Drumbeat: August 25, 2012

19 Killed in Explosion at Refinery in Venezuela

CARACAS, Venezuela — An explosion at Venezuela’s biggest refinery early Saturday killed at least 19 people and injured more than 50 others in the deadliest disaster in years for the country’s crucial oil industry.

Balls of fire rose over the Amuay refinery, one of the largest in the world, in video posted on the Internet by residents who were nearby at the time.

Endless oil: the stuff of conspiracy theorists – or the real deal?

So now I read that there’s an easy solution to the peak-oil problem after all. We can just manufacture the stuff. Or, just wait a few minutes and let the Earth do it for us.

A publicist sent me a press release this week for a new book called The Great Oil Conspiracy, by Jerome Corsi. And already I’ve learned so much about oil that I never knew before.

Energy to keep booming no matter who's president

But a lot has changed in the last few years, largely thanks to higher oil prices. The technology to extract oil and gas from shale rock was commercialized. Drilling expertise in ultra-deep water vastly improved. Canada's oil sands are now economical.

As a result, oil production has jumped 14% and natural gas production 10% in the last three years alone, according to the Energy Information Administration. These are trends that neither Republicans nor Democrats will reverse.

Oil Rises for Fourth Week as Isaac Heads for Gulf

Oil rose for a fourth week as Tropical Storm Isaac strengthened in the Caribbean Sea on a path that may threaten crude production in the Gulf of Mexico.

Prices capped the longest stretch of weekly gains this year on forecasts that Isaac will enter the Gulf next week after crossing Haiti today and reaching the southwest coast of Florida on Aug. 27. BP Plc, Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Apache Corp. said they were planning to evacuate some nonessential Gulf workers.

Isaac May Become Hurricane, Reach Florida Keys Tomorrow

Tropical Storm Isaac left the coast of Haiti on a path toward Cuba and the Florida Keys, where it is forecast to arrive tomorrow at hurricane strength, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said. Some energy output in the Gulf of Mexico is shut.

Industry leaders say the boom is not over and there are billions still in the pipeline

Debate about the longevity of WA's boom was triggered this 2week when BHP Billiton announced it would shelve some of its ambitious growth plans, with the main casualties the Olympic Dam operation, and the $20 billion outer harbour development at Port Hedland.

The miner, along with rival Rio Tinto, also reported a substantial dip in annual and half-year earnings, respectively, and the chiefs of both companies offered cautious views on the state of the world economy, which has affected iron ore prices.

Woodside Petroleum this week also announced it would halt exploration work it was carrying out for the expansion of its new Pluto gas project in Karratha, and instead focus on doing deals with other gas companies with projects nearby, which it warned could take some time.

A continental energy strategy? Bring it on

In the past, American talk of “continental energy strategies” provoked furious reactions in Canada. The prospect of continental energy sharing was a major argument against the U.S.-Canada Free Trade Agreement back in the 1980s. And now the issue is being raised again, and the reaction from Canada is … quiet.

Opposition: August is deadliest month in Syrian civil war

(CNN) -- With one week left to go, August is already the deadliest month in Syria's 17-month crisis. Opposition activists report more than 3,700 people killed -- mostly civilians -- in just the past few weeks. Here are some of the other key developments on the crisis that spirals out of control:

Ever more expensive gas for Andrew

Norwegian gas is helping to raise the value of properties in Britain. Every household would prefer to be connected to a gas pipeline network.

Fracking is too important to foul up

In Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York and even Texas, there is a fundamental debate over “fracking” — the hydraulic fracturing of shale rock that, together with horizontal drilling, unleashes abundant natural gas. Mostly, it’s the loud voices at the extremes who are dominating the debate: those who want either no fracking or no additional regulation of it. As usual, the voices in the sensible center are getting drowned out — with serious repercussions for our country’s future.

The production of shale gas through fracking is the most significant development in the U.S. energy sector in generations, and it affords four major benefits that people on both sides of the debate should welcome.

Bloomberg Backs ‘Responsible’ Extraction of Gas and Pays to Help Set Up Rules

The governor’s office did not respond to requests for comment on the mayor’s position.

But the mayor’s words immediately drew a rebuke from environmentalists, who say no amount of regulation would make fracking safe and are seeking an outright ban on drilling.

The race for Arctic oil riches

Scientists gathering data to underpin a claim by Denmark to a vast Arctic Ocean tract including the North Pole have harvested crucial new information about the seabed.

The country is pressing ahead with its claim to the area – which is thought to hold untapped oil and gas and is likely to offer new shipping lanes as ice recedes.

But there are also rival claims from Russia and Canada.

Green activists scale Russia's first Arctic oil rig

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Environmental activists were forced to abandon their occupation of an oil rig in the Russian arctic on Friday when they were hosed down by jets of icy water, cutting short their protest after 15 hours.

Will Emissions Disclosure Mean Investor Pressure on Polluters?

A new financial tool developed by the investment firm South Pole Carbon, in partnership with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, provides greenhouse gas emissions profiles of more than 40,000 publicly listed companies. This index is aimed at encouraging greater disclosure from companies while, hopefully, also pushing investors to build more responsible portfolios.

How Boston and New York hope to avoid becoming Atlantis

Boston and New York were economic hubs of Colonial America. On the Eastern seaboard (or, as it was known then, the only seaboard), each city’s harbor and surrounding natural resources made it a critical center of commerce, trade, and industry.

Being on the coast used to be an asset. In a warming world, it’s a big problem. Both cities are highly vulnerable to rising sea levels.

Greener cars have improved L.A. air quality

Smog-producing compounds in Los Angeles are down 98 percent since the 1960s. They're down by half just since 2002, thanks to higher-mileage cars.

30 page .pdf update & status at Bayou Corne/Napoleonville Salt Dome.


Some good maps and diagrams.

Turnbull – Great link. For those interested in a detailed picture of the situation this is a must-read. In particular pg 19 shows the depiction of the relationship between the sinkhole, the brine cavern and, most important, the other storage caverns.

Regarding the article above: Endless oil: the stuff of conspiracy theorists – or the real deal?

The author tries to write a fairly balanced article (sort of). But so many of the comments indicate that the world is full of delusional people who are anxious to accept abiotic oil and the ingenuity of science to create more oil. I am reminded of George Carlin's line "Think about how dumb the average person is - then realize that half of them are dumber than that."

I am reminded of George Carlin's line "Think about how dumb the average person is - then realize that half of them are dumber than that."

And some of them are even dumber than your average pile of rocks... or is it just their pure unadulterated ignorance?

Excerpted from one of the comments:

In the future we will be able to turn any matter into any other matter, it just takes the need and the necessary energy.

My forehead is bleeding and quite sore from continually pounding it into my desk every time I read something like this.

Well, in the present we can turn many types of matter into other matter. It just takes way, way, way, way more energy than it's worth. Lead to gold? Well, that's difficult even with nuclear transmutation, but mercury to gold has been done. It's that "energy" part that is the kicker. Using energy to make oil to burn for energy is painfully futile.

The article isn't completely off base, though. If we get desperate enough, natural gas to oil and coal to oil start to seem to make sense. We're getting closer to that point every day, especially with gas so cheap in the US. That's why there are GTL plants planned for Louisiana. Ultimately, though, I think it is wise to contemplate the end game of chasing liquid fuels by pouring our other fossil fuels into the barrel.

It may also turn out not to be enough for BAU, but enough for a rougher version of industrial society. We'll see.

Hi F,

re: "...forehead...continually pounding it into my desk..."

Now, there's an untapped source of energy!

(sarcastic smiley face here).

It makes me hurt to think about it, though.

It makes me hurt to think about it, though

Yeah, but it feels soooo good when I stop >;-)

Glad to hear you've stopped - I feel better, too. :)

Any comments on the idea that because hydrocarbons have been detected in the gas giants of our solar system that this somehow correlates to an abiotic presence of hydrocarbons on earth? I have a number of (rather intelligent) friends who have used this as their paradigm for disbelief in Peak Oil, so I was wondering if there is a sound way to counter such arguments from the members of this forum.

Any advice would be much appreciated.


Torin – Sometime ago I offered this approach. Despite my smart ass delivery I’m very serious.

First explain you’ve heard this from one of the most successful petroleum geologists in the oil patch. A legend in his own mind…I mean time. For 37 years I’ve explored for hydrocarbons across the globe. I have and continue to have the most sophisticated exploration tools available to me (that’s actually not BS). I also work for a private company owned by one of the richest families in the country and have hundreds of $millions of capex at my beckon call.

And once more I freely announce that I fully accept the theory of abiotic oil generation on planet Earth. And thus declare PO will no longer be a concern. I mean it won’t be a concern once I’ve located all that abiotic oil generated over the millions which has then migrated to shallow depths. Which they must have done so if they still exists since the irrefutable laws of physics do not allow them to survive the temperatures and pressures found in the mantel.

So there you are: trillions of potential bbls of oil generated in the mantel and then migrated to traps within the first 7 miles of the surface of the Earth. Much deeper than that then it’s physically impossible for hydrocarbon chains to remain stable. Of course, there’s also the practical matter that this depth is also the practical limits of our drilling technology.

Now the remaining question is where are all these trillions of bbls of abiotic oil to be found? Every basin on the planet has been drilled…many very extensively and some not. If abiotic oil is generated in the mantel the I suppose one would expect it to be found somewhat dispersed around the entire globe. Due to other irrefutable laws of physics (that density thingy) oil/NG can only accumulate in very specific structural and stratigraphic traps.

Warning - serious techno statement to follow: oil and NG accumulations have never been easier to identify then they are today. If I had today’s technology 40 years ago I would have had a nearly 100% success rate and would have found $trillions in oil/NG in a decade or so. Note I said “easier to identify”. I didn’t say I could find a great many such accumulations. Just one measure of today’s technology: with 3d seismic and a computer work station I could generate more drilling prospects in one month than 5 geophysicists could in a year when I begin my career in 1975. And with better resolution and success rates. And in environments such as the Deep Water that 40 years ago no one ever thought would be possible.

A long winded explanation of a simple fact: It doesn’t make a dang bit of difference whether the hydrocarbons accumulations on the planet originated biotically or abiotically. Not once in all my efforts did that distinction make a difference in my work product. My focus was always on where the hydrocarbons accumulated…not how they were formed. Other geologic specialists concerned themselves with that riddle.

So the simple question for your friends: where has all that abiotic oil accumulated? We’ve drilled millions of wells in the only environments where hydrocarbons can exist (again, due to those pesky laws of thermodynamics). IOW ask they to tell you where that abiotic grease is. If they respond that this isn’t their expertise just tell that folks who do have those skills have been looking for it for more than 100 years and we still haven’t found it. Or maybe we have: perhaps all the hydrocarbons we have ever produced, and continue to produce, had an abiotic origin. After all we have been drilling for a very long time in the environments where that abiotic could have accumulated.

Also if they retort that those abiotic reserves are still being generated just point out that the most adamant abiotic oil “experts” admit their presumed process takes millions of years. And also add that not was in all te reports I've read has anypne in the abiotic crowd offered a logically opinion as to where to find it. Thousands and thuands of pubished words and not one map showing where to drill.

A person asked me about abiotic oil some months ago. I likened it to the "tooth fairy" theory.

That is, one theory holds that if you put a lost tooth under your pillow, your parents replace it with a nickel. (one needs to adjust for inflation since my childhood probably).

An alternate theory is that a fairy flies in and swaps the tooth for a nickel.

Children can theorize either way they like. But the exchange rate is set, and the only place teeth have ever been found is growing out of gums.

I'm not sure this got the point across, but it did stop that person from asking more questions.

Unless it is the Buddha's tooth! I saw a thing on Festivals of the Orient. Sri Lanka's most important festival revolves around a tooth in a golden container, allegedly the tooth is from the Buddha, and its value is nearly priceless!

Now that kid had a flair for marketing.

In addition to "you gotta have the right traps" perhaps Rockman can comment on 'go too deep, it gets too warm to have oil/gas' because that argument when I saw it in a drumbeat a few years ago was another nail in the coffin of abiotic oil.

Thank you Rockman. Sanity!

It looks like we are all getting desperate now. The world's economies are flatlining at best, notwithstanding huge injections of fiat money, and Israel threatens Iran with obliteration on a daily basis. The Middle East in general is melting into chaos, mostly caused by over population and resource depletion, although that isn't mentioned too much of course. The weird weather has reduced world food supplies by a genuinely serious amount, and still the politicos try to sell us business as usual. It is for them of course.

For me the most telling thing is that with world production, even including Chindia, struggling to maintain previous levels of growth, and with zero growth (realistically) in the West; still the price of essential oil continues to rise. And it isn't just on specualtion either.

I just wish they would tap into this abiotic oil now, and stop messing us all about - people are losing their jobs and hope while they keep promising it. Only joking: I just wish I could laugh.

Thanks Rockman! That argument actually goes a long way to refute the wishful thinking (or conspiracy thinking) of many of the people I have discussed these issues with.

One other thing. On the idea that all oil production is actually being deliberately withheld due to a vast, global conspiracy to artificially inflate the price of oil, I think it would also be informative to point out that most oil extraction is conducted through state run oil agencies, and that many (or most) of those oil extracting/exporting countries have over time changed to net oil importers. In such a case the idea that they would deliberately withhold extraction rates to the point of importing a very expensive commodity, instead of exporting a less expensive commodity, simply for the benefit of other corporations or countries (to their own impoverishment and instability) smacks of ludicrous in the extreme.

Just something to point out during this time of mass self delusion and denial, against which we all have to work. Thanks again for the insight of your multi-decade experience.


LUR – Here’s another way to counter conspiracy theories. First US oil producers are free to flow their wells at a rate they chose. We don’t need to make up an excuse. If an operators wants to cut back his production to increase prices he’s legally free to do so. In reality, with current high prices, we have a great incentive to produce the max. High oil price periods never last…never have and never will. The recent slight slide in prices shows that.

The rest of the world? Well, DA!. This conspiracy has to go down as one of the worst kept secrets of all time. Have those folks ever heard of OPEC. Their charter very clearly says it was created to specifically control oil production of its members with the goal of maximizing revenue. That’s not a secret conspiracy but a well advertised business plan. LOL.

Rock, I hope you'll forgive me but I just posted a link to your post in reply to this comment.
Leanan just posted the link to an article down thread

12 minutes ago

Since there is no sound scientific basis for the formation of oil using Evolutionary themes we should seek reality. Nobody has a model that explains this that is convincing in the least.

We need to see calculations on how much oil has been consumed and how much is down there and then calculate how all this carbon came from plants and animals and fungus and stuff and for how long. The volume of compression from plants and animals to oil is very high so we might have models tell us that the earth was covered with a massive fungus heap 500 miles high for a billion years or absurdities of that nature.

There is a massive heap of literature being flung around the globe commenting on oil and gold and much of it is pure disinformation of the political sort.

FM – Fine by me as long as I get my royalty check or BBIC voucher. LOL.

I understand the calculus those folks are considering with re: to how much oil may have been generated vs. trapped. There’s a huge fly in that ointment. Geologists far better versed in this area of study then I estimate that as much as 95% of all oil ever generated in the earth has leaked to the surface. IOW all the oil every produced and ever will be produced is probably less than 10% of what has ever been created. The reservoir conditions that allow oil/NG to be trapped are relatively rare. Equally important those traps have to exist (and persist) during the relatively short time window between generation and migration. There are many times more conduits that would allow hydrocarbons to migrate to the surface then there are trapping scenarios.

I also wonder how much has been subducted downwards and destroyed by heat. There is more than one way to lose keragen/oil.

eos - There have been numerous examples of "dead oil" as a result of thermal degradation discovered around the globe. But I have no guess as to the magnitude of that volume. Of course, these are the rocks that were pulled down deep and rose back to shallow depths. No way to estimate how much has been subducted and never seen again.

Peak Oil is a hydrocarbon extraction rate situation, where the extraction rate increases and over time decreases. Hydrocarbon extraction is commonly termed a "production rate." Maybe this is where some confusion enters the discussion.

Hugh – Good point. Along those lines I’m not saying one side is right and the other wrong but the different terminology opens up some misunderstandings.

Production rate is exactly is you imply: the volume vs. time. How quickly we add new reserves is less loosely defined but often called discovery rate as in discovering new reserves at the rate of XXX millions of bbls of oil/year.

“Production cost” can also be confusing at times. In the oil patch production cost is how much we spend WHILE producing a well…not what it costs to drill and bring it on. That’s “finding cost”. We call production cost LOE…Lease Operating Expense. This is where discussions about a well's profitability can get confused. I might spend $6 million to drill a well that will net me only $4 million in revenue. So it wasn’t a profitable effort. But I can produce the well profitably if my LOE is $20,000 month while I’m selling $200,000 worth of production. So I’m making a $180,000 profit every month from a well I lost $2 million to drill. Not a difficult concept to appreciate but when we use shorthand terminology to describe such situations it can get confused.

It should be about how many of those barrels a day go toward non-oil uses I think. Say we have 90mbpd of oil equivalent production in 2012, but only 60 million go to the market to fuel the agricultural system or manufacturing iphones, that's worse than having 85 million barrels a day where 70 million barrels go toward efforts that don't merely perpetuate the energy business. These are just semi-random figures though. Either way nothing matters any more.

Mr Blake,

The extraction rate does not have to decrease if developed reserves start to decrease. In fact even if extraction rates increase, output can still decline if reserves decrease faster than the increase in extraction rates.

If there are a given amount of developed oil reserves, let's say 900 billion barrels and the extraction rate is 3 % then 27 billion barrels of oil per year (bb/a) will be produced. If the reserves fall to 800 billion barrels and the extraction rate is unchanged, output falls to 24 bb/a. Consider a rise in extraction rates to attempt to maintain output at 27 bb/a as reserves deplete. If extraction rates could be increased to 3.375 %, we would remain at 27 bb/a.

In reality, the extraction rate will rise and fall based on economic conditions, oil prices and the resulting level of oil demand. As we reach the eventual peak in oil output, we will likely see a rise in extraction rate while developed reserves are declining (because we are producing oil at a higher rate than we can develop oil reserves).

For a while the increased extraction rate could counteract the smaller level of reserves and enable either a plateau in output (like C+C since 2005) or possibly a slow rise in output. Eventually we will be unable to maintain a plateau or increase output further because there is some limit to how high extraction rates can rise.

So the extraction rate does not necessarily fall, though it will level off at some point, but the fall in the level of developed reserves will result in a fall in oil output as the extraction rate reaches its limit.

Some charts illustrating this can be found below:




Thanks for the response.

Please keep in my mind the context in which my answer was given: The Peak Oil concept was refuted by friends with the following logic.

1. Hydrocarbons are formed abiotically in interstellar space.
2. Oil is a hydrocarbon.
3. Therefore, oil is abiotically formed.

My goal was to make incremental progress in Peak Oil education and for Torin to keep his friends. To that end, I tried to keep the message simple, avoiding the mechanism for oil formation. My comment that the "production rate" was used as a surrogate for extraction rate was a "face saving" way of allowing for the friend's point of view to be acknowledged. As a result, the concept of acquiring a finite commodity increases over time and must decrease at some later time would be recognized, perhaps. That was my humble goal.

Your response, however, gives me an opportunity to thank you for working with WHT's Dispersive Discovery and Oil Shock Model. Since WHT doesn't post often anymore, I appreciate that newcomers to TOD can be exposed, through your work, with his model.

Have a nice one.


I'm an amateur here, and there's a couple of good answers here from professionals, but here's my take. Even if abiotic oil were real (it almost certainly isn't) then there is a limit to how much oil the Earth could produce per day. This is a peak. Peak oil is all about the amount you can extract per day. When that levels off, that's the peak. And even if just leveled off without dropping, that is very bad news for our society which seems to be based around the assumption of a perpetually increasing energy supply.

Chris – Very good. That was the target of my ramblings. Source rocks, oil generation windows, etc. are of great interest to frontier explorationists who hunt in basins yet drilled. But there are very few of those left. In those basins where the occurrence of oil has been proven the emphasis becomes locating accumulations regardless of their source. We’ve drilled a lot of holes and produced a lot of hydrocarbons. And there are wells left to drill. But even taking in the new Deep Water plays there’s not nearly as many places to poke as we already have IMHO. And it still won’t matter how that oil was created.

Rockman -- is enough known about the geologic history of the Kara Shelf, Laptev Shelf, and East Siberian Shelf to estimate whether they contain significant oil reserves? The Sunda Shelf is another region that may have significant reserves to cushion declines in other regions.

For the potential of those areas, one place to start would is the USGS Circum-Arctic Resource Appraisal.

Another place for a good overview would be the recent Geological Society of London publication Arctic Petroleum Geology. Be forwarned, it's a rather expensive publication! If you are fortunate you might find a copy in a library somewhere.

Keep in mind that these regional assessments of poorly tested areas are at best educated guesses as to what might be there. The only way to know for sure is to drill. To quote from the USGS fact sheet on their Laptev Sea assessment: "As with other areas assessed in the USGS Circum-Arctic Oil and Gas Resource Appraisal (CARA), this area shares important characteristics with many Arctic basins, including sparse data, significant petroleum-resource potential, geologic uncertainty, and technical barriers that impede exploration and development."

Edit: expanded comments on uncertainty of assessments of frontier areas.

Thanks. This led me to the summary in Science Magazine Assessment of Undiscovered Oil and Gas in the Arctic and to GIS Open Files which has a link to "Sedimentary Successions of the Arctic Region by Grantz, et al. 2010".

It appears that the most promising provinces are the Kara and Laptev shelfs, and not the East Siberian Shelf. The regions west and northeast of Greenland also appear promising, which I was not aware of.

I guess maps.google.com could say something about the shelves but someone with knowledge in sedimentary geology will probably be able to add a lot.

I know oil have been found in some of the shallower areas with light blue color. I do not know about any oil found in the deeper areas with dark blue color.

Merrill – Not very familiar with that part of the world but found a good reference. http://helion-ltd.ru/status-of-oil-and-gas

They began poking around earlier than I would have guessed:

“In l981-1982, the first two offshore wells were drilled the Pechora Sea in the Dresvianskaya area…Purposive prospecting and exploration works on the Western Arctic shelf began in 1981”

“Planned prospecting works began in 1982, when the first specialized drilling ships "Valentin Shashin" and "Victor Muravlenko", and later, the semisubmersible and jack-up drilling rigs joined "Arktikmorneftegazrazvedka". Within the period of 1982-2003, 28 structures had been put into drilling, 57 wells had been spudded, 48 wells had been completed by drilling, 37 wells had been tested, in 32 of which commercial oil and gas influxes were gained.”

“The main result of the performed oil and gas prospecting works is a discovery of the Russian new large hydrocarbon base, comparable, by its general potential, with well known provinces of the Western Siberia. Eastern Siberia and European North…15 oil, oil and gas, gas and gas- condensate fields were discovered, including 4 oil fields, one oil and gas field and 10 gas and gas- condensate fields.”

The general sense I get is that they’ve well established the region a valid petroleum province. But still relatively unexplored. This recalls a report I read many years ago: the first major N. Sea oil field wasn’t discovered until the 93rd well was drilled out there. Given the environment and political structure I suspect it will take many years to get a good handle on the ultimate potential.

Thanks Rockman. It would seem that there are significant resources already located that could be produced if the price is right. The disappearance of thick multi-year ice would also make it easier.

Yet, the abiotic fools believe that we have lots and lots of oil left in yet unexplored places -like the basalt under most of the planets oceans. So squashing abiotic oil, also squashes the cornucopian theory that we can just push offshore oil across the entire area of the planets oceans.

Like Chris said...

I'm an amateur here, and there's a couple of good answers here from professionals

First of all ONLY Methane has been observed. It is either an indication of primitive Biotic processes on Mars and Saturn's moon -Titan etc. or an it's indication that Methane can be made geologically on other worlds. The Methane is created more deeply beneath the surface in these worlds than it is on Earth. There is no indication or support for abiotic processes yet... Not here, not there, not anywhere. If there is an indication of abiotic formation of Methane it will be on another world extremely different than Earth.

What we have here is: Semantic Equivocation. The huge pile of evidence, enormous and unending, still continuously observed, which is behind the theory that oil has organic origins, vs the theory that oil originates in the earth by unknown processes without any real evidence. Since no jury has survived the epochs we are technically speaking of two theories here... but they are far from equal. Maybe this is a failure of language as much as comprehension or cognition. Maybe it's just how many words can be piled up or how many arguments money can buy. Ultimately what we have may not be: Failure To Communicate. 'Cos somebody's message seems to be getting through. What we have here may be: Failure of Modern Civilization. -JMP

A couple of SPR articles:

Release Of SPR: It’s What We Do In Election Years

America's Real Strategic Petroleum Reserve

As oil prices ticked above $115 per barrel last week, a White House leak revealed that President Barack Obama may dip into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), the United States' 695 million barrel stockpile of emergency fuel supplies. The leak might have been a signal that Washington wants Gulf countries to take action to lower oil prices. It might also have been an attempt to wring the risk premium out of current prices by reassuring the market that America won't let a potential war with Iran shut off the spigot. The one thing we can say for sure is that the announcement highlights two interrelated problems with U.S. energy policy: that every president since Ronald Reagan has used Saudi Arabia as his de facto SPR and that there exist no clear standards for when to dip onto the actual SPR. Both problems have the potential to bite us -- badly.

SPR Reality Check

You can find the actual reg but it’s very detailed, very long and a difficult read in general. The below is one of the best summaries I’ve found:


Re: “…there exist no clear standards for when to dip onto the actual SPR.” IMHO that’s rather far from the reality but understandable given how little serious coverage the MSM provides the public. Here’s a short except as an example:

“…then the Secretary may draw down and distribute the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, although in no case: "(A) in excess of an aggregate of 30,000,000 barrels. (B) for more than 60 days. (C) if there are fewer than 500,000,000 barrels stored in the Reserve."

Supposedly they can draw the oil out at a rate of up to 4.4 mmbopd. I doubt that could be achieved but let’s give them benefit of the doubt. Thus, by constitutional law (that no president can ignore without the threat of impeachment) this the max effect an SPR release can have on the global oil market: For 7 days we can add 5% to the amount of oil available in the market place. On the 8th day the market returns to its previous dynamic.

In previous posts I offered that the oil exporters need only shut their wells in slightly to keep the SPR release from affecting prices. On second thought I realized they didn’t even need to do that. Since most of the export oil is moved by tanker they need only order a small number of vessels to slow down their sailing speed. Of course, this runs the charter costs up a tad although lately charter costs have gotten extremely low.

Of course, we could pull 1 mmbopd for a month but that would add less than 1% to the supply chain. Obviously no matter how the release is structured it won’t have much effect on the price of oil. The public, with the aid of the MSM, might have such expectations. Psychological effect of the sellers? They understand the dynamics I just described better than anyone else. The consumers? Just my WAG but I suspect most would just carry BAU because the SPR has saved them from high prices.

A quick review of the last SPR release: oil prices had already begun to decline in late summer (as they usually due) before the SPR release. By congressional law the SPR oil cannot be valued lower than the market place. It’s actually valued at the average price of oil in the 30 days prior to the release. Thus the SPR oil released was valued at a price higher than market conditions when it reached the refineries since prices had continued to decline.

And I use the term “valued” instead of sold because the oil isn’t usually sold but loaned to the refineries that are then required to replace it in kind at a later date. IOW what every volume of oil added to the global market place is later removed from the market place to replace the release. This may not make sense but one needs to return to the original stated purpose of the SPR: it’s designed to alleviate a physical shortage of oil and not for the purpose of affecting the price of oil.

BTW did everyone notice that last statement? Under no circumstance can the SPR volume be reduced below 500 mmbo. So when folks say the SPR could replace 4.4 mmbopd of our imports for 6 months they are wrong. It would be closer to 2 month. Anyone want to guess who the govt is saving those 500 mmbo for? Their initials would be sufficient. LOL.

So first the US refuses permission to build a pipeline which would bring oil from Canada, then the US forces Iran to dramatically reduce exports and then the same country wants to release crude from the SPR?
(scratching head)


WP – At the risk of your scratching a hole thru the your skull: the Canadian oil is being imported to the US just the same after as before the president denied the permit to build that very short section of the KPL that physically crosses the border. That same oil is still be imported by the same system as it had been for many years. Hence the huge inventory of Canadian oil sand production accumulating in Cushing, OK. Now that the Cushing/Gulf Coast pipeline system has been expanded by reversing one p/l as well additional p/l’s being built (which don’t need fed approval) within a couple of years over 600,000 bopd will make it ways from OK to Texas. This will give the Canadians more incentive to move oil across our border. That will happen whether that short section of the KPL is ever approved or not. They’ll just expand the current (and aged) system instead of utilizing a newer and better built p/l.

A small correction or qualification. At least for natural gas if those pipes cross a state line then they do need fed approval and that comes from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). To cross the international border you need a Presidential Permit which requires the signature of the POTUS which comes after a review by (I believe) the State Dept. Maybe oil pipelines have a different set of rules.

Nat - Not sure about the NG p/l's but sections of the p/l to increase Canadian imports is under construction now, The states, not the feds regulate them. One p/l from Cushing to the Texas Coast has al,eady been reversed and is moving 150,000 bopd. In two years additional p/l's will increase that to 600,000 bopd.

The states, not the feds regulate them.

You sure about that? Might depend on what aspect of regulation we are talking about.

I believe DOT's PHMSA does regulate oil pipeline safety down in your part of the world, including Keystone. See for example Keystone Now Operational - PHMSA Approves Re-start Plan. TAPS in Alaska, which crosses no state lines is still regulated by the combined Federal and State of Alaska Joint Pipeline Office.


Yeh Rock, you are right. The oil pipelines fall under the Interstate Commerce Act which leaves about everything to the state. Natural gas pipelines fall under the Natural Gas Act which is where FERC jurisdiction comes in. FERC does regulate the oil pipeline tariffs some though. The Army Corp of Engineers does have jurisdiction over the navigatable waterways and had to issue a few permits for the southern portion of Keystone.

D. O. D.

Air Force, Army, Marines, Navy

congressional limos/airplanes provided by branches of the military.

"President Obama said today he's working on a plan to release oil before November to lower gas prices. It will be released from our strategic election reserves." –Jay Leno

And to be even-handed...

"Actually, Mitt Romney and Hurricane Isaac have something in common. They can both change directions at any moment." –Jay Leno

Aardy – Since you brought it up let me point out that President Obama’s release could backfire on him. Given the release has very little chance of affecting prices we could see a price increase. He could explain such a situation on all those invisible speculators. Of course, a clever Republican could counter that the president’s policies are allowing speculators to control prices. Long ago I pointed out a poeential sad commentary about the US electorate: the next president of the USA may be more determined by the price of gasoline this November than any other singe issue.

I just had the opportunity to meet and hear Rocky Anderson, Justice Party candidate for President of the US. ( http://voterocky.org )
Rocky Anderson believes in Peak Oil!
He has always been a leader on Global warming issues reducing Salt Lake City's greenhouse emissions 31% in just 3 years by capturing methane releases from sewage plants among other actions. Of course he also built the Light Rail over opposition. The irony he said is that once it was built then other communities who had been opposing LightRail wanted a station in their area. They saw how Transit-oriented Development had revitalized areas.
Of course President Obama and Biden rode to their Inauguration on a train and have had, as usual, much gum flapping about Green Transit, but as usual the dollars and actual support, or teaching about it, have not been there.
Instead it is more "drill, drill, drill"...

Salt Lake City has had the most impressive build-out of Urban Rail on any US city in the last 12 to 20 years. Denver #2 and Portland Oregon #3 by my judgment. Los Angeles is trying to take the future title.

Map of SLC Light Rail (southward extension opens next year)

This is the Oil Free Alternative (or at least the basics of one) that gives Oil Addicts a Choice,

Best Hopes for More,


If the real problem with US gas prices this fall is lack of refining capacity near US markets (Richmond, and now Venezuela), would an SPR release have any real effect on gasoline prices?

Has anyone seen good data for car maintenance costs?

I'd like to find detailed data that shows cost per year, over say 20 years, by year, for our familiar, conventional internal combustion engine vehicles. A breakdown by component (including engines and transmissions) would be nice, to allow a good comparison between new and old cars (as well as ICEs and EVs, eventually).

I'd like to find averages for broad categories, like compact cars, family cars, SUV's, etc. That would do. AAA and Edmunds.com provide a little information like that, but it's just for the first 5 years of ownership, and the quality of the data is poor.

If I had to choose a model, I'd choose a Toyota Corolla. That seems to be a generally accepted example of a high quality, low cost compact car.

First 5 years ownership data is about useless to Me as I tend to keep vehicles 20+ years.

I would like to see a "Crush Report" from a major scrapper. It would show the average age at which any particular model is no longer worth keeping running. (crashed vehicles excluded)

A Crush Report sounds interesting. Unfortunately, I believe most vehicles are crushed when the cost of repair exceeds the market value, and the market value is heavily dependent on intangibles like marketing of new vehicles.

It's like the old saying about batteries - they don't die of old age, they're murdered.

Automotive Fleet Statistics

They have some information going out to 6 years, but maintenance seems to depend more strongly on mileage than age. Beware that fleet data would be heavily biased towards Chrysler, GM and Ford.

I'd think that maintenance costs would be greatly dependent on make, model, year, options, accessories, etc. For example, the tire pressure monitoring system on new cars increases maintenance costs, as does the trend towards larger diameter rims and odd-sized tires.

With cars older than six years, driver behavior, climate, distance per use, routine maintenance, etc. would substantially affect maintenance costs during the remaining life.

That's very useful, thanks.

Seen anything that breaks down depreciation by year?

Edmunds has a True Cost To Own calculator that gives depreciation for 5 years. You can do the calculation for a 2012 and then for a 2007 year of the same model, which will give you roughly 10 years of depreciation.

Maintenance cost are somewhat dependent on how a vehicle is driven and the environment. My father was the executive manager of the auto service department of major chain discount stores through the 1970's. When the speed limit was lowered in the US from 70 mph generally to 55 mph (people still drove at least 60 mph) the auto maintenance business dropped by over a third. Some of the reduction was due to less miles driven, but most was due to lower speed limits. One supplier of suspension parts to the company saw a near 50% reduction in parts sales after 1974 when speed limit dropped.

As a testiment to this I owned a 1987 chevy S10 pickup that went 312,000 miles on the original transmission and engine. Rarely drove over 65 mph and 75% of the miles were highway. Total mechanical/electrical repairs over the 15 year life of the vehicle were about $4000 (two starters, one alternator, two water pumps, about 4 tuneups, 60 oil changes, two brake jobs, 3 sets of tires). Slower speeds, longer trips, rarely accelerate rapidly, and not overtaxing the vehicle by overloading or driving aggressively will lower the maintenance expense.

Followed the same method of driving with 2001 Dodge Ram 1500 pickup and got 250,000 miles out of it while repairs were two tune ups, one serpentine belt, two brake jobs, lower ball joints and two transmission rebuilds (used for pulling trailer regularily). Still used only 1 qt. of oil every 4000 miles when I sold it. Friend still drives it two years after I sold it and he has had no major repairs.

So, if you want low maintenance costs buy a pickup truck and drive conservatively. Even current pickup truck (2010 3/4 ton Chevy) get 18 mpg going 65 mph, pulling 5 ton load gets 15 mpg going 60 mph (gas).

The oil changes and brake jobs were maybe 40-50% of the overall maintenance cost of the S10?

Do you feel a pickup truck would have lower maintenance costs than a sedan? If so, why?

It's important too, to have a garage if you want a car to last a long time. Just sitting around outside will beat the hell out of a car...exterior, interior, corrosion on everything. If you limit the exposure by parking it in a (dry) garage they can last many years longer and look better during that time doing it. Wax and windshield shades will protect it when it's out and about...and spray off the underside thoroughly from time to time especially if you're in a place that uses salt in the winter. It takes a lot of effort to keep an automobile looking and performing well...and looks are important. When they start getting tatty people start getting lax about mechanical maintenance too.

In my area, the local road maintenance crews spread salt on the roads in winter to melt the snow. If a car is driven over those roads, even during periods when it's dry, the salt eventually finds ways to enter the body and corrosion destroys the car. It's exceedingly difficult to keep the salt at bay, which requires washing after snow and ice storms, as well during dry periods. In freezing weather, it's really difficult for the average person to wash a car.
Using a commercial car wash helps, but the car must still be driven back to one's home. I suspect that a car would last less than 10 years in the snow belt, as rust will eat the fenders and the rocker panels from the inside or thru small pin holes in the paint...

E. Swanson

I've seen single owner cars last 25 years in the snow belt.

It helps to wash the salt off quickly after periods of big saltspreading - soon after snow storms, and then in spring.

Many car owners in the UK use an underbody sealer to protect from the salt. There's enough rain to give the underside a good rinse too ;)


I find that it's possible to keep a car well-maintained while letting the exterior rust. I do keep wax on 'em to some degree, but the utility of a rusty car is quite good. You don't need theft prevention, don't need to lock it. Actually I usually buy my cars initially about 6 years old and pre-sideswiped; a lightly sideswiped vehicle whose doors still work and will pass safety inspection is a great deal, fully functional yet cheap. Other drivers even give you a little extra road room out of prudence, and few people will park too close. After about 20 years I sometimes get actual plants growing out of them while maintaining good mechanical condition. I made that a selling point when I sold off the '89 integra, advertised the vines growing out of the passenger's side door well as a style feature and sold it within a week at full bluebook, vines intact. And then switched to a nice sideswiped car.

Garage space is too precious here to use for a car...

You would have been a good buyer for our 20 year old Accord - it was in perfect condition (one owner) except that a tree had fallen on it, and pancaked the roof!

I couldn't swear that the windshield cracks wouldn't spread, though...

... You don't need theft prevention, don't need to lock it. Actually I usually buy my cars initially about 6 years old and pre-sideswiped; a lightly sideswiped vehicle whose doors still work and will pass safety inspection is a great deal, fully functional yet cheap. Other drivers even give you a little extra road room out of prudence, and few people will park too close. ...

Also, beat up rental cars are often a good way to go when traveling. Shiny new rental cars are often a target for break ins and other mischief. In a beat up car people assume you are a local.

Awhile back some extended family were visiting Alaska. Rentals are very expensive around here in summer, so we steered them to a local 'rent a junker' lot. They got a nice, though slightly beat up rig that ran well. The rental guy even threw in a second spare, since our guests wanted to drive the McCarthy road (built on an old mining railroad grade, and RR spikes sometimes surface).

They ended up with an amusing story. They were at a view point, and a Canadian couple pulled up in a shiny motor home. The Canadians started telling them "You Alaskans sure have a beautiful state..." After a bit of conversation our guests finally revealed that they were actually from Iowa.

Great! Indeed, if your car looks bad enough, people may not just think you're local, but local and deranged, and that's another value-add proposition. And particularly credible in Alaska.

Now when I rent a car in alaska, I tend to go for a newish one, because I often find myself turning around on impossibly narrow cliff roads. I also generally sleep in it. I slip easily into a convincing redneck persona while there, and am approached by brave tourists sometimes. Of course, even an out-of-practice geologist can offer pretty good tourist advice in AK without breaking cover. (I had an opportunity to be an Alaska Geo early in my career, but my comfort level with helicopters and polar bears was insufficient for where GSI hoped to send me).

"Local" and "Deranged" are more or less synonymous in Alaska.

As the bumper sticker says: "We're here, because we're not all there!"


Around here shiny rentals are targets for the police to shake a few pesos out of tourists.


Has anyone seen good data for car maintenance costs?

I would tend to follow Consumer Reports for their guidelines, but I am not sure they actually report out a cost. I think they just report out a grade (excellent, fair, poor, etc).

I think this is actually kind of a tough one. Some folks are better about maintenance, or where the car is located (i.e is the car driven where there are seasonal salted roads), and driving style.

Plus for driveway mechanics like myself, if a car has breakdowns, but is inexpensive to DIY repair (brake pads, and such) it might be a preferred car over a car that rarely breaks down, but is expensive to repair (hard to find parts, imported parts, car seems unable to be DIY worked on so forced to pay a mechanic).

A bit on delivery vans here, claiming a 10:1 maintenance cost savings:

Staples said the annual maintenance cost of a diesel delivery truck is about $2,700 in most years, including oil, transmission fluid, filters and belts. For an electric truck—which has no transmission and needs no fluids, filters or belts—the cost is about $250.

From incidentals I've read elsewhere I speculate the maintenance cost there is almost entirely tire repair. Nothing else registers above $100/year. Note Staples figures must not be including a ~10 year battery replacement in the maintenance costs.


One big savings comes in brakes. Because electric trucks use "regenerative" braking, which returns some of the force of stopping to the batteries in the form of electricity, the brakes don't wear out as fast. That means the brakes last four or five years, not one or two, before they need a $1,100 repair.

Electric trucks also don't need the urea exhaust-cleaning system of diesels, which costs about $700 a year to maintain. And electric motors are far less complex than diesel engines, last much longer and the training required to work on them is minimal, Mr. Payette said.

Some of those maintenance costs for diesel trucks sound unreasonably high. Reasonable estimates for an oil change might be $100 every 5000 miles, including filters; belts might need changing every 50,000 miles for $200; and transmission fluid $200 every 100,000 miles. As for tires, without specifying the size it's hard to guess, but if we assume six tires per truck, $300 per tire, and 100,000 miles tire life, that's $1800 per 100,000 miles. That's $4400 total per 100,000 miles. So it's quite easy to imagine $2700 for around 70,000 miles per year, or 200 miles per day. But if we exclude tires (which we have to, unless the electric truck does not use tires), the cost would drop to about $1700. We still can't be comparing it with an electric truck, because the electric truck only drives 70 miles per day. For comparable mileage the diesel would cost about $600 in maintenance, excluding tires.

If brakes need an $1100 repair every year, someone needs driving lessons. And on most delivery trucks $1100 seems on the high end for a complete brake overhaul. For that price you can just about fit new rotors and pads on all four wheels for a Ford F350, which might be a typical delivery truck.

As for the urea costs, that appears to be exaggerated. The only maintenance normally needed is refilling with the urea solution, consumption of which is about 2% of fuel consumption. The urea solution costs about $5 per gallon at truck stops, and if the truck travels 70,000 miles at 14mpg it uses 5000 gallons of fuel and 100 gallons of urea at a cost of $500. But again, the mileage driven in an electric truck is only a third of this.

I can see that operating costs for an electric delivery truck could be much lower than for a diesel truck, but claiming a 10:1 maintenance cost ratio is unbelievable for comparable service. When such unbelievable numbers are thrown around, it is hard to believe anything else in the article.

Remember that these are local delivery trucks.

So, for instance, you assumed 14mpg, but the article says 10. Similarly, the article suggests that the daily mileage for the electric trucks is very similar to that of the diesels.

Local stop and start is much harder on mechanicals.

Also, these costs include not just preventive maintenance but also random as-needed repairs, which can be 50% of a fleet's maintenance budget.

Plus city repair shops, parts suppliers etc are likely more expensive than highway.


Some more sources.

Minnesota DoT report on Per Mile Costs to operate. Report has delivery truck Maint./repair ~ $0.10/mile (not including fuel), and I believe an annual mileage of 22K is typical, totaling $2200/year in ~agreement w/ Staples.
( page 19 )

Fleet-Central, delivery fleet costs by age of vehicle, comes in significantly lower, about ~$1K/year (2004 dollars) for Maint/Tires/Repairs except for very old vehicles avg 300K miles exceed $3K/year.

One other factor: I suspect the studies above count out of pocket repair/maintenance/tire costs only, while a fleet manager like Staples includes down time cost for the vehicle while it is in the repair shop. So, for instance, even if a repair was free or under warranty, it is not free to the fleet owner.

Thanks - I'll take a look in a moment (swamp draining...).

Re: Energy to keep booming no matter who's president

I posted a comment last night under this article that, over the last five years, a roughly 100% increase in oil prices resulted in a whopping 14% increase in crude oil production, and that natural gas producers are basically losing their asses, selling below their production costs to keep the bubble inflated. My comment didn't clear the moderator. Of course, it seems most of the asinine, imbecillic comments typical to these articles got through.

In contrast to an ever increasing reliance on foreign, non-renewable energy sources and concerns over fuel poverty (Ever more expensive gas for Andrew) we have this:

Cape Breton's coal mining homes get 'green' twist

A new seniors development in Glace Bay is modelled on the town's coal mining history, but will rely on sustainable energy.

The brightly-colored rowhouses are built to look like the 19th and early 20th century originals, but use geothermal heat, wind power and solar energy.

"It's completely self-sufficient. It will produce more heat, energy and electricity than it consumes," said Luciano Lisi, the developer.

See: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/story/2012/08/24/ns-cape-breto...

Heat and domestic hot water will be supplied by geothermal heat pumps that utilize mine water from an abandoned coal mine located directly below the property. The electricity will be generated by four on-site wind turbines (one 50 kW and three 10 kW) and by thin-film solar panels.

The renewable energy gods must be getting a good chuckle out of this one.


Hey Paul,

Just curious, do you know if a project like this is incorporating LED lighting into the overall plan?

Or is their electricity going to be too cheap to meter >;^)



I'm not sure, Fred, but that would be my hope.

As it turns out, I have a list of twenty-two seniors complexes where we'll be deploying the latest in LED technology (hallways, day rooms, and other common areas). For the first of the two buildings I audited on Friday (http://i362.photobucket.com/albums/oo69/HereinHalifax/AG.jpg), I've specified several hundred EnduraLED PAR20s, BA11s, G25s and L-Prize A19s.

There are fifty-four stairwell fixtures currently fitted with 13-watt CFLs, many with cracked or missing shades (e.g., http://i362.photobucket.com/albums/oo69/HereinHalifax/Img_1732.jpg). I'm still weighing my options on this. I can't risk having a $50.00 lamp stolen from one of these fixtures (you could theoretically reach up and unscrew one in a matter of seconds), so if we do go LED I'll have use some sort of enclosed fixture. However, with various pipes and conduits in the way, we're really tight for space. A Philips L-Prize lamp would supply roughly 20 per cent more light, consume 25 per cent less electricity and last perhaps four to five times longer, so it's my preferred option.


Is there a good source for the L-Prize A19 lamp in Canada?

The renewable energy gods will certainly have the last laugh - whether it is a bitter or joyful laugh is the only question.

I'm not sure. Any Philips lighting distributor/wholesaler can order them, but they may require that you purchase a case of six if it's not something they normally stock. The only other option is to order on-line through Home Depot's US website or Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Philips-423244-10-Watt-60-Watt-L-Prize/dp/B007RKVT4C). Good luck !


Hey Paul,

I have been meaning to mention that I bought the Phillips EnduraLED MR16 lamp to try out. Swapped it in to see how it would work and more importantly sound as per your caveat.

The fan noise, though subtle, is definitely there. I didn't mention that I had installed the lamp to my wife. Unsolicited she remarked that the lights in the bathroom were making a lot of noise.

I'll have to look at other options.



Thanks for confirming this, Andrew. Philips recently refreshed much of their LED product line with something they call "airflux technology" (http://www.usa.lighting.philips.com/lightcommunity/trends/led/airflux/). Their new 5.5-watt GU10 which is similar in size uses it, and it's possible that their MR16s will too at some future date. Until then, probably best to go with an alternate supplier.


There are practical reasons for eliminating fans. Around here we have a LOT of fine dust, think talcum powder size. It would not take long for a good coat to build up on the blown heat sink. We get it on computer heat sinks and causes serious temperature rises(time to clean mine?). I also get fur build up from the bunch of fur heads here, that goes well with dust. Passive cooling fares much better.


Anchovy price leap causes food industry chain reaction

… the global nature of the food chain means severe storms off the coast of Peru have led to a dramatic jump in the price of the oily fish – which will in turn lead to a spike in Scottish farmed fish, Chinese pigs and even Omega 3 tablets in Holland & Barratt.

"That's the nature of today's food business – everything's connected

The price is rising due to the growth in farmed fish [mostly salmon and prawns], which feed on them, and the substitution of fish meal as animal feed because corn has become too expensive: the corn price has hit a record high as a result of the severe drought in the US.

Attempts to avoid food crisis may worsen problem

LONDON (Reuters) - Attempts by major food importing nations to shelter their populations from the effects of a U.S. drought may make a bad situation worse, five years after the last jump in crop prices provoked rioting in some of the world's most fragile states.

Many governments have watched on the sidelines as drought in the U.S. farm belt sent prices of corn (maize) soybeans and wheat soaring, hoping that the market would eventually ease.

However, their nerve seems to have broken with Mexico, the world's second biggest corn importer which suffered "tortilla riots" in 2007, making a huge purchase last week.

With fears growing that drought will also cut the wheat harvest in the Black Sea region, buyers in the turbulent Middle East are now also pouring on to the markets.

"A cascade effect is not inconceivable and may well be taking place …

Wheat output is also looking shaky as drought blights large producers such as Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan, and raises the risk that they might impose export bans to hold down prices on their home markets. Weather woes are also showing up in other significant wheat producers Australia and India.

and High price of corn forcing farmers to feed candy to livestock

Reckoning Wheat Yield Trends

Abstract: Wheat yields have increased approximately linearly since the mid-twentieth century across the globe, but stagnation of these trends has now been suggested for several nations.

We present a new statistical test for whether a yield time series has leveled off and apply it to wheat yield data from 47 different regions to show that nearly half of the production within our sample has transitioned to level trajectories.

With the major exception of India, the majority of leveling in wheat yields occurs within developed nations—including the United Kingdom, France and Germany—whose policies appear to have disincentivized yield increases relative to other objectives.

The effects of climate change and of yields nearing their maximum potential may also be important.

... Of the 50 regions tested for yield stagnation, 27 show yields that have leveled off when performing the test at the 80% confidence level, including the Western US, the majority of Western Europe, India, Bangladesh, Romania, Colombia, Albania, Egypt, Hungary, Japan, Pakistan, South Korea and Zambia (figure 4).

Using 2007 numbers, wheat accounts for 19% of the total calories of food produced, and the 47 countries sampled in our analysis account for 75% of the total global wheat production (FAO 2012).

The 27 regions with confirmed plateaus at the 80% confidence level account for 35% of global wheat production (FAO 2012, USDA 2011). We prefer to report values at 80% confidence so as to reduce the probability of false negatives, but note that 18 regions have leveled off with at least 95% confidence and that they still account for 28% of global wheat production.

... peak wheat?

End of season wheat stocks are a good metric of how things are going globally for the human species. Stocks have been a consistent 70 lbs per capita since about 1960. That changed in 2003 with the big biofuel push, and stocks quickly drew down to about 40 pounds per capita. That's the danger zone - it was obvious in the fall of 2010 that wheat prices were going to trigger some changes. Arab spring popped up right on schedule six months later.

I have not dug into this since 2010 but I should probably revisit it - we talk of many different sorts of resource depletion, but this end of season wheat stock per capita seems to be a magic indicator. I have seem much anecdotal evidence that 2012 has not been food for wheat crops, I should probably wade through all the reports and come up with some sort of report.

That would be very useful, informative and much appreciated...

Watson mixes the candy with an ethanol by product and a mineral nutrient.

Wow! Reality is getting more like a bad doomsday scifi movie by the minute... Though I think I've got a better idea!

Why not just bypass the cattle, let it ferment a little and bottle the final product and market it directly as a balanced nutritional energy brew to J6pack?

I was thinking of the EROEI of this particular diet for cattle.

It's has to be WAY more than the 8 Kcal of feed for every 1 Kcal of useable protein.

But it's candy that would be discarded otherwise. The industrial equivalent of feeding chickens or hogs table scraps.

And, although it's not made clear in the article, I strongly suspect the "ethanol byproduct is dried distillers grain"

Distiller's grain can be dried but they try to feed it wet - saves the cost of the natgas to get it dry for storage. I think it lasts two or three weeks from the time of creation.

"What's for dinner, Mum?"
"Mars bars and fermented corn sludge."
"Won't it rot my teeth?"
"Trust me, that's the least of your worries. Shhh, here comes the farmer."

We did this 15 years ago on the Central California dairy I was living on at the time. The bad part is the wrappers (there were still some wrappers in the loads). At the nearby hog farm, we fed flavored yogurt (fruit at the bottom) where the bottlers had not properly inserted the flavoring so it was swirled, or mixed, or on top.

There was nothing wrong with the food other than appearance (I ate some of the candy and yogurt). Some of the best vegetables/fruits I've ever had have been off of feed slabs (harvested too late to ship, but perfectly ripe if eaten promptly).

The way I would do the accounting, the EROEI is high (only the energy to divert this waste from landfill to farm should count as invested). The energy investment of the process which produced the waste goes to the product produced by that process (candy bars).

Yeah, that fruit and veg flavour would have benefited from the proper ripening process on the plant.


Interesting. Did you have to take the yogurt out of the containers for the hogs?

It does seem like there's a lot of waste in the system. If push came to shove, people would be more than willing to eat the yogurt that was improperly swirled, soup with vegetables cut in the wrong shapes, fruit that has cosmetic imperfections, etc. that is now thrown away or fed to livestock.

A rather large Darigold milk plant was the prime spot for outdated milk products for hog growers. Retail could send it back to the plant, the plant credited the grocer and then"disposed"of the products It got competitive enough among the pig growers to sell the rights, but that bidding soured, no pun intended, when they declared that the high bidder would have to take all products. It just wasn't cost/time effective to collect, open and pour all those little school milk cartons. Or so the guy who gave up the right told me.

I let it percolate for a couple days, but I don't remember. I was working on the dairy, not the hog farm(which belonged to an uncle of the cousin who was managing the dairy for the owner). I remember the yogurt because I liberated several flats of it and stuck it in the apartment fridge. It was delivered as a truckload of cardboard flats, in individual serving plastic containers. I would assume that the packaging had to be removed. That could have gone a couple different ways, but it may be that I only saw this once because it was more labor than it was worth.

We also fed a lot of tomato pumice that came out the back-end of a food prcessing plant(measuring the moisture content of each load was part of my work), and $5/ton plums, and (later) wet whey from a cheese plant (which originally was trucked to us for free, as they needed to dispose of it, and later we provided trucking). In AZ and Socal he fed a lot of melons and canteloupe. My dad's company built/programmed the controls to unload the tanker trucks into storage tanks, and blend the whey into the drinking trough water ditribution system at variable rates depending on the characteristics of the delivered whey, which corral was fed by a given line, and the desired ration for the cows or heifers in that corral. It was important as the delivery concentration varied, ration details needed to be controlled, and too much whey would kill cows from acidosis. Also, free choice would lead to some cows gorging themselves and others avoiding the whey, so drinking water blending was selected.

The dairy manager spent a significant amount of time using a spreadsheet to come up with least-cost balanced rations which utilized as much low dollar ag waste as possible (since what was delivered was constantly varying). They were actually among the first in the industry to use DDGS before it was expensive. He talked to the owner about it every now and then and they had a nutritionist retained who was available for questions but also did a detailed review every month or two.

The ability to maintain social organization at lower power consumption will depend partly on continuing Moore's Law by finding new material systems for electronic processing, storage, and communication of information. Molybdenum sulfide, it's not just for grease anymore?

Research on molybdenum disulfide sparks new apps

Molybdenum disulfide, used for many years as an industrial lubricant, promises to become another 2-D platform for electronic devices on par with graphene, itself a 2-D platform for new electronic devices.
Researchers have been searching for a material that shares some of graphene’s extraordinary properties and has a bandgap, and molybdenum disulfide does. Wang and Palacios were able to fabricate an inverter; a NAND gate; a memory device; and a ring oscillator, made up of 12 interconnected transistors, which can produce a precisely tuned wave output. Also, by using one-molecule thick MoS2 material for transistors in large-screen displays to control each pixel of a display eliminates millions of atoms-thick silicon used in conventional transistors, potentially reducing cost and weight and improving energy efficiency, claim the researchers.

The link goes back to The Oil Drum...
Here's the link:

There are many ways to create a bandgap in graphene:

The Spanish Robin Hood

Last week, and not for the first time, Juan Manuel Sánchez Gordillo found himself in the Spanish headlines. Dubbed "Robin Hood" by El Pais, Sánchez Gordillo, the mayor of a small town in rural Andalusia, led farm labourers into supermarkets to expropriate basic living supplies: they filled trolleys with pasta, sugar, chickpeas and milk, left without paying, and distributed the loot to local food banks. His reasoning was blunt: "The crisis has a face and a name. There are many families who can't afford to eat."

It's hard to overstate how close to the brink Spain is at the moment. Unemployment is at 25% nationally (higher than Greece), 34% in Andalusia and 53% for 16-to-24-year-olds; miners in Asturias are firing homemade rocket launchers at riot police; repossessions and the collapse of the construction industry have left 800,000 empty homes, and, last May, the 8 million-strong indignados protest movement, a forerunner of Occupy, announced its total lack of faith in parliamentary democracy to solve any of these problems. And this is just the phoney war: last month, the prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, announced spending cuts of ¤65bn (£51bn) over the next two years.

It's like playing Jeopardy..this would be the question to the answer What does collapse look like ?

Here's an interesting graph, it is the evolution of the Trade Deficit of Spain, from 1995 to 2011.

If it doesn't appear for some reason or if it is too big, the url of the article is

The Red bars are the energetic deficit; imports of fuels, Gas and Oil and Coal are not separated to make the image simpler.
Spain imports almost 100% of the Oil, Gas and Coal it consumes.

"In 2010 the energetic deficit made up 4,5 % of Spanish GDP/pib".

It is obvious that fuels are eating up all the other imports, it is no sustainable specially now that the country has no credit.

It is been a very unusual Summer. Usually Spain is asleep in Summer, paralyzed by the heat (temperatures of up to 45ºC were recorded this year), taking it easy on the beach. But this year there were lots of fires this Summer, strikes, lots of people are getting fired and the country waits to see what September brings to us.
Nothing good.

* About eating the bankers:
cenital emilio bueso (google it)
E B is an Engineer who also writes terror novels.

It is 2014 and Spain is totally collapsed, a few islands of stability survive among barbarians, cannibals, rapine and destruction.

2014! that is very soon.

S – Obviously it’s easy to be sympathetic with these folks. Hunger is a strong motivation especially when a father is looking into the face of his children. OTOH the owners of those stores have children that need to be feed. Depending on how much was stolen some stores may go out of business. Or worse decide to use deadly force to protect their livelihood. Spain may have tough handgun laws but many folks have their hunting shotguns.

For some counties, such as Spain and Greece, a long term solution seems impossible. So as matters get worse in Spain is this what it comes down: the children of the stronger, be it the store owner or the field worker, eat and the others starve? Starving children standing at the gravesite of a parent killed trying to provide them with nourishment? A grim picture, eh. If/when conditions reach such levels in the US is this what we’ll see? Just MHO but I don’t see the Spanish as less moral or more prone to violence than any other developed nation. Perhaps more so them some other countries I might name.

If there was any justice, they would eat the banksters.

This was a publicity stunt and protest, not the direct actions of the hungry.

Carrefour and Mercadona (the targeted mega-chains) will probably survive a few thousand dollars of staples being removed. In fact, I'm confident they have received far more in tax incentives from local government.

Also, note that the people who did this are Communist communal farmers (who had been landless laborers but obtained their land about 30 years ago via squatting on unused ag land held by a Spanish aristocrat), they aren't hungry, they distributed the goods to food banks.

There is an old Spanish saying: "Civilization and anarchy are seven meals apart."

I think it appropriate to keep these words in mind, as we look at the decline occurring all around.

I have researched the major political/social upheavals of the last 200 years (for which we have the best access to historical records) and was quite surprised to see that almost every single major revolution was triggered by a food crisis. While other factors helped to set the stage, it was only in the countries which experienced food shortages or extremely high price increases in staple products that actual revolts occurred (and nearly spontaneously). Therefore, I suggest we continue to follow food production numbers and trends, both regionally and globally, in order to help the followers of TOD keep these factors in mind, both for their business as well as their individual livelihoods.


And yet, global cereal production and stocks are on track for all time highs. Even after recent adjustments for drought.


It's the 'export land model' for grains. A little more is being produced, but exporters have less to export. Population growth, drought and ethanol are some of the explanations.

As an aside...

I like this chart Kay MacDonald posted at Big Picture Agriculture. A lot of land in the U.S. has been brought into agricultural production recently, because of high corn prices. Unfortunately this was marginal land, and land that was habitat for a lot of wildlife which have enough challenges given climate change.

One of the reasons the corn crop was to be a bumper crop this year was there were so many more acres planted... and then the drought hit.

I'm afraid that forecast is 3 months old, and not sufficiently adjusted for drought:

"...the bulk of the increase in cereal production from last year is still expected to originate from a significant expansion in maize production in the United States..."

Maize production will in fact fall sharply.

The FAO report was 5th July (not 7th of May) and acknowledged reduced US maize production. Let's see what the Sept 6th report brings...

I got it wrong about stocks. While the current FAO projection of 536 million tonnes would be the highest in the last 10 years, it is only 3/4 of 1999's level of 700+ million tonnes.

And as Hill Rat notes above, on a per capita basis, it's even worse. In very quick, round terms, 700/6B is .116 tons, and 536/7B is .077 tons, which is just 2/3rds as much per capita now as in '99.

There is an old Spanish saying: "Civilization and anarchy are seven meals apart."
I think it appropriate to keep these words in mind, as we look at the decline occurring all around.
~ LetUsRebuild

Civilization and anarchy are not what they seem...

Anarchism is

...generally defined as the political philosophy which holds the state to be immoral, or alternatively as opposing authority in the conduct of human relations. Proponents of anarchism (known as "anarchists") advocate stateless societies based on non-hierarchical voluntary associations.

Civilization is

...a way of life characterized by the growth of cities... I defined a city as a collection of people living in numbers large enough to require the importation of resources... A couple of things happen as soon as you require the importation of resources: One is that your way of living can never be sustainable, because if you require the importation of resources, what that means is you've denuded the landscape of that particular resource, and as your city grows, you will denude an ever-larger area. That means that, functionally, your way-of-life can never be sustainable... it won't last.
The other thing it means is that your way-of-life must be based on violence, because if you require the importation of resources, what that means is that trade will never be sufficiently reliable, because if you require the importation of resources and you need a particular resource that you are going to try to trade the next village over for, but they won't give it to you? You'll take it because you require it... The US military would still have to be huge, because otherwise, how else are we going to get access to our oil which is under someone else's land?
~ Derrick Jensen

Modern industrial civilization has

...developed within a certain system of convenient myths. The driving force of modern industrial civilization has been individual material gain, which is accepted as legitimate, even praiseworthy, on the grounds that private vices yield public benefits, in the classic formulation. Now, it has long been understood, very well, that a society that is based on this principle will destroy itself in time. It can only persist, with whatever suffering and injustice that it entails, as long as it is possible to pretend that the destructive forces that humans create are limited, that the world is an infinite resource, and that the world is an infinite garbage can. At this stage of history either one of two things is possible. Either the general population will take control of its own destiny and will concern itself with community interests, guided by values of solidarity, sympathy and concern for others, or alternatively there will be no destiny for anyone to control...In this possibly terminal phase of human existence, democracy and freedom are more than values to be treasured, they may well be essential to survival.
~ Noam Chomsky

Chaos may be when 'nanny-states' start to stop feeding people, or increase the costs of their food, etc.. But then, should grown-ups be feeding themselves?

"Control the oil and you control entire nations; control the food and you control the people."
~ Henry Kissinger

Democracy is inherently incompatible with a restriction of resources and a declining economy.

At the first pangs of famine, the voters will vote to eat the seed corn.

Democracy is not the same as hold plebiscites on everything. People do not not need to have direct daily control of seed corn policy in order for a governance system to qualify as a democracy.

I suspect your point is valid, democracy is challenged by difficult times, however the other options are better, just easier.

The problem is not so much which political system one uses, but that capitalism is used as the allocation mechanism.

Technically, "capitalism" refers to private (and presumably unregulated) ownership of the means of production. It implies ownership that is concentrated in a small minority, who employ the rest.

"Free markets" - relatively unregulated, decentralized trading between private parties - are the allocation mechanism.

And those who squeal loudest about how the "free market" "capitalism" is "becoming socialist" don't quite grok with fullness how long ago that ship sailed.

Because places where this "free market" "capitalism" are actually being practiced are few and far between.

It implies ownership that is concentrated in a small minority, who employ the rest.

I agree with your definitions, probably including the minority characterization, but not the 'small' part. Marx certainly assumed concentration in small even a tiny minority, but the rise of the middle class made it far less true than at the rise of the industrial age.

I would note that, in the US at least, the middle class has been shrinking in terms of real wages and total assets with all of that loss going to that 'small minority'. Europe seems to be following our lead at this time also. As energy constraints really start kicking in hard over the next few years I expect that metric to become even stronger.

In a world of declining available per capita energy I would expect that, if we continue to be slaves to the capitalist system (as our betters indicate we should), the percent of ownership in that tiny minorities hands will grow significantly. Or is that the plan?

would note that, in the US at least, the middle class has been shrinking in terms of real wages and total assets

Agreed, recently.

... with all of that loss going to that 'small minority'.

The losses did not all go to the rich; mostly the wealth is simply gone. The top 1% took by far the largest asset losses in the recession. The number of multi-millionaires fell by a third at the recession bottom and today is still less than it was six years ago in 2006. No tears for them but I will not also call them thieves when its not true.


According to the source below, 1% of US citizens own 62% of business equity. That seems to qualify for "tiny".


Nick: That was sloppy on my side - thanks for articulating what I meant to say.

You're welcome!

Aside from allocation, capitalism seems to have only one answer to a non-renewable resource "use it up as fast as possible". Going forward that's going to be the greatest drawback we get from it.

I don't know - would you describe the USSR (when it existed) and PRC as capitalist? They were/are even worse on that score.

I have seen the economic system of the Soviet Union described as State Capitalism. It could be viewed as the ultimate capitalist monopoly within one state.

hmmm. Would that be the case for any pure socialist or communist state?

Just to add,
The textbook versions of Capitalism, Socialism and all other isms don't exist in reality, what exists are their bastardized versions as imagined by (mostly) men hence all implementations of them are colored by our fears, culture, biases etc. You don't just get one, you get the whole range. Hence you have the cute cuddly variety of capitalism where a small time business owner sells his wares and then you have the Goldman variety of capitalism and every variety in between. Same story with socialism.

I think these debates about pure "isms" are pointless and generate un-necessary friction.

Excellent points. These things often take up religious like status, with one side being described as absolutely great, and the other as absolutely corrupt/evil. Then it just degenerates into a shouting match -or worse.

In the mean time, we can't discus strengths/weaknesses of a given system, because people are trying to put us into one pure camp or the other.

Our current investor based form of capitalism seems incapable of conserving resources because it seeks to maximize net present value (and usually with a high discount rate), and what happens a decade or more down the road has such a tiny weighting that it doesn't affect the calculation. The attempts at Communism/Socialism saw themselves as being in an existential struggle against capitalism, and so felt they had to show shortterm results, so they didn't try to conserve resources either.

The current task should be to construct a new system capable of dealing with long term resource constraints. Such a system will probably borrow from both capitalism and socialism, as well as incorporating ideas from outside those two camps. Lets say for the sake of argument, that each "system" will contribute a third of the new synthesis.

When the 1917 revolution succeeded, there was the awkward situation (from the viewpoint of Marxist theory) that, instead of occurring in one of the most advanced capitalist countries as predicted by Marx, it occurred in one of the least advanced. As a work around, the Communist politicians/theoreticians came up with the idea of an intermediate stage, specifically "State capitalism" that was supposed to (eventually) lead to a situation where the "state would wither away". I suppose there is a case that these theoretical contributions were the Marxist analogue to the later idea of "trickle down economics".

This all reminds one of Einstein's quote: "In theory, theory and practice are the same, but in practice, they are not".

I probably should have said "popular democracy". A representative democracy with a limited franchise, such as Great Britain in the 19th century, is able to resist popular demands.

Democracy is inherently incompatible with a restriction of resources and a declining economy.

You think you have democracy now or had it just before 2008 or 2005?

Increased potential localization from a declining economy would seem to enhance democracy by placing the means of production of basic necessities back into the hands of people. Hell, Seraph's Robin Hood post even seems to suggest this.

As for voting...

Democracy consists of choosing your dictators, after they've told you what you think it is you want to hear.
~ Alan Coren

George Carlin

This in sharp contrast to Iceland which made the decision early in the financial crisis to let the banks fail and tell creditors to take a hike. They seem to have weathered the resulting short term pain rather nicely.

Top Economists: Iceland Did It Right … And Everyone Else Is Doing It Wrong

How much of this long term pain in Spain, Greece, Italy et al is a direct result of an explicit policy to keep the vampire squids whole and happily jamming their blood funnels into anything that smells like money?

Tangentially related:

Why You Always Want Physical Everything

There is a bit of um, debate in the comments whether Simon Black isn't after all just being a tool and that cash only is more about tax evasion. Still, it's worth wondering what capital controls and total loss of faith in the banking system would look like in a country near you.


In addition to what Europe maybe should have done, maybe the US should have done what Iceland did as well and avoided the trillions paid in the bailout. I still don't buy that our economy would have completely and utterly collpased without AIG, Citicorp, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, etc. One of the ideas behind capitalism is competition, and as businesses fail others take their place. Where did that idea go?

Maybe it would have been a huge boost to the economy if instead of foreclosing on people, let them have the property free and clear. They make out like bandits while the banks fail. New banks spring up and the real estate market hardly misses a beat.

That would have forced the banks to learn a very hard lesson, but instead they have a sense of anything goes because they will get their hand held like a baby and never be forced to learn from the experience. AIG threw extremely extravagant party's! That should have told us something right there. I would have loved to have watched them fail.

People want to have it both ways. They claim capitalism is great, but when push comes to shove they defer to socialism to save the cronies. Then they do a 180 and claim capitalism is great and we should not regulate the banks. Huh?!

AIG was not saved for AIG. AIG was saved because they had CDS's that needed to be paid to Goldman and other big banks. AIG was a scam all along. The banks wrote insurance contracts with AIG so they could legally move gambles off balance sheet where they would not be legally required to maintain adequate capital reserves against them. Everyone understood these insurance contracts were bogus, because AIG had no money. It was just a giant scam to game the system.

Fannie and Freddie were saved because the Chinese have a ton of money invested in them and they threatened to sell of their Treasury holding and blow up the US federal debt bomb unless .gov stepped in and backstopped the Fannie/Freddie paper.

You see the same pattern in Europe. If Greece can't pay its debt, then German and French and Dutch banks will fail. If German and French and Dutch banks fail, then Goldman and other big US banks have problems. So, first, the German taxpayers are strong-armed into taking on debt to cover the Greek positions. And if they balk, then the IMF steps in and offers US and other taxpayer money to cover the debt.

Since 2008 this has been a constant process. Private debt is transferred one step at a time onto taxpayers. Trillions of additional debt are added in the process, just to keep the game going while this process is played out. None of it is even vaguely intended to help normal citizens or protect their economies. Everything is being done to keep the bankers and their bondholders from facing the consequences of issuing all this debt that can never be repaid.

Under true capitalism the banks failing would have been a regulating mechanism in the not too distant future. There's no need to regulate malinvestment only theft or fraud, because the pain and scars left by malinvestment teaches lessons that no regulation ever could. We haven't been true capitalist in the west for quite some time, so we certainly can't blame that economic theory for our problems. We bailout the cronies on wallstreet in the name of saving mainstreet that's not capitalism that's fear mongering the middle class in order to save the elite. I think we are making what would have been a big mess much much bigger.

I really don't think we are capable of learning the malinvestment lesson. Especially across generations, It's always different this time! At least until it isn't.
Now if we only had small banks, or large banks that were forced to maintain high capitalization ratio's, so the customers and/or economy weren't on the line, maybe we could let them fail (with high capitalization bank shareholders would lose, but the bank would remain intact). But bankers want low capitalization ratios so they can gamble, and once they got enough clout with the regulators they got their wish.

"I really don't think we are capable of learning the malinvestment lesson. Especially across generations"

EOS, what do you think stopped another great depression from happening until now? Two Generations had learned a lesson from it! It was the young baby boomers and the Gen X crowd that started to forget.

"Now if we only had small banks, or large banks that were forced to maintain high capitalization ratio's, so the customers and/or economy weren't on the line, maybe we could let them fail"

That's just working against what I'm saying you have to let everyone be on the hook, so they will care about they're investment. Take the FDIC for instance, with the FDIC in place I don't care what my bank (large or small) does with my money, as long as I don't go over $250,000. Why should I care? Now take away the FDIC implied bailout of MY investment in a bank, then I have much more interest(pardon the pun)in my banks plans for my money. You have to let the pain be the teacher that it is, that's natures way. Many here claim to be looking for what's natural and pain is very natural, it enhances your memory and your survival instincts. Why would I care if I stick my hand in the fire if I can't feel the heat? Real fear of pain prevents systemic economic problems, just as it did in America from the 1930's until around the 1990's.

I'll take a collapse now for 60 years of a stabilized but smaller economy.

EOS, what do you think stopped another great depression from happening until now? Two Generations had learned a lesson from it! It was the young baby boomers and the Gen X crowd that started to forget.

Umm... a myriad of legislation following the Great Depression, such as the Glass-Steagall Act, which was repealed in the late 90's and early 2000's by the "We must de-regulate to thrive!" crowd and allowed the tech and housing bubbles to go ballistic before bursting in spectacular fashion. That.

They just wait awhile, long enough for the herd to forget, and then cash 'em in again.

How many countries can survive the pain treatment without mutating into something awful. Germany and Italy didn't come through the pain treatment with governments our species can be proud of.

EOS, there will be pain no matter what Bernanke or Obama says or does. I say we take it now and quit bailing out the banksters which only makes it much worse.

Furthermore I don't think allowing banks and investers that made poor judgement to fail equates to another Hitler taking power in the west. Maybe you would like to step away from the Nazi ledge, it's ok.

A May, 2012 article in the WSJ (behind paywall):

In European Crisis, Iceland Emerges as an Island of Recovery

VESTMANNAEYJAR, Iceland—Three and a half years after Iceland collapsed in a heap, Dadi Palsson's fish-processing plant has the air of a surprising economic recovery. Mr. Palsson arrived at 4 a.m. on a recent workday. Twelve tons of cod were coming in. Soon, his workers would bone, slice and pack the fish for loading onto towering container ships headed abroad.

In 2008, Iceland was the first casualty of the financial crisis that has since primed the euro zone for another economic disaster: Greece is edging toward a cataclysmic exit from the euro, Spain is racked by a teetering banking system, and German politicians are squabbling over how to hold it all together. But Iceland is growing. Unemployment has eased. Emigration has slowed.

Iceland has a significant advantage over stressed euro-zone countries—a currency that could be devalued. That has turned its trade deficit into a surplus and smoothed its recovery . . . .

Unlike Ireland, for example, Iceland let its banks fail and made foreign creditors, not Icelandic taxpayers, largely responsible for covering losses.

It has occurred to me that if most oil importing OECD countries are following Iceland's path, just at different rates and at different positions relative to the end of the path, perhaps the following quote is relevant:

“If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well
It were done quickly”

The problem I foresee is that the harder that oil importing OECD countries try to keep the overall (predominantly "Wants" based) economy going, the harder it will be to keep the "Needs" based economy going.

But Iceland was in a much different situation than others. They got in trouble because of an out-of-control banking sector. Other countries wanted to make the Finnish government/people responsible for all the Finnish bank debt. The Finnish people said "No". But they had something to fall back on. They still have very productive fisheries and all that nearly free geothermal power. So they took a hit but were able to build back up using their natural resources and hard work.

Other countries don't have the luxury of having such a small population and rich natural resources.

So I agree that they did the right thing and it is working for them. But I don't think others can easily follow their path.

I agree. They did the "right" thing, but few others are so placed as to copy the example. Perhaps Ireland could have followed the Icelandic example and been better off. The key was small relative size, and the vast bulk of the loans being held by foreigners. And an independent currency was also a big deal.

Of course it isn't just banksters that get shafted when the loan portfolio is gutted. Things like the carefully hoarded savings of retiree's and of entities responsible for retirees end up taking a huge hit.

Granted, but I think that misses the larger point that the policy of "too big to fail" is itself an epic fail. The bankers are making out like bandits, literally, while everyone else is left to starve. Regardless of a given nations circumstances it is pretty clear they would be demonstrably better off by following the Iceland example and pulling the vampire squid off the face of their populace.


"Other countries don't have the luxury of having such a small population and rich natural resources."

Great point speculawyer, I am always amazed that people do not see that when they offer Iceland's response as the solution to other countries economic woes. One size does not fit all.

Ireland and Greece, at least, are fairly small countries with rich natural resources.

Iceland is hardly the example of perfect sustainability. It's a rocky, undeveloped, geologically active island in the middle of a very cold part of the North Atlantic. It has very little in the way of farming, but luckily it has a small populations of people who plan ahead and have built their economy on what resources they do have - their power sector is renewable, and much of what they "produce" is really just fished from the sea. Iceland has good fishing grounds because they've very, very carefully managed them, and been willing to fight even the British navy for their right to manage those resources.

Ireland and Greece have much greater and more productive arable land area and both can claim a very large EEZ in oceans that should be at least as productive than the seas around Iceland - and if they aren't, it is almost certainly due to past and current mismanagement of the resources of those oceans, such as allowing bottom trawling, overly high fishing quotas, lack of protected zones, etc. If they are failing to protect their EEZ while Iceland is protecting theirs, there is not much I can say.

It's not about natural resouces. It's about the political will to hang international bankers out to dry rather than force the people of your country into poverty. Iceland has the advantage of having had to rely on limited natural resources in a place distant from other countries, which probably has lead to the priorities being different than Greece and Ireland which are close and deeply connected to powerful countries which bully them and threaten them.

Well we may soon find out how Greece will fare without access to the international bankers credit creation mechanisms. It just seems to me that for Greece to continue to be a modern industrial state, while the service sector is 85% of their economy, they will need to borrow money perpetually or live within their means (deindustrialize).

I believe it is all about natural resources; or having a massive military to take them. Time will probably show us the answer.

"while the service sector is 85% of their economy, they will need to borrow money perpetually or live within their means (deindustrialize)."

If the service sector is 85% of their economy, it seems pretty deindustrialized already. But I'm at a loss to come up with the word you should have used. Demodernize? Refeudalize? (that would be going back too far.)

Good point PVuy, one thought I had was that although the Greek economy is deindustrialized; their infrastructure is that of a modern industrial nation. Maybe modern first world nation would be a better descriptive term for their infrastructure. The point being that they depend on fossil fuel for the liquid transport fuels to run their service and tourist economy.

When their infrastructure ceases to be modern it may then be time to refeudalize....

Isn't Japan a counter example to the idea that domestic natural resources are essential to prosperity?

All Japan proves to me is that if the GLOBAL economic system of which you are a part is growing and if you are great at manufacturing products you can by running massive deficits do well. When the global economic system reaches debt saturation then the game is over. Debt saturation will come when one can no longer retire/service debt. To do away with the debts would destroy all debt based currency which allows countries to issue massive amounts of money while slowing the velocity of money preventing hyperinflation.

Here is a great Nate Hagens video on the unsustainable nature of the ponzi scheme that is our global economic system.


I'd say Japan has a lot of natural resources. More than Iceland. In particular, Japan gets a ton of rain each year.

Jared Diamond pointed to Japan as one society that avoided collapse for thousands of years. Almost 80% of Japan is still forested - amazing considering the need for farmland on an island nation. But that heavy rainfall really helps. It made it possible for people to live on just one year's forest growth. Might be a lot harder in a different climate.

64 percent of Japan is covered by Forest.

Japan arable land: 11.64%

73% of japan is covered by mountains.

The reason Japan has so much forest is that it is mostly mountains, 73%. Farming mountains is rather difficult. Japan has very few natural resources.

Natural Resources of Japan

If asked to name a small Asian country, with few natural resources and a high population density, one may be more likely to name Bangladesh than Japan. Considering Japan's limited natural resource base, its rise to a world economic leader is all the more remarkable...

Generally, Japan is resource poor. Therefore, Japan's economic successes depended on imported raw materials. Energy resources alone account for 14% of its total imports. With virtually no domestic oil supplies Japan imports much crude oil from the Persian Gulf area . Oil is used to meet nearly 60% of Japan's total energy needs.

Ron P.

Farming mountains may be more difficult, but that doesn't stop people. Look at the Incan terraces.

Many islands in the Pacific bear witness to once being inhabited, via the terraces left behind.

Oh dear, yes the the many millions of Japanese, if they cannot import oil and other natural resources that they lack, can just move from Tokyo, Osaka and the other mega cities of Japan to the mountains, terrace them, and live happily ever after. [/sarc]

The Japanese, if they are unable to import energy and other natural resources that they lack, will... will... well you know how this story ends. But you are correct, a tiny few may be saved by farming the mountainside with the aid of terraces.

We are talking about perspective here, practical solutions. One guy a couple of days ago wrote:

I see trees, acres of grass and at night herds of deer. In the USA at least all those old farms plowed under for surburban sprawl have just been converted to energy wasting lawns of grass and asphalt parking lots. The deer can be hunted.

Yes the deer could be hunted and terraces could be farmed. With all due respect, that is absurd! The people that could be kept alive in New York City or Chicago with deer meat is a minuscule few. The same could be said about terrace farming in the mountains of Japan. A few... sure, but a tiny few. Perspective that is the percentage of people that can logically be saved with deer meat, or terrace farming verses the total population is minuscule.

Ron P.

Perhaps a large number of deaths will come from the elderly population lacking the necessary medical treatments to keep them alive thus allowing a greater chance for the younger generation to sustain themselves through local means. Japan does have a large old population. In any case Japan is a homogeneous society so the potential for social unrest is less than other countries such as India. Moreover, unlike their other Asian counterparts, Japan has experienced two lost decades so their expectations are more in-line with a future where the economy collapses. I believe when the Indians, Chinese find out their dreams of an American life will never be fulfilled it will come as a shock making their existing problems of resource depletion/scarcity even worse.

I did not say anything about how Japan would deal with being cut off from oil imports.

My comment was in reply to Nick's, about Japan being a counter example to the idea that domestic natural resources are essential to prosperity.

Like Iceland, Japan is an island nation that depends on fishing. Like Iceland, they have geothermal resources (the positive part of being in an active seismic zone).

I do think they are unusual among societies in that they've avoided collapse for so long. But that's at least partly due to the high rainfall in Japan, and it's not necessarily something that could be repeated elsewhere.

They have had periods of serious decline. IIRC in the thirteenth century they lost about 50% of their population to famine and disease. Then they had a few hundred years of near constant civil war until one Samurai came out on top and became Shogun.

Agriculture, forestry, and fishing form the primary sector of industry of the Japanese economy, together with the Japanese mining industry, but together they account for only 1.3% of gross national product.


The above suggests that fishing is not a significant cause of Japan's prosperity post WWII.

The same could be said about terrace farming in the mountains of Japan. A few... sure, but a tiny few.

Ron, generally speaking you are correct. But read what is possible with a relatively small area of land, part of which have steep slopes.

Japanese Farms Feed Dominican Republic

CONSTANZA, Dominican Republic - Sinchi Ariyama looks out over the Constanza Valley verdant with spinach, lettuce, strawberries, carrots, apple orchards and potato fields.

It's the garden spot of the Dominican Republic now. Not all that long ago it was just swamps.

That was in 1956, when Ariyama was 4 and his family emigrated from Kagoshima, Japan.

"After the war, Japan was in ruins. The Japanese government looked for ways to get people out," says Ariyama, his face reddened by windburn and the cold at the 3,600-foot elevation of Constanza, a farming community 80 miles northwest of Santo Domingo, the capital city.

At the time, Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo - like other members of the nation's lighter-skinned elite - wanted to bring more whites into the country and welcomed some 200 Japanese families.

"They didn't have many vegetables," says Ariyama. "I remember these lands when we first got here - they were swamps. My father and uncle drained the land."

Today, the area produces 90 percent of the nation's vegetables.

Obviously the definition of natural resources varies with the times. It used to be mainly food and forage. Now it is mostly about energy resources particularly oil. In the future I wouldn't be at all surprised if it is something else. But, per capita, thanks to its tiny population Iceland has to have a lot of resources. Its low population is largely a result of the fact that it didn't have much in the way of food resources.

In what context?

The Edo period? Or the post WWII period where (in eMeregy accounting terms) value was added via 'intellectual energy' from raw material sourced from other locations and then the valued added product was re-introduced into global trade?

The fragility of such a system is shown with the high value low radiation integrated circuit epoxies became much higher radioactive post Fukushima meltdown of 3 reactors and 1 waste storage unit.

Lenin wrote of conversion of photons into product with his various works on 40 HP tractors. The "founding fathers" had such a vision of photonic conversion with 'yeoman farmers'.

A 'natural resource' like photons is an advantage when you have lots of land VS consumers to place the conversion devices - Japan doesn't have the same advantages as other nations in even something as common as sunlight.

An interesting 'postcard' on the current state of the Greek state :

BBC News - Postcard from Attica

Greeks have always scrawled on walls. But after sunset this troubled summer, masked graffiti agitators have roamed the capital's streets applying their urgent exhortations to every flat surface they can find...I keep seeing it, hurriedly sprayed in crude lettering. It says, simply, "WAKE UP".

outside the sterile security zone of eurozone affairs, the atmosphere in Greece appears thick with foreboding. Beyond the political headlines, I am struck by the daily digest of stories in the papers which suggest a nation on the edge.

Gangs have been very active across the country,... Wild fires have swept across Aegean isles, some apparently set by arsonists

How did the Finns get involved? The people of Iceland are not Finnish.... even the languages are far different.

It's important to realise that Iceland still owes various european countries billion of dollars - from when it ducked its responsibilities to backstop the banks it had guaranteed and those countries had to pay the money to their depositors sharpish.

If you think they are just going to ignore it, you, like they, will get a rude awakening. Iceland owes what Iceland owes - no matter how much they might think they can slope shoulder.

Only under a paradigm that is in the rear view mirror.

May I suggest Graeber's http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debt:_The_First_5000_Years for a through study of debt and society.

Tis, a useful book. There are so many misconceptions about debt. Most see it as a moral issue. Yet many parties get saddled with debt, whose accrual they had little say over. And many accumulate debts they can't pay back through little fault of their own. In the ancient world this usually meant the debtor effectively became a wholly owned slave of the creditor. Often his offspring, if he had any, would also be born into the same obligation. Occasionally rulers would declare jubilee's to try to clear up the bad effects of having so many debtors.

Obviously when you saddle debt wracked up by a handful of out of control banksters onto an entire country, most of those newly debt-saddled citizens had little or nothing to do with it.

It should have been obvious to anyone that the high interest accounts Icelandic banks were peddling, were to good to be true.

Iceland owes what Iceland owes

And how did that work kind of attitude work out for the holders of the Continental? Or the Wiemar Republic Mark?

How, exactly will that attitude be greeted in the United States when its creditors come a-calling in the future?

But they are repaying their loans early.

Their way out of the crisis looks similar to Argentina's. They did everything wrong (at least according to the IMF). Let the currency fall. And enacted rules that do not allow people to take their assets out of the country.

From the WSJ article:

Twice a week, container ships steam out of the harbor, past a promontory capped by 800-foot cliffs and on to the open ocean. They are full of fresh cod, frozen cod, salted cod, perch and pollock, mackerel and langoustines.

What returns are euros and dollars. Converted back into Iceland's currency, the income is a boon. At about 125 kronur to the dollar, the Icelandic currency is worth half as much as it was in 2007, before the collapse, when a dollar bought a little over 60 kronur. That means fishermen now take home twice as many kronur for the same amount of fish. Even with inflation, they have come out way ahead.

The fishing companies have higher expenses—for fuel, equipment and financing—in foreign currency, offsetting some of the higher revenues. But the labor to process fish is now vastly cheaper. Before the currency collapse, an Icelandic fish plant on average paid workers the equivalent of nearly €20 an hour, said Sigurgeir Kristgeirsson, chief executive of VSV, one of Vestmannaeyjar's two big fishing companies.

I think many other countries could do the same, but it's only possible if they leave the euro.

My understanding is that this is a replay of the Great Depression, where countries only recovered when they left the fixed-exchange rate system (which was comparable to the Euro-zone).

Nick there are many reasons the great depression ended. I wouldn't put too much behind Greece or Spain using inflation as a way out. This is not a replay of the Great Depression in because of one major difference. During the Great Depression there was no robust welfare state in many if any countries. The threat of real malnutrition was a motivator. For example the Okies that left the dustbowl and went to California didn't go for handouts they moved for work(food). In our modern culture we think it's insensitive to tell someone to "move to where the food is" as a dead American comedian once said. It's time for people to realize it's not compasionate or sustainable in any way to keep up the falacy that we can print our way out of this coming depression or that we can grow the welfare state in perpetuity. There are jobs in America and forcing people to take them by giving them less comfortable choices is one answer. Stopping corporate welfare and subsidies is another answer. The ability to print money and to grow the entire welfare state, both corporate and social are tied together. If you take away the ability to print money, you kick a leg out of the welfare stool and you get back to a more sustainable future.

I think that Peak Oil and limits on growth dictate that we wake up to this realization, because our elected leaders of all stripes can't and won't. If we are not conditioned to expect anything except Freedom, then we'll accept whatever is sustainable on Earth, even if that means less a simpler lifestyle.

Let's not forget that Robin Hood stole from the tax collectors which had stolen from the poor. I wonder if the Mayor would be happy if his tax collectors were robbed I mean expropriated, when trying to collect his salary?

GPS can now measure ice melt, change in Greenland over months rather than years

Researchers have found a way to use GPS to measure short-term changes in the rate of ice loss on Greenland - and reveal a surprising link between the ice and the atmosphere above it.

The study, published in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, hints at the potential for GPS to detect many consequences of climate change, including ice loss, the uplift of bedrock, changes in air pressure – and perhaps even sea level rise.

A useful resource to bookmark ...

Minerals Information: Commodity Statistics and Information

Statistics and information on the worldwide supply of, demand for, and flow of minerals and materials essential to the U.S. economy, the national security, and protection of the environment.

click on individual minerals to access (e.g. Copper: http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/commodity/copper/ ) for ...

- Annual Mineral Commodity Summaries

- Monthly Mineral Industry Surveys

- Historical Statistics

- Special Publications

I tended to dismiss biofuels as using too much resources of land, water etc to power much of the fleet.
However progress on a number of fronts seems too great to be easily dismissed.
It is exceptionally hard to get a handle on, as there are so many different possible pathways,
but for instance there is this:

'Researchers develop new non-catalytic process for converting lipids from sewage sludge to biodiesel; high yield and economic production'

And on a larger scale, there are even claims like this:

'But Lars Hansen of Novozymes in Denmark, which produces enzymes to break down the crops used for biofuels, says there are currently large amounts of bio-mass not being used.

Speaking about the second-generation of biofuels, he says: "The way forward is to convert the residue part of the crop into sugars which can then be used for fuels."

By residue, he means the part of the crop which is not eaten - the stalks and husks, and also wood chippings.
He says that technology is ready now and should be deployed to provide a solution to many problems.
"If you take just 20% of the agricultural and forest residue available in Europe, which can sustainably be taken away from the fields, you can make half of Europe's gasoline demands," he says.
"The technology is in place," he says, "what we now need is for government policies to move in the right direction."
What is needed is governments, and institutions such as the European Union, giving subsidies to new advanced technologies to combat carbon issues.
"Such a move would help the transport sector in Europe to become sustainable," he says.'

Of course claims are not achievements, but progress is occurring across a very broad front.

One could imagine that a combination of plug in hybrids and biofuels would provide substantially perhaps the same mobility as today with much lower oil input.

One could imagine that a combination of plug in hybrids and biofuels would provide substantially perhaps the same mobility as today with much lower oil input.

Heck, a Chevy Volt reduces fuel consumption by 90%. Ethanol could easily cover 10% of fuel for transportation.

While all that matters is the deployment rate, those who think we will, or can, transition to greener vehicles so we can maintain our auto-centric culture are ignoring a lot of things, and in deep denial, IMO. I recommend folks get working on how your kids or grandkids are going to eat and stay warm (or cool, as the case may be), rather than what kind of car they're going to commute in, and to worry about how you'll feed the burro. Gettyup girl!"

I know you feel that way, though I've never been able to figure out why.

EVs (and their cousins HEV/PHEV/EREVs) are much, much less energy intensive than burros (you can't "turn off" a burro), and much cheaper to maintain.

I know you feel that way, though I've never been able to figure out why.

That's because you haven't taken into account the energy and resources that the motor vehicle (and its attendant infrastructure) embodies. For a little insight into this, take a look at "Asphalt Nation" by J. H. Kay, or "Environmental Accounting" by H. T. Odum.

Sure, I have.

Asphalt isn't essential - concrete works just fine (and can be made low or negative-CO2).

The energy required to make a vehicle is much smaller than that used to fuel it, especially if the vehicle is recycled.

Negative CO2 concrete? Is there a supporting link for this claim?

Sorry I haven't a link but the cement is made from different common mineral to limestone, which absorbs large amounts of CO2 during manufacture and hardening.


I have heard of this as well. Although its not what you can currently buy for a backyard project.

concrete works just fine (and can be made low or negative-CO2)

This claim is laughable. I suppose we should start paving the landscape with cement ASAP as a means of carbon sequestration. All licensed by Novacem Cement Inc., of course. To the talc mines!

Many people get hung up on there being one solution to global warming. There are many solutions that need to be applied simultaneously. A low or negative CO2 cement would be one bite out of the pie and not a small one either.


I think that we can agree that we have differing world views. Yours seems to be BAU lite, that if we alter our behavior a bit, retask our resources in a more efficient way, we'll be able to maintain some sort of smooth transition and avoid any really big steps, which require an all out restructuring of things. I concede that you may be right, short term.

My world view is that we missed that fork in the road decades ago, that our highly extractive, short-sighted method of stealing from the future has created hard limits to whatever options we may have had in the past. Rather than making dramatic changes to how we interact with the planet, we've been accelerating our degradation of virtually everything that matters. Incremental changes such as electrifying our automobile fleets seem a bit like a smoker changing from his preferred unfiltered brand to "ultralights". He may buy himself a few years. While I would love to afford an electric vehicle that I could charge from PV, I would do so with the knowledge that it still required massive amounts of energy and resources to produce and maintain, many of them finite. We've never closed our cycles. I've gotten past the hubris that discounts this critical fact.

To me, the very broadest and hardest question has to do with our damage to our environment. We could reduce that enormously without much harm to "prosperity", but we're choosing not to, due to legacy industries' control of politics. So, we're taking enormous risks, especially with climate change.

Still, it's useful to point out, over and over, that climate change (and species extinction, etc) is avoidable. For instance, EVs could be 99.9% recycled and powered from renewables.


Still, it's useful to point out, over and over, that climate change (and species extinction, etc) is avoidable.

Wrong (Dead Wrong!) on both counts.

Species extinction is extensive and ongoing as we speak. Experts in such things have repeatedly stated that we are well into the 6th great extinction event. This extinction event will eventually have significant impacts on the amount of food available to humans.

A news release but it will lead you to much research on the subject.


We are also well into AGW. In case you have not read up on this stuff before I would draw your attention to the following sites. There is enough data there to convince all but the ideologically challenged or those unwilling to face facts.




The left-wing cornucopian version of BAU (or BAU-Lite as some call it) requires fundamental changes in what is commonly called Human Nature. In other words that we, on a global basis, immediately change the way we have behaved and reacted to threats for the last couple of hundred thousand years. I know of no one who thinks that is even remotely possible. All one has to do is read the news and blogs like this one every day to know that we are a long way from that type of behavioral change.

But, even if we all followed the BAU-Lite green solutions starting right now we would not prevent massive changes occurring from AGW and species extinction. That ship sailed long ago. Until one solves the population problem there is no possible solution no matter what path one takes. Eight or nine billion people cannot revert to hunter-gatherer/subsistence farming or permaculture cults as the world does not have resources to support that many people living without using fossil fuels.

Get rid of the excess people, pare lifestyles to the bone, utilize those green technologies as the limits of the climate system allow and someday a few thousand years from now we might get ourselves out of this hole we have dug. But if we don't stop digging we are screwed.


Wrong (Dead Wrong!) on both counts.

Wyo, as you know I tend to agree with your position on how dire the situation is. However, you may have some unexamined assumptions. For instance, just because democracies won't ever vote for something unselfish doesn't make it physically impossible.

The details of the 6th huge extinction event have yet to be played out. All outcomes are not necessarily equivalent. There are probably a lot of degrees of freedom in just how severe, how deep, it goes. The stuff humans do or don't do going forward will probably make a big difference. All possible futures will be pretty horrific from my point of view, but they may cover a wide range of states, some a lot more horrific than others.

Moreover, I think it's our responsibility to assume that PERHAPS we can ameliorate the worst. It may be possible. And if it isn't, all we have wasted is what, our time?

There are many possible solutions to human overshoot and civilizational metabolic overshoot, just none that are palatable. There may also be some we haven't thought of that WILL be more-or-less palatable.

I'd have to say that Nick's take on things is more useful. Wringing our hands over the inevitability of it all is certainly not useful, even if it winds up being true.

I think we need to start telling the truth, as best we can.

Hope is not a productive or worthwhile response.

We need to stop being self-indulgent and do right by the planet to the best of our ability. Hope has little to do with it. It's about taking responsibility.

And that's the truth.


The more I study the BAU-Lite proposals the less I think that they will have a meaningful effect. The primary issue is not that they are technically impossible (we are very close to that point but I will grant that we are not there yet). The problem is rooted in the mentality of their execution. BAU-Lite bases its responses to AGW and energy limitations on what is a clear attempt to maintain a virtual copy of our current civilizational structure.

To execute those proposed types of responses, as we have mentioned here before, requires a sea change in human behavior. That is unrealistic and not probable. Do we base our survival on such a hope? To do so is to take an exceptional risk. On another note, as many posters here on TOD in the past have noted, it is going to take an inordinate amount of fossil fuels and resources to convert our current mixture of industrialization over to the greener technologies. Even if we decide to divert those resources to the attempt (which is going to be violently opposed by some) the conversion takes at least 20 years. In the meantime our infrastructure is crumbling and our population is growing which demands more of those resources. In other places there is a mad rush to develop new infrastructure (mostly identical to the current one) to house and serve a growing middle class. More resource requirements. And we won't even go into the problems with the global financial system. I could go on, but you know more about this than I do.

All of the BAU-Lite (I don't like that name - how about BAU-Green?) assumptions seem to take as a given that we have the 20-40 years to adapt (thinking of Randers and Romm here) that their solutions require. That seems a very optimistic assumption to me. Everything we see in the data coming in indicates that conditions are deteriorating much quicker than all the plans put forward assume. I am pretty sure that they all know it too. I believe that what they are doing is a version of just what you implied. They cannot conceive of having further useful credibility (which anyone would like to have) in the high level public discussion on what to do should they dare to start bringing up any solutions that have a chance of success. So what they do is propose solutions that are palatable (and technically possible) in the hope that enough people will sign on to them that they start getting political traction and thus greater influence. As a long term strategy this could work. The trouble is that we no longer have the time to execute such a strategy. So sure, it does no harm to have a bunch of people working on interesting technologies (who knows, they might still be viable and useful after we collapse..I note your exception for Allen's trains btw).

I, however, have run out of patience with not addressing the core problem. Population. If we fix that quickly we can mitigate the bulk of the bad stuff heading our way and adapt to the rest. If we don't address it quickly or we travel down one of the BAU version paths we are screwed. BAU-Green beats BAU hands down but if it is not done in concert with a rapid population reduction it fails just as surely as doing basically nothing. And it may be worse as we would drag out the eventual collapse some finite amount of time so that when the collapse happens there will be a lot less resources left for who remains to rebuild/survive with. Regular BAU will collapse the system much quicker (so maybe it is better?).

I am certainly not in favor of doing nothing. Just the opposite. I don't want to wait 20-40 years so that we dump the problem on our children and grandchildren. I want real, serious, straightforward plans drawn up now and we start working on them tomorrow. As you and I have both said, any solution that has a real chance of working is 'unpalatable'. Meaning that the real problem is not that those types of solutions cannot be executed but that what is required is that people are told the truth and brought to an understanding that there is No Way Out. When people come to such conclusions 'that' is when you are no longer asking them to change their nature (as the BAU-green solutions do). When people are backed into a corner they have a history of rising to the occasion. We are most certainly in a corner. We need to act now. Not 20 years from now.


Wyo, I agree with you that population is the largest white elephant in the room! Unfortunately I don't see any palatable solution that might be voluntarily implemented to bring it down. Therefore I'm very afraid that nature will do it for us and probably sooner than later. And I don't expect that process to be pretty. Do you have you happen to have any practical ideas on how to resolve this rather thorny dilemma?! I for one don't particularly care for the obvious solutions of war, famine, pestilence, etc...


I am in total agreement about BAU-lite (I may have coined the term here), and the motivations of BAU-lite crowd. I know because I am a non-elite member of the species. I know no other course I can take at this time.

I do think BAU-lite can work in some countries. And I think several European countries are pursuing it vigorously enough that they might come through in decent shape. The Anglo-sphere (English speaking countries for the uninitiated) OTOH is resisting too strongly to come through in decent shape. It still seems like the best current path to at least leave some options open should we actually choose to wise up.


It seems like we're significantly in agreement. Time is short indeed - it's already too late to prevent a terrible mass extinction, a large human dieoff, and a lot of global heating & ocean acidification. At this point, the outcomes are - compared to usual fantasies about the world future - all horrific. However, that doesn't mean they're equivalent. We're helpless to keep the world as it was when I was a boy, or as it is now, but probably not entirely helpless to keep it from utter destruction, and we have to hold that distinction as precious. The possibility that the worst can be avoided.

Simply put there will not BE a sea change in human behavior. To a good first approximation, humans in aggregate are automatons. If we weren't, our deep patterns of behavior would not obey power-law rules across and between cultures, and across many orders of magnitude. On average and for most practical purposes, we are collectively non-sapient, unconscious, predictable. We only tend to think of our species as "aware" because we experience that subjectively and personally, and our behaviors seem to us to be free & original choices.

I would note that this isn't necessarily a reason for despair. It's true that humans will not suddenly pass some threshold of enlightenment and become collectively wise in the nick of time. Won't happen. However, human behavior in aggregate can be steered. It's not politically correct to call this good news, but it's the way things are. And it's a damn good thing, since it means it is possible to accomplish about anything, even if it's a long shot. Of course, most activists believe that only enlightenment and egalitarian process is pure enough to be worth trying, so that's what they try, hoping for that sea change in human nature, that threshold of enlightenment.

My own perspective is that humans pretty much NEVER change due to enlightenment in the way most activists seem to think. Oh, they can learn practical things like sanitation, etc, which aid the pursuit of core-brain purposes or at least don't hinder them. But expecting millions of people to simultaneously disadvantage themselves for some future goal is just not a winning strategy. I think even when it seems that enlightenment has succeeded in changing the world, it was actually changed by a series of chess moves by largely hidden players, the last of which is to successfully sell the impression that the outcome achieved was the manifest wisdom and will of the masses.

I've done it often enough.

Perhaps we don't disagree at all. I would like a few more intelligent, independent people to realize that there are many possible but unpalatable choices to be made, and to think outside the mental boxes we usually confine ourselves to. I certainly wouldn't want to push the meme that it's impossible to significantly save the earth, because it probably isn't, it's just impossible to save as much of it as we'd prefer. And I'd like those people to realize that education and enlightenment - as nice as they are - do not constitute a plausible mechanism for anything like the necessary speed and extent of changes.

I'm not tip-toeing around any specific solution here. Just noting that it would be good for a new sort of activists to start thinking for themselves, acting as adults, and using the tools that work to try steering things. I say that as an experienced campaigner who has played that chess game a long time.

Feel free to drop me an email if you like.

I think things are pretty damn bleak-looking. Frodo had it easy by comparison. But the world isn't yet lost.

Just to throw in 2 more cents, the world was never going to be lost. Humans and the biota that the period of human existence overlapped with may pass, the world however, will go on. It always has and it always will until of course it doesn't. We have some knowledge of how that will occur (the life cycle of our star dictate certain events over the long term for example), but the exact unfolding of it is unknown. But we do know that life survived through several mass extinctions and massive planetary changes before. Why so worried now? Are humans really that special that our extinction is the end of the world? For my part, I think not. Most would disagree. I just don't see the basis for their disagreement.

Anyways... Whenever I see that "end of the world", the world is lost or some such ideas, I always refer to the geological record which shows that the world was made and remade many times. From a reducing atmosphere to an oxidizing atmosphere. From all life at sea, to life on land. From a world of giant thunder lizards to that of today. Bounce backs from mass extinctions that destroyed 75 - 95% of all lifeforms on this planet. Through it all, life went on.

Humans are powerful, there is no doubt. Even if we can wreak the worst possible havoc on this planet, with the absolute worst possible outcome achieved, can we end lifeo n earth? I just don't think so. I rather doubt we can bring an end to ourselves (though we have the means to give it a really good try). In any event, we'll see, and we will hopefully see what rises from the ashes of today's civilization, one day in the future.

The Wet One

many posters here on TOD in the past have noted, it is going to take an inordinate amount of fossil fuels and resources to convert our current mixture of industrialization over to the greener technologies.

Fortunately, they're wrong. Wind, for instance, has an E-ROI of around 50, which means it requires very, very little FF to build.

the conversion takes at least 20 years

Half of vehicle miles come from vehicles less than 6-7 years old. Big change doesn't have to take forever.

As you and I have both said, any solution that has a real chance of working is 'unpalatable'.

Ah, that's what Peabody Coal tells us about FF. But, it's not true.

Are we going to change quickly? It doesn't seem likely. But, it's useful to know that it's possible, even pretty easy.

Fortunately, they're wrong. Wind, for instance, has an E-ROI of around 50, which means it requires very, very little FF to build.

Half of vehicle miles come from vehicles less than 6-7 years old. Big change doesn't have to take forever.

The FF boom has skyrocketed the human population. I know you think that would have been possible without them also. Anyhow, the chance of succes of the energy transition depends on more than the opportunities for and suitability of windenergy and EV's. The economic and financial crisis for example. The chief cause of problems is solutions, in this world where many systems are stretched to the limits ?

No question we have problems.

On the other hand, financial crises are nothing new. Have you read "This Time Is Different - Eight Centuries of Financial Folly"?

Godspeed to you brave crusaders (namely Nick and Greenish). Perhaps, with the most Herculean of efforts, you can jump over the shadow of humanity and make a difference. I'll be watching, ready to applaud. In the meantime, I'll just get out of the way with my uselessness in this project and watch from the sidelines. There will be no handwringing on my part though. A bit to melodramatic for my tastes. I will be sucking the last of the sweet fruits of modern life though as long as I can.


Eight or nine billion people cannot revert to hunter-gatherer/subsistence farming or permaculture cults as the world does not have resources to support that many people living without using fossil fuels.

There's the fatally false assumption.

That's what Peabody Coal and the Koch Brothers would have you believe.


I don't know where you get the idea that is a false statement. Spend some time reading up on carrying capacity, resource consumption and historical population levels. And then add in the effects of AGW. It is ludicrous to think that it is possible. I have never seen any data to suport your assertion. Perhaps you would direct me to what you are basing your opinion on. I owned and operated an organic farm for a number of years and am pretty conversant with agriculture issues and what it takes to feed people.

BTW you misunderstand the Koch Brothers and Peabody Coal if you think that they would support anything that I am in favor of. They are BAU, you are BAU-Green it appears. I am neither and somewhat hostile to both. I am for facing reality and dealing with it. Or it will deal with you as they say.


Spend some time reading up on carrying capacity

The single largest component of the carrying capacity models I've seen is CO2 absorption capacity (which we're exceeding).

Eliminate fossil fuels, and that problem is mostly solved.

resource consumption

Eliminate fossil fuel consumption, and you've solved the problem of running out of fossil fuels.

add in the effects of AGW

How does AGW make FF necessary??

I owned and operated an organic farm for a number of years and am pretty conversant with agriculture issues and what it takes to feed people.

And which part requires FF? Fertilizer can be generated from electrolytic hydrogen with renewable electricity. Tractors can run on batteries, biofuels and synthetic liquid fuels. Biofuels and synthetic fuels don't seem scalable? What portion of overall liquid fuel consumption goes to tractors - 2%?

you misunderstand the Koch Brothers and Peabody Coal if you think that they would support anything that I am in favor of.

Not intentionally, no. But, you play right into their hands when you suggest that FF is essential to "our way of life". That argument could be a commercial for Exxon-Mobil.

The hybrid Prius is now the 3rd best selling car on the planet. And this despite its very complex drivetrain and use of rare-earth metals. Here in Norway EVs have now captured 4% of the market for new cars even though the current models are not compelling, although admittedly the various incentives are. I test drove a Chevy Volt (called the Opel Ampera here in Europe) recently and its drivetrain works fantastically, and for me, it makes even more sense than the Prius. It is just a matter of time before GM puts it into a range of different vehicle platforms when they get unit production costs down to a competitive level. There is no doubt that production of cars that use little or no liquid fuel can be scaled up and will continue to do so at an accelerating rate. The benefits of this will be huge and global, except if your company or country has oil production, taxes and exports as an important source of income. This is what oil companies are scared sh_tless of now, that the same collapse that has happened to natural gas prices will happen to them. But for oil prices, it will happen when demand destruction imbedded in improved drivetrain efficiencies starts to kick in for real. As you all know natural gas prices collapsed due to a massive scale-up of production, not due to demand destruction.

This is what oil companies are scared sh_tless of now

There are other uses for oil than just cars.

One nation-state has a military which can take all the oil to power its machines as they can get.

And if one has a magic wand and makes that consumption go away - there are plenty of physical things we humans like and enjoy that is made from oil. If personal transportation went POOF! tomarrow there would still be plenty of demand for oil.

If personal transportation went POOF! tomarrow there would still be plenty of demand for oil.

Not 88mpopd! The real pressure comes from the owners of the fossil fuel resource (oil plus coal plus NG). The figure of $27 trillion bucks has been thrown out. If we made a decisive move away from these fuels, demand would fall below supply, and this major accumulation of (paper) wealth would go poof. These guys aren't going to give that up without a fight. And they go big money to fight with. Just look at the billion or so flowing into the current US election cycle. These people largely own the game.

Electric personal cars are NOT the answer!
Here is Sweden's abject failure in curbing greenhouse emissions via promoting non-oil fueled personal cars:


The Green Revolution Backfires: Sweden’s Lesson for Real Sustainability
by Firmin DeBrabander

What if electric cars made pollution worse, not better? What if they increased greenhouse gas emissions instead of decreasing them? Preposterous you say? Well, consider what’s happened in Sweden.

Through generous subsidies, Sweden aggressively pushed its citizens to trade in their cars for energy efficient replacements (hybrids, clean diesel vehicles, cars that run on ethanol). Sweden has been so successful in this initiative that it leads the world in per capita sales of ‘green cars.’ To everyone’s surprise, however, greenhouse gas emissions from Sweden’s transportation sector are up.

First off, they just redirect energy consumption from gasoline to electricity largely produced by fossil fuels. Secondly, the whole Auto Addiction infrastructure is incredibly expensive in every dimension. It requires a football field of asphalt for every 5 personal cars. Highways take 12 x the amount of land as Rail and require more maintenance than equivalent steel Rails. Moreover the indirect resource costs of private personal cars is enormous an tallied in "Stop Signs - Cars and Capitalism on the road to economic, financial and ecological ruin":

In 1968 automobiles consumed 21% of US steel, 10.4% of aluminum, 36.5% of zinc, 8.2% of copper, 54.7% of lead, 19.4% of ductile iron and 40% of malleable iron, 14.3% of nickel and 66% of rubber.

Moreover to turnover the existing fleet to electric cars will take years - most cars now are held for an average of 7 years.
Instead we could run Green Transit Rail, buses, shuttles, bicycles and walking within months! We already have Green Transit which has suffered service cuts even as more and more people want to take it. Just run the Green Transit already running in major Metro areas, add buses, shuttles and safe bikeways and we could easily cut oil consumption by 20% in a year AND be closer to a truly sustainable Transit future.
Amazingly enough the cost of a monthly Metropass in NYC to travel in all 5 boroughs on buses and subways costs only $104 per month or $1248 per year. Compare this to the $9300 yearly cost of a car.

No wonder Americans are spending 2x Europeans for Transit and being forced to quit colleges, jobs and other things when they can no longer afford a car in our Auto Addicted system!

That article isn't primarily about experience with EVs. To describe it that way is misleading.

they just redirect energy consumption from gasoline to electricity largely produced by fossil fuels.

No, they really don't. Sheesh - that's straight out of a coal commercial.

"...says there are currently large amounts of bio-mass not being used."

One man's 'unused biomass' could be mistaken as an ecosystem's basic building blocks.

The local sewerage district has two large biological digesters that can turn the sludge into methane. They're sitting completely unused - "uneconomical to run." What makes it even more "amusing" is what they do with the final sludge...after its pressed of most the water - it's burned. For them it's more economical to burn the sludge with gas they purchased than to make gas with the sludge to use on-site or sell.

They don't burn all of the sludge...some of it they convert into what they call "nutri-lime." They give it away, but there are few takers. "Why?" you might say, as it turns out to be quite nutrient rich. The plant also treats industrial effluent...high in heavy metals.

The gas from the digesters is not straight up C and H. There are Sulfur and Nitrogen components which create acids when burned which will make short work of most ICE engines. And if you have a classic boiler - the boiler doesn't last as long.

And yes - as people divert their own inputs into the 'unused biomass' via reuse/recycle/just not buying as many hot pockets what used to be a source can become a sink fast. And when Grandpa had jugs of, say DDT and the kids just don't want to pay the disposal fees, those jugs dumped down the sewers become quite the liability.

The Amuay Disaster/The Richmond Legacy: Update

It takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.
― Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass

Daniela Primera/Associated Press
Fire rose over the Amuay refinery near Punto Fijo, Venezuela, Saturday.

The huge and deadly blast at the Amuay refinery may have a great impact on US gasoline supplies. Coming only a few weeks after the large Richmond, CA refinery fire, the impact of these twin refinery disasters will ripple worldwide through the oil product supply chain – especially for gasoline.

Over the last year or so, the US has flip-flopped from being a net oil product importer to a net oil product exporter (for such oil products like diesel, gasoline, ethanol, and jet fuel). This has occurred rather quickly as far as historic energy trends go, and in rather dramatic fashion.

Note that even before the Amuay refinery blow up, Venezuela, which formerly exported gasoline to the US, is now importing gasoline from the US. Now in the aftermath of Amuay, Venezuela may make heavy demands on US gasoline and diesel supplies.

Meanwhile, to make up for lost product supplies caused by the Richmond fire, California fuel suppliers are going to great lengths to make up for lost products due to its Richmond refinery, and have only succeeded by paying up for product supplies far removed from US shores.

CARACAS, Venezuela—A refinery gas leak caused an explosion early Saturday that killed 24 people and sent more than 80 to hospitals.

There was "severe damage" to the 640,000-barrel-a-day refinery and the surrounding area, Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez said on state television network VTV. Buildings and houses around the plant were destroyed by the blast, including a post used by the National Guard, the government said.


The Richmond Legacy: California refinery fire may adversely impact US gasoline supplies for months

From EIA: An Update on West Coast Gasoline Markets

Released: August 22, 2012
Next Release: August 29, 2012

... Attracting imports tends to be an expensive solution for supplying West Coast markets. The small stream of regular imports into the West Coast comes mainly from Canada. Occasionally, tight market conditions can open an arbitrage with Asia, but this happens only when prices are high enough to cover the cost of shipping products across the Pacific. This did happen earlier this year, when price differentials supported trans-Pacific trade and the West Coast pulled gasoline cargoes from South Korea and Singapore, among others. However, imports remain a small part of the region's supply, averaging 26,000 bbl/d in 2012, making up only about 2 percent of total supply.

... During prolonged refinery outages, like the Cherry Point shutdown that lasted from late February through May, West Coast gasoline inventories often fall sharply because of the difficulty in securing supplemental supplies. After the Cherry Point shutdown, West Coast gasoline stocks fell 22 percent (6.8 million barrels) between February 17 and May 18. This inventory reduction was much larger than the 1.9-million-barrel draw typically seen in West Coast stocks over this period. However, stock draws do not obviate the need for higher wholesale prices to attract supplies

I was chatting with a co-worker who is Venezuelan. I figure he is in his late thirties. We both work in IT.

I found it remarkable the number of his Venezuelan friends that emigrated. Many of the well-educated have left. He grew up in an oil producing region of Venezuela. Many of his friends and family left after Chavez fired the striking PDVSA workers. So in some ways the Amuay refinery fire is not a surprise as Venezuela lost many capable oil industry workers when Chavez fired them.

That said, I have another Venezuelan acquaintance who was not sympathetic to the striking PDVSA workers when they got fired as his view was that they had disproportionate influence and power compared to most Venezuelans.

The end result though is that Venezuela will be paying a lot more for refined products. I don't suppose Chavez will pass the increased costs for gas and diesel on to Venezuelans before the election in October?

Man, gas is cheap there. Three U.S. cents a litre!

No doubt that the well-educated and better trained have left PDVSA, but I didn't know many have emigrated.

It appears that even if regular maintenance was conducted (which does not appear to be the case - see below), it may not have properly performed. It is not clear why maintenance wasn't performed regularly, but I assume improper management and attempted cost savings were the motivation to defer maintenance. Also the switch from being a gasoline exporter to importer probably put stress on management to maintain output as high as normally possible. Even in the US, some simple operational failures have lead to major problems - with the largest US refinery, Motiva, still having its main crude unit shut down for repairs.

I don't expect that Chavez will be willing to discuss the Amuay situation much before the next election, and also, I suppose that gasoline will remain very cheap - at least until elections have passed.

Amuay has had at least eight minor accidents this year. In the PDVSA annual report, the company acknowledged that in 2011 there were only two shutdowns for scheduled maintenance instead of the nine normally carried out. The company didn't explain why maintenance had been reduced.


As I understnd it there has been an over-supply of refineries lately. Can the crude not be re-routed to underused refineries?

In the US, refineries, excluding those undergoing maintenance and repairs, are operating within 1 to 2% of maximum capacity. Effectively you could say that they are running flat out.

However refiners have some limited on-site ability to alter the product output mix, or alternatively, use a different grade of oil or oil product to increase, for example, the amount of gasoline output.

So yes, in California, they are trying to use the last little bit of capacity available, adjusting the output mix, and using different inputs, all with the intention of producing more gasoline.

Charles, since the Venezuelans are used to paying U.S. $.12/gal, per our first hand account in the thread below, are they really a market for gasoline that retails for nearly $4.00/gal here? (Western Washington State already blew past $4.00/gal, but we are our own special market.) Just out of curiosity, do you know if the gasoline they are already inporting is sold at market price or subsidized to bring it down to the expectations of the Venezuelan public?

If market price included the opportunity cost of not exporting the oil inputs, the cost would be many times higher than $.12 cents. We've seen how poor countries which give the plebes cheap oil/gas fare when they try to rein in such subsidies, they get protests and civil unrest or worse. So the subsidies usually get re-instated in order to placate the people. Meanwhile rationalization, "removing subsidies, but helping the poor by other means which don't encourage waste takes a back seat.

It is my understanding that US gasoline exported to Venezuela is substantially produced per the standards used in Venezuela, and thus would not be considered 'surplus' US gasoline.

So then the US gasoline exported might undergo some final blending of additives and stabilizers in Venezuela and then sold at $0.12 gallon like their domestically produced gasoline. Usually most Latin American countries, such as Mexico and Brazil, make the major energy companies bear most of the burden of the losses by selling gasoline at a discount to market prices, although I am not specifically aware of how Venezuela pays for the large gasoline price subsidy.

Meanwhile the Amuay fire is still not out:

(Reuters) - Venezuelan firefighters struggled on Sunday to put out a blaze at the country's biggest refinery sparked by an explosion that killed 41 people in one of the global oil industry's deadliest accidents.

Officials at the 645,000 barrel-per-day Amuay refinery are trying to stop the fire still raging at two storage tanks from spreading to other nearby fuel storage facilities. That would delay Amuay's restart beyond the current estimate of two days.


A column of smoke rises, a day after an explosion at Amuay oil refinery in Punto Fijo in the Peninsula of Paraguana August 26, 2012.
Credit: Reuters/Gil Montano

EIA: 'Tight' global surplus oil capacity

Surplus oil production capacity remains "relatively tight" by historic standards and currently stands at 2.4 million barrels of oil a day, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said in a report Friday.

The EIA said this level of surplus capacity is "quite modest" compared with recent levels, such as the 3.6 million averaged from 2009-11. "Surplus capacity must also be considered in the context of current geopolitical uncertainties, including, but not limited to, the situation in Iran," the report said.

Global oil production averaged 88.7 million barrels a day in July and August, the report said.

also World oil supply tightens in last 2 months: EIA

Scanning the comments the same old commentors doing the same old vices, irrelevant posts about car maintenance, lamp costs or houses in some remote part of Canada.

My simple suggestion is to create categories that each commentor may use(for example, a prefix to each comment so that any reader can quickly filter through the comments by using various tags).

That way those of us who come to the site for views on peak oil can view the relevant comments and those who come here asking for help on lowering their car costs can view comments to that nature, or the price of a new lamp.

You aren't cute. Transition paths are not irrelevant to peak oil discussion.

Indeed. RE: Car maintenance... if you save money while stuck in the current paradigm then you have more of it left to spend on getting out of it. Money that can go towards a more fuel-efficient vehicle later, home insulation, solar systems...

These days, what with unemployment, banking/mortgage fiascos, house-flipping, and housing bubbles, etc., it seems that many more people are finding themselves living in their cars, so car maintenance knowledge may be invaluable in that context too.

Also, another filter is the find function (ctrl + f).

Scanning the comments the same old commentors doing the same old vices, irrelevant posts about car maintenance, lamp costs or houses in some remote part of Canada.

In case you haven't bothered to check for yourself this site is not only about 'Peak Oil', The Mission Statement clearly says:

Conventional political, economic, and media institutions have yet to recognize energy’s role as a key contributor to society, and its importance as a driver for all of our physical processes and economic transactions. The Oil Drum seeks to facilitate civil, evidence-based discussions about energy and its impacts on the future of humanity, as well as serve as a leading online knowledge-base for energy-related topics.

Therefore I contend that the comments on car maintenance, lamp costs and houses in remote parts of Canada are all related to 'Energy' and it's impacts on the future of humanity.

Right on Fred! Thanks.

Surely we all know that future of humanity is oven bake unless we get OFF fossil fuels, therefor every new great discovery of oil, nat gas, etc, is just pure more bad news to depress me more. So I don't read about it.

What I have decided is my mission, and what I am doing, and lots of others here are too, is go all out to set an example of off ff, and then talk it up to get others on to the same game. I went totally off grid this year, and was surprised to find how cheap it was - way less than a big fat pickup truck or a handful of 6 ft TV screens or that trip to Cal I am gonna have to take to satisfy all my dying siblings.

And, for a do it yourself type, it was fun, fun fun. Watching all those new gages, and all that.

The Oil Drum seeks to facilitate civil, evidence-based discussions about energy and its impacts on the future of humanity, as well as serve as a leading online knowledge-base for energy-related topics.

Thanks Fred
I think that nails it pretty well - the focus is on "Energy-related topics"

I'm sure in the 3 weeks they've been a member said commentator went ahead and read all the old articles over the years of TOD existence to understand with fullness all the past commentators.

But, given they want a re-vamp so badly here's a suggestion:
Go write some Java code to act as a proxy that you connect your browser to which gives you the features you want from TOD.

Then you, Svamp, will get what you want.

Here - I'll help with your coding system:

This code looks kinda funny. You sure it will work?

Who knows if the clue phone or application of a clue-by-four about the head and shoulders will have said participant figure out that this is a resource made for the public use by a small dedicated staff who ant any time can decide "this isn't worth the effort to me" and it can just go POOF at any moment. And that the value here is due to some vocal members of the public who decide to spend their time bringing whatever to the very same public table.

This place is what it is and to demand change of what is a volunteer effort by EVERYONE involved to satisfy their own desires shows a lack of grounding in reality and the kind of arrogance that leads to the volunteers saying 'I'm done' and walking away.

If s/he wants a tightly focused only oil discussion I'm sure each and every poster would like a check for their 'good works' and I'm sure staff would like a nice check every week to patrol the forums to make sure the check writer was getting their money's worth.

Its great to see the 'we love your hard work Leahan' posts but there are others who don't get love at those moments. Like Super-G who keeps the box up and running. Or the other staff like "old timer" heading out or "new" aeberman or Louis de sosa or "shows up so often cuz I got other stuff going on" Robert Rapier or Rembrant or ....

My simple suggestion is to create categories that each commentor may use(for example, a prefix to each comment so that any reader can quickly filter through the comments by using various tags).

No need.
If a topic is not of interest to you, then simply click the little button to collapse the sub-thread.

I never knew about that. Thanks! I realy mean it.

simply click the little button to collapse the sub-thread

???? Can anybody describe this differently? I am using Firefox as my browser and see no little buttons at the start of a thread...

EDIT: Never mind - I also run the NoScript add-on and just found that when I turn it off the little - and + buttons magically appear.

The little button that looks like "-" to the left of the poster's username. Hover over it and it will say "Collapse Subthread".

EDIT: Yes it requires Javascript as you've discovered.

tow - I didn't know that trick either. OTOH I find it essy to just do a slow scroll thru uninteresting threads. Just as I have been doing with this one. But I did pick up this one tip but I doubt I'll ever use it. I'm always amazed when some folks go on about off topic subjects when that's exactly what thir posts represent. LOL

Peak Oil has shown itself to be a rather slow process, with expensive oil leading to increased production and maintaining the peak as an extended plateau for the time being.

Things won't get really interesting (in the ancient Chinese curse sense) until a major event happens, such as the collapse of one of the major oil fields. Look at what happened to Cantarell, and then imagine that happening in Ghawar.

Until a major event occurs, we're left discussing how to decrease our own consumption, the weather, and what it's like in Spain this time of year. There's only so many ways you can rehash the same data points before interest either goes away or shifts to related topics.

Peak Oil has shown itself to be a rather slow process

Indeed. I occasionally have to remind myself that PO is the confluence of geologic events measured in (hundreds of) millions of years, and civilization events measured in millennia. The fact that it will even be observable in a single human lifetime is remarkable when viewed from that perspective. As has been said here often, which month or year production peaks is of little import (though I must confess I watch the data with baited breath most of the time). What matters is how (un)prepared are the teeming billions of us as decline sets in, with respect to food production, JIT delivery, and all the other complex, interdependent systems that keep us all alive in the current global empire of industrial civilization.

Cliffy – I agree with you on one level but it still revolves on what “slow” vs. “fast” really implies. Perhaps your point about a generational time frame would be one measure. I think back the roots of WWII. Many historians mark the treaties after WWI as a basis for the eventual power shift in Germany. By any measure that 20 year span would seem fast to many. But how many recognized in 1920 they were in a fast transition to an event that may have taken as many as a 100 million lives. And for Americans, who weren’t involved to a great degree until December 1941 how much faster did that transition seem?

One might say the seeds of PO were planted when we started using FF significantly in the early 1900’s. Or a billion years ago when the first organic life forms evolved. Of course, no one saw it at that time. Some saw it beginning in the US when we reached our peak in 1971. But who outside of the oil patch recognized it? And what of other countries that had always been poor in FF? Jump to the 21st century and the current generation is beginning to recognize the potential. Consider a US citizen who turned 21 yo in 2010. They’ll be 50 yo in 2039. Many, including a few semi-cornucopians, anticipate some of the worst effects of PO will be kicking in by that time. Thus one could define it as a fast transition given it “begins” and comes to fruition during their lifetime.

I suspect in a 100 years folks will look back and see the rapid development of PO as we see the rapid development of WWII.

Things won't get really interesting (in the ancient Chinese curse sense) until a major event happens,

To me these are the most interesting of times. We are at the peak right now, or slightly past it, yet all the pundits in the mainstream media is saying we have a glut of oil coming down the line. See my post below where the former CIA director, former Undersecretary of Energy, former deputy Secretary of Defense says North America will be a net oil exporter by the end of this decade. Or more correctly he is saying that this is the opinion of most energy experts.

To me this is just too good. Every so-called expert and his brother is predicting an oil glut by 2015 or soon thereafter. There is a good article on this subject here: Peak oil denial: Debunking The Attempted Debunking

I read stuff like this every day and love them all. These are exciting times for me as far as Peak Oil goes.

Ron P.

Ron, if the majority of advisors to policy makers really believe we are headed into a oil glut by 2015 it tells me to expect the worst. There will be no mitigation to deal with resource depletion on any level because in the minds of policy makers there is no such threat! All policy decisions will by default probably weaken the complex adaptive system that modern industrial civilization is, leading to more failures and less resiliency.

The cultural narrative of progress was just to strong to be impacted by a few malcontent nerds talking about the finite nature of fossil fuels. Everyone knows the future of man is colonizing space so of course technology will triumph over geologic reality because we all know human ingenuity is the strongest force in the universe....

Hi Mark,

re: "There will be no mitigation to deal with resource depletion on any level because in the minds of policy makers there is no such threat!"

There are many in Congress and in State and local governments who are peak oil aware - at least to some extent.

My Congressperson's staff informed me that the Congressperson will not utter one word about "peak oil" until and unless constituents call or write with their concern.

US citizens can easily require Congress and/or *any* State Legislature and/or the President and/or the National Academy of Sciences itself to undertake an immediate investigation into global oil supply, its decline, the impacts of decline and policy options.

Please see www.oildepletion.wordpress.com for details. This would provide a way for National Academy of Sciences to inform policy makers and the American public about the reality of peak oil. Mitigation, risk management, emergency measures - and objective information so that everyone can know what's going on.

In previous discussions, I've provided talking points and references to answer people who think such an investigation would be co-opted, or that the NAS is corrupt, etc. And I'm happy to do so again. :) Also, I welcome constructive feedback, even if counter to the idea - with references and arguments.

This idea was first proposed by a professor of public policy.


I'd like to point you to an article that ISN'T something you read everyday! Something way cooler. I want to hear what you think of this article in New Scientist:


(you have to sign up, but it's free)

From the article:
"PETER TURCHIN thinks he can see the future. Unlike the fortune teller you might find at a seaside carnival, he needs no crystal ball. Instead, the tools of his trade are mathematics and testable theories. Armed with these, his goal is nothing less than to revolutionise the study of history, turning it from a mass of anecdotes into a rigorous, predictive science.

Turchin calls his new discipline cliodynamics, after Clio, the classical Greek muse of history, and so far its biggest focus has been the fate of empires. Now Turchin is using patterns he has found underlying their rise and fall to make predictions of political changes to come. His forecast is alarming. If his calculations are correct, the US faces major civil unrest and political violence sometime around the end of this decade."

Did you read Consilience?!


I followed your link and read the article. I have to say, considering Peter Turchin's background as a PhD biologist/ecologist with a minor in mathematics who has done significant work in areas of population dynamics I would have expected more than a passing acknowledgement of issues such as resource depletion playing a significant role in the collapse of empires. I also wondered what he thinks of Joseph Tainter's views with regards the collapse of the Roman Empire due to increased complexity, etc...

BTW E. O. Wilson's Consilience is a great read!

Just to add a little salt and pepper to the discussion I'd also recommend reading up on the work of Dr. Lambros Malafouris regarding the archaeology of mind and the anthropology of the brain artefact-interface (BAI) – covering topics extending from early stone tools and the ‘exographic’ symbolic technologies of more recent periods, to the latest developments in neuro-prosthetics and cognitive enhancement.

Okay, I just read it and I didn't like it at all. He says it all runs in cycles and the cycle of unrest and destruction is upon us. Civil unrest and violence, based on his calculations, will be upon the U.S. at the end of this decade. Perhaps but it will have nothing to do with his cycles it will be because of food shortage and it will be worldwide.

Sorry I could not be kinder to this fellow but I just don't think much of his methodology.

Ron P.

Maybe a comparable critique as to why Kondratieff cycles aren't of any great predictive value could be at its place here.


I'm not endorsing cliodynamics. I wanted to stress the consilience. I love it when various water-tight, compartmentalized, unrelated fields of study come to the same conclusions but for completely different reasons. That triangulation points to TRUTH in a way that no single discipline could.

Another example is the "it's not peak oil, it's peak demand" argument. It leads to the same end result. Consilience, once again.

(And for me there is some fascination with wondering what JMG would make of such a mathmatical approach to history)

(And for me there is some fascination with wondering what JMG would make of such a mathmatical approach to history)

To be frank I went through a number of articles and papers and Peter Turchin's website to see his math and his data, all I found were graphs and his claim that there are historical patterns and that he is able to make testable predictions based on that. There seems to be a lot of faith put on correlations but I'm still at a loss as to his actual testable scientific theory. To be clear, even astrology uses math... though given that Dr. Turchin is a 'Real' scientist I'm sure that his data and actual math must be available somewhere so I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

I don't have time to read the article, but by your summary it got me thinking of Hari Seldon's psychohistory:


Fascinating stuff.

I'm not going to engage in ad hominem attacks on individual members, that does not interest me so attacking me personally is just a waste of time.

I'm simply going to ask people to take a look at this comment thread first from the mods:


The offtopic chat is clearly an issue the mods are worried about.

The problem is that it drives so much traffic(although to be fair they don't seem so obsessed with that), which means that people who mostly don't post about Peak Oil nonetheless do join in from time to time when they feel for it, thereby increasing the discussion volume(of course, quantity isn't the same as quality etc etc, but the point still stands).

My contention is that for those of us who like to keep a clear focus on Peak Oil(and yes there are related issues, but car costs or your lamp isn't one of them, no matter how hard you try, sorry), there should be a filter so we can skip the spam.

Why is this a big deal? Nobody gets banned and the offtopic chatclub continues unabated(assuming the mods keep doing nothing about it despite a few occasional laments), while the option for a filtered discussion on the most relevant and ontopic discussion remains for those who wish to use it.

Sorry, Svamp.
I think your take on what constitutes an 'off topic' conversation is apparently very much your own, and not IMO the same as the one that concerns the Mods.

There are some unproductive sidetracks that add a lot of heat, not light, but both thematically and energetically, I think I can safely say that LEDs and Salted Winter Highways are not really among them. As others have said, it's very easy to scroll past things that don't interest you, unless it's a 200-post diatribe on Religion or how Stupid the American Voter is, etc..

Antisocial behavior and senseless ranting is an occasional problem, but seems to get nipped pretty fast both by mods and by the general membership, and otherwise, a wide-boundary eclectic discussion seems to be a KEY feature for most of us, and not a problem to be corralled.

Antisocial behavior and senseless ranting is an occasional problem, but seems to get nipped pretty fast both by mods and by the general membership, and otherwise, a wide-boundary eclectic discussion seems to be a KEY feature for most of us, and not a problem to be corralled.

I agree. I often just lightly skim over many of the threads that don't interest me. But now and then in skimming, I've found some really interesting and/or useful things. The "wide-boundary eclectic discussion" is indeed one of the strengths of TOD, in my opinion.

My contention is that for those of us who like to keep a clear focus on Peak Oil(and yes there are related issues, but car costs or your lamp isn't one of them, no matter how hard you try, sorry), there should be a filter so we can skip the spam.

Svamp, again, the topics discussed on this site relate to energy, how we produce it, how we consume it, what it costs, how we pay for it both through our financial instruments and in terms of EROEI. We regularly discuss topics related to nuclear energy, hydro, wind, solar, and all forms of fossil fuel such as coal, natural gas, oil, not to mention topics related to biomass, ethanol production, things like the viability of scaling up algae production, etc.. etc..

Most of us here are mathematically and scientifically literate and many are highly specialized experts in their respective fields. As a group we are quite interested in how these topics directly affect our personal lives and possibly our global industrial civilization as a whole. Many of us have been around this site for quite a few years and we are familiar with each other to the point that we often refer to each other on a first name basis.

Specifically with respect to 'the cost of lamps' as you say, I think you would be extremely hard pressed to argue that it is irrelevant to the topic of energy, energy usage and how it might have a long term impact on people in general, possibly even a paradigm changing impact on our global civilization.

You are free to disagree with my points but before you do, may I suggest you take a little time to familiarize yourself what this site is really about and try to broaden you range of energy related interests. You might find there are many here who have quite a bit to contribute to your general education on energy related topics.

Of course if none of this interests you then so be it.



P.S. and now back to watching fast approaching Hurricane Isaac here in South Florida and especially it's future path into the Gulf of Mexico. My apologies to all if that is an irrelevant topic on this site >;-)

"those of us who like to keep a clear focus on Peak Oil"

That focus is not a clear as you think it is. Energy is everywhere, so it affects everything. You can't just study one little facet and expect to understand what is happening. The cost of car ownership is a fine example. Non-oil energy for cars will be viable when the costs are low enough, including the possible inconvenience costs of refueling when stuck on the side of the road out of "gas". How do I get an EV home? How do I get a CNG fueled car home? If every little mishap involves a tow-truck, then the perceived cost of the car goes up, regardless of how the accountants cost/mile calculations come out.

I, my wife, and my daughter have each run out of gas exactly once apiece. I did it when I was about 17. If it had cost a tow on top of the embarrassment, the lesson would be learned even better.

Once market penetration grows, portable CNG and EV refillers should arise for such situations. Sure, it'll cost more, but then everything else will too.

I don't think that comment trail means what you think it does. As you maintain your sincerity, I will explain my appreciation of the relevance of the comments which you feel are unrelated to the site topic.

The largest sectoral use of oil in the U.S. is in the transport sector. The majority of that use is in light motor vehicles for personal transport. Reducing that use is of some import in responding to declining oil availability. One (not the only) route to reduced oil use in light vehicles is increased efficiency of oil use in light vehicles. For the most part, that improved efficiency occurs when/as fleet turnover happens. Factors affecting when and at what rate fleet turnover occurs include what it costs to keep specific vehicles on the road at a given age. After some acquaintance with the comments of the party who asked that question, I would guess he wishes to improve his model of how fleet mileage changes due to changes in new vehicle production characteristics, and what the policy levers are which would increase fleet mileage fastest and at least cost.

In some parts of the world (for instance Japan in the absence of nukes, Mexico, the Middle East, islands, isolated villages, etc), large quantities of oil are burned to produce electricity, space heat, and hot water, and in nearly all parts of the world energy is consumed to provide those services, energy which is to some extent fungible with oil. A lightbulb which uses 15% the energy to provide the same amount of light is on-topic. Figuring out how to get those lightbulbs into service and saving energy is on-topic.

If you don't like what you call "off-topic chat," just stay out of the Drumbeats. One of the purposes of the Drumbeat is to allow people a little more leeway (and keep this stuff out of the key posts).

The key posts are more tightly moderated. Just stick to them, and everyone's happy.

If you noticed my own posts in that Drumbeat of the date you've linked to, you might get a good sense of how I feel about moderation in general.
To get a better insight into 'peak oil' (whatever it is exactly) is to consider and examine related issues. And everything's related.

Topic (etc.) -moderation's fine to a point, (and may even help save us from ourselves and improve our image), after which it can start to stare into its own mirror and start talking to itself.

... And everything's related...

Topic (etc.) -moderation's fine to a point, (and may even help save us from ourselves and improve our image), after which it can start to stare into its own mirror and start talking to itself.

There is currently a really great (rare event) artists gallery at the CNN site where the topic is multiple aspects of power...


William Powhida, 'Where Does Power Come From Anyway?'
Artist's statement: As an artist, I am fascinated by the ways in which people exercise, submit to and resist power. Particularly the resistance. It's equally fascinating to think about why people fiercely resist certain forms of power while, paradoxically, deferring to others without question or protest. The drawing considers some of the ways power appeals to our hopes and fears and how they shape our moral and ethical sensibilities. The election cycle made me think about the point of control when individuals internalize an external influence and believe that power to be their own. It makes people do and say some very curious things. (Editor's note: Click through the gallery to explore the individual panes of Powhida's work in more detail.)

Thanks for sharing. I've so far looked at a few works and some videos and will definitely get back to it.

I have been on this forum for only one year but here's my take. I don't think it's possible to only discuss topics which are directly related to PO. By which I assume you mean things like oil production data, refinery outputs etc. I think you are looking for a place which more or less resembles an academic forum where people only discuss what is related to their field of study. This is not an academic forum.

Rather it resembles (and I am taking liberties here) a local farmers group where people come to discuss farming techniques, and then some people discuss how much milk their cow is producing, some go ahead and start discussing what they are going to do on Christmas. Not all of it is useless, as everyone knows cows are important to farming and so are holidays. Of course at one point the mods are going to step in and say that folks let's not gossip here. But to me some of it is unavoidable, without it the whole discussion wouldn't exist. Drumbeat is a regular feature here and when something is regular, mundane everyday discussions do come up because that's how normal people behave. I don't know if you go to an office or not. I do and even though it's a professional setting we joke, talk about movies, music, family etc alongside discussing algorithms and business updates.

I wouldn't wanna go to an office where people only talk about technical stuff, I simply wouldn't be able to stand it. TOD is unlike any other online forum, it's a place where many folks are regular and have been discussing stuff for years, many people know each other and respect each other so things which you consider mundane are bound to come up. Of course a fine balance must be maintained about what's off topic and what's not but let's not turn this into academic forum please. There are so many of them out there and they are boring as hell.


Energy is energy. Whether it is waste or conservation (windows/insulation/cars etc), the need has to be made up from somewhere. All energy related topics reflect the situation of peak oil. Peakoil.com is a case in point. They cover tons of topics, but the comments are not as good or thorough as TOD. The down arrow is a great filter and so is a break from the site.

I remember a quote from Todd once about how sick he was about the same old energy postings about "how many joules can fit on the head of a pin". It really made me take notice of other topics as well as westex and Ron's info which is what really brings me back day after day.

The shipping index is a case in point.

If only sustainability sites as well as prep sites were as good as TOD. This would allow some comment and reader migration. I just haven't found anything yet to replace the civility and knowledge of TOD regulars.


I just haven't found anything yet to replace the civility and knowledge of TOD regulars.

You should be thanking the engagement of the human based moderation here.

This site is hit often with the spam and WAY off topic stuff - and the moderators have it gone in hours. Its hard to get such a good staff at what they are paid.

Let me point out that this type of "proposal" has been discussed many, many times over the years of TOD and different things have been tried to appease the TOD audience. Now TOD staff have really just set out their own rules on their website and we have all adjusted. So, in short, your comments are not new and we have all gone over this before.

And far from ad-homs, I think the responses have given the topic a full and fair hearing.

I hope Svamp, you feel the question has gotten answered ok.

"Energy shortages are the easiest to handle of our resource problems. At least on paper. All it takes is real leadership from our leaders; common sense from the general public; a willingness of hydrocarbon interests to back off from politics and propaganda and a herd of flying pigs."

Summary of the Summary
We are five years into a severe global food crisis that is very unlikely to go away. It will threaten poor countries with increased malnutrition and starvation and even collapse. Resource squabbles and waves of food-induced migration will threaten global stability and global growth. This threat is badly underestimated by almost everybody and all institutions with the possible exception of some military establishments.


Earlier in the year, the BBC featured

...a series of articles commemorating the 20th anniversary of the fall of the state in Somalia. Although the articles expressed the typical revulsion at "anarchy," [technically Somalia is not in anarchy, which is not to be confused with chaos or similar] the series was surprisingly balanced for such a mainstream outlet. Somalia is undeniably experiencing progress according to several criteria, despite (or, some would say, because of) its lack of a strong central government.

Economists familiar with the Rothbardian tradition have taken the analysis even further, persuasively arguing that Somalia is much better without a state than it was with one. The standard statist put-down — "If you Rothbardians like anarchy so much, why don't you move to Somalia?" — misses the point. The Rothbardian doesn't claim that the absence of a state is a sufficient condition for bliss. Rather, the Rothbardian says that however prosperous and law-abiding a society is, adding an institution of organized violence and theft will only make things worse.

We are all essentially prisoners in the various nation-states and if we don't get out of these prisons soon-- and it may be a little late in the game-- we may get to the point where we experience more lock-ins and more potentially-catastrophic lock-ins. In this video, David Korowicz speaks about lock-in/irreversibility. Nuclear power, comes to mind, such as dealing with its waste-- which has been discussed here on TOD before.

Quote from the video:

This is total thermodynamics... The universe abhors an energy gradient... The fastest way to get rid of an energy gradient is greater complexity... [however] the more complex things you have in general... [the] more likely [it is] to quickly decay than something less complex..."
~ David Korowicz

Nicole Foss on centralized government (Korowicz and Tainter are part of the panel)

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

...You won’t get cooperation out of a hierarchical system. You get enforced directions from the top, and nothing I know of can run like that. I think the world would function extremely well with millions of little cooperative groups, all in relation to each other.
~ Bill Mollison (permaculture)

I think the world would function extremely well with millions of little cooperative groups, all in relation to each other.

What keeps the groups little, yet cooperative? If the groups are cooperative, they are likely to coalesce and form larger groups. If they are not cooperative, they are likely to compete and eliminate each other.

Even if it were possible to start with small groups (and there are some, such as mountain villages, nomadic encampments, island fishing villages, etc.), there is no political lecithin to keep such a social mayonnaise from breaking.

What keeps the groups little, yet cooperative?
~ Merrill

1. Scale perhaps. By natural forces (if we simply can't grow the hell up and figure out how to do it ourselves) like collapse/contraction/decline/etc.. By knocking us little critters back to the stone age. Olduvai. Or extinction.

2. I also saw something some time ago, via an anarchism site perhaps, about how these small groups could work. (Maybe it's even in the Permaculture Design Manual.) I might try to locate it and if successful, try to post it on here, or email you if your question is less rhetorical.

3. Permaculture/Transition/Intentional Communities: It's possible that (an) ethical framework(s) like those and upheld by many could help.

4. Think about it yourself and try to come up with something. If you do, let us know. (FUD and devil's advocation, etc., only seems to go so far and often strikes me as lame, impotent and a cop-out.)

5. Voluntary: We may have no choice but to do something before overscaled centralized states run us off a cliff.

A thoughtful overview of this problem, FYI:

Schmookler, Andrew Bard 1995 The Parable of the Tribes: The Problem of Power in Social Evolution, 2nd ed. Albany: SUNY Press.

It looks like a great book, thanks!

'tis the method chosen by default for human population reduction.

Probably too soon to get overly excited, but tropical storm Isaac has the potential to become another Katrina. As of this writing the official NOAA line is still keeping it on track for a FL landfall, possibly as a cat 2. Browsing the weather forums, however, and they are posting some model runs out to 80hrs that park Isaac over downtown NOLA as a possible cat 3.

Gulf Coast Weather

Not good news for the oil patch.


Perhaps this is why Gulf oil and gas platforms started shutting in, two days or so ahead of the storm. I would guess we'll see a lot more shut-ins in the next two days.

August 25, 2012, 3:51 p.m. ET

UPDATE: U.S. Government: 8.6% of Gulf Oil Production Shut In as Isaac Approaches

About 8.6% of the Gulf's oil production, or 119,138 barrels of oil a day, and 1.6% of the region's natural gas output, or 73 million cubic feet a day, have been shut in as producers evacuate the area, the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said. Two of the 596 production platforms and two of the 76 rigs in the Gulf have been evacuated as of Saturday, the BSEE said.

The hurricane's current forecast course would take it just east of most of the Gulf's oil and gas production, located south of Louisiana.


Check out the wave height forecast out to 72hrs:

Wave Model - Gulf of Mexico Surf Height

20ft to 40ft+ across half the GOM just offshore of SELA and FL. Maybe they should consider more evacuations... Just sayin'


surf's up :)

Latest models

Discussions likely taking place right now about extending the warning to cover New Orleans at next advisory. As of the 8am advisory the Hurricane watch is explicitly "not including metropolitan New Orleans".

Official Cone

This is what it already looks like this morning in my area near Ft Lauderdale, Live webcam.

Not a good beach day!

Though I guess I shouldn't complain, I could be living in Okinawa...


Tokyo (CNN) -- A massive typhoon began to make landfall Sunday over Okinawa, bringing winds more ferocious than even the typhoon-weary Japanese island has seen in decades.
It will likely be the strongest since 1956, said CNN International meteorologist Tom Sater.
With a cloud field of 2,000 kilometers (1,250 miles), Typhoon Bolaven is 20 times larger than Okinawa's length.
"It's been very, very severe," said storm chaser James Reynolds, on the northwestern coast of the island.

I'm so glad climate change ain't happening!

Niger floods cause widespread devastation

Heavy flooding in Niger over the past few weeks has killed up to 65 people and left 125,000 homeless.

After appeals from the country's president for aid, the Irish government and Plan International are sending a plane loaded with supplies....

Plan International's Niger director Rheal Drisdalle said on 18-19 August, the river reached levels "not seen since the 1920s".

"As the river has not been this high for a very, very long time, people had built their houses near to the river - and then all the rice paddies along the river have been flooded," he told the BBC.

At last count, the United Nation's Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that the floods have destroyed 14,000 homes and 7,000 fields of cereal crops across the country.

The West African country is already suffering from severe food shortages caused by recent drought.

The River Niger flood plain is where much of the country's staples are grown. Rice, pearl millet, sorghum and other grains have been largely wiped out in these areas. Feed for livestock, a big chunk of their GDP, is also grown in these areas.

...a thousand cuts..

...a thousand cuts..

Some of those cuts might be deeper than others... I'd never even heard of the Fujiwhara effect before!

Taiwan could be in for a pounding due to something called the Fujiwhara effect, he said.

Typhoon Tembin made landfall in southern Taiwan a few days ago, and was expected to work its way toward Hong Kong. But Bolaven, which is much stronger, has stopped Tembin's movement toward Hong Kong and has been spinning it around. Tembin is likely to make a second landfall in southern Taiwan.

Also heading our way according to the NOAA site:


And this is only August! Could turn out to be an interesting season.

Fujiwara, is just saying that if you have a low pressure system, its exerts some effect on weather systems that are close enough, trying to steer them around it. For tropical storms (I use the term generically here -to include hurricanes/typhoons/???), it means storms that get too close will tend to orbit each other. More often they get close enough to have some effect on their motions.

Just looking at the latest GFS runs. At 12z (UTC) + 48 hrs approaching Greater NOLA/Mississippi River Delta. Then spends the next two days slowly drifting west staying offshore before making landfall about TX/LA boundary. Then drifts north through east Texas. Peak forecast strength about Cat 2/Cat 3.

Looks like it might go close to the LOOP.

The LOOP was reported to be operating normally Saturday [no word yet today] but I would expect it to be closed by tomorrow morning at the latest.

Elsewhere, energy industry evacuation plans in the GOM are proceeding at a rapid pace.

I imagine so. Just out.

HWRF T+54 (Init 12z (UTC/GMT)

(Click image for full size version)

That's a Cat 4. Hope that model run doesn't verify!

Plaquemines Parish, Jefferson Parish, St Charles Parish declared State of Emergency. Mandatory Evac of Grand Isle ordered.

Governor Bobby Jindal is scheduled to hold a news conference on state preparations for Isaac at 3:15pm (local)

EDIT: Mayor Mitch Landrieu declares state of emergency declared in New Orleans

Mayor Mitch Landrieu has declared a state of emergency for the city of New Orleans in advance of Tropical Storm Isaac.

Said he declared the emergency "so that everybody in the city of new orleans can begin to prepare."

"It is important to be on high alert," the mayor said, noting that the city is about 36 hours away from a direct hit from Isaac according to current track predictions.

Landrieu also said he expects the storm to soon reach hurricane intensity.

Well, it's still projected to max out at Category 3. Unlike Katrina, which was a 5.

I think Katrina was a 3 at landfall or maybe a 3 when it hit NOLA. I keep reading that only three cat 5's have made landfall on the mainland U.S. I was thinking about that today, what were Camille and Andrew?

The problem was that Katrina had a Cat. 5 storm surge, since it reached Cat. 5 while in the Gulf. The current forecast map for Isaac shows it reaching maximum intensity after it makes landfall. (I suspect that would not really happen - the land will cause it to weaken.) It will have a Cat. 1 storm surge, not Cat. 5.

Yep, I'm pretty sure Katrina made landfall as a cat 3 though it had reached cat 5 status over water.
Andrew was definitely a cat 5, though I'm not sure about Camille. Ironically this weekend was the 20th anniversary of Andrew and Wednesday when Isaac makes landfall it will be 7 years since Katrina.

Even right now I can hear the wind from Isaac howling outside my window and the rain is still coming down in torrents. I've been cooped up all weekend and I'm not sure If I'll be venturing forth tomorrow either due to possible widespread flooding in my area. Moma Nature is not one to be trifled with, though she seems to have spared me from major consequences this time...

And to underscore that I had a momentary power outage while typing this post!

The cat 5s to make landfall in the US were the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane in the Florida Keys, Camille, and Andrew. Andrew was initially listed as cat 4, but was upgraded later after a review of the data. Cat 3 is scary enough, having been in the eye of Hurricane Wilma when it was cat 3 for about 45 minutes in 2005.

We had the storm that clobbered Galveston around the turn of the century, and I think Key West got hit by a big one. I suspect the later was probably the third one.

The hurricane that hit Galveston in 1900 was probably a cat 4 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galveston_Hurricane_of_1900).

Follow the 'Archives' then 'Graphic Archives' links and run some of the tracks. The fat lady isn't even on stage yet.


18z GFS just running now. Goes for approach to Grand Isle about T+48 then drifts west just offshore, fully onshore between Lafayette and Lake Charles at about T+72

And here's the NHC forecast for Exactly Seven Years Ago Today

For storms with large circulation (and Isaac is a big one, though smaller than Ike and Katrina), the max wind speed at a given central pressure tends to be lower than for smaller storms. So hopefully, we aren't going to see a cat 4. Alan, how far has the NO storm defenses been strengthened?

Actually for that HWRF run the projected sustained surface wind speed was 120 kts at T+48 which would be most definitely Cat 4.

But yes nothing in the official NHC output suggests anything like a Cat 4 or anything like as low a pressure. The HWRF is currently the outlier in terms of strength with Isaac.

Also hoping to hear from Alan on how things are going.

I filled up with diesel, I was hoping to wait till mid or late September. $500 cash in 50s, 20s & 10s. Filled up Mardi Gras cups with water and put them into freezer#. Boards up Monday or Tuesday - I did help a neighbor today. Bought some more green bananas, bread, fruit and canned goods I can use anyway.

Just low cost, low effort preparation.

Full service station but not more than one or two cars in line.

I will most likely stay unless forecast gets worse.

# Fill Mardi Gras cups with water, freeze and then rotate into refrigerator and put another set into freezer. Turn frig to maximum cold. This will preserve contents as long as possible. And provide another couple of gallons of water. (Hot water tank is ultimate reserve). Turn off water supply before storm to prevent possible contamination.

The Corps of Engineers said that they completed what they promised us for Hurricane protection in 1968 just a couple of months ago.

Best Hopes :-)


I've been following this thing since Puerto Rico. No really following it, not keeping track of it. I'm in a ship following the storm. Our planned track for this voyage was set long before the storm came and then the storm has taken that track. Isaac actually went over the ship prior to Puert Rico the guys said it was a very rough sea state. My final destination is around Grand Isle Louisiana, so I hope it leaves me a dry place to to land in a helicopter. Isaac really needs to get off of our route.

Once we arrive at our drilling location we're going to try to find some more nice hydrocarbons for you guys to use in your daily lives, hopefully in a few months we'll know if well accomplish that goal.

The water in the Gulf is rather warm, so rapid intensification would not surprise me at all. Some weather forecasters pointed out that the loop current wasn't as large as the year Katrina and Rita hit. In my view the entire central gulf is almost as hot as the average loop current. How deep that warm water goes is another story. We'll have to see what happens. I'm glued to Weatherunderground.


The latest is Isaac is heading NW pretty much towards New Orleans. And strengthening.

It was explained this is a very bad direction in terms of storm surge. Water will pile up extra high. Additionally a westward turn is possible, stacking up the water further right at landfall.

Isaac is a very broad and large storm. Models have underestimated storm surge for larger storms. A large storm will create a storm surge equal to a higher category hurricane.

Aren't there a few oil rigs over in that direction?

Yeah there's a few rigs and many production platforms. I would expect shut in oil and gas wells and shuttered refineries to help gasoline and diesel prices to elevate nicely.

The deepwater fleet of rigs can leave the area of the storm if they wish. The jack-up rigs are the rigs that could get hammered.

Here's the link for the latest NWS "Cone of Doom":


Well that is showing a land fall near Grand Ilse Louisiana. Fourchon which is just west of Grand Ilse is a major hub servicing the the oilfeild in the Gulf of Mexico.

Houma, which is my home town and another major city for the oilfield (worldwide) is north west of Grand Ilse, it's flood protection is a work in progress. Houma has many elite machine shops, massive fab yards and other oil field service companies that cater to energy firms worldwide. It's very important to many oilfield projects.

A major storm hitting this area could have energy price and production implications for weeks.

Oh and there are many oil and gas pipelines in the area too.

Check this one out:


120 mph winds and 20" of rain. Same date as Katrina.

Considering that Isaac was still a tropical storm at 5 AM, and subject to shear for maybe the next 12 hours, that doesn't leave much time for it to spin up. NHC has lowered it projection of strength at landfall to near 90 mhp (with a 21% probability of greater than cat 1, and a 38% probability it will be a tropical storm or depression, by then). Coincidences can be striking, as when Hurricane Gordon hit the Azores this year, the first hurricane to do so since Hurricane Gordon in 2006, but are poor prediction tools.

Anybody know what is the condition of the Loop Current in the Gulf of Mexico now? How warm is the Gulf anyway?

To all there, hang on and good luck, you're in for some sort of a blow.

How warm is the Gulf anyway?

Pretty darn warm!


In August the temperature in most of the Eastern GOM is 84 to 87 degrees F.
Coastal Water Temperature Table Gulf of Mexico Coast: Eastern

Ron P.

The earlier track had it crossing a coolish patch of water. But if the westward jog validates it could traverse warmer waters.

I was checking out the latest Archdriud report and in it Greer uses hurricane forcasting as a foundation for making some claims about the US military.


From the article:
"For a timely example of chaos, it’s hard to do better than Tropical Storm Isaac, which is churning its way into the eastern Caribbean as I write this. As systems go, a tropical storm is a fairly simple one—basically, a heat engine in which all the moving parts are made of air and water, with a few feedback loops linking it to its environment. Those loops are what make it chaotic; a tropical storm’s behavior is determined by its environment, but its environment is constantly being reshaped by the tropical storm, so that perturbations too small to track or anticipate can spin out of control and drive major shifts in size, speed and direction.

Thus you can never know exactly where a tropical storm is going to go, or how hard it’s going to hit. The most you can know is where, on average, storms like the one you’re watching have tended to go, and what they’ve done when they got there. That’s chaos: unpredictability because the other system’s interactions with its environment are too complex to be accurately anticipated."

The second paragraph is totally inaccurate i.e. completely WRONG! Hurricane forcasters use mathmatical models to predict the track and intensity of hurricanes. They've become pretty good at forcasting the tracking part and they aren't as good at forcasting the intensity part. They do not use the historical averages! Check out tropical cyclone forcasting on Wikipedea for the details:


Technically, when one bases one's conclusions on false premises, those conclusions can be suspect. John Michael Greer is a historian and seems to see everything through the lense of a historian. To a hammer, everything looks like a nail!

Does anyone else here think this is an example of sloppy reasoning by Greer?

PS--this is not an ad hominem attack.

I would say you're both right. In the case of Isaac, the models are changing almost hourly, and the projected landfall has moved west. What Greer describes is the reason for the "cone of uncertainty'. This time yesterday, many models anticipated Isaac would come to the Southern Appalachians to die; now looking like the plains or midwest, perhaps TX/OK. Maybe this thing can get the Mississippi flowing again.

Here in central Midwest, this weekend brought best rain in months. We will take more if Isaac will bring it.

From Jeff Master's Wunderblog --

One camp of models, the UKMET and ECMWF, predict that a trough of low pressure moving across the Southeast U.S. will be strong enough to turn Isaac north to a landfall in the Florida Panhandle. The other set of models, the GFDL, GFS, and HWRF, predict the trough will bypass Isaac, and a ridge of high pressure will build in and force Isaac to a landfall over Louisiana. The official NHC forecast averages out these two extremes, calling for a landfall midway between the two solutions. Odds are, one of the two model solutions will turn out to be the correct one, and the NHC will be forced to make a substantial adjustment in their forecast track to the east or the west. Isaac has the potential to drop torrential rains capable of causing serious flooding and drought relief over the South.

This is a nice example where predictive models disagree in a major way, and the "average result" is less likely be right than either of the "extreme results".



Very good point and another angle I hadn't thought of. Greer's use of averages when applied to forecasting is extremely naive.

After a particularly nasty storm surprised the UK a few years back. It had been seen as an outlier in the models, but didn't look very probable, a lot of work has one into creating a range of models, so that the uncertainty and outliers of a given system can be somewhat known beforehand. This is one example of that sort of thing being applied.

Hi Ghung,

I don't think so. Greer might be describing the cone of uncertanty as you say, but he clearly states:

"The most you can know is where, on average, storms like the one you’re watching have tended to go, and what they’ve done when they got there."

And yet many folks here on TOD are breathlessly following the forecasted track of the storm which is based on MATHMATICAL MODELING, not HISTORY. If the history of past storms is 'the most you can know' then why are are people paying any attention at all to the forecasts?

There will always be a cone of uncertainty. The point here is that the cone of uncertainty, especially when it comes to tracking, is shrinking as the mathmatical models get better and better. Thus the historical behavior of storms is clearly not 'the most you can know'. Chaos theory does not make things TOTALLY unpredicatable, as Greer seems to be implying. And this supposed total unpredictability is important to the conclusions he draws in the rest of the article. Thus, I continue to hold that this is an example of poor reasoning.

Does anyone else out there agree?

I think you're splitting hairs here. The mathematical model is based on history. That's how they made the model. They used the database of information on previous hurricanes.

This nitpicking is really not worth the amount of bandwidth it's taking up.

To be more precise, the projected model tracks are based on numerical simulations of the underlying physics. The models don't have historical storm knowledge as such. The size of the cone of uncertainty, however, is based on information from previous storms.

It depends on the model. The statistical models use historical data.

Statistical models...do not explicitly consider the physics of the atmosphere but instead are based on historical relationships between storm behavior and storm-specific details such as location and date. Statistical-dynamical models blend both dynamical and statistical techniques by making a forecast based on established historical relationships between storm behavior and atmospheric variables provided by dynamical models.

And I think it could be argued that even the dynamic models are in a sense based on history. In the end, they are empirical. It's too complex a problem to understand or model fully, so they are tweaked to match past reality, in hopes that it also holds for the future.


I know I said I was done, but I feel I must add this short clarification. In this case we are clearly talking about mathmatical tracking models which are not based on historical averages.

All of the models I post are pure computational models. The only really relevant statistical model is "SHIPS" (Statistical Hurricane Intensity Prediction Scheme) and that's not one that I pay that much attention to.

The whole of physics could be described as a model "tweaked to match past reality" :-)

The physics has had to be greatly simplified. The various models have had some sort of tuning against past weather events, to better account for the logical/mathematical shortcuts that can't be avoided. I don't think there is any way to avoid this.


I'm not totally sure, but I'm pretty sure that the mathmatical models the forecasters are using are not based on historical averages. Please check out the wikipage on tropical cyclone forecasting. It does not mention using historical data.

I do not think this is nitpicking. And implying that it is is at least slightly ad hominem. I am saying that Greer's reasoning is suspect when it comes to hard science. And this is just one example I could use. And I believe that I have followed all the rules that pertain to posting on TOD. And I am done with this topic for today in any case.

Surely they test their models by seeing if they replicate past hurricanes, and tweak as necessary?

So the model might not incorporate historical data, but it will certainly be calibrated against historical data.

I once exchanged a few email with JMG. I was hoping to get a collaboration going. He admits to be uncomfortable with math (like 95+% of the population), and I hoped that a collaboration with someone who wasn't could improve the quality of the product. Nothing came of it.

Now, I still have a great deal of respect for him. He is a great writer. And no human can master all the relevant fields, so we all have to specialize. And well collaboration isn't easy to do. So, I'm willing to cut him some slack.

You state your case very well. I would add, that some models are based upon history (climatology). And these are also considered as part of the ensemble for possible trajectories for forecasters to chew on. So he is not 100% wrong (more like 90%).

Does anyone else here think this is an example of sloppy reasoning by Greer?

Greer is a very good writer, but his science literacy needs to be questioned often.
He is also somewhat a part of the conditions he arose in, and very influenced by postmodernism, and its diastase for firm facts, and the theory that you can make stuff up and it is as valid as anything else, it is just a the point of reference.

Thank you hightrekker. That is my point exactly.

And speaking of using mathmatics to forecast the behavior of complex systems, check out this fantastic article in New Scientist:


(You have to sign up to read it, but there is no charge)

I would love to hear John Michael Greer's take on this one.

I never posted anything before on this website, so this is my first time. I read the article you are talking about and I would like to recomend it to eveyone here. It is very interesting.

Kittycat is a genuine supportive lurker, and not a sock puppet or anything like that.

Postmodernism has no distaste for firm facts -- it points out that the firmest fact is communicated in language, an inherently shifty medium. Words change meaning, and have different associations for different people. Facts can't be usefully discussed without accounting for the language used to express them. Look at a Van Gogh painting of a rural landscape -- the wheat fields, the sky, all seem powerfully present -- but look closer and the effect is produced with little daubs of paint.

It isn't that you can make stuff up that's as valid as anything else. It's that language can simulate reality as easily as it can express it. Read a good novel and you feel as if you've been living in that world -- all created by words. Close reading looks for the contradictions that occur in language, and for the quirks introduced by language conventions. Postmodernism got a bad name because it was imported by US departments of literature as the new, trendy way to produce yet more readings of stories and novels that had been analyzed to death. The central insight, that our views of reality are expressed in and shaped by language, got lost. We see the landscape Van Gogh painted, but it's all daubs of paint. We see reality, and after the immediate sensory imput, it's all words.

I wouldn't be so hard on Greer. Practically, we know what weather systems exist, how fast they're moving, and in what directions -- all things subject to change. Mathematical models help refine estimates (guesses) about their paths, but nothing is certain until it happens. I look at five-day forecasts for my area every day, and every day they're different.

"We see reality, and after the immediate sensory imput, it's all words."

No. Emphatically. Thought does not take place exclusively or even mostly as language, though one can certainly think in language. Abstract concepts, music, artistic ideas, sensations... These are grasped and manipulated in our brains without needing language. I say this as someone with deep interest and training in music and linguistics. This is the central fallacy of the strong version of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis.

Now, when it comes to communication... language is one of the major mediators (not exclusive). So all sorts of problems you describe do pop up. Just don't mistake language and thought.

In the spirit of her comment, however, I think you can allow that what she's pointing towards is how we can (and must) use soft forms like language, or daubs of paint, in which to express and understand hard realities. And those 'hard' realities might be a lot more fluid than we like to think of them in the first place, too. The concrete world isn't really made of concrete, after all.

I think Loren has fixated on Greer a little bit, asking a Chef to write up recipes in strict chemical formulae. Greer doesn't work in the languages that Soman wants to read his info in.. but even in energy, geology and weather, 'a pinch of salt' and 'garlic, to taste', are the appropriate instructions..


"I think Loren has fixated on Greer a little bit, asking a Chef to write up recipes in strict chemical formulae. Greer doesn't work in the languages that Soman wants to read his info in..."

Do you play chess?

I have been fixated on Greer because he is the most visible and vulnerable target. It was necessary to my overall strategy. I really could not care any less about Greer personally. My goal is to wake up as many people as possible to what I believe is coming. And by the way, if I hadn't, someone else would have, because changes are already accelerating all around us, exposing obviously false rationals, tottering world views. The psychological adaptations to this have necessarily begun to take place here on TOD. We are all in the process of waking from a collective trance. And in that process, many oxes will necessarily be gored.

And believe it or not, letting myself get beat up over all this was a preplanned tactical move. In chess terms, I offered a sacrifice. I voluntarily accepted the scapegoat role temporarily as a way to draw my opponent out, encourage him to overstep, and reveal his ultimate weakness. Seeing a scapegoat being beat up triggers all sorts of deep emotional reactions in people. Humans are just hard wired that way. Some pile on, some attempt to rescue. It is violent and cathartic, drawing everyone out of their comfort zones. Change is always painful.

As in chess, correctly timing moves is extremely important. I came up with this idea about two years ago, and that's when I made my first attempt here. It failed, badly. My approach was extremely naive and overly optimistic. And it just wasn't the right time. I realized that I had to wait and choose just the right moment to step in to act as a catalyst. That moment came when Greer took his shot at reviewing the Korowicz paper. The only thing that surprised me was how well my strategy actually worked! I really didn't expect to succeed. One little poke was all it took to get things rolling to this point. We still have quite a ways to go, but I think the reaction is self reinforcing now. It can only grow.

I hope everyone here can forgive the stunt and see through to what is important.

"All the world's a stage and we are merely players"
------William Shakepeare


Still on the chess theme, here. I will be eternally greatful to Mark N for being the first trusted group member here to grant me my humanity, thus freeing me from being locked in the scapegoat role. It was the only necessary move I had no direct control over. And I absolutely love that music was the bridge*.

* Hey that's kind of a pun and I almost said key and that would have been a pun too! Language is wierd. Tribe would have made a lovely poem out of it instead of analyzing it to death, though.

Your posts did not trouble me, but surely you can see how they might be seen as gauche. And we happen to share a given name, so please try not to tarnish it too badly ;)

To be more serious, did you end up posting your formal critique of Greer's model anywhere? I'm looking forward to it.

Yes, there's lots going on besides language. But language is how we structure our experience (Adam naming things), communicate, and remember. Thought is more than language, but without words, it's just something going on inside your nervous system.

adamx, I didn't think about music because its symbols don't convey information. But, yes, music does escape the word form. Actually, if God undergirds all reality and keeps the atoms moving in their orbits, I doubt that such a being pays much attention to the vibrations produced by human vocal cords; why would a god need to understand human languages? Just more noise. But, Music!, it resonates with solid objects, shows mathematical relationships . . . No accident that high church services are all sung. Music is the language of the spheres.


"Music is the language of the spheres."

Amen to that.

Perhaps? It did fall into the habit of using history rather than models. I think discussing why models differ would have made the article too long. Other than that one bo-boo I think he stated the uncertainties pretty well. Although other not-so-well known things also matter, which are actually outside the storm, overall changes in the jetstream, whether the storm swallows a dry patch of air etc.

More cheery ag news. Higher cheese prices coming.

Dairy Cow Slaughter Skyrockets

The United States Department of Agriculture reported today that dairy cow slaughter shot up 15.5% in July over year earlier levels, with 239,000 cows moving through Federally inspected plants.


They forgot to mention that there were more dairy cows in June of this year than June of last or that milk per cow was higher or that the all-milk price was down 24% YOY (-$5/cwt), that plus higher feed costs is going to increase cull rates.

Thru the end of June, production was up 3 billion pounds over 2011.

At least some jurisdictions are taking climate change seriously...

New York’s City Council Adds Climate Change Panels

So in an attempt to continue Mr. Bloomberg’s environmental focus long after he’s gone, the City Council passed legislation on Wednesday that would make two panels advising the city on the threats of global warming a permanent fixture of government.

The bill, approved 44-0, will “institutionalize and regularly convene” both a panel of scientists known as the New York City Panel on Climate Change and a task force of government agencies and partners from the energy, telecommunications and other private sectors in charge of recommending how the city should adapt to more frequent storms and heat waves.

First Nation says Alberta oilsands plan will 'annihilate' its lands and future

A First Nation says Alberta's plan to balance the oilsands and the environment ignores the concerns of people who live in a remote northeastern region of forest and muskeg.

The Athabasca Chipewyan say the plan puts some minor restrictions on oilsands development, but does not protect their treaty rights or cultural livelihood.

"Your plan, your land, your future? This is not our plan, it’s the governments plan to annihilate our lands and our future," Chief Allan Adam said Friday in a release.

"There are no commitments to our people and no protection of our lands and rights. We thought we were working towards a partnership with the government, but this plan doesn’t reflect that."

Canada's National Energy Board Slammed for Kalamazoo Spill

Critics say tighter oversight of Enbridge activities could have prevented disaster.

By Andrew Nikiforuk,

Whenever a pipeline regulator delegates too much authority to the regulated to assess their own system risks and correct them, the fox is left to guard the henhouse concluded NTSB's Deborah Hersman.

"Regulators need regulations and practices with teeth, and the resources to enable them to take corrective action before a spill. Not just after."

The NTSB Final Report said that the US Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) was as much to blame as Enbridge for the largest onshore oil spill in U.S. history due to "weak regulations" as well as "ineffective oversight of pipeline integrity management programs."

Yet the integrity of hazardous liquid pipelines that start in Canada and deliver crude oil or bitumen to the United States is a shared responsibility of Canada’s National Energy Board and the PHMSA.

Captured regulators?

And the beat goes on...

UW prof proposes cloud experiment to fight global warming

You know it will be trundled out when things get toasty enough. And the guy's got a point; if we might need to apply a torniquet, perhaps we should learn how in advance.

This UW prof's idea has already been tested.


Other than for his own funding - why should he muck about like he wants to?

And what if the 'global temps' are being effected to the cooler side by the old claim of drifting through a space cloud?

http://www.thunderbolts.info/forum/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?p=64286&sid=e0d3... (1st reference I could find - if you don't like the source, go find a better one)

Astronomers call the cloud we're running into now the Local Interstellar Cloud or "Local Fluff" for short. It's about 30 light years wide and contains a wispy mixture of hydrogen and helium atoms at a temperature of 6000 C.

No, this is a BAU solution. It would also have e feedback effect. If you cut the amount of light getting through you will harm solar energy production requiring more FF production producing more CO2 requiring more clouds causing further cut of light. Rinse, repeat. We also have absolutely no idea of side effects. It would be far better to put the effort into a massive solar build out to shut down FF power plants and cut GHGs in the first place.


Wait a minute. This isn't the stratospheric sulfate injection idea, but rather seeding low marine clouds to make them brighter. Since these clouds are over water it would have little effect on PV. And it is easy to turn off, just recall the seeding boats. Obviously the cooling isn't evenly distributed geographically, a return to the climate state anti, just isn't in the cards. But there are ways of increasing land albedo, such as white roofs, and even selecting vegetation that reflects more, so you cold roughly balance out land-sea temp diffs. I do think we may become desperate enough to do something like this. It doesn't solve ocean acidification, so the sixth mass extinction events marine component will still be pretty strong.

I am very much in favour of such things as improving land albedo. A lot could be done at a practical level for what is wanted to try and mess around with these pie in the sky aerosol ideas(pie =>salt?).


Behind a pay wall but available via google:
The U.S. Natural-Gas Boom Will Transform the World The Wall Street Journal by John Deutch

A United States hopelessly dependent on imported oil and natural gas is a thing of the past. Most energy experts now project that North America will have the capacity to be a net exporter of oil and natural gas by the end of this decade...

Mr. Deutch, a professor at MIT, has served as undersecretary of energy, deputy secretary of defense, and director of the CIA. He serves on the board of directors of Cheniere Energy and previously sat on the boards of Schlumberger, CMS Energy and Citigroup.

This is a letter from U.S. Congressman Roscoe Bartlett published in the print version of the Wall Street but not available on line. I received it via email from the Energy Resources list.

I agree with John Deutch that U.S. production and licensing of technologies for shale gas and tight oil will shift market power away from OPEC and Russia ("The U.S. Natural-Gas Boom Will Transform the World," op-ed, Aug. 15). However, America's natural gas boom will not solve the oil challenges we confront.

Our Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration projects that even with increased production from tight oil, America's share of total world oil production will remain below 10%. According to the International Energy Agency's "2011 World Energy Outlook" report, in 2035 the world will have to produce 47 million barrels a day of oil from fields not yet developed or not yet found, the equivalent of five Saudi Arabias. In December 2011 Deutsche Bank and Wood Mackenzie forecast a 20% shortfall in oil production capacity compared to demand between 2010 and 2015, just three years from now. The data simply do not support a claim that U.S. production "would exceed the magnitude available from the Middle East".

As a proportion of total world oil consumption, the impact of shale-gas production will be even smaller in the long run. In energy equivalence, America's entire shale gas reserves could satisfy world oil consumption for less than three years.

OPEC and Russia will continue to exert significant leverage because more than 90% of conventional crude reserves are located there. The political stability and legal protections from free markets and governance according to the rule of law, not our reserves, will shift market power away from nondemocratic and less stable OPEC countries and Russia. Facts are stubborn things. We in the U.S. and the rest of world face huge challenges meeting the growing demand for oil from developing nations to fuel transportation in the years ahead.

Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R., Md.)
Frederick, Md.
[letter in WSJ 8-24-2012]

Ron P.

Has the USA ever been "hopelessly dependent on imported oil and natural gas"?

I am getting pretty tired of supposed experts who say "oilandnaturalgas" in one breath. The two markets behave very differently, and substitution is quite limited. Someone who was Undersecretary of Energy should at least understand that simple fact.

The power grid: How secure are we? Pretty good article from my local newspaper.

A river of oil runs through small Minnesota town

Pipelines that can carry 14 percent of the petroleum used in United States converge on this little-known town in northwest Minnesota, population 521. The oil distribution terminal here, built in 1950 and repeatedly expanded over six decades, is now a key distribution point that feeds refineries in the Twin Cities, Superior Wis., Chicago and beyond.

maps of Enbridge pipeline network

Gassy – That’s what I’ve always found amazingly ironic about opposition to the Keystone pipeline for environmental reasons. The purpose of the KPL was to replace the aged transport system with a more efficient new transport system that would be constructed with more rigid specs than the original components of the system were. Components which have naturally degraded over time. I repeated asked the folks who posted their opposition to the KPL if they realized that the same volume of oil was still being transported through though regions via truck, rail and those old pipelines and not once did I get a response. They seemed stuck in the mindset that any new p/l was a bad idea even if replaced a current system much more likely to cause environmental harm than the new one. Once their minds were made up they felt little need to discuss the reality of the situation.

I like to think the president was aware of the situation when he vetoed the short section of the KPL that crossed the border while construction of the remainder of the line was being done as fast as possible. I would rather think he was playing politics than not being clearly advised of the facts of the situation. I can more easily accept self-interest than ignorance.

But the Kochs/Syncrude/Shell/EEEEvil_Tarsands_Co. etc want to get precious Canadian (aka Sweet Domestic North American Heavy) crude out to Cushing and LOOP. Surely some oppose it for that reason.

Relying on aged pipes is unwise. Putting in another one next to the old ones so pretty soon you have 9 old ones is nutso. Put in one big one I say. Made from new technology. But that is apparently not trans-continentally cost-effective. 70% of my future gasoline comes through that series of tubes. After coming out of a giant eco-travesty in the ground. I think if people knew they would want a choice which is where some of the opposition grows.

Prez is whatever, man. That ship sailed. Politics is for morons.

Snuggles for all of you Drumbeatards from me in Lurksville, MN and especially Leanan for being extra cool.

Thank you all for the comments and moderation shared.


The 'critical mass' that drives the protest against KPL is the demand for action on climate change. Until there is a real, effective and rising price on carbon emissions then those who are concerned about AGW have every reason to passionately protest against KPL.

To those concerned about climate change, it is absurd to be doubling down and building pipeline infrastructure and enshrining demand for oil by government inaction when the science says that we should be desperately transitioning away from FF.

In it's way the protest against KPL, was a small victory in that it may have raised prices for gas and diesel for those outside the mid-west. In effect it put a price on emissions that Washington and Ottawa aren't willing to do. That said I say 'may' because as I have learned from many here, yourself included, there are many variables that determine the price of fuel wherever one fills up.



Andrew – You’re a smart guy…I know from all our chats. But set the emotions aside and read my post again.

“In it's way the protest against KPL, was a small victory”. First, there was no victory. The oil from the tar sands has continued to be produced and burned. Prices have not increased because no imports were decreased by the president's refusal to sign the permit. In fact, Canadian oil imports have increased almost 5% since then. The KPL construction has never stopped. When the rest of the system is completed the cross border section will either be completed or, if not, the same amount of oil will come across the border via the existing OLDER PIPELINES and via truck and rail as it’s being done now. As pointed out in the post I responded to the oil is currently being shipped via a system that puts the environment at greater risk. The Canadians are producing every bbl of oil they can. The stockpile of oil at Cushing and the subsequent low WTI price proves that.

If folks want to protest the burning of fossil fuels for the sake of AGW then they should protest directly against the folks doing the burning: the American citizens and the corporations that employ them. They cut their consumption then there’s less GHG produced. Otherwise as long as there is the demand the Canadian oil sands will be produced (along with a the other FF in the system) and it will all be shipped to the refiners, turned into products, burned and thus produce GHG which will worsen AGW. There was no victory. There will never be a victory IMHO as long as efforts are wasted by not attacking the source of the problem: the consumers. Companies would not be producing hydrocarbons if the pubic didn’t demand.

You want to protest and make a significant contribution? Try this: in 2011 100+ million bbls of oil, owned by the US govt and its citizens, were produced from the federal leases. This isn’t what the oil companies own but the royalty oil that’s owned by the people from the moment it’s produced to when it’s delivered to a refinery. The govt is not obligated to sell it. Every bbl could be sent to SPR sites. If more sites are needed there are dozens of suitable salt domes available. Think about the pluses: not only wouldn’t those 100 million bbls be burned and turned into more GHG but it will be saved for the time when our economy desperately needs it. We could double the SPR reserves in just 7 years. Now there’s a victory worth bragging about. Or, at the very least, worth fighting for even if not successful.

I’m sorry but if those folks thought they accomplished anything to offset AGW they are fatally delusional IMHO. I don’t fault them for their passion but the results. Consider the plan I just offered: maybe the environmentalists should talk more to us oil patch hands. We understand the system and the dynamics. With a poor understanding of both how can you expect successful result of their efforts?

I've won the debate, buddy. But trust me: it brings me no joy.

Your proposal makes sense under an old fashioned concept that we use to have -- called conservation. Putting AGW aside, becoming "independent" by drilling now, drilling everywhere seems irresponsible. Romney's grand children would probably appreciate a few barrels here and there in the future. Selling our descendants seems to be the current strategy. And Obama is not really that much better. Even if peak oil has been postponed a couple of decades, good luck in the latter part of this century. Lucky me won't be around.

ts - In reality I don't think conservation has been more than a concept in the US. What little the public and govt have done doesn't amount to any significant conservation effort IMHO. If they have then why are we in the situation we are in today?

It's all hollow statements IMHO: be it not signing the permit for the Keystone p/l, to opening up all offshore fed leases, etc, etc. It's just one set of placating jibberish from both the left and right IMHO. And that is THE source of my doomer inclinations.

Austin Energy is past 800 MW of conservation reduction in peak demand and on their way towards 1,000 MW.

Per Capita kWH residential consumption in Austin used to be (circa 1973) comparable to San Antonio, Corpus Christi, Houston, Waco, Dallas. It has since fallen significantly behind.

The same is true of California.

Best Hopes for Consistent Trying,



Just curious, but where are you getting that data? I'm happy my solar panels (ETA October this year) will be doing their small part to contribute to that reduction.

A quick Google, and from when I used to live there.

Austin and California has the only "real" energy conservation programs in the US.

Next read is the Austin Climate Action Report

Best Hopes for Cities that Try to Do Something,


It's all hollow statements IMHO: be it not signing the permit for the Keystone p/l, to opening up all offshore fed leases, etc, etc. It's just one set of placating jibberish from both the left and right IMHO. And that is THE source of my doomer inclinations.


Anything that doesn't keep it in the ground doesn't count.

It's like sex. If you don't talk about it the kids won't do it. /sarc

Rock. The cost of transporting that bitumen is (or will be) higher without KPL, so it does engage the market to decrease consumption and discourage (to some degree). Some of the opposition was about local concerns, possible spills of DilBit. Most was about AGW. Obviously any one project will only contribute a small incremental increase to AGW. But, if you keep letting every increment through, because its only a small increment, you'll never make any progress.

Of course its become a political football. And there is no telling if it might skew election results in one direction or another.

eos – Let me try bullet points to make the situation simple:

1. Canadian tar sand oil imports have increased almost 5% since the president refused to sign the permit. This isn’t a victory.

2. The amount of oil imported from Canada will increase. This isn’t a victory. See 3.

3. The bottleneck has not been getting the Canadian oil across the border. It has been the Cushing/Texas Coast leg that has been the bottleneck. With the reversal of one p/l there is now an addition 150,000 bopd moving to GC refineries. In 2 years additional paralle p/l’s, already under construction since they do not require fed approval, will increase the delivery rate to at least 600,000 bopd. This isn’t a victory.

4. “Obviously any one project will only contribute a small incremental increase to AGW.” Regardless as to whether the border crossing section of the KPL is built or not an increasing volume of Canadian will be produced and burned. Not granting the fed permit has not reduced the future amount of AGW one cubic foot. This isn’t a victory.

5. The Canadian oil will be sold at the price the market will set. It won’t matter if it cost more or less to transport the tar sand oil. Transportation costs will impact future development plans but existing production will be sod because transport costs represent a very small portion of the production costs. This isn’t a victory.

6. The increase delivery of oil from Cushing to Texas refineries will put downward pressure on oil prices as it has done for Midwest WTI prices. This may put downward price pressure on retail prices. This isn’t a victory.

7. Lower retail prices will provide consumers with the ability to increase consumption and thus increase the production of GHG and worsen the AGW situation. This isn’t a victory.

Folks can rant about oil production reductions all they want. But every bbl of oil that can be produced profitably will be produced. The Canadian govt demands it. The majority of those Canadian citizens with a say in the matter demand it. The US govt will demand it just as they’ve demanded the KSA increase production. As mentioned the US govt could immediately remove 8 million bbls of oil per month out of the market place. They won’t. The majority of the American public demands that every bbl of producible oil be delivered to their market. The oil exporting nations dearly depend on exporting their oil...they are not going to cut back.

They can spend as much energy trying to reduce oil production as they wish. Nothing will succeed. The only way to decrease oil production is to decrease consumption. As long as demand keeps prices up the oil will be produced.

Again the refusal to sign that fed permit was not a victory. About 25 million more bbls of Canadian oil have been imported, refined and burned in the 12 months after the permit refusal than the 12 months before. Increased GHG production after the “victory” doesn’t seem like anything to brag about. It really is that simple.

I see the same situation with illegal drugs. Obviously the “War on Drugs” has been a failure. Heck, the drug cartels are on the verge of becoming the de facto govt of Mexico. And they are illegal and they are physically attacked/arrested and they are stronger than ever. No fed agents are attacking/arresting the Alberta govt. The president didn’t sign the KPL permit but he hasn’t made selling Canadian oil sand production in the US illegal. IMHO the only way to change BAU with regards to illegal drugs is to reduce the demand. Same deal with our oil addiction.

As I recall, the Administration offered the pipeline as part of a package that included income taxes on the wealthy. The Republicans could have had it but refused the offer. Blame Republicans on the $6 trillion the Bush Administration cost on the Tax cuts, two unfunded wars that we did not win, and a Medicare D unfunded program. Blame Republicans for their anarchist position and understand reality.
If the loopholes that allow Exxon and GE and a host of other big companies to escape US income taxes, plus loopholes like "carried interest" that allow Romney to escape 1/2 of his fair taxes and that created probably 1/2 of his $250 million wealth, we are the next Greece.

One has only to look towards Mexico and certain street corners near wherever you live to see the success in interdicting supplies that addicts want.



This message is from SuperG:

Today [Friday] a movie called "Premium Rush" is opening in the U.S. It's about an NYC bike messenger who is told to deliver a mysterious package; adventure ensues.

The movie filmed in the summer of 2010, and at that time the producers asked if they could use The Oil Drum in the film. This is what they said: "The producers would like permission to use the 'The Oil Drum' name and logo during one scene that takes place at a college. The name/logo would appear in the background amongst other activist organizations during an on campus student information session. No references would be made to the organization."

For better or worse, we gave them permission to do it. We have no idea if TOD made the final cut or not. I have no plans to see this movie, but if anyone does, please be on the look out for TOD's Hollywood debut!

Looks like they forgot to ask for permission from the author of a book, though...

Hollywood Studios Sued For Pirating A Movie Script

In 2011, a lawsuit claiming copyright infringement was filed by author Joe Quirk, claiming Premium Rush was based on Quirk's screenplay from his 1998 novel The Ultimate Rush.

...The suit claimed many plot, character name, and scene similarities to Quirk's original screenplay. In July 2012, federal judge Richard Seeborg declined to dismiss Quirk's claim that Sony Pictures, parent company of Columbia Pictures, had breached an implied contract. The production company Pariah, director David Koepp and co-screenwriter John Kamps are also named in the suit.

The decision not only impacts

...Sony's movie about an adventurous bike messenger played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt but also Hollywood studios as they increasingly confront allegations of idea theft.

Premium Rush Trailer

I imagine that the film will be 'well-documented' by the bit torrent/file-sharing community. ;)

Discoverer drillship sets sail for Shell’s Arctic leases

Shell's Noble Discoverer is now on its way to the Chukchi Sea. Their other drilling rig the Kulluk is already enroute to the Beaufort Sea. Their "Challenger" containment barge is still getting final USCG approvals in Bellingham. Shell still hopes to complete at least some work this season.

But Shell and federal regulators now are discussing a plan that would allow the company to begin some initial work at the well sites, even without the Challenger nearby.

Shell spokeswoman Kelly op de Weegh confirmed that the company was “in consultation with the Department of Interior on drilling the early part of the well.”

“We remain in communication with regulators on options for beginning preliminary drilling activities while adhering to our commitments,” op de Weegh said. “No drilling will take place without consultation with the Department of Interior.”

If the Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement signs off, Shell could begin excavating a 20-foot by 40-foot mud line cellar, designed to hold critical emergency equipment just below the sea floor.

Shell also could seek regulators’ approval to launch the very earliest drilling at its well sites, boring a “top hole” in 1,300 feet and stopping well before reaching the expected oil and gas reservoir at the sites. Such top hole drilling would allow Shell to come back and finish the wells later this year or next.

Note that there has been previous drilling near both of Shell's planned locations. The shallow geology (the "top hole") is reasonably well known, and there is little chance of encountering hydrocarbons in the first 1,300 ft.

Shell seeks more time to drill exploratory well in Chukchi Sea

Peter E. Slaiby, vice president of the Alaska venture, said Sunday that the company has proposed extending the time allowed for drilling in the Chukchi by slightly less than two weeks beyond the Sept. 24 deadline set by the U.S. Department of Interior to allow time for cleanup of any oil spill before the onset of winter sea ice.

Meeting with reporters at an Arctic Imperative Summit here, Slaiby said the company’s latest models for forecasting the onset of winter sea ice now show the first freeze-up occurring somewhat later than originally envisioned when federal officials imposed their initial deadline for ending operations in the Chukchi Sea.

Drilling in the Beaufort Sea, closer to shore, already is allowed through Oct. 31.


The primary obstacle to launching operations has been completion of a vessel to carry and deploy an oil containment system in the event of an oil spill. That vessel, the Arctic Challenger, has been delayed in shipyards at Bellingham, Wash., undergoing a complex retrofit that has been marred by repeated complications and delays.

Slaiby said Sunday he expects that the Arctic Challenger’s construction and certification could be completed by the end of this week, allowing the vessel to embark on the two-week journey to the Arctic.


Rear Adm. Thomas P. Ostebo, commander of the U.S. Coast Guard's 17th District in Alaska, told the Los Angeles Times Sunday that sea trials for the Arctic Challenger are expected to take place Wednesday or Thursday.

"As far as the COI [certificate of inspection], they could be underway by the end of the week or early next week," he said.

Peak cheap oil is an incontrovertible fact

If the looming global oil crunch has been postponed for another decade or two as widely alleged, this is far from obvious in today’s commodity markets.

Nice dose of reality in a MSM outlet.

By far best article I've read on oil in a long while.

The shale revolution has profound implications for America’s role in the world and the global balance of power, but let us not get carried away. Oil experts noticed how many crews in the Bakken field were told to stand down when crude prices dipped earlier this summer. “Supposedly cheap shale turned out to be rather expensive shale in that, as soon as Brent fell to $90 per barrel, a large proportion of US shale oil in key regions seemed to lose all its rent,” said Paul Horsnell from Barclays Capital.

Better hope we can keep paying more than 90 a barrel. If there is a recession in the near future that reduces the economy's capability to pay 90+ for a barrel oil, then how much non-conventional (incl. Bakken) and deep off-shore oil will drop off? Is the point in time nearing when we descend from peak, or will a QE keep us in the game a little longer?

Unconventional oil production will drop off pretty substantially at lower prices, though that's impossible to quantify since there are so many companies in so many different parts of these very heterogeneous resource plays. At a given price, say $70 for WTI, some well-capitalized companies with higher tolerances for reduced cash flow will continue to drill while others will have a hard time staying on the treadmill. Even if a well will give a reasonable rate of return at lower prices, those with the luxury of waiting out a drop in oil prices or diverting capital to other assets will do so, as the article pointed out. Other smaller companies may find themselves in need of expensive external financing, and those that spent a lot on leases and haven't recouped their investments will be in some trouble.

With so many moving parts, I'm a fan of log normal distributions, which can aggregate a lot of the individual variables, which in turn may be log-normally distributed. If we define break-even pricing as a 15% rate of return (>15% = drill, <15% = don't drill, to simplify things), the mean of that log-normal distribution spread out over the entirety of the Bakken occurs at somewhere between $40 and $70 per barrel, depending on who's doing the analysis. That is, 50% of Bakken PUDs (proved undeveloped reserves) provide a 15% rate of return at somewhere between $40 and $70. The tails of the distribution are interesting as well- 10% might achieve that return at just $20/barrel, and 10% might need $100. [I just made up those last two numbers to illustrate the curve]. But since North Dakota Light Sweet trades a discount to West Texas Intermediate, we'd need to adjust according.

This is one reason why you still see a few dozen drilling rigs in the Haynesville and Barnett shales, even with low natural gas prices.

" If there is a recession in the near future that reduces the economy's capability to pay 90+ for a barrel oil, then how much non-conventional (incl. Bakken) and deep off-shore oil will drop off?"

Deepwater drilling isn't as likely to drop off very fast due to lower prices, because of the amount of time it takes these projects to produce. I've worked on drilling projects that won't produce oil for five years or more, because of the entire process and production system that's included. Stacking Deepwater rigs and shutting down deepwater projects, midproject, is not like shutting down a land rig. That's what made the deepwater drilling moratorium in the GOM so harsh in the eyes of oil companies. I think deepwater drilling will withstand short term price fluctuations just fine.

By the way we have never come out of the 2008 recession and QE-3 or QE-4 will just make the price of oil go up more than a storm in the gulf of Mexico will.

Above average seismic activity in California today:
Nothing major (yet), but lots of medium mags.
116 on this map @17:10 PST