Drumbeat: June 2, 2012

Clinton highlights importance of oil-rich Arctic

TROMSO, Norway -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton boarded a research ship on Saturday to tour the Arctic, where big powers are vying for vast deposits of oil, gas and minerals that are becoming available as the polar ice recedes.

The top U.S. diplomat took the unusual step of visiting Tromso, a Norwegian town in the Arctic Circle, to dramatize U.S. interests in a once inaccessible region whose resources are up for grabs as the sea ice melts with climate change.

Clinton talks cooperation in resource-rich Arctic

To safely exploit the riches, the U.S. and other countries near the North Pole are trying to work together to combat harmful climate change, settling territorial disputes and preventing oil spills.

"From a strategic standpoint, the Arctic has an increasing geopolitical importance as countries vie to protect their rights and extend their influence," Clinton said Friday in the Norwegian capital of Oslo. Governments should "agree on what would be, in effect, the rules of the road in the Arctic, so new developments are economically sustainable and environmentally responsible toward future generations."

U.S. Navy’s Pacific Presence to Expand, Panetta Says

Disagreements and clashes in the South China Sea have been building since 2009, according to “Stirring Up the South China Sea,” a report published in April by Brussels-based International Crisis Group.

Oil reserves in the South China Sea may be as much as 213 billion barrels, according to Chinese studies cited in 2008 by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Oil Falls to Eight-Month Low on Unemployment Rates

Crude fell to the lowest level in almost eight months as employment reports in the U.S. and the euro area signaled fuel demand may tumble.

Oil dropped 3.8 percent after the Labor Department said American employers added the fewest workers in a year in May. The euro region’s jobless rate reached a record high, the European Union’s statistics office in Luxembourg said. Brent dropped below $100 for the first time since October.

Citi cuts 2013 Brent crude oil price f'cast to $99/barrel

REUTERS - Citigroup Global Markets lowered its 2013 Brent crude oil price forecast by 17.5 percent to $99 per barrel, saying accelerating shale oil production in the United States could reduce imports into the country.

The bank lowered its 2013 Brent price forecast to $99 from $120 and 2012 price forecast to $115 from $125 per barrel.

Oil prices tumble; will gas prices follow?

Cheaper oil means cheaper gasoline. The national average is now $3.61 per gallon, 33 cents below their April peak of $3.94, according to AAA, Wright Express and the Oil Price Information Service. Analysts forecast that gas could drop to $3.40 before Labor Day.

That would mean a few more bucks in the pockets of consumers, including those who purchased an estimated 1.4 million cars and trucks in May. Auto sales remain a bright spot in the U.S. economy. Still, those sales won't significantly boost gas demand because the new models are more fuel efficient than older models heading to the scrap heap.

Falling oil, gas prices are silver lining as economy weakens

There's some good news behind the discouraging headlines on the economy: Gas is getting cheaper. It's dropped to $2.99 in some areas of South Carolina and could soon fall below $3 in a handful of Southern states.

Why you're getting a break at the gas pump this summer

One might be tempted to point fingers at Washington, and certainly, President Barack Obama came under fire when fuel prices started nearing $4 a gallon. His challenger for the White House, Mitt Romney, said last month that the president "gets full credit or blame for what's happened to this economy and what's happened to gasoline prices under his watch."

In reality, suggested GasBuddy’s DeHaan, the White House was responsible for neither this year’s run-up in fuel prices nor its sharp decline.

Petrol price to be cut by 2 rupees a litre - sources

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - State-run oil refiners have agreed to a partial rollback of last month's petrol price increase, two oil company sources said on Saturday, in an expected move after a public outcry over the steepest rise in the country's history.

Pertamina, Shell lower prices of non-subsidized fuels

Following declining global oil prices in the past several months, state-run oil and gas firm Pertamina and Anglo-Dutch Shell cut the prices of non-subsidized fuels.

Russia central bank says oil may further hit rouble

MOSCOW: The Russian Central Bank Chairman Sergei Ignatyev said on Saturday the rouble, which last week tumbled to its three-year low, may further weaken if oil prices continue to slide, Interfax news agency reported.

Saudi Arabian Shares Drop Most in 10 Months After Oil Tumbles

Shares in Saudi Arabia, OPEC’s biggest oil producer, headed for the biggest slump in 10 months after crude fell to the lowest since October as employment reports in the U.S. and Europe signalled fuel demand may tumble.

Commodity Index Extends Slide to Lowest Since October

Commodities extended their decline, falling to the lowest level in almost eight months, after U.S. employers created fewer jobs than economists estimated and Chinese manufacturing slowed.

The Standard & Poor’s GSCI Spot Index fell 2.6 percent to 580.99 in New York, the lowest settlement since Oct. 4. The index declined 6.4 percent this week, a fifth straight drop and the biggest since September. Wheat, heating oil, cotton and gasoline led the losses.

The Truth About the “Oil Bear Market”

Remember, oil prices fell as low as $30 a barrel in early 2009, but here we sit, watching analysts panic over crude slumping to $87.

Peak oil: Are we looking at it all wrong?

By as early as 2015, global demand for oil will begin to decline, some scientists say. Not because we'll have run out of the fossil fuel, but because we just won't need as much of it.

Iran to claim for OPEC secretary general post

Iranian Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi said that Iran will claim for OPEC secretary general post, IRNA reported.

Qasemi said that Libyan Abdullah El-Badri has served as secretary general at OPEC since 2007 for two terms and Iran is preparing to discuss getting this post for next term at upcoming members' meeting.

Ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak gets life in prison

CAIRO (AP) – Hosni Mubarak was sentenced to life in prison Saturday for failing to stop the killing of protesters during the uprising that forced him from power last year. But the ousted president and his sons were acquitted of corruption charges in a mixed verdict that swiftly provoked a new wave of anger on Egypt's streets.

Russia's May oil output edges up to 10.34 mln bpd

(Reuters) - Russian oil output, the world's largest, inched up 0.1 percent to 10.34 million barrels per day (bpd) in May from 10.33 bpd in April, Energy Ministry data showed on Saturday.

In tonnes, the ministry said crude production in Russia stood at 43.743 million last month.

Russia Exit Heralds End of Browne’s BP as Production Dips

BP Plc’s decision to consider selling out of its Russian venture signals the end for John Browne’s vision of a British driller able to challenge Exxon Mobil Corp. as the world’s largest publicly-traded oil producer.

At the helm from 1995 to 2007, the former chief executive officer forged a $100 billion series of deals that made BP Europe’s largest oil company. Today, it’s shrinking.

Chevron Looking At Mature Oilfields Off Mexico--Pemex

HOUSTON – Chevron Corp. (CVX) is interested in developing matured oilfields off the coast of Mexico that are part of state-run oil firm Petroleos Mexicanos's second contract auction, according to public documents posted by Pemex on its website.

Chevron's interest in the Arenque Block is likely to be seen as a positive sign in Mexico's efforts to bring major oil companies back to its oilfields after it introduced a new upstream contract last year. Some analysts have said luring oil majors was likely to be a challenge because contract terms for the blocks don't allow companies to book oil and gas reserves.

Colorado State Increases Forecast for Atlantic Storms

Colorado State University researchers raised their expectations for this year’s Atlantic hurricane season to 13 named storms, just above average.

Five of those storms may become hurricanes and two may develop into major systems, said the team, which pioneered long- range hurricane forecasting 29 years ago. Its April prediction for 10 storms, four of them hurricanes and two of them major, was increased because an El Nino pattern that would limit Atlantic storms hasn’t shown signs of forming yet.

Fracking’s interstate pollution needs U.S. rules, scientist says

Air and water pollution from natural- gas and oil production using hydraulic fracturing moves across state lines, so the drilling should be regulated by the federal government, a Cornell University scientist said.

When Cleaning Up Power Plants, Time is Money

An analysis suggests that the power sector will incur far lower costs if federal pollution rules are phased in more gradually.

Along a Utah Range, a New Skirmish Over Development or Conservation

For more than 100 years, the towering range has been protected as a watershed. Expansions of ski areas in the central Wasatch are not allowed under multiple jurisdictional management plans, which the resorts say inhibit their ability to compete.

Ski areas now cover 6,294 acres of the central Wasatch, though Mr. Bishop’s legislation could create a legal precedent that could pave the way to more than double that, encompassing the watershed’s headwaters and affecting Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons, which are home to four ski areas and supply 60 percent of Salt Lake City’s water.

The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines

A telling anecdote involves the publication of the 1998 Nature paper by Mann, Bradley, and Hughes that first presented the hockey stick graph documenting the temperature record of the Northern Hemisphere in the past 1000 years. Mann says he was “caught completely off-guard” by the media attention the graph received, which raises a crucial question: How is it that the academic community encourages young scientists to issue press releases, yet leaves them unprepared to interact with the press and defend their work?

A Conservative's Approach to Combating Climate Change

It is a well established principle in the Anglo-American legal tradition that one does not have the right to use one's own property in a manner that causes harm to one's neighbor. There are common law cases gong back 400 years establishing this principle and international law has long embraced a similar norm. As I argued at length in this paper, if we accept this principle, even non-catastrophic warming should be a serious concern, as even non-catastrophic warming will produce the sorts of consequences that have long been recognized as property rights violations, such as the flooding of the land of others.

My argument is that the same general principles that lead libertarians and conservatives to call for greater protection of property rights should lead them to call for greater attention to the most likely effects of climate change.

Experts: Oklahoma not Texas, had hottest summer ever

TULSA, Okla. — Oklahoma and Texas have argued for years about which has the best college football team, whose oil fields produce better crude, even where the state border should run. But in a hot, sticky dispute that no one wants to win, Oklahoma just reclaimed its crown.

After recalculating data from last year, the nation’s climatologists are declaring that Oklahoma suffered through the hottest summer ever recorded in the U.S. last year — not Texas as initially announced last fall.

In Louisiana, Rising Seas Threaten Native Americans' Land

Native Americans' tribal lands along the Louisiana coast are washing away as sea levels rise and marshes sink. Part of our Coping with Climate Change series, Hari Sreenivasan reports from Isle de Jean Charles, a community that is slowly disappearing into the sea.

Irish Sea level to rise 47cm by end of century

THE IRISH Sea’s level will rise by almost half a metre by the end of the century, according to new research published by NUI Galway’s Ryan Institute.

More extreme coastal flooding will occur in Dublin and other vulnerable urban areas in Ireland and Britain, and sea surface temperatures will increase by 1.9 degrees, according to the research.

What makes sea-level rise?

Last week the science community was shocked by the claim that 42% of the sea-level rise of the past decades is due to groundwater pumping for irrigation purposes. What could this mean for the future – and is it true?

"Exploiting arctic oil" in order to "combat harmful climate change"???? Can double-speak get more blatant?

From the same lady: "Bombing for peace", "Torturing for freedom"?

From the same producers that brought you Macondo and the Deep Water Horizon, now the thriller moves to the Arctic to bring you "Fire on Ice: Revenge of the Polar Bears" in Technicolor and 3-D SurroundSound(TM). Coming soon to a HDTV near you.

Yes - Offshore arctic oil production is extremely risky. Not only are the conditions challenging, but if there is a spill, it will take a very long time to biodegrade because of the low temperatures.

I am curious about the 'vast deposits' of oil that are said to be present in the Arctic. I am not, in any sense an expert. I'm asking. How does the resource compare in size to other oil discoveries that are already known? Ghawar? Texas/Oklahoma/Louisiana? California? North Sea? Whatever seems appropriate to this statement some context.

I also wonder about the technical problems of working in the Arctic environment. Wouldn't those problems be easier to solve, more like what is already known, if we allowed global warming to proceed apace? Wouldn't it be easier to produce this resource the longer we waited to start? Why the rush?

geek - Rocky Mtn Geologist is the one to answer but haven't seen him for a while. As I recall he doesn’t see a high probability of huge reserves to be discovered in the region. He had intimate knowledge of previous exploration efforts that found little positive results for the $billions spent. I think no one has booked any PROVEN oil reserves at current pricing. One can speculate all they want about potential “RESOURCES” but those ain’t producible reserves. And, as you point out, what reserves that may eventually be discovered will have to be evaluated economically against the very high cost of operating in such a climate. All the political/military posturing is just kabuki theater until someone actually discovers a viable field. IMHO until then it’s just filler for the masses to keep them distracted from the real problem…PO.

RMG can speak for himself, but seems to me he tends to take a rather negative view of Arctic oil potential based on his experience in the Canadian Beaufort some forty years ago.

However, not all knowledgable people agree with him. Some of us with more current Arctic knowledge take a more optimistic view.

What you always hear is "the Arctic is gas, not oil" and "the Arctic is to fractured due to ice movement to have any remaining gas/oil traps". I leave it to the experts, not beeing one myself.

What you always hear is "the Arctic is gas, not oil" and "the Arctic is to fractured due to ice movement to have any remaining gas/oil traps".

The Arctic is a very large place. Some parts are gas prone, some are oil prone.

Parts of the Arctic are fractured (due to tectonics, not ice movement), and parts are not. In any case, fractured rocks do not preclude oil traps (see, for example the numerous large oil fields in the thrust belt of the Canadian Rockies).

Simpleminded generalizations about a vast area may be appealing to some, but are not appropriate. The reality is much more complex, and interesting.

What would be the role of heavy all year round ice sheets which weigh millions of tonnes on the underlying geology say in a place like Greenland ?

Thick ice sheets tend to depress the area under them, by sheer weight. When the ice melts, the land beneath gradually rebounds. This is an aspect "isostasy". When the load is removed, by melting of the ice, the land tends to slowly rise, in the process of "post glacial rebound". This has been well documented in many parts of the world.

In general, the depression and rebound are regional in extent. This means that the whole area goes down and up. The underlying geology overall doesn't change significantly. There may, however, be some reactivation of existing faults, which might account for the occaisional earthquakes that occur in intraplate areas. In general, the formation (and subequent melting) of an ice sheet would not preclude the presence of oil or gas in the underlying rocks.

There will be no 'vast deposits' in the sense that the Arctic is a good place to find oil. There will only be 'vast deposits' in the sense that no one has bothered to explore there because it had been too difficult and too expensive in the past. (And it is not much cheaper now but the price of oil has gone up enough so that it may make financial sense now.)

The Arctic is a terrible place to find oil because the source of most oil is massive Algae die-offs in temperate climates. For the oil to have ended up in the Arctic, it generally formed in a temperate region and then migrated up toward the pole via plate tectonics. But that is difficult since the deposit often gets pushed too deep such that it turns into natural gas or escapes to the surface such the tar sands of Alberta. But as North slope of Alaska proved, it does happen. So there are undoubtedly undiscovered oil deposits up there. But the probability of finding a Ghawar or a Spindletop up there are probably nil.

"Wouldn't it be easier to produce this resource the longer we waited to start? Why the rush?"
Are you familiar with the human species?

Of course the Norwegians have to look for oil in inhospitable places!

They can't benefit from the cheaper deposits (Gwawar, West Texas, etc.) without losing their status as kinder, gentler folks or their ability to pick the Nobel peace prize winners.

You can't really fault the Norwegians for looking for oil off the coast of Norway. Where else are they gonna look? But if you look at their oil development, it started in the south and is only now up in the far North.

. For the oil to have ended up in the Arctic, it generally formed in a temperate region and then migrated up toward the pole via plate tectonics.

Or the fringe people who claim pole shifts are due to the Earth doing flips and somehow the poles become an equator are right then no tectonics are needed.

At least the drilling should end up with more becoming known about the Earth and her past.

Most of the oil and gas there originates from the Eocene. It was semi-tropical to tropical, with palm trees, alligators, crocodiles, etc.

Most of the oil and gas there originates from the Eocene. It was semi-tropical to tropical, with palm trees, alligators, crocodiles, etc.

Actually, the oil currently produced from the Alaskan N Slope was sourced from the Triassic Shublik Fm, the Jurassic Kingak Fm, and the lower Cretaceous HRZ/Pebble Shale.

The Arctic is a terrible place to find oil because the source of most oil is massive Algae die-offs in temperate climates. For the oil to have ended up in the Arctic, it generally formed in a temperate region and then migrated up toward the pole via plate tectonics. But that is difficult since the deposit often gets pushed too deep such that it turns into natural gas or escapes to the surface such the tar sands of Alberta. But as North slope of Alaska proved, it does happen. So there are undoubtedly undiscovered oil deposits up there. But the probability of finding a Ghawar or a Spindletop up there are probably nil.

This is flat out not correct! While it is true the arctic plates have moved somewhat, it is simply not true that the oil in Alaska was formed in a temperate climate and was then moved via plate tectonics (sorry I don't have time at the moment to write you a treatise on the tectonics of the arctic). Furthermore, indications of potential source beds in more recent arctic sediments clearly show the potential for in-situ oil generation. There have been quite a few recent papers on this. For just one example, see the abstract "Evaluation and modelling of Tertiary source rocks in the central Arctic Ocean"

Whether or not any new major discoveries will be made in the Arctic remains to be seen. But the potential is certainly there, in the US Chukchi and Beaufort, the Canadian Beaufort, and the Russian and Norwegian sectors. Shell, BP, Exxon and others are investing big bucks to find out. Those companies have quite a few highly experienced and knowledgable geologists, who clearly take a rather different view than some on TOD. It looks like Shell may finally get the chance to drill this summer in Alaskan waters.

We will all just have to wait and see what the drill bit finds, now won't we?


I am also not an expert, but the USGS assessment of 2008 estimated 60 billion barrels of undiscovered, technically recoverable oil for the arctic circle. By comparison the 2010 USGS report assessed the total US (proved, inferred and undiscovered) as 198 billion barrels. That includes onshore, offshore, and Alaska.

As I am sure you are aware undiscovered, technically recoverable oil is not the same as reserves - reserves are always considerably lower.

Of the U.S 198 billion number the USGS estimates about 23 billion are proven and 61 inferred reserves.

So far I don't believe that any of the arctic resource has been classified as reserves since they are not producing yet. But I will let others comment on that.

The USGS arctic assessment is at: http://www.usgs.gov/newsroom/article.asp?ID=1980#.T8rVJr9qqD4

Well at least one good thing comes out of global warming, we don't have to worry about peak oil anymore. And if Hillary had not went up there we would never have known. ;-)

Hillary to the Arctic; Finds $900 Trillion in Untapped Oil Reserves

This article is about the danger climate change is doing to the Arctic and accidentally torpedoes any thought of “peak oil” anytime soon...

Hey, the faster it melts, the faster we get our oil.

Ron P.


“Native Americans' tribal lands along the Louisiana coast are washing away as sea levels rise and marshes sink.”

Unfortunately another case of overreaching to support a position. It doesn’t help the cause to offer arguments that can easily be knocked. Whatever effects sea level rise may have on S. Louisiana it will be dwarfed by the subsidence of the coast line that’s been going on for over 100 million years. How much subsidence? There are rocks 6 miles below the shoreline that were deposited in a few feet of water a very long time ago. But even subsidence isn’t the main cause of land loss. Two manmade factors are even more responsible. Canals cut into the swamps for oil/NG drilling have contributed significantly. But the single biggest culprit for the loss is the Corps of Engineers. More specifically by forcing the Miss. River to maintain its current course all those trillions of cu ft of sediment cared by the river is being lost to the deep waters of the GOM. About every 30,000 years or so the hydraulic gradient causes the river to migrate from one side of the state to the other. This process spreads the sediment load along the coast and kept the shoreline somewhat static even as subsidence continues to suck the shore line down.

There is much support the prospects of future sea level rise and its resultant negative effects. But offering the loss of La. shoreline as proof can easily be refuted by a 2nd year geology major from my Alma mate the Un. of New Orleans. Also adding the hook of "native American tribal lands" is another cheap emotional hook easily mocked. A very small percentage of the area qualifies as such. The white man did a very effective job of nearly completely eliminating the Houma tribe from the face of the earth.

One addendum.

The Corps of Engineers allows 30% of the water from the Mississippi River to flow down the Atchafalaya# Basin at the Old River Structure. This ratio was set based on observations from the 1920s. As a consequence, the Atchafalaya Delta has been growing - the only one to do so on the Louisiana coast. And the silt built-up has no longer made the Atchafalaya River the "natural choice" for a change in the Mississippi River.

The State of Louisiana has pledged their 3/8ths of federal offshore royalties (starting in 2017) to building more diversions to rebuild the various wetlands and deltas on our coasts.

*SOME* Hope for our wetlands,


# Spelling Atchafalaya and Tchoupitoulas from memory qualifies one as local :-)

There was talk last year about a proposal to send a portion of the river through Lake Ponchartrain permanently as to help build up the east side of the river and still keep the current path open for river traffic.

I'm waiting for the day in spring that the old river structure can't handle the pressure and then what? Many were very lucky during last years floods that all of Louisiana and Parts of Arkansas were in a major drought during the flood, because major monsoon rains in the south in addition to the river flood would have certainly pushed the limits.

Alan have you ever heard of Drago's?

Dragos - Very nice char-broiled oysters !

Had a few at a festival.

They are Metairie based so I never went there, but they opened up an Orleans Parish location a couple of years ago.

The Old River Structure almost gave out a couple of decades ago, but things have changed.

The silt from decades of Mississippi River water has built up in the Atchafalaya and that is a barrier to the Mississippi River changing course. And the Louisiana Hydroelectric plant was built and it extracts energy from the normal flow Mississippi + Red River > Atchafalaya. So the water scours much less.

Much more robust - including new control structures, etc.

IMHO, unlikely to collapse.


When we moved to Central Louisiana my wife's biggest complaint was that we were too far from Drago's and the Charbroiled oysters.

I'm still curious what the worse case senario is for the Old River stucture along with the spillways. I remember Bob Breck(local NOLA meteorologist) showing what a worse case senario would look like in New Orleans many years before Katrina and people though he was overhying the story. It may surprise people Katrina wasn't the worse case, it could have been much worse.

The Control of Nature
by John McPhee


Doug – “Flood Tide” by Clive Cussler: A mysterious seaport in the bayous of Louisiana... A diabolical plot to destroy America!.

Actually a subject matter we La. geologists avoid talking about in public. A real potential threat at the right time of the year. Shhh…don’t tell nobody if you come to understand it.

I thought McPhee's piece was balanced and almost timeless-I reread it during last summer's flood and felt it held up spotlessly, for 2 decades later.

You've got quite a tagline for Cussler, or is it from the jacket?:) Actually, for Bayou adventures I like James Lee Burke's Dave Robicheaux-I know that's misspelled, I must not be local. Maybe someday I'll even visit.

doug - It's Cussler's typical Dirk the superhero BS if you're familiar with the series. But you might find it somewhat amusing given your knowledge of the Basin. With your background you may readily see th real poyntil threat from outside sourcs. On that I'll ay no more. Read the book and if you have a good grasp on the economy of the US I'm sure you'll get it.

"cheap emotional hook easily mocked."
That is all they are interested in doing. They know it is easy to fool 80% of the people.

But do you really think they are trying to intentionally fool people? I would suspect they are just ignorant of other geological effects. Why would they try to fool people in such a manner if it is so easily exposed as false.

spec - No way for me to know. But subject to harsh criticism either way. They’re ignorant (lets be kind and just say poor researchers) or they’re intentionally spinning inaccuracies. As far as being caught in intentional deceit how many on TOD, even with all the smarties here, would have caught it? Many geologists outside the Gulf Coast might have bought the misdirection.

And had I not spent much of my early life in S. La. who would have told the TODsters about the UHN (United Houma Nation). The Houma Tribe has not yet been federally recognized, awaiting a response for over 20 years from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, an agency of the U.S. Department of the Interior. As such they don’t have “tribal lands” AFAIK. In fact, they probably aren't native to the area but were pushed westward from Mississippi by European expansion. Maybe a Choctaw offshoot. The 17,000 members live in fairly isolated communities along the bayous. What percentage of J6P’s would bother to search for information about the UHN compared to those that would just accept the deceitful spin? Such efforts irritate me equally whether they come from the left or right.

Of course the spreaders of misinformation have a strong ally on their side: the MSM (both left and right). Why research the validity of a story if the editor has been pushing you for a flashy headline?

BTW: there's a low probability I have some UHN blood in me via a Venazuelan grandfather whose dad may have hooked up with a Houma lady long ago. No written records but that didn't stop me from dressing as an indian for many a Mardi Gras. A lot more fun than dressing up as Hugo C. LOL.

even with all the smarties here, would have caught it? Many geologists outside the Gulf Coast might have bought the misdirection.

Well that's my point. I'd assume this to be unintentional ignorance, not some devious trickery. If some geologists would not have noticed, why would you expect some public TV crew to notice?

Rock, I'm was once very interested and somewhat involved in coastal issues. In the last year I moved from Houma and sold marshland in Pointe Au Chien that assisted in my new land purchase which ironically is a short distance to the Old River Structure in Simmesport,La. What I saw in ten years of owning my property in Pointe Au Chene told me it was time to give up on anyone fixing the the Coastal issues, it was time to go.

I've seen how badly our government handles Indian affairs, levees and our coastal problems many that they caused. I've dealt with people in local South Louisiana government that just pulled their hair out due to dealing with Federal bureaucrats on a daily basis.

In South Lafourche FEMA told the local levee director that if he didn't raise the South Lafourche levee FEMA wouldn't certify the levee and the locals wouldn't be insured for flooding. So he started raising the levee only to find out that the Army corps of Engineers said they would not allow him to raise the levee because they hadn't done the proper studies and permits. It's impossible!

It's probably just as well. Geologists have been saying for decades that what we need is a "managed retreat from the coasts." Otherwise, we're going to get an unmanaged retreat from the coasts.

"Managed retreat"...interesting concept. Unfortunate for the bayou inhabitants but they may serve as a model for dealing with AGW induced sea level rise around the globe even though that may be the source of the problem. How it might enforced is another question. So many examples of folks building in very risky environments (earth quake zones, flood plains, mud slide zones) whether aware of the dangers or not. As mentioned in the other post denying insurance could be one angle. But unlike those other risks sea level rise will have little impact on folks currently making decisions. There may be little family land for the great grandchildren to inherit in 50+ years so will it be a priority?

The bayous are a tough place to live. Besides hurricane threats and subsidence there’s other flooding problems. Last year a fast spring melt sent so much water so fast into the Basin flooding disrupted both commercial and private life. Actually forced the shut in of all oil production for a good while. Conversations about risk avoidance always make me think about the “big one” hitting a heavily populated area in CA. Unlike destructive sea level rise 50+ years a massive destructive tremor could hit LA tomorrow. That line between the freedom to make personal choices and preventing risky options is always going to be a tough call. Perhaps too tough to be very effective.

"That line between the freedom to make personal choices and preventing risky options is always going to be a tough call."

If you want to take a risky option, you should have that right. But the counterpoint is that when the risk bites you, then you have no claim to demand other bail you out. And that is where it goes wrong.

If you build on a flood plain, then get flooded out, it's your own fault, and don't expect help from the the public treasury. This logic requires a harder heart than most people have. If you have a car wreck and were not wearing the seatbelt, should the EMT's put you off until they save the more responsible first? The problem generalizes rather well.

The first step is to refuse building permits for at risk areas. Apply the same to public infrastructure, no public investment in at risk areas. Justify it with making government savings that everyone wants.


I think you take too harsh a view. If you build in a locale subject to hazard X, it would be reasonable to bail out, if you did your due diligence wrt. hazard detection. If it is well nown that X is a flood plain, then we shouldn't bail people out if the flood damages their property. But, even here, we might want to make some exceptions, for instance if you build something vulnerable to a twenty year flood, then it makes no sense to make you whole, but if it required an 800 year flood (i.e. by any reasonable analysis the danget was quite low), then it could be reasonable to bail you out.

We all are subject to some random hazards. For instance your house could be struck by a meteorite. Having society pay for a one in a billion event like that makes society somewhat more fair, at little social cost. Its really a matter of cost/benefit, rather than absolute philosophy.

PVguy, I'm not one for bail outs for risky choices, because I think it allows and even endorses more ill advised risk taking. What's happening to the people of South Louisiana is much different. The people that built in many areas of South Louisana actually built on natural ridges in the higher areas and on Oak ridges or "Cheniers" surround by marsh. They knew the risk. What happened to us is that our lower risk choice was made a higher risk by actions of the Federal Government mainly starting after the Great Floods on the late 1920's.

So it's not a bail out if your forced by someone to fix what you broke. That's what the people of South Louisiana expect from the Army Corps of Engineers, it's that they should repair the damage caused by harnessing the Mississippi river in the name of commerce. If people and business gained from having a narrow dependable conduit for shipping goods all through the United States then they should chip in for the damage that shipping lane caused.

We've done it before. When they decided it was too risky to build in the flood plains of the Mississippi, the government bulldozed the homes of people who tried to rebuild there.

And right now, the government limits what can be done to prevent coastal erosion. (Because protecting your shore makes your neighbors' erosion problems worse.) In some cases, this means very expensive homes falling into the sea.

And in theory, people on the Outer Banks who were destroyed by Fran were not supposed to be allowed to rebuild. Of course, that was bent, spindled, and mutilated in the aftermath of the disaster. I think that's going to prove to be a big mistake. People who have million dollar vacation homes are not particularly sympathetic figures, so taking a firm stand and paying them to rebuild elsewhere would not have been too politically difficult.

In any case, the time to do it is now. Peak oil, financial armageddon, climate change...it's not going to get any easier to deal with the problem of too many people living in harm's way in the future.

"We" (meaning, the US government) are still "restoring" flood damaged farm lands along the Missouri River. HERE's a story from this morning's NYT. Would those farmers in Republican Iowa be moving all that sand without the prospect of government disaster aid? I doubt it.

A better question might be, would those bulldozers be working if there were no cheap diesel to run them as future floods might be expected from climate change???

E. Swanson

Looks like California is starting the "managed retreat", although they define it as "fleeing".

Beach Communities Moving Inward: Some Beach Towns Are Eyeing Retreat From Sea As Conditions Change With Global Warming

"Up and down the California coast, some communities are deciding it's not worth trying to wall off the encroaching ocean. Until recently, the thought of bowing to nature was almost unheard of.

But after futile attempts to curb coastal erosion – a problem expected to grow worse with rising seas fueled by global warming – there is growing acknowledgment that the sea is relentless and any line drawn in the sand is likely to eventually wash over."

"Doing something" is often worse than not. You can not protect a sand beach by walling it in. If you do, erosion willgo harder on that stretch, and the beach will dissapear to the wall. If you OTOH do nothing, the beach will simply move inlands, as the sea rises. Beaches are very good at defending themself, if people just let to their own devices.

This is why setbacks from the ocean are so important. Don't build so close to the water! Beaches shift naturally, with some shrinking and some filling in. In Pinellas county, FL, you can now walk between Clearwater Beach and Caladesi "Island" - the beaches are connected. Was not always so. Every time a hurricane comes through the barrier islands shift.

"Coastal Defense" usually means "cover everything in concrete and declare victory". It is much better to move and not build to close than to take the Japanese route and cover everything in concrete. Trust me, I've seen it, it's enough to make you despair to see miles and miles of concrete jacks and seawalls instead of natural shoreline.

I see what you're talking about every time I go down to the beach at high tide in my suburb of Papamoa, Tauranga in New Zealand. When I walk at high tide there is often literally only 5-10 meters between the water at high tide and the properties on the beach and perhaps a vertical elevation of less than half a meter of dunes with the house ground level being a little lower than the top of the dune. Who wins with climate change? The guy on the other side of the road with an extra half a meter of elevation, he gets his turn at beach front after the guy closest to the beach has his house wiped out.

One thing I don't get is insurance rates on beach front properties aren't astronomical from what I understand. The total risk of beach front property is that not only could the structure on the land suffer massive damage but the land itself can simply disappear with the owner of the property then theoretically owning land which is below the sea at high tide. I suspect that one of two things may be the cause of this paradox. Either the insurance companies are waiting for a disaster to wipe out a large proportion of sea front property and then use that as a reason to ramp up insurance levels to astronomical levels or the insurance companies have wisely formed their contracts so they are not liable in some way. Alternatively they could be playing both sides at once.

The way I see it the next time there is a storm with 3-5 meter waves and even a minor storm surge I might find the roads outside my house turned into canals. I wonder what the people in those beach front properties think? To buy property right by the coast is really climate change denial at it's finest. Not only do they deny climate change, but they live as if climate change won't affect them. What happens to houses when waves literally break against their walls? Would the structure even be salvageable if it gets pounded by hundreds of waves? Would brick and concrete stand up to that kind of punishment, I.E. would there even be a house to go back to?

Waves crashing into homes less solidly build than concrete bunkers quickly disappear.

Architects just do not build for those type of lateral forces.


Although there are designs where the ground floor is deliberately weak (except for the structural pillars), so the seas will just go through the now gone ground floor and leave the space above intact. Kind of a building on stilts, with a sacrificial room underneath.

I think I ought to take pictures. It'll be a funny conversation with the owner if they ask me why I'm taking pictures.

Them: "What are you doing?"
Me: "I'm taking pictures of your house as an example of planning stupidity"
Them: "@#$% YOU!"

wildman - I feel your pain brother. LOL. I deal with the COE all the time. They're actually good guys that generally do the right thing. But they just take so freaking long to get it done folks often give up on projects. Mother Earth is relentless and doesn't give a dang how it effetcs us. I still have vivid memeories of the first time I saw roadways running down into the Gulf waters on the SE Texas shoreline. You not going to drown but you can't stop the slow process either,

The Houma Tribe has not yet been federally recognized, awaiting a response for over 20 years from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, an agency of the U.S. Department of the Interior.

This paper argues that Chicasaw novelist Linda Hogan, in her work Solar Storms, refuses to acknowledge geo-political borders that were imposed on Native lands during the conquest... the U.S./Canada border and instead imaginatively reenacts while reversing one of the colonizing gestures of the white explorers, who ignored Native place names and borders and imposed their own. Hogan thus sets up complex resonances between the colonial era and our own time which expose the nature of colonial trauma that persists in current hierarchies of power. Because this strategy is essentially one of absenting the border from her account, the narrative omission of the actual border crossing is easy to overlook; despite its unobtrusiveness, this is an important narrative strategy that attempts to decolonize the minds of Hogan's characters and readers. One manifestation of this ideal of refusing geo-political borders in favor of older or no borders can be seen in Hogan's repeated references to the idea of Pangaea, the theorized 'original' landmass that eventually broke apart into the continents.
I contend that this is precisely what Hogan attempts to do through her decolonizing techniques that seek to both recover Native histories while also recovering from colonial history in order to enable tribal activism.
~ from abstract, Dreaming of Pangaea: Decolonizing Strategies in Linda Hogan's Solar Storms

Actually, I didn't read the story until now . . . . it seems that they got it right. They say the the main reason is the sinking but mention that climate change adds on rising sea waters.

Alex Kolker studies what is happening here. He teaches coastal geology at the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium.

ALEX KOLKER, Professor of Coastal Geology, Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium: The ground at which Louisiana sits on is sinking, and it's sinking at a relatively high rate.

HARI SREENIVASAN: He says some of the reasons that the land is sinking and eroding so quickly are manmade ones. In the 1920s, people built levees to channel the mighty Mississippi River. That prevented floods, but robbed the marshlands of necessary sediment. Without sediment, the barrier islands and wetlands that protected the coast from intense storms sank into the Gulf.

The marshes were damaged even more by decades of oil exploration. From the air, you can see the miles and miles of canals that were used to transport fuel out. Even after the wells were shut down, the canals remained open, leaving pathways for the saltwater of the ocean to eat away at the freshwater wetlands.

Now the rising sea level has added to the problem. The average sea level in Southeast Louisiana is rising at a rate of three feet every 100 years. That is according to 60 years of tidal gauge records. That's unusually high, say scientists like Torbjorn Tornqvist of Tulane University.

The more I learn about revier systems, deltas, hydrology, geology and ecology the more I understand they are differenct faces of the same thing; it is all one. The canadians can affect the fishes in the GOM by the way they manage forests by the border to the US. All is connected. Agri practices will affect what ends up in the rivers, and that will progress all the way down to the deltas and into the sea. For all we know and all we can and have done, the delta will take care of it self the best way if we simply let it be. We will off course not do so. The land loss that is going on there is man made, no doubt about it. But it is not climate change related, it is related to river management. CC is just the upcoming chapter in this book.

Even if we say 200 million years..... if it sank 6 miles, then each year it would sink approx .00016 feet. Let us say in the next 100 years, the oceans rise 3 feet. The rate of change is .03 feet per year. Quite a difference. Or take 200 years. Global warming will make a bigger difference even if we say 3 feet in 200 years.

But then you have to accept some of the predictions. Eh? Or believe that global warming is a reality.

Thought I woke up this morning at 6 AM to a pleasant surprise: some potential national attention to PO. A short TV ad that seemed to be hinting about future energy problems. Put out by vote4energy.org. Turns out to be the American Petroleum Institute. The web site pushes the idea of being independent from ME exports for our liquid fuel needs by 2030. Of course there's a sneaky spin to that prediction which is who “we” are. WE are a combination of the US and Canada.

Obviously we won’t be free of imports even if this were to actually happen but free of ME imports. Of course, that’s not sticking their neck out too far given that we already import a minority of our oil from the ME.

Not a full blown cornucopian site. They do offer good links to factual sources. But I doubt we’ll ever see anything there directly hinting to PO.

Of course, as you know there are many types of "freedom." Greece would appear to be approaching a greater degree of "freedom" from their dependence on oil imports, even from Iran:


Greece and China would seem to be the prime case histories for the differences between the consumption patterns in developed and developing countries, in response to the doubling in global annual crude oil prices from 2005 to 2011. Developing countries, led by China, have been consuming an increasing share of a declining volume of Global Net Exports of oil (GNE), while the developed countries, e.g., Greece, have been forced to get by on a declining share of a declining volume of GNE.

Greece's oil production is negligible, and their consumption, and thus net imports, fell from 0.43 mbpd in 2005 to 0.37 mbpd in 2010, a -3.0%/year rate of change.

China showed increasing production from 2005 to 2010, and their net imports increased from 3.31 mbpd in 2005 to 5.00 mbpd in 2010 (BP, total petroleum liquids), an +8.2%/year rate of change. Note that the EIA is showing Chinese production as being flat from 2010 to 2011, so even if China's rate of increase in oil consumption slows, flat to declining domestic production will result in upward pressure on net oil imports.

Good article (wsj posted by Westexas). It doesn't begin to dwell on what really may happen if the Greeks switch back to the Drachma - it seems there'd be no way the Greeks would be able to purchase meaningful quantities of oil until the Drachma has been proven to be stable - this means inflation at a modest pace, and banks operating within normal parameters.

Meanwhile, the oil normally issued Greece will be sent elsewhere and it may very well be that once it's spoken-for by another importer, Greece will be left out in the cold when it's time to resume imports.

Of course things could turn out better than my fears suggest - but I'm expecting "See the Acropolis, by horseback!" adverts soon.

Remember after 9/11 and everybody was saying "we're all Americans now"? Yeah, we interpreted that as a verbal and binding contract regarding Canada. Other countries said it too, but we pretended not to hear.

Well there's the notion of 'peak government' (fossil-fuel-powered), (thus peak nation-state?) and an out for people (Greek; those on sinking islands; anyone) who want to be immigrants (to relocalized places)-- ethical and free immigrants-- where they might have been considered 'illegal immigrants' by the glorified prisons that are the nation-states. And persecuted, taken advantage of, sent back.

We would do well to at least occasionally view the world outside of the nation-state/centralized-gov't lense/paradigm.

'Down with (austerity) Greece/etc., up with Greek people.'

Up with World People. Us.

True globalization-- not the corporate oligarchic kind.

Beneath this mask there is an idea, Mr. Creedy, and ideas are bulletproof.
~ film, 'V for Vendetta'

Neo: What are you trying to tell me? That I can dodge bullets?
Morpheus: No, Neo. I'm trying to tell you that when you're ready, you won't have to.
~ film, 'The Matrix'

The more you can increase fear of drugs and crime, welfare mothers, immigrants and aliens, the more you control all the people.
~ Noam Chomsky

Recent tweets from vote-4energy

Greenhouses can help food security in Canada's vulnerable North

"Technological advances will soon make northern greenhouses much more viable. Advances in biomass energy sources, for example, from wood and wood waste, would help solve the energy problem in the sub-arctic. LEDs will meet plant light needs using much less energy than was available previously. Better insulating materials -- or better yet, fully enclosed buildings that are independent of sunlight -- will cut down on the cost of heating. "

It remains to be seen if greenhouses in the sub-Arctic can be viable.

Iceland has been doing this since 1924.


In addition, quite a few homes have a greenhouse on the southern exposure. I saw one home build inside an oversized greenhouse, with trees, etc.

At one time, Iceland was the only European nation to grow bananas commercially (THAT would be a tough Jeopardy question !) Not sure if they still do.

Best Hopes for Abundant Renewable Energy,


Iceland is a lot smaller than Alaska/Canada. Several problems exist with sub-Arctic greenhouses :-

1. Distribution - small communities are pretty distant from each other
2. Compliance - will people want to eat greens ?
3. Where will the wood biomass come from ? - at least Iceland has a local energy supply
4. Education - getting people trained to manage greenhouses

Other than that, walk in the park ;)

Keeping greenhouses warm in the winter is a huge energy sink. Iceland happens to have lots of low grade geothermal heat, so its not a problem there. In regions without a ready geothermal heat source, greenhouses are environmentally destructive because of their energy needs.

I don't think greenhouses here in Iceland do much for food security. They are mostly used to grow vegetables with low calorie content like tomatos, cumubers and peppers and I think their contribution to the overall calorie needs of the nation is minimal.
Over the winter they run almost completely on artificial lighting. I've heard it takes up to 20 kWh of electrity to grow 1 kg of tomatoes. That´s an energy to food calorie ratio of over 100 to 1, without counting all the other energy needs for the production and transport. I think this is horrible use of energy, no matter if the electricity comes from renewables.

Regarding the growing of bananas, that is just some experiment at the agricultural college, mostly for fun I think.

Not to totally disagree with you but isn't the alternative, importing those same vegetables from countries afar, a much greater cost?

It would be much less resource intensive to import it. Its probably just that truly fresh vegetables will sell at a premium.

I'd agree it would be less energy intensive to import it (unless air freighted), however, I think it'd be more oil intensive, and more fossil fuel intensive. There are probably more energy efficient ways to use Icelandic renewables to reduce global non-renewables consumption, however. Aluminum, for starters.

I think that depends upon the energy inputs used. Artificial lighting, i.e. high grade entergy yes. Low grade heat (hot water) to keep greenhouses warm, plus whatever sunlight they get, I'd say was a good use.

Their greenhouse sector is pretty small (less than 50 acres for the whole country). Given that virtually 100% of their electricity production is hydro and geothermal and that about 3/4ths of their electricity use goes to make aluminum, and they have immense capacity to increase electicity production, it's hard to get too upset about artificial lighting for greenhouses, especially since most of what is grown is replacing air freight items and thus actually reducing energy use, while employing locals.

I aggree that using artifical lighting rather than transporting here by air freight might be the lesser of two evil. Our electricity is of course "stranded" on the island so there might not be other better uses for it availble presently.

Unfortunatelly it is grossly overstating things to say that we have immense capacity to increase electricity production. Most of our biggest and best possibilities for hydro have already been used. The prospects that are left are smaller, less economical og require more environmental destruction. Just the classical "low hanging fruit" principal I guess.

On geothermal, reality has been kickin in. A few years ago the was a lot of delusional talk (mostly by politicians)about almost limitless potential in geothermal, somewhat similar to the big talk in the US about shale oil and shale gas. But the reality is that the geothermal potential is not that vast an has to be approached carefully. If the geothermal fields are exploited too aggressively the can cool down and become useless in a matter of decades.

Our electricity is of course "stranded" on the island so there might not be other better uses for it availble presently.

What's the current status of the proposals to run undersea HVDC lines from Iceland to the northern part of Scotland, where the power can be sold into the UK system?

The national power company (Landsvirkun) is looking seriously at these possibilities. It would definatelly be a big undertaking (on our scale) and I think we wouldn't be able to handle the investment and risk on our own.
In the end it comes down to politics and opignion is very divided on the subject. Many are content to continue to sell the electricity to aluminium smelters at rock bottom prices as long as it creates some jobs. I would rather like to see us connected to the European grid, then we might be able to get proper revenue for our electricity and open up other possibilities, like wind power. But as things stand our electricity production doesn´t do much more than break even.

This was signed a few days ago between the Republic of Iceland and Her Majesties Government.


They agree to talk about it. and try and use Icelandic expertise in geothermal power (hot water for district heating, in Africa).


There are still many possibilities for hydropower in Iceland. And wind is untouched.

Aluminum, electric arc steel smelting and other "power intensive" industries need power 24/7 365 days/year. Water tends to assume the solid state in Iceland for several months each year, so all hydropower has to have very large reservoirs - enough to produce power all winter long. On the river Þjórsá, the upriver dams release water which flows through the lower dams a few hours or days later. So the reservoirs are cumulative for power storage for those below them.

There are MANY sites for "summer water" for export. And also wind that blows more in the winter. Modulate Blanda and the Þjórsá plants to balance the wind.

Karahnjukar was "the Big One" but more can be exploited there. A second tunnel for peaking power for export, extra water by diverting some of the head waters of Jökulsá á Fjöllum into Halslon.

I have proposed treating Gullfoss like Niagara Falls. Leave it on during daylight, but at night, when no one sees it, divert it into a hydroelectric power plant - when power is needed more. The guys at Landsvirkjun said "Great idea - but Islanders are too stubborn !" (I have read Independent People).

Best Hopes for Island,


What protects the vulnerable north from the Greenhouse lol


Go ahead folks - spend some time there. The http://www.sunnyjohn.com might be of interest as might be http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090902112750.htm - The new study found that plants fertilized with urine produced four times more tomatoes than nonfertilized plants and as much as plants given synthetic fertilizer. Urine plus wood ash produced almost as great a yield, with the added benefit of reducing the acidity of acid soils. "The results suggest that urine with or without wood ash can be used as a substitute for mineral fertilizer to increase the yields of tomato without posing any microbial or chemical risks," the report says.

It's probably from the urea content in urine. But I've also found that if I peed too much in the same spot in the yard it will kill the grass.

Yeah, a friend has this female dog that pee randomly around the lawn. You could always spot where she peed because the dead center would be burned-out dead but a ring around the center would be taller than the surrounding grass due to the fertilizer effect.

Do you think that might be a pesticide-free way to get rid of dandelions. Have a neighborhood pee-party.


LOL. You'd need to target it properly or else they will bloom because of the 'fertilizer effect'.

I'll assume that's part of the humor, and add this for good measure:

The dandelion plant is a beneficial weed, with a wide range of uses, and is even a good companion plant for gardening. Its taproot will bring up nutrients for shallower-rooting plants, and add minerals and nitrogen to soil. It is also known to attract pollinating insects and release ethylene gas which helps fruit to ripen...

...The specific name officinalis refers to its value as a medicinal herb, and is derived from the word opificina, later officina, meaning a workshop or pharmacy. The flowers are used to make dandelion wine, the greens are used in salads, the roots have been used to make a coffee-like drink and the plant was used by Native Americans as a food and medicine.

Dandelions are grown commercially on a small scale as a leaf vegetable. The leaves (called dandelion greens) can be eaten cooked or raw in various forms, such as in soup or salad. They are probably closest in character to mustard greens. Usually the young leaves and unopened buds are eaten raw in salads, while older leaves are cooked. Raw leaves have a slightly bitter taste. Dandelion salad is often accompanied with hard boiled eggs. The leaves are high in vitamin A, vitamin C and iron, carrying more iron and calcium than spinach.

Dandelion flowers can be used to make dandelion wine, for which there are many recipes. It has also been used in a saison ale called Pissenlit (literally "wet the bed" in French) made by Brasserie Fantôme in Belgium. Another recipe using the plant is dandelion flower jam. Ground roasted dandelion root can be used as a coffee substitute. In Silesia and also other parts of Poland and world, dandelion flowers are used to make a honey substitute syrup with added lemon (so-called May-honey). This "honey" is believed to have a medicinal value, in particular against liver problems.

Dandelion root is a registered drug in Canada, sold principally as a diuretic. A hepatoprotective effect of chemicals extracted from dandelion root has been reported, and the plant is known for its ability to treat jaundice, cholecystitis and cirrhosis. The dandelion also affects the digestive system by acting as a mild laxative, increasing appetite, and improving digestion.

The milky latex has been used as a mosquito repellent; the milk has also been used to treat warts, as a folk remedy.

Yellow or green dye colours can be obtained from the flowers but little colour can be obtained from the roots of the plant.
~ Wikipedia

I am "collecting" natural mosquito repelants. Did not know dandellions was among them. Gotta try this out some day.

Dandelion & Burdock.


Potassium and phosphorus, mainly potassium. Too much nitrogen makes for bushy, less productive maters. I've been using wood ash and urinating around my tomatoes and peppers for years (never directly on the plants or roots). It also helps keep the coons away. I've just come back from pruning my tomato plants, especially the indeterminates. Looking like a stellar year. The pickling cukes and other cucurbits are starting to come in as well. Started my second planting this morning.

I have a new gardening tool; a bug zapper that looks like a tennis racket. It's a cheap thing, made in China of course, but just flick the bugs off of the plants and push the button. POW! It makes de-bugging the garden a lot more fun.


Stuxnet malware is reportedly a contributing factor to the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

(Anyone have better links supporting this claim? The 'russian hackers attack water plant' turned out to be a bust.)

Can somebody explain as to why any computer control system has to be accessible remotely anyway?

Couldn't all remote monitoring be achieved by the use of an intermediate server which only allows information to flow in an outward direction?
These threats against major infrastructural systems seem to becoming more and more frequent. Just curious.

I've read that the gap between he web and the internal isolated network was bridged with wetware. The virus was carried in to the enrichment facility, and planted.


Stuxnet, a computer virus designed to attack servers isolated from the Internet, such as at power plants, has been confirmed on 63 personal computers in Japan since July, according to major security firm Symantec Corp.

The code made it into Japan based on a contemporaneous report. I wonder if anyone has pulled the PLCs from Fukushima and checked 'em yet - and will tell the world the truth as to what is found?

I can't speak for the entire industry, but our DCS system is isolated from the internet and from the business network. Production data from the DCS is routed out to the business network via a data historian, which is a one-way valve, or diode if you prefer. The data historian is also capable of being used as a supervisory control system; it could send control setpoints back to the DCS to optimize plant operations. However, this is forbidden by policy.

When we do want to do this we put the result on the data historian's screen, and then let the operator do the sanity check and input the setpoint change.

The various vendor's do keep pushing to bring everything on-line, and there are advantages in doing so. But at the moment the risks far outweigh the benefits for processes that involve anything flammable/hazardous, or even proprietary. If the Chinese want to learn our operating parameters, they will have to do it the old-fashined way, buying drinks for the operators at the local bars.

If the Chinese want to learn our operating parameters, they will have to do it the old-fashined way, buying drinks for the operators at the local bars.

Naw, there is the new way.


(or not)


(But look! still a backdoor!?!)

Can somebody explain as to why any computer control system has to be accessible remotely anyway?... Couldn't all remote monitoring be achieved by the use of an intermediate server which only allows information to flow in an outward direction?... Just curious.

They don't have to be accessible remotely, but having them not be connected to a network of some sort is at least inconvenient. If the service the equipment is providing has a 24/7 quick-response service guarantee, you need remote access or you have to put a person at every location. Or you can put in a separate network that has no public access -- back in the days of monopoly service, the telcos did that. It's expensive, but is much more secure.

In most cases, packets have to flow both ways: commands go in, data comes out. But yes, an intermediate device can be used to control access and increase security; somewhere here is a patent with my name on it for just such an arrangement. The original implementation I did used paired machines -- one inside the firewall and one outside -- that both implemented various security checks. I hesitate to call them servers; one of the basic concepts is to reduce the software running on those gatekeepers to an absolute minimum, so there are fewer ways to attack them.

As others have noted, almost any of these schemes are subject to attack by telling the right person, "I have $50K that I'll give to you for physical access, a password, and ten minutes with the machine."

"Can somebody explain as to why any computer control system has to be accessible remotely anyway?"

you need remote access or you have to put a person at every location.

Ahh hahh. We don't need to hire no stinking people :-)

Ah OK, thanks all for the info. As usual, bribery trumps technology every time. ;-)

Internet access to bulk power system protective relays is a classic example. NOT a good idea from a risk standpoint. Given the very small number of qualified personnel, however, it's VERY, VERY convenient.

I would have not mattered if Stuxnet was there. Once the wave took out the electrical power and cooling systems the only thing the operators could do was monitor the reactors and report what was happening. many valves couldn't be opened without power and the without pumps the valves wouldn't provide any cooling water anyway. Once the wave hit and did the damage the reactors were going to melt down. There was no way to fix all the problems they had in time.

Stuxnet was designed to infect very specialized computers designed to control equipment. Computers come onto the market about 2 decades after the reactors were built. Most of the equipment there was not controlled by computers unless an upgrade was done. Furthermore the code was so specific that it would have only affected 2 controllers on the market and, there are probably hundreds of different types out there. It also only affected variable speed motors which were not working anyway due to the loss of power. most motors in the plant were probably not the variable speed type.

I would have not mattered if Stuxnet was there.


Considering how one would like to believe of 'air gaps' and 'proper procedures' - stuxnet being in the PLCs would be an important revelation as the question would then need to be asked - given the importance of a PLC network to the operation of a fission plant - why was the PLC infected?

Claims get made about "learning" from Fukushima - if there was a PLC infection and its not discussed is "learning" therefore happening?

Stuxnet was designed to infect very specialized computers designed to control equipment.

They are called PLC's. And they are "so special" you can buy used ones on e-bay. They are considered a 'mass produced' item. They ain't all that "special".

Most of the equipment there was not controlled by computers unless an upgrade was done.

And you somehow have authority and knowledge to speak on their operations?

Furthermore the code was so specific that it would have only affected 2 controllers on the market and, there are probably hundreds of different types out there....most motors in the plant were probably not

How much actual knowledge are you claiming of the operation? You have many 'probables' that you are basing the 'it wouldn’t have mattered' position.

These days when I'm not riding my bike I'm driving a 1985 Honda Accord that's been in the family for a long time. It's smaller than my wife's 2000 Civic, has five-speed manual transmission, and gets great mileage. But it makes me wonder - the engine management is fairly primitive - carburetor and lots of vacuum tubes. Today's cars' claim to improved efficiency is sophisticated engine management with fuel injection and lots of electronics and sensors. Is there some fundamental limit to fuel-air mixing efficiency in carburetor vs. fuel injection? Does fuel injection just lend itself more readily to electronic control? I assume it can respond faster. If there was no fuel injection would we be using electronically controlled carburetors instead?

"If there was no fuel injection would we be using electronically controlled carburetors instead?"

Yes. Carburetors have an inevitable lag though, so fuel injectors really are better.

"the engine management is fairly primitive ... lots of vacuum tubes."

- wow, that's an old car. But I didn't know they made energy management computers back before transistors. :-)

I think he meant vacuum "hoses" not the older version of semi-conductor used in very early computers and pre 1965 TV's.

Yes, of course. Our Vermonter friend had his tongue in his cheek.

Right. The image that came to my mind, of a trunkful of vacuum tubes being not enough to mimic one modern microcontroller, was amusing. And it reminded me of the recent teardown of a Chevy Volt that found it had over 100 microcontrollers sprinkled throughout.

Yes, good catch, that should have been "hoses". Something didn't seem quite right in the way that read but I let it go. I have driven cars with vacuum tubes in their radios, however, the latest one of those having been a 1960 Plymouth Valiant. The radio would take about a half minute after turning on to warm up and operate, but what a rich, gorgeous, mellow sound... AM only so there was static though... BTW, appreciate all the feedback.

My mechanical fuel injection (circa 1982 Bosch for Mercedes Benz) and other engine controls have vacuum hoses, and primitive analog computing.


Alan, I think you've gotten me in trouble. I've found an '82 240D in great shape, only 218K miles, one owner, garaged, for $3200. I think I'm going to grab it if I can juggle some funding. It even has new Michelins :-)

My daughter's uncle-in-law fries pork rinds for various events and can give me 10-15 gallons of clean canolla oil per week, so I may go the Greasecar route. Anyone out there have experience running used SVO?

No, the sum total of my experience is having ridden in a greasecar a few times, but my brother-in-law and his brother developed and commercialized automated batch biodiesel processors and sold off their start-up a couple years ago. He doesn't have good things to say about SVO, but he loves his 240D's.

I've considered making biodiesel, but it's getting harder (and $$$) to get methanol. I've collected most of the other stuff I need; tanks, pumps, valves, etc.. It would be great, as our genny and tractor run great on B-100 (in warm weather).

Propane dealers or racing fuel distributors will have cheap pure methanol. Getting them to sell it to you at a reasonable price for a small quantity might be harder.

I would assume, although I'm not in the market, that current natural gas prices have had a salubrious effect on the cost of commercial methanol.

If you live where it is always warm, running a diesel on vegetable oil is much easier. The vegetable oil has three 16-carbon strands joined together. It easily sets-up into a thick gel in the cold. A lot of effort goes into heated oil fuel fluid lines. The tank-full will gel. Methods have evolved to melt a patch near the fuel-tank's exit. Making biodiesel from vegetable oil involves disconnecting the three 16-carbon strands from each other to make three separate 16-carbon strands.

A lot of money can be spent on a conversion... thousands of dollars. Much less can be spent if the weather is generally warm.

It is best to start the engine on diesel fuel. It is best to purge the engine with diesel fuel before shutting it off. The diesel and the vegetable fuel systems both recirculate to their respective tanks. Accommodating all of this requires two tanks and some valves. Not accommodating this lowers the cost of the conversion.

Air leaks are a downfall of vegetable oil conversions.

Mechanics who have never seen a conversion may do strange things. A friend of mine ran out of fuel while driving. He got the vehicle towed to a repair mechanic. The mechanic could not prime the complex system of filters, so, on his own, he re-routed all the fuel hoses to remove the conversion and then primed and started the car. It cost $250 to do. The mechanic guessed that the car must have been from an especially cold place because of all the unexplained heated filters and lines.

The fact that there is cooking debris and water in the used oil must be dealt with. The containers of oil might be left to settle and separate... perhaps in a solar-heated cabinet. There are small centrifuges which have been developed to remove the cooking debris and the water. It is a mess to deal with storing and filtering the oil. Any oil that gets on your clothes leaves a stain. A rubber apron is appropriate.

In Los Angeles California, if you are recycling, then you don't have to wear a seat-belt.

The cleanest oil comes from Japanese restaurants.

The exhaust smells like whatever was cooked in the oil.

It's a lot of fun.

You can drive for "free".

SVO - Straight Vegetable Oil
WVO - Waste Vegetable Oil



The early automotive fuel injection systems (the so called throttle body fuel injection systems) were effectively computer controlled carburetors. Newer vehicles tend to use fuel injection into the cylinder intake port or the cylinder itself. A big advantage of fuel injection is that it is possible to use information from sensors for parameters such as ambient temperature and exhaust oxygen content to adjust the air-fuel ratio to be optimal under all operating conditions. Carburetor equipped engines tended to suffer from several additional problems:
- they required a venturi and this introduced a pressure drop that reduced the maximum available power;
- the fuel distribution was often uneven with the result that the average air-fuel mixture had to be adjusted to the rich side for knock-free operation of the cylinder receiving the leanest mixture;
- many setups suffered from a noticeable throttle lag;
- stalling after being started at low temperatures.

My first two cars had carburetors and I have to say that fuel injection was a big improvement, particularly in Canadian winters.

Incidentally, fuel injection was first used in a large scale in the German WWII aircraft engines, though with completely analog operation. I've seen some drawings of these systems - they were certainly sophisticated for the time.

Dude, really, you're asking technological questions in this area? Up until the last year or two, ALL of the advances in automotive engine technology went into moving heavier -- and therefore safer -- objects at the same old financial cost. More mass means more safety.

Meanwhile, the automobile remains what it's aways been: An insane machine.

You repeat this theme often. But the automobile is what it is because we were able to do it. The market supported it. However, I think the market may not be able to support the auto as is for long and we do need to start scaling it back. Clearly we need more public transport first and foremost. But the automobile itself needs to scale back to something more modest.

Here are two big problems with trying to scale it back:
1) Regulatory - We have build a large amount of regulations specifying crash tests, damage prevention requirements, air bags, etc. that have bloated up the vehicles. How do you scale that back? What politician wants to be the one for less safety? It is like problem we currently have trying scale back all the crazy surveillance and TSA stuff created in the wake of 9/11. No politician wants to eliminate something because if they do and then a terrorist strike occurs they'll get blamed. If we scale back a safety rule and then someone will inevitably die, then someone will get blamed.

2) Pride, Ego, societal momentum, etc. - People don't like to scale back. People just don't want to trade in their SUV for a Prius. There are a lot of people out there who continue to make payments on some car they can barely afford and fill it up with gasoline they can barely afford just to "keep up with the Jones's".

"The market" for cars was created from above. It was always way more important to business than to users. It's capitalism on wheels, literally.

Meanwhile, I admit to repeating the theme. Do you have any evidence that it's wrong?

More mass means less safety for those hit by speeding Suburban Assault Vehicles

More mass means more safety for occupants of every automobile. It's one of the elements of the insanity of these machines.

More mass does not simply equal more safety.

In Austin, there was a minor, fender-bender level accident between a small foreign car and a Suburban. Or rather, it should have been a minor accident, but a child was killed -- in the Suburban.

The Suburban driver swerved to try to avoid the accident, over-steered, and rolled the Suburban. A child apparently was loose in the Suburban and was killed.

The little car was slightly damaged and left the scene; police were looking for it for failure to render aid.

Big mass + High center of gravity = easy to roll.

Is there some fundamental limit to fuel-air mixing efficiency in carburetor vs. fuel injection? Does fuel injection just lend itself more readily to electronic control?

Most carburetor car engines run without a feedback loop on the air-fuel mixture, as most do not have a O2 sensor in the exhaust.

Most modern fuel-injected cars utilize an "Oxygen sensor" in the exhaust, and strive to adjust the air-fuel mixture to keep it at a set point.

Because of the sensor/adjustment 'closed loop', in a very general sense: fuel injected cars will be better at fuel use.

...In my opinion it is the 'real' reason most cars are fuel injected, especially in areas where the cars are monitored and have to meet 'smog' limits (like California where I live).

In my opinion the rest of the 'sophistication talk' about fuel injection is marketing.

"Most carburetor car engines run without a feedback loop on the air-fuel mixture, as most do not have a O2 sensor in the exhaust."

My '82 AMC Eagle had an O2 sensor on its computer controlled carburetor. As did an '85 Nissan pickup. It was possible to do, but fuel injection just worked better.

Nova Scotia Joins Tidal Power Surge

Although much of the focus on tidal power has been on the eastern side of the Atlantic, the Canadian province of Nova Scotia looks set to give the old country a firm run for its money.

Most recently, in March 2012, 11 km of subsea cables needed to deliver power from the tidal projects at the Bay of Fundy's Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy (FORCE) had arrived. When connected, these cables will give the center a capacity of 64 MW, the largest transmission capacity for tidal power in the world, says Matt Lumley with FORCE.


Every day more than 100 billion tons of seawater flows into the Bay of Fundy - more than all the world's freshwater rivers combined. Early estimates suggest that the Minas Passage area of the bay may be able to usably provide a capacity of 300 MW, while the Bay of Fundy as a whole could provide up to 8,000 MW of installed capacity.

See: http://www.pennenergy.com/index/power/display/8530734381/articles/hydro-...

I suspect tidal energy will be a rather tough nut to crack, but who knows? Even 50 or 100 MW of tidal capacity, if that should prove technically and economically feasible, would be a welcome addition to the mix (total provincial demand as I type this: 1,023 MW).


Yeah, like geothermal, I think there are limited number of places where you can do it effectively. And also, it involves putting equipment into an extremely harsh environment . . . moving salt water that includes other stuff like seaweed. That equipment will need to be carefully maintained.

How are they able to combat sea life like seaweed, algae, barnacles, etc. from attaching to the blades, reducing efficiency and or eventually rendering it unusable? Do they combat this by pulling them up every so many years or send divers down to clean them? Even boat hulls in fresh water get a bunch of growth on them.

It's called biofouling. Some research has been done on, and patents filed for, using electrical fields to prevent biofouling of marine hulls and structures, especially to control invasive barnacles and mussels...

Pulsed electric field method and apparatus for preventing biofouling (PDF)

...also, pulsed acoustics:

New Electrical Control Methods To Prevent Power Plant Fouling (PDF)

...or Google "electrical control of biofouling".

Yup, Halifax, 'it will be a tough nut to crack' partially for the reasons Spec and Perk have mentioned. What is ongoing in the Bay of Fundy is less a 'pure' use of the tides but rather a modification of power from ocean currents harnessing reversing tides instead of a steady current flow.

A very elegant use of ocean power IMHO was back in ~1920 when a French Engineer living on a cliff's edge drilled a vertical shaft to meet a horizontal shaft below the water's level. The wave surge acted as a piston on the air in the vertical shaft to drive a reversing pneumatic generator at the surface. All the working parts were easily maintainable. Obviously site specific and small;-)

HereInHalifax, Good to see the progress being made.

Read Willy Ley's 1961 book Engineer's Dreams soon after
it was published:


There was a chapter on harnessing the tides of Bay of
Fundy. Another on what we now call the Chunnel.
Another on harnessing the Katabatic winds of Antarctica
(a little dated even then as it was published post IGY
and post adoption of the Antarctic Treaty.) Another on
capturing icebergs off Antarctica and towing them to
Los Angeles.

The Engineer's Dreams were impressive to me, as a ninth
grade student, who went on to get a BSEE '68, MSEE '72,
and have a 38 year engineering career (in electrical and
computer science rather than mechanical or civil).

Some thoughts on the GELM (Government Export Land Model)

I have suggested that flat to declining government revenue, combined with flat to increasing expenditures on what it costs various governments to keep the doors open, will result in an accelerating rate of decline in services to citizens. One problem of course is in defining "costs." Do we count teachers' salaries?

Perhaps it's better to simplify the cost number and just look at what governments spend, on an annual basis, on payments to current retirees and on contributions to pension funds. Of course, complicating the subject more would be the size of pension plan investments and the actual and projected performance numbers (with the projections generally being wildly unreasonable).

An item regarding Illinois:


How serious is it?

It's very serious. Illinois has more than $140 billion dollars in retirement-related debt.

It's crowding out money for education, medical care for the elderly and disabled, and social services. It's consuming more and more of our tax dollars. And it could ultimately leave hundreds of thousands of state workers without the pensions they are counting on.

A recent Reuters item on Illinois' continuing inability to address their vastly underfunded state pension plans:


From today's WSJ:

As Costs Soar, Taxpayers Target Pensions of Cops and Firefighters

Anxiety among U.S. voters over unemployment, lower housing values and investment losses have emboldened government leaders to roll back pensions of even the most popular government workers, says Tracy Gordon, a fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Some officials have also sought to restrict public-safety workers' contract-negotiating powers—in some places for the first time. In September, voters in Hollywood, Fla., approved large cuts in pensions for police, firefighters and other city workers. Farther north, Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee has proposed bills that would allow certain financially troubled cities to reduce disability pensions that firefighters and police officers can collect if they are injured on the job.

"I have been at this for 40 years and I have never seen an assault on our fundamental rights as I have seen in the last 14 months,'' says Harold Schaitberger, general president of the International Association of Fire Fighters.

...Taxpayers Target Pensions...

Maybe - absent a "growth pact" (as is being called for in Europe) that actually works - the days of working a mere 20 years and than retiring for 40 more on a nice inflation-indexed pension and cushy bennies at the tender age of 40 are coming to an end?

One problem of course is in defining "costs." Do we count teachers' salaries?

Those salaries are arguably well worth paying, but unless the Education Fairy is paying them, how can they possibly not be part of the cost of providing education? One thing I remember about growing up in New York was all the folks who argued that "the government" should pay for this, and pay for that, and pay for the other thing. "The government" was seen as a limitless self-contained magical fountain of wealth, a piñata to be beaten on whenever some unproductive nebbich felt like yammering for free goodies he or she could never in a million years have actually earned. These days, it's the same in Greece, Italy, etc. - and yes, the wider USA, and it doesn't seem to be working out well.

But underfunded pension plans is probably the single biggest problem facing state and local governments, and every dollar spent on current and future retirees is a dollar not spent on current services to citizens, like eduction and public safety.

In past years, many government entities increased retirement benefits, while not increasing, or in many cases actually decreasing, pension plan contributions.

Especially if we plug in a realistic assessment of future pension fund investment returns, we are looking at pension obligations steadily crowding out services to citizens.

While many state and local governments did bad things, many others had their knees cut out from under them by the Federal Reserve and other central banks. Most of the pension funds were solvent under the historical assumptions about investment returns: the US federal government would pay 5% on its bonds, well-managed corporations would pay 6-7%, higher risk companies would pay 8-9%. Stocks would return 10-11% including dividends over the long haul with the occasional big annual gain or loss. Pension funds needed about 7.5% return on their investments to be solvent.

Over the last twelve years, how much of the time have interest rates been that high? How many companies even bother with a dividend on their stock? The Fed and other central banks have kept interest rates artificially low, have allowed asset bubbles of various sorts to inflate and pop, etc. There are a lot of public pension funds -- not all, but a lot -- that would be in fine shape today if they had earned the traditional 7.5% on their long-term investments for the past decade. The Federal Reserve, Bank of Japan, et al, have made that impossible.

Of course, there's still long-term energy issues. I wrote a piece a couple of years ago that argued that pensions will still fail without ongoing supplies of energy to enable continued increases in productivity.

If in fact the sort of growth that would have allowed a continuation of the traditional rate of return ton continue? Maybe energy constraints were already kicking in, and the only way to keep the game going, was to keep interest rates very low, and blow bubbles. IMO they were doing the things they did in order to keep the game going on as long as possible. But, now its pretty much "times up".

The spin we will be fed, is "look those feckless governments, their spending is out of control", don't give them any more taxes, they'll just waste them. So today's spending was baked into the cake years ago, but the prevailing ideology is such that we will respond by starving them of funds. Then we will get the collapsing of services, as after pensions, and prisons, there won't be anything left.

...if they had earned the traditional 7.5% on their long-term investments...

IIRC the "traditional" assumption on the part of the college endowment fund that I used to know a little something about was about 3.2%. It wasn't 7.5%, which is at least on the edge of new-Greenspan-age bubble territory if not well inside it.

But the crooked pols wanted to promise endless rounds of something for nothing on the house, and they never, ever wanted to say "no" to any union demand, no matter how unreasonable. So they fudged the number to pretend they could pay lavish pensions without funding them. And then they sought near-zero interest rates in the name of "fairness" - that is, so that every two-bit no-account nebbich could "qualify" for a McMansion and would vote for them in return (and gee, look at all those construction "jobs".) Who would dare call time on a party like that? So here we sit.

Speaking of Alan Greenspan, did anyone read his comments before the Senate recently (2 or 3 days ago). He said there are two economies now: one producing things and running, but another one, which he characterized as buildings and structures is only running at half capacity, meaning that there are lots of empty buildings and offices.

Well, this is not only in the US, obviously.

Tainter said it over 20 years ago in his book The collapse of Complex Societies: the society compensates for lower energy availability by using a higher and higher percentage of its efforts just to get food.

So oil that would have gone into running some (discretionary) businesses and buildings is just going to basic things like food, more than in the past.

And then Tainter also said that the next time collapse happens, it will be global. No area will be strong enough to help any other out.

It seems like things are getting perilously close now, with Europe sinking, the US, China, etc. all going down.

It's not hard to imagine very weak economies, like frail old people in their late 90s, unable to muster up any ability to get out of bed to get more food (or oil.)

Frail, nearing 100, starving and weak, how much time would someone like that have left? And the other elderly in the beds nearby can only raise their heads weaklly and say "Sorry! I can't help you!"

They can see the food they need on the table nearby.....

We can see the oil "down there"......

We will just be too weak to get it.

Actually, knowing this, I have stopped caring much about it all.

People are not in control of their situation here in this massive cosmos. So no need to feel bad if it's not a good outcome.

While many state and local governments did bad things, many others had their knees cut out from under them by the Federal Reserve and other central banks.

Well it is not like the central banks cut interest rates just to screw with those pensions. The central banks slashed interest rates because growth stalled. It is an effect, not a cause. The cause of the pension problems is from growth stalling. And you can pick your reason for that depending on your ideology, economic philosophy, breadth of knowledge, etc. Of course around these parts, many (including me) would point to the loss of cheap oil as part of the problem.

It's more like the cause of the current pension problems is overpromising on benefits and believing unrealistic yield projections.
CALSTRS and CALPRS were still operating on an expected 8% yield as late as last year. Clearly someone was either asleep at the wheel or in the grip of politically motivated vote harvesting scheme.

"In past years, many government entities increased retirement benefits, while not increasing, or in many cases actually decreasing, pension plan contributions."

Exactly. Something for nothing, corrupt or bleeding-heart politicians giving every yammerer the moon, on the theory that the famous Louisianan "fellow behind the tree" will graciously pay for it all from thin air.

So now it's become a predicament, no longer a problem to be "solved". And as in Greece, bailouts are futile because crooked pols will just squander them on more of the same. Oh, yeah, $150k p.a. total compensation to shiftless unreliable perpetually-tardy Ralph Kramdens, including retirement after a mere 20 or 25 years, has proven unaffordable. Gee, who could possibly have seen that coming?

I suppose that one day the crooked pols will have to deep-six the lavish retirement plans, and probably administer a "haircut" to existing retirees, i.e. partially renege on existing unkeepable promises. After all, they'll eventually run out of other people's money, and eventually gets closer as time passes. Meanwhile, they could get a start by firing all the bureaucrats they've piled on over the last three or four decades, since we've had plenty of government for much longer than that. Heck, in New York City they could get a small start by not hiring those ridiculous new 16-oz-drinks police in the first place.

Not increasing pension plan contributions was based largely on the worthless promises of financiers that market returns obviated the need for such contributions (and for the taxes to support them, which were cut).

$150K is not close to typical: 36K + benefits is typical.

According to the BLS, in 2010 state and local governments spent $26.25 per hour per
employee in 2010, with 34% of total compensation represented by benefits.
The private sector spent $27.88 per hour, with 29.4% for benefits.

It's easier and more popular to blame everything on government and civil servants.

It's their fault. every single one of them. /sarc

Oh, the financiers' advice may have been worthless, but it certainly wasn't free. Nor was it uncompensated. We paid them to steal from us.

But, 8% or so, was typical of most financial planning of the age. And long term (say 100year) returns in the stock market did support those sorts of figures. The guidance contained a hidden assumption (of exponential growth BAU), but otherwise was quite conventional.

Private pension plans I was in operated under similar assumptions. But, in this case accrual of benefits is cut, and then cut again, as paying for past promises takes precedence. So you end up with generational robbery imbalances, whereby the younger workers pay into an underfunded retirement plan to make good on older workers retirements, whilst accruing pitifully small future benefits for themselves.

My comment on the financiers related mostly to the 2000's and the number of pension funds that got left holding the bag for creative structured investments.

On the decline of the private pension, our defined benefit plan was ended a few months after I went to work here (replaced by defined contribution). I feel badly for the folks who had 15 years invested but weren't eligible to be grandfathered under the terms the company gave.

I'm old enough to remember the 1980's & 90's when companies having a robust cash position in their pension plan just made them ripe for a hostile takeover - to get the cash.

The reality is that prudent planning by government and private sector savings entities was seen as a waste of capital when interest rates were high and leverage was considered the new normal.

Instead of funding retirement plans at a rate that would leave rainy day surplus in addition to meeting expected payouts in 10, 20 or 30 years all were converted to "just in time entities" using borrowed money. The money dedicated for the retirement fund was used as capital for something now with an IOU left in its place. The expectation was that the capital would generate enough return to pay back the IOU, with interest, while simultaneously reducing the need for tax receipts or reduced funding out of company profits so top salaries could be higher and you could grow the company.

Makes sense when you plug in 8% annual return, with no negative years. Never works over decades of time but it worked just long enough to destroy all the retirement savings that government and private companies had built up in the 50 & 60's but stopped building in the 70's and liquidated in the 80's & 90's. It also trained a whole generation of business people that this is the only way to pay for far off future expenses like retirement as well as capital improvement/replacement/repair.

There is a big difference between protecting principle with 1-3% return and expecting to pay off your debts by assuming 8-12% return on smaller amount of principle at higher risk. Great Depression people knew this. I fear Baby boomers and latter generations do not, yet.

I wish there was a way to highlight a comment, or vote it up. Because this one needs to be read and digested big time.

This is a big piece of the puzzle in the snake eating it's tail. Very important concept you've described.

But, 8% or so, was typical of most financial planning of the age. And long term (say 100year) returns in the stock market did support those sorts of figures. The guidance contained a hidden assumption (of exponential growth BAU), but otherwise was quite conventional.

The percentage increase in any of these pension schemes, or, for that matter, in any investment scheme, is simply and obviously dependent on the future rate of extraction of natural resources and the efficiency with which these resources are used. If these pension plans (and investment schemes) had been dialed back to expecting only 2% or 3% it would simply have meant a slower process of extracting resources. So, really, a 0% expectation of growth would have been the sensible pension plan. Not likely to fly in anyone's financial planning.

Per the census, In 2009 there were fewer civilian federal employees than in 1982 or 1987 or 1992. What we need is a few more employees and a lot less money going out the door to rip-off artists.
In 2009, 87.5% of total civilian government employees were state and local. 57.6% of state and local employees worked in education. The next largest segment was 10.0% who were police or corrections. Arguments about public sector pay and benefits are thus largely an argument that we need fewer public school teachers or state university professors and that teachers should be more poorly paid. This makes a lot of microeconomic sense to people who use private schools and private universities and are averse to paying their fair share.


"What we need is a few more employees and a lot less money going out the door to rip-off artists."

And how do we pay these additional employees with the feds only taking in 60 cents for each dollar expended? I agree that some US federal expenditures are a complete waste of money, like funding for NASA's "national aerospace plane" and having hundreds of military installations around the world. But the feds have to tighten their belt and that includes fewer military personnel (after exiting Afghanistan) and fewer federal workers. Few workers means fewer federal pensions to pay in the future.

Since they would be doing work now done on contract, and costing less, I don't see the problem.


I just glanced at the summary at the top of that but I can tell you - it is at least that bad. Of the 1.8 times the contractor gets paid, the actual employee doing the work only sees about 0.75 of that while the contracting agency walks away with the rest. The contract employee gets less benefits and zero job security out of it as well. There seems to be a large push towards having few government employees as "handlers" administering to the second-class citizenry of contractors which make up the majority of divisions. All you have to do is look at the headquarters of contracting agencies and those who staff them and realize that all those CEO's making millions of dollars, in multimillion dollar buildings...all taxpayer money that could have instead been spent on the greater public good.

There is an idea propagated by business interests and accepted by a surprising number of senior government managers (and even more politicians) that contracting out is a sure fire way to save money. This is rationalized on various grounds:

- the presumed benefits of competition between contractors (which is often more apparent than real);
- the idea that the contractor presonnel need only be paid when they are actually needed (usually not workable, particularly for technical work where an understanding is needed of what was done in preceding work);
- the idea that the pensions of public servants are an unaffordable long term burden (rather than looking at the overall cost).

In practice, contractors learn to be adept at gaming whatever system is in place and, needless to say the resulting costs relative to the outputs tend to be on the high side. There are possibly a few exceptions, but these tend to involve unskilled labor (for example in cleaning jobs) or special situations, such as R&D contracts to universities where much of the work is done by students.

Of course there are tangible benefits to contracting out policies. Among other things, the grateful beneficiaries may be favorably disposed to make well placed political contributions.

A lot of apples to oranges comparisons are made in the service of ideology. On average government employees are more highly educated than privatye ones. Correct for education and presumably job skills, and you find the government undercompensates. Had I constinued my education is seismology, I woulda been a government employee, as mapping and researching geological hazards isn't something the private economy would do. Ended up doing supercomputing, which is a field that never would have existed without government programs. Most of our customers were on various government contracts, for stuff like research -or support of military sites etc. So even though >80% of my working years I was classified as under private sector employment, the fact remains the finincial environment for those jobs was created by the government. Even in my current job, where probably 90% of our customers are industrial corps, the software got its start under government funding, and was "allowed" to be privatized. So much of our high-tech economy is this way. These government employees weren't nebchichs, but rather hard working scientists and engineers.

"Correct for education and presumably job skills, and you find the government undercompensates."

That used to be true. Private sector wages have been stuck for a decade, while government has has gotten modest wage increases along the way. They have caught up and even slightly passed the private sector in base pay. However, it's in benefits the public employees really make out. The private sector has never had retire at 55 with a pension as an option, while including medical care as well. And the defined benefit pension plan is dead in the private sector too.

I think this is conventional wisdom that cannot possibly become the sustainable situation after the coming financial collapse. I think there will come a time when financial people will have far less influence than they have now, when banks declare bankruptcy, and hedge fund managers are held for ransom. There are no jobs for the 99% in the private sector, and the 1% do not actually produce anything useful. Where will the food come from to feed the 1%? The government will become an enabler of both financial fraud and of marauding bands of thugs. How will shipments of goods get delivered to the 1% in gated communities? Where will the guards for the gated communities and their families live? Who will do maintenance on the surveillance and murder drones that keep the violent portions of the 99% at bay? It is a very unworkable vision of the future with 99% having no stake in keeping the system working.

I know my details are an unworkable vision, but far less unworkable than conventional wisdom.

The 1% are what they are because the 99% are willing service and supply slave providers. If the 1% keep pushing polcies via their R rep. that sqeeze the 99% into disenfranchisment in large enough numbers, then the backlash will be their gilded age will end quite quickly.

In a collapse scenario all fiat currency wealth will be wiped away and we will all become the 100%er's.

I hate to have to say this, but: wishful thinking. One word: Haiti. Or, going by Rockman's posts, two words: Equatorial Guinea. Now, maybe it's not as much fun being a 1%-er - by which most seem actually to mean 0.01%-er - in those places, but apparently it works well enough. And it worked in the dire poverty (overall) of ancient Rome, and it has worked in many other places and times. Of course it has never worked "forever", but then again, nothing in this wicked world has ever been, or will ever be, forever.

IOW I think anyone who's expecting purification, revolutionary or otherwise, in this respect, is in for a huge letdown. For all of recorded history, the J&J6P's of the day have relied on some sort of notional "1%" to run things for them. How could it ever be otherwise? After all, J&J6P, faced with the intellectually daunting task of dissipating a spare Monday evening, can't find anything to do but fall all over themselves to hand over more bucks to pharmacologically-remanufactured 0.01%-er ballplayers for a few minutes of entertainment-snippets tucked away inside a four-hour barrage of commercials.

Revolutions happen,and it's easier than ever now with the Internet allowing people to connect and set times and dates to get together. For example the Arab Spring.

Oh, they can and sometimes do throw a nasty tantrum, making plenty of noise and killing lots of people, as in, say, the French Revolution. But (as the expression goes) "nine times out of ten", once the dust clears and the bodies are buried, things wind up pretty much back as they were. Even when the elite is changed out to some extent, as in the French revolution, it usually gets changed out for more of roughly the same. (Look for the so-called Arab Spring to end up that way.)

This is almost inevitable. As Mencken said, "No one in this world so far as I know — and I have searched the records for years, and employed agents to help me—has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people." Those great masses, who haven't brains enough even to fritter away a spare Monday night on their own, or to get the noon bus underway when the big hand and the little hand are both on the twelve, simply aren't going to become self-governing in any meaningful sense anytime soon. Nor anytime ever. They'll forever be scrabbling full-time to find members of the 0.01% to entertain them. And to rule them.

I usually differ with PaulS, but here I'd say he has it completely correct. If we look at other times and places, the powerful are usually well positioned to stay on top. Occasionally you have the French (or Boshevik, or Chinese communist takeover, and the wealthier you were the worst off you end up. But, those cases are not very common.

Them as has, gets.

This line of discussion reminds me of a phrase that became viral during the Watergate hearings:

"Constant vigilance is the price of liberty"

I interpret that to mean that unless a very large portion of the society stays educated and involved in the running of the society the crooks will take over. America today appears to be just about totally focused on bread and circuses and the crooks are running rampant.

I think the phrase above has its origins in revolutionary America.

I only fairly recently realized why there was so much brutality in these revolutions; if you are totally replacing the elite, you have to be really, really, really thorough. Heck, France chopped off their heads and still had a restoration of the Bourbon royalty later. The old elites have a tendency to come back into power, even in extreme cases.

Taxpayers Target Pensions

Seems that pensions are mostly promises, and history cites many broken (reduced payout) pensions.

Hopefully those folks will offset their 'pension plan' risk and diversify their retirement by also having some of their money in 401k's, IRAs, and such, and not just the pension plan.

Hopefully those folks will offset their 'pension plan' risk and diversify their retirement by also having some of their money in 401k's, IRAs, and such, and not just the pension plan.

IRAs and 401Ks are worthless unless there are functioning courts and a functioning police power, AND someone with money who can be identified as being responsible for paying. When there is collapse of civil society all three of these preconditions tend to disappear. Perhaps the Mafia will take over and extract the money from the banks. I don't see a bank mailing out pension checks merely because some old piece of paper has some words written on it about a promise. And where would one go to cash the checks?

If the Mafia does take over and make the banks pay, then it would be fair to say that the Mafia had become the Government. This might bankrupt some banks. It might, I think, be better to have the Government that we already have, redirect its efforts away from foreclosures and towards keeping pension payments flowing to pensioners. And if we manage to get the current Government take over, it might be good to cut the banks out of process and just have the Government pay and add the amount paid to the national debt. We already know that the national debt will never be repaid, so why not bigger rather than smaller?

I don't advocate for the Mafia, or for the banks. I just think that talk about IRAs and 401Ks is conventional wisdom that has very little chance of actually surviving into a realizable future.

Dewatering play

Is anyone familiar with dewatering oil production?, apparently the process is very similar to the production of coal bed methane with extensive dewatering infrastructure needed before oil and gas is produced. I am familiar with one public company that uses dewatering in the Hunton formation in Oklahoma, the process appears to be economic.

I am curious however if any of the industry professionals on TOD are familiar with the process, how viable it is? & are there any other basins around the globe where such process could be applied?, so far I see it only being used in Oklahoma.



Deliquification is a big need worldwide, in all sort of wells, and done many different ways. If the liquid happens to be oil, then it's a profitable liquid, while if it's water, then it's a disposal cost.

CBM has a somewhat unique situation because there tends to be a lot of water, and until you pull enough water out else the formation pressure gradient won't be able to drive gas flow. I may be wrong, but I think Hunton is a lime play, with horizontal fraq wells, not CBM.

All shale wells I know of have some amount of liquids, and moreso of late since the goal is to produce oil instead of gas. Most or all have some water too. All have deliq options, at varying costs. Most are viable, up to the point at which cost to remove liquids exceeds value of hydrocarbons recovered. You could add sunk costs to the equation for a field, but except for CBM those are generally covered quickly in the well life, and deliq is increasing critical as wells age. Most young wells flowing fast (beyond critical rate) will carry liquids out with the gas, but as flow slows artificial means become necessary.

I plan to make my living for much of the next decade optimizing deliq of shale wells, making each of the available techniques more efficient (minimizing costs while maximizing production). Might hit a conference on deliq this week -- it's a big business right now.

Paleocon, thank you for the response.

The Hunton is indeed a lime play, however from what I read they don't use fracking, and as you indicated for CBM they need to produce the water first in order to allow for the gas to expand and thus for oil and NG to flow. Apparently those wells can produce water for 6 to 9 months before oil and gas production peaks, after which it plateaus for up to 18 months before going into a hyperbolic decline.


Nawar – The situation with the Hunton isn’t dewatering in the commonly used sense. Typically in a water drive reservoir as oil is produced the relative saturation of water in the reservoir rises. There’s always water in the pore spaces even when 100% oil is produced. The RELATIVE permeability of any fluid in a rock varies with its saturation. Often when water saturation of the pores is less than 20 -30% the relative permeability (how easily water flows) is zero. Once the water saturation increases enough it begins to flow out with the oil. Hence the “water cut” increases. There are fields I’m working with that are at 98% WC and are still economical to produce since I can dispose of the water cheaply enough.

To put it bluntly the Hunton appears to be ass backwards. It begins producing with a relatively high WC but decreases over time. So not so much dewatering as an increasing oil cut has gotten folks attention. You still have a lot of water to get rid of so disposal costs are still a critical factor. Additionally you still have to separate the oil and water which takes equipment, time and sometimes expansive chemicals. But recent high oil prices obviously are what pushing development. The current efforts are more engineering driven than geologic.

Rockman, thanks for the clarification. I think your characterization of "ass backwards" is quite apt for the Hunton :).


Nawar – Found a good reference: http://www.tucrs.utulsa.edu/Hunton/Reports/15125R31.pdf.

Essentially the water flows early from more permeable rock but it has a weak aquifer so pressure drops as the water drive isn’t recharged. As the pressure drops the NG dissolved in the oil tapped in the low perm rock comes out of solution and is produced. If the oil saturation is high enough it will also be produced. If not then they only have a NG well. This doesn’t sound as though it will ever be a major source of oil. Something better for small independents to work on where sweat equity has a sufficient ROR.

Very helpful, thanks Rockman.


For those interested in how the brain becomes self-aware, see this interesting TED Talk :-

Antonio Damasio: The quest to understand consciousness

I didn't know that self-awareness starts with parts if the "old brain" - the brain stem - in other words, it could exist in all vertebrates, if the cerebral cortex becomes large enough. As Mr Damasio explains, it anyway.

I was going to watch that as I am quite interested in the topic of consciousness.

While waiting for the video, I read:

Every morning we wake up and regain consciousness -- that is a marvelous fact -- but what exactly is it that we regain?

Regain ? Excuse me, that's misleading to the point of incorrectness.

So, from his bio:

Antonio Damasio is a leader in understanding the biological origin of consciousness

Meh. Another materialist.

Oh well interesting to see it even posted and remaining posted on the Drumbeat.

Material is all that there is.

Material is all that there is.

Psst, don't tell no one, but 70% of the universe is Dark Energy...and most of the rest is Dark Matter! Everything else that we consider to be material, the visible and touchable part of the universe, makes up less than a 1% bit of pollution in the vastness of the cosmos.


Well, the dark matter is material and the dark energy is energy. The point is no magic.

What would you say to someone who said to you that this is a psychiatric hospital, that you’re a patient here, and that I am your psychiatrist?

I would say that that is a rather limited and uncreative way of looking at the situation. Look, you want to know if I understand that this is a mental hospital.

Yes, I understand that. But then how can I say that you are Don Octavio, and I am a guest at your villa, correct? By seeing beyond what is visible to the eye. Now there are those, of course, who do not share my perceptions, it’s true.

Don Juan DeMarco -- author, Jeremy Leven

"There are only four questions of value in life, Don Octavio. What is sacred? Of what is the spirit made? What is worth living for, and what is worth dying for? The answer to each is the same: only love."

Is "love" chocolate-flavored, or vanilla?

What is the "spirit" ???

That you get to answer for yourself and your own life/family. The question I would ask is, 'does your spirit and your love matter in your life?' (And 'spirit' might just be 'your spirits', your attitude, sense of self, state of mind/heart..)

Maybe people can come up with satisfying clinical answers to those questions.. but still, what is it then that has just been 'satisfied' in you by it?

'A joke is like a frog. You can dissect either one to see how they work but they usually die in the process..'

In other words, sometimes, there's just no good reason to seek the material definition certain things. It all goes through psychology no matter how discrete or accurate the numbering and labelling was.. so we'd better understand our hearts and each other's- if we want to get anywhere with all this.

"'A joke is like a frog. You can dissect either one to see how they work but they usually die in the process..'"

LOL - I really like that one and understand your point (don't you hate it when someone interrupts a joke to correct the joker... ;). But consciousness is not a frog ;). Thinking about it reminds me of looking at "guts" - gross! But informative. - if we are to "trust our hearts"/guts, we might want to understand what is tweeking them.

Maybe it is not a "dying" that happens when you try to understand the physical processes that underlie consciousness. I think there is incredible beauty in that "material" definition. And a sort of "freedom" that comes with knowing that the better we understand how "self" works, the better we can control our selves. No more zen-tricksters maybe for phantom-limbs, or abusive relationship-loops. Who knows.

I hear you. I am definitely a 'how it works' kind of guy, and I love looking under the hood at the guts (if you will), to see how complex pieces work in a big system.. but that has, in turn made me that much more curious about observing where the ineffable, the unprovable, the symbolic and the 'meaningful nonsense' plays in our lives..

It's like candy for a complexity junkie!

"And hast thou slain the Jabberwock? Come to my arms, my beamish boy! O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!" He chortled in his joy.

Hey, maybe that jabberwock lives in the left hemisphere (my guess is the address has 10x18 digits, so just "left hemisphere" is a close enough).

Steve Jobs' last words - "Wow, Wow, Wow..." ???? After watching the following presentation, I now understand why.

Jill Bolte Taylor's stroke of insight


the experience she relates ~ 6 minutes in = Maybe the "physical" part of the brain acts as a substrate for focusing the "energy" part of "self." Just a thought.

"He who destroys something to find out how it works has left the path of Wisdom".

"He who destroys something to find out how it works has left the path of Wisdom".

Unless that person is a metallurgist. Destructive examination is very informative.

But he might grow up to be an Engineer!

Or a military planer.

'A joke is like a frog. You can dissect either one to see how they work but they usually die in the process..'


Now, that's the spirit! >;^)

For the sake of my own sanity I must assume you're a creationist, as surely no one could handle the amount of cognitive dissonance where one accepts the theory of evolution on the one hand, but does not accept that consciousness has biological origins on the other.

I am an evolutionist who used to be a creationist. I stilldon't "get" awareness. To me, that is one of the two big mysteries of the universe. (The other one is, how come anything exists at all). The reason I have problem with this is I don't understand how the brain can be aware. I understand how it can process data, and I understand how evolution can construct such a machine. But I don't understand where awareness comes from. I talked to a guy who hold a PhD in computer hardware science, and he said he did not think it would be possible to create a self aware computer. I agree. In short, I can't put a handle on consiousness.

So, I accept that evolution can create the brain that we have. How it can create awareness is beyond me. And for those of you who think I am trying to comunicate the point "and there we have evidence of God" I said no such thing, please don't read it into this rant.

I have not, but will, watched the TED link to see if he bring more light to the subject.

When it starts agitating me, is when I begin to ask 'are there beings who are aware, but are not 'aware that they're aware' ?' Does awareness have to be cyclical, and then again, is that cyclical awareness just some cruel joke, and we're sitting between a pair of facing mirrors thinking we have all this extra room down those big hallways..?

I have a similar agitation but for a different reason - I wonder, with all the potential for awareness we have, why is it that that so many seem to be sleepwalking ?

Consciousness is recognizing the entropic flow that gives rise to complex dissipative structures like humans and our brains. Everything we do is a manifestation of that directional flow of energy/time. It flows through us and around us on its journey. We are just temporary delicate bodies twisting in the entropic breeze. Below a certain temperature we freeze and above a certain temperature our molecules come apart or are so disordered as to render them ineffective at maintaining us. The flow could continue without making rare and complex structures like ourselves. Nature would be just as satisfied with dissipating the sun's energy to space without ever passing through the gears and gyres of life. I guess you never know what you've got until you lose it.

Awareness is only a prerequisite for greater consciousness. Unfortunately, the emotional/social structures of the brain often forego greater consciousness in favor of the satisfaction of lower impulses. Awareness is free; consciousness must be earned and is never complete. Unfortunately, most people never try to improve their consciousness and are satisfied with a mental milieu of superstition, entertainment and social grooming chit-chat. They live in a very dangerous technological world but have not themselves stepped out of their tribal past and employed their prefrontal cortices to acquire and stitch together a greater understanding of themselves and their surroundings. Putting humans with their selfish and emotional brains in charge of technology is like putting a ten year old behind the wheel of muscle car. Things probably aren't going to turn out so well.

When it starts agitating me, is when I begin to ask 'are there beings who are aware, but are not 'aware that they're aware' ?

My border collie meets that criterion.

Maybe the better question is "are there beings who think they're self-aware, but aren't?"

(I have no doubt that someday there will be a computer named Ray Kurzweil.)

Indeed, "awareness" is a slippery concept. What sort of awareness may be possessed by a 300-year old bowhead whale which can see in sound and has a brain many times the size of ours? There's probably no answer we'd really understand. Human awareness, such as it is, is certainly only possessed by humans. The definitions are slippery and arbitrary, even between humans.

The definitions are slippery and arbitrary, even between humans.

Be aware, especially slippery when wet: Highly intelligent, self aware, wetware in Cetaceans!


6688 The Scientific Evidence for Complex Intelligence and Self-Awareness in Cetaceans
Sunday, February 19, 2012: 3:00 PM
Room 220 (VCC West Building)
Lori Marino , Emory University, Atlanta, GA, United States
The scientific evidence for complex intelligence and self-awareness in cetaceans (dolphins, porpoises and whales) is abundant and robust. They possess large complex brains second in relative size to our own and have demonstrated prodigious cognitive abilities in such areas as language comprehension, abstract thinking, problem solving, self-recognition and meta-cognition. Many cetacean species rely upon complex social dynamics. Moreover, field studies over the past few years have revealed startling evidence for complex cultural traditions in many cetacean species, including orcas, sperm whales and humpback whales, to name a few.

(I have no doubt that someday there will be a computer named Ray Kurzweil.)

Perhaps, but will there ever be a computer with a sonar interface, named Moby Dick, who thinks Ray Kurzweil was, well, you know, a blowhard?!

"My border collie meets that criterion."

Border collies are surely the most intelligent dogs. My wife has had them her entire life (almost 60 years)... in my case, only half that (34 years).
My mother (now over 80) had one for many years. She developed an eye condition and her border collie would increasingly jump up and stare at her troublesome eye, obviously aware that something wasn't right, always eager to help if he could.

They are incredibly resourceful & determined dogs. We had sheep for 25 years and could not have managed without those collies... wonderful, tireless workers.

I watched the video and was not impressed. Yes, it was a very good video and I enjoyed it, but it didn't remotely begin to explain consciousness. The talk merely dealt with the mechanics of the brain. Of course one could say that is what consciousness is. Perhaps but that explains nothing.

But then I really did not expect it to explain consciousness. I doubt that it will ever be explained.

Ron P.

"it didn't remotely begin to explain consciousness."

I am pretty sure he did not remotely try to explain consciousness. In fact, as it says in the sidebar, his talk and his work are towards getting "A glimpse" into "how our brains create" a sense of self."

"A glimpse" into "how our brains create" a sense of self."

"A sense of self", and how it is created is consciousness. Nothing in the video gave any glimpse into how the brain does that. Explaining the parts of the brain and how they connect gives no glimpse into how the "sense of self" is created.

Ron P.

What if the "sense of self" is created by a series of trillions of highly ordered chemical and ionic gradients changing rapidly (change/time is required) ? If that is the case, what they are showing you are some of the circuits those chemical and ion pathways take. Disrupt those pathways and "self" becomes something entirely different than you currently see it as.

There is an empirical way to explain it:

Consciousness is nonphysical
The most fundamental aspect of consciousness is information
Information is nonphysical.
The most fundamental aspect of information is bits
The most fundamental representation of bits is binary: off and on, 1 and 0, yes and no.
Thus consciousness can most fundamentally be modeled by a system of digital potential that gains usable energy, organization, or content (information) by reducing its entropy.
A self-aware self-modifiable experiential consciousness system evolves toward states of lower entropy and de-evolves toward states of higher entropy*

*Excerpted from a much longer and more detailed explanation.

The most complete, logical and rational explanation I'm aware of to date is from a published theory of everything that starts with consciousness as one of it's two fundamental assumptions:

1. Consciousness exists
2. Evolution occurs

All else can be derived from that point.

An excerpt about the book:

My Big TOE written by a nuclear physicist in the language of contemporary Western culture, unifies science and philosophy, physics and metaphysics, mind and matter, purpose and meaning, the normal and the paranormal. The entirety of human experience (mind, body, and spirit) including both our objective and subjective worlds, are brought together under one seamless scientific understanding.

But the species who have not reached such development of consciousness allowing understanding of the model is numerically greater than those that do. For example, 'materialists'.

However, evolution continues; assuming we figure out the mundane and highly relevant issues to enable even momentary physical life that this board focuses on.

The most fundamental aspect of information is bits
The most fundamental representation of bits is binary: off and on, 1 and 0, yes and no.

And that's one of the fundamental problems with computing/programming as it exists today, real world systems do not have such neat boundaries. Just because we conveniently married transistor states and boolean algebra to produce a computer does not make it a universal machine for processing information. It actually makes it much harder for conventional computers to model a brain which is why things like Fuzzy logic were invented in the first place.

Certainly hard, but not impossible to model a brain as some such as those involved in the AI effort known as iCub exemplify.

I agree, in fact I would word it more strongly: binary is a system to store and transmit information, not information itself. It's a number system, and necessarily incomplete as any system must be. Base 10 another system, an alphabet is another system for storing and transmitting information. It is not the information itself. For example, we have the concept of "pi". This number is irrational, so the numeric value has to be approximated... But in words, we can express it with perfect accuracy - the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter.

The "wetware" is very complex, as anyone who has learned a bit knows. What I eat affects my thought, if I take LSD it affects my brain chemistry in a very complex way and I see reality differently. One system it affects is the serotonin system. Prozac is thought to affect this system as well, but the effects are radically different from LSD. Both of these affect other systems in the brain as well.

Binary is convenient, but it's not fundamental to anything other than computers and switches. The brain is not binary.

Without wetware (or possibly electronic ware, there is no such thing as information (oh no'es sounds like another -if a tree falls in the forest excercise). But information theory can boil information content (vlume of true nonredundant data), down to bits. Yes info in the brain is more fuzzy -various potentials, which are not quantized, and there is some stocsticity in the processing. So you are not guaranteed to get the same results even with identical inputs.

But information theory can boil information content (vlume of true nonredundant data), down to bits

Again, information theory says nothing about bits and bytes. A common misconception. Bits and bytes are just representations or to put it academically applications, it was widely adopted because of it's simplicity and easy representation using transistors. A Tri-State or Four-state device would have given rise to a different kind of paradigm. Information theory only deals with the entropy content in information.

'There are two kind of people, and I don't think I'm either one..'

I'm actually building a fun binary counter for the Children's Museum right now.. it's just basic counting of four bits, but apart from some LEDs that show the clock pulse, 4-bit count and 16 resulting integers, the output will be displayed by four Jacob's Ladders, with 1's and 0's on their faces, cascading down as the count progresses.

A little bit of math and electronics, a bit of mechanical doo-daddery, and a bit of visual fun!

( 555 > 74193 > 74154 .. classic 70's chips! )

Fun things!

Marble binary adder/counter:
Mechanical binary counter
Fluidics/Fluid Logic:
Wooden air engine:
Non-circular gears:

The parametron was invented by Dr. Goto. It is a parametrically pumped oscillator whose phase is determined by the whisper of song it was hearing at start-up. (Zero phase = 0, 180 phase = 1). A three-phase clock of bursts of 2X the oscillator frequency drive the typical parametron logic system. It is majority logic. 3-input majority logic with one input tied true makes an OR gate. A transformer or CCW winding makes an inverter. Whole computers and memories were made using parametrons.

Fun, Thanks!

(I'll have to show my Dad the Air Motor.. a thing of beauty.)

A karate chop to his corpus callosum would relieve his cognitive dissonance ;)

edit - also, please remember, the right hemisphere has a sense of humor ;) Do NOT always trust it! It is a zen trickster! LOL.

But then I really did not expect it to explain consciousness. I doubt that it will ever be explained.

Then you might prefer this TED talk by Dan Dennett


BTW the mechanics of the brain is absolutely essential for the emergence of consciousness and you can't begin to understand one without the other...

Wonderful talk, thank you. Very good sense of humor makes swallowing the medicine easier.

From the side-bar;

"but that half the time our brains are actively fooling us." = zen trickster

I now know what part of the brain you need to switch of, to kill conciousness. Thanks for that info TED. I still have no clue as to where it comes from, what it is, or how it is possible.

I think we are just too mystified by the concept of awareness. Being conscious is merely the subjective experience of having a brain. The brain is amazing. But it is merely an interconnected set of neurons programmed via experience to world around us.

Although the compsci guy you talked to didn't think it would be possible to create a self aware computer, I would say he is in the minority. I don't think we will have the ability any time soon. I don't think it will happen in my lifetime like the singularity folks do. But I think it will eventually happen. It is merely a matter of having enough computing power and creating a self-programming system. After all . . . brains do it all the time.

Self programing already exists.

Will we ever see a computer that passes the Turing-test? I believe if the question "are you aware" is forbiden to ask, we will eventually. But if that question can be asked and given an answear, we must first make a computer that actually is aware.

Will that happen? Most defintely not. We will have run out of oil long before we have advanced our computers to that level. (If we had sufficient time, we would eventually get there, I am convinced). We do not have enough time.

We could make a machine answers "are you aware?" in the affirmative but that is not actually self-aware, or terribly aware at all. To pass the Turing test the machine will have to be able to err and dissemble, else for sure it would not be mistaken for a human.

I do think that to pass the Turing Test means a machine would be capable of consciousness, but the converse need not be the case.

Much discussed in the videos can be said about a dog -- they sleep and awake with a knowledge of their past and at least some notion of future. Certainly they have a clear notion of body and self, as does any higher animal. They have basic emotions and such as well.

Some chimps can plan ahead and weigh alternatives. While people are the only ones we can tell have any notion of abstract math and formal logic, it is unclear whether this difference is fundamental or merely a difference of scale.

One could argue that a thermostat has 'awareness' of temperature, and has the ability to make a simple decision and take action. It is "conscious"? I think not. Still, it may be the case that if you hook enough interactive circuits together, with decision trees, future estimate loops, history correlation and feedback loops, and some filter that generates a sense of fluid but detailed "now" and a false sense of surety and precision, you'd have something that passes for consciousness? What if consciousness is more of a sensation than an emergent phenomena?

Interesting topic, for sure.

'Descartes thinks he thinks, therefore he thinks he is..' (some critic)

"I'm pink, therefore I'm spam."

"Regain ? Excuse me, that's misleading to the point of incorrectness."

Hmmm. Please enlighten. Please explain what is "incorrect" and what is "correct."

Check out The Emperor's New Mind. It presents a different take on Human consciousness, fascinating. Human consciousness may never be simulated on a computer.

Wonderful video- thank you.

Here is one for the non-materialist (spiritualist ???)

And you believe Heaven and Hell exist? Two Minds - One Body

Only 3 minutes to the punchline.

I tend toward Fritjof Capra's view that consciousness is equivalent to life (Santiago Theory of Cognition). Certainly simple and straightforward.

Sensory input leads to cerebral environmental mapping and sensing, including the extent and potential of one’s own body. Very little consciousness is needed to move towards rewarding stimuli or be repulsed from painful stimuli. It is almost spontaneous, as when you reach into the potato chip bag with hardly a thought.

Moving from automatic behavior to deliberate behavior, as humans have partially done with the evolution of the prefrontal cortex, the image (site, sound, hearing, touch, taste) of oneself within an analog world within the brain becomes a predominant activity. We see images of ourselves and others moving about in our remembered model of the world.

Planning in the prefrontal cortex is an additional layer of evolved complexity which facilitates finding circuitous routes to the rewards the lower brain requires. The limbic brain still rules, but self-image within the brain goes through complex behavior planning, including technological planning to achieve satisfaction of the lower desires. The same desires a dog or a rat may have. Desires such as being high in the dominance hierarchy or simply having the money to buy lots of feel good stuff and avoid the potential pain of life.The prefrontal cortex is mostly evolved, not for greater wisdom, but to enable the planning and implementation of complex behaviors that will satisfy our base desires. It takes a well developed analog world with chemistry, engineering and so forth to create the tools to crack open the fossil fuel coconut. All of those foldings of the recently enlarged prefrontal cortices give us room to learn and build and plan and become conscious of our own actions and ourselves. However, there is much about ourselves that we cannot sense or model in our minds. Our cybernetics is incomplete, especially our ability to control damaging behavior brought forth by our technological inventiveness.

How many of you look in the mirror in the morning and see only the human visage your eyes perceive? How many see the muscles, nerves and organs beneath the facade? How many see the cells processing their information to keep a system alive? Is it an accident that your brain's greatest concern is your superficial appearance and how you will be evaluated by other humans? The lower brain is concerned with hierarchy, the prefrontal cortex is deciding how many hairs must be trimmed and how much make-up must be applied to cover defects. That the prefrontal cortex is basically a tool for the limbic system is not surprising and helps explain why we are hopelessly addicted to consuming the planet.

Love that conservative take on CC. Libertarians "seem to" care about property dynamics in only one direction? Yes, and things "seem to" fall toward the Earth when you drop them.

Love the spectacle of an article on how the use of private property can solve CC, with nothing but new governmental endeavors as proposed remedies.


When 70% of the cash stream goes to private firms that actually do nothing about Carbon - no wonder the 'rah rah private sector' crowd speaks up.

It is funny to read. It is someone trying to directly address their cognitive dissonance but merely creating more artful rationalizations.

For example:

Even if some parts of the world were to benefit from a modest temperature increase -- due to, say, a lengthened growing season -- others will almost certainly lose.

Does that make any sense? Isn't the growing season much more dictated by the amount of time that the sun shines (that is not affected by climate change) than the temperature.

Well, I'm not a farmer, but I'd imagine that plants simply not succumbing to frost could prolong the growing season. It would also mean being able to grow crops not ordinarily grown in the area much better.

Yeah, I can understand having frost later can help in some instances but I don't think that is what defines the growing season nearly as much as the amount of sunlight.

In the UK you want to plant after the last frost, before the rain of April for a lot of items. It's more a matter of getting in between the weather than worrying about the amount of light.

A smaller lettuce from less sunny days isn't going to crush your hopes quite like a late frost.

Depends on the crop. It's called Photoperiodism. Some things are sensitive, some are not. Some need a short day (long night), some need a long day (short night) in order to flower.

Crops which need a long day include :-

Peas, oats, barley, lettuce, wheat.

One has to coordinate that with temperature, so a higher temperature earlier in the season, when the days are too short, would not be good for a long-day crop that likes cooler weather.

EDIT : another factor to consider is that the wacky extremes we are seeing also affect plant flowering - e.g. Blossom Drop of Tomato

"Excessive temperatures (low or high) will produce blossom drop by intefering with the pollination or fertilization process. Generally, day temperatures above 90F or night temperatures greater than 70-75F will interfer with fruit set resulting in the loss of flowers. Research has indicated that higher night temperatures have more of an influence."

Warmth matters for okra. Okra needs a rather long hot season to mature. Lettuce and broc do well with a long cool season in spring. So no, it is not just the sunshine. In Pa. (in the 70s), just about the time my okra blossoms would fall and I was starting to get the first nubbins of edible seed pods, the summer would begin to cool and the growth was stunted. Instead of harvesting a "mess of okra," every couple of days, I got only a handful. I quit trying after 3 years. The warmth matters both for seed germination and for plant and fruit/veggie growth. How much depends on the plant. And it could be that by now there is an okra variety that doesn't take so long to mature, too.

This year even the lightning bugs have been affected by the early onset of warmth. Those who light simultaneously (up around Gatlinburg somewhere) are doin' it early this year. There are actually people who plan their vacations around the simultaneous lightning bugs. Sad.


I've been lucky enough to witness this display more than once, before it became so well known (and rediculously crowded). Usually on the first hot day of June after an afternoon thunder shower, just after nightfall, it starts out like most summer nights with a few lightning bugs flashing (pronounced laghtnin' buhhgs around here), then increasing to an astounding number of syncronized flashes. Imagine thousands millions of tiny camera flashes all in sync every second or two. Occasionally they get slightly out of sync creating a wave effect. The only natural life phenomenon I've seen that compares is a coral reef biolumenescent mass spawning event.

While some claim that this is unique to the Smokey Mountains, we've seen this at our place more than once, though not quite on the scale of the Elkmont event near Gatlinburg, about 40 miles north of us. I've also witnessed this in a meadow near Clingman's Dome, south of Elkmont. It's like a huge gathering of fairies.

Synchronized Firefly Behavior Report: May 29, 2012

Photinus carolinus

Maybe it IS a huge gathering of Faeries. They do know that in the presence of humans they must disguise themselves as buhhgs.

As your post illustrates, getting the right crop for the local climate is the key. Your Okra was a poor choice -given the weather you got. Now with climate change leading to climate chaos, the odds of making a correct call have gone down markedly.

Having spent about half my life in the east or midwest, I do miss those lightening bugs. My kids don't even know what they are. We used to try to catch enough of them that we would put them in a jar to use as a light source.

Ah, now that explains why I didn't do well with okra in the UK. Down here I can't find any seeds though it should do well. The rainy season seems to be starting a couple of weeks early this year so I've no idea when we will get the lightning bugs confusing the fur heads.


Re: U.S. Navy’s Pacific Presence to Expand, Panetta Says

Possibly this represents a reassessment of relying upon the Suez Canal as a way to move ships from Europe or North America to the Persian Gulf. Currently, carriers based on the US east coast use the Suez Canal out and back.

With the Suez no longer in reliably friendly hands, moving more assets to Southeast Asia makes logistic sense. Carriers based on the west coast sail to the Persian Gulf via Singapore already. Southeast Asia is a lot closer to the Persian Gulf than is Europe via South Africa.

With South China Sea having tens of billions of barrels potential oil reserves, the countries of Vietnam and Philippines will be competing with China to produce this energy. Already China has been actively hindering exploration efforts of oil Cos. contracted by Vietnam to survey the South China Sea. The US regards Vietnam its ally and China its adversary in this matter.

Thus the issue is protecting potential energy sources, not logistics of moving ships to/from the Mid East.

There must be some strategists in the Pentagon wishing they had access to Subic Bay back about now. Apra harbor in Guam was not that big.

Guam is the most strategic island in the Western Pacific, but as a former resident and fisherman, Apra is not large enough.

The only things expanding in this bloated corpse of an Empire are obfuscations, lies, and debt backed by nothing more than digital funny money and the blood and sweat of our unborn grandchildren.

It's worked pretty well for most so far, at least that's the idea :-/

...and the population.

Clinton highlights importance of oil-rich Arctic
Clinton talks cooperation in resource-rich Arctic

The Navy Admiral who converted from global warming skeptic to true believer predicts a port like Singapore in Greenland as traffic through the North West Passage increases.

Anyone thought about the dangers methane-hydrates pose to drilling and shipping there?


Apparently, with the warming of the arctic regions, more plumes of methane (CH4) are being released. Does anyone know how much CH4 needs to be released continuously in a given area for sea-going vessels to lose bouyancy. There are many legends, yet to be proven, that massive methane release have caused the loss of many ships in the Bermuda Triangle. Is this a real threat to shipping in the arctic ocean??

FYI, temperatures in Thule, Greenland reached 55 degrees (F) today. I spent nearly a year in Thule back in the mid-70s. 55 degrees this early is unseasonably warm.

Holy $^&%*! I was there in the mid 80s. Remember snow grains falling from the sky in June.

On Tuesday of this week, Sondre Stormfjord, in southeastern Greenland, reached 76.6 degrees (F). This was within a few tenths of a degree of the highest temperature ever recording in Greenland in any month.

I wish my memory could tell me when Greenland held the annual Greenlandic dog-sled races in 1975. Probably in early may. I had the opportunity to meet an Inuit (formerly Eskimo) family and ride on their dog-sled from the native village to the site of the races. The race was held on the frozen bay between Thule and Dundas Island. In additon to 100s of spectators and dozens of dog-sleds, the US Air Force had track vehicles and trailers on the bay to provide sound amplification and a platform for the award ceremony. Something tells me that is an event that is no longer being held once the sun rises in Thule. Sadly, the only photographic memories I have of that day are the pictures I sent to my grandmother.

Times.....they are a changin'

And yet, they can't wait to get in there, pull out more oil & gas and burn it up.
Has Hillary Clinton ever heard of Al Gore do you think? That guy really knows how to set an example when it comes to moderating one's carbon footprint.

They are having an extraordinary heatwave. One site was only a degree off the highest temo ever recorded on the island (and its not even summer yet).
I really doubt there would be that sort of methane blowouts. The hydrates are under a lot of water, which should warm only slowly -especially slow is heat diffusion through the sediment to the buries hydrates. An unwelcome climate feedback. But not likely one big enough to overwhelm the climate system.

enemy of state,

You indicated:

The hydrates are under a lot of water, which should warm only slowly -especially slow is heat diffusion through the sediment to the buries hydrates. An unwelcome climate feedback. But not likely one big enough to overwhelm the climate system.

Recent observations noticed:

Dramatic and unprecedented plumes of methane - a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide - have been seen bubbling to the surface of the Arctic Ocean by scientists undertaking an extensive survey of the region. The scale and volume of the methane release has astonished the head of the Russian research team who has been surveying the seabed of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf off northern Russia for nearly 20 years. In an exclusive interview with The Independent, Igor Semiletov of the International Arctic Research Centre at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, who led the 8th joint US-Russia cruise of the East Siberian Arctic seas, said that he has never before witnessed the scale and force of the methane being released from beneath the Arctic seabed.


The researchers found significant amounts of methane being released from the ocean into the atmosphere through cracks in the melting sea ice. They said the quantities could be large enough to affect the global climate. Previous observations have pointed to large methane plumes being released from the seabed in the relatively shallow sea off the northern coast of Siberia but the latest findings were made far away from land in the deep, open ocean where the surface is usually capped by ice ... Eric Kort of Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said that he and his colleagues were surprised to see methane levels rise so dramatically each time their research aircraft flew over cracks in the sea ice ... "When we flew over completely solid sea ice, we didn't see anything in terms of methane. But when we flew over areas were the sea ice had melted, or where there were cracks in the ice, we saw the methane levels increase," Dr Kort said. "We were surprised to see these enhanced methane levels at these high latitudes. Our observations really point to the ocean surface as the source, which was not what we had expected," he said ... "Other scientists had seen high concentrations of methane in the sea surface but nobody had expected to see it being released into the atmosphere in this way," he added.

(New Climate Catastrophe Policy). Since these various scientific teams were aghast at the unprecedented methane release, it is not likely that studies of the dangers have been conducted.

But there may have been some.

Still looking.


Methane hydrates in the Gulf of Mexico are known to be a hazard to drilling according to various government / oil industry studies done there. Deepwater Horizon and other abandoned platforms speak to that.

I am wondering if studies have also been done in the Arctic concerning methane hydrate dangers there.

(BTW, more ships have gone down at Seymour Narrows, British Columbia than the so called Bermuda Triangle.)

My daughter was invited to a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese (CC) party, the family all attended. If you haven't been, CC is a pizza parlor with a floor of token-robbing flashing light gizmos for kids to run around and plug. It is practically a training ground for young gamblers. A token (each costs a quarter, but the cost for each drops several cents in larger quantities) is plunked into the machine - some lights blink and whir - and x number of "tickets" spit out which a sufficient number of can be converted to prizes ranging from little plastic things like whistles for 20 tickets in the shape of the Chuck E. Cheese mascot, a huge rat, worth about 1/10 cent each on up to more legitimate and valuable prizes that cost thousands of tickets, representing a markup of perhaps 500%. To CC's credit, there are a few games of skill, one involves rolling a ball up a slope causing it to hop into holes, that one allows one to earn 150 tickets per token for a virtually impossible to obtain perfect score, but most kids muster about 3 to 8 tickets for each token spent.

The kids think it's fun, though, to get tickets. My daughter found the best ticket generator - one puts a token onto a chute that rolls the token onto a spinning disk causing it to shoot it into one of many possible destinations - some result in more tickets than others - in this attraction, the token is spent in less than 2 seconds. She'd spent all her tokens by the time I found out about it.

I figured that for the money it costs to keep the kids running around preparing for a future on the Indian reservation, I could take them over to Home Depot, and buy them something useful like a screwdriver or spade ... the point I've learned is the Chuck E. Cheese franchise is genius, another way to indoctrinate the young to a lifetime of acquiring cheap chinese-made doodads for a huge mark-up further lining the pockets of the present and future CEOs. Ever thought of what the chinese workers sorting all those plastic pumpkins and santa clauses think of as they shuffle by on the conveyer-belt? Are they jealous, or do they mock us?

To top it off, the Pizza sucked. I've had better from the grocery store's bargain brand frozen - a good Tony's pizza is a slam dunk.

I liked it more when it was just normal videogames and pizza. The whole gambling aspect is quite off-putting.

Nicole Foss on centralized government

One thing I would say about the prospects for government action. Governments are crowds. They are reactive not proactive. And essentially it means that whatever they do, they're... extrapolating past trends forward and not anticipating trend changes.So that's like driving your car, flooring it, while looking only looking in the rear view mirror. It's practically a guarantee of a really nasty accident. Plus the people who are in power tend to have the most invested in the status-quo. They tend to have benefitted greatly from that. These are not the people you are going to look to to change that kind of system. I more or less ignore them and I pay attention to municipal politics and things at lower levels, but I don't expect anything good from the top down...

Learsy's latest (not for those who easily become nauseous):

$33 Barrel Oil Now and Forever -- With Leadership!

Consider the following: new drilling techniques have located vast new reservoirs of what is designated as "shale natural gas" making us fully gas independent . . .

And yet, largely unbeknownst and certainly barely heralded by the press, nor our deeply somnolent Department of Energy is the realization that our riches in "shale oil" surpass by far those of our newfound bounty of "shale gas." Even without a federal government program of support, our shale oil deposits are already being accessed through the oil industry's initiative in such locales as North Dakota with its rapidly growing oil production and its resulting and startling economic boom.

Some three weeks ago, on May 10, staggeringly eye-opening testimony was delivered by Annu K. Mittal the GAO's director of natural resource and environment to the House Science Subcommittee on Energy and Environment:

"The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) estimates that the Green River Formation contains about 3 trillion barrels of oil. And about half of this may be recoverable, depending on available technology and economic conditions. The Rand Corporation, a nonprofit research organization, estimates 30 to 60 percent of the oil shale in the Green River Formation can be recovered. At the mid of this estimate almost half of the 3 trillion barrels would be recoverable. This is an amount about equal to the entire world's proven oil reserves."

"The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) estimates that the Green River Formation contains about 3 trillion barrels of oil.

So what is the truth: The Green River Formation contains no oil, just kerogen? Or is there some conventional oil in a few traps in this area?


Learsy falsely claims that the US is no longer a net natural gas importer, and then he falsely equates the thermally mature shale oil deposits in the Bakken to the thermally immature kerogen deposits in the Green River Formation.

Every time I see "Green River Formation", I get a bit sick. Especially when they talk about "shale oil", there ain't no oil there. Shale to liquids is not going to work for $33 a barrel, that's for sure. Almost every time someone brings up the Green River Formation in the context of oil they are either lying or ignorant, present company excepted.

That's just sad. When people say thing that ignorant they should be shunned from public square.

"The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) estimates that the Green River Formation contains about 3 trillion barrels of oil. And about half of this may be recoverable, depending on available technology and economic conditions. "

Huh? If half is the median maximum entropy uncertainty on a uniform measure from 0 to 1 then these are equally plausible outcomes:

-- All of it may be recoverable, depending on available technology and economic conditions.
-- None of it may be recoverable, depending on available technology and economic conditions.

LETTER OF THE DAY - Shun total reliance on LNG

I do not profess to have expert knowledge on the subject of power generation, but many an engineering fault has been discovered by the user or consumer of otherwise well-engineered products.

There is no doubt that LNG has a lot to recommend it such as cost, environmental benefits, etc., but there are still some lingering concerns. Some of these are:

Availability of supply: Right now, there seem to be questions about the reliability of supply. We seem to be banking a lot on Trinidad, thus putting too many eggs in the same basket. Other possible suppliers are located in areas which could be politically unstable and located far from Jamaica.

Cost: LNG is cheap now, but as demand rises, the price is likely to rise as well. The earthquake and tsunami in Japan could cause a shift from nuclear to other fuels not only in that country, but in others, and Japan, which now has a shortage of power, could well use LNG as replacement. That alone could trigger heavy demand, increasing the cost. Remember, oil was once cheap, but increasing demand and political instability in producing countries resulted in oil becoming expensive.

This "letter of the day" was from the local rag's Friday edition and I submitted a comment trying to highlight that the fuel is NG and that LNG is just a means achieving higher density to facilitate marine transport. I also added that cheap NG refers to NG delivered by pipeline from the Henry hub in the US and that LNG will have processing and shipping cost added.

I have been banging my head over this all weekend. I think it is somewhat fortuitous that one of the fastest growing areas of NG production in the Americas happens to be th e one of the closest points to the south coast of Jamaica. It also happens that in light of increasing production, Colombia appears to be eager to find new markets for it's NG.

Does anyone else think that Jamaica should seek to take advantage of these circumstances and get a move on with it's JAMAICA NATURAL GAS PROJECT(pdf) post haste? The island could make the transition from using oil for electricity generation to using dual fuel (gas/oil) plants. Is it feasible to use both CNG and LNG as methods fro getting the NG to the island or would they cannibalize the prospects of one another? Is the idea of a 520+ mile undersea NG pipeline between the south coast of Jamaica and the north coast of Colombia just totally crazy? (I know it probably depends on long term contracts, volumes pricing etc.) If Venezuela ever gets their act together (Chavez croaks) and they manage to increase production to the point of reversing the flow in the pipeline between Colombia and Venezuela,Jamaica could be guaranteed a reliable supply of NG for decades. Any thoughts?

Alan from the islands

Alan – I don’t think I can offer specific answers but perhaps some of my questions will get you heading in the right direction. Most important, who is going to pay for the LNG import infrastructure? I can understand some reservation if it will be the govt but if its private businesses then it’s their risk assessment that’s import. I get the impression that the primary goal of NG import is power generation/industrial uses and not residential. That should make it an easier puzzle from a contract standpoint. And, as far as long term dependence upon LNG, are your folks going to feel more secure depending on oil than LNG? If they accept PO I wouldn’t think so.

Subsea pipeline cost: a very, very rough guess: $2 - $5 billion. And the economic viability would depend not only on the transport fee but the volume throughput. Even if the rate is very high it won’t be an economical investment if the volume is not high enough and guaranteed.

Hmmm... Now, how can I make the situation a little more murky? Let's try this for starters:
Promigas says it's committed to LNG project

Exmar apart, the other consortium partner is the Jamaican outfit, Caribbean LNG, headed by Ian Moore, the former chairman of the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica, which initially develop the project.

Geared to convert Jamaica's energy reliance from oil to the natural gas, the project calls for the establishment liquefied natural gas terminal, a regasifcation facility and pipelines to transport the gas from the plant to end users.

But the project has been mired in controversy over whether Moore, when he was chairman of the PCJ, had inside knowledge that informed the Exmar bid and whether other potential bidders were fairly treated. These issues are being investigated by the Office of the Contractor General.

The project has been further clouded by the absence of an open, data-driven economic debate on efficacy of natural gas versus other fuels as well as a consultants' review that apparently showed that large segments of the scheme were poorly conceptualised.

The Office of the Contractor General's 609 page report is available as a pdf in Part 1 (400 pages) and Part 2 (209 pages). The relevant section of the report starting from page 463 (63 of Part 2) reads:

Evidence of Impropriety and Irregularity

Questions of impropriety and irregularity arose with respect to certain activities which were undertaken by certain key persons with regard to the ‘FSRU LNG Project’.

Based upon the information which has been provided to the OCG, the OCG found that there were significant collaborative efforts between Mr. Stephen Wedderburn and Mr. Ian Moore during his tenure as Chairman of the PCJ Board of Directors. In this regard, the OCG found several pieces of correspondence from which it can be inferred that both Mr. Wedderburn and Mr. Ian Moore were actively pursuing LNG as an energy option and, in so doing, attempted to divert from the GOJ policy agenda of the then Minister.

Further, the OCG found that prior to the bidding process in 2009 November, Mr. Stephen Wedderburn and Mr. Ian Moore, in their attempts to divert from the policy agenda towards LNG shared more information with Exmar Marine NV, than any of the other nine (9) potential bidders.

In point of fact, in one correspondence the OCG found that Exmar Marine NV was identified by Mr. Stephen Wedderburn as his first choice based upon his assessment prior to the commencement of the tender process in 2009 November.

edit: PCJ stands for Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica, the state agency formed in the seventies period of price controls and state involvement in the economy. It owns and operates the only oil refinery on the island as well as the first wind farm and is charged with undertaking the development and promotion of Jamaica's energy resources.

As a citizen and resident of the island who knows one of the parties (he was a year behind me in college), I withhold my comments but, everyone else can make of it what you will.

Alan from the islands

Alan - Sounds like your situation is very similar to what I saw in my youth happening with such matters in Lousiana. Good freaking luck, brother! LOL.

China’s slowdown spreads

While various economists have trimmed fractions of a decimal point off their China GDP forecasts, this hardly tallies with the performance of a widening range of assets feeling the draft as the world’s second-largest economy slows.

Everything from equities, commodities and currencies to even the sales of luxury goods and gambling in Macau are now being impacted.

Now even the Chinese economy is on the skids. Forget Europe, just wait and see what happens to the world economy when China goes into a recession.

Mississippian Lime Field, more problems apparently solved, temporarily

Nothing to do with energy as such but everything to with the fact that so many people are just despicable sacks of feces and, that Nature had better start doing something serious and soon, to put a damper on the human infestation that's destroying this planet.


Warming Arctic tundra producing pop-up forests – ‘Change is far greater than we expected’

In this part of the Arctic, which could be a bellwether for changes to come elsewhere with greenhouse-driven warming, what might be called pop-up forests are forming. Low tundra shrubs, many of which are willow and alder species, have rapidly grown into small trees over the last 50 years, according to the study, led by scientists from Oxford University and the Arctic Center of the University of Lapland. The researchers foresee a substantial additional local warming influence from this change in landscapes, with the darker foliage absorbing sunlight that would otherwise be reflected back to space. But the fast-motion shift to forests will likely absorb carbon dioxide, as well.

Feedback cycles are fascinating.

German 2-Year Yield Drops Below Zero as Crisis Deepens

Negative interest rates... meaning that people are willing to pay to keep their money somewhere.

Greece 2-year bond yield is at 225%... GREAT yield but risky: No Confidence.

U.S. 2-year yield is at 0.25%... Still a trusted place to keep money... despite the debt. National economy is not like household economy. Debt is what we sell. As long as the buyer is confident the debt will be paid, they will buy the debt as an investment or as a haven. Pushing a congressional standoff to the point where buyers of debt become concerned about not getting paid, about default, is where real damage is done.

I got this quote from elsewhere - notayesmanseconomics ...

People are looking for the return OF their money , not a return ON their money .....

interesting times