Drumbeat: August 20, 2012

We're still on the slippery slope to peak oil

IN 2007 former US energy secretary James Schlesinger claimed the arguments in favour of peak oil - the key theory that global production must peak and then decline - had been won. With production flat and prices surging towards an all-time high of $147 per barrel, he declared, "we are all peakists now".

Five years on and production has risen by 2.7 million barrels per day to 93 mb/d, prices have recently slumped to around $100 a barrel and those who dismissed the idea that the rate we extract oil from the ground must inevitably decline jeer in delight.

In June a much-touted report by Leonardo Maugeri - an Italian oil executive now at the Geopolitics of Energy Project, based at Harvard University and part-funded by BP - forecast that far from running out of oil, this decade will see the strongest growth in production capacity since the 1980s and a "significant, stable dip of oil prices".

So is that it, panic over, as some commentators who once agreed with the peak view have declared on the basis of Maugeri's report? Ironically, such shifts come just as some economists - traditionally hostile to peak theory - were coming round to it. Peakonomics, if you will. Unfortunately, any reasonable reading suggests Maugeri is wide of the mark.

Oil rises above $114 on tight North Sea supply

LONDON (Reuters) - Brent crude oil rose to around $114 per barrel on Monday, supported by tight North Sea supplies ahead of the closure of a key UK oilfield for maintenance and on expectations of more demand before the northern hemisphere winter.

Britain's largest oilfield, Buzzard, which is the single biggest contributor to the Forties crude oil stream and usually sets the price of the Brent benchmark, will shut next month, suspending output until mid-October.

Saudi Arabia Oil Output Tops Russia in June, Jodi Data Show

Saudi Arabia pumped crude at the highest level in more than three decades in June, overtaking Russia as the world’s largest oil producer during the month, according to the Joint Organization Data Initiative.

The desert kingdom’s output rose 3 percent to 10.1 million barrels a day in June from May as it exported the most in a month since November 2005, according to statistics the government submitted to OPEC and posted on JODI’s website today.

Russia pumped 9.9 million barrels a day of crude oil in the same month, according to the initiative known as JODI. The Russian data exclude natural-gas liquids, JODI said.

China's crude oil output rises slightly

BEIJING (Xinhua) -- China's crude oil production increased only 0.6 percent year on year to 17.24 million metric tons in July as the current economic slowdown dampened fuel demand in the country, according to data released by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) on Monday.

Syria war tipping Mideast balance toward Sunnis

BEIRUT (AP) — Not long ago, Arabs everywhere listened when the leader of Hezbollah spoke. Sheik Hassan Nasrallah's prominence, bolstered by his Lebanese guerrilla force's battles against Israel, was a sign of the rising regional influence of Shiite Muslims and overwhelmingly Shiite Iran. Now, his speeches don't necessarily make front pages even in Lebanon.

The change is emblematic of how the bloody conflict in Syria, now in its 18th month, has brought a shift in the Middle East's sectarian power balance. For much of the past few years, Shiites were surging in power across the region, based on the central alliance between Iran, Syria and Hezbollah, with close relations to Shiites who took power in post-Saddam Hussein Iraq.

First Indian tanker to take state cover for Iran load

The first Indian oil tanker company to accept state-backed insurance cover to carry crude from Iran will load its first cargo this week.

Mercator is so far the only tanker company to take up the Indian government's offer of insurance, introduced after the European Union imposed a ban on EU-based insurance cover as part of its sanctions regime against Iran.

ConocoPhillips Ships Third LNG Shipment From Alaska to Japan

ConocoPhillips has shipped a third cargo of liquefied natural gas to Japan from the only U.S. LNG plant permitted to sell domestically produced fuel to the Asian country.

China's July natural gas imports surge 28.2% on year to 3.5 Bcm: NDRC

Singapore (Platts) - China's total natural gas imports in July rose 28.2% year on year to 3.5 billion cubic meters (4 Bcf/day), the National Development and Reform Commission said on its website Monday.

Apparent demand for natural gas in July was 11.4 Bcm, an increase of 10.5% year on year, NDRC added.

Shell, Chevron to swap gas assets in Australia

(Reuters) - Royal Dutch Shell Plc will pay $450 million and swap interests in two fields off the Australian coast with Chevron Corp holdings in a $30 billion-plus liquefied natural gas (LNG) project that has been plagued by infighting among its stakeholders.

Shell is expanding its interest in the Browse LNG project, which has suffered cost blowouts and been caught up in rows about the best location an LNG plant and opposition from environmentalists and Aboriginal landowners.

India eyes Russia's arctic shelf exploration

India’s ONGC Videsh Ltd says it is keen to get a foothold in the Arctic with Rosneft after Moscow proposed to lift all export duties for new projects in the Arctic shelf.

Shell has ‘shocking levels’ of access to government staff

Senior Whitehall officials from 10 government departments and agencies attended exclusive “training courses” laid on by Shell over two days at its London headquarters, according to documents released by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) following a freedom of information request.

Older boomers help shift driving trends into reverse

According to each of the last three National Household Transportation Surveys, driving peaks in middle age. At age 54, you drive about as much as you did in your late 20s and early 30s … but after that, it’s a long, steady decline.

Doubts rise over Egypt's nuclear plan

This summer Egypt has suffered its worst blackouts in years as daily power outages crippled the stock exchange and left thousands stranded on public transport. Shortages of water and fuel have also revived public anger towards the government.

Under Mr Mubarak, toppled last year, Egypt drew up plans to build four nuclear reactors by 2025 with a capacity of 4,000MW.

Egypt, which has an installed capacity of about 23,500MW, needs a further 3,000MW to meet the country's growing demand. But industry players say the government will have to look to immediate solutions to handle Egypt's energy shortages.

Intrusion Embarrasses 'Fort Knox of Uranium'

Officials like to refer to the Y-12 National Security Complex as the Fort Knox for highly enriched uranium, which is why an unprecedented incursion by an 82-year-old nun and two fellow protesters has critics mocking the notion that the weapons plant is secure.

Operations resumed last week after being shut down over the embarrassing incident 18 days earlier. The Department of Energy has called on the contractor that runs the sensitive facility just west of Knoxville to explain why it shouldn't be replaced.

Japanese visit Norway to solve wind power conflict

A domestic row about offshore wind turbine plans and fishing in Japan has caused 40 Japanese to visit the oil conference ONS to try to learn from Norway on neutral ground.

The Peak Oil Crisis: Another Disruptive Technology?

The August doldrums are a good time to note that there is yet another "disruptive technology" under development, and possibly close to market, which has the potential to make radical changes in the way we obtain and use energy. This time it is not anomalous heat observed when hydrogen is loaded into nickel, but is an updated incarnation of a technology that has been around for 45 years --- the noble gas engine.

Apocalypse Not: Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Worry About End Times

Religious zealots hardly have a monopoly on apocalyptic thinking. Consider some of the environmental cataclysms that so many experts promised were inevitable. Best-selling economist Robert Heilbroner in 1974: “The outlook for man, I believe, is painful, difficult, perhaps desperate, and the hope that can be held out for his future prospects seem to be very slim indeed.” Or best-selling ecologist Paul Ehrlich in 1968: “The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s ["and 1980s" was added in a later edition] the world will undergo famines—hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked on now … nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate.” Or Jimmy Carter in a televised speech in 1977: “We could use up all of the proven reserves of oil in the entire world by the end of the next decade.”

Predictions of global famine and the end of oil in the 1970s proved just as wrong as end-of-the-world forecasts from millennialist priests. Yet there is no sign that experts are becoming more cautious about apocalyptic promises. If anything, the rhetoric has ramped up in recent years. Echoing the Mayan calendar folk, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved its Doomsday Clock one minute closer to midnight at the start of 2012, commenting: “The global community may be near a point of no return in efforts to prevent catastrophe from changes in Earth’s atmosphere.”

Visions of the future

Cities bring to mind squalor, crowds and congestion. Existing urban spaces may have started out as planned areas, but rapid population growth and migration has led to uncontrolled and haphazard growth of cities.

Some places, though, are reclaiming their cities. The exhibition, Post-Oil City: The History of the City’s Future, presented by Institut fur Auslandbezeihungen, organised by Goethe-Zentrum, Hyderabad and curated by Anh-Linh Ngo, looks at how some cities, both upcoming and existing, are learning from the architectural plans of the past and incorporating future technology to create more sustainable cities.

Sweaty Lessons in the ‘True’ Cost of Construction

When my wife, Julia, and I arrived in Moab, Utah, to start our four-month internship building a straw bale house, a party was raging in the backyard.

Our internship is with the nonprofit group Community Rebuilds, and on the evening we drove up to the house we’lll be sharing with seven other interns, Emily Niehaus, the group’s founder and director, was throwing a thank-you party for Bike and Build. This pack of several dozen 20-somethings had peddled into Moab a few days ahead of us to help tear out the doublewide trailer that would be replaced by a straw bale house.

In Midst of a Drought, Keeping Traffic Moving on the Mississippi

The Army Corps of Engineers has more than a dozen dredging vessels working the Mississippi this summer. Despite being fed by water flowing in from more than 40 percent of the United States, the river is feeling the ruinous drought affecting so much of the Midwest. Some stretches are nearing the record low-water levels experienced in 1988, when river traffic was suspended in several spots.

Drought-stricken Farm Belt not headed for another Dust Bowl

The severe drought that has hit the Farm Belt does not immediately threaten to create another Dust Bowl or widespread crop failure, thanks to rapid innovations in the past 20 years in seed quality, planting practices and farming technology, farmers and plant scientists say.

Merkel’s Green Shift Forces Germany to Burn More Coal

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government says RWE AG’s new power plant that can supply 3.4 million homes aids her plan to exit nuclear energy and switch to cleaner forms of generation. It’s fired with coal.

The startup of the 2,200-megawatt station near Cologne last week shows how Europe’s largest economy is relying more on the most-polluting fuel. Coal consumption has risen 4.9 percent since Merkel announced a plan to start shutting the country’s atomic reactors after last year’s Fukushima disaster in Japan.

The Cost of Cool

THE blackouts that left hundreds of millions of Indians sweltering in the dark last month underscored the status of air-conditioning as one of the world’s most vexing environmental quandaries.

Fact 1: Nearly all of the world’s booming cities are in the tropics and will be home to an estimated one billion new consumers by 2025. As temperatures rise, they — and we — will use more air-conditioning.

Fact 2: Air-conditioners draw copious electricity, and deliver a double whammy in terms of climate change, since both the electricity they use and the coolants they contain result in planet-warming emissions.

Fact 3: Scientific studies increasingly show that health and productivity rise significantly if indoor temperature is cooled in hot weather. So cooling is not just about comfort.

Australian Investment Surging Even With Carbon Tax, Swan Says

Australia’s carbon tax and a levy on mining company profits hasn’t stopped a surge in investment in the resources industry, Treasurer Wayne Swan said.

“While there have been no end to the irresponsible claims made about the impact of both a price on carbon pollution and the new resource tax arrangements, the investment figures tell the real story,” Swan said in an economic note yesterday. “Far from putting a wrecking ball through the economy, investment has actually skyrocketed since these policies were announced.”

Climate change puts Atlantic coastline in cross hairs

The treasured lifestyle of residents along the coasts of the Mid-Atlantic could significantly change by the time this year's high school graduates retire, scientists say.

The larger issue for taxpayers is where to spend money and energy attempting to hold back the ocean — and where to retreat and allow nature to take its course.

I thought this article on robots in the New York Times Sunday was very thought-provoking.
It was about the further automation of manufacturing with highly sophisticated adaptable robots which can replace hundreds of works in manufacturing plants:


Skilled Work, Without the Worker
One robot arm endlessly forms three perfect bends in two connector wires and slips them into holes almost too small for the eye to see. The arms work so fast that they must be enclosed in glass cages to prevent the people supervising them from being injured. And they do it all without a coffee break — three shifts a day, 365 days a year.

All told, the factory here has several dozen workers per shift, about a tenth as many as the plant in the Chinese city of Zhuhai.

This is the future. A new wave of robots, far more adept than those now commonly used by automakers and other heavy manufacturers, are replacing workers around the world in both manufacturing and distribution.

Just like outsourcing, offshoring and all the other ways to reduce labor costs for modern day Capitalism, some implications of this next phase in automation are not being asked. Obviously the author is bringing up the question of jobs - if robots replace humans at the rate of 10 to 1 then what is left for humans to do?
But from the Oildrum perspective, how does roboticization fit into resource constraints and Climate Change? Do these factories consume more resources and generate more greenhouse emissions? It seems very likely that they do. Especially if you compare to the existing
"sunk cost" in human beings who hopefully will continue living, breathing, and eating consuming the world's resources regardless of eliminated jobs.

Is this the last gasp of fossil-fueled industrialized BAU or sustainable in a Green Transition?
Any thoughts TODers ??

The paradox is that, at some point, there won't be enough folks who can afford the things that these energy slaves produce, similar to China today, where folks can't afford to buy the things they are producing. It's a lesson from the past that we, collectively, failed to learn. If folks stop buying the things these robots make and adopt a "handmade in America" culture, will that help? It's just another overshoot thingy; another trap.

I think it is more a mindset issue. If our mindset was a cooperative one and the wealth of the robots were fairly distributed thru out society then it becomes a non issue.

The problem comes with our competitive win/lose mindset where we struggle to gain more wealth potential while working to restrict the potential wealth gain of others.

Our current midset is that people must be independently wealthy, or work in order to legitimately have things. Under this model, the number of people eligible for the output of these new technological wonders declines. So we end needing some style of socialism being needed to maintain demand. Currently in many places that is unthinkable, so it won't happen easily or soon.

Thanks for saying what I was thinking. Jobs? Nonsense, what we want is income. Isn't this obvious to all? If robots give us income, then fine, and we are freed up to do what we find enjoyable and what satisfies our innate need to be a contributor, not a parasite.

Not the way the system works? Of course not. That's the problem. So change the system, dammit. Don't know how to do it? Of course not. That's the job for the economists, what else are they good for?

"That's the job for the economists, what else are they good for?"

Making astrology look respectable? (no, this is not an original thought.)

The same robot article is being dissected on Mish's blog too. The nature of the Doom is apparent, what to do about it is not.

I have been retired for many years and have not had one second of regret that I don't have a "job". Both parties talk about jobs,jobs,jobs. What B.S. How many amongst us would want the few crap jobs that are available today? We want fulfillment and enough money to live a decent life but the so called socialist party won't go there because they are so afraid of being called the socialist party. Of course, the right wing is calling Obama socialist anyway so he might as well go there.

While it is true that we can possibly pump up the economy at least a few more times with a much more massive stimulus, we are just robbing from our heritage in the process.

Where will the aggregate demand for consumer goods come from if people are not employed? I think,however, that we are already in the midst of this problem but the right wing asserts that this aggregate demand will somehow come from the extra jobs that the so called "job creators" create with their extra tax savings. This has not happened with the currently relatively low tax rate and I don't see why this strategy will be any more successful in the future. The fallacy is thinking that the rich actually want to create jobs. No. The rich won't to garner even more money for themselves. If jobs are created as a result of this desire, it is entirely coincidental. It is still more profitable to send money overseas and to create even less jobs through automation.

The problem is not automation for it has been with use for decades. The problem, as you say, is a philosophy that rejects any sharing of the fruits of technology. This is ultimately a self destructive strategy.

The cult of selfishness will provide negative feedbacks which will destroy the wealth of those who believe so fervently in the Ayn Randian paradigm.

The cult of selfishness will provide negative feedbacks which will destroy the wealth of those who believe so fervently in the Ayn Randian paradigm.

And as collateral damage the wealth of those who think Randites are psychopaths will be destroyed as well.

And as collateral damage the wealth of those who think Randites are psychopaths will be destroyed as well.

Count me in the "many Randites are sociopaths" crowd. Of course, not all Randites are sociopaths, but I would bet a fortune that most sociopaths are Randites, as it justifies/ennobles their "ethics". Pray tell how wishing to more justly and fairly distribute wealth vs. the winner-take-all paradigm we currently follow would be so disastrous for the rest of us?

Paul Ferrell has an interesting comment today on Rand's philosophical point of view:

Ayn Rand: Patron saint or soulless capitalist?

E. Swanson

I was pleasantly surprised, and liked the essay very much. Thanks.

The problem is not automation for it has been with use for decades. The problem, as you say, is a philosophy that rejects any sharing of the fruits of technology. This is ultimately a self destructive strategy.

How can we be so certain that the problem is not automation? Would we be able to have the same conversation about the world economy without the massive increase in automation across factories worldwide?

"In America, the only acceptable form of socialism is socialism for the rich."
--J.K. Galbraith

Automation requires both capital and inexpensive energy. I do not understand your question. Of course we would have this conversation - it is about a fundamental difference of opinion as to whether the human propensity to share and cooperate is more important than the basic animal drive to survive (greed).

The Austrian/Chicago schools (aka 'Fresh Water Economics") holds that greed is good, and more important than cooperation. Others disagree. That is what the discourse is about.


greed is good, and more important than cooperation. Others disagree. That is what the discourse is about.

And some of us warn against false dichotomy. Humans are in part motivated by both of these themes. The goal should be some sort of combination, and the weighting of the various components can be varied as circumstances dictate. But the human mind -especially as mediated by group and party dynamics dictates that we have to push things to one pure limit or another. Anyone pushing back is automatically considered to be in the opposite camp, and hence and evil being against which no action is too extreme.

Please note that I did NOT intimate a dichotomy. I said that the question is which is MORE important. I happen to believe that cooperation is far more important than greed, and leads to far better results. I recognize - one could hardly fail to do so - that some individuals disagree. In fact, the evidence is strong that more may be in the greed camp than otherwise; I fear that the consequences of their actions on that belief could be devastating on the planet and on humanity.


Wasn't meant as an attack on you. In fact I agree that cooperation is the better part of the bargain.

Species move from competition to cooperation because they discover the economic value of cooperating. It is cheaper, more efficient... All you have to do is look at our pentagon budget and see that a tiny fraction of it would really develop countries that we've been levelling instead... Very much more cost-effective to make friends of them than it is to keep them as enemies.
~ Elizabet Sahtouris, evolutionary biologist

..and the two characteristics are so often painted as incompatible opposites, when in fact, there is a frequent interplay of self-interest and group-interest, or competition and cooperation, such that they can work as an invaluable team, and might in fact, have to do so.. as either without the other becomes a self-destructive AND group-destructive abberation.

As ever, we paint them with our Euclidean Brush, hoping to glean their credits and debits and true nature in some rarified pure isolation from all else, and of course as a social species, such Isolation is as untenable and fascinating as a flame is to the Moth.

Nathaniel Hawthorne told this story nicely with "The Birthmark". http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Birth-Mark

Yes and then there's the limits of language, media, white noise, feedback, thought, split ends, overkill, ego, insanity, chaos, Pussy Riots, The Oil Drum, as well as diverse individual interpretations, needs and desires, and so on and on...

Here, I'm reminded of an expression, "all bubbles in a beer".

Euclid's got nothing on us.

"Automation requires both capital and inexpensive energy."

The energy does not have to be inexpensive in absolute terms. It only has to be cost effective considering the value of the product and the cost of the human workers. Since the cost of a human worker is high and going higher, the energy cost of the robots is not a very large proportion of the expenses involved. If you wan tto go back to the condition in New England factories in the 1850's, or Dickens' England, then the economics will change to favor human labor again.

Maybe. Even the Chinese are pursuing automation, so the cost of the robots must be less than the cost of the labor even when you drive the labor to death by exhaustion/desperation.

Even in the 1850s, when steam engines were maybe 5% efficient and coal was dug by hand into wicker baskets, automation was cost effective.

Automation requires both capital and inexpensive energy.

Ahhh, but what is the eMbedded Energy (eMergy) in a human being? Howard Odum wanted to assign not only the energy used to get a product to market but also the 'knowledge embedded' in making that object to get to an eMergy value.

So what is the eMergy of a robot made last week VS a 20 year old human who's had to have been fed for 22 years along with education to get 'em to the assembly line?

From an eMergy accounting/knowledge built into the robot - while the steel used to make the robotic arm along with the Silicon and sensors are incremental what of the eMergy of the software used to drive the robot? The incremental eMergy to replicate the software would seem to be quite low VS the eMergy associated with a human being 'replication'

And from an energy input POV - the wattage output of the human body is 200 or so watts in the legs and 90 or so from the upper body. How much 'land' has to capture photons to get that output? Now how much 'land' has to be used to set up photon to watt conversion to power the robot?

Using humans isn't "cheap" energy.

May I suggest that we reduce the production of the hydrocarbon based assemblers. Given their long lead time and various other inefficiencies, we seem to have more than enough already processing through the supply chain.


Greed or self interest has its place and one does not have to refer to the Austrian school for this concept as it was introduced at least as far back as Adam Smith. But even Smith recognized that there need to be some ameliorating forces the ultimate self destructiveness of greed. Greed needs to be placed in a context so that society and the planet are not unduly harmed by unconstrained greed. The market is fine but the external effects of the market must be recognized and accounted for.

Would we be able to have the same conversation about the world economy without the massive increase in automation across factories worldwide?

The reality is kind of odd and funny. A big attractor of global jobs is having the cheapest "useful" labor. Automation is an option. American electronic designs that assumed American-style mass-production techniques have had to be rethought against the reality that, in small volume production, they were going to be hand-assembled by kids using old-style parts with wires on them and then dipped in a solder-pot... kind of like fire-cracker production... by hand. Whole villages make firecrackers in little shops. Whole villages make batteries. When one area gets too many good jobs and the price of labor goes up, then the employers look towards more impoverished lands. These are aspects of "the race to the bottom". If full-on automation is desired, or modern assembly devices, they are provided by the builders or transplanters of the factory. 50,000 factories have moved out of America in the last decade.

Jobs and factories fled those developed countries that were left fully exposed to impoverished labor working in squalor while destroying themselves and their environment. If they can lower themselves into slavery, misery, and muck... then they might attract those jobs back.

Fireworks Over America - Factory in China

China Factory making vinyl dog toys

China "automated" stamping plant Chinese factory

Automation is a problem. I should have said that is a problem that has been with us for decades. But there is a way that we can address this inevitable problem which may be accelerating with the incredible adept robots that are being developed. But if the fruits of this productivity are not shared, then there will not be any need for the robots and they will with away just like the human beings who created them.

In classical economics this is dismissed as the lump of labour fallacy. I.E. the displaced workers will go to work providing for some new previsously unmet need. This only works so long as fundamental resource limits are not reached.

fundamental resource limits are not reached

Capitalism at it's basic core is a really effective system of rape and pillage. As long as the rape and pillage is confined to natural resources, or other countries, and the majority gets at least some minimum amount of the loot, most people remain plenty content and supportive.

The problem begins when resource limits start being hit and the only option is to turn the rape and pillage inward and we go after each other. The job market is like a game of music chairs, every day there are less decent jobs and a more intense struggle for what remains.

The super rich are doing all they can to acquire, concentrate and protect their wealth. The working class are spending their last bit of cash on guns and ammo. From this it seems clear where the "new jobs" will be coming from...

Kunstler has, today, an unusually insightful description of the madness of the employment, efficiency and income situation.

"Capitalism at it's basic core is a really effective system of rape and pillage."

Capitalism can certainly function in that environment, but I don't think it's essential. The basic premise is that you accumulate an economic surplus, and then invest that in an enterprise that can generate a profit. As opposed to everything you do is turned over to a government which doles it out according to perceived needs.

The 20th century showed that Socialism is also quite good at the rape and pillage system. In the end, it comes down to who can determine your needs the best; a government possible thousands of miles away, or you, who are there?

"The working class are spending their last bit of cash on guns and ammo." I'm actually guilty of that one. My latest rifle was made in Canada, so the US economy lost out again, drat it.

In the end, it comes down to who can determine your needs the best; a government possible thousands of miles away, or you, who are there?

I don't think that's the question at all. The point of government has never been to determine the needs of individual. The government's job is to ensure the welfare of everyone - of society in general, not you in particular.

As Diamond argues, a strong central government can avoid collapse, because it can see the big picture, which no individual can. Grassroots works only in very small groups. Basically, where everyone knows everyone and everyone has a stake: our forest, our stream, our beach.

Medium sized societies (and large ones with weak central controls) cannot avoid collapse. They fail due to internecine conflict. People do things to "his forest," "their stream," "her beach" that they would never do to their own.

I don't think capitalism works well in a steady-state or shrinking economy. There's a reason usury was a sin unto murder in the ancient world. It was simply too hard to support a lot of capitalists/money-changers - people who don't actually produce anything - in the steady state economies of the ancient world.

The element of competition inherent in the free market ideal is also difficult to support when the pie is not growing. If you cannot accumulate a surplus without taking it from someone else...eventually, you end up taking from people who can't afford to lose any more.

The element of competition inherent in the free market ideal is also difficult to support when the pie is not growing. If you cannot accumulate a surplus without taking it from someone else...

The opposite is more the case. Competition per Adam Smith affords the most efficient allocation of resources which is not very necessary in time a plenty, but critical when resources grow tight.

Somehow, its not working out that way. Not this time. I think the balance of power has shifted dramatically, and the old old truisms no longer work.

"The opposite is more the case. Competition per Adam Smith affords the most efficient allocation of resources."

Prominent interpretation, as well as criticism, of Smith's views on the societal merits of unregulated labor management by the ruling class is expressed by Noam Chomsky as follows: "He's pre-capitalist, a figure of the Enlightenment. What we would call capitalism he despised. People read snippets of Adam Smith, the few phrases they teach in school. Everybody reads the first paragraph of The Wealth of Nations where he talks about how wonderful the division of labor is. But not many people get to the point hundreds of pages later, where he says that division of labor will destroy human beings and turn people into creatures as stupid and ignorant as it is possible for a human being to be. And therefore in any civilized society the government is going to have to take some measures to prevent division of labor from proceeding to its limits."


Of course, Falstaff, I expect you'll choose to attack Chomsky rather than examine the sociopathic justifications for accumulating much more than one's needed share of wealth and resources. These rationalizations baffle me. I suppose it's the only way some folks can feel secure. Methinks they're really scared, small, pitiful creatures, completely divorced from their humanity. Just sayin'....

"Methinks they're really scared, small, pitiful creatures, completely divorced from their humanity."

I often wonder if the intent is a false-flag exposure of an empty ideology. A rose by any other name:

I try to stay solution focused but yesterday I guess I was in a bit of a mood and let loose with some repressed doomer porn. I was thinking, capitalism as presently practiced in the US, and should have made that clear.

Sure socialism and communism have both feed off the rape and pillage modality, capitalism's advantage was that it did it much better and with the US had much greater resource base to plunder. While I feel that we need to develop another system option, I feel that this is secondary, first we must grow up. I feel that we are all in a way "adult children" running badly amuck and that until we learn how to become "adults", no system is going to make that much difference.

until we learn how to become "adults", no system is going to make that much difference.

How much is the current system blocking that transition?

Huge effect here. Maybe a billion or so a day in the US. Add up all the resources spent on advertizing, marketing and lobbing and consider the net effect.

The weak point is that the methods used depend on us being unaware of how our sub-conscious mind works and how greatly it effect our thinking/behavior. If this awareness could be brought into common knowledge them likely the effect would be greatly weakened if not totally disabled.

It would help for sure. Although knowing how things work, and being unafected by clever techniques to exploit it are quite different things. But, just as few care to understand energy, or economics, few care to understand human cognition (most psychology deals with clinical disorders, not with how everyday ordinary people form opinions).

I remember reading a few years back about "Full Spectrum Dominance", which was a philosophy of political/informational conquest. We don't need to control everything, just enough of the discussion that whatever our opponents say will be irrelevant. I feel like one of those irrelevant opponents, whose only salvation is that his own irrelevance means they don't need to kill him.

Trainer on steady-state economics, capitalism, socialism, etc.:


Communism is an economic model. Socialism is a governmental model.

Government is not a business - electing someone because she was a good CEO of a big corporation is not necessarily a good thing (nor is it necessarily a bad one).

The goal of a corporation is to make a profit. The goal for a government is to help its citizens to survive. Big difference.

The choices we need to make involve, what is needed, and for that we must pay... wherefrom should be deduced a basic tax rate.

Other things we want, but do not need. For those, we need to decide - if we want it we must pay for it.

Social Security needs to be discussed; it needs some reforms to sustain it. I suggest eliminating the cap on SSI tax; also, raise the retirement age... it should be 70 at least, or more, but I suppose we would need to phase that in. Disconnect medicare from Social Security; then pass nation health care, like every other civilized and industrialized nation. Get the profit motive out of health care! It is inappropriate. The present meme allows medical providers to make you "an offer you cannot refuse" as to your health. It is time to recognize this simple fact and desist. For elective medical care (say, for instance, cosmetic surgery), fine. For health care, no.


electing someone because she was a good CEO of a big corporation is not necessarily a good thing

In fact the leadership methods are totally different. The CEO is in most respects ab absolute dictator, although in rare instances the board of directors can fire him/her. A president of prime-minister cannot act without creating a certain degree of consensus. One can impose his will, the other has to bargain and convince.

"The goal for a government is to help its citizens to survive."

I'd love to believe that. In practice, the goal of government is the acquisition and use of power. And if you take Leanan's view "The government's job is to ensure the welfare of everyone - of society in general," then who decides what will benefit the welfare of society overall? The citizens? By Leanan's argument, the citizens can't see the big picture, and therefore are unable to fulfill that role. Who's left? Why, the elite bureaucrats in the government. And I submit they will act to increase their own power regardless of the effect on society.

Way back in the late 1980's that same argument was in an issue of Mother Jones, where contrary to my expectations, they ripped into the employee buyout of Weirton Steel. I thought the editors would have loved the workers owning the means of production. Silly me. The workers through no fault of their own were incapable of seeing the "big picture" and so would run the steel plant for their own benefit. Only those liberally educated in the classics had the background to make decisions for the benefit of all of society. In plain language, you are too stupid to run your own life, therefore I (through the iron fist of the State) must do it for you.

That's the point at which I realized I was not a Liberal.

Diamond does not spell this out, but there's a dark underside to the findings that I am quite sure he is aware of.

The research he describes suggest that democracy is not a sustainable form of government. Because those in power cannot be sure they stay in power, or that their children will inherit, there's a lot of incentive to loot what you can, while you can, with little consideration for the future.

If you are a king, you have incentive to preserve the entire kingdom because your wealth derives from it, and so will your heirs' wealth.

In plain language, you are too stupid to run your own life, therefore I (through the iron fist of the State) must do it for you.

That might be an unappealing thought...but that doesn't mean it's not true.

Maybe the problem is in thinking we can, or should, create permanent governmental systems. They never last anyway, at least the complex ones. There are a lot of different governmental systems and forms that can work well, given the right circumstances - usually that means having the right people involved. There will probably always be rulers, so essentially having the right people doing that is more important than the system, and having the right system won't help with a bunch of bad apples running it.

Governments and nations are always transient, but societies in general can survive much longer. I'm more interested these days in the kinds of social structures/systems that seem to have the potential for long term survival and stability, regardless of the inevitable power struggles among sociopaths that play out within them. The tension between religious and secular institutions seems to be pretty stable sometimes.

I think our only hope is thinking outside the box. Nothing useful will come out of the same old black and white dichotomies. I'd guess that neither communism nor capitalism is sustainable long-term, so arguing about which is better is like debating what color deck chair is better on the Titanic.

And the goal of most large corporations is not "the acquisition and use of power"??

That seems to be the general goal of all humans; not surprising to me that any endeavor they undertake seems to be colored by it. Government is just the largest aggregation of humans, and so is the most obvious manifestation of this to my way of thinking, but certainly not unique. I love the false choice between those who would control your public life and those who would control your private life, so we can all take sides. I'd posit that *any* group of more than, say, 500 humans is going to take advantage of anyone not in said group any way they can. That's when I realized I was not a liberal nor a conservative. This has serious ramifications for the impending future, but oh well, enjoy the ride, and stay off 'their' radar.


Sure socialism and communism have both feed off the rape and pillage modality, capitalism's advantage was that it did it much better and with the US had much greater resource base to plunder.

Greater than Russia? Don't think so.

For most of the time that Russia (and the USSR) has existed as a modern state the cost of extracting and utilizing the vast resources of Russia has been extremely hight compared to the US. Weather, technology, culture have all played a part to reduce the rate at which Russian natural resources could feed the Russian economy.

Of course! Though the political and economic system difference was far and away the key factor in resource development. The claim above was that the US had greater resources than the failed socialist states (like Russia), which is simply not correct.

I think abundance of resources in Russia is a myth. Especially agricultural resources.
But you're right that capitalism is a much more favorable system for resource utilisation.

I think abundance of resources in Russia is a myth

Is that belief changeable based on some figures?

Some Russian resources

oil reserves:60 to 200 billion bbls (compared to ~21 billion in the US)
oil production: 10.5 mbpd (largest producer and ~exporter in the world)
gas reserves: 1700 tcf (2100 tcf in FSU territories) (largest in the world)

arable land per capita: 0.9 hectacres (second only to Australia and Canada), and 4-5X the world average
forest area: 8 million sq km, largest in the world and more than double 2nd place Canada and US
surface area: 17 million sq km, largest in the world

nickel: world's largest producer (19% of world total), 14 million tons /year ore
palladium: world's largest producer (44%)
platinum: world's 2nd largest producer
uranium reserves: 8.9% of world total, 4th in the world
coal reserves, recoverable 2006: 150-200 billion ton, third in the world

Very little of the land can actually be used for agriculture. See this map:

And we're talking about reserves, not about the current rate of production. Only natural gas can be called 'abundant'. Oil, gold, uranium - not that much.

Very little of the land can actually be used for agriculture.

Yes, and Canada is situated in a similar climate. Yet Canada was always able to produce enough grain in the 50 years post WWII to feed itself, unlike the larger Soviet Union. Also land that's not suitable for agriculture in Russia is still covered with millions of acres of timber, or potential hydroelectric resource, with large mineral resources below it all.

And we're talking about reserves, not about the current rate of production. Only natural gas can be called 'abundant'. Oil, gold, uranium - not that much.

The question at hand was not the identification of resources for today's needs but to compare the resources available to the former Soviet Union versus the western world in answer to the thesis that the economic success of the west was due only to its resources.

What is the population of Canada?

I'm not arguing with the fact that capitalism is more suitable for rapid exploitation of available resources. And the west had the resources to exploit. But what if it didn't? Well, we'll see the answer to this question in the next few decades.

As for resources of Russia, it's easy to find them on the map. Entirely different story on the ground. I know of a place where you can generate 20GW of hydroelectric power. But the nearest consumer is 2,000 miles away. Building the transmission lines through the swamps of Nothern Siberia will eat all your profits. EROEI is guarding Siberia better than AK-47.

I'm not arguing with the fact that capitalism is more suitable for rapid exploitation of available resources. And the west had the resources to exploit. But what if it didn't?

I agree things would be different without vast resources in the back yard, but I doubt the only alternative outcome was economic stagnation from the beginning. See Hong Kong. See Japan.

Well, we'll see the answer to this question in the next few decades.

Perhaps, though some of those resources are not going away. For instance in N. America the hydroelectric, the vast areas of arable land, the timber, the 50GWp of US wind already installed are here for the long term, and I seriously doubt the existing N. American nuclear plants are going anywhere in the next couple decades. Even some of the metals are here to stay: the US already recycles 75% of its steel.

... I know of a place where you can generate 20GW of hydroelectric power. But the nearest consumer is 2,000 miles away.

Good point, Siberia is remote and challenging. Though given the US managed to forge the steel for rails and construct a continental railroad by 1869, dig a canal across the tropical isthmus of Panama by 1914, I'm would not have bet against a the possibility of the economic development of a huge though remote hydroelectric resource given the need and a freer political system.

I'm not sure China's Three Gorges Dam would be possible in a freer political system. Nowdays, hydroelectric projects, like nuclear plants, require strong government to overcome public opposition.

Btw, do you know why the SU have built so many nuclear icebreakers? To evacuate nickel from Dudinka. It was cheaper than polar railroad.

I could not disagree more. I think sitting on top of an immense, largely untapped continent full of resources was the main reason the US became a world superpower. We were born on third base and thought we hit a triple.

Yes, and the fact that our system was consistently able to extract those resources at a higher rate may, in the long run, be to our great disadvantage.

I could not disagree more.

Then how do you explain the collapse of the FSU on another continent with in many ways even greater untapped natural resources, if resources alone are the explanation?

Resources, or lack of them, played a major role in the collapse of the SU.

We were born on third base and thought we hit a triple.

Lovely. May I quote you?

Sure, but it's not mine. The late Ann Richards famously said it of George Bush the elder, and she may have borrowed it from football coach Barry Switzer.

Thanks for the reply. Being from Oklahoma, I have mixed feelings about Barry Switzer, especially since I went to the other university. ;-)

Then again, a 'lack of efficiency' has a certain way of leaving things in the ground for future generations. Maybe the House of Saud should try communism, their children might thank them, ha ha!


Capitalism at it's basic core is a really effective system of rape and pillage.

Yes, but it's "legitimate" rape, so according to Teapublicans, that makes it alright.

Marhsall Brain (who created the "How Things Work" site) has written extensively on the trend towards automated and robotic labor, and what an economy might look like where the requirements for human employment are massively diminished.

He has a blog covering this topic at Robotic Nation

Link's broken...Here's the link

I had posted this link in previous Drumbeat where for some reason it was deleted.

Do these factories consume more resources and generate more greenhouse emissions? It seems very likely that they do. Especially if you compare to the existing "sunk cost" in human beings who hopefully will continue living, breathing, and eating consuming the world's resources regardless of eliminated jobs.

You are right, but it doesn't matter because the "sunk cost" is not on the books of businesses and in an economy that's what matters. It's a burden that we all have to share. In all likelihood automation will accelerate the decline caused by declining EROEI and ROI and precipitate a social crisis that is looming on the horizon.
To put it simply, if you have an IQ of 200 and hate the world. The best and surest to realize your fantasies would be to develop good AI. The market will take care of the rest.

Also a great read on why things so often don't work "rationally" is Marvin Harris's 1981 "Why Nothing Works: The Anthropology of Daily Life." New York: Simon & Schuster.

orbit - " Do these factories consume more resources and generate more greenhouse emissions?... the existing "sunk cost" in human beings who hopefully will continue living, breathing, and eating consuming the world's resources regardless of eliminated jobs."

Difficult to say. If the robots can do the job in 1/3 the time then the plant can shut down for extended periods as long as demand stays flat and thus save energy. Many have called for such efficiency efforts to reduce the impact of PO. And those former workers won't be burning fuel to get to work every day. They may be burning the same fuel to get to their new jobs...or not. We just touched on this subject in another thread: yes...there are many areas where we can cut energy consumption in the US. Unfortunately there are millions of Americans who rely on those unnecessary energy expenditures for their livelihood. So how do you improve efficiency, which lowers energy consumption, without decreasing the demand for workers? Isn't that a big portion of efficiency improvement? How do you eliminate what many consider wasteful operations without reducing the number of folks employed in those businesses? Just eliminating half the burger flippers and servers of high price coffee would add greatly to unemployment. And to make the situation even more painful many of those workers have these jobs because they lack qualifications

I don't have an obvious answer other than the obvious: unsustainable means exactly that for current employment levels...unsustainable. And if we sustain till that Green Transition will this brave new world have jobs for all that need one?

ROCKMAN, the whole thing is that there is always employment, you just have to change your idea of what qualifies as a job. The problem right now in the western world is our preconceptions, such as we consider manufacturing to be a "real job" rather than some 20 year old with a popular blog. So yes, what we consider to be "real jobs" are unsustainable, but there's no reason that we won't be able to replace those jobs with new opportunities in entertainment and information technologies (or basic scientific discovery in the remote chance our governments decide to allow funding).

Entertainment? I would think that we have about fully satiated our need for so called entertainment. We are so entertained now we have donated our brains to the enter/info tainment industry 24/7. The vast majority of those losing their manufacturing jobs are not going to have the education or the smarts to function in the IT and scientific discovery sectors.

The way things are going, there may be some jobs in the sector that teaches people how to be happy with a lot less stuff. Not that I am against consuming less stuff.

We have about 160 channels of cable "entertainment". I am not amused.

The common human is not capable of performing at a high level. It is an elite that fills these positions. "Vactors" and design programs using techniques like the genetic algorithm will push the borders even further into the freakazoid zone.

osc - I commend you for your optimism towards our youthful workers. But entertainment and IT? Well, I have seen a few of the ladies working at Starbucks who might make it at one of Houston's many men's clubs. IT...sure...I suspect many of the burger flippers have thousands of hours logged on the Gameboy. I know that sounds very cruel and disrespectful. But I've worked with a lot of these same folks as a mentor and reading/writing instructor. I grew up in a world a few notches below where many of these folks exist so I know that frustration. Maybe you deal with a smarter class of low end workers. Many I deal with can't do long division by hand. Some can with a calculater...some can't even then. Many are too intimidated to walk into a bank and apply for a checking account. I've done that with quit a few of them. and I quickly learned to tell them to write their social security number down and always carry it with them. Even a simple world is very complicated to many off them. I live in an old worn out refinery town. It may not be representative of yours or very many others. But it's what I have to base my vision of the future upon.

You see this is kind of my point, those burger flippers who play on a Gameboy are not IT people. I'm talking about the kids who play around with code during high school and start making iPhone apps as a job (with or without college or university). And for entertainment, youtube allows for more amateur productions (film or music) to be able to generate revenue for their efforts. These jobs didn't exist a few years ago, but now can provide a sustainable income. So there are lots of new opportunities, but not in the blue-collar jobs the baby-boomers had, so if you are only looking for "proper job" you're going to have trouble finding employment.

Although I should add a disclaimer that my entire peer group has at least 1 university degree ... so I might have a skewed perception on reality.

Yes, I would say your perception is skewed. For example, the PC revolution made it possible for anyone to write a book. Trouble is, who has enough time to read all those books? Same thing with the entertainment biz, the music part of which I have been associated with. Again, how does one make a living without being able to sell their product? The record and CD industry only made it possible for a few people to make a living from selling records and CD's, but the old saying is that some of the best guitar players in Nashville are on the street playing for spare change. The competition is brutal and there's always a new "crop" of bright young faces entering the race each year. Yes, one can record an MP3 or YouTube video and attract attention, but how many can make a living that way, a hundred, a thousand?

I began doing engineering programming for a while and spent most of my work years looking for a job. What little feedback I got told me that there were often 20 people applying for each job I applied for. Ever gone to a job fair and had to stand in line with lots of other equally qualified people, most of whom had more recent work experience? Not fun...

E. Swanson

Agreed. I had been more lucky lucky career wise -got a couple of lucky breaks you missed out on. But, it is easy to see how a talented person could be left high and dry. All it takes is bad luck, -or an unrecognized interviewing no-no, or some redflag on your record, and you can be passed over again and again. How to break out of that cycle?

I have one son doing the music thing. You have to be resourceful, and not too proud. He makes a good chunk of change teaching kids, and does regular church gigs, heck he will even turn pages of music for other performers... So in that area, I think it is possible to get by. But, the real top highly coveted spots will be very hard to come by.

My other kids are into game programming. They expect to make millions, yet their online games only bring in a few hundred per month. They look at games that made their originators millions, and judge them by their own (often technical) standards, and think their own stuff is much much better. But, what catches on is usually more fad than quality.

Another example.

I have a friend who is a professional writer (by this I mean that it is how he makes his entire income). He writes non-fiction as it is much easier to make a living that way then via fiction.

He asked me once how many people in the entire English speaking world I thought made a living writing fiction as their sole income. I was laughably incorrect.

He said the estimate in the industry is 200. Yes 200 people total that make their living solely from writing fiction. I was stunned that it was that low.

Everyone else writes as a part timer as there is not enough money in it. So if we all start writing our novels and posting them on the internet I would guess we can eliminate paying work for just about everyone currently employed that way. And I was reading an article just yesterday about AI programs that will soon be writing fiction. Additional competition.

Technology has reduced the number of people who can make a living at pursuits like sports, music, and writing, but not the way you think.

It's not that the Internet opens up the field for the little guy to undercut the big stars. Rather, it enables the big stars to reach ever wider audiences, to the detriment of the rest.

He said the estimate in the industry is 200. Yes 200 people total that make their living solely from writing fiction.

I call BS on this statement.

Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing: Only 300 Writers Make a Living

That means that EVERY DAY through normal major publishers there were 213 regular fiction and young adult fiction novels published. (47,541 plus 29,438 divided by 365 days.)

Every day.

Let me repeat that one more time to let it sink in. 213 NEW FICTION TITLES EVERY DAY.

Ugly math: If a writer could manage four books a year, it would take OVER 19,000 writers doing four books a year just to fill what was published last year.

19,000 writers doing four books a year. Or 38,000 writers doing two books a year.

Yup, there are only 300 writers making a living writing fiction. SNORT! Anyone who repeats that number is just too stupid to do a simple Google search to find the real truth.

I don't think that math really addresses the issue in question. Certainly, there are more than 300 writers who have been paid for writing. That doesn't mean that many make a living at writing.

About half of all books published in North America are romances. They often don't have hardcover versions, and the advances are usually relatively low.

Publishers are often reluctant to publish more than one book a year by the same author (which is why Stephen King wrote as Richard Bachman). Yes, there are ways around it, like using pen names or writing in different genres. But not everyone is able or willing to do that.

I have a lot of friends who are romance and fantasy/SF writers. None of them makes a living at it, though I bet many here would recognize their names if I listed them.

I think the real issue here is that reading has become like classical music: something only a few people do. I have one writer friend who is supporting herself, quite well, with her writing. When she wrote novels, she worked full time at bank to make ends meet. Now she has a villa in Tuscany. Her secret? She moved to Hollywood and became a TV screenwriter.

And the math to support the 2 or 3 hundred number is shown where? In the absence of even a single bit of data to support the two or three hundred number, I'll accept his math and reasoning.

I heard a New York Times bestseller in a keynote speech once tell 500 people there were only two hundred people in the nation making a living at fiction. Kris and I almost fell out of our chairs laughing, but we were just about the only people in the room laughing. Everyone else thought he was right. As it happens, I’m sitting next to him on a panel the very next hour, so as we were talking, I turned to him and said, “You know that 200 number is totally wrong.”

He look sort of stunned and said, “That’s what I had always heard.” (The myth hits again and is repeated by big-name writer who is making millions.)

I said, “If that’s the case, then don’t you find it pretty amazing that there are seven of the two hundred on this one panel?”

He looked down the panel at the seven of us, all full-time fiction writers sitting on the panel. Then I asked the 100 people in the room how many were writers making at least $80,000 per year with their fiction writing. Five more people, two of whom I recognized, raised their hands. Twelve of us in the same room at a writer’s convention. That stunned the keynote speaker, let me tell you, and we ended up spending the entire panel talking about this myth. And where that 200 number came from in the myth.

Turns out, there are about 200 NEW NAMES on the major bestseller lists every year. (There are 780 yearly slots on the New York Times list alone, not counting the same number on Publishers Weekly lists, same number on the Wall Street Journal lists, and the 2,600 spots on the USA Today Bestseller list in a year.) So there are about 200 NEW NAMES in fiction hit the bestseller lists every year that have never been there before. That’s just the top spots. I’m not talking extended lists.

Her secret? She moved to Hollywood and became a TV screenwriter.

Still a writer of fiction, no? Not a novelist, but in my mind, making a living from writing fiction is making a living from writing fiction regardless of what the end product looks like.

The vast majority of people who make a living writing do so in non-fiction - contracts, briefs, manuals, analyses, memos, medical records, etc.

Prior to digitization and cheap digital media, almost all writings were discarded a few years after they were produced. Now, alas, great gobs of stuff are actually preserved, but who will have the time to ever read a significant fraction of it? Hopefully, file format changes will render it unreadable, and it will be deleted.

Most of it will be retained because of possible future litigation. So somewhere some poor legal assistant will be forced to read that crap you created twenty years ago. Eventually it will be stored somewhere in case some future historian is interested.

Yes. Dean Wesley Smith seems to make at least part of his money selling books telling people they can make a living as a writer. ;-)

My writer friends take all kinds of writing jobs, often uncredited, some under pseuds. For example: the blurbs on the backs of paperbacks and DVDs, videogame scripts, sermons, scripts for everything from phone sex to psychic hotlines, technical manuals, greeting cards, letters to Penthouse, real estate descriptions.

Still a writer of fiction, no?

Definitely, but I think it illustrates the point. There are not a lot of screenwriter jobs available. The "superstar effect" means those at the top of any given field get a much larger slice of the pie, leaving less for the rest to share. And this is driven by technology that allows them to reach a larger audience.

Isaac Asimov wrote Sci Fi, for certain. Also, he was a prolific author in mystery novels. And, most of his writing consisted science fact (mostly commissioned), magazine items and the like. In his lifetime he wrote about 500 books (I Isaac, his autobiography, notes 469; other lists a bit more, and the 469 included some works that were not novels). His idea of heaven was a room with a typewriter and lots of paper (though he did not believe in a heaven or hell). Asked by Barbara Walters what he would do if he knew he was dying, he replied, "write faster."

Considering that Isaac was one of the most prolific writers of all time, and did earn his living in the art, I doubt many would equal the numbers or popularity he enjoyed, and that 200 to 300 would be a huge number of authors earning their full living from writing.


Yair . . . I'll intrude here. I write, have done for years and at one stage could have lived nicely off my "Westerns". I had diesel in my blood though and elected to continue running 'dozers and trucks.

I believe there are a bloody sight more than a couple of hundred people making a "full time living" out of writing . . . but what they consider to be a "living" would be a lot different to many folks aspirations.

It's all a matter of what you need and want.


I have a fiction author just down the hall, she has published a handful of adult themed novels. makes almost nothing from them, and has to keep at her regular job. I think this is pretty typical of the vast majority of "writers", that perhaps they get a bit of spending money from their hobby.

Remember that Julia, the girlfriend of Winston Smith in Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty-Four", worked as a mechanic on the novel-writing machines at the Ministry of Truth.

Orwell foresaw many things correctly. Could it be that he was right about robot writers too?

I have lost count of the number of former old-school technical writers who had to become HTML/XML coders to find paying work, which soon thereafter required learning Java, CSS, Perl, C++, C#, and who knows what by now. Eventually the tech writer must become a programmer who goes from working one job at 40-50 hours per week as a contractor to spending 20 hours per week to find 1 job for 6 months out of the year doing 2-3 times as much work as was required before.

More productive? To whom? To what end for, and what cost to, the individual?

Now a robo-writer can do the work of 10 tech writers/coders in a few hours to days with minimal human editing.

How many paid writers will soon be replaced by robo-writers and few readers will even know?

Ha, ha. The first and ONLY "job fair" I ever attended, during almost ten years of searching for a "real job" after I turned 53 or so, was in Nashville -- in a barn at the fairgrounds. I didn't like being "herded," and never went to another one. I'd rather be dead!

"...Go back 150 years... beginnings of the industrial revolution... At that time, the mills were being formed around Boston. They were bringing in working people, what were called factory-girls-- young women from farms. Irish workmen from Downtown Boston... had a very free and lively press at the time, which they, themselves, ran. This was before the period of commercial press-domination and the general press was much more diverse, and much more free and much more lively than it's ever been since... And the press is quite interesting. It was written by the participants- their assumptions are what are relevant here- they just took for granted that wage labour was virtually the same as slavery. They had no influence from European radicalism-- never heard of Marx, nothing of this-- it's just the ordinary assumptions of people who think reasonably about the world. Wage labour is illegitimate, it's like slavery... Northern workers in the American Civil War fought under that banner; that wage slavery is like chattel slavery. In fact it was even the position of the Republican Party. It was a fairly mainstream position. You've even got editorials in the NY Times about it, believe it or not. And they also took for granted that the industrial system is totally illegitimate. It's just a form of feudalism to which people are driven by essentially violence or starvation, and has to be overcome. Those who work in the mills should own them is taken for granted. The feudalistic industrial system was destroying their culture... These are understandings about the nature of freedom and domination that have been lost. So it's not pure progress. How far they've been lost is an interesting question. My suspicion is that they're right below the surface. And when the issues arise-- right now-- working people in the counterpart of the mills will recognize the relevance and accuracy of these, basically anarchist, positions..."
~ Noam Chomsky

"We live in an economy which takes 80% of our each new generation and educates that 80% to obey orders and to endure boredom, and stifles their creativity, and stifles their capacities, and curtails them. They're systematically crushed by a system which does what? Which fills slots, and 80% of the slots need people who just do rote tedious repetitive labour at least at work, and therefore are acclimated to doing that...
If you're callous to the effects on others, you have a potential to rise. The odds are that you can 'compete' your way up. If you care and are socially concerned about others, you're at a tremendous disadvantage. So I think the competitive dynamic that we have does sort of weed out a set of people for success. But I would say that what it weeds out for success is not competence, not creativity, not intelligence, but callousness far more often."
~ Michael Albert

"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

"Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work and driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for - in order to get to the job you need to pay for the clothes and the car, and the house you leave vacant all day so you can afford to live in it."
~ Ellen Goodman

"Using the data provided by the United State Bureau of Labor Statistics, Erik Rauch has estimated productivity to have increased by nearly 400%. Says, Rauch:
'… if productivity means anything at all, a worker should be able to earn the same standard of living as a 1950 worker in only 11 hours per week.' "
"...Since the 1960s, the consensus among researchers (anthropologists, historians, sociologists), has been that early hunter-gatherer societies enjoyed much more leisure time than is permitted by capitalist and agricultural societies..."
~ Wikipedia

"Most American adults wake around 6 to 7 in the morning. Get to work at 8 or 9. Knock off around 5. Home again, 6-ish. Fifty weeks a year. For about 45 years. Most are glad to have the work, but don’t really choose it. They may dream, they may study and even train for work they intensely want; but sooner or later, for most, that doesn’t pan out. Then they take what they can and make do. Most have families to support, so they need their jobs more than their jobs admit to needing them. They’re employees. And, as employees, most have no say whatsoever about much of anything on the job. The purpose or service, the short and long-term goals of the company, are considered quite literally 'none of their business' - though these issues drastically influence every aspect of their lives. No matter that they’ve given years to the day-to-day survival of the business; employees (even when they’re called 'managers') mostly take orders. Or else. It seems an odd way to structure a free society: Most people have little or no authority over what they do five days a week for 45 years. Doesn’t sound much like 'life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.' Sounds like a nation of drones.
~ Michael Ventura, Someone is Stealing Your Life, LA Weekly Jan. 26, 1990

If the (their) social contract stipulates that we work at a 'job' that is part of an increasing wage-gap and meaninglessness; that pays taxes to governments for genocide/brutality/foreign-invasion/resource-plunder/whatever-whim/etc. under military-defense/(unsustainable-)growth pretexts; and that removes us from providing for our basic necessities in a natural sense, such as with food, clothing and housing, and gives us, in return, unsustainability, factory farms, genetically-modified organisms, toxin-laced-food, global warming, cookie-cutter/monster/tract housing, soil/environmental degradation, monoculture, pollution, resource depletion, sweatshops, social injustice, wage-slavery/debt-slavery, etcetera, then that 'social contract' is null and void and its replacement, sorely and quickly needed.

Thanks. Nice collection of quotes...I am going to use them.

osc – Yep, I figured we were taking about two different populations. My 12 yo daughter belongs to the subgroup that has the skills to evolve into what the future job market may. And even then it may not be that easy for her or her peers.

But we have millions in the other group. I came from a family that did its best to populate that segment of society. LOL. I was the first in family history to graduate high school let alone college. I grew up thinking the best chance I had to escape the old neighborhood was becoming career military…something a number of my family also failed at. But a bad injury ended that plan. Fortunately college in La. was very cheap at the time. I may have been better educated than my peers but I was still dumb enough to major in geology which didn’t offer much of a career at the time. I just liked rocks. Fortunate after 6 years of school the geologist job market improved considerably.

So I did OK by simple luck. A kid going to college today might make a wiser choice. And I have known a burger flipper (actually a minimum wage secretary) who spent 7 years going to night school, working days and raising a kid. Got her degree in geophysics and has done great. She was one I mentored for obvious reasons. It can be done but consider how rare to find someone with that commitment. And that’s why I have such dark expectations for the relatively unskilled folks in the work place today. Like isn’t all that great for them today. What will it be like in another 10 to 15 years?

You are over estimating jobs from IT. It only takes a couple of programmers to write the program that runs on a million PC's and those programmer jobs require years of experience and education. The plain fact is that with every technological revolution the job pool keeps shrinking, I won't be surprised if someday there are programs that read specs and write programs themselves.

A lot of IT people are doing "facilities management" -- desktop and server support. Technologies such as centralized desktop support, virtualization and cloud computing are likely going to significantly reduce the number of people in this role. I just hope my job lasts until I can retire!

"Technologies such as centralized desktop support, virtualization and cloud computing are likely going to significantly reduce the number of people in this role."

Seems to be working in reverse where I work. When we had none of those things we had 2 IT people and they could keep up with it. Then we got those things, now we have an entire department. And have outsourced even more work to some other group.

I think it might be to early to tell. Certainly, the potential for automating/outsourcing IT labor exists. IT is the industry that invented VPN after all. And as bot-nets and distributed networks demonstrate, many millions of computers can be controlled by very few operators. It seems to me that the trend is to continue outsourcing IT labor and pushing software into the "cloud" where it can be standardized and ultimately, automated.

At the webhost I work at, we have a relatively small team of administrators managing 200,000+ virtual servers and our shared hosting environment. Those admins are "inhouse", in the sense that they're in the office with me every morning, but the systems they're managing are 60 and 2000 miles away respectively (our datacenters). They manage to automate system administration at this level using tools like Puppet and virtualization. Could our small team of administrators (4 on shift) manage a network this size 10 years ago? I tend to think not, but who knows.

That bubble popped in 2000, but people still have not moved past the delusion that virtual can replace real. Partially that may be due to the fact that our economy cannot provide enough things of actual value for people to do, and so we need to have make-work things to pretend are useful. This too shall pass.

Has anybody here read Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut ?

Way back in 1952 he tackled similar issues of people who worked in manufacturing being replaced by automation...

Funny I was going to mention "Player Piano" myself!
A great prescient view of how things have shaped up..

John Michael Greer wrote an article on this a few months ago. He points out that's it telling that to save costs in the 1970s on American manufacturers went, not with automation, but largely with cheaper labor. Automation is probably only competitive with human labor when you're awash in cheap energy.

"you just have to change your idea of what qualifies as a job"

A job is that which generates an income sufficient for a comfortable lifestyle. Comfortable lifestyle is open for debate, but the sufficient income is really not. How I get the income is really not important. My current desk job is quite unsatisfactory in many ways though it pays the bills. But this management fad too shall pass, then things may get more interesting again. (Matrix management is mostly passe already, but we got sucked in near the end of the fad cycle. And I had just read Bellwether [by Connie Willis] just before they announced the reorganization. By the end of that meeting my tongue was nearly bleeding. Fortunately biting it also applies direct pressure at the same time.)

"job" and "work" can be vastly different :-)

Most days, I would rather work than go to a job.

So how do you improve efficiency, which lowers energy consumption, without decreasing the demand for workers?

Well, you increase efficiency with respect to fossil fuel and decrease it with respect to human labor.

The high spare human labor pool could for example be used to move around goods on bicyles, or increase manual farming again, or many of the other energy uses that have replaced human labor with fossil fuels over the years.

Overall productivity of society would obviously go down, but often it feels like humans have become to productive for their own good anyway and it is increasingly hard to find ways to sensibly use these productivity gains other than to increase wealth disparity. So I don't think a reasonable loss of productivity would harm society as a whole, too much. (At least not the developed world)

"The high spare human labor pool could for example be used to move around goods on bicyles, or increase manual farming again, or many of the other energy uses that have replaced human labor with fossil fuels over the years."

It didn't work too well in Chairman Mao's China, but I suppose it could work here ;-/

Somebody has to build the robots, right? Somebody has to mine the coal. Somebody has to program the computers.

It's a mistake to think there's ever going to be a self perpetuating machine economy. Everything in society is the result of human creation and maintenance.

Rather, the jobs of the future may not be the ones you want or were trained for.

"Somebody has to build the robots, right? Somebody has to mine the coal. Somebody has to program the computers."

Check out the latest Zeitgeist movie (Moving Forward). They're already pumping the techno-fantasy that thanks to 3-D printing all work will be done for us through mechanization.

To be honest, this growing sense of Utopianism is worrying me, as it goes beyond the meme of BAU and into dangerous surrealism, which can become a rallying cry for violent upheaval, all in a vane hope to break off the yoke of whatever "tyranny" there might be, because "surely our suffering is unnecessary and can be dismissed if we only revolt against the system." In the end, the revolutions only end up increasing the pain, suffering and death of the common people.


They're already pumping the techno-fantasy that thanks to 3-D printing all work will be done for us through mechanization.

A John Robb is pointing out - 3d printed guns.

I think you're missing the point that robots don't need to take all of the jobs, just enough to keep unemployment consistently high. Robots don't pay taxes (they depreciate), and robots don't shop at your local market. They also don't collect unemployment insurance and medicaid like the workers they displace. Try thinking systemically and you'll see that we're heading in the wrong direction.

"...the jobs of the future may not be the ones you want or were trained for." ...or ones that pay a living wage. We need to decide if we want to pay robots to produce goods cheaper and faster, or if we want to pay our neighbors to do the same work, so their homes don't get foreclosed on, driving the value of your home down.

Matter's not, really. The big reset is coming. I can smell it. That the technologists and princes of industry view you as no more than an obsolete robot that needs to be replaced is only one sign of many.

Ghung - " We" need to decide". We? You got a mouse in your pocket, big boy? LOL. When they began replacing union welders in Detroit with robots I don't think "we" made that decision. When they started replacing gangs of longshoremen in Nawlins with containers did "we" make that decision? Granted the unions fought those changes for a while but still lost. With today's 3d workstations my geophysicist can produce a superior output compared to what 5 geophysicists could do 25 years ago. And those poor bastards didn't even have a union to help them. How many less accounts do we have working today due to the advent of PC's vs. posting with a pencil?

And many of those efficiency improvements didn't require high tech robots. I see the extreme example driving down to the rig these days: they are about to start pulling cotton out of the fields in Texas. Consider the reduction in manpower requirements from decades ago. And cotton harvesting equipment isn't cheap and does require regular maintenance. So why wouldn't the same dynamics, implemented by "them" and not "we", be the same for robots?

One big difference was the transition from ag work to industrial jobs. But when we started losing manufacturing jobs what did we replace them with? Most of the workers at the time weren't going to be trained to write software or other tech jobs. So I'm sure many had to switch to lower paying jobs if they were able to retrain themselves. Of course, the newbies in the system could adjust their educations to try to match future jobs. Good for them but not much help for those already in the job market.

Now jump forward. We're looking at eliminating not ag and manufacturing jobs but burger flippers, coffee maids and retail sales kids. And anyone else "we" consider non-essential parts of our economy. Not to pick on them but this isn't exactly a group positioned for a much higher post in life then what they've attained thus far. So whether it's robots, efficiency or PO if these folks have to slide back down the food chain a level or two where does that put them? I really can't imagine. Most of these folks are already working min wage or close to it. And many of the more ambitious did have the prospect of climbing a notch or two. But that possibility seems to be slipping away. All the ambition in the world won't get you a job that doesn't exist.

As someone pointed out, if these folks aren't working they aren't shopping. And if business loses enough shoppers they have to cut back. And that's more unemployment. Again, death spiral is the term that keeps popping to mind.

Right, Rock, I forgot my own rule: "There is no 'WE'".

This is still the tail end of the industrial project - replacing human labor with fossil fuel powered labor. It's fairly obvious that this will have some limitations going forward.

"replacing human labor with fossil fuel powered labor"

for the most part, wind-powered or sum-powered labor will work as well as fossil fuel powered labor. Most of these gadgets are powered by electricity.

"sum-powered labor"
That won't work at all in a zero-sum economy. Sorry I just couldn't resist. But sun powered stuff, that ought to be doable.
Think about single axis PV panels, where humans had to manually rotate the panels. That would be a huge energy multiplier on the human energy required. I bet one guy could turn a megawatt of panels!

Just don't be late to work! Maybe another gal can get some work as an Alarm clock to wake up all the Array Turners.

Prior to the industrial revolution (fossil fuel revolution), people lived on the real time flows of energy. Some things that were manufactured used wind and water power. Solar was useful too, but to do mechanical things with it would have required an energy conversion, which is more costly, complex and difficult. Such things did not displace human labor much, because they were costly projects and the real time energy flows could not yield the kinds of energy that fossil fuels do, nor at anywhere near the cost in energy invested.

So yeah, we're smart now - but we are fools to think the people of the past, who lived on the kinds of energy sources we will have in the future, were too dumb to do all the wonderful things we'll be able to do with our wonderful learning. In fact, there are real limits as to what you can do with those energy sources, and we will do well just to recover the clever ways they came up with to use them.

I bet one guy could turn a megawatt of panels!

Heh... just last week a friend asked about future low-impact careers, and I suggested "Philosopher-heliostat".

Are we all becoming Ludites?

The problem, as noted above, is the entitlement mentality that insists that there is no need to share, no need to cooperate, and no obligation to society. It is fine with the owners to increase productivity of their workers, and keep all of the benefits from that. Mechanization multiplies production; instead of wages increasing, they are decreased; numbers of workers are cut; no one asks, "who is going to buy our junk?" I have asked Ayn Randian friends, and they honestly do not view the workers as purchasers. And, they expect that if they do not have earnings to purchase the plastic crap produced in the mechanized factories, the will borrow it. From whom, they do not know... how they would pay back their loans does not cross their alleged minds.

A strange world today, Rockman. The only sane people are you and me, and I am not sure about you.


When I was a kid we manually cleared rock from fields, then later manually removed weeds from the soybean crop, seed corn tassels were hand pulled, and if you were lucky you had a tractor/baler/hay rack combo. If you weren't lucky or you had some miles between field and barn you might end up walking rather than riding, one boy on each side of the rack, while a third stacked bales the walkers loaded.

Fast forward thirty years. The rock clearing is a still a job. Soybeans are roundup resistant and blanket application has eliminated even the less numerous, more sought after "riding the bean bar" jobs. Detasseling machines do everything except the final pass for undersized stragglers. Hay, if anyone puts it up at all any more, is done by one man with a round baler and moved with a large spike mounted in place of the tractor's snow bucket.

I went to college - software engineer. The bulk of that gets done in Indian any more. I switched to being a network engineer. Five years ago I started to see design/implementation/overnight support shipped to India, too. Where I once made a good living now there are two junior techs who consult with a fellow over seas and the threesome makes about what I did when times were good.

My kids are growing up in the city. I was a trusted field hand at my son's age, operating machinery and tending to animals in all weather. I cleaned our barn, then would scoot over to a neighbor's farm to make a little money doing theirs. He will clean his room ... but only under duress. He is learning the things one needs to know to be an accountant, or a graphic artist, or maybe something math/science related. He'll get out of college just a bit after I turn fifty and we're liable to have the same income given the arc we are on.

If I have to dig in the dirt and fix things myself that's just going back to my roots. As a nation most of us are two or three generations away from that self sufficient country lifestyle - haven't done it, haven't seen it done, and in a lot of cases haven't even talked with someone who lived it. The changes are going to be wrenching.

So much of what we do these days involves imaginary objects and virtual actions. It will be a shock to return to mostly living within physical boundaries and working with physical objects.

If you would like a cheap thrill, look up "Martian solar day 2" from 360cities on an iPhone. As you spin and bend yourself, you look around and up and down through the portal of the phone.


Fun on a computer, too.


We need to decide if we want to pay robots to produce goods cheaper and faster, or if we want to pay our neighbors to do the same work, so their homes don't get foreclosed on, driving the value of your home down.

That ship set sail long ago. We are now hopelessly dependent on the machines.

Changing to a robot world is fine as long as:

a) Their energy comes from renewable sources.
b) We had a shrinking population.

So again the problem is one of keeping an overshot population alive and happy/productive. Let's face it, removing every robot on the planet still wouldn't satisfy the job market... and even if it did, it would only be till the next batch of spawnlings reached maturity.

How do you know its fine? Every technology has its drawbacks. Every technology has its unforeseen consequences on the human organism. Ted Kacsynski makes the following point in the Unabomber Manifesto:

A technological advance that appears not to threaten freedom often turns out to threaten it very seriously later on. For example, consider motorized transport. A walking man formerly could go where he pleased...and was independent of technological support-systems. When motor vehicles were introduced they appeared to increase man's freedom...But the introduction of motorized transport soon changed society in such a way as to restrict greatly man's freedom of locomotion. When automobiles became numerous, it became necessary to regulate their use extensively...One is tied down by various obligations: license requirements, driver test, renewing registration, insurance, maintenance required for safety, monthly payments on purchase price. Moreover, the use of motorized transport is no longer optional. Since the introduction of motorized transport the arrangement of our cities has changed in such a way that the majority of people no longer live within walking distance of their place of employment...

And that last point is key. Automobiles changed society and consequently, changed the human organism. This is exactly the consequence described in Norbert Weiner in cybernetics. It is a feedback loop, the control system takes in information about the system it is in, outputs a response, the response changes the system and the control system now responds to the new conditions. Its a feedback loop.

So what potential feedback loops does an entirely automated work force bring to the fore? Until you can answer that question, it seems extremely naive to state that changing to a robot world is fine so long as it is done with renewable resources and with a shrinking population.

So what potential feedback loops does an entirely automated work force bring to the fore?

I suspect it will bring to the fore as many feedback loops as will disappear by removing the human workforce. Human work is already over regulated for better or worse.

However you are quite right, it would not be fine from other angles beyond what I was discussing. Psychologically for instance, it would be devastating to some people.

I was only really discussing the maths of people to jobs and that a decrease in available jobs has the same effect on that ratio as an increase in population.

Hmmmm well logically this doesn't work. If automation required more labor costs overall
then it would not be done. The costs of the humans to design and build the robots is many times less than the cost of employing the humans the robots are replacing over time or the robots would be too expensive. Moreover the building of the robots can also be expected to be robotized.
Capitalism's solution to this is to endlessly increase demand. But we know that cannot continue as that is the source of the problems with Peak Oil, Limits to growth and Climate Change. Moreover in our current class system weighted ever more heavily towards the 1% there is an increasing collapse in demand for mass consumer goods as the 1% gets more and more of the profits and the 99% get less and less. It seems to follow Marx argument long ago of the increasing pauperization of the masses which was changed via major social movements by labor and citizens to redistribute some of the wealth and income.
On the other hand, Rockman may be right - ultimately robots may be more green in producing even a lessened demand for goods. Which leaves the issue of "what do humans do?"
In the heyday of 1960's prosperity when US affluence seemed boundless this was one of the questions pondered by the New Left. We have not had a major reduction from the 40 hour week
gained with much struggle in the 1930's and 1940's. If robotic production is really green and efficient then work hours in the standard economy would need to be cut to spread jobs and incomes around more equally. The solution for Capitalism under Keynes and mass advertising was 2 fold for this quandary before Peak Oil and Limits to Growth - 1 was Military Keynesianism which wastes $1 Trillion per year in the costs of War in the US. And the other was endlessly increasing mass consumption with the biggest driver being Auto Addicted suburban sprawl.
It is interesting that Germany which took the tack due to Workers representation on Corporate Boards of not just laying off workers but instead of using unemployment to give workers less paid hours supplemented by unemmployment insurance (like 30 hours work per week instead of 40) has had the most resilient response in the West to the financial crash.

This is why I think Ryan/Romney and to a lesser extent the neoliberals attempts to increase the retirement age is a huge mistake. We probably need to lower the retirement age to provide jobs for the rest of society but then provide affordable options for reasonable retirement not reliant on Auto Addiction, suburban sprawl etc.
But perhaps all the resources for these robots and their highly complex support will not be available...

Personally I am not sure...

Some good points, but the jobs being replaced are not the most uplifting for the human spirit. It's dull repetitive work, having machines do it isn't such a bad thing. It raises productivity, reduces the price, and everyone ends up a bit wealthier.


In a perfect world everything is perfect, we do not live in such a world.

Note that just because average income increases does not mean that everyone is better off. If we have 10 people and double one person's income, then on average the 10 people are wealthier, but in reality only one person's income has risen.

Also a rise in productivity and lower prices is a good thing in general, but you seem to be assuming that the invisible hand will magically create the conditions for full employment.

If this assumption is not valid, the "wealth" created by lower prices does not help those who lose their jobs to robots unless the new job they find allows them to buy more stuff than before, this is by no means assured.

What tends to happen is a transfer of wealth from those with lower income to those with higher income. This has been happening in the US since 1980, as the income distribution has become much less even.

Imagine all production being done by robots, wouldn't that be great, robots could produce robots, only human designers are needed, but wait, why not write sophisticated AI software so that we no longer need the engineers. After all it's dull repetitive work.

Will the captains of industry share the great wealth produced? Why should they? They risked their capital to buy the buildings, robots, and other equipment to create a productive enterprise.

The only problem they might encounter is finding enough other capitalists to sell their stuff to, everyone else would be unemployed and starving or maybe subsistence farming if they can find some land. What a wonderful, wonderful world.


Good points, I never said things were perfect. But, No one would want to go back to harvesting wheat by hand, or using pics and shovels to mine coal. The Luddites lost that argument long ago. For a large part of the 20th century the middle class did expand with growing productivity - it doesn't always have to all end up at the top.

If I try to picture some future "utopia" where all the manufacturing is done by machines, maybe something like "Logan's Run" but without the 30 year limit then I'm not how such an economy would work. They still had jobs for cops and plastic surgeons, but its not clear how they got rewarded for their work.


Thanks for the thoughtful reply. I agree that technology can be good, but when we become so productive that few can find work, there is a problem.

I am with you on lack of solutions, I don't see any. Though high taxes on income above some "subsistence" level and government investment to create employment for displaced workers is about the best (though admittedly inefficient) solution that jumps to mind.









Dear Oil Drum readers, I encourage you to follow on a regular basis the information at the sites above (and similar information sources). While the trend has been in place for 2-3 decades now, the meme is only now beginning to reach critical mass (mass-automation of human labor and the loss of incomes and purchasing power) of mass-social recognition, i.e., the emergence of the take-off phase of a new techno-economic S-curve paradigm, i.e., what some refer to as "the Singularity".


Most Americans do not yet realize that the US economy no longer creates net new full-time living-wage employment, and we are on the verge of a resulting employment, income, and fiscal crisis that could make the Great Depression seem like a warm-up event.

The accelerating pace of implementation of robotics, smart systems, biometrics, bioinformatics, nanotech, biotech, genomics, massively parallel and quantum/molecular/photonic/nano-electronic computing, brain modeling and simulation, pattern and face recognition, fast look-ahead recursive, multi-dimensional, and eventually hyper-dimensional algorithms and machine intelligence is on course to make most human labor literally obsolete. We are at risk of becoming Neo-Neanderthals and surpassed by intelligent-systems technology as hunter-gatherers were replaced by modern humans, and nomadic pastoralist societies were succeeded by today's industrial Oil Age-era humans.

Quite literally, ubiquitous computing devices internetworked to intelligent systems are now evolving at smaller form factors to far exceed the capacity of billions of human brains. The technology is evolving so fast and in ways that so far exceed the cognitive capacity and thus understanding of 99%+ of us, it is as though machine intelligence is a new quasi-species, akin to a superior extraterrestrial intelligence as we are to a single-cell organism.

Biometrics, bioinformatics, robotics, and smart system algorithms are now clearly on track to render most professional services occupations ridiculously costly, inefficient, and eventually obsolete, including most doctors, accountants, finance, logistics, planning, inventory, production control, security monitoring, farming, warehousing, mining, administration, "education", and the list goes on.

Robotic automation has replaced 4 production and 12-20 ancillary jobs in goods production over the past 30 years, and now the job losses en masse will occur in the services sector.

As intelligent systems evolve, a single system (or virtual intelligent-systems web) will be capable of self-awareness, self-replication, and self-organization of hierarchical flows such that it will perform what takes months or years' worth of work by dozens of scientists, engineers, managers, and technicians in a matter of days, hours, or minutes, continually revising and optimizing 24/7. Smart systems will soon produce code, debug, and optimize it at a rate and bug free not even hundreds of the brightest systems architects and programmers could hope to do in months. Except for a tiny percentage of high-level systems architects and perhaps kernal and compiler gurus who will design and integrate the final successive generations of operating systems into the intelligent systems after which it will take over the functions, the occupation of programmer is destined to become obsolete.

And the intelligent-systems web or society, if you will, could eventually be powered increasingly by electricity from solar and hydrogen 24/7, allowing it to grow and evolve to become a kind of super-efficient, ecologically symbiotic, planetary super-organism with little or no use for humans dependent upon an economy, division of labor, and currently wasteful system of extraction, distribution, and consumption of energy, food, and income.

Business and self-help gurus for 20 years have been advising us to learn to adapt to having to change jobs or occupations 8-10 times in a working lifetime. No human can adapt under conditions of automation eliminating virtually all paid human labor and incomes and purchasing power at the speed of light.

Techno-scientific discoveries and incremental innovations are occurring at such a blinding pace that knowledge and applicable skills are becoming obsolete long before one can learn what was state of the art yesterday. Techno-gadgets' product cycles have declined from 3-4 years in the dinosaur era to a year or less today (Apple's i-thingies' product cycles). What one will learn at most universities is useless before one finishes the first quarter as a freshman. "Education" in no way can keep pace with technological change as the Singularity emerges.

If "the market" will continue to drive automation of human labor and loss of income and purchasing power in the long run, it follows that a global liquid fossil fuel- and jobs-based mass-consumer economy is unsustainable and thus no longer viable. Therefore, the emphasis should no longer be on "job creation" but encouraging ongoing "job elimination" and replacement of incomes and purchasing power without jobs and at a much lower exergetic equilibrium and a lower socially acceptable material standard of consumption per capita that is ecological sustainable.

The capitalist mass-consumer uneconomy is incredibly inefficient in terms of resource and net energy utilization and associated distribution of resources, income, and wealth. Increasing automation of human labor in the years ahead will manifest and exacerbate the negative effects of the inefficiencies and inequities in many unpleasant ways.


Yet, the irony is that Americans continue to be wowed by techno-gadgets, seemingly unaware that the rapidly accelerating evolution of machine intelligence risks eliminating their incomes and purchasing power en masse to buy their i-thingies.

Gosh, Mr. Rantboto, Kunstler has some ideas: The AFTA Act of 2012

Hence, wishing to oppose these evil and tragic tendencies in the current flow of our history, I offer a potent policy initiative to create hundreds of thousands of jobs in this country: the 2012 Answer the F@cking Telephone Act. My proposal won't cost a dime. Simply get congress and the senate to pass a law stating that in X, Y, and Z essential services and business, all incoming phone calls must be answered by real human beings, with criminal penalties for failing to do so. Add to that another layer of less essential businesses, institutions, agencies, and organizations who would not be subject to criminal penalties but would have to pay a substantial tax for every phone line not manned by a live operator - the tax designed to exceed the average salary and benefit package that could otherwise be provided to employ such a worker.

Seems JHK's pissed at the phonebots. Seems like a good place to start.

Mr. Roboto:

Your whole spiel is based on the assumption that technofixes will make everything better. Fact is that in the future of less energy, less consumer goods will be produced. And most will still be produced in China as is the case now, so I don't know where your techno-utopia will come from in manufacturing in the US.

Now in the energy sector, which I have been involved with indirectly for 33 years, a lot of labor is used along side automated machinery. Not sure how you can apply much more robot technology in building/modifying/maintaining a refinery, or constructing a drill ship, or laying a high pressure pipeline, or restoring ground where tar sands or coal strip mining is performed, or installing energy saving devices in buildings (forget about robots making large structures).

Bottom line is that in 33 years of engineering work I can see thousands of labor positions that cannot be replaced by robots because the skills are not repetetive motion type that robots are really good at. Your vision of the economy will never fly, but you can keep dreaming.

Well, I am sure.

If we wanted human labor to be cheaper than machines it could be that way. We tax humans and subsidize machines currently.

And yes, if 'the government' were to backstop these taxes/subsidies and end up in the red, then perhaps humans would cost more than machines. But we are far from that situation.

The current situation is driven by our values. Our highest value these days are greed and love of money. That is reflected in our labor and business and politics.

There are steroids in your milk. Are you surprised there are steroids in "The Melkman" - Melky Cabrera the disgraced baseball player just suspended for cheating? Why are you surprised? Our society allows steroids that are bad for the cows and bad for the milk drinkers, but good for the money accumulators. Robots don't have to be cheap. Milk doesn't have to contain steroids. Labor doesn't have to be expensive.

It's all choices people. You have to assume we have a democracy to think we can change things the way we are told to, by voting in representatives that represent us.

Monday rant.

That is an excellent point that Capitalism (big surprise!) favors the Capitalists and their further accumulation of capital rather than labor with the investment tax credit.
On the other side of the ledger, one of the major ways to decrease the costs of employing people in the backwards US would be to just have guaranteed Health Care for all like the rest of the civilized world. But of course all the struggles about "Obamacare" are arguments about nothing as it continues employment based private Insurance profiteer healthcare instead of simply Medicare single-payer for all.


Real health care would be great. It would decrease the cost of employing people.

But then we couldn't have senator/CEO's pocketing billions of dollars in premiums while denying care to the folks who paid them (see 'Bill Frist', other citations too numerous to list).

I was watching this old WWII film on battle field radio transmitters late last night: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jps0_2adUvo

What's interesting to me is that this transmitter had to be housed in a specially equipped van that towed a separate generator trailer which was needed to power the set.* But take a look at the assembly process and the amount of physical labour required to "mass produce" these units beginning at about the ten minute mark.


* My BlackBerry can run a couple days between charges even with heavy use, and this can be accomplished by plugging it into one of my laptop's USB ports; no dedicated transport vehicle or external generator required (thankfully).


The Blackberry requires an infrastructure of fixed cell towers, servers, fiber backbone connecting the servers, etc. On the battlefield, soldiers have to haul all the communications infrastructure with them. The user stations are much smaller now and are mounted in tactical vehicles. The nodes, the mobile equivalent of the towers and servers, are still essentially a small (hardened) truck with a trailer mounted generator.

Cheers, eh!

Good point... nonetheless, it's easy to forget just how far we've come over the years. In the world of personal communications, for example, even something as utterly mundane as direct distance dialing was a pretty big thing in it's day (circa 1957).

See: http://www.cbc.ca/rewind/episode/2011/07/14/telephone-2/


Just for the gee-wizzness of it all...

The advent of cellular communication and satellite communication has changed the very nature of radio transceiver design. In the old days, they had to reach far away places. The radio amateur with the big antenna can talk to the other-side of the planet. Nowadays, the common new design needs only to reach straight up to a nearby satellite or out to a nearby cell-site tower.

Frequencies have moved up, too. So, the longer the wavelength, the older the amateurs are that hang out there.

Would people be willing to pay more for human input products vrs automated thus negating the race for the bottom marketing strategy?

I always try to buy as local as possible and prefer to pay cash. I am sure others do this as well.

Why shouldn't the terms "imported" and "reduced labour costs" be seen for what they are?


Paulo - And all this time I thought you were a red blooded American, you pinky commie! LOL. Wal-Mart didn't become one of the biggest retailers in the world because folks chose their conscience over pricing. And that's the vicious feedback loop, isn't it: as times get more difficult choices will be driven more by individual immediate needs than anything else.

Recently been reading about our Brit cousins and their stiff upper lips and good-heartedness during the early days of WWII. Turns out there was a good bit of "do unto others before they do unto you" going on. Thievery, black market, draft dodging by the wealthy, etc. And to think it turns out I shouldn't have believed all those old Hollywood movies emphatically. Such a shock.

Red necked might describe me and I believe in paying people a fair or good/excellent wage for a job well done, or for a satisfactory product.

Not getting into the whole thing of cutting taxes, I do believe in tipping well knowing the server won't declare it. I enjoy buying lumber for cash from a friend who moonlights on weekends with his sawmill and I buy fishing tackle from an old guy who supplements his pension by selling garage-sale gear for cash.

The point of this comment is that we Canadians pay a huge amount of taxes deducted at source with no chance for deductions. As a wage earner, I cannot even deduct the cost of my tools even though I often use them for a second job; extra income designed to allow my wife and I to get ahead and prepare for retirement. I see so much Govt waste as they try to appease every special interest group to get voted in.

Time to ensure other folks benefit from our purchases and not nameless shareholders supporting off shore companies selling robot built junk that competes with our frinds and neighbours. Of course there will be automation, but we need to ensure we help support fellow citizens with our purchases and not with our taxes (because they have no work!!)

As the pie shrinks there is less we can do, that is for sure.

As an aside, I bought some good old 7.5 hp Kohler engines the other day. I needed 14. US company and I felt good about it. When I unloaded them I noticed the boxes said made in China. The damn things were built on the other side of the world, shipped overseas...shipped to Ontario, and then shipped back out west to Vancouver Island. And here I thought they came from our friends to the south. I purposely bought them because they were supposed to be from here. I couldn't send them back because I would have to pay for the shipping which cost more than the engines.

Were they made by slaves or robots? It is crazy. It is becoming next to impossible to buy North American products these days. I look forward to Jeff Rubin's smaller world.



Playing Devil's advocate, the consensus here in North Europe is that the one of the significant failures of the Greek economy is the alleged widespread belief of the majority of the population that paying tax is a rich person's obligation, but that social services are everyone's right. The maths, of course, unfortunately don't add up!

While the rich believe they have no obligations to anyone but themselves.

Yes, but they are "doing God's work" (Lloyd Blankfein), and American CEOs are clearly 400x more "productive" than the the rest of us on average. Clearly, rich people have been blessed with their greater wealth by the Almighty as a reward for being such awesome bitchin' people --or so the Prosperity Gospel folks tell me. It has nothing to do with our winner-take-all/devil take the hindmost tax and economic policies.

Oilfield (is trash slang for worker?)

I very much understand this and concur.

I simply would like my Govt to be accountable for what they spend, and treat all citizens the same.

For example, ex Canadian PM Brian Mulrooney (Consrvative who brought in the GST vat tax), was caught with $200,000 dollars in a safe deposit box in NYC. He was not fined, but had to pay back taxes on just 1/2 of that undeclared income. For what it was for, God only knows? Probably for the Airbus purchase. Now, if I was caught with 200 large, I would go to jail or be assessed some godawful taxation penalty.

And what is it we don't know? Why is our Provincial Govt. planning to privatize liquor distribution and warehousing when our Govt liquor stores work just fine and pay workers a decent wage? It is safe to assume somebody is getting greased to make this happen.

I do not mind paying 1/2 my salary in taxes as long as it is not wasted. However, until such time we all pay the same then I have no worries about buying fishing tackle or tipping servers without them paying or collecting extra funds for their taxes.

When Harper is limiting discussion and scientific research to push through his pet pipeline, should we support Govt. as much as we do?

As far as the Greek situation goes, it won't change until every person pays taxes equally. It might take some pitchforks to make this happen.

Here, in Canada, I think it is safe to assume Harper has a soft landing already picked out if he gets the boot next election. If I lost my job I would have to scramble to find another one....like most of us on this site.

Wouldn't you like to see a politician stand up and say, "you know, I do pay less in taxes than you working folks. I know the laws allowed this, but it is/was wrong. Therefore, here is my cheque to make it right". Hey, if Romney or Obama did this...well, the first one willing to play fair would win the Presidency IMO. That would be leadership, and leadership strong enough to carry us through these changing times. When honest taxpayers are treated like chumps, and feel like chumps, and are defensive about so-called entitlements, maybe it is time for a fresh start and reboot.


Paulo - yes 'oil field trash' is (was?) a term we used when I worked on the rigs and seismic crews for our co-workers. The sort of of workers who might have a beer or three too many after a fortnight on the rig, or a trip into town, and get a bit 'loud'. Mostly not intending to cause offence, but in a small town boisterous activity was usually bound to offend some folks - hence the label which we were happy to embrace.

Fair taxation is definitely a desirable goal. And, talking of politicians confessing to their tax records, we are seeing more of this in the UK. This year's election for London Mayor included a significant amount of debate around disclosure of the main candidates' tax declarations (or non-declarations) and how much would be made public.

I quite like the Norwegian model: everyone's tax returns (not the detail) is public information. You know how much the guy earns, how much tax he/she paid and for good measure there is often an illustration of what that tax equates to (e.g. '6 metres of single carriage way road surfacing' or '30 primary school places for 1 year' or '0.2 of a soldier in war zone X').

Paulo and Rockman, about half of US "imports", not counting oil, is from US supranational firms' "exports" from their subsidiaries and contract producers abroad, especially in China-Asia. Our "imports" also include a significant portion of oil "imports" from US oil and petrochemical companies' extraction and production abroad.

If US supranational firms' "trade" between subsidiaries is counted properly, the actual US trade deficit is no larger 2% of GDP.

When one buys goods from China, one is most often buying from a US supranational firm's subsidiary or contract producer in China. But even these facilities are increasingly replacing Chinese slave labor with Vietnamese, Thai, or Malaysian slave labor, and eventually with robotic labor.

We will all be competing against foreign slave labor, domestic prison labor, and machines replacing slave and prison labor around the world. Needless to say, in a game of ever-increasing "labor" productivity coming from "non-labor" sources, by definition, we can never successfully compete for resources and capital with machines or virtual bots, nor will we ever receive increasing returns to incomes and purchasing power from "labor-saving" capital investment.

The US made up for falling crude oil production and falling real wages since the 1970s-80s by ramping up offshore investment and production and lending at falling nominal interest rates to consumers at falling real wages and rising benefit costs out of pocket. Now the supply-side reflationary regime of increasing returns to debt and asset prices is over. During previous Long-Wave techno-economic eras, wages would have risen as a share of GDP as capital's share flattened or fell. Now automation and global wage arbitrage will prevent wages from rising and a new demand-side regime from getting underway.

Automated production and services do not require wages, benefits, vacations, pensions, maternity leave, costly retraining, food, mortgages, cars to commute to jobs, and so on.

Increasingly, we are creating a system of production and services that does not require paid human labor to sustain it. Eventually, by the inherent evolutionary tendency of increasing hierarchical flows to the top, the intelligent-systems society and machine division of labor will continue to receive a larger share of resources, investment capital, and techno-scientific knowledge, becoming increasingly self-sustaining and without the need of humans.

I personally know numerous engineers working for large US tech companies who are designing and training themselves eventually out of jobs, or who have already done so; and this process will accelerate as 10,000 years of human knowledge becomes increasingly embedded within machines.

Your whole premise for machines (robot or otherwise) to take over human jobs is based on one flawed thesis:

that a machine can always do a job cheaper, better, faster than a person. This is true for repetitive operations where hundreds or thousands of a simple task or operation is performed. For small quanitites of production, like in the energy supply industry and transportation industry (exclusive of cars and trucks) the role of robot technology is limited. This is because the cost to build a multitask machine is very high, then the cost to set it up and program it to do a few tasks is also costly, and then you have the QC factor of adjusting the machine if some error is made in the program or set up and machine has to be rerun or restarted.

Bottom line is that robots have applications in a lot of high speed mass production, and that has already mostly happened. But in a lot of heavy industry that supplies the oil producers, the heavy transportation systems, and the major electrical power production, the low quantities that are built can be done cheaper with human labor, even if the speed is slower than robotic (after setup).

I do think that more adaptable robots will be coming along. Maybe not as adaptable as human experts, but perhaps enough to greatly increase the number of tasks that can be at least partially robotized. Perhaps where we had six humans and some machine tools, we will end up with one or two humans overseeing (and occasionally corrected) a team of robots. Semi-intelligent robots are not an either-or thing, but should exist across a spectrum (of intelligence).

I agree that semi-intelligent human beings are possible. Big Blue and Watson already demonstrate that they will never match the potential capabilities of machines. The genetic algorithm in its infancy can come up with solutions to practical problems that nobody would ever even dream of. In that act, done without the aid of mind, it is revealed that rational thought is a relatively specialized and feeble tool. The final bastion of human uniqueness will be narcissism, though it could be simulated.

The final bastion of human uniqueness will be narcissism, though it could be simulated.

Can't wait for a 'Turing Test' designed to foil artificial narcissism when I log in to a secure site such as my bank account...

Mirror, mirror on the screen from a poisoned Apple IPad designed to put you to sleep?

I'll meet you in the chinese room.

That's why I keep coming back to TOD. Where else would I find comments like this? (rhetorical question, I don't actually want to know).

My mac mini thinks it's Ray Kurzweil.

Thanks, greenish. Indeed, I hope you continue to return, as it's mutual.

As for your Mac...

Duncan Crary: But I want to go back to something you said, I think on last week's show. You were mentioning the singularity.

JHK: Yeah.

DC: Who is the person?

JHK: Ray Kurzweil...I wrote a chapter about the singularity in this forthcoming book of mine. The idea that I got from studying Kurzweil's idea was that, and his singularity idea is that human intelligence and machine intelligence will meld together and will reach out, within a relatively short period of like half a century, and infect the entire universe with machine/human intelligence and then infect all the parallel universes down all the wormholes of potential universes until they occupy all the space in the universe and become God.

DC: ...This doesn't sound like something you'd buy into. I thought you don't believe in techno grandiosity.

JHK: Absolutely not. That's why I wrote the chapter about Kurzweil, because I think that he's the poster child for techno triumphalism and techno grandiosity. I think that apart from the fact that he's a very accomplished fellow. He's done many interesting things in his career... but I think in some respects he's also completely crazy.

I'll probably keep returning; as illusory tribes go, this is a pip.

Kurzweil - in addition to inventing a nice synth - has invented the "ad absurdum" conclusion where most cornucopians & economists fear to tread, showing the utter disconnect with reality which is inherent in those positions and bringing them into line with other "afterlife" religions.

I have never doubted that there would someday be a computer named Ray Kurzweil, so I went ahead and named my mac mini that. However, the odd concoction of evolved biomechanics that is a delusional, loving/hating, triune human brain is probably hard to clone. And if he ever does it, he will find himself standing outside it and realize that he still has hemmorhoids and is mortal no matter what the shiny box says it thinks.

Yet he's revered as a deep thinker, and we're on an obscure blog on a defunct page. Oh, the humanity.

I have never doubted that there would someday be a computer named Ray Kurzweil, so I went ahead and named my mac mini that. However, the odd concoction of evolved biomechanics that is a delusional, loving/hating, triune human brain is probably hard to clone. And if he ever does it, he will find himself standing outside it and realize that he still has hemmorhoids and is mortal no matter what the shiny box says it thinks.

Which is why I named my old but still functioning Mac, "Drosophila melanogaster"

There are not that many flies that can play a good game of chess or win at Jeopardy. These complex, higher-level functions fell swiftly to the machines. But the fly can zip around through its visual world with ease... the machines can't. The simple things are the hardest.

This is true for repetitive operations where hundreds or thousands of a simple task or operation is performed. For small quanitites of production, like in the energy supply industry and transportation industry (exclusive of cars and trucks) the role of robot technology is limited. This is because the cost to build a multitask machine is very high, then the cost to set it up and program it to do a few tasks is also costly, and then you have the QC factor of adjusting the machine if some error is made in the program or set up and machine has to be rerun or restarted.

I think that paradigm is changing quickly, robots are surpassing humans in well defined tasks which are not necessarily repetitive, Roomba the robot cleaner for example can do things which would have been considered very difficult only a decade ago. Self driving cars, auto assist are other examples.

For a vast majority of tasks you don't need consciousness or awareness, only a specific set of instructions. Consciousness may be overrated after all. A cockroach or ant has no consciousness/awareness and the processing power of an iPod but it can accomplish a lot of tasks.

The robot factory is a one-trick pony.

And if it's depleting resources, making things too fast and that are often not really needed, that don't last, and that are difficult/dangerous/costly to recycle, for examples, it's hardly a trick.

Of course much of this has little to with the robot factory per se.

In Energy and Equity Ivan Illich describes how high levels of energy (consumption) degrade social relations just as inevitably as they destroy the physical environment; to quote "if a society opts for high energy consumption, its social relations must be dictated by a technocracy and huge public expenditures and increased social control; both rationalize the emergence of a computerized Leviathan”.
~ Siraj Izhar

Tribe, yes, Illich is describing the inherent evolutionary hierarchical flow structure in which flows flow upward from low- to high-entropy extraction/production/consumption/waste and concentrate at the top of the hierarchy. As net energy per capita declines overall and consumption per capita slows and contracts, the incentive for large institutions (corporations and gov'ts) to increase automation (not just mfg. robots but systems to replace most analytical and transaction-oriented service jobs today) and concentrate information, knowledge, and resources in the process will also increase, leaving the rest of us at the lower strata of the flow structure even less per capita to the point that subsistence can no longer be sustained.

10,000 years of human knowledge is being embedded into machine intelligence at a blinding pace. The current concentrated flows (knowledge, income, wealth, and net energy surplus) to the top 0.1-1% of households in the West are such that the top 0.1-1% literally do not need "the economy" or "the market" to function for the bottom 99%. They could eventually deploy robotics, smart systems, and drones, heavy firepower for security and "crowd management", and control of the Internet, transportation, and resource distribution to live an enviable lifestyle indefinitely while the rest of us are rendered obsolete, unable to subsist, utterly outgunned, and compelled to prey on one another.

Soon the NSA and Homeland Security will have complete control of the Internet in such a way as to be able to make anyone effectively disappear, i.e., "erase" all of a person's records, financial accounts, and identity as if he never existed. Not even the Gestapo and KGB at the height of their power had such an efficient means to eliminate dissent and "useless bread gobblers".

Reminds me of the Philip K. Dick short story I read a long time ago:



It is an interesting little read.

Yes, sounds like it. I might look for it when I get the time.

Here is a nice companion short story to autofac:


By Bradbury.

Both are thought-provoking, good short yarns.

warnings about man's hubris


The Complete Stories of Philip K. Dick Vol. 4:
The Minority Report and Other Classic Stories
by Philip K. Dick

When it comes to the "Cost of Cool", I am at a loss to figure out why the large HVAC and in partiular Air conditioner manufacturers have not picked up on something that is patently obvious to me living here in the tropics. Air conditioning is needed most when the sun shine is most intense and when it shines the longest. Compressor based air conditioners are also notorious energy hogs. As an example, a buddy of mine's office typcally consumes 10kW of electricity during office hours of which more than half can be attributed to his two split system air conditioners. At least another half of a kilowatt can be attributed to his office fridge, the fridge in his lunch room and the water cooler in his workshop area. The rest of his static loads are lighting and computers.

Most modern, energy efficient air conditioners are "inverter" types. I prefer to refer to them as variabe speed units. They rectify the incoming ac power and use electronic variable speed drives to drive the compressor and fan at varying speed depending on the amount of cooling power required. This is as opposed to having the comprssor and fan driven directly by the 50Hz or 60Hz incoming ac power and just cycling them on or off as required. The variable speed units present a good opportunity for use with solar PV since they run of dc power which is the same type of power produced by solar PV.

I haves seen an example of what I have in mind at the following site:


The problem is, I can't seem to be able to get my hands on one even in another incarnation as the "SplitCool DC18", added to which the price is supposed to be about $3500 to $3800 which is about twice the cost of a typical "inverter" unit. What I cannot understand is how no large manufacturer has siezed this opportunity yet and produced units at a scale that could bring the price down to at least the same as the traditional units. These units can be configured with panels and batteries based on the lenght of time that the units need to keep running once sunlight has been interupted (clouds or nightfall).

Every time I see news stories about people suffering in the heat during a blackout or about stresses on power grid due to air conditioning loads or increased summer time oil consumption in Saudi Arabia because of air conditioning, I wonder what it is that is preventing wide spread development of solar powered air conditioning. In Jamaica with electricity cost fluctuating around US 40 cents per kWh, it absolutely makes economic sense. In other places where electricit is cheaper, I wonder if users would be willing to pay the premium for having air conditioning during blackouts.

What is holding this aplication of solar energy back?

Alan from the islands

This looks very interesting and should certainly help with keeping air conditioning costs under control in hot and sunny climates during the day time.

With respect to the problem of using solar energy for air conditioning at night: What about using solar energy to freeze blocks of ice. Then during the night, air could be circulated through the ice for cooling.

I think one issue is the cost of the PV power, that will be spilled when the AC demand is insufficient. Face it, most of the demand comes from the wealthier temperate regions, and PV2AC would have to be seriously overbuilt to handle the occasional heat wave. A more promising path might be to create smallish helper units, which take over part of the cooling demand, but not so much that they would be turned off during the cooler spells. Otherwise you eith spill solar production, or set up the usual grdi-based PV. So it may not be easy to convince potential manufacturers to design and market such products.

Incidentally, insolation at temperate lattitudes during midsummer is 15-20% greater than at the equator. The highest surface temperatures on the planet occur outside of the tropics, where very high temps are possible during the short summer season. I suspect that as global warming worsens, these temperate summer heatwaves may become quite a problem.

I don't know, but to me it would make more sense to connect the PV to the grid and then use a "grid tied" battery backup like [1] for times when there is a gird blackout. That way you can not only operate your AC, but also your fridge and freezer, your gas fired heating system (that also needs electricity for system regulation) in winter or anything else you like.

PV still produces a reasonable proportion of its energy in winter, that wouldn't be useful if it was directly connected to only your air conditioning. Also you can then operate your AC e.g. from the local wind farm (if there isn't a blackout) when your PV doesn't produce enough.

Due to its fluctuations, PV needs a lot of balancing or storage. The grid is probably the most efficient balancing source. Creating a lot of small island systems causes a many inefficiencies. The grid is probably always preferable if it is available.

With nearly 98% efficiency, PV DC-AC inverters are also pretty efficient, so there is little loss in going from DC to AC.

[1] http://www.sma.de/en/products/backup-systems.html

I would see the solar AC being (maybe) attractive if the utility doesn't offer net-metering -or otherwise just won't play ball with you. Otherwise it makes more sense to generate grid power -despite the conversion costs.

I would see the solar AC being (maybe) attractive if the utility doesn't offer net-metering -or otherwise just won't play ball with you.

Which is exactly the situation in my neck of the woods. The local utility and their regulator have come up with this half baked non-incentive called net billing as the method for working out how grid connected customers should be compensated for the excess electricity they generate and send back to the grid. It isn't as bad as I originally thought it would be. I thought we would have to put in production meters and make the connections to the grid at the supply side of our consumption meters. This would mean that we'd be paid the cheap rate for ALL the electricity we produce while paying the expensive (40+ US cents/kWh) for ALL the electricity we consume.

As it turns out, they want to have meters that measure the power going into the grid separately from the power drawn from the grid but they allow the pv system to be connected to the load side of the meter. This allows you to reduce the amount you pull from the grid and get the savings at the full retail rate (40+ c/kWh) but it does not facilitate over producing during the day to compensate for what you draw at night (no spinning meters backwards). It just makes the financial calculations for ROI a whole lot more complicated and justifies systems that run primarily of the solar pv with the grid as a backup.

Since most commercially available solar pv systems are designed for sane jurisdictions it is very hard to find ready made systems for jurisdictions that don't "get it", like Jamaica as of right now. The situation is far from settled so, hopefully sanity will prevail and I've got a good relation ship with the Energy Minister's (Secretary for you Americans) right hand man, so hopefully I will be able to get them to "see the light".

Alan from the islands

Well, re solar AC, and what is holding it back, I have a little story to tell. A true one.

Once upon a time, not long ago and not far away, a major engine manufacturer decided they had better check out stirling engines again, since their standard market was getting a bit tired. Their engineers did a great job of searching out the most promising stirlings, and came across one they liked very much. These simple folk, honest engineers all, went to their boss with tales of how great this little machine was for all kinds of unfilled needs. The boss, a beady eyed bean counter, like most bosses are by the nature of things, and not much if any inclined toward love of hardware per se, asked if it could somehow do solar AC, since he lived in a hot place with lots of sun and had to spend lots on AC.

The engineers thought about it a while and came up with a splendid design that could indeed do a great job on solar AC. The boss then said, "OK, that's fine but we just make engines, and don't do AC. so go find a big AC bunch who would go into this game with us".

The engineers did indeed go find, etc. BUT. The AC people, a very big outfit, didn't do solar and didn't see why they should give it a shot, since they were doing just fine as is.

So the engineers had to go back to the boss and say the big AC outfit declined to go for solar. So the boss said he didn't go for it either, since taking risks was not his game.
So there.

Finis ( final chords of Mozart's Requiem).

A possible answer in my experience; Decades ago I helped develop a solar powered [ hot water ] motor. We called it the sodium motor for Philco. 25% efficient, no moving parts. Ford wasn't interested. I could make them at a local machine shop for $280. To ensure it couldn't be patented, I had it published. I have tried for decades to get it produced.

The last failure was an outfit in Texas who said they could make it for $6O, but they wouldn't do it. They said, if they sold it, in a year Toshiba would make it for $40, and all they would have done is prove the market, and then lose their investment.

So ends the dream of powering the world.

For those who are curious, the last remaining published article can be found by googling sodium motor practical science 1976.

My personal solution for AC is a 12 volt Danfoss compressor, motorcycle radiator and computer fan. Drops ambient temp 12 degrees.

Dave, anchored offshore Malaysia. Cheers

No apparent success with Google for me (Google now "individualizes" searches). Any more leads ?


No "practical science" magazine
No "sodium motor"



My bad.

google ; popular science archives, type in sodium ion motor in subject field. Click on top article; Dec 1983 Pg22

This seems to be a condensed version of the original, but clearly shows the plans. It works very well indeed. If you need any additional info, I'll try to dredge my memories. Sorry to take so long to respond, but offshore connections were horrible. D

Looks interesting as a concept. However, the flat plate shown won't cut it as flat plate collectors can't provide the necessary high temperatures (1300F to 1800F). Thus, a concentrating collector design would be required and most likely that would mean a 2-axis tracking design. The article claims "no moving parts", yet, there's an "electromagnetic pump" to return the liquid sodium to the reactor clearly shown in the figure. If one is going to build a 2-axis system, there might be more efficient ways to produce electricity, such as a steam turbine or Stirling engine. The article is rather vague on the efficiency of this device, mentioning that an efficiency of 19% had been achieved. With a 2-axis tracking design, the added cost of tracking can push the net cost sharply upwards. Given that solar PV already is close to that efficiency without tracking, the economics might not work out, IMHO.

Perhaps worse are the problems associated with liquid sodium. In a solar application, the daily cycle includes a long period without energy supply, which would make it difficult to keep the sodium in liquid state and weather might extend that for more than just the overnight hours. If the sodium were to cool below freezing within the cell, it would be rather difficult to melt it again using only solar. There would need to be some sort of reservoir with valves and pumps to dump the sodium into while still liquid. Only then would it be possible to melt the sodium for the next day's solar power cycle. Perhaps worse would be the occasional pump or valve failure...

E. Swanson

Well, I can tell you for sure that a stirling at that temp will have 34% engine-alternator efficiency- electricity/heat in. You can see tons of verifying data at the NASA web site under solar stirling.

You will say that the NASA thing costs ridiculous $, which is true, but the engine guys did a serious study of the same hardware brought down to earth and came up with less than $100/kW cost to manufacture.

But the beady-eyed bean counter, the one with his hand on the throttle, doesn't care about anything but the biggest bottom line at the next board meeting, and knows that the best thing for that is to do nothing but what worked the last time.

So, nothing wins every time.

Now, back to the joys of doing things to beat the bottom out of that bottom line.

Colombian 'Farc rebels' blow up oil pipeline in Narin

Police said the attack on the Transandean oil pipeline happened in the early hours of Sunday.

Colombia's state oil company Ecopetrol said the attack had forced it to stop pumping oil through the 300km (185-mile) pipeline leading from neighbouring Ecuador to the port city of Tumaco.

It happened near the city of Tumaco, which has been without power for the past 10 days following an earlier rebel attack on its electricity grid.

Curious. One of those countries has been in the news lately, hasn't it?

Indeed. Just a first little warning shot across the bow?

Who can you believe? The EIA came out with their International Energy Statistics on Friday and yesterday the JODI oil production numbers came out. Actually for all non-OPEC nations JODI and the EIA track each other pretty close although the EIA averages, for total non-OPEC production about 1.5 mb/d above what JODI averages.

But for OPEC it is a totally different story. JODI and the EIA usually report totally different numbers. This is because, apparently, JODI has a different method of gathering OPEC data than the EIA. Now JODI has stated that they have several different ways of gathering non-OPEC data, very similar to how the EIA does it. But for OPEC, JODI, who is based in Riyadh Saudi Arabia, just polls the OPEC countries. We can know this because the OPEC Oil Market Report has two tables for OPEC crude oil production.

One, the one everyone uses, is based on what OPEC calls "secondary sources". This is apparently derived from folks like Platts and others who track OPEC production. But the second table they say is based on "direct communication" with OPEC producers. And the JODI numbers track, very closely those numbers based on "direct communication". These numbers are, of course, very political and in at least two cases very wrong. That is in the case of Iran and Venezuela. (These two tables can be found on pages 45 and 46 of the linked PDF file.)

Below are production charts for Iran and Venezuela. The JODI and EIA numbers are Crude + Condensate but the OMR numbers are Crude Only. In Kb/d. The last data points are May for the EIA, June for JODI and July for the OMR.



Notice that JODI has Iranian production actually increasing since the first effects of sanctions started around January though the actual date for the sanctions was still six months away. And I apologize for the quality of the JODY data on the chart but I just could not find a background that showed every color clearly.

Ron P.

Russia harvest forecasts cut as drought hits crop in east

Two leading Russian agricultural analysts cut their forecasts for Russia's grain harvest on Monday after harvest data from two drought-stricken eastern growing regions reduced the outlook for the overall crop.

"I see the possibility of further downgrading," Rylko said

... Grain is sold within Russia at rouble denominated prices, making it less competitive on export markets when the Russian currency rises. The rouble, which trades in line with oil prices, the country's key economic driver, recovered from crude's recent weakness in mid-July.

Maybe because "they" are manipulating the weather?

From up top: We're still on the slippery slope to peak oil

The article by David Strahan, which quotes the IMF study approvingly, is problematic.

In large part because the IMF study itself is problematic, despite the tendency of some to praise it.

Sure, the study is far better than most of the claptrap cornucopian stuff most economists put out.
(But that isn't saying much)

Nonetheless, it still underestimates the geological impact.
The geological impact isn't merely about declines, but lack of sufficient supply growth.
A key point often missed.

If world oil growth would rise, say, 0.4 % a year for the next two decades, the world would be mired in a permanent recessionary environment.

It wouldn't be outright depression, say, (at least not everywhere) but it would be positively horrible. And even 0.4 % growth per year is a stretch since the basic math is being ignored here.

Consider: if you're replacing sources such as giant onshore oil fields with relatively low decline rates at around 5-6 % with unconventional, be it ultra-deep water, shale/tight oil etc where the decline rates are above 35 %, sometimes even above 50 %, then the basic math doesn't add up unless you're constantly drilling like mad.

Which is what they are doing, yet they are losing tens of billions each quarter since the CapEx costs needed to keep drilling like mad doesn't cover the production, even if it's constantly rising, since each rise needs even more wells, thus just accelerating the spiral.

So far, investors are willing to bear the burden and keep lending them billions. Why? Because it's a speculative bubble. All bubbles are based on a single, magical word: potential.

People believe the stuff they're being told because they have to believe them, after all, why otherwise plough down billions of dollars?

Yet, even if shale oil manages to barely increase world oil production very briefly, the good spots are taken first. And the good spots have 40+ % decline rates. Now imagine the bad spots.

Because of the ultra-high decline rates, you need wells in new places all the time. And as the easiest stuff gets taken, the decline rates just increase the further out you go from the so-called 'sweet spots'(which still have 10x or more higher decline rates than regular, conventional fields).

So if you keep replacing fields which need low oil prices and who have relatively low decline rates with the exact opposite, you're running on quicksand. It's a house of cards.

Therefore even if the IMF paper goes to some length to explain the rush for shale oil, it nonetheless underplays the real reason: geology. As been explained tons of times: if it was attractive to go there, we'd been there long ago.

Another thing to remember: shale oil/tight oil tends to show a 'spurt of growth' in the first few years of massive growth, when it really takes off. As Bernstein Research show:

We're talking about massive declines here.

Prices does not impact production at all, only the fact that people try since they're so desperate to begin with.

In the begining, you can actually do this to some extent since the entire strategy on U.S. shale oil, as you can see, rest on being able to quickly find a new oil patch to drill a well into.
As the area is fresh and new, you can quickly move on to the next spot. But this isn't a sustainable strategy as you can see from the graph. Also, remember this: the sweet spots are always taken first. So the decline rates are going to get bigger as time goes on.

So it's no surprise all the oil companies in the shale business are all losing their shirts on Capital investments, the economics just doens't add up. They are already hitting the geological wall. They are running tens of billions in the red now, at these production levels. If the U.S. were to truly become 'energy independent' then the losses would have to rise to hundreds of billions - each quarter. That's close to a trillion dollars each year in CapEx costs.

To say that this is a fantasy is to almost compliment them. So why do they do it? Simple: they have no choice.
This is the last resort and their investors are stupid enough to believe the hype.

After all, you can always point to Harvard-funded studies these days riddled with fuzzy math and say "see? Even Harvard agrees with me! Also, aren't you a patriot? Don't you want to see us kick OPEC's ass!?".
Then add some 'Drill, baby, drill!' for effect etc etc. And voilá.


On a related note on the whole IMF paper re: prices and it's effects on world oil supply:
The effects on prices in the 2005-2008 period on supply was exactly zero. Nil.

It has had a minor role on the efforts to get desperate on shale.
But that too is completely unsustainable and can't even begin to cover the depletion the world over(over 4 mb/d). Not with the massive decline rates.

Finally, even if we assume the rosiest of rosy scenarios that a peaker can take, i.e. slow supply growth(which is the base case in the IMF paper, another problematic position and another reason why it shouldn't be so breathlessly praised by Strahan and others), does anyone think for a moment that the world economy can handle $185 dollars per barrel in oil prices?
Remember, we're talking about real prices(i.e. inflation-chained).
The nominal prices in 2020 would be well above 200 if not controlled for inflation(which is what the IMF paper did).

So think about $185 dollars in today's prices.
This is complete and utter nonsense.

The IMF paper is certainly better than most paper out there, and it can explain short-term fluctuations better, but long-term it still misses the mark.

I think the article and the IMF paper, for good reasons, stopped short of the premise that the global economy can't support $180+ oil: it's obvious. Sometimes it's best to let readers draw their own conclusions. This is the endgame for the oil patch as we know it. This IS peak oil.

That said, barring some cataclysm, a new oil patch will re-emerge, much in the way that small mining outfits are re-working claims that became unprofitable when gold was at $30/oz. I expect there'll come a time when Rancher Joe in East Texas can just about name his price for what his little group of stripper wells is producing (if some govt or warlord hasn't taken them). Different oil patch; different economy.

Sv - "...it nonetheless underplays the real reason: geology." If you haven't seen my comment before: when I started with Mobil Oil in 1975 my first mentor explained THE problem facing MO and all the other companies: reserve replacement. This is, for the most part, what we call PO these days. Decline itself wasn't much of an issue per se: it was already cooked into the books. But adding new reserves, or at least convincing Wall Street we had, was the real challenge.

And you make a great point that I think some are still not appreciating. Some forty years ago conventional field X and its 50 wells came online at 20,000 bopd and held there for 4 or 5 years before significant decline set in. I'm currently working with fields that began producing over 60 years ago and are still profitable though at stripper rates. The very best 50 Eagle Ford or Bakken wells drilled this year can't match that profile. In fact every EFS and Bakken well producing today will likely be plugged and abandoned in 20 years IMHO. But if we drill an extra 50 or so of such wells every year it might provide the illusion of longevity. And will continue to do so...as long as we don't stop drilling. As long as the capex is stil available and oil prices stay up there.

Svamp, you seemed to have unraveled it. Must have taken a lot longer than your time on TOD.

How about this line from that article:

"Their price forecasts were also far more accurate than traditional economic models that take no account of oil depletion, predicting a strong upward trend that closely fits what has happened since 2003."

Really? Neo-classical economic models take no account of geological considerations and assume that oil extraction can just be ramped up forever?

Neo-classical economic models take no account of biophysical reality. Julian Simon famously declared, "Our supplies of natural resources are not finite in any economic sense. Nor does past experience give reason to expect natural resources to become more scarce. Rather, if history is any guide, natural resources will progressively become less costly, hence less scarce, and will constitute a smaller proportion of our expenses in future years.”

I know that cornucopian extremists like the late Simon believe that the only thing limiting the amount of resources is demand, but I had assumed most mainstream economists would figure geological limitations into their equations somewhere. even if only as a minor factor. But to completely ignore them? Wow.

In their book, "Energy and the Wealth of Nations," Charles A.S. Hall and Kent Klitgaard write, "The basic neoclassical model represents the economy as a self-maintaining circular flow among firms and households.... NCE does not recognize or reflect the fact that economic activity requires the input of a finite biophysical world which is usually degraded by that activity."

One of the goals when developing a model would be to keep it as simple and as understandable as possible by only including factors that have a significant impact. Thus it is entirely reasonable that the neoclassical model doesn't consider resource limits as it wasn't a significant factor at the time it was developed. It's been quite some time since I've taken a Economics class so I don't know to what extent the teaching now considers the resource limits we are increasingly running into.

Hall and Klitgaard make essentially that argument:

Before the age of fossil fuels economic theory was based on the premise that nature limited the flow of resources, that is, there was an absolute scarcity of economic goods and services. After the 1870's the physical limits become much less important because of the enormous power of fossil fuels. The concept of what were the biophysical means by which the wealth was generated simply fell off the radar screen of economists.... For economists the basic starting point for thinking about economics could be reformulated from producing an economic surplus to that of relative scarcity, in essence how to distribute the new largesse of society without thinking much about how it came into being.... According to these then new neoclassical economists the answers were to be found in the magic of self-regulating markets where individual pursuit of self-interest led to social harmony.


Your criticisms of the IMF paper are a bit harsh IMO. I just re-read that paper this morning and although it is not perfect, it is much better than the typical analyses done by economists.

In the paper they say that the model predicts high real oil prices, however they seem to realize that further work is needed and point to several areas of further research. In addition, for real oil price the 90 % confidence interval by 2020 is 120 to 240 real (2011) US dollars.

If the price remains at the low end, oil supply will remain on a plateau, in order for supply to increase by 10 % (to around 34 GB/year) prices will need to rise to 180 (2011) US dollars by 2020 according to the model. See figures 10 and 11 on pages 30-31.

In their analysis (see pages 13-14) they point to only modest expansion of oil output even if real oil prices nearly double by 2020. These high prices will likely lead to lower real GDP.

This negative GDP effect of higher oil prices is present in the model’s forecasts for GDP growth, but as we will see it is modest. This raises the question of whether future versions of the model should include nonlinearities in the output response similar to the nonlinearities in our oil demand equation. There is likely to be a critical range of oil prices where the GDP effects of any further increases become much larger than at lower levels, if only because they start to threaten the viability of entire industries such as airlines and long-distance tourism. If this is correct, the effect of real oil prices on GDP should be modeled as convex. There is support for this conjecture among the experts. For example, the chief economist of the International Energy Agency, Fatih Birol, has repeatedly warned in recent months that current high oil prices, which are nearly back to their levels
in 2008, are at a point that could push the world economy back into recession. We will study this possibility quantitatively in future work.

One further problem with the study is the assumption of a long run growth rate of real GDP of 4 %. Looking at data from the world bank from 1970 to 2011 gives an average growth rate for world real GDP of about 3 % and for the advanced economies (US, Canada, and EU 15 only) the growth rate for 1970 to 2011 has only been about 2.5 %

In my view a more realistic long term growth rate for real GDP would be about 2.5 %. It would be best to look at this on a per capita basis which I have not done.

It will be interesting to see if they continue with this work.


Your criticisms of the IMF paper are a bit harsh IMO. I just re-read that paper this morning and although it is not perfect, it is much better than the typical analyses done by economists.

Sure, I granted them that. But as I also wrote: that isn't saying much. We're talking about a very low standard here. You literally don't need to jump over any bar, it's already lying on the ground. You just have to manage to walk over it without stumbling. And even that task is too hard for most mainstream economists.

In the paper they say that the model predicts high real oil prices, however they seem to realize that further work is needed and point to several areas of further research. In addition, for real oil price the 90 % confidence interval by 2020 is 120 to 240 real (2011) US dollars.

Yes, and Kumar even admits that the confidence interval is so huge that it is almost embarrasing. Their highest estimate is exactly 100 % larger than their lowest estimate.
They might as well flip a coin.

One further problem with the study is the assumption of a long run growth rate of real GDP of 4 %. Looking at data from the world bank from 1970 to 2011 gives an average growth rate for world real GDP of about 3 % and for the advanced economies (US, Canada, and EU 15 only) the growth rate for 1970 to 2011 has only been about 2.5 %

The long-term average of oil supply growth has been between 1.5-2 %.
They are estimating slightly below half of the upper median range, 0.9 % oil supply growth per year.

It's interesting to note that the IEA is already downgrading the oil supply growth in percentage terms for 2013, despite the fact that the IMF et al have forecast for years that 2012 is 'as bad as it's going to get for the world economy'.

Apparently the IEA doesn't agree, and a smart call from them.

However, even 0.9% is way too high, which is why I wrote my post detailing that so much is thrust upon U.S. shale oil, Brazilian deepwater(and ultra-deep water) and so on.

As I wrote before: if you're replacing conventional giant oil fields with decline rates at 5-7 % with unconventional fields where the decline rates are 5-7x(not %!) times higher, then it doens't take a supremely mathematical brain to understand that the only way to keep it up is to keep finding more and more oil.

Yet peak discoveries was in the 1960s and as I also noted, the sweet spots are always taken first. So whenever the massive decline rates set in... the oil companies are left with trying to make up for massive decline rates... with even bigger decline rates at troublesome spots which are harder to drill in the first place, require higher CapEx investments upfront etc. And then the actual oil coming out will be going down faster than the already monstrous initial decline rates from unconventional.

This is what a ponzi scheme is about. The basic flow is negative, and you need to keep adding more and more resources to keep the basic structure up. At some point however, the math catches up with you. The easy additions are gone and the underlying performance, in this case massive decline rates, are coming home to haunt you. In most ponzi schemes it's negative cash flow. It's not unlike that here too, only that you have a negative oil flow on top of the negative cash flow.

Most oil producers in U.S. shale spend 200-300% on CapEx costs each quarter in relation to their cash flows. They can only make that up with borrowing money on the promise of future production.

But the financial black hole that keeps growing bigger is rooted not in a classic financial ponzi scheme, even if it takes that form. It's rooted in geological reality.

Not only is it uneconomical, it's also simply inadequate to plug the decline rates of 5-7 % with decline rates of 35-45%. It simply mathematically does not add up.

Therefore the base case scenario of the IMF paper is problematic.
Oil demand isn't going to grow 0.9% because unconventional would have to not only cover all the depletion of conventional but also cover the expanding demand growth.

The thing is that shale oil is characterized by an initial spurt, as evidenced by my chart. So people watch the first 2-3 years and think "well this went well, it will continue to do the same". It's a fallacy, of course.

Also, consider that the bulk of the increase in the IEA's 'liquid fuels production' isn't actual oil. It's NGLs, "refinery gains"(a new category added, I wonder why...) as well as ethanol(disguised as 'other liquids' in the report).

Actual oil, crude and condesate, is stagnant and flat. Even if you add NGLs, which is specious but an argument can be made, then the BP numbers(which exclude the gimmicks) is stuck at ~83 mb/d for several years.

If American tried to double it's ethanol production from today's 0.9 mb/d to 1.8 mb/d then we'd have a massive and immediate food crisis and world hunger on an epic level. So the demand isn't going to be met by 'refinery gains' nor by ethanol.

It has to be unconventional. And the impossibility of that is based squarely on geology, not on prices.


Yes, the 'hard geologists'(so to speak), Colin Campbell and others, have been wrong. Prices do have a short term impact by giving people the excuse to take financial suicide in the shale oil business, only that the suicide is so slow as to be unforseen.

Nonetheless, stagnation is what we got, if we strip away the gimmicks. Stagnation is the best we can hope for, and even that is a huge stretch. At 2020 there won't be enough production to meet the current status quo, and even if there would be, it wouldn't be a production level at 0.9% per year oil supply growth.

Which means that the IMF model's already astronomical $180-185 dollar range in real terms is too low already. And again, even if we accepted their denialist position(although a much softer denialist position, a denialist position nonetheless), the world can't support the price levels they suggest.

So no, I'm not too harsh. I'm willing to concede that they are better than most out there, but remember this was a working paper too. IMF as an organization does not want to be formally associated with the paper.
It's full-on denialism that's in vogue there.


We can disagree then, I think we should applaud an analysis which is an improvement, I agree it is not perfect, and the authors themselves point to the need for further work. You also seem to to interpret GDP growth as being the same as oil supply growth. Let's assume for simplicity that they had chosen 2.5 % real GDP growth as a more realistic long term trend going forward because of resource constraints. If they had done this their prediction for oil supply growth might have been lower as well.

For simplicity (it is not likely to be this simple) we will assume the oil supply growth rate is directly proportional to the real GDP growth rate.

Under that assumption the oil supply growth would decrease from 0.9% to 0.56% and prices would be lower than $180 (2011 US$) under this scenario as well.

You completely ignored the quote I cited from the paper that suggests that they question their own assumptions about a constant long term growth in real GDP. If they include the possibility that GDP growth may be reduced due to energy constraints, the model will look very different.

Though we disagee, I appreciate the enlightening discussion. Thanks.


This is interesting:

Most oil producers in U.S. shale spend 200-300% on CapEx costs each quarter in relation to their cash flows. They can only make that up with borrowing money on the promise of future production.

Is this true? Has it been discussed here somewhere and I missed it? I was under the impression that with oil price high, shale oil from Bakken and elsewhere was a money-maker, despite the high cost of getting it out.


Yes it's true.

It's actually even worse than that, since the numbers I am quoting are about the major shale companies in the States, Devon Energy, Cheasepeake(spelling?) and so on.

Most if not all of them, certainly the major ones, do both shale gas as well as shale oil. However the financing for both is then lumped together. Right now Shale gas is dirt cheap so they're losing money but even if gas prices were to rise by 100 % they'd be break-even by today's prices. Then you have all that debt to pay off - not to mention the growing interest costs.

And on top of that you have the shale oil business, which is hugely problematic in the long turn as I've already described.

Arthur Berman(who is, by the way, a member of the Oil Drum editorial board) did a very good overview on Shale gas in the U.S. but the companies' balance sheets he looked at were the big, major ones.

Often what they'll do is that they will switch wells from gas fields who are depleted or close to being depleted and then take those wells and move them to their shale oil plays. It's this that made the Bakken and Eagle Ford spurt possible, since many of them didn't have to re-invest massive sums. Of course, this only works as long as the initial growth rate is intact. Then they need to add more wells (and this has begun already) and since the decline rates for unconventional gas is much higher than conventional gas, even if they took back all the gas-related wells to the actual gas fields, they will still need to add more there.

I'm actually not that pessimistic on shale gas. Although as Berman himself states 'this isn't a revolution; this is a retirement party'.

Shale oil is far more problematic in no small part because the potential is much smaller to begin with and the easy/sweet spots are fewer, far fewer, to begin with.

Berman's shale talk, which includes quite a bit of financial analytics, can be found at www.aspo2012.at and you can browse the videos on that site. ASPO also has a Youtube channel dedicated solely for it's 2012 conference, the link is on the same site.

Yes, they're making money. They wouldn't be drilling if they weren't making money.

EF and Bakken wells typically pay out (cumulative revenue from oil, gas, NGL, and condensate sales = capex + opex + production taxes) in 6 months to 4 years. The average EF oil well will pay out in about 2 years, some as few as 3 months and some will never pay out. The average EF condensate well pays out in about 18 months.

CapEx being higher than cash flow is not a big deal as long as oil prices stay reasonably high. If they drop below $50 or so, the EF and Bakken drilling programs will find themselves in the same position as what has happened with dry shale gas development. A large percentage of the wells in the EF are being financed with JV money from majors that are fine with the 20+% rate or return they're getting.

If a company drills a bunch of wells in a given month that won't pay out for 2 years, of course CapEx will be higher than cash flow. That doesn't mean investment is unsustainable. The average EF or Bakken oil well is very profitable at current prices. Then again, so is everything else. Brent is trading at around $115/bbl.

This is not any different from any other investment. If you borrow $1,000,000 to start a restaurant, and you can make a profit after paying the principal+interest on top of everything else, then it's a good investment. If you have $1,000,000 cash and use it to start a restaurant, and over the span of 10 years you make a net profit of $3,000,000, then it's a good investment, even though the cash flow during the first few months was very, very negative.

I'm not sure why CapEx as a percentage of cash flow is the metric being used to determine financial sustainability. By the way, which companies have CapEx at 200-300% cash flow? Are these small caps?

The basic flow is negative, and you need to keep adding more and more resources to keep the basic structure up.

This is basically one of the things that is written in the book 'The next economy' from Hawken, written in the '80's (after period of high oilprices)to explain what will happen in the future. That future has already begun.

More and more resources is also money, until the point is reached that the percentage of the total is so high that the system will break

My take is they see the writing on the wall, but they like their jobs, and desire to be taken seriously. It's up to folks like us to take their model and plug the 'real' numbers in?


does anyone think for a moment that the world economy can handle $185 dollars per barrel in oil prices?

I do!


Well, there will be buyers for that oil. Even for 200 dollar oil. Only that you won't be among them. The world economic system will look very different in that price enviornment. But the oil will be sold.

Only that you won't be among them.

Correct! Or most of us for that matter.

As Bernstein Research show: .... We're talking about massive declines here.

There's something seriously wrong with that decline data, as there is no 10 year old horizontally drilled wells with hydraulic fracturing data from the Bakken, not yet.

Hey, do the math. We do have at least three years of declines. So at 40 percent per year, so far, we can easily figure where they will be in three more years. They will be stripper wells.

Ron P.

You are hoping to cherry pick the most recent three years of data as valid from Bernstein when the oldest 4-5 years must be be either invented or misused. Doesn't work that way. Meanwhile, along with more new wells being drilled in ND, the NDIC data shows daily oil per well (all wells, all ages) steadily increasing, now up to 93 barrels as of June. June 2011 it was 72, June 2010 it was 66, June 2009 it was 51, ...


Hmm, really?

(I've thumbnaled it, if you click it, you will see the full size)

The source I have for this graph is the official state government of North Dakota and it's 'Office of Mineral Resources'.

Don't take it from me, take it from the officials in charge of overseeing the Bakken production. The above graph is from this document:


Not sure why you're trying to delegitimize Darwininan, but he's more spot on than you are.

A well with this production would pay out within 4 months. That's an extremely profitable well. I actually think it's a bit optimistic, if we are talking about the whole basin. But that may be their type curve for McKenzie county for all I know.

dlt - " I actually think it's a bit optimistic" Ya think? LOL. Just eyeballing the production for the first five years and assuming 75% royalty, 5% production tax and an oil price of $80/bbl that yields a net income of around $50 million for a well that cost around $5 -8 million. Perhaps there are a few wells that match this profile but for the trend or even one county? If true this would be the most prolific trend developed in the US in probably the last 50 years IMHO. Or put it in a different perspective: if operators were selling their oil for $20/bbl the wells would pay out in around 24 months which would be considered very successful by any company.

So if that chart is representative of the bigger picture we could see oil prices drop to $20 with no significant change in drilling activity. IMHO that seems to bring the credibility issue forefront.

But it's simple model to verify: Show the production profile of ALL wells drilled in the Bakken in 2009. They'll either match the chart or not

But it's simple model to verify: Show the production profile of ALL wells drilled in the Bakken in 2009. They'll either match the chart or not

Agreed, that's the data I'd like to see.

Hmm, really?

Again, I'm pointing the distinction between old wells and the new, i.e, "there is no 10 year old horizontally drilled wells with hydraulic fracturing data from the Bakken, not yet." What kind of 35 year old well data do you think is being displayed there from the N.D. DMR staff?

The first traditional oil wells went into N.D. back in the 1950's. A few horizontal wells went in starting a decade ago, and the combination of horizontal plus hydro frac did not start in a significant way until after 2008. This is why for the two decades prior to 2005 ND oil production never exceeded 150K bpd, and today exceeds 660K bpd.

It may be that tight oil w/ horizontal wells and fracking depletes as quickly as the old traditional shale drilling, I don't know, but nobody has shown data to support that assertion here so far.

Alexandria 2.0: One Millionaire’s Quest to Build the Biggest Library on Earth

Here’s the problem with libraries. They catch on fire really easily. As such, they were the prized targets of the invading hordes of antiquity – the model collections of knowledge of their times, whose only fault was their inherent flammability. They were one-man, one-torch jobs. But the hordes didn’t prize the library only for how powerfully it burned. Back in those days, if you wanted to kill a culture, you killed its library. All it took was one chucklehead with a flaming stick to annihilate thousands of years of accumulated knowledge. And it happened often.

“If this is what happens to libraries, make copies,” says Brewster Kahle.

Kahle took the library of libraries — the internet — and made a couple of copies of it, and keeps making copies. One he keeps in servers in San Francisco, the other in mirror servers in Alexandria, where the world’s most famous library burned 2,000 years ago. (His data survived the Egyptian revolution unscathed.)

If the internet were represented by a real library, I wonder how many shelves would be filled with books of just cat pictures?

Heck, i've probably filled a book just with Facebook one liners.

No, most of the internet does not need saving.

'Energy poverty' a growing problem

Low-income households in Australia are increasingly at risk of "energy poverty", a situation in which a household must spend more than 10 percent of its disposable income on energy bills, according to a paper published in the latest issue of the Australian Journal of Social Issues.

In the five-year period from 2007 to 2012 the average increase in household electricity prices was 80 percent in NSW, more than 60 percent in Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania; and 38 to 45 percent in Northern Territory and the ACT. Further increases recently occurred in NSW, Victoria and Queensland.

Across the globe, the liberalisation of electricity sectors has resulted in increased consumer electricity prices that are far in excess of inflation and wage increases.

And coupled with energy efficiency education and some targeted subsidies for greater efficiency, this is a good thing.

Higher utility rates (as opposed to bills) result in less energy used/wasted and less carbon emissions.

Cheap rates = waste. Human nature.


Malawi banks on history to cling to Lake Malawi

A long-dormant border dispute between Malawi and Tanzania has reignited as oil companies push their exploration work deeper into the continent, giving enormous value to regions once ignored.

At issue is a largely undeveloped swath of Lake Malawi, where Lilongwe has awarded a license to British firm Surestream to explore for oil in northeastern waters near Tanzania.

Malawi has carefully watched Uganda's developments around Lake Albert, where oil firms are pouring billions of dollars to exploit reserves estimated at 2.5 billion barrels.

Tanzania is already savouring the prospect of energy wealth with the announcement in February that Norwegian oil group Statoil and US company ExxonMobil had together discovered there a large natural gas field with reserves estimated at 140 billion cubic metres. Now it also wants a slice of anything discovered near its shores in Lake Malawi.

ATP Oil & Gas files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, secures financing from its lenders

HOUSTON — ATP Oil & Gas has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, blaming costs and drilling cuts stemming from the 2010 Gulf Coast oil spill.

The company says its lenders have agreed to provide $617.6 million in debtor-in-possession financing that will fund its operations while it restructures.

Oil-Tanker Losses Persist on Declining Middle East Crude Exports

Losses for the biggest oil tankers hauling Middle East crude to Asia, the industry’s benchmark route, persisted amid declines in export cargoes.

Very large crude carriers on the Saudi Arabia-to-Japan voyage are losing $6,083 daily, figures from the Baltic Exchange in London showed today, less than $6,383 on Aug. 17. The vessels, each able to haul 2 million barrels of oil, were earning $41,093 a day at this year’s high in April.

“Activity levels have been lower with reduced Middle East output in July and August, partly due to lower Iranian exports,” RS Platou said in the report. VLCC rates are “still low,” it said.


A new acronym to chew on: FLNG = Floating LNG plants. Just got invited to a conference in Houston next month. Not part of my world these days so I'll pass. About a year ago Shell announced plans to build the largest vessel ever launched: a FLNG that would have the displacement of 6 modern aircraft carriers. Haven't heard anything else about it since.

The dynamics are simple enough: world getting short of energy. A lot of offshore NG fields with huge reserves and little or no local market. Potential political instability as PO slides more into the picture: rather difficult to pack up a $6 billon onshore LNG plant in the middle of the night and move it out of country. Also the ability to amortize the cost of the FLNG across numerous offshore NG fields instead of being landlocked to a limited number.

But a tricky business that can change fast: the Chenier complex in Texas went from importer to now adding exports to it menu. At least until the pricing dynamics change...again.

Shell To Build World's First Floating LNG Facility (pdf)

Once operational, it will produce 4 million tons/yr of LNG, 1.4 million tons/yr of condensate, and 0.4 million tons/yr of LPG. On a composite basis, the production is equivalent to 110,000 bbl of oil.
The facility will operate with a dry feed flow rate ranging from 650 to 750 MMscf/D. It will be equipped with dual-row membrane for LNG/ LPG storage and have storage capacities of 7.8 MMcf for LNG, 3.2 MMcf for LPG, and 4.5 MMcf for condensate.

Is that a lot? And they're building a floating regassification plant for the other end:

Shell, R-Power plan floating LNG plant off AP coast

1 mmtpa is about 512 mmscf/d of LNG liquefaction which is a lot, but isn't huge compared to onshore world scale. It will be quite impressive for a floating facility though. Most impressive to me is that I believe the DMR process will use one or two Frame-7 turbines as compressor drivers, and placing all that on a floating vessel will be incredible.

“We expect that the selection of a floating LNG processing option will, in addition to generating significant long-term petroleum revenue, provide a broad range of social investment, employment and training opportunities for Timor-Leste.”

I've followed Woodside Petroleum for a while. Off NW Australia they were planning on employing one of these biggest ship ever things. 450 miles offshore from nowhere. Except for some good surf spots.

And how do you gather the NG from the wells, except by building a matrix of pipelines from various wells to a main platform? Then I would think a pipeline from main platform to shore would be orders of magnitude cheaper than this ship mounted LNG plant. Pipelines are less of a terroist target too.

But if a company needs to sell fuel away from the US, then making the NG into methanol, then selling that as a fuel would be much cheaper and easier to transport. And methanol can still be converted back to methane or into other longer chain hydrocarbon fuels, although conversion losses are significant. Robert Rapier has written about 40% loss.

mb - Typically all the producing wells would be on one platform and piped directly from there to a nearby FLNG. Pipelining to shore would be cheaper but when that NG supply depletes what do you do with that $6 billon onshore LNG plant with no NG source? I suspect one big motivation is to take advantage of small offshore NG fields which individually don't hold enough reserves to justify its own LNG facility. But with the mobility of ship based LNG once a field is depleted it would be a simple matter to move the ship to another small field. In this way the FLNG could be amortized over many decades.


The Sunrise project has a few reasons to be a floating unit.
1./ It is in shared zone between Australia and East Timor, close to East Timor but on the wrong side of a 6000ft deep trench. Along way from a remote Australian coast, but shallow water.

2/ The politics due to the changing nationhood of East Timor and of course how the money is shared. I believe the floating plant was seen as a compromise.

The wells will all be subsea completed and tided back to the floating platform. Natural gas wells in high permeable formations these days are completed with 9 5/8" tubing. In Sakhalin the gas wells there are producing 350+ mmscf/d, they only needed 6 wells for 9 mil ton LNG. In other words there will not be many wells required for the project.
Also once the fields are depleted the platform can be moved to the next stranded gas field.

They will be sucking on those wells real hard I reckon.




The Canary is dying!

CryoSphere Today's measure of Arctic sea ice area (one of the standard measures along with extent, volume, etc) set a historical record minimum area today. There are approximately 3 weeks of melting to go. Look out below!


Uni-Bremen sea ice extent - set record low 17 Aug

Arctic ROOS sea ice area - set record low 20 Aug

By the end of the melt season it is likely that all different metics used to measure Arctic sea ice will set new record lows.

And the band plays on.


And the band plays on.

But, is anybody listening?

When I post this in reply to denialist comments (It hasn't warmed since 1998 - well what's melting the ice then?)I'm getting back references to low arctic sea ice levels in the 1920s with an indication that 2012 and 2007 are just similar natural variation.

Obviously not so, but does anyone have a killer rebuttal to 'low 1920s ice' ?

It sounds like you are discussing this with deniers and not skeptics.

Anyway, go check this link: http://www.skepticalscience.com/Has-Arctic-sea-ice-recovered.htm

Read through the comments and follow links to the papers they cite. (comment 15 to 21 air this out a little)

It's a complex conversation.

Ice observations in the 1920's would have been limited to the few communities that existed in the arctic at that time and areas traversed by supply/whaling ships. The data points would be too few and too localized to make any reasonable guess as to the overall amount of ice coverage.

Use of aircraft in the Canadian high arctic didn't start until after WW II. Satellites are the only way to get an accurate view of the overall amount of ice coverage and that came much later.

Thats why denialists throw this stuff out. Very few measurements made, and they are hard to quatify. Stuff like how far north boats would venture. After that you got to start looking at geophysical/biological proxies. Count how many and what types of little critters are preserved in the mud, and correlate that with modern conditions, X amount of species Y, implies the ice free season is about two months long, and such. Its easy to cast doubt on indirect proxies like that.

Shell has ‘shocking levels’ of access to government staff

It is not quite so shocking to those who have the book "Private Empire" by Steve Coll.

The international private empire of oil barons has enough power to handle nations one way or the other:

That is why Halliburton moved its headquarters out of the U.S., and why ExxonMobil's CEO said "I am not an American company."

One stark example of how The Private Oil Empire trumps national norms is shown in a federal lawsuit where U.S. DOJ lawyers are taking the side of oil rich Saudi Arabia, even though Saudis financed 9/11 hijackers (Fighting Terrorism For 200 Years).

(MOMCOM: The Private Parts). "Private Empire" is just another way of saying "not tied down" to any one nation.

International jurisdiction does not belong to single nations on these matters that involve oil beneath the soils of many nations.

Behold the Atomic Cafe: Where Mad Max Would Get Wasted

Surviving the apocalypse is thirsty work — so you're going to need a place to get your drink on, after the collapse of civilization. Meet the Atomic Cafe, the bar where everybody knows the names of all your weapons.

The Atomic Cafe was newly built for Wasteland Weekend, the annual Mad Max-themed event in the desert. The next Wasteland Weekend is coming up, at the end of September.

Built by volunteers and friends from a combination of scrap metal and car parts, the bar is durable, functional, and Mad Max-beautiful. In fact, the whole creation was inspired by the "Atomic Cafe" in the movie Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. (The sign over this version is a dead ringer for the one in that film, but everything else is an original design).

Apocalypse Not: Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Worry About End Times

This piece is like some time travelers who got drunk and forgot which way time flows.

If one is looking for an event in the future, that already is happening, is now history, who could expect them to pick up on reality.

It is like a person on an airliner going down denying it because they have not made contact with the ground yet.

That denialism is a psychological problem, not a financial or engineering problem.

Dening it in color will have the same result as denying it in black and white.

Not to mention he stole borrowed the title from Greer's latest book.

I'm hoping for rebuttals from Ugo Bardi and Tom Murphy.

P. Coyle,

It may come down to rebuttals from the Secret Service and FBI.

I mean, not having the proper vision of Apocalypse.

For example, an ex-Marine who did not have a proper vision of 9/11 was recently visited by the Secret Service and the FBI.

They were not satisfied by his explanations, so he was put in a psycho ward, protested by his lawyer:

John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute, said the following: “For government officials to not only arrest Brandon Raub for doing nothing more than exercising his First Amendment rights but to actually force him to undergo psychological evaluations and detain him against his will goes against every constitutional principle this country was founded upon. This should be a wake-up call to Americans that the police state is here.”

(Psycho Marine = Bad Opinon Marine). Proper apocalypse is a matter of official opinion now.

I don't think this guy has a psychological problem as much as he is a very effective snake-oil salesman:

Matt Ridley's books have sold over 900,000 copies, been translated into 30 languages, been short-listed for nine major literary prizes and won several awards.

from Matt Ridley Online

He's discovered a license to print money, and is running with it.

I will limit my brief takedown to the final paragraph.

Just as policy can make the climate crisis worse—mandating biofuels has not only encouraged rain forest destruction, releasing carbon, but driven millions into poverty and hunger—technology can make it better.

Hmmm, does, say, LOBBYING have any impact on the biofuels mandates? If only meddling government would get out of the way of our handsome and intrepid Silicon Valley entrepreneurs! (Note: no, I am not implying that government is always right or good, just that the author is implying that it alone is the problem.) Which technology can make it better? He must mean fusion.

If plant breeders boost rice yields, then people may get richer and afford better protection against extreme weather. If nuclear engineers make fusion (or thorium fission) cost-effective, then carbon emissions may suddenly fall. If gas replaces coal because of horizontal drilling, then carbon emissions may rise more slowly.

Sure are a lot of ifs in here. But look -- FUSION -- and it's only 20 years around the corner (as it will be twenty years from now). And I don't need to go into the natgas debate here.

Humanity is a fast-moving target. We will combat our ecological threats in the future by innovating to meet them as they arise, not through the mass fear stoked by worst-case scenarios.

No, humanity is not a target -- this would require a predator. And sure, we will combat these problems with tech -- but does this guarantee a victory? Maybe it would be a good idea to try to prevent bad things from happening rather than dealing with them after the fact (though I doubt we have that ability at this point -- then again, I'm an irrational pessimist).

'Rational' and 'optimist': two great flavors people love together -- much like 'salt' and 'fat'.

FUSION is the energy of the future, and always will be.


"I don't think this guy has a psychological problem as much as he is a very effective snake-oil salesman"

That is a classical indicator of psychological problems, either sociopath or psychopath, depending on several factors:

The psychopath is callous, yet charming. He or she will con and manipulate others with charisma and intimidation and can effectively mimic feelings to present as “normal” to society. The psychopath is organized in their criminal thinking and behavior, and can maintain good emotional and physical control, displaying little to no emotional or autonomic arousal, even under situations that most would find threatening or horrifying. The psychopath is keenly aware that what he or she is doing is wrong, but does not care.

(When You Are Governed By Psychopaths, emphasis added). They sold the world on the idea of snake oil addiction, but it was not called that.

Typical snake oil salesman ... it isn't called "SNAKE OIL" without reason, and as my post up-thread indicates, the "Private Empire" is the supreme snake oil salesman.

I would disagree to this extent; it may be a psychological problem for many of the rest of us, but it certainly is not a problem for him.

...no, I am not implying that government is always right or good, just that the author is implying that it alone is the problem

How did you get to an implication of government "alone is the problem" from the (obviously true) claim that biofuel mandates are correlated to rain forest destruction? Whatever your opinion of the author, he simply does not say what you suggest.

Which technology can make it better? He must mean fusion.

Did you skim too fast? Ridley gives three other specific examples in two sentences: better rice yields, thorium fission, natural gas replacement of coal via horizontal drilling.

...Sure are a lot of ifs in here.

Yes, that was the point: first identify tech with *possible* big payoffs, then push for them or at least get out of the way of those who do.

...And I don't need to go into the natgas debate here

No, but one does need to acknowledge the simple fact that gas combustion releases much less CO2 (and other pollutants) than coal per unit of energy, which is all Ridley suggests.

...Maybe it would be a good idea to try to prevent bad things from happening rather than dealing with them after the fact

Ridley does just that. The article lists several 'bad things' that have been caused knee jerk and il-informed reaction in the past.

...I'm an irrational pessimist

Fine, to each his own, though I think that mindset is self-destructive.

gas combustion releases much less CO2 (and other pollutants) than coal per unit of energy, which is all Ridley suggests.

Add to this that the energy to electricity conversion for the best combined cycle natural gas plants is 60% (nameplate) vs. 43% to 44% for the best coal plants.


Few US coal plants are above 35% - 36%.


Yep, and up to 80% with heat+power cogeneration (see NYC in particular), which is overwhelmingly done just with gas, not coal.

Burning coal in populated areas in developed nations is a no-no.



Again yep. There are a few, small, in city coal plants. Washington DC had one until recently, but they are going away.

Higher conversion efficiency is part of the ratio (assumed a bit better than 2x). Of course if leakage rates of NG -especially from fracked wells is as bad as some claim, then short term CO2 equivalence may not necessarily favor NG. Longer term NG looks like a crutch. Shorter term it can accelerate the move away from coal, and provide rampable power which compliments wind/sun.

Of course if leakage rates of NG -especially from fracked wells is as bad as some claim, then short term CO2 equivalence may not necessarily favor NG.

Yes I've seen the claims and I think they're a red herring. Even if methane leakage were very bad, methane quickly oxidizes out of the atmosphere. So, should a methane green house problem be realized then seal the leaks or stop using the methane and, unlike CO2, the problem is quickly gone.

Quickly ???

Methane has a half life of 7 years (i.e a 3/4 life of 14 years, 7/8th life of 21 years, 15/16ths (STILL an impact) of 28 years,...)

Compared to CO2 yes the methane bio half life is nil. Recall that none of the gasses aside from water vapor do much forcing all by themselves; positive feedbacks have to have time to kick in and they require decades at least.

A few decades of more or less steady methane leaks should be adequate.

Methane leaks are a chronic and apparently growing issue.

And "nil" is not simply not a valid analogy in this case, since CO2 has a half life close to a millennium (I have seen various estimates).

The lifespan of methane leaked tomorrow is significant for the lifespans of the people living today. And more methane will leak the day after tomorrow, etc. etc.


You are missing the point. If there's a problem with methane, stop using it and within "the lifespans of the people living today" and sooner than that there will be no more problem. Not so with CO2 because of the long half life you correctly mention.

Your logic is simply wrong.

One - "Simply stop using it".

Well, if it was simple, how about "simply" stop using coal and oil along with methane (natural gas). Yes, a truly "simple" solution.

Two - Even if methane use "simply" stopped tomorrow, most of us would be long dead before the full effects of all the leaks up till today were felt. Say 28 years for four half-lives (should likely be more) PLUS a 30 year time lag from the time a GHG is injected till the full temperature increase due to the thermal mass of rock & oceans.

PLUS unknown decades more for the various Climatic Chaos we have caused (not including "will cause") to settle back into a meta-stable system again.

But we cannot "simply stop using natural gas for decades hence.


War is costly on many levels. I suggest we simply stop waging war.

Greeks go back to basics as recession bites

As Greece sinks ever deeper into the most severe economic depression in living memory, some young people are taking drastic action to change their lives.

In the foothills of Mount Telaithrion on the Greek island of Evia, Mr Sianos and three other like-minded Athenians set up an eco-community.

The idea was to live in an entirely sustainable way, free from the ties of money and cut off from the national electricity grid.

"What others saw as a global economic crisis, we saw as a crisis of civilisation," Mr Sianos explains. "Everything seemed to be in crisis - healthcare, the environment, education. So we made the decision to try something different."

Interesting article. Group one saw what was happening and took proactive steps:

"What others saw as a global economic crisis, we saw as a crisis of civilisation," Mr Sianos explains.

"Everything seemed to be in crisis - healthcare, the environment, education. So we made the decision to try something different."

Mr Sianos and his eco-activist companions first met in an online forum in 2008 and after two years of exploring ideas decided to put their principles into practice.

"When I first made the decision to give up the city and move to this patch of land I was a little nervous," he admits.

Seems like group two muddled along, and now are demanding their "rights", via an "association":

Among the association's demands are free travel on public transport for the jobless, as well as discounts on electricity and telephone bills...

Since the Association of Unemployed was created in Crete, other chapters have been cropping up around the country, in big cities such as Athens, Thessaloniki and Patras.

Beyond the support it provides its members, Mr Karantinakis says the association has had few successes, but it has allowed him to feel he is doing something.

Before he began focusing on unemployed rights he used to sit in his room staring at the ceiling. Now he spends his days petitioning local government and organising demonstrations.

"Being able to work is a basic human right in a civilised society," he says.

"If the government won't provide us with it then we will have to fight for it."

Now, group one, showing some success and solidarity is being swamped by wannabes:

"Now in its second year, it has 10 permanent members and more than 100 part-time residents who spend some of the year there.

But the last few months have seen an explosion of interest in the community from Greeks who feel let down by the system and find life in the financially crippled cities stifling.

I wonder how they'll handle their newfound fame. Meanwhile, group two is facing getting their power shut off, etc.. Wonder how they'll handle that, and how many didn't pay their taxes, insurance, etc, prior to this crisis. Just curious.

Coming soon to a civilization near you...

*Update, hot off the press:

Guido puts the screws to the Greeks

Greece must stick to its agreed bailout conditions, Germany says, at the start of a week in which Greece is expected to ask for more time to make cuts.

The German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle said a "softening" of reforms was not possible....

...Michael Fuchs, deputy chairman of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU parliamentary group, said his faction would not give Greece the two-year extension it wants on its austerity programme.

"We have decided - the CDU-CSU faction in the Bundestag - that there would be no more expansion at all," he told BBC Radio 4's World at One programme.

"We think that it's enough time and it's very difficult for us to explain to our constituencies in light of next year's elections why we are giving them more time."

"I really think Greece has to find a solution for themselves first before we can help them anymore."

...cut to the bone, with no bailout; what peak everything looks like. Got a garden??

How do the Bailout Guys get their money back?

Got a garden??
~ Ghung

"all the world's problems can be solved in a garden."
~ Geoff Lawton, Permaculture Guy

'Solid smoke' material aerogel gets added strength

Aerogels have been around for a long time, and have been described as "solid smoke" because they are so light. But these traditional types - made from silica - are fragile and brittle.

... "The new aerogels are up to 500 times stronger than their silica counterparts," said Mary Ann Meador from Nasa's Glenn Research Center in Ohio, US.

"A thick piece actually can support the weight of a car. And they can be produced in a thin form, a film so flexible that a wide variety of commercial and industrial uses are possible."

She said the new types of aerogel could yield highly insulating clothing that would keep people warm with less bulk than traditional "thermal" garments. It could also potentially be used in the walls of fridges and freezers, reducing their thickness and increasing storage space.

Obama Warns of Military Action on Syria Over Chemical Weapons

WASHINGTON — President Obama on Monday threatened military action against Syria if there was evidence that the government of President Bashar al-Assad was moving its stocks of chemical or biological weapons. It was Mr. Obama’s most direct warning of American intervention in Syria, where the military is fighting an 18-month-old rebellion.

“We cannot have a situation in which chemical or biological weapons are falling into the hands of the wrong people,” Mr. Obama said in an impromptu appearance in the White House briefing room. “We have put together a range of contingency plans. We have communicated in no uncertain terms with every player in the region that that’s a red line for us.”

S - Wow! Another potential war over "weapons of mass destruction". Who said history has only a few genuine themes and is thus forced to repeat itself over and over?

Mark Twain said "history doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme."

Hey, in this case WMDs might actually exist!

I'm also thinking in this case the US military's contingency plan would consist of lets napalm the hell out anything that might have chemical weapons and not so much concentrated on deploying ground troops ... so not so much of a war.

Two words;

Mission Creep.

It does happen when politicians decide to keep adding to the mission to achieve the political goals they want.

Once they decide to use the military the world of politics might make the situation very hard to stop using military power, like in Afghanistan and Iraq, and of course Vietnam over a generation before 9-11.

Mission creep is always something that happened to the previous fool. We always know that we are better and smarter and can pull this one off! Until of course things start going badly, then if only we expand the mission just a little bit, we can save the day (and our reputations)......

ocs - True but dead is still dead and collateral damage still happens whether there are WMD’s or not. I suppose I should modify my previous statement that those 800,000 Tutsi that were slaughtered screwed up by not having oil reserves. If they had we might have exported democracy to them. Perhaps they should have put out the word that the Hutus had WMD’s. Actually turns out in a skilled hand a machete makes a pretty good WMD.

Same song you can sing to the Tibetans: "No Oil"
(to the tune of Noel)
no oil, no oil
no oil, no oil
yer all gonna die
'cause ya aint go no oil

Slight difference between Syria and Hussein's Iraq: Syria admits to having chemical weapons, and states it has plans to use them if it chooses on an external aggressor.

Matt Ridley on The Report to the Club of Rome:

"The best-selling book The Limits to Growth was published 40 years ago by the Club of Rome, a committee of prominent environmentalists with a penchant for meeting in Italy. The book forecast that if use continued to accelerate exponentially, world reserves of several metals could run out by 1992 and help precipitate a collapse of civilization and population in the subsequent century, when people no longer had the raw materials to make machinery."

Donella Meadows on The Report to the Club of Rome:


And more to critique:


PS: Thus far we have encountered less than 12% of the 'subsequent century'.

Didn't their business-as-usual scenarios show collapse around 2030-2050? At least thats what people who have actually read the study say (I haven't read it myself, but have read several critiques of it. Should probably try and find a copy).

Yes, some variables, population and pollution are forecast to peak in the 2030s in the standard run or business-as-usual model used by LTG.

Others, like food and industrial ouput were supposed to have peaked and leveled off about now. There LTG's BAU model is clearly wrong on timing. World food supply per capita is currently increasing about 80 kcal/decade/person-day. The organization FAO shows this continuing to increase for decades to come.


The LTG BAU model also shows pollution (toxic) increasing rapidly at this time. In the developing world at least air and water pollution have fallen dramatically over the same period. I don't know about world wide figures; no doubt pollution is still increasing in China and India.

World food supply per capita is currently increasing about 80 kcal/decade/person-day. The organization FAO shows this continuing to increase for decades to come.

If you believe in that fantastic prediction then you'll absolutely love this paper! Increased atmospheric CO2 will solve all almost all our future food production problems...


They also have a book out: http://www.co2science.org/education/book/2011/55benefitspressrelease.php

The Many Benefits of Atmospheric CO2 Enrichment

The book is subtitled How humanity and the rest of the biosphere will prosper from this amazing trace gas that so many have wrongfully characterized as a dangerous air pollutant. It may not be everything you "always wanted to know" about the bright side of the issue; but it illuminates a number of significant aspects of earth's biosphere and its workings, as well as mankind's reliance on the biosphere for food and numerous other material necessities that are hardly ever mentioned by the mainstream media.

Well, at least they've got that last part right!

In the developing world at least air and water pollution have fallen dramatically over the same period.

Dem drones, dem drones, dem fly drones.
Now hear the word of the Board.

First World connected to the Second World
Second World connected to the Third World
Third World connected to the Whole World...

If you believe in that fantastic prediction ...

I don't "believe" predictions, I try to evaluate them in the context of long term trends from historical data. Average food per head has been increasing globally for half a century , and the rate of increase has not declined recently. The food resource prediction from LTG's BAU model is wrong.

Average food per head has been increasing globally for half a century , and the rate of increase has not declined recently.

And therefore it will continue increasing for what, another half century? I guess you don't "beleive" in limits either... but then neither do I, limits are "real" and the math is irrefutable.

FAO's forecast goes out twenty years to 2030, with the rate of increase slowing to ~70 kcal/decade/person-day, mainly because food intake tapers off as societies industrialize. Also, we can conclude there's quite a bit of room for increased efficiency in industrialized food consumption since the food produced there is ~3400 kcal/person-day when people (men/women/children) on average consume ~2000 kcal/day, i.e. there's room for 41% of efficiency gains.

Clearly CO2 penalty schemes are ineffective
Merkel’s Green Shift Forces Germany to Burn More Coal
Australian Investment Surging Even With Carbon Tax, Swan Says

Neither Euro style cap and trade nor fixed carbon tax appears to make much difference to coal burning. Another news item points out grid upgrade charges not carbon tax account for most of recent electricity price increases in Australia. Much of that Australian investment is also the building of coal export facilities so the carbon tax reference is spurious. The new German coal plant replaces nukes that are almost carbon free. The reality is that politicians will not impose CO2 penalties that are tough enough to make a global difference.

Therefore cap and trade or carbon tax are largely feelgood exercises whereby we convince ourselves we are paying our dues but little is changed. Leaving aside geo-engineering the big hope for CO2 reduction unfortunately has to be a global economic slowdown. In this scenario Peak Oil takes down coal burning with it. This is not the happy outcome we wanted.

Because Germany is expanding wind power and PV installations, I think the increase in the consumption of coal is temporary.

"The new German coal plant replaces nukes that are almost carbon free." This statement is a little bit strange, the new coal power plants replace in fact older ones, which had a lower efficiency; the 2.3 GW plant mentioned in the article replaced 14 smaller units, this is quite clear from the published planning process.

The PV/wind capacities replace nuclear power plants and this leads to an almost stagnating (-0.3 %/y) primary energy consumption in Germany. Therefore, the goal of 20% reduction until 2020 (compared to 2008) will be missed, if Germany does not run into a recession.

IMHO a longer operation (10-15 years) of some of the German nuclaer power plants in combination with more PV/wind would have accelerated the conversion to renewable energy production. With the current political situation, my bet is that a real effect of the renewables will be observed after 2017, when the number of German households and hence electricity consumption in homes will peak.

Colorado Wind Turbine Makers Cutting Jobs

Colorado-based companies making parts for wind turbines... starting to feel a negative... effect from congressional inaction on wind production tax credits. The tax credits have been used in the U.S. and other countries to spur the growth of renewable energy production, but partisan posturing and the influence of the fossil fuel lobby have hindered political action.

“We are seeing firsthand how Congress’ failure to act on an extension of the wind PTC is killing jobs right here in Colorado,” Bennet said. “An extension will support this vital industry at a crucial point in its development and save thousands of jobs in Colorado and tens of thousands across the rest of the country."

In the U.S. we are going the other direction: subsidies are paid to the oil and fossil fuel industries while pesky regulations like the clean water act are removed from their path. The much smaller efforts to support the development of wind energy are vigorously fought against by the oil lobby. The oil lobby in America is called the American Petroleum Institute or API.

Our "do-nothing" congress is destroying these jobs in the energy sector.

Japanese visit Norway to solve wind power conflict

The country’s 800 fishery cooperatives have been outraged since the Japanese Industry Ministry decided a wind farm should be built off the coastline outside Fukushima’s nuclear power plant. The wind turbines are actually going to be constructed in a high-yield tuna fishing area.

“Anglers see this as robbing them of their resources that is taking place without the owners being invited to a dialogue,” says Per Christer Lund, at the Norwegian Environmental Technology Center (NetCast) at Norway’s embassy in Tokyo.

Is there any evidence that wind turbines would bother tuna? I don't see why the tuna would be bothered. Cows are not bothered by wind turbines.

The tuna won't mind but the fishing trawlers won't like a field of towers so much.

Maybe the tuna will even realize that they are safe from trawlers if the hug the WTs?

Tuna have not proven to be fast learners....

Yeah, tell that to Bill Parcells (apologies to those unfamiliar with the NFL).

DFO promises pipeline science, but budget "disembowelled": former officer
By Dene Moore, The Canadian Press

Earlier this month, Harper told reporters in Vancouver that "decisions on these kinds of projects are made through an independent evaluation conducted by scientists into the economic costs and risks that are associated with the project, and that's how we conduct our business."

He went on to say "the only way that government can handle controversial projects of this manner is to ensure that things are evaluated on an independent basis, scientifically, and not simply on political criteria.''

But the federal government recently sent letters to 92 habitat staff members within Fisheries and Oceans in B.C., telling them that their positions will be cut. Thirty-two of them will be laid off outright.

The cuts will mean the department in B.C. has half the habitat staff it had a decade ago.

All but five of the province's fisheries field offices will be cut as part of a $79 million — 5.8 per cent — cut to the department's operational budget, including the offices in Prince George and Smithers that would have had the lead in monitoring pipeline effects.

The marine contaminant group that would have been involved in a spill in B.C. has been disbanded and the fisheries and environmental legislation gutted, said Otto Langer, a retired fisheries department scientist.

"He (Harper) says the science will make the decision. Well he's basically disembowelled the science," said Langer. "It's a cruel hoax that they're pulling over on the public."

Harper’s Methodical Campaign to Silence Democracy
The plan is revealed in a book by the PM’s former top strategist Tom Flanagan.

By Keith Reynolds, 18 Aug 2012, TheTyee.ca

Flanagan recommended these groups be defunded and denied access to government and that is what happened. After all, these are the people who dared to suggest a Conservative government would repudiate Kyoto and the Kelowna Accord with First Nations.

That is how the current federal government views organizations who do not share their world view; the professors and the gay rights activists, the aboriginal leaders, women and environmentalists. They are just Liberal outriders. They are the enemy.

There is a straight line between Flanagan's musings in his book and the actions of the federal government. It is all about controlling the narrative. It is all about reducing the voices that might speak out against the current government's agenda.

Alex Wilson does a George Monbiot; kind of sort of.

I agree with Alex and George that there is more than enough FF to fry us. We're already sizzling. We've warmed 0.8 degrees Celsius, and most of the way to 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming is now baked in. Which Kevin Anderson at the Tyndall Centre points out is well past the point that science considers the limit for dangerous climate change.

That said suggesting peak oil is dead because of "new oil discoveries and more effective extraction methods" ignores how much more effort and risk goes into producing oil and how little is produced for the effort relative to previous eras.

The End of Peak Oil?
With new oil discoveries and more effective extraction methods, the world is probably many decades away from peak oil

Since the end of 2011, as more deep-sea Brazilian oil and oil recovered through hydraulic fracturing (fracking) comes online, I’m guessing that the rate of increase in proven reserves could actually increase over the next few decades.

Furthermore, I predict that the once all-important distinction between “conventional” and “unconventional” oil will break down over time. As technologies improve for very deep drilling (measured in miles rather than feet), such wells will become more common. Fracking will become more common as a strategy for rejuvenating oil fields that had been considered depleted. I don't like this, particularly given the huge risks and environmental impacts of such extraction methods, but I fear that it's the reality.

Reduce oil production for other reasons

What all this means, I believe, is that we should shift away from the motivation of peak oil as our reason for promoting alternatives. A peak in world oil production — due to supply limits — just isn’t going to happen anytime soon, perhaps not even in our lifetimes. We need to use other arguments for curtailing our consumption of oil and other fossil fuels, including coal and natural gas.

Bill Rees slams Stephen Harper over Enbridge's Northern Gateway pipeline

The Vancouver-based creator of “ecological footprint analysis” believes approving pipelines such as Enbridge’s Northern Gateway one cements Canada’s reputation as “an exporter of climate change”.

“It’s unethical and it’s immoral,” Bill Rees, a retired professor in UBC’s department of community and regional planning, told the Straight by phone. “We get the benefits, and other people will pay the cost.”

Rees said he’s aware of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s recent comments made to media while visiting B.C. that science, not politics, will decide whether the pipeline is built.

If science is going to decide the pipeline’s fate, then this is a dead issue,” Rees said. “In fact, we shouldn’t even be having this conversation. What Harper means by that is that the impact assessment will be considered and not all of it [the science]. The impact assessment isn’t looking at climate change. It’s looking at the local effects of the pipeline along the track, or the right of way, of the pipeline. What’s off the table is that we shouldn’t be burning that fossil fuel in the first instance.”

Has anyone got a comment about Stuart Staniford's latest article; Trends in Global Crude and Condensate Production?

Looks like we were wrong about it all, as now not only are liquids still rising, but so is crude! The peak is not in.

For a long time, even though the overall liquid fuels have been growing slowly in the post 2005 era, the crude and condensate line was not - indicating traditional oil was on a level - if bumpy - plateau. However, the bump up in supply in the early part of 2012 has changed this: now the C&C line has an upward tilt...

Run a Standard Deviation of the production before the third quarter of 2008 and after that. The variability looks much higher in the after period. I mention this because the flow through pumps acts the same way just before they go dry...

We'll see how long that 2012 bubble holds up. The natural gas drilling rate is dropping off a cliff, and so the condensate numbers will soon drop too.

Well, yes, peak has been called for years now (i.e. 2000, 2004, 2005, 2008, 2011) and although I accept that production must decline sometime, clearly that time hasn't yet arrived.

"..clearly that time hasn't yet arrived."

But to what end do you throw that in? When the engine has only spluttered once or twice, and only when you're going a little bit uphill, do you conclude that you're basically still fine, and keep driving along, or do you start to make some strategic plans for what could be coming very soon?

Last Gas.

Well, I can say for sure that the US will be unprepared for what comes. Denmark might be okay.

I do think the actual peak is important. It marks the undeniable reality of decline. Well, we haven't got there yet. If things are bad now, this is just a prelude.

Well I agree, the longer it's postponed the worse the consequences, however as you've also noted, we're clearly not near peak oil yet.

". . . we're clearly not near peak oil yet."

At the 2002 to 2005 rate of increase (3%/year) in global crude oil production (EIA, C+C) we would have been at 91 mbpd in 2012, versus 75.6 mbpd for 2012 to date (through May). Using 75.6 for 2012, the seven year rate of increase in global crude oil production would be 0.4%/year, with an average production rate of 73.7 mbpd for 2006 to 2012 inclusive, versus 73.6 mbpd for 2005.

Deffeyes accurately picked a major inflection point in global crude oil production, and slowly increasing unconventional production has kept us on a post-2005 "Undulating Plateau," but slowly rising unconventional production has not been sufficient to maintain anything like the 2002 to 2005 rate of increase, and incidentally Yergin, circa 2005, was predicting a continued 3%/year rate of increase in productive "capacity."

Or look at it another way, globally we produced 73.6 mbpd in 2005. The combined seven years of expenditures by the global oil industry resulted in an average seven year production rate of about 73.7 mbpd for 2006 to 2012 inclusive, or an average seven year increase of about 100,000 bpd. I wonder what the capital cost per bpd of incremental average production was for 2006 to 2012?

But as I have frequently pointed out, an undulating production plateau can hide a ferocious CNE (Cumulative Net Export) depletion rate:

IUKE + VAM Case Histories
(Indonesia, UK, Egypt, Vietnam, Argentina, Malaysia)

The six countries’ final combined production peak was in 1998 at 7.0 mpbd (BP, million barrels per day, total petroleum liquids), with liquids consumption of 4.3 mbpd, and net exports of 2.7 mbpd, with an ECI* of 1.64, but they showed a combined five year production plateau from 1995 to 1999 inclusive, with production ranging between 6.9 and 7.0 mbpd.

Starting from the beginning of the production plateau in 1995, the combined initial six year rate of change in the ECI ratio was -2.7%/year. At this rate of decline, they would hit an ECI ratio of 1.0 (and thus zero net oil exports) in 2015. They actually hit zero net oil exports in 2008.

Estimated post-1995 Cumulative Net Exports (CNE), using the initial six year rate of decline in the ECI ratio, were 9.2 Gb (billion barrels).  Actual post-1995 CNE were 7.3 Gb.

In other words, the actual net export decline was faster than what the initial six year projection predicted.   This is a little more clear on the following graph which shows the 1986 to 2011 Export Capacity Index (ECI), which is the combined ratio of total petroleum liquids production to liquids consumption for the six countries:


The 1988 North Sea Piper Alpha accident contributed a significant decline in UK production, which caused the overall ECI ratio to temporarily decline.

Note that the combined production rate in 1999 of 7.0 mbpd was slightly higher than the 1995 combined production rate of 6.9 mbpd; however, by the end of 1999 the six countries had already shipped 3.9 Gb of combined net exports in the four year period from 1996 to 1999 inclusive. Therefore, despite a slight increase in production from 1995 to 1999, combined post-1995 CNE were already 54% depleted, with a 1995 to 1999 post-1995 CNE depletion rate of 19%/year.

The following graph shows the ECI ratio for the IUKE + VAM countries. Also shown are the remaining post-1995 CNE by year.  


I think that these six diverse and geographically diversified former oil exporting countries give us a pretty decent model for Global Net Exports of oil (GNE). 

The GNE** ECI six year rate of change from 2005 to 2011 was -2.4%/year (3.75 to 3.24) as the top 33 net oil exporting countries showed a post-2005 "Undulating Plateau" in production:


*ECI = Export Capacity Index, or the ratio of total petroleum liquids production to liquids consumption

**Top 33 net exporters in 2005, BP + Minor EIA data

I'm not at all sure we're not 'there', though..

..the fact that there's still a little up-notch in the overall output numbers doesn't necessarily account for factors that may well have us call the turning point at some point we've already passed **.. but either way, the snowball has been thrown, and we're just debating about how many feet away from our nose it is in the air.. or if we're in that stunned moment when it's already hit and we still can't quite tell if the thing was Powder, Slush or Solid Ice.

(** Factors like 'Effective Oil Output', as in how much of that output is eaten back up in poorer E&P EROEI, number and cost of wells, or Adjusting output in concert with Population, showing Oil Produced/Capita, etc...)

The present system will do whatever it can to survive, including burning ever dirtier, less efficient fossil fuels to do so, until it no longer can and that will about it as there is no Plan B, so to speak. Have you noticed that the alternative to fossil fuels is more fossil fuels? Renewables are just a sideshow.

Well.. we'll see.

Good for you that you've got yours. So does George Bush.. and I've got a bit of mine, but there is a "WE", and I care about 'us', and WE don't have OURS.. I think that matters.

So I'm not interested in micro-measuring the moment when the bullet hits the bone. That measuring game and the Arpeggios and Rivulets that spin around its periphery is the sideshow, and it's been very useful for those who want to show this debate, like the ones about Climate Change and Proving Smoking as an Addiction and Carcingen, as being 'Still Under Investigation.. so we have a responsibility to show BOTH SIDES' .. a delaying tactic to keep the customers in line and ignoring the Tsunami warnings, since the beach is a good block and a half away.

My plans have been in place for some years now, thanks. However there comes a time when we must conclude that our pessimistic forecasts were incorrect and accept that and adapt accordingly.

"..clearly that time hasn't yet arrived."

But to what end do you throw that in? When the engine has only spluttered once or twice, and only when you're going a little bit uphill, do you conclude that you're basically still fine, and keep driving along, or do you start to make some strategic plans for what could be coming very soon?

Don't / Try passing / On a slope / Unless you have / A periscope / Burma-Shave

Tom Waits' Burma Shave ..


.. I also look at this little uptick in production, and wonder if it coincides perhaps with the sound of an engine that races up a little bit when the wheels have unexpectedly left the road.. maybe we just hopped over a little rise on our joyride, but since we're clearly not looking where we're going, who knows what's ahead to land on next?

EDIT, sorry for the double post. I got a Drupal Error the first time I saved it.. and the Waits song is worth hearing, if you appreciate Fingernails on Chalkboards as much as I do..

..I also look at this little uptick in production, and wonder if it coincides perhaps with the sound of an engine that races up a little bit when the wheels have unexpectedly left the road.. maybe we just hopped over a little rise on our joyride, but since we're clearly not looking where we're going, who knows what's ahead to land on next?

It would be simpler to admit we were wrong as crude production is still growing. Doesn't mean we chuck in the towel and rejoin the mad-hatter consumption tea party, after all peak oil will occur. However, it is not now.

"We" weren't wrong, though you may have been. I always fully expected that oilcos and societies would squeeze the sponge harder, and that's what's been happening. It's what we they do, until it isn't worth the effort,, and it's a big sponge.

Matters not, as the trend is clear, and my adaptations won't change much. We have alot more to worry about than oil. It's a complex set of predicaments; keep your responses simple.

The peak is not open to interpretation - either it's in, or it isn't. I'm afraid it isn't...

"I'm afraid it isn't..."

...and I'm afraid I don't care. Oil peaked for me somewhere around $60/barrel, as did many other things. While, as they say, peak oil will only be visible in the rear view mirror, in the context of everything else that's going on, your arguments seem a bit irrelevant. If it's your fascination to focus on some peak on a chart, go for it.

Peak oil is the point of maximum extraction, there is no other definition and can by its nature only be visible in the rear view mirror of history. But crude production is still rising, so we're not there yet...

Simplistic. Barely worth a response.

How so is it simplistic?

Is data from the EIA accurate?

All oil data is flawed, we must work with what's available.

But even the (Imperfect) data has an historic trend that can be reasonably predictive, as Westexas or Darwinian pointed out.. as it says on the Cereal Box, 'Contents may settle in transport'..

The points that you have been oversimplifying have been outlined a few times over in this thread by many posters. Any more now will simply be a retread.

Simplistic because if one focuses on something that may not be evident in real time, one is distracted from considering and addressing the consequences of approaching the peak. The time to hit the brakes and change course is before one reaches the cliff. The reasons should be obvious. What we're seeing now is like the little speed bumps before the stop sign, and we are, quite literally hitting the gas.

The effects are clearly showing themselves, whether or not any peak has been reached. That's what matters.

I won't "admit we were wrong" because "we" (at least "I") never said we have passed peak oil.

While we may not be at "peak" yet, I would submit that we are in the process of arriving at it. No amount of wishful thinking can make a 1% rise in C&C production over 7 years look like a "BAU" growth rate. And if you extend the C+C production graph to the left, you still get a hockey-stick inflection at 2005.

PT in PA

Not yet updated for 2011 annual, and some of these production numbers have been since revised downward, but following is the "Gap Chart" through 2010, for global crude oil production. As noted up the thread, at the 2002 to 2005 rate of increase in production, we would have been at about 91 mbpd in 2012:

C&C production is now nearly 76 mbs p/d, so the plateau has been breached - but to the upside.

We will see what the 2012 annual data show, and the data tend to be revised downward with time, but yes 2012 will almost certainly exceed the 74 mbpd annual rate that seems to have been the prior annual ceiling for 2005 to 2011.

But as noted up the thread, the fact that slowly increasing unconventional production has kept us on a undulating plateau, with an eight year average production rate of about 74 mbpd, does not alter the fact that Deffeyes precisely nailed a major inflection point in global crude oil production, which caused the IMF economists to propose a hybrid model, where the primary factor controlling global crude oil production is a peak in global conventional crude oil production, with an upward increase in unconventional production, in response to a doubling in annual global crude oil prices from 2005 to 2011, resulting (for the time being) in flat to very slowly increasing global crude oil production.

But as also noted up the thread, an undulating plateau can hide, and I think is hiding, a horrific post-2005 rate of depletion in Global CNE (Cumulative Net Exports) and in Available CNE (Global CNE less the Chindia region's net imports, or CNI).

The 2002 to 2011 decline in the GNE/CNI ratio versus global public debt:

If we use the six year 2005 to 2011 rate of decline in the GNE/CNI ratio to estimate post-2005 Available CNE, fully half of the entire post-2005 global cumulative supply of (net) exported oil that will be available to importers other than China & India may have already been consumed.

And as noted up the thread, an extrapolation of the six year IUKE + VAM 1995 to 2001 ECI (P/C) data produced a post-1995 CNE estimate that was more optimistic that what the final data actually showed for post-1995 CNE:


Does anyone else hear crickets? I hear crickets ...

C&C production is now nearly 76 mbs p/d, so the plateau has been breached - but to the upside.

Well not quite. Latest production numbers from the EIA are 75,276,000 bp/d, down from the peak in April of 75,809,000. And they are headed down for the rest of the year. And I would not say the plateau has been breached at all. I am calling peak right now. Every country on earth is now producing flat out. Only a very few of them will ever produce more than they are producing right now.

World Crude + Condensate production in kb/d. The last data point is May for EIA and June for Jodi.


Ron P.

So by one measure, at a huge cost in money/energy/environmental damage, we've managed to eek up the rate of C&C output a little bit. Maybe. Yawn. This changes nothing at all - it's hardly going to ruin the credibility of the peak oil concept, as there never was any among the wider masses, or the slightest interest either. Those people and organizations that are aware and concerned will continue to be. And the effects of ever reducing net energy returns, as well as limited peak extraction rates, will continue to grind our societies to dust.

Although Iran would like to be producing "all out", it is doubtful that they are.

Some estimates are that they are down 800 to 900,000 b/day from last year.


Actually they are down just a tad over 700,000 bp/d from December 2011. However there are always nations that are down for political reasons. Sudan and Syria are also down for political reasons. And no one is sure what Nigeria might be able to produce if they had no political problems. But no nation on earth is deliberately holding back oil production. Do you deny that? If not then they are all producing flat out, as best they can. Political problems are always there and there is really no hope that they will disappear at any time in the future.

Ron P.

True, production has come off the boil since the new high, but it is still above the old 72-74 mbs p/d range that held for so long during the plateau years. Now the trend is up again.

No, we have no actual data that says C+C is up from its latest high in April. We have all liquids guesses but no data at all and nothing on Crude + Condensate. The last data we have from the EIA is May and C+C is down over half a million barrels per day from April.

And as I said in my post above, I am calling peak right now, or more correctly I am calling peak in the first half of 2012. You can save this post and call me on later on if I am incorrect.

Now I have said, in the past, that we were at peak and had been there since 2005. And I stand by those claims. We have been at peak since 2005 and the slight variations we see now are all within the margin of error. What I am saying now is that we will see the downtrend starting later this year or early next year at the latest.

Ron P.

A couple of datapoints do not make a trend..

As far as I am concerned, we ARE at the top. THIS is what the top looks like.

But yes, it is drawn out in time much more than I thought it would be. Still; even if there is a slow and unreliable growth right now, it is nowhere near what the economy needs. The economy will be the way it has been since 2008 (notice how it just won't pick up speed again?) until c+c production finally hit the bunk. What will happen after that is beyond my ability to tell.

Sure, you're probably right - a long painful death rattle of industrial society and all that, but we'll be pumping crude and its analogues up until the final day.

I'm not certain that production isn't going down. We are, IMHO, placing too much reliance on the validity of OPEC data, both what they say their production is and what they say their internal consumption is. What if, to hide the decline in production, they claim that the reason they are exporting less is simply because they are consuming so much more internally? Don't worry, OPEC says, the world can count on our production capacity.

Me, I am not so certain. I am not reassured by production numbers that cannot be verified. (I am not the first to point this out, BTW. I saw a similar comment in Drumbeat a few weeks ago. I don't recall anyone showing that we can rely on OPEC's internal consumption numbers and hence their claimed production numbers.)

Good point Earl but actually we don't rely on what OPEC says they are producing, we rely on external sources like Platts, Tanker Trackers, the EIA, the IEA and other sources. And their exports are dropping like a rock. They don't deny that. So what have we to complain about because the data we do get is damming enough?

Don't put too much weight on production numbers, it is what they export that matters. And we can track that without any input from them. Exports are dropping but the peak oil deniers are paying no attention to that, they are only looking at production numbers. And even though they have increased ever so slightly the last two years they have not increased nearly as much as exports have decreased.

So don't get too excited... or depressed over production numbers. Oil, available to the developed world is down about six million barrels per day from 2005 and 2006. That is not obvious to the peak deniers right now but it soon will be.

Ron P.

Exports are dropping but the peak oil deniers are paying no attention to that, they are only looking at production numbers. And even though they have increased ever so slightly the last two years they have not increased nearly as much as exports have decreased.

Exactly. And that increase, also mentioned by SaturnV, is less than insignificant, because EROEI is dropping. Less barrels of oil available for one barrel of oil invested.

That might have been true if conventional oil hadn't also been increasing, but it is.

That might have been true if conventional oil hadn't also been increasing, but it is.

SaturnV, also conventional oil is suffering from dropping EROEI. The easy to get stuff is quickly running out and aggressive EOR projects use a lot of energy (gas, oilproducts). And think of the energy-intensive oil extraction from offshore fields, also because of construction of the platforms and helicopter transportation from the workers. So, just drawing a conclusion from a little elevation of the graph doesn't give you information of the net available energy for society, even if extracted conventional oil is also a little higher.

We have been arriving at it for quite some time, one day we will peak, of that there's no doubt, but it isn't now.

I didn't say things would be easy, only that peak oil is not now, as crude production is still rising.

You seem to be obsessed with the exact date the peak occur. I am not. Tome, the peak is a period, and that period is 2005 to now and a while into the futurre. It turned out to be a platue, not realy a peak.

The natural gas drilling rate is dropping off a cliff, and so the condensate numbers will soon drop too.

Is it? Yes there was some backing off, but is there a continued sharp drop in gas drilling? US production is about flat since the all time high in January (2.57 tcf / month). Makes sense that production would level off until the storage is drawn down a bit; US gas storage is also at a monthly all time high.

Edit: Here are gas well starts in Pennsylvania Marcellus: 2011 down 10% from the high in 2006 but about the same as 2010.


The effect of low natural gas prices is apparent in Pennsylvania's 2012 well count for the first third of the year. From January through April, drilling began on 618 new natural gas wells; over 700 new natural gas wells were started over the same period in 2011.

i.e. down about 10% in 2012 from 2011, so far.

F - From Baker Hughes rig stats (http://www.energysolutionsinc.com/naturalgas/Rig-Count-Statistics-29.htm)

Recent NG rig count peak - Sept 2008: 1,600 rigs drilling for NG. Currently there are 500 rigs drilling for NG

"...but is there a continued sharp drop in gas drilling?". I think most would consider an almost 70% decline in 4 years to be rather sharp.

OTOH the rig count has jumped in the oily fractured shale plays which have been bringing a good bit of condensate/NGL's to the market. In fact enough NGL to knock its wellhead price down 60% in the last 8 months.

Thanks RM. Agreed that's a large decline in active rigs from Baker Hughes, but I suspect something's not in sync with the well-starts figures above on Pennsylvania which apparently have declined little. If there's a fixed rigs-to-wells-drilled ratio across the country, then the Pa wells-started figures necessarily mean some other large area of the country went from active drilling to full stop to explain the vanishing rigs figures. Alternatively, perhaps the switch over in Pa to majority horizontal drilling in the last 2-3 years has meant that fewer rigs are now used to drill nearly the same number of wells? Since US gas production has not declined along with the rig count then something like that must be going on.

But isn't net energy what really matters? Are we not way past peak net energy? Regardless of global extraction rate, isn't the lower energy density (and higher cost to extract) of the sum total of what is being extracted today, one of the main reasons that everything is not coming up roses for the global economy, H sapiens, Earth?

Peak net energy, I think not. But the forms of available net energy are changing. Much of the new net energy is from variable sources, like wind and PV, and not easy to convert into liquid fuels. So we could be drowing in say renewable electricity (at least on days when the weather god's are feeling generous), and simultaneously be suffering from a severe scarcity of liquid fuels. We would then be tempted to use the former to enhance the production of the later -even at crappy EROEI.

I see your point, interesting.

But I meant to ask: Are we not past peak net energy from fossil fuels?

In the more advanced nations, we probably beyond peak (chemical) fossil fuels. Because of its growing unacceptability we are probably past peak Nuclear as well -in the more developed world. But in India and China we probably haven't hit peak fossil fuel consumption yet. I think worldwide carbon emissions are still rising a few percent per year.

Affordablity is everything.

America has 40 million McMansions that no one wants

Americans, especially generations X and Y, want shorter commutes, walkability and a car-free existence. Which means that around 40 million large-lot exurban McMansions, built primarily during the housing boom, might never find occupants.

Only 43 percent of Americans prefer big suburban homes, says Chris Nelson, head of the Metropolitan Research Center at the University of Utah. That means demand for “large-lot” homes is currently 40 million short of the available stock — and not only that, but the U.S. is short 10 million attached homes and 30 million small homes, which are what people really want.

"and not only that, but the U.S. is short 10 million attached homes and 30 million small homes,"

Or in my case, small house, large lot and a decent shop. Which I have, so I'm not in the market, much to the annoyance of the "But you just have to trade up!" from the local real estate weasel.

I think that is one problem that will largely take care of itself. Most of these homes are so poorly built that in 30-40 years they would be reaching the end of their useful lives anyway. Once abandoned, the process will accelerate, and they will soon be reduced to rubble, aided by the actions of partying teens, squatters, and salvagers. The problem is that a lot of the materials used to build them are not particularly eco-friendly, and much of that will wind up in the soil and water.

Another dimension to this is that once a "community" of such homes falls below critical mass, services will be hard to maintain and whole subdivisions will be abandoned. The real shame, in my opinion, is that many of these subdivisions were built on good soil, which was scraped off and sold, and will now no longer support agriculture. Or at least not easily.

many of these subdivisions were built on good soil, which was scraped off and sold, and will now no longer support agriculture Or at least not easily.

The soil was removed in many of them? I always thought it was standard practice to retain as much soil as possible, or at least thats what I thought they did in older subdivisions. So selling off the topsoil was something they implemented in newer subdivisions? Stupidity.


Yes, removal of the top soil was pretty standard in many areas. The developments were scraped down to the subsoil in areas where the top soil was not deep. Like No. VA where I currently reside. Now west of Chicago that would not have been possible due to depth. I remember a few years ago looking into foundation holes about 30 miles west of Chicago and it was still top soil 10 feet down. Perfect place for a house if I do say so myself.

Here they come in after the house is done and grade the future yard and roll out cut sod. Often right on top of construction debris. Fertilize the hell out of it and water. Soon you have a lawn. What a system. Nice thing for the HOA's in the area (which tend to frown on gardens) is that it is pretty hard to make a good garden underneath the thin layer of lawn. Pretty much no one gardens or wants to around here anyway.


Nice thing for the HOA's in the area (which tend to frown on gardens) is that it is pretty hard to make a good garden underneath the thin layer of lawn. Pretty much no one gardens or wants to around here anyway.

10 years or so of adding mulch, compost, etc., and you could have a garden. By then your HOA might be defunct from lack of funding as more and more owners fail to make required payments. With increasing foreclosures, the rest of the owners have to pay more and more. Until, in the end, they vote themselves out of existence.


My neighborhood is like that except there was never any soil to begin with (just crappy claylike crud). The sod which was rolled has not pushed a root one millimeter into the underlying clay in thirteen years. However some trees actually do OK in the stuff.

I bought a Feit G16 1/2 LED Light Bulb and measured its power consumption from my off-grid photovoltaic system. Its specifications are:

• 25 Watt G16-1/2 Equivalent
• 150 Lumens
• 2 Watts
• 20000 Hours
• 3000K Color Temp
• G16-1/2 Clear LED
• Model: BPG161/2/CL/LED

My inverter outputs a modified sine wave which means a rectangular waveform. Using the volt meter in the inverter and a current meter attached in series on the negative lead of the inverter at the battery terminal, I measured and calculated its power consumption as 5.22 W +- .7 W which is considerably higher than the 2 W in the specifications. Its power consumption is only 4 or 5 times less than an equivalent incandescent bulb. I am not sure about the reason for the discrepancy. Maybe the power supply in the LED light bulb is inefficient when fed a rectangular wave or the specification is bogus. Be wary about the claims of low power consumption for LED light bulbs.

For those interested in the raw data and calculation:

item being measured voltage
calculated power (W)
(12 A scale)
LED 13.82  .95 13.13
25 W incandescent #1 13.55 2.40 32.52
25 W incandescent #2 13.55 2.40 32.52
LED & incandescent #1 13.48 2.80 37.74
light bulbs off, inverter
in search mode
13.98 38 mA .531 (120 mA scale)

Power used by LED light bulb: 37.74 W - 32.52 W = 5.22 W +- .7 W
The precision of my analog meter measuring the current is +- .025 A on the 12 A scale.

It's tough to get accurate data from a quasi-sinewave (stepped waveform) inverter. Using my Kill-a-watt meter on my Trace 4024s reports almost twice the consumption as the same test plugged into my pure sine Outback or when on the generator, although my Tri-metrics on a shunt (DC side) show ~ the same power consumption over time. I've seen an article that explains the discrepancy, but it's bedtime. Best to test these things on grid power (or get a pure sinewave inverter). My experience tells me that things aren't actually using more energy than their rating, especially resistive loads.

Metrology is an entire occupational specialty. It gets pretty tricky. What is the inverter model? What is the ampere meter model? What is the incandescent bulb model?

I am measuring the DC current coming from the PV panels that are connected in parallel with the batteries. The DC voltage is measured inside the inverter, presumably it is the input voltage. The raw measurements include the power dissipated in the wiring and inverter. By subtracting the power consumed by (incandescent bulb #1) from (LED & incandescent bulb #1), I eliminate the power consumed by the wiring and inverter. The incandescent bulbs consume 25 W within the precision of measurement:

13.13 W - 5.22 W = 7.91 W consumed by wiring and inverter.

32.52 W - 7.91 W = 24.61 W +- .7 W consumed by the incandescent bulb.

My method is correctly measuring the power consumption of the incandescent bulbs according to their ratings. I do not see how my method is incorrect for the LED light bulb. It is consuming 5 W instead of 2 W.

Both incandescent bulbs are Sylvinia 120 - 125 V, 25 W G16 1/2 Candelabra base, white. They are more than 21 years old. I measured the total power consumption of two of them to verify they are uniform.

The analog meter is a Triplett model 630 type 2 multimeter.

The inverter is a Trace 2012, 12 VDC to 120 VAC modified sine wave.

Ah, didn't see this in my previous post.

That's the "Watt's Up". Original version for measuring individual cells. (up to 65 AH)

The "Doc Wattson" With higher ratings might be more appropriate. (up to 6554 AH)


(I blew mine up by letting the voltage get too high, need to buy another)

Thanks, Great source, These universal meters great for load analysis. The watts-up meter locks up at Sunrise boot-time when inline with PV Source. It will work if you fiddle. Praying the Doc Watson does not. I'm Beta testing a 20A MPPT charge controller and these meters been invaluable. Controller is Phocos CIS-MPPT-75/20, which is a $$ break-thru since 2 Grid Tie 260 watt modules can AVG 2kW per day, enough for a small cabin for ceiling fans, lights, PC, Fridge, Notebook,etc. 2 Controllers give redundancy. Thing is bullet proof, IP68 so you can pressure wash it and short it out since it's protected with PTC fuses like USB. For some reason bugs like Solar equipment. Guess a 70V clamp circuit to protect the input of these meters is in order when working above 55 volts.

Long, You need the Auxiliary Power Connector Cable if connecting to the panel side. A 9V battery will keep it alive when there is no power from the panel. Also gives the ability to reset without disconnecting.

Going in a slightly different direction, I wonder how well LED lamps designed for AC will work on DC. These and CFLs will have a bridge rectifier on the way in and should work on DC too. Anyone any thoughts or in a position to test this out?


110VAC RMS (times the square-root of 2) = 165VDC

Yep, now what do the high voltage strings of cells give out? Another thought might be to rectify the output of an inverter and use that as a supply. Do the 12V LED lamps run on AC or DC? If AC would they run off a DC battery instead? Just kicking some ideas around.


75lumens/watt sounds a bit on the high side. 40-60 seems to be more typical.
Not sure how accurate using the inverter to measure the difference is? Do you have access to a kill-o-watt meter?

What is its performance when it is fed by a clean mains supply and using the same measuring gear? If it is closer to spec then suspect your measuring. You might need to measure with a scope and calculate by hand.


Be wary about the claims of low power consumption for LED light bulbs.

The packaging for the Philips L-Prize A19 LED indicates a power draw of 10-watts, although the spec sheets tell us the actual number is 9.7-watts. As it turns out, my Belkin power monitor puts it at 9.6-watts.

See: http://i362.photobucket.com/albums/oo69/HereinHalifax/Img_1716.jpg

At 9.6-watts, this lamp produces 98 lumens per watt and, as previously mentioned, the quality of the light is unbeatable. It's a rather pricey product ($50.00 to $55.00 before utility rebates), but well worth every penny, IMHO.


If you are measuring at the battery terminal, then yu have to take into account the power that the inverter itself draws and it's internal efficiency, no?

CAISO indicates that today's solar contribution surpassed 1GW : )



It is fun how the solar power wants to fill in the drop in wind power during the day. Look at today's graph:
Hourly Breakdown of Renewable Resources Aug 20th

Wind made 34GWH yesterday and solar added 1GWH with the present levels of installation in California. Wind is in the same order of magnitude as fossil fuel as far as cost/watt... that's why there's a war on wind. Renewables contributed twice as much as nuclear in California yesterday.


Sure, but the 'Mighty wind' Industry still refuses to either clean up or safely store all the vortices and eddies it leave in our precious air supply.

Color me breathless!

The Guardian reports on a surprise fall in UK tax receipts, a major reason being a fall in corporate tax revenues: "A Treasury spokesman blamed a cut in North Sea oil production for the bulk of the fall in corporation tax receipts", Shock fall in tax receipts hurts UK debt-reduction plan. I guess this might have been predictable.

I'm sure it's only temporary. No doubt we'll be pumping at '99 levels again soon.

Roscoe Bartlett is a fast crash doomer. Survivalist congressman is ready for doomsday

The electrical grid could fail tomorrow, he frequently warns. Food would disappear from the shelves. Water would no longer flow from the pipes. Money might become worthless. People could turn on each other, and millions would die.

Ron P.

Nanoparticle 'risk' to food crops

... A report published in PNAS shows that nanoparticles present in exhaust gases and some fertilisers adversely affect soybean growth and surrounding soil. The nanoparticles harmed bacteria that the plant relies on for growth.

The researchers focussed on the effects of zinc oxide and cerium oxide nanoparticles. Zinc oxide is a common component of cosmetics and ultimately ends up as a contaminant of solid waste generated by sewage treatment. This waste is widely used as an organic fertiliser.

The plants grown in the presence of zinc oxide nanoparticles actually grew slightly better than control plants grown in the absence of nanoparticles. However, zinc built up in the edible parts of the plants, which included the leaves and the beans.

Zinc oxide nanoparticles have been shown to be toxic to mammalian cells grown in the laboratory, but effects in humans remain to be examined fully.

Cerium oxide is used in some diesel fuels to improve combustion and reduce particulate emissions.

Nanoparticles indeed can harm humans if tissue is exposed a long time at certain particles

"Zinc oxide nanoparticles have been shown to be toxic to mammalian cells grown in the laboratory, but effects in humans remain to be examined fully."

"Do not breath the zinc oxide" is ancient knowledge. You can look on the MSDS as well since it's a common industrial chemical.

Zinc oxide dissolves in acid, including in your stomach. Zinc is also a vital trace element to humans, and most people are actually a little short of it.

Cerium oxide is more interesting. It's more common that you would think, but not in nano particles. Normally it's part of a rock particle. Very stable chemically, so not likely to do anything that way. But asbestos is also chemically stable, and has a mechanical way to do damage. I wouldn't rule out that cerium oxide could be similar, but I would demand proof.

U.S. court strikes down EPA rule on coal pollution

A U.S. appeals court on Tuesday overturned a key Obama administration rule to reduce harmful emissions from coal-burning power plants, sparking a rally in coal company shares and relief among utility firms.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit said in a 2-1 decision that the Environmental Protection Agency had exceeded its mandate with the rule, which was to limit sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from power plants in 28 mostly Eastern states and Texas.

...and the band plays on. All I can do is not buy their filthy electrons.

Indeed. Perhaps the simplest and most affordable way to rid ourselves of dirty electrons is to purchase green power through our local utility or a designated third party.

These are the folks I support: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bw1vN1-oLCo&feature=youtu.be


U.S. Appeals Court Strikes Down Public Health Safeguards That Would Have Saved 34,000 Premature Deaths Each Year

Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals struck down the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR), blocking limits to harmful air pollution. The measure would have limited sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide pollution, the main ingredients of acid rain and smog.

Each year, these regulations would prevent up to 34,000 premature deaths and hundreds of thousands of cases of aggravated asthma (see Table 1). It was estimated to provide up to $280 billion in annual economic benefits through health and environmental improvements alone.

...and I envy you that. Go, Ghung!

Hey Ghung, I am moving to an off grid cabin and I need to to purchase a whole PV set up. Any websites you or the TOD can recommend to learn about good PV systems/brands would be appreciated.

This deal was shared by Greenish recently.. going for a ridiculous .82 cents a watt!

but Caveat Emptor! - I don't know if this is a 'you get what you pay for situation'.. but it's sure tempting!

If you're in the Northeast US, you should find what you need and reasonable deals at http://www.altestore.com/store/ .. I've bought a number of things from them over the years, but never a whole system.


Thanks Bob, I appreciate the links!

A lot depends on the system specs; what are you expecting it to do? How much are you planning to spend? Battery bank voltage? Generator backup? Is this a long term commitment? What are your electrical/technical skills? Are you going to adapt to this system's limitations, or adapt the system to your expectations/requirements? (both will be required). Are you planning to expand the system? How large a battery bank do you need? Want? The math is important.

Having said all that, Bob's recommendation is solid. They have whole cabin and residential systems, or components. I've also had good luck with these guys: http://www.affordable-solar.com/

..And if that string of questions was a lot to take in, there is a nice range of examples here,


that might put some of these topics into a good initial framework for you!


Very helpful link Bob, much appreciated. I will look for some reviews on the DMsolar panels; The price is right if they are decent.

I haven't seen any reviews, but they look like pretty decent polycrystalline panels. Be interesting to find someone who has bought some and tested them. I was going to when I bought a pallet of 30 Hyundai monocrystalline panels from the place, but they wouldn't fit well on the pallet. With prices that cheap, shipping becomes a significant part of the price.

One thing I like about them is that these days you usually pay a premium for circa-18v nominal output, which are good for small 12v systems. Note that they will NOT work with things like the enphase M215 microinverters, which require a 60-cell panel in a specific higher voltage range.

Thanks Greenish I appreciate your thoughts.

Sure. And for that matter, I'll note that they have name-brand (Hyundai) polycrystalline panels at 98 cents a watt.

Those are sized (and with the output voltage) for microinverters and higher-voltage string inverters, though certainly they could be made to work with some of the fairly cheap MPPT string charge controllers.

But the specs on the 82-cent ones don't look bad, and the minimum purchase of quantity 2 isn't bad either.

Thanks Ghung, I am closing on a homestead in the Ozark Mountains in north west Arkansas in September. So this is a long term commitment; all in if you will. I am decent with electrical/technical skills but I want to keep it simple. I am planning on just running some small things such as a computer, lights and possibly a small freezer.

I am trying to go primitive as possible with no washer/dryer or other big appliances. I was thinking I might drop a thousand dollars on the first round but envisioned being able to add on; maybe that is not a good idea.

I am really excited and I have researched resource depletion and economics for years and the time has come to lay my cards down. Even if BAU lasts thirty years or more I am happy with my decision. My new goal is to learn primitive "rewilding" skills and participate in the consumer economy as little as I possibly can.

Thanks for the advice and links,


One thing I've found, for what it's worth, is that if you're mostly doing freezers and electronics, you can skimp on the number of batteries by simply adding jugs of saltwater to your freezer and sticking a timer on it so it runs only when the sun shines. I do that and it never goes below freezing, and doesn't tax the batteries at all. Jugs of salt water are cheaper than batteries yet store the "cold" quite well.

You might find you can run a pretty big freezer on a pretty small PV system with few batteries, as long as you have a tight & beefy battery connection and an inverter than can handle the starting surge. Currently I'm using a sub-$200 pure sinewave inverter off Amazon, rated at 1000w but closer to 900. Works well though... it's what's powering my giant computer monitor, my computer, my fan, my freezers, etc.

Oh, and the grid-tied PV I've had for over a month now... just rolled over 1MWh, and I also got my first electric bill today. About $290 saved, nice. That's for our renters though, the offgrid system is cooler.

best of luck

I wonder of adding some large capacitors, such as doof-doof car stereos use for their bass, work to help take the start up surge?


As you are doing some things from scratch, consider this wacky notion of mine, if you like.

I have built a couple Hot Air Solar Collector Panels for space heating, and I have been tossing around the thought of making a Cedar Closet that can have the Hot Air fed into it and then vented outside, particularly in Summer months.. so I can hang damp laundry in there and simply leave it as basic clothes storage if desired. This way, the laundry process saves a couple steps, and the wet laundry is spared the seagull poop, the UV rays, and rain and wind that might undo the hanging or the cleaning.

Of course, one can also reroute the 'exhaust' to work as some home heating still, and even as a humidifier, if that is needed.. .. working on ways to drive the fans with wind power.. tho' PV would be appropriate as it coincides with the Air Collector being active at the same time.

Atheists will bargain with the unknown for a better outcome

... “Much like some cultures dance for their gods in order to get rain, Western participants will spend money on problems even when that expenditure has no demonstrable effect.

“Even when witnessing hundreds of occasions where it made no difference, they keep sacrificing large portions of their income to the perceived source of the problem. Only if they personally experience dozens of disappointments will they slowly stop sacrificing.”

“There seems to be a default belief that people can bargain with the unknown, and they need a lot of evidence to the contrary before it fades away,” Professor Frijters said.

... The authors conclude that “any important source of uncertainty” will witness the development of a religion around it in which people sacrifice towards its perceived source.

The freely available early working paper version of the study can be found at: http://ideas.repec.org/p/iza/izadps/dp4902.html and the complete published paper is available from: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1475-4932.2012.00802.x/abst...

... sounds like Wall Street

Sounds like paying on an underwater mortgage or unrepayable student loans.

From WSJ ... Tokyo Ponders End to Nuclear Power

The Japanese government is likely to decide to eliminate all nuclear power over the next two decades in a new long-term energy plan that comes amid strong public opposition to atomic energy and ahead of national elections expected in the next few months, said government officials familiar with policy discussions.


While it had been widely expected to choose the middle option [reducing dependence to 15%], government officials said Tuesday that the council [set up by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda] is now most likely to select the zero-nuclear option. “Zero nuclear is our hope and goal,” one of the officials told Dow Jones Newswires. “We are moving toward it, and I don’t think others will be aggressively against it.”

also Advances in decades-old dream of mining seawater for uranium

Scientists today reported progress toward a 40-year-old dream of extracting uranium for nuclear power from seawater, which holds at least 4 billion tons of the precious [poisonous] material. They described some of the most promising technology and an economic analysis showing uranium from the oceans could help solidify nuclear energy potential as a sustainable electricity source for the 21st century. Their reports were part of a symposium at the 244th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society ...

Erich Schneider, Ph.D., another speaker at the symposium, discussed an economic analysis done for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) comparing seawater extraction of uranium to traditional ore mining. It shows that DOE-funded technology now can extract about twice as much uranium from seawater as the first approaches, developed in Japan in the late 1990s.

That improvement reduces production costs down to around $300 per pound of uranium, from a cost of $560 per pound using the Japanese technology. However, extraction from seawater remains about five times more expensive than uranium mined from the ground.

... "This uncertainty around whether there's enough terrestrial uranium is impacting the decision-making in the industry, because it's hard to make long-term research and development or deployment decisions in the face of big uncertainties about the resource," said Schneider. "So if we can tap into uranium from seawater, we can remove that uncertainty."

Record radiation in fish off Japan nuclear plant

... The fishes, captured 20 kilometres (12.5 miles) off the plant on August 1, registered 25,800 becquerels of caesium per kilo, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) said -- 258 times the level the government deems safe for consumption.

The previous record in fish and shellfish off Fukushima was 18,700 becquerels per kilo detected in cherry salmons, according to the government's Fisheries Agency.

... and they're worried about how the wind turbines will affect the tuna?

They described some of the most promising technology and an economic analysis showing uranium from the oceans could help solidify nuclear energy potential as a sustainable electricity source for the 21st century.

Because concentrating more of this stuff would be just wonderful. I'm really struggling here to not write what I really think of these....... I have no suitable printable words.

I once had to sit through a presentation by the DoE Asst. Sect. for Nuclear Energy who conflated reserves and resources and expected $100/lb Uranium from seawater as a given.

The lobbyist present from GE and Westinghouse acted as bobble-headed sycophants during the workshop.

After correcting some of his factual errors and asking some 'inconvenient questions' he said he was sorry that I was so pessimistic about the role of Nuclear Energy in the 21st century. The Fukushima meltdowns occured 2 months later.

This is what the citizens think of nuclear power in Connecticut.

Forest razing by ancient Maya worsened droughts, says study

For six centuries, the ancient Maya flourished, with more than a hundred city-states scattered across what is now southern Mexico and northern Central America. Then, in A.D. 695, the collapse of several cities in present day Guatemala marked the start of the Classic Maya's slow decline. Prolonged drought is thought to have played a role, but a study published this week in the journal Geophysical Research Letters adds a new twist: The Maya may have made the droughts worse by clearing away forests for cities and crops, making a naturally drying climate drier.

... sounds familiar

We live in a world where forests engage in diplomacy with clouds, sending bacteria as their emissaries, coaxing raindrops to form.


Clear cut your forests and you might just clear cut your rain in the process.

This does beg the carbon sequestration question - can we establish stands of the right sort of trees in dry areas and foster this? Maybe a future cottage industry will be stratosphere capable sounding rockets made of bamboo.

Well, why not? We are up against the wall here - we should put money into many small, risky experiments, and see which ones work.

Wasnt Iraq covered in forests along time ago?

Corn currently up $.15 at 838.75 (cents/bushel), a new record if I'm correct.


Corn and soybeans both closed at record highs. The EU nations need to allow pink slime pronto.

Abundant Natural Gas and Oil Are Putting the Kibosh on Clean Energy

Since the 1950s, the US has had a perverse approach to energy. In effect we have maximized demand by building bigger, hungrier cars, homes, and lifestyles and minimized supply by limiting oil drilling, coal mining, and nuclear development. And how do we make up the difference? We buy oil from the people who hate us most.

... New methods of extracting gas and oil, combined with efficiency gains in nearly every industry, mean that we are now minimizing demand and maximizing supply. And that’s a good thing, right? Not so fast.

Flipping the supply-demand relationship is having some unexpected consequences. Chief among them is that, as fossil fuels become more abundant—and we consume less of them—the incentives to develop clean, renewable energy drop dramatically. As a result, we may no longer be looking at an age of increasing solar, wind, and nuclear power. Instead we are likely moving into a new hydrocarbon era. And that’s very bad news for climate change.

GM's electric Spark: It's all about the batteries

Around this time next year, General Motors will unveil its first all-electric car since the EV-1. It's a battery version of the Spark mini-car that's hitting the showrooms now.

To say that many questions remain about the Spark EV is putting it mildly. To begin with, GM rushed out its announcement of the car late on a Friday afternoon, as if it wanted to minimize press coverage. GM damped down expectations as much as it could: "It will be sold in limited quantities in select U.S. and global markets starting in 2013, including California," the company said. You can almost feel the energy draining out of that.

The speculation was that GM is planning a "compliance car" designed to meet California's zero-emission requirements, and not a serious contender like the Volt.

BP recalls 2.1M gallons of unleaded gas

A 50,000-barrel batch of gasoline, or 2.1 million gallons, has been recalled by BP's Whiting refinery after hundreds of reports of hard-starting and stalling vehicles from motorists flooded Northwest Indiana repair shops the past few days.

BP issued a statement Tuesday, saying the regular grade gasoline was blended at its Whiting storage terminal between Aug. 13 and 17, and contained a "higher than normal level of polymeric residue." The fuel was distributed at BP stations and other retailers in the last week.

... Car dealerships and service shops throughout Northwest Indiana have been fielding hundreds of calls, while service bays are jammed with repairs, which primarily consist of draining the fuel tank and cleaning the fuel system. Costs have ranged from $300 to $1,200.

Green roofs reduce thermal losses and gains, they help to minimize storm water run-off, they reintroduce a bit of nature to our urban environments, and at the same time help to keep our urban cores a little cooler during the hot summer months.

You can see one unfold before your very eyes at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fNDpaqo5XmY&feature=plcp

[My old office at 44 King West is kitty-corner to this building.]


While having good intentions there seems to be a massive amount of materials and energy going into creating this roof.


True, but the bulk of the material by volume and weight would be the soil, and if it should extend the life of the roof membrane by twenty or thirty years then, presumably, you come out well ahead of the game (a conventional gravel covered roof might last twenty-five years whereas a green roof should last at least twice that).


Many of these plans we discuss here are very heavy on investment, and we get thrown off by that.. it's useful to look to the amount that the constant feeding of energy-fuels that flow through almost imperceptibly would have added up to instead.. and I think it's pretty clear that the advantage will be on this apparently overbuilt, but durable solution.

As the fellows say in LOCAL HERO,

" Apart from anything else, a Rolls Royce will last longer.

"It's a false economy to invest in cheap goods.

"It's not cheap. The Maserati's 30,000, and it looks nicer.

"You can't get four or five winter lambs into the back of a Maserati.

"That's what you need a Rolls for. Space, adaptability.