Drumbeat: May 25, 2012

Jeff Rubin: Whatever happened to $200 oil?

Four years ago, when I was still chief economist at CIBC World Markets, I forecast that global economic growth was on pace to send oil prices CL-FT to $200 (U.S.) a barrel by 2012. In short, the argument was based on a supply-driven analysis that weighed the sources of future oil supply against the prices that would be needed to make the extraction and processing of that oil economically viable.

Since that call (which clearly hasn’t come to pass) received some attention at the time, it feels fitting to spend a few words discussing what happened to derail the projection.

Rising oil prices threat to life we know

Toronto economist Jeff Rubin's point of view in this thorough and articulate polemic is blunt and, at first glance, unsettling.

The rising costs of oil, he forecasts, will continue to force material changes in the way Canadians live. Our children and grandchildren will not know the lifestyle to which so many of us have become accustomed.

Will oil become the 'Canadian disease'?

There's an odd symmetry to Jeff Rubin's take on the energy world these days: His logic about the effect of high oil prices might just be seen as being on the unconventional side - just as increasing amounts of oil and natural gas are coming from unconventional sources.

Rubin's latest book, The End of Growth, addresses the impact high oil prices will have on the global economy. Simply put, economic growth, as we know it will slow down.

High oil prices stifling global economic growth

The recent slide in world oil prices is being viewed as a sign of just how fragile the economic recovery following the most recent recession is.

Crude prices are hovering around a 7 month low, as goverment's the world over start to rein in economic growth projections.

Oil Rises on Euro-Bond Speculation to Trim Weekly Drop

Oil rose for a second day in New York, paring its fourth weekly decline, as support among European Union leaders for joint euro-area bonds fueled speculation that the bloc can resolve its debt crisis.

Motorists' summer outlook: Relief at gas pump

Except for the supply-tight West Coast, motorists can expect more relief at the pump heading into peak summer driving season.

Falling oil revenues strain Russia's budget

Russian financial markets have hit an eight-month low as the prices of oil, the country's largest export, continued to plunge, lowering revenue from the lucrative sector.

Trade Deal Spurs Record Flow of North Sea Oil to South Korea

An unprecedented 24 million barrels of North Sea crude were exported to South Korea since December after a free trade agreement with the European Union opened the 16,500-mile (26,500-kilometer) arbitrage trade.

Despite early storm, Canadian forecasters expect average hurricane season

HALIFAX - The early arrival of a tropical storm off the U.S. east coast does not mean Eastern Canada should brace for a particularly active hurricane season, Canadian forecasters said Thursday.

Bob Robichaud of the Canadian Hurricane Centre is predicting an average number of hurricanes this year, despite the formation of tropical storm Alberto off South Carolina last weekend.

Clive Capital Hedge Fund Rebounds on Energy Price Bet

Chris Levett’s Clive Capital LLP gained as much as $230 million in May after betting oil, power and coal prices would fall as oil tumbled as much as 12 percent, two people with knowledge of the fund said.

EU challenges Argentina trade restrictions at WTO

The EU, the world's largest trading bloc, said Friday that Argentina's recent move to seize control of a division of Spanish energy company Repsol was indicative of the worsening business climate in the country but was not instrumental in seeking international protection for its trade and investment.

EU must be careful not to alienate gas suppliers: ex-IEA chief

European gas demand is more likely to increase rather than fall by 2050, so it is important that the EU sends positive signals to suppliers about its future needs for imports, according to Claude Mandil, a former head of Gaz de France and the International Energy Agency and now the deputy chair of the advisory group on the EC-sponsored Energy Roadmap 2050.

"The perspectives for 2050 show that gas use will be less, according to the European Commission. But what if time proves this to be wrong?" he said at the 10th Gas Infrastructure Europe conference in Krakow on Thursday.

Iran, big powers agree to hold more nuclear talks in June

(Reuters) - Iran and world powers agreed to meet again next month to try to ease the long standoff over its nuclear work despite achieving scant progress at talks in Baghdad towards resolving the main sticking points of their dispute.

At its heart is Iran's insistence on right to enrich uranium and that economic sanctions should be lifted before it shelves activities that could lead to its achieving the capability to develop nuclear weapons.

Iran nuclear talks not enough to halt EU oil ban

The EU foreign service has said an oil embargo on Iran will start as planned on 1 July despite ongoing talks on Teheran's nuclear programme.

Iran's oil minister plays down looming EU oil embargo on Tehran

Tehran (Platts) - Iranian Oil Minister Rostam Ghasemi Friday played down the impact of the European Union's oil ban on the Islamic Republic, due to come into effect on July 1, but warned that the sanctions had negative implications for the world economy, local news agencies reported.

Iranian crude flowing to China

China's imports of Iranian crude rebounded nearly 50 per cent last month, as Beijing refused to bow to western pressure for sanctions designed to choke off Tehran's main source of revenue.

The rise came after differences between the two parties over payments were resolved, and some say it is probable that China has been successful in its attempts to pay a lower price for Iranian oil.

Riddle of the sands

Oil and the Middle East are by all accounts Siamese twins. It is tough to mention one without the other. Even other words and characteristics that are also commonly associated with the Middle East are invariably perceived as having links to oil: cartels, boycotts, sanctions, terrorism, military expenditures, corruption, dictatorship, conflicts, wars, revolutions, foreign meddling, oil prices, oil shock, and yes, Islam.

How did these countries become so associated with oil? How did these perceptions and associations come about? What is fact and what is fiction? How has oil affected these societies - their human, political and economic development? What does it all mean for the future?

New and Frozen Frontier Awaits Offshore Oil Drilling

Barring a successful last-minute legal challenge by environmental groups, Shell will begin drilling test wells off the coast of northern Alaska in July, opening a new frontier in domestic oil exploration and accelerating a global rush to tap the untold resources beneath the frozen ocean.

It is a moment of major promise and considerable danger.

BP agrees to $8 million fine in connection with refinery violations

BP agreed to pay an $8 million penalty and invest more than $400 million in state-of-the-art pollution controls in response to alleged violations of the Clean Air Act at its Whiting, Indiana refinery.

Canadians split over NDP views on energy

OTTAWA—A new poll suggests Canadians are roughly split over NDP Leader Tom Mulcair’s contention that the Alberta oilsands have given the country a case of Dutch Disease as he prepares to visit the province next week.

Western energy vs. eastern industry: a manufactured debate

Contrary to widespread opinion, the oil sands are not a significant share of the Canadian economy, and are not crowding out other sectors. Total energy and mining production as a share of Canadian GDP is actually smaller today that it was in recent decades – 4.6 per cent of GDP today, versus 5.1 per cent in 1990 and 5.9 per cent in 1980. Business services – which encompass everything from fast-food to investment banking – are by far the dominant sector in our economy, now representing 54 per cent of GDP.

Mixed Signals Emerge From Bakken Shale

NEW YORK (Trefis) -- Hit by rising labor and other costs, Occidental Petroleum is moving some of its rigs out of the Bakken Shale Play in North Dakota.

Energy Income For A Peak 'Energy Return On Energy Invested' World

EROEI is the energy one must expend in order to obtain more energy. This ratio represents the physical constraint on global energy production capacity. Even if oil is discovered, if the EROEI to obtain that oil is less than 1 it will not be added to production. Essentially, the more EROEI falls the less production is added, and with new discoveries dependent on deep water drilling or arctic exploration this ratio is falling fast for new sources. This does not bode well for replacing and expanding oil production.

IMF Warning on Oil Prices Shows Urgent Need for Alternative Fuel Sources, Fuel Freedom Foundation Says

The Fuel Freedom Foundation is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization based in Irvine, California, which is dedicated to breaking the U.S. economy’s oil addiction by removing barriers to competition to promote the development of cheaper, cleaner, American-made fuels. Fuel Freedom means that gasoline, diesel, methanol, natural gas, ethanol and electricity compete on equal footing both at the dealership and at the pump. Achieving Fuel Freedom will lower fuel prices, create jobs, spur economic growth, reduce pollution, and improve national and global security.

Geologist Is Nominated to Lead Nuclear Agency

WASHINGTON — President Obama on Thursday nominated Allison M. Macfarlane, a professor of environmental science at George Mason University, to serve as chairwoman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

China rules US clean energy support improper

BEIJING — China’s Commerce Ministry issued a ruling Thursday that U.S. government support for six renewable energy projects violated free-trade rules, the latest volley in a widening conflict over clean power.

The United States and China, the world’s two biggest energy users, have pledged to work together to develop renewable sources. But they accuse each other of improperly subsidizing or protecting their manufacturers.

China to spend $27bn on energy efficiency and renewables

China plans to spend $27 bn (£17bn) this year to promote energy conservation, emission reductions and renewable energy.

The country's finance ministry said it wants to promote energy-saving products, solar and wind power and accelerate the development of renewable energy and hybrid cars.

Off-the-Grid Living in Brooklyn

AS the standards for environmentally friendly construction rise, a Brooklyn developer has a new goal: renovate an apartment building so it generates as much energy as it uses.

Africa: 'The Real Enemy Is Humanity Itself'

Forty years on and those predictions of doom have not been borne out. The average life expectancy of a human has increased by 10 years, and the number of infants dying before their fifth birthday has fallen from 134 per thousand to 58. Thus, the human population has nearly doubled, and global GDP has risen threefold. There are more of us, we are healthier, wealthier and better fed. There is vast disparity between what the advocates of political environmentalism have claimed and reality. So why are world leaders set to meet next month in Rio at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development?

German Power Set For Record Slide Without Carbon Fix

The European Union’s failure to decide whether to curb supplies of emission permits is sending prices for electricity in Germany, Europe’s largest market, toward their biggest losing streak since at least 2006.

Power for 2013 delivery has fallen as much as 8.8 percent this year to a record low today, according to broker data compiled by Bloomberg. It may decline a further 7.1 percent by November, according to UBS AG. Adapto Advisors AB, a hedge-fund manager, forecasts an additional 5 percent slide this year.

Africa: Livestock - Cure or Curse?

Lambasted for their voluminous greenhouse gas emissions, implicated in massive land degradation, and denounced for driving deforestation, livestock are supposedly the bad kids on the block - the black sheep of sustainable agriculture.

In short, the sacred cow has long left the building; to misquote Orwell, it's definitely now a case of "four-legs-bad".

But the polarisation of the livestock debate has brought about one of the greatest public image travesties of our time. It has seen small-scale livestock keepers, who raise a handful of animals for milk or meat in low-tech systems with a negligible environmental footprint, tarred with the same brush as large-scale industrial producers.

China hits back at claims it is blocking climate talks

China hit back Thursday at claims it was holding up global climate talks in Germany, saying the United States, Europe and other rich states were the ones applying the brakes.

Developed nations are trying to wriggle out of legal targets to curb global warming, Chinese chief negotiator Su Wei told AFP.

The UN climate talks grapple with rich-poor divide

There is a growing gap between rich and poor countries at the UN climate talks which risks undermining the global effort to control harmful carbon emissions, the Associated Press.

Negotiations at the Bonn, Germany talks have been plagued by technical disputes but the core of the problem is the divide between developed and developing nations.

"There is a total stalemate," Artur Runge-Metzger, the chief negotiator for the European Union told the AP.

Interesting that Repsol have hit the jackpot in Brazil recently too

...and a jackpot in Kansas...Farmers hit the jackpot in Kansas oil boom:

HARPER COUNTY, Kan. (CNNMoney) -- Farmers in Kansas are hitting the jackpot.

But instead of holding the winning lottery numbers, it's all about owning the right piece of land.

In Harper County, Kan., and the surrounding areas along the south central border of the state, oil companies are pinpointing plots of land they think will become drilling hotspots and offering farmers up to $1,250 an acre for the mineral rights that allow them to drill there.

Only a year ago, these same rights were worth about $25 an acre, said Gordon Stull, a lawyer in the town of Pratt, who helps clients negotiate mineral right leases.

HELP!!! I attended a meeting with a candidate for the US Senate.
I had a brief talk with him and a much longer discussion with
Several members of his staff. The result was I am to put together
Position papers concerning energy, banking, & the economic effects.

What I need help with are references for the fopposing terms:
Peak Oil
Export Land Model
Global Net Oil Exports
Available Net Oil Eports

Difference between conventional oil plus condensates and
"all liquid hydrocarbons"

"sour oil"
Different grades of oil
Shale oil/oil shale
Tight oil

Fractional reserve banking including the interest trap

Without the references I am just another voice!

Thank you for all your help


DD - Lots of subject matter on TOD but I would suggecs hitting wikipedia to develop a framework that you can suppliment with references you gleem from TOD. Otherwise it may be difficult compile a managemable data set from just hearing the voices here.

I have a proposal that Rep. Mica "was intrigued by" and asked for a staff briefing on the details, but Boehner spiked till after 2012, or later.

It is something that can be supported by Ds or Rs.

Send me an eMail at alan_drake at ju no period conn.

Best Hopes,


A lot of people like the graphs at the Energy Export databrowser as a quick way to become familiar with the concept of net exports.

With all due respect, why are you spending your time on that? You really think the U.S. Congress and the two "parties" who run it are ever going to take serious action on energy issues? These candidates and their staffers are shining you on, friend. Whatever you prepare for them is going straight into the circular filing cabinet.

By the way, you can write all the summaries of the energy scenario in the world, but the core of the problem remains the primacy of the automobile in US life. Unless and until somebody talks about that, nothing will change. And nobody in the power elite in this country is going to talk about that. Ever. It remains their lifeblood.

We need a social movement.

Sorry to say this is 100% correct. Unless this guy's an Independent or Green, this is probably just another election year PR stunt to make average voting schmucks think they care about what we think. You have to have deep pockets in order to get anything on the agenda today.

Gently, Michael, gently. Social movements are moving. People do what they do best. Paul in Hallifax is a one person negawatt plant. We need Alan's energy, expertise and willingness to work the system. It's the good cause that he fights, and if my subversive activity is breeding beets, well that's because I relate better to beets than to the political process.

Some times, nay, often times, I envy you :-)

Best Hopes for Many Efforts,


Sadly, I think Michael Dawson has the right read here. This isn't an incumbent, this is a Senate candidate trying to catch the imagination of the voters in their state. I will go out on a limb and guess this might be a third party? Or a write off state - a place so biased for one party that the other side basically gives up.

Our energy policy will change when we're on the verge of freezing, and we'll be burning the front gate. We can't even admit to what an honest estimate of energy supplies reveals.

Cheers DAD. Will do my best to give a short answer. (You may want to fact check because this is off the cuff).

1. Crude oil + Condensates includes:

Heavy oil
Deep Water oil
Tar Sands
Fractured oil (tight oil)
Conventional Crude
Sour Oil

The production of all these fuels has been about flat at 75 million barrels per day since 2005-6. HOWEVER, a growing portion of the crude + condensate number has come from less attractive forms of oil (sour, tar sands, deep water, tight oil etc). Currently, tar sands, tight oil, and deepwater oil, all which are expensive to produce, represent about 9 million barrels per day of this figure.

2. All liquids includes:

Refinery gain
Biofuels (ethanol, biodiesel etc)
Natural gas liquids
Synthetic fuels from natural gas and coal that can be used as oil (diesel etc)

The all liquids number represents about 14-15 million barrels per day of production from sources that are 'not oil.'

The energy content and quality of these fuels has been going down dramatically since the beginning of the last decade. This roughly translates into higher costs and greater debt loads for economies dependent on these fuels. You may want to do a little research on Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROEI). But what this roughly means is that the price of oil keeps going up. Specifically, the marginal cost to produce a barrel of oil is increasing.

Marginal oil is the most expensive oil to produce. Currently, the cost of a marginal barrel is around 80-90 dollars per barrel. Trouble really gets started for the world economy when the cost of a marginal barrel equals the price of economic pain. In general, this is probably somewhere in the region of 100-130 dollars per barrel.

Peak oil has already occurred for conventional crude oil produced by conventional means. Taking out tight oil, tar sands, and deep water, conventional crude production has fallen to 66 million barrels per day since a high in 2005. The all liquids peak will probably happen when and if the price to produce the marginal new liquids exceeds the price of economic pain. We're probably close to that point now. But tricks, technology, and efficiencies in the process can probably push this time out for a little ways yet.

The best way forward is radically increased efficiencies and substitution with fuels that are not oil and, preferably, not finite.

As for looking at the impacts of peak oil on fractional banking, you may want to read the recent article by Rembrandt which explains the situation nicely.

Best regards and good luck with your report. Some related references:

http://www.theoildrum.com/node/9201#more (oil's role in the economic crisis)
http://netenergy.theoildrum.com/node/6356 (EROI)
http://www.theoildrum.com/node/8942 (EROI)
http://europe.theoildrum.com/node/4112 (Marginal Barrel)
http://www.theoildrum.com/node/8044 (impacts of peak oil)
http://www.theoildrum.com/node/8410 (economic explanation of peak oil)
http://articles.businessinsider.com/2011-07-13/markets/30091011_1_domest... (the link between peak oil and debt)

As many noted above, you will probably want to dig deeper. I hope this gives you a good start.

That was a really really good summary!

Also, you may want to consider inviting some of the experts here for a presentation. Jeffrey Brown's export land model is of more immediate concern and is directly linked to peak oil. Gail Tverberg provides some very compelling data that anyone concerned with economic impacts should take a look at. Arthur Berman has made a number of key forecasts regarding peak oil. These are just the few that first came to mind. But there are a good number here who might be of help if experts are needed to present to Congress.

My honest advice, after being immersed in learning about these things for 4 years now: don't waste a single second of your precious time on the planet with this project.

Sorry, it must be said. Ignore or delete if you wish, but I won't be silenced.

I think that's harsher than necessary.

Sure, it's un realistic to expect one position paper to move a politician more than the $$$ of BAU. BUT the work might help the author develop clarity in his thoughts (usefull in future conversations) and it is available for recycling into a bunch of other presentations when the need arises. Not to mention the tiny but
accumulating grains of prestige it gives to the material you refer to.

Just maybe, after reading it but getting waylaid by the monied interests, several years from now, when things start getting really bad, he might remember your report and pull it out. Then you become an instant expert from the past. I know the odds of this are small, but it could happen. If enough of us plant seeds like this, some of them might grow.

I agree. Things have changed in the last 5 years. A lot of recent government/military reports on climate chaos and energy supplies etc... We also can't really complain about people not understanding our position (peak oil, sustainability), if we dismiss them as "unworthy of our time" when they do ask us for details.

It doesn't have to be said. And it definitely doesn't have to be said as often as you say it. Give it a rest, please.

In regards to the first three links in today's Drumbeat,

[Mugatu]"It's that damn Jeff Rubin! He's so hot right now!"[/Mugatu]

That is all...

What is [Mugatu][/Mugatu] suppose to do or mean? Is this some in-joke I (obviously) do not understand?

Please explain.

Being a Treker from way back, I first thought of this:


However, perhaps the reference is to this character (I never saw the movie, so I don't know):



Re. Off-the-Grid Living in Brooklyn

The panels will generate 18,000 watts of energy a year, enough to power all six units in the 7,000-square-foot building. Voltaic Solaire is so confident in its ability to create a “net-zero” building that utilities will be bundled into the rent.

18,000 watts/year... that's 18kW/year, less than .05 kW/day for 6 units. Now that's some efficient living ;-) Farther down:

On cloudy days, the buildings will draw energy from the grid. But Mr. Faia expects the panels will generate enough energy annually to cancel that out. Solar thermal panels will heat the water.

...from the grid. Neat trick for an "off-the-grid" building (per the title) :-0

One would think that the NYT could find at least one technically competent individual to scan these articles before these authors make fools of themselves. I feel for the developer, who seems to be doing some good work.

Yeah this article is very poorly written, and the title is completely wrong. Regarding units of energy and power, they NEVER get that right. If they actually mean 18,000 KWH per year, that's about 8 KWH per "unit" (apartment) per day, which should more than suffice. That would require a lot of panels, something like 12 KW peak in total. That seems to be in line with what one sees in the photo of the smaller "Delta" development.

For comparison, my household (a detached single-family home with two occupants) uses about 5 KWH per day. But that is small relative to our use of propane and wood for winter heating, and gasoline for transportation.

All this "net zero" nonsense is just a way of saying: we have co-located an efficient building with some unrelated solar panels that, through the grid, will power air-conditioning in some other less-efficient buildings on sunny afternoons. So what? The efficiency is good, but the air conditioning is a waste, and the co-location per se means nothing.

Well, you are pretty darn efficient. I have a small house but I still manage to burn up 10KWH a day. And I get the little happy face on my bill saying that I use much less than most people with homes of the same size.

I do need to figure out what is burning up all that power. Old fridge probably hurts.

If you lay the fridge on its back so it doesn't spill all the cold air when you open it you'll find that your usage drops dramatically. This is one of those human factors things that is killing us - paint the roof white, mount your fridge in a less usable fashion, and suddenly your power usage is dramatically lower.

Also add 2" of styrofoam to the outside of it.


I don't know.


"Inside the refrigeration system there is about a cup of oil to lubricate the compressor, if the refrigerator is layed on it's side the oil can drain out of the sump and into the lines and coils.
When the refrigerator is pluged in right after being set upright the oil can be sucked into the compressor and hydro-lock it."

"As long as you don't run them while on their side or back you shouldn't have a problem with the oil. The problem comes from the way the compressor is built. Inside the hermetically sealed compressor housing, the actual compressor and electric motor is suspended by three or four springs. This cuts down on noise and vibration when the compressor is running. Usually just laying the frige on it's side isn't a problem but tipping it more than 90º or bouncing it around while on it's side can make one or more of the springs come off. That's a problem because the compressor is sealed and there is no way to get the spring reattached. You'll know if it happens because the compressor will make a very loud rattling sound when you turn it back on."

Fridge on its back
"First, since you say it`s an RV sized fridge, Make sure that it really does have
a compressor, since most RV units are absorption type heat driven units. Can it
run on 12 volts or propane? If so, it`s an absorption unit. You definitely do
not want to try and run an absorption unit in any position other than upright. I
also would not recommend trying to run a compressor type fridge on it`s back for
several reasons, first being that it will not be able to shed heat nearly as
well if it can`t thermosyphon, and since you say it doesn`t have a fan, it needs
to thermosyphon air to lose heat. Another reason to not lay it down is oil
internally will not run to where it should. Don`t do it."

"On some newer models with the smaller compressors and "exotic" coolant runs, I don't think you can lay them down. The new Kenmore Elite my friend just bought, said on the box do not lay on side on all four sides of the box, as in keep upright."

I guess you could always buy a horizontal model to begin with they tend to be more expensive but are available.

I'll bet that it might even be possible to remove the storage compartment of some conventional refrigerators and lay it flat while leaving the compressor in its original vertical orientation, obvious care would need to be taken not to rupture the copper tubing... where there's a will there might be a way.

Modify a chest freezer, they tend to have thicker insulation anyway.


Modern day refrigerators are not always the energy guzzling demons some may think. If you're curious, plug one into a power monitor for a minimum of 24 hours and judge for yourself (if you don't have a power monitor, you may be able to borrow one from your local library).

Our ten year old refrigerator on the left* averages a little less than one kWh a day (http://i362.photobucket.com/albums/oo69/HereinHalifax/Refrigerator-24hPo...).


* The one on the right isn't normally used except when we require the extra space.

There was a big improvement in efficiency in the 2001-2002 timeframe in the U.S.. If someone normally runs a fridge older than that, they should look into the potential savings of replacement (escpecially a climate with few HDD, and/or significant CDD). If they use a fridge older than 1993, they can almost certainly save money by replacing it. New standards go into effect in 2014 so if your fridge is less than 10 years old it might well pay to wait until then to replace it.

The two graphs here are enlightening:


Be aware that energy consumption is per the DOE 2010 tests and differs from actual performance in the way that auto mpg differs from sticker value, except that fridges usually overperform due to less challenging duty than the tests.

That's been our experience as well. The EnerGuide sticker for our two refrigerators puts their energy consumption at 472 kWh per year -- an average of 1.29 kWh per day -- but we've found that their actual usage is about one-third less than this.

As a point of reference, the refrigerator that we had purchased in 1991, similar in size to the one we have now, was rated at 996 kWh a year, and it was amongst the most energy efficient available at that time. When we moved to another home six years later, that new refrigerator (a larger side-by-side model with through the door ice and water) was rated at 777 kWh/year; a comparable side-by-side back in the '70s would have likely consumed two to three times that, which is quite remarkable when you think about it.

By the way, that home had an old 6 or 7 SEER CAC. We replaced it in October of 1997 with a 2-stage, 13.5 SEER model that used half as much electricity. Today, if we were faced with that same decision, I could theoretically choose a 26 SEER unit that is four times more energy-efficient.


Official and actual figures. When I bought a new fridge I checked the power and temperatures. The power figures were fine as long as I selected the 'normal' settings on the two thermostats. Neither fridge nor freezing compartment were anything like the recommended temperatures for storing food. Once I had the fridge meat box down to the recommended temperature for meat and the freezer down to the top end of the range for long term storage the consumption was a lot higher. With the rainy season coming in tis time to invest in some polystyrene methinks.


You might be better off with polyisocyanurate foam-board insulation. It is a sort of light tan-yellow color. It does not melt and run when it burns. It burns leaving a herd char. A small test blank will self-extinguish in the vertical position.

Take care: some refrigerators have the heat-shedding coils in the sides.

Since cold air sinks, the bottoms of the refrigerator's compartments are worth attention.

I remember the very sad "Mother Earth News" episodes involving Do It Yourself hydrostatic testing and dog worming... and so my attention to this thread.

Simply not available here. Heat shedding is a fan cooled coil (aka cat fur collector) at the base of the back, bit difficult to get insulation between the compressor compartment and the body but I will be trying. I am looking for the thin expanded polyethylene with an aluminiumised mylar surface on one side but there hasn't been any in stock for a while, should be easier to wiggle in.


If you lay the fridge on its back so it doesn't spill all the cold air when you open it you'll find that your usage drops dramatically.

Only a complete fruit-loop would even consider dong that - you can't store anything in a fridge lying on its back. The amount of aggravation it would generate in the household would more than equal the energy saving. What a nutty idea.

"I do need to figure out what is burning up all that power."

At Clifton's Cafeteria, someone left a light on.
"A long-forgotten neon lamp that was switched on during the Great Depression and left burning for about 77 years has been discovered hidden behind a (renovation) at Clifton's Cafeteria."

18,000 watts/year... that's 18kW/year, less than .05 kW/day for 6 units. Now that's some efficient living ;-)

Well ... it's either very poor understanding of electricity, or poor understanding of arithmetic. No-one with a stove, TV, and hair-drier lives at that level.

Jeff Rubin:"...it feels fitting to spend a few words discussing what happened to derail the projection." I don't really have an ax to grind with Mr. Rubin specifically. I've never read much of his stuff to have an opinion either way. But his $200/bbl prediction wasn't derailed by anything IMHO. He was just wrong and should have known it. He seems to be implying that his model would have been correct except for a rather unpredictable event: demand destruction. Even we geologists with weak economics skills know you can't charge anything you want for any commodity and that the buyers will always pay.

From what I've read from others on TOD about Mr. Rubin I'm sure he understands that fact better than most. Thus I can only assume he made such an alarmist prediction not because he believed it but to garner the attention it would bring. That would cause me to value any of his future comments less than if he just admitted to making an honest but incorrect assumption.

I've been in the $200 camp too, but I have tried to stay away from specific time predictions, because of destruction demand. I've suggested that we would see a series of price doublings, but because of demand variables, it was impossible to predict the time periods between the doublings. We have in fact seen a series of doublings in global annual (Brent) crude oil prices, from $13 in 1998 to $25 in 2002, from $25 in 2002 to $55 in 2005, and then from $55 in 2005 to $111 in 2011.

The two year over year declines in annual prices were in 2001 (to $24) and 2009 (to $62). So far, it's been a pattern of higher annual highs and higher annual lows:

If we go back to the 1998 decline, here is the progression in year over year declines in annual Brent prices:

1998: $13
2001: $24
2009: $62

Don't you feel like there is a squeeze play going on here?

I mean, there is a floor price required for this oil production level, because of the marginal production price. Then, on the top side, we have the maximum price that the economy can handle. As time goes on, the marginal production price will rise, because a larger percentage of production will come from the high cost stuff.

At the risk of being repetitively redundant, post-2005 Cumulative Net Exports (CNE) depletion trumps everything. I estimate that we have burned through about one-third of the entire volume of post-2005 Global CNE in only five years.

And then we have the ANE factor, and here is a new approach. The ratio of Global Net Exports of oil (GNE) to Chindia's combined net oil imports (CNI), or GNE/CNI, was at 8.9 in 2005. In 2010, it had already fallen to 5.7. At a one to one ratio, the Chindia region would be consuming 100% of Global Net Exports of oil.

But the high cost stuff does get taken off the market through demand destruction. We'd have to be a lot more efficient to get to $200 oil. More economic activity per barrel = higher bearable price of oil.

This is not at all to detract from GNE. The GNE loss you're predicting would probably result in the fragmenting of the world's international trading markets. This would have a weird effect on prices. You have less traded with more oil kept in country. Eventually, this would mean that there would be many prices for oil. Much more variety than now but with more exclusive trading partners. Some people would get shut out. Now that would be really ugly! States, those that survive, would probably set their own prices based on the kind of economy they wanted. They would, in essence, rig the price to end users through policy and subsidies. This already happens to a degree in some areas. But as your GNE loss progresses, I would expert to see more of it. You know. Game theory... It seems that an international unified pricing regime for oil probably wouldn't survive with substantially diminished net exports.

In general, the damage high oil prices cause would make high oil prices essentially impossible beyond a certain point. There's a tipping point out there. In 2008 it was 147 dollars. What is it now? We won't know until we reach it. That depends on how resilient the world economy is. In general, it looks like we are a bit less resilient now than in 2008. Maybe $200 oil by 2020 if we're much more efficient by that time?

At this point, though, I'd think something well before $200 would be an economy wrecker.

I agree there will be exclusive trading pacts. It will not be a unified market. The military will be as important as the economy in determining prices.

The most important thing we could do now is a hard push for sustainability. The military option is essentially an admission of failure.

As time goes on, the maximum price that the economy can bear will increase as consumers increase efficiency and decrease unnecessary consumption. As time goes on, consumers will have greater and greater difficulty adapting until the minimum operating level for crude oil to power modern society is reached. This will compensate for the floor price of production increasing with the regulator being price.

Jeff Rubin is premature to declare @200 / barrel for 2012 incorrect. Sanctions against Iran are still scheduled for July 1, 2012, hurricanes might be active this year and war with Iran causing disruption of oil supplies from the area of the Persian Gulf remains a possibility. On the other hand, the IEA and President Obama have shown a willingness to release oil from strategic petroleum reserves to mitigate oil price shocks. The U.S. Federal Reserve can manipulate the value of the petrodollar to minimize economic damage in certain regions. Geopolitical factors are difficult to predict.

I've always been in the not going to exceed 200 dollars a barrel for oil in 2010 dollars camp, because of feedbacks from the economy as oil price rises. We have to remember oil price is not based on what the top earners can afford, it's what the overall economy can handle, which is an economic composite of all wage earners.

Keep in mind too, that the only reason IMHO the US economy still has wheels is because we are borrowing over a trillion in new debt each year. That money amounts to a huge stimulus check. Take it away and swoosh, deep recession and the price of oil drops further.

There is a conundrum here though that a previous poster on this topic mentioned, and that is the price of oil lies somewhere between the marginal cost of oil (tar sands, etc.) and what the economy can handle before slipping into recession. As that marginal cost is bound to continue to rise, and the world economy continues to suffer lack of growth due to the high price of oil and the price of oil it can afford drops, we edge towards a marginal price point in which the economy can not handle it, and supply drops in concert with a contracting world economy.

The net effect may be the Alberta tar sands and Orinoco heavy oil, etc. may only be a viable energy source for a short period of time.

Well $200 for oil is not actually a lot. The british already pay way more than that at the pump.

A weak dollar would have done it as well. It was certainly possible.

Well $200 for oil is not actually a lot.

How can you say that when Europe is already in recession at a much lower price?

Europe is paying $9 /US gallon = $400/barrel for fuel at the pump. We have been paying over $200 /barrel at the pump for over a decade.

To compare apples to apples, at the pump the US has recently been about $140 to $170 per barrel.

I guess I don't understand your point. If Europe is paying that much when oil is at $107 don't you think it will be much worse for them when oil is at $200?

Let's assume that European refiners had to pay another $100 per barrel for crude, and the cost was passed on with no escalation and ignoring things like refinery gains, the cost at the pump would presumably go from about $400 per barrel to about $500 per barrel. But I don't know if fuel taxes are levied on a volume basis, or as a percentage of sales.

In the UK it is a bit of both.

One cannot measure British or other European petrol prices with the same measuring stick as in the US. Their transportation system has simply evolved differently partly due to higher petrol taxes. Their cars are smaller and their public transportation system is much better developed. Also European cities are generally closer together and their suburbs are not a sprawling mess as they are in the USA. They simply drive a lot less.

But as the price of oil rises, petrol prices in Europe rise just as they do in the US. So their already very high oil prices go even higher. High oil prices affect all the economies of the world. Of course they have a totally different affect on importing nations as on exporting nations.

$200 a barrel is quite high no matter where you live.

Ron P.

Exactly. We'd have to make the major changes in transportation and infrastructure necessary to bear that higher cost. 10-15 years at least. Also, the US is more diffuse. We'd have to become more city-oriented. More hub oriented. Alan's model. I guess we've taken some strides in this regard. At least we're not still pushing enormous SUVs.

Plus you have to consider the current state of the world economy. Are we more or less fragile? Or to think of it another way, how much of the world economy does $200 oil represent.

Napkin math= 18 billion per day and 6.57 trillion per year. That's 10% of world GDP even before you hit the pump. If you consider money to be energy, then you're already very close to hitting the 6/1 limit needed to run a world civilization and that doesn't even include the other sources of energy!

I just don't see $200 oil in the current economy. Maybe one spike and then a big recession. But it wouldn't be pretty. And do we have the gas to make another run for that kind of spike? Doesn't really look like it. We had demand destruction in some areas at 130 dollars Brent. Looks like another slow-down, perhaps a small world recession ahead. We couldn't even hit the previous high price of $147.

And think that the US is insulated by a bit of an oil and energy glut here. It's mainly structural due to lack of pipelines and such. But we'd be feeling these prices more if that weren't the case. The US went to 110 and we had a slow down in growth. The world went to 130 and we have a slowdown with recession in some areas. Not looking likely that we reach 200 given these facts. Plus you have marginal production at 80-90. If slowdowns happen in the range of 100-130, doesn't bode well for higher priced marginal production, does it?

Ralph - One big difference though: you haven't been paying the fuel producers $400/bbl or even $200/bbl. Some of those monies have been going to the producers, the refiners and the retailers. But a good bit has been paid to your citizens in the form of govt revenue that is used to support your economies. Now if the entire bump up in price from $200 to $400 per bbl were all going to producers/refiners the pain for you folks would be much greater. Likewise if the EU govts suspended a portion of your fuel taxes it could be a big relief for your folks. Of course, that cut in govt revenue would have to show up somewhere in the system.

US fuel motor fuel isn't as heavily burdened with taxes as the EU. OTOH except for some help to maintain the roadways we don't get much if any govt support for our social programs from our energy consumption compared to the EU. You probably know the numbers better then I could guess: how much income do the EU govts receive from fuel taxes? And what would happen to your societies if those monies disappeared tomorrow?

European petrol prices basically have to carry a fixed amount of overhead for the social welfare they support.
So a doubling of oil prices would not mean a doubling of petrol prices, since in the UK for instance they carry around a 60% tax burden at the pump.
Very roughly if oil prices doubled petrol prices would need to rise by around 50%, plus a bit to make up for the lost revenue with decreased sales due to the elasticity of demand.

So for the UK petrol prices might go up to around £2/litre from £1.40/litre.

Interestingly that is around the figure at which electric cars become competitive including equalised taxes on fuel/electricity.

A smaller portion of the public in Europe might be able to drive, but there is no reason why any Mad Max scenario should ensue, and any peak in oil supplies is very different from an assumed peak in energy supplies, especially electricity, and the two should not be confounded.

France, for instance, is not going to run short of electrons from it's nuclear power stations any time soon, and the spare capacity overnight of that is sufficient to run several million electric cars before any need to build more.

Oh, no worries then. Party on!

I think that when investors come around to the realization that the future doesn't look like growth, but more like downward steps, thinks will get shaky.

This blog is about oil supplies, and rightly the arguments of Hubbert are applied showing that conventional supplies would peak as has happened.
This gets confounded with all sorts of different issues, and entirely extraneous arguments.

Peak gas, or peak coal, are entirely different matters, let alone peak nuclear power.
Currently the uranium in a once through cycle in a reactor costs around $0.003kwh, so it is clear that very large increased in costs could be sustained if needs be without running into any 'peak energy', which would mean that very lean ores could be mined, or for perhaps 3-5 times current costs uranium obtained from seawater.

We know perfectly well how to reprocess, and how to build fast breeder reactors etc, raising the efficiency of burn by around 100.

It is then quite plain that any idea of peak energy is nonsense, and that the thesis behind this site shows that just as Hubbert said that nuclear energy at least for hundreds or thousands of years is not going to peak.

All sorts of extraneous ideas are then dragged in, to promote a compound, so that nuclear power is supposed somehow to be more dangerous than not having enough energy, with the possibilities of conflict that entails, or Tainter is evoked, so we are doomed because we are doomed because we are doomed, or Walden pond is conjured up.

One thing is obvious though, that the basic thesis of this site, ie Hubbert depletion curves, has nothing to do with energy for hundreds of years, since the actual amount of energy contained in a barrel of oil is contained in a few cents worth of uranium or thorium.

We may chose not to have energy, but there is no technological, economic or scientific reason why we can't have all we need.

If people want to argue the very different case for assumed risk, which on this site often seems to take the form of simple conspiracy theory about the findings of organisations like WHO, that is a totally different case.

There is though no case for peaking energy as per Hubbert any time for hundreds of years.

"This blog is about oil supplies, and rightly the arguments of Hubbert are applied showing that conventional supplies would peak as has happened.
This gets confounded with all sorts of different issues, and entirely extraneous arguments."

"The Oil Drum: DISCUSSIONS ABOUT ENERGY AND OUR FUTURE", at the top of every page, in case you missed it.

As for your frustration regarding peaking energy and nuclear: There is no "we". There are assorted special interest groups. If you believe that new nuclear is our energy salvation, then get'r'done. Meantime, I have several thousand tons of high level nuclear waste just sitting there upwind of me (along with several old BWRs) that I'm not very happy about. How about you pro nuke folks get YOUR nuclear industry and govt. off their asses and do something about it.

Meantime, I'm powering down, you know, actually MAKING THE ONLY CHANGES THAT SEEM TO REALLY WORK THESE DAYS. I lost my stomach for these empty rants years ago.

I think analyzing energy is just like analyzing oil. It depend on what you are willing to pay for a KWhr or a barrel. Then you can determine how much there is available.

I would love to see total system cost for providing 1KWhr of energy for all proposed solutions. I do mean total including over night storage, etc...

What is the cost to build a new nuclear plant in the US today? What is the total system cost for 1KWhr?

"What is the cost to build a new nuclear plant in the US today?"

Vogtle Nuclear Project Facing $900 Million in Cost Overruns

The original projected cost of the two new reactors is about $14 billion. Cost overruns threaten to raise the price tag nearly a billion dollars.

We know perfectly well how to reprocess

Oh ? Really ?


Best Hopes for Realism,


"We may chose not to have energy, but there is no technological, economic or scientific reason why we can't have all we need."

Too true. I notice you didn't include the words 'political' or 'psychological' in your statement, however, in which case I would then have to disagree wholeheartedly. Anyway, it seems politics trumps any and all forms of reason these days, so pardon me, but I'm going to get back to my tinfoil hat and my garden now.

And for the record, since politics trumps all, I'm rather worried about one of the US's largest spent fuel pools north of me just waiting for the political and economic neglect to render it airborne and on it's way within my lifetime.

Best hopes for potassium iodide,


"Politics" is too general.

It's really resistance from employees and investors in industries that will be hurt by change: coal, oil, etc.

Modern life can and will continue no doubt, but economic growth can't and that's where the problems begin because most businesses rely on finance to survive, without that you have to save and then plow that surplus into a new venture. This takes time.

Don't forget that taxes stays within a country, maybe .., the UK pays the market price for its oil as anybody else.

Europe is paying $9 /US gallon = $400/barrel for fuel at the pump.

Actually they are paying the same price for Brent as the US does. What Europe decides to charge at the pump is on a country by country basis, but no one forced them to hike up fuel taxes so high. It's easy to get a price at the pump mentality, but really we all need to stick with actual oil market price. It's also easy to claim that the US economy should be able to handle the same fuel prices as Europe, but the reality does not bear that out. My wife and I did some business yesterday in the SF bay zrea and we used 18 gallons of fuel. How many Europeans need to use 18 gallons of fuel in one day? Destinations are spread far and wide in the US. Take Germany and drop it on to a map of the US - got lost didn't it? Drop the UK on to California - what happened? It's not apples to apples comparing what Europe can afford for fuel (including taxes) as the US. Over here unless someone lives in the downtown part of a city, they have a car or truck or multiple trucks and cars.

How many Europeans need to use 18 gallons of fuel in one day? Destinations are spread far and wide in the US.

The size of your country or continent is irrelevant to how far you need to transport yourself. I live in Canada, the second biggest country in the world with one of the lowest population densities, and yet I take the bus to work and don't drive long distances just for the heck of it. It's not like I drive from Vancouver to Inuvik every weekend.

The real reason Americans drive so much is not because of the size of North America but because the infrastucture is set up that way. It's of course very difficult to change this setup because of enormous sunk costs. However, peak oil has already made a dent in American driving habits and will undoubtably continue to do so, whether Americans resist or not.

Drop the UK on to California - what happened?

You just covered 60% of California, that's what happened...

Sweden: 449 964 km2
California: 423 970 km2

Sweden: 9.4 millions
California 37.6 millions

Sweden still kicks California's tanned ass when it comes to public transportation, despite lower population density. The most decisive factor is public policy, not geography.

But over half of that $9 is taxes. For the individual that might not matter, but for the country in question it is crucial, for the domestic taxes are recycled in the economy. The price paid for the imports aren't (although rich people from oil exporting countries might spend some in your country, and oil exporters sovereign wealth funds might buy assets in your country -but then your economy becomes foreign owned.

The average European uses 18% as fuel as the US, for personal transportation. The big kahuna is diesel for freight, I think.

I believe diesel for commercial freight is much cheaper, due to much lower taxes.

Anybody know what diesel for commercial users sells for on the Continent?

So a doubling every 7 years. That gives us $222 in 2018.

... and major world recession before that time.

Which would slash consumption and reduce prices. It would seem there is a price that will balance out to just avoid recession, the maximum price. The question is, what is that price and is it a constant?


Probably not constant. It would probably increase or decrease based on the actual strength of the world economy. Then you add inflation and that tends to make it even more difficult to predict. But we're having trouble at 100-130 dollar oil. So this makes me think it's not likely we'll see $200 oil before a downturn.

"The question is, what is that price and is it a constant?"

The price is definitely not a constant. As the price goes up, and given enough time to adapt, CNG vehicles become practical, EV become practical, alternative fuels become practical, etc. The uses that really, really need oil will be able to bid up the price for the remaining supply.

By the way, "become practical" means the cost/benefit ratio shifts from "the old way is still more desirable over all" to "even with some different limitations, the alternative is now less overall hassle than doing it the old way." This is not a knife sharp cut-off.

I've been in the $200 camp too...

Barring above-ground circumstances (eg, a shooting war in the Middle East), I have not been. For the last few years, I think the combination of factors in play -- shrinking net exports, shifts toward less-conventional liquid fuel production, increasing efficiency, changes in the behavior of the swing consumer as that has moved from North America to Asia, a million Mexicans moving out of the US, differing inflation rates around the world -- have had us operating in a roughly linear mode, which I think will continue. An increase of $10-12 per year is about what it takes each year to keep things balanced. And that's a linear increase, not an exponential one. So I'm thinking about $120-125 at the end of 2012, perhaps as high as $180 by 2018.

Agree totally.

He understands the predicament we are in, but he needs to sell his book, so he needs to get on talk shows and get interviewed by newspapers. The other little white lie he adds to his predictions, to get invited places, is that at the end of the day, everything will be fine. By fine, he says that after a few years of down scaling, and reversing globalization, we will be better off because of the manufacturing coming back home. I seriously doubt he believes this fairy tail, but happy endings sell books.

IIRC, nobody on this board was predicting demand destruction, in fact, there was chorus of people stating that demand was inelastic. You had a couple Cornies predicting the rise of EVs and such but nobody on this site made the alarmist prediction of the fall of the European Union and the rich in the US getting richer while the middle class declines so much that they cannot afford to drive.

Rubin said he got it wrong. I got it wrong. The folks that frequent these boards got it wrong.

The ELP Plan: Economize; Localize & Produce
April 13, 2007

I have been advising for anyone who would listen to voluntarily cut back on their consumption, based on the premise that we were probably headed, in a post-Peak Oil environment, for a prolonged period of deflation in the auto/housing/finance sectors and inflation in food and energy prices. . .

For some time, I have suggested a thought experiment. Assume that your income dropped by 50%. How would you change your lifestyle?

. . . In my opinion, the unfortunate new reality is that we are going to see a growing labor surplus--against the backdrop of deflation in the auto/housing/finance sectors and inflation in food and energy prices. By reducing your expenses now, while you can do it voluntarily, you will at least be better prepared for whatever the future may bring.

That was a good post and one that is even more important for people to understand today because many of them will get pushed out of the economy within the next decade. That is my alarmist prediction.

Here is a sample of the supply/demand curves that we all believed in at that time, though. Maybe you had a comment disagreeing with this curve?

The Economics of Oil, Part I: Supply and Demand Curves

The market for oil is unusual, because – in the short-term – both demand and supply are highly inelastic. Irrespective of what petrol costs, your car cannot easily switch to another fuel. Ships and aeroplanes cannot move from diesel oil and kerosene for their propulsion. If it’s freezing cold, and you need to heat your house, the only option may be to pay more for heating oil. Likewise, if the price of petrol was to halve, you would not drive twice as far, or turn the thermostat up from 22 to 44.

The result is that the short-term demand curve looks like this:

I am an amateur supply side analyst, and as noted up the thread, I think that it is very hard to predict changes in demand. Regarding the article that you linked, following is a link to my comment on the thread, where I commented on the supply assumptions in the article:


The bottom line in my opinion is that after 2005, global demand is having to accommodate a declining supply of Global Net Exports of oil (GNE), with the developing countries, led by China, so far at least, consuming an increasing share of a declining volume of GNE, and it required a doubling in global annual crude oil prices, from 2005 to 2011, in order to balance demand against a declining supply of GNE.

WT, Rubin was obviously playing on the inelastic properties of oil demand. But what he didn't include from the Econ 101 curriculum was Reservation Price. This is a price where one will not pay any higher. You can think of it as a discontinuity on the Supply-Demand curve and is emotionally driven.

I think we are seeing this in Vancouver now as gasoline is ~1.50/L ($5.70/US gal). The discretionary side of the gasoline spending is definitely being curtailed.

In Rubin's defense, most of us were misguided by similar assumptions. Thanks to most on TOD it has been a learning experience and continues to do so; hence, like Rubin, I've started to "look under the hood" of the implications rather than focus on the when, where, & how of Peak Oil. Looking at the what, or manifestations is much more useful.

The key to demand inelasticity of demand for oil is Auto Addiction vs Green Transit options. Europe, the Continent in particular, has Green Transit options to Auto Addiction. They still need more freight Rail but can reduce their oil for autos greatly because they actually run trains, shuttles, bikeways etc.
It would be interesting to know the auto miles driven for Europe vs other Transit, including biking which has dramatically increased.
I have not been able to find a good source of information on that...

Not that I disagree with you Andy, but it does say (re: elasticity) right there at the top, "in the short term"; everyone's way of saying "in the long term, you're down to death & taxes." Hard to predict the future is. I think the risk is, as with all arguments, blurring the distinction between the hard edges and the grey area which you can only guess at never does well at advancing your argument over the long term. Clearly all the cornucopians predicting $20 oil have been just as wrong *at this instant in time*. We've all been guilty of conflating short-term inelasticity with long-term inelasticity when we get in a froth.

Certainly there is still some long-term inelasticity, as everyone is quick to point out the gross lack of portability where electricity is concerned, etc. etc.

Best hopes for Alan's (et al) rail electrification ideas...


note: edited to clarify whom I was replying to.

On March 30 of this year - one week to the day after my 61st bday - I was "involuntarily retired'. On an annualized family basis income dropped - will drop soon as there is severance - about 60%.

Not crying in my beer - in fact beer is one of the things I've had to change ;-)

Soon from two cars to one (more efficient) one.

Messin' with thermostat, insulation, etc

Doing more care and maine rather than dialing for help - it's not like I don't have the time.

I can tell you when it no longer is a thought experiment and it does focus the mind.


On a side note and perhaps a bit off topic, part of the severance was choosing to work with a "career counselor". I played along for a few weeks. In the end I likened looking for a job in today's day - well at least using their methodology - as a perverse game of "American Idol" auditions and prep.

As you may have noticed, age discrimination in hiring is alive and well in the US private sector (I'm assuming US). There are sound business reasons for that. One reason is that older workers are a protected group; in the event of large layoffs, an employer has to jump through hoops to demonstrate that there's no age discrimination in the firing pattern. A second reason is the way the US does health insurance; adding an older worker can cause a significant increase in group premiums at a small firm. Because it's hard to prove discrimination in hiring, many firms simply don't consider older applicants.

Tell me about it.


Older Applicant

While this may be true, youth unemployment is at staggering levels in the developed world and likely the entire world, if accurate numbers could be kept.

It seems to me that able bodied people in their 30s through 50s are just sort of getting by. The opportunities seem to be going away for the younger and older.

Gee, looks like I'll be turning 37 1/2 again this year then, or maybe 42? At least the aged control the political process most places. The young are just gonna straight revolt one of these days...

So what's your point? We should all be shamed into going away with jerk emotions, and bury our heads in the sand?

This is an evolving situation, with many variables. You might even say we are in uncharted territory here. If I didn't come here and learn from all of you on a regular basis, the current events going on today would be even more baffling. At least from a TOD view, there is some understanding of this madness.

In the short term, oil demand is rather inelastic, since the equipment which uses oil can't be changed overnight. Given continued higher oil prices, things change, such as a shift in purchases toward higher mpg vehicles. The impact of the recession on individual users takes longer as well, since unemployed workers can keep on using oil to drive until their savings or other income runs out. Corporations also shift in manufacturing techniques to reduce oil use as well, thru purchase of more efficient equipment. That demand has declined over time was a rather obvious result and I for one have mentioned "demand destruction" as a likely outcome of the spike in oil prices in 2008. The economic impacts were exacerbated by the underlying massive debt bubble, a situation which is still not resolved and which may be the main cause of the problems in Europe, not the high oil prices.

E. Swanson

This thing always makes my head hurt.

So, since all money is created from people or companies or governments taking out debt, isn't a dept bubble also a GDP bubble? And if so, isn't the act of getting rid of this dept also equal to reducing out GDP?

Isn't that why all the governments borrowed so much money into the economy lately, because we did not? If the governments just sat back and let us destroy all the outstanding dept, wouldn't out GDP be something like -20%?

eastex wrote:

So, since all money is created from people or companies or governments taking out debt, isn't a dept bubble also a GDP bubble? And if so, isn't the act of getting rid of this dept also equal to reducing out GDP?

I think your comment is essentially correct, though the debt implosion could be much larger than you mention. For an individual, borrowing results in moving some of one's lifetime consumption forward into the present. If the debt is later paid back, the result is going to be lower consumption during later years. Individuals used to borrow to pay for a house when younger, then pay off the debt as they grew older while their income tended to also grow larger in current dollars. Individuals don't live forever, so their debts are eventually paid or there is a default if assets remaining at the time of death are less than the outstanding loan. In recent decades, people began to borrow against the equity in their houses, instead of trying to prudently pay off the debt as they grew older, thinking the appreciation of the property would pay the new loan when the property sold. Sadly, that isn't likely to work out for many people after their houses lost value.

Nations (and states, to some degree) don't work that way, since they can roll over debt as it matures by borrowing again. I think events which we are seeing in Europe is what happens if nations allow their debt to become so large that they can no longer pay the interest, thus default. Once a nation defaults, their sources for new borrowing dry up as investor "confidence" evaporates. That's why the PIGGS are in so much trouble. It's said that the government of Greece will literally run out of money some time in July, after which things will get interesting...

E. Swanson

"In recent decades, people began to borrow against the equity in their houses, instead of trying to prudently pay off the debt as they grew older, thinking the appreciation of the property would pay the new loan when the property sold. Sadly, that isn't likely to work out for many people after their houses lost value.

Zillow: 55% of metro Atlanta homes underwater

Far too many claims on too few real assets meet limits to growth...

Nations (and states, to some degree) don't work that way, since they can roll over debt as it matures by borrowing again.

So, people have a productive life span. They finish school and start work. At that point, they could theoretically borrow money that needs to be paid back by the time they retire (65?)

The logic goes that nations don't work that way because they, essentially, live forever. And therefore, can rollover debt forever. But, doesn't peak oil mean that these nations might actually be mortal after all? Is Greece at retirement age? Is Spain 64 years old?

That's one of the basic Big Questions of finance. The book, "This Time Is Different" presents the case that governments tend to borrow too much money and then get into trouble. The authors present numerous historical examples. I haven't read far enough to find out what happens next, although Argentina might be one one example of a successful recovery, the result of their rejection of the austerity which the IMF wanted them to accept. But then, just today, Spain is in the news with a report that one of their regional governments has come up short of cash and one of the main banks has been bailed out to the tune of $24 Billion...

E. Swanson

Debt could in theory rollover forever. But the carrying costs can't be allowed to grow faster than GDP. And the cost of carrying the debt can fluctuate wildly as lenders' willingness to accept low interest rates varies. The main lesson of Europe, soon to be coming to America, is that borrowing wildly at low interest rates, especially for short-term debt, will kill you as soon as interest rates rise.

Corporations, like governments, are supposedly immortal too. So corporate debt should be less of a worry?

I think that any borrowing that does not go towards wealth building is irresponsible except, perhaps, the purchase of a long term asset like a home that will be lived in and appreciate during the time of the borrowing. Even then, if borrowing at an interest rate higher than the appreciation of the asset, you are ultimately poorer for the borrowing.

It is not the immortality that matters, it is the ability to print your own money that matters. Governments can always just print their way out of debt. Yes, that will harm the value of their currency but it is a way to clear old debts. Besides, destroying your currency is what a lot of countries want to do in this situation anyway since that helps you improve exports and reduce imports.

I think we are facing an oil price shock, 100 or 200 dollars a barrel, an economic recession that cuts demand, and I will not be at all surprised if a fall in demand would make the price collapse again. So we might be back to 20 or 30 dollars a barrel next year perhaps. And so you have a price shock, a recession, a recovery, hits again the falling capacity limit, another price shock. And so I think that in the next few years, we have a sequence of vicious circles and gradually the reality of the situation will filter through. We are on for a very volatile few years with enormous economic consequences.

Dr. Colin Campbell, 2006
From my qoutations collection.

Also watch this from 2005

I also did not see it, but it apears Colin did.

As was reported earlier by Gail

New IMF Working Paper Models Impact of Oil Limits on the Economy

the IMF now did some modelling in which oil prices have both an impact on demand and supply. 4% global GDP growth, US$ 180 oil by 2021 and 8 mb/d additional oil. But where will this oil come from and what type of oil is it?

I have superimposed the IMF oil production curve on the IEA WEO 2011:

IMF team warns of global economy entering uncharted territory with US$ 180 a barrel in 2021

Incremental crude oil production update Jan 2012

Rubin's error for price prediction doesn't interest me that much, he had alot of company from Simmons on. Rapier was of the few here at the time who leaned to conservative pricing, recall his $100 oil bet.

It's more Rubin's prediction in regards to globalization that I wish he'd re-address. He often proclaimed that China would lose it's manufacturing edge, that we could no longer afford to "schlep" ore and coal around the world, and localization would return along with the North American steel industry. I wonder of his thoughts today on this.

Rapier was of the few here at the time who leaned to conservative pricing, recall his $100 oil bet.

And that was because I expected high prices to moderate demand. Nevertheless, I still almost lost the bet because speculation quickly pushed oil prices too far too fast. But I kept saying that it wasn't sustainable in the short term, because the demand response had not had time to kick in.

On the other hand, I do believe in $200 oil. It will just get there in fits and starts. Prices will run up, belts will tighten, demand will retreat a bit, prices will fall, and then demand will pick back up. But underlying those factors is pretty consistent demand growth in all developing regions. That's why we will get $200 oil (and because there are no realistic, scalable options competitive at that price point). We will see $200 oil before the decade is out (and perhaps by 2015).

What do you think will happen with Cushing oil in storage, with the reversal of Seaway PL ?

Week ended 5-18-2012 46.8 million barrels
Week ended 5-11-2012 45.1 million barrels
Year ago 40.1 million barrels

Weekly Petroleum Status Report

I don't think it's at all surprising that oil prices have softened, and anything can happen in the short term. I don't like to try to predict short-term prices, but I think a further decline in WTI is likely, and WTI is going to continue to be softer than the rest of the world.

there are no realistic, scalable options competitive at that price point). We will see $200 oil before the decade is out (and perhaps by 2015).

I'm so puzzled by that idea. Personal transportation is about 50% of US consumption, and electric vehicles (and all of their variations: hybrids, plug-in hybrids, extended range EVs) will certainly be realistic, scalable and competitive in the US at $6 gasoline.

Heck, they are now over their lifecycle, they're just not cheaper at the moment (at least without factoring in external costs), so there's no real incentive for fast adoption.

Here's a bit of discussion:

"Investment analysts at Deutsche Bank in New York argue in a series of reports that the electric vehicle is a disruptive technology and its short-term potential is widely underappreciated. “Transportation is likely to change more in the next 10 years than over the last 50,” says Dan Galves, the bank’s chief car industry analyst. That’s not because of some imminent technological breakthrough, but because he expects that the relative costs of electric and petrol cars will soon be transformed."


Haven't many people here made similar outrageous predictions, about the society, banking, life etc etc ? I think sometimes people just go with the flow, even experienced ones. It's good that at least he admitted it in an newspaper article.

wiseman - I might give him a bit of credit for admitting what he can't deny. But the tone I took away was that it was an easy mistake to make: who would expect the world wouldn't keep buying as much oil just because the price increased a few hundred per cent. LOL.

Folks making predictions don't bother me much whether they are correct or not. What I do find a tad offensive is when some folks try to justify their errors because some unpredictable factor violated their assumptions. especially when they don't put those assumptions on the table in the first place. Now if he had predicted $200 oil with the stated assumption that this price would be reached IF THE WORLD ECONOMY KEEP CONSUMPTION AT THE SAME HIGH LEVEL then I would be glad to give him a pass. But he didn't so I won't. I find the word "if" is rarely ever used by folks making predictions. Such as: "There's no need to worry about global warming". There are many ways for that prophecy to be correct: IF this happens or IF that happens or IF they do this or IF they do that. of coerce, when you add those qualifiers it does beg one to address the probability of that qualification to actually happen. And typically folks avoid that portion of the conversation because the reality of life makes such a possibility very likely. For instance, if I said oil would reach $300/bbl by 2020 because I think the world GDP will grow 25% per year going forward my prediction might well prove true. Of course, only IF my assumption about GDP growth is correct. And of course, if it doesn't then I shouldn't be blamed for my price prediction being incorrect.

Point taken

"There's no need to worry about global warming"
I take this quote to launch a discussion of Alaskan off-shore oil wells. NYTimes did a story, mentioned by Leanan in this Drumbeat, above. The authors of the story worry that there might be technology problems in working in that harsh environment, but say that industry 'experts' aver that much worse environments have been tamed and express confidence in industry 'know how'. They also buy into the claim that off-shore Alaskan oil will 'solve' our problem of importing oil and make us (the USA) energy independent. I wonder how long the oil from there might last when produced at a rate that would be required by energy independence. I wonder about what we will do when that oil has been depleted. Perhaps we should solve the technical problems by simply waiting for global warming to make the Arctic Ocean ice free. In just a few decades, the environment up there will be like the one for which they have solved the shallow water problems in the Gulf of Mexico. And the price that the oil will fetch will be much higher then than anyone will predict now. Global warming might be useful to the oil industry.

Around that time, Antarctica might become ice free and become a whole new empty continent to colonize with the people displaced by ocean level rise. The possibilities intriguing. I'm 79 this year. I probably won't be around when any of these ideas actually happen. but things might work out OK for a somewhat smaller US population. ;-)

The claim that it will be possible to simply move further toward the poles as the Earth warms is way too simple. Sure, the summers are likely to be warmer and the glaciers and sea-ice melt, but Winter will still happen. The poles will still be facing 6 months of the year without direct sunlight and winter will still be cold as a result. And, it's likely that the temperatures will still be cold enough to freeze much of the Arctic Ocean during Winter, though the resulting sea-ice would likely be much thinner at the end of the freeze season...

E. Swanson

Plus, the time scale to reach this state is much longer than people realize, hundreds of years. We will have long since come to terms with the post oil-age. High lattitude water will still be seasonally ice covered. Glaciers and ice sheets will take a long time to uncover large areas of land. Permafrost meltline will be slowly deepening, and causes real problem due to unstable ground for a few hundred years. Maybe we will see a population boom in places like Northern Canada from a few thousand square miles per person, to only ten to a hundred sqaure miles per person. Still a trivial number compared to climate refugees, which will number in the tens of millions to hundreds of millions.

Rockman - I agree with you. Perhaps Rubin should learn something from Washington its not the initial mistake that gets you but the cover up. I find his explanation - " I didn't consider demand destruction" a perfectly good reason for CIBC to have fired him. Perhaps it wasn't his views on oil prices that got him fired but rather he was a lousy economist. Didn't this guy learn about demand and supply curves - that is economics 101. People were worrying about the impact of oil prices on growth when prices went from $20 to $50/barrel.

A more persuasive argument would have been that I didn't expect the real estate bubble to burst in 2008. That would at least establish that he knew there was a bubble, that it would burst but got his timing wrong when it would happen.

"$200 oil" predictions were a result of our hubris. I'm guilty of it as well. We just blithely assumed the economy would keep chugging along and thus with a bigger economy demanding more oil and less oil available, the price would naturally go up.

In our hubris, we failed to see that the global economy would instead collapse. Financial collapse, revolutions across North Africa, near 9% unemployment in the USA, much worse unemployment in Europe, the Euro crisis, Housing collapse, student loan debt crippling students entering the workforce, etc.

I don't know if the high predictions help or hurt. It's more hype that the public has difficulty digesting. Matt Simmons had predicted $1000 dollar oil. Again, this seemed really hyped to me. But, in all honesty, my experience with experts is they tend not to see practical effects. They tend to study their field in a vacuum and don't look anywhere near as deeply at the relationships between their data and the outside world as one would suspect.

All things being equal, the price of oil would have probably been $200 per barrel if the world hadn't entered recession. There were a number of economists prior to 2008 who ignored history and believed that the world economy could bear this price. Right before major economic downturns, there always seem to be a good number of people arguing why it will be different this time. Which is probably why the economy went full steam into the wall in the first place. We ignored the risks, so we paid.

As for Rubin, I tried to write this reply to his article on the Globe site. But it was too long for the reply box. Instead, I'll contribute it here:


Jeff's mea culpa is basically right. We didn't hit 200 dollar per barrel oil because the world economy couldn't function on 200 dollar oil. As for the future, history rarely repeats, but it does tend to rhyme.

Let's look at the current situation in world oil markets for a moment:

High prices are finally having the effect of bringing more supplies to market. However, all of this new supply is not traditional crude oil. World crude oil production is still flat at 75 million barrels per day. The remaining 15 million barrels is coming from natural gas liquids, synthetic fuels, biofuels, and refinery gain. That's about three million barrels per day more of 'not oil' than in 2008.

Further complicating the picture is the fact that a growing chunk of what is called crude oil is also now unconventional. Sources from tar sands, fracked wells, and deep water fields now make up 9 million barrels per day of the 75 million barrel per day total.

When added together, these high cost fuels make up 24 million barrels per day of the 90 million barrel total. The marginal cost to produce the most expensive of these fuels is around 80-90 dollars per barrel. The average cost is probably about 60 dollars per barrel. So IF the world enters another recession and demand is destroyed, many of the marginal producers will be under threat of going bankrupt. World oil markets simply can't sustain this production at prices of 40 dollars per barrel for a meaningful length of time.

Now let's look at the guts of our current crisis. We are not yet in danger of a recession the likes of 2008. But we are in danger of a slow-down. Europe seems to be fracturing. And for the global economy this means economic instability. Since both the US and China rely on Europe for an export market, this could spell trouble for world trade. But it doesn't look to be as spectacular or as explosive as 2008. For my part, I believe that the current crisis is likely to result in slower world economic growth and perhaps minor recession 2012-2014.

What caused it? In short, a combination of Brent prices around $130 dollars per barrel, the over-application of austerity policies in Europe, rampant worldwide income inequality, and the disfunction of Europe's currency creating disproportionate benefit for some countries while harming others. Times of hardship tend to weed out weakness, and Europe's common currency policies seem to be the next on the block after the US subprime debacle. But the crumbling of the European currency is likely to be a slower road to ruin with less explosive impact.

Stepping back from this crisis, it seems likely that the world will struggle slowly on for growth. Maybe making 1-2 percent for the next couple of years. The US will be slightly better positioned for this crisis than the previous one. China may take more of a hit, depending on policies there. In the coming age, those able to make the most gains in energy efficiency and substitution will do the best.

The next big crisis? That happens when and if the price to produce a marginal barrel of oil equals the price of economic pain. We are close to that mark now. Economic pain is probably in the range of 100-130 dollars per barrel, with collapse happening at around 140-160. If we start producing the oil shales, we're probably there. We can avoid this problem by making economies more efficient and less dependent on oil. That's a high hurdle considering how entrenched the oil special interests are. But I believe it is achievable. If we reach this crisis point, then world oil production will probably never fully recover -- and that includes all liquids. The price of 'oil' will simply have become too great to expand supply.

But I think we have a little time before the next big hit. Maybe 5-10 years. The oil producers are fighting as hard as they can to reduce their own costs. And a number of substitutes for oil are cropping up which may help to start changing this ugly game. PHEVS and EVS are helpful, the continued increases in efficiency are helpful, solar and wind becoming more economic is helpful. Natural gas is expanding in transport and this may also buy time. But natural gas will eventually suffer the same fate as oil. And, it seems, some new technologies may be waiting in the wings. Yes, if we are misguided and continue BAU, we'll probably hit another major crisis point within 5-10 years. In the meantime, we'll likely be treated to slower world economic growth with perhaps another recession along with the ugly spectacle of the slow disintegration of the European currency union.

Its too bad we don't have an objective standard measure of purchasing power rather than have to denominate everything in dollars. As Paul Samuelson said, a dollar is like using a rubber yard stick to measure things. The issue isn't how many dollars a barrel of oil costs, but how much relative purchasing power, from a fixed or declining income, has to be diverted to paying for oil products. That is the actual underlying phenomenon. And trying to capture its essence in dollars is a game no one can win.

Well, that is one of the difficulties in economics . . . there are no absolute standards. Any yardstick you try to use is malleable.

Many people like to point out that the same amount of gold can be used to buy about the same amount of oil even though the price of oil has risen sharply. They often infer that this means the oil price is up merely because of inflation. But they are fooling themselves . . . gold just also happens to be up at the same time largely due to millions of paranoid gold bugs that have all bid up the price of gold. And there are causation links . . . people see the price of oil going up and thus buy gold as an inflation hedge thus causing the prices to rise in parallel. But oil going up isn't just inflation . . . it is mostly supply/demand. If there were just inflation, our homes would have not keep dropping in value so much.

I suppose an inexact measurement is better than no measurement at all. But, yes, an objective measurement would be great. Perhaps the amount of dollars/total energy production? I guess we would have to, somehow, add capital and labor. Looks like all rubber sticks to me :)

Re: Africa: 'The Real Enemy Is Humanity Itself'

The author presents a good description of the dilemma facing humanity as we race headlong into a future in which there is likely to be less of all the material resources upon which modern industrial societies depend. While I don't agree with all his points, I do think he is correct about the difficulties involved with any efforts to redirect mankind's activities toward a sustainable future. He doesn't go into the alternative, which is, things are allowed to continue as usual until some limit pops up and people start crashing into what ever it is. He glosses over the now obvious situations where rapid population growth has resulted in several nations becoming basket cases which are unable to continue without some external life support. Haiti is a prime example, but others are in the cross hairs too. It's a bit strange to find his article on an African web site, since fails to admit to the relationship between population growth, resource limits and nations with intense poverty we see in Africa.

He also has a climate denier blog Climate Resistance. I tried to find his background and Google found this for Ben Pile:

Investment Manager - Apache Capital Partners
Real Estate Origination and delivery of real estate deals in the UK focusing on healthcare, student accommodation, social housing and education assets for Apache Capital Partners, a real estate investment and advisory boutique

If this is the same guy, I doubt he has any direct experience with what life is like in Africa, as he apparently was raised, educated and now lives in England...

E. Swanson

Sounds like Hans Rosling. Here's what he says in one radio interview:

I was four years old when we got a washing machine. I belong to the group of people who have seen my mother wash clothes and blankets by hand. It was completely fantastic when we got a washing machine. And dad took me on a trip to Järlåsa outside of Uppsala and showed me the power lines, “here comes the electricity from Harsprånget, it’s what driving the washing machine”. That was how we got there, now we have time to do something. So mom put in the clothes in the washing machine and said “now we can go to the library and loan books”. [...] Tanzanian families should [also] have access to washing machines.

One must understand how hard it was [in Sweden] 1850, 1880 and how fantastic it was to get to 1920 and 1950. That’s what Tanzania is currently trying to do.

Here's what he says later on in the interview, on the question whether it would be sustainable with 10 billion people on Earth:

Well, it’s what we must plan for. Because I would never consider the possibility of killing 2-3-4 billion people I think the question is pretty weirdly put. [...] We will become 9 billion and we must plan for that. The alternative would actually be… to just ask that question is to start planning a mass-murder we have not seen in modern times. So we can forget about that.

The implications of 10 billion people having access to things like washing machines on the sustainability of Earth is apparently completely lost on him.

Rosling has a very good grip on some areas of reality, while maintaining blind spots on others. For example he know that rich people get fewer kids, so giving peoplew ashng machines and other stuff is good in the long run.

The problem is with those countries that have very very many people living there, but they are all dirt poor. We could make them rich and they would stop to reproduce, but the planet could not afford that. He never adress this issue.

I am the Ben Pile who wrote the article. Your detective work took you to the profile of a different Ben Pile. I do live in England, though I am sadly not an investment manager; I am an independent researcher and writer on climate and energy politics. I have never directly experienced life in Africa, but one of my interests is development.

Contra your comment, I make no defence of the status quo -- '...things are allowed to continue as usual...' -- but argue that development should be taken seriously, and not caveated by meaningless prefixes such as 'sustainable'. Consequently, I don't believe that the problem of want of development can be explained by recourse to such simple, nebulous concepts, or blamed simply on 'rapid population growth'. Indeed, in the case of Haiti, it's development (or lack of it) is better understood by looking at its long history, involving colonialism, US intervention, dictatorships and coups, and that concepts such as 'sustainability' serve to obscure a historical perspective from analysis. I don't believe there is a 'relationship between population growth, resource limits and nations with intense poverty', and I don't believe one needs to have direct experience of life in Africa to arrive at such a view.

So do you think nothing adversely serious would happen if all of the world's inhabitants had the ecological footprint of, say, Germans?

You presuppose your answer in the question; I don't think that an 'ecological footprint' has any objective value. If everyone had the same living standards of Germans, then perhaps we would exchange third world problems for first world problems. I know which I'd prefer. And perhaps those problems would be 'ecological', whatever that is taken to mean.

No doubt the concerns here are that the world would run out of stuff -- and I don't imagine that I'm going to change any minds here in just a few paragraphs. The issue I have with that kind of Malthusian perspective is that it is ahistorical, and too quickly looks to explain social problems in 'scientific' terms. But there is no such necessary relationship between those things. It seems to me -- and this is the point that I was trying to make in the article -- that things can be 'unsustainable' turns into an argument for some kind of authority to impose limits, where natural limits are presumed to exist. That's a pretty toxic form of politics, which denies people the right to make decisions about their own material interests.

You mean like cod fishing off Canada and the UK vs. the "toxic policies" of cod quotas in Iceland ?


There are numerous examples of ecological limits, including historical examples. The passenger pigeon once was so numerous in America that their flocks filled the skies, then they were hunted to extinction. Other examples can be found of species which have vanished because mankind exploited their populations beyond what might have been a sustainable level of harvest. Laws regarding the taking of game animals already exist and are quite strict in my locale, but those rules are accepted by serious hunters who want to be able to hunt next year and continue year after year.

On another issue, there is an absolute limit to global warming for humans, which is the situation where the dew point approaches one's own body temperature at about 35C. Under such conditions, the human body can not cool itself by sweating and people exposed to that dew point will die sitting in the shade unless some cooling shelter is available. Tropical ocean temperatures already approach 30C during hurricane season, so an increase of 4 or 5C on top of that could prove fatal. Air conditioning requires energy to operate and the equipment also requires energy to manufacture and maintain. If the fuel for the electric generators runs out, there won't be any A/C without renewable sources. Do you really think it's rational to conceive of providing air conditioning for everyone in Africa, India and China while their respective populations continue to expand?

E. Swanson

Gosh, Ben,

"that things can be 'unsustainable' turns into an argument for some kind of authority to impose limits, where natural limits are presumed to exist.

Planetary and environmental limits are the ultimate authority. It's about developing cultural systems that don't steal from the future. If you're denying that natural limits do exist (against a mountain of evidence), or that there is no such thing as finite resources, then it's pointless to continue. If you are questioning the wisdom of a more advanced society intervening in a less developed society, we could go around for a while. Does a society that was traditionally reliant upon an annual rainfall allotment, one that has been introduced to technology such as deep aquifer wells, understand that aquifers can be depleated? Soil depletion when their methods of agriculture change? Sanitation, when populations exceed the abilty of the local biology to deal with their wastes? It sounds like you've developed a sort of 'prime directive' that it's always wrong to interfere with societies that we've already interfered with. Humans have always shared what they've learned and benefitted from others' mistakes, and big problems occur when a certain population doesn't recognize limits or decides that THEY are exceptional. Perhaps, as you seem to say, this is their 'right'. It's certainly considered true in the US.

Fact: There are resources that are finite and being exploited as fast as 7 billion humans and their energy slaves can extract them.

Fact: Humans have degraded their environment, locally and globally, to critical levels, resulting in the extinction of countless other species. This is ongoing.

Intervention, exploitation, and the sharing of knowledge are (and aren't) very different things. Expecting societies to invent their own wheels and learn from their own mistakes hasn't worked, especially after their society has been corrupted by exploitative intervention. They generally continue to try and emulate western capitalism without time established checks and balances but with all of the greed and corruption.

The only thing of value I can think of that some of us have to share is that their environment has limits,, and that they must learn to live within those limits. Everything else is secondary. Since we, in the West, refuse to acknowlege limits, I agree; they may be better left to fate. Hypocracy is a funny thing.

I challenge you to give resource limits a little more weight in your assumptions. The archives here are useful, and most of the authors/posters, and commenters here aren't prone to confirmation bias; I think most hope they're wrong. We're just following our noses..

"Planetary and environmental limits are the ultimate authority."

It's an interesting proposition: authority without agency. But ultimately, it's a nonsense. Authority no more comes from 'nature' than it comes merely by virtue of you being right (or not) about what state the planet is in. *You* want to turn those putative limits into political authority. 'Nature' is just a fig leaf for a political argument.

"If you're denying that natural limits do exist (against a mountain of evidence), or that there is no such thing as finite resources, then it's pointless to continue."

It may well be pointless to continue, because it seems that the only thing that will satisfy you that its worth continuing is my conceding to you the points which we disagree about. If you can't explore a disagreement, don't pretend that it's my shortcoming that's preventing you.

The interesting thing about the claim that 'natural limits do exist' is that, whether or not they exist, they cannot be located. So the problem with the argument is turned around, as though to call BS on the premature calling of a limit is to claim that substance is infinite. Of course, any substance is finite. Of course, any given mode of using substance is therefore limited. But that doesn't make 'limits' any more tangible. And it doesn't make any more reasonable the argument that we should *act* as though we are already experiencing the 'limit'.

I'm sure you find all the statistics very very frightening. I find them comforting. You see a 'degraded environment'. I see better conditions for people. It's a paradox that people are living longer, healthier wealthier lives while this planet is, allegedly, dying all around them. Perhaps that ought to be a clue that we're not quite as subject to 'natural' limits, after all. That's not to say 'there's no such thing a limit', but to point out that your desire for limits seems to precede your finding them, and that this seems to be a very political/ideological phenomenon.

"Planetary and environmental limits are the ultimate authority."

It's an interesting proposition: authority without agency. But ultimately, it's a nonsense. Authority no more comes from 'nature' than it comes merely by virtue of you being right (or not) about what state the planet is in. *You* want to turn those putative limits into political authority. 'Nature' is just a fig leaf for a political argument.

I'm suddenly having a mental image of Leonid Brezhnev issuing a decree denouncing the second law of thermodynamics as dangerous western propaganda that is to be denied.

The interesting thing about the claim that 'natural limits do exist' is that, whether or not they exist, they cannot be located

Natural limits cannot be located ?? Lithium reserves are finite, so is phosphorus that can be mined economically, actually all resources on this planet have limits and they can be located, I assure you. And if you want to go further and upgrade to Galactic limits, I suggest you read Tom Murphy's blog "Do the Math".

I'm sure you find all the statistics very very frightening. I find them comforting. You see a 'degraded environment'. I see better conditions for people. It's a paradox that people are living longer, healthier wealthier lives while this planet is, allegedly, dying all around them.

I guess it's a difference of perspective, it's like a car going off the hill at full speed with blinds on. The passengers might be tempted to feel overjoyed at how fast they are going but we all know how the story ends.

"It's like a car going off the hill at full speed with blinds on. The passengers might be tempted to feel overjoyed at how fast they are going but we all know how the story ends."

Neo malthusianism has been a half century journey, with malthusians constantly screaming that the end is nigh, now, in a minute, very soon... The prognosticators don't know how the story ends; they just shout 'the end' all the time. The argument that the road must end is lost by the discovery of more road, and switches to become an argument to stop driving because the road cannot go on indefinitely; 'not if but when'. And there the metaphor breaks down. Lithium reserves are of course finite, but there's a fair amount of it for our current needs. And what is not defined is where it lies, what methods for improving its extraction, recycling and processing we will develop, and what alternatives to using it we will find in the future. The problem of this 'limit' then, really is that you haven't identified it. You've said 'it's finite', but that's not enough to say why we should act as though we have none of it.

Always bet on the optimist in the short term and always bet on the pessimist long term. The optimist will be right until he is wrong and the pessimist will be wrong up until the point where he is right.

That's really a good one Squilliam. I am going to save it for later use.

Ron P.

Neo malthusianism has been a half century journey, with malthusians constantly screaming that the end is nigh, now, in a minute, very soon...

To you Half a century or even two centuries might be a big deal but if you look at the history of empires it is not really that big, the Romans eventually fell, so did countless other civies and they lasted a lot longer than our current industrial age.

The prognosticators don't know how the story ends; they just shout 'the end' all the time

No one can predict how death will occur but it is guaranteed so one does learn to take a life insurance and put on the seat belt.

To come to a conclusion since the limits to Earth's resources is a point that simply cannot be argued, neither can you argue that one cannot sustain a pop of 8-9 billion at a rate of consumption of an average Japanese or an American or even someone in Eastern Europe the only thing left to argue is when the collapse will occur and you could very well say 'not in my lifetime' in which case I would accuse you of being selfish and leaving an Earth in tatters to our kids.

In the end (to correct your perspective) Neo malthusians are not necessarily doomers, they are not screaming that the world will end tomorrow, they are saying that if corrective measures (reducing consumption and population voluntarily) are not taken on a war footing, there will be massive problems in the future that will pale our current problems.

Neo malthusians are rational people and their position is rooted in science and theory. Yours is based on a vision that the world can be made a better place going in the current trajectory. Science says it cannot be done.

Many of these limits vary, depending upon timescale. Take the Saharan aquifers. Plenty of ancient water just waiting to be pumped out. At a very low rate natural seps and oasises, it will last for a very long time. Start digging wells and hauling it out by hand, as has been done in many places and the water level gradually drops. Provide drills and pumps, and you can get a lot of water for a while, but as the level drops the energy required keeps going up. What usually happens, is someone estimates at current rates it will last 400years -no problem. The population expands exponentially, soon the time of reconning begins shrinking, 200years, 100years 50years, 25years... The mentality is too slow to shift, now you have a large population in overshoot.

"There should be no limits set on extraction - because otherwise we might not consume EVERYTHING"


B.P. wrote:

The interesting thing about the claim that 'natural limits do exist' is that, whether or not they exist, they cannot be located.
The interesting thing about the claim that 'natural limits do exist' is that, whether or not they exist, they cannot be located. So the problem with the argument is turned around, as though to call BS on the premature calling of a limit is to claim that substance is infinite. Of course, any substance is finite. Of course, any given mode of using substance is therefore limited. But that doesn't make 'limits' any more tangible.

Your statements appear to be in direct conflict. You admit that on our finite world, the existence of resource limits is obvious, yet you claim that it is impossible to demonstrate that such limits exist. We know full well that exploitation of local resources can reach limits as the resource is extracted and the quantity available for further extraction declines. The long history of industrial man's use of fossil fuels has repeatedly demonstrated this fact. It should take little imagination to see that this local experience can be applied to resources available over the entire Earth, as your admit.

The problem is that efforts to estimate the ultimate quantities of all such resources are always subject to wide variations due to limited knowledge of geology and assumptions about future technological advances. But, this reality does not allow you to simply ignore the facts as they are known by claiming that it's not possible to determine the absolute total of all resources.

Ecological resources are actually rather simple to define. The agricultural (or ecological) production from a plot of land is a direct function of the amount of sunlight which arrives over the growing season and the nutrients available to the plants. A farmer may maximize the resources by applying fertilizer to the land, however the amount of sunlight from above can not be increased. Pesticides and herbicides may be used to control predators and weeds and the plants may be improved genetically to maximize yield. All these efforts to improve crop productivity require energy, especially when making fertilizer. Without the use of more energy, agricultural production can not be increased and production must decline if less energy is available for these efforts. As the Earth's population continues to increase (as found in historical patterns), agricultural production must increase to feed the larger populations, thus more energy must be allocated to agriculture. Not just any energy, but low cost energy since the poorest on the Earth are already having difficulty paying for the energy they use.

The simple question becomes, where does that energy come from? The simple answer is, after Peak Oil, the Earth is going to be in big trouble...

E. Swanson

"Your statements appear to be in direct conflict. You admit that on our finite world, the existence of resource limits is obvious, yet you claim that it is impossible to demonstrate that such limits exist."

I think that this is a very reasonable criticism of what I've said, unlike most of the replies to the few words I've offered here so far. The difference between the malthusian and non-malthusian perspectives meets here, on this definition of resource. So far, we've been speaking past each other.

I believe that on the malthusian perspective, 'resource' and 'substance' are equivalent, interchangeable terms. On the view I prefer -- the historical view -- all resources are of course substances, but they're not 'resources' until we have developed a capacity to exploit them. And that capacity is not necessary, or fixed, such that it can be expressed as some mathematical identity, to explain humanity's relationship with the natural world, which is true indefinitely. This is to say that coal wasn't a resource, it is now. So what I agree is that for any given mode of the relationship between society and the natural world, there certainly are limits -- finitude -- but that there is an unknown quantity in the relationship -- us -- which changes, making it impossible to determine any necessary limits, true for any possible mode. It is our intellectual, historical change which turns inert substances into resources.

The mathusian response is typically, 'yes, but how long can that go on for'. They rightly point out that you cannot see into the future. But this observation works both ways. The malthusian is unhappy with his critic, who can't see into the future. But the anti-malthusian is unhappy with the malthusian, who calls the existence of the limit 'because there must be one' at some point in the future. My way past this impasse (and I don't expect it to bring the malthusian with me in one go) is that to call a limit prematurely is to call the end on the entire scientific enterprise. That enterprise has been, historically, to identify the limits of the mode of the contemporary relationship between humanity and the natural world, and to conceive of ways past it.

Here's an example. Robert Marston, above, asks me, "Do you think it is rational to believe, say, that a thousand trillion people could live on the Earth? If there not limit, then this is possible, correct?"

Robert reduces his own argument to the absurd by trying to make mine look absurd. Of course I don't think a thousand trillion people can live on the planet now. If there is a limit between 7 billion and 1,000,000,000,000,000, I think it's safe to say we're probably on the right side of it. And as population increases on its extremely long journey to [that number], it will adjust into new modes, a few thousand or million people at a time. I don't need to conceive of a way into a future with a ridiculous number of people to make my argument hold -- I'm not saying 'there are sufficient resources for N billion people'; I'm saying that it is absurd to prognosticate about 'limits' where we simply cannot see them. Nor am I arguing -- at all -- that there is no problem of scarcity or of finitude. On the contrary, I think it's extremely important to look at the question of scarcity. Hence my interest in development. But these are fundamentally problems of politics, not simple material problems. As Sen observed, famines do not happen in democracies.

To your claim that 'Ecological resources are actually rather simple to define', I deny that they are. Just as resources are not defined by an amount of a substance, but by the relationship to them, an ecological limit is similarly only determined by the mode of the relationship with it. Of course we use more energy to produce food than in previous eras. And of course that means that any system of economics will produce encounters with limits. But they are limits of the mode, not unassailable limits given necessarily, naturally, by 'reality'.

Where will the energy come from, you ask. In the present, there is plenty of oil, fears of a 'peak' notwithstanding. But nobody at all -- apart from people with oil wells, perhaps, who are loving the peak oil argument as it increases the subjective value of their commodity -- is arguing that we should stick with oil. There are unconventional oil and gas reserves, shale and methane hydrates, the possibility of burning coal in situ, thousands of possible reactor designs which offer much greater and safer yields than the old; fusion-fission hybrids and maybe one day fusion itself, as well as non-uranium/plutonium-based reactors, synthetic bio-fuels, orbiting solar arrays that transmit microwave energy back down to earth, or conventional solar... There are *many* energy technologies in development. The thing which most besets progress in their development, I believe, is this unmitigated doom-saying, which calls for urgency prematurely. But one day -- long before the human race has had the chance to increase to 1,000,000,000,000,000 -- the sun will die anyway. And even if we survive that, the universe will grow dark. So ultimately, nothing is 'sustainable'. Boo hoo.

Umh, we have already exhausted the carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases carrying capacity of our atmosphere without significantly perturbing the climate we are accustomized to (as in where we plant what, where we build our cities, etc.)

The carrying capacity of the earth will shrink, not grow in the next few decades.


There are unconventional oil and gas reserves, shale and methane hydrates, the possibility of burning coal in situ,

There are indeed but perhaps you haven't considered the consequences of burning all that carbon. Though perhaps you have a technological fix at the ready that will mitigate the effect, if so I'd be interested in hearing what it is as I'm sure every one on this site would be as well.

thousands of possible reactor designs which offer much greater and safer yields than the old; fusion-fission hybrids and maybe one day fusion itself,

Any chance you could back that assertion up with empirical evidence? Can you show us the math, physics and the economics?

as well as non-uranium/plutonium-based reactors, synthetic bio-fuels, orbiting solar arrays that transmit microwave energy back down to earth, or conventional solar...

Again, simply saying that there are many technological solutions to our predicaments out there is not sufficient on this site, you need to be able to back such assertions up with numbers and hard science. Most of the so called solutions you mention have been pretty much debunked and fall into the category of cornucopian fantasy, check the TOD archives for more information.

There are *many* energy technologies in development.

Yes? Please provide verifiable links and data.

The thing which most besets progress in their development, I believe, is this unmitigated doom-saying, which calls for urgency prematurely.

No, what most besets progress in the development of the *many* energy technologies is that they either do not hold up when held to rigorous scientific scrutiny and standards or they do not scale and are not economically viable.

But one day -- long before the human race has had the chance to increase to 1,000,000,000,000,000 -- the sun will die anyway. And even if we survive that, the universe will grow dark. So ultimately, nothing is 'sustainable'. Boo hoo.

Are you running out of arguments?

But one day -- long before the human race has had the chance to increase to 1,000,000,000,000,000 -- the sun will die anyway. And even if we survive that, the universe will grow dark. So ultimately, nothing is 'sustainable'. Boo hoo.

I'm frankly surprised, here, considering that you seem to genuinely care for people, I would imagine you'd be unhappy if I implied that it wouldn't matter if people died to, for example, disease. But now it seems that it doesn't matter to you on a global scale, if one actually takes this sentence above seriously.

If one considers the materials which may be extracted from The geological stores, a "resource" is often defined as that which may be produced within economic limits. Primary metals in particular and energy in general require energy inputs to separate the molecules of the desired product from the other elements which are included the chemical makeup of the substance. Most mining takes place in areas where the desired material is concentrated relative to the average amount found in the crust. This results in lower extraction costs and minimizes the prices seen in the market place. As the high concentration ores are mined out and only the lower concentration ores are left to mine, more energy must be used to separate the desirable from the undesirable elements.

The result is that over time, real prices must rise because the energy supplied from fossil fuels will also become harder to find and extract. In real terms, increasing population will result in even less of those resources for each individual.

Of course, with unlimited energy available at low real cost, minerals such as gold and uranium can be extracted from sea water. The big IF is whether those energy supplies will be available, as you have claimed. As an engineer who has studied the energy situation for almost 40 years, I just don't see any way that the cornucopian world view you suggest will appear in future could actually happen, especially given the numerous examples of ecological limits, both regional and global. I should note in passing that I think solar and wind have great potential in some areas, but have been waiting patiently for those past 40 years to see the world's governments (such as the US) accept renewables as the best alternative to fossil fuels...

E. Swanson

"'Nature' is just a fig leaf for a political argument. "

You lost me there, Ben. That's as deluded as saying "air is just an excuse to vote". Too bad there doesn't seem to be a limit to the number of people willing to believe this crap, but there really is, as they'll find out. Chances are, though, they'll blame the messengers that tried to warn them rather than the Pied Pipers who led them astray.

"..but to point out that your desire for limits seems to precede your finding them..."

Dishonest discourse, Ben. I 'find' them every day, have been for decades. It's clear that your pious human exceptionalism has blinded you, or that you're playing some contrarian game. Either way, I'll save this thread as a glaring example of human ignorance and hubris.

It concerns me that an uncountable number of species are "limiting out" of existance as a result of our inability to see ourselves as stewards rather than just another species entitled to get along. I consider that any exceptionalism we posses is meaningless without a balancing sense of responsibility to other lifeforms. I also reason that any assertion that things should be otherwise, that humans have the right to exterminate other species to further their own, to be just a selfish story we tell ourselves, well beneath our potential. I refuse to get that disconnected from the rest of the world, or that cynical about our nature.

You suggest that we humans have neither the capacity nor the resonsibility to incorporate these ideas into our conduct. I insist that we can, and will be better for it. Which of us is more 'down' on humanity?

When we diminish the system to other species' demise, we diminish ourselves. Enjoy sterilizing your concrete jungle...

BTW: Can't say I enjoyed your your blog.

I went to the blog, and this Tweet is now in the upper right-hand corner on dispolay:

clim8resistance And so, inevitably, @TheOilDrum removes my comments. Intellectual cowardice is not running out, even if the oil might be.

I do not find Mr. Pile's arguments to be compelling...

...however, I found his posts useful, as a necessary insight into the spectrum of thinking on these sustainability issues.

Facing contrarian views (to the norm on/in any forum) and responding with reasoned arguments should sharpen many people's knowledge.

By he way, the blog page linked has a neat graphic showing the Earth devoid of water, with a sphere of some 860 miles in diameter...


At first I thought this represented all the /fresh/ water on/in the Earth...but now I think the statement in the blog is that this represents /All/ the Earth's water (oceans, fresh, in living organisms, fossil, in water vapor..

This is a remarkable graphic.

I wonder if someone could produce a similar graphic showing all the Earth's remaining oil (define however you wish)...in a sphere...maybe located adjacent to the water sphere on this graphic...

Maybe add a sphere of all the coal as well...

Hopefully someone with a twitter account will go there and contest that Ben's "comments" were removed and post a link to the thread. Only one partial thread (that was getting testy) was removed. Appologies to Leanan, and all, but I think the TOD community needs to get out more, start setting records straight. I've noticed that peak oil, etc., and sites that discuss these things are coming under attack more these days. No sense just preaching to the choir while others kill the messengers.

I' do that, but I don't have a Twitter account and I presently do not wish to create an account.

I wonder if someone could produce a similar graphic showing all the Earth's remaining oil (define however you wish)...in a sphere...maybe located adjacent to the water sphere on this graphic...

Ok, I'll bite!

The volume of the largest sphere, representing all water on, in, and above the Earth, would be about 332,500,000 cubic miles (mi3)

(1,386,000,000 cubic kilometers (km3)), and be about 860 miles (about 1,385 kilometers) in diameter

Proven oil reserves are those that can be extracted with reasonable certainty under existing conditions using existing technology. Global proved oil reserves are estimated at approximately 1,300 billion barrels (210×109 m3).[11] This corresponds to roughly 43 cubic miles, or 43 CMO. At the current rate of use, this would last about 40 years. Source Wikipedia

43 cubic miles is roughly 180 cubic kilometers

Vs = 4/3 π X R^3

180 Km^3 = 4/3 π X R^3

R = 3.5 Km

D = 7 Km

The sphere of proven oil reserves would be 0.05% of the size of the sphere of all the water on earth...

So I tried my hand a representing that graphically based on the graphic from the USGS, here's what I came up with. I'm now 100% convinced that we will never run out of oil let alone water.../sarc


Edit: I reduced the size of the final image so the scale is no longer accurate. I have the original which is.
Also the diameter of the earth is roughly 12,800 Km not 12.8 Km


You are the Man!



I'm sure you find all the statistics very very frightening. I find them comforting. You see a 'degraded environment'. I see better conditions for people. It's a paradox that people are living longer, healthier wealthier lives while this planet is, allegedly, dying all around them. Perhaps that ought to be a clue that we're not quite as subject to 'natural' limits, after all.

Wow, just wow! I especially like: "You see a 'degraded environment'. I see better conditions for people." Gotta say, there is no way I can possibly wrap my mind around that! Do you seriously not see a degraded environment as being a slight impediment to the well being of people?! Or are you saying that because you happen to know some healthy and wealthy people living in comfort, there can't possibly any environmental consequences to our lifestyles?

Have you never seen places like this? Hey, there are live storks there, the environment must be fine, right?

The issue I have with that kind of Malthusian perspective is that it is ahistorical, and too quickly looks to explain social problems in 'scientific' terms. But there is no such necessary relationship between those things.

Actually, there absolutely is, a necessary relationship between those things.

that things can be 'unsustainable' turns into an argument for some kind of authority to impose limits, where natural limits are presumed to exist.

Natural limits are NOT just presumed to exist and do NOT depend on any imposition by any authorities! They are very real on their own!

You can not politicize the laws of thermodynamics, ecosystems are not subject to the whims of any dictator.

That's a pretty toxic form of politics, which denies people the right to make decisions about their own material interests.

Your right to make decisions about your material interests becomes moot when the material resources cease to be available. Ecological overshoot is not some far fetched fantasy! There is no economy without a functioning underlying ecology.

You can try to deny reality all you want but it isn't going to change it!

I don't believe there is a 'relationship between population growth, resource limits and nations with intense poverty'


I think if you look at the nations with the fastest population growth, they are largely among the poorer nations. And conversely, if you look at the nations with some of the highest living standards, they have very low population growth rates.

A notable exception to this would be certain nations that are blessed with abundant natural resource wealth . . . mostly the oil-rich states in the mid-East. They are just wealthy because they are living off a lucky inheritance.

Really, I can think of many exceptions, but since the rule is so general, there doesn't seem much worth in taking issue with it. The reasons for 'nations with some of the highest living standards' are multiple, and historical, not 'natural'. Conversely, plenty of economies with growing populations sit on top of significant resources. Moreover, advanced economies don't tend to be so invested in primary production. The issue for developing economies is more the question of how to add value to what they do produce, not the problem of finding more stuff.

That was an odd response. You say you can think of many exceptions but list none. And I discussed population but you start talking about primary production and finding more stuff . . . I'm not sure what that has to do with population & standard of living.

Thanks for the reply, Ben. I fear you'll have some trouble here with this:

"I don't believe there is a 'relationship between population growth, resource limits and nations with intense poverty'..

Many on TOD correlate resource limits and poverty with population overshoot. Too few resources distributed among too many people seems to be a general definition of poverty. "Solutions" such as the agricultural green revolution often create problems (predicaments) of their own, and certainly stimulate population increases.

Welcome, thank you for coming on board to explain your views.


So you believe there is no upward limit to growth?

I think you can't identify it, and it seems to move as soon as anyone claims to have located it.

Do you think it is rational to believe, say, that a thousand trillion people could live on the Earth? If there not limit, then this is possible, correct?

Are you not awate of even one case where the limit was reached,and we got to deal with the consequences?

Are you aware of over fishing to take just one example. Does it excist in your mind even one place, where the fish are gone, and we have to eat something else? If it does, do you see it as a problem?

I am asking this question not to muck you, but to find out your possition. Because I simply can not understand you.

Just because some limits have shades of grey - or we are not QUITE sure here they are - does not mean that they do not exist.

Look at cod non-fisheries of Canada - once the greatest fishing grounds in the world.


Mr. Pile, what, exactly, is "taking development seriously"? I think "sustainability" is one metric of how to judge which development should and should not be done. Surely you would agree that there is such a thing as development that shouldn't be done. I can give a local example - I live in Honolulu right now, and Waikiki beach is quite famous. What many do not realize is that development on the beach was allowed far too close to the water, and Waikiki beach is actually split in two, as beach erosion led to the disappearance of part of the beach right up to where a hotel is situated (once, "right on the beach!"). Hotels should never have been allowed so close to the water. I know of a counterexample - I used to live in Florida, which has stricter rules about how close you can build to the beach. As a result, there are miles and miles of beaches in Pinellas county, rather than having water wash up against seawalls put up because the beach eroded out from under the buildings that were built too close to the water.

In the Haiti example, bad governance certainly led to bad development, bad farming practices, and bad forestry practices, which led to that half of the island being much worse off than it's neighbor, the Dominican Republic. But the "development" that occured there is bad nonetheless, and not "sustainable" by any means. What this means is that their topsoil washes into the sea, they have horrific floods, their buildings fall over when earthquakes occur, etc. This is stuff they DID - this is development of the natural environment that was badly or unwisely done, when it either should not have been done at all or should have been done in a different fashion.

Surely the same can be said about population growth as well - there is growth that is "good" and growth that is "bad". None of these things exist in a vacuum, of course. Yet somehow I doubt most of these women would have so many children if they had access to birth control.

I think Africa is actually one strange and interesting example, as it is one place where resource limits are less pressing than other things. Mostly because all the resources, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, are being looted by more developed nations (Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea are examples). From fish to oil and minerals, corporations come in, a few guys at the top get paid off, the resources are looted, and the population suffers.

I think "sustainability" is one metric of how to judge which development should and should not be done.

Well, of course, I completely disagree. It's a way of judging others' development, and a way of controlling it. And as I point out in the article, a benevolent dictatorship with a working definition of 'good' is identical in form to a tyranny. That's all the 'sustainable development' agenda is about. That's not to say than we need to throw out any concerns about society's relationship with the natural world, but that we have to be careful not to presume to have a better idea of what others' interests are than they know themselves. And I think we should be suspicious of any political agency which assumes such a role for itself, well above democracy.

Nobody ever made an arbitrary decision about development. It has always been an intentional process. One reason that may account for the ascendency of 'sustainability' then, is that the conceptions of 'good' which preceded it are degraded. I can, of course, think of particular instances, as per your comment, in which a development was ill-conceived, but I find it hard to think of the increasing abundance of roads, schools, factories, mines, ports and reservoirs as intrinsically bad, misguided, or arbitrary, such that it needs to be divided into categories of 'good' and 'bad'.

And 'sustainability' is not a metric. What is included as 'sustainable' is ultimately arbitrary; it just depends on extant prejudices, not on anything objective.

You sound like a libertarian (applied at the scale of societies rather than individuals), let every one do exactly as they please -pretend there are no externalities. That way lies disaster. So in some sort opf collective way, we have to exert control over the urges of the individual members. How, many constraints need be applied? Thats a function of the population level (and of the technology level). If they aren't, then the longterm is sacrificed. Plenty of civilizations have prospered then collapsed. Now we have practically a global civilization, and if it collapses, it will be along way getting back up.

Hello Ben,

Thanks for stopping by and signing in. I hope you find the discussions around here to be of interest. FYI, the Drumbeat is not updated every day, but starts anew with a M-W-F-S schedule, so what is posted today will roll off the front page with a new batch of posts tomorrow. We do tend to have a strong doomer bent as the numbers seem to imply that sort of future, especially in regards to Peak Oil and AGW. I used Haiti as a reference point, but I think there are several other nations which could also be pointed to as well...

E. Swanson

Thanks. I am interested in the discussion, but I will not be stopping by. The commenters here don't seem to be able to keep themselves civil, and several of my replies have been deleted. I'm not going to waste my time.

Since I don't act as a moderator, I can't see those posts you claim to have been deleted. Did you read the guidelines before posting? If you are so hurt that your posts were missing, why not post them on your own blog, where inquiring minds might view them. Or, did you neglect to save your precious rant(s) in the event they were lost? Surely you know that your claim is meaningless without supporting evidence...

E. Swanson

Reading Ben Pile, all I can say is he is a master of the vacuous rhetorical argument.

Attack ideas, not the people who hold them. Yes, some of your comments were removed, but so were some that personally attacked you.

Also, if a comment is removed, all replies go, too, so it may not have been your comment that crossed the line.

Attack ideas, not the people who hold them.

Leanan, one of the increasingly obvious traits of many cornucopians is to raise ideas without serious numbers behind them. WHT picked up on the 'wordsmithiness' of the arguments of Ben, I was about to do likewise.

This is a scientific site where arguments need to be backed up with facts and numbers, or the poster gets lambasted very quickly. I am of the opinion that 'the good story' foretold by some deliberately misses facts because the teller either knows it not to be true, or has not bothered to do any real research.

Why shouldn't the poster be attacked who is a good wordsmith, but deliberately lacks facts to support their argument?

Why shouldn't the poster be attacked who is a good wordsmith, but deliberately lacks facts to support their argument?

Because it doesn't work. All that does is convince people the facts must be on his side, since the response is a personal attack, not an attack based on facts.

It makes this site unpleasant, and drives out the good posters in favor of those who like flamewars and trolling.

It is probably me who is not being clear here, as you seem to have misinterpreted what I mean by attack.

The types of arguments put up by cornucopian wordsmiths should be attacked because they refuse to supply real information. So much time and effort is wasted by many posters debating points, only to have the wordsmith change the parameters on a whim, without any real information presented by them.

No number of facts are going to change a person's mind when they come in here for sport to challenge the overall concensus of opinion here. You are being a little naive if you think a person like Ben Pile came here to listen to facts and figures.

I have comments deleted all the time. For some of those, I am greatfull, beeing a hot tempered person by nature. For some, I just don't understand why. That is just the way things are, and life moves on. Happen to everybody.

This is a silly story from a Bloomberg reporter who got a free vacation to China, disguised as business trip.

What I Learned on My Junket to China

the only thing I thought was interesting was this bit:

The best known bit of totalitarian-style repression in China is the notorious “one child” policy. One child per married couple is still the rule, but it is enforced somewhat sporadically. Exceptions are sprouting: If you are an only child of your parents, you yourself may have more than one. Some people who can afford it just pay the fine as a cost of having children. Meanwhile, China faces a shortage of working-age people to support a growing number of old folks. So even putting ethical issues aside, the whole thing looks like a mistake. It won’t last.

Teen essay winner assesses one-child policy in China


Essayist from a Catholic high school St Paul's argues for no reproduction control.

Friday Charts: The Never-Ending Greek Tragedy, Facebook, Cheap Oil and More

Peak Oil, This!

It’s almost laughable to think four short years ago, the scaremongers had us all frightened that we were running out of oil.

As I’ve noted before, U.S. crude oil inventories keep climbing. For nine weeks in a row (and counting). Inventories haven’t been this high since 1990.

The author of this article, Louis Basenese, Wall Street Daily's Chief Investment Strategist, is a journalist who writes about the stock market. Too bad he does not understand that high inventories in the USA have nothing to do with peak oil. Inventories are up because of a combination of high prices and a lack of demand. High oil prices have knocked 2.5 million barrels per day off US demand since 2007. And those high prices are the result of peak oil in general and peak net oil exports in particular.

US Petroleum Products Supplied in kb/d. The last data point is March 2012.

Petroleum Products Supplied

Ron P.

Just eyeballing that chart, it looks like the last two times it dipped down real far, it was a May datapoint. This chart doesn't even show the 2012 May data point yet and we are in the running for record lows for the decade.

Looking at your chart, it seems we are in the situation of an over-supply of expensive oil and an under-supply of demand for expensive oil. Yes, we've had some production gains here. Mostly due to higher prices. But demand still falls. The US is not well suited to high price oil. At these prices, we'll probably seem less and less demand over time.

Amazing how quickly irrational exuberance reasserts itself. Isn't that what got us into trouble in the first place?

"Amazing how quickly irrational exuberance reasserts itself. Isn't that what got us into trouble in the first place?"

It's ok, we rained on their party a bit via the comments ;-)

Saw that! Just added my own to the fray :)

Empire State Building innovations generate big energy savings
With an 2011 energy overhaul, the Empire State Building became the tallest U.S. building to have received a Gold LEED certification for sustainability.

NEW YORK — The Empire State Building's owners once envisioned floating airships docking with the skyscraper's spire, but windy updrafts forced the dirigibles to abandon that dream. Today, the world-famous building may stand for a more practical vision of the future that can save energy without dimming the lights.

Recent renovations have allowed the iconic skyscraper to save on 20 percent of the energy used by its 20,000 workers and 3.5 million annual visitors — total building usage being enough energy in an hour to keep an average light bulb burning for over 100 years. The energy retrofit included elevators that harvest energy with regenerative braking, lights capable of turning on and off by themselves and the largest wireless network of sensors installed in any building in the world.

See: http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/energy/stories/empire-state-building-in...

Whilst not even remotely close to the scale of the ESB, we're currently upgrading the lighting at a 6,500 m2 multi-tenant strip mall where the previous lighting load ranged anywhere from 65 to 80-watts per m2 (6.0 to 7.4 watts/sq. ft). Post retrofit, that falls to less than 20 watts/m2.

The original 160-watt 4-lamp T12 fixtures: http://i362.photobucket.com/albums/oo69/HereinHalifax/4LT12Prismatics.jpg

The 43-watt 2-lamp T8 replacements: http://i362.photobucket.com/albums/oo69/HereinHalifax/2LT8Volumetrics.jpg

The near 75% reduction in load with no perceivable difference in light levels is significant in itself; but beyond that, the improvement in the overall appearance of the space is pretty remarkable. Needless to say, the tenants couldn't be happier, nor the landlord who pays the bills.


From SciAm: Apocalypse Soon: Has Civilization Passed the Environmental Point of No Return?

Remember how Wile E. Coyote, in his obsessive pursuit of the Road Runner, would fall off a cliff? ...

Don't look now but we are running in midair

That link was posted yesterday but got no replies. Perhaps it will generate more today. Anyway...

Meadows holds that collapse is now all but inevitable, but that its actual form will be too complex for any model to predict. "Collapse will not be driven by a single, identifiable cause simultaneously acting in all countries," he observes. "It will come through a self-reinforcing complex of issues"—including climate change, resource constraints and socioeconomic inequality. When economies slow down, Meadows explains, fewer products are created relative to demand, and "when the rich can't get more by producing real wealth they start to use their power to take from lower segments." As scarcities mount and inequality increases, revolutions and socioeconomic movements like the Arab Spring or Occupy Wall Street will become more widespread—as will their repression.

It is interesting to note that Dennis Meadows has become a total doomer since "Limits to Growth" was published in 1972. Hardly anyone listened to him then and even fewer are likely to believe him now. But back then he was saying basically: "Here's what will happen unless..." Now he is saying "Here is what is going to happen, end of story.

Ron P.

As a long standing student of population and resources I became a fan of The Report to the Club of Rome (Limits to Growth) when it first appeared in the 70' s. During the 2011 ASPO-USA meeting I had a brief encounter with Dennis. His behavior was bizarre. Perhaps the controversy had had a chilling effect. But he should know that he has many fans. The late Donella Meadows handled the controversy very well in her weekly column and other writing.

Yesterday I posted a new and final post in a series on what to do to avoid total collapse of the human population, i.e. how to get through a bottleneck event successfully. I included the link to this SciAm article which had just come to my attention via an e-mail. The point I made is that these predictions are not coming from fringe lunatics but more and more from mainstream scientists from several different (though interrelated) disciplines. The signs of impending collapse are now everywhere and starting to dominate even mainstream discourse, as in the global financial meltdown, even when the mainstream of society has no clue as to the underlying causality.

Doesn't make for cheery reading unless you happen to be on the side of the non-human parts of the Ecos.

Question Everything

Excellent post, George. I hope people take the time to read it..and understand what you are saying.


When economies slow down, Meadows explains, fewer products are created relative to demand, and "when the rich can't get more by producing real wealth they start to use their power to take from lower segments."

We are defintely already seeing that here in the US with one entire half of the political spectrum focusing directly on policies to help push the above trend.

Correction: Both halves of the political spectrum.

Meadows holds that collapse is now all but inevitable, but that its actual form will be too complex for any model to predict. "Collapse will not be driven by a single, identifiable cause simultaneously acting in all countries," he observes. "It will come through a self-reinforcing complex of issues"...

This is key to understanding catabolic collapse, and not being able to accurately predict the future. Feedbacks work to both accelerate and limit the rate of decline. But...

Many observers protest that such apocalyptic scenarios discount human ingenuity. Technology and markets will solve problems as they show up, they argue. But for that to happen, contends economist Partha Dasgupta of the University of Cambridge in the U.K., policymakers must guide technology with the right incentives...

...to expect further/modified industrialization to correct the path that industrialization has set us on is a fool's dream which ignores hard limits and our vastly overshot condition. Once Wile E. realizes he's overshot the cliff, it's too late for ACME to help :-0

"We're in for a period of sustained chaos whose magnitude we are unable to foresee," Meadows warns. He no longer spends time trying to persuade humanity of the limits to growth. Instead, he says, "I'm trying to understand how communities and cities can buffer themselves" against the inevitable hard landing.

IEA: Global CO2 Emissions Hit New Record In 2011, Keeping World On Track For ‘Devastating’ 11°F Warming

... as Birol told Reuters, ...:

When I look at this data, the trend is perfectly in line with a temperature increase of 6 degrees Celsius [11°F], which would have devastating consequences for the planet.”

also ‘Hell Is Truth Seen Too Late’

... Indeed, 4°C [7F] is “incompatible with organized global community, is likely to be beyond ‘adaptation’, is devastating to the majority of ecosystems & has a high probability of not being stable (i.e. 4°C [7F] would be an interim temperature on the way to a much higher equilibrium level),” according to Professor Kevin Anderson, director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change in Britain

Has anyone ever noticed these figures from the CDC?

250 - 350 ppm – background (normal) outdoor air level
350- 1,000 ppm - typical level found in occupied spaces with good air exchange.
1,000 – 2,000 ppm - level associated with complaints of drowsiness and poor air.
2,000 – 5,000 ppm – level associated with headaches, sleepiness, and stagnant, stale, stuffy air. Poor concentration, loss of attention, increased heart rate and slight nausea may also be present.

The levels are for ppm CO2. And we are now on track to reach or possibly exceed 1,000 ppm CO2 by the end of this century. Not to mention the heating, that's bad air for everyone, even outdoors, by around 2100. By 2200, you're talking about headaches, sleepiness, poor concentration, loss of attention, increased heart rate and nausea. Brain damage is said to occur from exposure to levels of 5,000 ppm or higher. But who knows what the effects of constant exposure at even 1,000 ppm would be? Are we going to need to produce oxygen for indoor environments as outdoor environments become less livable?

And most are so focused on the immediate future that they don't care about the long term. 100 years isn't really all that far away. 1912 isn't so long ago. Now imagine that the time between 1912 and 2012 resulted in a world where humans couldn't really live outside without severe negative consequences. It's like a science fiction horror story. But we're doing that to ourselves right now.

IMHO, we are forked however we look at it. The only remaining questions are how and when.


Yeah. Probably right. I'm like that kid who keeps eating sour candy. I take a bite, make a face, but can't stop digging in the data. Now I know why people go doomer. Give me another 10 years and I'll probably be there.

I only wish that someone would fork our politicians and let some of that pretentious hot air out

Society is class divided. The folks on the bottom will die the folks on the top will be fine. The folks in the middle will have to get used to the new normal.

Chaos, not in the US. Look at how many police, state troopers, HDS, and army personnel their are.

The US economy can be cut in half and people would still eat, have clothes, and shelter. They may not have medical care beyond the level of 1950 but people had good lives in 1950.

Until I see most people car pooling to work I see no collapse. Until I see two families per house I see no collapse. etc.... Lower standard of living for sure.

A good sci fiction I read which I feel may apply is this one:


I'm with Meadows all the way on this one. actually, was from "72. It all seemed so compelling, looking at his model. I always wondered why the anti-collapse people weren't forced to put out their own model to show, in ways we could all check out, why Meadows was wrong.

Anyhow, since I like to make gadgets and solve messes, I have come up with a "solution" to this little collapse problem. Simple- people like me (but a hell of a lot younger) get together in little groups with some rules something like this:

Live on energy income- that's sun and its derivatives.
Live on material income - that includes the appallingly huge piles of junk lying around everywhere in USA- enormous wealth to the gadget guy.
Count ALL the costs, not just a few of them
work on the most important things first.
Don't let anybody in or be born into the group unless somebody in it has died.
Join up with the other little spots of sanity, with the goal of spreading over the whole planet in due time.
Have fun.

Right at the moment I am having lots of fun making a wood-to-electricity thing to supplement my 1kW worth of PV --(koff-koff).

Keep tinkering, wimbi. The solar water heaters I built last summer (builditsolar, modified) produced about 68 kBTU today; raised 450 gallons of water a bit over 18 degrees(f) so far. Nice hot shower after the chores this evening, all compliments of Sol. (Sorry for the archaic US/British units).

Gee, what do you do with all that hot water? I have a 200 liter water tank and my $120 pool heater solar thing heats it to plenty hot when the sun shines, and a small parallel wood heater and a few sticks heats it to "too hot" when the sun is taking a rest.

Absolutely crazy that in the hot summer time people are using coal fired electricity to get hot water! Oughta be a law.

Right, it's a lot easier to do arithmetic in SI units, and besides, you can talk to the rest of the world instead of just people in Indianapolis.

I just found the following on the UK Dept. of Energy and Climate Change site, UK Continental Shelf production projections, here regarding UK oil and gas production.

"Oil and gas production in 2011 both fell very dramatically (by 18% and 22% respectively) and
much faster than projected even as recently as September 2011 (when respective declines of
12% and 15% were projected). There is no single or simple explanation for this unexpectedly
rapid decline in UK hydrocarbon production which is, however, currently seen as a one-off
occurrence and not the start of a worsening trend. Indeed, while the projections for both oil and
gas for later years now start at a lower level the projected decline is now less rapid with the
projections ending up at similar levels in 2016 before decline continues at around 5% a year..."

I was rudely awakened in the middle of the night by the often-malfunctioning fire alarm. A short investigation revealed that the temperature in the house has jumped 20 degrees. But there is no single or simple explanation for this unexpectedly rapid increase in temperature, which is, however, currently seen as a one-off occurrence and not the start of a worsening trend. So I went back to sleep.

hahaha! Sorry had to laugh. Brilliant sarcasm.

Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn’t there
He wasn’t there again today
I wish, I wish he’d go away...

When I came home last night at three
The man was waiting there for me
But when I looked around the hall
I couldn’t see him there at all!
Go away, go away, don’t you come back any more!
Go away, go away, and please don’t slam the door... (slam!)

Last night I saw upon the stair
A little man who wasn’t there
He wasn’t there again today
Oh, how I wish he’d go away

Antigonish by Hughes Mearns

New fire threat: People living in storage units

SOUTH SALT LAKE, Utah — Several people's efforts to cut costs apparently reached new lows recently after South Salt Lake police discovered they had set up house inside several storage units.

And while their alleged set up inside the storage units located at 3202 S. Davis Drive was apparently quite elaborate — complete with heaters, air conditioners, beds, recliners and electronics — the occupants couldn't figure out a rig an indoor plumbing system

"I realize people are up against hard economic times, but we will evict them," said South Salt Lake police spokesman Gary Keller. "It was just a recipe for disaster. Storage units weren't made to be habitable. They are not designed for that."

Apparently the Navy thinks differently ...

Super Energy Efficient Containerized Living Unit (SuperCLU)

... they're 'good enough' for our men in uniform.

Ha, I used to work for a company in Houston (Porta-Kamp), that built housing like that. We used to joke about coming home a bit drunk and not being able to find your box.

Apparently this was a standing bit of humor in Richland, WA, when I was a rugrat there in the early-to-mid 40s. My mom and dad told that it really did happen, more than once, that a guy got off the bus from the plant (Hanford Engineering Works) and accidentally entered the wrong back door into the wrong kitchen (there were alleys between rows of gov't houses). I guess they would put a whole street of the same model of house, and the guys had to count back doors as they walked home from the bus. I have a small booklet of cartoons published during the DuPont days, before the war was over and GE took over management of the site. Dupus Boomer was the cartoon character. Daily life in Richland was thusly recorded.

Living off the grid in a mail-order home

Some assembly required:

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- House Arc may look like an egg-shaped antidote to McMansion mania, but this small mail-order home was really designed as a way to quickly provide housing to victims of disaster.

"We wanted to see how we could produce a house that would fit into a flat packing container that could be shipped to communities in need, like New Orleans after Katrina," said architect Joseph Bellomo, who worked on the modular home for two and a half years.

The result was House Arc, a 150-square-foot structure of hollow steel tubes. Not only can the 3,000-pound modular home withstand high winds, it can also be boxed into a 120 cubic-foot freight container and shipped off to its next destination.

House Arc is designed to be put together like a piece of Ikea furniture...

Current unit cost "U$ 75,000" !!.. sure, only $500 per sq.ft, expected to decrease with mass production (per the video). Plumbing and electric optional.

Or you could opt for a really nice RV for much less, plumbing and electrical included. No assembly required.

It's called a chamber pot. Problem solved.

You will need a 13-gallon "tall kitchen" trash-bag and a 10-pound ice bag or couple of plastic shopping bags. A "Dove stool", a real chair, or the edge of something would be nice.

The aperture of the 13-gallon bag approximates that of a sanitary fixture and is lifted into place as such. Then half a seat can be taken on the edge of something. Paper can follow. Starting with the bolus, the bag is now repeatedly folded over it and upon itself in all 3 axis so as to form a labyrinthine partial seal without entraining air. This is far preferable to attempting a more precise handling. The package is then placed at the bottom of the long 10-pound ice bag. Excluding air, the ice bag is twisted 3 full turns directly above the package. This twisting is continued more loosely for the length of the unused bag to render it into a rope. A simple knot is looped into this rope and run down to sit atop the package and tightened. The remaining length of ice bag is unwound and everted over the package, rewound, and another knot run down. The remaining length of ice-bag can often be everted over the package one more time. Otherwise, the package can be similarly knotted within a couple of shopping bags one after the other.

This assembly exhibits reduced molecular permeability: it slows down the diffusion of odorants to the point of near imperceptibility if operated in open air and not contained. If the packages are thrown in a closed can, the diffusion rate will not matter and an unpleasant level of concentration will be achieved anyway. Intermediate transportation staging should be vented.

This works exceedingly well.

Senate Panel Cuts Off Navy’s Biofuel Buys

The Navy’s ambitious renewable-energy plans aren’t sunk quite yet. But they took a major hit Thursday, when the Senate Armed Services Committee voted to all-but-ban the military from buying alternative fuels.

The House Armed Services Committee passed a similar measure earlier this month. But the House is controlled by Republicans, who are generally skeptical of alternative energy efforts. Democrats are in charge of the Senate Armed Services Committee. And if anything, the Senate’s alt-fuel prohibition goes even further than the House’s. If it becomes law, if would not only sink the Navy’s attempt to sail a “Great Green Fleet,” powered largely by biofuels. It would also sabotage a half-billion-dollar program to shore up a tottering biofuels industry.

Like their counterparts in the House, senators prohibited the Pentagon from buying renewable fuels that are more expensive than traditional ones — a standard that biofuels may never meet. In addition, the committee blocked the Defense Department from helping build biofuel refineries unless “specifically authorized by law” – just as the Navy was set to pour $170 million into an effort with the Departments of Energy and Agriculture to do precisely that.

The measures — amendments to the Pentagon’s budget for next year — were pushed by two Republicans. Sen. James Inhofe has long been one of the Republican’s fiercest critics of renewable energy efforts; Sen. John McCain has in recent years turned away from long-held eco-friendly positions.

So what happens to US all liquids if republicans manage to kill biofuels production? Subtract more than a million barrels per day....

It might be a wash since EROEI of most biofuels are close to 1:1. Also, grain cost would drop by $20-30 billion.

Inquiring minds ask:'Why haven't the Republicans killed the ethanol mandate if they think it's such a bad idea'?

Oops, that would cut into their kickbacks.

The ‘War On Coal’ Is A Myth

Big polluters and their Congressional allies have created a new straw man to knock down with the invention of the so-called “War on Coal.” It is a multi-million dollar disinformation campaign funded by Big Coal polluters to protect their profits and distract Americans from the deadly effects of air pollution on public health.

also Why The Coal Industry’s Arguments Against New Clean Air Standards Are Bogus

and Coal Industry Pays Fake Activists $50 To Wear Pro-Coal Shirts At Public Hearing

Apparently unable to find real activists, the coal industry paid astroturfers $50 to wear pro-coal t-shirts at an Environmental Protection Agency hearing yesterday.

The Heartland Institute is starting to get funding from coal companies. The Guardian has two articles on Heartland describing their struggles [here and here]

Heartland thinks that climate change hysteria is the big driver of the debate and the environmentalists are at the root of the problem. They actually put up a billboard that compared climate scientists to Ted Kaczinsky and the Heartland's head called Bill McKibben and Michael Mann "madmen" in an opinion piece.

But this is a lot more than just the "greens" that they should be concerned about.

It really has to do with the delusional thinking of the neo-Dominionists that believe that they can steamroll anything that gets in their way, including the natural environment, and that they can produce a cornucopia of free energy and natural resources out of sheer willpower.

The war that most of the clueless Heartlanders are fighting now is against two fronts. They apparently believe that they are fighting the old war against classic environmentalists, but don't realize that the new front is against those that are dedicated to basic sustainability. Sustainability has nothing to do with protecting nature per se, but on making sure mankind has enough resources to thrive. Unfortunately for the Heartlanders, the POV that Greens and Sustainers share is that they realize that everyone needs to work with the environment instead of considering it a foe that needs to be defeated. And sustainability is peripheral to climate change, which is obviously an important issue to consider and one that the Heartlanders would rather concentrate on because of its underlying uncertainty (i.e. an issue that feeds FUD).

Bottomline is that behind every Heartlander and climate skeptic I see is someone that is knee-jerk opposed to making any progress in:

  • photovoltaic technology
  • geothermal technology
  • wind energy technology
  • hydropower technology
  • conservation ideas
  • recycling technology
  • solar thermal technology
  • wave energy technology
  • tidal energy technology
  • biomass energy technology
  • low-level human power
  • smart-grid technology
  • battery technology
  • fuel-cell technology
  • localized energy sources
  • gravitational storage technology
  • energy balancing technology
  • heat exchanger technology

Sure we can also look at nuclear and biotech and space-borne ideas but the thrust needs to be on all fronts.

It's great that we can debate individual anectodes such as some loon's manifesto (which is essentially what Heartland compared all greens to). If you want a competing anecdote, let me link to a story in the latest issue of The Atlantic on the history of the beaver:

"In the 1820s, one of the largest corporations on Earth tried to kill every beaver in the Pacific Northwest. Britain’s Hudson’s Bay Company, threatened by the United States’ westward expansion, sent trappers sweeping down the Columbia River watershed to exterminate all the beavers they found and harvest their valuable pelts. Without beavers to hunt, the company’s governor reasoned, the United States would have “no inducement to proceed hither.” Within 20 years, the beaver was nearly eradicated from an area the size of France.

If you don't believe in the writer's historical perspective, I give you two substantiating references here and here.

The historical point is that corporations have no conscience and will work against the best interests of sustainability, not to mention essential green concerns over species extinction.

The fact that coal companies are paying people to wear fake activist T-shirts to rallies is no different than what the Hudson's Bay company was trying to do almost 200 years ago by paying off trappers to control the company's destiny.

Then watching this: http://solarimpulse.com/timeline/view/6242
Ought to make their heads explode!

"Bottomline is that behind every Heartlander and climate skeptic I see is someone that is knee-jerk opposed to making any progress in..."

Some I know are downright frightened of RE, etc.. I can't quite figure it out. Perhaps it represents change, loss of control, or a financial threat,, likely all of the above.

•low-level human power

Is that like Edward G. Robinson in Soylent Green bicylcling to produce energy to fill batteries to run a light bulb?

Probably. Humans are not a powerhouse of energy, unless we start taking steroids and HGH.
Then we would get roid rage as a side-effect and the tables would turn as the motorists would become afraid of us.

Yeah, the people fighting the war on coal is the natural gas business. And they've been pretty successful since coal dropped to 36% of the electricity generated in recent months down from 45% or so.

Ironically, the coal biz should not be fighting the EPA, they should be supporting the EPA to closely watch the fracking biz and make sure they don't cut any corners. (Or if the coal biz was lucky, catch the frackers cutting corners, make them pay fines, and put them under heavier regulation.)

Will Truckers Ditch Diesel?

... Although the U.S. has loads of natural gas, adoption of natural gas vehicles has been spotty. Less than 0.1% of vehicles on American roads burn the fuel today and the percentage sagged slightly from 2005 to 2010, when federal policies encouraging their use waned. The number began edging up last year, lifted by market forces.

Meanwhile, in the Asia-Pacific region, natural gas vehicle sales have grown at an average annual clip of 42% during the past decade, according to NGV Global, a trade group formed in 1986 to promote gas-friendly policies. Pakistan led the list in 2010 with 2.7 million natural gas vehicles, though many are tiny tuk-tuks, out of a total of 13 million natural gas vehicles worldwide. The U.S. came in 14th with 112,000 natural gas vehicles.

Some truckers soon will have the ability to hedge their bets. That is because the Environmental Protection Agency recently approved retrofit technology for big rigs that lets them burn LNG and diesel.

The potential market is enormous. The 3.2 million big rigs on U.S. roads today burn some 25 billion gallons of diesel annually. Almost 7 million single-unit trucks, such as UPS or FedEx Corp. trucks, consume another 10 billion gallons of diesel.

It looks like we may be seeing, as Art Berman predicted, some speedbumps on the Shale Play Superhighway to Energy Independence. The Texas RRC, which sums production data from Texas producers (versus the EIA which uses a sampling approach to estimate production), shows that Texas annual production from natural gas wells had a secondary peak in 2008 (absolute highest peak was 1972), and the RRC shows that monthly production from Texas natural gas wells fell at 8.6%/year from January, 2009 to January, 2012.


How much of this is voluntary ?

"Dam if I will deplete my gas at $2 ! Run the compressors one day a month to keep our leases, and lets just wait this out. With 19% of US coal replaced by NG, it will not take that long".

And how much depletion related ?


Is it really LNG (liquified natural gas at some -200 degrees temperature)? Or do they mean CNG (compressed natural gas) or even LPG (liquid petroleum gas such as propane, butane...) at ambient temperatures? I'm guessing it's CNG, since we're talking about the shale gas bubble, and I'm assuming that even a "big rig" truck is too small to bother with carrying and re-gasifying the super-cold LNG. Or am I wrong?

Hmmm, can one buy an insurance rider for LNG on highway?, would be fine as long as no flat tire, traffic jams, wrecks or dead engine . Follow the hazmat routes thru cities. 600:1 Boil off has to be real time consumed or "exported". Components of LNG are heavy than air. The fire suppression systems we commissioned for LNG terminals had multi suppression strategies. One PAIR out of hundreds of cross sensors alarms, cold sensor + flame in same area, no aborting.. hundreds of thousands of $$ of Halon for each periodic test. Still wonder about effective non CFC replacements, Money never up in smoke, cheap insurance so to speak.

Is it really LNG (liquified natural gas at some -200 degrees temperature)?

For some of the long-haul trucking, yes. This piece is about UPS. This one describes the opening of a filling station so that trucks can manage LA to Salt Lake City and return. This one (PDF) describes Waste Management's experience. This piece describes experiments at several different places.

Iran Doubles Enriched-Uranium Stockpile, Goes Beyond 20%

Iran almost doubled its stockpile of 20 percent-enriched uranium, to 145 kilograms (320 pounds), from 73.7 kilograms in February, the IAEA said today in a restricted 11-page report seen by Bloomberg News. Iran had tripled its production of the material in the three months to Feb. 24

Russia's Hidden 'Arctic Nightmare'

"I have to see it to believe it," was the reaction to my Russian colleague, Jon Burgwald, when he told me that every spring the rivers in Northern Russia turn black with oil saturated ice.

He sent me the pictures last night from his visit to Usinsk which borders the Arctic and has the unenviable title of Russia's oil capital. Before oil was discovered here in the 1970's Usinsk was a pristine area, with rivers villagers could drink from, teeming with life.

Now the winter thaw marks the annual running of the black ice. You have to see it to believe it [full slideshow below]:

I wonder how many "conservatives" that decry the very existence of the EPA understand that the economic destruction in virtually all of the ex-Soviet bloc countries represent quite precisely the kind of economic development that they seek.

That is a feature of the "Invisible Fist" of Capitalism, not a bug.

One just needs to have sociopathic tendencies.

I wonder how many "liberals" understand that they will be labeled "Eco-terrorists" by those that control the purse-strings of the police?


From Forbes: Big Upside for Big Oil Stocks As IMF Study Says Oil Prices Can Double In A Decade

... despite the advances in technology, natural field declines and other reasons have resulted in oil companies such as Chevron and Exxon reporting falls in production levels. The paper reinforces our view of a long term rise in oil prices because of higher demand from emerging economies and constrained supplies.

The BBC decided to make a article comparing the current Eurozone crisis with the fall of the Roman Empire. They mention several interesting points and similarities. They also highlighted the idea that complex societies can breakdown into a simpler state and that this change can be surprisingly rapid. It also made the point that the political and upper-class response and suggested solutions to the on-going crisis only exacerbated the existing problems making the final collapse come that bit sooner.

Off course no mention of peak oil, resource constraints and the impossibility of a sustainable debt based currency when talking about our modern problems but it is something. Shame it will be mostly taken as a curiosity and will not be taken seriously. I just wonder what the news headlines will be like once the collapse of industrial society cannot be denied...

BBC - Viewpoint: The time Britain slid into chaos

The social unrest, economic gloom and austerity in Europe today mirrors one of the greatest crises in British history, says the historian Michael Wood.

The news from Europe is getting worse by the day. Economic gloom across the continent and multiple crises in the currency zone.

With rising unemployment and inflation there are riots in the streets with forecasts of anarchy in some parts of western Europe.

And along with the simmering discontent there is a worrying rise of radical groups and populist right wing movements. In the fringes, secessionists are pushing for independence, indeed for the break up of the whole European order under which we have all lived secure and comfortable for so long.

At home in Britain there are worrying signs in every town - cuts in public services have led to closures of public baths and libraries, the failure of road maintenance, breakdowns in the food supply and civic order.
Protests against austerity in Rome by the Coliseum Anti-austerity protests in Rome

This article is a trailer for a new series on BBC2 (the channel can have more serious and demanding programmes than the BBC1).

The series has a total of eight one-hour programmes and is called: The Great British Story, a People's History.
Looks like the first programme covers the end of the Roman period, 5th century to the coming of the Anglo-Saxons in the 8th century.

It may be too parochial to be sold outside of the UK.

That is quite the amazing amount of hyperbole, to compare an economic depression that is still not matching the privations of the post-WWI era, to the utter devastation of the collapse of Roman Britain in the face of the Saxon invasion.

Give it time. I doubt you'll have to wait long.

I have now watched the first programme. It is definitely parochial and focused on the British people's history. However, the programme presented evidence to suggest that the collapse was not abrupt and total across the country. Some parts had a rapid decline in pottery, coins, trade and others trappings of the earlier civilisation. Whereas others parts of the country maintained a considerable amount of the earlier civilisation including trade with Byzantium.

The first programme covers about three centuries and even after that time the Saxons had not conquered Wales. I am more inclined to agree with John Michael Greer on his description of a Long Decent for the Industrial Age, possibly punctuated by intermittent step changes.

Long & Decent would be good :)

IOI Plans Palm Oil Refinery in Indonesia as Production Expands

The company expects to produce about 500,000 metric tons of palm oil from plantations in Indonesia in about three years, Executive Director Lee Yeow Chor told reporters in Johor state today. IOI is also seeking to acquire plantations to increase output, he said.

Expanding output in Indonesia may help IOI hedge against stagnation in Malaysia, where companies are hampered by limited availability of land suited to plant oil palm. Malaysian production may be flat in 2012 between 18.6 million and 19 million tons, while output in Indonesia may reach 26.5 million tons, Dorab Mistry, director at Godrej International Ltd., who’s traded palm oil for more than three decades, said in March.

“In three years time, we expect that our own-produced palm oil will be about 500,000 tons, so that’s about the time we can set up the refinery,” Lee said. IOI has planted oil palm in about 12,000 hectares in Indonesia, and expects to seed 10,000 hectares each over the next four years, he said.

Bye, Bye, gentle orangutans. :-(

Someone must be reading Charles MacKay's posts ...

Key to US summer gas sting: location, location, location

... Few refiners in the world can produce the California Reformulated Gasoline Blendstock for Oxygenate Blending (CARBOB). Even if they could, there are no fuel pipelines from the Rocky Mountains or the Midwest to the coast, and tanker deliveries from Asia or the Gulf Coast take weeks

"Given their crude slate, they've made themselves into an island," he added.

About 7.3 percent or some 224,000 barrels per day of West Coast refining capacity will be offline in the second quarter, much more than the usual 5 percent outage rate, according to IIR Energy data and projections.

In-depth article

The fire at BP Cherry Point is just the last of of a series of industrial incidents in the past few years. Anacortes had a fire that killed some people a few years back. The Alberta pipeline from the oil sands forks near the coast to go north to Cherry point and south to Anacortes. Now that the press has figured out the location of the problem, BP is apparently well along on the repair. They have quit vacuuming up every certified welder in four counties and word on the street is that the guys have cut back to 40 hours a week.

The stock market in New York closes for the long weekend in 30 minutes. Any bets on a surprise move by Greece?
They were talking about the 46 hour hat trick over on Bloomberg. This weekend would at least give them some extra time with the New York bunch.

The financial news seems to be focusing more on Spain today...

Spanish banking woes threaten Europe

That's why Milligan and others think that Spanish banks might need a European bailout even before Spain's sovereign debt does.

"Everyone fully understands why the markets are obsessed with Greece," he said. "But with Spain we are talking about the fourth-largest economy in the eurozone. The figures being talked about are much more significant."

...as Greece slips out the back?

Bankia to ask for a further 19 billion euros in bailout funds

Total rescue package of 23.5 billion euros by far the biggest in Spain
S&P reduces Bankia, Banco Popular and Bankinter ratings to junk status

BFA-Bankia needs to make provisions for loans to real estate developers of 7.1 billion euros and needs a further capital cushion of 1.9 billion. BFA is also expected to have to write down the book value of its 45-percent stake in Bankia, which currently stands at 12 billion euros against a market value of under 1.5 billion, which is expected to see it restate its 2011 results to show a loss.

The government is considering folding all of the lenders that have been taken over by the Bank of Spain to form a large public bank. The government has also taken over the reins at Caixa Catalunya, Novagalicia and Banco de Valencia.

Ahead of a meeting with Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, the leader of the main opposition Socialist Party, Alfredo Rubalcaba, said this was an option worth considering.

“We should study this. If we go for this option, a public bank, it should have the status of a public bank: maximum transparency and parliamentary control,” Rubalcaba said.

The board of Bankia has resigned, with losses of 3 billion.
The talk about a public bank smacks of desperation, Bankia and the Cajas are public banks with politically appointed directors.
Looks like game over for the Spanish banks.

As many as 15,000 Detroit streetlights use 1920s technology, according to a 2010 study by McKinsey & Co. Upgrading the system would cost $140 million to $200 million, and $5 million more to operate than the $23 million now spent annually, the report said.

Hereinhalifx, Detroit needs you.

New technology costs more to operate than 1920's tech???

The reference is to series streetlights powered by regulated output transformers. Most older cities have some legacy equipment of this type. The system works by forcing a constant current thru a series of streetlights. The source voltage is varied by the regulated output transformer to drive the same current for different size loops. The voltage reaches primary levels (a kid with a telescope got killed in OC cutting one of these wires about a decade ago). Relays may be used to energize loops sequentially from the same transformer, since starting impedance and running impedance are different for HID lighting, and most folks don't use incandescent anymore. The wiring differs dramatically from low voltage "parallel" lighting distribution and this is the majority of the upgrade cost. To convert a series system to parallel requires additional primary to secondary transformer locations, bigger secondary wire, and two wires instead of one wire. On series, if one bulb goes out the whole loop goes down.

Here's a 22 page powerpoint from the Mckinsey report:


The report says the RO transformers are no longer available, that's not true, we're still buying them. They are legacy equipment and far too expensive, however.


Gas lights.

There was actually still one at the end of our street in AZ when I was a kid in the 80's.

What's amazing to me is that in some of the more well-to-do neighborhoods in Tucson and also here in Auburn, Alabama, people still have these gas lights in their front yard and some also by the front door. Of course they are lit 24 Hours a day! Conspicuous consumption!

I've seen both the open flame and mantle type.

The Gas Light Company


Remember them well Ghung. Rotherham railway station was still using them well into my teens nice greenish hue. My Great Aunt was always getting me to run too the corner shop to buy her a twopenny gas mantel and fit it on her gas light in the centre of the room. She herself was too infirm to climb up on too a chair to do it herself. She never could get used to electricity when they installed it, bless her, used to cover the holes on the plugs with sticky tape too stop the electricity leaking out.

Are all the street lights in use in the U.S. really necessary for safety and security...or are they there because they are there (inertia...BAU...)?

Does the data (such that it exists) support the idea that a certain amount of street lighting increases safety (driving, pedestrian vs. car, etc) and decreases crime...or do people just /believe/ these are the cases?

Perhaps Colorado Springs may provide a case study...

I very much would love to have the city remove the sodium street light on my street corner...even after I convinced them to replace the 'fly-eye' fixture with a flat fixture...it still shines light into my second-story master bedroom and washes over my second story deck...affects sleep in the bedroom and my enjoyment of the night views from the deck.

Get a catapult and blame the local pond life, they'll get tired of changing it after a while.


Detroit Department of Public Lighting

The City of Detroit operates an electric distribution system to do street lighting and distribution of electrical power to public buildings. This is separate from the distribution system of Detroit Edison, which distributes electricity to other customers in Detroit.

Political patronage, public worker jobs, sweetheart contracts with suppliers, and other factors beyond electical engineering figure prominently in the system.