Drumbeat: September 17, 2012

Shell abandons Alaska offshore drilling efforts until next year

Shell Alaska said Monday it has abandoned its efforts to drill into hydrocarbon deposits in the offshore Arctic after the latest in a series of glitches on the company’s troubled oil containment barge resulted in damage to the high-tech dome designed to contain oil in the event of an underwater spill.

Company officials said they will continue to drill "top holes" off the Alaskan coast through the end of this season’s drilling window, but will not attempt to reach any oil deposits this year -- a serious but not fatal setback for the company, which has spent six years attempting to explore its outer continental shelf leases off the coast of Alaska.

Russia Laying the foundations for Arctic exploration

Gas production in Russia could pave the way for successful arctic drilling projects after new techniques helped improve efficiency during the region’s harsh winters.

The creation of Russia’s first Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) plant has meant overcoming a number of obstacles similar to those faced within the Arctic region – an increasingly attractive prospect as proven oil and gas reserves decline.

The success of the programme – which has seen the use of “big bore wells” cutting operating costs and increasing gas flow – is an example of how viable working in such harsh conditions can be.

Oil Trades Near Four-Month High on Signs of Improving Economy

Oil traded near a four-month high before reports that may show economic growth in the U.S., the world’s biggest crude user, is gaining strength.

Current oil prices no threat to world economy - Iran

(Reuters) - Current oil prices above $100 a barrel are no threat to the world economy and political pressure on producers to raise output is driven by the approach of U.S. presidential elections, Iran's OPEC governor Mohammad Ali Khatibi said on Sunday.

Bullish Wagers at 16-Month High as Citi Sees Gains: Commodities

Bullish commodity wagers rose to a 16-month high just before the Federal Reserve’s pledge for more stimulus drove prices to a seventh weekly advance and banks from HSBC Holdings Plc to Citigroup Inc. forecast more gains.

Fuel prices may grow in Kazakhstan

The owners of gas stations in Kazakhstan have appealed to the Oil and Gas Ministry to review the maximum retail fuel price, or to set a threshold price for wholesalers, the Seventh Channel reported today.

The owners say they suffer huge losses.

Blackouts Spur $18 Billion Power Grid Upgrade: Corporate India

Power Grid Corp. of India Ltd., the nation’s largest electricity transmission company, may exceed a 1 trillion rupee ($18 billion) spending plan to upgrade its network and avoid a repeat of the world’s biggest blackout.

Revenue of the state-owned company, which is doubling expenditure in the five years through March, 2017, may rise fourfold in the period following completion of transmission projects, R.P. Sasmal, director of operations said in an interview. The grid aims to boost its market share to 70 percent from 50 percent as the company increases spending at a rate that will dwarf its competition, he said.

Utilities Pain Is Alcoa Gain in Rousseff’s Power Plan

Brazil’s drive to make electricity less expensive wiped out $6.4 billion in market value for utilities, while making winners of metals and mining companies from Alcoa Inc. (AA) to ArcelorMittal.

Electricity is their biggest expense, totaling 40 percent of costs for aluminum producers, according to Rio de Janeiro state industry group Firjan. Alcoa Chief Executive Officer Klaus Kleinfeld qualified Brazilian energy costs as “unbelievably high” in a May 4 speech, after the New York-based aluminum producer said in a March statement it was considering cutting output in the country.

Jordan signs key agreement to assess oil resources

The Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources on Monday sealed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Canadian Global Oil Shale Holdings (GOSH) to assess oil shale resources in the southern region of the Kingdom.

The Canadian firm will study the economic feasibility of an oil shale project in the Attarat Um Ghudran and Isphere Al-Mahatain Central and South of Jordan. After completing the term, the company will enter into negotiations with the Jordanian government to conclude an agreement to exploit oil shale resources within the two Areas.

Canadians should stop worrying about foreign takeovers

What an insecure nation this can be. Canada is blessed with some of the biggest oil reserves this side of Saudi Arabia, a vast trove of metals and natural gas, a stable financial system and arguably the brightest economic outlook in the G8. We aren’t driving toward a debt cliff (United States, Japan), haven’t fallen back into recession (Britain), aren’t responsible for the chocolate mess called the euro zone (Italy, Germany, France) and aren’t governed by kleptomaniacs (Russia). We’ve even passed the Americans in average household wealth.

All of this should make us a confident lot. But then a foreigner comes along to buy one of our companies, and we get our Stanfield’s in a knot.

Falkland Oil Makes Region’s Second Gas Find With Loligo Well

Falkland Oil & Gas Ltd., the explorer focused on the namesake South Atlantic islands, made the region’s second gas find this year at its Loligo well.

The well drilled through six reservoirs and encountered gas-bearing zones over a 1,300-meter (4,265 feet) interval, it said today in a statement in London. The company wasn’t able to determine how much of the discovery may be liquids. The shares pared initial losses of as much as 21 percent to trade 0.7 percent lower at 69.75 pence as of 8:55 a.m. local time.

Libya Was Doomed from Day One

People often ask me why the West doesn't attempt a Libya-style intervention in Syria. After all, things are going so well in Libya. Oil production is up. But oil production is merely a mirage, as is security in Libya, which was doomed from the day one PG (post-Gaddafi) because of the way it was "liberated".

More arrests in U.S. Consulate attack, Libyan official says

Al-Magariaf said he has "no doubt" the fatal attack was planned and not a result of the anti-American demonstrations that began that day -- the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.

"Definitely it was planned by foreigners, by people who entered the country a few months ago, and they were planning this criminal act since their arrival," he said.

New wave of Mideast protests turn violent

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- Hundreds of Afghans burned cars and threw rocks at a U.S. military base as a demonstration against an anti-Islam film that ridicules the Prophet Muhammad turned violent in the Afghan capital early Monday.

And in Jakarta, Indonesians angered over the film clashed with police outside the U.S. Embassy, hurling rocks and Molotov cocktails and burning tires outside the mission. At least one police officer was seen bleeding from the head and being carried to safety by fellow officers.

Fareed's Take: Vivid protest images do not tell whole story

The images of the American embassy burning in Benghazi might have conjured up memories of Tehran in 1979 but the analogy is false.

In Libya, the government is not fomenting Anti-Americanism, it is fighting it, openly declaring America an ally and friend. The country is pro-American by a 2-to-1 margin, and the violence there appears to have been the work of small, extremist elements that lack much popular support. But the storm has spread from Libya.

Actor: Anti-Islam filmmaker 'was playing us along'

"They brought the actors in in post (production) and had them say specific words. Like 'Mohammed,' for example. It was isolated. It wasn't in context," she said. "They'd say 'Say Mohammed,' and they'd (the actors would) say 'Say Mohammed' why?"

When the film was complete, it was no longer a desert adventure about a man named George but rather an anti-Islamic movie about Prophet Mohammed.

"He knew what he was doing. He was playing us all along," Dionne said.

NATO admits killing civilians in Afghan strike

(CNN) -- NATO admitted that it had killed Afghan civilians in an airstrike early Sunday morning, hours after saying there was no evidence of civilian deaths.

"A number of Afghan civilians were unintentionally killed or injured during this mission," the coalition said in a statement accepting "full responsibility for this tragedy."

China Warns Against Violence as Japan Protests Are Broken Up

China banned some protests in the city of Xian and detained suspects accused of vandalizing billboards and a storefront amid a territorial dispute with Japan, after two Japanese car dealerships were set on fire and police used water cannons to break up demonstrations.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on a visit to Tokyo he was “very concerned” after demonstrators took to the streets yesterday in a dozen cities across China, in the biggest protests since 2005. In Shenzhen, police used tear gas and water cannons to stop protesters from reaching a Japanese department store, Radio Television Hong Kong reported.

Fallout widens from island dispute between China, Japan

Tokyo (CNN) -- The widening fallout from an increasingly volatile territorial dispute between China and Japan prompted a Japanese company to halt work at plants in China on Monday, and the United States to urge the two sides to avoid letting the situation spiral out of control.

The electronics company Panasonic said Monday that it was suspending operations at three plants in China after two of them were damaged amid violent anti-Japanese protests set off by the clash between Beijing and Tokyo over a group of small islands in the East China Sea.

Netanyahu Says Iran’s Nuclear Program Is in a ‘Red Zone’

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Iran’s effort to develop nuclear weapons is in a “red zone,” and the U.S. must set a clear “red line” that Iran can’t cross without risking a military attack.

“They’re in the red zone,” Netanyahu said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” yesterday. “They’re in the last 20 yards. And you can’t let them cross that goal line. You can’t let them score a touchdown.”

US Renews Waivers of Iran Sanctions for Japan, EU Nations

The United States has renewed waivers on Iran sanctions for Japan and 10 European countries because they cut their purchases of the OPEC nation’s crude oil, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Friday.

The renewal means banks in the 11 countries have been given a second 180 day reprieve from the threat of being cut off from the U.S. financial system under the sanctions designed to choke funding to Iran’s nuclear program.

Man sues oil company after being shot, abducted in Nigeria

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. -- The lawyer for a Newfoundland oil worker who was shot and abducted from a rig in Nigeria says his client was negligently put in harm's way because of lax security.

Bob Croke of Torbay is suing for compensation along with his former American co-worker, James Johnson.

Rosneft confirms no oil for Gunvor in major tender

(Reuters) - Rosneft said on Monday it has awarded a big semi-annual crude tender to Glencore and Vitol, confirming reports that trading house Gunvor, seen as a Kremlin favourite, had been left empty-handed for the first time.

The result has sparked intense debate in the industry over whether Gunvor's co-owner Gennady Timchenko is out of favour with the Kremlin - or whether the firm is merely fine-tuning its strategy before embarking on yet another phase of spectacular growth.

Myanmar Gets Record Investment After Years of Isolation: Energy

Myanmar, shunned since the 1990s for tolerating corruption and human trafficking, is set for record foreign investment in 2012 led by oil companies after the southeast Asian nation took its first steps toward democracy.

Chevron Agrees With YPF to Develop Shale Wells in Argentina

Chevron Corp., the second-biggest U.S. oil company, agreed with YPF SA , the nationalized Argentine oil producer, to develop oil and natural-gas wells in the country’s Vaca Muerta shale formation.

YPF and San Ramon, California-based Chevron also agreed to study the recovery of oil from aging wells through new technologies, the Buenos Aires-based company said today in an e- mailed statement.

French Shale Backers Vow to Battle On After Hollande Frack Ban

Oil companies and labor unions vowed to fight on in favor of developing unconventional energies in France after President Francois Hollande said a fracking ban would remain during his five-year mandate.

“We don’t think it’s game over,” said Jean-Louis Schilansky, head of Union Francaise des Industries Petrolieres, or UFIP, which represents explorers like Total SA.

Deepwater Horizon Gear Failed Pre-Spill Test, Lawyers Say

Transocean Ltd. (RIG) employees talked about blaming the failure of the Deepwater Horizon’s blowout preventer on a bad cement job, after the device ‘blew up’ casing during a test two months before the rig exploded, according to an e-mail cited by lawyers suing the company.

An employee identified as Jess Richards “states that during a test of the lower annular, Transocean blew up their 22 casing,” lawyers suing Transocean and BP Plc said of an e-mail that the rig owner turned over as part of the litigation. “She then remarks, ‘I’m sure we will find some way to blame it on the cementer,’” the attorneys said in a filing yesterday in federal court in New Orleans.

British businesses are taking an unfair whacking from America

BP has made mistakes, but its endless battering from the US authorities is out of all proportion.

Japan Won’t Stop Work on Reactors, Official Says

TOKYO — Japan will not stop work on several planned reactors, the trade minister was quoted as saying on Saturday, casting further doubt on whether this resource-poor nation will follow through on a contentious plan to phase out nuclear power.

Brazil ethanol outlook positive as Petrobras faces fuel losses: JP Morgan

London (Platts) - Fuel ethanol prices in Brazil "have more upside than downside" as the federal government looks at measures to incentivize consumption and reduce gasoline imports, according to investment bank JP Morgan.

Brazil's oil major Petrobras has been selling imported gasoline at a 20%-plus discount because of regulated prices aimed at controlling inflation.

Warning after Bulgaria cuts wind farm tariffs

BULGARIA: Energy regulator SWERC has decided to cut tariffs for all existing wind energy projects by ten per cent and those for solar even more, in a move Bulgarian wind energy association BGWEA says will push the majority of renewable energy projects into bankruptcy and could endanger the country's financial stability.

Forgoing College to Pursue Dreams

Ms. Full, 20, is part of one of the most unusual experiments in higher education today. It rewards smart young people for not going to college and, instead, diving into the real world of science, technology and business.

The idea isn’t nuts. After all, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs dropped out, and they did O.K.

Of course, their kind of success is rare, degree or no degree. Mr. Gates and Mr. Jobs changed the world. Ms. Full wants to, as well, and she’s in a hurry. She has built a low-cost solar panel and is starting to test it in Africa.

E.P.A. Plans Crackdown on Muddy Upstate Waterway

The federal Environmental Protection Agency wants to list the Lower Esopus Creek in the Catskills region of New York as an “impaired” waterway. Such a step could force New York City to stop discharging muddy water into the creek from the Ashokan Reservoir, one of the sources of the city’s drinking water.

The muddying of the Lower Esopus has been an issue for environmental officials from both the city and the state because the tributary is vital to recreation and agriculture in Ulster County. The county executive, Michael P. Hein, has compared the city’s actions on the Esopus to those of “an occupying nation” toward “indigenous people.”

World Hunger: The Problem Left Behind

THE drought-induced run-up in corn prices is a reminder that we’re nowhere near solving the problem of feeding the world. The price surge, the third major international food price spike in the last five years, casts more doubt on the assumption that widespread economic development leads to corresponding gains in agriculture.

Climate change severely impacting food prices

While there are hardly any signs of substantive and forward-looking agreements being reached at the UN climate change conference from Nov. 26 to Dec. 7, in Doha, latest research cautions that impact of climate change on future food prices is being underestimated.

European biofuel targets contributing to global hunger, says Oxfam

European targets to replace fossil fuels with biofuels are contributing to spikes in food prices and global hunger, according to the latest analyis by Oxfam.

The aid organisation is calling for EU energy ministers meeting in Cyprus on Monday to scrap mandates that commit member states to sourcing 10% of transport energy from renewable sources by 2020. It has calculated that the land required to meet these mandates for biofuels for European cars for one year could feed 127 million people.

UPS Earns Top Score Among U.S. Firms On Carbon Disclosure

For the second consecutive year, UPS (NYSE: UPS) has received the highest score in the 2012 Carbon Disclosure Project's "Carbon Disclosure Leadership Index" of S&P companies, receiving a 99 out of 100.

UPS is one of only two U.S. companies to achieve the high score, reflecting the company’s commitment to transparency and leadership with regards to carbon reporting and performance in mitigating environmental impact. UPS is the only company from the Standard & Poor's 500 (S&P) Industrials sector to receive the highest score. Only four companies in the world received scores of 99 or higher.

One way to protect the melting Arctic

Arctic countries should draft an international agreement preventing the start of industrial fishing in the high seas of the Central Arctic Ocean until scientific research and rules are in place to ensure that it can be done sustainably. With the leadership of the five Arctic coastal countries - Canada, the United States, Russia, Norway, and Greenland - major fishing countries from beyond the Arctic also could be persuaded to sign. Because fishing hasn't started yet, no jobs would be lost. All interested countries could participate in joint research on Arctic ecology to learn about the changes occurring in these waters.

Thomas Homer-Dixon: Ice, please – climate on the rocks

Those who deny the reality or significance of climate change often say Arctic sea ice also shrank dramatically as recently as the 1930s, so what’s happening now is just part of a natural long-term fluctuation. But the best recent analysis, published in the top scientific journal Nature last November, says that “both the duration and magnitude of the current decline in sea ice seem to be unprecedented for the past 1,450 years” and that the recent decline is “consistent with [human-caused] warming.”

Indeed, climate scientists increasingly believe we’re seeing a rapid and irreversible shift in a major feature of Earth’s climate system.

Arctic expert predicts final collapse of sea ice within four years

One of the world's leading ice experts has predicted the final collapse of Arctic sea ice in summer months within four years.

In what he calls a "global disaster" now unfolding in northern latitudes as the sea area that freezes and melts each year shrinks to its lowest extent ever recorded, Prof Peter Wadhams of Cambridge University calls for "urgent" consideration of new ideas to reduce global temperatures.


One of the more frequent stories in energy news this year has been the ramping up of expeditions by nations to explore the potential of the arctic as an energy source. This activity is now far more feasible due to the glaringly obvious trend of increasing summer sea ice melt which allows ships to traverse areas once inaccessible.


What are the risks? Here is a short inventory, including some concerns aired in the news and other problems that may not be so well known. I’ve ranked them from those likely having the greatest impact to those probably having the least impact.

1. Particle matter ice darkening
If a large number of ships, drilling rigs and/or processing plants are positioned in the arctic, they will produce exhaust fumes which will certainly have dark particle matter that will fall on ice. This will, in turn, increase heat absorption and increase the speed of melting. Ice darkening may be the most serious side effect of the rush to drill as a thin film of pollution on the ice could spread over such a large area as to dramatically reduce ice cover by mid summer. We see photos of one or two ships so this doesn’t sink in. Instead, think of hundreds and hundreds of ships and rigs and the cumulative impact of dirty localized fumes- day, after day, after day.

2. Ice breaking
As massive numbers of ships cross the icy waters, many will cut lanes through the ice turning white reflective area into darker ocean that absorbs more heat. Sea lanes also increase wave action leading to the earlier break up of thinner ice. Ice breaking by ships allows still water to be exposed to wind action which imparts its own energy- breaking up ice even more. If enough lanes cross each other in a jigsaw pattern- entire ice sheets may disintegrate in a matter of weeks from multiple wave disruption and the warmth from exposed waters. More sea exposed could lead to more evaporation and precipitation in the summer. There was a rare arctic storm this year- partially made possible by so much exposed water.

3. Flaring
Natural gas is likely to be found along with oil. This poses a transport problem as gas is less concentrated and more voluminous. Also, oil is likely to be worth more than gas and it may be uneconomic to even bother with capturing gas. If this situation arises, as it has in North Dakota, companies will simply flare the less valuable by-product leading to increased atmospheric temperatures and more particle pollution (see #1 above).

4. Spills
Exploring and drilling in such a remote and environmentally challenging area as the arctic is bound to increase the odds of seepages, blowouts, etc. It may be very hard to stop these when repair equipment is so far away. In any case, why bother? No nation owns the arctic and, unlike Deep Water Horizon (close to LA), there will be little urgency to clean up a spill. Washed up oil could darken a significant about of ice and this is magnified if it is spread around by storm action.

5. Confrontation
The arctic is something of an international no man’s land and countries are bound to clash over drilling rights. If an armed conflict were to occur in this environment, large amounts of smoke might be produced and ice sheets may be subjected to shattering hits. This effect is probably minor compared to the others listed however as the area involved would be relatively small.

Arctic sea ice researchers have created charts projecting the decline of ice cover over the coming years. These charts consider man-made changes in the atmosphere as the main driver of the other changes. However, if arctic oil exploration takes off in a big way (and the boom in shale, sands and fracking is a warning that it could) then sea ice decline forecasts may quickly become obsolete as oil exploration speeds up ice destruction.

Some would argue: “it doesn’t matter, the arctic is dying anyway”. This may yet be true, however we don’t know if all the ice will ever melt. Though warm wind and water currents reduce much ice- direct radiation plays a large role. Some ice will be very difficult to thaw because it is farther from the sun. To paraphrase a peak oil saying- the easy ice may already be melted. The ice that remains may play a critical role in stabilizing our climate- it is risky to write it off and plow through it.

Of course, the oil finds may be disappointing and this may all collapse. The arctic may turn out to be way too expensive to justify much activity based on results. Still, this was said before with fracking, shale, etc. so one shouldn’t presume the arctic will be a bust. It is hard to imagine that there is nothing of value in such a large area.

One thing is very certain however: gone are any shreds of hope from Kyoto that we might save the arctic for everyone, for we have entered an age where it is now directly in the crosshairs- to be carved up as the spoils of folly. One could not imagine such a sea change in attitude ten years ago- it is as if we are a different people now and routinely put the toe tag on those polar bears we cared about so much then. One senses that international discussion to stop this is inconceivable.

NOTE: I would be interested if anyone has identified other impacts of drilling and shipping in the arctic that I have missed. The reason I wrote this was to stir your thinking and hear new ideas.

In what other ways might oil exploration hasten arctic decline?

Some would argue: “it doesn’t matter, the arctic is dying anyway”.

Regardless of how one perceives oil exploration in the Arctic, there is a lot of truth to that statement. The last article posted today has this:

From Prof Peter Wadhams of Cambridge University, says about Arctic ice collapse: I predicted would occur in 2015-16 at which time the summer Arctic (August to September) would become ice-free. The final collapse towards that state is now happening and will probably be complete by those dates".

If so, then to what extent should the concerns of particle matter, ice breaking, flaring, spills and confrontation have on Arctic ice? It's going, going, soon to be gone, apparently by 2015-2016 anyway.

Don't get me wrong, the situation in the Arctic is probably just a tipping point towards much greater climate change than the already high amplification (due to reduced disparity between temps in the Arctic and the equator) causing weather patterns to remain in place longer, resulting in drought, floods and extended heat waves.

But as far as trying to save the ice in the Arctic at this point seems like a lost cause.

Perk earl (love that name)- you make good points- let me respond

It should be noted that an ice free arctic is predicted SOON only for a small window of the summer- maybe no more than a week or two. The other months will still show considerable amounts of ice. Arctic ice is a year round phenomenon that may still have a stabilizing influence on climate even if running only 6-8 months at full strength.

The point is: there is so much we don't know about how all this works, so it might be foolish to turn the north pole into an industrial trash can based on the idea that the arctic is already dead- it may be just a little ill. In fact, we may be able to get by for another generation on this sick arctic- that's not forever, but it is something. By declaring the arctic dead and invading it, we may actually kill it.

As i see it, alarm bells should be going off in the capital of every major nation in the world. The arctic may control climate patterns that are essential not just to the economy but to a functioning civilization of any kind. The major world economies (and population centers) are in the northern hemisphere. I think many leaders do not understand the stakes involved here. A jet stream collapse would devastate the northern nations' argricultural production. And for what reason do we take this massive risk, and assume that we understand the arctic and how it works? The reason: to get just a little more of something that we know is already running out; to hold off a transition we know must come. We are willing to permanently damage the arctic for just a few years worth of oil. Its like playing russian roulette for just a hamburger. If the industrialized nations were a person, would you not consider him to be mad and a danger to others?

Where is "Plan B"?

Anyway- thanks for your comments

First, I agree that the Arctic should not be "developed". Now, on the ice coverage. Ice coverage during the winter does not affect absorption/reflection of sunlight (there is none north of the Arctic Circle for some part of the Winter). Once the Arctic is ice-free for much of the summer, it won't make much of a difference (in terms of the effect of solar insulation) whether or not it is ice-free in the winter.

The Canadian Arctic could never be developed to the extent it is down south. While global warming is increasing summer temperatures and greatly reducing ice coverage, the Arctic will remain a dark, extremely cold place for much of the year. It's only Sept 18, yet Resolute, one of the more northerly communities has a normal daily high of -4C right now. The reduced amount of ice does make shipping easier but it still leaves aircraft as the only form of transport for most of the year. Operating costs are extremely high for any business and the few mines that have operated in the Arctic were feasible only where unusually high grade ore was found.

There was still enough ice off the northern coast of Alaska to play havoc with Shell's efforts to drill for oil this summer. How they would produce oil from there is a mystery to me -- you certainly couldn't put a conventional production platform in place as it would be destroyed by the ice.

" Does it matter. The arctic is dying anyway."

YES, it does matter. If you die, or I die, it matters to us and those close to us. If a city or country dies; bigger problem, but replaceable. The Arctic is NOT replaceable. We have no idea of all that the Arctic does to local and distant ecosystems, to how the world functions. What we see as ' a dying Arctic' may be more like an adapting Arctic. We have to know what we are looking at, and looking for, before we say something is dying. We cannot just say, "well it is dying anyway, so lets get all we can while the getting is good." If we really do not know what we are doing, maybe we just shouldn't do it. The amount of fossil fuel we will get is not really going to benefit anyone; it will just add more CO2 to the atmosphere, and benefit a few investors.

I know this is a rant, but I really get ticked off when I see "Does it matter. The Arctic is dying already."


Don, before you get too worked up my point was trying to stop the loss of the last of the multi-year ice is a lost cause at this point. Trying to stop something that has momentum by 2015-16 is not going to work.

Will we die because all the multi-year ice is gone? Who knows. It probably doesn't look good from a trend perspective, but this is a big unintended experiment that will lead to who knows what.

Exploring and drilling in such a remote and environmentally challenging area as the arctic is bound to increase the odds of seepages, blowouts, etc.

Oil spills would be an immense problem in the arctic. Biodegradation rate is strongly affected by temperature. Oil that would be biodegraded in a few years offshore in the GOM will take many many decades to biodegrade in the arctic! For this reason alone, all offshore drilling in the arctic should be forbidden.

Global Warming is God's way of melting the ice to reveal the oil He had hidden there until we needed it. /sarc

- In what other ways might oil exploration hasten arctic decline?

6: They might find oil and stuff.

mmm... (nods in agreement)

Does it matter? Of course it does. However, that doesn't mean humans will or can do anything about it. In fact, we will, by nature, burn everything everywhere. The only way we are going to get reduced emissions is when the fossil fuels go into decline. That will reduce the emissions by several orders of magnitude more than any CO2 trade scheme or Kyoto-like agreement. That is just our human nature - not enough of the masses will believe in something that makes them change to a perceived lower standard of living, especially with the politicians claiming they have the solution.

If you ask them if they would rather live in a nice farming community and work the land or live in a grand city with half of our men in resource wars, most would pick the city, or suicide. Can you imagine our current population out on the farm doing manual labor, and being happy about it?

Think of the stock market crash in 1929. People were jumping out of windows because they knew their way of life would change, in their minds, for the worse. They would still be fed well and were highly educated but just the thought of no more luxury or that they would have to start from scratch with nothing but their intelligence was too much for so many.

It is much easier if you are born poor than if you become poor. I guess, that will be the test of who really wants to survive. Survival not only of the fittest but of the ones with the most will to endure life on the farm.

Of course, that will not be too much of a problem considering that the Earth can only support less than 1 billion people living rather simple lives. That fact simply goes in one ear and out the other for most humans. That fact is just too horrible to even consider, regardless of how easy it is to verify scientifically (not exact numbers but just close estimates based on energy and resources available on our finite planet).

So, will the ice continue to shrink? Yes, of course it will until the consequences are so harsh as to cause economic activity reduction or that we simply cannot find or afford to extract the resources needed to continue the burn.

Of course, that will not be too much of a problem considering that the Earth can only support less than 1 billion people living rather simple lives.

Tankingthinker, I asked a friend what the carrying capacity of the Earth was. He felt it was almost infinite. There was plenty of space for everyone. I told him about the limit probably being around 1 billion. He was surprised.

Making fullest use of nuclear power, the carrying capacity of the Earth might be closer to 100 billion. But I wouldn't want to live in a world like that.

Making fullest use of nuclear power, the carrying capacity of the Earth might be closer to 100 billion.

Nah, more like a couple trillion! A couple trillion mutant radioactive cockroaches, that is >;-)

Seriously though, a hundred billion humans? There are other limits besides access to energy that would be reached way before then!

Think wastes for one...

An archology 1 square mile by 500 ft high could house a million people with plenty of room for utility areas, shops, and public spaces. So it would take 100,000 of those to reach 100 billion.

An agricultural structure the same size could provide 33 square miles of climate controlled growing space under lights. With efficient recycling of human wastes very few other inputs would be needed to maintain high production indefinitely. It would take 30 to 40 of those to support one archology. Say 4 million structures, total. All these buildings would cover about 10% of the surface of the earth. Much of the rest would probably have to be open pit mines. But with fresh water from distillation, the rest of the planet really wouldn't need to be all that habitable.

So theoretically it could be done, but I honestly think I would rather die.

RE: "does it matter?", of course it does, not that I expect anyone sane to think otherwise.

The melting ice is the main story for our attention at the moment, but there are also life systems up there, including the oldest conscious minds on earth.

There is no sound reason to burn significant fossil fuels at all, much less to mine them in the arctic.

Leave it in the ground. LIITG. That really is the answer, and the only answer. Spoken as a repentant oil geologist. There is stuff we are physically able to do that is simply a terrible idea.

Shell abandons Alaska offshore drilling efforts until next year

They are bound and determined to Nigeriaize everything.

Arctic expert predicts final collapse of sea ice within four years

Look out:

... we must ... urgently examine other ways of slowing global warming, such as the various geoengineering ideas that have been put forward."

These include reflecting the sun's rays back into space, making clouds whiter and seeding the ocean with minerals to absorb more CO2.

Geoengineering? What the hell does he think got us to this precipice in the first place? Will insanity never cease (The Peak of Sanity)?

The main point here, is that these guys have been saying this ice extent would not melt til the end of the century, now when they see reality they PANIC, and will do even more damage if they do not come to their senses.

More CO2 in the ocean would be just another disaster. Neither the atmosphere nor the oceans need more CO2.

It would be insanity too, because 'if' some geo-engineering trick worked enough to bring temps back down a bit, it would open the door to justification for burning as much FF as is economical. The problem is it still leads to acidification of the oceans until most sea life is extinct. Also, what if we continue to burn FF for many decades then our civilization collpases for any of a number of reasons. Then all the ongoing geo-engineering to slow temp rises stops and we have runaway GW.

Rather than examine, we must urgently institute ways of slowing global warming.

dovey - a lofty goal. Perhaps we should first focus on not accelerating global warming. Seriously, it occurs to me lately that folks have been concentrating on ideas on how to reduce GHG emissions. In reality most of the data suggest we are constantly increasing the amount. Even worse, if my expectations prove out, the volume will increase even faster as coal becomes a bigger component of our energy mix. I know that sounds rather doomerish, but other than speeches and pledges not backed up by actions, I've seen nothing to indicate my expectations are unfounded. It might sound somewhat defeatist but perhaps more emphasis should be given towards dealing with such an inevitable outcome. During the last 25 years we've seen many $trillions spent and tens of thousands of lives sacrificed on ensuring we have a continued supply of FF for the world economies. Should we expect that power base to suddenly throw up their hands and say: "OK...let's all stop BAU for the sake of future unborn generations." After all, all those scattered grave yards in the ME and shiny metal boxes coming through Dover haven't changed the course in any significant manner IMHO.

In reality most of the data suggest we are constantly increasing the amount. Even worse, if my expectations prove out, the volume will increase even faster as coal becomes a bigger component of our energy mix.

True enough. Growth requires ever greater energy input, even if that means using dirtier and unconventional FF. We are stuck between a rock and hard place, of economic needs over-riding environmental consequences, even if those consequences threaten our well being.

It has been my opinion for a decade that the least bad hope for mankind is that industrial society remains completely unprepared for peak oil, and it triggers total financial and economic and large population collapse, so that the bulk of the remaining coal, tar sands etc. stays in the ground, and the technology is lost that can exploit them on any scale for centuries to come.

I had come to the same conclusion, but I've begun to fear that collapse will be too slow. It's starting to look like the impacts from climate change itself will hit first and hardest.

Same here. We now have the worst of both worlds: there is not enough FF to keep the party running and everyone happy, but there is enough FF to prevent the collapse of society for a good long while. Before our civilization has finally collapsed, we will have released those last CO2 molecules that brings us over the tipping point a long time ago.

I had come to the same conclusion, but I've begun to fear that collapse will be too slow.

That suggests that it would be useful to speed it up, no? Seems do-able.

Yes, that is something I have thought about a lot, but how does one do that? Any efforts to speed it up - at least ones of any consequence - likely put one in direct conflict with the existing power structures. Further, as a father I must balance my obligations to my children against my obligations to the wider society and future generations. Those are commitments I entered into long ago, before I had the understanding I do today, and pertain to supporting specific people. Fulfilling those obligations is sometimes in conflict with other goals. So, for example, doing something that could get me in trouble with the present system and leave my family to fend for themselves is not something I feel free to do.

Social interconnections make life complicated.

Growth requires ever greater energy input, even if that means using dirtier and unconventional FF.

To make matters worse, Earl, our Democratic president, who logic says should favor reduction of emissions and a move to sustainability, has on the record stated his support for a "clean coal" policy - done to kiss up to Montana dems who run with the coal crowd.

IMO, 'clean coal' is an oxymoron.

And yet, the Republicans are even worse on the record.

I see the coming election as lose-lose.

Of course, there is a chance (fairly good one, if you ask me) that economic collapse will prevent the worst case in global climate change. If that is good news, someone tell me how. If I am totally off base, please set me back on the path to righteousness.


has on the record stated his support for a "clean coal" policy - done to kiss up to Montana dems who run with the coal crowd.

I really don't think so. Montana has only 3 electoral votes and is a hard red state. The coal crowd is run by the most right wing group around, like Murray energy. They are not democrats by any stretch of the imagination.

I agree, clean coal is nonsense but Obama is talking about if for other reasons, not to appease the Montana coal crowed.

As far as economic collapse goes, there is no good news. When we go down we will take just about all surviving megafauna with us.

Ron P.

Wasn't NexGen supposed to be in Illinois, or at least to use Illinois coal? He may well have written off Montana, but he has historically been partial to Illinois.

Governor of MT was a speaker at the Dem convention. . . He's trying to parse out some red state votes . . . he expects to win Illinois anyway.

Of course, in action he may favor Illinois, but if it enhances 'clean coal' it will also benefit Montana. And be seen favorable in ND, SD and WY. None of which he is likely to win, though if he gets just one that is an accomplishment.

Sadly it is about buying votes and winning elections . . . for Dems and for Reps in elected office. Not about economic or ecologic realities.


The battle goes beyond electoral votes, house and senate races are crucial for whatever agenda he may have for a second term*, or for thwarting RMoney's agenda should he win.
Also Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia. It burnishes his "all of the above" energy policy in the minds of some voters. Obviously, not so good for the environment, although I would still support clean coal research, if we do crack that one it would help, the problem is the promise gets used to deflect a transition away from, then we discover clean coal is still decades away (fooled you).

* I consider it highly probable Obama will get term number two. The real issue is will he be able to get anything done. Without congressional vote margins greater than in 2008, I think not.

The real issue is will he be able to get anything done.

I don't know why anyone still thinks he wants to get anything done, or that he's not already doing it. He's an imperialist doing what he can to support the center and enrich himself. Despite all the heated rhetoric from each camp about about how different they each are, not a damn thing of substance changed after he replaced the last one from the other team. It was a style difference only, but since he's from the other team Obama has been able to move the same policies much further than Bush was. Essentially Bush and his in-your-face approach had built up too much resistance and made too many enemies to be effective anymore, but switching teams has pushed through that resistance and allowed the essential program to continue without resistance.

He's an imperialist doing what he can to support the center and enrich himself.

Who is "the center"?

Supporting the existing power structure would have been better phrasing.

And if he really did want to do the sorts of things most of us here would support, could he have actually done much diferent -aside from simply going down in flames because the majority of the country doesn't get it? I'm not at all sure of his motivations. Could you or I have played the cards he was dealt any better?

Perhaps it would be possible for him to do some significant things, but only if he had played some kind of Trojan horse game and was willing to be sacrificed. Otherwise - no, the system is not capable of doing such things.

Immediately after being sacrificed, whatever it was he did would be undid -and then some! Unless its a crazy irreversible action like shutting down the defense grid just as the enemy launches the attack! But actions that aren't meant to rapidly increase entropy are not so hard to reverse.

Of course, there is a chance (fairly good one, if you ask me) that economic collapse will prevent the worst case in global climate change. If that is good news, someone tell me how.

Well, maybe not for many of us but possibly for those that make it through the bottleneck. Presumably hard lessons will have been learned and whatever society forms in the aftermath will know the need to keep a balance with nature.

I agree with Ron. Obama isn't pandering to coal (to even say 'clean coal' is pandering in my book) because of Montana. While Wyoming and West Virginia are the big boys, his home state of Illinois is a significant coal producer, and consumes even more. Really, when it comes to coal, no one's hands are clean. As you say, this election is lose-lose. That's why my (protest) vote will go to Green candidate Jill Stein.

That's why my (protest) vote will go to Green candidate Jill Stein.

Same here--
But I live in California, so it doesn't matter.
O is going to win that state.

Virginia, where I live, is a toss up at this point. But unlike '08, where I felt it might actually matter who won, it's now clear to me that it doesn't. Neither party nor candidate has a clue about the important issues we discuss on TOD, or, if they do, they're selling us out across the board. Actually, I've been more or less of this belief since the SCOTUS declared Bush president in '00, and prevented us from actually counting the votes. But such is a lifetime of indoctrination by the US media machine - the corporatocracy that owns everything from the politicians to the mass media to the educational system - that it's taken until now for me to bite the bullet and either not vote, or vote in protest. And actually, I really chose to respond and post this comment to point out that the link above to Jill Stein actually goes to a comparison of the 3 candidates energy policies.

Obama is the kinder, gentler side of lose-lose. His re-election would give a bit of room to continue working for progressive local candidates, and to influence the national government to some extent. (Gays made enough of a fuss for the Administration to repeal DADT and to feint toward repealing DOMA; as it turned out, these reluctant concessions are now being used to burnish the Administration's liberal credentials.) Obama is Bush (Cheney) Lite, but lite is better than dark. Allow the Republicans to win, or even steal, an election and they come in as if they'd won by a landslide and have a mandate to impose their entire reactionary wish-list. The Democrats win, and pretend they didn't -- their corporate sponsors don't like them getting uppity.

In any event, we're looking at perhaps another year of B-plausibly-AS before climate change disrupts the food chain and printing money no longer props up the financial system. The future is terra incognita (as it always was).


I am in agreement that Obama has been a huge disappointment. Do you have a daughter? I have one and would prefer that her right to choose was not taken from her, a vote for any third party candidate (or not voting) is like a half vote for anti-abortion as well as support for many bad policies, roll back health care reform, end medicare, and eliminate many environmental regulations. Obama is bad, Romney is much worse IMO. My vote doesn't matter much because my state is pretty solidly for Obama, Virginia could be the Florida of 2012, your vote may actually matter a lot. I can certainly see your point of view and if you were from California or Maine I would be much less likely to have made this comment.


Basically, to get support from his base, he may inadvertently have to do a few things that would be supported by them. So while it's mostly pandering and rhetoric, the remaining tiny fraction of actual action is better than nothing I guess. If RMoney wins, the tiny fraction of actual action he throws to his base will go the other way.

Man, it's so pathetic hanging out under the table waiting for some tiny crumb to fall off.

But I live in California, so it doesn't matter.
O is going to win that state.

Or lose them all! I don't think thats a probable outcome, but he would probably lose every other state before he'd lose California.

Not sure if I'd go Green. I want the R's to lose in a giant landslide, and the media won't consider a 49% to 40% landslide the same way as a 60% to 40% one. Gotta run up the score if at all possible.

I was a Green party activist during the Bush II admin (the shrub). I think the Green party suffered horribly, maybe terminally, from putting up a candidate that sucked even one vote from the Democrats while that fool was running or in office. I'm no big fan of the Obama administration but pretending that there is no difference between the parties is delusional. We have a political system that gives you the choice between bad and worse. If you do anything that reduces the chances of "bad" and favors "worse", well, you might as well vote for "worse".

I've maintained for many years that anyone that finds himself a major party candidate for president is already not morally fit for the office. But you plays the cards you was dealt.

"Constantly choosing the lesser of two evils is still choosing evil."
Garcia, Jerry

Disclaimer: I live in California, so I don't have to worry about Mitt winning if I vote 3rd party.

Some people argue that Nader took enough votes away from Gore to let Bush "win" Florida in 2000. I have no idea what Gore would have been able to do if he had become President, but he has shown more awareness of the climate crisis than any presidential candidate since 2000.

I was happy to vote for Nader in both '00 and '04, and have no sense that there should be any remorse for my actions.

The shenanigans of both parties had more of a destructive effect on our electoral system than the Gasp! Disastrous effect of having a third choice to pick from. Woe to the Corporatized Democrats if they are surprised that the people they expect to vote D are voting on principal instead, and that somehow has left them in the lurch.

If they hadn't kicked out the 'Peace' signs at the Boston Dem Convention and sent people to their Free Speech Cages, I might have been more lenient.. but Nader was the ONLY one speaking with reasoning and like a thinking human being. I'm proud of those votes.

The U.S. Supreme Court appointed Bush president in 2000 by stopping the recount. If they had allowed the votes to be counted, then Gore would have won Florida's electoral votes and the election.

If Gore had been president, then the U.S. would have invaded Afghanistan but not Iraq. Gore might even have heeded the intelligence and prevented the attack on September 11, 2001. Gore would not have cut taxes while going to war. The California Zero Emission mandate probably would not have been overturned and the EV-1 would have rolled on. There would have been no dead end effort to create a hydrogen economy which distracted from electric vehicles. There would have been a world of difference.

The National Rifle Association also claimed to have tipped the balance in favor of the Republicans in the 2000 U.S. election.

IMO, 'clean coal' is an oxymoron.

No it's not!

If I am totally off base, please set me back on the path to righteousness.

Ok, Ok! Just sit back, relax and listen to the Clean Coal Carolers...It's magical! And please do note the gently swaying palm tree on a beautiful tropical beach! This wonderful video is full of so much WARMTH and good cheer!


And the real promise, is that that palm tree will be growing on Alaska's North shore!

Sure! Because Florida will be underwater...

Know you were infusing with sarconol on that first comment ;>)

Especially enjoyed one comment folowing the CCC post.

The same reason why the Vanderbilts, Rockefellers, and Carnegies all slept like babies. They were rich as hell and could care less about their fellow man.

Yup. You got me on the path alright. Sweet dreams!


25 years? That's only the latest round of the imperialist and capitalist efforts to take the resources from the "underdeveloped" world for the benefit of the rich Western nations. The problem is that there is so much inertia in the thinking of governments (and corporations) that things are still moving toward growth in consumption of material resources as a basic goal, even though it's been rather clear since at least the 1960's that this process must eventually hit the wall of geophysical reality. You think you sound "doomerish"? Not hardly.

That there are many people and institutions which refuse to accept the facts of limits to growth is our basic dilemma. Any effort to stop emissions of CO2 will likely fail as the economic processes which are the basis of our civilized world absolutely depend on fossil fuels. At almost every turn, the media and the politicians tell us that economic growth is our goal, that more jobs are needed, more houses, more cars and other consumer goods must be built. Until a large fraction of the people are ready to accept that growth is the problem, there won't be any solution. Worse, we now see in the US that a few very wealthy people (and corporations) can push the political process toward their personal goals, in spite of the facts which argue against those goals.

If you think you are being a doomer, don't forget to include the various religious conflicts which are brewing. There are a large number of warships, including 3 US aircraft carriers, currently "exercising" in the Persian Gulf region. Wonder why...

E. Swanson

Dog - All good points IMHO. I try not to pound the doom drum too hard because there are folks, like our Nawlins boy, Alan, who truly believe significant change is possible. Even if I don't I still like to support their hopes as best as I can. Or at least not pee on them more than necessary.

"... refuse to accept the facts of limits to growth is our basic dilemma". The more we talk about it the more I think that statement is wrong. But wrong only from the perspective of the power base. If not growth then we have a fair shot at maintaining BAU IN THEIR LIFE TIME. Which, for the majority of them, is only a couple of decades or so. Let's be brutally honest: doesn't it matter which party controls the govt? Being just as human as most of us what's their priority: maintaining their status quo within their time spans or worrying about generations yet born? If they've positioned themselves properly they don't have to worry much about the kids or even grandkids. Do you have any doubt that should sudden collapse happen in the next 20 or 30 years that President Obama's or Gov. Romney grandkids won't be sleeping under bridges watch the water lap up to their feet? And again, to not just pick on our dirty politicians but are they that different than the majority of folks?

I gotta stop chatting with you. I'm so depressed now I almost can't eat my pumpkin bread for lunch. Almost.

Take heart in this excerpt from the Technocracy study course:

Leave the physical environment unaltered, or the industrial rates of operation unchanged, and any effort to alter the fundamental modes of behavior of human beings is doomed largely to failure; alter the immediate physical environment of human beings, and their modes of behavior change automatically. The human animal accepts his physical environment almost without question. He rarely decides to do a particular thing, and then finds himself obstructed by physical barriers. Instead, he first determines the barriers and then directs his activities into those paths where insurmountable barriers do not exist.

I too once thought that large changes were possible, going back to the time after the Arab/OPEC Oil Embargo when I became involved with the large push to develop alternative energy sources. I went back to University and studied wind energy systems, along with solar. We also looked at transportation as the main user of oil and I later built a machine which produced 235 MPG in a test run. That machine wasn't practical, but other similar machines have been built which would provide much better MPG than what we saw in the 1980's, such as the VW 1 Liter. Then the SUV craze hit and MPG levels haven't seen much improvement since. I briefly worked in the railroad industry around 1990 and one of our efforts was to reduce the energy consumption of rail cars via simulations.

I also became involved in politics as well and quickly learned that there wasn't much hope for change via that route. We've got to make massive changes in everyone's consumption habits, yet, no political candidate will say it before an election. The cultural myths are too strong and anyone who promotes the gloom-and-doom scenario will find elected office beyond his/her grasp.

So, how will things play out? Of course I don't know, but I expect things must become very desperate for the average American before basic change happens. Look at Greece and Spain, with very high rates of youth unemployment, around 50%, and their leaders are still talking about increasing economic output to provide jobs. Or, check out today's commentary in the WaPo by Larry Summers, a highly educated spokesman for the economic profession...

E. Swanson

Larry Summers is just giving the standard Keynesian answer to Austerity for the 99%.
That analysis is as good as far as it goes - if you just ax all peoples pay, public services, and public employment, pensions etc then of course you will have the Great Depression all over again.
Note of course that the Tory conservatives in the UK are not slashing wasteful military spending which the UK still maintains at a much higher level of their GDP than most countries as the legacy of the British Empire. And I doubt very much they are slashing financial leeching off the mainstream economy, Corporate subsidies and the like. Alleged "conservatives" of the Tory / Republican ilk never do that even though it would be consistent with their supposed concern about deficit spending.
So Governments worldwide need to do something. One thing of course is to redistribute
existing wealth and income from the ever -richer plutocrats by ending Military Keynesianiam, Corporate Welfare, offshore tax havens, and lower taxes for plutocrats and Corporations.
The other thing is to invest in the Green Transition - primarily Green Transit, but also of course insulation, solar, wind, micro-hydro, every means possible to save energy and resources with the aim of replacing endless material consumption with more leisure, music, arts, dance, education - none of which necessarily involves a huge resource usage.
Temporarily building LightRail, Rail, Transit-Oriented Development would lead to some increase in energy and resource usage. But soon enough it would be a virtuous feedback loop where every LightRail connection added to the existing network removes more Cars saving oil and greenhouse emissions to invest in more Green Transit, bicycles etc.
Personally I bought a folding bike which has allowed me to take the train and ride to more places than before and I only spend $100 a month to commute to work. My triple pane upstairs windows cut my Natural gas usage 20% and I just cut another 40% with a new energy efficient furnace and insulation. My next step is a solar carport which will supply my current house electricity usage.
If communities did this and the Government promoted it instead of Wars, Auto Addiction and Corporate Welfare then we can sustain civilization and a reasonable lifestyle.
Of course this is NOT understood by Larry Summers, Paul Krugman or the majority of mainstream economists of any stripe. The only mainstream economist I know of who has begun addressing this is James Galbraith, son of the infamous John Kenneth Galbraith.

We should also take heart from the Occupy Wall Street movement which has awoken from the doldrums. It was very interesting to me that when the PTB seized their FF generators they called on their pals at MIT to supply bicycle-powered generators and took shifts to run them supplying all their power without greenhouse emissions. They understood that the change we need is more than just getting more money from the 1% but a whole change in lifestyle to preserve the planet.

Famous John Kenneth Galbraith IMV.

I agree wholeheartedly. I saw him speak in person at a small seminar of 30 people or so when I was in graduate school. JKG was very impressive IMO.


Arch-conservative Bill Buckley thought him to be so, as well. Ah, the good old days!

While generally agreeing with you, the pedant in me would have me take issue with your statement "Note of course that the Tory conservatives in the UK are not slashing wasteful military spending which the UK still maintains at a much higher level of their GDP than most countries as the legacy of the British Empire".

In fact defence spending will fall by 8% over 4 years from 2010.

See also: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-16950709

and the level of spending by the UK government (too high for this UK citizen, I should add!) is down to NATO/cold war demands and then Iraq/Afghanistan, rather than any legacy of empire.

We've got to make massive changes in everyone's consumption habits, yet, no political candidate will say it before an election.

Heck. I challenge you to find a politician who would say that after an election (that he won, or that gives him hope of staying in politics). Maybe five minutes before the end of his retirement party?


I understand the odds. My best guess is that I have a 2% or 3% chance to make a significant difference. However, that difference is worth the effort.

And I am far more devious than my simple on-line persona. I am pushing and pulling levers in several different places. All low probability plays, but some do pay off.

Best Hopes,


It's worth the attempt. A functioning rail system will be of huge benefit to those areas that have it.

Until a large fraction of the people are ready to accept that growth is the problem, there won't be any solution.

Black_Dog, I agree. The quicker we can stop the idea that growth solves problems the better.

Having read a fair amount about the recent flare up of tensions in the Muslim world toward the USA, I fear that the next big thing will be a war of actions against western influences in those countries with a high majority of muslims in them. Most of them are poor people hating what seems to have been done to them by that Oil wealth going elsewhere. Lots of comments on the yahoo comment sections about the usa pulling up stakes and just leaving the rest of the world to rot, which I don't think will happen. But the newest conflict isn't so much about which will hit first Peak Oil or Climate Change. But the goings on of the results of it all.

Collapse is the process, and it is here and in the news. People stressed to the point that they will burn your flag, and your people if they meet them on the streets, they foster hate and killing and won't stop till they run out of people to hate and kill. These people will not be stopped even if we pull out of their countries and close our borders and ( oh never mind, that has never stopped people form coming here anyway). It is just one more nail in the house of straw called collapse.

Though on a positive note I did watch the "First Earth" video's linked to in the last drumbeat. Though I am uplifted by that. I still see the tensions of the world flaring to the point that nothing good will come of it in the coming years. The Us or Them meme is full blown.

How many countries will stop using cars when the Car Bombings go into full swing? Will it fall into people using swords again to fight wars? how far down the mudhill will we fall trying to stay on top of the King of the Hill game?

I am not totally depressed, It is finally fall here and raining again.


It's hard not to be doomerish given the pathetic response to climate change we've seen so far. Nonetheless, minimizing the problem remains on the agenda.

As far as "get ready for it, since nothing will be done to stop it," my understanding is it will so chaotic and disorienting as to dwarf any preparation. It was depressing reading the NYT article last week castingating NYC for not doing more to shore up the seawalls and all ... if the government can do that, surely it can face the underlying problem .... it's like, "No, we won't send a firetruck, but we promise a bed in a shelter after your house burns down."

Speaking of doomerism, the new TV series "Revolution" premieres on NBC tonight (Monday).


Our entire way of life depends on electricity. So what would happen if it just stopped working?

The story idea came from an alternate history book about the electric power going out all over the world when something happens in some unnamed experiment, I can't remember the author's name off hand , Dies the Fire was the first book, S. M. Stirling. He had several books in the series, though in his the use of gun powder is also taken out of play.

It seems that we are having a lot of play of shows that picture us without things in the future, be they game shows, or tv shows. Some of them are more positive than others, but it still bodes like grim reapers walking the land over the houses and things of the current era, all gone and you fending for yourself.

I wonder how they feed themselves? Clothes rot over time. Houses won't last long without power, they aren't built in the USA Like they might be in places like in the video "First Earth" With mud bricks and Cob. New York City would be underwater in 15 years, the Subways and all the Tunnels useless caves for animals and not humans. High rises totally trashed without piped water and power.

It seems the Hollywood people are gearing the masses toward the doom and gloom that is all around them. Here have some fun with what it could be like, while you check out the news on the house you are going to buy with your new low interest loan, and Cheap Coal powered Cars.

Okay now I might be getting depressed. Glad I can't afford cable too.


Hi, Kay ~ thanks for the reply.

Well, I watched the show and I was underwhelmed. Not disappointed, though, since my expectations were rather low. It appears to be another "Lost," in different guise.

You would lose the ability to post about it.

What scenario should they consider if they are to shore up the sea walls? What sea level rise and what kind of storm surges should they account for, and for what time period would it last? I have no doubt that a reasonable estimate of those criteria would quickly push the project outside of what could could be considered viable or affordable.

At the time sea level rise is so big we actually need sea walls, it will rise fast and for a very long time. If all ice melts there is 82 meter SLR to come, and we have emitted probably enough CO2 to cover 20-30 meter of that. (And we keep adding.) Any sea wall will be a protection not against SLR, but against TIME. Every 1 meter you build buys you probably 50 years. Or possibly as little as 20, when SLR is working at maximum speed.

Jedi is essentially correct, SLR will in all probability go on for a thousand years or longer. The question is at what rate ;.5M/century :previous IPCC, 1-2M/century: current mainstream climate-science, 3-5M/century Hansen? And the cost of seawalls goes up much faster than a linear function of height, so it will eventually overwhelm.

Twi - Maybe...maybe not. Depending on whose model you buy we have many decades to get the job done. They don't need 20' sea walls in the next 10 years. That certainly would be affordable. A nice slow but focused effort started this year might get it done in time. But that's not the American way, is it? We could have started adding pennies per year to motor fuel taxes that might have greatly improved our situation today. But we didn't, did we? If Americans had just put a small amount of their paychecks into saving account every year since they first went to work we would have a lot of retired folks not worried about Social Security. But we didn't.
I'm sure the TODster can think of many other examples of how a little bit of something over a long period of time could have made a big difference for us today. But it's like the mayor or governor that has to pass a new tax to fund a very worthy public project that will take many years to complete. He gets the grief for raising the taxes and another major/gov years down the road gets to cut the ribbon. Like so many other aspects of our world there just isn't enough motivation for the long game as for the quick kill.

We could have started adding pennies per year to motor fuel taxes that might have greatly improved our situation today. But we didn't, did we?

ROCKMAN, it is never too late. However, it appears unlikely we will get any increase in the gas tax.

K – “...it is never too late.” OK...a thought experiment. We couldn’t (wouldn’t) raise motor fuel taxes $0.02 per year for the last 30 years. So an extra $0.60/gal...only about a 15% increase over current prices. So since it’s not too late what now? A $0.20 increase per year for 3 years? The pols didn’t have the nerve to add 1/10 that amount but it’s not too late to late to do it now? Let’s jump to the end of this thought process: let’s increase taxes $0.02 per year for the next 30 years. And as you suggest, we’re not seeing TPTB putting forth such a proposal. And even if they did would it have any serious impact especially compared to PO and ELM? IMHO no. Not only is it too late now but it was too late 30 years ago to do the $0.02 per year increase.

A $0.20 increase per year for 3 years?

Rockman, I would be fine with a 60 cent increase spread over 3 years. But as we both know, our Politians wouldn't do so.


Every little bit helps even if it is too late. There are places where fuel taxes have been raised, so it is not impossible. Remember what Churchhill (supposedly) said, “The Amer­i­cans can always be trusted to do the right thing, once all other pos­si­bil­i­ties have been exhausted.”

I think that once it finally dawns on the US that peak oil is a reality, there is a better chance that fuel taxes will rise. Unfortunately it will not really be accepted until there are several years of declining output.

As many have said before, we will only see the peak in the rearview mirror. I think watching the 60 month trailing average of C+C will give the most reliable indication of the peak.

This (60 month trailing average of C+C based on EIA data) has not fallen since April 1986, but it has plateaued on several occasions. The most recent plateau started in Sept 2008 at 73.0 mb/d and lasted to July 2011 at 73.2 mb/d.

For a realistic future scenario where extraction rates rise at a rate similar to 1995 to 2011 and then level off at about 5 %, the 60 month trailing average of C+C would rise to 75.2 mb/d by 2016 and remain on a long plateau out to 2022 with a peak at 75.4 mb/d in 2019.

This scenario makes the optimistic assumption that a severe worldwide recession does not occur over this time period. The likely acceleration in world oil prices which will occur if demand pushes up prices, make such an assumption problematic.

The optimist might counter that consumers will switch to substitutes as prices rise and that renewables and/or innovation will save the day, but I am not convinced that such a process, if it occurs at all, will do so smoothly.

I hope to post soon on this subject at:



The UK had a fuel escalator up till 2000 and still has regular fuel duty increases (plus fuel is subject to VAT). fuel duty increase is not very popular and latest planned increase was either cancelled or postponed.

Griff - Yep...that's the double whammy of a recession: not only does it hurt the immediate economy but makes raising any tax difficult for politicians regardless of how logical it would be to do so. OTOH when times are good and the voters are relatively happy politicians want to keep them content and still often resist new taxes. We touched on it the other day: Politician A decides to do X (raise fuel taxes or some other change in policy) but the beneficial effects won't be seen until A is out of office leaving it to his successor to claim victory. In our country, and perhaps yours, almost every policy shift is done to effect voters immediately. A good strategy for both of our parties trying to win elections but not very useful dealing with long-term problems like PO and AGW.

They won't start the job until they need them in 10 years but it will take 20 years to build them :(


Well, we did put a little bit of CO2 into the atmosphere every year, and now we experience the warm and cosy weather we got for the effort. See? Not everything is neglected.

Richard Heinberg on Australian TV

Sydney, Lateline Business


Ticky still enjoys the debate

Matt, Richard has some interesting comments. He makes the statement at the end that we need to live without growth on our finite world. Tough for some to hear.

Yes, but the percentage of the Australian population that watched that interview, not to mention absorbed and considered the comments... A tenth of one percent?

Too little to late.

I was wondering about the guy. One hardy ever sees him these days. What is he up to now?


"The Rocks Don't Lie" - Saw an interesting interview with the author of this new book. From the link:


"Geomorphologist David R. Montgomery casts a critical yet sympathetic eye on flood myths, finding substance for them in Tibet, the Philippines and elsewhere, while systematically disassembling the universality of Noah’s Flood. "The Rocks Don’t Lie" traces the history of the field of geology through the thinking that progressively debunked the great-flood myth and left behind, temporarily, what would be resurrected 150 years later as Creationism".

"Picking up a book...I expected to learn geology and was not disappointed. "The Rocks Don’t Lie" intertwines geologic history and the author’s own field trips in an engrossing way. Montgomery offers a much richer story than I was taught as an undergraduate..." I was not prepared, however, to be schooled on how the Bible has been interpreted over the past millennium. ...the book recounts how John Calvin’s views of Noah’s Flood differed from those of Martin Luther. Luther turns out to be the literalist, stating that Moses “spoke properly and plainly, and neither allegorically nor figuratively.” Calvin took a more restrained view: He interpreted the Genesis story literally but did not imagine that the great flood was responsible for the topography around him or the fossils in the rocks of his beloved Swiss Alps."

In the interview Montgomery pointed out a bit of trivia: most of the original developments of geologic principles were constructed by theological experts funded by the various churches and during expeditions led by folks like the Jesuits.

Perhaps this could be one more acronym to toss at the folks who can't grasp the geological side of PO: TRDL.

Highly recommended book, as are his other books King of Fish and Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations.


"The Rocks Don't Lie"

There is a paper out recently concerning hematite spheres nicknamed "blueberries" on Earth that are like or the same as those on Mars, i.e. formed in water.

However, these new research papers show that the hematite spheres here on Earth were in fact formed by microbes, not by purely geological, chemical processes.

Add that to the new type spheres found last week on Mars, that do not have the hematite composition, then add to that the NASA scientist's research and papers as to what is inside Earth meteorites that originated on Mars, and we find that the rocks are telling some very tall tales that some think is true while others can't believe it (Cosmic Rosetta Stones?). No doubt the rocks do not lie, however, sometimes our interpretations prove to be in that direction.

Dredd - Interesting. Thanks. That reminds me what I meant to add to my post: rocks don't lie - geologists can misinterpret - managers lie - cornucopians have sweet dreams - environmentalists have nightmares - politicians have agendas - J6P's have illusions - engineers have 4 decimal places - etc.

Sorry...once I got started I couldn't stop. LOL. Feel free to add on.


Men have microbes from Mars, women have microbes from Venus.

Yeah and they meet in the middle to have some fun.

Former colleague of mine at UW. Not only is David a great guy, he's sort of my hero because he's done such an amazing job balancing his science career with playing in his band. By contrast, my music's been mostly on the shelf for years...

Another encouraging story for the end of Auto Addiction on the young forsaking cars - car ownership down by 30%!:

Young Americans ditch the car
By Steve Hargreaves @CNNMoney September 17, 2012: 10:34 AM ET
The share of new cars purchased by those aged 18-34 dropped 30% in the last five years, according to the car shopping web site Edmunds.com.

When the average cost of car ownership even according to Auto Addiction pusher AAA is $9300 per year it is no wonder youth with high unemployment are abandoning cars.
On the other hand the cost of a monthly Metro Pass in Green Transit New York City that allows unlimited rides on all subways and buses across the 5 Boroughs of New York, enough miles to travel to Chicago is only $104 per month or $1248 per year!

If the US Federal, State and Local governments seriously promoted Green Transit this could
result in major transportation savings for the 79% of Americans in urbanized areas, also saving oil, greenhouse emissions, land and 66% of the US trade imbalance which goes to imported oil.

Not just the unemployed youth -if you are working at a minimum wage job, a car is something that you can hardly afford.

Forty years ago, a teenager could buy an old clunker for a few hundred dollars, and, perhaps with some help from his buddies, keep it on the road for a couple of years with minimal financial expenditures. This isn't possible anymore - aside from the increases in the price of gasoline, it is pretty hard to avoid spending serious money on repairs. Modern cars are not designed to be repairable by their users - you need special tools and knowledge of all the tricks needed to even get at a failed component, and after the first 5-10 years, repairs are regularly needed.

We call my wife's 1999 Toyota "the refrigerator". After almost 150,000 miles it is completely reliable, she drives it to town virtually every day, and short trips are supposed to be the worst type of driving. In 13 years it has had exactly one reliability issue, a failed starter solenoid this year. The only other repairs have been to the electric window winders (two of them) and one leaky valve cover gasket. We do the recommended service, oil and filter changes mostly. The only wear items replaced have been one set of brake pads and all four shock absorbers.

I expect it to do an easy 200,000 miles as it still runs as quiet, smooth and powerfully as it did when new, with shiny paint and unblemished interior.

Mostly true, but so far there are a few US 'driveway mechanic' vehicles that have a reputation for being able to repair (and even enhance) by the average driveway mechanic


...Maybe the current 2012+ cars are no longer 'driveway mechanic' cars, but slightly older ones are, and thanks to the 'net there are many forums where such folks can collaborate and share info.

1967 Volkswagon Bus

"1967 Volkswagon Bus"

Exactly. I spent the 70's and early 80's with VW's, and there's almost nothing you can't fix in your driveway with simple tools. Heck, I've done some pretty good fixing up on the side of the road. My first vehicle was a '57 bus, and I had a '66 bug and a '69 bug. I was doing a lot of long distance road trips in those days, and I had a tool set and a parts collection to do all the common stuff. And the Muir Guide :-) As I criss-crossed the Rockies, there was always a point where I pulled over and tweaked the timing for high altitude ;-) Ah, those were the days...

I don't remember what year of a VW bus she had, but my sisters caught fire. She got out in time (barely), but the van was a total loss. One experience like that in the family, and you'll never consider another one.

Bursting into flames is not unique to VW vans. I remember driving over the Coquihalla Pass into Vancouver one time and seeing about six burned-out vehicles along the side of the road. Another was bursting into flames just as we passed it, and the passengers were bailing out the doors.

A friend of mine stopped and watched an (American) van burn down on the Coquihalla last year. He stopped as it lit up and tried to help out, but there was nothing he could do. All the passengers got out, but the van burned to the ground. They called the fire department, but fire departments along the road don't respond to vehicle fires any more. If you call them and tell them your car is on fire, their response is "Tell someone who cares". That someone would be a towing company which will haul the burned-out wreck away for a large fee. There is now a show on (I believe) the Discovery Channel called "Highway through Hell" that documents this process on the Coquihalla in 10 exciting episodes.

The problem is that people in Vancouver don't maintain their vehicles. They drive around Vancouver in a junker at city speeds, and then one day decide to challenge the Coquihalla Pass, which is very long and very steep, and has a high speed limit. They roar along until the engine overheats and stalls. The *critical mistake* is that they don't turn off the ignition after the engine quits. The fuel pump keeps running, and blows one of their old, decrepit, unmaintained fuel lines. Raw gasoline pours over the overheated engine and *KAPHOOM* it all lights up. After that it's only a matter of how fast you can run to save your tender butt.

Since I drive the Coquihalla fairly often, I am obsessive about maintenance and replace all the fuel lines and cooling system belts on my Toyota on a regular basis. That being said, my wife's Eurovan Camper broke down twice last time we came back from the Coast, it took 3 weeks to get the parts in from California, and she had to fly back to pick it up between breakdowns - so maybe VW vans are not as reliable as Toyotas.

So true!

How could I have forgotten to mention air-cooled bugs! (my bad)

This is simply not true. What has changed most are the skills and expectations of the people that own them. It's true that some cars have greatly increased complexity thanks to a multitude of needless accessories, but the basic mechanical systems have not changed much. Parts availability is greater thanks to online and "big box" parts stores. The engine control systems will tell you what is wrong with them using a $50 code reader, and I can tell you there never were more than a few people who actually understood how a carburettor worked anyway. No, the stuff still bolts on with the same kinds of fasteners and the wrenches I use are the same, but very few are interested in getting dirty, and like working and sweating and stuff.

I dunno. Computer design has led to a very high density of parts. Which makes access a real issue.

Yeah, I got tired of banging my knuckles trying to replace spark plugs that I could not see from any angle. And that was 30 years ago.

My 1982 Mercedes Benz 240D (4 speed manual transmission). Manual window winders.

Great accessibility under the hood. The only computer is in my radio (1986 Nakimichi) and I am not sure even it has one.

The only thing is Mercedes engineers have a tendency to create their own "unique" solutions to common auto design issues.

Best Hopes for Otto (inside joke) & I wearing out simultaneously,


There have always been designs that were better than others, or rather that were optimized for different parameters. With experience you can see that. My 1999 Hyundai Accent is so easy to work on, partly because it is simple and partly because they obviously paid attention to service. A cooworker has a VW Jetta, and clearly they gave not a moment's thought to ease of service. It's almost like they tried to make it harder, as even things that could have been positioned just a little differently with no negative effect were not done. But people do not consider such things, they go for style and brand name and social cred.

I was thinking more about this issue of people working on their own cars. Clearly those box stores and online parts suppliers selling Chinese aftermarket parts are serving some market. I think it's a class thing, and a product of apparent wealth driven by easy credit access, in that your affluent buyer of higher end cars are just going to pay someone to fix it. They probably don't have time anyway. But in rural areas and in urban neighborhoods people are still doing things for themselves.

I just keep showing my teenagers all the bills we pay; rego, insurance... The excess if they have a prang. So far I'm not being nagged for driving lessons, which is fine by me.

Studies of Desoto canyon and shelf in Gulf of Mexico uncover upwelling during Hurricane Isaac

... Prior to Hurricane Isaac the team flew over the area and deployed 54 devices to collect baseline oceanic and atmospheric data over the shelf and shelf break. After the storm, the team worked with the flight crew at NOAA's Aircraft Operation Center located at McDill Air Force Base to deploy another 67 probes and get a post-hurricane snapshot of the area tying the response from several research flights. The information from each of the flights is being analyzed by scientists, and for input into both research models that are being developed for Deep-C as well as operational models at forecasting centers.

... One of the ways the fate of oil can be determined is to study an effect called weathering—that is, how oil that is discharged into the environment changes over time. Weathering affects the properties of spilled oil and according to Reddy, oil from the deep bottom will have weathered differently than samples already on the shore prior to the storm that were simply unearthed or exposed by the winds and rain of Hurricane Isaac.

Personal analysis by

James Beck, Lead Analyst, Weekly Petroleum Supply Team for the Energy Information Administration

Read more at http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com/#Q6fK1rkcTU2L0Las.99

This should really interest those here that analyse EIA data. I look forward to your comments.

Thank W -

Your link moved to permalink http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com/2012/09/email-from-lead-analy...

... The following commentary is from me as a private citizen, not as a spokesperson of the Energy Information Administration or the Department of Energy:

The data support your general point that total petroleum product demand is at 1997/98 levels. The running three-month average that I am using (Apr/May/Jun--the last three months available) show that total demand has bounced above the lowest point for the same three-month period in 2009, but remains significantly below 2010 and 2011 levels--remaining very near 1997/98 levels. This 15 years of demand destruction cannot be explained fully by increased efficiency or increased use of biofuels and renewables (these have, at most, a marginal effect).

... These numbers do not tell me that we are in a recovery. Despite increases in distillate and KJet demand in 2010 and 2011, and in gasoline in 2009 and 2010, these were well short of recovering from the decline in 2008/09. The decline year-over-year in these three core transportation indicators suggest a slowing in the economy if not a recession

These numbers do not tell me that we are in a recovery. Despite increases in distillate and KJet demand in 2010 and 2011, and in gasoline in 2009 and 2010, these were well short of recovering from the decline in 2008/09. The decline year-over-year in these three core transportation indicators suggest a slowing in the economy if not a recession...

It serves to put in proper context remarks of Pres. Obama to the effect that a) we have reduced our consumption of oil and are moving toward energy independence; b) we have reduced illegal immigration by more than any other administration.

LOL! Both true because the economy ... stinks. What do we call that? 'Making a virtue out of necessity?'

Energy independence? Only in the terms often expressed here on TOD by Jeffrey Brown, i.e., free from foreign sources of oil, but not for the reasons we imagined...

Part of my job involves collecting and analyzing traffic counts as well as reviewing historic counts at a given location. (We use these data to predict the impact of land use changes on future traffic.) My own observations match the EIA data. It is no longer unusual to find traffic on a given roadway has actually declined in recent years. Given that many review agencies require us to assume a minimum of a one percent annual increase in traffic on a given roadway before we even add a new site in our projections, these numbers are giving traffic engineers pause.

I went to the Federal Highway Administration website to check national trends. The FHWA compiles estimates of total vehicle miles of travel from permanent traffic count stations located all over the country. Due to seasonal variation, the 12-month moving average is the appropriate criterion. The all-time peak month was November of 2007, and the lowest 12-month moving average since that point occurred in November of 2011. (No moving averages are available for 2012 yet.) The decrease from November of 2007 to November of 2011 was a total of 3.8 percent or just under one percent decline per year.

By comparison, the four decades from 1971 to 2001 had an average annual increase of 2.17 percent. The period from 2003 to 2007, however, saw annual growth of just 1.3 percent. While the FHWA does not show traffic data prior to 1970 (and prior to the U.S. peak oil production) the common estimate I recall from grad school was a three percent per year increase.

Notice that these data reflect actual vehicles at a given point on a roadway. The detection systems record by axle classification (from motorcycle to 18-wheeler) and convert to passenger car equivalents. The data are independent of engine efficiency, gas price, trip purpose, or time of day. The national population growth rate slowed down to about one percent per year starting in 1968, but the total mileage should still be increasing by at least that much each year. Instead, it is going in the opposite direction.

How much of this due to the economy? More precisely, how much of this is due to the fact that the percentage of the adult working age population actually in the work force has dropped significantly? That includes the on-going increase in persons on disability as well as 20-somethings who have moved back home with parents and just don't drive that much, even if they have access to a vehicle during parts of the day.

From a traffic engineering perspective, this has happened only once since the 1920's, and that was during World War II. Unlike that period, however, this appears to be something more permanent.

Fascinating data DFT, thanks! I would hope that this is a sign of people using public transportation more, or carpooling, but I think the pessimistic view that fewer people are driving due to economic reasons to be more likely.

I figured the primary cause of decline in fuel is efficiency, but this proves it is more about not driving.

The economy, for sure, but also the aging of the population. Old people don't drive very much. The oldest boomers are now pushing 70.

I'm 69 and still working (part-time). I've thought about riding my bike to work (and have on 2 or 3 occasions), but the unpredictability of thunderstorms, and the lack of a secure place to lock up my (rather expensive) recumbent deters me. I don't drive as many miles as I did 5 years ago, but that has more to do with moving to a smaller metro area (and closer to my family) than with my age.

I'm 64, which makes me one of the older of the baby boomers - we're not pushing 70 that hard.

In the US, the baby boom started around 1946 or 1947 because the men came back from WWII in 1945, got married as quickly as possible, and had their first kid in 1946 or 47. They averaged 3.5 children per woman. In Canada the men came back later - in 1946 - and had their first kid in 1947 or 48, but made up for it by having 4 kids per woman.

It is true that older, retired people tend to drive less, which is going to be a disaster for the automobile companies. After the baby boomers hit retirement they are probably going to buy only 1 more car at most and keep it until they stop driving. The oldest baby boomers are hitting retirement now, and the youngest are about 20 years behind them, so for the next 20 years car sales are going to collapse.

The car companies are trying to compensate by marketing to young people just entering the labor force, but unfortunately for them, this demographic is not nearly as big as the baby boom, and even more unfortunately, many of the younger generation have decided that they don't even need to learn to drive, nevermind buy a car.

It is already tough times for the car makers, and it's going to get worse, much worse.

True but I have a very biased view living in Houston. With a strong economy the roads are full of traffic, commercial and 4-wheelers, all day long. I often leave town at 1 or 2 in the mroning heading to a well and there's plenty of cars on the road. I leave for the office evey morning at 5:15 and the roads are full of cars...on rare occasions enough to prevent driving at the speed limit. Many highways thru town look like rush hour at 2 PM...and that's even when there hasn't been an accident. And the vehicles are filled with all ages including a goodly percentage of gray hairs like me.

Obviously many components create the final results. But in my world economic viability seems to dominate fuel usage.

Here's a table from FHWA:

Average Annual Miles per Driver by Age Group


I'd guess a lot of it is simply less need for driving. Many will be retired. Most will no longer have children they have to schlepp to school and dance class and soccer practice.

I find some of the numbers in that table very surprising and dubious: for those age 55 and up, the males drive twice as many miles as the females? Why? The only explanation I can think of is that they tend to travel often as couples, and in that case the male does the driving (and gets counted in this driver-based table).

Another thing that may impact these stats, depending on how they are defined, is the huge number of miles racked up by the drivers of long-haul trucks, who are mostly male.

The only explanation I can think of is that they tend to travel often as couples, and in that case the male does the driving (and gets counted in this driver-based table).

That could very well be.

Also, it may be that women of that generation are less likely to be working outside the home, so don't need to drive as much.

Most women I know in the 55-64 age group work outside the home and commute solo by car. In the 65+ age group many are retired, but so are the men. I'm still suspicious of these data. What is the source? A telephone survey?

As I understand it, it's done in person, with the sample chosen to represent different neighborhoods/housing types.

FWIW, I could totally see that table representing my family. The women all worked in my family, even before WWII. But they tend to retire sooner. For example, my mom's income was much less than my dad's, and she found her job less fulfilling than he found his. She wanted to retire, he didn't. She retired as soon as they felt they could afford it, while he continued to work.

It does appear that for whatever reason, older women still don't work as much as their male counterparts:

Of course, that might change in the future. It may be that today's workers will not follow the pattern of their parents.

This thread is getting stale in time, but... Interesting chart. But it shows that, in 2009, the percent of women age 55-64 working was not much lower than that of men of the same age group. But the VMT table claimed that women drivers of that age drove a LOT less than men: 7,780 vs. 15,859 miles per year. Still does not make sense to me. Moreover, data posted on TOD years ago (by Staniford?) showed that, in the USA, only 20% of driving was commuting to work. Women of that age that I know seem to be constantly driving somewhere: gym, hairdresser, medical, book club, etc.

I work the night shift at a truck stop on I-35, a major north-south corridor in the U.S. Our traffic is roughly half of what it was prior to the 2008 crash.

Draw your own conclusions.


Swamp Gas..

It's a conspiracy, I tells ya!

I get a kick out of it when I hear people blaming it all on Obama :)

I would hope that this is a sign of people using public transportation more, or carpooling,

Public transport is indeed up, at least in areas where the economy is improving, as indicated by statistics from the American Public Transportation Association (APTA)

Public Transit Ridership Up in the Second Quarter Marking the Sixth Consecutive Quarter of Ridership Growth

Public Transportation Increases in Places Where the Economy is Rebounding

Nearly 2.7 billion trips were taken on U.S. public transportation in the second quarter of 2012 as ridership increased by 1.6 percent over the second quarter of 2011, according to a report released today by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). This was the sixth consecutive quarterly increase.

All major modes of public transportation increased. Light rail and heavy rail saw the largest increases in the second quarter with increases of 4.3 percent and 2.5 percent respectively. Some public transit systems throughout all areas of the United States reported record ridership for the second quarter, including in the following cities: Ann Arbor (MI), Boston (MA), Fort Myers (FL), Grand Rapids (MI), Lewisville (TX), Oklahoma City (OK), Olympia (WA), Portland (OR), and San Carlos (CA).

Unfortunately cash-strapped governments are not expanding public transit service to match ridership growth and in fact are cutting it in many places. They haven't realized that this is not a short-term phenomenon in the era of Peak Oil and steadily increasing fuel prices. People drive less when they can't afford fuel, but they tend to use public transit more.

Actually after the 2008 crash 150 US cities CUT their public transit! Including New Jersey as densely populated as China with 50% of the population within a mile or so of a train
station and 90% within 3/4th mile of a Transit stop (usually slow and crummy bus service alas for that)
This partly had to do with the Wall Street interest rate swaps many public transit systems go hooked into which wound up costing them millions and billions of dollars. It will be interesting to see the impact of the lawsuits and States' investigations into Municipal Bonds fraud by the banksters which forced many Transit systems to cut service.

Yet DESPITE service cuts and fare increases all over the Auto Addicted USA public transit ridership continues to increase in New Jersey and recently as I reported here previously even in Auto Addicted Pinellas County.
It is just like Amtrak which was meant to be killed even from its inception by Nixon and his advisers who expected Amtrak would eventually wither and die. But still Amtrak ridership sets new records every year despite all attempts by Republicans to kill it.
This is my key point: can you imagine what COULD be done if we just spent a pittance of
the money spent on Wars and Auto Addiction on actually running our existing trains, buses, shuttles and then also providing safe bikeways and sidewalks?
We could cut our oil usage by 20% in a year as was done during WW II..
To their credit the Obama Administration did get some money back for public transit operations in 2010. But although they wanted $3.5 Billion for this in the current budget, Republicans killed it.
A minor step compared to wasting $7.5 Billion on electric car subsidies or helping subsidize Gov Cuomo's $5 Billion auto addicted new Tappan Zee bridge but at least something.
And kept under the table by Obama instead of publicly lauded.
My problem is to the extent Obama is not continuing the Empire and the banksters, he is only taking baby steps which will not fundamentally resolve the problems. The neoliberal Democrats are either outright enablers of Empire, Auto Addiction and the banksters or promoting feeble reforms similar to the Weimar Republic in Germany before WWII. And we saw where THAT wound up!

Paris mayor bans vehicles to reduce traffic

Bertrand Delanoe replaces some motorways with bicycle routes to alleviate traffic and help pedestrians.

Paris is often described as one of the world's most beautiful cities. However, like most capital cities, it suffers from choking traffic congestion.

Now, Mayor Bertrand Delanoe has come up with a radical solution. He is banning cars and lorries from what had been some of its busiest roads.

Paris should just introduce congestion charges, as cities such as London, Stockholm, and Singapore have. If you want to drive in the inner city during the day, you have to pay for it. If you don't want to pay, take the Metro/Underground/Subway.

However, this is a free-market solution to the problem, and France has a Socialist government so don't expect it to happen anytime soon. It does work, though.

Urban bicycle and pedestrian paths are a good idea, regardless.

Congestion Pricing

I don't know if you are aware of it, but a moving average introduces a phase shift in the resulting time series. That is, for a 12 month trailing average, the data point should actually point to a date roughly 6 months earlier. thus, if your data point for November 2011 is the average of the preceding 12 months of data, the actual date would be for May, 2011. However, since the FHA doesn't provide any data after November 2011, it might be that the FHA includes 6 months of more recent data in the calculation, thus the appropriate date would indeed be November...

E. Swanson

Not really. If the periodicity is of the same period (and multiples of it), which in this case is twelve months. The integral of any sinewave over one (or N periods) is identically zero. And any periodic function can be decomposed into a sum of sine and cosine terms (plus a constant). Its called Fourier analysis.

As a one time control systems engineer, I'm familiar with Fourier Analysis. Where does your comment address the time shift resulting from the use of a windowing filter on a time series?

E. Swanson

Define windowing filter. If the (time domain) filter is the same length as the periodicity, it won't pick up the periodicity, for each frequency it sees as much positive as negative part of the sinewave. If the window isn't the same period, then it will cause artifacts. If its trying to predict something that isn't periodic, then it will show some serious lag.

With all due respect, I think you are missing the point entirely. You are assuming a periodic signal, that is, one which can be described as an infinite series of the sums of sine wave components. There's no guarantee that the basic data in this case is periodic, although there is likely to be seasonality in the series. What we have is rather like a sampled data stream, which would fall under Nyquist-Shannon limits, etc. But, the issue here is not the frequency of any component in the data, but the time shift due to the application of the most basic window filter, an unweighted moving average.

HERE's the DATA from the FHWA. You can download the XLS file for June 2012 into a spreadsheet and view the plot results. Figure 1 at the end of the XLS shows the results from the moving average computation, beginning in 1987. Does that graph appear to be periodic? The graph shows the maximum in November 2007, followed by a minimum in November 2011. Notice that the last data point is for June, which tells me that we are looking at a time shifted data set...

E. Swanson

All signals, periodic or not, can be decomposed into an infinite sum of sine waves, that is the fundamental point of Fourier analysis. A periodic signal is one which has a repeating pattern over some time frame. This isn't a sampled data stream in the sense of discretizing a time-domain signal, the locations are continuously monitored.

You're right that the moving average appears to be time-shifted, since they provide a moving average for June. What's interesting is that the moving average is a yearly average, and that their data doesn't match up from year to year - if you look at March 2011 and March 2012, the data given for previous years is not consistent. Maybe this relates to the estimation, but it seems like that should only apply for the most current year.

I would expect a periodic signal, with a frequency of exactly a calender year plus harmonics, and some more interesting presumably slowly varying signal. Now if that signal had any sort of interesting time behavior, the moving window approach will have a time lag, but it won't show the periodicity of the annual variation. If I were doing it, I'd do a least square fit of some slowly varying function, say constant plus linear, plus maybe a quadratic term, plus a sin and cosine term with a period of one year. Provide too many adjustable parameters, (overfitting), and you get a lot of meaningless wiggles. So the key is to winnow down the basis functions to just a few plausible functions.

Fifteen years ago, I spent an entire summer learning Fourier Analysis as an intern at U. Michigan (Kresge Institute, Microcirculation Dept., Otolaryngology) in an attempt to create a suitable software model to achieve a laser-doppler flowmeter used to measure flow of RBCs in capillaries.

Reading the above comments, I just realized why it didn't work! Seriously, though, some of the time was spent having analog signal analysis explained to me by a Moscow University educated Physicist on loan from Russia (during the Yeltsin era "I love him!" he said). Those Russians sure know their stuff - I guessed they're real good at using some of that older analog lab equipment, the kind with hundreds of knobs of this and that.

Anyway, other than how to discern doppler-shifts from spectra, I've forgotten 99% of what I learned so obscure an esoteric the stuff was. But if I had to build a radar, I might be able to pull off the brains portion using canned DSP functions - basically calculate a cross-correlation of an FFT and inverse FFT from A/D converted data from the pickup which in my case was a diode.

Black Dog, you make a good point. There is probably a footnote somewhere on the FHWA website. The most recent monthly report is for June of 2012, and the most recent rolling 12-month summation is for December of 2011. That implies six months of data on either side of the end of the month, but I can't say that for sure.

It will take a lot less traffic for changes to be noticeable. Large cities have traffic peaks that are several hours long, especially in the afternoon. Some people get to work early in order to leave early, for instance. With less daily traffic the duration of the peak may contract a bit, but the saturation in the middle of the peak will remain unchanged. Thus, traffic appears to be just as bad for most drivers.

Also, remember that we are adding very little capacity to the system. I tell young highway engineers to learn how to design for other modes, such as rail or bus rapid transit. There isn't going to be much of a future in highway design outside of safety improvements and accommodations for other modes such as transit or pedestrians.


Do you know of any site on the web where urban planning types gather to discuss peak oil, climate change, and economic uncertainty? You raise a number of excellent questions and I wonder if such a site existed a crowd would gather who could help provide answers.

I have been talking to planners about even sketchy predictions about where will the population end up as rising energy costs price most out of cars. Those I have talked to say there are no models to help such predictions. Models are based on past economic trends. We know those cannot continue. We don't have models based on underlying causal factors so we cannot make predictions around a bend in the curve. I would love to meet some planners who have any ideas on how we might create new models.

Jon we are doing what we can at this site from the far flung edge of empire to bring together Urban Design, Transport Planning, Resource Supply issues, and Environmental Concerns in one site.


I am one of an editorial team that includes people from these disciplines (among other things I teach UD at the U of A School of Architecture). The site, like transit here in Auckland is, is attracting constantly rising users, and there are increasing signs that these previously considered dry and boring topics are getting real engagement by the general public. And this is despite an extremely obstructive government owned by big trucking and road building lobby.

Young people suddenly much more engaged and political than they were a few years ago... I guess a crisis is not always a bad thing. I have been greatly encouraged by my experience of engagement through this site (it is a big time sink though!)

I have learned a huge amount from TOD, even to the point of posting on the oil situation here despite this not being my area at all. But thanks to TOD I have been able to write with a bit of understanding about extraction rates and the dangers of being a net importer etc...



But in general I am more at home on UD issues : http://transportblog.co.nz/2012/09/13/a-further-look-at-oconnell-st/

Or the big one, transport issues: http://transportblog.co.nz/2012/09/03/can-these-rons-make-a-right/

Transit is the big issue everywhere and there is a clearly a growing interest in local issue blogs that bring intelligent analysis and global context to the debate. Start your own local one, or do what I did join the best existing one by offering guest posts from your unique perspective. All good sites enjoy fresh updates and slightly dofferent voices and views.... There are a lot of great examples in the US

Patrick's post answers the question of planning resources better than I could have done. One good source for academic papers relating to transportation is the Transportation Research Board (National Academy of Sciences). I doubt one will find peak oil as a subject, but indirect comments would be covered under climate change, sustainable design, and the "complete streets" concept. The last is a federal policy shift toward providing equity by mode in the use of public rights of way; that is, giving the bus rider, bicyclist, or pedestrian the same consideration as a vehicle driver in terms of capacity, safety, and level of service. A reasonable number of the papers can be downloaded at no charge.

One very important issue around Transport Politics is the notion of Freedom, arguably the most important word in American English. The road lobby, or auto-highway complex, has always promoted driving as the highest expression of this ideal. And paradoxically, it can be, until everyone is doing it. One of our strongest arguments around the need for much better transit funding is that citizens deserve the freedom to choose NOT to drive. Not to participate in congestion. But still have access to full participation in society. Because of course you are never stuck in a traffic jam, you are the traffic jam. This is a distinction from an appeal to Fairness which is not so much of a resonant notion in the US [step forward Mitt].

Here is a WP review of a really interesting book on this very issue: http://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/fairness-and-freedom-a...

Amamzon: http://www.amazon.com/Fairness-Freedom-History-Societies-Zealand/dp/0199...

There is a vital need everywhere in the world for transportation funding decisions to include the full costs of externalities. From accident deaths and injuries, carbon and particulates pollution, but also the cost to quality of place. Those vast freeways create low value Drosscapes and Junkspace and when these true costs of auto-dependency are included alternatives can be shown to be economically positive by comparison.

Great catch Wyo. Thanks. My take-away:

"This 15 years (from 1998) of demand destruction cannot be explained fully by increased efficiency or increased use of biofuels and renewables (these have, at most, a marginal effect)."

Adjusted for inflation oil bottomed out at $16.80 in 1998. And then more than double in just 2 years to $36.54. And then soft for a few years until 2007 when it nearly doubled again to $71.03. Based on his personal observation the economies have been in decline (though not mathematically in a recession) since oil prices started to rise 15 years ago.

"Distillate demand...continues to show weakness...its lowest level since 2002. The concern I have is the year-over-year decline this year. Since diesel demand is a very good proxy for the health of the economy (all shipping uses diesel--trucking, rail, barge, etc.), this weakening from last year continues to be source of concern for the economy."

This indicates to me that even if oil prices were to drop 20% or so the economies would still be struggling. And I haven't seen any projection for such a drop. Unless you count predictions of a sever global recession/depression from folks.

"These numbers do not tell me that we are in a recovery. Despite increases in distillate and KJet demand in 2010 and 2011, and in gasoline in 2009 and 2010, these were well short of recovering from the decline in 2008/09. The decline year-over-year in these three core transportation indicators suggest a slowing in the economy if not a recession."

In one way it almost makes optimistic projections of future energy supplies not worth arguing about. If we have long term (and maybe worsening) unemployment and little economic growth does it matter much if we have a large supply of expensive energy?

"Distillate demand...continues to show weakness...its lowest level since 2002. The concern I have is the year-over-year decline this year. Since diesel demand is a very good proxy for the health of the economy (all shipping uses diesel--trucking, rail, barge, etc.), this weakening from last year continues to be source of concern for the economy."

One factor in reducing distillate demand might be the improved fuel mileage of long haul trucks. I've been seeing many more of these using the trailer side skirts that typically reduce aerodynamic drag by about 20% and fuel use by about 15%.

Good to see you post. I hope your events have been moving along.. apologies that I've been unable to help with them..



Knowing something of the trucking industry (my brother owns a trucking company) I was surprised at your fuel use reductions due to the side skirts.

So I sent my bro an email and asked him if those numbers were accurate. He responded a bit ago and said that those numbers are from wind tunnel tests and do not work out in the real world of winds blowing from the side of the truck and the effects of traffic alongside of the trucks, etc.

Fleet use of the side skirts (which means millions of miles of actual use) has resulted in fuel savings of 8%. Still substantial but about half of lab results. The real world effect I guess.


Fleet use of the side skirts (which means millions of miles of actual use) has resulted in fuel savings of 8%.

Wyoming, 8% is higher than I would have expected.

Best hopes for improved efficiency.

Perhaps there is a third component. Let's consider if a decline in FF demand could reflect something other than either economic downturn or fuel substitution. Could a certain quantum of the demand fall be because of a shift towards a still functioning but less energy intensive economy.

Very small example, I am a photographer, all of my work now is shot digitally, not only that now, and more recently, all of it is delivered electronically. Let's look at this from a heavy lifting point of view. Not only do I no longer use film manufactured in Japan or the US, imported, warehoused, retailed, delivered or picked up. I also never take and pick it up from a lab, nor deliver it to clients. I have let my account with the courier company lapse, no more impatient man in a diesel van coming several times a day to my studio. Any increase in electricity use has not been noticeable. And of course my consumption from the chemicals industry has declined significantly.

As it happens I also have made a conscious change to drive less as well, I now use transit and cycle when I can, although usually not with a camera case. I am still flying and drive to locations. However my turnover has not declined but I'm sure my energy use has.

Ok I don't want to overstate this but IF we were to manage transition this in part is what it would look like; doing more with less. The MSM commentators all view any drop consumption of FF or truck kilometres travelled as a sign of failure in the economy. This is a mindset that has to change, because we want and need those numbers to drop while we are still operating. There is a word for this already that anyone in business understands as positive: efficiency.

I guess if you've spent your entire life looking spreadsheets wanting those numbers to be higher then this is the world on its head really. But in my view we either choose to try to do it or wait for it to happen to us which will be much uglier. Of course I have little hope for the MSM or the political discourse to front foot this... so crises it will be for most.

We are clearly in the middle of a really big change that will be way more obvious in retrospect, and will take a generation, and is frankly exciting unless you are totally opposed to any kind of change. And all big change is made up of millions of small changes. Isn't this what we may be seeing along with the two obvious ones: decreased economic activity and new energy sources?

Perhaps if you live in Houston or other places where there is little sign of any shift away from FF dependant BAU, or any sense that the might be alternative ways of ordering life and work it is harder to imagine...?

For a positive, perhaps hopeful, and very North American view of what's happening and where we're heading and what should be worked on I think Richard Florida's The Great Reset is really good read.

Great comment Patrick. Thank you.

That's fascinating... I never saw anyone comment on the decline in physical shipping of stuff due to the decline of physical film before...

I wonder what else doesn't get moved around in the digital age?

In the UK the check (or cheque as we call it!) is very nearly a thing of the past... no more shipping them back to the bank (only one UK center for processing them now). Must be a whole heap less truck/van journeys.

I wonder what else doesn't get moved around in the digital age?

Music, movies, and software. Nobody buys CDs any more; they download music from Amazon or Apple, or stream it from Spotify and its ilk. Streaming movies offers instant gratification that waiting for a DVD from Netflix doesn't provide. Ditto software. It's usually cheaper to buy a downloadable version, you get it right away, and often, it serves as a permanent backup: if something happens to your copy, you can just download it again.

Engineering design is going increasingly paperless. With everything done with CADD instead of pen and ink, it's easy to make and distribute PDFs instead of paper plan sheets. Visualization means a 3D computer model, not the models made out of balsa wood and cardboard of old. E-mail has replaced a lot of paper correspondence, and a report may be a Word file that is e-mailed rather than printed and mailed.

That is the theory. Then you have the habitual sideo fit. Offices that print everything for backup. Prnting with a pre-page with some useless information like the date and nameof the file print. Things that are printed and shown in the bin without ever beeing read. Large PDFs printed and then only the one usefull page beeing used and so on. Lots of waste going on in office land. The techs are there, but lots of bad habits circulate.

This is very true. However, it is not something new. The oil intensity of the economy, US and world alike, has been in steady decline since 1970, and this will continue. The additional shift we're seeing now is that emerging markets capture more of oil output as their share of world GDP rises. As the oil prices rise (if they do) I think Europe will have to lower their gas taxes, which means the US will lose even more oil consumption. The US has a big potential for savings, though - the efficiency gap would start to close when taxes start to equalize.

Rapid intensification of global struggle for land

... "Even in a huge country like Brazil, there is not enough land to grow biofuels, food and cattle fodder without negatively impacting on the climate and biodiversity", says Kenneth Hermele.

It is true that biofuels are not grown in the rainforest, but sugar cane cultivation replaces other crops, like soya, which in turn expands onto grazing land. New areas for grazing are needed, and they can be found in the Amazon.

"In Brazil, cattle ranchers are often singled out as the villains of the piece because it is they who burn down the rainforest to provide grazing for their cattle. In actual fact, their actions are merely a consequence of the increase in cultivation of sugar cane and soya on land that was previously used for cattle farming", explains Hermele.

"Even in a huge country like Brazil, there is not enough land to grow biofuels, food and cattle fodder without negatively impacting on the climate and biodiversity"

He could have stopped after the word, "biofuels". The US is currently using 40% of its corn crop to provide 10% of its gasoline supply, so obviously it can't replace petroleum with 100% ethanol fuel. Other countries are in a similar position - nobody has enough agricultural land to run its vehicles exclusively on biofuels, it's just physically impossible.

It's basic limitation the environmentalists and politicians overlooked in their promotion of "renewable" energy - and in reality biofuels are not actually all that renewable because they are steadily using up the soil fertility. Soil fertility is only renewable if you recycle animal, human, and other waste back to the soil, and automobiles don't do that.

Model used by US government underestimates costs of carbon pollution, climate change

The U.S. federal government is significantly underestimating the costs of carbon pollution because it is using a faulty analytical model, according to a new study published in the Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences.

Johnson, who co-authored the study (with Chris Hope of Judge Business School, University of Cambridge) "The Social Cost of Carbon in U.S. Regulatory Impact Analyses," said the model used by the government is incomplete because it all but ignores the economic damages that climate change will inflict on future generations. That model was the product of an interagency task force comprised of six cabinet agencies and six executive branch offices.

The real benefits of carbon reduction range from 2.6 to more than 12 times higher than the government's estimate. "It turns out that the price we now pay for energy is much higher than what shows up on our electric bills or the tab at the gas pump," Johnson said.

Without properly accounting for pollution costs, natural gas appears to be the cheapest generation option for new power plants. However, the revised estimates show that, after incorporating the economic costs of carbon and other pollutants from fossil fuel generation, building new generation using wind and solar power would be more cost effective than either natural gas or coal.

As drought hits corn, biotech firms see lush field in GMO crops

WOODLAND, Calif. — The worst U.S. drought in half a century is withering the nation's corn crop, but it's a fertile opportunity for makers of genetically modified crops.

Agricultural biotechnology companies have been pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into developing plants that can withstand the effects of a prolonged dry spell.

Despite objections from anti-GMO activists, biotech companies are going full steam ahead on developing and patenting drought-tolerant plants they can sell at a premium.

... But for all their efforts, researchers say even drought-hardy varieties are not guaranteed to survive an extended drought.

"There's only so much you can do," said Renee Lafitte, a research fellow at Pioneer's Woodland research facility who has studied drought tolerance for almost three decades. "This is not cactus."

Graph of the Day: Union Membership in the U.S. and Canada, 1920-2009

Washington, D.C. (CEPR) – Unionization in the United States has been on the decline since the 1960s.

While many reasons have been offered to explain this drop in the rate of unionization, a new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research highlights the roles that employer opposition to unions and weak labor laws have played in this decline.

The report, “Protecting Fundamental Labor Rights: Lessons from Canada for the United States,” begins with a comparison of the current state of organized labor in the United States and Canada. It notes that, from the 1920s to about 1960, Canada and the United States had roughly the same unionization rates. But in 1960, the two began to diverge. As of 2011, the unionization rate in Canada stood at 29.7 percent, compared to less than half that in the U.S., at 11.8 percent.

The difference between 1920s an 2010s ...

... The economic prosperity of the decade [1920s] led to stable prices, eliminating one major incentive to join unions. Unemployment rarely dipped below 5 percent in the 1920s and few workers feared real wage losses.


How is that possible? How is Canada able to keep union membership high in view of globalization? Are these just do-nothing in-name-only unions?


Good questions best asked of our Canadian contributors. I can offer a couple hypotheses:

--Canadians aren't as philosophically anti-union and right-wing as Americans are
--union jobs in Canada may not be as concentrated in (easily outsourced) low skill manufacturing industries, unlike the US

Canada's large public sector is almost 100% unionized. Unionization in the private sector is dropping. Unions cannot preserve good salaries and benefits when corporations can move work out of the country. For example, Caterpiller which bought the former General Motors EMD locomotive factory in London, Ontario demanded that salaries be rolled back as much as 50%. When the union refused to go on strike over the issue, they simply locked out the union and then a few months later announced they were closing the plant and moving all the work to a plant in the US. As I write this, Canadian auto workers are in negotiations with Ford, GM and Chrysler. The auto manufacturers are looking for concessions because their costs are lower in the US and if they don't get them you can be sure that jobs will be moving south.

s/js - And what makes the US decline more dramatic is when you factor in that, for the first time in the history of the US, the majority of union members work for some govt organization and not private enterprise. I suspect that's why we see the US curve flattening out the last few years. A potential interesting parallel to the lower interest in union membership in the 20's because times were good and so were salaries thanks to demand for labor. Consider the relatively good times Texas is enjoying right now: more jobs created in Texas in the last few years the all the other states combined. There are some unions in Texas but it is a "right to work state". You hear very little about efforts to unionize here these days. Of course, should it slow up in Texas, that might change.

There are some unions in Texas but it is a "right to work state".

Hearing that term triggers my automatic gag reflex --basically, it's corporate Orwellian Newspeak for "union busting state". Or if you prefer, "right to starve" state, or "working 3 jobs but still too poor to afford a middle class lifestyle" state.

Texas: ‘Miracle’ or Myth?

What does it mean to be a middle class wage-earner and consumer in Texas?
So, how about those jobs? Texas has the highest rate of workers paid at or below the federal minimum wage and our median hourly wage is 10% lower than the national average. We are dead last in the percent of individuals with health insurance and are near the bottom in the percent of workers with employer-based health insurance.
As for workplace safety, nine Texans die on the job every week, making Texas the deadliest state to work in, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
And home ownership? Texas ranks near the bottom in the rate of home ownership..........

I'd never join a union, but admit they set the standard for wages in an industry or workforce. Raises it for the rest. Otherwise I doubt they'd be so vilified by corporate interests.

Jeffrey Toobin has a take on that today, where he states "Speech is Money, Money is Speech" in interpreting the outfall of the Citizens United case at the Supreme Court. Depressing, Orwellian, glad the drive was over as soon as it was, I really didn't want to hear much more.



They wouldn't exist if employers (past and present) did not take advantage of their employees in one way or another. I have worked both, and my finest memories are being well paid non-union and treated as if I was a valued member of the company family, in many cases being treated as a 'son', but with more respect. However, when you work for the other type of employer, you cannot imagine the feeling of gratitude that 'someone has your back' when the boss becomes arbitrary or totally self-serving. This is especially true when you see incompetents rise up the ranks because they suck up. Reward is often about being a lackey. I actually used to like to work piecework. I fondly remember my 72 year old boss signing my pay cheque one day and remarking at the 'huge amount' on that cheque, "that's what I like to see, when I see you making money I know we made money". Good guys. Other dinks would simply say we are paying you too much and would look for ways to get it back. Guess how hard I worked for the good guys?

Furthermore, Unions also have a strong role to play in alleviating compensation hassles, workplace standards, methods of management, etc. Many good employers simply shrug their shoulders and continue to be good folks accepting that their employees have the right to collectively organize. Those companies always benefit from their people 'cutting that one more tree', standing up thast one more wall before quitting time, etc. In a factory setting and quitting time is/are rigid, plus workers are simply another machine cog....so what? Unions keep it all standard, just like a thermostat keeps a room warm. It's all on the spreadsheet.


Just want to echo your observations on how union work environments can benefit employers.
I worked 28 years for UPS and a strong union presence did not weaken a very strong culture of productivity at that institution.
It is helpful in maintaining a culture of honesty to have workers know exactly what will determine their work assignments, their compensation and promotion.

Also, my observation would be that having a union can actually be helpful in keeping hierarchies flattened and institutions nimble. Without the union you would need a higher proportion of middle managers to workers. Middle managers means bureaucratic inertia in my experience.
I'm not proselytizing, just sayin' that the union model can benefit employers in a variety of ways hard to measure.

Southwest Airlines is another example of extraordinary productivity with a union workforce.

One example - management said they needed pilots to be 3% more efficient and just asked the union how to do it. A union task force came back with more than 3% improvement.

SW has half the gate personnel/passenger boarded of other airlines.

And many other examples.

Of course having the founder & CEO Herb state in a company wide broadcast on 9/12/01 that SW would sell aircraft before laying off the first employee (other airlines laid off 1/3rd) helped employee/employer relations.

His next sentence was "but there will be no more overtime".

Best Hopes for Good Management,


The flipside is that those political activities of unions -so hated by conservatives, are the only real source of money and organisation fighting for the lower classes. Without them, the money and organizing abilities of the lower classes just don't have a chance against the richest. Thats whats happened to us the past couple of decades, our political/media power balance became unbalanced in favor of the super-wealthy. This in no small part was caused by (and motivated) the destruction of the unions.

"Right to work state" also means the union can't take your dues and use them to support political parties and candidates you despise.

"Right to work" also means an employer can't fire you then forbid you from getting a job working in your field for one the previous employers competitors. Non-compete agreements really need go away.

If a union wants to represent me, then fine, they can make their case. And fully disclose where the dues will go. But I would very much not like to be strong-armed into the organization if I feel it does not represent my interests.

And, by the way, unions have proven to be impotent to keeping US factories open.


"Right to work state" also means the union can't take your dues and use them to support political parties and candidates you despise.

The flip side of that coin being our bought and paid for Supreme Court says it is just fine that the Corporations who hire those union workers can support political parties and candidates I despise even though I am a stock holder (part owner) and object. The system is seriously skewed towards the rich.

He who has the gold make the rules?


Hummm, I always heard Texas referred to as an At Will state. That is, you work at the will of the employer. Translation: your employment can be terminated at the will (and without reason*) of the employer.

*With some exceptions, such as retaliation for reporting sexual harassment.

Maybe it means 'Fire at Will' ... (likely in all three senses of the word.. while I admit I feel pretty bad for Will.)

'At will' and 'right to work' are separate concepts.

Washington is 'At will', you can be fired for any reason not on the prohibited list, or no reason at all, and you can also leave at anytime you want, with or without notice. If they fire you for any reason that was not you committing an illegal act, you get your unemployment, If you quit, then you do not get unemployment.

'Right to work' involves compulsory union membership on the one hand, and the permitted scope of non-compete 'agreements' (now there is new-speak in action) on the other hand.

Add to this Canada also has true single-payer universal healthcare coverage, is not seeking to outlaw abortions, birth control or being gay, and their national policies are not completely hostage to right-wing business interests and Christian Dominionists. Almost makes a Blue Stater want to secede and join them.

Or you could try Vermont, which has a secessionist movement of its own called The Second Vermont Republic. Here's Lierre Keith's moving keynote speech at their recent Vermont Independence Conference. She spoke very eloquently about the need to resist Empire's push to consume everything on the planet in mindless pursuit of profit. Here's perhaps the most pedestrian excerpt I could pull, but the most immediately relevant to what we routinely discuss here:

The central concept here is drawdown. This isn’t tough. If you use more wood than a forest can grow, eventually the forest will be gone. If you take fish faster than they can reproduce, one day the river will be nothing but water and sorrow.

And then there are things that don’t replicate. Things like oil. Things like coal. Using them at all means using them up. For nonreplicating resources, it can only be drawdown. There is no way to make more oil or coal. You can blow up mountains to get to the last of it, but now you’re drawing down mountains as well as coal, and at the end of the day it’s still gone.

This isn’t a differential equation. It’s not even algebra. It’s basic arithmetic. If you have one planet, one blanket of air, one cradle of soil, one place called home, and you destroy it: one minus one. That’s drawdown.

How a Farming Community Handled Death Prior to WWII

This is a true account of how a rural Missouri farming community handled death before WWII, as told by Letty Owings, age 87.

Death was all a part of life ... In those days death was common among infants and young children in general, and it was not regarded with the same concern that it is today. It wasn't that people were mean about it, they were just more honest. In other words, deaths of infants and children were almost expected. Causes of death among slave children in particular were never noted or studied during that time, although looking back one can speculate that tuberculosis, pneumonia, and other diseases and childbirth complications common to that era for all children may have been the cause. We must bear in mind that penicillin was not available until after WWII.

"Death was all a part of life ..." and probably will be again.

A few months old, but still relevant:
‘The Post-Antibiotic Era’ Is Upon Us, Warns WHO

The antibiotic issue is particularly scary. The worst part is that we could probably have avoided it and perhaps would even be okay if there was a strong push for new antibiotic research. The thing is, the drugmakers won't bother to research them unless somebody else is paying - the potential for profit just doesn't compare to Viagra. But even if they do, if we keep doing stupid things we will end up back at square one very quickly.

Sometimes I think we're just too stupid to live. Really, feeding antibiotics to livestock so they bulk up faster?

Yeah, I've got a brother-in-law who raises cattle. He, of course, denies that there is any problem with feeding antibiotics to livestock. Even with the most careful use of antibiotics, we probably would have eventually lost them (evolution grinds on, sooner or later). And with reduced usage they would have been more expensive and drug companies would have had even less incentive to find new ones. Civilization can go on without antibiotics (if something else doesn't end it first); the demographic revolution started well before the development of antibiotics. Epidemics of bacterial disease (plague, anyone?) could be nasty, but good public health practices would help mitigate such threats (and antibiotics have never helped with viral epidemics). I hope that public health measures can be sustained even if liquid fuels become scarce (Cuba seems to have been able to do so), but I think that requires stable populations and conditions. And if things really start falling apart, production and distribution of antibiotics will suffer.

In most cases the mutation that gives a bacteria resistance to a particular antibiotic has negative consequences for the bacterias viability -just not as great as not having it when the antibiotic is present. So if a given antibiotic has stopped being used, Darwin will de-evolve the resistance for us. Having a few antibiotics available against a given bacteria, and rotating which one is currently used as the bacteria adapt, could allow them to be effective indefinitely. So the key is having a reasonable number of effective choices, careful usage, and drug switching with time.

I know that's the theory. The antibiotic resistance genes seem to jump between "species" a lot, spreading pretty easily. Are we really sure that those genes would be culled out by selection faster than they would be selected for by use of antibiotics? I think we would have eventually seen antibiotic resistance develop that had very little negative consequences for the bacteria. Natural selection is very powerful. I suspect we could have strung out the effectiveness of antibiotics for a couple of centuries if we had been very careful with them, but I doubt they would have been effective for ever.

I suspect we could have strung out the effectiveness of antibiotics for a couple of centuries if we had been very careful with them, but I doubt they would have been effective for ever.

I don't think that one can be answered except in the rearview mirror (which requires a time machine). Clearly the more antibiotics to choose from the better the odds (and the longer the timespan before they become ineffective). How many we would need. I don't know if we can answer that one.

Another thing that can happen over long spans of time, are that pathogens can evolve into symbiots, or vice-versa. I no longer think of humans as distinct lifeforms, each of us is an ecology, containing thousands of types of micro-organisms, with the "human" cells being outnumbered.

It's Us or the Nukes

... Congressman Dennis Kucinich is hosting a Congressional briefing, Thursday, September 20, 2012, on the medical effects of radiation exposure, and the health threats presented by our nation's nuclear power plants, nuclear fleet, and the on-going tragedy in Fukushima, Japan. There will be expert testimony from Physicians for Social Responsibility and others.

There is an ongoing nuclear disaster in Japan that has displaced hundreds of thousands of people. Prior to this disaster, the regulators in Japan said they had all safety measures possible in place. Our Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has said the same thing about our 104 aging nuclear power plants, 23 of which have the same flawed design as in Fukushima.

Georgia officials give drought the silent treatment

Depending on whom you ask, Georgia is doing fine, or it's suffering from historic drought.

Georgians have gotten a swift education: Since 1999, the state has spent more years in drought than in normal conditions. Federal maps show that more than half of Georgia is now in extreme or exceptional drought, at a time when 70% of the country is experiencing abnormal aridity.

Environmentalists, scientists and farmers point to places like the Flint, as well as reservoir levels and stream and rainfall data as proof of drought. Republican Gov. Nathan Deal and much of the business community contend that there is no drought. Unlike his predecessor, Deal has yet to declare one.

The state's resistance to more drastic measures stems from its desire to protect its business-friendly image, critics say. "Atlanta is the brightest symbol of the 'New South,' and the Southern miracle depends on the use of natural resources," said Gordon Rogers, executive director of Flint Riverkeeper, an environmental group. "And the key resource is water."

Another move that critics say betrays a pro-business approach to the water issue is Deal's annexation of the state climatologist's office into his administration from its historical perch at the University of Georgia. Some contend that the shift limits the office's independence and is part of the administration's broader effort to play down the drought.

... kinda like sea-level in N.Carolina

Oil Tumbles in New York, Reversing Earlier 0.5% Advance

Oil declined the most in eight weeks after dropping $2.67 a barrel in six minutes during the last 30 minutes of floor trading.

Crude for October delivery fell $2.38, or 2.4 percent, to settle at $96.62 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The price fell to $94.65 at 2:09 p.m. from $97.32 at 2:03 p.m. on a surge in volume.

Ah, the workings of the "free" market. One wonders which "Invisible Hand" pulled what levers...

E. Swanson

Inside info on SPR release?
Speculation on my part.

It is almost certain that Obama will release the US SPR and Europe will probably do the same...

I would expect an SPR release as part of an "October Surprise". Maybe this speculation is the result of initial efforts to put the release in motion very rapidly, once the surprise is revealed. That would fit with recent reports of unusual Israeli military movements...

E. Swanson

Oil industry consensus is a fallacy, says Report into crude oil prices

Oil prices are likely to rise sharply from 2015, surpassing $150 a barrel in 2019 and 2020, Bernstein Research said, in a report at odds with a growing oil industry consensus that says rising supplies of unconventional oil will moderate prices.

The 180-page report from Bernstein estimates Brent will rise from an average $113 in 2015 to $158 in 2020, with US crude priced at a $5 discount, almost doubling the price of oil since Brent averaged $80 a barrel in 2010...

The report forecast oil markets will be balanced for the next two years, kept in check by price elasticity as higher prices erode demand and lower prices shut in supply. But in the second half of the decade it says demand will rise, non-Opec supply will fall and Opec spare capacity will drop.

I find this extremely interesting. The traders, or speculators, are wrong. They think oil prices will drop because "unconventional oil" will increase and drive prices down. But Bernstein Research says it ain't gonna happen, non-Opec supply has peaked, or is peaking and will fall. OPEC spare capacity will drop.

I disagree. OPEC spare capacity is now zero and cannot drop. Every OPEC nation is now producing flat out. And there is likely that OPEC production has peaked, or very near their peak. And as the report said non-OPEC production is very mature and about to decline. Peak oil is very likely in the rear view mirror.

And backing up this line of thought:

Conventional wisdom about unconventional oil is probably wrong

Then in its 2010 World Energy Outlook, the International Energy Agency announced that the peak in the rate of production of conventional oil had already arrived, probably in 2006. There was some good news, however. Production of so-called "unconventional oil" would grow considerably over the coming decades and allow total oil production to rise.

And... they were wrong.

Ron P.

Ron – Amazing isn’t how “they” always ignore the decline rates of the unconventional wells. It's as though they think the Eagle Ford et al “fields”, with their billions of bbls, are similar to Ghawar et al: the wells have been drilled and will keep pumping out for decades. Obviously they are trends where each individual well acts more like an individual field. Even the Texas RRC has the EFS divided into about 20 “fields” which are really just a geographic classification and not geologic. There are not a dozen or so shale fields…there are thousands of shale :fields" drilled every year. And many come on at high rates but decline to relatively low rates in just a few years.

Thus the future development of unconventional oil will depend upon how many fields (read: wells) are left to drill. There's also a question of whether most of the better fields (wells) have already been drilled. After all, that has been the nature of every oil play ever developed: the bigger fields are discovered early with the smaller percentile coming later. It’s still a bit early but the decline in the first 12 cumulative production of the Bakken and EFS may be indicative of this characteristic.

And the one last indisputable fact: there's a finite number of unconventional drill sites in the US. And some have been already been drilled up for the most part. At one time the horizontal Austin Chalk (a shale made of limestone) was the hottest play in the country. Search for a map of the “Giddings Field” and see how many counties it covers…a wide swatch even by Texas standards. And now it’s just a fond memory with little production and a very few drill sites left.

Thanks to high oil prices the Bakken, EFS et al are viable trends today and will recover a large amount of oil. But one day there will be very few new “fields” in these trends left to drill. And the “fields” developed just a short time before this day comes will be producing at stripper levels…unlike the majority which will have been plugged by this time. I won’t be around to see it but I wouldn’t be shocked to see Ghawar one day producing more oil than all the US oil shales combined.

Important points. Shale with oil (like Austin Chalk) seems to have enough oil in drillable 'hot spots' in a only a limited number of places. How do they find the hot spots? Do they keep drilling new locations until the ratio of 'finds' to dry wells goes down and searching becomes prohibitively expensive? Widespread oil throughout a formation is not a lot of use unless sufficient oil is pooled in places for a drillwell plus fractures to collect and extract?
Bakken could be like Austin Chalk?

phil - "Shale with oil (like Austin Chalk) seems to have enough oil in drillable "hot spots" in a only a limited number of places." Not at all with respect to the AC. The link below focuses on the comparison of the AC to the Barnett Shale but it's also applicable to all the shale trends. From 2006:


"A decade ago, the Giddings Field in the Austin Chalk limestone formation was the Barnett Shale of its day: Texas’ leading energy producer and the talk of the industry. From 1993 to 1997, the field led Texas in production of natural gas and crude oil, an unprecedented double. Giddings’ biggest operator, Union Pacific Resources of Fort Worth, produced more natural gas in 1996 and 1997 than Exxon, Conoco, Shell or Enron."

"But today, the Giddings Field serves as a cautionary tale for the boomtown euphoria that has settled over the Barnett Shale around Fort Worth, where production has doubled since 2002. Natural-gas production from Giddings has fallen from a state-leading 294 billion cubic feet in 1996, to 60.6 billion cubic feet last year. Oil production from Giddings has also dropped, from a state-best peak of 32 million barrels in 1993, to 6.1 million barrels last year."

“The sharp decline in the Giddings Field shouldn’t have been a surprise...The Austin Chalk limestone in the Giddings is naturally fractured, or cracked. So when you drill, the early oil and gas production comes up quickly but sandstones. A shale is more of a solid rock"

Your questions:

Do they keep drilling new locations until the ratio of 'finds' to dry wells goes down and searching becomes prohibitively expensive? Yes and often, in the case of public companies, they'll keep drilling for the sake of adding reserves if not profit.

How do they find the hot spots? I was very involved in the early days of the vert well boom in the AC. Some folks developed geophysical models that made some sense for spotting location. But in the end operators, during the horizontal phase, just drilled hz legs from NW to SE on every lease they owned. And they did this as fast as possible. I've seen maps over sections of the field (again a trend and not a "field") where every legally spaced location was drilled...hundreds of wells looking like an army of worms marching in perfect formation to the SE. Most locations weren't picked by geologists but by landmen who understood the lease positions.

Bakken could be like Austin Chalk? Similar IMHO but the other shale trends are better analogies. The Bakken does have, in some areas, better quality reservoir rock that is apparently being drained by the fractures. OTOH it's still fracture production and thus suffers similar depletion dynamics as all fractured reservoirs.

Back to the above statement: "Austin Chalk limestone formation was the Barnett Shale of its day". And how much do you hear about the Barnett Shale these days? Mostly short notes from westexas and Art about how poorly the BS delivered compared to the numbers Chesapeake et al originally claimed. So maybe the Marcellus, Fayetteville, et al and, even perhaps the Bakken, will prove to be Austin Chalks of their day. Easy to imagine: fractured shale plays are nothing new in the US. They have been heavily drilled for over 30 years. Thus there is a fairly well established track record for these types of plays.

Yes, some places companies have drilled every possible place whether it made in any sense geologically or not.

I once worked for a medium-size public company which was trying to emulate another medium-size public company. We called them a "land aeration company" because they drilled like a lawn aeration company. They started at the southeast corner of a field and drilled until they got to the northwest corner, filling in all the gaps. Then the cranked up the pumps until the rpm exceeded manufacturers specifications. The pumps didn't last long, but they go the oil out faster. The stock market loved them and they were the darlings of the investment community for some years.

Eventually the old reserves replacement problem caught up to them and they fell off the oil decline treadmill - they couldn't find prospects to replace all the oil they were producing. They were absorbed by a bigger and more conservative company.

Eventually my company fell off the treadmill, too. I saw it coming because I was extracting the database numbers for the Annual Report and noticed we were abandoning more wells than we were drilling. And sure enough, about a week after I had finished the Annual Report and turned it into the Finance Department, the Outplacement Consultant came around with my generous severance check. It might have been a problem for next year's Annual Report because I was the only one who knew how to run the extracts, but I don't think they were planning that far ahead.

The moral of this story is that the investors in the much-hyped Bakken play should worry about what happens when the production decline treadmill starts running too fast for the companies they are investing in. The employees just need to put as much of their wages in safe (i.e. non-oil industry) investments as they can, because they may need the money in the not too distant future.

Rocky - I haven't heard the term recently but isn't "winner's remorse" what we tossed about back in the day? A good example was ARCO's share of the Prudhoe Bay Field discovery. ARCO geologists: YAHOO...we hit it big!!! ARCO CEO: Crap! We'll never be able to replace the produced reserves from PBF with new discoveries.

I recall many years ago hearing the CEO of ARCO explain why they spent $billions looking for another PBF in order to maintain reserve growth. In the end he realized how foolish the effort was: finding the PBF wasn't a once-in-a-life time event but a once-in-many-lifetimes event. It just wasn't going to happen and ARCO would never be able to replace all the produced PBF reserves with new reserves.

The Prudhoe Bay Field is a classic example of an outlier

In statistics, an outlier is an observation that is numerically distant from the rest of the data. Grubbs defined an outlier as:

An outlying observation, or outlier, is one that appears to deviate markedly from other members of the sample in which it occurs.

PB was the largest oil field ever found in the US, but there is only one PBF in the US. Looking for more proved conclusively that there aren't any.

The Canadian government spent billions of dollars looking for a PBF on the Canadian side of the Arctic on the assumption that there must be more than one. They discovered that there is nothing even remotely similar in Canada. It was a complete waste of taxpayers money, and after drilling all the prospects, the companies they were subsidizing went down in flames, almost taking the banks with them. It was a real learning experience for all concerned and many people became wiser but poorer for it - except for people in Eastern Canada who don't know what happened and are just poorer for it.

If you are an oil company CEO or owner, the thing to do when you hit something big beyond your wildest expectations is to sell it to an older, established company with experience in managing mature fields, buy a mansion on some scenic tropical island with no taxes or extradition treaties, and retire. Many old oil men have made that decision, and are living tax-free on their millions or billions while others have gone bankrupt.

One possibility for increasing recovery from unconventional plays is repeating the fracturing when decline has hit hard. Some engineers I have talked to believe re-fracking a well will open new fractures rather than just reopening the ones which have been depleted, but I don't know whether this has ever been tried. It would be as expensive as the original fracking, but I imagine would be less effective, so high oil (or gas) prices would be needed.

Has anyone heard of repeat fracking in unconventional plays?

Well, fracking is not in my estimation an "unconventional" technique because we have been using it in Canada on conventional wells for over 50 years.

You get a "sawtooth" production graph, but each time you frac a well the new production rate is much lower than the previous time. Eventually the incremental production doesn't pay for the frac job, so beyond that point you simply give up and follow the production curve down.

Ird - Actually that's not a new idea. Years ago they began re-frac'ng Barnett Shale wells. I don't recall the numbers in detail but they were often economic successes. But those efforts typically yielded less production than the original completion. The cost of the re-frac was significantly less than the original investment: leases, drilling and casing the well, surface production equipment and pipeline connections. Thus not a lot of new production was needed to make the effort worthwhile. Also consider that it would cost an operator from $3,000 to $10,000 to plug and abandon a well. Better to make a little money than lose some.

In Alberta, the costs to plug and abandon a well, plus reclaim the lease and access roads to environmental standards were around $15,000 to $35,000, so we'd try to avoid it as long as possible.

OTOH, the government monitored the production of all the wells (I take it Texas monitors production by lease rather than well) and if there was no production for too long, we'd get an "Order to Abandon" from the government. So we'd look at the well and either plead for more time to do some work on it to get it producing again, or abandon it.

Sometimes we'd send a "Proposal to Abandon" letter on a well to partners to motivate them, particularly if the costs were exceeding the value of production. We'd never send out a "Notice to Abandon" it because that would commit us to abandonment. Sometimes they would get quite creative about what might be done with it, like taking 100% ownership and paying all the costs themselves. That got us out from under the abandonment costs.

Rocky - Yes...in Texas it's by the lease and not the well. But leases are typically written that if there is no commercial production for 30 days it expires. Of course that leads to some operators turning a well on for one day a month. We can also pay "shut in royalties" to keep a lease alive.

I have seen a few posts commenting on how Iraq may be able to significantly increase production (enough to even offset decline). Could someone more informed then me please fill me in on the likelihood of this?


Provided geopolitical events do not interfere Iraq should be able to get their production up to 5 Mb/d. Beyond this I am doubtful. There is a loose relationship between the amount of recoverable oil in the ground and the maximum rate of production. If Iraq has a URR less than 100 billion barrels, then they will be unlikely to get production above 5 Mb/d.

There have been many articles published questioning the ability of Iraq to significantly increase oil production. This article from Forbes is one of the best.

Iraq's Rise To No. 2 Oil Producer In OPEC Is Bad News For World

Put all that together, and Iraq will struggle to nudge output towards 4mb/d over the next few years, let alone hitting 5, 6, or 7mb/d over the next decade. As for 12mb/d production targets by 2017 as a the new ‘swing producer’, forget it. Iraq has squeezed out all it can from its older fields; any further gains will be attritional, at best. The upshot is that we’re left with the same oil market equation we’ve had for decades: Saudi Arabia and Russia are simply too big to fail. No one, least of all Iraq is going to change that anytime soon when it rejoins OPEC quotas in 2014. It’s therefore all the more disturbing that the IEA are pinning their main global supply growth hopes on Iraq over the next decade.

Ron P.

Saudis offer extra oil to control prices

Saudi Arabia has offered its main customers in the US, Europe and Asia extra oil supplies through the end of the year, a sign the world's largest exporter is worried about the impact of rising prices on the global economy............

The nation last month produced 9.9m b/d, but the senior official said that Riyadh was now again pumping around 10m b/d. "We are consulting our clients about their oil needs and telling them we are ready to supply more," the senior official said.


Tony - Another one of those spin stories that I find increasingly irritating. "We are consulting our clients about their oil needs and telling them we are ready to supply more...They supplied a little less when prices dropped to $90 over the summer and they will supply more now that prices are above $115...Saudi Arabia wants to reduce prices while avoiding an open confrontation with Iran."

The KSA sets the price of oil...not the market place. OK...they say they are ready to supply buyers more oil...but at what price? If the KSA has the capability to put an extra few million bbls/day into the market today their buyers can make the increased purchases now...if the pay the KSA its posted prices. That's how the KSA sells its oil: they post a price and buyers who can afford to pay it request an allocation. The KSA can drop the posted price of their oil to $100/bbl tomorrow if they chose to. Naturally every buyer would jump at that deal. ghat is every buyer who can afford $100/bbl...many still couldn't. And if the other exporters don't want to lose market share they'll have to reduce their prices. If they don't buyers will go to the KSA which would have the option to raise output or not. Of course, if the KSA doesn't increase production to meet the $100/bbl demand non-end user buyers could their oil, mark it up and resell. But the KSA decides who buys their oil...they are not obligated to sell one bbl to anyone they chose not to. So they could simply limit their sales to end users.

As the KSA repeated claims: the market is well supplied. And always will be IMHO for some time: every buyer who can afford to pay the market price of oil, be it $95 or $120 will have all the oil they want...if they can afford that price. In reality the higher the price of oil goes the better supplied the market is: at $150/bbl the market would be flooded with available oil since the list of potential buyers would shrink considerably.

Spin or fact, only time will tell.

Are you claiming that Saudi Arabia will not 'supply' more oil in the near term ?

Tony - That's my point. If you believe the KSA has additional production capacity (either from the well head or storage) they can supply more oil to the market at any time they chose. The question is at what price? The KSA is supplying every buyer with all the oil they want today...at the current price. In essence saying the KSA can or will "supply the market with more oil" is rather meaningless unless one attaches the price of oil to that statement. The KSA is supplying all the oil the current buyers can afford to buy. Thus the truth to their statement: "The market is well supplied". That obviously doesn't mean all the buyers are getting all the oil they would like to have. IOW the KSA has more than double the capacity to supply the world with the oil it wants to buy...at $150+/bbl. But is it capable of supplying all the potential buyers of $50/bbl oil? I seriously doubt it....demand would greatly exceed production capacity. IMHO any discussion about "supplying oil" is meaningless unless the price factor is included.

The article cited did not discuss hypotheticals.

The source is not more pumping but cooler weather. High of 96 F (36 C) predicted for Riyadh by Sept. 26th.

Less oil burned to keep cool means extra oil for exports.


Yes, they did say 'supply' and of course extra 'supply' could come from lower consumption, drawdown of inventory or increased production.

Do you know wherefrom the extra supply will come ?

Al-Falih WPC interview: the petroleum industry "Renaissance" and the future of energy

"How much liquid fuel is being burnt, particularly in the peak summer months?"

"It is less than some numbers that have been publicized erroneously. I do not know where the data came from. I have seen 900,000 barrels per day and 1 million barrels per day, which are absolutely incorrect. I believe 500,000 barrels per day is in the range of the annual average crude oil being burned for power generation."


500,000 barrels per day is in the range of the annual average crude oil being burned for power generation.

Since they burn NG first, zero (or almost zero) for the winter months (except on the coldest nights, when NG is diverted to home & business heating).

and this "jives" with the maximum of 1.5 million b/day at the peak of summer.

Only 106 F (41 C) today , dropping to 104 F (40 C) the rest of the week and 96 F (36 C) by Sept. 26.

Yes, more oil to export soon.


Two stories from today's drumbeat:

The world's leading oil exporter burned an average of 743,500 barrels per day (bpd) of crude in June and July, up 82,000 bpd from the same months last year, mainly to make electricity to keep the population cool, data issued under the Joint Oil Data Initiative (JODI) showed on Wednesday.

That one doesn't 'jive' with your 1.5 million bpd or Al-Falih's interview. The source of your misinformation is, I believe, that the 1.5 million bpd is oil 'equivalents and oil derivatives which includes ng and bunker fuel. Saudi Arabia has been known to purchase residual(bunker fuel) in the past.


Gas from the offshore field will be processed at the Khursaniyah plant through three new production lines, known as trains, each with a capacity of 600m cubic ft per day (cfd).

Production from that project will presumably reduce crude oil consumption.

I definitely agree with the second point.

On the first, my source was a newspaper run by a member of the Dubai royal family in UAE. Occasionally, they get unique insight into Aramco. That article (did not save link) was speaking of August 2011 and included all types of oil - crude, bunker oils & distillates - burned for electricity and desalinization (the two are coupled in KSA).


Every OPEC nation is now producing flat out.

Then you expect Saudi production to decline to ~ 9 million bpd before Manifa is brought into production next year ?

Just trying understand the arithmetic.

Tony, no arithmetic whatsoever is required to understand my statement. You simply failed to understand what the word "now" means. What happens when Manifa comes on line is another story. But Manifa is not on line right now.

Ron P.

Except for the arithmetic of decline.

Let me rephase the question. What do you expect will happen to Saudi oil production over the next year or so ?

Sidenote - I have understood and spoken the english language for going on 60 years now, therefore, I know what the word now means. What a rediculous claim.

I know you know what the word "now" means, I was just being sarcastic because my statement had nothing to do with the future as your post implied it did. I apologize for the sarcasm but I was just a little irritated that such a simple statement could be misinterpreted.

That being said, Aramco has managed to keep production steady by bringing on new oil, or old mothballed fields back on line. That is about to run out. Manifa is the last one and they have nothing else coming down the pike except one very small project in the Neutral Zone. Manifa, contrary to what has been published in the past is not due to come on line with Phase 1 until 2015. That will bring 300 kb/d on line, then Phase 2 in 2016 with another 300 kb/d and Phase 3 in 2017 with another 300 kb/d. And yes I expect current production to be down by at least 900 kb/d by 2017, five years from now.

I think the delay has something to do with their finishing the refinery to process heavy oil which is also contaminated with vanadium. However I am not sure about that.

Wikipedia Megaprojects

Edit: Wikipedia Megaprojects was updated on:

This page was last modified on 8 August 2012 at 12:54.

Which is at the very bottom of the page. People confuse the update with the 2010 date at the top of the page which apparently is when the software was last updated. Anyway that date simply confuses things and should be removed.

Ron P.

I based that timeline on Saudi Aramco's Annual Review.


When the development is finished in June2013, it will include 41 kilometers of causeways,three kilometers of bridges, 27 drilling islands, 13 offshore platforms, 15 onshore drill sites, water supply wells, injection facilities, multiple pipelines and a 420 megawatt heat and electricity plant. By the time it is fully operational in December 2014, the Manifa Field is expected to produce 900,000 bpd of Arabian Heavy crude oil, 90 million scfd of sour gas, and 65,000 bpd of hydrocarbon condensate.

Rapid urban expansion threatens biodiversity: study

A brief window of opportunity exists to shape the development of cities globally before a boom in infrastructure construction transforms urban land cover, according to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The growth in urban areas will coincide with the construction of roads and buildings, water and sanitation facilities, and energy and transport systems that will transform land cover and cities globally. Recent estimates suggest that between $25 trillion and $30 trillion will be spent on infrastructure worldwide by 2030, with $100 billion a year in China alone.

"Given the long life and near irreversibility of infrastructure investments, it will be critical for current urbanization-related policies to consider their lasting impacts," ...

Urban expansion will have significant impacts on biodiversity hotspots around the world. "We need to rethink conservation policies and what it means to be a sustainable city," said Burak Güneralp, the study's second author and research assistant professor at Texas A&M University. "It's not all about carbon footprint, which is what mayors and planners typically think about now, but we need to consider how urban expansion will have implications for other, nonhuman species and the value of these species for present and future generations."

Report: Global forecasts of urban expansion to 2030 and direct impacts on biodiversity and carbon pools

Another reason to dump the car ...

Risk of developing diabetes higher in neighborhoods that aren't walk-friendly

Researchers found this risk was particularly high for new immigrants living in low-income neighbourhoods. A new immigrant living in a less walkable neighbourhood – fewer destinations within a 10-minute walk, lower residential density, poorly connected streets – was about 50 per cent more likely to develop diabetes when compared to long-term residents living in the most walkable areas, regardless of neighbourhood income.

Dr. Booth said neighbourhoods that were the least walkable were often newly developed areas – characterized by urban sprawl – in part because of the reliance on cars caused by suburban design.

Probably related:

Obesity More Common Among Rural Residents Than Urban Counterparts, Study Finds

ScienceDaily — A new study finds that Americans living in rural areas are more likely to be obese than city dwellers. Published in the National Rural Health Association's Fall 2012 Journal of Rural Health, the study indicates that residential location may play an important role in the obesity epidemic.

As with the new slogan, 'Sitting is the new Smoking'

Interesting data point...

In ‘Obesity Paradox,’ Thinner May Mean Sicker

One study found that heavier dialysis patients had a lower chance of dying than those whose were of normal weight or underweight. Overweight patients with coronary disease fared better than those who were thinner in another study; mild to severe obesity posed no additional mortality risks.

In 2007, a study of 11,000 Canadians over more than a decade found that those who were overweight had the lowest chance of dying from any cause.

To date, scientists have documented these findings in patients with heart failure, heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, high blood pressure — and now diabetes.

I don't think we have a clue yet what's going on, but research so far suggests that fitness is more important than weight or body fat.

Had Rosh Hashanah dinner with two other families last night, both the other dads dealing with high Cholesterol, both very lean, as I bumbled along through the meal slathering butter on my Challah bread, and they demurred.

I'm not surprised that heavier people have more 'resources' so to speak, with which to deal with disease. It ain't called 'padding' for nothing.

But walking is still essential for us fatty acids, as well. (I would be called 'stocky' I think, except by my wife's job's wellness officers, who call anyone who is not a railpost 'Obese'..)

Higher levels of BPA in children and teens significantly associated with obesity

Researchers at NYU School of Medicine have revealed a significant association between obesity and children and adolescents with higher concentrations of urinary bisphenol A (BPA), a synthetic chemical recently banned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from sippy cups and baby bottles. Still, the chemical continues to be used in aluminum cans, such as those containing soda.

Manufacturers say it provides an antiseptic function, but studies have shown the chemical disrupts multiple mechanisms of human metabolism that may increase body mass. BPA exposure has also been associated with cardiovascular disease, breast cancer, prostate cancer, neurological disorders, diabetes and infertility.


Yet I heard NPR working this thread today, and all the check and countercheck on this idea was locked into the need to prove this as some kind of monolithic cause.. as if by disproving the correlation for some part of it, the alarm can then be silenced.

When my wife and I were looking at BPA and a couple other chems some years back, we came across the 'Hundred Year Lie', http://www.hundredyearlie.com/ (sorry for the tone of his site.. pretty cheezy) which follows many threads of the chemicals we have subjected ourselves and our kids to (frequently under the guise of "Nutrition") .. and one of his most ardent points was that as much as we want to find individual scapegoats for these maladies we've wrought, we've barely scratched the surface of the compounding effects of the multitude of chemicals and weird substitute foods and lifestyle materials that we take in every day. (.. and we still don't walk enough, on top of it all!)

In 2007, a study of 11,000 Canadians over more than a decade found that those who were overweight had the lowest chance of dying from any cause.

Clue! Maybe they don't get stressed out over not having health care in Canada?!

Sorry for the sarc. Good friend of mine just got diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. He's only 52, never smoked and was apparently physically fit. He worked as a self employed handyman... didn't have health insurance.

Fukushima Mutant Butterflies Confirm Harm from Low-Dose Radiation

Radiation from the Fukushima fallout caused physiological and genetic damage to the pale grass blue butterfly Zizeeria maha, concludes a research team at the University of the Ryukyus, Okinawa, Japan, whose results were published online in August 2013 [1].

Adult butterflies in the fallout area collected in May 2011 showed relatively mild abnormalities that became more severe and doubled in frequency in the next generation. These severe abnormalities were inherited, as shown by breeding from the deformed butterflies.

Adult butterflies collected from the same fallout area in September 2011 showed more severe abnormalities than those collected in May.

Similar abnormalities were experimentally reproduced by exposing larvae from a non-contaminated area to radiation externally or internally.

The Dragons of Inaction: Psychological Barriers That Limit Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation

... Although many individuals are engaged in some ameliorative action, most could do more, but they are hindered by seven categories of psychological barriers, or “dragons of inaction”: limited cognition about the problem, ideological worldviews that tend to preclude pro-environmental attitudes and behavior, comparisons with key other people, sunk costs and behavioral momentum, discredence toward experts and authorities, perceived risks of change, and positive but inadequate behavior change. Structural barriers must be removed wherever possible, but this is unlikely to be sufficient. Psychologists must work with other scientists, technical experts, and policymakers to help citizens overcome these psychological barriers.

New book by Andrew Nikiforuk, "The Energy of Slaves"

A few interviews and reviews...

Andrew Nikiforuk denounces the Energy of Slaves Toronto Star
REVIEW: The Energy of Slaves: Oil and the New Servitude Maclean's
Calgary author draws parallels between human slavery and current energy use openfile.ca

And a book launch in Toronto.

State of the Climate - Global Analysis - August 2012

Considering global land surfaces only, June–August 2012 was record warm, at 1.03°C (1.85°F) above average. The highest anomalies occurred across parts of the Northern Hemisphere, including most of the contiguous United States and Canada, southern and eastern Europe, Kazakhstan, and eastern Siberia. Even with cooler-than-average temperatures in Alaska and northern Europe, the Northern Hemisphere observed its all-time warmest summer on record. And even with below-average temperatures across much of southern South America and northern and eastern Australia, the Southern Hemisphere observed its tenth warmest winter on record.

It's well past time we acted?

Talking about the state of the climate, let's get a geographic understanding of how much 2012's ice extent is less than 2007's record.

Here's a graph at NSIDC:

Looking at the numbers at left, it appears the melt right now is at about 3370k kilometers. 2007's record was 4170k, for a difference of ~800,000 sq. kilometers.

Here's a link showing the size of different US states in miles and kilometers: http://www.enchantedlearning.com/usa/states/area.shtml

The reduced ice extent for 2012 exceeded the 2007 record by an area approx. equal to Texas (695k) and Kentucky (104k)!

Stop peddling your so-called "science" and "facts". We Uh-murikans trust our GUT. And our GUT tells us you whiny Chicken Little libuhrals hate our Freedom and want the economy to fail. And all that "evidence" you keep pushing is a bunch of greedy scientists cooking up fake numbers so they can get fat research grants by scaring the rest of us.

At least half of the U.S. wholeheartedly agrees with the above, and most of the other half aren't sure.

From The Globe and Mail: Oil Makes Its Rail Connection

Canada's oil patch is quietly sending large new volumes of oil on rail cars, even as it fights to overcome opposition to plans for new pipelines to the U.S. Gulf Coast and Canada's West Coast.

"...an analysis of whether the current unrest in the Middle East makes it more or less likely the U.S. will intervene in the worsening crisis in Syria."
"Conflict will go on for months if not years."

Firing of inert/practice chemical weapons shells in Syria

Anti-Japan protests reignite across China on occupation anniversary

Well-known Japanese firms have been targeted by protesters, with car makers Toyota Motor Corp and Honda Motor Co halting some operations after attacks on their outlets.

Other Japanese companies -- from Mazda and Mitsubishi Motors to Panasonic and Fast Retailing -- also shut plants and stores in China, sending Japanese share prices falling and prompting a warning from credit rating agency Fitch that the situation could hurt some auto and tech firms' creditworthiness.

Japan's top general retailer, Seven & I Holdings said it will resume business at all its 13 Ito Yokado supermarkets and 198 "7-11" convenience stores in the cities of Beijing and Chengdu on Wednesday.

Some firms recalled workers back to Japan due to the unrest.

"The situation on the ground in China is not so good and I was advised by the locals not to go out. I couldn't get any work done," Japanese expatriate worker Hisato Takase said on arrival at Tokyo's Haneda airport.

Japanese restaurants, a common target of protesters, barred their doors while many Japanese expatriates stayed home.

Chinese assail Japan over island dispute; Japan shuts down plants

Some are blaming the US as well:

Some protesters vented anger at the United States for boosting its military presence in East Asia, a move they say emboldened Japan and other countries to be more assertive in staking rights to territory also claimed by China. Members of Japan's conservative opposition are calling for the government to get tough with China.

Still escalating:

"This is really a turning point in the bilateral relationship," said Wang Zheng, who researches China's external conflicts with neighboring countries, at Seton Hall University, N.J. "Mutual hostility is really increased in both countries and the room for flexibility is very limited," he said. The imminent arrival of about 1,000 Chinese fishing boats, now heading to the islands' waters, makes a collision or conflict with Japanese patrol boats hard to avoid, Wang said.

From Chatham House: South China Sea: Dispute Deteriorating

Hitoshi Tanaka on Japan/China Territorial Disputes:

There is growing frustration in Japan over China's 'aggressive' position on the South China Sea dispute, said Japan's former deputy foreign minister, Hitoshi Tanaka. ...

Transcript - Hitoshi Tanaka

Transcript - Hitoshi Tanaka Q&A

PodCast: Hitoshi Tanaka on Japan: Bridging East Asia with the Rest of the World (Click to download)

Beijing Hints at Bond Attack on Japan

A senior advisor to the Chinese government has called for an attack on the Japanese bond market to precipitate a funding crisis and bring the country to its knees, unless Tokyo reverses its decision to nationalise the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea.

... it worked on the U.S. (see China threat to Fed during 2008 banking collapse)

Japan is in decline, but they have not accepted that yet so it could be dangerous. They've been in trouble economically for some time, and the costs of the nuclear disaster have only just begun to be recognized.

... it worked on the U.S. (see China threat to Fed during 2008 banking collapse)

Could you explain that one please? I just can't keep up with all the conspiracy theories these days.

This is a most interesting article. We may hit peak oil but there is really no way we will ever hit peak oil because it is all about politics and geography, not oil.

Has Unconventional Oil Production Peaked?

Before any peak oilers reading this article get excited, the ‘peak’ here is in no way geological. We have more than enough hydrocarbons riddling the earth’s crust to incinerate ourselves eight times over. Rather, the peak might be geopolitical.

Even when we do hit peak oil the peak oil deniers still have an out.

Head down to Brazil, and the scale of pre-salt finds have been enormous for Petrobras (700 million barrels in the Campos Basin alone).

Wow! That would supply the world for all of 8 days. Yes that is enormous. These reporters tell it like it is.

Ron P.

Ron - "Head down to Brazil, and the scale of pre-salt finds have been enormous for Petrobras (700 million barrels in the Campos Basin alone)." It really doesn't matter how many times you explain to these folks that PO has nothing to do with reserve volumes and is all about rates. And if they can't understand that simple concept how could they understand ELM and the possibility that Bz may never be a net oil exporter regardless of how much oil they have in their DW play?

Or the fact that Brazil don't want to export any oil, they want to burn it at home to fuel an industrial 1:st world economy. And if they just get enough oil out of the ground, they are on their way to achieve just that.

There's a very interesting logical trick in those two sentences - the author starts by talking about "peak oil" in the first sentence, and then changes the topic to "hydrocarbons" in the second.

The difference is significant. "Hydrocarbons" includes coal and natural gas. Unbeknownst to most people, there are huge reserves of coal in the Arctic - Alaska has more coal than the lower 48, and Arctic Canada has more coal than Alaska. There are also huge amounts of natural gas in the Arctic, especially Russia, but surprisingly little oil. Thus the statement is technically correct, but deliberately misleading. Coal is not oil and all that Arctic coal will probably never be produced.

In addition, the headline refers to "unconventional oil" but the body of the article talks almost exclusively about conventional oil - only the Canadian oil sands are unconventional, Arctic and deep water offshore oil are conventional. So, again it is technically correct but misleading.

The curve for Canadian oil sands is on a slow but steady rise, and the peak is some decades in the future - although it will peak eventually. This does not help the world oil situation, though, because Canadian oil sands will never represent more than a fraction of world oil production. It is simply too difficult economically and politically to make the operations big enough to get production up to Saudi Arabia levels. "Unconventional oil" will just put a "fat tail" on the world oil production decline curve. I'm doing some reading on "fat tails" at the moment to get a feel for it.

The "fat tail" will be on the end of the global production decline curve, so unconventional oil production will eventually exceed conventional production - but only because conventional production has fallen so low.

"Head down to Brazil, and the scale of pre-salt finds have been enormous for Petrobras (700 million barrels in the Campos Basin alone)."

So the whole basin has 700 million? Big whoop. Even Prudhoe, far down the decline curve, still has by most estimates about 1 billion bbls, more or less, which will be produced before shutdown. Campos ain't gonna save us.

Big whoop

My reaction, too. That's about 8 days of global oil consumption.

If it was a new onshore field in the US, it might be exciting for a while, at least for Americans. A deep water offshore field with very high capital costs and long development timelines in a developing country? - not so much.

My reaction, too. That's about 8 days of global oil consumption.

Yeah, but at their current rate of consumption it would last Brazil for about 9 months! Heck, think of what they might accomplish in that much time... They could give birth to a whole new kind of economy. /sarc

This analyst seems very knowledgeable and nuanced in his opinions. Not a doomer, certainly, but not an all-out cornucopian either.

I'm with you though: when experts cite 'above ground factors' as reasons production from a particular source fall short of expectations, it often turns out, on closer inspection, to tie back to factors that are decidedly below ground. Namely, sorting out the costs and risks between the stakeholders when the resource is not as flush as originally believed. 'Above ground factors' are often just proxies for what's happening below the ground.

Challengers to Clovis-age impact theory missed key protocols, study finds

An interdisciplinary team of scientists from seven U.S. institutions says a disregard of three critical protocols, including sorting samples by size, explains why a group challenging the theory of a North American meteor-impact event some 12,900 years ago failed to find iron- and silica-rich magnetic particles in the sites they investigated.

The new independent analysis—published this week in the online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences—did, in fact, isolate large quantities of the "microspherules" at the involved sites where the challengers previously reported none. Lead author Malcolm A. LeCompte, an astrophysicist at Elizabeth City State University in North Carolina, said the findings support the climate-altering cosmic impact ..."These spherules have evidence of very high-temperature melting and very rapid cooling, which is characteristic of debris ejected from an impact," LeCompte said.

After removing chert debris associated with tool making in soil at the depth of the Clovis occupation, LeCompte said, researchers observed virtually no spherules below it, while in soil just above the chert fragments they found a spike in the number of telltale spherules.

Further above that level, he noted, the soil layers were essentially "a dead zone" somewhat analogous to the K-T boundary, or "tombstone layer," from an extinction event that occurred 65 million years ago. At Topper, the dead zone showed almost no trace of human habitation for perhaps as long as 1,000 years duration.

Topper site in middle of comet controversy

Younger-Dryas is what scientists refer to as the period of extreme cooling that began around 12,900 years ago and lasted 1,300 years ... The extreme rapid cooling that took place can be likened to the 2004 sci-fi blockbuster movie "The Day After Tomorrow." ... evidence consistent with a massive impact that could have killed off the Clovis people and the large North American animals of the day. Thirty-six species, including the mastodon, mammoth and saber-toothed tiger, went extinct.

Manhattan-sized ice island heads out to sea

Remember that enormous slab of ice that broke off Greenland's Petermann Glacier back in July? It's now on its way out to sea, a little bit smaller than it was a couple of months ago—but not much. At around 10 miles long and 4.6 miles across (16.25 x 7.5 km) this ice island is actually a bit shorter than Manhattan, but is fully twice as wide.

Very interesting Video

Sea surface temperatures reach record highs on Northeast continental shelf

During the first six months of 2012, sea surface temperatures in the Northeast Shelf Large Marine Ecosystem were the highest ever recorded, according to the latest Ecosystem Advisory issued by NOAA's Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC). Above-average temperatures were found in all parts of the ecosystem, from the ocean bottom to the sea surface and across the region, and the above average temperatures extended beyond the shelf break front to the Gulf Stream.

Friedland said the average sea surface temperature (SST) exceeded 10.5 degrees C (51°F) during the first half of 2012, exceeding the previous record high in 1951. Average SST has typically been lower than 9 degrees C (48°F) over the past three decades. Sea surface temperature in the region is based on both contemporary satellite remote-sensing data and long-term ship-board measurements, with historical SST conditions based on ship-board measurements dating back to 1854.

In some nearshore locations like Delaware and Chesapeake Bays in the Middle Atlantic Bight region, temperatures were more than 6 degrees C (11°F) above historical average at the surface and more than 5 degrees C (9°F) above average at the bottom. In deeper offshore waters to the north, bottom waters were 1 degree C (2°F) warmer in the eastern Gulf of Maine and greater than 2 degrees C (3.6°F) warmer in the western Gulf of Maine.

Who Are the 47 Percent? 7 Facts about the Americans Mitt Romney Attacked

... While a majority of those who don’t pay income tax don’t do so because they are either elderly or don’t earn enough, there are “some exceptions to the old-or-poor rule,” says Roose. One big, rich exception: the roughly 3,000 members of the top 0.1 percent of taxpayers—they earned more than $2,178,866 in 2011—who paid no federal income tax because they were hedge-fund managers, real-estate investors, or wealthy financiers whose income is derived from capital gains, which are taxed at very low levels. When that rate is combined with a concept called “tax-loss carryforward,” which Roose says “allows an investor to use last year’s big loss to offset this year’s gains for tax purposes,” these top earners don’t have to pay federal income tax.

... Romney argues that the 47 percent he’s referring to in his sound bite will always vote for Obama, but, according to David A. Graham at The Atlantic, a disproportionate amount of those people actually reside in red states—which typically vote for Republican candidates. Of the 10 states with the highest percentage of people who pay no income tax, nine are red states.

The 47%: Who They Are, Where They Live, How They Vote, and Why They Matter

Reports: Jimmy Carter’s grandson helped leak Romney fundraiser video

Good work, little Jimmy!

I have a new category for me, now. I am no longer the 99% (but then I knew that all along).

I am the 47%.

Bumper sticker, please?

Granny Lizzie

Tron-like map of bike journeys reveals London's hubs

It's a snapshot of 5 million bicycle journeys - and a handy map of London's commuter hotspots.

This image is a still from an animation created by visualisation specialist Jo Wood at City University in London. He based it on data from the first 5 million journeys pedalled in the Barclays Cycle Hire scheme since its launch in July 2010.

In the animation (see below) the least travelled routes begin to fade out after about 15 seconds - "like a graphic equaliser," says collaborator Andrew Huddart, also at City University. Around the 1-minute mark, structure emerges from the chaos and three major systems become clear: routes around, and through, the lozenge-shaped Hyde Park in the west, and commutes in and out of King's Cross St Pancras in the north and between Waterloo and the City in the east.

Heat and Drought Ravage U.S. Crop Prospects—Global Stocks Suffer

September estimates from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) show 2012 U.S. corn yields at 123 bushels per acre, down by a fourth from the 2009 high of 165 bushels per acre. Yields are the lowest since 1995 and well below the average of the last 30 years. The summer heat and drought also hit U.S. soybean yields, which are down 20 percent from their 2009 peak.

Scary to think about what MAX(population) can be fed, if, due to FF fertilizer availability decline, the Bushels per Acre head back to the mid 20s of the pre 1940s....

Peak corn yield?

Is one factor high prices encouraging farmers to plant marginal fields, lowering average yields?

They planted 96 million acres of corn this past year. If we Only got 20 bushels per acre and ate it all as food. Mostly dry roasted and ground up. One acre could feed a person for one year. Albeit a pretty poor diet.

I debate this with the ladies around our gardening meetings, some of them older ladies that grew up eating greens and things that they gathered as kids in the feilds. Could most americans go back to that way of living? Maybe, Maybe not.

I don't know what it would be like without huge factory farms and everyone having to depend on the gardens and horse or small tractor combines of the 1940's to get all their foods.

There was this science fiction book I once read, that all the people lived in big huge building cities, and all the rest of the land was used for farming or wilderness. That's not going to happen, but how much land that could grow food, even woodland plants that are edible has been paved over to make highways and parking lots and tract houses?

I don't eat a lot of beef, mostly fish and chicken, some pork, but if you raised your chickens and fish on your own land? How many people could you feed off it? I heard about The Oil Drum, while reading a food forest page on facebook. They have people claiming you can grow a lot of things off one acre of land, without the factory farming aspect of how we do things today.

Videos on youtube talk about living closer to the land. If you lived only on the land that had enough rainfall to feed it, about 14 million square miles, would that be enough to feed 2 or 3 billion people? Above that acre of corn would feed you for a full year, at 20 bushels, so basic numbers tell you yes we could feed the people off the land we have. Big experiment we got going these days, will we survive to find out the ending results or not?

Oh well, one way or the other we will find out won't we.

Now to get a few hens to start laying, or would they just be food for the local stray dog population? I hear that they have that as a problem in some parts of India!


I still have a copy of "One Acre & Security: How to Live Off the Earth without Ruining It" (1972), by Bradford Angier. You would need a place with good soil, adequate rain, and the means to sell/barter surplus for things you needed and didn't produce yourself. Of course, specializing in a high-value crop like honey, herbs, fruit, or even market gardening, requires some sort of urban market. And if everyone is going for the high-value crops, who grows the grain. Chinese peasants have managed to support a family on less than an acre. Of course, if you live like a peasant, you are subject to being oppressed by landlords, money lenders, provincial officials and/or warlords, the occasional famine, and those nasty diseases that brew from keeping pigs and poultry close together. There is a reason why peasants' sons and daughters run away to the city.

Now to get a few hens to start laying, or would they just be food for the local stray dog population?

That's what shotguns were invented for, at least that's what my father believed. Even our family dog Trixie went to 12-gauge heaven when he caught her with chicken feathers in her mouth. The farmer's motto regarding stray dogs was "shoot, shovel, and shut up", and the law backed them up on that. If you let your dog run loose and it disappeared, you pretty much knew what happened to it. It had gone after someone's livestock and someone had blown it away - and nobody would ever tell you who.

I believe attitudes in India are somewhat forgiving and killing animals is discouraged. That's why they have all the stray dogs and cows wandering around loose.

Potatoes. Four hundred row feet of potatoes, 14 varieties, including some very high yielding ones and a few that turned out to be a joke, for over 400 pounds of potatoes. I will grow several varieties again next year, just to get the range of maturities and different kinds, but drop the losers and try some new ones. So the average of high and low yielding varieties is a little over a pound a foot with very little supplemental irrigation and organic methods. I gave my extended family their share and I still have enough potatoes to last until March, when they start to get strange in my basement.

Despite all challenges and disasters, my field corn patch yielded enough for a batch of tortillas once a week for eight months. If the deer stay away from the late corn and the weather holds, make that until next harvest. I also got 20 pounds of malting barley, which makes 10 gallons of beer. The soup bean harvest was magnificent, so many that I'm not planning to grow dry beans next year. The squash harvest was modest, enough for the house, not enough to give away.

We have a lot of unused space in the form of lawns that could be growing energy dense potatoes, corn, beans and squash. But, you are correct, it's a big cultural shift.

In the pre 1940's, refrigeration was a scarce and expensive commodity, so people generally had meat less often. They ate it up and made soup out of the leftovers.

Back to the future, eh?

We have a lot of unused space in the form of lawns that could be growing energy dense potatoes, corn, beans and squash. But, you are correct, it's a big cultural shift.

Well, it depends on how you think - inside or outside of the box. Check your local town bylaws - if there's no law against planting a "decorative garden" in your front lawn, feel free to do so. Decorative plants can be edible, too.

My father put his front lawn into potatoes on the theory that he was "conditioning the soil" for planting a lawn. Eventually (after about 10 years) he did plant grass and turn it into a lawn. By that time he had a nice big piece of high-quality soil elsewhere he could plant his garden in.

Oil’s $3 Slump In A Minute: Analysts Still Scratching Their Heads

There’s still not much clarity on oil’s odd Monday trading. If you missed this one, the price of oil fell $3 in less than a minute, for no readily apparent reason.

Among the theories floating this morning: An oil producer may have been hedging, heavily. The idea of trader error, a fat finger, is out there again. So is the idea of rumor-driven bets on a Strategic Petroleum Reserve release, which the White House flatly denied on Monday. The head of the American Petroleum Institute appeared on CNBC this morning without shedding much light, either. It would be premature to speculate, he insisted

This morning’s analyst commentary is all over the map. Here’s a smattering: ...

and Oil market misbehaves (again): John Kemp

Whatever the precise trigger, the sudden plunge in Brent prices on Monday is a timely reminder that liquidity is discontinuous, even in a market as deep and heavily traded as crude oil.

Funding for medical research and science programs faces draconian cuts

Set in motion by the Budget Control Act of 2011, sequestration would impose automatic cuts on federal funding starting on January 2, 2013. According to OMB, the budget for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) would be reduced by $2.529 billion, the National Science Foundation would lose $586 million, and the Department of Energy Office of Science would be cut by $400 million. "Federal funding for research programs are not the source of our nation's debt, and cuts to these and other programs are not the solution to our fiscal problems.

Research is NOT something you turn "on and off" like a light switch

Research is NOT something you turn "on and off" like a light switch

Kind of like development of renewable energy (or the highly skilled oil-patch workforce). These sorts of things drive many people who were very expensive to train into other lines of work (or to greener pastures overseas). So it is more a ratcheting down of the capability, rather like "turnoff -opps nothing to turn back on"! That might even be the intent of some.

Unemployment rises in every major market since recession

Unemployment has gotten worse in every part of America since the economic downturn began. No exceptions.

On Numbers compared the jobless rates for 102 major metropolitan areas in July 2007 (five months before the official onset of the recession) and July 2012 (the latest month available). Every single one of those markets suffered an increase in unemployment over that five-year span.

The following database shows the changes in all metro areas with populations above 500,000, based on raw figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. You can re-sort the list by clicking any column header. A second click will reverse the sort. ...

FedEx cuts profit outlook as shippers take to the seas

... The world's second-largest package delivery company said its corporate customers had begun shipping personal computers, auto parts and even cut flowers by ocean rather than air to cut costs because of pressure on their products' selling prices.

"A lot of traffic is moving onto the water because moving goods by air is very energy-intensive," Chief Executive Officer Fred Smith told investors on a conference call. "You can't have jet fuel going up to close to $4 a gallon on occasion without it having a big effect on the choices people make."

... Are FedEx Clipper Ships in the future?

... Are FedEx Clipper Ships in the future?

If so, is Cutty Sark to be the drink of choice at FedEx?


Explosion reported at PEMEX plant in Reynosa

Authorities are working to contain a large fire following a deadly explosion that claimed 10 lives at a plant south of the border in Reynosa.

The deadly blast happened a PEMEX plant near the Kilometer 19 marker of the Reynosa-Monterrey highway just after 11 a.m. Tuesday.

Photos: http://www.valleycentral.com/news/photos.aspx?id=802368

10 killed after blast rocks Mexican refinery near border

The Race to Reduce Energy Intensity in the GCC

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries are usually framed as energy 'producers' but, as a bloc, the GCC is now an important international 'consumer'. Escalating domestic fuel consumption is causing wide-ranging problems for regional governments including rising subsidy bills, energy security concerns, export constraints and pollution. The first UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of Parties being held in the region this November also draws attention to the region’s rising emissions profile and increasing efforts to engage with international greenhouse gas mitigation agendas, previously seen as contrary to their interests as exporters of fossil fuels.

The speaker will discuss the status of energy policy initiatives in the region and the Chatham House GCC Energy Intensity Project. The roundtable will explore issues such as future prospects for target setting, price reform, and the broader politics of energy transitions in the region.

... from GCC Energy Intensity Project... The GCC countries are experiencing rapid growth in domestic energy demand with almost complete reliance on oil and gas. This is leading to a number of economic and social concerns. If current trends continue, internal hydrocarbons consumption could jeopardize the capacity of some countries to export their resources. With current levels of economic dependence on hydrocarbon revenues and high population growth, this would give rise to serious financial and social pressures. Environmental and public health threats from the emissions from thermal power generation and heavy road traffic are also increasing.

How the White House Is Keeping a Lid on Oil Prices

In what appears to be a calculated move to keep oil prices under control, the White House Tuesday reiterated its comment that “all options are on the table” when it comes to the oil market, including a Strategic Petroleum Reserve release.

Toshiba Unveils Home Battery System for Back-Up Power

Phys.org reports, "The output power of the eneGoon is 3.0kVA, which Toshiba claims is the highest output power of a home-use electricity storage system in the industry The system's key component is Toshiba's "SCiB" lithium-ion rechargeable battery which has a capacity of 6.6kWh, considered relatively high for a home battery system."

Arctic expert predicts final collapse of sea ice within four years

As sea ice shrinks to record lows, Prof Peter Wadhams warns a 'global disaster' is now unfolding in northern latitudes

One of the world's leading ice experts has predicted the final collapse of Arctic sea ice in summer months within four years.

In what he calls a "global disaster" now unfolding in northern latitudes as the sea area that freezes and melts each year shrinks to its lowest extent ever recorded, Prof Peter Wadhams of Cambridge University calls for "urgent" consideration of new ideas to reduce global temperatures.

Climate scientists are becoming shrill. Perhaps we should be concerned?

Why Start Now?

Becoming shrill? I guess the question is, how shrill must scientists (that most DC politicians ignore) have to get to be heard loudly enough to jolt them into action? It's really amazing that after this year's record melt in the Arctic, which is the size of Texas & Kentucky larger in area than 07's previous record melt, nothing has changed. Not even a high level cabinet meeting. Kind of like miners ignoring a croaking canary.

You are wrong on the inaction thing. The offshore drilling companys are taking action.

Well that coincides with my old prediction I made here on TOD a couple times. 2016 is my pick for (by) when the climate chaos would be severe enough to seriously mess with our crops/food supply/prices and water resources, as well as other major problems from floods, freezes, droughts and heatwaves. (Hadn't thought of diseases expanding into new regions then, but...)

I expect the climate changes to end up looking more exponential for a while with the feedback mechanisms, especially methane release from the tundra. Of course, third world countries will get hit hardest first. Hard to say how long "western civilization" will be able to extend our relative comfort levels.

Mass slaughter of farm animals set to push food prices up 14%report

Farmers who cannot afford feed 'liquidating' pig and cattle herds will drive food inflation to record high, says Rabobank

Rabobank said the slaughter of millions of pigs has already led to a 31% increase in the price of pork and the costs of other meats are also expected to soar as "US livestock herds are likely to be liquidated at an accelerating pace in the first half of 2013".

Nicholas Higgins, a Rabobank commodities analyst and author of the report, said: "There will be an initial glut in meat availability as people slaughter their animals to reduce their feed bills. But by next year herds will be so reduced that there won't be enough animals to meet expected demand and prices will soar."

US farmers, who are suffering from the worst drought since the 1930s, have already reduced their cattle herd to the smallest since 1973.

Wonder if it will get through peoples' thick heads that climate change has economic consequences?

Wild guess. Probably not.

The price of pork futures has climbed 31%. Spot prices fall as livestock is being slaughtered, then rise next year as farmers withhold animals to rebuild their herds.

The report said the mass slaughter of pigs had led to a steep decline in the price of pork for delivery next month, but a 31% increase for pork delivered in July 2013.

...and meat doesn't last long, even in the freezer. So the glut is no good in the long run.

Soaring Gasoline Prices only slightly dents demand

Despite post-Labor Day, end of summer driving season, retail gasoline prices at or near records across the US, gasoline demand was only down slightly from comparable year ago levels – according to MasterCard’s Spending Plus bi-weekly report.

Meanwhile the wholesale gasoline price rise in the West Coast region of the US continued to climb higher, as western gasoline suppliers still struggled to meet demand as the legacy of the Richmond CA refinery fire still echoed in the markets.

US gasoline demand falls in two weeks to September 14: MasterCard
NEW YORK | Tue Sep 18, 2012 5:59pm EDT
Over the four weeks to September 14, demand was down 0.4 percent compared with last year.


Los Angeles CARBOB differential jumps 17 cents to 45 cents/gal on refinery issues
Houston (Platts)--18Sep2012/134 pm EDT/1734 GMT


August 15, 2012
The Richmond Legacy: California refinery fire may adversely impact US gasoline supplies for months