that Saudi Arabia deliberately refrains from using the market power that it might command. This is the result of past experience, when Saudi Arabia's market share and revenues suffered as a result of OPEC's aggressive price setting policy that existed before 1985. In the years prior to that date, Saudi oil production collapsed from an all-time high of 10.3 million barrels per day to a minimum of 3.6 million, in the futile attempt to defend OPEC imposed prices. Ever since that experience, Saudi Arabia has refused to be tied to a rigid price target.

Oil Rises First Time in Three Days on German Confidence

Oil rose for the first time in three days in New York, erasing this week’s decline, after German business confidence unexpectedly increased.

Futures gained as much as 1.1 percent after the Munich- based Ifo institute said today its business climate index, based on a survey of 7,000 executives, rose to 109.9 from 109.8 in March. Economists forecast a drop to 109.5, according to the median of 40 economists in a Bloomberg News survey. Oil may resume its decline next week on speculation that the U.S. economic recovery will slow, reducing demand for crude, and tension with Iran will ease, a Bloomberg survey showed.

Gas prices continue retreat

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- The price of an average gallon of regular gasoline declined for the third straight day Thursday, putting a crimp -- at least temporarily -- in one of the fastest and steepest runups in recent memory.

The average price fell 0.8 cent a gallon to $3.891 in the latest daily survey conducted for the motorist group AAA, after dipping to $3.899 on Wednesday. The price has fallen about 2 cents in the past week.

Gas, food costs on the radar ahead of inflation update

Groceries and gas are eating away at household budgets these days, leaving many Canadians feeling squeezed.

The consumer price index out Friday will reveal the extent to which prices are rising in Canada.

Airlines post losses in large part due to rising fuel costs

Southwest Airlines on Thursday reported an adjusted first-quarter loss of $18 million amid rising fuel costs.

Study sees $69B in savings on fuel by '30

WASHINGTON -- Better technology and increased consumer interest in fuel economy could save as much as $69 billion annually by 2030, according to a study released Thursday by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The report said Americans facing higher gasoline prices are already availing themselves of more fuel-efficient vehicles to minimize the impact on their budgets.

War and a missile, but low oil prices? What gives?

Sudan has declared war on South Sudan, India has fired a long-range missile, yet oil and gasoline prices are down.What is going on?

Common sense has come over our much-scorned oil trader friends in New York and London.

For months, there has been a global surplus in oil and gasoline, which should mean lower prices than we have seen. Yet, because of geopolitical tension such as the trouble between Iran and the rest of the world, prices have not dropped -- until now.

Oil speculators have a target on their back again

While I realize this is an election year and putting a target on the back of oil speculators is great politics, it once again illustrates what happens when politics and economics intersect. Rising gasoline prices have guided the Obama Administration to persuade Congress to strengthen the supervision of the gasoline and crude oil markets. The Administration would like stiffer penalties imposed on market manipulators and greater margins applied to trades. Margins are the amount of money traders are required for posting a trade.

The Laws Between Supply And Demand In The Oil Patch - Wrong Call From President Obama

President Obama has upped the ante on his efforts to limit the rise in oil prices. The usual process of getting oil and gas prices down at the pump takes oligarchic approval. This president, joined by Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Attorney General Eric Holder, called on Congress to adopt tougher rules on speculators in the oil market, as reported by Bernice Napach.

President Unfortunately Gets No Help Attacking Oil Speculation

The president's proposals to limit speculation in the oil markets does hint at political rhetoric. There is an instant suspicion, and rightly so, when President Obama unveils measures to attack "high gas prices" and asks for congressional help he knows he's not going to get in an election year.

But political posturing aside, the president is not wrong: Oil speculation, in its many forms, has driven prices upwards and away from the true supply and demand fundamentals that exist.

India's Reliance Q4 profit falls 21 pct; lags f'casts

(Reuters) - Indian energy conglomerate Reliance Industries Ltd reported its second consecutive quarterly drop in profit, hurt by weak refining margins and declining gas output from its offshore fields.

Net profit fell 21.2 percent to 42.36 billion rupees ($815 million) for the fiscal fourth quarter ended March from 53.76 billion rupees a year earlier, the company said on Friday.

Japan’s Toyota Tsusho buys 32.5% stake in Encana’s Alberta methane wells

CALGARY — A Japanese company is investing $602 million to acquire a share of Encana Corp.’s extensive coalbed methane reserves in southern Alberta.

Encana says Toyota Tsusho Corp. will acquire a 32.5 per cent royalty interest in about 5,500 existing and future Encana coalbed methane wells.

US natgas hovers near 10-year spot low under $2/mmBtu

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. natural gas futures were little changed in early trading Friday, hovering near Thursday's 10-year spot chart low under $2 per million British thermal units as mild spring weather and record supplies hung over the market.

Cheap natural gas feeds chemical industry boom

LAKE JACKSON - The shale boom's bounty of cheap natural gas is fueling an industrial renaissance on the Texas coast, one that was in full focus Thursday as Dow Chemical announced the latest piece of a $4 billion expansion of its chemical operations in Southeast Texas.

The $1.7 billion plant Dow announced Thursday, one of four it plans to build or expand at its Freeport complex, is aimed at taking advantage of cheap natural gas produced from shale, which the company expects to be available for the long term.

India can no longer be at sea

So are we going to witness a new military entrant in the form of India into the already overcrowded South China Sea arena? Thus far, India's naval projection in East Asia is no match to that of the humongous People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy of China. The scope and pace of Chinese military modernisation, highlighted by the PLA'S 'anti-access/area denial' build-up in its spheres of influence in Southeast and East Asia, mean that not even the US can be absolutely sure of taming China if a crisis erupts over the Spratlys, the Paracels or the Taiwan Straits.

Protests continue ahead of Grand Prix race in Bahrain

(CNN) -- In an effort to reassure race fans ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix, the Bahraini government said Friday that members of team Force India were not the intended target of a gasoline bomb thrown by protesters.

The claim comes as the opposition accuses the Gulf kingdom of cracking down on demonstrations in the run-up to Sunday's race.

There are mounting fears that civil unrest in Bahrain could upend the race and pose a threat to Formula 1 teams and fans. Last year's race was canceled twice because of the unrest, but the sport's governing body said Friday the event would go ahead as planned despite tension on Bahrain's streets.

Turkey stops ship with suspected arms headed for Syria

Turkey has intercepted a vessel in the Mediterranean suspected of carrying weapons and ammunition to Syria, a diplomatic source told AFP.

"We received information that the vessel has a cargo of arms and ammunition headed for Syria," the source said Wednesday on condition of anonymity, adding that Turkish authorities would search the vessel.

EU could review Iran oil ban in coming months: official

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union member states may review in the next two months an embargo on Iranian oil imports that is scheduled to take effect from July, a senior EU official said on Friday.

For now, the official said there was no economic reason to change plans for the ban, which was agreed in January as part of EU efforts to put pressure on Tehran over its nuclear program.

Swiss leave loophole on EU's Iran oil embargo

GENEVA (Reuters) - Switzerland on Wednesday left a loophole open as sanctions tighten against Iran, that may let Swiss-based oil trading companies evade a European Union ban on trading Iranian oil.

The Swiss Economics Ministry said it would make a decision on the EU's ban on the importation, purchase or shipping of Iranian oil, at a "later date", without giving specifics.

Iran oil minister adds confusion to EU ban claims

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran's oil minister says Tehran has only stopped crude sales to Britain and France while continuing sales to "other countries" in the world.

Thursday's remarks by Rostam Ghassemi are likely to stir up confusion since they appear to contradict earlier government statements that Tehran has also cut off exports to Greece and Spain.

Feed me, Seymour

FIRST they came for the pensions, then they went for the central-bank reserves. Argentines have wondered for years which kitty Cristina Fernández, the president, would grab next in order to satisfy her government’s voracious appetite for cash. On April 16th they got their answer, when she announced that Argentina would expropriate and nationalise 51% of YPF, the former state oil company, which had been sold to Repsol, a Spanish firm, in 1999. Of the confiscated portion, 51% will go to the national government and 49% to Argentina’s oil-producing provinces. The president did not reveal how much she plans to pay Repsol in exchange. “We are the only country in America, and basically in the whole world, that doesn’t control its own natural resources,” she declared—a puzzling assertion, since foreign companies own resource assets in every oil-producing country in the Americas save Mexico.

GE to Seek $6 Billion in Australian Contracts Amid Resource Boom

General Electric Co. (GE) is seeking $6 billion in contracts out of Australia by the end of the decade as it taps the country’s growing role as a supplier of liquefied natural gas, iron ore and wind power.

Tanzania arrests five suspected pirates near gas fields

(Reuters) - Tanzania has arrested five suspected Somali pirates on an island close to its natural gas reserves in the southern part of the east African country, the army said on Friday.

Tanzania's coastline is fast becoming a major gas hub with major discoveries made there.

Schlumberger First-Quarter Profit Rises on Offshore Oil

Schlumberger Ltd. (SLB), the world’s largest oilfield-services provider, said first-quarter profit rose 38 percent as customers increased higher margin deepwater drilling around the globe in response to climbing crude prices.

TNK-BP on defensive after rebuke from Russia

MOSCOW (Reuters) - TNK-BP , Russia's third-largest crude oil producer, said it was aware of the urgency of environmental issues, such as the need for pipeline maintenance, following a barrage of criticism from the government over oil spills in Siberia.

"Since the company was established in September 2003, environmental protection has been and remains a priority in TNK-BP's business activities," the company said on Friday.

11 deaths refute offshore drilling safety myths

The wooden crosses rise from the beach in Grand Isle, La., each bearing the name of one of the men who died 40 miles offshore two years ago.

The 11 crosses stand against the myth of 50,000 wells.

The refrain is so common in the oil industry that in the two years since the Deepwater Horizon disaster, it has become a tired cliché. The industry, the saying goes, drilled 50,000 wells in the Gulf of Mexico and has only had one major accident.

It's a verbal blanket of denial that prevents fundamental change in the way wells are drilled at depths greater than 5,000 feet.

Fracking-Linked Earthquakes Spurring State Regulations

With scientific evidence emerging that wastewater from oil and gas drilling is the possible cause of earthquakes, states are adding new requirements for disposal wells.

Researchers think an increase in wastewater injected into the ground by drilling operators may be the cause of a six-fold increase in the number of earthquakes that have shaken the central part of the U.S. from 2000 to 2011, according to a U.S. Geological Survey study. The demand for underground disposal wells has increased with the proliferation of shale-gas drilling, a technique that produces millions of gallons of wastewater a well.

EPA issues air pollution rules for fracking wells

Federal regulators issued first-ever air pollution rules for "fracking" wells on Wednesday, requiring that drillers burn or capture the gas and its smog-producing compounds released when the wells are first tapped.

French oil firm Total SA says it will drill relief well to halt Nigeria plant natural gas leak

IBADAN, Nigeria — French oil firm Total SA says it will drill a relief well to stop a natural gas leak at a plant in Nigeria’s oil-rich southern delta.

The March 20 leak at its Obite natural gas site has forced the company to evacuate those nearby and led to daily monitoring of air and water surrounding the plant in Nigeria’s Rivers state.

Papers Detail BP Settlement in Gulf Oil Spill

The estimated multibillion-dollar settlement between BP and lawyers representing individual and business plaintiffs in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill was fleshed out on Wednesday in hundreds of pages of motions and exhibits.

The broad outlines of the agreement in principle reached last month, including an estimated $7.8 billion in payments for economic loss and medical claims, are unchanged in the papers filed in Federal District Court in New Orleans on Wednesday.

Gulf residents to get extra $64M for 2010 oil spill claims

NEW ORLEANS (AP) – Roughly 7,300 residents and businesses harmed by the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico will get more than $64 million in additional payments because their claims with BP's $20 billion compensation fund were shortchanged or wrongfully denied, the Justice Department announced Thursday.

The Gulf Spill: BP Still Doesn't Get It

BP is a $135 billion company with limitless resources for communicating progress in the Gulf. Ironically, it has probably been more successful repairing the Gulf Coast than rebuilding its brand image. I’m quite sure many of its executives believe the task is insurmountable. It isn’t. Where there is a will, there is always a way. This challenge is not about the funds needed to spread the word. It is about the culture behind the word itself. A culture driven by bottom line and stock value keeps getting in the way.

2 years after spill, troubling signs for life on seafloor

The scientists were a little tired and burned out. For two weeks, they had been aboard a research ship in the Gulf of Mexico, trying to find and analyze deep-sea communities of coral on the dark bottom, nearly a mile below.

A robot submersible was down there now. Charles Fisher, a Penn State biologist who specializes in corals, was doing other work as he kept an eye on the video feed.

Suddenly, he stopped.

They had found the reef they were searching for.

And it didn't look good. Something was wrong.

Why we must remember the BP oil spill

(CNN) -- As we prepare to celebrate Earth Day on Sunday, let us not forget that Friday marks the second anniversary of the start of the BP oil spill. It deserves more than a shrug, an "oh, yeah," and "how's the fishing?" It deserves more than a solemn voiced announcer relegating it to a "this day in history," with a picture from the archives to jog our memory.

10 reasons why investing in Arctic drilling is reckless – according to the world’s top risk assessors

Last week, Lloyd’s of London - the world’s leading insurer which sets the global standard for risk assessment - released a report warning investors not to rush in and invest in Arctic drilling. Looking at the industrial onslaught that is likely to hit the Arctic as the sea ice melts, the report covers the environmental impacts and financial risks of industrial fishing, shipping and mining. But it's most scathing on oil drilling, and in particular of the ability of oil companies to clean up after a major spill.

So I’ve put together a list of 10 reasons from the Lloyd’s report on why it’s not a great idea to drill for oil in the Arctic – in Lloyd’s own words.

Fukushima Daiichi: Inside the debacle

An unprecedented look at the disastrous handling of the accident at TEPCO's nuclear power station explains why Japan still doesn't trust nukes.

Nuclear safety policy in Emirates brought into sharp focus

The Fukushima disaster and a recent cover-up at a nuclear plant in South Korea could have cast a shadow over the UAE's nuclear energy programme.

Instead, both incidents are giving Abu Dhabi a chance to bolster safety standards and guard against surprise occurrences - black swan events - five years before its first reactor is scheduled to go online.

UAE presses the case for nuclear gold standard

New nuclear nations should not pursue uranium enrichment because it makes no commercial sense, says the UAE's top atomic envoy.

PG&E Quake Risks at Diablo Nuclear to Undergo 3D Exam

PG&E Corp. (PCG) and Edison International (EIX) are embarking on the most extensive and costly study of earthquake risks ever undertaken for U.S. nuclear power plants using 3-D seismic technology pioneered by the oil industry.

The utilities plan to spend $128 million and use research gathered at sea to acquire a better understanding of seismic hazards at California’s two atomic plants built along the coast in the most earthquake-prone area of any U.S. reactors.

Builder of Rare Earth Plant in Malaysia Counters Complaints

KUANTAN, MALAYSIA — The Australian company building a rare earth refinery in Malaysia sought to counter critics who are concerned that the plant could pose radioactive hazards, laying out detailed responses on Thursday that it said refuted the many “false allegations” made about the plant.

Oregon Town Weighs a Future With an Old Energy Source: Coal

BOARDMAN, Ore. — A new link in the world’s future energy supply could soon be built here on the Columbia River, and it would have nothing to do with the vast acres of wind turbines or the mammoth hydroelectric dams that give this region’s power sources one of the cleanest carbon footprints in the nation.

Instead, Boardman is pursuing one of the oldest and dirtiest of fossil fuels: coal. The question is not whether to use it to produce new energy but whether to make what some say would be tainted new profits.

Honda seeks to reverse hybrid owner's small claims award

TORRANCE, Calif. (AP) – Lawyers for American Honda Motor Co. returned to court Thursday to try to overturn a highly publicized small claims court award to a woman who sued over the fuel economy of her hybrid Honda Civic.

Asia's largest solar field switched on in India

NEW DELHI (AP) — The west Indian state of Gujarat is flipping the switch on Asia's largest solar power field as part of its 600 megawatt solar energy addition to India's power grid.

Some neighborhoods dangerously contaminated by lead fallout

Kathleen Marshall used to think the fenced backyard of her Philadelphia home was a safe place for her five children to play. Not anymore.

Marshall was horrified to learn that a long-forgotten factory once melted lead just across the street and that soil tests by USA TODAY indicate her yard is contaminated with hazardous levels of the toxic metal.

Lead by Example, Clinton Tells Sustainability Forum

“Chill out – sometimes this stuff takes years.”

That was Bill Clinton’s wry observation on Thursday as he addressed a sustainability conference in New York City, expressing frustration over how long it is taking for the country to move forward on clean energy and energy efficiency.

Americans Confess 'Green Guilt' Is Growing

The number of Americans who admit that they suffer from environmentally related "green guilt" has more than doubled in the past three years, according to a new survey. Environmental experts define green guilt as the knowledge that you could and should be doing more to help preserve the environment. Today it affects nearly one-third (29 percent) of Americans.

For Weed Warriors, the Motto Is Endurance

To the untrained eye, a weed is just a weed, and few of us can tell a thistle from a teasel. But for Paul Heiple and his team of Weed Warriors, knowing the difference is essential to their work routing out invasive plants that threaten the native species at Edgewood Park, a 500-acre natural preserve that overlooks California’s Silicon Valley.

Mr. Heiple, a retired geologist, leads a group of about 50 volunteers who spent 4,000 hours last year hunched over the park’s grassland areas digging up culprits like the yellow star thistle, broom, teasel and Italian thistle. They work on behalf of the California Native Plant Society, a nonprofit conservation organization for which Mr. Heiple heads the San Mateo County chapter’s invasive plant group.

Drought forecast for Southwest, California 'not optimistic'

Most of the Southwest as well as parts of California and the Southeast can expect drought conditions to worsen through July, federal forecasters said Thursday.

Salt threatens Mekong rice

BANGKOK - With Vietnam's fertile Mekong delta threatened by rising sea levels and salt water ingress, the country's future as a major rice exporter depends critically on research underway in the Philippines.

Scientists at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) are working with Vietnamese counterparts in the town of Los Banos, southeast of Manila, to develop a strain of rice that can withstand submergence for over two weeks and resistant salinity. A flood-tolerant variety dubbed "scuba rice", which has the submergence (SUB 1) rice gene, already offers half the solution.

What Cuba Can Teach Us About Food and Climate Change

After the Cold War, Cuba faced many of the agricultural challenges that the rest of the world is now anticipating.

Corn Growers: Climate Change Is ‘A Grave Threat To Rural Livelihoods And Quality Of Life’

Corn farmers concerned about the impact of climate change are speaking out, calling the problem “a grave threat” to the nation’s agricultural sector.

Responding to the increase in severe weather — and the prospects for a “quantum jump” in such devastating events — a group of corn farmers is renewing calls for policies to help cut global warming pollution.

Early Bloomers

THE naturalist and philosopher Henry David Thoreau coined a wonderful word for an imagined instrument in his 1854 book, “Walden”: the “realometer.” Thoreau’s realometer would allow an inquiring person to measure the reality of his perceptions, to push past the “mud and slush of opinion, and prejudice, and tradition, and delusion, and appearance ... to a hard bottom.”

EU vote on tar sands oil delayed until 2013

The European Commission has decided to carry out a full study into the impact of proposed fuel quality laws on business and markets, delaying until next year any ruling on how to rank the polluting effect of oil from tar sands, an EU official said.

Ministers had been expected to vote on the regulations in June as part of EU efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

EU Starts Five Battles to Resuscitate Carbon Market, SocGen Says

The European Union, already facing criticism after expanding carbon trading this year to airlines, has opened five battlegrounds in its bid to resuscitate its flagging market, according to Societe Generale SA.

“It’s very clear their primary goal is to increase prices,” Emmanuel Fages, an analyst in Paris for the bank, said today by phone. “It’s the result of their political ambition.”

Rising sea levels put coastal communities at risk

In short, the planet is warming, the oceans are rising. By how much and why leaves much room for debate, but it is an issue becoming increasingly impossible for coastal communities to ignore.

"We have begun the conversation about how do we approach this whole topic," Ventura County Supervisor Steve Bennett said. "It's a very complicated moving target to try to map."

Senate Testimony on Sea Level Rise by Ben Strauss

At more than half the 55 sites where we studied flood risk, storm surges on top of sea level rise have better than even chances to reach more than 4 feet above the high tide line by 2030. Yet nearly 5 million U.S. residents live in 2.6 million homes on land below this level. Multiplied by the national average sales price of existing homes in 2010, this stock comes to more than $500 billion of residential real estate, in a rough estimate.

An enormous amount of infrastructure also lies in the same zone, from airports to wastewater treatment plants, and including nearly 300 energy facilities — as you can see in the second display, along with values for some individual states, and population figures. The facilities shown are mainly natural gas, oil and gas, and electric facilities. More than half are in Louisiana, the vast majority there unprotected by levees.

Chet Culver’s signature program for renewable energy research and development is off to a slower and rockier start than the former Iowa governor predicted....

Culver pitched the Iowa Power Fund as a $100 million program that would invest in ethanol, wind and other technologies to reduce pollution, break the state’s dependence on foreign oil and add jobs...

But the fund never turned out to be $100 million; lawmakers diverted nearly 30 percent of the money for other purposes. Few breakthroughs have occurred thus far, while some projects have failed.


Any better luck in other places?

Maybe it's just me, but this seems worthy of a re-post here. Just for a bit of context, a team of scientists was rushed up to the Arctic last fall after ships plying the newly ice-free northeast passage north of Siberia reported seeing "seas bubbling as if they were boiling" with methane.

We're still waiting for the published report from those scientists (Semiletov and Shakhova are two of the most prominent), but preliminary interviews talk of methane plumes a kilometer across, whereas the largest earlier plumes reported were measure in meters to tens of meters.

There are reported to be thousands of gigatons (billion tons) of methane stored under the very shallow East Siberian Arctic Shelf. Even small percentages of this methane entering suddenly into the atmosphere would dramatically increase GW. So at the least, it is an area worth paying close attention to.

So now, the satellite map for methane over the Northern Hemisphere is in for March. Sunlight destroys methane (oxidizes it to CO2, actually), so methane levels regularly drop significantly in the Arctic this time of year. But it looks as though there is an increase above last month over the East Siberian Arctic Shelf and adjoining land mass:






Or something foreboding imminent doom?

I'd be less worried if this wasn't a tipping point signal.

Those web links come back as unavailable. Another fluke?

Yes, that's fine. Thanks so much.

hmm , they were working yesterday. I confirm not working now. Checking ftp tree...

Edit: Links are broken

Correct links below



Btw, links work as http as well


Here's an animated gif of February and March 2012

Thanks, Undertow. You're the greatest.

http://picasion.com/ does it - I just clicked buttons :-)

Not that I couldn't have created it without picasion.com, I must admit.


That is a fascinating display. Would it be possible for you to creat the same animation showing the dramatic changes over a 10 year perior from March of 2003 to March of 2012. Not that I'm not willing to learn how to do what you seem to have done rather quickly.

Yes that's possible but I'd probably have to do it as a video not an animated gif (gif would be too big for Drumbeat display) . Do you mean all months from March 2003 or just the March images from each year (which would be more reasonable as a gif)?

Edit: Here's March 2003 and March 2012. I made it a little smaller to keep the size down but it is still dramatic.


THANKS! That certainly is dramatic and as to your question, I was only looking for exactly what you presented, just the change between the two months. For a representation like this to be distributed widely as evidence of Climate Change it would need to be in a video format including every month. When we use, as I suggested, only two selected data points the denialists will accuse us of "Cherry Picking" the data.

However, it is interesting to note that the Antarctic Ice Core data going back at least 420K years indicates that the peaks of Methane (CH4) concentration were never more than 800 PPMV during the Interglacials. The Methane levels are now approaching 2000 PPMV since 1850, the beginning to the Industrial Age. This is an increase of 250% in a matter of 160 years.

I'll do an movie of all the months later when I have time. Anyone else wanting to have a go can find all images at http://asl.umbc.edu/pub/yurganov/methane/MAPS/NH/

Here's the historic methane from the ice-cores you mentioned from 1008 to 1995 ( from http://cdiac.ornl.gov/trends/atm_meth/lawdome_meth.html )

This indicates that Methane, which is 20 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2, has increased at a faster rate than CO2. This chart also indicates that Methane was beginning to trend upwards as early as the 1790s which is earlier than the assumed increases in CO2, beginning about the 1850s. Or was CO2 also beginning to trend upwards at the same time?? It also implies that the accelerating of methane concentration has an anthropogenic causation. While it is true that Methane is short-lived in the atmosphere (10-12 years), it eventually decays into CO2 or water vapor which are also greenhouse gases.

Fortunately methane isn't as powerful a GHG as CO2 (the warming potential appears that way because there isn't much of it present, so adding more doesn't hit already partially saturated spectral lines. Doubling methane is only a fraction as bad as doubling CO2.
Some have speculated that methane forcing may have saved humans from an ice age -rice cultivation has led to higher methane for a couple of thousand years.

WTF are you talking about?

According to Schindel et al. 2006 over decadal time scales, methane is 105 times more powerful than CO2.

It is irrelevant at this point what its global warming potential would be if it made up some much larger percentage of the atmosphere, since at that point we would be living (or more like dying) on a very different kine of planet.

What I'm saying is the fractional increase in concentration is much higher for methane than CO2. We've more than doubled Mathane (from pre agriculture days), and the total forcing (from that alone) isn't that great the 40% increase in CO2 overwhelms it. But the methane concentration is still a couple hundred times lower than CO2, so a little methane in absolute terms still goes a long way.

There is some uncertainty over the indirect effect of methane, when it oxidizes in the stratosphere that contributes to stratospheric humidity (which has a strong warming impact), so its possible the methane forcing is underestimated.

I'll do an movie of all the months later when I have time

Ok, Here's the video link for March 2003 - March 2012 (all months, 1 second/month).


Thanks! Downloading it now on my slow connection...

Can anyone explain in simple terms what the units are - Mixing ratio (ppbv) at 400 mb? Thanks.0

Parts Per Billion By Volume at 400 millibar pressure atmospheric level.

Thanks, that much I could decipher, but what does 'mixing ratio' mean? Sounds like this is something other than just a simple measure of concentration?

Also, this sequence confirms what Dohboi said above about methane diminishing at this time of year, as pretty much every prior March->April shows a quite visible decline. Then by May, an even more notable drop off. So, what will this May hold?

And some other recent months kind of jump out - like Feb 2010 and Jan 2012. What's going on there?

It's measured by the AQUA satellite AIRS (Atmospheric Infra-Red Sounder). Mixing Ratio is just a standard term. The 400mb level is roughly 23,000 feet (approx 7 km) so lower than the highest mountains. Here's what the NASA page says



The accuracy of AIRS CH4 is about 1.2-1.5% depending on different altitudes, which should be able to map seasonal variation of CH4 and can provide valuable information of atmosphere in mid-upper troposphere. AIRS Scientists have observed a significant summer enhancement of CH4 in high northern hemisphere which correlates well with soil temperature and is most likely due to northern wetland emission in summer. They have also observed a significant plume of CH4 over the Tibetan Plateau, formed by Monsoon and deep convection over the region and a high concentration of CH4 from Southeast of China and Alaska Fire in 2004, and some unusual features in Siberia in the winter.

There is still a lot of work to do with the AIRS methane product. There is little validation data available in the mid troposphere and the distribution still shows some anomalous behavior. It is a difficult gas to retrieve due to the contamination by water vapor lines, however, the AIRS Science Team does believe the AIRS to have skill in retrieving this gas.

Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atmospheric_Infrared_Sounder

Hopefully someone who follows the science and data more closely can add more.

EDIT: This looks interesting http://airs.jpl.nasa.gov/documents/science_team_meeting_archive/2010_11/... "Seven Years' Observation of CH4 from AIRS..." Not had a chance to read it yet though.

400mb would be around 22,000 to 23,000 feet. Sixty percent of the atmospheric mass below.


Thanks for the effort you put into creating that video.. After watching it several times I've come to several initial suppositions, as opposed to concrete opinions:

1. Overall CH4 concentrations have increased in the last decade.
2. There appears to be a seasonal fluctuation in the overall density.
3. Areas of extreme density in any given month may appear to the the source of the CH4, however it may be that prevailing winds have kept the CH4 concentrated in one area, not necessarily the actual source.

It would be ideal to be able to rotate the global perspective and focus on regional areas to determine whether they are sources of CH4, either natural or anthropogenic, or whether CH4 is concentrated there periodically due to shifting or seasonal wind patterns.

Also it is important to note that Methane release in the East Siberian Arctic Shelf that is caused by the AGW as a result of the burning of fossil fuels must be attributed to human causation as opposed to natural climatic variations.

I've had a look at the data a bit more both from AIRS and Mauna Loa. From about 2000-2005, methane levelled off but then started climbing again in 2007. Since 2007 there has been an average increase of about 6 ppb per year measured both by satellite and ground measurements. Latest data from Mauna Loa "in-situ" is through December 2011 (Source: ftp://ftp.cmdl.noaa.gov/ccg/ch4/in-situ/mlo/ch4_mlo_surface-insitu_1_ccg... ) and, up to that point, there is no sign that the last 5 years upwards trend of about 6 ppb/yr is accelerating as seen at Mauna Loa (when averaged out). Nor is it slowing either. December 2011 was 12 ppb above December 2011.

However the ground data for Jan/Feb/March 2012 has not yet been published. Is there a more up to date source of unverified data anyone know?

Good work on the video, my reaction: 1 word starting with s! Things really change around 2007.


Here's what was said at the time

Carbon Dioxide, Methane Rise Sharply in 2007

April 23, 2008

Methane levels rose last year for the first time since 1998. Methane is 25 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, but there’s far less of it in the atmosphere—about 1,800 parts per billion. When related climate affects are taken into account, methane’s overall climate impact is nearly half that of carbon dioxide.

Rapidly growing industrialization in Asia and rising wetland emissions in the Arctic and tropics are the most likely causes of the recent methane increase, said scientist Ed Dlugokencky from NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory.

We’re on the lookout for the first sign of a methane release from thawing Arctic permafrost,” said Dlugokencky. “It’s too soon to tell whether last year’s spike in emissions includes the start of such a trend.”

And, as we see, the trend has continued.




Thanks for posting this information. While I had troubling accessing the links in your post, I was able to access all of Dr. Yurganov's charts of Northern Hemisphere Methane levels going back to late 2002. I looked at the February and March charts for every year going back to 2003. To the untrained eye there was nothing that comes close to the change between February and March of this year. We can only hope that this is a fluke, however, I will not be surprised if this is not the harbinger of things to come. It will be interesting to learn what measurements are made by the research teams when the sea lanes open this summer.

On a separate issue relating to Climate Change, yesterday, Dr. Jeff Masters Weather Underground just started a new Climate Change page. Initially they have it organized at Basic and Intermediate levels and it is very readable. I recommend this site for the layman who does not have the scientific or technical literacy to comprehend everything we can find at RealClimate.

Thanks for doing this work. I have been too busy and had some computer problems.

That is pretty much what I suspected from the basic physics and chemistry of the situation.

As with much else in our current predicaments, we won't know for absolute sure if this is a fluke or the beginning of something rather ominous until the consequences are already very much with us.

How ominous could it turn out to be?

You probably don't want to know.

Check out Mark Lynas's "Six Degrees" for some hints.

Actually, the purpose of that book, to warn people of what might come about if we don't change our ways, is pretty much moot now. That is what is almost certainly going to happen in this century, likely in most peoples lifetimes, and if this methane thing is part of some really large explosion in release rates from clathrates etc, in the next very few years.

dohboi and Undertow - Thanks much for your efforts to bring this important data to the light of day, at least here on TOD.

In reading reading the comments (when the total number was 86) following Master's April 20 blog entry on climate change , I noticed that only two of them attacked Master's support of the almost complete climate change consensus among climate scientists, and they were nasty. There seems to be the same kind of desperate sounding, angry minority here.

However, most of the regulars here seem to accept global climate change/warming as a real problem rivaling, if not passing in potential impact on human civilization as the problem of peak oil and resulting increases in the prices of petroleum-based fossil fuels. I find it interesting that members of the anti-global warming/climate change crowd always seem to attack Al Gore with great derision, but he is just a messenger, not a scientist doing the research or analyzing the data.

I often refer people whom I interact with in my daily life to websites like The Oil Drum, realclimate.org and skepticalscience.com and will add the WU climate change site. However, few heed my advice, preferring soundbites from TV news and commentary shows. Most people just don't seem to want to look at serious presentations of data and in-depth, knowledgeable discussions of peak oil and other energy issues. And I find it particularly ironic that those who preach personal responsibility seem to be the least likely to take it upon themselves to research the relevant issues!

Although I very seldom post here, I read theoildrum.com regularly. This place is an invaluable resource for energy-related issues. I have a degree in Conservation of Natural Resources from U.C. Berkeley (1976, earned at age 36). As a contract senior network administrator, one of my one-year contracts (1999) was with Chevron as the dedicated IT desktop/laptop/PC-LAN network support person at their HQ in San Francisco. My responsibilities included setting up and maintaining the laptop for Irwin Lichtblau, their chief negotiator with Russia and Kazakhstan. However, in spite of this background, my knowledge most major energy issues pales in comparison to that which is demonstrated by many of the posters here.

Please keep the instructive discussions going.

It seems to be the USA is the big denier. I passed a SEMARNAT poster today that said Climate Change. Checked their web page and followed the "Cambio Climatico" on their web page link on their page. Quite a difference in attitude with a good account of what they are doing. For HiH here are some samples,

"In 2012 26% of electricity will come from renewable sources."

"The goal for the year 2012, included in the Climate Change Special Program CCSP, foresees the substitution of almost 2 million refrigerators and air conditioning equipment, as well as the substitution of a bit more than 47 million incandescent light bulbs for compact fluorescent lamps or more efficient ones. With these actions, Mexico would stop emitting about 4.73 MtCO2e and would save about 7,871 GWh of electric power between 2009 and 2012."

Here are the pages (Cambio is available in English)




It seems to be the USA is the big denier

I kinda agree. Denial isn't a big issue here or in China or in Europe. There is plenty of environmental degradation here but people understand what damage they are doing, even if they can't do anything because 'economic growth' is more important.
In fact I haven't met anyone in my country or from the aforementioned regions who say that there is no climate change. Is the issue cultural?

I kinda agree. Denial isn't a big issue here or in China or in Europe. There is plenty of environmental degradation here but people understand what damage they are doing, even if they can't do anything because 'economic growth' is more important.

I would personally call that doublethink.

Wiki: Doublethink, a word coined by George Orwell in the novel 1984, describes the act of simultaneously accepting two mutually contradictory beliefs as correct, often in distinct social contexts.[1] It is related to, but distinct from, hypocrisy and neutrality. Its opposite is cognitive dissonance, where the two beliefs cause conflict in one's mind. Doublethink is an integral concept of George Orwell's dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Even if it isn't outright denial, the result comes from actions and not beliefs. Alternatively you could say that the belief in growth is so all encompassing and consuming that only some great outside force is likely to alter these beliefs. You are just as trapped with these beliefs as Confederate abolitionists were, worse still it is even more difficult to come up with an argument likely to convince people otherwise as the whole idea is that everyone benefits.

I suspect the actions of China and Europe with regards to their own strategies towards renewable energy for instance are more self serving than magnanimous. It is more probable that their belief in renewable energy is about as strong as their projected access to any significant and reliable supplies of cheap fossil energy. Maybe I am cynical, however I doubt that anyone in these countries rises to political power without a strong Machiavellian streak. I do not believe that the politicians in Europe for instance are any 'nicer' than the politicians in the U.S.A. They ain't your momma and had Europe been handed the U.S.A.s hand in energy supply, present and past, they would likely be behaving in the exact same manner.

Well, I like to stand in front of the line when it comes to bashing the US, my country, for climate change denial. But if other nations 'can't do anything because 'economic growth' is more important', then what difference does denial v. acceptance make?

This is really just a rhetorical question, as I agree with dohboi's comment above, where he notes that the outcomes in "Six Degrees" are likely inevitable.

I fear that the methane levels discussed upthread may be the signs that the warming system has locked in and we are on a ride we cannot stop.


Is the issue cultural?

Less, cultural, than due to the "ownership" of our media and politics by rich industrialists. They strongly influence the conversation. Attacks on any environmental science that might justify any kind of regulation of business activity are the norm. They've got a political party that now uses AGW-denial as a litmus test (don't parrot the it's all a conspiracy thing, and you can't succeed politically in that party). The rightwing simply shouts their talking points (mostly lies) again and again, until enough people implicitly believe them.

So, in one sense, our main stream culture has been highjacked by a few very rich people with an agenda. On another level our people (sheeple) are not very resistant to being programmed by misinformation (which might be cultural).

Are we getting a new poster child for Peak oil/ELM in Argentine?

Bloomberg: Argentine Shortages Range From Drugs to Salmon on Import Cuts

Since February, consumers and businesses in Argentina have found it increasingly hard to find various imported items -- electrical equipment, certain prescription drugs, machinery parts, bananas, and salmon.

Bloomberg: Argentina Seizes 51% of Oil Producer YPF to Stem Imports

The seizure of the stake from Madrid-based Repsol YPF SA (REP) comes after more than two months of government pressure on YPF because of slumping production. The country could double output within a decade after the discovery of shale oil fields in the south that will cost $25 billion a year to develop and which will require YPF to find partners to help share costs.

"Bloomberg: Argentine Shortages Range From Drugs to Salmon on Import Cuts"

Last I heard, the US has had shortages of various drugs over the last couple years. I haven't heard that it has gotten any better recently. I haven't heard of salmon shortages stateside, but somehow that doesn't seem as catastrophic as people whose lives depend on them not having access to drugs essential to their treatment.

I think what these stories explain is that a smaller country like Argentine lives and dies by their trade balance. They can't print money and expect other countries to still take it (like we do). As their oil exports dry-up, they will have a harder time affording to import other things, because they need world currencies. Their president is trying to tell them to give up on imported stuff and us local.

think: One iPhone = five barrels of oil, or make your own iPhone. Not easy.

They had Nationalized oil for 70 years before being forced to privatize in one of those famous austerity deals of global finance enforcing its rules.
Argentina is just retaking its resources.
It has had quite a growth rate recently.

2002 to 2010 changes in Net Oil Exports (BP):

Argentina: -332,000 bpd
Canada: +254,000 bpd

Net Difference: -78,000 bpd

that's a lot of iPhones!

I'm not sure why you say the net difference is -78,000 bpd instead of -586,000 bpd.

Anyone know if Argentina subsidizes in petroleum users (with $1/gallon gas or whatever)?

I should of been clearer.
They have had a good GDP growth rate, not oil production.


The IMF is not happy about this.

Argentina's Messy Politics And Economy Are Being Laid Bare With Its Latest High Drama Nationalization

Fernandez's YPF takeover also seems to be coinciding with renewed calls for sovereignty of the Falklands Islands in Argentina. From The Guardian:

"Renationalisation is aligned in the minds of Fernández supporters with the renewed demand for sovereignty over the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic claimed by Argentina as "Las Malvinas".

"The Malvinas are Argentine, so is YPF," say posters around the country and a T-shirt that artists who support Fernández have started wearing on internet campaigns in favor of the takeover. "This ends five centuries of white Spanish domination," said a supporter. Argentina was ruled by Spain until its independence in 1816."

Is It Just A Distraction From The Economic Mess?

Argentina's economy is in shambles and some argue that such dramatic takeovers only serve as a respite for Fernandez's administration from the real problem at hand. The country is in the process of unwinding macro imbalances brought about over the past few years from a hostile international environment following its default in 2001.

Inflation is currently over 20 percent and it is widely claimed that the country misrepresents its inflation data. Remember the state was trying to file criminal charges against economists at MyS Consultores for allegedly publishing false information about the country's data. But one way or another high inflation means the country is likely to see subsidies cut, a blow to consumers.

Politics as usual or circling their wagons?

Iceland told the Eurozone to stuff it, Greece wishes it could. Who's next? Spain? Is Argentina deciding that the price of globalization is just to high? Peripheral nations dropping out of the global imperial scheme, taking back what they see as theirs?

Fine, but next year, when Argentine wants more oil than they produce locally, then what?
Getting out of the global scheme is all fine and dandy when you can really be totally self reliant, but which modern economy really is?

If one has the sense that globalization as we know it is going to decline (or crash) who's in a beter position to be more self-reliant, Argentina or the US? Which population has been better prepared by recent experience? I have no dog in Argentina's hunt; just an observer asking questions.

I agree, fishing my life away in Gulfo San Matias looks like a good way to go.

But I'll be after those big sea run browns in the Rio Grand.

It certainly is curious that the story states salmon. Argentina has some of it's own salmon farms, and is next door to one of the world's largest producers of salmon, Chile. With drug shortages, that has been a recurrent story from Greece. Shortages, depending on the definition, of drugs has become a problem here, as many types become harder and harder to keep stocked. Recently, a pharmacy was charged with essentially hoarding drugs for later inflated resale and price gouging hospitals.

Farm raised Atlantic Salmon.
South America was salmon and trout free until introductions.

Yes, salmonids were all northern hemisphere until 1900, then introductions were worldwide of many species, often by state or government personnel as a "gift". As opposed to all the private donations prior. Like leghorn chickens, they could have stayed in Italy.

Interesting, but one of the more perplexing fishery questions came from the southern hemisphere, from a New Zealand fish biologist working on their brown trout. Termed Allen's Paradox, it concerned the fact that existing benthic insect biomass couldn't support the fish biomass. It was not fully answered for decades. (Basically, it took awhile before we could fully understand the amount of secondary production relative to biomass)


I know you're from the PNW and not that many people talk about benthic insect biomass in the context of fisheries ecology. All the others are people I work with. We must know some people in common.

Care to drop me a line at jonathan dot callahan at gmail dot com to find out who they are?


Misinformation campaign targets USA TODAY reporter, editor

Fake Twitter and Facebook accounts have been created in their names, along with a Wikipedia entry and dozens of message board postings and blog comments. Websites were registered in their names.

The timeline of the activity tracks USA TODAY's reporting on the military's "information operations" program, which spent hundreds of millions of dollars on marketing campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan — campaigns that have been criticized even within the Pentagon as ineffective and poorly monitored.

Bizarre. I don't see what the point is, or who would gain from it.

This just happened two days ago to a friend of mine who I went to school with and who is now a very popular morning DJ in Honolulu. Someone created a FB account in his name, used a bunch of his pictures, and is sending friend requests. He still doesn't know what they are attempting to do, but you can see him discussing it here: https://www.facebook.com/scotty.blaisdell/posts/3695502343183

I would guess that the purpose is to whip up some nationalistic sociopath into taking some kind of "retribution" against the liberal media. Kind of fits the crazy military pathology of throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks.

Why not "look at this! This is why we need the Cyber Security bill to pass".

H.R. 3523, a piece of legislation with the title Cyber Intelligence and Sharing Protection Act is now a topic of discussion. One read has it as an attack on fair use. Fair use - when someone here posts something from someplace else. Ya know - how this place runs.

(2) CYBER THREAT INTELLIGENCE- The term `cyber threat intelligence’ means information in the possession of an element of the intelligence community directly pertaining to a vulnerability of, or threat to, a system or network of a government or private entity, including information pertaining to the protection of a system or network from–
`(A) efforts to degrade, disrupt, or destroy such system or network; or
`(B) theft or misappropriation of private or government information, intellectual property, or personally identifiable information.

One Man's "Fair Use" is another's 'cyber attack', 'theif'n' and 'misappropriation'n'.

Haven't seen this here yet so here it is;

Sigh. Rush Limbaugh continues plug-in car attacks; Bob Lutz plays defense

How about by letting Lutz do the work? Speaking at the Hudson Institute earlier this week, Lutz laid out his arguments about why the Volt and plug-in technology are good ideas, all of which regular readers have heard before. You can hear them in full in the embedded video down below (Limbaugh's comments are available, too), but the gist is: they work, they save gas and they will get cheaper.

Now, I don't think most readers here will find this piece really illuminating but, I watched the 8 min plus video clip of Lutz speaking and became intrigued by th context in which he was speaking especially since the next person who was going to speak was Fred Smith, CEO of FedEx, an organization which will be particularly affected by Peak Oil. So, I went over to C-SPAN Video and watched the whole 1 hour and 25 minutes of the presentation. It is eerie to watch and listen to four retired marines talk about oil as a natural security issue. It is obvious that these guy "get" a lot of the facts and they could almost pass for members of TOD in some cases. However being conservative, ex-military cornucopians they don't "get" Peak Oil or Limits to Growth. They get many of the facts straight and then veer of into some cornucopians discourse.

Another interesting thing is hearing Bob Lutz describe his frustration with the right wing media's treatment of the Chevrolet Volt, particularly the section starting at 6:21 in the 8 min clip on autologgreen. Sounds very familiar, sort of like the frustration many of us here feel with respect to the mainstream media's treatment of Peak Oil/Limits to Growth. Like I said, weird.

Alan from the islands

I notice an odd disconnect between public figures' apparent grasp of facts and their actions.

It is sadly typical for a speech to detail inconvenient limits, rapidly followed by comments that show a blatant disregard for the limits they just pointed out.

Is it a lack of ability to connect actions with consequences, or deliberate action with full knowledge that the consequences will be unpleasant but the expectation that they will neither be blamed nor responsible for cleaning up after themselves?

Is it a lack of ability to connect actions with consequences, or deliberate action with full knowledge that the consequences will be unpleasant but the expectation that they will neither be blamed nor responsible for cleaning up after themselves?

Interesting point!

From: 2 years after spill, troubling signs for life on seafloor, linked up top.


'How extensive'?

Robert Haddad, who heads the effort to assess the damage of the spill for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said the findings were important.

"A concern we all have, and something we don't have good answers on yet, is how extensive" the damage to the corals is, he said.

"And then, what's the long-term prognosis for those corals? . . . Are they going to come back? Are they going to die? If they die, what does that mean? From our perspective, how do we value that?"

NOAA's mandate is to "restore, replace, or acquire the equivalent," Haddad said. "The question becomes: How do you restore or replace these types of natural resources?"

Deep-sea corals aren't the colorful reef animals of shallow tropical water most people think of. In the dark, eerie world they inhabit, there's no photosynthesis or algae. The corals eat small shrimp and crustaceans


Right there, in a` nutshell is the essence of my objection to those who would suggest that a spill is really no big deal because there are natural oil seeps on the ocean floor and nature already deals with those.

It is also why comments such as the one made recently by RockyMntGuy saying things like: "Sometimes tossing a burning match into the woods is a GOOD thing" completely miss the point. They fail in being able to adress the big picture and all the interconnected threads of the larger tapestry. They may even be valid statements under the current paradigm, however they are not even wrong, when one finally begins to grasp that the entire paradigm to which we all, so desperately cling, must be tossed!

So go ahead, Rocky, keep tossing those matches in the forest where you live so you can keep your little house safe but just remember that even your forest is part of the larger tapestry and because of the interconnectedness of all our physical and biological support systems, it is not all that far removed from the deepsea corals!

Btw there is another issue that I haven't heard much about, there were many confirmed instances of massive hydrocarbon plumes mixed with dispersants throughout the water collumn. It is well known for instance, that different developmental stages of young fish and crustaceans occur at different depths. Lately we have been hearing reports such as this:


According to Kuhns, at least 50 per cent of the shrimp caught in that period in Barataria Bay, a popular shrimping area that was heavily impacted by BP’s oil and dispersants, were eyeless. Kuhns added: “Disturbingly, not only do the shrimp lack eyes, they even lack eye sockets.”

“Some shrimpers are catching these out in the open Gulf [of Mexico],” she added, “They are also catching them in Alabama and Mississippi. We are also finding eyeless crabs, crabs with their shells soft instead of hard, full grown crabs that are one-fifth their normal size, clawless crabs, and crabs with shells that don’t have their usual spikes … they look like they’ve been burned off by chemicals.” [...]

The dispersants are known to be mutagenic, a disturbing fact that could be evidenced in the seafood deformities. Shrimp, for example, have a life-cycle short enough that two to three generations have existed since BP’s disaster began, giving the chemicals time to enter the genome.


So go ahead folks! Just toss some mutant shrimp on the barbie and wash it down with some good radioactive beer!


Perhaps "we" can be optimistic - 2 years later the sea environment toxic level has dropped enough instead of death you now have just mutations?

What makes you think the Chevy Volt is anything but a disaster? The automobile is an inherently insane device for accomplishing everyday transportation. Switching from gas to coal, nukes, and NG doesn't alter that fact.

Could be, but can an automobile producer acknowledge your arguments and still remain in business?

Yes if they consider themselves TRANSPORTATION companies and not just Auto only companies.
The auto companies would have collapsed in 2009 except Obama and the US govt bailed them out
for the moment. Currently their sales are being artificially juiced by sub-prime auto loans which were deliberately left out of the already skimpy financial regulations passed in Dodd-Frank. Sub-prime auto loans are the fastest growing loan segment outside of student loans. The Auto companies and their quisling politicians are being just as myopic now as they were when they refused to adapt to build smaller, less profitable fuel efficient cars. Even Michael Moore, who grew up in the Auto industry town of Flint, Michigan, recommended that our taxpayer investment to bailout the Auto Companies be actively used to transition them to Green Transit. IE buses (they already make those), shuttles and hopefully light rail, trolleys and even Railroad locomotives and railcars.
They should be focusing on Green Transit public transit vehicles not the dwindling personal behemoth car business. Hopefully they have the engineering and manufacturing talent to handle this transition and make the most energy efficient public transit vehicles possible including ultimately "grid-controlled electric vehicles" as recommended in "Transport Revolutions: Moving People and Freight without Oil" by Mandel and Perl: http://transportrevolutions.info .
If they cannot handle this transition then they are dinosaurs doomed to extinction along with their fossil fueled energy.

See the news item I posted in a comment below...

Also, I'm convinced that in the USA, between political gridlock and dwindling non-military spending ability, it's too late in the game to greatly expand transit of the big-bus kind, let alone much new passenger rail. Also, big busses aren't especially low-energy. The future is jitneys. But they are illegal. The obstacles are not technical but social/political.

I would agree that smaller jitneys or shuttles would be better than big buses but
buses could still provide a transition. The WHOLE problem is "political gridlock"!! As Lester Brown wrote a few years ago in "Plan B" - we have known a lot of the answers for years - stop the Wars, insulate and get energy efficient, support cities for people not cars. But the problem is the political will to do it!
But there are huge prospects for Rail that are mostly ignored. For example we have friends living in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont by Lyndonville and St Johnsbury. Paralleling I-91 which was just repaved as part of the Stimulus Bill, is a Railroad which actively carries freight and also "leaf-peeper" tourist trains. I.e. the tracks are running and safe enough to handle passengers already! If you go to the Vermont Railway website which is excellent and follow history you discover that all the towns in the Northeast Kingdom along the river and I-91 had something like 14 passenger trains per day before the Auto Addiction Lobby destroyed Rail passenger service in the USA. There is no reason this could not be revived. The tracks are already there! To allow for local/express trains/lightrail and so as not to get stuck with freight, some extra rail sidings could be built at strategic points.
The Japanese high-speed Rail coexists with normal Rail totally by using sidings so extra tracks are not required for the whole route.

I have only limited knowledge of Vermont railroads and only slightly better of New Hampshire RRs.

Generally, double tracking is a major rail productivity enhancement. Instead of waiting on a passing siding for the single track to clear - just go !

14 regular passenger trains /day requires major population centers fairly close together (Houston-San Antonio would need about 14 to 20 pax trains/day, if both has excellent urban rail systems).

In Europe, regulations allow for trams (light rail) to operate on lightly used railroads - here there has to be at least 1 hour between the two types (called temporal separation).

The break even for electrification appears to be @ 5 to 6 trains/day in the EU.

One possibility might be EMU service for local service.


Best Hopes for Better Use of Rail,


The Japanese high-speed Rail coexists with normal Rail totally by using sidings so extra tracks are not required for the whole route.

I question this.

All Japanese RR except HSR are narrow gauge. HSR is standard gauge.

In France, the TGV gets off dedicated HSR tracks, slows down to 100+ mph (200 kph ??) and shares the tracks with freight when serving some smaller cities, such as Brest.


Clearly the US transportation market disagrees with you, because bus transit was the fastest growing intercity travel mode in 2010, and continues to grow fast, with lots of room for massive expansion.

If government is too starved by right-wing politics to fund transit, eventually the private sector will fill the void, especially since younger age groups in the US are reducing both car ownership and car miles traveled very substantially compared to historical levels. The young adults I know all use the Chinatown buses, or equivalent.


Buses were the fastest growing mode of intercity transportation in the USA last year, outpacing rail and air travel, thanks largely to the expansion of "curbside operators" such as BoltBus and Megabus, according to researchers at DePaul University in Chicago.
Intercity bus operations overall expanded by 6% in 2010, while curbside operators — which don't run out of established terminals but pick up and drop off passengers at curbside — grew by 23.9%, says the study by the Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development at DePaul.

And inter-city buses are very low-energy. At full occupancy buses have much high passenger mile per gallon than jitneys at full occupancy, so the only possible efficiency advantage for jitneys is using them on routes with too few passengers to fill a bus.

Encouraging people to travel collectively by bus and coach can help reduce our negative impact on the environment considerably. According to the American Union of Concerned Scientists, when travelling by bus or coach, your carbon footprint is the smallest of all transport modes.

UK data shows that coaches emit 0.03 kg of CO2 per passenger-kilometre. This is half that of trains and radically smaller than the amount emitted by cars (0.11) and airplanes (0.18).

Actually, both intercity bus and passenger rail have bright futures. Amtrak ridership is up 50 percent in the last eight to ten years after being flat for three decades. Mega Bus has had major success, and Greyhound's growth appears to parallel that of Amtrak. Consider also that the airlines are having financial troubles due to high fuel costs (see the Southwest story above) and have cut back both flights and seat-miles since 2007.

The bus companies have two issues: 1) the congestion and maintenance of the Interstate Highway System and other primary arterials, and 2) the stigma many people have about bus travel, whether intercity or within an urban area. The latter has actually extended down to the school bus level. I have spent many hours trying to convince people that bus travel is safe, safer than driving, and environmentally sane. It is a very hard sell.

Passenger rail faces the problem of two full generations coming of age without the experience of wide-spread passenger rail service in the US. Many people under 50 have simply never ridden a train. They are amazed to hear of sleeping cars, dining with total strangers who become friends before dessert, or simply watching the backyard of America pass by. Fortunately, more young people are taking to both the bus and the rail.

The peak rail mileage and peak passenger rail service levels were reached in the US by 1920 or so. Class 1 rails operate about 94,000 miles of track, of which 70,000 miles involve significant density of use. The total railroad mileage in the US is about 140,000. Only about 16 Class II carriers exist, meaning a lot of track belongs to Class III (short line) roads. Most short-line operators have trains going 30 mph or less.

By contrast, there are 2.7 million miles of paved roads in the US and another 1.1 million miles of road is unpaved. The Interstate System, though, is less than 50,000 miles. Amtrak covers less than 22,000 miles, and commuter/heavy/light rail covers 11,000 miles of track. The most aggressive expansion of passenger rail service, prepared by the National Association of Railroad Passengers, would cover about the same number of miles as the Interstate system.

We have to expand the passenger rail system both in terms of miles (and cities) covered as well as frequency of service, but we will need a greatly expanded bus system as well.

Suddenly I find myself wondering if the TSA isn't a stealth Federal energy saving program?

Lutz admitted that he underestimated the cost of the Volt when he gave the go ahead for development.The forty grand price is what hurts sales. It is a full electric car with a large expensive battery which takes up a lot of room. Like a leaf electric it is driven by an electric motor. It also has a gasoline engine which powers a generator. Add to this the cost of electrical systems of different voltages for power steering, AC, radios and the drive motor and you have a very expensive vehicle.
This system has been considered by other car companies and deemed too expensive.

Yes, a hybrid has all the cost, weight and complexity of almost two complete drivetrians and energy storage systems. The worst of both worlds. In the case of the Volt they skipped the full transmission of a traditional ICE automobile.

Most people don't seem to be aware that there are two distinct and different hybrid systems in the market. The simple system, used by Honda and others uses a conventional drive system, a slightly larger battery and a small electric motor which assists the gasoline engine during acceleration and other times when the engine is at inefficient RPMs. The engine, which has a normal Otto Cycle, powers the car at all times from idle to high speed. This is commonly known as Hybrid Light.
The full hybrid system used by Toyota and Ford employs an Atkinson Cycle gas engine which does not idle or run at lower or higher RPMs. It is very efficient in this narrow range. The timing, induction and compression ratios are different from an Otto Cycle engine. The A electric motor is large and can and does power the car alone in starting out and acceleration to higher speeds. Both feed power into a common differential. The electric motor has a direct connection. The engine sends power through the B electric motor connected to the crankshaft which serves as a starter, a generator for the battery, and an electromagnetic coupling to a simple planetary transmission with no reverse gearing. The A motor also provides braking assistance, acting as a generator and sending power to the battery as well s running the car backwards.
This sound complex but is pretty compact and trouble free. Toyota has been using this system in vehicles since 1997. The digital operating system is programmed to use the components to provide the maximum efficiency at all times. The battery is no where near as large as in the Volt and said to cost about $6000 less and is lighter. HAPPY MOTORING!

"The engine, which has a normal Otto Cycle, powers the car at all times from idle to high speed..."

My sisters '03 Civic Hybrid engine shuts off at idle (stop lights, etc.) I drove it for 4 months and averaged @ 43mpg (rural mountains). Just sayin'..

You are right. I should have mentioned that many of these light hybrids do shut off when not moving. The full hybrids can't idle. Fuel mileage is determined by not only by the drive system in a vehicle but also by the aerodynamics and vehicle weight. Small cars like Civic do well and Prius bodies are designed by aerodynamic engineers with stylists helping with the details. Highlander hybrids are heavy and have
the aerodynamics of a brick and the mileage is no great shakes but are still better than non hybrid versions. The new Prius C gets very little better than the standard Prius (53 city, 46 highway) but sell
for 20 to 25 thousand depending on options. (if you can find one) My 4Runner gets 18 highway with a tailwind going downhill. Go figure.....

I do think full hybrids can (and do) occasionally idle. It all depends upon what the computer algorithm detects. It looks at a host of data, battery charge, battery temp, driver input (brake v accelerator), speed, temperature of the catalytic converter. It irritating to be sitting at an intersection with the ICE going -but it still happens. Also I have heard of people using them as emergency generators, left idling in the driveway. Unlike a non hybrid, it only runs the ICE when it thinks it needs to....

I'm pretty well versed on the various hybrid systems and how they work. There are compromises in each variation. One of the original ideas of a hybrid (especially a series hybrid) was that it would allow a small engine that could be optimized to run at a single speed. However, engines with variable valve timing and direct fuel injection, possibly with turbos, can be very flexibile now. The main benefit the hybrid system provides is primarily regenerative braking, but at a much higher weight, cost and complexity.

I agree, Cost and complexity are a negative in Hybrids. Conventional engines and power trains are getting more efficient. Newer models of mid size and smaller cars are getting better mileage from better engine and transmission technology and use of lighter high strength steel and composites. My choice would be a conventional compact car. They get good mileage, are well priced and provide reasonable ride and comfort and of course cost less than hybrids. I sold Toyotas, Hondas and Subaru for 30 years (all for the same company) and can attest that people don't always make buying choices based on practical considerations, even those they are aware of. Most buy on emotion and justify with logic.
In the Prius training sessions I attended we were told that the regenerative braking provided a small and marginal amount of battery charge compared to the B motor generator. Prius buyers seldom consider cost benefit (I sold many) when choosing them. It's all about being "green" and "cool'. One very good customer of mine, a wealthy Jewish man bought one so he would be buying less gas that was refined from oil from countries (middle east) whose people would like to kill him. I didn't sell cars, I sold a positive vision of ownership. The real benefit of all of this is Toyota, who make a profit ever year.

My Dad has a hybrid Escape, and I think the main benefits the hybrid system provide are more power and the regenerative brakes, which I'm not sure are worth it. The same vehicle with a conventional drivetrain and a small GDI engine would be quite efficient too, if slow. But also lighter and less costly.

I think they also allow a bit less engine braking, as some of the distance that is covered with electric along, the ICE is not suffering internal loses. Of course so many drivers sit in the car for a half hour waiting for the kids to get out of school, so here a hybrid would really save.

Engine braking? My 13yo Hyundai coasts very well and spends a lot of time in "Gravity Drive" (N).

When the ICE is off in the Prius, the vehicle is effectively in neutral plus or minus whatever the electric is doing (taking kinetic energy into or out of the battery). And by using the energy in the battery, this can be extended a lot longer than a hypermiler with just an ICE could.
But, we haven't been seeing the kind of fuel economy improvements of hybrids, versus eco-boost style ICEs. So the (fuel economy) advantage may be shrinking. Its still there, but maybe its 20% instead of 40%. That might be enough to make them not the most economical choice anymore.

I wish you would point to the Chevy Volt you're talking about because it doesn't describe the one I drive. I drove 1,400 miles (that's one thousand four hundred miles) on 7.6 gallons of gasoline for an average fuel economy of 184 mpg. Since my electricity is Wind generated, the 184 mpg is a real world figure. But even if the power was provided by Coal or Natural Gas, the efficiency would be higher than an Internal Combustion Engine. Most of the driving was on City/Suburban roads with minor highway driving. The gasoline motor when used alone gets about 35 to 40 mpg, depending on the weather and road conditions.

UPDATE 1-US March oil demand down, gasoline use on rise-API

Petroleum consumption in March dropped 1.3 percent from a year ago to 18.994 million barrels per day, while gasoline use climbed 3 percent to 9.008 million bpd for the month.

Demand for distillate fuel, which includes diesel and heating oil, rose a slight 0.1 percent to 3.995 million bpd in March.

Jet fuel consumption fell by 5 percent to 1.319 million bpd for the month.

while gasoline use climbed 3 percent to 9.008 million bpd for the month.

That is completely at odds with the EIA weekly report. The 4-week running average for March shows gasoline consumption falling from 8.9 mb/day in 2011 to 8.6 mb/day in 2012.

re: Top post, 10 reasons why investing in Arctic drilling is reckless – according to the world’s top risk assessors:

I hope this story gets picked up by other outlets. A report from Lloyds of London, yet it reads as you might expect a Greenpeace blog entry.

....10. The public will have to pick up the bill for cleaning up an oil spill

“There is as yet no international instrument on liability and compensation resulting from spills from offshore oil rigs, pipelines and sub-sea wellhead production systems… In allowing investors without sufficient funds to pay for the clean-up and reparations for a large scale environmental disaster, the cap is essentially a transfer of risk to the public sector.”

Few surprises here. And in the Arctic, who would that public be? Some UN agency? Whatever cleanup is attempted, the majority of the work will fall to nature.

Lead by Example, Clinton Tells Sustainability Forum

“Chill out – sometimes this stuff takes years.”

That was Bill Clinton’s wry observation on Thursday as he addressed a sustainability conference in New York City, expressing frustration over how long it is taking for the country to move forward on clean energy and energy efficiency.

It did not take years for the US to retool its auto factories for WWII, and it did not take years to curtail Auto Addiction growth and save huge amounts of oil, rubber, metals etc for the WWII effort. In just 4 years from 1941-1945 new car production was cut to a few hundred cars and intercity train and bus ridership quadrupled, while local Green transit ridership also quadrupled. See "Transport Revolutions; Moving People and Freight without Oil" http://transportrevolutions.info for details.
With the political will we could redirect the huge resources wasted on Auto Addiction into
first running existing Green Transit in many major Metropolitan areas, adding shuttles and last mile connections and then restoring some of the 233,000 of already existing Rail lines all over the US. As well as taking over medians or highway lanes to build new Rail to connect what are frequently spoke and hub systems. Chris Nelder, often linked to from TOD had an excellent article on the costs of a Green Transit Transition vs Auto Addiction:

Just RUNNING existing Green Transit could save 10-20% of US oil usage and comparable greenhouse emissions in a year. If they could do it for WWII why not now?

The neoliberal excuses are just camouflage to protect the Auto/Oil/Sprawl lobby and interests to try to pump up the unsustainable for profit.

"The neoliberal excuses are just camouflage to protect the Auto/Oil/Sprawl lobby and interests to try to pump up the unsustainable for profit."

...or camouflage in the ongoing effort to protect the US lead oligarchical empire, fronted by the Fed, World Bank and IMF, with a vast majority of citizens falling in line. They believe what they've been told sold; their way of life is righteous and non-negotiable. Any feigned support of "sustainability forums" is only an attempt to put lipstick on a pig.

[feeling a bit radical today, he goes to garden to chill out]

This is one of the reasons why I think China (if it doesn't collapse) has a great advantage in addressing these issues, by virtue of being a command economy, much as I loathe to admit it. China's visions and plans for the future are less about "make money" and "keep the populace content" than the OECD countries too, although maybe not significantly more so.

Bill Clinton is to sustainability what W.C. Fields was to sobriety. ROFL.

Solar Power International welcomes President Bill Clinton as Keynote Speaker on September 12
Grid Tie PV is a joke in most of North America, You can't sell the power at market rates, Thank you congress and Enron, so far only tiny investments in privately owned distributed generation.

Mini electric cars fill gap in China as official EVs sputter

The Shifeng brand car resembles a plump Fiat Mini with oversized headlights and has a top speed of about 50 kilometres per hour.

But Chen's little car has a big advantage: it cost only 31,600 yuan (about $5,000), far cheaper than BYD's larger e6, which costs 369,800 yuan ($58,700). And it helps that it's not a real car in the eyes of the government. ...

Although heavily subsidized, the EVs the government promotes remain expensive. Even after generous subsidies of 120,000 yuan, the price of the BYD e6 would be seven times Chen's salary.

A dearth of charging stations and high battery prices have also contributed to the slow pace of high-performance EV sales. ...

Mainstream automakers, however, see it differently

"These cars are illegal, unsafe and shouldn't be on the road," said an executive at Changan Automobile Group, China's fourth-largest automaker. There could also be some intellectual property rights issues, he added, and "the government should do something about it."

The article points out a problem I've been harping about . . . safety laws that end up making people less safe:

"Mini electric cars are getting popular in rural areas as farmers need something affordable to carry them around," said Wei Xueqing, vice chairman and secretary general of Shandong Automobile Manufacturers Association.

"Many are still taking their kids to school on bikes, motorcycles or even three-wheel farm vehicles, which are neither safe nor comfortable."

Mainstream automakers, however, see it differently

"These cars are illegal, unsafe and shouldn't be on the road," said an executive at Changan Automobile Group, China's fourth-largest automaker.

Is little mini-EV as safe as a full-sized normal car? No, absolutely not. But is it safer than "motorcycles or even three-wheel farm vehicles" for bringing kids to school? Yes! If you make car safety standards too high then many people end up getting motorcycles instead and thus you end up making people much less safe than if they could have bought a cheaper enclosed 4-wheel car with seat belts & at least some safety features.

And of course, flooding the streets with multi-ton monstrosities, as the auto-industry has done, makes all of our lives vastly less safe. So their claims of concern for our safety ring rather hollow.

Pictures of the car

Full name of the car is ‘Shifeng Diandongche’, 时风电动车, meaning Shifeng electric moving vehicle. Type is GD04B.

They make a 12-20hp gas utility vehicle

That 3 wheeler could probably handle 80% of the cargo runs around here.


I thought you'd like that!

Quite revealing... that NO big monied interest was FOR the cheap electric car... not even the Chinese. The little car actually looks very nice: like a modern sedan. It uses simple lead-acid batteries. The customers were RURAL FARMERS!!!... which gives quite the lie to so many opinions here. A popular product with its niche.

We get a guy coming around every day in his motor-trike selling his newspapers, I've mentioned him before, he does not need to speed and it is just right for what he does. Again, puttering around town with a little stuff in the back with no need to speed (well, hard to speed I can beat most traffic on a bike without effort) doesn't require a massive pickup. One of the timber places runs a little truck, similar to a Kei (sp?), that can quite happily transport a pile of 4x8 ply, I'll try and spot it and see what it is and if it has drop sides. Yeah, big money seems to be a big obsticle to progress.


I am scheduled to be on Fox News Radio again this evening at 7:30 p.m. PST to discuss my new book with Alan Colmes. Call in if you have a question, comment, or just want to make a point (here is a chance to preach peak oil to a national radio audience) at 1-877-367-2526. The program airs on SiriusXM Radio channel 126 or can be heard online at: http://radio.foxnews.com/fox-news-talk/alan-colmes

For those of us who can't (or won't) listen to Fox News, perhaps you could let us know how it went in the comments section of Drumbeat tomorrow. In any case, best of luck with the show and with your book.

"For those of us who can't (or won't) listen to Fox News..."

But for those opposed to Fox News' politics, Alan Colmes is a liberal on Fox News. His show is "Liberaland", so it's not standard Fox News material. Here's a link to today's program: http://t.co/pY0jLqUE

I think your book gives a really good overview, especially for beginners. Glad to hear you will be on the talk show.

In the two posts at the top, there are quite a number of mentions of people involved with Peak Oil issue. In the Economist article, Chris Skrebowski is quoted as saying that spare capacity in the oil market could be eroded by 2015.

There are a couple of paragraphs relating to work of Michael Kumhof of the IMF. Kumhof is working on a paper which shows that adding the idea of a “Hubbert peak” to energy production greatly improved the ability of a model to forecast oil prices. With a very high oll price, Kumhof worries that the economic impact could be a 2% of global GDP.

The Economist article also talks about substitutes, and the fact that if they are less efficient, this has an adverse impact on economic growth. He quotes Carey King and Charles Hall as saying, "Complex societies need a high EROI built on a large primary energy base.”

The Financial Times article below the Economist article mentions James Hamilton, Gregor MacDonald, Chris Nelder and me (on Our Finite World) as being writers about economic effects of an energy-constrained world.

It is good to see this in the MSM.

I know this isn't the point of your comment, but I just had to laugh.

"Chris Skrebowski is quoted as saying that spare capacity in the oil market could be eroded by 2015."

At what price???

I'd have to say that if sold at $50 bl, spare capacity would be toast. So, I would say that in 2015, the market will probably have 2% spare capacity, with the rest selling at what ever the market can bear.

Spare capacity is oil deliberately held off the market in order to bring prices down should they so high as to threaten the economy. And oil producers don't want to crash the economy again, and send prices below $50 a barrel. Should Brent get to around $115 or $120 a barrel, that would likely be the point where the economies of the world are threatened and everyone should be producing flat out.

Wait a minute?

Ron P.

Gail - "...that spare capacity in the oil market could be eroded by 2015." That comment reminded of a discussion I had with a cohort yesterday. Something I think you touched on a while back: what the heck is "spare capacity?" Today every oil buyer is acquiring every bbl of oil available "at current prices". That is every oil buyer who can afford the current market price. If an importer wanted more oil but couldn't afford more than the current market price than it doesn't matter if there's an extra 5 million bopd or 5 bopd available to produce: that oil won't be produced. If the exporters don't lower the price to the point of generating additional sales than it really doesn't matter if there's "spare capacity" or not IMHO. OTOH if oil suddenly dropped to $70 bbl would the oil producers be able to supply every consumer with all the oil they could afford to purchase? IOW if there were enough buyers who could afford $70/bbl and that amounted to 120 million bopd is there sufficient capability to deliver that oil? If there is just 120 million BOPD available then it would be sold and there would be no spare capacity. If there's less than 120 million bopd available than not only is there no spare capacity but a shortage. If there's more than 120 million bopd available then the market is 100% supplied at $70 bbl. Again, if there are no additional buyers who can pay $70 per bbl than those already being supplied does it matter if the producers can deliver another 20 million bopd since there are no additional buyers capable of paying $70/bbl.

IOW if oil fell to $70/bbl tomorrow I suspect any "space capacity' is eroded overnight. OTOH if oil is selling for $200 per bbl by 2015 I'm pretty sure there will be a good bit of oil that could be produced but won't be. And would we call that volume "spare capacity"? And if we did would that definition mean anything in a world of $200/bbl oil? IOW if an exporter had spare capacity to produce would they not be selling it if there are buyers capable of paying for that oil?

I'm certainly not an economist but "spare capacity" seems to be falling into the same category as Big Foot: something everyone talks about but no one has actually seen.

"Spare capacity" is a term thrown around - usually without reference as to price, timeframe, and grade.


I wonder how much "spare demand" is kicking about these days?

I agree. The amount (and others) are willing to pump varies with price and other conditions. If the price drops too low, we will see a big drop in production pretty quickly.

Which is exactly why I think the KSA statement..."The market is adequately supplied"...is true. But most folks misinterpret the implication. Every buyer who can afford the current price is THE MARKET. Those economies that can't meet the posted price are not part of the oil buying market because, simply, they aren't buying. I've seen no report of any buyer with the ability to pay current prices not being able to import oil. And if oil prices rise the same conditions will be met: the market (those that can pay the price) will be well supplied. But there is one scenario when the market wouldn't be well supplied: if the exporters lower prices enough that more potential are available then there is the max amount of producible.

Thus the only way for the exporters to keep "the market well supplied" is to keep prices at a level that limits purchases below the max production rate. Thus no matter how little production is available for purchase the market will always be “well supplied”. In that regards the KSA is being truthful. The problem is that most of the public doesn’t understand what they are saying. If the exporters lowered prices enough we would experience shortages. As long as they keep prices there will be no shortages...for those with the the cash to buy.


100,000 endangered species condoms to be given away for Earth Day

The Center for Biological Diversity is marking Earth Day this Sunday by giving away 100,000 free Endangered Species Condoms around the country. The condoms arrived this week in the mailboxes of 1,200 volunteer distributors who will hand them out at hundreds of Earth Day events and more than 80 college campuses. In recent years the condoms have become a wildly popular, innovative way to get people talking about the connection between the rapid growth of the human population and the diminishing survival prospects of endangered plants and animals around the globe.

And why would F&cking endanged species (if you are not one of them) do anything??
Just asking......

No, I think they are for the endangered species to use; since they can't compete with us humans they don't want their offspring to suffer.

USDA Poultry Plant Proposal Could Allow Plants To Speed Up Processing Lines, Stirring Concern For Workers

"WASHINGTON -- When he was working on a poultry processing line in northern Alabama last year, Jorge Polanco-Mercado watched new workers come and go all the time. Many of them didn't even finish their first shift before quitting.

They all fled so quickly, Polanco-Mercado said, because they were intimidated by the speed of the processing line."

Inspectors are being cut to one per production line to save money. No doubt, cleanliness will suffer.

All in the name of better efficiency and higher profits. Never mind the chickens or the workers. Thank goodness I stopped eating dead animals.

Agree completely.
Even if one doesn't have a problem with the ethics of eating meat, the race to the bottom of the barrel to churn out as much as possible, with as little concern as possible, for animals and workers is contemptible.
Plus, it's becoming a game of Russian Roulette, where half the chambers are loaded, when it comes to what kind of filth one is ingesting with this execrable "food".

What do these workers care about what gets passed to you? They eat the low grade stuff anyway.

Nearly a million prisoners are working in call centers, working in slaughterhouses, or manufacturing textiles while getting paid somewhere between 93 cents and $4.73.

Oh, believe me, I'm under no illusion as far as anyone giving a damn about what gets put in front of me labeled as food.
And yes, the prisoner industrial/manufacturing complex is disgusting and should be banned or at least rigorously regulated.
But of course, it won't be.
Our societies have become too big and require the de-humanisation of those unfortunate to find themselves in the bottom tiers of the social pyramid to function. Our systems are collapsing under their own weight: the signs are everywhere.

Aw, quit yer whining...
Starbucks just took the bugs out of their drinks!


Starbucks to stop using crushed bugs in products

What's wrong with eating bugs? People get upset over the strangest things.

The people who were upset were vegans. They don't eat any animal products.

My mistake. I thought that the implication was that eating bugs was filthy not that eating bugs was immoral. I wasn't reading closely enough. I'm not trying to insult vegans. One of my sisters is an ex vegan turned vegetarian, and my other sister wont eat Mammals.

On a side note, it's interesting to see where people draw the line. Pretty much all people are unwilling to eat from their own species. Personalty, I am not interested in eating from my own order. My sister is unwilling to eat from her own class. Vegetarians are unwilling to eat from their own kingdom. If it was possible to live without eating living things I wonder if some people would become nonlifetarian.

That is the most interesting observation - how people draw their particular boundaries.

I could say I prefer to eat things that don't have to be killed first - although I do eat honey, and bees are killed in the harvesting, even if one is very careful - which is one reason why vegans don't eat honey. They also do not believe in animal exploitation of any kind. So already there are flaws in my assumptions about taking life in order to eat.

I'm also not against eating animal products such as milk and eggs, since one can acquire those things without killing the animal first.

My own personal "Matrix Construct" allows for a kind of mutually beneficial relationship between the "eater" and the "food". I provide a somewhat protected environment, and in return I harvest items for my own consumption. I do realize this implies some variety of human management of the natural world, but, since there is not much natural world left, I don't see how we can return to any simple hunting & gathering way of life that is in any way sustainable.

We're all going to make rationalizations for the items we've decided we are going to consume, whether they be moral, dietary, religious, non-religious, or none of the above. I do think it is a worthwhile exercise to actually give it deep consideration. I think we have to have some respect for the creatures we share the planet with, especially if they are going to provide us with food.

I've spoken to someone who grow up in suburban Australia here in the 60s. They were lower middle-class, but the only time they had chicken was when they killed one of their own. And a lot of other things, like new clothes and kids toys, we take for granted they received very rarely. That just goes to show what happens when you keep doubling the economy every 20 years or so.

And I hate to think the damage that sort of rapid, repetitive and prolonged lifting could do to your joints, particularly your shoulders. And all for sub-par wages. I don't blame most of those workers for walking off the job, it wouldn't be worth it crippling yourself over.

Adding to that:

My late Grandfather and Dad both had to work in a Minneapolis slaughter house during the Depression. There were angry men wanting those jobs and my Dad got yelled at when he got hired on. They either worked there or had no money, and even though they lived in a farm town with lots of food around, they still needed some cash.

WW2 pretty much saved them and my Dad never looked back after returning from overseas.

Anyway, about 30 years before Silence of the Lambs was written, My Grampa teared up as he told me about how the pigs screamed as they were hooked up and killed with a sharp knife. He couldn't take it and finally left. The point is that no one knows what they will do when actually faced with a hungry family. We have a lot of lazy folks in our good life, and some may choose to give up, but if Big Brother turns into Mean Brother with a little dislocation and violence thrown in...watch out. We just don't know what we would do?

We have a very good life in NA, still. Yes, it is much tougher out there but it is no where near what it was like in the 30s. I teach some very very poor kids with no food in their house some days. Odd that they have decent clothes. good runners, and electronics plugged into their ears. I know they are poor and live it s!*t boxes, but they have 'this stuff'.


We have a very good life in NA, still. Yes, it is much tougher out there but it is no where near what it was like in the 30s. I teach some very very poor kids with no food in their house some days. Odd that they have decent clothes. good runners, and electronics plugged into their ears. I know they are poor and live it s!*t boxes, but they have 'this stuff'.

In my personal experience, the people in poverty tend to go through boom/bust cycles. When they are flush with cash and they go splurge on electronics, food, drugs and anything else that might tickle their fancy. When they have bills piling up they tend to go without many of the basics of life. They don't really understand that when they have a little extra cash on hand they ought to save it up for that next big car repair bill or whatever. It isn't really a behaviour that is significantly different than the majority of the population, it's a rare person indeed whom plans for the future.

More climate disinformation, this time from ALEC - better known for the "Stand Your Ground" laws.

ALEC's Other 'Deadly Force' Campaign to Kill Climate Initiatives

"By ALEC's own count, it has nearly 2,000 state legislator members who pay a token fee of $100 for two years. Most of its money comes from corporate and foundation grants, and the approximately 110 corporations, 40 trade associations, 67 nonprofits and 23 corporate law firms that pay annual membership dues of $7,000, $12,000 or $25,000. That fee not only gives corporations direct access to ALEC legislators, it gives them the opportunity to craft model bills that serve as templates for state legislatures without any public awareness of their role...

ALEC Exposed lists nearly 100 model energy and environmental bills that ALEC legislators have introduced over the last decade or so. They include legislation undermining regional initiatives to combat climate change, opposing a national standard requiring utilities to increase their use of renewable energy, and blocking federal standards for vehicle carbon pollution. "

Here's a list of Bills Affecting our Water, Air, & Land. Includes bills affecting energy. Links to the bills are in zip file format.

One particular "template bill" relates to limiting subsidies for alternative energy. One other, relating to agriculture, limits control of antibiotic use in healthy food animals (cafo's).

Remember comments about "hey we'll mine Asteroids!"


Seems these guys plan on that. April 24th they claim to make an announcement.

Illuminating ideas take time, but lead to savings

It isn’t easy being green. When the innovative lighting system in the new Toronto headquarters of TV broadcaster Corus Entertainment Inc. proved to be extraordinarily complicated to install and tune, for months chief technology officer Scott Dyer would drive to the building at 2 a.m. and walk around outside to see what lights were on inside.

See: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/careers/top-employers/...


That can sure be true when you're trying to implement something that's not 'off the shelf' and totally productized.

The fact that it takes some patience, trust and tolerance of a few failures makes it a process that's very challenging to do in this settled world of Hobbits who prefer to return the things that aren't perfect.

That said, my little Solar Office and Kitchen Lighting setup has been completely stable for a couple years now. (The Kitchen circuit only since feb..)

Hey Bob,

I audited a church yesterday where programmable thermostats and occupancy sensors had been installed in every room by Efficiency Nova Scotia at no charge to the client. Sounds good in theory, but the thermostats were not properly initialized and so the electric strips were coming on at various times of the day and night when heat was unneeded and the occupancy sensors would trigger the lights to come on in every room, one by one, whenever someone walked down the hallway. Needless to say, the client was shocked when their electrical bill shot up the following month. To add further insult, the wall switches are poorly positioned and can't "see" into the room, so staff will hold a meeting and ten minutes later the lights shut off; consequently, someone has to get up from their chair, walk over to the door and wave their hand in front of the sensor to kick them back on. It's driving everyone crazy.

Unfortunately, this is the sort of thing that happens when you develop a programme where the contractor hired to do the work is paid on a per unit installed basis and there's a strong incentive on their part to whack-in as many of these things as possible, even if they perform poorly and, as in this case, generate negative savings. A huge disappointment to say the least.


In my opinion, most of this smart stuff is actually exceedingly dumb. How many building end up running the heater at night and the AC during the day, because the programmed thermostat settings are too close together?

Very true. What really burns my butt are occupancy sensors that automatically turn lights on in a room when there's more than adequate daylight to work with them left off (besides which, I despise overhead lighting). We should be installing vacancy sensors not occupancy sensors, i.e., controls that turn the lights off after a room is vacated but which require the occupant to turn them back on manually upon their return. Thus, no false triggering and the option to work with them turned off if so desired.

I refuse to incorporate sensors in our work unless the expected savings are worthwhile and, then, only if the fixtures are fitted with programme start ballasts -- frequent on and off switching with instant start ballasts simply tears lamp life to shreds.


I use occupancy sensors in rooms that have no daylight access; closets, hallways and bathrooms, and our bathroom fans are on mechanical dial timers (so they can be left on long enough to 'clear the air'). Being off grid, someone leaving for the day with a fan or light left on is an unnecessary drain on the batteries, energy that could be used to power the frige for a day (or my wife's TV for an evening ;-) I spot wasted electrical use now whenever I go out into the real world, as it's become second nature. If everyone could live off grid for a year, with a limited energy budget, perhaps they could form lasting beneficial habits. I imagine folks in energy constrained countries are much more aware of these things.

I spot wasted electrical use now whenever I go out into the real world, as it's become second nature.

Yep, it can be really irritating. Paul had me staring at the big lamps in our Costco, yesterday, and wondering why they didn't change them out :)


I hate occupancy sensors in public toilets. When the light goes off half way through your having a ...... They seem to position them well to detect people entering but cannot see the, er, facilities due to the privacy screen at the entrance.


"How many building end up running the heater at night and the AC during the day, because the programmed thermostat settings are too close together?"

The one complaint I have about the controller for my heat pump is the 'auto' setting is hard coded for a 4 degree F difference between heat on and AC on. When the utility came out to inspect it for my rebate, they handed me a sheet that basically said "the auto setting is the wrong tool. Never use this."

AC on at 80 and heat on at 68 would at least be close to sensible.

I'd go 5 degrees hotter for the A/C. Though a dehumidify option rather than plain cooling would be beneficial between 80 and 90 without the real cooling kicking in until 90 or so. 85 and 55% isn't too bad but 85 and 90% is decidedly uncomfortable.


Meet the US media companies lobbying against transparency
Corporate owners or sister companies of some of the biggest names in journalism against FCC order to post political ad data


You can't handle the truth!!

I received this e-mail from a friend:

By the way, on page A13 of Thursday's WSJ, under the Notable and Quotable column, there is a short piece of interest to you, regarding our estimated energy supplies. In 1972 the Club
of Rome, using models from MIT, estimated global oil reserves at 455 billion barrels. We have since produced nearly a trillion barrels of oil and current known reserves are around 1.2 trillion barrels, a 40 year supply at current consumption rates.

The International Energy Agency last year issued a report asserting "Conventional recoverable resources are equivalent to more than 120 years of current global consumption, while total recoverable resources could sustain today's production for over 250 years", where they were referring to natural gas resources.

How should I answer him?

Well - for starters you could tell him that the author quoted in the WSJ (Ronald Baily) is simply lying. He is referring to the Limits to Growth, which made no predictions about running out of oil. The modeling in that book was to show the long term pattern behavior of any growth system relying on finite resources and limited places to dump waste.

It was a highly simplified model and had a variable called resources (not oil). The base case scenario they ran showed the possibility that the growth of the main variables would eventually hit limits to growth roughly in the year 2030. Hint - we are not there yet. They clearly stated that even this simple model was not a prediction. They simply wanted to show that hitting limits is a feature - not a bug.

In one simple table in the book (not a prediction) the authors demonstrated how counter-intuitive exponential growth is by assuming a reserve level of petroleum and showing how fast it would deplete if its use was growing, rather than running at current levels of consumption. Any technical person reading this would understand that the authors were not predicting reserves or oil futures - they were just showing a concept about exponential growth.

As to his comments on the IEA projections he is conflating recoverable resources, and total recoverable resources without any information on the recovery rate of any of those resources. And by stating "sustaining today's production for 250 years" he is illustrating exactly what the LTG authors were talking in trying to use their table to show that very few observers understand the exponential function. His assertions are a hand-waving argument of the worst kind.

But if it was me I would not answer your friend. His mind is already made up. I only respond to those who are genuinely wanting to understand.

JWS - There several issues you can point out. Most important is that any estimate of ECONOMICLY RECOVERABLE RESERVES is not only dependent how much oil is in the ground but also your future price expectation. That 1972 estimate may have been exactly correct based upon the price assumptions made at that time. If oil had been selling for $30/bbl for the last 10 years does he think we would be producing any Deep Water GOM oil? Given that individual wells cost $100-200 million each and production structure can easily run over a half $billion my answer would be no.

Here's a second flaw in his observation IMHO. Whatever high URR number he accepts it won't represent X years of consumption unless all those reserves are produced at our consumption rate. If we do have 40 years of URR oil at the current consumption rate but if it takes 80 years to drill and produce that URR then obviously the world will only be supplied with half the daily oil production it now has available.

I made a silly but fully valid analogy IMHO to someone recently. If he had a bank account with $10 million in it would he consider himself rich? The quick response was of course. And then I add that the $10 million is a trust and it only allows you to withdraw $1,000 per month. Is he rich? And in reality isn't the issue the current price of oil? That price isn't a function of how many billions of bbls of oil there is left to recover. It's based solely on the demand for oil and the amount being delivered to the market. If the KSA had a 10,000 billion bbls of oil would it make any difference to our situation if they continue to produce at their current rate and the world continued to consume at its current rate? And if consumption demand increases but the exporters either won't or can't increase their production rate does it matter how much oil they are sitting on? Throw this back at him: if there really is all those billions of bbls of oil in the ground why are prices where they are today? It doesn't matter what answer he gives: PO, speculators, evil oil companies, hoarders, etc. Just tell him you agree with him...there is a huge amount of oil left to be produced. And then ask him "So what...now that you agree with him will he pay $1 per gallon next time he fills up his car?" Pretty easy to answert that one, eh?

This error was once addressed by one of authors of the 1972 report, the late Donella Meadows. See the first two lines of the second paragraph.
"His complaint was that our book, which contained twelve computer graphs charting out twelve different possible paths for the human economy up to the year 2100, was being received as an absolute prediction."
Years ago I had some e-mail exchanges with Ronald Bailey. He is incorrigible.

People miss the point again and again and ...

What is the point? Crude Oil and Condensate production has been relatively flat since early 2005 despite historically high Oil prices.

In early January 2005, Brent sold for $41/bbl. Today it sells for $120/bbl. The price has tripled and production has stayed flat.

If you believe in Free Market Capitalism, production should be rising in response to the higher Oil price. It isn't.

Production should be rising if there is oil that can easily be added to production. If not, then the price should rise to ration out the available production to the highest bidders. And that is what is happening following the rules of Free Market Capitalism.

Then Free Market Capitalism has become a zero-sum game, in which case, maybe an alternative economic system should be considered, like, .... Socialism?

Dream on!


Seriously, A Steady State Ecomony, (heh, my best typo ever) based on biophysical reality is where we need to go, there really is no other way. All those who are still pushing Free Market Capitalism are suicidal!

Then Free Market Capitalism has become a zero-sum game

Yes, for this particular market niche, it largely has (there is still a small amount of production growth).

So market should respond with substitution & efficiency advances. And it sort of is to some degree (more efficient planes, public transport, hybrids, EVs, etc.). But the change is slow because so many people remain in denial.

The market is responding with substitution, such as it is. With C&C at 74mbd, =/- error bars, for 7 years now, there has been no real production growth. What appears as 'small production growth' in total liquids is substitution by ethanol, NGLs, tar sands, etc. My pointing out this supply substitution is not meant to refute what you rightly identify as demand substitution/efficiency.

Yeah, I forgot to mention the supply-side substitution which is happening with biofuels as you point out.

I think demand substitution is slow going because it is just damn hard to replace the amazing energy density, convenience, and low price of liquid hydrocarbon fuels. Even though they have gone up sharply in price, there is still nothing that can compete with them. The most successful demand side adjustment has probably been more efficient gas engines & hybrid cars. But mostly, the consumers have just had to reduce their other spending in order to pay their gasoline bill.

I think that has been a major problem for the economy. People have diverted so much other spending to pay for gasoline that those businesses that previously got that spending have all gone downhill.

bmiller - Not being an economist this is dangerous ground for me. But isn't "Free Market Capitalism" driven to some degree by profit maximization. I suspect Ford Motor could produce more Model X vehicles than it now does. But they have a target price that delivers a desired revenue stream/profit. They are selling all the vehicles they can at that target sales price. If they increased production the only way they could sell those addition units is to reduce their target price. But the goal of the free market isn't to supply the most of any product at the lowest price IMHO.

But competition can alter that basic plan. Back in the mid 80's the KSA kept cutting production rate in order to maintain a higher price. The other OPEC members kept production levels high. Projecting the trend from 1986 forward in the next 18 months the KSA would have shut in 100% of their production. Obviously that wasn’t going to happen. They cranked the valves wide open and drove the price down to $10/bbl. The situation had reached the point where cash flow became the priority...not profit margin per unit.

This is not 1986. Whatever the max rate of production of the KSA may or may not be they are apparently satisfied with the current balance of cash flow and profit margin. As long as the buyer’s end of the market doesn’t change why would the KSA position change? Of course, if the global economy goes into recession and reduces oil purchases significantly the KSA would have to reevaluate their price structure. But they've already done that haven't they? Global consumption has decreased in recent years. But the KSA hasn't increased production to regain that lost market. They appear to be in that sweet spot every seller of a product is hoping for. IOW free market capitalism seems to be functioning properly.

rockman - I don't expect anything I can possibly say can change your mind, so I'll just repeat what I stated before: If Free Market Capitalism has in fact become a zero-sum game, then alternative economic systems should be considered.

bmiller - First, "zero some game" is meaningless to me. You might expand if you care to. And you and I are free to consier any other system we wish. But that won't make a rat's ass difference. This is the system we have in place. Until someone can force a change this is our reality. Doesn't matter whether you or I like it or if it's fair or not. Not referring to you, but I can't count the times varous TODster have offfered Plan A as a way fix Problem B. And sometimes Pan A makes sense. Unfortunately they also seldom offer a practical method of implimenting Plan A. Again, if ever adult US citizen sent me one penny I would be a millionaire. Who coudn't afford to do that?No one can argue with the validity of my Plan A to make me make myself financially independent...it would work. Now I just have to figure out how to impliment the plan, don't I?

Rock -

Again, if ever adult US citizen sent me one penny I would be a millionaire. Who coudn't afford to do that?No one can argue with the validity of my Plan A to make me make myself financially independent...it would work. Now I just have to figure out how to impliment the plan, don't I?

Well there is always the old faithfuls such as wishful thinking, greed and fools and their money parting ways. You could say that as a production geologist of >30 years experience you've experienced some odd behaviours from some of your oil fields. Looking back on your old records you have recently 'discovered' that certain wells with deep fractures going to unknown depths seemed to have a slow but consistent flow of oil. You believe that oil is moving up from great depths from 'abiotic' sources in a limitless fashion. Now the reason why noone has 'discovered' it yet is because they didn't drill deep enough in the right places. Now if you only had enough funding, say $350M you could drill a well that is 50,000 feet deep to extract a limitless supply of oil. Obviously the other production and exploration geologists didn't have your great insight, but for $1M per well site plus a 20% cut you'll tell them exactly where to drill and precisely how deep. How does 50,000 feet sound to you? Since the oil is under such great pressure no pumping will be required and effectively once a well is drilled it'll produce at a rate of say 10,000 BOPD indefinately assuring investors of a cash flow which will more than pay for each well drilled in a single year!

P.S. The deepest hole drilled is around 40,000 feet!

"If Free Market Capitalism has in fact become a zero-sum game, then alternative economic systems should be considered."

Please list the alternative systems you have in mind. Keep in mind that socialism has has already failed, people escaped feudalism as fast as their feet could carry them, national socialism failed, general warlord-based thuggery failed or is at least unpopular with everyone but the warlords. Cult of Personality doesn't seem to be working either, not for North Korea, or for Syria, and it came to a screeching end in Libya.

Also consider that at the moment we seem to be closer to classical Fascism than free-market capitalism. The general population is being taxed to support insolvent (and inept) but governmentally favored corporations. We also have foreign bogiemen being waved at us, jingoistic patriotism, and an increasingly powerful security state. Very much in the Fascist pattern, not so much in the capitalist one.

PVguy - If every American was taught to write with his or her left hand at school and no other country followed that same pattern it would be held up as one of the reasons why the U.S.A. is the great country it is today.

I have two general observations about how people respond to the world.

1. People observe a phenomenon and then justify it after the fact coloured strongly by their personal belief system. I.E. We didn't just happen to fall upon an absolute bonanza tonne of natural resources, we're just smart and brave and industrious. I don't think that the type of market system really dictated the fortunes of many countries as much as having access to resources and then exploiting them did. China for instance follows a different model of development than the U.S. did, however it had a lot of coal and people and exploited them both.

2. When things go badly for people they can tend to start blaming the system. So a democracy will drift towards dictatorship and a dictatorship will drift towards democracy simply because it isn't the thing which can be blamed for the current troubles. I.E. 'We need a strong leader' in a democracy OR 'the cruel dictator has repressed us long enough, power to the people!'. Dictators and democratically elected leaders look good when things look good. Functionally a successful dictator or president often performs exactly the same role in terms of trying to keep the people happy as failure to do so often leads to them being kicked out of office as we've seen.

It appears to me you're saying Humanity is just hopeless (at least in the West including Russia) so what's the point of doing anything?

IOW free market capitalism seems to be functioning properly.

Yep, like a clean, well oiled, fully loaded pistol, that we have pressed against our own heads! It works great...

Rock - I suspect the oil price crash of the 80s was more due to their colluding with the U.S. to bury the USSR economically by killing their major forex earner. You have to remember the USSR is/was a big ally and arms supplier to many nations in the Middle East, nations which aren't always friendly towards Saudi if you consider the Sunny/Shiite thing they have.

S - I agree that the US probably did what ever it could behind the scene to hurt the Soviet Union financially. But go search the collapse of global oil demand after the massive worldwide recession caused by the late 70's oil price spike. Compare the global oil consumption curve to the oil price curve and decide for yourself. To me the cause/effect relationship seems very obvious. I'll let everyone judge for themselves. I followed that relationship very closely back then as I drove a Yellow cab and also delivered produce in Houston since I wasn't able to do more than a few days consulting each month. As a result of the price collapse the oil exporters and exploration companies suffered and the rest of the world eventually benefited. Which is exactly how markets are suppose to work IMHO. Regardless of whether I'm personally on the winning or losing side of that dynamic. Now I'm on the winning side...if I can find enough hydrocarbons.

Privatise the profit, make public the loss.


TEPCO simply doesn’t have enough money to deal with the issues there.
The structural integrity of the building has been damaged so greatly that it appears that the reactor 4 building is leaning and officials around the world, including US senators, are warning even a minor earthquake could make it collapse.
If the water leaks out of the pool or the reactors come into open contact with the air there will be devastating consequences for all of humanity.

Tomorrow is Earth Day
.. (Give or Take.. there are various Earth day things happening this weekend and next..)

Has anybody got any interesting activities going on for either outreach or work projects that they want to share?

I'm going to be helping my UU Minister with a Theme next weekend built on Wendell Berry's poem, Manifesto .. which I think fits into many of the themes we approach around here. Here's a snippet..

"Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion - put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.."


.. otherwise, I'll keep working on my Solar Oven project, my Bike w/Kayak Fairing and other such wacky creations.. and I'll get down to the shoreline with my daughter and fill a few garbage bags with the disheartening detritus that collects there.

My wife has just headed up to Unity, Maine for her first Permaculture Design Workshop.

Happy Earth Day! Give yer mama a kiss, now!

Has anybody got any interesting activities going on for either outreach or work projects that they want to share?

I have recently gotten in contact with someone who is starting a 'Green' grocery delivery service based on electric tricycles. http://beach-witch.com/ I might be designing and building some solar chargers for him. Unfortunately I had surgery on my broken elbow yesterday so I will be laying low this weekend.

Healing up isn't a bad image to have when thinking about our Globe.

Enjoy the rest!

I'll be showing my PowerPoint presentation on Demotorization for the Waterville UU tomorrow morning, right after the 10 am service. Highlights of my presentation include the fact that the people of Maine spend about $8 Billion each year to keep our highway based transportation system going, and about $6.5 Billion of that leaves the state, because we have no auto plants, oil wells or refineries.

This alone easily explains why Maine is often described as one of the poor states. Furthermore, the State's current budget problems are small change compared to all that money being drained out of the state to keep all the cars going.

Very cool. You'll be right around the corner from Unity. I think Leslie's permaculture crew will be wading in the mud and rain tomorrow.. but we need the rain.

This "incredible" op-ed piece -http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/apr/20/earth-days-dark-side/- was in todays Washington Post!

It states the following:
1. population control led to "China’s infamous “one-child policy,” which has involved not only hundreds of millions of involuntary abortions and forced sterilizations, but infanticide and the killing of “illegal children” on a mass scale." (A very bad thing)

2. "falsely argued that DDT was endangering bird populations (in fact, it was protecting them from insect-born diseases) a massive propaganda campaign was launched to ban DDT." Resulting in more than 100 million deaths.

3. "It is no coincidence that U.S. oil production, which had been growing at a rate of 3 percent per year through the 1940s, ‘50s and ‘60s, peaked at 9.6 million barrels per day in 1971, immediately after the EPA’s creation, and has been declining ever since. Today we are down to 5.6 million barrels per day. Had we continued without environmentalist interference with our previous 3 percent per year growth in the period since - as the rest of the non-OPEC world actually did - we would today be producing 35 million barrels per day"

Robert Zubrin is a senior fellow with the Center for Security Policy and author of “Merchants of Despair: Radical Environmentalists, Criminal Pseudoscientists, and the Fatal Cult of Antihumanism” (Encounter Books, 2012).

The "BIG LIE" keeps getting bigger!


Robert Zubrin is a well-known techno-cornucopian lunatic.

"Robert Zubrin is a well-known techno-cornucopian lunatic."

And the Washington Post these days is a welcoming environment for such lunatics.

And the Washington Post these days is a welcoming environment for such lunatics.

I think you are very mistaken. The Washington Post occasionally allows op-ed columns that are on the fringe, but never this far out.

This column appeared in the Washington Times the extreme right wing Moonie Rag, not the Washington Post.

Ron P.

^^^ That's the Rev. Moon's Washington Times, not the Post...
I'm intrigued by the deniers motivation to use massive amounts of money, crooked lawyers' tactics and U.S. military information warfare doctrine to combat facts and reality. These are smart people and they've got to know the impossibility of Al Gore leading some worldwide conspiracy.
Perhaps it's people who have mixed their theology and greed for so long it is one and the same. Some of them do believe they can create their own reality with enough money and good PR -- look at the Iraq invasion.
Anyway, today I did learn in the comments section of the above-mentioned article that Rachel Carson is a mass murderer.

"Some of them do believe they can create their own reality with enough money and good PR..."

They believe it because they're successful at it; the whole Manufacturing Consent thing. Keep repeating the lies. I meet folks every day that are, hook, line, and sinker, swallowing the misinformation gladly. It builds their sense of security and reinforces the behavior that they've been committed to their whole lives. Nothing new here. Folks have fought wars for 2000 years over the idea that they can be absolved from sin and live an everlasting afterlife; manufactured reality.

As Greer points out, we just need to be better at countering the black magic of the MSM. Problem: It's much harder to convince folks that the way they've been living, their beliefs and world views, have been all wrong when it's worked pretty well so far, for most.

Robert Parry, long-time very good investigative reporter has written extensively on connections of Rev. Moon and the "House of Bush." Lots of fascinating stuff -- in the archives at


Had we continued without environmentalist interference with our previous 3 percent per year growth in the period since - as the rest of the non-OPEC world actually did - we would today be producing 35 million barrels per day"

Had those damn environmentalists kept out of it we would be producing 35 million barrels per day. Really, how can anyone be that dumb? But after all, this is the Washington Times an extreme right wing rag. I guess that explains it. Right wing equals, far more often than not, really dumb.

Ron P.

That op-ed piece a good example of how to set up your lies for best effect.

Statement 1 is actually true, or at least partially true. They left out the part about the Chinese government deciding the consequences of not having the one-child policy were even worse. You can argue about whether they were right or wrong, but they weren't sitting around the table wondering "how can we be more evil than Stalin, but less evil than Hitler."

Statement 2 is mostly false, but you can argue that we went too far with the ban, and indirectly caused the death of many people from malaria and other mosquito-born diseases. DDT-soaked mosquito netting is not technically banned, but no one wanted to make it after the scare was in full swing.

Statement 3 is a complete side-splitting whopper. That's the big lie they slip in after they hook you with the first two plausible ones.

The order is right out of the fallacious reasoning book.

3. "It is no coincidence that U.S. oil production, which had been growing at a rate of 3 percent per year through the 1940s, ‘50s and ‘60s, peaked at 9.6 million barrels per day in 1971, immediately after the EPA’s creation, and has been declining ever since.

I think I first ate at a McDonalds in 1970 and that probably caused the decline.

But wow, that is an amazing lie there. Is this a common meme among the hard-right? This would certainly explain why several GOP presidential nominees have proposed closing down the EPA (Bachmann, Perry, Paul, etc.)

spec - All I can say is that I've spent 36 years drilling and producing in the most prolific hydrocarbon province (Texas/La.) in the coutry. Not only has the EPA never hindered my efforts but I've never even dealt with them a single time. Both states control oil/NG development activitites...no fed departments (except for the Corps of Engineers but they're easy to deal with) have ever been involved in any of my efforts in either state. Maybe the EPA has held up oil pach activites in other areas but not in my backyard. So whatever they might project for more US production for the US had the EPA never been invented they can't count Texas and La for any increases.