Drumbeat: October 13, 2012

State of the Earth: Still Seeking Plan A for Sustainability

The problem in addressing climate change, which Sachs also called the biggest and hardest challenge ever to face humanity, may be human nature itself. Fossil fuels remain the cheapest fuel source, and as long as they do, we will continue to burn them, Hansen noted, arguing for a carbon tax on coal, oil and natural gas with the proceeds distributed to citizens of the countries collecting the tax. And climate change timescales are "longer than human memory and longer than terms in political office," Goddard noted. "Human experience is also largely local, and it's hard to notice a global trend."

Oil Falls After IEA Cuts Global Demand Forecast

“There is recognition here that the global economy is not growing at a robust pace and it’s going to limit oil demand,” said Tim Evans, an energy analyst at Citi Futures Perspective in New York. “In contrast, supply is growing at a somewhat faster pace. As long as you have supply growing faster than demand, then that’s going to put downward pressure on prices.”

CME, Wall Street Win Delays From CFTC Swap Dealer Rules

CME Group Inc., energy traders and Wall Street banks won delays and exemptions from the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission as regulations intended to improve oversight of the swaps market took effect.

Russia, Serbia Ink Gas Supply Deal for Next Decade

Russia and Serbia signed on Saturday an intergovernmental agreement on deliveries of Russian natural gas to Serbia for the period until 2021.

The framework document envisions annual supplies of 5 billion cubic meters of natural gas by Russia’s energy giant Gazprom.

Hungary to take over MOL's gas storage-paper

(Reuters) - Hungary's government prepared the ground to take over the strategic natural gas storage facility of oil group MOL with a new bill submitted to parliament, the daily Nepszabadsag said on Saturday.

Iran denies sharp fall in oil exports

Iran's oil exports have remained steady in recent months, OPEC Governor Mohammad-Ali Khatibi said, denying reports of the International Energy Agency (IEA) which claimed Iran's oil exports had plunged in September.

"Iran's oil exports are the same as in previous months and the situation is stable," ISNA News Agency quoted Khatibi as saying on Saturday.

Turkey Says Pilot of Syrian Airplane Ignored Its Warning

A Syrian plane grounded by Turkish authorities yesterday contained munitions, in violation of civil aviation rules, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.

“They are equipment and munitions sent for the Syrian Defense Ministry from a Russian institution” equivalent to Turkey’s state arms manufacturer, Erdogan told a televised news conference in Ankara. He said an inspection was under way by Turkish officials.

EU Reaches Preliminary Deal to Tighten Iran Sanctions

The European Union reached a preliminary agreement to tighten sanctions on Iran to increase pressure on the Gulf nation’s nuclear program, according to two EU diplomats with knowledge of the matter.

Letting sleeping oil deposits lie

Much public land exploration is on hold

More than half the federally owned land approved for oil exploration and leased to energy firms for that purpose is going unexploited – because the companies holding the rights say it would be economically infeasible.

Coast Guard Says Sheen Near Macondo Matches 2010 BP Spill

“The most likely source is the bent riser pipe that once connected the rig to the well head, where a mix of oil, drilling mud and seawater were trapped after the top kill operation,” Brett Clanton, a spokesman for London-based BP, said in an e- mailed statement today.

Samples that BP analyzed from the sheen contain a compound found in the drilling mud and not in the source oil, the company said.

Feds approve BP-Transocean plan to identify source of sheen related to 2010 Gulf oil spill

NEW ORLEANS — Federal officials said late Friday they have approved a joint plan from BP and Transocean to identify the source of a sheen in the Gulf Of Mexico associated with the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Officials said in a news release that the federal on-site coordinator approved the joint plan on Thursday. Coast Guard Capt. Duke Walker had required the plan, and federal officials informed BP and Transocean they might be held responsible for the costs of identifying the source and the cleanup.

Last-Ditch Bid in Texas to Try to Stop Oil Pipeline

Environmentalists have taken to treetops in Winnsboro, Tex., to try to block bulldozers building the southern leg of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

Fukushima operator must learn from mistakes, new adviser says

TOKYO (Reuters) - Tokyo Electric Power Co must adopt measures used in other Japanese industries to reform after acknowledging that it failed to anticipate and tackle the Fukushima disaster, the utility's newly installed outside adviser said on Saturday.

Smart's electric car might actually be... smart

The electric car Smart ED is possibly the best value yet among zero emission cars.

Green Power Battles Data Line in Puget Sound

There’s a battle brewing in the Puget Sound between a utility that wants to be the first on the U.S. West Coast to generate power from ocean currents and a Japanese telecommunications giant that says the plan threatens its billion-dollar fiber optic cable connection to the U.S.

Dr. Chu’s Remarks About Biofuels at Biomass 201

The Biomass 2012 conference took place in Washington DC in July. Recently, online videos went up showing some of the speaker highlights and I’ve gleaned what I could from them for you below. In addition to Dr. Steven Chu’s remarks, I’ve included those of Heather Zichal and Cheryl Martin.

Food Sickens Millions as Company-Paid Checks Find It Safe

On a sweltering hot day in mid-May, wind whips through an open-air latrine, carrying a cloud of dust reeking of human excrement across the field. Flies swarm in a squalid bathroom. Tomas Ramirez, 11, who says he’s worked the whole harvest with his parents in the field, says he uses some bushes instead of the feces-smeared bathroom.

“I’m always dirty because there is nowhere to wash,” he says.

The field foreman, Martin Fuentes, says his crew has nowhere to wash their hands.

“This is all the boss gives us,” he says. “We don’t get anything here, so we just make do.”

The soaring cost of Sunday roast: Dramatic price rises are forcing families to cut back on meat, veg and fruit

Families are giving up their traditional Sunday roast as the cost of both meat and vegetables soar.

In fact, many are cutting back on fresh food altogether.

Farmers and supermarkets are blaming the meat price explosion – which is likely to continue beyond Christmas – on the rising cost of feed for livestock.

Some climate scientists, in a shift, link weather to global warming

Drought and intense heat in the last decade leads some to believe there's enough evidence to establish a statistical pattern. It's a break with mainstream scientific thought.

…or…whatever happened to hypermiling?

I have rediscovered something recently- and its depressing: commuting. Having endured a forced march to the suburbs this summer for the glory of my wife’s Barbie dream house I now find I must spend 12 minutes in traffic each day (hey, it used to be one minute!)- thus my re-acquaintance with that most uncivil of America’s social theaters: the freeway. But it is not the sheer terror and madness of going 65-75 mph in a collapsible box that amazes me so much (OK, it does) as it is the complete lack of effect of high gas prices on driving behavior. It is a well publicized fact that driving slower saves a considerable amount of gas- the public can hardly feign innocence of this. Studies show that driving at 55 mph versus 75 mph can save up to 23% of fuel depending on the vehicle.


This is a considerable amount of money. In fact, the effect of speeding can be figured the opposite way; how much more does a gallon costs due to flooring it. Using our previous figure of 23% that notches a $4 gallon of gas up to $5.21, yikes! The high price has also not affected our other wasteful habit- jackrabbit fast starts and fast stops. To top it off, politicians are actually raising speed limits! We are a whole nation racing to the red light.

All this has me wondering what our priorities really are. If high oil prices really lead to economic downturn then we must not really care about discretionary spending, or jobs, that much- at least not enough to stop trying to get to work a whole 85 seconds faster each day. And whatever happened to hypermiling? During the first price shock of 2008, stories abounded of people who had perfected a gas chiseling driving style that boasted savings of up to 40% by methods such as gradual acceleration, drafting closely behind trucks, etc.


Today these stories are largely gone, no perky young girls telling America to “pump it up” and save on tighter tires. Why? I have some theories that I’ll share with you if you promise not to tell anyone (internet honor).

1. Acclimation: humans are great at getting used to things- too great in fact. High priced gas has been around so long it has lost its novelty and so temporary money saving behaviors must fade also. But don’t we love to save money? This isn’t satisfying. Let’s try another theory.
2. Accommodation: we have decided to make driving sacrifices in other areas (smaller cars, fewer trips) so we give ourselves back the luxury of wasteful driving habits. I like this theory better- but why not save even more and drive slowly? We must move on.
3. Class differences: the rich are getting richer, right? So maybe driving is relatively cheaper for them than 2008. I have to admit I see a lot of men in black monster pick-ups in the burbs going pretty fast and these people seem to be able to afford it (and the trucks must be black). But MOST of us on the roads still can’t afford it. And its most of us that I still see driving crazy out there. No, there must be a better explanation.
4. Long commutes: too much time is spent going from work to home. People simply must go fast or they will lose out on their lives. America is big dagummit (sic)! The problem with this is that people seem to go pretty fast on short trips too, and they still engage in jackrabbit driving in traffic when the amount of time gained is miniscule. Plus, people seem to waste a lot of time doing other stupid things. Why each minute you spend reading TOD is taking away from driving more slowly and economically (unless you are really smart and are reading this while driving). No, this will not do.
5. Social pressure: we speed because others do around us, its dangerous to go too slow- could cause accidents as faster vehicles have to go around us. I like this theory better, social norms are powerful. But there are a few problems: why is this the norm to begin with? Why doesn’t it change (other norms have changed- think women’s lib)? And most puzzling: why do we drive fast even when driving alone on the road?
6. Adrenaline addiction: we speed because this produces a fear rush of adrenaline (due to increased accident possibility) that has been shown to be addictive in gamblers, etc. Here I think we may have something- speeding is somewhat compulsive and it helps explain another reason….
7. We’re impatient and bored: Driving is boring, waiting is boring (for many), we are socialized to want everything now- get it over with, rush, rush. Tie 6 and 7 together and we have an impatient nation that desires energy independence!!!! (but not if it means coming to work five minutes later)

I am still a hypermiler. I love timing traffic lights, gliding into turns, using gravity to brake with- there is a beauty to it all. But it exasperates some around me who zoom around and, well, race to a red light. Most of all, I love not being stressed out about speed and accidents. But for 10 minutes each day I am on a freeway- and there are slowness limits that cannot be passed without increasing the odds of accidents due to vehicles getting around me. Trapped like a bird in a tornado I burn through the world’s oil supply and my wallet at warp speeds. The norm here, like many places, is to drive 10mph above the limit- whatever that is.

Meanwhile, my legislature is considering raising the speed limit.

Look at the bright side, the faster we burn it up the sooner we will change our ways...

I'm not a hypermiler but I think this is a great post.

The vast majority of Americans will not give up their SUVs or pickups or change their driving habits. It's just the way we are, we're stubborn that way. It's part of the charm but will also inevitably be part of the decline.

'Charm' ??

Oh, indeed!
Just needed to broaden my sense of humor.

For a second I thought it read hypermilling. Like a faster way to deforest the planet.

Anyway, how about this too. We love our planet.

Belated happy 7th year on TOD, by the way. Wow...

So when's this collapse thing going to happen? After 7 years on TOD, you'd think it would have happened by now, yes? So what's the holdup?
I keep looking at my watch, and then at others milling about, and wonder when people will suddenly stop and all get out of their cars all at once.
Like that Everybody Hurts video.

I don't think there's any holdup. I'm pretty satisfied that we're looking at a good sampling of PO consequences** around us.. even while band plays on.

I don't know that I find Collapse a useful term in the short term, since it invites many to envision these Zombie Apocalypse scenarios, while the ship that is taking these hits is SO much bigger than the Titanic that the movements might not make a very exciting movie. Maybe the time-lapse animation of it will be interesting..

There's a term floating around, "slow apocalypse". There's even a novel with that title. Some trends are very difficult to see without the proper tools and/or data. If you live next to the ocean, you won't notice the rise in sea level (at the current rate) among all the noise of daily tides, storm surges, etc. Over any given time interval, some things will improve, some will deteriorate. We are approaching some hard limits, but I do not think we will see any overnight collapse. Individuals and communities will hit shock points, causing major changes in their lives, but others will be only dimly aware of what is happening. And that has always been true, disasters happen. Eventually, everyone will realize that things have changed for the worse. The collapse, like peak oil, is something we will see in the rear view mirror.

Yes. It's looking increasingly like Greer is right.

One of the lessons of history is that change, no matter how drastic it appears on the pages of history books, is rarely anything like so sudden for those who live through it. Read an account of the French Revolution, for example, and events seem to follow one another like bangs from a string of firecrackers from the final crisis of the Ancien Régime straight through to the fall of Napoleon. For the man or woman in the French street, though, these happenings were scattered threads in a fabric of months and years woven from the plainer cordage of ordinary life.

Partly this is a function of the way historical narrative compresses time. It bears remembering that a teenage Parisienne who sat daydreaming of her upcoming wedding on the day that Louis XVI summoned the États-General in 1788 would most likely have been a grandmother on the day the Allied armies marched into Paris after the battle of Waterloo in 1815. Equally, though, it’s rare for historical events to have the same apparent importance at the time that they are assigned in the historian’s hindsight, not least because the everyday process of making a living and moving through the stages of human existence plays a larger role in most lives than the occasional tumults that make the history books.

Absolutely! I have given up my mental picture of 1.5 hr. epic movie disaster, or even a few months, or years. This is a slow vice like crush, and completely inescapable, we will never return to this place, ever again, in human history. Millions of years of stored sunlight burnt in a few centuries. We have covered the planet in "Disneyland's Autotopia" based on a finite resource and look upon this as evidence of our superior intellect, when nothing could be further from the truth. Complete mechanized brutalization of our sole place to live, it's really quite amazingly dumb. Nothing and no-one can stop or prevent what is coming. We are headed for 'reduction' when viewed by current standards. We are leaving the "oil man" epoch...permanently.
It's all there, all you have to do is look.

I always like to compare it to coastal erosion at an East Yorkshire caravan park, when the park was first built, the sea was about 100 metres away. Now some of the closest caravan sites have been eroded away and neighbours are anxious every time there is bad weather, but those on the other side of the park are totaly oblivious to the erosion as all they can see is rows of caravans between them and the sea.

In the real world, some activities that use large volumes of oil have been abandoned, electricity generation for example or recreational driving for lower income people.

...East Yorkshire caravan park


Yikes! It looks like there are a number of them in that area up and down the coast. There are a few where you can see the pads/foundations and that half of it has fallen down the cliff and there are others that are still standing but oh-so-close to the edge.

I wonder if the people that have had a "caravan" removed between them and the sea view are happy about having the view and think the erosion will stop before it reaches them and their house falls down the cliff and into the sea.

Millionaires are not immune to the effect, either: Millionaires' backyards savaged

Interestingly, I was speculating on the timing of "The Collapse" in my Update newsletter this week. Based upon US government actions, I believe that it will be a fast collapse within the next 2-3 three years.

I have to go to a Grange state convention (California) this morning so I don't have time to post a ton of links but here's one http://www.theburningplatform.com/?p=41540 and a quote from it:

Those in power are preparing the masses for a more Orwellian vision of America when they are forced to pull the plug on the existing paradigm. The Patriot Act, NDAA, military exercises in our cities, militarization of local police forces, warrantless surveillance of our communications, searches and seizures in our airports and train stations, purchase of millions of rounds of ammo by government agencies, implementation of drone technology, camera surveillance, attempts to control the internet, manipulation of economic data, and executive orders allowing the President to take over all commerce while imprisoning citizens indefinitely without charges, are the next step in our descent into a dictatorship of tears.

My rationale for projecting a fast collapse was that the Feds wouldn't take these kinds of actions were collapse to be a long drawn out affair. Further, given president election cycles it has to happen in the early years of a president's "reign". We'll see.


Hmmm! So the government will be able to control the timing of the collapse? And will work around the election cycle when doing so? I don't need to invoke a government conspiracy to manipulate the timing of the collapse to explain long-standing trends in society. Ruling elites have a tendency to try to protect themselves by whatever means are available. That is a sinister enough explanation for the crap you refer to. While paranoia has its place, I think it is possible to become too paranoid. :)

Frankly, I think both Obama and Romney are whistling past the graveyard and will keep the fiction of abundance going as long as possible. No politician dare deal with the reality of limits because almost all of them cannot imagine a politics which is not informed by the infinite growth paradigm. The only argument is over how we continue the party, forever. The end of growth requires severe choices where we cannot promise a win win for everyone. We simply do not know how to deal with a fixed or shrinking pie. Both parties fall apart under that scenario although I think a redistribution scenario would make more sense than a dog eat dog scenario.

Actually Barry Commoner, the Greens and Rocky Anderson, this very Website, the Transition Town movement and many others have shown the way to a potentially viable Green Transition. It is certainly true that supersonic jets (already gone! lol) yachts, the 1% plutocrats toys are not in the cards. So Billionaires become Millionaires and less. Who the hell can spend a Billion dollars anyway? It is a sign of insanity to even have greed of such dimensions.

Although progress is slow it is happening.
Quebec has rolled back Austerity along with Iceland. 11 EU countries have embraced a speculation tax against the banksters. Francoise Holland has increased taxes on the rich in France...

More is on the way, you can count on it!

The argument against the cognizance of government is the remarkably stupid short-sighted article about Energy Secretary and noted scientist Steven Chu crowing about biofuels! Huh? You are drinking your own Koolaid!

Auto Addiction is over my friend!

Happy Motoring by any means indeed as Jim Kunstler puts it!

It does make sense. Now imagine you are in the seat of power and you know that a major transition is on the way - what do you want to do?

1. Let it runs its course on its own - giving you a surprise and chaotic behavior - overwhelming all systems - which leads to a much more dramatic collapse.
2. Try to make a controlled decline by putting control systems in place and then timing the transition to a lower energy level when you are most prepared - which is as soon as all control systems are up and running.

Its not paranoid - its prudent planning - if you are the planner.

But, of course, anything is possible... Im just not in the group where i think that the "leaders" are completely devoid of any intelligence and have no clue about what to do - which is another type of paranoid. :-)

My rationale for projecting a fast collapse was that the Feds wouldn't take these kinds of actions were collapse to be a long drawn out affair.

You give the government far more credit than I do.

I do not think the government has a clue about collapse. The "preparations" you list are just business as usual for them. I suppose some of it might be attributed to Tainter's view of the way governments react to increased resource stress. But a lot of it is stuff they've always done, it's just no one noticed before the Internet made so much information accessible. (Like the ammo. A lot of government agencies have some police-type duties, and they buy massive amounts of ammo to use for training purposes.)

Even if the government was somehow preparing for a fast collapse (which I do not think is true), I don't have any reason to believe that they have any more knowledge or control over the process than anyone else does.

I agree with you, David Korowiez agrees with you, Greer does not agree with you. He thinks that, faced with the threat of immediate collapse, the government will step in and save the day. Bold mine.

The Archdruid Report: On the Far Side of Denial

It’s only fair to point out that this sort of drastic response is something that the Feasta study specifically excludes. One of Korowicz’ basic assumptions, stated as such in his study, is that governments will respond to the crisis by choosing the minimal option they think will solve the immediate problem. It’s a reasonable assumption, right up to the point that national survival is at stake, but at that point history shows in no uncertain terms that the assumption goes right out the window. Nation-states are good at surviving—that’s why they’ve become the standard form of human political organization in the viciously Darwinian environment of modern history—and it’s hard to think of anything a nation-state won’t do if it thinks its survival is threatened.

Actually there is another reason I disagree with Greer. There is no one government that can prevent collapse, there are almost 200 different governments. And when the world financial system starts to collapse, from complications brought about by a declining oil supply, then animosity between governments will exacerbate the problem, not prevent collapse.

Ron P.

I don't think your summary of Greer's position is correct. He's saying the government will act. He doesn't say they will save the day.

Well no, he says the government will prevent collapse. I could not find the reference in my post above but have since found it. The Archdruid Report linked here is entirely about how the government will step in and prevent collapse.

A Crisis of Legitimacy

It’s purely his suggestion that this could cause the global economy to freeze up, not for weeks, but for years or even longer, that strays out of the realm of realism into territory mapped out well in advance by Western civilization’s penchant for apocalyptic fantasies. In the real world, of course, governments facing sudden financial collapse don’t just sit on their hands and make plaintive sounds; they take action, and there are plenty of actions they can take, since a financial collapse doesn’t actually make anything of value go away.

The word "government" is mentioned 75 times in this Archdruid Report. Greer tells us over and over again in this report what the government will do. Of course he is not saying that the government will be successful in the long run, but will definitely be successful, in the short term, in preventing collapse. That is, he thinks the government will prevent sudden collapse and therefore the collapse will be long and drawn out.

But as I said above there is no one government. There are almost 200 governments. And they will behave like a herd of cats.

He also argues in this report, that since money is really fiat money, that it doesn't matter if money collapses. It is true that paper currency has no intrinsic value. But that does not mean that a society based on capital and debt, can do without a medium of exchange. Without any medium of exchange, other than simple barter, any modern day economy would surely collapse.

Ron P.

I think this quote more accurately reflects his position:

Glance through the last century of economic history and you’ll find plenty of examples of governments responding to sudden financial crises with equally sudden, drastic measures that worked, at least in the short term

Emphasis mine. He's not saying the government will save the day. He's arguing that the Korowicz "fast crash" scenario assumes governments will do nothing, and that that is not a reasonable assumption.

What happened in 2008 is a pretty good example of what he's talking about. There was talk of "tanks in the streets." There were stories about goods piled up on docks, unable to be shipped because credit lines had dried up. There were warnings from some quarters that the store shelves might go empty overnight.

But they didn't. The government stepped in with the bailout for billionaires, and in the end, no tanks in the streets, no empty store shelves.

Does that mean they "saved the day"? Hardly. They papered over the problems, which still exist. And I think Greer would be the first to admit that.

We are saying the same thing. I know he is saying that governments will prevent collapse in the short run. And Korowicz does not say the government will do nothing, he says their efforts will be inadequate.

Yes, I agree with you, Greer thinks the government, not governments, will prevent collapse in the short term. And he gives the 2008 banking near collapse as an example. That was one crisis that one government, the US government, could prevent with a massive bailout. But the US government cannot bail out the world. The US government is not the world government.

The collapse will be a world collapse, not just a US collapse. And as I said, all the world governments will simply fight and argue over what should be done.

The second Archdruid Report I linked to explains in no uncertain terms how Greer thinks the "US government" will prevent collapse... in the short run that is. And therein lies the problem. The US government does not have the power to prevent a world financial collapse.

Ron P.

The US government does not have the power to prevent a world financial collapse.

Maybe they can't prevent it, but they're in a pretty good position to deal with it.

The dollar is still the prettiest horse at the glue factory, and I don't see that changing any time soon.

Some nations resorted to barter during the last financial crisis, and if it comes to that, we're in pretty good shape. We have food to export, and the oil-exporting countries are dependent on food imports. I suspect a deal could be worked out, that did not require fiat currency.

The dollar is still the prettiest horse at the glue factory, and I don't see that changing any time soon.

I agree 100 percent. But one cannot make that argument and at the same time argue that the currency doesn't matter.

Some nations resorted to barter during the last financial crisis,...

I need a reference for that one. First time I have ever heard of such a thing. I would be truly shocked if it actually really happened on any large scale. Local traders could have, of course, bartered across a common border but that would be the limit to any successful barter.

We have food to export, and the oil-exporting countries are dependent on food imports. I suspect a deal could be worked out, that did not require fiat currency.

Your joking of course... aren't you? Honestly, do you really believe that? Seriously? Rolling the floor.....

Ron P.

I agree 100 percent. But one cannot make that argument and at the same time argue that the currency doesn't matter.

Sure you can. Basically, you can argue the dollar is likely to hold up, but even if it doesn't, that doesn't necessarily mean collapse.

I need a reference for that one.

I posted them as Drumbeat links at the time. It was mostly oil for food type trades.

Your joking of course... aren't you?

I am not joking. I don't think it will actually reach that point, but if it does, we're still in a pretty good position.

Okay, you have the last word. This scenario is just too absurd to even discuss any further. Corn, because of the drought, is currently about $7.45 a bushel. That's an astronomical price for corn. Still that would mean that if we exchanged corn for oil we would need to ship 150 million bushels of corn for 10 million billion barrels of oil per day. Tomorrow we would ship pigs. And we will pay the shipping companies in carrots. They will pay their crew in chickens. ;-)

Bye now, Ron P.

Don't think we'll be shipping many pigs to Saudi Arabia. ;-) My guess is it will be mostly wheat.

Of course if we end up in this situation, it won't be BAU. I'd guess domestic consumption of food and energy will be down severely (on both sides, probably).

But there's a lot of shades of gray between BAU and a Mad Max collapse, or even an Argentina-style economic crisis. I think Greer is right to point to what governments have done in the past. In the lifetime of people alive today, we've seen the government confiscate gold, put American citizens in internment camps, and ration food and gasoline. The fact that all this still seems very far away to the average citizen suggests to me that we're still a long way from collapse.

I think Greer is right to point to what governments have done in the past.
~ Leanan

It is certainly important to look to the past, and/but of course some things are new, quasi-new and/or without precedent.
So-called governments (who or what are they exactly, and/or governing?) and states didn't always exist, nor did the internet, which is, in a sense, a bit of a global tribe:

How does a tribe and its particular style of democracy handle a government or two? An armed (flash-mob) tribe? With Anonymous, Wikileaks et al for intelligence? Perhaps we've already seen (formative) indications of this in the recent forms of protests, riots, movements and war outbreaks. Apparently, some internet/cell/guerrilla jounalism/etc. communication was cut off, but also reinstated.

Nicole Foss on Centralized Government

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

'Municipal politics' seems like something a little closer to the tribe/band/village/actual democracy.

"Behind Boetie's thinking was the assumption, later spelled out in great detail by David Hume, that states cannot rule by force alone. This is because the agents of government power are always outnumbered by those they rule. To insure compliance with their dictates, it is essential to convince the people that their servitude is somehow in their own interest. They do this by manufacturing ideological systems..."
~ Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.

"Propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state."
~ Noam Chomsky

What happens when a global tribe communicates, transgresses manufactured ideological systems promulgated by (and often the vested interests of) a few?
Can the internet help to, paradoxically, transcend the iron law of oligarchy? Stay tuned.

"In the lifetime of people alive today, we've seen the government confiscate gold, put American citizens in internment camps, and ration food and gasoline. The fact that all this still seems very far away to the average citizen suggests to me that we're still a long way from collapse."

Sans the gold issue, the rest was a response to war. I think we overlook the likelihood of war in "collapse".

From people I have talked to about the great depression; barter existed and was used in place of money not because money would not have worked but because it was in short supply. I think this is a very important distinction. Trading wheat for oil will happen even if pigs are the new currency..;-)

But yes, governments will try to hold their power not matter what that might involve, such as direct confiscation of their subjects wealth(gold).

Sans the gold issue, the rest was a response to war.

Well, there was rationing of sorts during the '70s oil crisis.

I think we overlook the likelihood of war in "collapse".

I don't think we do, actually. A lot of fast-crash scenarios involve nuclear war. (Matt Savinar used wind maps to try and choose a doomstead which would not be downwind of the fallout.)

I do think another world war is not out of the question, but we've had them before and it hasn't lead to collapse. But who knows what will happen if there's widescale nuclear war.

Four words: Failed States With Nukes (FSWN, a new acronym?)

Well, there was rationing of sorts during the '70s oil crisis.

Leanan, do you mean the odd/even day "rationing" that occured? That hardly seems like rationing.

I suspect that governments, including the US government may not quite be as clueless as is sometimes assumed. There is a reason the US has a global military presence and a military of a size which rationally makes no sense. I suspect it is so large because is certain scenarios a huge military - in the short term at least- may make sense. Even US interference in countries far away may not appear to be benefitting the US immediately but indirectly it often does. Think of all the contracts US oil business service providers have received, and the potentially lower prices of global crude prices


I have been in the belly of the beast and the beast doesn't know its ass from its elbow. If anything, government has been dumbed down over the years. Self fulfilling prophecy. You get the government you expect and there are those who self interest is ensuring that the government is incompetent.

Very much agreed. The government is us, and is just as clueless, just as divided.

The US government is far from monolithic, and I'm not talking about the two different political parties. Anyone who's dealt them realizes quickly that the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing. There is no way there's a government-wide movement preparing for a fast collapse (or anything else, really).

I believe this situation to be more scary than the one where this a master plan.

"The government is us, and is just as clueless, just as divided."

Have to disagree - the government is corporations, and corporations is greed. We have a military presence all over the world because it makes military contractors rich, arms contractors rich, aircraft manufacturers, and also benefits certain other corporations like the oil industry.

For-profit prisons are popping up all over the place and local governments are working with collection agencies - threatening jail time over debts (new debtor's prison) in exchange for a piece of the action.

Public schools, once a hope of many out of poverty, are being run into the ground and vilified while simultaneously the virtues of "charter" aka for-profit schools are being extolled as the solution.

The actions of the government make complete sense if you realize that an overwhelming greed has corrupted it - the actions are all stick and no carrot.

That's part of it, but an awful lot of government is just ordinary people doing ordinary things. Like that ammo. It's often "use or lose it" with federal funds. If you don't spend it this fiscal year, you don't get to keep it. They might even dock you that much the next year, seeing as you didn't need it. So what to buy? Ammo keeps well, you always need more if you do regular training, and with the way prices have been increasing, it seems like a smart way to use up leftover money.

Then there's things like Health and Human Services telling people to stock tuna fish and peanut butter under their beds in case of bird flu. Are they in the pocket of big tuna or big peanut butter? I doubt it. I also doubt they really think it will make much difference. It's a CYA thing. If people are worried about something, they want to be able to say they have a plan.

An alternative explanation is fear and the belief on the part of the government that people want it to do everything possible to assuage this fear, to "protect" us even if we don't need to be protected as much as we are supposedly being protected.

could you please add me to your newsletter? my email is in my profile.

Sure. One concern I have, though, with a lot of these references-to-history with regard to collapse/decline is with their comparative contexts-- smaller-scale, lighter-footprint, lower-population empires, civilizations, etc., that seem to have had other pristine environments to move to or conquer, and that their resource-utilizations were relatively limited and had a relatively limited effect on the environment. This time seems different, planetary. I'm less interested in the speed of collapse/decline and more in its effects and what happens afterward, and even wonder if, this time, there will be a grande finale for our species.

It appears that, with every passing year, humans increase the natural background radiation found beneath the protective atmosphere. Now, while radiation might produce beneficial mutations, I wonder what they'll make of all our laptops and servers in the absence of context.

Coincidentally, I got a server error when selecting the video's link.

"This time seems different, planetary."

Uh oh... Any suggestions I've made that "this time is different" haven't met with much acceptance, even though every time is clearly different, if only in the sense that more humans are making more demands on declining resources. I could make a list, but it seems pointless. That said, humans' collective cluelessness regarding their current situation has changed little. Most have more immediate concerns, afterall.

What if dinosaurs were "responsible" for their own extinction rather than (only) an increase in volcanism and/or a meteor impact?

And if, according to Gaia and Medea theories (both theories can both be correct), a species pushed hard enough on the equilibrium of the planet-- like ours-- that the planet would push back with equal and opposite force?

If oxygen-breathing animal species are going extinct faster than oxygen-releasing plant species-- or at least from a mass or ability to absorb/release O₂/C0₂ standpoint-- what then? What of that 'Daisyworld adjustment to equilibrium'?

In any case, if we are going to knock out a whole lot of species, big-time, including us, in the process, it may be beneficial for a robust species bounce-back if we could leave the gift of a little nuclear waste behind.

I'd kill to be alive in the year 2 000 012.

What if dinosaurs were "responsible" for their own extinction rather than (only) an increase in volcanism and/or a meteor impact?

No, that would not have caused their extinction even if they were responsible for massive global warming. Though the earth was rather warm 65 million years ago when the dinosaurs went extinct, it was much warmer 90 million years ago and 150 million years ago and the dinosaurs survived those periods of much warmer weather just fine.

Ron P.

Perhaps it was (also) the speed of warming, or the dinosaurs' other effects on the planet?
In any case, flora and fauna certainly do affect the atmosphere, and dinosaurs were pretty big. I mean, consider all their droppings alone! ;)
We'll be joining them soon enough.

A person who loses their job and their family has no means of support, notices the change immediately. If the unemployment rate rises, on average, a couple of tenths of a percentage point per year then no one will notice. And if we were living in an agrarian economy, like all previous societies that have ever existed were, then any collapse could only be slow and gradual.

The world of the past does not exist anymore. Any collapse scenario that bases its prediction on societies that have collapsed in the past is bound to be wrong. The future collapse will almost certainly be fast and sudden.

We are approaching some hard limits, but I do not think we will see any overnight collapse. Individuals and communities will hit shock points, causing major changes in their lives, but others will be only dimly aware of what is happening.

This would be true only if the unemployment rate ramps up slowly, very slowly. That is extremely unlikely. We live in a credit bubble. That credit bubble must burst as economic growth stops and starts to shrink. This could possibly a slow process were it not for the credit collapse. That bubble will burst suddenly and its effects will be felt, worldwide, within a matter of weeks. Millions upon millions will lose their jobs, almost overnight. No one will only be dimly aware of what is happening, everyone will be shocked at the suddenness of it.

Oil Energy Situation

The above chart was copied and pasted from page 37 of This Book:
Energy and the Wealth of Nations: Understanding the Biophysical Economy

Whatever happens on that down-slope seen above, will be a very first time in history happening. And it will be a sudden shock to every soul on the planet.

Ron P.

I have never seen a slow collapse. But of course this depends on the definition of when collapse starts.

As an example, felling a 25 tonne tree with wedges. Initially there is the scarf cut then the back cut. Wedges are then driven in to the back cut. As you hit each wedge the tree creeks and groans, but still appears to be standing tall, yet is it? Sometimes just one last light tap on a wedge will bring the tree down, the final collapse to the ground. The final act of the collapse takes a tiny fraction of the overall time of the operation, yet it is inevitable that it happens from the very beginning.

Every collapse is similar, we only look at the last movement to define it as collapse, not at the inevitable build-up as part of the process.

On the tree of civilization we began the cuts when we started using fossil fuels centuries ago, currently we are tapping the wedges. When the final movement comes that we call "the collapse" it will be neither slow, pretty, or stoppable. If you stop tapping the wedges as the tree starts it's final movement, you don't stop the fall.

Hide away, one can redefine "collapse" to make it almost anything, especially if you get really philosophical about it. The "collapse" we are trying to define here is not the same collapse historians might describe it 1000 years from now, if there are any historians then.

That being said, the collapse of civilization cannot start with the rise of civilization. That is just getting a little too philosophical. One could philosophically say that death starts at birth and we die a little each day. That way death would be a process that lasts, on average, over 70 years. But that is not what we call death. Death as we commonly refer to it happens, quite often, very suddenly.

Likewise you might could possibly say that collapse, like death, begins at the birth of civilization. But we are referring to "collapse" in the very same manner we refer to "death". That is the tragic thing that happens right at the very end and only at the very end of our life... and the end of civilization as we know it.

Ron P.

"As you hit each wedge the tree creeks and groans, but still appears to be standing tall, yet is it?"

There was someone on TOD that has mentioned/proposed a "Staircase Model" of collapse which I believe in a way fits this scenario.

Relating the two the "creaks and groans" of the tree being felled are the mini-collapses of the staircase model. It may take a few small steps (sometimes with apparent partial recoveries) before the "tipping point" is reached and there's a large crash. Often as with felling a tree, the large crash won't completely detach the tree from the base - but leave it partially attached, still a little further to fall but essentially gone.

I think most around here would agree that the area of 2007-2009 was some kind of turning point. In context of other things going on...conventional crude+condensate plateau, water crises, international tensions, and continuing financial debacles - it's probable we've hit the first stair, particularly bolstered by the phrase, now in 2012, "the jobless recovery" at least in the United States (from which my perspective is biased).

There are plenty of confounding factors, but I'd comment primarily on China and India and PIIGS. How much more of a delay in the first step down would there have been if ChIndia had not geared up their economies as they have? This certainly depleted any reserve that might have been in the system for other nations to extend-and-pretend. With the downfall of the PIIGS nations - how has this re-inflated the extend-and-pretend for the other nations - is it of significance worth note? PIIGS seem to have become the world equivalent of what Chris Hedges termed capitalism's "sacrifice zones." Who or where is the next "sacrifice zone?"

What about Greece and Spain? For them the collapse is sudden. Just 2-3 years ago, they were fairly prosperous and complacent.

I was in Greece a few weeks ago. Everything seemed normal. Airport, taxis, restaurants, supermarkets. No sudden collapse yet.

I think we need an objective definition of collapse. Something on the likes of

1. Amount spent on food (as a %) compared to previous generation.
2. Number of working hours for the same standard of living.
3. Number of taxpayers (not amount of tax) as a percentage of population.
4. Nutritional content (not caloric) in food.
5. Air quality.
6. Quality of water.
7. Percentage of land under natural forests and untouched habitats.

Then the obvious ones...
1. Average lifespan from generation to generation.
2. working population as percentage of population.
3. Infant mortality etc etc..

And the most important...Crime rate

Get rid of GDP asap

This discussion of collapse and what it looks like and what a definition of it should be is interesting.

I would however note that the Roman Empire (a large scale civillization) which has definitely died and gone to civililization heaven, or hell as the case may be, took centuries to pass away. Remnants of it remain to this day, though Latin, like the Roman world, is a dead language.

I do not think that our civillization will pass away in the collapse everyone is speaking of in the manner that you speak of. Our species and our society are robust. Neither are infinitely robust to be sure and eventually both will come to an end (everything does after all), but I don't expect our civillization to go out in a flash like Pompeii on that fateful day when Mt. Vesuvius let loose its wrath. I expect, barring full scale thermonuclear holocaust, a collapse more like that of Rome or Carthage. Which war with Rome was really the end of Carthage after all? The last for sure, but which war dealt it a blow that would prove fatal in the long run? Do we know? Can we know now? Did some Carthiginians know then? Who knows? The same applies to Rome and likely to us.

All I know for sure is that this too shall pass. Something will rise from the ashes and continue to do for a long time to come yet. Humanity's writ on earth is not done yet and won't be done soon. That I'm willing to bet on.

My structural engineering professor had a wonderful expression, "Catastrophic collapse in slow motion." Seems to me that the two modes, catastrophic collapse in slow motion and punctuated equilibrium, are clearly in operation. Different places, different rates, different things collapsing, the occasional hurricane or drought to give it a good hard kick. The normal is fraying badly, in many places, for many people. Most of them are in the bottom 90% of the economy, where the real people live but most of the decision makers don't.

I think Greer is using the term "fractal collapse" now, and it seems apt.

Not only is it happening at different rates in different places, it's not necessarily a one-way process. New Orleans was Mad Max hell seven years ago; now they are hosting a Super Bowl in the stadium many thought would have to be demolished after Katrina.

Similarly, I would not be surprised if Greece bounces back once they leave the EU (which seems inevitable).

It's a catchy term for a book title, but of course a fractal collapse could be mostly composed of large events even if the collapse landscape does have a rough power-law property...

Hurricane Katrina was in 2005...do you think if Katrina hit today, with the current fiscal situation, there would even really be an attempt to rebuild it? As it is, I'm aware of people living around here that used to live in New Orleans that were displaced by Katrina and have not gone back - I'm sure that's playing out other places as well.

Of course football is God in the US, so even if they left the city (or state) to rot - the stadium would have been rebuilt. Priorities, after all.

Hurricane Katrina was in 2005...do you think if Katrina hit today, with the current fiscal situation, there would even really be an attempt to rebuild it?

Probably. If not, it would not be because of the fiscal situation, but because people would decide it's a dumb place to put a city. That is, "It's a bad way to spend money," not "we can't afford it."

The collapse, like peak oil, is something we will see in the rear view mirror.

Actually, the collapse is all around us, we humans have just stepped to the back of the line, pushing other species and biomass into oblivion first.

Read a book about the way the world used to be, the abundance of nature. Discussion of apocalypse as though it's some weather event which has yet to materialize rather misses the point. The ultimate fiscal collapse of wealthy humans will just be a sad postscript, and won't amount to much in the fossil record. And even a "slow collapse" of 1000 years is instantaneous by fossil standards. It'll feel slow while it's happening; subjective time is a funny thing that way.

By any prior standards, this is a pretty fast apocalypse. It's only slow by twitter standards.

"Actually, the collapse is all around us, we humans have just stepped to the back of the line, pushing other species and biomass into oblivion first."

Perfect!! Thanks!
Our fathomless hubris has blinded us to this reality.

Here is an excellent example in the Northeast US.
Last week the temperature dipped to the 40's and even 30's (F) and people were remarking how chilly it was. Which I was thinking myself despite my belief global warming is happening. Then I got my latest Natural gas bill, way lower than last year.
And the average temp for 2012 was 68 while the average temp for 2011 was 58!
A 10 degree Fahrenheit difference! That is HUGE! Yet it did not seem warmer compared to August, July the whole warmer year.

Literally like the frog in the boiling pot!

On the other side my energy saving measures resulted in another negative bill based on past seasonal averages!

Of course I'm being deliberately glib for effect, and am inclined to agree. It might be interesting if many more began willfully hacking away at the ship, which is really a submarine floating upside-down on a sea of air.

"So when's this collapse thing going to happen? After 7 years on TOD, you'd think it would have happened by now, yes? So what's the holdup?"

Cheap natural gas and the matching combined cycle gas turbine/steam power plants. Nothing else is cost competitive at the moment.

After 7 years on TOD, you'd think it would have happened by now, yes?

What on earth has that to do with anything? See the chart I posted above. The collapse will happen somewhere on the down-slope of that chart, I think most likely sometime during the 2020s or 2030s. But it could be as late as the 2040s or perhaps less than 8 years from now, before 2020.

At any rate I don't think a universal collapse will happen until world oil production is dropping by 2 to 3 percent per year. However ELM could bring it on earlier. A collapse of Greece and Spain, which ELM is causing right now, could trigger it but I really think it will take more than that.

The point is ELM is causing a decline in oil available to all the Western World. That is why much of Europe is teetering on the brink of collapse right now. And when a decline in actual production hits oil exporting nations then the situation will get worse, much worse, triggering total global collapse.

Ron P.

I find myself on the "Staircase Model" of collapse these days. The trajectories I see put "us" on the next stair down around 2015+-1.

A collapse of Greece and Spain, which ELM is causing right now, could trigger it...

We diverge on the meaning of Greece and Spain here (+PII). I mentioned this above, but the PIIGS countries remind me more of Chris Hedges "capitalism sacrifice zones." Like a body under stress what operates as "the core" (apparently Germany and France in the Eurozone) is cutting off circulation to its limbs to maintain itself.

The point is ELM is causing a decline in oil available to all the Western World. That is why much of Europe is teetering on the brink of collapse right now. And when a decline in actual production hits oil exporting nations then the situation will get worse, much worse, triggering total global collapse.

This, combined with the rise of China and India, I think is the root - but the reaction as I say above is that the "stronger" nations will sacrifice the others in an attempt to isolate themselves (while doing a little something perhaps to pretend they care).

When it happens, I hope I am riding my recumbent trike at the time and I would like to see this in the midst of a big traffic jam. Or maybe not. Maybe they will get out of their cars and come after me because of the smug look on my face. Or maybe they will come after me to beat me up and steal my trike.

This is kind of a complicated question - different people adapt in different ways, and on different time scales. I suppose the best measures would be to watch the VMT (vehicle miles travelled), and total gasoline consumption for the country.

In our neighborhood, most of the homes are townhomes. What used to happen not that many years ago would be that a couple might have one or two kids, and then move out into the exurbs somewhere so they can have the proverbial house with the white picket fence. But what we are seeing are more and more children in the neighborhood - in the mornings there are quite a few lined up waiting for the school bus. We talked to some of the people, and some of them have grown tired of the long commute, and traded the larger house for a shorter and less stressful commute.

Another anecdotal data point. There is a fellow I work with who still loves the giant SUVs. But his commute is only about 5 miles or so, so even though he doesn't get all that good of a fuel economy, he doesn't use as much as someone with a much longer commute and a more fuel efficient vehicle.

I am noticing more and more cars advertising fuel economy > 30mpg. Which still isn't all *that* good to my mind, but it is still progress by some measure, I guess. 10 years ago, all that they ever bothered to advertise were the giant SUVs.

30mpg gets most of the value to be gained from historical <15mpg vehicles, so it is indeed a major step.

If you don't drive far, any car will be cheap to drive, as payments, insurance, and tags will be an increasing fraction. Of course you COULD go electric....

As for the jackrabbit driving -- if you hustle, you will not only save some time on the highway, but you just might make lights or pass hypermilers, which could save you minutes each. Sure, you might get bottled up at the next light, but only about half the time. On average, you save time.

And if you save time, in a 30mpg car, you are almost definitely saving money. Just do the time value based on a moderate wage and it will be clear.

We can all argue that it's a waste of a valuable resource, but the thing is it's just not pricey enough...yet.

This reminds me of the old saying: You don't have to outswim the shark - you just need to outswim your dive buddy.

As long as you keep yourself in a position where you can afford the energy prices when there are those out there who cannot, you are in relatively good shape.

The impact of vehicle fuel efficiency is clearer if one thinks in terms of gallons / 10,000 miles.

15 mpg = 667 gallons / 10,000 miles.
30 mpg = 333 gallons / 10,000 miles.
60 mpg = 167 gallons / 10,000 miles.

So going from a 15 mpg vehicle to a 30 mpg vehicle is a relatively big savings. Going from 30 to 60 is a comparatively small savings.

I think what bothered me the most when I saw numbers like this was how little our driving habits are a topic of the national debate on energy. Driving habits make a huge difference on oil consumption both personally and nationally. Look at the TOD and other media articles on what price of oil might crash the economy, but the price of oil is always modulated by driving efficiency. Some questions that bother me:

1. Would the government ever launch a media blitz to save the economy by driving slower? (this happened in WW2)

2. Why are driving habits/speed limits never in presidential debates?

3. Why do we waste so much time on dumb things everyday but feel the need to race on the roads and risk our lives for an additional minute or two?

4. Why do we throw so much money out the window each day racing when we are all supposed to be economcally strapped?

5. Why are legislatures that want to raise speed limits never attacked as being irresponsible by the MSM on the grounds of energy independence?

Driving habits seem to be a subject that not only cannot be legislated but not even talked about as a national issue- like a constitutional right (actually the right to speed seems to be a higher right than free speech)

Because it would be extremely unpopular, and go against our mythical sense of entitlement to excitement. The later has been carefully nurtured by decades of advertising, and is an integral part of the thinking process of 99% of the population. So anyone daring to make a proposal such as you advocate, would be derived as a fuddy-dud killjoy party-pooper sort. It would be like being the tea-tottler chaparone for a bunch of sailors on leave.

Look at the way cars are driven in most car advertisements...doing extreme maneuvers, which if done on a regular basis would lead to excessive wear, and tire lifetimes similar to an auto race (where they gotta change out tires in the middle of a 500 mile race!). Its all about excitement, and having a bigger stick than the other guys.

..."doing extreme maneuvers, which if done on a regular basis would lead to..."

A pile of traffic tickets a mile high. A lot of cars can go from 0 mph to license revoked in under 6 to 8 seconds on most roads (15 mph over the posted speed limit). Vroom vroom!

On a flat interstate my CR-V will get about 30 mpg at 70 with the air conditioner off and the windows up. Dropping to 55 won't improve the mileage more than an mpg or two. Turning the air conditioner on, hilly terrain, or driving in the rain have a much bigger impact on mileage than does speed.

My Accord is older and doesn't have a continuous mileage readout, but it gets around 32 mpg. This is due to better aerodynamics and being FWD instead of AWD.

Driving at slow speeds around town results in much worse mileage. Accelerating slowly and avoiding the use of the brakes by planning ahead are much more important than speed.

I would support legislation that lets you drive at whatever maximum speed your vehicle gets 30 mpg or better. Manufacturers could stencil this on the door to simplify enforcement and incent buyers.

1) No, not until there is a shortage, which for now there isn't.
2) Because such discussions are divisive and would be net vote losers for the proponent.
3) Because for a lot of people it's hours, and it's easy time to save. Unless you enjoy spending time driving, it's a loss. On the other hand, if you enjoy doing other dumb stuff, that's a benefit. What is there in life but time, really?
4) Because it saves more money than it costs. Until the guiding argument shifts to energy or efficiency, we've got a model that sorts for financial benefit and social status. The results are quite predictable.
5) Because energy service is a lip-service goal, not a real one.

Would the government ever launch a media blitz to save the economy by driving slower? (this happened in WW2)

There was a study done a few years back. It recommended a 55 mph speed limit in case of emergency.

The 55 mph speed limit does not work. People ignore it, unless there's massive enforcement, which eats up the supposed savings.

It would work in case of emergency, because people are willing to make sacrifices in that situation.

Here's the reverse of a WWII-era gas ration sticker.

It would take a world war to get people to drive 35 mph.

I can also believe people might have actually obeyed it, since there weren't going to be any replacement tires available until after the war.

Or (along with a much lower speed limit) just keep the level of enforcement the same but triple the penalty, as in "now you're 30 mph over the posted speed limit instead of just 10 mph over, that's gonna cost you BIG". Wonder if people would catch on pretty quickly?

I don't think so. Many states already do that, and people are speeding more than ever.

Also, studies have shown that it's the chance of being caught, not the penalty if you are caught, that influences people's behavior.

Auto Addiction is incredibly costly in many ways beyond just gasoline/oil consumption.
The NY Times had an article pointing out how many politicians have suffered deaths of
relatives due to auto accidents. When there are 30,000 of these per year that is going to happen. The estimate in that article citing the AAA was that auto accidents cost the US $300 Billion a year. That would run a LOT of trains and light rail in itself!

But to the point of the government, media and society doing something about Auto Addiction and its costs. This happened during WW II to meet the urgent need to redirect production to the War Effort (well perceived urgent need anyway!) and save oil, rubber, iron etc. Car production was reduced from thousands of cars to 300 per year. Major propaganda efforts were waged to encourage use of Green public transit and discourage driving. The results in a less urban, and less populated USA?

From 1942 to 1945 in just 3 years, intercity rail ridership quadrupled intercity bus ridership quadrupled, commuting and local transit ridership also quadrupled.
This indeed saved huge amounts of oil, rubber, iron, zinc and other resources.

This COULD be done today!

Today 79% of the US population lives in urbanized areas. The US still has 233,000 miles of existing Rail lines which should be brought back into service for LightRail, Commuter Rail, Long distance passenger service or all 3 at once. Even with our existing Green Transit system Brookings found that 70% of working age Americans in 100 US Metro areas ALREADY live only 3/4ths mile from a transit stop. (admittedly usually buses). BUT due to infrequent service, lack of local/express service and the last mile connection only 30% of those working age Americans could get to a job in less than 90 minutes even during peak transit service hours.
This can be fixed.
Just run the trains and buses, leverage Rail/LightRail as much as possible instead of buses which would become primarily feeders, provide shuttles, bikepaths or safe walkways for the last mile connection.

Copenhagen has the right idea with their plans to become carbon neutral and move to 65% of their transit on Green transit Rail, bikes or walking.

But the Auto Addiction lobby of the oil companies, our Auto Addiction only companies, highway pavers, Unionized paving construction workers, suburban sprawl developers are united against and have successfully propagandized Americans for years that Auto Addiction is the only option.

Jackrabbit starts in the Prius kick in the gasoline engine - so it depends on what you're driving too.

And if you save time, in a 30mpg car, you are almost definitely saving money. Just do the time value based on a moderate wage and it will be clear.

I've seen this argument before but it's bogus for commuters. For commercial drivers though this is a valid argument to make.

If you are increasing risk you might not be saving money.

Impacts will be more severe therefore more expensive; and the likelihood of impact greater as drivers take chances to maintain speed and have less time to take avoiding action.

Great post, particularly the bit about adrenaline. It took me many years to quit the addictive rush of impromptu street racing here in Los Angeles, and learn that the real power comes from being in control of yourself...

Not engage with other punks like me who dog my bumper. Not let them control my behavior, which could end up with someone getting dead, or losing their cars. To pull over, let the other guy pass, and feel strong because of what I'm NOT doing.

Maybe someday that will become the new cool. That's certainly what we're trying to sell in community mental health.

Interesting that yesterday, The Rolling Stones released their first single in years, which should become the Doomer International Anthem (appropriately called "Doom and Gloom.") I always thought the band was overrated, but this might be the only environmentally relevant song they've ever written.

And it doesn't hurt that it really rocks.

Absolutely classic rock music.

Fracking deep for oil, but there's nothing in the sump.
There's kids all picking at the garbage dump.
I'm running out of water so I better prime the pump.
I'm trying to stay sober but I end up drunk.

We'll be eating dirt, living on the side of the road.
There's some food for thought, kind of makes your head explode.
Feeling kind of hurt, yeah.
But aaaaaall I hear is doooooom and gloom,
And all is darkness in my room.

This falls in that general category of things exemplified by the question: Why does a dog lick it's butt? The answer is: "Because it can."

Quite amusing when I pull up next to them on my bicycle. Surprising how far I can keep up or ahead of some of these.


You are correct -- driving is boring.

Since you don't seem to live too far from your workplace and seek beauty in your commute, may I suggest commuting via bicycle.

I think the greatest natural tragedy of the last hundred years (by a wide margin too) has been the utter willingness of human beings (those that could afford to) to give up their freedom and happiness in order to meet the needs of the automobile.

I hate urban landscapes devoted to cars, and dependency on cars (I work from home and can shop on foot), but when I dive I think of myself as a super-miler (or I will now. now that I'm familiar with the term).

RE: State of the Earth: Still Seeking Plan A for Sustainability

"Human experience is also largely local, and it's hard to notice a global trend."

The locals in a Kansas community have a hot real estate venture going: Apocalypse Proof Condos

Disclosure: I have absolutely no commercial or other interest in this real estate endeavor

It's the zombie-apocalypse, or no apocalypse at all.

Jedi Welder,

That company invested 60 million on the project, and sold out forthwith, and they have a waiting list.

They have a swimming pool, lounge, hydroponic gardens, and on and on.

It is a luxury scene.

And they can't build enough of them.

My point being, doomers are fashionable dood. ;)

I notice, though, that they are taking in only 14 million per silo. Considering construction, equipment and supplies to be stocked, I wonder how many silos they need to build out to break even. The hydroponics (and aquaculture tanks) obviously are there just to provide a little variety in the diet. Each unit is to be stocked with five years worth of food, presumably long-shelf life dried survival food. They will have wind turbines and PV, but I wonder how long those will last. They may end up relying heavily on the diesel generators, with the stored diesel fuel not lasting five years. Speaking of which, what are the chances of the diesel fuel becoming contaminated over five years.

I guess what I'm wondering is, after the wind turbines and PV panels have been trashed, and the diesel fuel runs out, and the survival food is all eaten, what those people going to do?

They strike me as an attempt at a self-contained lifeboat. I don't believe they have all their ducks in a row, though. Your points are well taken.

what those people going to do?

Well, they'll still have five years of poop at the bottom of the shaft...

Reminds me of the Russian POWs in German camps who sifted through poop for undigested kernels of grain to eat. Those that did it, survived. Those that didn't, didn't.

What I can't figure out is what type of scenario are these things actually supposed to help with? Just what sort of a vague "apocalypse" do they envision? I suppose the people who make the things only care that they can sell the things at a profit - it is really the people that buy the things that I can't quite figure out.

From the short FACT #75: Letting sleeping oil deposits lie, above:

The Congressional Budget Office says the leaseholders are waiting until oil production becomes more profitable.

I'll let others post the (some record) recent profits of the oil majors here, but it's clear that the squeeze between production costs and affordability will get tighter over time. This graph, posted by Steve (from VA) this week at Economic Undertow tells the story...

"The convergence that destroys industrialization"

...and may be an indicator of the timeline involved; just a few more years, folks.

Yes, what happens when the price of oil needed by marginal production exceeds the price the economy can handle? Production drops and supply fails to be adequete to avoid economic contraction. 2 years away? Once the sqeeze is on, i.e. a positive loop exchange in which lower oil price drives down supply that in turn drives down the economy, I see no reason why that process should not cause a very fast economic contraction. That graph shows the edge of the cliff.

Your chart may be a little bit conservative. I googled the "marginal cost of a barrel of oil" and got several hits. But most of them cited the same study from Bernstein Research.

Oil Price Likely to Stay Buoyed by Marginal Costs

The close relationship between the two was demonstrated from 2001 to 2010, when the average annual price of international oil benchmark Brent crude rose 228%, while analysts at Bernstein Research estimate the marginal production cost of the world's 50 largest listed oil companies increased 229%.

In 2011, the marginal cost of oil production was $92.26 a barrel for the 50 largest listed oil and gas companies and will reach $100 a barrel next year if it continues to follow the long-term trend, said Bernstein in a research note.

But there is also the "break even" price that some national oil companies need to finance their economies.

Saudi unlikely to cut soon despite oil under $100

"But the real marginal cost of production also includes
social costs that some big oil producers need to pay."

    Following is a table of some OPEC producers' fiscal
breakeven oil prices:	
 Algeria        105
 Iran           117
 Iraq           112
 Kuwait         44
 Libya          117
 Qatar          42
 Saudi Arabia   71
 UAE            84

Ron P.

If I was Kuwait or Qatar I would voluntarily cut my exports in half and export just enough oil to be able to balance my budget. If I was Saudi Arabia I would cut my exports by one third. What is the point in running a budget surplus? The "money" would get invested in some paper assets that could lose a lot of value. Better to leave the oil in the ground where it would generate a higher (& guaranteed) rate of return.

suyog – But could they afford to do so? No one knows what the KSA books look like…another state secret. How much debt do they have? I recall rumors that the KSA came close to going bankrupt back in the late 90’s. What are their budget requirement to develop current projects? Are they borrowing much or all of their capex? I just made the point above that cash flow is not profit. And no matter how high the KSA income may be it doesn’t mean they have sufficient income to cover expenses.

Also consider what might happen if the KSA did significantly decrease oil sales. Higher oil prices that push the global economy into recession, demand drops and then oil prices drop. Possible net result: KSA income becomes insufficient to maintain its populace. Not a theoretical idea: after high oil prices of the late 70’s produced a global recession oil prices fell to under $10 in 1986 when the KSA flooded the world with cheap oil because they needed to feed their people.

Not a theoretical idea: after high oil prices of the late 70’s produced a global recession oil prices fell to under $10 in 1986 when the KSA flooded the world with cheap oil because they needed to feed their people.

Nice theory, except it didn't happen that way. Saudi's oil production dropped to about 5 million bpd in '83 and stayed there until the end of the decade.


Tony – Not a theory…fact. You might look at the reference you supplied a little close….it confirms my facts. As per your chart KSA production increased from just 3.8 mm bopd in 1983 to 8.8 mm bopd by 1991. About a 75% increase compared to staying at the 1983 rate you claim. An increase supported by you chart. As demand dropped after the price spike OPEC members kept increasing production to offset declining oil prices. The KSA kept cutting production back (as your chart shows) in an attempt to keep prices from falling further. But as they lost market share their revenue stream just wasn’t sufficient. I recall analysts at the time projecting that had the KSA kept their production declining at the same rate they would have been 100% shut in within another 18 months. So the KSA opened the valves and flooded the market (again, as your data shows) and knocked oil prices into the toilet.

Not theory but fact…as your reference shows. Nothing to argue over…folks need only look at your reference.

in 1986 when the KSA flooded the world with cheap oil

Right, KSA flooded the market with 4.87 million bpd in 1986 and 4.265 million bpd in 1987 ?

Here is the complete seies:

1983	5.086
1984	4.663
1985	3.388
1986	4.870
1987	4.265
1988	5.086
1989	5.064
average	4.63

Your facts are a little fuzzy, aritmetic seems to be the culprit.

Perhaps you meant 1991, following the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq. That probably influenced Saudi Arabia's decision to increase production, don't you think ?

Tony - the KSA ramped up production after they bottomed out and led to oil eventually losing about 70% of its value from the pre-recession peak price. In your universe that may not qualify as "flooding" the market and eroding the price base. But it does in mine.

the KSA ramped up production after they bottomed out and led to oil eventually losing about 70% of its value from the pre-recession peak price.

You are actually claiming that KSA's flooded the market and that lead to the price collapse - unbelievable !

Surely, you realize that the rest of OPEC, Norway, UK and others had something to do with that price collapse.

Here is your "ramp up" from the "bottoming out":

1985 3.388
1986 4.870
1987 4.265
1988 5.086

Beware, bumpy ramp !

Your claim that Saudi Arabia chased the price down, trying to arrest the fall and then increased production to regain market share has some merit.

Here is the (wti) price data starting in 1986:


You have presented:

1)miniscule evidence that KSA flooded the market.
2)miniscule evidence that KSA's ramping up of production lead to price collapse.
3)zero evidence that KSA "ramped-up" production for fiscal reasons.

Your theory gets weaker with each itteration, your facts are missing in action.

Higher oil prices that push the global economy into recession, demand drops and then oil prices drop. Possible net result: KSA income becomes insufficient to maintain its populace.

I am assuming that no one has significant spare capacity and therefore cannot steal market share from a exporter who cuts exports voluntarily.. If exports are cut ==> price will spike a lot higher ==> cause a recession ==> price will fall ==> consumption will increase ==> a new equilibrium is reached. I am guessing the new equilibrium price will be higher than what it is today. KSA might get away will cutting exports by 1 mbpd and earn nearly the same amount of money as it does now. I would try it if I were them :-)

Suyog – “I am assuming that no one has significant spare capacity and therefore cannot steal market share from a exporter who cuts exports voluntarily”. There could be significant excess capacity by many other oil exporters if the KSA cut production and prices rose. All it takes is a major global recession to kill demand significantly. Then all the exporters would have excess production capability above the then reduced demand level. Exactly as it happened in the 80’s as I just described above. Demand destruction = lower oil prices from producers cut prices in order to retain market share = someone, like the KSA, cutting production to support the oil price = someone, like the KSA, losing a sufficient revenue stream. Of course if OPEC, for the first time, functioned as a true cartel, they might hold prices stable as no one cheats on quotas.

Could price induced demand destruction cause a repeat a repeat of the 80’s. Sure it could if the recession is deep enough. Will it happen? I don’t know but my gut says probably not so I’m not predicting this scenario will come to pass. OTOH could it happen? It did in the 80’s when no one, not a single person, predicted such a possible just several years earlier. Everyone inside the oil patch (including the Rockman), and outside, assumed the world would just keep paying for higher priced oil. We were all wrong…very wrong. Just as I doubt many would today predict it will happen in the near future if there were another significant price spike caused by the KSA significantly reducing oil supplies.

If I was Kuwait or Qatar I would voluntarily cut my exports in half and export just enough oil to be able to balance my budget.

I would use some of my oil income for current needs, and invest the balance. I would juggle the amounts so that when the oil runs out the income from my investments will equal the amount I used to get from oil sales.

How else will I cope with oil running out?

Written by suyog:
If I was Saudi Arabia I would cut my exports by one third.

In that event the U.S. might discover a link between the Saudi Royal family and al Qaeda prompting them to do regime change in Saudi Arabia instead of Iran.

Which makes you think how a strategically timed/placed 'attack' on oil infrastructure, that can be tied back to Iran, might be good for plausible deniability on KSA export reductions.

But nobody would ever think to do that, would they ...

All these Gulf oil kingdoms have security arrangements with the US. And in that sense, "their" resources aren't truly their own.

Iraq at $112 for break-even? It would seem that those who expect a flood a Iraqi oil to drive down the price are mistaken. The flood of Iraqi oil only gets unleashed as long as the price stays at slowly ruinous; so at best it staves off quickly ruinous.

Ron: "Your chart may be a little bit conservative."

I posted Steve's chart as an illustration of related trends, something I try to focus on; It's a trees/forest thing for me, and goes to discussions, here and elsewhere, regarding the direction of whole systems. It also helps put ongoing attempts to develop so-called "sustainable" and "renewable" substitutions into perspective (see Dr. Chu’s Remarks About Biofuels at Biomass 2012 , above).

It's a predicament of time and scale; how deep a hole we continue to dig, and how little time remains to adapt. It's clear that economies/societies lack any real sense of urgency proportional to the predicaments we face, and that policy makers face the choice of attempting to inform their charges of the very real consequences of their current behavior (to which most will respond with denial or panic), or offer false hopes, hoping to slow the inevitable train wreck just a bit. I'm conflicted as to which course is least destructive.

Meanwhile, out on our local lake, the jetskis are buzzing around on perhaps the last relatively warm Saturday of the season, burning a bit more fossil fuel, their riders with determined looks of blissful euphoria, unconcerned, unaware, and grossly unprepared. "Nice wetsuit! Is it new?"

When I reviewed Dr. Chu's talk, I had a gut feeling that he wasn't all that enthusiastic about this subject of biofuels, but the fact is once oil becomes much more expensive (2020?), we will be going after every possible resource that has anything with net energy return that's worthwhile and affordable. Predictive models show that biofuels will still be increasing in volume in 2070. Policy today goes towards special interests, but the slack will get removed from the system as time goes on. Right now we have tremendous overproduction of Ag going on in the world and corn ethanol is the solution to raise prices above input costs, something that is making farm producers and big agribusiness in every nation around the world happy, since the program drives up all commodity prices in its ripple effect, minus the livestock industry, that is. If there is a profit to be made, we'd rather exploit the land than allow it to rest. The one conclusion that I've come to since the time I used to hang out around TOD a number of years ago, is that this oil depletion story is and will play out much differently than many initially assumed possible and that the biggest loser in the process will be the environment.

"The one conclusion that I've come to since the time I used to hang out around TOD a number of years ago, is that this oil depletion story is and will play out much differently than many initially assumed possible and that the biggest loser in the process will be the environment.

The fast-crash "doomers" get the headlines, but there are plenty on here who support the Greer-style "Catabolic collapse" in which collapse takes a much longer time and humans burn and eat everything in sight turning the Earth into an essentially uninhabitable rock.

I can appreciate that. Put me now in the "burn and eat everything" camp, the "this can go on a lot longer than you think" camp, and even the "there is some hope for optimism" camp. It will perhaps come down to tipping points and evolution in progress. No one can ever predict the future and our minds are too small for the complexity of the issues.

Ghung – I know there’s little chance of convincing many with axes to grind but high oil/NG prices do not now, nor ever have, produced high profits from NEW drilling efforts. Typically they look at high revenue and think of that number as profit. I know of a number of companies/investors losing the *sses right now. Selling oil for $100/bbl isn’t profitable if it’s costing you $130/bbl to get it out of the ground. The really fat profit margins develop in two ways. You’re either very good at finding FF or you develop your reserve base when drill costs and oil/NG prices were low and then cut back drilling when costs/prices rise. We call it mail box money: just sit back, do little and wait for the check to show up every month.

We recently drastically cut our deep NG drilling program. But not just because of low prices per se. It’s because of low margins. Back in the mid 80’s I had one of the most profitable NG drilling program in my career…and I was selling at $0.90/mcf compared to $3.50/mcf today. Why? I found a silver technology bullet that allowed me to hit 23 out of 25 wildcats. And the other side of the coin: when oil prices boomed in the late 70’s and the public was constantly bitching about “obscene profits” I watched one joint venture drill 18 expensive dry holes in row. I don’t have a data base to prove it but I have no doubt that if we did the relationship between profit and oil/NG prices would show a clear inverse relationship: higher oil/NG prices always lead to lower profits. And sometimes none at all.


Clearly prices have an influence on profits. It is a fairly simple relationship. Profit=revenue-cost. Higher prices=higher revenue, but does not necessarily mean higher profits if costs rise more than revenue. It seems unlikely that high prices always leads to lower profits for the oil industry as a whole. Bad decisions can be made on new drilling efforts when prices are high. Clearly higher prices would increase profits for projects that have been completed. Ceteris paribus, I would think if you could choose between a higher price and a lower price you would choose the higher price (if you were selling oil or gas).

It is also true that high prices may reduce demand due to recession, so too high a price can hurt the oil industry just as badly as too low a price (which may have been your point). We want the prices to be "just right" which is what the TRRC did before 1970 and OPEC tries to do now. Once OPEC becomes unable to boost production to control an upward price spiral (we might be there already), the price of oil might swing wildly due to booms and busts unless China, and the OECD try to control demand with fuel taxes. Not a likely scenario.


DC – “Clearly higher prices would increase profits for projects that have been completed. Ceteris paribus, I would think if you could choose between a higher price and a lower price you would choose the higher price (if you were selling oil or gas).” Absolutely not…depending on which dynamic you’re dealing with. Watch my words closely. I’m not playing a word game on you. There are two very different dynamics: drilling for new reserves and producing existing reserves.

Know it’s difficult to accept but in my 37 years I have consistently seen the oil patch make low to very low profit margins during high price periods. High oil/NG prices drive not only bad investments (dry holes) but also successful wells that eventually bring about financial failure. Dry holes are easy enough to appreciate so no more on that subject. But a scant 4 years ago we saw the perfect example of “success” bringing about financial ruin. Remember the shale dry gas boom, especially in east Texas. Billions spent drilling for NG that peaked around $13/mcf. Beaucoup profits, eh? No…there weren’t huge profits even with those high NG prices because the drilling costs were so high. And then prices collapsed and two of the largest independent companies, Chesapeake and Devon, came within a breath of going under.

A company’s profitability isn’t a just a function of much FF they find at what cost but also is based upon the long term prices. Again all I have is my 37 years of experience to base my opinions on. But the most profitable operations I’ve seen happened when prices were on the low end of the scale. And the vast majority of companies I’ve seen fail did so as a result of expansion during high price periods. In fact, I can’t recall one exception. I personally know of dozens of companies that would fail if oil dropped 20% and held there for a while. Current profit margins/cash flow are just too slim for many companies.
Again, I’ll just beat you up with my 37 years of first-hand experience watching oil patch sausage being made: folks outside the oil patch can’t appreciate just how disgusting the process becomes during periods of high FF prices. No one expects oil prices to drop and crush many of the players today. Just like no one expected NG prices to drop 4 years ago and crush many players then.

But enough about the fools in the oil patch. Let me tell you what the smart players (IMHO) I know are doing now: they are selling their production, royalties and mineral interests just as fast as they can find some fool to pay their asking price. And I’ll repeat it again: the most profitable Eagle Ford Shale player I’ve seen so far was Petrohawk. They sold their undeveloped EFS acreage for $12 billion and have been smiling like the Cheshire cat ever since. That’s how you make the big bucks when FF prices and drilling costs are so high. You seek out the “stupid money”. I’m not kidding. That really is the technical term we use. And there’s also the age old and very well documented approach: hype the stock of a public company, sell your position and then sit back and watch the blood bath from that lounge chair on some tropical island. Very nice…just ask some of the dotcom boom millionaires. LOL

The public is correct: we are greedy bastards and won’t hesitate to slaughter our own if there’s a profit in it. As I’ve said many times: it’s not personal…just business.

The thing with high oil prices is that it brings in a lot of "dumb" money. The infusion of dumb money either inflates the production base leading to collapsing prices or it inflates the costs resulting in declining profits. This is true not only of oil but virtually any activity. In my my MBA class many decades ago - we were participating in this game. One day we found that three out of four teams saw their sales collapse and one team with huge sales and an enormous back log. None of us made money. The team with the high sales had mispriced their product. I still clearly remember my professor pointing out - "it takes only one idiot to screw and industry".

I enjoy economic undertow and highly recommend it.

It is indeed a scary chart but remember, the dollar is a fiat currency like others and has no value. So there's a limit to all charts based upon it.

The convergence doesn't destroy civilization, it destroys the petrodollar system. But for these living today, those things might as well be the same.

Uh, sorry, but I'm not buying this argument.

I can easily believe that the marginal cost of producing oil increases over time.

On the other hand, how do we know that the line drawn across the price peaks represents the maximum that consumers can "afford" to pay? A line with negative slope such as this will soon reach zero; the particular line shown will reach zero prior to 2038. Are we really supposed to believe that consumers will only be able to afford zero for oil by 2038?

There are two groups in the market, producers and consumers. The price can peak and come back down because consumers don't want to pay the price, or because producers catch up and produce more. There are time delays in responses to price changes.

I have trouble with the notion that there is an oil price that we cannot "afford" and that if the price exceeds that, everything crashes.

Americans waste a huge amount of oil. We use twice the oil per capita that Europe does. Europe lives with far higher retail gasoline prices. Americans buy over-sized gas-guzzlers, drive them with (usually) one person in the car, live far from work, drive aggressively, etc. etc. Why? Because we can. Cheap oil enables and encourages enormous waste.

If oil prices increase beyond what a given family can "afford", there are lots of ways to cope: carpool, ride a bike, telecommute, take public transport, etc. Some of these may take capital and time, but lots of them (carpooling, biking, telecommuting) can be done instantly at zero capital cost. People may not like it (presumably BAU is what they like), but it can be done, and it doesn't have to crash the economy.

I agree that we do not really know the peak price that consumers can "afford" for oil. I suspect that the peak price that consumers will be willing and able to pay will creep up over time. However, I do have a problem with the suggestion that telecommuting is an answer to high oil prices/low oil availability. I keep seeing telecommuting thrown around in here as a solution. Telecommuting is simply not an option for most workers. Only people whose job involves sitting in front of a computer all day are possible candidates for telecommuting, and not all of them could do it. I only use a computer for part of the work day, and most of what I use it for could not be done remotely (at least not without a courier running back and forth to my house). Moreover, if a job is a candidate for telecommuting, it is likely a candidate for automation or off-shoring. Now that reduces the need for oil, but doesn't help the worker.

There are two groups in the market, producers and consumers.

And to paraphrase Animal Farm, Some consumers are more equal than others.

For example, the gasoline price that will force Bill the Walmart assistant manager to conserve is quite a bit different from the gasoline price that would force Bill Gates to conserve.

I suggest you try to think more systemically:

Reduced consumption reduces the amount of capex available for exploration and production, requiring higher prices to extract remaining, more-difficult-to-extract resources (of all kinds).

The financial system needed to support the above (and what you describe) requires economic growth. Growth isn't what you are suggesting.

The plethora of incomes related to current consumption patterns will need to be replaced with...what?... or absorbed into the decline meme resulting from reduced energy (and other resource) inputs.

The graph is basically an extrapolation of what is already occurring. Over time, the process of adapting to more expensive oil will increase the cost of said oil; feedback. Processes which utterly require oil, and developing economies will keep prices at the upper limit as the resource becomes more constrained, trumping demand destruction, yet eventually won't be able to support current extraction levels.

As you said: "If oil prices increase beyond what a given family can "afford", there are lots of ways to cope:..."

The process of coping is what will bring this house of cards down. How many families cope with un-repayable credit, upside-down mortgages and declining incomes by defaulting on their previous obligations and contributions? I submit that collapse is the likely end-result of coping.

Our current global economy has two modes: Growth or decline. Since we are clearly in overshoot, which mode is more likely going forward? The shear inertia of our current condition will take us farther into overshoot, even as decline progresses. The recent perceived plateau we seem to be on is wholly the result of injections of massive amounts of faux capital, an economic infection which continues to grow. I've seen nothing to sway me from this position.

Sub - I agree with you about there being no price at which everything crashes. But there are prices that cause someone to crash. Obviousl current prices aren't "crashing" the US economy. But just as obvious that price isn't helping much either.

But what of other economies? Greece has more problems the just energy prices. But how much better would their situation be if oil were $60/bbl? And what of other economies that can't complete with the US and China at current prices? I've never been a believer of the "big crash". Higher energy prices take their toll incrementally IMHO and with a time lag component. And then there are the side issue: the US is the largest NG producer on the planet which helps buffer us from high oil prices. But what of economies like the UK that has to import LNG at 2 to 3 times the US price of NG

One could say all importing economies (some faster than othes) have been on a slow motion crash since oil began its price run up since the late 90's. Energy prices aren't the sole contributor to economic down turns but for some economies they dominate IMHO.

The desire to over hype a message destroys the credibility of the message and the messenger. Bad analysis is bad analysis even when it supports your broad world view.

It is no great revelation that if the the price that consumers can afford to pay rises more slowly than the minimum price that producers need to receive there will come a point of reckoning. That is true of any product or service not just oil. However, to draw trend lines off some arbitrary high and low point on the price of (I assume) WTI and declare those to be the maximum price consumers can pay and producers are willing to receive seems to me to be really poor quality analysis. My guess is that if instead of 2004 you had used some alternative starting date say 1975 and then drawn a line of the 1979 high and subsequent high prices it would have suggested that the maximum price we could afford to pay in 2004 would have been somewhere under $10.

If you had actually read the link, you may have discovered some things: It's not my graph, and Steve used Brent prices. I'm not agreeing with the time-line, though I do agree the trend is clear. Also, oil is only one major support in a house-of-cards economic/survival system.

It's clear to me that those charged with applying the "glue and nails" that bind our economic house are increasingly clueless as the glue they use is becoming watered down and the systems they attempt to repair become increasingly unstable and deteriorate further. Meantime, many folks discuss how we can repair the plumbing in a house with crumbling foundations.

I have yet to see a non-faith-based, systemic, all-encompassing argument that collapse is not occurring around us; I've seen many that support ongoing and accelerating decline in virtually all of our systems that matter. Definitions/projections of 'collapse' and timelines are essentially prophetic masturbation, though many seem determined to convince themselves and others that collapse can't occur swiftly. Human nature I guess. Personally, it's becoming moot; my responses will be the same.

"Definitions/projections of 'collapse' and timelines are essentially prophetic masturbation..."


Nothing has changed ...

Going Nuclear: Too Big to Fail, Redux?

In case anyone cares whether Dodd-Frank or the Volcker Rule defused those financial weapons of mass destruction known as derivatives, they can start worrying. Not only have the rules failed to curtail the risky FWMD, but they are larger than at the height of the financial crisis. And they are concentrated in four banks: JPMorgan Chase (ticker: JPM), Citigroup's Citibank (C), Bank of America (BAC), and Goldman Sachs (GS).

That's according to the second-quarter derivatives report of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. It tallied $222.5 trillion of notional derivatives held by insured U.S. commercial banks and savings associations, compared with $203.5 trillion in the second quarter of 2009.

... Sheila Bair, the former head of the FDIC who now chairs the Systemic Risk Council, says in an e-mail that, while some derivatives are ordinary hedges, their sheer magnitude, complexity, and opacity "creates an almost impenetrable web of interconnections that makes our global financial system vulnerable to systemic shocks."

also Is BofA’s Foreclosure Review Really Independent? You Be the Judge

Late last year, the country's bank regulators launched a massive program to evaluate millions of foreclosure cases and compensate homeowners who fell victim to the banks' flawed or illegal practices. Regulators dubbed it the "Independent Foreclosure Review" to emphasize that the banks would not be making key decisions about loans they had made or serviced.

But a raft of evidence — internal [1] Bank of America memos [2] and emails obtained by ProPublica, interviews with two bank staff members who have worked on the review, and little-noticed documents released late last year by a federal banking regulator — throw the independence of the review into serious doubt. Together, they indicate that Bank of America — the financial giant with the largest number of homeowners eligible for the program — is performing much of the work itself.

Nothing has changed ...

Of course it has! It used to be a simple scam with three shells and a pea...

Now it's 30 or more shells and the pea isn't under any of them!


Edstrom spent a year mapping his mortgage.

"The whole problem is that it's too difficult to understand because they've broken it into pieces. You're no longer just dealing with the bank; your mortgage is spread out over 30 to 40 companies," Edstrom said. "You walk in front of a judge trying to explain what's going on and you look like an idiot because it's incomprehensible."

Great story -thanks for the link. This is *yet another* reason why I DON'T WANT A MORTGAGE. I want reasonable, sustainable SHELTER at a price that reflects my actual MEANS --not how much debt the banks are enabling me to shackle myself to.

About 3/9 of households rent, 2/9 own their homes without a mortgage and 4/9 have a mortgage. So when you see a headline screaming that "one out of five mortgages are under water", that actually means that less than 10% of households have an underwater mortgage.

Don't want a mortgage? Get a yourgage, the comedy mortgage brought to you by the same sick f***s that brought world-wide financial ruin for the "little people".


I liked one fellow's definition of a good credit rating... it means you've been playing kissy-face with the banks.

Customers with good credit are not their favorite customers, they can extort more from people with bad credit.

Its the J.D. Byrider model, they don't expect the buyer to pay off the car, they just want them to come back for more. If the customer doesn't want to buy, that's ok, there will be another schmuck walk through the door in 5 minutes. Has certain similarities to the Wal-mart model.

Risk in the financial system is like pollution in the physical system. Everyone is passing it on to someone else and washing their hands of it.

But Rule #1 of ecology is, "Everything ends up somewhere."

Same with risk. It might be vaporous and diffused, but it's there, and someone's going to suffer if things go pear-shaped.

Personally, I think the big wrong turn the western financial system made is in allowing risk to be diffused. It has broken the link between risk and reward that is the engine of capitalism. Thus we see CEO getting zillion-dollar bonuses and taking no risks at all, and financial firms locking in profits no matter what happens. It is going to lead to capital mis-allocation.

It is going to lead to capital mis-allocation.

"Going to"...??
I'd say you're definitely onto something here.

Consider the case of homeowner Daniel Edstrom, who happens to perform securitization audits for a company called DTC-Systems.

Except that in California, Daniel Edstrom doesn't actually own his home. The deed is held by the trust company, which transfers it to Dan when he pays off the mortgage or transfers it to the lender if Dan defaults and the lender forecloses. This is consistent with the legal situation in California, where the mortgage is only secured by the value of the property, and the mortgage is not a personal obligation of the borrower. This works fine so long as the value of property is going up. When property values go down it results in a market collapse due to underwater borrowers walking away from their properties and the lenders putting properties up for sale to get as much as they can before prices fall even farther.

US thinks Iran behind cyberattack in Saudi: ex-official

... US government agencies have concluded that Iran orchestrated the "shamoon" virus that disabled tens of thousands of computers at Saudi Aramco and struck Qatari natural gas firm RasGas as well, said James Lewis, who has worked for the State Department and other government agencies on national security and cyber issues.

American officials had "more than a suspicion" that Iran was to blame for the August attacks, that also possibly included recent denial of service attacks on some US banks, said Lewis, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank.

... "How could you do something that consumed a massive amount of bandwidth in Iran and not have the government notice, when it's monitoring the Internet for political purposes?" he asked.

The Stuxnet, Duqu and other cyberattacks on Iran have pretty much legitimized cyberattacks as part of low intensity conflict. So long as the targets remain economic and operational, and are less than lethal, retaliation will likely stay within the cyberwarfare realm.

It looks like Iran is developing their own Intranet based on a Class A network address space, so that they can firewall off the entire country similarly to a large corporation.

Ethical Investing In Green Energies Has Turned Into A Nightmare

Renewable energy is the future, say environmentalists. But for green and ethical investors it has turned into a nightmare, with makers of wind and solar power systems among the worst-performing stocks in recent years.

Fossil fuels remain the cheapest fuel source, and as long as they do, we will continue to burn them, Hansen noted, arguing for a carbon tax on coal, oil and natural gas with the proceeds distributed to citizens of the countries collecting the tax. And climate change timescales are "longer than human memory and longer than terms in political office," Goddard noted. "Human experience is also largely local, and it's hard to notice a global trend."

...and there you have it. A carbon tax on fossil fuels does not make them more expensive. The economic advantage afforded by cheap, reliable electric power will, I believe and Duban notwithstanding, consign those economies who tax energy in excess to oblivion vis-a-vis their neighbors who do not. Reading the linked SA article provides little hope. Sure, micro-grid WWS is a huge advance over no electric at all. But baring a workable storage solution, it is not reliable and won't run an industrial economy on a western-type efficiency to which the population actually aspires.

If that is the efficiency to which they aspire. Looking over past TOD articles on the huge advance of coal consumption just this past decade -- Gail's most recent being the most recent -- one concludes it is. To be sure, China itself may need to rethink, but economically, China remains the envy of much of the world. How widespread is the sentiment that got them there in the first place?

Volume based taxes on fossile fuels are indeed --by far-- the best policy to increase efficiency and manage a transition if at all possible : they favor "solutions", be it on conservation or alternatives side, WITHOUT HAVING TO DEFINE THEM (and indeed keep the money within the country, and put pressure on the trade balance in the right way).
In other words they make whatever your "little solution of the day is" sensible economically sooner if it effectively is, and allow you to make money out of it quicker.
But we know how the word "tax" is a taboo for Americans ... (they prefer total economic suicide as soon as possible, clearer every day, with a printing machine rendering everything meaningless to complete the picture).

Oh, I agree violently. Note I said "tax energy in excess," and for just that reason. But this is where the rubber hits the road Jevons' Paradox hits the Tragedy of the Commons. Sure, we are all better off if everyone can agree to raise fossil taxes by the same(?) equitable(?) amount. Where is the evidence we as homo-alleged-sapiens can actually reach such an agreement?

"Asps. Very dangerous. You go first."

"Sure, we are all better off if everyone can agree to raise fossil taxes by the same(?) equitable(?) amount."

I don't agree on this, no "big treaty and agreement needed for everybody", volume based taxes on fossile fuels can be positive in a pure "selfish" sense for any net importing country : higher gdp per fuel unit, decrease pressure on trade balance.

True that the result of Jevons "paradox" (not sure why it is called a paradox), can be that the overall consumption over time would be higher (the fuel having a higher "real" value through more efficient usage machines), but in can for sure decrease the consumption rate (and so the emission one).

Plus it can also lead to mode switch : dropping the car for public transportation for instance. Better new buildings.

And taxes on work can be decreased in parallel.

I don't agree on this, no "big treaty and agreement needed for everybody", volume based taxes on fossile fuels can be positive in a pure "selfish" sense for any net importing country : higher gdp per fuel unit, decrease pressure on trade balance.

You talk like one of them furreners :) Though here again, we quite agree. Except that taxing fossils to the extent it will impact global warming will put most countries at an economic disadvantage relative to those who do not.

True that the result of Jevons "paradox" (not sure why it is called a paradox), can be that the overall consumption over time would be higher (the fuel having a higher "real" value through more efficient usage machines), but in can for sure decrease the consumption rate (and so the emission one).

I agree -- but that as far as global warming is concerned, the consumption rate of fossil fuel doesn't matter past a point we reached a century ago. What matters is the amount burned, the total amount of CO2 emitted. The figures I've seen put the atmospheric half-life of CO2 at several thousand years. Hansen's estimate is we must reduce CO2 emissions from 2010 levels by 80% over the next three decades if we're to save the polar caps. 80% is unfathomable. Increasing the marginal tax rate on coal will not meet that goal. Given the critical role that oil plays in much of our transport, my guess -- sorry, that's all it is -- is that coal must be eliminated essentially completely, urban personal transport must go public and/or electric generated by WWSN, and interstate rail must be re-electrified, though the first step is to move most truck freight to rail. The capital cost of doing so is huge. I doubt it will happen unless WWSN becomes (short-term, external costs don't matter) cheaper than coal. Reliably cheaper than coal. Otherwise they just won't be adopted. Not here. And certainly not in the developing world.

Yes I agree :) , what is WWSN btw ? Water wind solar nuclear ?
Clearly considering the extend of the mess, a "whybotherism" attitude makes sense, somehow.
And in all cases a tremendous push in lowering energy consumption is required..

Yeah, the "N" is for nuclear. But you knew that. Actually, I'm not advocating "whybotherism." (And you didn't say I did.) I am advocating path(s) that might actually succeed. So far I'm convinced that nuclear is an essential part of any such path, as its the only technology I know of that has a chance of replacing coal at what coal does best, on a short-term cost-competitive free-market basis. Doesn't mean that WWS alone won't role-play under certain circumstance, because obviously they have. Its the "low-cost low-infrastructure high-reliability" part they don't yet meet. Of course, current solid-uranium fuel cycles lack a bit in the infrastructure department too; I'm hoping the developed world can give the rest a leg up on that under mutually acceptable terms.

But this is probably again something upon which we agree.

Here is a three-year old op-ed piece: Replace state property tax with carbon tax for climate action. As tejanojim observed below, "not a snowball's chance."

So far I'm convinced that nuclear is an essential part of any such path, as its the only technology I know of that has a chance of replacing coal at what coal does best, on a short-term cost-competitive free-market basis.
~ MtnMarmot

Unsure which one of us might want to further their education in this regard, but by my own, nuclear was, is and will be a disaster, from many angles.
One of the only potential benefits is its ostensible mutagenic legacy when we are long gone or forget anything about it.

In one of George Carlin's routines, where he mentions plastic, I would replace plastic with nuclear waste.

Well, one could do worse than browsing The Biggest Part of Business As Usual - Electricity to get an overview of the problem.

Nuclear power is insane.

^^ That sentence has its own line, because it's important. ^^

And the gangs-called-government have to tax-- essentially theft if it's not voluntary-- people's wage-slave labor-- yet more "theft"-- to get it.

Nuclear power depends on technological overcomplexity, to put it mildly, and the corporate-state oligarchy, which are fundamentally undemocratic and out of scale/touch with human nature to boot.

Never mind the nuclear waste issues added to that nasty mix.

The KISS principle applies and has relation to The Iron Law of Oligarchy, which also applies...

KISS is an acronym for the design principle articulated by Kelly Johnson, Keep it simple stupid!. Variations include "keep it stupid simple", "keep it short and simple", "keep it simple sir", "keep it super simple", "keep it simple or be stupid", "keep it simple and stupid", "keep it simple and straightforward" or "keep it simple and sincere." The KISS principle states that most systems work best if they are kept simple rather than made complex, therefore simplicity should be a key goal in design and unnecessary complexity should be avoided.

The "iron law of oligarchy" states that all forms of organization, regardless of how democratic they may be at the start, will eventually and inevitably develop oligarchic tendencies, thus making true democracy practically and theoretically impossible, especially in large groups and complex organizations. The relative structural fluidity in a small-scale democracy succumbs to "social viscosity" in a large-scale organization. According to the "iron law," democracy and large-scale organization are incompatible.

Er, you do know who Kelly Johnson was, right?

A human being, right? Your point? (And when/if we wish to make it, I trust we'll be wary of any logical fallacies.)

Sorry, no offence. An obscure aeronautical engineer from a bygone era. Just thought him an odd symbol for whatever plea for minimalist techno-symplisticism you were trying to make, is all. Carry on...

I suspected as much, hence my addition in parentheses (and previous comment regarding education).

"[e]lite professional groups . . . have come to exert a 'radical monopoly' on such basic human activities as health, agriculture, home-building, and learning, leading to a 'war on subsistence' that robs peasant societies [and our own] of their vital skills and know-how. The result of much economic development is very often not human flourishing but 'modernized poverty', dependency, and an out-of-control system in which the humans become worn-down mechanical parts."

"A low-energy policy allows for a wide choice of lifestyles and cultures. If, on the other hand, a society opts for high energy consumption, its social relations must be dictated by technocracy and will be equally degrading whether labeled capitalist or socialist."
~ Ivan Illich

[Ivan Illich] ...concluded that each and every human being was entitled to a certain amount of energy, but beyond a certain threshold, people lost both their freedom and humanity as slave owners typically do.
~ Energy Bulletin

Actually, a good example and he got the job done unlike some of his modern equivalents.


Oh, Johnson "got the job done" all right. Totally. He also spent his career at the top of the military-industrial food-chain, which is why I thought him a bit incongruous in this particular context. And was finally(!) retired after refusing to play the brave new game of "over-spec, under-bid" on a new bomber, insisting instead on the old fashioned way: "Design what will work, bid what it will cost."

A genuine relic. A peerless dinosaur.


KISS is Occam's Razor applied to engineering.

About Nuclear I used to be "pro" for the same reasons as you, now more or less switching in a way.
Basically I agree that when you look at quantity aspects, doing without it (and without fossile) and having a somewhat "modern" society (in technological terms, transport, telecommunication networks etc) is impossible, David MacKay's book shows it quite clearly for instance.
But then you realize that :
- under current fission technology the Uranium reserves level is also a very serious issue
- fusion is more or less a pipe dream, and fast breeders or thorium r&d almost stopped everywhere
- in more general terms I doubt more and more that we will be able to maintain the technological level necessary with the mess coming around
Plus as the general "urgency message" isn't really coming from anywhere (on the production peaks aspects in particular, with the climate aspects having been more or less dropped or ridiculized by many), don't see how it could pan out.
You could add to this a kind of total "political apathy" with respect to the issues (and that possible policy aspects aren't part of TOD editorial line could be considered part of it).

But then you realize that :

  1. under current fission technology the Uranium reserves level is also a very serious issue
  2. fusion is more or less a pipe dream, and fast breeders or thorium r&d almost stopped everywhere
  3. in more general terms I doubt more and more that we will be able to maintain the technological level necessary with the mess coming around

(1) Is very wishful thinking. Not sure what "reserves" have to do with it, but recoverable Uranium is at least
3000 years worth, and that's without spent fuel recycling.

(2) Fusion: Yes. Fascinating research, that. But thorium is being pursued at least by China, India, Japan, and the Czech Republic. France too, to a limited extent. However, commercial electric power from thorium is probably ten to twenty years off, depending if U.S. ever gets re-involved.

(3) Tiddlewink ;)

You could add to this a kind of total "political apathy" with respect to the issues (and that possible policy aspects aren't part of TOD editorial line could be considered part of it).

Political apathy w.r.t. the issues doesn't make them go away, make them less severe, or make them less pressingly immediate. It merely guarantees an otherwise-avoidable disaster. And I disagree "that possible policy aspects aren't part of TOD editorial line could be considered part of it." The way I see it, TOD's editorial policy merely affords you and I and few thousand others a friendly forum in which to politely discuss these issues where everyone feels equally unwelcome and no one clique (if any) gets everyone else painted as "a pro-renewables site" or "pro-nukes site" or "climate catastrophe site" or "in the pockets of Big Oil site." (And thanks all for contributing.)

IEA Sees Danger in Rising Coal, Oil Use

The Fake Fire Brigade Revisited #3 - The Biggest Part of Business As Usual - Electricity

Reframing the climate change challenge in light of post-2000 emission trends

Perhaps a graphic would help:

A Few Insights Regarding Today's Nuclear Situation

Carbon Consumption and Atmospheric CO2 Concentrations for 4 Emissions Scenarios
Scenarios from IPCC Special Report on Emissions Scenarios (2000)

How We Know Inaction Is the Gravest Threat Humanity Faces

Regarding Uranium reserves, also used to think it wasn't really a problem, and true that due to the small amount necessary compared to the energy delivered the problem is very different from fossile (and one could thnik harvesting it from sea water or things like that), but in fact the reality appears quite different, you can check the work of Werner Zittel for instance on that :
Or a more complete (and quite scary) reports for a lot of minerals (and fossile fuels as well) :
Also had a few emails exchange on that with Antonio Turiel, who has one of the most "realistic scientific" blog on peak oil I find :
(although I don't read Spanish and reading through gg translate not always easy)

And for instance for France things aren't that smooth in Niger (and Mali) ...

Otherwise about :

Political apathy w.r.t. the issues doesn't make them go away, make them less severe, or make them less pressingly immediate. It merely guarantees an otherwise-avoidable disaster. And I disagree "that possible policy aspects aren't part of TOD editorial line could be considered part of it." The way I see it, TOD's editorial policy merely affords you and I and few thousand others a friendly forum in which to politely discuss these issues where everyone feels equally unwelcome and no one clique (if any) gets everyone else painted as "a pro-renewables site" or "pro-nukes site" or "climate catastrophe site" or "in the pockets of Big Oil site." (And thanks all for contributing.)

I am indeed convinced of the extreme severity of the issues, both on the climate and resources aspects. And agree that some policy aspects are discussed in the comments, and the fact that it isn't really part of TOD editorial line isn't really a reproach (just a choice, and having a scientific engineering background I enjoy the technical/factual aspects of the articles).

But what I would call policy aspects would be somehow clearly disconnected from the solutions, typicaly below cut and paste from something I wrote on Gail's blog :

Regarding policies toward efficiency or alternative production in general, they can probably be broadly classified as follows :
a) Regulations : incandescent light bulbs forbidden for instance, or a given mpg mandatory for a given segment of vehicle, speed limits, mandatory insulation level, etc
b) Subsidies : You decide that something is a good “solution” and then you subsidize it. Typical exemple corn ethanol, or feed in tarrifs for PV or wind. Although not the case in principle, subsidies are usually more on alternative production than efficiency investment side (except for common infrstructure)
c) Volume based taxes on inputs: You don’t have to say anything about the “solutions”, you just favor any of them be it on the conservation/efficiency side or alternative production side.

And even if the word “tax” is kind of taboo in the US especially these days, I think volume based taxes on fossile fuels happen to be the more in line with a “free enterprise” spirit, are the easiest and less complex with less administrative overhead, and the less prone to errors on what makes sense to do and less prone to various cheatings.

Plus you could say they impact the poor more than the rich, but that would be forgetting that :
1) subsidies have to come from somewhere
2) it is more the rich than the poor that benefit from subsidies, it isn’t a poor family in an appartment project that will put PV on its roof or buy a volt

Clearly when you mention volume based taxes here, the usual answer is "will not happen anyway so why bother discussing it", although I'm convinced it is one if not the best policy, especially for the "conservation" aspects (like insulation, smaller lighter vehicles) which, although they often appear less glamourous than "alternative solutions", are probably especially considering the starting point, the first source of gain possible.

(on the other hand subsidies are quite often mentioned, although basically similar to taxes from a "common budget" perspective, and I have nothing against subsidies for r&d typically)

Your debate is interesting to follow!
The half-life of CO2 is not "several thousand years". There exist several processes that reduce a sudden increase in CO2. Half-life is often defined as "when half the addition is gone". That is for CO2 approx. 20 years (5-200 (!), depending on definition and source). HOWEVER, the tail is long, so that a fraction (which is of MOST importance for climate on the Earth) remains for thousand years. Better to use that wording, or opponents will complain about the terminology rather than your arguments.
See further: figure, scroll down on this page:http://unfccc.int/resource/brazil/carbon.html
or articles: http://www.climate.unibe.ch/~joos/papers/joos01gbc.pdf
or general explanation: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2005/03/how-long-will-glob...

Thanks, Segeltamp. I've updated my personal notes and website with your references and suggestion.

Hear hear. I don't often defend carbon pricing because I don't see it with a snowball in hell of passing any time soon. But thanks for doing so.

Federal plan designed to create large solar energy plants

Incentives to cluster projects on 285,000 acres of U.S. land in the West will be offered and an additional 19 million acres of the Mojave Desert opened for new facilities. The plan places 445 square miles of public land in play for utility-scale solar facilities.

The program, announced Friday by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar at an event in Las Vegas, will apply to new projects only and not the 17 solar facilities already awarded permits or the 78 currently in the approval pipeline.

The plan establishes 17 solar energy zones in six Western states, including 154,000 acres in California. The zones were chosen because they avoided major environmental, cultural or other conflicts. The policy encourages developers to select sites within zones by promising minimal environmental reviews and expedited permitting and a range of additional financial incentives.

But so far, the unprecedented urgency given to solar energy projects on public land has yielded only 50 megawatts of produced power, according to officials.


285,000 acres opened to 'encouraged to build here' "The zones were chosen because they avoided major environmental, cultural or other conflicts. " No word as to whether they are actually suitable for solar power installations and whether transmissions lines exist, or it's even allowable to build the transmission line. One would hope so...

"Companies may construct plants on 19 million acres designated as "variance" zones, but the government offers fewer incentives to build there." We might or might not let you build there, but feel free to ask.

"Another 79 million acres are in exclusion zones, where no energy development is allowed."

So total land reviewed is 98,285,000 acres. Construction is allowed now on 0.3%. Construction might be allowed on another 19.3%. Construction banned completely on the rest, just over 80% of the total reviewed.

So the environmentalists are ecstatic, right? Nope. "This should all be happening on rooftops and in cities," Blaeloch said. "But that wouldn't profit the big utilities, and industry wouldn't be able to get tax breaks, so we wreck the desert instead."

Some of the info you're looking for is here, here, and here

They just don't get it. The only way we are going to get large amounts of solar power quickly, is if we build large scale plants. These will necessarily be built by large entities that we so love to hate.

I came up with the following three numbers looking at residential rooftops, commercial rooftops, and utility scale plants, 8, 16 and 32. Those are the annual percentage of the cost decrease per unit of nameplate power for these different types of PV plants, as observed over the last three years. Now clearly we got to do something about the intransigence of cost reductions in the first two categories. But simple economic efficiency dictates we build a lot of category three.

My first, cyncal, question when I see numbers like that is "Who generated those numbers and what is their stake in the game?"

I derived the numbers, seeing a chart in Greentech Media. It makes real sense as well, residential rooftop prices have barely budged, despite the fact that panel prices are now under a buck a watt. The so called softcosts, paperwork, permitting, paying salespeople etc, are about half the residential pricetag, for a large utility system those costs will be small relative to the overall cost of the components. Of course a proper regulatory regime can make a difference, I hear rooftop in Germany is at or under $2.24/watt, and I saw a figure that commercial rooftop may be as low as 1.1 Euro's (which is under $1.50). So we should all take a trip to Germany, and find out how they do that!

So we should all take a trip to Germany, and find out how they do that!

Quite simple:FIT.
Your prices are correct, I remember 1700-1800€/kW for small scale rooftop and <1000€/kW for utility scale. Those are turnkey prices.
FITs are dropping at 1% per month, 11.4% per year compounded.

It is likely to be more than 1% per month degression over the next year, as the degression increases depending how much capacity gets installed (starting from 3.5GW per year) up to a maximum of 2.5% per month. Given the capacity that has already been installed in 2012, it is likely to reach that maximum for the 4th quarter 2012 and 1st quarter 2013.

The current FIT is between 18.36 EURct/kWh for <10kW rooftop and 12.71ct/kWh for > 1MW installations. Until December 2013 this can drop as far as 12.34 ct/kWh for <10kW and as low as 8.54 ct/kWh for > 1MW.

The solar industry then had to keep up with this aggressive schedule to keep growing, and so far, as a whole, they have (although a number of individual companies have gone bankrupt that couldn't keep up).

Those prices for the end of 2013 would be less than the FIT for wind and about the same price of electricity as was payed on the electricity exchange in 2008. It is also less than what residential customers pay for electricity which is about 20ct/kWh (including taxes). At that point PV might start getting competitive even without FITs.

I would think there must be a way to get a bit of dual advantage in making big parking lots in the SW double as utility PV sites. Maybe you could charge a couple nickels for 'shade parking'.. or get some sort of compensation in land leasing rates from the stores that can then have the appeal of offering shade parking. Take advantage of the advantage..

Why stick it way out in the unbuilt desert lands? And these already have road access, grid access (most likely), and proximity to the users..

In the NE there are quite a few school districts that are shading parking areas with PV. PSEG is very aggressive in getting as many panels as possible installed to solve the problem of needing added capacity. They finance/loan up to 50% of installation costs to get residential units installed. The biggest advantage is local production, with transmission losses almost zero. I have 44 panels and generated 30 MW-hrs in 2.5 years. There is also the fashion of putting panels on the roof of parking decks, so the top spots are now also shaded and the electric can go to an adjacent office buildings, which helps their peak demand capacity problem. Some of these are also next to the Northeast Rail Corridor lines.

Shading cars also has the advantage of increasing the longevity of the vehicle. There is also the energy savings in cooling down an otherwise hot vehicle. The vehicle AC uses additional energy and in contrast a vehicle heater only diverts heat from the radiator, so that shading is universally useful. In the NE, it is also nice if there isn't snow or ice on your vehicle if you need to park it on the roof of a garage.



I know its a nice use of the area, and shade is nice etc. etc. But, how much does this cost per watt? Especially if you have to build the structure to hold the panels. Can we really afford to do this in a big way? Or would we accomplish more per megabuck doing flat commercial roofs, or ground mounted?

Can we afford solar in a big way? Can we afford to ruin the planet with ff?

Apparently, No and Yes.

I resign from the human race. Whatta we got up next?

I'm for making FF more heavily taxed. Carbon credits are great for solar. Solar is at least growing.


Some states encourage non-FF, and mass transit like New Jersey. The next town over from me is building a transit village on the NE rail corridor. I would also vote Princeton Township as the most auto unfriendly town in America -people walk, bike or use buses and trains. Some places can power down better than others. My wife just became a full time virtual employee -she walks to work -downstairs. I travel to projects, not the office and a satellite card works just as good as being in a cube. Commuting is the greatest ff waster. I have a sport utility vehicle. It sits in the garage 95% of the time. When it is used, its full of people and equipment and it has a 6 cylinder engine that gets 25mpg, twice what most get.

IMHO old designs were better. I grew up in a house built in the 1920's in NYC that had a skylight in the central stairwell. We didn't use lights much during the day. The old rail transit systems made for efficient communities. People didn't drive much, even in the suburbs. My suggestion for cutting commuting by auto -tax or ban the automatic transmission. Ever commute in traffic in a stick shift?

My kitchen in the house I built in the 90's has three skylights and southern exposure- we use sunlight, the real solar, not electric. We can go back.

Don't give up yet. I believe that the only reason that we will fail is that not enough people want to try.

Thanks for the kind thoughts, ME. Sure, there are lots of people trying to do the right thing, but then what do we hear from the candidates for Pres? Yuck!

My thing is inventions of the primitive-iron type, like engines and stoves and transmissions, but I get out of that rut every now and then and try to invent a rational set of rules for whatever comes next after we have committed species-collective suicide. Here's a first try:

The purpose of all actions is to make the world a better place
All social contracts will start with the words "We have structured this organization to make the world a better place by way of---(better beer, music, tree evolution, etc etc etc)
Any citizen has the right to challenge any other citizen or group thought to have violated rule 1 in any way
No action will be allowed which confers on the action-taker a share of resources greater than that entity's contribution toward making the world a better place.
Governments will be comprised of a group of those whose lives have proven their competence in doing rule 1. these people will serve a single term. The members will be selected by the group.

PS Since I was born in the Hoover era, I have never driven anything but a stick shift--but I have put a lot of effort into an automatic bike transmission, of all odd things,intended to get me up and down hills easier.

Unfortunately New Jersey has NOT been encouraging mass transit since 2006. Under neoliberal Gov Corzine there were major cuts on weekend service to Hoboken in 2006 and then drastic cuts in 2008 of 21 trains on my Rail line, the Morris Line, and others. Corzine did not however drastically increase the fares. Teabag Gov Christie did raising off-peak fares by 60% while cutting even more trains, buses and shuttles.
The Northeast Corridor has always been the crown jewel of NJ Transit due to its straddling Philly to NYC and has much more frequent service. But ALL Midtown Direct service is suffering from Christie's cancellation of the ARC Midtown Manhattan tunnel project and subsequent diversion of the funds for it to spend $7 Billion widening the Garden State Parkway and New Jersey Turnpike.

The famous "Dinky" train to Princeton ridden by Albert Einstein and many other famous scientists is under assault. Train Groups have proposed running a Light Rail but ironically Princeton University is opposing it. So much for Princeton's Green Transit bonafides!
For years the MOM project (Middlesex-Ocean-Monmouth) has been delayed by internecine haggling while nothing has been built.

New Jersey COULD be the US leader in Green Transit since it is more densely populated than
China, already has 996 miles of Rail (which WAS farsightedly reserved as Rail Rights of Way back in the 1970's), and 50% of the population lives within a few miles of existing train stations, not to mention restoring old ones still extant.

But except for the Meadowlands Railway to the Stadium for big games and concerts, nothing
has been completed for years. Even the Newark Light Rail service frequency was stupidly cut to more than 20 minutes when you can walk from Broad St Station to Newark Penn Station in 20 minutes!

But New Jersey is still blessed with real Main Streets originally built around Rail stations which could be revived by actually running their trains!

One problem is that large investors get hold of the land hoping to sell it at a profit, to solar companies or other investors, at a later date and so block the use for which it is originally intended. These schemes should require use of the land as intended or it be reclaimed without recompense.


I would just like to post quickly on the.
'Smart's electric car might actually be... smart'
article, He spends most of the time attacking the gas version and only at the end shows a bit of praise for the electric. neither are really the solution, BUT he should at least get his facts stright. the gas version has 'not' had that jerking problem since 2009 model, the latest software updates fix what was a poorly programed computer controling the clutch. If he had driven a current model, like i have, he would see this.

I would like to point out that i am in the process of getting a gas version, I view it's design; two seats only, mostly recyclable, high gas millage and getting rid of things not use 95% of the time. as a step in the right direction. IF any sort of personal transport exits farther down post peak that is fossil fuel powered it will be similar to this.

Twizys are becoming quite common in Paris also (although really not that many yet) :

Its two seats tandem all electric

Renault Twizy has a range of 100 km over a standard urban cycle and can be fully recharged in 3 ½ hours from a domestic socket, using a spiral cable located under the flap at the front of the car.

Renault Twizy ships with a 13 kW (17 hp) electric motor delivering 57 Nm and with a top speed of 80 kph for the version requiring a driving licence. Renault Twizy 45 – the version requiring no licence – is driven by a 4 kW (5 hp) motor with maximum torque of 33 Nm available from start-up and a top speed limited to 45 kph. Renault Twizy is equipped with 6.1 kWh lithium-ion batteries located under the front seats...

...Available in three levels of trim, four colours and two engines, Renault Twizy can be shaped in your image. Options include gullwing doors, a glass roof and a wide array of accessories. It can even become a company car with your house-designed decals.

Renault Twizy is built at the Valladolid plant (Spain), an ISO 14001 certified site.

Test drive...

...but,, will it drift?

It doesn't appear in these videos, but when you see one on the streets it has some kind of funny moves on little bumps or irregularities, like well stuck on the ground but the body shifting in small moves.
But to me it is the kind of EV making sense, more than "normal cars except than they are electric".
Problem is you cannot go on freeways with them, maybe an 80km/h speed limit should be set up on freeways in a 20km radius of cities or something like that, so that this "type" of vehicles, even with ICE, could develop more.

And about drifts, let's not forget Saudis remain the champions :
Even on foot ! :

Toulouse Drift.

Reminded me of Spike Japan's post on Drift...

Holiday in Fukushima: Drift, baby, drift

It would need more ground clearance around here. How many kW per kilometer are required?


It is given for around 6 or 7 kWh per 100km, so around 0.07 kWh per km

or :

So, about 15-18 pesos per 100km, a little less than a typical IFCE and more than a comparable performance IFCE.


The Twizy (as it currently exists) is not legal in the USA. You could make it legal by limiting it to 25 mph but that makes it pretty crappy and you might as well ride a bike.

...or you could make it legal by.... making it legal. Does it make more sense to adapt our technology to laws, or to adapt our laws to more desirable technology?

Many jurisdictions have passed laws promoting and encouraging more cycling. What's the difference? Bicycles don't really compete with our autocentric, fossil fuel based industries, and the majority will never adopt cycling as their primary mode of transportation unless forced to.

Just a note: I saw where bicycle sales exceeded automobile sales in Italy for the first time, recently:

SpeigelOnline: Italian media is reporting on Tuesday that some 1.75 million bicycles were sold in the country in 2011. It was the first time ever that cycle sales exceeded that of automobiles.

"...or you could make it legal by.... making it legal. Does it make more sense to adapt our technology to laws, or to adapt our laws to more desirable technology?"


As my dad liked to say, 'Laws were made to serve man, not the other way around.'

Well, they aren't legal for over 25 MPH because they haven't passed the crash tests. We could certainly have smaller, cheaper cars if we also let them be less protective of passengers. It's just one of the trade-offs we live with. Of course, the perception of risk is relative. I sometimes ride my recumbent trike where semis pass me at 45 or 50 mph 3 or 4 feet away, and, in the US, if a powered vehicle has only 3 wheels, it's a motorcycle, and doesn't have to pass any crash tests.

Motorcycles don't have to pass crash tests. How is 4 wheels different from 2 or 3? They could just as easily set a weight standard; 1000 or 1200 pounds, for instance.

Smart's electric car might actually be... smart

The Smart EV is a nice little EV that can serve as a great commuter vehicle. At $25K, it is a net price of $17.5K with the Federal tax credit. In California, the state will throw in another $2.5K dropping the price down to $15K (until that fund runs out of money). (Colorado has the crazy incentive . . . they'll give you an extra $6K such that the car pays for itself!)

Now I know the Smart EV is not everyone's cup of tea. And it certainly can't replace a truck for people that do deliveries, must carry a lot of parts/tools, must carry several people, etc. But the US roads are FILLED with single-occupancy vehicles such as SUVs, big sedans, etc. just driving people back & forth to work. If push comes to shove and an Iran war pushed gas to $10/gallon or a very improbable sudden peak oil effect happened then lots of commuters could just buy these and carry on with their lives. The only big change is that they won't be driving a pointless massive beast any more to commute to their office job. We need a lot more public transportation but EVs can provide a role. Will people bitch & moan about driving an expensive small car with limited range? Yes. But will they still be able to get back & forth to work even if gas costs $12/gallon? Yes.

Edit: Personally, I'm not a big fan of the Smart because it has the aerodynamics of a brick. What we need are aerodynamic & lightweight EVs because that helps reduce cost by reducing the size of battery that is needed. But it is VERY HARD to build cheap, aerodynamic, crash-tested, lightweight vehicles! The Smart vehicles does a decent job of hitting three of those four (cheap, crash-tested, and lightweight) but it does it by only being a 2-seater and having terrible aerodynamics. (At it is not exactly cheap.)

Small streamlined cars are often difficult to get in and out of making them unpopular with older and/or handicapped folks. My arthritic friend Bob needs a van (Ford Aerostar) when he ventures away from home. He tried smaller vehicles but could not bend his legs enough to get in.


I had to pass on Chrysler products of the 1990s because I had too much trouble getting into a "cab forward" car.

I had a '94 and a '97 Chrysler LHS and didn't have any problem getting in or out from behind the wheel. My business partner has an Audi A4 wagon and I find that a challenge. I have the passenger seat pushed all the way back to accommodate my legs, but the centre pillar makes getting in and out awkward (I have to twist my body, brace the dash with one hand and tumble forward).


Awhile back someone posted a link about a russian submarine commander who avoided WWIII during the Cuban missle crisis. There was another unsung Russian hero who we can also thank for our lives ...

Cuban missile crisis: The other, secret one

Greenish posted it. (http://www.theoildrum.com/node/9520#comment-920569)

My take was "how many times can we expect to get that lucky?" A new TV show, Last Resort is along those lines: A US SSBN commander refuses to launch his missiles because the launch order comes via secondary channels, avoids being duped into starting WWIII, is labeled a rogue outlaw, and is holding the world hostage with his nukes. Silly MSM entertainment, but I've been slightly impressed with their depiction of how things work aboard a sub. Someone did some research and managed to actually get some of it into the plot.

There was another Russian commander during the 1983 crisis (that we didn't know about until it was over). We had three indications of NATO missile launches, but his training told him any surprise attack would be overwhelming -not the trickle attack his sensors were showing. It cost him his career, but probably saved the world from a major thermonuclear exchange.

Saudi Aramco to Cut Kingdom s Domestic Consumption of Oil by 2014

As gas field discoveries have increased lately the last of which was in the Red Sea the company would work on limiting the use of oil and diesel in energy production and industrial activities.

It is working on raising production at its gas processing plants of Kharasaniya, Hawiya, Wasit, Shaiba and Harad (plants), as well as the ones in Yanbu and Juaima. Saudi Arabia was able to increase its natural gas reserves by 5 trillion cubic feet in less than a year.



So they finally found some gas? They've been searching for like a decade now. They are going to great lengths not to remove their local subsidy on electricity and gasoline (which are really cheap due to being powered by their local cheap oil). They want to avoid being Arab Springed.

They have been finding and developing gas reserves and production capacity all along. 187 tcf proven reserves at the end of 1991, 283 tcf proven reserves at the end of 2011. Including production over that 20 years, total proven reserve additions are in the 140 tcf range.

1.2 tcf production in 1992 and 3.5 tcf production in 2011.


Because of the factors you detail plus the expansion of their economy and the expansion of their petrochemical industry, demand cronically exceeds supply.

Gas production goal is set at 15.5 bcfd by 2015

Midyan field development project: Ten new Midyan wells and workovers were successfully completed as part of the gas development project in northwest Saudi Arabia to replace crude oil and diesel burning in the area (crude is burned to generate electricity during peak summer demand). The overall outcome from drilling delineation and development wells was favourable, and the gas production target was revised higher, from 50 million scfd to 75 million scfd for 20 years.

Hasbah/Arabiyah fields development: Located northeast of Dhahran, the Hasbah and Arabiyah gas fields will have seven and six single-well platforms, respectively, with each well producing an average rate of 200 million scfd, all converging to one tie-in platform per field.

The system is capable of delivering up to 1.2 billion scfd of gas from Arabiyah and 1.3 billion scfd of gas from Hasbah to Wasit gas plant, part of Saudi Aramco’s strategy to meet in-kingdom energy demand from 2014 onward. Drilling will commence in the first quarter of 2011 for Arabiyah and in the second quarter for Hasbah


What Price of Crude Oil Makes Ethanol Production Profitable?

Figure 1 presents the profitability of ethanol production at the representative Iowa ethanol plant for combinations of crude oil and corn prices. Given the price of corn, each line shows the net profit (after variable and fixed costs) per bushel of corn processed into ethanol for crude oil prices ranging from $40 to $120 per barrel. Our main interest is the point at which each line intersects the horizontal axis, which is the zero net profit line. Above the horizontal axis the equity owners of the plant are in the "black" and below the line they are in the "red." For corn prices of $4, $6, and $8 per bushel, net profits are positive if crude oil prices are above $62, $81, and $100 per barrel, respectively. While there is considerable uncertainty about the long-run price of crude oil, it seems unlikely that prices will go much below $60 for an extended period of time. This means that corn prices are likely to be supported at $4 or better. If one expects substantially higher crude oil prices, as many analysts do, then corn prices may be supported at even higher levels. This is consistent with the argument that we are indeed in a new era with a permanently higher average price for corn. The analysis also highlights the difficulty of sustaining the current price of corn, around $8, without crude oil prices above $100. Otherwise, ethanol producers are just covering variable and fixed costs or worse.

Hat Tip: BPA

Yes, and because ethanol production is essentially the process of "converting one barrel of oil into one barrel of ethanol" (1:1 EROEI), it's no surprise that rising corn prices can *only* be supported by an equivalent rise in oil prices. Or that ethnanol producers are unlikely to ever do better than "just covering variable and fixed costs", an inevitable consequence of that (best case) 1:1 EROEI.

Ethanol replaces an equal volume of gasoline.

1 barrel of crude oil produces about .45 barrels of gasoline.

The fossil energy inputs to ethanol are natural gas, coal and some petroleum products. Blending 1 Mb/d of ethanol into gasoline reduces crude oil consumption by about 2 Mb/d.


(42 U.S. gallons = 1 barrel)

The approximate ERoEI of ethanol of 1.0 to 1.3 is computed from the total energy input, not just the fraction from crude oil.

Because the chart posted by aws.classifieds does not include the price of natural gas as a variable, I am dubious about the usefulness of it.

From the original link...

This model is meant to be representative of an "average" ethanol plant constructed in the last five years. There is certainly substantial variation in capacity and production efficiency across the industry and this should be kept in mind when viewing profit estimates from the model.

Given the model's technical parameters and costs, we only need two prices to compute ethanol production profits. The first is the price of corn, the feedstock for the plant, and the second is the price of ethanol, the main output product. We don't need the price of DDGs, another output product, because we assume a constant ratio of DDG to corn prices (98%, the average for recent months). So, if we assume a corn price then implicitly we are also assuming a DDG price. We are going to assume three different levels of the price of corn for the analysis: $4, $6, and $8 per bushel. So where do we get ethanol prices?

It's a simple model, that may be of some use. The EROI of ethanol never made sense to me, and the economics of ethanol may make little sense as the high day and night time temps caused by AGW disrupt corn fertilization.

That $8/bushel price is a result of the kind of heat (and drought) we are going to see in the corn belt with AGW. In some ways the price of corn will reflect the price of oil, but in others it reflects the economic consequences of climate change. Climate change is likely to render corn ethanol uneconomic at an oil price our econmies can afford.

"essentially, all models are wrong, but some are useful"

Bloomberg's coverage of the Kalamazoo spill has been thorough. Hats off to Bloomberg journalist David Hasemyer.

EPA Worries Dilbit Pipeline Spill Still Threatens Kalamazoo River

The problem is so serious that the EPA is asking Enbridge Inc., the Canadian pipeline operator, to dredge approximately 100 acres of the river. During the original cleanup effort, dredging was limited to just 25 acres because the EPA wanted to avoid destroying the river's natural ecology. The additional work could take up to a year and add tens of millions of dollars to a cleanup that has already cost Enbridge $809 million.

The EPA notified Enbridge of its proposed order on Oct. 3, saying the additional clean-up is "critical" and the work "should be conducted in an expeditious manner" to remove the oil before it recontaminates the river.

"The increased accumulation demonstrates that submerged oil is mobile and migrating, evidencing that submerged oil removal is warranted to prevent downstream migration ... ," Ralph Dollhopf, the EPA's on-scene coordinator and Incident Commander, said in the letter notifying Enbridge of the agency's findings

That spilled dilbit ain't no ordinary oil!

Poland to invest 12.5 billion euros in shale gas by 2020

Poland will invest 50 billion zlotys (15.5 billion euros) in the exploration of shale gas by 2020, Finance Minister Mikolaj Budzanowski said Saturday. Investment over the next two years will total five billion zlotys (1.2 billion euros, $1.6 billion), which includes a 409-million-euro shale gas deal agreed in July by five Polish energy and mining groups, Budzanowski told the press. "With the Russian gas accord terminating at the end of 2022, we must be well prepared to noticeably boost the exploitation of our own gas fields three years earlier," he said, adding that state money as well as private investment would be involved.

Can we be sure the world's population will stop rising?

"Historically, fertility has been falling across Europe," says Professor Jane Falkingham, director of the ESRC Centre for Population Change at Southampton University. "But actually if we look at the most recent period, the last 10 years or so, we see rises in fertility in the most advanced countries."

Oxford University's Professor Francesco Billari, a leading demographer, says this increase in fertility in highly-developed countries cannot be attributed solely to immigration, as some had assumed.

"We did some calculations," he says, "and basically the new change is not only due to immigration. Also the locals are changing.

If a European country like Germany or Italy gets its fertility up in some nations where it is at 1.4 to, say, 1.7 it would still not make a huge difference. The slope will be more gentle but it will still be a slope.

The major driver in population growth is in non-Western countries, but as any proponent of population control will admit privately, that is just a much more sensitive subject so folks stick to talking about the West or in some cases the rising Asian populations(even if China will see its working-age population decrease after 2015). India will continue to be a huge driver in population growth, so will Middle East, Africa and so on.

That is where the focus should be, but, alas, it can't be to the extent that it should for political and cultural reasons.

It may just be random noise, but it is a reminder of the uncertainty in population projections. As for the demographic revolution, it's still only a couple of centuries old, we may not really understand it yet. Other factors will kick in, but I can only speculate on what and when.

Everyone keep their fingers crossed...

No power shortages expected this winter
Reserves likely to be sufficient at peak demand

Japan will probably avoid electricity shortages this winter, barring unexpected shutdowns of thermal power plants, based on the projections of regional utilities.

At a government panel meeting on electricity supply and demand Friday, the nine power companies that serve regions other than Okinawa all reported that their reserve capacity in January to February, when demand traditionally peaks, is expected to top the minimum level of 3 percent necessary to maintain a stable energy supply.

In Hokkaido, where supply and demand could be especially tight if the winter is as severe as that in fiscal 2010, maximum electricity demand is estimated to reach 5.63 million kW in February, against total supply capacity of 5.96 million kW.

See: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20121014a7.html

Something that might help...

Homeowners to score from Eskom largesse
The electricity utility plans to reduce residential consumption by offering consumers costly LED lights and other energy-efficient products completely free of charge.

How would you like Eskom to replace the lights in your home with expensive but energy-saving light emitting diode (LED) alternatives? The electricity utility is planning to do exactly that and it’s promising to do it at no cost to you.

The move — Eskom is planning to kick off the programme within a matter of weeks — forms part of Eskom’s drive to cut power consumption as it struggles to keep up with demand thanks to a chronic undersupply of electricity.

The residential programme follows similar subsidies offered to the corporate sector. Big hotel groups, in particular, have taken advantage of these. Earlier this year, financial services group Investec replaced 7 500 energy-hungry halogen downlighters with low-watt LEDs, saving itself a fortune in electricity in the process.

See: http://www.techcentral.co.za/homeowners-to-score-from-eskom-largesse/35517/

We've been replacing thousands of halogen PAR, MR16 and GU10s for our clients at no charge, e.g., a 50-watt GU10 by a Philips 5.5-watt LED. The cost of this "new capacity"? About $600.00 per kW, installed. Quick, simple, reliable and dirt cheap.


Oh Great Lighting Guru:

I have bathroom wall light that has a line of seven (7!) 60 W globe bulbs above the sink and medicine cabinet. I was replacing them with globe CFLs but they take too long to come up to full brightness, and they are getting worse as they get older. Regular CFLs look terrible, since the bulb is completely exposed. A single 4 ft tube fluorescent would probably work, but that entails possibly major surgery. (Every other time I've cut into a wall things got complex quickly due to this being a 55 year old good-old-boy built house.) Then the single tube might well look too much like a locker-room. Although She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is no longer an issue, there may well be a future woman in my life and I don't want to have to change the fixture again.

Suggestions appreciated. Nothing at Lowes looks even close to useful.

Hi PV,

Home Depot sells a Philips 9-watt G25 "vanity-style" LED that could be a good fit for your needs (http://www.homedepot.ca/product/9w-g25-globe-soft-white-40w-led-bulb/952870).

To cope with the growing backlog of orders, I spent Friday afternoon out in the field lending our guys a hand. I replaced sixty-three 50-watt GU10s here: http://i362.photobucket.com/albums/oo69/HereinHalifax/Img_1915.jpg and another forty-five 50-watt GU10s here: http://i362.photobucket.com/albums/oo69/HereinHalifax/Img_1919.jpg Combined, a 4.8 kW reduction in demand and an estimated eighteen tonne reduction in CO2(e) emissions per year.



I always am impressed by your contribution to reducing unnecessary consumption! A refreshing snapshot of affirmative action. I am doing some work in Bangladesh, and while they have already embraced CFLs in big way, LEDs are yet to make an impact.

The scale of what energy shortages actually mean is very apparent here. A combination of lack of generating capacity plus price constraints means that the power utilities impose daily power cuts ("load shedding") across the capitol city. I am told that the average power outage time is 3-4 hours per day in the city and up to 12 in rural areas. Electricity prices have risen by about 45% in 2012. Better off households buy a battery back-up lighting system (for about 1000 dollars) but this is too expensive for most. Office computers are linked to hulking great UPS systems so as the lights & aircon crash off - several times a day - the software keeps running. Most of the time the diesel generators kick in automatically (this is an oil company's office after all!) but when they don't we sit in darkness with the glowing screens while somebody runs off to manually start the reserve diesel generator. Yesterday, mid meeting at another office, the power dies. A worker is rapidly dispatched and leans out of the 11th floor window to start the diesel motor perched outside. A noisy motor drones into life, and with fumes drifting across the room and a healthy hum of the engine, light is restored...

Thanks, OT. When I was younger, I was fortunate to have travelled various parts of the world where electricity is scare and service unreliable, and that left a life-long impression on me. It's disheartening to see how much energy we needlessly waste here in North America and how blind we are to conditions elsewhere. That's why my two hours spent Friday afternoon running up and down a ladder changing light bulbs was the highlight of my day. We can always strive to make things just a little bit better, e.g., last week we donated over a hundred CFLs to a local food bank that we removed from a client site. Technically speaking, anything we remove from service must be destroyed, but I'd rather see these CFLs (all in perfect working order) reused by someone else if it could do some good.


It's disheartening to see how much energy we needlessly waste here in North America and how blind we are to conditions elsewhere.

HereinHalifax, I feel like you. I try to do my part to help others become more efficient.

Hi Paul,

The only lamp worth converting to LED in my home is for my Anglepoise desk lamp, similar to the ones in the last picture. It is on all the time, about 18 hrs a day. I wrote the date of purchase on it. I've used it 573 days x 18 hrs/day = 10,000 hrs approx.

What LED light would you recommend? Currently it is a CFL: Lumaglo EUT-11W 2700K E27. I would like a slightly brighter light, certainly no dimmer.

Hi aardvark,

I'm assuming that these lamps are GU10, i.e., two pins with a small knob at the end that you twist and lock into place. You may find a suitable replacement here: http://www.lighting.philips.co.za/lightcommunity/trends/led/masterled.wpd

The Philips 5.5-watt GU10 LEDs that we use provide a very nice white light (at 3000K) and supply about the same amount of light as a standard 50-watt/240-volt halogen. They have a rated service life of 25,000 hours and should maintain their brightness throughout most of their life. Good luck !



I wonder if there is an optimum point, ecologically, to replace usable but inefficient technologies with more efficient technologies. One has to balance the fuel saving of the new object with the embodied energy discarded in the old object and the nega-resources of the new object not being made if the old object is retained.

It's tricky. I can't figure it out in my mind. I googled "replace or use decision" and the following was the top item returned:

"New Tools For Deciding When to Replace Used Dairy Cows."

I chose not to click on the link.

I hear ya. I've upgraded many of our home's fixtures several times now -- originally halogen-IR, then CFLs of various kinds (none of which I found all that satisfactory) and now LED. Each time, I simply passed on the old stuff to someone else who can use it.


It seems every few months, I need to go out and see what is new. The LED market is changing so rapidly that what was available a year ago is nearly obsolete. There were some new PAR30 replacement bulbs I saw at Home Depot over the weekend that I had never seen before

One thing I am still looking for is a replacement bulb for the 300W halogen torch lamsp. I thought briefly about simply replacing the lamp, but the wife started looking at various designers (who make very $$$ lamps), and I dropped the idea (never mind the fact that the existing lamps weren't expensive to begin with). I saw a youtube video where someone replaced the halogen bulb with an HID, which gets you roughly the same number of lumens for about 70W, but you have to buy and install a ballast somewhere, and you lose any ability to dim the lamps.

The fun thing is, dimming a halogen bulb shortens its life. The "halogen cycle" returns the evaporated tungsten back to the filament instead of letting it blacken the glass bulb envelope. Dropping the temperature of the system interrupts this action. That's why the glass runs hot enough to start a fire: 250 degrees Celsius - 482 degrees Fahrenheit. A halogen torchiere lamp with a dimmer is a giggle. Halogen flashlight bulbs are a scam, too... (Reminding me that the Maglight Dcell LED flashlights are quite impressive. The 3 cell burns much longer. http://www.maglite.com/d_cell_led.asp ).

A friend of mine used halogen lamps on an industrial structural model. They were turned on and off to make blinking lights. They burned out amazingly quickly.


How would you like Eskom to replace the lights in your home with expensive but energy-saving light emitting diode (LED) alternatives?

Interesting. Eskom have had big giveaways of CFLs in the past. Hand in your old incandescents and get new CFLs free. Some people were buying brand-new incandescents in the shops, walking out, and swapping them at the Eskom kiosk for CFLs. CFLs were very expensive in those days.

I didn't take advantage because they were harsh white light CFLs. I'm all-CFL now, but the softer, warmer light.

I still remember with a shudder the rolling blackouts of 2008 when Eskom ran short of power. Avoid rolling blackouts if possible. They are horribly disruptive. New coal-fired power stations are under construction, but basically the economic slump saved Eskom's ass by cutting demand.

(In South Africa demand is greatest in winter because we use resistive heating. Peak is 6 - 9 PM when people get home and start cooking. That's when we get appeals on the TV to switch off all non-essential appliances. We don't have piped household gas.)

I imagine those CFLs were still put to good use. It's more convenient just to buy a pack of incandescent lamps wherever the trade-in is being held, rather than run back home, round-up the incandescents that you use now and then race back to the retailer to complete the transaction.

We're winter-peaking here as well for the very same reasons. Virtually every home in this province is equipped with an electric cooker and an ever increasing number of homes are electrically heated, fuel oil being the only real alternative to speak-of. I've taken some basic steps to minimize our own contribution to peak demand. For example, we heat our home with two ductless heat pumps, with a maximum draw of 1.5 kW each versus perhaps 8.0 to 10.0 kW for a similarly sized home fitted with baseboard strips. We also use a toaster oven rather than our convection oven (1.5 kW versus 5.2 kW) and an induction hob as opposed to a coil or smooth top electric (typically, in the range of 0.6 kW versus 1.8 or 2.2 kW). Today, I'm installing our Nyle heat pump water heater which has a maximum draw of approximately 0.8 kW versus a conventional electric cylinder that might consume anywhere from 3.0 to 5.5 kW (it will also operate on a timer to limit its operation to off-peak hours). Lastly, whenever possible, we try to avoid using two or more appliances at the same time, e.g., a kettle and the toaster oven. If we have to use electricity to power our home, and I feel we have no choice, then I want to use it in the most responsible manner possible.


He-he, I'm all CFL and, when they had the same scheme here, I went and bought 4 traditionals to swap. Mind you, from the state of the shelves a lot of others were doing that too. I prefer the white CFLs, the 'warm' ones just seem muddy to me.


If you havn't read "Food Sickens Millions as Company-Paid Checks Find It Safe" above you really must. I know its long but you must read it, I shuddered when I did. I don't know what to do about this- I have to eat- what do I do? Big thanks to Leanan for posting this off topic but powerful piece- I guess she couldn't ignore it.

Still don't know what to do though.

C8 is right. It's worth the read. I've been sick from Salmonella poisoning, it's miserable and humbling, I was 25 and in pretty good shape and it really knocked me back.

So do follow C8's recommendation.

Food Sickens Millions as Company-Paid Checks Find It Safe

Sometimes, auditors don’t set foot in production areas of the companies they report in audits as safe, Kornacki says. Kornacki says he got a lesson on the limits of auditing 15 years ago, when he spent a day and a half studying whether a food factory was following its own safety guidelines.

Kornacki gave the plant, which he declined to identify, a score of 95 out of 100. The manager thanked him and then asked him a question.

“Can you help me find the source of this salmonella in our plant?” the manager asked. Kornacki says he didn’t know there was salmonella at the facility.

“Most companies won’t let third-party auditors look for pathogens,” Kornacki says. “They don’t want your results shutting them down.”

Food is a topic I cover regularly in my Drumbeat links. I don't consider it off-topic at all. Eating fossil fuels, the 1,500 mile Caesar salad, how agriculture leads to inequality...it's all related to energy.

As for what to do about food safety...probably what many recommend in the face of peak oil anyway. Grow your own, and/or get to know your local farmers...especially when it comes to stuff that isn't cooked.

People, especially gringos, wonder why I refuse to buy American meat. The Sam's here (aka WalMart) tends to be more expensive than Costco yet this article indicates Costco's standards are higher, seems to fly in the face of 'reason' that good standards make stuff uncompetitive.


In addition to what Leanan said about local farmers, etc.. try to learn about the probiotic foods that can give your system more resilience (again, similar to one's energy strategies) against outside uncertainties, and help maintain a fuller digestive flora in your gut.

In particular are live culture foods like Saurkraut/Kimchi etc, and yogurts/kombucha/kefir ..

One thing that is really alarming about the industrial food system is how many ways they have worked feverishly to create substitutes that mimic actual foods in every percievable aspect, as we did initially with crisco over lard, margarine over butter, and sugar substitutes.. and being convinced that 'better living through chemistry' gave us superior products, when in fact they were robbing us of nutritional essentials we didn't even know we were missing.


Somehow “the solid fats naturally present in the food” reduce the food’s nutrient density by this definition, so suddenly meats are only nutrient-dense if they are lean and milk products are only nutrient-dense if the are fat-free or low-fat.

It would seem that the term “nutrient-dense” should refer to the density of nutrients in a food, adjusted for bioavailability. This could be measured per gram, per calorie, or per unit volume, depending on a person’s particular needs. Since nutrients are essentially worthless if they aren’t absorbed and utilized, the term should incorporate bioavailability.

(Not intending that to become a screed on Animal-based diets, but just another part of the discussion on foods that we have been told are bad for us, while we're being entreated to eat Little Debbies Fortified Cakes..)

Chairman Harper and the Chinese Sell-Out

Who needs democracy? Secret treaty is a massive giveaway of Canadian resources and rights with no vote in Parliament.

By Andrew Nikiforuk

But Harper's Omnibus Bill, which declared Canada’s formal entry into the ranks of dysfunctional petro states, was but window dressing for the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Act (FIPPA). It's the most significant trade deal since NAFTA, but you won't read much about it in the national press. Given its deplorable content Harper appropriately inked the massive give-away in Vladivostok last month and then quietly tabled the deal in Ottawa without so much as a press release.

Osgoode law professor Gus Van Harten, an expert on such international doings, quickly found out why. After reading the brief document, he declared it a travesty and a formidable assault on Canada's democratic traditions. For starters the deal gives Chinese investors more rights and protections than Canadian entrepreneurs could ever win in China's incredibly corrupt markets.

Moreover the deal "allows Chinese companies to sue Canada outside of Canadian courts. Remarkably, the lawsuits can proceed behind closed doors. This shift to secrecy reverses a longstanding policy of the Canadian government."

Appallingly, the treaty would give Sinopec, one of the big Chinese backers of the Northern Gateway pipeline, the right to sue the government of British Columbia if it blocks the project. Sinopec could also demand that only Chinese labour and materials be used on the pipeline. Moreover the treaty gives Chinese state owned companies "the right to full protection and security from public opposition."

What are the polls like? I'd wager the vast majority of Canadians are against the Nexen sellout.
Still, Harper and co are in a bind. Most of the capital developing the tar sands has to come from the outside. The Chinese don't want to co-operate with the locals. They want to buy the locals out.

This is their method in Africa too. When they build bridges or whatnot in Africa, they bring their own people to employ. Africans get no jobs building bridges, roads and tunnels in their own countries.

Now the Chinese want to buy Canadian firms and get them under their control and instead of investing in them.
Buy them out and bring their own people and exploit the Canadian resources.

It's a very smart tactic, but also a very cynical one. However, China can afford it. It's a rising power and the question is if countries like Canada can afford to say no.

This is what the changing power of the world looks like. America may not be perfect but U.S.-bashing leftists ought to consider that China will not usher in a much better world, just a different world. A world in which a major superpower will be much less inclined to give Western nations preferential treatment, as evidenced here.

I think it will take time for people to truly adjust to the new reality of world power politics after reading about the changes for years, but not quite seeing them firsthand.

This is their method in Africa too. When they build bridges or whatnot in Africa, they bring their own people to employ. Africans get no jobs building bridges, roads and tunnels in their own countries.

I'd like to highlight this. I know someone who visits Namibia annually, and they say in the last few years the Chinese are putting up new buildings everywhere, using imported Chinese labour. There are plenty of locals who could do the work, but the Chinese won't use them.

Now the Chinese want to buy Canadian firms and get them under their control and instead of investing in them.
Buy them out and bring their own people and exploit the Canadian resources.

It's all part of "North American energy independence."

The iron law of oligarchy

... claims that rule by an elite, or "oligarchy", is inevitable as an "iron law" within any organization as part of the "tactical and technical necessities" of organization. Michels particularly addressed the application of this law to representative democracy, and stated: "It is organization which gives birth to the dominion of the elected over the electors, of the mandataries over the mandators, of the delegates over the delegators. Who says organization, says oligarchy." He went on to state that "Historical evolution mocks all the prophylactic measures that have been adopted for the prevention of oligarchy." Michels stated that the official goal of representative democracy of eliminating elite rule was impossible, that representative democracy is a façade legitimizing the rule of a particular elite, and that elite rule, that he refers to as oligarchy, is inevitable.

One of the theoretical advantages of a monarchy is that the future monarch would be trained from birth to rule the country. Given the amount of time I have invested and continue to invest in learning the details of my profession, I can see a clear cause and effect where only an oligarch class would have the opportunity to study 'effective rulership of developed countries.'

Unfortunately rule by oligarchs has the same issue as rule by monarchs; how do you detect the sociopaths and keep them out of the system? Or at least put some restraint on their actions. Scientific American had an article on the effectiveness of controlled psychopaths, for lack of a better phrase.


If you have no empathy, then you have to be restrained by an rigid ethical system. And if that doesn't work, a shaped charge in the mastoid cavity (nods to Dean Ing in Systemic Shock).

Empathy is a defect in leaders. It is a key component of the attitudes that lead to short term optimization instead of long term optimization.

Note that economic systems have been developed to stave off short term pain at the risk of long term catastrophe.
- the hunter risks going hungry each day depending on whether a kill can be made or fish can be caught.
- the hunter and gatherer go hungry eash season depending on the availability of game, fruits, roots, nuts, etc. due to weather and climate.
- the farmer and herder go hungry some years when flocks are sickened or when crops fail.
- the merchant goes hungry when the city loses competitiveness to other markets.
- the manufacturer goes hungry when his techonology and products are obsoleted by others.
- the country goes hungry when resources are exhausted or other countries become more successful in manufacturing or in acquiring colonies, etc.

At each step in the progression the economic system increases in scale and complexity, but it is largely an attempt to harness the Central Limit Theorem to make things more predictable.

This works for a while.

The monarch could be a philosopher king, or a monstrously destructive dictator. I expect even the same individual with the same education could be either, depending upon the circumstances. Given good intentions, and a reasonably pliant citizenry who is willing to support your grand goal, being a philosopher king probably isn't too hard to do. But, what if there is serious and irrational (at least from the monarchs perspective)? Imagine you are king, and your priority is to implement power-down to conserve resources, save the environment, transition to something sustainable, and you end up with a violent Tea-Party revolt. What are you gonna do? Either course -massive repression, or giving in, leads to massive suffering.

Which Millionaire Are You Voting For?

ELECTIONS are supposed to give us choices. We can reward incumbents or we can throw the bums out. We can choose Republicans or Democrats. We can choose conservative policies or progressive ones.

In most elections, however, we don’t get a say in something important: whether we’re governed by the rich. By Election Day, that choice has usually been made for us. ... Even in our great democracy, we rarely have the option to put someone in office who isn’t part of the elite.

... If millionaires were a political party, that party would make up roughly 3 percent of American families, but it would have a super-majority in the Senate, a majority in the House, a majority on the Supreme Court and a man in the White House.

If working-class Americans were a political party, that party would have made up more than half the country since the start of the 20th century. But legislators from that party (those who last worked in blue-collar jobs before entering politics) would never have held more than 2 percent of the seats in Congress.

"Ladies and gentlemen, it is my great honor to say the last words to be spoken by any president of the united states.

this constitutional convention has chosen wisely to abolish this office, as well as all the structure of government which has become so obviously unsuitable to our times, and replace it with the board of the babushkas- 50 of them, all women, all chosen for their proven wisdom, intelligence, empathy, knowledge of humanity, and concern for the future.

We have here chosen, at this constitutional convention, the first such group, each to serve 6 years and never any more, and empowered to structure the governance of this nation in the best way their collective wisdom shall dictate, without any other constraints from our new constitution.

I think we can all agree, indeed we have all agreed, that this first 50 Babushkas are truly splendid people, truly worthy and proven to be so by their at least 55 years of life. We pledge to support their decisions, and wish them and this country- and this planet, well.

It is most fortunate for the country that we have been able to agree that the succeeding Babushkas are to be appointed by themselves, as the 6 year service of each has reached its terminus, thus eliminating the notoriously ineffective and corrupting election process we have so wisely eliminated.

And I, as the last president, here and now step down, gratefully, from my duties, and welcome in the new constitution and those we have chosen to administer it."

"Secret closet of over 5,000 shoes discovered in Babushka Ovela's offices.... "

Very funny. KD, I had just said to wife that I was curious to see what if any response that babushka thing would get. We both enjoyed yours, thanks.

And of course, you have a point. Of course e assume that a bunch of really proven world- wise women would have thought of the shoes thing , plus ever so many others, and taken appropriate preemptions.

PS- history. My daughter and I exchange challenges- hers was "fix the election silliness" that was my response, My return challenge was "restructure the relation between women and men." She says she is working on a winner of an answer. We shall see.

The origin of the babushka thought was my wonderful tough old scots grandma, who could and did hold things together in tough times, when nobody else had enough head and heart to do it.

Gulf News: Article explains why Iraqi expectations are way too high. Bold mine.

Iraq oil: More realism from IEA

Notice that in 2035 the expected production is again less than that originally set by the contracts for 2017. The cumulative investment is even more staggering at $600 billion and in the years to 2020 it is about $30 billion a year.

But the investment in 2011 was only $7 billion a year and therefore the IEA presents a “delayed Case, in which investment in Iraq’s energy sector rises only slowly from the levels seen in 2011.” Yet the cumulative investment will still be around 60 per cent of that in the central scenario or $240 billion to 2035 and “acting as a significant constraint on the pace at which the sector develops” in addition to other obstacles. The production in this case is expected to be only 4 mbd in 2020 and 5.3 mbd in 2035, a dire result which may be too pessimistic but given the “progress” in the last nine years it is possible.

Again, these billions Iraq needs to dramatically increase their production will not come from Iraq. It is to come from from those major oil companies that Iraq hopes to do the work and furnish the capital for a only couple of bucks per barrel of the extra oil they hope to bring to the surface. Those oil companies obviously see the flaw in asking them to do all the work and take all the risk. They simply will not do it.

*Leonardo Maugeri's scenario has Iraq producing 7.6 million barrels per day by 2020.

Ron P.

Could Paulwell's plan light the path to recovery?

An energy policy that limits its electricity pricing objective to 25 to 30 cents per kilowatt-hour will leave Jamaica continuing to languish in a state of economic uncompetitiveness. Our economic survival depends on electricity rates being reduced to no more than 15 US cents per kilowatt-hour to ensure that we can compete regionally and internationally. After waiting four decades for relief, it would be the ultimate defeat if the Jamaican people were to be sold a solution that is inadequate. A mere step in the right direction would leave us far short of the desired destination.

Because of the disjointed manner in which governments over the last 40 years have approached energy policy, incoherence has been its most consistent quality. Phillip Paulwell must not hold back on bringing focus and coherence to this centrally important area of national policy. He should move with all deliberate haste to set Jamaica on course for a better economic future with competitively priced energy.

If this can be done, and it is accompanied by an agreement with the International Monetary Fund that can reconstruct the major pillars of our economy for macroeconomic competitiveness, we will, at last, after decades of decay, be set on a course that could lead us to economic recovery.

Claude Clarke is a businessman and former minister of trade.

This guy is your typical cornucopian. He is advocating BAU prescriptions and obviously has no clue about resource limits or ACC or the s#!tstorm of a liquid transportation fuels crisis that is about to unfold. What's new?

Alan from the islands

Getting Jamaica off of diesel generated power and onto more modern resources such as coal, natural gas, and renewable energy (as per the linked article) would seem to make a lot more sense than sitting around complaining that anyone with a positive idea is a fantasist.

The Jamaican economy consumes more energy per unit of GDP than any of our non-oil-producing trading partners and almost twice the world average.

While I do hate to see new coal power coming on, Jamaica would appear to have a much stronger justification for using it than the US or China. And given that it is replacing diesel power, the climate impacts on a net basis would be milder than using it for new power.

Paying 30 cents or so per kilowatt-hour will doom Jamaica to permanent poverty.

Here is something to curl your toes and make you just a little bit queasy! We are just full of great ideas.


IEA on the new oil paradox — anything but normal

From the IEA’s latest oil market monthly report:

The paradox is that US product stocks have been falling faster than normal and European refiners have been running flat out despite tepid product demand in both markets. Hurricane disruptions and a string of refinery glitches (especially on the West Coast) are only part of the US story. In both regions, the bottom line is that exports have become a key driver of refining activity and profits, not just the outlet for surplus product that they used to be. To wit, in Europe even gasoline cracks have staged a dramatic recovery, despite vanishing demand at home.

In short, welcome to just-in-time operations for the Western oil-product hemisphere — an inventory management system popularised by the Japanese, focused on limiting waste but associated with hefty premiums.

As Wikipedia notes about JIT:

JIT implicitly assumes a level of input price stability that obviates the need to buy parts in advance of price rises. Where input prices are expected to rise, storing inventory may be desirable.

The price absorbing function in this case is taken on the crude side — allowing refiners to effectively run only what they need so as to get the very best price possible.

Aws, thanks for the link. That brings out the perils of just-in-time (JIT) deliveries of almost all the products we consume. JIT logistics that will be one of the main things that will be responsible for the suddenness of the coming collapse.

Trade-Off, Financial System Supply-Chain Cross-Contagion: a study in global systemic collapse. David Korowicz

The societies that would be impacted most extensively and rapidly are the most complex ones. Being the most complex, they have the greatest number of critical inputs into keeping systems (factories, supermarkets, critical infrastructure) running. They have the highest levels of interdependence and are adaptive to leaner, JIT logistics... (page 11)

In section V a particular scenario of a Eurozone collapse is outlined. It is only of among many possible scenarios. Its purpose is to show how an intertwined sovereign and banking crisis in the Eurozone would affect trade directly, but the ideas could be applied to any large-scale financial crisis. It is shown how ideas such as the trade centrality of the most affected countries, their inherent complexity (level of JIT integration, low substitutability, interdependence) and a simple epidemic model can illuminate how supply-chain contagion could spread globally within a few weeks. This supply-chain contagion would then feed back into the growing financial system contagion. Finally, it is emphasised how the restoration of the financial system would not necessarily stop the supply-chain contagion for a number of reasons. (page 13)

Ron P.

The IMF game changer

Izabella Kaminska, FT Alphavile

As Krugman notes, the key game changing finding from the IMF report is that activity over the past few years has disappointed more in economies which were implementing aggressive fiscal consolidation plans than those that weren’t. Which means the contractionary effects of fiscal consolidation are substantially bigger than policy makers were assuming.

The question is, what will the political elite do with this knowledge? Also, to what degree will the IMF have to stage a “we’re sorry” campaign?

Lastly, if we do all agree that more fiscal stimulus is needed, how do we ensure that stimulus is correctly distributed — and by that we mean to industries of tomorrow rather than to flailing industries of the past?

Economic stimulus needs to, and must, happen if we are to avoid societal breakdown, particularly in the EU. Kaminska makes a good point in her last paragraph about the need to prioritize stimulus (investment) something QE stimulus doesn't do. Throwing money at BAU while ignoring the twin energy challenges of peak oil and climate change would be a waste of time and money... and a tragedy.

Given the various political constituencies that will try to capture the stimulus for their own pet projects, that's virtually impossible to deliver.

How to make energy journalism better

By David Roberts

Following those threads requires a certain restless curiosity and dilettantism, what fledgling news site Quartz recently called “obsessions.” It requires unpacking the dynamic interplay of physical, economic, and political systems. It certainly requires going beyond the facts.

That is not necessarily something that comes easily to journalists, especially old-school reporters. Pushing climate change or energy poverty into a conversation where it hasn’t typically appeared and isn’t typically taken seriously can feel like advocacy or moralizing. It pushes against some quiet but insistent social and professional pressures. Right now, frankly, think tanks, NGOs, and bloggers are doing a better job of it. You’d have trouble finding conventional journalism, even magazine journalism, with the broad scope and empirical depth of The Oil Drum or Climate Progress.

Some folks around here deserve a hearty pat on the back for a job well done!  :   )

Go Tribe... So much for those who suggest that TOD has outlived it's usefulness. That said, Journalist Roberts is a little lite on the need for urgency, IMO. From the article:

Here are the three great energy challenges of the 21st century:

1. Maintain safe and reliable energy supply to developed countries, where demand is leveling off and infrastructure is aging.

2. Supply energy to the developing world, where demand is absolutely exploding, and to the one in three people in the world who have no reliable access to energy at all (“energy poverty”).

3. Rapidly and substantially reduce emissions of greenhouse gases from fossil fuels.

I maintain that this is last year's list. My list?

1. Implement global policies to promote and/or deal with the process of dramatically reducing human population, either voluntary or by default.

2. Provide cultural and economic incentives for populations to adapt to ongoing constraints to necessary resource availability. Convince developing populations that a western, capitalist lifestyle is neither desirable nor sustainable. We need better stories which promote cooperation and caring over competition; conservation over consumption.

3. Begin the terrible, yet rewarding process of repairing as much damage as we can; supplant extraction and consumption with restoration and stewardship. Redesigning our systems, our methods, ourselves around this mandate is crucial to our survival (not to mention the survival of the rest of the biosphere).

HA! Good luck with that... there is no "We", except in the sense that "We" are screwed. Teach your children child well :-/

Great, you are someone who truly understands what the pronoun "we" really means. Almost every book every written on the problems facing the world like peak oil, climate change, or environmental degradation always end with something to this effect: "Here is what we must do. There have been whole books written on "what we must do" like Lester Brown's Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization.

And such plans would have a great chance of working, if only "we" would all think with one mind, if only "we" could agree on exactly what the problem really is, if only "we" could then agree on what must be done and if only "we" would all then mobilize as one force and save civilization.

Fat chance of that happening.

Ron P.

Oui! We wee all the way home.

Ghung - that first list of 3 reminds me of an old oil field rule: you can have it fast, cheap or safe. Pick two. Or today maybe the choice is down to just one.

That's a funny tweak on the standard engineering rule: Do you want the design to be cheap, fast, or good . . . pick any two.

Sure seems to have gotten around as a universal. I heard it in relation to video production.

It makes me feel a bit better about how slow I sometimes work, insisting on trying to make something a little bit solid and reliable. Still, it's hard not to run through in your mind what a 'bad' worker you are, not being nice and painlessly quick.

I built an installation for a children's museum this year and badly underestimated the time required.. had to eat my shirt a bit to finish it, even though the end result should have been effectively MORE valuable with more labor (and blood and tears) into it.. but modern economics makes it seem like a loss, often to all parties.

I also had a friend for whom I'd lit a documentary film comment on my slowness and deliberateness while we made this project.. but then remembered that we never ever had to redo or go back to anything I had done. I end up feeling both good AND bad about such things..

Sure seems to have gotten around as a universal. [cost, speed, quality- pick two] I heard it in relation to video production. ~ jokuhl

Design/residential architecture over here. But I suspect there can be exceptions. Off-the-shelf and recycled stuff can be cheap, fast and good/robust, especially perhaps where recontextualized/repurposed/adaptively-reused. It's also important of course to factor in effects on environment; recyclability; embedded energies; true costs, etc..
The "lo-tech chic" faucet might fit all three criteria, and maybe with a local-timber wooden counter instead.

I'm sad to hear that. It was an auspicious project! But, yes, "Everything takes all the time". Shopping for the parts/bits/pieces/materials/supplies/tools can take a lot of time: "The shopping is the hardest part" often turns out to be true.

The kids will benefit!

Bill McKibben nails it on Bill Maher show — plus Tuesday-afternoon quarterbacking

By David Roberts

Bill McKibben was on Real Time with Bill Maher last Friday. Watch:


Wasn’t he great? I love this line: “We only have so many major physical features on the planet, four or five, and you don’t really want to just start breaking them. That’s why we can’t have nice things.”

McKibben had another line that I thought was very good...

"We need to adapt to what we can't prevent, and prevent what we can't adapt to."

Robert's post is worth reading for a discussion on communicating climate change.

Enjoyed the vid, thanks for sharing. I liked the line about replacing Iowa too. And while they took their smackdown gracefully, I do hope they take it seriously too, and reconsider their positions and what the two Bill M.'s are saying.

Quantitative easing only benefits the financial sector, UK research finds

A review of evidence into Quantitative Easing (QE) has shown that the Government's hope that it will pull the UK out of recession may be unfounded.

He said: “QE is serving to help the financial sector, such as banks and insurance companies. That’s useful because it’s a sector that was really facing the cliff edge in late 2008 and 2009 but in the end the aim of the policy is not to help the financial sector but to help the wider economy, and it’s not feeding through into that.

“We’ve had four rounds of QE, bought more and more bonds, and we’re still stuck.”

“The fundamental problem in the UK is the lack of demand. Making the interest rate cheaper helps but it isn’t addressing the major problem. The Government needs to start spending by employing people. It needs to get involved in large scale infrastructure projects. Roads, airports and broadband are all helpful but spending £20 billion on infrastructure is a drop in the ocean compared to the £1.4 trillion deficit

Peak Oil and sustainability compared to a few other things...Google Trends:

Search terms (hopefully I used the "+" and quotes correctly in the last couple of search strings):

Peak Oil:


Peak Oil, Climate Change, and sustainability:


Peak Oil, Climate Change, sustainability, and pollution:


PO, CC, sustainability, pollution...and ice cream:


PO, CC, sustainability, pollution...and American Idol:


PO, CC, sustainability, pollution...and diet:


PO, CC, sustainability, pollution...and football:


PO, CC, sustainability, pollution...and Obama +"birth certificate":


PO, CC, sustainability, pollution...and Ford +"F-150":


We just completed the inaugural run of our new Nyle Geyser heat pump water heater (http://www.nyle.com/water-heating/geyser-r/) and the results are a little better than expected. It took 1.64 kWh to raise 115 litres of water from 16.7°C to 49°C, with a maximum draw of 672-watts (average ambient air temperature: 17°C, relative humidity: 58%, and total runtime: 2 hours and 57 minutes). It's not as loud as our dehumidifier and it operates at a slightly lower pitch, which I find a little less irritating.

If we had an electric water heater rather than a side arm the results would have been presumably a little better, because some of this heat will inevitably bleed-off the feed and return lines that connect the tank to our oil-fired boiler. All in all, not too shabby given that it would have taken 4.3 kWh to have done the same job using electric resistance.

I'm going to run a couple of loads of laundry back to back this evening to see how well it handles the task.


Sounds good, Paul.

I'm still a number of steps away from firing mine up.. I do like hearing about the strong COP, though!


Hey Bob,

I should clarify one thing. The first 6°C temperature rise was accomplished in 20 minutes and required just 0.16 kWh of electricity, with a maximum draw of 492-watts. However, getting from 43°C to 49°C took 38 minutes and 0.41 kWh with a peak draw of 672-watts, so it's obviously working harder and longer to process those last six degrees than the first six, as you would expect. In other words, the numbers I referenced above are somewhat misleading because we started with a full tank of cold water.

I ran our first load of laundry in warm water and that, plus a couple hours of standby losses, consumed 0.42 kWh. I know from past experience that a similar size load in our front loader would have consumed in the order of 0.95 kWh, so a COP of 2.2 to 2.3 is probably closer to the mark. Nonetheless, I'm really happy with the performance of this device (a solid piece of hardware, IMHO) and proud to support a Maine based business.


Still very encouraging, especially since I'll be using mine as a preheater. Initially targetting probably around 95f (35c), while the Oil Furnace does the finish work.. just like grain fed beef!

Did you keep a record of the air temps as it worked? Was it outputting warmer water out of progressively cooler and drier air?

Best, Bob

EDIT, Saw you already addressed this.. thx

Hey Bob,

I didn't notice a drop in room temperature because we had our heat turned on downstairs (the mean outdoor temperature for the first half of yesterday was just 2.1°C/35.8°F).

As mentioned, the unit is set to run just two hours per day, but I'll be bumping that up to three. It came on at 06h00 this morning, my partner took his shower at 07h15 and I noticed that the temperature hadn't quite reached 49°C when the timer pulled the plug at 08h00. As fall and winter progresses, inlet temperatures will drop, so a three hour stretch should allow it to shut-off on its own accord.

I'll know for sure over the next few days, but I think our DHW related consumption will now fall in the range of 1.5 kWh per day. Our space heating costs will go up, obviously, but I don't anticipate a huge hit. Last year, our lower level heat pump consumed a total of 1,974.1 kWh and if that goes up by 10 per cent, say, then we're looking at a couple hundred kWh of additional overhead, some of which we'll recover during the summer months through reduced dehumidifier usage.

I wish we could do more in the way of active or passive solar, but our home is poorly situated and our local climate isn't all that conducive; consequently, we're had to pursue some of these other options (burning wood is not one of them). That said, I think this Nyle may get our [newly] all-electric home below 8,000 kWh a year. That's 6,000+ kWh/year less than that of the previous owner and we've eliminated some 5,700 litres/year (1,500 gallons) of fuel oil demand in the bargain.


Thanks Paul,

The COP does seem good.

You gave an average for RH, did you see a drop in RH from start to end of run time?


Hi Andrew,

I didn't notice any drop in relative humidity, although there was condensate coming out of the drain tube by the time the tank had reached its set temperature. It took some time before the first few dribbles emerged, but I suspect that's because a certain amount has to accumulate in the drain pan before it reaches the bottom of the drain spout.

I noticed that it consumes only 1-watt in standby mode (it has a temperature probe that continually monitors the temperature of the tank so that it knows when to turn itself back on); that's welcome news. I've hooked ours up to a simple mechanical timer that has a twenty-four push-pull pin wheel, so it's not scheduled to come back on until 06h00, at which point it's free to run for up to two hours before the timer kills the power again. If need be, we'll add a second cycle for the evening, but I'm hoping that running it once a day will suffice.

BTW, our second load of laundry which was also washed in warm water consumed just 0.29 kWh. I think I'm in love. :-)