Drumbeat: August 4, 2012

The implications of overpopulation are terrifying. But will we listen to them?

Ten Billion, on the other hand, is a piece of theatre only because it occurs in a theatre. The curtain rises on a reconstruction of a modern office; we hear the melancholy sound of a cello; a middle-aged man walks on stage, opens his laptop and begins to talk. He says he's a scientist and not an actor – that will become obvious – but that the set is a "depressingly accurate" reproduction of his office in Cambridge. His name is Stephen Emmott. He's head of computational science at Microsoft Research in Cambridge and professor of computational science at Oxford, and what he wants to tell us about is the future of life, particularly human life, on Earth. And for the next 75 minutes that's what he does, moving just a little around the set with the help of a stick (because a disc in his lower spine has popped out) as visuals appear on screens to illustrate what soon becomes a tide of frightening facts and predictions.

Taken singly, few of these facts would be new to even the most casual Monbiot reader or the least faithful friend of the Earth, but their accumulation and the connections between them are terrifying. Rarely can a lay audience have heard their implications spelled out so clearly and informally: a global population that was 1 billion in 1800 and 4 billion in 1980 will probably have grown to 10 billion by the end of this century; the demand for food will have doubled by 2050; food production already accounts for 30% of greenhouse gases – more than manufacturing or transport; more food needs more land, especially when the food is meat; more fields mean fewer forests, which means even more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which means an even less stable climate, which means less reliable agriculture – witness the present grain crisis in the US.

How can clever people be so stupid?

The first is that the great expansion of the population is over. Those who are going to have the grandchildren which lead to the peak population of 10 billion or so already exist. And it’s not really the increase in children that’s going to lead to that 10 billion anyway: it’s the failure of people to die before old age that is. What’s left of this last surge of population, from tiday’s 7 billion to that 10 billion or so peak is much more about the demographic transition than it is out of control birth rates.

That rural peasantry is stopping dying at 40 and living to 60, 70. That’s the real underlying story of the blow out.

Oil Surges Most in a Month as U.S. Adds Jobs, Services

Oil surged the most in a month after U.S. payrolls climbed more than estimated and service industries expanded at a faster pace, bolstering optimism about economic strength in the world’s biggest crude-consuming country.

Tropical Storm Ernesto Stronger, May Become Hurricane Tomorrow

“On the forecast track the center of Ernesto will move across the eastern and central Caribbean Sea over the weekend and pass near or south of Jamaica on Sunday,” the center said on its website. “Gradual strengthening is forecast during the next couple of days and Ernesto is expected to become a hurricane on Sunday.”

Korea rushes to jump on shale gas development bandwagon

“We must thank God.”

This is how Rex Tillerson, the head of the world’s largest oil company Exxon Mobil, described the shale gas development boom in the U.S. Amid growing fears that crude oil deposits could be gradually depleted, he said the existence of shale gas itself is a “blessing from God.”

The shale gas reserve is reportedly enough for the world to use for up to 200 years.

Korea National Oil Corp. will enter shale gas development by establishing a related company in the U.S. to avoid falling behind in the shale gas revolution.

India: AP braces for more power outages as Centre cuts gas supply

Hyderabad: The Centre remained indifferent to the Andhra Pradesh Government’s plea for withdrawal of its order diverting two million metric standard cubic metres per day (MMSCMD) of natural gas from the Krishna-Godavari Basin to the Ratnagiri power plant in Maharashtra.

Union Petroleum Minister S. Jaipal Reddy today refused to intervene or even speak on the controversial decision, even as the principal opposition Telugu Desam Party blasted both the Centre and the State Government for jeopardising Andhra Pradesh’s interests.

Petrobras posts first loss in 13 years; result shocks

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Brazil's state-led oil giant Petrobras on Friday reported its first quarterly loss in more than 13 years as a weaker Brazilian currency raised debt costs and the company faced charges related to recently drilled dry and uncommercial wells.

Petrobras lost 1.35 billion reais ($665 million) in the three months ending June 30 compared with a net profit of 10.9 billion reais a year earlier, according to a securities filing. All nine analysts surveyed by Reuters expected the company to post net income of 3.69 billion reais.

Oil Royalty? Committee to study oil revenue payment

KUALA LUMPUR -The government has agreed to set up a special committee to study in a fair and transparent manner on the issue of cash payment from petroleum revenue to the states in the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia.

Desperate Syria Pleads with Russia for Aid

Syria reached out to its powerful ally Russia on Friday, as senior officials pleaded with Moscow for financial loans and supplies of oil products — an indication that international sanctions are squeezing President Bashar Assad's regime.

The signs of desperation came as resilient rebels fought regime forces in the Syrian capital only two weeks after the government crushed a revolt there. The renewed battles in Damascus show that Assad's victories could be fleeting as armed opposition groups regroup and resurge, reports The Associated Press.

Syria reaches oil deal with ally Russia

Syria has reached an agreement with ally Russia to secure much-needed fuel as a delegation of ministers sent by President Bashar al-Assad asked Moscow to help alleviate the effects of sanctions on the war-torn country.

Iraq summons Turkey envoy to protest over visit

Iraq made a formal protest to Turkey's envoy in Baghdad on Friday after the Turkish foreign minister made a surprise visit to an oil-rich Iraqi city claimed by both the central government and the country's autonomous Kurdistan region.

Sudan confirms oil agreement with South

Sudan has confirmed that it has reached an oil agreement with its neighbor, South Sudan. But it said security issues had to be clarified before implementing the deal.

Navy: At least 4 foreigners kidnapped off Nigeria

Gunmen stormed two ships off the coast of Nigeria's delta early Saturday, killing two Nigerian navy sailors protecting the vessels and kidnapping four foreign workers before fleeing in to the darkness, officials said.

Revisiting oil deal with Nigeria

JAMAICA AND Nigeria have agreed to revive a special oil arrangement between them that has been on hold for some time.

Fallout from Nigerian oil spill haunts locals

Rights group Amnesty International has termed investigations by corporate giant Shell into oil spills in Nigeria a "fiasco", alleging that the company repeatedly blamed sabotage in an effort to avoid responsibility.

"No matter what evidence is presented to Shell about oil spills, they constantly hide behind the 'sabotage' excuse and dodge their responsibility for massive pollution that is due to their failure to properly maintain their infrastructure," Audrey Gaughran, director of global issues at Amnesty, said in a recent statement.

Prepare for gas economy, Kikwete tells Tanzanians

The government is taking all steps necessary to ensure Tanzanians benefit when the country becomes one of the leading gas suppliers in five years’ time, President Jakaya Kikwete said on Thursday.

Diesel power will remain first choice

Clean diesel engines will continue to be the dominant power source for heavy-duty vehicles in the United States for "decades to come because of their power and efficiency," according to a newly released study prepared for the US Department of Energy.

Tight deadline for Gateway review as political headwinds grow

The federal government has imposed a strict deadline on a review panel to conclude the work on Enbridge Inc.’s controversial Northern Gateway pipeline, even as it scrambles to rescue the $6-billion project from a political sinkhole.

Trans Mountain: The other Pacific pipeline

It is a sunny Sunday and Vancouver is doing what it does best: looking pretty and post-industrial. Morning lights up the downtown’s glass horizon. A half-dozen scooters rip down the road in a platoon. Cyclists swish past Zipcar lots, kayakers and stand-up paddle surfers ply the waters.

But just a few kilometres away, an oil tanker is preparing to raise anchor and slide into port. Soon, it will open its holds, with a total capacity of 650,000-barrels, to a flush of Alberta oil. After 30 hours of pumping, it will slip away to Long Beach, Calif. Oil tankers are, for now, relatively rare here. A tanker sails into the Vancouver harbour about once a week, docking at the Kinder Morgan-owned Westridge Terminal to accept Alberta crude flowing across the Rockies in the Trans Mountain pipeline.

Oil spill the cause of rising gas prices

In 2010, Enbridge Inc., an oil pipeline company based in Alberta, Canada was responsible for one of the worst inland oil spills in United States history when 800,000 gallons of heavy crude oil was spilled near Marshall.

Now, the heavily criticized company is again at fault after 50,000 gallons of light crude oil has been spilled in rural Wisconsin, shortly after the company said it had improved its safety procedures.

Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst at GasBuddy.com, said the spill, in addition to several problems with units at refineries in Indiana and in the Chicago area, has led to a sharp jump in gas prices throughout the state of Michigan.

Enbridge's Monaco says company coping with Line 14 shutdown

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Enbridge Inc President Al Monaco said on Friday that his company still has no timetable for when regulators will allow it to restart Line 14, which has been shut since spilling 1,200 barrels of oil into a Wisconsin field a week ago.

Pickens: Let’s make the switch to natural gas

Four years ago, we kicked off the Pickens Plan and changed forever the discussion of energy in the United States.

From a standing start we attracted 1.7 million Pickens Plan supporters who have been able to keep up a conversation with their state legislators and members of Congress to make sure the issue of reducing our dependence on oil imported from OPEC didn’t become the “Washington flavor-of-the-month” and then forgotten about.

Jellyfish swarms in danger of clogging Ise thermal power plants

Large numbers of jellyfish have been swarming near nine thermal power plants on Ise Bay. Chubu Electric Power Co. estimates that there are close to 24,000 tons of the sea creatures swimming around the area, twice the usual level and the second-most recorded in the past decade.

Official pushed pronuke stance

A senior government official in charge of nuclear policy planning on Friday admitted pressing the Japan Atomic Energy Commission last year over continuing to generate nuclear power.

Court Weighs an Order on Nuclear Waste Site in Nevada

WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court indicated Friday that it would issue an order for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to resume an evaluation of a possible nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, a volcanic ridge in the Nevada desert, unless Congress acted by December to resolve the legal tangle around the project.

$90m to win coal's super market

FEDERAL and state governments have put $90 million on the table for new brown coal technology projects in the Latrobe Valley, including potential export schemes.

The fund will receive $45 million from each government and pay for new projects, such as drying brown coal for export, converting to fuel and fertiliser, and cutting emissions from coal-fired electricity generation.

Marines take lead in 'green' campaign

The Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center at Twentynine Palms started going green back in 2003, in the wake of California's energy crisis, by installing what is still one of the largest federally owned solar systems in the nation.

“We were trying to be forward-thinking with renewable energy,” recalled Gary Morrissett, the installation's energy manager, standing among the 1.2-megawatt field of panels on a hillside overlooking the main base.

Romney's Folly: Ending Tax Breaks for Wind Power

You'd be hard-pressed to name a single American energy source that doesn't benefit from government support. Coal companies get subsidies. Nuclear power plants are backed by massive loan guarantees. Oil companies, even the most profitable ones in the world, get truly impressive federal handouts. And, of course, wind and solar companies get tax credits.

But presidential candidate Mitt Romney opposes just one of the incentives listed above; want to venture a guess as to which one it is? It's tax breaks for wind power, obviously!

North Koreans in desperate need of food after floods

(CNN) -- The World Food Programme is stepping in to feed people in North Korea, where floods have ruined crops and left hundreds of thousands homeless, according to reports.

The United Nations declared the situation in North Korea an emergency Thursday after torrential rain soaked the country between July 18 and 29. Eighty-eight people have died, a U.N. report said, though national media put the toll at 169.

Powerful Shaper of U.S. Rules Quits, With Critics in Wake

Few proposed rules escaped his gaze or his editor’s pen. Of the hundreds of regulations issued by the administration as of late last year, three-quarters were changed at OIRA, often at the urging of corporate interests, according to an analysis from the Center for Progressive Reform, a liberal-leaning group that monitors federal regulation. For rules from the Environmental Protection Agency, the figure was closer to 80 percent, the group found. In virtually every case, the rule was weakened, the group claimed.

Climate change prompts French ski area to consider downsize

A MODEST ski area in the French Alps is ready to unbolt its chairlifts and rope off slopes as the local mayor concludes that climate change means the trails ahead will be rocky.

Rising sea levels throughout metro Vancouver putting landmarks at risk

Vancouver is at risk of losing landmark communities like Granville Island and False Creek unless the city starts taking measures to defend its shoreline against rising sea levels, an urban planner warns.

Climate science still trumps skeptics

My Op-Ed article on climate science and climate hype provoked plenty of online responses -- as pretty much anything touching on this very touchy subject inevitably will. Also quite predictably, several of the comments repeated critiques of mainstream climate science that have been raised and thoroughly debunked literally hundreds of times. Here’s a sampling, along with my responses:

Who Are Your Sources?

Their work is worth studying in some depth. They found that people’s views on the credibility of sources on climate and scientific information depends to a large degree on where they stand on a scale of belief in climate change, from dismissive to alarmed. Those who are most concerned about climate change have a very high degree of trust in climate scientists, while those who doubt or dismiss climate change as a phenomenon are strongly distrustful of climate scientists and scientists in general.

The survey also found that the skeptics turned more to radio for their information than those who express concern about climate change.

Bill McKibben: Even Industry-Funded Climate Change Deniers Can't Ignore Planet's Warming

AMY GOODMAN: Your assessment of Dr. Muller’s conversion, as he describes it, now saying that global warming is human-caused?

BILL MCKIBBEN: Scientifically, it’s not very interesting because, you know, most scientists figured it out 20 years ago. All he has done is confirm their work. Politically, it is interesting because we’re reaching the point where even the kind of industry-funded deniers can’t with a straight face, say that it’s not warming. In fact, Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson, two weeks ago, probably more importantly, said, Yes, forget all the things that my predecessors have said about how global warming was a hoax. Global warming is real, and we’re causing it.

The climate change tipping point

So far 2012 is on pace to be the hottest year on record. But does this mean that we've reached a threshold a tipping point that signals a climate disaster?

For those warning of global warming, it would be tempting to say so. The problem is, no one knows if there is a point at which a climate system shifts abruptly. But some scientists are now bringing mathematical rigor to the tipping-point argument. Their findings give us fresh cause to worry that sudden changes are in our future.

James E. Hansen on Public Acceptance of Climate Change

The greatest barrier to public recognition of human-made climate change is probably the natural variability of local climate. How can a person discern long-term climate change, given the notorious variability of local weather and climate from day to day and year to year?

James E. Hansen: Climate change is here — and worse than we thought

When I testified before the Senate in the hot summer of 1988 , I warned of the kind of future that climate change would bring to us and our planet. I painted a grim picture of the consequences of steadily increasing temperatures, driven by mankind’s use of fossil fuels.

But I have a confession to make: I was too optimistic.

Re: "Who are your Sources ?"

I think this is a really important question, especially with the proliferation of websites making all kinds of claims, without substantiating them.

The ability to search the web, for instance, without having tailored results show up, is pretty important.

However, once one lands on a site, I think there are some things people can look for to establish credibility.

1. Always read the "About" page.
There are often a lot of clues about potential biases here. Confirmation biases abound, especially if the general philosophy is similar to one's own.

2. If a 501(c) 3 or corporation, read who is on the Board of Directors, or management organization.
Often, affiliations become clear.

3. If experts are quoted, read and understand their credentials.
Not all PhD's are created equal. A PhD in (picking somethin at random) Political Science is not comparable to a PhD in Agricultural Management, when discussing agriculture.

4. Look for sources of funding.
If the site is connected to lobby groups or industry groups, the information is likely to be biased.
Scientists doing real research will publish their funding sources at the end of their papers.

5. If it still is not clear what the site is about, people research them for you, so you don't have to.
SourceWatch is one example.

6. Often, there are elements of truth interspersed with a lot of misinformation. Always be a critical reader and validate the information presented with other sources.

Sadly, of course, people have their favorite sources of information, and do not critically evaluate them for factual content, because they are part of the same tribe.

This is assuming people actually want unbiased information. I think what that article points out is that most of us do not. I suspect even those of us who are most invested in science and the scientific method have personal biases that shape the sources we look to, and how accepting we are of them. It has nothing to do with how intelligent you are; smart people are just better at rationalizing their biases.

I think the foundation of science is to look for unbiased information, even if it conflicts with one's own preconceived ideas. The whole purpose of science, after all, is to use experiments to arrive at conclusions, which may or may not support the original hypothesis.

What seems to be getting lost is the scientific method, and trust of science in general. It manifests itself in beliefs of all kinds. I don't think it has anything to do with intelligence, per se, but how one gathers and absorbs data.

I'm not sure I agree that people don't want unbiased data. I think they have lost the skills, or perhaps were never taught the skills, to determine what information is biased and what is factual.

While there is a lot of opinion and discussion on TOD, for example, isn't the foundation supposed to be solid data ? I think that's why many people visit here.

EDIT: perhaps, on the other hand, the need to belong to a like-minded group, in many cases, supercedes the need for independent factual data.

That's the ideal, yes. But everyone has their own biases.

To pick a personal example...how many studies would it take for you to accept that eating a lot of fat and animal protein is healthier than eating a lot of carbs? That low cholesterol is bad for you? Would you accept the science eventually, or would you suspect the meat industry was somehow behind it, even if you couldn't see their fingerprints anywhere?

More generally...what data would it take before the average visitor here accepted that peak oil would not be a problem in their lifetime? I'm not saying this is the case, but if it were, would there be any way to convince the average peak oiler?

If I had to bet money, I'd guess there's a genetic component to this. That is, it's probably pro-survival to stick to what you've always believed, at least to some extent.

Show me the studies. Then I have a foundation for comparing the research. Don't attack me, personally, show me the studies.

I've spent a lot of time reading scientific research. While there has been an evolution in how people view atherosclerosis, and its causes, I haven't seen one study that says too much cholesterol and saturated fat is good. Since they are manufactured by the body, anything added by the diet is superfluous.

The state of the art, from what I've researched, from the scientific studies, is this, in very abbreviated form -

1. The basis of plaque formation in the arteries, to the heart, brain and elsewhere, is disruption of the smooth endothelial wall of arteries, brought on by various factors, but age is one. There is an elevation of nitrous oxide in the blood stream. This can be countered with antioxidants.

2. Platelet aggregation occurs at the site of endothelial disruption, assisted by inflammatory factors. Inflammation has its basis in metabolites of Arachidonic Acid, which is made in the body but also comes from the diet (animal products).

3. Platelet aggregation and fissures in the endothelial wall make the arteries more "sticky". This allows adhesion points for saturated fats and LDL cholesterol to accumulate. Saturated fats and cholesterol are made by the body, but can also be taken in in the diet.

4. Platelet aggregation (clots) and the plaques in the arteries lead to blockages which cause heart attacks and strokes.

5. Omega 3 polyunsaturated fats have a protective action on the arteries by countering the inflammatory effects of Arachidonic Acid metabolites.

The extent of scientific knowledge to date on this subject is to look at all the causes of platelet aggregation, plaque formation and metabolic processes, to determine how this can be prevented. The conclusions are generally as follows :-

Reduce consumption of red meat
Reduce consumption of processed sugars (triglycerides stored as fat in the body)
Reduce consumption of hydrogenated oils and trans fats (to zero)
Reduce consumption of saturated fats to below 10% of calories.
Increase consumption of protective fats such as Omega 3 fatty acids (fish, flax seed)
Increase consumption of antioxidants (berries e.g. blueberries)
Increase consumption of dark, leafy green vegetables
Balance Omega 6 and Omega 3 fatty acids in the diet in a 4:1 ratio, or better
Omega 3 : salmon, sardines, flax seeds, walnuts
Omega 6 : olive oil, soybean oil
Avoid corn oil, safflower oil.

Since there are way too many scientific studies to post, accounting for over 30 years of research, please post your studies which show something else. If I missed anything, let me know.

I don't really want to get into this again. The point was what it takes to change entrenched beliefs, whatever they are.

However, I will say that I don't think we really understand the mechanics of heart disease. I think the mainstream view may prove to be completely wrong.

And as Taubes points out, it's the bottom line that counts. Is high cholesterol linked to higher death rates? No. But low cholesterol is.

Is high cholesterol linked to higher death rates? No. But low cholesterol is.

You are correct. That is because it is not the amount of LDL (I think you meant high LDL when you said high cholesterol) but the LDL particle size which determines if you are at risk. There is a strong correlation between homocystine level - which is a marker of inflammation - and heart disease. spring_tides's understanding is correct. The reason big pharma doesn't promote this is that they don't have a drug to lower homocystine level.

I think even the HDL/LDL thing might be a crock. Or at least, trying to change your cholesterol levels or ratio doesn't do any good, and might do some harm.

All in all, it's really astonishing how flimsy the evidence is for much of what we believe about basic nutrition. They couldn't do the kind of research on humans it would take to prove or disprove the basic tenets, so they kind of went, "Well, it sounds reasonable, so let's just assume it's true."

And what incentives WRT health are there to:

1) Show that sugar-filled soft drinks are harmful?
2) To provide a cure VS control of symptoms? A cure usually means an end to a cashflow VS control which means a monthly cashflow for years.

Who is Taubes?
Almost every middle age person in the US even these days has 'high' cholesterol compared with some more traditional populations elsewhere. During 20thC the US seem to have experienced similar epidemics of middle-age chronic disease as other industrializing countries, with very similar markers for disturbed blood lipids. See massive long-term Framingham literature but intensive Finnish studies over decades bear looking at. Classic risk factors explain most of CHD 'events' in the USA, but populations elsewhere vary a bit. Peak heart attacks though seem to have arrived in 1950s in most such places? ('Primed' aging diseased arteries meet smoking epidemic etc., but plenty of other conjectures are still around, if one wants to continue to argue according to ones cultural or personal bias.)

Taubes gets it all a bit confused by lumping everything under the heading "carbs", which doesn't surprise me since his degree is in journalism, not biochemistry.

There is a big difference between ingesting simple, refined sugars, and sugar + fiber in fruits or complex carbohydrates in starch and vegetables, but glucose is necessary for normal metabolism. "Low Carb" doesn't really convey any useful information.

Glucose metabolism and fat metabolism are closely linked.

I have read studies which show increased lipogenesis (stimulation of fatty acid production) when people eat a diet low in fats and high in simple sugars.

The mechanism is outlined below.


It is not the sugar itself which causes inflammation, rather it is the conversion of it into fatty acids, which stimulate inflammatory factors, as I mentioned above.

Nowhere has any researcher I have read recommended such a diet. Each and every one recommends eliminating refined sugars along with reducing fat in the diet, and eating fruits and complex carbohydrates such as whole grains and vegetables.

And as Taubes points out, it's the bottom line that counts. Is high cholesterol linked to higher death rates? No. But low cholesterol is.

But, but, high cholesterol not being harmful would hurt the massive profits of drug companies, and we can't have that! Drug companies that care very much for our welfare!



I work many medical shows and it is astounding how much money is being thrown around by the drug industry.

Show me the studies.

I think the exact details of heart disease were a bit beside the point, which seemed to have been about what could ever disabuse people from a popular, highly-invested meme that turned out to be false or even just dodgy. To know what a mess we have on our hands, we need only look at the endless, weekly stream of coffee "studies" - it's good for you, it's bad for you, it causes cancer, it reduces cancer slightly, it makes you into a jittery mass of nerves, no not really, etc. etc. ad nauseam. It immediately becomes clear that (1) "show me the studies" is an utterly useless query for the lay person, and a wholly invalid one for the lay-person politician seeking an excuse to impose his or her personal vision on everyone down to the last nano-detail for God knows what reasons (His Almighty Arrogance Michael Bloomberg comes quickly to mind); (2) the "studies" are often driven at least partly by ideology unconnected to the subject matter; and (3) statistical significance, and the controls to support out, were both thrown out the window ages ago in favor of mindless, do something, anything, even if it's counterproductive, "precautionism".

Whether it's energy, diet, coffee, suburbanization, or any of a host of other subjects, "show me the 'studies'" leads into an impenetrable morass of contradiction, too often laced with irrational hatred of modernity and pining for "simpler" times. If that's not enough, then, from the other side, pile in all the "reporters" who want nothing more to overturn any and all accepted wisdom for the sheer joy of doing so. (Think of the liberal nirvana they would have attained had neutrinos turned out to go faster than light. After all, if Einstein had been shown as - even ever so subtly - wrong, that would have excused the stupid and lazy from ever having to know or study anything again. At long last, life would have been "fair".)

That said, if we still insist on contemplating heart disease, we need only observe that decades of incessant "do this", "do that", "do the other thing" politicized bureaucratic nagging seem to have had almost no useful effect. Of course, the foremost goal of bureaucrats is always self-perpetuation, and for that, effects or facts don't matter. It is only necessary to keep people continually scared. Also of course, the foremost effect of "peer review" is often, and unfortunately, rigorous and inescapable enforcement of consensus trance. All nonconforming information disappears straight down the memory hole while all "side effects" are studiously ignored. (So people ended up consuming large quantities of trans fats that might never have even been manufactured, and only God will ever know how many livers and whatnot got dissolved to "save" how many hearts.)

No it's mostly not about "health", but about the same empty, self-righteous, lunatic moralizing that once gave us the idiocy of the medieval sumptuary laws, or that seems now to energize posts whining about how terribly awful it is that after countless millennia of futile wishing for prosperity instead of miserable poverty, many people are at long last getting a small measure of it. So we moralized ourselves into an array of deleterious "side effects", which have no statistical possibility to show up in the "studies" when even the wished-for effect barely shows up if at all. Of course we also got a trivial lifespan extension over the last few decades, but that owed almost entirely to the newfound ability to indefinitely extend, at infinite expense, so-called "life" as a near-vegetable in the rest home.

Maybe when the "experts" don't really know - such as when the "study" conclusions are statistically insignificant or the controls are just too inadequate to support the conclusions, much less allow them to be validly aggregated - they ought to just shut up. Or, at the very least, they ought to say "we really don't know, maybe this or that will help, but there's nothing remotely like a guarantee." But alas, that truth wouldn't secure the next grant; nor could the blogosphere and the media use it effectively to whore for clicks or induce people to watch the commercials (for McD's, naturally) in the next breathlessly panicky video in the unending series about how your heart would last forever if only you would: live life my way down to very the last detail (consider His Arrogance again); ignore the commercials you just saw; and abandon all else. In any case an endlessly repetitive heap of breathlessly promoted "studies" has only produced limitless riches for drug outfits and limitless "side effects" for everyone else - and this is not limited to hearts.

After all, if Einstein had been shown as - even ever so subtly - wrong, that would have excused the stupid and lazy from ever having to know or study anything again. At long last, life would have been "fair".)

On the other hand, such a finding (a new theory which extends and improves Einsteins' understanding of the cosmos) would be celebrated as an outcome from the scientific method, as applied by many many intelligent, hard-working, insightful (and occasionally lucky) humans who bothered to study hard and then apply those studies in research to extend human knowledge. Especially noteworthy, seeing that, even though society is wise enough to fund basic scientific research and help fund university degrees (for how much longer?), typically the researchers are not getting materially rich from their endeavors (in the context of other folks in high-GDP countries).

It is only necessary to keep people continually scared.

In another vein, the 'War on Terror' and verbal (and physical) attacks against Islamic folks come to mind as well.

All this demonstrates the need to tech critical thinking from the earliest possible time in school curricula. It would be a challenge to find enough teachers who know the subject and who are able to put their own biases to the side while teaching such skills in class.

All this demonstrates the need to tech critical thinking from the earliest possible time in school curricula. It would be a challenge to find enough teachers who know the subject and who are able to put their own biases to the side while teaching such skills in class.


The whole critical thinking this has become politically problematic. Seems certain political and/or religious tribes see it as a threat. I happen to agree with them, certain types of thinking/belief/ideology would be overturned if enough people had good training in critical thinking (and made good faith efforts to apply it).

All this demonstrates the need to tech critical thinking from the earliest possible time in school curricula.


In the you-can’t-make-up-this-stuff department, here’s what the Republican Party of Texas wrote into its 2012 platform as part of the section on education:
Knowledge-Based Education – We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and [because they] have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.

And this PDF is pitched as showing critical thinking can't be taught.

Ah, our political parties have moved past boneheaded to the point of utter farce. I have a feeling that the you-can’t-make-up-this-stuff department is going to be doing an increasingly brisk trade as our problems draw increasingly near.

While I won't deny that there are a good number of ways that both sides have been boneheaded, I think it's pretty important to acknowledge that Eric's point about Higher Order Thinking Skills is an issue that is really only being pushed by certain portions of the Republican party. Taking that and just spreading it outward to all of them doesn't help us be clear about what specifically is broken in the cultures of the 'Professional Repubs and the Professional Dems'

This issue of critical thinking really deserves a string of ongoing surgical strikes. It is (IMO) simply a deadly piece of reactionary thought, and has to be amputated and cauterized.. an operation that doesn't call for a systemic, but rather a local approach.

( To be completely clear, I am speaking figuratively, and don't think that any sort of violence would ultimately help the situation at all.. in fact, it might serve to reinforce the very ideas I am trying to oppose.)

I have a more optimistic take on it. The US government managed to convince us that eating meat and fat was bad, and we should do less of it. This despite the fact that there was no evidence for it, and it was presumably not our desire to give up eating those things. But the American people did eat less meat and fat. The obesity rate exploded, but most of us still believe that it's fat that makes you fat, and are choosing our foods accordingly.

If they could indoctrinate us to do that, they could get us to live as if peak oil and/or AGW were real. It's just not a priority.

I would love to see a graph of Deaths From Heart Disease + Major Cardiac and Cardiovascular Surgeries + Annual Doses Taken of Cardiac Medication, say from 1910 to 2010. (Can't find anything on the net.)

I suspect it would show that the US has not become more heart-healthy from following the prescribed diet regimen. It has become sicker but treatment has become more widespread.

Hey, we've monetized heart disease! Capitalism triumphs, yet again.

Effective treatment of heart disease was one of the biggest contributors to increased lifespan in the 20th century. Yeah there's a lot of people on heart medicine. They would be the ones who would have been dead already in 1910.

Not that I disagree about modern diet being a major cause of sickness. But lets not dismiss the significant advances that have also been made.

I like you, PaulS.

I think the main point being is this: if you are 50 years old and have spots in your liver, joints that don't work and buildup in your arteries, no amount of micromanaging, diet, or pills is going to turn you into a 24 year old Olympic athlete.

I myself have to deal with this, even in my early 30s. I look at the young nubile women and their jock boyfriends enjoying the summer and think, I'm never going back there, am I.

While I have no idea of what ailments you are facing, I have to disagree about diet.

Most of the factory-born food products out there are a Hollywood-Set mockup of the real foods they have supposedy replaced, and they have all too often stripped out the subtle components of the simple foods from nature that our species evolved in concert with, and which can carry essentially all the tools needed for the body to heal and protect itself.

White Flour, Crisco and Margarine shouldn't even be presented as food.

Best of luck with your health!

nitric oxide not nitrous oxide

Thank you ;)

The most influential "research" relies on huge databases like the Framingham with self-reported (Warning Bell #1) dietary intakes, and draw inferences from correlations in the the data which are unverified by clinical studies (Warning Bell #2).

It's the old problem: correlation is not causation. At best it suggests hypotheses which have to be tested in the laboratory and peer-reviewed before being accepted.

Personally, I believe cholesterol is nature's spackle used to fix cracks in the arterial walls. Cracks are caused by inflexible arteries which are signs of a vitamin B deficiency. The best source of vitamin B is red meat. I have high cholesterol and previously ate very little red meat. I've upped my consumption. If I drop dead, c'est la vie.

Show me the studies. Then I have a foundation for comparing the research. Don't attack me, personally, show me the studies.

You say 'show me the studies' and then reject a particular author (Gary Taubes in this case) based on the ad-hominem argument that his degree is journalism. Essentially rejecting the 100+ pages of references in his book 'Good Calories, Bad Calories' based on an argument from authority. You apparently just don't want to see the studies.

You are right that it isn't possible to have a detailed debate on nutrition (especially because it is marginal for being on topic), but there are authors who have researched the subject in some depth and, in this case IMO, have made cogent arguments based on existing research. I have read some of these authors and some of the original research cited and it has convinced me to change my mind from tending toward vegetarian, to a diet that embraces meat and saturated fat as being healthy foods, when combined with other healthy foods (vegetables) and lifestyle.

I have considered combing through all the hundreds of references I have related to this and putting together a post on it, but I just don't think it would make a difference to most people who already have their minds made up, and it appears to me that your mind is made up. So I'm just issuing a blanket appeal to people to keep an open mind on the subject since it is obvious to me that the issues are far from settled. Whenever someone posts an opinion, such as the 'eating meat/saturated fat is bad for you' as received wisdom, I feel like it is important not to let such posts go unchallenged, even if I don't have a ready made list of references to post.

One rule that I try to follow, when evaluating a certain point of view on especially controversial subjects, is to seek out points of view opposite of my own biases. Here is where critical thinking really comes into play, and critical thinking properly applied requires being honest with yourself.

I think the foundation of science is to look for unbiased information

But where are you going to get that 'unbiased information'? When there is money at stake - how does one avoid bias towards the data showing the pro-money position is right?*

I'm not sure I agree that people don't want unbiased data

Enough want biased 'data' to make Fox news work.

(Enough want unbiased to see a drop in consumption rates of "Traditional Media" also.)

*See the every couple of years drug company data manipulation lawsuits.

I'm more interested in hearing information where the speaker is fairly forthright about their position, since the claim and the ideal of 'objectivity' is so frequently a conceit itself. Even if well-intended, it gets badly misused. The prime example of this for me is when people refer to themselves as Realists. I see that and in my head instantly come back with 'uh huh, deluded and self-congratulatory'.

This is why I like the call-ins on C-Span's Washington Journal. Yes, there are a lot of the familiar folks at the extremes and with some typically hackneyed, stereotyped views, but that is when the reasonable callers within those spectra get to shine with their relative balance, while it is still pretty much right out in the open.. kinda like here, actually.

Common Ground, but without the pretense of some sort of Homogeneity. Without any Kumbaya (well, except for this statement maybe), TOD manages to have people from different viewpoints in the mix..

altho' -- it's still interesting to see what kind of poster has gotten drummed out of here as well. I wonder if we've been fair in the nuclear discussions, for example. Sure, there have been comments individually that went over the line, but really overall, I have to look at how pro-nuke voices have been pretty much shooshed from the discussion, while it seems like the arguments coming from that camp really didn't hold water, and all 'we' did was to just keep saying so, and why, and not let unsupportable claims go unchecked. How does that fit into this issue?

Well, Bob, if you remember way back I used to use Todd - a Realist. I'm hardly self-deluded and I never considered it self-congratulatory. My view of reality (the data I see and societal responses to what is already in the process of collapsing) says that society is going to go down the tubes and that pink unicorns aren't going to be pooping magic stuff to save the day.

I would like to believe in magic but I can't.

Well, back to splitting firewood - now that's reality.


Hi Todd;
I do remember your old moniker, and was glad that you shortened it. In any case, I didn't mean to offend you with that. I see you as a very reasonable and reliable voice in this forum.

I think my saying 'deluded' was perhaps a bit strong, but when I would see that Handle back then (and I had no weight of history knowing the quality of your input, then, or at least the flavor of your filters..), I would certainly get that eyeroll from it.. maybe 'Presumptious' would have been more apt.. but regardless I do think it's taking a step onto thin ice.

We all have looked at the world and tried to create a library of 'realisms', but we are all looking at this only through our filters, too, and so we need to be fairly humble about the potential for some distortions and wierd errors because of them.

I seem to recall "X" held onto the tag REALIST for a good spell. It just sets off warning bells for me.

Thanks Bob. For those of you who don't go back a long time and want to know where I'm coming from, here's a link to an old key post of mine:

http://www.theoildrum.com/node/4979?no comments.


Edit to add - Hey, it's even got some pictures!

Letting all sides have a platform -particularly those who don't try to make a good faith effort to be objective, leads to a lot of noise. That seems to be standard fare for a lot of modern press (dualing extremes)*. That leads to a lot of strawman type arguments; the extremists on side A seem wackier than those on side B, therefore B must be correct, isn't really a good way of determining ground truth. I fear there is not shortcut for doing ones homework, and actually trying to come to an understanding of the issues.

*I've also heard that on a lot of these political shows, after the show the dualing extremists get together and have a good laugh over a beer. Seems in many cases, its really just Kabuki theater with predetermined preassigned parts.

Which is WHY I specifically point to C-Span, (*and to TOD) which allows the noise, but in a well-moderated environment that is ultimately committed to giving the subject a fair hearing from all comers. It puts all the incoming views under essentially the same light.

I believe that the reasonable statements stand out, and the wild-eyed stuff doesn't get the sort of 'If it bleeds it leads' attention by the hosts, and so it quickly reveal themselves to just be 'loud hotheads', when put back to back with those who are communicating thoughtfully.

To me, C-span and TOD are striking evidence that a maturely managed open-mic approach leads to a rich and productive conversation. The other media outlets don't have the courage to leave time for complete paragraphs, and for involved, moderate explanations. They are also chasing precious ad dollars and subscribers, so they have a continuing motive to use the news to write it all into compelling little operettas that lead smoothly and suavely in and out of drug ads.

The other media outlets don't have the courage to leave time for complete paragraphs, and for involved, moderate explanations. They are also chasing precious ad dollars and subscribers, so they have a continuing motive to use the news to write it all into compelling little operettas that lead smoothly and suavely in and out of drug ads.

We are currently somewhere between a Brave New World and 1984...


We dwell in a present-tense culture that somehow, significantly, decided to employ the telling expression "You're history" as a choice reprobation or insult, and thus elected to speak forgotten volumes about itself. By that standard, the forbidding dystopia of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four already belongs, both as a text and as a date, with Ur and Mycenae, while the hedonist nihilism of Huxley still beckons toward a painless, amusement-sodden, and stress-free consensus. Orwell's was a house of horrors. He seemed to strain credulity because he posited a regime that would go to any lengths to own and possess history, to rewrite and construct it, and to inculcate it by means of coercion. Whereas Huxley ... rightly foresaw that any such regime could break but could not bend. In 1988, four years after 1984, the Soviet Union scrapped its official history curriculum and announced that a newly authorized version was somewhere in the works. This was the precise moment when the regime conceded its own extinction. For true blissed-out and vacant servitude, though, you need an otherwise sophisticated society where no serious history is taught.[22]

Christopher Hitchens, Source Wikipedia

We're #1, We're #1, We're #1!!! Yippee!

OK. I get that having the right moderators who impose the right sort of rules/order is the key. Obviously you have to place a lot of faith/confidence on the integrity of the moderators. The problem with our more general society is that we don't even try to have good moderation. Its much more entertaining to let the most crazy duke it out. Few humans have the patience to sit through something like C-span. Even TOD, there are so many comments, I have to skim through and only read selective ones. Is there I danger I might reject something that would have been important to me? Obviously. But, having only limited mental (or otherwise) capabilities means we all must make some compromises. In some sense that is where ideology and gut level thinking inevitably creeps in. If someone comes to me and claims they were abducted by little green aliens, and rescued by an angel sent from god, I am going to dismiss them as some sort of crank. I have to do that, -or I'd be overwhelmed by cranks. Even knowing full-well that someday the crank I so cavalierly dismissed was actually the next Einstein (or Darwin or ???). There is just no way to avoid this.

This comment could go anywhere in the thread. It's a long winded rant that I hope some here find useful.

John Michael Greer over at The Archdruid Report has nice post this week which seems relevant. The Degeneration of Politics the post and the comments are quite good.

enemy of the state

I get that having the right moderators who impose the right sort of rules/order is the key. Obviously you have to place a lot of faith/confidence on the integrity of the moderators. The problem with our more general society is that we don't even try to have good moderation.


Which is WHY I specifically point to C-Span, (*and to TOD) which allows the noise, but in a well-moderated environment that is ultimately committed to giving the subject a fair hearing from all comers. It puts all the incoming views under essentially the same light.

I believe that the reasonable statements stand out, and the wild-eyed stuff doesn't get the sort of 'If it bleeds it leads' attention by the hosts, and so it quickly reveal themselves to just be 'loud hotheads', when put back to back with those who are communicating thoughtfully.

To me, C-span and TOD are striking evidence that a maturely managed open-mic approach leads to a rich and productive conversation. The other media outlets don't have the courage to leave time for complete paragraphs, and for involved, moderate explanations.

enemy of the state

I fear there is not shortcut for doing ones homework, and actually trying to come to an understanding of the issues.

and Leanan below

But some kind of moderation is necessary on the net, precisely because anyone can say anything. Like someone said...the opposite of censorship is not academic freedom, it's 4chan. The "winners" will be those with the time and inclination to shout loudest and longest.

Quoting from memory Aristotle (hat tip JMG) said that all virtues are the midpoint between two vices. Then good reporting is a well defined point between censorship and 4chan. Something like NPR will be "fair to the truth": "In all our stories, especially matters of controversy, we strive to consider the strongest arguments we can find on all sides, seeking to deliver both nuance and clarity. Our goal is not to please those whom we report on or to produce stories that create the appearance of balance, but to seek the truth."

The problem with viable democracy, journalistic integrity, social capital, scientific controversy, etc. is that all of those systems require copious amounts of time, energy, and integrity. In a word, effort, it takes concerted effort focused on quality control to obtain meaningful levels of quality output. Our institutions in the west, particularly the US of A are functionally dead because we don't spend the effort required to make them work. This applies across the board from our courts and government to our businesses and education. Even science is faltering as pointed out by Feynman with cargo cult science proliferating everywhere. Confidence in these institutions is at record lows and falling with the exception of the military.

This brings us back to peak oil, climate change, Todd the realist and Leanan's criticism of spring_tides' "who are your sources?" Spring_tides' post would be useful for rebuilding functional institutions if we actually wanted to do so. Which Leanan appears to think that the evidence indicates that we don't. It's an interesting question, what lead us to build these strong institutions in the first place and why did we later let them decay so badly. And while it is important that we rebuild those institutions, we are going to need them for the challenges ahead, it is also secondary to this discussion. We needed those institutions to take meaningful action decades ago when they were in better shape than they are now. The chances that our more degraded institutions are going to take drastic, painful, and unpopular action in our present polarized and contentious world are indistinguishable from zero. Todd is right to call himself a realist.

We are going to blow past the 2°C unless we do things that we are aggressively not doing. Things that have tremendous inertia even after a decision has been made. A decision that we are presently barely capable of talking about in a meaningful sense. If we decided, the royal 'We' right here and now, to rebuild the institutions of democracy, journalism, civic engagement, etc. it would take years maybe decades before they were robust enough to handle our present predicament responsibly.

Consequently, it is straightforward to conclude that we will exceed 2°C. We will face an unplanned powering down from lack of fossil fuels. We will face economic, energetic, environmental, and ecological problems that impose severe stressors to society and national governments. There will be shortages. There will be wars.

I liken it the Titanic. When, dear reader, would you say that the sinking of the ship was inevitable? When it cracked in half? When it began lilting? When it began taking on water? When it hit the iceberg? When it first saw the iceberg? Before it first saw the iceberg?

There are many who think that the hour is late. They are mistaken. The time to act has already passed. The hour is early in a new age born of our failure to act.

Some interesting thoughts, Tim. (Tim?)

One that really stood out for me was the emphasis on 'Effort'.

A malady of the era of ubiquitous powered tools and aids, automation and 'services', and cheap power to run them, is that many forms of Effort have become alien to average folk, and these tasks begin to look much harder than they really are. Walking a couple dozen blocks that you often drive, Hand Mixing a recipe instead of using a blender, paying a personal visit to have a cuppa and sit a spell, instead of tweeting or knocking out an email/ phone message.

I think 'effort' has become a bad word. 'Too much work!' .. and people get intimidated, and we tuck into our safe corners, sure that we're just not up to that effort. Maybe next time.


Regarding your conclusion.. well, I don't buy that level of certainty. Yes it's late, and we seem to be headed for much harder times.. but it's never too late to act.

It's still time to act if you have the ability to act. Suggesting that you can say how the story ends is exactly the kind of presumptiveness that I find particularly UNrealistic, and where people who conflate 'Telling the Bad News with Realist' are skewing the results towards their fears, while ignoring that there will still be good news in the mix as well, and how they interact and are attended to will make all the difference in our fortunes.

Oh well.. I'm off to have some fresh donuts with a buddy .. how can I be glum!

Hey hey jokuhl,

Yes it's late, and we seem to be headed for much harder times.. but it's never too late to act.

I agree. I should have put something in about fatalism. the difference between 4°C and 6°C is serious and we need to act now to mitigate it. The time to act is always now but let's not have any illusions about it savings us from damage that is inevitable. We need to work very hard to save ourselves from the damage that is not yet inevitable.

And yes, it's Tim.

Here, here!

(Or is it 'Hear, Hear!' -- ? I never have found that one out..)

Hear, hear

More hear ;-)

...though Hear here! works for me.

Efffort. Have we all forgotten that effort leads to results, and results can be FUN (again my emphasis).

Wimbi's Wonky Widget Works is effort, but also a huge amount of fun. More fun than anything in my previous life, (barring moments here and there).

In this summer of getting off grid, I put in the effort and got the fun on:

Cheap solar water heater- never any complaints about amount or temp, and in the fall, I roll it up and go to the wood water heater on my stove. A best buy.

PV panels- got me thru the great outage in fine style, while all the other guys were trying to keep their generators going and driving each other nuts with their stink and noise.

And (drum roll) the PV backup stirling engine, which after far too many deeply sophomoric goofs, I finally got going just fine to fill in the watt hour deficits from PV on cloudy days.

I am thinking there has gotta be a huge market for this quiet, non-stinky PV backup that automatically fills in the full budget of kW-hrs each and every day, no matter the weather. And does it on wood. Wood is stored solar, right? Non-sinful.

Betcha whoever gets around to making them could sell maybe 3 right here, and extrapolating to the same percentage of the rest of the world, billions. Hey, let's go.

Congrats on the Stirling! Let me know if you're going to give a demo sometime!

One point you ALMOST made up there is that The Effort itself is Fun! (I guess we each have varying types of effort that can be fun for us.. but I think people like to do good work and see some accomplishments, and feel what their bodies are capable of..

I pressure-tested my copper collectors this week, no drips, and now just in the last hour have finished the reinforced plywood walls for the Heated-Water Storage Tank. ( a bit like this one.. http://www.builditsolar.com/Experimental/PEXColDHW/TankConstruction.htm .. but with more perimeter stringers down the belly of the tank. )

I scored a 4'x8' pallet at noon which gave me 2 full sheets of 1/2" ply, 8 sticks of 2x4, and a can full of good decking screws, all for the effort of jockeying the thing up onto my Subaru and then pulling all those screws out.

There will be shortages. There will be wars.

And now the wars don't even need to be 'energetic' - they can be biological. Such a biological war has the selling point of the Neutron bomb...kills the people and leaves behind the stuff to cure the shortage.

Biological war now has an interesting counter or way for the moneyed class to survive:

At the same time, one branch of that thinking has itself evolved into a new project: the notion of creating downloadable chemistry, with the ultimate aim of allowing people to "print" their own pharmaceuticals at home. Cronin's latest TED talk asked the question: "Could we make a really cool universal chemistry set? Can we 'app' chemistry?" "Basically," he tells me, in his office at the university, with half a grin, "what Apple did for music, I'd like to do for the discovery and distribution of prescription drugs."

Individual drugs for individual DNA/RNA based on your chemistry of the moment. No need to drink sterno or cry to keep the Andromeda strain at bay.

Dave Cohen, who used to be associated with this place puts it all in perspective:

The classic George Carlin video at the end will help the medicine go down.

I think the Internet and the overall fragmentation of the media (500 channels instead of 3 or 4) has made us a more polarized society. People seek out others who agree with them, and it becomes an echo chamber. They no longer have to deal with those who disagree with them, so it becomes much easier to demonize them.

But some kind of moderation is necessary on the net, precisely because anyone can say anything. Like someone said...the opposite of censorship is not academic freedom, it's 4chan. The "winners" will be those with the time and inclination to shout loudest and longest.

The "winners" will be those with the time and inclination to shout loudest and longest.

And we have too much of that (I mean in general not TOD). Few bloggers are up to the job/effort -even less so in major for money media, where pissing off an important element of society can mean attempts at legal action or customer boycotts etc. We also see that some people/agencies with agenda's pay people to troll for them. There also are lots of fellow-travelers who troll for the cause without being paid. Its a very difficult intellectual environment we live in. Very difficult to get decent moderation, when entertainment -or other values trump an honest good faith search for the truth.

it's still interesting to see what kind of poster has gotten drummed out of here as well. I wonder if we've been fair in the nuclear discussions, for example. Sure, there have been comments individually that went over the line, but really overall, I have to look at how pro-nuke voices have been pretty much shooshed from the discussion

The pro-nukers did it to themselves - go look at the 'there are no worries' posts early on in the Fukushima event. Combined with the statements of TEPCO and local health officials saying 'happy people don't get sick from radiation' - how does those positions get walked back from later?

And when one misses ship date after ship date (Hydrino car batteries the size of a briefcase that powers the electric car expected in 2007 or EEStor's Any-day-now-for-reals-this-time super-duper capacitor) its hard to keep slugging away with the techno-optimism.

Then you have the 'here is my idea that I'm hoping to make money from' techno-fixers like pods-on-a-wire/lets-put-solar-panels-in-space shilling for the idea and when they figure out this won't get 'em more eyeballs/investors they move onto other places to hopefully snag the next interested party.

I'm one of the semi-pro-nukers who thought the Fuk fiasco SHOULD have been manageable. I was wrong on that item, but nobody has chased me away from here (nor will they succeed in the future, most likely). My simple belief is that ALL viable power sources will be used and abused unless we get population under control, either purposefully or via starvation and disease.

As for nukes or other technologies, there is what is possible, what should be possible, and what actually is. Inherently safe nukes might be possible. Fairly safe nukes should be possible -- safe enough being that your chance of dying from the nuke is significantly less than your chance of dying without it. Unfortunately, existing designs and existing operations don't quite accomplish that goal. Fukishima is a superb example of such failure.

The quantity of cooling water flow needed to prevent catastrophe in Fuk was relatively limited even from the outset, and would become exponentially smaller in just hours. For reasons opaque to me, high-reliability emergency external connections for cooling water were not a part of the initial design - probably simply due to cost. I heard a radio show last week talking about contingency efforts underway at similar US sites to add such connections. As usual, low-probability but high-impact events were soundly discounted (such is the nature of planners).

Worse, when the Fuk incident occurred, people on-site apparently lacked authority to act autonomously, and everybody involved at the outset seemed more concerned with preventing incidental damage to equipment than with preventing a melt-down. Clearly the situation was not well understood by those in authority (and perhaps those on-site who did understand made a savvy decision to run for the hills), and the MOP was inadequate for any emergency.

Still, what if we have a major melt-down every few decades? What if such events kill a few hundred thousand people each? We already know how to make more people. Fossil fuels and our well-meaning but misguided Green Revolution have given us billions of people who eventually will die poor and hungry. Sure, renewables and clear-headed planning COULD help with that, but the same narrow-minded, short-sighted thinking that gave us our current nukes will largely preclude such benefits as well.

I expect we'll hit the wall with fossil-fuels, re-permit existing nukes far beyond their marginal safety zone, and scab together a good bit of renewables as we slide down the backslope. Alan will eventually build some trains too. It'll all be too-little, too-late for most, but it'll all help somebody somewhere, and we'll learn from the mistakes to some degree.

Those who come after will get to live in a polluted, fossil-free, species-limited, high-C02, excessively-warm, high-water, diseased, radioactive world, but they'll have sound examples (good and bad) to go by. Unless all that gets lost in the water wars.

My passionate bias against nuclear energy is 90% due to the waste issue, something the pro-nuke folks tend to casually dismiss, minimize, or ignore completely. If the full cycle can't be made reasonably safe, very long term, any discussions as to nuclear power's viability are lost on me. Continuing to kick this can is criminal, IMO. We'll all be condemned, posthumously.

Unfortunately, existing designs and existing operations don't quite accomplish that goal

Due to the flawed nature of Man, the 'existing operations' part is why I'm not in favor of fission power. Man had an opportunity to show Man was up to the task - and failed to show that the task was doable.

Still, what if we have a major melt-down every few decades? What if such events kill a few hundred thousand people each?

And what if, in the projected upcoming resource wars, fission plants fail due to direct attack or indirect effects of attacks on other things?

Right now there is one National armed force that plans on attacking and destroying local PV arrays while others in the world have called such an 'attack on basic human rights'. If something as small as a 100 watt PV panel is considered 'fair game' - why would nuke plants be off-limits?

(and the pro nukers will claim that only direct deaths are what matter. Shaving a year or two off your life due to eating unstable radionuclides from a busted fission plant - how do you "prove" that?)

Right now there is one National armed force that plans on attacking and destroying local PV arrays while others in the world have called such an 'attack on basic human rights'. If something as small as a 100 watt PV panel is considered 'fair game' - why would nuke plants be off-limits?

Very good point. Couple that with the pro-nuke attitude that several have expressed of:

"Still, what if we have a major melt-down every few decades? What if such events kill a few hundred thousand people each? We already know how to make more people."

and you're looking at massive increase in casualties from our now common wars. Strike the plant and get a completely uncontrolled melt-down plus mess from the SFP. In fact just a small strike to disable external power and disable cooling and then claim "we didn't strike the plant itself, the melt-down wasn't due to our strike, poor design!" Do we really want this? Every time we decide it's OK to strike a nuke plant, we get another wave of future deaths and a massive "dead zone". How the hell is this OK???


Now that I think about it, killing external power will most often be enough to cause the melt-down, if even we in the US have major reliability problems, how reliable do you think these things are in the third world? And then, as Ghung mentions, there's the waste problem added to it.

Maybe this Nun was trying to tell us that one man's power source is another man's dirty bomb:

A Tennessee plant housing the nation’s primary supply of bomb-grade uranium was shut down this week.

It’s after investigators say a nun broke into it.

The 82-year-old sister along with two other activists, a man in his 50s and another in his 60s.

The anti-war trio made their way into the plant’s highest-security area by cutting fences with bolt-cutters.

Of course, this was only the weapons grade stuff....

More: Another G4S nightmare

All operations remained suspended yesterday at the sole facility in the US for storing enriched uranium after the area was breached by three anti-nucl ear protesters, including an 82-year-old nun, exposing gaps in security provided by G4S, the same private company accused of bungling security arrangements for the Olympics.

The National Nuclear Security Administration has already planned the mitigation to these types of concerns..years before this incursion:


An integral part of Y‑12’s transformation efforts and a key component of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA’s) Uranium Center of Excellence, the Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) is one of two facilities at Y‑12 whose joint mission will be to accomplish the storage and processing of all enriched uranium in one much smaller, centralized area.

Safety, security and flexibility are key design attributes of the facility, which is in the preliminary design phase of work. UPF will be built to modern standards and engage new technologies through a responsive and agile design. Upon completion, UPF will be a comprehensive uranium processing facility, appropriately sized and capable of meeting national security demands.

How much will it cost? Current public estimates are ~ $4.2-6.5B


An antiquated, overly large footprint facility will be replaced with a modern, more compact facility.

Jobs for Americans, Uranium for our future.

I would challenge folks who make great hay out of bemoaning government spending/stimulus and who also favor BAU-levels of MIC spending to challenge this project...and then to explain why spending money on increased solar and wind electricity generation capability, and transmission capability are also not fine ideas.

Right now there is one National armed force that plans on attacking and destroying local PV arrays

Uh, where do you get that one from, please?



Its been quoted before on TOD. Last month there was a report of actual IDF troops shooting up one PV array - alas I don't remember the key words to bring that specific event.

Of course, that National Force seems ready to blow up anything bearing a spark of life, indpendence or hope about it. Olive Orchards, Waterworks, Communications..

Imneizil's solar system was built in 2009 by the Spanish NGO Seba at a cost of €30,000 to the Spanish government. According to the Israeli authorities, it was built without a permit.

Guy Inbar, a spokesperson for the Israeli authorities in the West Bank, explains: "International aid is an important component in improving and promoting the quality of life of the Palestinian population but this does not grant immunity for illegal or unco-ordinated activity."

Sometimes it seems like 1984 is their protocol manual now.

As Sallah said.. "It is as if the Pharaohs have returned.."

And with such 'tudes by Man VS their fellow Man, why are Fission plants only seen at risk from the fortune of either nature or "bad luck"?

Written by augjohnson:
Now that I think about it, killing external power will most often be enough to cause the melt-down....

Backup generators are far more reliable than you assume.

In a wartime situation like being talked about here, how reliable is the fuel supply for those generators?

.. and unless a bunch of heat-exhausted fish die and clog up the cooling water intakes.. either for the gensets OR for the Reactor.

It's the high probability for even a two-stage cascading problem that makes this issue far more dicey than the Pro-nuke camp ever admits to. Drought conditions, Bad Economy, High Heat, High AC demand, Occasionally Spotty Diesel conditions, higher water need for Agro. and all the Elec. generation sources (except solar and wind), rivers and lakes extra warmed by weather, lower volumes AND boosted power generation.


It was so hot last week, a twin-unit nuclear plant in northeastern Illinois had to get special permission to continue operating after the temperature of the water in its cooling pond rose to 102 degrees.

It was the second such request from the plant, Braidwood, which opened 26 years ago. When it was new, the plant had permission to run as long as the temperature of its cooling water pond, a 2,500-acre lake in a former strip mine, remained below 98 degrees; in 2000 it got permission to raise the limit to 100 degrees.

The problem, said Craig Nesbit, a spokesman for Exelon, which owns the plant, is not only the hot days, but the hot nights. In normal weather, the water in the lake heats up during the day but cools down at night; lately, nighttime temperatures have been in the 90s, so the water does not cool.

And of course, sitting squarely on TOP of all the other complications, is that when you are getting permission to raise those allowable water temps out there, you are also reducing your heat exchanging efficiency, amplifying every other part of the problem.

I just can't see why people are still defending this stuff. (Tho' I'll try to OFfend them civilly and fairly, in any case)

.. and unless a bunch of heat-exhausted fish die and clog up the cooling water intakes..

A minor nit to this timely point:
The problem with warm water is that liquids tend to hold fewer dissolved gases when warmer.
So the fishies are not "heat-exhausted", they are hypoxic - suffering from too little oxygen in the water.


"As for nukes or other technologies, there is what is possible, what should be possible, and what actually is."

Well put. And there are fairly safe nukes, which even load follow. Rickover built bunches of them. But the reason they work is that they are small, and submerged in the emergency coolant supply. EBR II was a sodium loop fast breeder than was well beyond 'fairly safe'. And it had a proliferation resistant fuel recycling system. But it was also small, and therefore, according to the accountants, uneconomic.

The AP 1000 may be safe enough, but it was derived from the AP650, which was most likely safer, but the accountants said 650 MW is too small; they want their gigawatt.

Some things don't scale up very well. Intel's Pentium 4 ran into a wall at less than 4 Ghz and never got to where marketing promised, and the Same went for IBM's G-5, which never broke 3 GHz. The industry had to change to multiple cores at lower speed. Apple's Macbook Air is running at 1.7 Ghz. The P-4 hit 1.7 Ghz in April 2001. Technology went in a different path because it had to.

If nuclear is going to remain viable, it has to go another route than giant customized plants. At least in my less than humble opinion. And in the US, we have other options. The Southwest has solar potential, the Great Plains have wind. New England has small-scale hydro potential. HV-DC power transmission is well understood. Pumped storage where there are hills, and batteries where they are not. Natural gas for backup.

Does nuclear power provide the largest amount of energy produced to capital required? The Point Beach reactors in Wisconsin might suggest yes, but the former Trojan plant in Oregon says no. A tornado scoring a bullseye on the Springerville PV farm would much less trouble to clean up than Fukushima, or even TMI.

As a PS, I'd love to have a maintenance cost of 0.1% of installed capital cost at my place of employment. Of course, then I probably would not have a job there either. LOL. Admittedly they did let the magic smoke out of the inverter once. And they could use some load leveling.

That last from http://www1.eere.energy.gov/solar/review_meeting/pdfs/p_20_moore_snl.pdf

EBR II was a sodium loop fast breeder than was well beyond 'fairly safe'.

My memory of the Sodium tech was when the Sodium hit the air the resulting fires were 'unsafe' enough that they were scrapped as an idea going forward.

Some things don't scale up very well.

Like competent, well trained human beings. Where is the 'we can't get more of them at the price we want to pay' breakpoint? What happens to your "staff of experts" if they happen to be at the plant when there is a "sever/cut rope ax man" event that gives them their yearly or even lifetime exposure for radiation? Do you say "whoops - no experts gotta shut down"?

What happens when your "competent, well trained human beings" have security guards who sleep on the job? What's the weakest link in the 'well trained' chain of staff? How about sick/distracted humans in that chain?

And the "so what if there is a failure" argument....so what if there is only one plant. What about 400? 1000? 50000? How many plants is too many in case there is a bulk failure via war/"natural disaster"?

Hey Paleo;
Thanks for saying that. I know Engineer Poet and Magnus and a few others hold pro-nuke positions, and I don't think they have bailed entirely.. while that issue does tend to get to the same dead end currently, so perhaps most folks are leaving it be for now, until there's really some new information to have a new conversation about it.

But apart from that issue itself, was of course my trying to decide how we handle differing views here. I know that Fracking has gotten a bunch of lively discussions going.. and we can always count on Religion and Population to bring out some diverse perspectives (ahem, ahem!).. or perhaps even that question of Peak Oil.. (Please all, I'm taking a chance even saying the topics there.. I'll trust you to your own restraints..) I'm just always trying to double-check whether we're in total group-think, or whether the subjects do get an open and fair hearing when they come up, without an excess of childish battering and ad-hom sniveling.

Generally, I think we're still getting a passing grade.. but I do get the image in mind of a bunch of Crows chasing a Red-tailed Hawk out of their part of Central Park, some years back.

God Bless us, every one! (oops, did I really say that?!)
Tiny Tim

I wouldn't describe myself as pro-nuke, I do support restarting Japanese nukes, however, and oppose shutdowns planned or begun by other developed countries. The biggest reason for that is that I see the current replacement as fossil rather than negawatts or well-integrated renewables.

I see fission as a necessary near to mid-term evil on the route to greater renewable use. Intelligent pro and anti-nuke discussion is found here, but like a lot of other topics, the general public and political discussion is profoundly lacking in substance.


Since you are in the overall electricity business (even though I think your forte is not necessarily nuke plant operation, Mx, or policy) I will ask you this:

Is there a place on the Internet where a curious/interested/concerned citizen can go and see a list of the implemented, funded, and planned but not yet funded safety improvements for the U.S. reactor fleet?

Same question about waste storage/disposal.

I am OK with continuing to use U.S. reactors until their safe life is approached...but only if additional safety measures are implemented.

Of course, the cry will be 'How much is enough...no matter what we do, it will not be enough'...but I think that is a strawman argument that can be dispensed with through sound analysis.

It seems that the provision of power to cool the reactor and the cooling ponds for waste is a soft spot. On a related note, I was rather disappointed that the a move to maximum use of dry cask storage was not seen as warranted at this time.

If robust safety and security measures lead to a 1-2-cent per KwH rate increase...then that is the price to pay.

Or maybe we will all stick our heads in the sand until we have a serious incident in the U.S.

I recommend http://www.ucsusa.org/nuclear_power/

I would use them as a pointer to where bodies are buried rather than as a source of conclusions.


I am OK with continuing to use U.S. reactors until their safe life is approached

And what is this "safe life"? Original design life? Only X violations in Y time? Safe because the operators say so? Unsafe because the anti-nuke crowd says so? Save because the government regulators say so? (Keeping in mind the demonstrated 'here is the filled in in light pencil forms now do 'em in ink' forms of BP and the oil regulators)

Where is this "safe" line in the sand?

Yeah, that is pretty much my view on nuclear power. It is a necessary evil at the moment. Further construction needs to proceed with great caution. The risk of a significant accident is pretty low but since accidents can render large amounts of land uninhabitable for decades, the overall expected outcome can be terrible.

A nice thing about most renewables is that the industrial accidents that do occur (and the do happen) tend have pretty small and limited effects.

"Yeah, that is pretty much my view on nuclear power. It is a necessary evil at the moment."

And where, exactly, and to whom, are you going to assign your nuclear wastes?

Just askin'...

Your Faustian bargains foisted on to others? Not funny, that...

Would you like my share? :-) I bequeath my share to a remote storage site that scientists and engineers deem to be best.

Most people lack the skills (and money) to build stand-alone PV system like yours. So they are dependent on utility power. They lack the moral authority you have. And between coal and nuclear, I think nuclear probably has the better cost/benefit outcome. Nuclear definitely has serious issues . . . but coal seems to have even more. Heck, even coal has a radioactive waste problem since the ash contains a lot of heavy radioactive elements that don't burn (along with toxic heavy metals).

I'll be getting around to installing a PV system in a few months. I finally arranged for a contractor to upgrade my service from 100 Amp to 200 Amp service so I'd have space in the main panel. So I'll be generating PV power. But I'll still be dependent on the grid when the sun doesn't shine. None of the utility generation system choices are good. And even when some appear better than others, we need a mix different systems to deal with unforeseen problems, changes in fuel costs, intermittentcy, etc. So, I'll take the guilt/responsibility for generating some of that nuclear waste.

Sorry, Spec... it's one of the few issues I show no quarter addressing, and it always leaves me wondering how we get ourselves into these predicaments, then continue to sleepwalk through the nightmare. I have to remind myself how many of us have too few choices.

Good on you for making better choices, eyes open..

A nice thing about most renewables is that the industrial accidents that do occur (and the do happen) tend have pretty small and limited effects.

What is the cost and effects of Fukushima/Chernoybol/Sheffield/Hanford failures?

What is the cost and effect when PV/Wind/Hydro fail? How many years is such a failure site un-useable by man?

And you also gotta factor in crazy people who might deliberately destroy a nuke. That's my main argument against. But crazy's can also destroy windmills and solar farms?-- so what? As you say, mighty low return on investment, that.

Having myself switched to solar, I found it remarkably easy and fast, and highly effective. I paid for it easy by not buying a car. That with an automatic fill in from a local combustion engine eating renewables like waste wood could be a great solution, and very quick to install.

And not enough for BAU? Absolutely. Nothing BAU can last, gotta go, and the faster the better. My suggestion is to simply quit doing most of what we are doing, which experience has shown to have very very little essential result.

Quit doing the silly stuff, and so get rid of any need for all those "necessary evil""s.

I think the advantages of nukes are so obvious they will continue to be part of the energy mix well into the future.

But not US nukes: the stop-start policies of the US govt have broken the chain of expertise and investment needed to advance the industry.

One day we will inherently safe nukes and fuel cycles that include productive ways of using high-level waste. Available cheap from the Chinese.

BTW, decades ago the main pollutant from coal-fired power stations was acid rain, which caused enormous damage to agricultural areas and accelerated corrosion of the built environment. You never hear about it any more. Has the problem been licked, or is it just no longer top of mind?

I'm a little leery of phrases like 'Inherently Safe Nukes', as if it were a brand that exists somewhere, like 'Neverbreak Combs' or something. It gets repeated as much as talking points like 'Job Creators', and seems to be trying to create itself into reality through 'early and often' repetition.

I've yet to see a convincing sign that they are really a feasible product to expect.

'Fast, Cheap and Good'.. pick any two, but not the first three.

You are too kind, jokuhl.

"Safe Nuclear" and "Clean Coal" are both lies, intentionally designed to worm their ways into human brains to the extent that people either believe them or are at least willing to agree that they are at least "a matter of opinion."

Denying the realities of science is criminal.

[edited out inappropriate anger :)]

Okay, nukes that don't breach their containment on failure, instead of spreading radionuclides over the countryside. Not safe-safe, but a lot safer than today.

Of course, even a failed nuke can provide nasty materials for bad guys to exploit.

So can a chemical plant, but you don't shut down the chemical industry because it's possible to poison an entire city's water supply. You put in safeguards. Can they fail? Sure. Nothing is guaranteed. It's a risk/reward trade-off.

My concern with radiation has always been genomic instability.


My sense of it has always been that radiation has more potential to adversely affect the human genome over successive generations than chemical agents, but I really don't know if that is the case.

My feelings on this may be an artifact of the research I have been exposed to, which tends to talk about various drugs or even environmental events that alter genetic expression, which is less serious and would tend to decrease with each generation.

I think there has been some recent evidence that radiation causes genetic errors that tend to increase in successive generations even in the absence of additional exposure. This may be some of the new low-dose radiation research, which I know is a bit controversial.

The primary contributor to acid rain is SOx pollution from combustion of high-sulfur fuels. SOx is a criteria pollutant regulated by the Clean Air Act. Major progress has been made in reducing SOx emissions. New sources were required to use BACT. Cap-and-trade was used in the U.S. to reduce emissions from existing fixed sources (primarily via switching to lower sulfur content coal, but also thru addition of flue gas desulfurization which has accelerated recently). Recently, diesel fuel maximum sulfur content was dramatically lowered.

It has nothing to do with how intelligent you are; smart people are just better at rationalizing their biases.

I cannot buy that at all. It has everything to do with how smart you are. Of course we all have our biases. But it is like a sliding scale. We are not equally dumb and we are not equally biased.

Also the amount of bias one holds is usually directly proportioned to the amount of indoctrination they received during their early years. Very strong indoctrination can mold a mind as if it were set in concrete. Those lucky enough to not have had to endure such indoctrination will be less biased. And the even luckier ones were very intelligent also and will tend to recognize biased information far better than they would otherwise.

I agree that smart people are better at rationalizing their biases. We all do that. But that does not mean we are therefore all equally biased.

Example: The more intelligent a person is then the less likely it is that they will biased against others because of an accident of birth, such as race, national origin or sexual orientation.

Ron P.

Sorry Ron but I have to disagree. Go to any of the seriously right-wing or left wing web sites (Heritage or Brookings) and you will find incredibly smart folks with beau-coup credentials arguing completely contradictory positions. It is all emotional bias in my view.

I have a totally obsessed right-wing brother. He is probably smarter than me yet he makes the most idiotic statements when anything political enters the discussion. Worse, as we get older, he sees everything as a problem caused by the "libs".

Here's an extreme example of his thinking:

I mentioned once the phrase attributed to Marie Antoinette "Let them eat cake" as an example of callousness. His take was that it was typical socialist thinking that if the peasants had no bread that someone should give them cake.

That's emotional bias, and it takes real creativity to come up with that!

Since bias is essentially the opposite of impartiality, it's hard to be impartial about things one is deeply invested in. Greed, and its rewards are a huge driver of bias, regardless of IQ. Then again, those who have little capacity for critical thinking are likely to latch onto whatever biases make them comfortable. People who are deeply invested in the suburban lifestyle are likely going to be biased toward policies that support that lifestyle.

Also, lack of familiarity with something can make folks biased towards it. Solar (PV) energy is a good case in point. I frequently have gridweenies telling me all of the drawbacks inherent in PV, which not only indicates bias, but seems silly when they are usually aware that I must be intimately familiar with PV's limitations.

Then there's religion... something I'm not qualified to discuss (lest I reveal my biases ;-)

JJ, just what are you disagreeing with me about? I said "we all have our biases" so apparently you are not disagreeing with that. I also said "We are not equally dumb and we are not equally biased." I really don't think you would disagree with that either. At least I hope not.

Of course a lot of very smart people are also very strongly biased, but not all of them. On average the more intelligent are less likely to be as strongly biased as the less intelligent. That was my point.

I must add that there are many kinds of biases. Some biases are just a form of bigotry. I would guess, though I have no proof, that the more intelligent are perhaps likely to be biased politically but less likely to be biased toward someone because of their birth status.

By the way, I thought everyone knew that Marie Antoinette was just being cruelly sarcastic when she said "Let them eat cake." Or that was why it was attributed to her as there is no evidence that she ever uttered the phrase. But if your brother thought she said it because she was a socialist who thought someone ought to offer them cake then... then... Well, if my brother believed that I would not think he was all that smart.

Ron P.

FWIW: In the psychology literature regarding wisdom and intelligence there is a distinction made between the latter (problem solving ability) and the former (judgment based on tacit knowledge vs. emotional and mood proclivities). One explanation as to why there are very smart people who do very dumb things or have strong biases that prevent them from evaluating evidence better is that the two facilities are not the same. High sapience is correlated with high intelligence, but not the other way around, necessarily. In other words there can be many people who have demonstrated high intelligence but do not show the typical signs of developing wisdom, but the majority of people in the latter category demonstrate reasonably high intelligence as well. A very good source: "Wisdom, Intelligence, and Creativity Synthesized" by Robert J. Sternberg. Sternberg has written extensively on this topic, but this is a good overview.

My own work on the basis of wisdom in a brain capacity called sapience can be found here (the internal links take you to my working papers). Lots more references cited there.

The bottom line is that both wisdom and intelligence are prerequisite for overcoming our natural biases (see also: "Heuristics and Biases: The Psychology of Intuitive Judgment", by Thomas Gilovich, Dale Griffin, & Daniel Kahneman for insights on where biases come from.) Intelligence alone, however, is not.


Many people have said to me, "I wish I had your brains. I would have done so much better."

To which I reply, "Having brains just means you can think of better arguments to do the same old stupid things."

I usually just say: "Was there ever any doubt"?


Well said.

While I think it's well established that Antoinette never said "Let them eat cake", Greer mentioned a while back that it was a jab at the Aristocracy, implying that Antoinette and her like were so disconnected from the common people that she assumed everyone had plenty of cake around, and could afford it, as she did.

Mind you, he had the courage to get in line along with his unfashionably plump, unfashionably dressed, unfashionably accessorized fellow passengers, and board that bus. I suspect that most of his peers have never done anything of the kind, and would never think of doing so. In today’s America, if you want to avoid seeing how most people live, nothing could be easier; America’s geography is so thoroughly carved up by income level that it takes a deliberate effort to fall out of the comfortable orbits inhabited by the middle and upper classes and plunge back down to Earth.

This is quite common in aristocratic societies at certain points in their history. When Marie Antoinette responded to reports that the Parisian poor had no bread by saying, "Then let them eat cake," she was being clueless, not catty; a life in the rarefied circles at the zenith of ancien régime France had given her precisely no exposure to the fact that it was the price of bread, not some unexpected shortage of it, that was making the lives of the underclass wretched. Her husband probably had a slightly clearer grasp of the situation, at least in the abstract, but he—along with a great many other aristocrats who would share his fate—had no more useful an understanding of the powderkeg on which the vast and tottering structure of the ancien régime was so unsteadily perched.

"The Distant Sound of Tumbrils"

Then, as now, the ruling class had no clue how the rest of us live; bias at the top. A reader pointed out in a comment that she likely never said it. Just a tidbit for a slow weekend...

I suppose an American variant involved healthcare and went along the lines of "Let them use the emergency rooms." I've heard that said on more than one occasion when debating the merits of universal health insurance.

Or the zombie, "Let them eat brains.". After the too-long emergency.

Seriously, though, humans make it look like God, the most picked-on of the gods, was challenged by his fellow gods. They challenged, "So you think a species with lots of brains will fare better in the game of survival, ay?". And God said, "Yes, of course they will. Because they are more intelligent. It's so obvious! See? For example, they can ceaselessly soapbox on their blogs with great verbosity and argue online. Look at them go! Can squirrels do that? Hell no!"

About now, I suspect that God's fellows are starting to snicker as they ponder the successful animals without much in the way of brains, like sand fleas. Over here, we have piping plovers scooping them up... they look tasty. I should try one. Probably tastes a little like shrimp.

Many people have said to me, "I wish I had your brains. I would have done so much better."
~ aardvark

Really? Different people at different times said that exact phrase? ;)

Genius is as common as dirt
~ Gareth Stack

Different people at different times have said something similar. It's a polite way of telling me they regard me as an under-achiever. Which I am.

Being able to travel at 200 m.p.h. is no asset if you're pointed in the wrong direction.

Well that's the thing:

"The important thing to understand about collapse is that it's brought on by overreach and overstretch, and people being zealots and trying too hard. It's not brought on by people being laid back and doing the absolute minimum. Americans could very easily feed themselves and clothe themselves and have a place to live, working maybe 100 days a year. You know, it's a rich country in terms of resources. There's really no reason to work more than maybe a third of your time. And that's sort of a standard pattern in the world. But if you want to build a huge empire and have endless economic growth, and have the largest number of billionaires on the planet, then you have to work over 40 hours a week all the time, and if you don't, then you're in danger of going bankrupt. So that's the predicament that people have ended up in. Now, the cure of course is not to do the same thing even harder... what people have to get used to is the idea that most things aren't worth doing anyway..."
~ Dmitry Orlov


I understood you to say that bias was largely correlated with a lack of intelligence and indoctrination. That's my only disagreement. I think there are highly intelligent people with devilish bias. The only correlation I would make with intelligence is that, perhaps, less intelligent folks are more easily convinced by indoctrination. I would call that less of a bias than a victimization.

I have often held that human intelligence is highly compartmentalized. Yes my brother is smart in spite of such a stupid notion. He has good business sense (and an MBA), is a talented amateur architect and a great cook. I can do none of those things.

I agree with you. In fact, I read a study not long ago that found less intelligent folks are more easily indoctrinated...and more easily un-indoctrinated. Precisely because they are not as good at rationalizing.

And probably more cognizant that they in fact need to employ some sort of mental shortcut to function well.

JJ, I will have to agree with you on this one. There is a correlation of bias with intelligence and indoctrination but I would not go so far as to say it is large.

But I have one strong point to make. There is something just not right with this sentence:

I would call that less of a bias than a victimization.

Bias and victimization are not opposites, not either one or the other. They are in fact complimentary. The fact that bias is usually caused by indoctrination does not lessen or change the fact of bias in any way.

Bias is can be something mild or something very strong like bigotry and hatred that can lead to violence and even murder. The fact that they are victims of indoctrination does not lessen their bias, their bigotry or the severity of their/our actions one iota.

We are all the product of our heredity and environment. Our bias, our bigotry, our empathy, our capacity to either love or hate is either in our nature, or was instilled in us by our environment.

Of course people with bias are victims of indoctrination. That does not mean it is not bias or that the bias is lessened.

We are all indoctrinated. Some of our tendencies were inherited. But all of actual facts we know were learned. But our beliefs, those unsupported by facts, were learned also. That is indoctrination. We are all victims of the world and the culture that we were born into.

Ron P.

The more intelligent a person is then the less likely it is that they will biased

I suspect the correlation is much lower than you assume. I'm not even sure if it runs positive or negative. Being relatively unbiased is far more a matter of attitude than aptitude. Of course those with high aptitude and heavily biased attitude generally become hacks/flacks, rather than scientists and academicians.

smart people are just better at rationalizing their biases.

And people who place real value on being smart make some effort to confront their biases everyday. That doesn't mean they are 100% successful, but it does mean that applying good epistemology in good faith can pay off (if the goal is to be well informed).

Here is a study that examines how people evaluate and choose who is a scientific expert when forming or supporting their beliefs on issues such as global warming; it's called the "Cultural Cognition of Scientific Consensus."

Why do members of the public disagree - sharply and persistently - about facts on which expert scientists largely agree? We designed a study to test a distinctive explanation: the cultural cognition of scientific consensus. The "cultural cognition of risk" refers to the tendency of individuals to form risk perceptions that are congenial to their values. The study presents both correlational and experimental evidence confirming that cultural cognition shapes individuals' beliefs about the existence of scientific consensus, and the process by which they form such beliefs, relating to climate change, the disposal of nuclear wastes, and the effect of permitting concealed possession of handguns. The implications of this dynamic for science communication and public policy-making are discussed.

Full study - download as PDF:


Climate science still trumps skeptics

I suppose that depends upon one’s definition of “trumps”. If it means documenting enough to prove an issue to an impartial reviewer then perhaps. If it means causing a major adjustment in how we go forward then, IMHO, it sadly doesn’t come close. I’m seeing the same attitude from the majority of the public/politicians towards AGW as I’ve seen towards PO for my last 37 years in the oil patch. A vocal but small cadre sounding the alarm, the same political posturing with little real substance following and the majority intentionally ignoring the issue because to do otherwise is counter to BAU.

Sometimes I become a tad more agitated than I should with folks who constantly beat the “proof drum”. They may think that piling bit upon bit of evidence supporting AGW will cause some major shift in society’s actions. That’s their option to think so. But I opt to think otherwise. Building a case for AGW is a far easier task IMHO than causing folks to significantly adjust their ways. The old phrase “winning battles but losing the war” come to mind. And the approach I envision should be much more difficult than “just proving” AGW. The task is to find some level of compromise that can be achieved. Looking at an extreme minority position is an easy example: society needs to immediately stop burning FF. Even if Central Park in NYC was under 10’ of the Atlantic Ocean it wouldn’t happen IMHO. I know many avid AGW supporters would find compromise distasteful. But they need to hack out what improvement they can by working within the system. A slow and difficult task no doubt. But pounding society with calls to make changes that drastically affect their lives for the sake of future generations has virtually no chance of success. It hasn't with respect to PO so why shoud we expect the reaction to AGW be diffent.

Just one person’s dumb opinion.

I agree that it will be practically impossible to change public opinion regarding AGW, especially given the massive propaganda campaign by a few wealthy individuals and corporations. Few people understand science and technology at a level which would cause them to take the necessary actions to even slow the rate of increase in CO2, let alone stop it. Of course, we are not alone on this planet and there are other nations, such as China, which appear willing to continue to trash the planet, so why should the US be the first to jump off the cliff? In the US, the scientists have nearly lost the battle and thus war is essentially over. The only hope is that some massive climate event might shake the public out of their media induced delusions, else BAU will continue until we hit some irreversible environmental threshold and then it will be too late...

E. Swanson

And at the same time, there are so many little projects to cut demand for energy that fit within the existing BAU.

"In 1996, BWX Technologies, formerly Babcock and Wilcox, completed a retrofit project on the compressed air system at their Lynchburg, Virginia, manufacturing plant. The replacement of antiquated compressors and dryers, along with the implementation of a more sophisticated control strategy, significantly improved the efficiency of the compressed air system and led to important savings in energy and maintenance costs. The total cost of the project’s implementation was $487,000. The total annual savings were $264,000, or 4.2 million kWh, leading to a simple payback of less than 2 years. In addition to compressed air energy and maintenance savings, the project reduced the plant’s need for wastewater treatment."


"By upgrading the plant’s compressed air system and installing the PL4000 compressed air controller, the total amount of energy required to run the compressed air system has been decreased by 21%, resulting in an annual savings of more than 1 million kWh of electricity and a 1.5-year payback on the project."


Save the World is a much, much less effective argument than a double digit IRR, which sounds like something I read in the Rockman School of Management.

Save the World is a much, much less effective argument than a double digit IRR, which sounds like something I read in the Rockman School of Management.

True but I am not so sure if a double digit IRR always translates to something that will lead to something better. As the electric grid collapses here in India, burning diesel for power generation is growing at a much faster pace than say installation of solar panels and it's not because of some stupid regulation, even with taxes on diesel and a tax break on PV's it simply does not make economic sense for many to buy solar panels. Maybe alternatives will have their time in the sun but at what stage of collapse ?

I think your argument is roughly the same as that put forth by those who argue that the invisible hand will save the day.

PVG - ...Save the World is a much, much less effective argument than a double digit IRR ...

It's worth remembering that this credo was also the 'holy gospel' of the financial industry's sub-prime mortgage bubble and credit default swaps black hole. The quest for double digit IRR is not altruistic.

PV - Good examples. But: I’m always willing to give credit to folks who do what they can. But all those interesting anecdotes don’t change the big picture: “According to the Energy Information Administration's statistics, the per-capita energy consumption in the US has been somewhat consistent from the 1970s to today. The average has been 335.9 million British thermal units (BTUs) per person from 1980 to 2006. One explanation suggested for this is that the energy required to produce the increase in US consumption...has been shifted to other countries...”.

Of course, with the US population continuing to grow, that constant per capita stat means we’ve been constantly increasing the absolute amount of energy consumed. And to put it into a more recent time frame: total energy consumption 2008: 25,560 TWh...2010: 28,715 TWh (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_in_the_United_States#cite_note-12). Regardless of the mix of the energy sources (though still dominated by FF) our economic system is still consuming more energy then ever in an effort to maintain BAU. So again the question of sustainability rears its ugly head.

For the individual or the company it’s great that they find a way to lessen their energy requirements. But collectively we still haven’t change the trend to any relevant degree

The problem is that we have a zillion opportunities to make highly cost effective changes of the sort you highlighted. But, because of human frailties most are never pursued. Conservationists have been trying to find the magic bullet for decades (that will get a plurality of people to make the efforts required), but haven't found it.
So to save the world, we can't just do our isolated tinkering, we have to find a way to motivate many many others to either tinker -or let others tinker with their systems. generally trust is lacking.....

Yet I see nations that, under BAU, are implementing a broad range of initiatives that both reduce carbon emissions and oil consumption. Denmark & France come to mind.

The observed trait is not innate to homo sapiens.


I don't think it reflects on the observed trait. In fact the trait is really just specialization. A narrow technical area like energy efficiency just isn't likely to be important to more than a tiny fraction of individuals. So a lot of stuff that is obvious to us, just doesn't register on the average person. {Just as I have exactly zero interest on which team is likely to win the superbowl}. The fact that some countries are able to get their governments to step in and fill in some of those gaps isn't really a counterexample.

I think that tipping point, like any revolution, has to happen when the time is truly ripe for it, no matter how much WE want that ripeness now.

The fact that modest bundles of folks are here and there doing their tiny bits is less to add up their aggregate contribution to the overall problem, and more that they are the 'starter germs', and when or if we get that big TIP, then that work will help be the models that others will learn from.

When it comes to the United States, I tend to agree with you.

ATM, I am working with a 90 year old man that was, amongst very many other things, on the original design team for the 103 mile Washington DC subway system.

We are looking at what a Phase II - all projects justifiable today - would look like. He says that, with BAU, ridership would more than double today but would be unlikely to more than triple today's ridership. Operationally, it would have fewer delays, many more alternative paths A to B, many more transfer points and it would be more economic to operate than today's system.

Still not all written up - but we have the Metro additions down. Last was Amber Line down I-395 HOV lane.

Light Rail, Commuter rail (EMUs at 90 mph from Shady Grove to Crystal City) and streetcars yet to do.

Any comments appreciated


When the time comes that good plans are needed, Ed Tennyson will no longer be with us. His historic knowledge, vast experience, keen analysis (too many times my ideas floated were "half baked") and fundamental integrity can contribute now - and it is worth the effort to preserve viable plans.

Best Hopes for Ed Tennyson,


How long and how much (ballpark) for all #1 priorities, and also for everything?

Also, any idea on the impact of a 1 meter sea level rise on the D.C. area...specifically metro train, human, and HVAC/other interfaces with the surface?

Still working on that.

Ed is disgusted with the recent prices for Metro and other rail in the USA (he was first operations manager for the first new US Light Rail - San Diego Trolley, built as cost effectively as Calgary).

Where possible we went at grade or elevated (cheaper to build, cheaper to maintain).

Paris is going to build 200 km of new Metro for 21 billion euros, 2013-2025. They plan to keep six TBMs (tunnel boring machines) busy for a decade plus.

I looked at elevations @ Google Earth. No impact on our plans with a 2 meter rise except possibly 14th Street Bridges (already in service).

Priority 1 is

- Olive Line, which should be cheap & fast. Half elevated, a third at grade, minimal subway if built as planned. Maybe three years and a few billion if done properly.

- Plum Line, A couple of miles under Connecticut Avenue. Maybe two years and a few billion if done properly. Complements the Rose Line.

- Rose Line, about six miles and almost ten new stations (I will check notes) through high priced (Embassy Row, Georgetown, Washington Circle, Dupont Circle, Thomas Circle, K Street, Union Station - see real estate agent drool), high density area,

The Rose Line must be done in stages. It will be quite disruptive regardless, but sections allows the city to go around construction. I would have the central section of the Rose Line operating before shutting down the Red Line to graft in. Realistically, trying to keep costs under control, 5 years and very lucky to get it done for $10 to $12 billion.

Ed is against the last leg east of Union Station. It would require going deep under 1st Avenue NE (Amtrak tunnel) and then a station on 2nd Avenue NE in front of Hart Sneate Office building and connecting with Senate subway. Then an "L" connection with existing Capital South station (Orange, Blue, Silver transfers).

I see serving the powers that be (Senate & House), plus staff, lobbyists and tourists as important. He is unsure the numbers are high enough to justify the large expense. I also like the extra transfer station - useful day to day and also with interruptions (maintenance & accidents). He values the extra transfer point less than I do.

So we left that leg - Union Station to Capital South Metro station under 2nd Street NE & SE as an option.

With BAU, DC Metro will be 30% over capacity by 2040 - per projections.


I commend your efforts in this area, and in the ideas for the electrification of certain freight track.

I jettisoned the concept of driving around D.C. over a decade ago. The Metro is much less stressful...the buses are fine as well for connections. A Taxi when necessary.

My kingdom for public rest rooms. I would gladly swipe my credit card for access...five ducks a go would not be unreasonable.

We noted that (public restrooms available at Union Station & Huntington (odd choice)) and bike parking.


Some elements of the design I am proud of.

- Ed is concerned about poor management allowing cascading delays. A late Orange train slows a Blue train, which delays a Yellow train that red blocks a Green train. Quickly, every train is sitting still, waiting a minute or two for clearance. This does not clear till Peak is over.

Passengers arrive at a constant rate at Peak - delay one second and a few more board. Delay a minute and that train very quickly is at near crush loads - which slows the train down even more at the next stations.

The new lines will be more decoupled from this than the existing lines.

- 14th Street Loop - Up to six lines circling the core of DC (7th & 14th Streets NW & SW) with attractive new stations (Tidal Basin, Treasury, Logan Circle, Thomas Circle). Three clockwise, three counter-clockwise - 1 train every 6.9 minutes from each line. By making 5/8ths of the Loop triple track (slow trains routed to middle track - boarding from both sides is a bit faster) and scheduling in a 45 to 60 second delay /go slow section for on-time trains as they go from triple to double track), we avoid the making the 14th Street Loop a source of cascading delays.

The six time slots (trains every 2.3 minutes, clockwise & counterclockwise = 6 trains every 6.9 minutes) are feed two from north (2x Green North), two from Anacostia (Green South & Olive) and 14th Street bridge (Brown & Amber Lines). This is important because there are three time slots from each direction and only two are used, limiting cascading delays on the feeder lines.

The third track in the Loop also allows the two trains/6.9 minutes allocated to the Green North Line to operate a six car train with a 3 minute headway and an eight car train with a 3.9 minute headway - much better boarding than 2.3 & 4.6 minute headways. As demand grows, the Georgia Avenue Light Rail on the surface will take some pressure off the Green Line.

- Routing of Rose and Plum Lines. We fix a fundamental compromise of the original plan (split two strong feeders - Wisconsin & Connecticut Avenues), pick up a variety of high value attractive stations and double "Red+" Line capacity. This will create a variety of alternative paths, A to B. Passengers will automatically adjust loadings if there are two (or three) ways to get from A to B. This reduces bottlenecks.

More transfer points reduces the burden on L'Enfant, Gallery Place & Metro Center. And the disruption from maintenance is much reduced.

We recommend that all new stations be built with ten car platforms and the Rose Line have 4 tracks from Washington Circle to Dupont Circle and three tracks Dupont Circle to Union Station.

The Olive Line down Indian Head Highway has been completely overlooked. 55,000 daily riders.

Best Hopes,


As always I commend you realist efforts, with much action and minimal hand-wringing.

When in peak periods, having trains daisy-chain their stops at every station is not terribly efficient if the majority are going to a more distant transfer station anyway. Is there an opportunity for "express" trains that load fully at a single stop and head straight for a transfer station, along with the current "local" trains? On average such trains would spend a greater fraction of their time cruising, with much less time spent at stops. Having a train stop, doors open to reveal a packed car with no-one egressing, and then close again does nobody any good.

Or is the traffic modality such that most passengers are traversing only a few local stops before existing? Or does station contention become a limiting factor?

Counter-rotating rings is a good idea for very high-density areas. If travel segment ingress/egress points are random, the average rider will be on the train only half as long as for a single-direction route. Can trains change direction (symmetric vehicle design forward and backward) and cross-over? Such would be useful during construction and maintenance, allowing a large ring to bifurcate into smaller sub-rings.

I believe in the origination & destination theory of transit. People do not commute from residential area to another residential area - and there is mid-day office to office travel, but little such travel at Peak.

Building the Rose Line through Georgetown with three tracks would allow for express trains from the Red Line (Bethesda, etc.) to zoom through Georgetown to Washington Circle. Past Washington Circle, the only "weak station" on the Rose Line will be the new New Jersey Avenue station (and with TOD it may not stay weak).

Three tracks also means during maintenance, just discontinue the express trains and run two track local service.

A "two track trick" is to start the express train a minute before the regular train. The express train skips enough stations to arrive a minute or two after the regular train in front of it. With WMATA headways (max. 6.9 minutes at Peak - not worth the effort).

Ed has said that experience shows that people will not complain with up to 6 minutes headways at Peak and 12 minutes off-peak. We are stretching that with 6.9 minutes at Peak (5 minutes with Red Group Lines, 7.5 minutes with Copper) and 14 minutes mid-day.

On Red Group Lines, stations get two lines every 5 minutes - 24/hour. On others, three lines every 6.9 minutes - 26.1 trains/hour. WMATA says that they cannot run more than 28 per hour (Ed say BS, they used to run 30/hour- 15 second scheduling is required). Running slightly below capacity gives slack to prevent cascading delays, and slack for bad management.

I had a long argument with Ed. Since subway lines last for centuries, one cannot build them assuming good management. If one does, and bad management arrives (as it surely will, sooner or later), the system fails. Ed finally agreed - although it runs the wrong way with him.

We will use the Copper Line off-peak & week-ends from Dulles Airport to Union Station for express service. Leave Dulles every 14 minutes (like Silver Line) but 90 seconds or so ahead of it. Stop at one or two Tyson's Corner stations, East Falls Church, Rosslyn, Washington Circle, Dupont Circle, maybe another, Union Station, maybe Capital station.

If you board or get off @ Dulles an extra $8 or $10, otherwise regular fares. Two or four car trains to compete with taxis.

The Copper Line is an express train. At Peak the Stops - East Falls Church, Washington Lee High School (close to Ballston), a second Rosslyn station, Washington Circle, Dupont Circle - reverse. Rebuild East Falls Church to three tracks and run the Copper Line off the middle track (transfer & loadings from both sides). Pick up Orange & Silver Line transfers. Space limits the Copper track to one track (double track stations for passing) and this means one train every 7.5 minutes at Peak.

Ed has talked of a strategy used elsewhere for commuter trains. Break line into 8 to 10 mile segments. Have trains run local (every stop) for eight/ten miles and then express to big station destination. Possibly useful for MARC Penn Line. Details, details, details to consider.

On the 14th Street Loop, putting in three tracks and three track stations for over half the loop gives an off-Peak /weekend solution. Shut down service (or single track) on 7th Street to L'Enfant, Archives & Gallery Place and run trains on new track (3) and have them reverse direction at 3rd track station (say Logan Circle or Mt. Vernon Square from the south, Tidal Basin from the north). But Peak service levels do not have that much slack.

And one can take out one of the three new tracks for maintenance at Peak - if you can live with cascading delays.

I hope it is clear that this is MUCH more than drawing lines on maps.

Best Hopes for More Years with Ed,


PS: If your train arrives in the Loop at L'Enfant station and you want to go to Tidal Basin (at Peak), get off and catch the next train going the other direction - one every 2.3 minutes + 2 minutes travel time.. Or stay on your train and get there in 13 or 14 minutes or so.

Best Hopes,


Are you running computer simulations?

Computer = Ed Tennyson (90 years of continuous operations)

His ridership estimates for the DC Metro (103 miles), made before the first line opened, were off by 3% when completed.

I accused him of being lucky. His response was "Yes, but you have to be good to be lucky".

His grasp of operations, and ridership behavior# is remarkable.

Best Hopes for Scratch Pads,


# A transfer cuts ridership by -18%.

People are, on average, indifferent to a transfer if it saves them 7 minutes. Half will transfer, half will sit in their seat for an extra 7 minutes (He has a curve in his head - the mid-point, 50%, is 7 minutes, almost 100% at 12 minutes).

Code his mental ROTs (Rules of Thumb) into a model!

Include ALL assumptions...

...it would be a shame to lose his expertise.

However, I assume the Washington Metro administration/operating organization has its own system M&S (mod and sim)?

Perhaps a model could be gonked up in ExtendSim or ARENA?

Or convince the owners of the code to let someone amend and mash-up RR Tycoon and SimCity, with the queuing algorithms from Rollercoaster Tycoon... :)

They fired all their engineers and planners years ago.

Thus the 2030 plan (helped by some amateurs - good for them trying)


This also means a vacuum of good planning exists. With contacts Ed and I have, this effort should not just disappear beneath the waves.

The official federal model (to compare projects for funding) is always wrong - Ed does not like it.

Yes, I need to codify it - but Ed does not think that way. Applying it brings out heuristics he knows, but does not list.

He enjoys working with me, but he is quick to critique weaknesses in my ideas. I hope you get a flavor of the back & forth between us. If I recognize a weakness in my position, I quickly cave. Likewise Ed (so sweet the sound - "Well yes - you have a good point there. I had not considered that" :-)

But when we both think we are right (Design for good management or bad management - serve Hart Office Building & Senate subway or not), the debate is repeated over weeks.

And all this is for a greater good. When the time comes, when we panic, some worthwhile plans will be available - at least for Washington DC and New Orleans,

Best Hopes for More,


Computer = Ed Tennyson (90 years of continuous operations)

His ridership estimates for the DC Metro (103 miles), made before the first line opened, were off by 3% when completed.

Does he also call horse races?:-)

I commend your efforts in this area, and in the ideas for the electrification of certain freight track.

I jettisoned the concept of driving around D.C. over a decade ago. The Metro is much less stressful...

Ditto on both points.

DC was the first place I ever experienced a real, large, urban subway/rail system. I grew up, and have lived most of my life west of the Great Plains. Most of my experience with big cities was in Portland, Seattle, Denver, LA, and San Fran (and unfortunately Houston and Dallas as well). Many decades ago, one of my oldest friends took a job in DC, married a local woman, and settled in for the long haul. The first time I visited him, the Metro was a revelation to me. Sooooo much easier than driving into the city!

Observing efforts do develop light rail in a number of cities west of the Mississippi has been interesting to me. The proposals have always been hotly debated and highly controversial. But once the systems start working people always seem to prefer them to driving.

Keep up the good work Alan.

"Conservationists have been trying to find the magic bullet for decades"

There is no magic bullet. Looking for the one perfect solution is probably making a worse mess that anything else. "This is imperfect, so we won't do it" results in nothing getting done.

I am with you here, people will never get it as a whole. The whole damn problem is just too slow to register in our consciousness, we can identify only one kind of threat and to take a metaphor that is of a giant asteroid racing towards Earth. Anything else will simply fail to register because it's just too slow.

It's just one excuse after another, for AGW it will be either El-Nino or Jet Stream or Sun Spots or La Nina, blah blah blah, for PO it will be either Iran or environmental regulations or politicians or Saudi Arabia or Middle East Unrest or China etc etc.

Our brains are simply not equipped by evolution to collectively register this kind of thing.

Another excellent post.

Pretty much

"We have only two modes - complacency and panic." — James R. Schlesinger, the first U.S. Dept. of Energy secretary, in 1977


I think you have analyzed people correctly. I have had similar discussions many times. The kind of change proposed by the likes of Joe Romm, Speth and Randers, however logical and science based, fail to address the reality of the world. Humans do not make their decisions based upon facts and scientific logic. Decisions are based upon much more fundamental physiological factors derived from our evolvement. It's BAU until it is time to run for your life. Then your first goal is to outrun at least a few of the pack so that they get picked off first.

I see only one type of trigger that could generate a quick change in civilizations response to AGW. Some kind of 'Black Swan' type of climate catastrophe. In other words, a tipping point is crossed and some aspect of our world changes dramatically for the worse almost 'overnight' (12 months?). An example of the type of thing that could qualify for this event would be the giant methane emission from the East Siberian Arctic Sea that people are always talking about. Experts say this is possible but not at all likely anytime in the near future. But, say we had a 20 Gtons release over 12 months. The almost instantaneous change in our climate might be enough to panic people into changing (i.e. it would be run for your life time). I would hope anyway. But maybe not.


Rock - … The task is to find some level of compromise that can be achieved. …

Although I agree with you on one level here is the problem.

We are trying to ‘compromise’ with ‘Mother Nature’.

This is like jumping off a cliff without a parachute and expecting that the gravitational constant will somehow change before you hit the rocks below.

Our window of opportunity is closing. According to the IEA, the window for 2 degree is 3-5 yrs away. Even if we were to stay within this threshold this only leaves us with a 50/50 chance that the climate will stabilize and return to ‘normal’. Kinda like playing Russian roulette with 3 rounds in the chamber.

S – Using my perverse view of life I see your comment as perfectly supporting my position. LOL.

Yes…Mother Earth never compromises. But that's not who we're trying to compromise with...it's TPTB. As I've said many times: the perfect solution isn't worth a crap if it isn't implemented. But when you’re standing on the cliff and someone is trying to make you jump off you need a solution. So you tell that person you won’t do anything they say. But he doesn’t care about your prediction of doom and he pushes you off the cliff. So maybe instead of saying "screw you...you're stupid" you engage him in a conversation without telling him he’s stupid for the choices he makes. That would tend to piss him off and make him give you a shove right then and there. So you discuss a less drastic approach: ask if you can climb down the cliff a ways and then jump. Being a somewhat reasonable maniac he agrees. So now instead of dying you get a sprained ankle. Not a perfect solution, of course. But you’re still alive, eh?

I my life I’ve been in any number of situations when I had little or no chance of winning. But that didn’t stop me from minimizing the loss or pain. That’s how I see the AGW issue: Mother Earth won’t change her rules. But that doesn’t mean we can’t try to lessen their impact.

Although it may be hard to tell from what I post, I agree with your viewpoint [re: lessen the impact (on a personal level)].

It's just at this stage of the game, incremental change around the edges will have little or no effect for the majority (or the biosphere). I've worked with TPTB and they're not moving fast enough.

Maybe, instead of arguing with the party that's trying to push you over the cliff, the alternative is to throw TPTB off the cliff.

The fundamental problem is 'THERE ARE TOO MANY OF US AND WE WANT TOO MUCH'. Until we solve for that variable, the problem will remain unsolved.

S – To be uncharacteristically serious for a moment: “…the alternative is to throw TPTB off the cliff.” I couldn’t agree more. But we’re so outnumbered all we could do is irritate them a bit before they crushed us. Heck, even with my afflictions I’m still good out to 800 meters. But I would run out of ammo before I could do any good. I think you understand where my doomer attitude comes from. It has nothing to do with not understanding the problem or identifying any valid solutions. It has to do with the momentum inherent in the current thought process of the vast majority of the electorate. It’s not that they can’t change but that they don’t want to. Just looking at the $trillions of dollars and many tens of thousands of lives sacrificed in the ME. So save those folks and bring them democracy? Or to give us a foothold in a major producing region? When was the last time you saw thousands (or even hundreds) in the street protesting our current military activities? As comparison how many $trillions did we spend saving folks in Africa from genocide? How many of our military did we send to prevent the slaughter of 800,000 innocents? I suppose it was their own dang fault for not having oil fields. BTW I really did enjoy “Tears of the Sun”. Who says we can’t make good movies that make feel good about protecting the weak even if we don’t actually do anything. Made me feel proud of our country watching ole Bruce stick it to the bad guys. Thank goodness for our liberals in Hollywood.

Someone above offered the possibility of a “Black Swan” waking folks up and making them change their ways. I have no doubt what would happen if such an event took place: a completely erroneous and heavy handed response. That brings me back to my MADOR theory. A day may come when there’s only enough energy readily available for two economies to maintain themselves: the US and China. And I have no doubt that either will do what is necessary to secure what they require. And what happens if/when there’s only enough for economy? Luckily I’ll be long gone by then. But my 12 yo daughter may have a front row seat. All I can do there is teach her to be as independent as possible and leave my armory to her when they slide me into the Mother of all Subduction Zones. LOL. OK...I can only be serious for so long.

Rock, you'd make a good enviro campaigner, careful I don't propose a campaign you'd be tempted to join...

(and an irrelevant side comment: Some years ago about 10pm the ridge above my house erupted into a battle with explosions and tracer fire going into the sky, and aircraft shooting back with tracer fire, and the whole thing lit up like "close encounters" on devil's tower.. I call 911 and they said to stay in our houses, they were too scared to respond. Turned out they were shooting the battle scenes from "Tears of the Sun" and just decided not to tell anyone, the cops were sworn to secrecy too.)

Greenie – So you lived on the Islands…lucky you. Don’t feel bad about getting jumpy. In my youth the first time I experienced such a light show I pooped my pants a little. Woops…too much info? LOL. In all fairness to myself the food was not sitting well with me at the time so I was a tad predisposed.

As far as being bi-enviro I have gone both ways. LOL. But not so much in the last 15 years or so except for my oil patch work. You may have seen my chatter about belonging to Sierra Club when I was in grad school. But once I graduated and went to work for Mobil Oil they ran me off: obviously a geologist working for an oil company couldn’t be trusted. A poor move on their part: they lost one court action that I could have provided beacoup tech support for their argument against Dow Chemical. A very passionate group in the New Orleans chapter but didn’t have an ounce of tech/science background. They apparently thought just voicing their concerns over the unknowns would be enough to sway the judge. It wasn’t.

Actually one of the reasons I was hired for my current position was my ability to liaison effectively with land owners. Not so much an environmental task as just understanding how they view their property. In fact much of what I’ve done the last few weeks (including a phone call just an hour ago) has been making nice with the surface owners of 4 wells I’ll be drilling soon. Not so much technical as just common sense with a big dose of courtesy. Especially in La. Seems like every land owner is kin to some politician or cop. Years ago a client who had permitted a well in La. what the heck Cameron Parish Sherriff’s Posse was and why he should mail the a $300 “contribution”. I gave him the short answer: if he didn’t we many of us would get a speeding ticket when we drove onto the drill site. Since he was a crook by nature too he understood quickly. LOL

Hey, if you ever find yourself on Oahu in your travels, drop by for a visit. Tall stories will be shared.

I'm not sure if it's technically being "jumpy" to be concerned about WWIII occurring within a quarter-mile of your house, but I suppose I'm a bit of a wimp that way.

And I know what you mean - I was an ex oil-industry geophysicist in Greenpeace, back when I could use that group to do cool original stuff. I wasn't widely trusted by the majority granola contingent though - I cooked with microwaves.

A person who understands realpolitik & the real world is of more worth in a campaign than a thousand sincere ninnies. Meaning no disrespect to sincere ninnies.

Greenie – We’re not wimps at all. There is something serious wrong with a person that doesn’t get shook up at least a little if they think they are taking fire. Such people should be avoided. LOL.

I hope to make it to the Islands soon. I’ve been lucky to hit most of the items on my geology bucket list. My two biggies left are feeling an earth quake and watching a lava flow in person. The earth quake will have to be a fluke since I don’t spend much time in those areas. I’ve watched the pyroclastics blown out of Mnt. Arenal in Costa Rica (actually snuck inside the “kill zone”) but that's just not the same. Need to make it over there while She’s still spouting off. And collect some black beach sand while I’m at it. Just need to get my knees fixed and hop a plane before my MS knocks me down for good.

Just a natural clash sometimes. Some of the more effective "environmentalists” I've known were hunters preserving hunting habitat and land owners providing good stewardship as their oil/NG resources were being developed. Two aspects often vehemently opposed by other “environmentalists”. Which takes me back to my original point about both sides looking for compromise positions instead of the winner-take-all approach. Again, the AGW clan is never going to win anything taking that approach IMHO.

I just had an amusing vision about folks standing on opposite sides of a fence. You and I are leaning on our respective sides of the fence having a friendly chat. And the 300 meters off both sides of the fence are the extreme positions…each loaded up with M-60’s and mortars. We are the minority participants in this theater. And will likely be casualties. Perhaps as likely from “friendly fire”. LOL.

Rock - drop me an email before your trip and we'll coordinate. You should have my address from past correspondence, but if not there's one that'll work by clicking my user name here.

Not impossible you could get an earthquake and a major eruption in one visit, but the odds are low. You can probably find a trickle of lava over at Volcano park if you wanted to hike to it, and you'd enjoy the park anyhow... next-best thing to landing on mars.

I once got close enough to Arenal to have the booms rattle my teeth, but I had no way of getting from where I was to where I could see it - I hope to get back. I did climb down into a large caldera during a major eruption on the big isle once, next to a huge lava waterfall surrounded by a forest fire, a destroyed parking lot with a spatter cone in which I had to leap over crevasses of glowing lava, with blue methane sprites popping around me as the organics were vaporized and ignited... with icy rain coming down through the darkness into the rising steam, and the sky pulsating orange, near too much volcanic gas to breathe, constant small earthquakes... would have been a good place to dispose of an evil ring of power, but I decided to hold onto it.

Actually, I'm not that big on compromise positions; I generally arrange the situation so the other side capitulates entirely since it has become their most tenable option. Often it's a few power players in a quiet room who change the issue, far from the protests, press releases, etc. If you do it right, you don't even leave fingerprints, and you help write the press release for your opponent.

AGW is a bitch, even so. Still, there will be a lot of ways the situation can be made less-bad; there are just damnably few people interested who have any idea how the world works.


greenie - I know what you mean about compromise. But I'm sure you've been in situations where you knew you had no chance of winning. So what did you do: spit in the guy's face and stomp off in false satisfaction? Or did you try to salvage what you could for your side? That's the point I keep making about the AGW battle. Just MHO but it's not a battle that can be won...at least not until it's too late. How many tens of millions have died/suffered over the centuries as a result of TPTB doing anything to maintain BAU? So compromising may be the only way to accomplish anything. Compromise and win a little something. Don't compromise and win nothing...or worse lose even more leverage than what little bit they had to begin with.

Dang...that was rather up close and personal with Pele. I read long ago that the profession with the highest mortality rate was volcanologist. Not that a lot of them died but that there were so few to begin with. I think I might stick with a chopper tour. I've walked miles on brecciated lava fields in AZ...once was enough. LOL

Hi Rock. Like you, I'm a pragmatist and a professional, and it takes a fair amount of discipline at times. Say, up against organized crime, conducting operations in active war zones, doing undercover exposes where lives are constantly at risk, or using political brinksmanship to try something that seems impossible. There's no room for self-indulgence of any kind. It bears no resemblance to "protesting".

I'd fully agree that what usually passes for activism is pretty useless, or worse than. My point is that there's so little capable activism done that there's a fair bit of low-hanging fruit for those who have an idea what they're doing. AGW is a predicament somewhat like metastasizing cancer, and it won't be fixed. But there will be paths of greater and lesser ultimate emissions.

Hawaiian volcanoes are pretty tame, I assure you I'm a practicing coward when I can be, but the risks of approaching an eruption like the one I climbed down into are far lower than most. I'd rather be on foot than over it in a helicopter, that's for sure. Them things are dangerous.

Greenie - "but the risks of approaching an eruption like the one I climbed down into are far lower than most." For sure. Of course, those were the last words from one geologist as he went down into an active caldera just before the poison gas killed him. LOL. True story. Except the part I made up about what he said. No record of his last words since the other 2 or 3 with him also died.

I agree about choppers. Been in way too many of them so I'm due. Trivia: more oil patch hands have been killed in chopper crashes in the GOM than on the drill rigs. About the same time the 11 died on the BP blowout 14 died in a crash in the swamp close to where I was drilling. Obviously they didn't get the coverage the blowout did. Hopefully my knees and MS make me more man portable when the time comes. Otherwise it up, up and away. LOL.

"But I would run out of ammo before I could do any good."

The weapon is consumption. After 911, the message was "Please continue to consume". That's what really scared 'em: that people would stop buying stuff and not take those planned vacation trips.


Attack of the 50-Foot Eyesores
Lard Lad and other giant advertising statues come to life to terrorize Springfield. Lisa goes to the ad agency that created those advertising characters, and an executive suggests the citizens stop paying attention to the monsters as they are advertising gimmicks, and attention is what keeps them motivated.

Better quality:
Worser quality:



A-10: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zhPwaApe4Rk
BLU-108: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AKdFCsycYm8

K – Exactly. You ever here of a Malaysian monkey trap? Tie a coconut to a tree and scrape a hole in it just big enough for an adult monkey to squeeze its hand in. Put a nut inside the coconut and wait. Monkey squeezes its hand in and grabs the nut. Then you rush in to catch the monkey. Of course, all the monkey has to do it let go of the nut and run away. Unfortunately being such an adamant nut consumer often they won’t let go. End result: monkey stew for supper that night.

Some folks ask if we’re smarter than yeast. Maybe we should question whether we’re smarter than a Malaysian monkey.

Wrong. Not monkey stew. Monkey stew with nut.

Very good Jedi. And Thai peanut sauce is one of my favorites. I had monkey once. I'll stick with chicken or pork. LOL.

But pounding society with calls to make changes that drastically affect their lives for the sake of future generations has virtually no chance of success.

I am curious who is doing this. The biggest leaders on climate I'm aware of want a price on carbon-based fuels that rises with time. It should go into effect "with all deliberate speed," not so fast that people get wiped out, but fast enough for people to change their habits.

As to the obsession with "proof," it remains an issue because many public leaders now blocking progress publicly say climate change is a hoax. Which is a really silly position, but that's what people like Senator Inhofe say. And yes, he is a US senator, making policy. So proving what is already obvious remains an issue.

Of course the real proof for most people will be what they see with their own eyes, not Op-Eds in the LA Times.

Rockman ... "If it means causing a major adjustment in how we go forward then, IMHO, it sadly doesn’t come close."

PVGuy ... "Save the World is a much, much less effective argument than a double digit IRR"

Enemy of the State ... "So to save the world, we can't just do our isolated tinkering, we have to find a way to motivate many many others to either tinker - or let others tinker with their systems."

All good points.
Most people I know that have tackled the problem usually are environmentally conscious or do so because it makes sense (cents) to the hip pocket.

But it is the sheer scale of the problem that is the global challenge.
... and the sheer scale of the number of people who believe that there is no problem.
... and the sheer scale of the number of people who believe there is a problem, but would be unlikely to change their habits to help solve the problem.

Thinking of liquid fuels in particular, every time I see a new XYZ company with a new biomass process (press release) that claims to produce a gasoline equivalent for 50-80% of the cost, I think
... but what about the scale ?

So on a global basis I see it as an almost impossible task to achieve the scale at the rate that I think needs to happen.

Yet at the same time I find myself very interested to watch what the Germans are trying to do. I think if any one country can make the necessary changes it might be them, but of course they are only a very small piece of the global picture - a picture that is entirely dominated by the scale of the growth of the Asian countries.

But it is the sheer scale of the problem that is the global challenge.
... and the sheer scale of the number of people who believe that there is no problem.
... and the sheer scale of the number of people who believe there is a problem, but would be unlikely to change their habits to help solve the problem.

Having traveled more than most, eyes open, what did it for me is the sheer scale of people who have few choices. They struggle through each day with little thought of how things should or could be. They only have the capacity to try and deal with things as they are. Their leaders' hold on things is often as tenuous. Leaders in the developed, democratic west worry about enacting policies that will get them voted out of office. Leaders in many areas worry about enacting policies that will drive even more of their charges into poverty and starvation. Despotism is often the most viable choice under such conditions.

I don't think humanity has as much wiggle room as many would believe. Those who have the capacity and motivation to make changes are being trumped by those who oppose change, those who have the capacity to make changes yet refuse to do so, those who see no need for change, and those who's conditions don't allow for change; perhaps the largest segment - those who can't survive the journey.

What we have in AGW and Peak Oil are not problems that need solving. What we have are dilemmas. Thus, there are no acceptable solutions.

I see our two majority sides in these arguments as being cognizant of the general facts of the situations (whether they verbally or publicly acknowledge it or not) and I actually do not see much difference in their publicly stated 'solutions'.

One faction I call the left-wing cornucopian's. They propose solutions (mostly highly technical) to AGW that save our way of life (BAU anyone) but require we just change human nature, act logically and rationally, all work together and then, just in time, we can avert catastrophe and make a sustainable world where we can all (8-10 billion of us) live in harmony. Just another form of BAU, but with a liberal bias.

The other faction, being the right-wing cornucopian's, essentially propose that we do nothing (not necessarily an invalid choice given a dilemma). Past is thus prologue and if one has faith in markets, technology, religion or what-have-you and stays the course things will work out eventually. Reactionary BAU?

Neither approach has a chance in hell of working IMHO. This is where Rockman misunderstands my comment on a Black Swan type of climate catastrophe being the only real chance we have of jumping out of the hot water pot. For right now we are all just a bunch of right-wing and left-wing frogs sitting in a pot of water that is heating up. Mainstream thought on both side's leans strongly towards some version of BAU so no one is jumping out of the pot. Since I do not believe there is any plausible Black Swan likely to arrive from the Peak Oil side of the dilemmas that will panic the world into jumping, then our only hope is some kind of quick climate catastrophe, as I mentioned to Rock. Not likely to happen in time either but our best chance for rapid change that "might" result in slightly less chaos, but would certainly not result in any recognizable version of BAU.

I completely agree with Rock that there is no likelihood that the global panic such an event would generate would be anything enjoyable, nor survivable, for the vast majority of people. Barring a quick panic generated by an unexpected catastrophe I also think we will drift into energy/resource conflicts of increasing severity over the next 20-30 years. But no longer than that. Beyond that time the effects of AGW will completely override Peak Oil issues, and consumption of fossil fuels, by the winners of the next few decades of resource conflicts, will be dramatically and deliberately curtailed out of shear necessity.

A virtual elimination of burning fossil fuels is, eventually, certain due to AGW. A Black Swan catastrophe that could get us to that decision 30 years sooner would be almost like a miracle. But what ever path we end up taking will still require we get back to dealing with our above dilemmas. A hideous eventuality as it requires we shrink the population to a well below carrying capacity number very quickly. It we started today it would be painful beyond comprehension and if we wait 30 years it will only be worse. But we're going to have to do it sooner or later.

The Devil says, "Pay me now or pay me later. Your choice. But I want you to know that I am going to appreciate the show!"

But what ever path we end up taking will still require we get back to dealing with our above dilemmas. A hideous eventuality as it requires we shrink the population to a well below carrying capacity number very quickly. It we started today it would be painful beyond comprehension and if we wait 30 years it will only be worse. But we're going to have to do it sooner or later.

Or not, as you yourself quite succinctly stated above:

The other faction, being the right-wing cornucopian's, essentially propose that we do nothing (not necessarily an invalid choice given a dilemma).

Because whether or not any of us does anything at all, human population will hit the wall at some point and shrink. Of this there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever! And for this reason alone we can unequivocally state that we are not at all wiser, than a vat full of Saccharomyces cerevisiae, happily fermenting away!


Party on dudes. Though I do hope that everyone has a strong remedy for the day after's hangover!


Rail freight is cheaper than truck freight. Electrified double stack trains use 1/20th the BTUs of trucks - and those BTUs can be renewable. Railroads see the business opportunity and are investing 18% of their GROSS revenues in capex. But their gross revenues ($63.8 billion for five US Class Is in 2011) is less than the fuel cost for trucks (and RRs move slightly more ton-miles than inter-city trucks).

About 30% of Americans want to live in TOD (Transit Orientated Development) today (IMHO, 50+% deep Post Peak Oil) but about 2% do because there is simply not enough "T" to "OD" around. The large market premium for TOD confirms the supply-demand imbalance.

Meanwhile, we have subsidized Suburbia with trillions of subsidies to where we have glutted the market for McMansions.

The carbon footprint of TOD is about 1/4th the carbon footprint of Suburbia.

Transportation (to work, school, shops) bicycle paths & bridges (over highways usually) usually attract a fair number of riders. No mandates, no subsidies, no requirements - just suppressed demand that comes out once it is easier and safer to bike to work, school and shopping.

Just help what the market wants to do anyway - just make it faster and better.

Pushing a rock downhill is easier.

Best Hopes,



"Building a case for AGW is a far easier task IMHO than causing folks to significantly adjust their ways"

Obviously (IMO).

But why?

I think it is because of widespread mental illness in the form of sociopathy and psychopathy, at and within the seats of power who could bring the power to bear down on the issue.

Whether we should worry about whether or not we will destroy civilization is not ultimately a business question, it is a psychiatric question.

Much like analyzing suicide, whether to commit suicide or not is not properly a question of how much it will cost to do, or not to do.

IOW, there are more salient factors than cost benefit analysis.

So far though, masses of people are not talking about it in terms of suicide / ecocide, it is more a discussion of current comfort vs current uncomfort.

Thus, it is not "causing folks to significantly adjust their ways".

Hmmm.. I am not sure that describing it as mental illness is accurate. Nor current comfort vs current uncomfort. It seems more analogous to when a cow walks up to a cattle guard painted on the highway. It has been programmed by its experiences and evolution to not be able to see the paint but only the apparent hole it dare not step into.

We are creatures of our genetic development just like all other creatures. Because we are somewhat more intelligent (hmm higher IQ's anyway) then our animal relatives it does not mean that we can easily override our basic instincts. And maybe not at all.

Human's evolved in a world where survival depended on putting short-term interests first and foremost. Though the last 10,000 years may have provided some opportunity to change that programming, in general, even during that time, the vast majority of people's lives were dominated by short-term considerations. It is only with the wealth of fossil fuels that there has been a significant change in that equation. There has not been much time to adapt.

Since the ONLY real way to solve our AGW/Peak Oil dilemma's is to dramatically and quickly reduce global population how are you going to get the average human to look at the situation long-term? He only sees his survival as important as a general rule. And he certainly does not give a rats ass about anyone who is not close to him. He would willingly snap his fingers and vanish 4 billion people right this second if he thought that he and his loved ones were not among them.

While 'some' men are rational 'mankind' is certainly not yet there. Women? That is a whole 'nother story!



Re: James E. Hansen: Climate change is here — and worse than we thought

The irony of it all! Some 32 years ago, I was given a sharp reprimand for suggesting that global warming might increase weather extremes. This at a science meeting and the reprimand was delivered by the director of NCAR...

E. Swanson

Hansen's latest research:

Science Briefs
The New Climate Dice: Public Perception of Climate Change
By James Hansen, Makiko Sato, Reto Ruedy — July 2012
The greatest barrier to public recognition of human-made climate change is probably the natural variability of local climate. How can a person discern long-term climate change, given the notorious variability of local weather and climate from day to day and year to year?


Public Perception of Climate Change and the New Climate Dice

Link to peak oil: it will be impossible to ramp up reliably the supply of biofuels as a replacement for oil.

And on the question of population I wrote this article 2 years ago

Australian Population Scenarios in the context of oil decline and global

The numbers would need updating

In regards to "Petrobras posts first loss in 13 years; result shocks" I made a case here at TOD three years ago to avoid buying the stock of that company at all costs - mainly because of the huge costs of pre-salt development. Don't want to give anyone specific investment advice here and now, but maybe Petrobras can serve as a kind of poster boy for what can go wrong as the hunt for oil in the most extreme parts of the world continues while net world oil exports diminish [if we really needed another example after the Deepwater Horizon disaster].

No doubt the case of Petrobras was made worse by some retail price controls, but that may be expected to occur as governments seek various ways to deal with high energy prices.

Still in general investing in the energy industry offers good dividend yields, so to avoid political risks and local development problems broad based energy mutual funds and ETFs may be most appropriate for most investors.

Charles - Or more simply put to borrow a saying from the long ago oil boom in E Texas: You roll into town with the first wagon load of whores, cut your deals and then roll out of town before the first wagon load of production equipment arrives. Modern example: the most profitable Eagle Ford player that I know of – Petrohawk. And they didn’t make the money by drilling. They sold their undrilled acreage (that they bought dirt cheap before the boom) to a public company for $12 billion.

Great advice. If one had the knowledge to differentiate between good explorers (the fast and furious) and high cost developers (bag-holders), one could certainly improve investment returns.

Otherwise for most, generally speaking, a portfolio of mostly larger oil producers would diversify the risk of failures (such as BP experienced) enough so that a person could still sleep at night without worrying about the next well failure.

Rockman that public company was BHP, and it was only this week they had a $2.7b write down do to the low gas price in the US. At least the CEO is taking a personal hit due to the bad call. The write down wasn't for the Petrohawk acreage, due to the fact of their oil content, but for another deal they did with the Chesapeake, but it all points in the same direction.


2nd UPDATE: BHP Takes $3.29 Billion Writedown; CEO Kloppers Declines Bonus

-- BHP to book US$2.84 billion impairment against value of some US shale assets
-- CEO Marius Kloppers and petroleum CEO Michael Yeager decline bonuses

MELBOURNE--BHP Billiton Ltd. (BHP) said Friday it will write down the value of U.S. shale gas and Australian nickel assets by a combined US$3.29 billion, prompting Chief Executive Marius Kloppers to decline an annual bonus in the latest sign the global resources boom has lost momentum.

BHP blamed a slump in U.S. natural gas prices for the US$2.84 billion impairment charge on the Fayetteville shale assets acquired last year, following peers such as BP PLC (BP) and Encana Corp. (ECA) that have announced big writedowns of U.S. shale deposits in the past two weeks alone.

But in a significant move, BHP said the potential to pump oil from shale rock meant it wouldn't write down any of the U.S. assets acquired through the $12.1 billion takeover of Petrohawk Energy Corp. in August last year. That deal was BHP's biggest since Mr. Kloppers took the helm of BHP in 2007.

Pusher – If I understand how they run the accounting these days the write down situation for BHP is sorta good news/bad news. They didn’t get to book a lot of reserve value for the undeveloped Petrohawk acreage by the new SEC rules. Thus they wouldn't take much of a write down of the proven reserve side. OTOH they paid a premium for that acreage with the expectation of developing it into a much higher value proved asset. Besides lower prices slowing up the process the ultimate value, based on current price trends, will be lower than the basis they originally used to make the acquisition. It isn’t going to show up on the balance sheet now but they have lost a great deal of off-book value. In time it may be recovered when prices improve. But time is seldom a company’s friend…hurts that ROR.

I have a diversified portfolio of companies - some with significant risks.

The more broadly traded ones - where mentioning them here will not affect stock prices are

recently s little Encana
a small Conoco Phillips

When oil drops (I expect Sept/Oct when a/c demand drops), I will buy some oil royalty funds.

I prefer some frontier explorers. The "first ones in".

Some diversification (plus smaller unmentioned firms - total 9% of portfolio).

Best Hopes,


Link up top: How can clever people be so stupid?

Someone please, please read this article and answer that question. How can the author of this piece be so stupid? He thinks population limits is pure bullocks. Here is what he thinks about the limits of population growth.

Ian Jack, for the first time I’ve read him, manages to frame the review well: this is very much part of an eschatological religion, the coming of the end times.

And it’s pure bollocks as well.

And here is how he thinks the population problem will be solved:

What’s left of this last surge of population, from tiday’s 7 billion to that 10 billion or so peak is much more about the demographic transition than it is out of control birth rates....

And what is it that is reducing the number of children being born? It’s wealth: we can see this, we know this to be true in fact. Get incomes past a certain level (and it’s not all that high a one either, $6,000 to $8,000 GDP per capita, around the current global average in fact, seems to do it) and fertility declines precipitately.

Wealth, that's how we will solve the population problem. Get the "per capita" income up high enough and everyone will stop having more children. Now I am not denying that this would definitely reduce the population growth rate... if it were possible. But increasing the income of everyone on earth will be a problem. And then they become consumers of massive amounts of natural resources. Then...

Indeed, how can clever people be so stupid?

Ron P.


....if income per capita takes a dive, then it follows that birth rates would increase, right?

If true, then we look forward to 'Planet Bangladesh'..large population, less favorable weather/climate...scraping by to live.

...for a visual, look at the graph posted at TOD:


Thanks for the ref...one of these days I will give it a read.

Seems the premise is similar to Soylent Green, sans the plot about the fodd sources.

Perhaps the future may resemble the plot of 245-A Story of Our Future:


I doubt 2045 will turn out as Kurzweil believes:


Darwin wasn't really that well received, despite his stellar findings.
It seems to be a psychological thing rather than IQ.

That being said, even if you hold a view that the world is going to a certain direction, it's important not to throw out all of one's critical faculties/skeptical thinking. This is part of the reason why I like reading Stuart Staniford so much because he takes new facts seriously and alters his world view (if needed) accordingly.

That has been the standard demographic argument for decades. As societies pass a certain level of wellbeing the birthrates do drop. That is still being observed today. The fly in the ointment, is whether the global population is now so high that the planet can't put up with the required level of impact. Its not that the basic idea (of the transition) was/is wrong, its that there is a race between how fast we can reach the transition versus how fast critical limits are surpassed. He gets the first part of the story right, but (presumably I haven't read him), ignores the second.

And then ...

And then, as per capita income hits those levels people generally stop demolishing their local ecology. They tend to stop chopping down every tree, stop hunting to extinction, stop using slash and burn farming, stop flushing untreated sewage into the waterways.

Land Area: DR/Haiti (1.8:1)

Forest Area: DR/Haiti (18:1)

Particulate Matter: DR/Haiti (1:2)

GDP per capita: DR/Haiti (9:1)

They also tend to outsource their pollution and resource extraction to distant lands which prevents the global impact from decreasing.

They also tend to outsource their pollution and resource extraction to distant lands which prevents the global impact from decreasing.

Really? Do you actually suppose, now that the DR maintains its forests, that it instead imports the same amount of wood from Haiti, Brazil or Malaysia instead? Even if the DR now imports, say, the same tonnage of coal instead of wood the global impact is lower than the original forest slash and burn program.

CIA World Factbook for Dominican Republic

GDP - per capita (PPP): $9,400 (2011 est.)
Population: 10,088,598 (July 2012 est.)
total land and water area: 48,670 sq km
Population density: 207.3 people/km2
Population growth rate: 1.305% (2012 est.)
Birth rate: 19.44 births/1,000 population (2012 est.)
Death rate: 4.41 deaths/1,000 population (July 2012 est.)

Oil - production: 392 bbl/day (2010 est.)
Oil - consumption: 119,000 bbl/day (2010 est.)
Oil - imports: 107,300 bbl/day (2009 est.)

Natural gas - consumption: 560 million cu m (2009 est.)
Natural gas - imports: 560 million cu m (2009 est.)

Exports: $7.792 billion (2011 est.)
Exports - commodities: ferronickel, sugar, gold, silver, coffee, cocoa, tobacco, meats, consumer goods

Imports: $18.38 billion (2011 est.)
Imports - commodities: foodstuffs, petroleum, cotton and fabrics, chemicals and pharmaceuticals

"Remittances from the US amount to about a 10th of GDP, equivalent to almost half of exports and three-quarters of tourism receipts. The country suffers from marked income inequality;"

Unemployment rate: 13.1% (2011 est.)
Population below poverty line: 42.2% (2004)
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
-- lowest 10%: 1.7%
-- highest 10%: 37.8% (2007)
Distribution of family income - Gini index: 48.4 (2007), country comparison to the world: 26

I see a growing population, income disparity, massive imports (2.4 times larger than exports), and a dependence upon tourism and charity. Prosperity allows them to live beyond the carrying capacity of their local environment increasing their impact on the world.

massive imports (2.4 times larger than exports)
You're missing the large capital inflows that occur from tourism in the DR and in similar countries, which they are free to turn around and spend on imports.

Prosperity allows them to live beyond the carrying capacity of their local environment increasing their impact on the world.

More of the same, a comparison to some personal ideal of how the world should be, as compared to the reality on the ground in the country immediately next door, Haiti, whose behavior clearly has devastating impact not only on its environment but on the happiness of the people there. The consequence of which is, should the DR follow the policies you proscribe, they would increase environmental impact instead of decreasing it as they have done.

Haiti made a bad choice to deforest their portion of the island. However, I think you are advocating the personal ideal exemplified by the Dominican Republic compared to Haiti: you want a higher standard of living for people while ignoring the accompanying higher resource consumption and pollution. I am pointing out that both of them have embarked upon unsustainable paths: one outsources resource consumption and pollution while the other, after depleting local resources, does the same to a lessor degree per capita.

CIA World Factbook for Haiti:

GDP - per capita (PPP): $1,300 (2011 est.)
Population: 9,801,664 (July 2012 est.)
Total land and water area: 27,750 km2
Population density: 353.2 people/km2
Population growth rate: 0.888%
Birth rate: 23.87 births/1,000 population (2012 est.)
Death rate: 8.1 deaths/1,000 population

Oil - production: 0 bbl/day (2010 est.)
Oil - consumption: 12,000 bbl/day (2010 est.)

Natural gas - production: 0 cu m (2009 est.)
Natural gas - consumption: 0 cu m (2009 est.)

Exports: $690.3 million (2011 est.)
Export commodities: apparel, manufactures, oils, cocoa, mangoes, coffee

Imports: $3.275 billion (2011 est.)
Import commodities: food, manufactured goods, machinery and transport equipment, fuels, raw materials

Unemployment rate: 40.6% (2010 est.)
Population below poverty line: 80% (2003 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
-- lowest 10%: 0.7%
-- highest 10%: 47.7% (2001)
Distribution of family income - Gini index: 59.2 (2001)

Imports are 4.7 times larger than exports. Haiti does not consume natural gas! Both of their high imports suggest that the entire island is overpopulated.

I gather from the links you want all whaling stopped. Fine. What does have to do with my comment about hunting to extinction?


What do you think you linked there? Those links do NOT refer to hunting whales to extinction by modern whaling nations. No whale hunting is not the same thing as bycatch, or pollution, or what was done 100-150 years ago when whales were indeed being hunted to extinction.


India's Blackouts

How Darkness Sheds Light: India’s Democratic Dysfunction

About that Indian blackout, post-fact. I've been reading quite a few of these articles where it's all about 'reforms'.

I mean, the West has generally been in the doldrums for years now, most especially Europe. People are slowly getting used to 'the new normal', as painful as it is.

But what about those in India? Or China? Where constant growth has been the norm for decades, often flirting with double digits.

Human psychology is the same everywhere so a politican giving a 'end of growth' speech is political suicide, no matter where he or she is located, but that strain nonetheless is in the back of the mind of many, at least older, westerners who were brought up during the 1970s where it was very much part of the intellectual debate, at times one of the more dominant themes. Paul Ehrlich had a huge impact on college students back in the day(or so I heard from my parents).

Has a similar debate been had in India? Will the shock of low growth, effectively throwing back a lot of middle class folks into deep poverty be a much greater shock for their political system, which rests on the lazy 'endless growth' BRIC mindset?

Indian coal imports have begun to really take off, not just oil. The country has desolate infrastructure and 30-35 % of the population lives without electricity daily. It's in many ways incredibly vulnerable, even more so than China which has a far greater military and has gotten at least 250-300 million people to solid middle class status, India's much more sketchy on that point, hence political stability will be harder to maintain as the proletariat is far greater as a percentage of their population.

I remember reading a diss to Britain from one of the pompous new Indian foreign affairs mandarins, dismissing it as a 'third rate country stuck in it's Imperial past'.

Even if that kind of chauvisim is not standard, it does nonetheless inform the view that the standard narrative of 'only up from here' is still very intact. I mean, as bad as the coming slowdown/powerdown will be for everyone, at least many of us have it very good already and can manage to get many supplies we need to go to a lower-growth life with at least relative ease (in the beginning).

I wonder how things will pan out in places like India, politically speaking, which is still a third world country on a per capita basis and where there is a tiny elite which has done very well for itself while the vast masses are literally not much better off than those in, say, Bangladesh.

It'll also be interesting if people will get what is happening or if we get more articles talking about 'the need to strengthen political instutions' and other bromides...

Not at all sure I agree (about India). I've never actually visited the place, although I am very sympathetic to it's people, and have studied its history. The "cosmological" underpinnings of the country come from Hindu and earlier teachings, and it is NOT assumed that man is on some oneway path to the singularity. In fact they consider history (and humanities place within the world) as more cyclical then progressive. I think this should translate into being more rather than less psychologically prepared for such a setback should it come about.

My terse reply would be ...
People in villages where old customs and structures still exist are to an extent immune to all this growth rate scenarios. People in cities who are almost entirely dependent on growth in economy and hate to go back to the 'stinking' villages are not, and they are the angry lot, more so because according to electoral math their votes don't count for as much.

Also note that growth scenarios are not uniform across India, the southern states and a few others have actually managed to get their fertility rates below replacement levels and literacy levels above 75%. An astounding achievement. I expect that at some point of time as the pressures of dwindling resources and migration begins to bite India will splinter back into pieces, many places would actually be quite nice to live in, some of them would be (already are) on par with HDI standards of SE Asia.

India will splinter back into pieces

Interesting comment. Why do you think so, why wouldn't the country remain united?
And what would the major outlining 'pieces'(as you described them) look like, borders, demography etc?

Well that's my worst case outlook. I hope it doesn't splinter because it's going to be one giant bloody mess whenever it happens. The reasons are numerous, I can't list all of em. The chief reason being that we don't have a national identity right now or that it remains flimsy at best. I don't know if you have visited India before because it's like a giant blown up version of Europe. Thousands of languages, cultures, religions all pasted together. And why ? because the English conquered all of us. You have to realize that the existence of a country like this is unprecedented in the history of the world. Even back in the days of Roman Empire with all it's provinces such variety and integration simply did not exist.

People are going to tell me that India has survived all these challenges...but the problem is that heterogeneous cultures react very well to external threats such as invasion from another country but don't cope all that well to internal threats such as resource depletion.

A lot of places in India are resource rich...such as the North-East for example, which is rich in Gas and minerals and forest and water resources but isn't developed properly, it doesn't even have proper representation in the parliament because the population there is so low. So the govt builds dams there and exports electricity to the rest of India while that place itself remains poor, this generates a lot of animosity.

Then there is the huge development gap between northern and southern states, some states such as Uttar Pradesh have a TFR of 3.5 and a literacy rate of 70% while some states like Tamil Nadu have a TFR of 1.8 and a literacy rate of 80%. As per our Parliamentary system, a population of one million must have one MP in the parliament but since the Northern states have failed to control their population, applying the rules would imply punishing the prudent and rewarding the callous. This is why currently the number of seats from every state is frozen till 2025 because it's a political bomb that no one wants to handle. But they can't postpone it indefinitely. Whenever it happens it's going to generate a lot of heat. This difference in development also causes a lot of economic migration, this is not a problem in a homogeneous country but here it fuels lots of tensions.

So there are a lot of challenges on paper. Though I must admit that western analysts have been predicting the demise of this country since 1947, hasn't happened so far.

Yes exactly, besides, major differences between regions is common. The same is true in America.

India is still doing great despite it's far bigger challenges for it's democracy than America, which has a much easier position on paper yet in some respects does worse.

The issue of representation is problematic but fixable.

The only thing I'd worry about is the heterogenity of India. I've heard that there are major problems with the muslim minority, but frankly I don't know, in part because a lot of people are biased against muslims these days. On the other hand, 'violent Hindu' or 'violent Sikh' sounds like oxymorons to Western ears.

Doubtless there are riots etc in India as well as mob attacks, but India is a huge place. And it's still very poor.

Another thing which might prevent splintering is that as you said, those Northern states have the resources necessary for the richer Southern states to succeed. Because if the Northern states went on their own, who said that Pakistan wouldn't try to exploit it? Or even China?

These are strong countervailing forces and which will keep the glue together.

Still, as you said.. the resource depletion problem is also a different challenge, but since it will be applied to everyone, it will necessarily make people stick together in other to survive and maximize their chances of getting what they need. India will understand this.

The major problem I see is not the psychology but the raw challenge. India is still far more underdeveloped than China and is lagging very far behind in the energy race. China has larger coal supplies, have better and stronger relationships with major commodity superpowers like Australia(for coal) and Canada(for oil).

India's trying their hand with Venezuela but their state oil companies are getting burned. Just yesterday I read how Chavez warned the Indian companies that the capital that they invested in Venezuela would be nationalised. This is what Chavez does, he lets others come in, then he just rips the projects off them. He did it to Western oil companies too and the Indian counterparts knew this, but the fact that they got in anyway shows how limited their options are and how China has cornered them on this issue.

And since India lacks the infrastructure or the pre-planned energy policies of China, the shock will probably be far greater and could overwhelm any response to stick together. And this worries me because India is needed as a stability anchor in the region and a counter-vailing force to Chinese nationalism and aggression.

Yes exactly, besides, major differences between regions is common. The same is true in America.

No no, it's not the same as difference between Texas and NY. Apart from some group of immigrants and native Indians you guys in spite of all your differences look more or less the same, speak the same language and eat mostly the same food. Imagine Indonesia, Iran and Myanmar clubbed together. You have not visited India I guess, that's why you made that statement. Rest of the things are subjective and speculative, I guess only future will tell us what's going to happen.


"On the other hand, 'violent Hindu' or 'violent Sikh' sounds like oxymorons to Western ears."

Well certainly not to my ears.

I would suggest reading accounts of Indian history just since the end of WWII. I think you will find that the level of civil violence in the country has been, to understate it a bit, astonishing. Far in excess of the total experienced in the US in its entire history.

This is an understated part of what WiseIndian is saying in that they still have a functioning system of government in spite of everything.


I think you will find that the level of civil violence in the country has been, to understate it a bit, astonishing. Far in excess of the total experienced in the US in its entire history

Very true. A lot of people can become inured by the safety provided by a modern industrial state. I am a grand child of partition. My family on both sides had to flee their ancestral homes in 1947 when politicians unceremoniously dumped millions of people on either sides of the border without their consent. The horrors of it are seared till this day in the memories of my grand parents. I don't think anything other than WWII or the Armenian Genocide or the Humanitarian disasters in Africa comes close to what happened in the aftermath of India's independence. An estimated million people were murdered in a span of two months in the ensuing civil disturbance and many millions were left homeless.

I will always remember those images and stories as a testament to the brutality that some human beings can perpetrate on their fellow human beings in the name of abstract and frankly stupid concepts like religion and nationality. I try not to take peace and safety for granted.

Fair enough, but the same was true in Europe after WWII.
The German POW's were literally starved to death by purpose. The Marshall plan was far from certain and eventually cooler heads prevailed.

Oppenheimer even advocated completely nuking Germany, regardless if it was all over or not.

So I still maintain that actually yes, things do not need to be that different.
And America is far more heterogenous than people think. The cultural differences between coastal liberals and rural, Southern conservatives are enormous, even if you only look at whites.

But of course, India could split up. Neither you or I know.
We'll just have to wait and see.

Another subject not taught in American schools when I went... added to the tens of millions of lost souls never mentioned there. Those who control the past, control the present.


Import gas before economy derails: industrialists (Pakistan)

FAISALABAD: Textile exporters have recommended to the government to import gas immediately to bridge the demand-supply gap to keep the wheel of the economy rotating. The call was made at a joint meeting of the Pakistan Textile Exporters Association (PTEA) and the Pakistan Hosiery Manufacturers Association (PHMA) held on Friday.

Participants were of the opinion that the shortage of gas even before the onset of winter was surprising and a serious matter. If the gas supply position is as bad as conceded by the relevant authorities then an alternate arrangement of satisfying the demand through imports should be urgently taken in hand, millers added.

As result of the shortage, the industry was also suffering productivity losses due to large numbers of workers rendered redundant. Unemployment was creating unrest among the wage earners and leading to worsening law and order situation, it was said.

Hydrogen Fuel Offered for Free by Shell

Petroleum giant Shell has opened a new fuel station in Newport Beach, California. While the company’s opening of a fuel station is not often accompanied with any sort of fanfare, this station is decidedly different from the rest. The new fuel station in Newport Beach makes hydrogen fuel available to consumers at no charge. This marks the first time any company as offered hydrogen fuel for vehicles for free. Of course, only a handful of drivers will be able to take advantage of this, as the availability of hydrogen-powered vehicles remains low.

The company is offering hydrogen fuel for free, but only to those that own a hydrogen-powered vehicle. According to the California Fuel Cell Partnership, this represents approximately 200 people statewide.

Fuel-cell powered rickshaw = longer days, less work

Pedal-powered rickshaws of the future may get a boost thanks to hydrogen fuel cell technology under development in Germany.
Called the Hydrogenia, the e-powered pedicab has a 250-watt fuel cell and a hydrogen tank stored under the driver's seat.

The tank can be refueled in minutes and has a range of about 125 miles, long enough for a full day’s work hauling people and cargo around busy city streets.

I want one of those- I would paint it so it looked like Groucho Marx (the front white piece would be the nose and I could google-eye the rear view mirrors- add a cigar)

My first thought on seeing the nose piece was, wow, an aero-faring! Then I took at look at the canopy, this things is hopelessly un-aerodynamic. But, of course the speeds are so low it probably doesn't matter -unless there is a strong headwind. So what is that nosepiece for? Does it protect the driver from getting splashed? Os is it just a way to look modernistic?


Russian Icebreaker Kicks Off Arctic Expedition

... The expedition will explore the high-latitude boundaries of Mendeleev Ridge. If researches establish that the ridge is continuation of Russia’s continental shelf, the country will obtain the priority right to develop its natural resources.

Wildfires blaze across drought-plagued Oklahoma

Wildfires burned out of control on Friday in Oklahoma, destroying homes and shutting down highways in a state that has suffered 18 straight days of 100-plus degree temperatures and persistent drought.

Emergency officials counted 11 different wildfires around the state, with at least 65 homes destroyed in parched areas north and south of Oklahoma City and south of Tulsa.

Gas Shortage Hits Tema [Ghana]

TEMA METROPOLIS has been hit with acute shortage of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), leading to long winding queues at most gas stations in the area.

Some households within the metropolis have resorted to the use of charcoal while vehicles that use gas as fuel have been compelled to park. ... “We have exhausted the little gas in our cars in search of more but there was no gas wherever we have been.”

Fast food vendors at Tema told DAILY GUIDE that the scarcity of LPG had affected their work, compelling them to cook less food since they did not have adequate gas to prepare the usual quantity of food for their customers.

meanwhile Tema Oil Refinery [TOR]

Ghana started commercial production of crude oil in December, 2010. The country's Jubilee oil field produces the high grade 'Sweet Light' oil. The installation processes 9,548 tonnes (10,525 tons) of crude oil daily. However, TOR was built to process lower grade crudes and cannot refine oil from the new local fields unless significant investment was made. An engineer at the oil field said the costs of retrofitting required to cope with the higher grade oil (approximately $1 billion) was prohibitive, and that it was unlikely that the investment would ever be made. The refinery has an output capacity of about 6,138 metric tonnes per day


Using wastewater as fertilizer

Sewage sludge, wastewater and liquid manure are valuable sources of fertilizer for food production. Fraunhofer researchers have now developed a chemical-free, eco-friendly process that enables the recovered salts to be converted directly into organic food for crop plants.

... The main feature of the patented process, which is currently being tested in a mobile pilot plant, is an electrochemical process that precipitates magnesium-ammonium phosphate – also known as struvite – by means of electrolysis from a solution containing nitrogen and phosphorus. Struvite is precipitated from the process water in the form of tiny crystals that can be used directly as fertilizer, without any further processing. The innovative aspect of this method is that, unlike conventional processes, it does not require the addition of synthetic salts or bases. Bilbao: “It is an entirely chemical-free process.”

Sewage sludge, wastewater ... valuable sources of fertilizer for food production

Up until the local idiots who make your sewage sludge decide to pour paint, herbicides, motor oil et al into your sewer lines.

The described electrochemical process precipitates most of the P present in wastewater as struvite.
For the given power consumption of 70watt-hours per cubic meter, I calculate this would represent around 400MW of base-load (0.1%) if applied to ALL municipal waste-water in the U.S. although power consumption would vary with flow-rate. Most WWTP currently use chemical precipitation which requires moving greater quantities of bulk reactants to the site, increases solid waste volumes, is not used as fertilizer, and represents a cost rather than a revenue stream.
To the extent this is cheap and easy it could also be applied to irrigation tailwater to reduce ag runoff pollution resulting in eutrophication of downstream water bodies.

Drone to probe Sellafield silos

A small drone is being developed for use at some of the oldest radioactive silos at the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing site because scientists are not sure what is inside them, the Guardian can reveal.

A multibillion-pound clean-up operation is under way at the plant where a number of old ponds and silos, many dating back to the 1950s and 60s, have been causing greatest concern.

Some of the ponds contain highly radioactive waste that has been stored in water. Cladding and fuel rods were often thrown into the ponds and the sludge that remains is toxic.

"Sellafield doesn't have a huge amount of confidence about what they have inside some of these buildings," said Seager. "They want to send some kind of craft into these places to do a detailed survey and they approached us to develop a UAV."

CDC: Increase seen in new swine flu strain

According to the latest flu report published Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16 people have been infected with a new strain of an influenza A (H3N2) swine flu virus in just the past three weeks. Twelve of them were infected in the last full week of July.

Everyone diagnosed with the new flu strain this year reported having contact with pigs. Most of the cases from last also reported contact with pigs -- often at county or state fairs.

Lightest Material Ever Created?

Oh my, this is going to rile up the doomsters.

The new champion in the "lightest in the world" category, the carbon-based material is the recent creation of a team of scientists from Germany's University of Kiel and Hamburg University of Technology.

In addition to being ultralight, Aerographite is also extremely flexible and resilient. It can withstand almost complete compression without any damage, and its networks can be adjusted to accommodate different potential applications down the road, according to the new study, which appeared in the July issue of the journal Advanced Materials.

Lightest Material Ever Created?

Oh my, this is going to rile up the doomsters.


Swine flu infected aerographite is going to doom us all while ultralight flying pigs invade South Florida.

...while ultralight flying pigs invade South Florida.

LOL! Now that you mention it, that might get me somewhat riled up.

FM - I had the same reaction. The link wouldn't open up for me so I don't know if they are offering mankind salavation or not. Perhaps the poster might care to elaborate. Thnks in advance.

Salivation perhaps?

I think the thinking behind the "rile the doomsters" comment is, because of its superior ability to absorb sunlight, we can use aerographite to capture enough solar power to solve all our energy problems.

Except, of course, we can't.

It's an ironic comment which requires an ironic sense of humor as well as self-deprecation - not exactly abundant among either one-sided technologists or one-sided doomsters - to be understood correctly. In other words: good luck!

To the tune of "I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major General":

From time to time it happens in the oil drummer chronicle
Allusions can be made whose understanding is ironical.
But I confess I didn't, in the aerographite article,
Discern a note of irony; no, not a single particle.

Well done! Huzzah!


(My daughter likes this fine old tune when labeled as 'Tom Lehrer's Elements Song' for bedtime!)


I am curious...If you have the time, I would be interested to read your elaboration on how this material will mitigate Humanities Limits To growth, and by what scale/magnitude, and in what timeline?

Do you posit this material as being somehow potentially useful for novel means of energy production, or perhaps for using as structural material to make lightweight and hence more fuel-efficient ground and aerial vehicles?

Edit: Rock, the link opened for me...very lightweight, highly light absorptive material. At first blush I don't understand the 'this will show the doomers' remark. Surely this material will have some useful applications...but I don't see the salvation of humankind sustainability at current material expectation levels.

but I don't see the salvation of humankind sustainability at current material expectation levels.

The link opened for me as well but I couldn't quite figure out why this particular bit of information would rile anyone, doomster or not.

Some aerogel materials are pretty astounding, especially as thermal insulators. There is a famous picture of a guy holding an aerogel slab, while an cutting torch is heating the other side of it (maybe a centimeter) from his hand. If this sort of thing could be made cheaply (I think the aforementioned slab cost thousands of dollars per square inch) we could improve the efficiency of a lot of stuff. Not quite saving the world, but (again the price must be brought down by orders of magnitude) it would be a nice advance in energy efficiency (imagine say R500 walls that are no thicker than present walls).

Why do complicated?

Twelve inches of inexpensive cellulose insulation (expanded recycled newspaper) will get you to nearly R50. Which is Passive House levels for a wall.

There are lots of examples of houses with twelve inch walls. Besides beyond R50, assuming that you have eliminated any 'thermal bridging' there is little benefit to more insulation.

(caveat: The amount of insulation required is climate specific but R50 for walls would cover most of cold climate North America)

Do termites (or any other bugs) like to eat the cellulose?

No. Its treated with some boron salt, which is a fire retardent. Harmless enough to handle without a mask, though.
Can't be used in wall cavities. It sinks over time and would leave a >6 inch unfilled gap at the top, and that is not Passive Haus!

I'm unconvinced that a series of small, isolated airpockets at the tops of the rafters would really damage the wall's performance, while the density that cellulose is packed to nowadays makes it much more unlikely to develop this gap to start with.

If there's good vapor barrier and solid overall sealing, I have to think the droop of cell. is very minor. There's very little space for thermocycling in such a pocket, connecting minor amounts of inner and outer wall area.

Beyond this, the long-term plan of a house would necessarily involve the occasional review of its energy performance, and if improvements are needed, those upper gaps could be 'topped off', and the old fill could even be sucked out and replaced with newer, better materials with a couple penetrations/channel, which might be preferable to a rebuild, like if there was blown foam or deteriorated sheet-foam in there.

I'm not anti Polyiso, but as a youngish chemical material, I'm still wondering about its long-term stability or otherwise replacability. I use it in many places on my buildings, but I try to apply it in ways that it will be reworkable in the future. For example, if I do get to create an outer shell layer on this 1850s woodframe bldg, I would probably do it in discrete panels on a 4'x4' or 2'x 4' base size, attached with screws, so it can be easily reworked, replaced or modified.

There are lots of examples of houses with twelve inch walls.

While the walls of my house are more than 12 inches thick, they're also solid brick, except for the three-quarter inch strapping holding on the plaster lath (or they were before I upgraded the insulation.)

I have never seen a wall built with 12 inch cavities. The largest I've ever seen are six-inch cavities (2 x 6 stud wall construction.)


OTOH, a good aerogel can be installed as simply as gyprock while being of similar thickness. It can also be used to insulate refrigerators and a host more applications without needing several times the thickness of conventional materials. That would also save on transport and storage of high efficiency insulation if you only need 1/20th the thickness.


And there are lower quality aerogels, that just maybe might be priced low enough for these sorts of applications. The original supergood stuff was so pricey as to be only useful for already very pricey things, such as space vehicles. So a real key is with "cheap" lower quality aerogels, not the stuff you see gee-whizz articles written about.

The Swedes has already found a way to make low cost aerogel at industrial scale

A lot of the high quality stuff is hand made, IOW expensive. Get the stuff rolling off the production line and prices will drop.Yeah, there is a chicken and egg relationship but these are areas where governments have to step in to set higher standards. With rising fuel costs, good insulation will have better pay backs too.


Aerogel block-
Image: http://24.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_loc0etjSNj1qeztb9o1_500.jpg
This is truly what it looks like... solid smoke.
Image: http://www.electronics-lab.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2008/01/aerogela.jpg
It's not soft... it's crispy. It crunches like a big Rice-Crispy.
Here's a torch image:
Image: http://www.thermablok.com/images/flame-heat-resisant-thermablok-face.jpg

Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kHnen2nSmDY

Yes, there are cheaper aerogels. A 5-gal bucket of aerogel beads could be had for not so much in 2009... $20?... but I'm not quickly finding it: The name has been taken up in the tennis equipment biz.
... Here it is:
You can make R-40 skylights with it.

Aerogel acts as a sorbent, a desiccant: It will adsorb moisture.

Vacuum insulated panels-

some pricing here:

Looking into the Cabot materials for some thermal shutters for windows,
but whole house - fugedaboudit.

And materials science says aerogels in air are only 2.5x better insulators than styrofoam,
or 6x in a vacuum panel (expensive).

Why is this stuff valuable?

How expensive is it?
(for a hint, see the wiki page - this stuff is made by Chemical Vapor Deposition over a Zinc Oxide template which has to be removed at a certain state during the process).

Ah - the paper is not behind a paywall:

It might make better Li-ion batteries or super-capacitors?
(but it's currently half as good as carbon nanotubes.)
Note that in academic science, the same order of magnitude - factor of 10 - is usually good enough to be "same". In industry, if vendor A's stuff is as good as vendor B's, but half the price - or same price but twice as good - who would buy vendor B's stuff?

Read their paper - down at the end under "Methods" they describe the gist of their CVD recipe.
Doesn't sound cheap to me.
n.b. CVD processes rarely put the input reagents to 100% use.

This is a big problem with academics (like the fancy electrically doped solar cells and doped ZnO Transparent Conductive Oxide hooplas in last Drumbeat).
They hear about a problem (say, the need for clean energy), and set out to find a solution.
But they often don't have the breadth of experience/knowledge to target sale-able products/processes.
Or even as the TCO guys show - they're clueless that most PV doesn't use a TCO, so solving the problem doesn't result in anything but some publications. (or the electrically doped guys don't know that PV is too cost competitive to use lithography for the fine lines they need, or that their "alternative, earth abundant materials" are crappy PV materials, more expensive than crystalline silicon, and highly unlikely to be improved.)
But the popular press and university PR types breathlessly report each new advance as great news, products soon to appear on your local store shelves...

It's as if someone in the oil industry works hard to be able to drill in 3 miles of water,
and then touting that our energy problems are solved, we have almost the entire Pacific Ocean to explore for oil!
Uh, excuse me sir - don't you know that large ocean basin floors are devoid of oil - the sediment is too thin to have ever reached the oil window by the time the seafloor crust is subducted? (and never mind the long time periods that would have oxidized much of the organic matter as it lay awaiting covering sediment).

Am I a "doomer" for knowing technical facts like oceanic sedimentation rates (mm/millenia - the Pacific is at the low end of that), the process of oil formation, and the typical depth of the "oil window", and thus concluding that exploring the Pacific Ocean abyssal plain for oil is lunacy?

There are technical advances to be made for sure, and I have been privileged to have witnessed the first reports of many of them in the crystalline silicon PV field.
But too often people don't know enough to know what they don't know:
and faced with the possibility of unpleasant times ahead, distract themselves with unwarranted techno-optimism.

This aerographite is neat stuff, and good science was done - but what are the odds of substantial impact for sustainability?

It's brand new.

"Of what use is electricity?"
"Someday, sir, you will be able to tax it."

Graphene, another form of carbon, is already demonstrating an amazing range of possibilities.

It's brand new.

So would the ability to drill in 3 miles of water be. A new technology, with no petroleum use.

New materials get invented all the time, most end up curiosities.
This one is interesting because it sets a record for low density.
But so what, as an electrode it's only half as good as carbon nanotubes, whose improvement isn't standing still.

"Of what use is electricity?"
"Someday, sir, you will be able to tax it."

That quote, attributed to Michael Faraday, is likely bogus.
Faraday could have talked of motors, instruments and electrochemistry.

This one is real:
Nothing is too wonderful to be true if it be consistent with the laws of nature.
— Michael Faraday
Laboratory notebook (19 Mar 1850), while musing on the possible relation of gravity to electricy. In Michael Faraday and Bence Jones (ed.), The Life and Letters of Faraday (1870), 253

And I might add, in the context of meaningful sustainability - "add economical enough to be put into use".

It's brand new.

The link did lead me to this hopeful note:

Alcatraz was making electricity with diesel - 76 cents/kWh
PV is cheaper - 71 cents/kWh, even with the fog.
Now to deal with the bird poop.

They used to mine bird guano for fertilizer...

Submersible cable or CNG would likely have been cheaper.

There was a cable, severed by a ship's anchor 50 years ago.
That's when the diesels went in.
And way back when, diesel fuel was cheap.

New study nixed the cable as more expensive.

Also, ARRA funds were available, and PV goes in fast.

1.8 mile submersible cable vs. $3.6 million for PV with battery bank.
So, is submarine high power cable, installed the S.F. Bay, $2M/mile?

2010 NYTimes article
$600M for 65 miles = 9.2M$/mile
$505M for 53 miles = 9.5M$/mile
Who knew? This last one is a HVDC cable in S.F. Bay, running from Pittsburgh to S.F.

At 400 MW these large cables would be pricier than a feed to Alcatraz,
but $2M/mile isn't insanely unreasonable. A lot of mobilization/demobilization,
all for 1.8 miles of cable.

Cable costs from this NREL offshore wind report (from 2007)
vary from $381 -> $600/meter of 36 kV cable.
1.8 miles -> 2,897 meters x $381/meter is $1.1M$, plus install (I think).
Plus insurance against errant ship anchors...

Install costs for an underwater natural gas pipeline crossing a busy ship/boat zone, no idea.
Permitting such a thing: how many generations do you have?

You can spend as much as you want to spend on anything. Making any change on this sort of install is ridiculously uneconomic. "Everything costs more and takes longer." I have no trouble imagining spending more than $3.6M on a 1.8 mile cable, even onshore. The cable (15kv or 35kv class) we are talking about probably costs on the order of $10/ft for material only. It's all about the rigamarole. Absent rigamarole I'm confident I could make a nice profit at $100/ft including safe installation. However, I read the link as saying that cable plus PV was TOO expensive, not that cable was more expensive than PV.

I never said anything about a pipeline. CNG is cheap, so are barges. Burning 85% CNG in the same diesels would have been a dramatic cost improvement in the short term. Changing operating permits may not have been feasible politically. Frequent shipments and a small amount of storage would still have been required as well.

Wow . . . that Alcatraz project is awesome. I didn't know about that. They should mention it as part of the tour . . . it is a great example of how solar PV really can be cost effective these days.


"Oh my, this is going to rile up the doomsters."

Would that be those tring to bring it about, or those trying to avoid it?

CDC preparing vaccine for new swine flu

The reason the CDC is concerned about this particular virus is that it contains an element seen in the pandemic 2009 swine flu strain, H1N1, which may make it more likely for the virus to spread from person-to-person.

To make Rumsfeld even richer??


http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2012/08/02/seal-flu-next-pandemic-threat/ Note here how this has dog/equine paths. What I'm wondering is what idiot thought adding seals to a dog and pony show was a good idea?

The upside to a human killable dog/pony flu is due to the need for dog and pony shows at meetings, such a flu would get rid of middle managers.

Starting to Move

Two Shell vessels depart north from Dutch for reduced drilling program

The Aiviq, Shell’s new ice-capable anchor handler, and the Fennica, the icebreaker carrying the company’s new well capping stack, have departed north from Dutch Harbor in the Aleutian Islands in preparation for the start of drilling in the Chukchi Sea, Shell spokesman Curtis Smith told Petroleum News Aug. 2. The icebreaker Tor Viking will also head north from Dutch Harbor within the next 24 to 36 hours, he said.

Because of a delayed start to its drilling program, Shell has now scaled back its drilling plans to two wells, one in the Burger prospect in the Chukchi Sea and one in the Sivulliq prospect in the Beaufort Sea, Smith said. The company had hoped to drill up to three wells in the Chukchi Sea and up to two wells in the Beaufort Sea.

“We have recalibrated our expectations, based on the persistent ice and the construction issues that we’re having with the containment barge,” Smith said, referring to delays in the deployment from Seattle of the barge Arctic Challenger.

Bayou tremors, methane leaks months before oil catastrophe, Evacuation ordered

Assumption Parish officials have ordered immediate evacuation of Bayou Corne area and Louisiana's governor has declared a state of emergency following two months of residents reporting "strong diesel" odors, earth tremors and finally, an expanding 200 ft. by 200 ft. sinkhole that engulfed trees early Friday morning and that officials now call a "slurry area." The area has allegedly been highly polluted by oil and gas companies.

Martin Triche told News 2 that he has asked the National Guard to assist with the evacuation. http://www1.wbrz.com/news/people-living-near-sinkhole-ordered-to-evacuate

The “potential failiure” of an inactive and plugged Texas Brine Co. LLC salt mining cavern, used to store oil and gas, is likely the cause of the "slurry area."

Gov. Jindal has declared a State of Emergency, “THREAT OF SUBSIDENCE AND SUBSURFACE INSTABILITY.”

Jindal signs emergency order to combat sink holes in Assumption Parish

Officials from the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, the Department of Natural Resources, Louisiana State Police, the Louisiana National Guard and the Department of Environmental Quality have engaged with local officials in Assumption parish who are responding to the threat of subsidence and subsurface instability in the area of Bayou Corner in Assumption parish. DNR has issued an emergency order to compel the Texas Brine Company to take all necessary steps to evaluate the integrity of its salt cavern which ultimately may help provide relief to the sink hole.

On Friday, Louisiana Department of Natural Resources Secretary Scott Angelle announced that the Office of Conservation has issued an emergency order requiring a brine solution company to take steps to evaluate the structural integrity of one its inactive salt caverns that may have played a role in both events and remediate any problems found.

Homes evacuated in Assumption amid concerns that slurry is growing; Jindal declares emergency

"The fear of the unknown prompted the evacuation order," said John Boudreaux, director of the parish's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness. "The fear of it possibly compromising either the nearby pipelines or cavern storage areas, that could cause a risk to the community."

... Jury President Marty Triche said that in speaking with the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources and the Governor's Office, he was advised there was a risk that the slurry area could grow to a size of about 2,000 feet across.

Triche told The Advocate that authorities are concerned that if the slurry area expands to that extent, it could affect natural gas, water and other wells working the nearby Napoleonville salt dome.

Natural gas has been seeping up from Bayou Corne and Grand Bayou, which run below and along the side of the reported "slurry area." A suspected water well in the same area has also been venting natural gas.


Salt dome collapse in La.: “The potential failure of an inactive and plugged Texas Brine Co. LLC salt mining cavern, used to store oil and gas, is likely the cause of the slurry area.” BTW you don’t plug a salt cavern...you just plug the wells drilled into it. The cavern is there forever. Or at least until it collapses.

Unfortunately not the first time this has happened. Last year I was drilling wells just down the road at Choctaw Field...another salt dome. My maps showed a small lake on the top....Salt Lake (or Pond?). Yep...another collapse cavern. There are about 20 caverns in the dome. BTW the knowledge of that failure didn’t stop the govt from deciding to use Choctaw as part of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve system. Oh...did you read the MSM reports about millions of bbls of SPR reserves suddenly missing from Choctaw with no idea where they went? Or that the feds were removing more oil from the Choctaw SPR? Hmm...that’s odd. It was in the same time frame that gasoline prices had spiked and the president had issued orders for an SPR release.

Well, I suppose they didn’t think it was news worthy.

Refinery problems, oil spill drive up gas prices in Great Lakes region

GasBuddy.com petroleum analyst Patrick DeHaan said Friday that several Great Lakes states have seen prices surge about 40 cents per gallon in the past week. That follows a pipeline rupture and shutdown in Wisconsin and equipment problems at refineries in Indiana and Illinois. The good news is that prices should begin to drop during the next few weeks, DeHaan said. It typically takes only a week or so to make refinery repairs, and the pressure on prices should begin to ease after that.

The reaction we’re seeing in gas prices, you’d think Iran just tried to close the Strait of Hormuz,” said DeHaan, referring to the Persian Gulf route for one-fifth of the world’s oil. “Just the possibility of a shortage spooks the market.”

Curiously Patrick DeHaan (quoted above) has backed off his contention higher prices were unjustified by the Enbridge pipeline closing, which he originally dismisses as a short term thing. But now:

If you were unfortunate, and did not get your tank filled before the double spike this week, or need frequent fill-ups, Patrick Dehaan at GasBuddy.com says we could be stuck with these prices closer to $4 a gallon for two to three weeks while three refinery malfunctions get straightened out and the oil starts flowing on Enbridge Line 14 again in Wisconsin.


Perhaps he got around to realizing, as in my post yesterday, that in general the US gasoline supply situation is steadily growing worse - which allows these little perturbations to have a big impact on prices.

Refinery Run

$90m to win coal's super market

It makes you wonder what is the point of Australia's domestic carbon tax when the government helps find new ways to burn coal, in this case lignite or brown coal. Victoria is Australia's second most populous State and depends upon about 6 GW of brown coal fired baseload. In theory the Federal govt will pay to replace 2 GW of that with gas fired. However brown coal costs about 60c per GJ while wholesale gas is hovering around $5 with perhaps only a decade of reliable supply left. One brown coal plant (Loy Yang) says the $23 carbon tax could double and it would still be Australia's lowest cost generator.

Therefore it seems likely the brown coal fired stations will be with us for another 20 years. One plant, the notorious 1600 MW Hazelwood, spews out 14 Mt of CO2 a year and will probably continue to do so until around 2030. Whether the idea to export dried brown coal pellets ever happens remains to be seen. Some might think nuclear baseload would suit Victoria but that is an illegal thought in Australia. Like I say, what is the point of the carbon tax?

"Like I say, what is the point of the carbon tax?"

Clearly it is to raise funds for government grants to exploit the coal.

The fund will receive $45 million from each government and pay for new projects, such as drying brown coal for export, converting to fuel and fertiliser, and cutting emissions from coal-fired electricity generation.
Federal Energy Minister Martin Ferguson told The Age the grants would be given out on a competitive basis, sparking a 'technology race'.
He said Gippsland had more than 20 per cent of the world's low-rank coal reserves.
It was important to economically harness the resource in new, low-emissions ways.
'We are looking for the best technology, and out of that I think we will create a breakthrough that means a terrific opportunity to use this vast resource,' he said.

So there you go - once again it is all about the $$$ and our balance of payments

That rural peasantry is stopping dying at 40 and living to 60, 70. That’s the real underlying story of the blow out.

This might be what saves us all.... Old farmers, that thanks to modern farm equipment.. from full-sized tractors to single-row agricultural robots, now live long enough to remember droughts from 80 years ago.

A lot of the old farmers in the US own their land. Whether we survive is probably going to depend on having old farmers own land in India, China, and Africa, and not short-lived agricultural conglomerates. Let the corporations build farm equipment, but don't ever let them own the farms.

Of course, farmers didn't die at 40, even in the bad old days. The life expectancy was 40, because so many babies died in infancy, pulling down the average. If you survived childhood, you had a good chance of reaching the Biblical threescore years and ten.

Trickier for women though.

Women did face the prospect of dying in childbirth, but overall, it kind of balanced out. Females are overbuilt by nature to withstand pregancy; that's why females live longer than males in general. Men are more likely to die of violence.

Generally, if you look at the demographics, if there's a serious gender imbalance, it starts young. Selective infanticide (direct or indirect), not childbirth.

I don't think the situational death toll of violence even comes close to balancing out the ever-present death toll of childbirth, however.

Death by accident did a pretty good job in certain types of communities.

Take a look at the death rate among sailors or fishermen or miners or loggers years ago. There's a reason widow is one of the few English personal descriptors where the feminine gender is modified to form the masculine equivalent rather than the reverse. That happened mid-14th century.

Even today, men are more likely to die of violence than women. I'm not talking just wars. Everyday violence: suicide, accidents, fights, etc. Men are more likely to take risks, even if they don't have to.

Estimates of the number of women who died in childbirth before the importance of hygiene was understood range from half a percent to 1 percent. Certainly, that's enough to cause a great deal of fear for a pregnant woman and her loved ones. But it's not enough to make a huge difference demographically.

Ironically, women were at highest risk when they were in the hospital. "Childbed fever" epidemics were common, spread by doctors who didn't wash their hands between patients. Doctors resisted hand-washing, because doctors were gentlemen, and "gentlemen's hands are clean." Women were far better off delivering at home.

I believe saying "wash their hands between patients" is putting it mildly. Unless you are referring to the cadavers they would examine as patients.

Yes. One doctor dissected a patient who died of puerperal fever, then carried her uterus in his pocket to attend other patients. They all died, and he began to suspect that doctors were the ones spreading the disease. But his message was rejected. The idea that they were harming their patients rather than helping was hard to accept.

The most recent epidemic of puerperal fever was in 1965. The standards of hygiene have been relaxed; giving birth no longer requires an aseptic environment. There's a theory that the germ itself has gotten less virulent. (It's strep - a germ that lives harmlessly in our nasal passages, but can cause skin infections and other problems elsewhere.)

I can't help wondering if it evolved its virulence in response to the establishment of maternity hospitals. Where making women very sick resulted in many gynecological exams, with instruments that were re-used between patients, and thus spread the disease. Once hygiene and antibiotics made that no longer a winning strategy, less virulent forms of the bacteria got the advantage.

'The idea...was hard to accept.'

Boy, that phrase rings in the ear, doesn't it?

read up on

Down a ways are some graphs - the incidence of death in the clinic run by the men was pretty high - up to 15%, twice what the 2nd clinic (run to train midwives) was.

It wasn't that he carried a uterus around...
One of his colleagues was nicked by a knife during an autopsy,
and when they autopsied him, he has the same signs of the disease.

I was referring to William Campbell, not Ignaz Semmelweis.

It Just Gets Worse: NTSB's Final Flaying of Enbridge

US federal investigator's latest 'Summary of Enbridge Organizational Deficiencies' reprinted here.

By Andrew Nikiforuk, 1 Aug 2012, TheTyee.ca

The final report, however, catalogues a host of problems embedded in the corporate culture of the Calgary-based company and it will likely send shudders through the investment community.

Here for the public record is the part of the NSTB report titled "Summary of Enbridge Organizational Deficiencies":

"To evaluate the role of Enbridge in this accident, the NTSB's investigation focused primarily on the Line 6B operations before, during, and after the rupture. During the investigation, major deficiencies of the company emerged, as discussed in previous sections of this report. These deficiencies led to the rupture, exacerbated its results, and then failed to mitigate its effects.

"These deficiencies include the following: ...

Nikiforuk is one of the very few journalists who is aware that the NTSB report has only been publicly available for about 10 days. He has also taken the time to examine it.

Meanwhile, MSM which gave such attention to the July 10th "Keystone Kops" comment have frequently referred to the NTSB report as being released on that day. What they received on the 10th was only the Executive Summary. It was very concise (4 pgs) and hard-hitting, but it did not provide the details which are included in the full report (164 pgs).

It would be helpful if MSM examined the report and reported on those details, which the Canadian and American public ought to be aware/wary of.

Northern Gateway pipeline could go north
With Mackenzie Valley pipeline on hold, Northwest Territories looking at 'other options'

Although no "direct discussions" are currently underway between the governments of Alberta and the Northwest Territories, Cal Dallas, Alberta's minister of International and Intergovernmental affairs, welcomed McLeod's overture.

"We would be more than pleased to talk to Premier McLeod and anyone in the N.W.T. that's interested in the potential of co-operating on projects," Dallas said in an interview that also aired Saturday on The House.

Dallas said he took McLeod's comments "as a signal that the Northwest Territories recognizes that access to markets for Alberta energy would really enhance economic opportunities and jobs across Canada."

McLeod's comments might "encourage the private sector to contemplate the economic viability" of other pipeline projects, the Alberta minister said.

Dallas said a northern route that would see Alberta's bitumen transported north to the N.W.T. and out to Asia "might be a project … that could be actively contemplated" at some point in the future.

Thank goodness AGW is clearing the Beaufort Sea (Arctic Ocean) of ice.

There is a certain dark irony to this proposal.

Peeking through the clouds 2: animation

Neven's Arctic Sea Ice Blog

But even more visually stunning are the blue images he sent me that I have turned into an animation (each frame represents a week of averaged LANCE-MODIS satellite images):

Arctic Ice Melt Animation

Our attention gets drawn immediately to the spectacular changes in the ice pack from the East Siberian Sea to the Beaufort Sea, but also note in the right bottom of the animation how the ice in the Northwest Passage just vanishes overnight. It's not transported, it just melts in place (or in situ, as the Romans liked to say). An astonishing sight. No wonder the NWP is as good as open.

Not transport or compaction, but melting in situ is what keeps this melting season going strong, despite weather conditions that would normally cause a slowdown in ice decrease

New CAPIE record
Arctic Sea Ice Blog

The trend line on one of our in-house charts has broken last year's record:

56.85% vs 57.39% on August 12th 2011.

CAPIE stands for Cryosphere-today Area Per IJIS Extent, and it tells us something about the compactness (official scientific term) of the ice. It all revolves around the different definitions for sea ice area and sea ice extent, which are two ways of calculating the total ice cover. The NSIDC explains it well:

As suggested 18 months ago, http://www.theoildrum.com/node/7519/768872

Alberta's Oil sands will be going to Valdez for export to California and Asia ..

If the knowledgable TOD folks don't get this yet...well....

I guess I give up.

I will quit. .......( thinking about the dumb idea of shipping oil by rail, faster and safer and helping keep TAPS economic)

I'm just going to build the railway anyway and just haul potash ( 4 trains a day committed), met coal (4-8 trains/day) and grain (6 trains or more potential)...

When the Oil Patch people (on TOD ?) factor in the BC Govt $5/barrel levy on any heavy oil pipeline passing thru BC, they can then decide to send their landlocked oilsands output up to Alaska and 2 days closer than Kitimat to Asia....3-4 days closer than KM TMX vancouver port...

because, as social license for supertankers in BC waters is just unavailable. Period.

The owners of this new rail link (First Nations & AK tribes) will be happy to accept the cargo later on.....

But until then it costs Canada $50M a day to the price discount we have to accept....

I'm just kidding of course..... LOL

But about what?

Sci-Fi lovers will like this

2012 predictions from 1987

We must count ourselves lucky if anyone has leisure enough in 2012 to open this time capsule and care what is inside. In 2012 Americans will see the collapse of Imperial America, the Pax Americana, as having ended with our loss of national will and national selflessness in the 1970s. Worldwide economic collapse will have cost America its dominant world role; but it will not result in Russian hegemony; their economy is too dependent on the world economy to maintain an irresistible military force. A new world order will emerge from famine, disease, and social dislocation: the re-tribalization of Africa, the destruction of the illusion of Islamic unity, the struggle between aristocracy and proletariat in Latin America—without the financial support of the industrialized nations, the old order will be gone. The changes will be as great as those emerging from the fall of Rome, with new power centers emerging wherever stability and security are established. The homogeneity of Israel will probably allow it to survive; Mexico and Japan may change rulers, but they will still be strong. If America is to recover, we must stop pretending to be what we were in 1950, and reorder our values away from pursuit of privilege.

---Orson Scott Card in 1987

1) That economic cycles caused by rises in technological levels will begin to level out—countries that have a falsely inflated economy will be forced to export their technologies to third-world countries where people are willing to work for less money. This will lead to a situation where knowledge, the key to our technologic success, will be spread across the world. We'll see rapid decreases in starvation levels, but will still be plagued with political turmoil.

2) Men's Rights—We will see a reaction to the women's movement. Men will demand to be portrayed by the media as the sensitive, caring creatures that they are. They will also demand equal rights in custody battles where children are seldom awarded to a father because our society chooses to believe a mother is a better care-taker by nature.

3) Introduction of x-ray microscopes in the early 2000's will lead to rapid progress in gene splicing. Look for rapid growth in medicine and mining, and food production. We may also see bacteria being engineered to simulate parts of the immune system (which could cure immune disorders such as AIDS and allergies).


Maybe we ought to have a time capsule as well.

Interesting reading. And an instructional caution for those of us who think we have a solid handle on what life will be like 25 years hence.

Perhaps a TOD time capsule is in order ...


Small photo gallery of contemporary coal mining in Colorado, or at least ca a few years ago.

Zambian miners turn on their paymasters:

Zambian miners kill Chinese manager during pay protest

Zambian miners have killed a Chinese manager by pushing a mine trolley at him during a riot at a coal mine in the south of the country.

A second Chinese was injured, as were several Zambians, during the riot on Saturday.

The workers were on strike at the mine in protest against delays in implementing a new minimum wage.

They were angry their wages were lower than a new minimum of $320 (£205) a month paid to shop workers....

...A 2011 report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that, despite improvements in recent years, safety and labour conditions at Chinese mines were worse than at other foreign-owned mines.

China's wealth pumps beginning to squeak a bit?

How do people with PO-awareness NOT lose it? Why aren't there more suicides, collapsist newspaper articles, und so weiter? It's like death row, suspendend sentence of death.

I work on mitigation - making a terrible future situation just a tad less terrible.

Like that operating tram in Hiroshima when the American occupiers arrived - a month after the atomic bomb. Make a catastrophic situation just one tiny bit better.

Best Hopes !


How do PO peeps not loose it?
Was happiness not possible before oil was the primary energy source
powering the economy ? Of course there was happiness.
Being PO aware is knowlage which you can use to prepare for a future
when oil is less available and create an alternative lifestyle for yourself and help others achieve that as well. It is an advantage, not a curse. Learn new skills,invest in real things that will benefit you and family when oil may be unavailable .
Here's a vid on vertical axis wind turbines you can make with easy to aquire parts : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qkliyuME2cc
'ere's another using bike rims: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2YCSfhcgSSs&feature=related
try some wood gasification projects: http://www.energybulletin.net/node/51237
Every day is a new adventure, use your time to prepare for a better tomorrow without oil. cheers

try a 12 step program,get a sponsor..

The sun is out; a cool breeze is blowing. I just walked a friend's kid through a garden where the zucchini plants are almost bigger than he is. Had a bear walk down the street last night. He does this nearly every night; but last night I got to see him. Gold fish in the pond.

If all PO-awareness does is make you feel like you are living a suspended sentence of death - better that you just forget it about it. PO-awareness is *one* factor that has prompted me to rearrange some financial goals, get some solar panels up, and work on a garden. But it is only one factor among several others** and, most importantly, it has helped me in planning and executing *goals.* If all it does for you is "freeze" you in your tracks, if it overwhelms your entire sense of the future, then being PO-aware not only hasn't made you smarter than your PO-unaware friends and family, it has actually made you dumber than them. Because they are still living their lives. You, on the other hand, have let yours be stolen from you by fear.

** envy of ghung is another! ;)

Try getting married.

THAT can make you really want to end it all, in the particularly rough spots. What a roller-coaster. It gets very personal (obviously).. but then there's a bit of pride in there that makes you say, 'There's no way on EARTH I'd do it.. I'm not going to let Marriage take me out. Wrong!' .. and after all that, and possibly the thoughts of leaving kids behind with that in their history.. then Peak Oil isn't anything to give up over. That's the one you can go into the firestorm and fight it, and let IT kill you if it must.. but there's no reason to do it's work for it.

It's kind of amazing how many of the extremes of Joy and Sorrow are right under your own roof.. the Operatic versions are always in some romantic and amazing place.. but really they are right at home. Yes, I've thought about it.. and even when I feel I've been fairly alarmingly close to it, I don't think it would happen. Knowing me, I'd probably get distracted by some other project..

(I could say 'Not to make light of it..'.. but then, why NOT make light of it? Let's laugh at death and suicide, He hates that!)

Hang in there, depressed.

D-A-L, you sound like a good candidate for a stimulant of the higher cortical functions. Sometimes smart people get too caught up in analyzing things to a negative conclusion, i.e. it's all a big mess, why bother? A different perspective on things can be all that is needed to find the humorous side to humankind's self inflicted conundrums.

Try Buddhism. Fatalism is sometimes a good antidote to depressing scenarios, besides that life is too short to spend it worrying about things the way you are doing. Enjoy it while you can.

After reading a large portion of the comments (~700+) on this climate change article, in my opinion very little mitigation efforts will ever occur.


As long a some people somewhere have a cooler-than-usual summer or colder than usual winter, perhaps with some more snow than usual, threat will seal the deal for some people that man is not changing the climate.

Then there are the folks who continually surface and say 'the temperatures on Mars, Venus, Mercury, Saturn, Jupiter etc) are rising, and they don't have mankind burning oil...so there!

Then the guy who talks about the 'Ice Man' found frozen in the glacier, and how that means at one time there was much less ice than now...and the folks who will state that gee is was super-warm when the dinosaurs roamed the Earth...ergo, lil' ole mankind cannot possibly affect the Earth's climate....it is all just natural variation.

I recommend folks don't hold their breath waiting for some human kind epiphany to cause us to change our ways...same with waiting for that Black Swan to fly over the horizon like the cavalry and kick-starting humankind's awareness...the frogs in the slowly more and more hot pot seems like the model for the foreseeable future...maybe the best prescription is to just live your life the best way you can according to your perceptions, and let go of the hope/fantasy of a 'great Awakening' of Humankind.

I don't think we can really conclude anything about what our people will decide, taken from the current conditions in the US, even if it's getting a bit extreme.

It really probably won't shift unless there's bodies lined up on the ground enough times in a row. Even at this level, with Texas last summer and now the whole midwest and beyond, I'm sure the armor is thinning.. but there's a lot of pride and a lot of resentment about giving in to the 'Other America' on this stuff..

It basically means, to many many people, that they are supposed to say 'The Hippies were right, I guess.'

Many would much rather die than do that.. but then again, it still doesn't hurt that much so far.

There are a lot of ignorant, close-minded people without much in the way of critical thinking skills...most of whom are scarily self-unaware.

In other words, I think the U.S. has a permanent contingent of folks (what percentage...?) who will never understand or admit realities which are counter to their mind-sets.

As far as my mind-sets...I am prepared to examine evidence to prove me wrong, and I would rejoice if so convinced.

Which, I trust, is why I get to enjoy your presence here!

Me, I'm sure I get grumpy for a bit when I'm proved wrong.. but I've noticed I do come around eventually. I've noticed my wife noticing this as well.. lest my comments about marriage earlier seemed a bit too resigned.. as Yeats called the Troubles, "The terrible beauty"


Best of luck and happiness on that marital lifelong voyage of discovery...my wife and I are approaching 27 years of togetherness, including 24 legally recognized by the state. Well worth the effort, in our books...


That's really great!! My wife and will celebrate our 52nd in three months. Hard to believe.

Keep that marriage going..time just flies when you're having fun.



Thank you!

May we be as fortunate as you and your wife...52 years! Outstanding.

Health and happiness be with you both.

Time flies...indeed...we can't imagine life without each other.


"The big oil companies can easily maintain high drilling standards, but a lot of fracking is done by mom-and-pop drillers that do not."

Friedman - New York Times - Get It Right On Gas


Surfer – If that ridiculous statement came from above I couldn’t find it. First absurd point: drillers don’t frac wells…frac companies frac wells. These are two different vendors with no overlap at all. In fact, the rig leaves the site weeks or even months before a well is frac’d. I take that as a good hint these folks don’t really understand the process…even the basics. Second absurd point: each of the handful of the companies, like Halliburton, that specialize in frac’ng, have hundreds of $millions of such equipment in inventory. Did they bother to name one of those “mom & pop” frac companies? Just in the Eagle Ford trend alone they are spending $2 billion/month with something close to 30% going towards frac’ng the wells. That’s easily $10+ billion/year just in this one play. Mom & pop? What a joke.

I’ve gone into great detail about some of the real dangers of frac’ng. Mom and pop frac companies isn’t a concern. Again, another case of overreaching that hurts a cause much more than benefitting it IMHO. But way back when the frac’ng issue blew up in the NE I repeated warned my Yankee cousins to stop focusing on those big red Halliburton pump trucks. I told them to keep a close eye on those innocuous looking tank trucks hauling produced frac fluids. Lots of those are mom & pop operations. Those trucks are not typically owned by Halliburton et al. A hauler can really boost his profits by illegally dumping those nasties.

I would bet Leanan will include it in the next Drumbeat. It is Friedman's Sunday NYT column about US nat gas.

Since it's being discussed here, I'll post it here.

Get It Right on Gas

Thanks Leanan. Actually a pretty good piece everyone should read. Especially how the surge of cheaper NG is delaying the transition to alts. He's a bit too optimistic in other aspects IMHO but that's his option. But he still drops the ball big time with regards to regulations IMHO: "But, the smaller, independent drillers are wild. It’s tough to control these independents". First, there are no wild mom & pop companies frac'ng wells. These are all very experienced and competent companies. But that doesn't mean they aren't doing bad things. They are doing exactly what the regs allow...and nothing more. As far as the feds regulating frac'ng that would truly be a big mistake IMHO. I've drilled and frac'd in Texas and KY. In KY the feds, not the state, set all the environmental regs for the oil patch and they are a joke to put it simply. Other than scuffling paper zero oversight. I could have broken every reg in the book and no one would have known. The rules in KY are more like a throwback to the bad ole days in Texas more than 40 years ago. I've gone into great detail before how PA, NY et al could have/enforce just as tough or tougher standards then Texas and have the oil patch foot the entire bill for it. And it could be done with no significant decrease in drilling activity.

It just a matter of politicians doing the right thing. Which appears, from afar, to be the real problem.

surfer - So maybe we'll see how badly he may have mangled the situation. Friedman should have access to good info sources. I think sometimes some of these folks try to just shoot from the hip based upon some mis-information they heard elsewhere or just make a quick/easy guess. I do appreciate their difficulty in getting a balanced perspective. Both sides of most debates these days tend to spin their arguments too heavy handed and hurt themselves in the process IMHO.

Thousands of Fish Die as Midwest Streams Heat Up

So many fish died in one Illinois lake that the carcasses clogged an intake screen near a power plant, lowering water levels to the point that the station had to shut down one of its generators.

Let me guess, the Asian Carp love the warm water?

Millions, just in Illinois alone
97 degree water
Hottest ever last two years

Realistic article on Space.Com advocating that NASA officially drop aspirations about sending humans to Mars:


I agree: Drop the charade, ditch the farce.

Put what money we can spare into a more capable generation of space-based observatories ('Space Telescopes'...IR, UV, vis, X-Ray,radio, etc) along with continued unmanned probes to selected areas of interest in the solar system.

Ramp up the search, discovery, and cataloging of asteroids and conduct a few experiments on how to deflect such objects if the need arises.

Redouble Earth-observation satellite efforts.

Continue to nurture, through $$$, a crop of smaller more innovative companies which can provide LEO space access, various earth-orbiting satellites, etc.

Instead of splurging on Mars human landings, spend some $$$ on things we can do on Earth to make the best of the post-FF, post-illusion-of-abundance era transition.

Interesting post on space.com, however his goals (colonize the moon, etc) won't happen either. I agree with your own suggestions for prioritization though.

The last human to orbit the earth is probably already in school.

So saying, It could be that the pretense of continuity toward greater goals is the only thing that will keep space exploration going at all. At the point people realize that the space program, civilization, and all else will be winding down, it might be difficult to keep it funded at all. So perhaps the bait & switch is a necessary ploy. Of course most space folks haven't really figured out that it's ending, so I reckon most are sincere.

To a large extent, getting things done these days is like white-water kayaking on the huge torrents of delusion which comprise the zeitgeist. That's just the way it is. There will not be mass enlightenment, much less mass enlightenment that causes people to accept voluntary discomfort to make the future better. However, there will be many events and opportunities to steer the way things go, and these are accessible to skilled kayakers.

I'm a huge supporter of space exploration, BTW; I'm still on the board of a pro-space-exploration international granting foundation. However, the situation is what it is...


Seems like a reasonably scaled, potentially very useful effort...I am not investing hope in asteroid mining, but in NEO detection.

While the article has their feet closer to Earth compared to the space cadets, the three options offered aren't that realistic either - the cost of sending stuff into space is just too expensive, and is uunlikely to go down soon. Beating space cadets in the reality game isn't exactly impressive anyway, considering the average child is probably more sensible.

Meantime, 10:31 Pacific Time, stay tuned for the 'SEVEN MINUTES of TERROR!'

Landing tonight, one way or another..

The only difference is the number of places where it comes to rest.


Six distinct re-entry configurations...if each step has a 95% chance of success...looking a ~ 73.5% chance of landing success.

Best Hopes for not going the way of the Beagle 2 probe...


It would be nice for the home team to score:


The U.S. has a better record than the Russians regarding Mars missions, but I give the Russians props for the probes they successfully landed on Venus!

And meanwhile, I'll keep singing the praises of Rover OPPORTUNITY, starting it's ninth year of a 3-month mission.. a Solar EV, plugging away untended (tho' not unminded) for season after season. A lot of bang for the buck.. and Spirit did really well too, tho' she cut out in 2010.


The nuclear powered curiosity has landed and is functioning. Damn, that was a nail-biter.

For the folks in Mission Control: As the incomparable Al Czervik said at the end of the movie Caddyshack...

"Hey everybody, we're all gonna get laid!"


Go Science, Mr. White!

Signs that it's the 21st century:

LED lighting
Mission controller sporting a wide bushy Mowhawk
Mission controller with long hair and a beard
Mission controller with a bluetooth headset in his ear reminiscent of Uhura
Mission leader wearing three earrings

Mowhawk: http://whatstrending.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/610x.jpeg
Earpiece: http://www.wirelessandmobilenews.com/5art/uhuraearpeice.jpg
Earrings: http://www.astrobio.net/images/galleryimages_images/Gallery_Image_9458.jpg

I'm really glad it all worked. I haven't seen this much media build-up in a very long time. I hear the kids loved it!

The Mowhawk Guy has become an internet star, apparently wears a different hair style for each landing. Ear-rings didn't seem to figure out which camera to look at when talking, in the end they gave up and switched to whichever camera he stated looking at :) Now, I need to grow my nails back.


Err, shouldn't that be the away team as it's on Mars?


Good call!



Could be that each step having 95% chance of success is an overestimate... and the aggregate odds may be closer to 50-50. Fingers crossed...

Yep, I was being Captain Optimist!

Your estimate is likely closer to the truth...that would make the mean probability for each of the six steps between 80-90%...

Made It! WooHoo!

Realistic article on Space.Com advocating that NASA officially drop aspirations about sending humans to Mars:

I don't know about that. If people went to Mars, NBC, the network televising the Olympics could be in charge of the video, holding the camera on astronauts faces interminably. "Forget about a claim of a just found incredible scientific discovery, instead go to camera 3, we have a crying face! Yes, get the crying face on tv - go in close and stay there!! That's it, that's what the people want - emotions over intellect!"

Craving Energy and Glory, Pakistan Revels in Boast of Water-Run Car

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — In a nation thirsting for energy, he loomed like a messiah: a small-town engineer who claimed he could run a car on water.

The assertion — based on the premise that he had discovered a way to easily split the oxygen and hydrogen atoms in water molecules with almost no energy — would, if proven, represent a stunning breakthrough for physics and a near-magical solution to Pakistan’s desperate power crisis.

“By the grace of Allah, I have managed to make a formula that converts less voltage into more energy,” the professed inventor, Agha Waqar Ahmad, said in a telephone interview. “This invention will solve our country’s energy crisis and provide jobs to hundreds of thousands of people.”

Established scientists have debunked his spectacular claims, first made one month ago, saying they violate ironclad laws of physics. But across Pakistan, where crippling electricity cuts have left millions drenched in the sweat of a powerless summer, and where there is hunger for tales of homegrown glory, the shimmering mirage of a “water car” received a broad and serious embrace.

Anybody has info on Israel recent gas discoveries ? :
or :

Seems to me it is not the first time major discoveries are reported in the area, to what extend is it "proven reserve" and what amount ?