Drumbeat: January 30, 2013

Record Profit Eludes Big Oil as Costs Outpace Brent Gain

The world’s biggest oil companies are failing to convert the highest Brent crude prices ever into record profits as production costs climb and U.S. natural gas prices languish.

The London-traded benchmark for two-thirds of the world averaged $111.68 a barrel in 2012, up 0.7 percent from a then- record in 2011 and more than double the price in 2006. At the same time, oil and gas producers have lagged behind other industries in stock markets as profit growth failed to keep up. The MSCI World Oil & Gas Index lost 0.5 percent last year, compared with the broader World Index that has risen 13 percent.

“Even though Brent prices are up, so are the costs of producing that crude, and gas is a big drag,” said Jason Gammel, an analyst at Macquarie Capital Europe Ltd. in London. “That has negative effects on profitability.”

Oil Rises to Four-Month High Before Federal Reserve Statement

Oil advanced to the highest level in more than four months before a Federal Reserve policy statement that may signal the U.S. central bank will take additional steps to stimulate the economy of the world’s biggest crude user.

West Texas Intermediate rose as much as 0.7 percent to the highest since Sept. 17. Crude is poised for a third monthly gain, the longest run since April 2011. The Federal Open Market Committee will renew its commitment to purchasing assets during a two-day meeting that began yesterday, according to a Bloomberg News survey of 44 economists. Economic confidence in the euro area rose more than economists forecast in January, adding to signs that the 17-nation bloc may be emerging from a recession.

Energy prices on the rise again

"We've withstood $100 a barrel before, and we can do it again," said Beth Ann Bovino, deputy chief economist at Standard & Poor's. If prices went considerable higher -- Bovino mentioned $150 a barrel -- that might not be the case.

Fortunately for drivers and the economy at large, no one is predicting record prices this year.

Higher Gas Prices, Lower Take-Home Pay Will Kill Rally

Until gasoline and oil finally decouple from the risk on trade we are going to continually have this stop and start economy every time the market goes up on the correlated asset trade. At this pace I give the rally two more weeks at most, unless the aforementioned assets decouple. Gold and silver have decoupled, but oil is moving right up with the euro and yen funding currency crosses.

Demise of small Hess refinery threatens U.S. East Coast pump pain

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Hess Corp's decision to close its U.S. East Coast refinery, the latest plant to fall victim to weak profits in the Atlantic Basin, could threaten painful gasoline price spikes for regional drivers as local fuel supplies dwindle further.

Hess will shut the 70,000-barrels-per-day Port Reading, New Jersey plant in late February, as part of a larger restructuring, the company said in a statement on Monday.

U.S. RBOB gasoline futures, already near a record high for this time of year, jumped more than 2 percent after the announcement, as the supply outlook for the Mid-Atlantic and New England markets suddenly looked tighter for the summer driving season.

Occidental Ripe for Icahn-Like Treatment as Stock Slides

Activist investors from Carl Icahn to Daniel Loeb are amassing stakes in energy companies to replace directors and spin off assets dragging down valuations amid record oil prices.

Shareholder interventions have been staged for U.S. oil and natural gas producers with more than $100 billion in collective market value since the beginning of 2012 as energy stocks failed to match the surge in crude prices, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Targets that included Chesapeake Energy Corp., Hess Corp., Murphy Oil Corp. and SandRidge Energy Inc. have been censured by unsatisfied investors for everything from sloppy financial controls to self-dealing by executives.

Hess Should Spin Off Bakken, Billionaire Singer Says

Hess Corp., the New York-based oil company, should conduct a full strategic review, including a potential spinoff of U.S. shale assets and sale of other businesses, Paul Singer’s Elliott Management Corp. said.

The activist investor sent a letter to Hess shareholders today urging them to vote for five new board members after a “history of unrelenting underperformance.” Elliott’s funds control $21.5 billion in assets and its 4 percent stake in Hess is the largest initial investment in its 35-year history, according to a statement today.

Exploring the theory of Peak Oil

What I find most fascinating, is the general prospect that a game changing "rock bottom price of energy" could happen in our lifetime. It may not necessarily even be oil, but perhaps a substitute energy source, which could be developed, stored, distributed and incorporated into the various factors of production at a price drastically cheaper than today.

Just consider the mind boggling rate of change in technological capabilities over the last 20 years.

Looking forward 20 years, it is hard to know what the world will be like. Plug a price close to zero for energy into one of those models I mentioned earlier and the stage would be set for a global boom.

Oil-Service Companies Plunge as Saipem Lowers Forecast

Saipem SpA plunged a record 39 percent after Europe’s largest oil-service provider cut profit forecasts and an Italian regulator investigated a share sale made before yesterday’s statement.

Kazakhstan Seeks Russia Oil Product Import Cut

MOSCOW (RIA Novosti) – Kazakhstan may slash its imports of oil products from Russia, following a row between the two Customs Union members over the details of a crude-for-fuel deal agreed last year, Kommersant business paper reported on Wednesday.

Kazakhstan has been short of oil products after closing its three major refineries for modernization until 2016. Last year, Russia exported 1.3 million tons of gasoline and diesel products worth 40 billion rubles ($1.33 billion) export-tariff free to Kazakhstan, which is required to compensate for these deliveries with crude oil supplies, under a bilateral intergovernmental agreement.

China Faces Fuel Glut After Adding Refining Capacity, CNPC Says

China faces a fuel glut this year as new oil-refining capacity outpaces demand growth even amid a government drive to use more natural gas, according to the nation’s biggest oil and gas producer.

Valero Energy 4Q profit surges on refining margins

Valero said income grew mainly on higher refining margins in all of its regions because of discounts for several types of crude oils. The company said it replaced imported light crude oils with cheaper domestic crudes at its Gulf Coast and Memphis, Tenn., refineries in the fourth quarter and was looking for ways to handle even more of the cheaper domestic crudes.

Kinder Morgan Buys Copano for $3.2 Billion

Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP, the biggest U.S. pipeline company, agreed to acquire Copano Energy LLC for about $3.2 billion in stock, to capitalize on rising natural gas output from shale basins in Texas, Oklahoma and Wyoming.

EON Posts Higher Earnings as Asset Sales Target Exceeded

EON SE, Germany’s biggest utility, reported higher earnings after renegotiating gas contracts with OAO Gazprom and said asset sales will exceed an earlier target.

Thousands Evacuated as Flooding Hits Eastern Australia

The Insurance Council of Australia declared a catastrophe for parts of Queensland and New South Wales, which together account for about half the nation’s economy. The severe weather left six people dead, disrupted mining operations in Queensland and caused an estimated A$187 million ($196 million) in insurance losses. While the damage is less than floods and storms two years ago, Treasurer Wayne Swan has acknowledged that costs would have an impact on the federal budget.

Egypt army chief warns of 'state collapse' amid crisis

Egypt's armed forces chief has warned the current political crisis "could lead to a collapse of the state".

General Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, in comments posted on the military's Facebook page, said such a collapse could "threaten future generations".

Energy literacy: visualizing the impacts of unlimited growth

It is hard to imagine a more unlikely vehicle for advancing energy literacy than a finely crafted large format picture book. Energy, after all, is invisible. We see its effects, but never the thing itself. And yet, Energy: Overdevelopment and the Delusion of Endless Growth succeeds and succeeds profoundly for it puts on display those effects so compellingly that the reader cannot help but turn the pages to see more.

Candice Beaumont Selected as Speaker for the National Family Office Forum in Los Angeles

Candice Beaumont was one of the early advocates of the peak oil theory, having made a very bullish prediction on oil at $28 per barrel a few years ago. Together with other experts such as T. Boone Pickens and Matthew Simmons she forecast oil would go over $100 several years ago, and is sought after for her advice on investing in a peak oil environment, heavy oil and energy alternatives. She recently projected that based on the current supply and demand economics that people should adapt to a high oil price environment and that we need to increase heavy oil production in order to meet increasing global demand for oil, due to the economic growth in emerging markets such as India and China.

Chesapeake CEO Resigns After Scrutiny on Personal Loans

Chesapeake Energy Corp.’s departing chief executive officer will leave to his successor a shrunken, cash-starved version of what was once the preeminent natural gas producer in the world’s biggest market for the fuel.

Aubrey McClendon’s agreement to resign effective April 1 culminated a shareholder revolt by Carl Icahn and Southeastern Asset Management Inc.’s O. Mason Hawkins that earlier had cost the CEO the chairmanship he’d held for more than two decades. McClendon also relinquished his annual bonus and saw executive perks curtailed amid federal investigations of a portfolio of personal loans that topped $840 million.

Judge Accepts BP’s $4 Billion Criminal Settlement Over Gulf Oil Spill

HOUSTON — A federal judge in New Orleans on Tuesday approved an agreement between BP and the Justice Department for the company to plead guilty to 14 criminal charges and pay $4 billion in penalties for the 2010 oil well blowout and spill in the Gulf of Mexico that left 11 workers dead and fouled hundreds of miles of shoreline.

Gulf Oil Spill Civil Trial Could Cost BP Billions

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Now that a $4 billion plea deal has resolved BP's criminal liability for the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill nearly three years ago, the company will turn its focus to a trial that could potentially cost it billions of dollars more in civil penalties.

Dutch court says Shell responsible for Nigeria spills

THE HAGUE (Reuters) - A Dutch court ruled on Wednesday that Royal Dutch Shell's Nigerian subsidiary was responsible for a case of oil pollution in the Niger Delta and ordered it to pay damages in a decision that could open the door to further litigation.

The district court in The Hague said Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Ltd., a wholly-owned subsidiary, must compensate one farmer, but dismissed four other claims filed against the Dutch parent company.

Timeline - Shell in Nigeria

(Reuters) - Royal Dutch Shell's operations in Nigeria came under the spotlight on Wednesday after a Dutch court ruled that the company could be held partially responsible for pollution in southern Nigeria.

Following are some of the highlights of Shell's history in Nigeria.

Smokers light up at Texas oil storage facility, tanks explode, official say

Two people were critically injured in an explosion and fire Tuesday morning after smoking on a catwalk over oil storage tanks, officials say.

According to Van Zandt County Fire Marshal Chuck Allen, at about 3 a.m. firefighters were called to a fire at an oil storage facility north of Van, Texas, along state Highway 110.

United Nations watchdog hails UAE's Dh73 billion nuclear vision

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said he was "impressed" with the progress of Abu Dhabi's nuclear plans and urged the UAE to share its experience with other nations, during a visit to the emirate to discuss matters including Iran's programme.

PNAS Study: Population Growth Will be Constrained by the Limits of Trading Virtual Water (Food)

A new study has been released by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), which calls into question the unsustainable global food export system based upon unsustainable export volumes of virtual water.

College students on a mission to donate leftover food

Not to make you feel guilty, but think for a minute about what you threw out of your refrigerator this week: that wilted lettuce, the yogurt that had passed its expiration date, the Tupperware full of mac and cheese that the kids had to have but never finished. It adds up.

Now imagine the amount of wasted food in a huge cafeteria that serves thousands of meals each day, a place like the South Campus Dining Room at the University of Maryland. That’s what three students did one day back in 2010. The quantities of soup, roast turkey, pasta and salads were so jaw-dropping, they decided to do something about it. They created the Food Recovery Network.

Resolving the food crisis: The need for decisive action

What progress has been made in the last year in addressing the underlying causes of the global food crisis? Far too little. Now, following the third food price spike in five years, we need clear and decisive action to address the real drivers of high and volatile food prices: biofuels expansion, financial speculation, low levels of public food reserves, weak investment in developing country agriculture, and a changing climate.

Ski Resort Needs Bigger Wastewater Signs, Agency Says

That the snow guns initially produced yellow snow prompted several citizens to file complaints with the state’s environmental quality department, arguing that signs warning people not to ingest the snow were too small and that children were observed rolling around in it, among other things.

Efficiency Vermont launches home energy challenge for 2013

Under the Challenge, which is being promoted in partnership with the Vermont Energy and Climate Action Network and other organizations throughout the state, towns are setting a target of weatherizing 3 percent of the homes and apartments in their community over the course of a year and fostering more public awareness and engagement in energy efficiency efforts. They will be able to measure their progress toward this goal along with that of other communities in their region and across the state. At the end of 2013, towns, regions, and local partners will be recognized for the effectiveness of their efforts to encourage participation in their communities. Windham County towns participating in the Challenge are aiming to weatherize at least 332 homes and apartments in 2013.

Pollution thick enough to cancel flights hits Beijing; ‘beyond index’ for 2nd time in 2 weeks

BEIJING — Thick, off-the-scale smog shrouded eastern China for the second time in about two weeks Tuesday, forcing airlines to cancel flights because of poor visibility and prompting Beijing to temporarily shut factories and curtail fleets of government cars.

The capital was a colorless scene. Street lamps and the outlines of buildings receded into a white haze as pedestrians donned face masks to guard against the caustic air. The flight cancellations stranded passengers during the first week of the country’s peak, six-week period for travel surrounding the Chinese New Year on Feb. 10.

Future Disasters: 10 Lessons from Superstorm Sandy

People can adapt to the increasing threat of storms in different ways, Jacob said. They can seek protection through measures like storm barriers; they can accommodate the risk by, for example, elevating buildings to reduce flood risk; or they can move when risks become too high, a strategy called managed retreat, he said.

"I think that needs to be much more aired in the public, because it is obviously the hardest to do," Jacob said.

Obama Talks Climate Change. California Is Acting on It

If environmentalists look west from Washington — about 2,728 miles west — they’ll see reason for hope. On Jan. 1, after years of preparation and legal battles, California launched a carbon cap-and-trade system, establishing a declining limit on the state’s greenhouse-gas emissions. That means that the most populous state in the U.S. and the ninth biggest economy in the world has legally committed itself to reducing its carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

Climate change refugees lack legal protection

Millions of people worldwide are fleeing their homes because of environmental disasters. But the conditions in which the refugees have to take up residence in neighboring countries isn't regulated by international law.

What would I advise climate science communicators?

Information about climate change should be communicated to people in the setting that is most conducive to their open-minded and engaged assessment of it.

How readily and open-mindedly people will engage scientific information depends very decisively on context. A person who hears about the HPV vaccine when she sees Michelle Bachman or Ellen Goodman screaming about it on Fox or MSNBC will engage it as someone who has a political identity and is trying to figure out which position “matches” it; that same person, when she gets the information from her daughter’s pediatrician, will engage it as a parent, whose child’s welfare is the most important thing in the world to her, and who will earnestly try to figure out what those who are experts on health have to say. Most of the contexts in which people are thinking about climate change today are like the first of these two. Find ones that are more like the second. They exist!

In Energy Taxes, Tools to Help Tackle Climate Change

The erratic weather across the country in the last couple of years seems to be softening Americans’ skepticism about global warming. Most New Yorkers say they believe big storms like Sandy and Irene were the result of a warming climate. Whether climate change is directly responsible or not, the odd weather patterns have underscored the risk that it poses to all of us.

What’s yet to be seen is whether this growing awareness of the risks will translate into sufficient political support to address climate change, especially after we figure out the costs we will have to bear to do so.

China now burning as much coal as the rest of the world combined

Want a better sense for why climate change is such a daunting problem? Check out this striking new chart from the U.S. Energy Information Administration:

China’s coal use grew 9 percent in 2011, rising to 3.8 billion tons. At this point, the country is burning nearly as much coal as the rest of the world combined.

Is Paul (here in halifax) around? I have been searching for info on heat pump COP as a function of outside temperature without much luck. Do you have such info? I found this for Fujitsu: http://www.johnstonesupply.com/storefront/template-resources/images/Fuji...
It is not clear to me whether resistive heaters are used to supply part of the capacity at low temperatures, which would result in low COP. I also found this on Mitsubishi H2i which claims a COP of 1.7 at -13F: http://www.baymarsupply.com/a-SSP-hyper-heat
I am trying to determine if I could re-insulate our about 2000 ft^2 house and meet all heating needs with a couple heat pumps, one near each end of the house. The coldest it typically gets here (maybe 1-2 nights per year) is about -5F (-21C), which, if I re-insulate, I think would require about 4kW to maintain 60F in our house at this outdoor temperature (our typical daytime setting in winter). Low temperatures are more typically around +5F to +20F, but of course it has to have sufficient capacity to heat the house at the coldest temps. Your previous post of data from your system was very helpful. Thanks for that - I copied and stored it. Do you have much problem with the heat circulating to different rooms in your house, or do they stay fairly close in temperature?

I live in Summerside, Prince Edward Island, Canada and use a single mini-split air source heat pump (MSASHP) to heat my place. I keep in regular contact with several others in my area who do the same. Some of us including myself keep separate power meters on the units to track of actual kWh info. In the last week we had a pair of nights that got to -22C. No problems. My unit, and my brother who has the identical units, ran all night.
I did extensive investigating before going with the Mitsubishi FE12 two years ago. There is no resistive heater in my unit or any other mini-split unit that I've ever heard of. Resistive heaters are common in non-mini-split air source heat pumps. I know a guy close by with one of those systems.
From how you describe the winter temperatures in your area the FE12 unit will be good. Fujitsu and Daikin also have units that keep running at -20C to around -25C.
Back when I was researching units I also looked extensively for COP performance graphs logged against temperature, but without any luck.

I hope that this in helpful,


An air source heat pump has in winter at temperatures around -15 °C a COP <2, everything else would be a surprise to me. The annual performance could be around 2.5 to 3.5, but this includes operation during spring and autumn.

A quick estimate is to calculate the (inverse) efficiency of a Carnot cycle (=COP(max)), a real world air heat pump works with <35% of this theretical best case scenario. With -20 °C for the heat source (253 K) and 20 °C room temperatur (293 K) and gets a COP(max) = 293/(293-253) = 7.3; the real COP would be around 2.5.; de-icing will reduce it further.

It all seems to be down to temperature difference. NREL has done some tests on heat pump water heaters


It seems to me that if you want a good space heating COP then you'll need a low temperature heating system - underfloor heating or monster radiators at 40 deg C.

Trying to produce the final top-up to get a hot bath seems to involve a low COP when its really cold outside.


Kevin, This is interesting, thanks for sharing. I assume that your heat pump will stop working in the event of a power outage ... can you tell us what kind of backup you have, if any, in this situation?

Luckily for us power outages are rare and short lived in my area. If we were without electricity from the city power company for more than a few hours or a few days we would use the wood stove. The oil-fired warm air furnace is still in excellent condition and only about 15 years old. This was the primary heating system for the house before i added the MS-ASHP 2 years ago. If there was any break-down with the heat pump or some exceptionally cold weather then we could turn on the oil-furnace. I haven't considered buying a back-up electric generator as yet that could run either the oil furnace or the heat pump since the power outages the last number of years have only been 1-2 hours once or twice per winter.

Maybe the local library has "Consumer Reports" on the shelves. I believe they also review heat pumps, and make recommendations.

Just a thought.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado has published both short and long papers
on heat pump COP. Here's one: http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy12osti/54846.pdf

You can find other, more detailed documents on line.

Here's one that tests the Fujitsu 12RLS and the Mitsubishi FE12NA:


There are some good charts showing COP at various temperatures - see page 18 for the Fujitsu.

As for what capacity you would need to heat your home, you really need to have a heat loss calculation done, including a blower door test. A heat loss calc without knowing the airtightness of the building is just a guess. A good energy audit often includes a heat loss calc, and can be well worth it before undertaking extensive work on insulating and air sealing.

Generally it is a good idea to leave the existing heating system in place - it can act as a back-up or supplemental heating system, such as during a bitter cold snap. It can also be used to help address uncomfortably cool parts of the house. Doing so would also let you be conservative in how much capacity you install, knowing you'll have plenty of heat, and that you can always install another mini-split in the future.

Thanks everyone for the good info on heat pumps. We have a wood stove that easily heats the entire house even at -25C, but of course requires that someone is there to start it. We lose electric around a half dozen times per year typically. Usually for less than a few hours, but sometimes up to 8 or 10. The wood stove has come in real handy then, since the fuel oil furnace does not operate without electric. I have a fairly good idea of the heating required due to tracking average monthly temperatures and fuel oil consumption. My heat loss calcs based on estimated R values matches this data well. I thought of adding a heat pump and re-insulating walls and ceiling, but not the floor, but the floor with its low R value is the largest heat loss - to the uninsulated and vented crawl space. I would like to add 2x2's to the bottom of the floor joists and fasten insulating panels to these so the water pipes are above the insulation. This won't work very well unless I remove the ducting for the existing furnace which is under the joists. The furnace doesn't work without electric, so offers no backup in case of electric loss. But I want to be sure the heat pump(s) alone will keep the house acceptably warm (60F for us). The data from Canada is encouraging. I may buy two units to get more even heating. I also thought of installing one heat pump, re-insulating everything but the floor, and leaving the existing furnace in place as one of you suggested. I could then get more data to see if the fuel oil furnace is needed. Probably the most prudent approach. Thanks again.

Good luck on the projects, Tom.

I was wondering if you have explored the option of sealing up the perimeter of the crawlspace, including trenching some insulation a couple feet into the ground. The work is easier, tho' still not 'easy'.. but you also keep a bit more accessibility to the systems below the floor and that space overall, and you might be able to get some real advantage from the geothermal mass below you if it's isolated from the colder earth outside.

It could be a good place to create a cool tube, a geothermally warmed air inlet tube for the house. (Email me if you would like more details on that type of approach.. a TOD search would show some of my other mentions of the one we built in Maine in 1980)


If you have a second heat source like an oven, an air source heat pump makes sense, because you provide at temperatures below -5°C cheap energy.

If you want to plan a new house, you have a lot opportunities to make sure that you only need one heat source, this would be in most cases a ground source heat pump. :-)

The first steps are to ensure a low system temperatur.

0) Isolate your home. Lower heat demand gives lower system temperature. (In an existing building which has been isolated you could run for one winter the old heating system, then you have a good idea of the new demand.)

1) Make sure you get a huge surface for heat exchange in your new home! Underfloor heating or wall heating (or special convectors) are your friends.

2) Let a competent person calculate the heat demand of your new home! Incontrast to NG/oil heaters, the power of a heat pump is expensive (500 USD/kW) and oversized heat pumps make a lot of trouble. A correct heat demand is a good filter to sort out incompetend providers of heat pumps, give them the result of your demand and check what they suggest. :-)

3) The layout of your heating pipes or convectors should follow the KISS approach, if possible, no storage, mixer etc. in case of ground source. The water goes straight into the pipes. This approch is killded by oversized heat pumps, you pay more for hardware and get higher running costs. (Air source usually require higher power and some storage).

4) The dream constellation for ground source HPs is of course a slightly undersized pump (e.g. your demand is 6.7 kW, you choose a 6 kW pump) in combination with a slightly oversized source, (e.g. your source is good for 8 kW pump).

5) Check the quality of you ground source and make sure that there is a good heat transfer from soil to brine. Water is your friend and to make sure by correct dimensions of the pipes that you get turbulent flow, easy money. The brine concentration should not be too high, as increased viscosity causes more pump energy demand. :-)

6) COP is a lab number, the annual performance in reality is also affected by other factors, here the efficency of you circulation pumps for brine/groundwater and underfloor system could be a real killer in houses with low energy demand. Do not forget to check these.

Now some remarks to the aspects of gound source vs. air source.

7) Air source pumps have to be larger, require often a storage (no KISS) and have higher electricity consumption. In many cases, i.e. if you the have the chance for a cheap ground source they are not the most economic solution. Compressor prices are usually higher per kW for air source HPs (at least in Europe).

8) Ground sources are good for three to five heat pump generations, in the long run you are better of.

These are the results of my own experience in planning and running a grund source heat pump and many thanks go to the guys in the German forum "Haustechnikdialog"! Good luck with your project!

“I was wondering if you have explored the option of sealing up the perimeter of the crawlspace, including trenching some insulation a couple feet into the ground. The work is easier, tho' still not 'easy'.. but you also keep a bit more accessibility to the systems below the floor and that space overall, and you might be able to get some real advantage from the geothermal mass below you if it's isolated from the colder earth outside.”

I considered insulating the outside of the foundation, but there are some difficulties. There are concrete patios and parking area for about 70 ft along two sides of the house which I would have to jackhammer out to dig down and insulate the outside of the foundation. The ground on one side of the house is sandy and very water permeable, so that the dirt in about 1/3 of the crawl space is damp in winter when we get most of our precipitation (no water pooling, and we have had no mold). That increases heat conduction to the outside ground from the crawlspace. Applying plastic vapor barrier over the ground in the crawlspace and insulation to the inside of the foundation seems difficult and of questionable efficacy due to this complication. Cooling the house in summer is no problem, as we live in high desert. With day time temperature of even 100 F night time temperature will drop to about 60 F, so we just open the windows and put a fan in one to draw cool air into the house. The house had central AC when we purchased it about 17 years ago, but we have never used it (seals are shot now I am sure).

“If you want to plan a new house, you have a lot of opportunities to make sure that you only need one heat source, this would be in most cases a ground source heat pump.“

If I were to build a new house I would build about a 1200 ft^2 house to Passivhaus standards, and heat it with solar hot water radiative floor heat, with a concrete slab floor over about 2 ft of sand with PEX tubing for circulating water through the sand, as described in “Solar Water Heating” by Bob Ramlow (the sand/slab are well insulated from the foundation and ground). He has supplied about ¾ of his heat with this type system in a house in Minnesota for many years, which is colder and cloudier than here. The only electric required with such a system is for the circulating pump, and the slab/sand has huge heat capacity. You typically start heating it in mid to late August, depending on climate, since heating (and cooling) is slow with the large heat capacity. It is also easy to connect an “on demand” gas water heater into this system for backup. I think this is ideal for our location where we have around 250 sunny/partly sunny days per year.

“Speaking from the perspective of Canada, I would say that you don't have to go very far in trying to insulate crawl spaces before it would be more efficient to jack up the house, excavate, and put a basement under it. It's a bit of a challenge, but I have friends who did it.”

This would be great, and I actually considered it. However, another complicating factor: the family room is a converted garage space built over a slab with no access under it. I don’t see how we could jack this part of the house up. I suppose we could excavate under the slab and jackhammer up through the slab to access the floor joists at points to jack it up. This is more than a bit intimidating to me.

“As for the furnace not running when the power goes out, put in a switch to disconnect it from the house power and run it off a portable generator. With a little more creative wiring, you can keep the refrigerator, deep freeze, and a few lights running as well.”

Yes, I should do this.
I would very much like to try building a new house using solar hot water heat as I described, but that would require convincing my wife to move. I think excavating under the family room and jackhammering up through the slab to jack the house up would be easier. :^))
Thank you all for the additional very useful comments.

I helped a friend prep his crawlspace for having foam sprayed in it. We stapled up radiant floor tubing with radiation fins, zoning different areas, and we moved some piping up into the joist cavities (replaced copper with pex). He then had a contractor spray everything with expanding foam. It made a huge difference, didn't cost too much, and he got a tax credit. Now all of his plumbing and some of his duct work is encased in foam. It's a vapor barrier as well. He calculated that doing the foam and blowing more insulation into the attic has cut his heating and cooling costs by over 70%.

... a concrete slab floor over about 2 ft of sand with PEX tubing for circulating water through the sand, as described in “Solar Water Heating” by Bob Ramlow (the sand/slab are well insulated from the foundation and ground).

More thermal mass isn't always a good thing. While some locations may benefit from having all of that sand, a 4"-6" slab has a huge storage capacity, and can take time to respond to temperature changes. It takes a lot of BTUs (and time) to move our floor zones just a couple of degrees. I've overheated our bedroom a few times and it can take a day or two to cool back down (not good for my wife's hot flashes). Opening the windows sort of defeats the purpose. We actually only heat the bedroom when it gets really cold and cloudy. Some of the residual heat from the adjacent bathroom (which we keep very warm) seems to keep the bedroom about right. Passive solar and insulation does the rest. I haven't needed to heat the bedroom floor at all this winter. I periodically circulate all of the zones just to exercize the system and keep the water fresh.

I have a 4' deep gravel layer over my heat pipes, so it took a few days to see a 1 degree temperature increase from summer solar. It is new this year & it absorbed heat for only a couple of months, peaking around 20 at the bottom. This coming summer we hope to get it up to temp, ideally if we could heat up the whole 200 tons to about 25-30 degrees it would last much of the winter.

We left the house with the heat turned off for 3 weeks, with the outside temp around -10C it took 2 weeks to drop to 12 inside then 7 after another week. Sunny days gave a direct increase of about a degree. We have a 5 kW boiler for the top hydronic pipes also (which we will stop using when we get full heat storage) which took 2 days to get the house back up to 18C. Since I can't do anything the easy way that is under a couple of inches of cob, not concrete but it probably has similar traits.

With the walls at R40 & ceiling at ~R100 we are approaching passivhaus standard. We also have an earthtube preheat for the HRV. Considering I'm building in a knowledge vacuum it seems to be working well. Pretty difficult to renovate to this level.

I'd love to put the food outside to get rid of the fridge & freezer but it would be the bear's last stop before bed.


Did you mean to say 4" of gravel over your heat pipes?

Still, sounds like a lot of great parts in your system!

How much distance/pipe area does the Earth Tube preheating get before hitting the HRV?


One thing that I deduced while designing my radiant system was that there would be an advantage to keeping the heat transfer tubing closer to the surface. While we were pouring the slab, the contractor argued that the tubing should be at the bottom of the slab "because heat rises" ( I think he was really worried about damaging it). I tried to explain that "heat rises" applies to convection in a fluid environment, and that heat essentially moves in all directions in a solid, via conduction. We tied the tubing to heavy reinforcement wire (I used the commercial 12 gauge stuff) and used a lot of zip ties to encourage contact with the steel, hoping to distribute the heat more efficiently, and pulled the grid up to about 2 inches from the finished surface, hoping to improve response time. Seems to have worked well.

One change I'm considering is to reverse the water flow. It currently flows from outside (1 foot in from the exterior wall) and winds its way to the interior of the home. This way, the warmest water heats the coldest part of the slab. It may make no difference, but it only involves flipping the pumps over next time I pull them to inspect/clean.

Since the water is still quite warm when it returns to the tank, I'm also considering smaller pumps for some zones, slowing the water flow and allowing it to transfer more of its heat to the slab.

Another tip: Put your pump on the cooler return side of your loop, pulling the fluid through the system,, rather than pushing the hottest fluid through the loop. Keeps the pumps cooler.

Yes, I meant 4 feet of earth as storage, under the main floor (~ 100m2 / 1000ft2).

The earth tube is about 50 meters & 2 to 3 m down. My most impressive day was -33 outside with +8 inside. Of course we get summer cooling which restores the heat. I haven't done anything about the shoulder seasons eg when the air is +15 to 20 C but the earth is still 8 to 10. I might shut it off & open the windows (once I get mosquito screens), or I have left the option of blowing air just through the earth to warm it up. (4 x 4" pipes, in two and out the other two).

I, too, as recommended by my plumber started the hydronic flow on the outside so my walls are warmer. I think this is for comfort in high heat flow (inefficient) houses. I would think a hot centre and cooler walls would lose less heat.
With a well insulated house I only notice a warm floor for a few minutes a day on average. Still, it is better than always cold!

I also have heard the "heat rises" comment, but I think they are mixing up convection & conduction. I certainly hope the gravel does not start convecting!

In the process industry something called 'counterflow' is usually the best way to exchange stuff. This applies to filtering different chemicals as well as heat exchange: you'll get the most efficient exchange if you bring the hottest water in contact with the coldest sections of your floor. It works because the overall difference in temperature this way is biggest. Nearly all heat-exchangers work using the counterflow principle. So your current setup should work best, unless you're worried about heat-loss because the floor is warmer near the outer wall. In that case you might want to change the setup but you can expect greater temperature differences in the floor and a higher feedback temperature.

There's outside and then there's outside. Why not a bear proof store which has openings to allow full air circulation? Maybe around the kitchen door giving some further shelter to the door.


Passive House is the way to go, indeed would my new house very likely too. :-)
Your suggested heating system looks interesting. Have to read a littel bit.

Applying plastic vapor barrier over the ground in the crawlspace

I beleive a vapor barrier is good to keep moisture away.

Speaking from the perspective of Canada, I would say that you don't have to go very far in trying to insulate crawl spaces before it would be more efficient to jack up the house, excavate, and put a basement under it. It's a bit of a challenge, but I have friends who did it. Mind you I have friends who have no problem driving a Bobcat around under a house.

The advantage of a concrete basement, if it is insulated with foam on the outside, is that if the heat goes out it will take a week or more before the house cools down to the point where the water pipes start freezing. In Canada we generally add a recreation room, a bathroom, and a few bedrooms in the basement for the kids so we don't have to listen to their music or share bathrooms with them any more.

As for the furnace not running when the power goes out, put in a switch to disconnect it from the house power and run it off a portable generator. With a little more creative wiring, you can keep the refrigerator, deep freeze, and a few lights running as well.

"I am trying to determine if I could re-insulate our about 2000 ft^2 house and meet all heating needs with a couple heat pumps, one near each end of the house."

My 1400 sq ft house is a ranch type, and with the heat pump about 1/3 from one end, it keeps both ends cool, but tolerable if I leave the inside doors open.

They do make dual zone ductless heat pumps, one compressor, two indoor units, so you could use that to keep both ends of the house more evenly heated. Separate compressors will improve reliability though.

You should keep a few baseboards or whatever installed for backup. The compressor will mostly likely fail while under the highest load, as in the coldest night. So make sure you can keep the house above freezing when it fails.

Hi Tom,

My apologies for the lateness in my reply; I've been off-line for these past few days.

The following table shows the heat output and input of the Fujitsu 12RLS2, in kW, at various temperature points:

Fujitsu 12RLS2 Heat Output

With an outside DB temperature of 0°C/32°F and an indoor temperature of 16°C/60°F, this particular model is said to draw 1.80 kW of electricity and supply 6.03 kW of heat. At -15°C/5°F, power consumption increases to 2.02 kW and heat output falls to 5.16 kW; and at -21°C/-5°F, you're looking at 2.02 and 4.63 kW respectively. Thus, even at -21°C, its COP is a still respectable 2.3.

Our two 3.5 kW Sanyos (9.3 HSPF) satisfy just about all of our space heating requirements. Whenever temperatures dip below -15°C, I'll run our oil-fired boiler for ten or fifteen minutes before heading off to bed, basically to prevent the pipes from freezing wherever radiators lines are routed through exterior walls. If, however, temperatures stay below -18°C for an extended period of time, the boiler will remain on to supply additional heat as may be required.

Last month, our average hourly temperature was -6.1°C/21°F and the combined usage of our two ductless heat pumps came to just under 1,200 kWh, an average of 38.4 kWh per day (45 year old, 2,500 sq. ft. Cape Cod); that puts our January space heating costs at about $165.00, plus perhaps another $5.00 for fuel oil.


I've estimated our home's space heating demand during this time at just under 2,500 kWh, but the actual number is probably a little higher.

Temperatures will vary somewhat from room to room, as would be expected with any point heat source -- I'm OK with that, because I'm willing to sacrifice some measure of personal comfort for the extra savings. My den, which is where I spend most of my day, isn't all that served; located on the north side of our home, there are three exterior walls, a large amount of glass, and it's fully exposed to the prevailing winds which last month reached as high as 90 kph. I have a small, 350-watt oil-filled radiator tucked under my desk that I can call upon if need be, and under extreme conditions I can turn on the in-floor electric radiant heat (900-watts).

And this brings me to my last point: as I tell my clients, a ductless heat pump doesn't have to satisfy all of your space heating requirements; ideally, these systems should be sized according to whatever is most economically advantageous, based upon your net operating cost and initial capital outlay. You might want to shoot for 90 per cent of your annual needs, say, with the remainder handled by some other fuel source, such as wood, oil, propane or electric resistance.

Good luck !


Brent Oil prices - I see they 'peaked' over the 115 dollar mark in trading today.


Re: In Energy Taxes, Tools to Help Tackle Climate Change

This story from the NYT shows the basic problems we face if government is to actually do anything about Climate Change. The author suggests that carbon taxes would provide the best choice, but fails to mention the impact of such taxes on inflation. The increasing the cost of fossil energy at the market price would likely be passed on by any business to all consumers in the form of higher prices. While this price increase would promote greater efforts to conserve, they would also add to inflation. We know that the consumer eventually adjusts to those higher prices as wages and other forms of income would also increase over time. The net result is that those taxes must continually increase to keep their impact constant. If the goal is to slowly reduce fossil fuel use, the tax rate, in constant terms, would need to be continually increased.

As I've mentioned before, I think the result would be a form of positive feedback, which would tend to de-stabilize the economy. I would expect that another result would be calls to reduce or remove these taxes, which would destroy their effect entirely. We've recently heard calls from various politicians to reduce the taxes on transport fuels and the same response would be expected from future politicians who want to gain public support.

I think that a direct rationing plan would provide a much greater possibility of success in terms of reducing fossil fuel use and thus reducing CO2/greenhouse emissions...

E. Swanson

Herman Daly thinks that it makes more sense to tax on the input side rather than on the sink/output side.


I don't agree with your analysis. In any event, carbon emissions are visibly destroying the world around us as we speak, so LET'S DO SOMETHING. Putting a tax on carbon seems like a simple enough thing to try. If it doesn't work, we can try something else. How would direct rationing work? Do I and James Cameron and a homeless guy who rides a bike around downtown all get the same quota? I don't think that will work out too well.

Yes, you and Cameron and the homeless guy should get the same quota but make it tradeable. It would work because Cameron can buy allotments from you and fifty homeless guys and gals.

Rationing, in some form, is the way to go. Let people who use less sell their ration allotment to those who can/want to use more. This way if you are frugal you benefit twice, once because you are using less, twice because you can make money off your allotment.

One problem, however, driven home by one of the headline posts, is that China is now burning as much coal as the rest of the world combined. While true, this is because their coal is being used to produce our goods. In addition, an increasing amount of their coal consumption comes from our strip mines. Cap and trade or rationing should be extended to all goods, including imported goods. The ration allotment should be applied to the embodied carbon content of all goods, including those imported.

Of course none of this will happen. The problem with carbon dioxide is that it is an odorless and colorless gas. So, we just die slowly. Notice that the Chinese are increasing their investment in solar PV as a result of the deadly air pollution they are experiencing. There is nothing like the inability to breathe to get one's attention.

Rationing, in some form, is the way to go.

tstreet, I think increasing the tax on gasoline would be better than rationing.

Best hopes for at least doing something.

I agree. Just think about the buracracy and busy work associated with trading allotments, printing coupons, handing out coupons, stealing coupons, etc. Probably worse if done by computer. A tax is simple and we already have plenty of tax collectors, who are historically in the US incredibly honest and effective.

The author suggests that carbon taxes would provide the best choice, but fails to mention the impact of such taxes on inflation.

The main inflation number excludes food and fuel prices because of their volatility.

We know that the consumer eventually adjusts to those higher prices as wages and other forms of income would also increase over time.

US wages have been stagnant for decades, and there's no indication they're about to start rising.

Furthermore, adjusting to higher prices usually means "using less, if you can". Long-term higher prices encourage structural shifts, such as more efficiency, more demand for mass transit, denser development, etc.

I think that a direct rationing plan would provide a much greater possibility of success in terms of reducing fossil fuel use and thus reducing CO2/greenhouse emissions...

Carbon taxes are simpler, clearer, and more difficult to game than rationing. The Waxman cap-and-trade bill from 2009 was ~1000 pages long. Carbon taxes don't need to be that complicated.

Nationalize the carbon energy sector in the U.S. Lock prices and begin shudown. Pay for it by taxing wealth/fianance/captial, something we've forgotten from our past.

Once the howling dies down, the big money and smart people will go into non-carbon energy sectors. That would be the last remaining tax "shelter"...

They won't go Galt. That's just a 14 year old selfish fantasy. The few who do were leeches on the system anway and won't last.

Think big huh? :-)

While you're at it, just wish for the Rapture.

Why would a carbon tax have a different inflation impact than any other source (of the same amount) of revenue? The government must raise revenue by some means, and all of them impact consumers.

Not only that but as a carbon tax encourages energy conservation especially in Green Transit it will lead to more efficient use of resources, a decrease in US oil consumption and greenhouse gases, which is also responsible for over half the US trade deficit. I.e. Win-Win-Win for the longterm!

The movements towards Green Transit, insulation, LED lights etc will only increase which is a good positive feedback loop...

Of course, all government revenue might be obtained thru consumption taxes, as many have proposed. That would likely be rather regressive, as it would not tax the service sector of the economy, which is said to represent about 70% of economic activity. For any business, the owner must pass on the cost of all his/her inputs or go out of business. As the taxes are added to the cost of every item, all prices in the economy tend to increase. The inflation I refer to is price inflation, not wage inflation. We've seen this before and the economists later called it "stagflation", i.e., a period of rising prices even during a recession. If the goal is to reduce emissions by some amount each year, the level of taxation must increase accordingly, else the effects eventually are washed out as all prices (and wages for workers with valuable skills) must increase. With our present system, some people who are less productive than others will end up our of work. The other skilled workers will continue to be rewarded as more and more formally employed find themselves living under a bridge.

As for government revenue needs, I will leave that for discussions between the Tea Party Republicans and the other side of the political spectrum...

E. Swanson

The value added sales tax system we have in Canada most assuredly covers the service sector as well as merchandise. I would assume it is the same case in European countries. For example, if you hire a plumber or lawyer you will pay sales tax on that transaction. Canada is an oddity in that not all provinces have harmonized their sales taxes with the Federal sales tax. My province, Ontario, recently put in place a harmonized sales tax and they took the opportunity to expand the range of products/services that are taxable. Prior to the HST, services and energy were only subject to a 5% federal tax -- they were exempt from provincial sales tax. Now with the HST we pay the full 13% (federal plus provincial) rate on all forms of energy and services.

There is revenue and then there is the class distribution of the revenue. There are of course other changes that could be enacted that modify the regressiveness of a specific change. For instance, we could decrease income and/or payroll taxes on lower incomes, and make up the revenue with a carbon tax.

Not that I'm a big fan of taxes, but I don't think anyone so far has mentioned James Hansen's Climate Stewardship tax concept yet.

His proposal calls for a “simple, honest” carbon fee, collected from fossil-fuel companies upon the first sale at the mine, wellhead or port of entry.

The money collected via this fee would be distributed to the public as a monthly “dividend” or “green check.” Distributing all of the revenue equitably to households will ensure that families can afford the energy they need during the transition to a clean energy future, and it should help win public support for a rising carbon fee.

Just a thought.

Not sure what this would accomplish. Assume for a moment that a "simple, honest" fee is levied and eveyone involved adds no additional bookeeping or compliance personnel fees (would not happen but a it's thought experiment anyway). For a natural gas well the owner of the well is charged .10 dollars/euros/pounds etc. per MCF, who would then charge the commodity brokers an extra .10 per MCF and so would anyone else in the distribution chain finally the supplier would charge the household/family .10 per MCF. The family then gets a check for .10 per MCF used.

Thanks for taking it in the spirit in which it was intended - a thought experiment. Hansen's approach is a tad different, that's all. I think the idea is the .10/MCF would get passed on, as one would expect. But if the recipient of the reimbursement were to obtain the equivalent energy from solar/wind/nuclear they might end up ahead of the game, assuming the other source is cheaper than the energy equivalent at the rebate rate. It would provide at least some incentive to look for the cheaper source, and if the carbon tax were high enough, it could assist in doing that.

I find the entire taxation approach to be very slippery. Taxes tend to be politicians' play money, and it's a rare politician who has any business sense at all. And the idea that any such nefarious character is going to back a tax which he or she can't git his or her mitts on seems a dubious one at best, as others have pointed out here.

So a tax to try and level the playing field, I could get behind that. But like you said it would have to find an end run around the politicians, and still get them to back it.

It would. No mean task, for they are wily devils! ;)

Yes, Hansen's idea is to raise the price of hi-carbon resources at the source (either well or point of entry in the country) to make alternatives more attractive and to put a price on the pollution (which has a cost). This tax revenue is then neutrally spread over the population. Products with high fossil carbon content will become more expensive and people are stimulated to choose wisely which may bring them a net benefit while reducing CO2 emissions at the same time. I like the idea of this revenue neutral tax, but I think politics in the US is too entrenched to ever make it.

Luckily this idea could work on country level even when other countries don't implement the tax because the taxing is done at the border which can take into account the carbon intensiveness of the prodction process of origin. This would still provide greater markets for carbon efficient products even if they originate from countries who don't implement such a tax.

The biggest problem I see is to make sure that the politicians cannot get their dirty hands on the money, it must be implemented revenue neutral. Although a tax sounds anti-free market I think it simply configures (level) the market so that the free-market system can do it's work.

The incentive to change consumption is still there. Say as a homeowner my heating bill went up a $100 due to the taxfee. And I get a $100 distribution from the program. But if I insulate, I can cut that fee down -lets say I can cut consumption by 40%, but the distribution is virtually unaffected. Now the savings from the insulation project are $40 higher than they would have been. Obviously if ALL users cut by the same 40%, then the distribution would be cut back as well, and it would be a wash (except we are all using less than before).

"honest" versus "dishonest"??
The issue with Hansen's idea is that it doesn't accomplish much. The producer is likely to increase his selling price by, say 10 and then the consumer (frictionlessly) gets that 10 and uses it to buy from the producer. That "model" does not create any incentive for anything.
Daly's idea (see upthread) I think makes more sense.

The Producer increases his price by 10. The consumer is given 10. If the consumer manages to do without the product, then the consumer earned 10 that can be spend on anything they'd like.

But basically it is just a revenue-neutral carbon tax. It is a carbon tax to encourage people to use less carbon and efficiently use what they do use. It is revenue-neutral to get such a tax passed in today's world of people who think any tax is completely evil.

I think Daly and Hansen are aiming in the same direction - go after the resource rather than the value-add. Or at least that's the way I'm seeing it.

Hansen is suggesting a revenue neutral tax where the proceeds are used to procure more energy, thus increasing the price break even point. As the price paid goes up the quantity available at that price increases also, so in effect we're just draining reservoirs faster.
If you tax FF prodcution/extraction and explicity use that revenue to either structuraly reduce demand (think of the switch from incandessent to LED bulbs) or the development of negative entropy energy sources (yes, an awkward term, got to come up with something better) then the energy balance picture, at least with respect to FFs, structurally changes.

WP - I could be missing something here, but I don't think the Hansen approach necessarily means just changing the energy source. I brought that up in answer to Badger's initial response. Speculawyer pointed out something I didn't - you don't have to buy energy at all, if you've found a way to avoid it. Then your rebate is pure gravy. The Negawatts approach works too under Hansen's scheme, no? Same basic idea for increasing efficiency (e.g. LEDs).

If you let the consumer make the call, rather than a bureaucracy, it adds a level of flexibility I think is quite useful. Let's say a new technology comes along that is better than, say, compact fluorescent bulbs (awk, mercury!). The consumer just picks a new item (those bright shiny LEDs, let's say) off the shelf. Done deal. If the bureaucracy is legislatively wired for those CFBs you literally have to get an act of Congress to switch gears.

Sure, you can try to initially create better legislation, but remember the definition of a camel - a horse created by a committee ;)

"negative entropy energy sources (yes, an awkward term, got to come up with something better)"

"Harvesting the free energy from an existing entropy gradient" would be correct but not much better since it still uses the obscure term entropy. But energy harvesting is a common term with nearly the same meaning, except for the unnecessary connotation of low power. Even though PV is listed as an example the wiki nevertheless states "Energy harvesters provide a very small amount of power for low-energy electronics".

So maybe use "large-scale energy harvesting" for a while and then drop back to "energy harvesting" once the small-scale connotation goes away.

Lawns into Gardens
NY Times food columnist Mark Bittman expounds on the vast resources, herbicides, and pesticides expended in maintaining the perfect green lawn; and the legal hurdles faced by those who wish to grow food in their yards.

I’m not going to argue that we should be limiting the size or number of lawns, though of course plenty of municipalities already regulate the amount of water you can waste on them. In the southwest, where water is harder to come by, there has been a gradual move away from the lawn and toward the xeriscape, which simply means a more environmentally friendly ornamental yard, one that uses amounts of water appropriate to the locale. In other words, you grow cactus. And some cities, as diverse as Santa Monica, Detroit and Portland, OR, help residents who wish to convert lawns to gardens.

Gardening may be private or a community activity; people garden together on common land, and most gardeners I know share the bounty freely. (In parts of England and France, people grow vegetables in their front yards and encourage their neighbors to take them.)

...there’s little question that a stronger kitchen garden movement would both produce better food and put more of us in touch with where food really comes from, and how. Michelle Obama was not the first First Lady to plant a garden; Eleanor Roosevelt did it in 1943, when 20 million “victory” gardens (out of a population of only 135 million people), produced 40 percent of our fruits and vegetables. I recognize that it will take a near-apocalypse to see those kinds of numbers again, I recognize that turning lawns into gardens isn’t a panacea, but I also recognize that hounding people for growing vegetables in their front yards is hardly the American way.

I recognize that turning lawns into gardens isn’t a panacea, but I also recognize that hounding people for growing vegetables in their front yards is hardly the American way.

The lawn nazis need to get over themselves already. Vegetable gardens can actually be quite attractive!



January slowdown?

Looking at the EIA's Weekly Petroleum Status Report US crude oil production was up by 9 kb/d in the last 5 weeks, from the week ending December 21st. Alaska was down 2 kb/d while the rest of the US was up 11 kb/d.

The previous 5 weeks, November 16th to December 21st, US production was up 274 kb/d. It is strange that production would go up in spurts, then slack off to near nothing. After all we are talking about the entire USA here, including Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico. I would think that, overall, there would be a steady progression one way or the other.

I believe that perhaps this is a reporting error. Either that or an EIA guessing error.

Ron P.

Cold weather impacts? I know that North Dakota reported oil production was down in November. Snow was given as a reason. It may also be down in December--I haven't seen figures yet.



Again a potential case for sloppy language. Re: oil company profits down - “Even though Brent prices are up, so are the costs of producing that crude, and gas is a big drag”. I produce oil/NG for a living and the cost to do so has risen very little. But that’s the cost “to produce oil/NG”…not to drill for new oil/NG reserves. There are many companies spending less than $20/bbl to PRODUCE their wells so selling for $90/bbl creates a very nice positive cash flow. OTOH some of those wells with positive cash flows may never recover 100% of the monies spent to drill them. And some may return 5X what was spent to drill them. And at the company level? Some companies will recover 300% of their investment from their wells generating nice positive cash flows. And some companies will recover only 70% of the investment from their wells that are generating a nice positive cash flow. Add in all the accounting tax tricks, etc, as well as the time lag factor and it’s nearly impossible to tell if a company, over the long term, has been very successful or not.

As far as increases in drilling costs they have risen but mostly because companies are drilling deep/longer laterals/more frac stages/etc. As a result productivity gains have been made but whether those offset the higher costs is difficult to determine. A bigger factor than costs is how many dry hole/barely commercial wells a company drills. Two companies can drill the same number of wells for $300 million but one company drilled twice as many non-commercial wells as the other. So each has spent the same amount to drill their successful wells but one company’s profit greatly exceeds the other. It has never been about how much we spend drilling but how much we produce.


There is lots of blather about as to "technology" reducing the cost of fracking in recent years. Has anything significant been learned in the last, say, 10 years that has made the process less expensive or is this still just a phenomena of higher prices making an old process profitable?

The industry must learned something...


Jim – There is very little difference in the tech used to frac a well today than 20 years. Many of the frac trucks today are that old…or older. Some of the down hole equipment applications that allows multiple fracs in a horizontal well are fairly new but I wouldn’t call them great leaps in technology. Much of that equipment has been around for decades also and is just being utilized in a different manner today.

Sticking with fracs for the moment the ones they are doing in the Eagle Ford et al are not cheaper but much more expensive. Some EFS fracs are costing more than it cost to drill the well. That’s because of the multistage fracs: some costs are fixed but much of the expense is proportional to the number of frac stages. Obviously pumping 24 frac stages will cost a lot more than pumping 3 stages. It’s all about the horsepower used.

Same thing with drilling longer horizontal laterals. A 7,000’ lateral will obviously cost a lot more than a 1,000’. And the down hole equipment for the longer lateral will costs a lot more. Now the tricky question is whether the higher costs of these recent wells is producing a significantly better profit margin by extracting more ff per well. That’s a very difficult answer to prove. But I can tell you why companies have been going to longer laterals and more frac stages: the early efforts were done in more productive areas. As the sweet spots were drilled companies were left with less sweet spots. So to get more out of them required longer laterals/more frac stages. And at an obvious higher costs.

So no…the technology has gotten more expensive…not less. But how that has effected profitability is still unclear IMHO. But there’s a much bigger factor controlling costs than the application of this tech or that: demand based competition. When the frac’ng boom began operators were forced to pay the Halliburton et al what every they wanted to charge. Drilling a good well and not frac’ng it was the same as drilling a dry hole. But now there are more frac crews and perhaps a tad less demand so prices have come down. Same could be said for drill rig costs. But here’s the tricky part: the costs to drill a foot of lateral or pump one frac stage may have declined but by drilling longer wells and doing more stages the total cost of a well has risen significantly. And again the question: was it worth? And a more pertinent question: did the public companies have any choice but to push forward regardless of that answer given their requirement to add reserves almost regardless of cost?

Thanks Rock, I did suspect that there would have been some learning curve but your reply makes sense, as usual. I guess we shall see if they are making more money by seeing how long this party lasts.



To those who are not in the oil business, drilling costs are considered a portion of production costs. Thinking of it in intermediate microeconomics terms, there are fixed costs and variable costs. If I am a widget manufacturer, the factory and the machines are fixed costs and the wages and materials used to make the widgets would be variable costs. For the oil industry (and my very limited understanding of it relative to you), drilling the well would be a fixed cost and wages for oil hands that are involved in the production of oil from existing wells would be a variable cost. When you consider production costs, it seems you only include the variable cost, whereas I (and others not in the oil biz) would also include the fixed costs. For example if the well will produce 100,000 barrels over 10 years and cost 2.59 million dollars to borrow money at 10 % for 10 years to drill a 1 million dollar well, then I would add $25.90 of fixed costs to any variable costs for producing that barrel. So using your example above of $20 for PRODUCTION costs, I would call it $45.90 for a well with a fixed cost of $25.90/barrel. In economic theory where there is perfect competition, the marginal cost of the most expensive barrel produced should be equal to the sales price of that marginal barrel.

Clearly that theory doesn't work well in practice because prices fluctuate a lot and wells often produce less than planned so that lots of barrels are produced at costs above the price (if fixed costs are included).

If you lived in the imaginary world of economics, people would have perfect knowledge of future prices and how much each well would produce, in that world the theory works, in the real world, not so much.


CSM: Think you know energy? Take our quiz.

I got 16 0f 20 correct...

"16 to 20 correct – Energy mastery. If you don't work in the field, you should. You've got an insider's knowledge."

...thanks mainly to TOD. The questions I missed were ones that made assumptions that I don't agree with, eg: By 2020, which nation will overtake Saudi Arabia as the largest oil producer? The 'correct' answer was the US, but I have doubts about this; picked Russia. I know better; usually great at multiple choice tests and should have assumed a cornucopian view of things, something I'm not very good at.

Those are the ones I missed as well. Those and ones about CO2 emissions in the future.

One of the weaker CSM quizzes if I do say so. I like taking their ones that are basically geography quizzes. A fun distraction.

The quiz uses MSM's estimate of what will happen in the future for several questions. That makes the quiz garbage. If you got these two questions right, you got them wrong.

15. By 2030, which region moves from being a net oil importer to a net oil exporter?
16. By 2020, which nation will overtake Saudi Arabia as the largest oil producer?

Ron P.

I think it is possible but not because of production. Radical transformation of our transportation modes and mobility could go a long way to making this possible. Plus, if SA suffers massive decline. Possible, but not probable.

You are right, I got 15/20 missing those I don't really agree with.

I stopped at about #12 because I got irritated with how dumb some of the questions were.

Me too. It's one of those tests where you have to figure out the test-giver's bias and then tell them what they want to hear.

Who knows who is gonna produce the most oil in 2030? A lot of assumptions there, jeez.

Yes, there are a lot of assumptions in the answers. They are treating forecasts as facts. Who knows what the world will be like in 2040? A world in which someone invented a cheap Cold Fusion reactor would be quite different from one in which the US and China had a war over global oil resources.

Who in 1963, the year after the Cuban Missile Crisis, foresaw that in 1991 the Soviet Union would peacefully dissolve itself, replace the Hammer and Sickle with the Russian tricolor, and declare all 15 Soviet republics to be independent states? Heck, who even saw it coming 10 years in advance. You really can't be sure what the future is going to be like.

16 of 20 for me. Some of the questions seem a bit too speculative but I apparently had not read the relevant articles about CO2 emissions from the MSM. Maybe it was in the Monitor.

The only one I really had a problem with was #20. That's not what I expect...

The ones about future oil production, I guessed they were parroting the MSM line.


A good while back we had a discussion about the possibility of some shale players, like Chesapeake, “going under”. I explained at the time it’s very rare for even smaller companies let alone a biggie like CHK to go out of business. I think we are seeing what I offered as the normal course of events in such dynamics: take overs. Either a strong company acquiring the weaker company or new shareholders/management taking over and liquidating company assets to max stock value. From up top:

“Shareholder interventions have been staged for U.S. oil and natural gas producers with more than $100 billion in collective market value since the beginning of 2012 as energy stocks failed to match the surge in crude prices… Targets that included Chesapeake Energy Corp., Hess Corp., Murphy Oil Corp. and Sand Ridge Energy Inc. have been censured by unsatisfied investors for everything from sloppy financial controls to self-dealing by executives."

“Chesapeake Energy Corp.’s departing chief executive officer will leave to his successor a shrunken, cash-starved version of what was once the preeminent natural gas producer in the world’s biggest market for the fuel.”

“The activist investor sent a letter to Hess shareholders today urging them to vote for five new board members after a history of unrelenting underperformance.”

Given what appeared to be rather slim margins in the shale plays to begin with, increased debt as well as the requirement to expand drilling efforts to maintain a growing reserve base has weakened many companies to the point where they’ve become fair game to strong companies as well as predatory shareholders.

BTW Icahn led a successful hostile takeover of a small company I helped start back in the early 90’s. Through some foolish/greedy efforts management weakened the company and allowed Carl to make his move. The only satisfaction I have is that management so destroyed the value of the company that Carl lost his butt on the stock play. The only intrinsic value of the company was the staff. And we all left when Carl took over. It was the staff that increased company production over 400% in just a year. We might have been able to save the company had we gotten decent management. But we were't there. In several years the company filed bankruptcy and disappeared for ever.

FOR ALL – Just a couple of small shots:

“Peak oil theory: Just considers the mind boggling rate of change in technological capabilities over the last 20 years.” As mentioned many times all the tech being used to drill the shales today was available 20 years ago. Not only available but utilized extensively at that time. The only valid point might be Deep Water drilling but that tech was well in hand 10 years ago.

“Two people were critically injured in an explosion and fire Tuesday morning after smoking on a catwalk over oil storage tanks, officials say.” So you design the safest blow out preventer and any other tech seen in the history of mankind. But as the great Texas comedian Ron White has said: “You can’t fix stupid”. BTW all such plants and drill rigs have safe smoking rooms/area. All a hand has to do is walk ove there and puff away. And if they don't like walking they can always gowith chew.

hi Rockman,

I guess they learned the hard way .... guess you'll not be offering them a job on your rig then ;-)

I guess also they missed the Darwin Awards as well .....


forbin - I haven't checked out the Darwin Awards in while...thanks for reminding me. You can never underestimate foolish attitudes let alone stupidity. I mentioned once: about a year ago I was watching them unload casing from a truck on one of my locations. One of the roustabouts (and not a kid) kept standing in the drop zone of the folk lift. Told my consultant to tell him to back 10' off. The guy's reaction: I suspect if I hadn't been standing there on my "polio" crutches he might have taken a swing at me. I asked if knew about that hand who was crushed to death by a joint of casing that rolled off a forklift. Happened the week before about 40 miles away. Another hand told him that he also heard about that accident. He didn't comment but did his job as I instructed. But you could tell he was still pissed because someone made him work safe. And it was just taking a few steps back...not a big hardship.

Go figure. Just like we discussed the other day: I think most folks should have the right to own a firearm...but it just scares the crap out of me though. LOL.


I have an OT question for you: How do they get the frack fluid out of the well. I know in the case of water wells they blow compressed air down the drill string to get the rock chips, etc. out. Is that want they do with fracking fluid?

Thanks - Todd

Todd - If you had a good frac job and the reservoir is at a high enough pressure it will push the frac fluid to the surface and "unload the well". If the head of the colume of fluid in the well is too high it won't. So you go in hole with a wireline swab tool and pull it up and down repeatedly. That pulls some of the fluid out and lowers the head. Lower the head enough and the well begins to flow. Once the well unloads the frac fluid it will continue to flow NG and oil until the pressure gets too low. At that point they put a pump on the well with the same goal: lower the head so the well will flow.

Thanks a lot.


Rockman - two more naive questions - when the frack fluid comes back up, it it mixed with formation water? Do natural gas wells generally produce a lot of water along with the gas?


at least we are curious, hey.

dovie - typically the fractures in the shale contain such low concetrations of water that only the oil/NG is produced at least initialy. Maybe a little mixing with the frac fluid but the volume of formation water in those section of the fracture is tiny.

Water production with NG well? You didn't specify frac'd shale wells or just NG reservoirs in general. But the answer is the same for both: NG wells can produce from zero bbls of water per day thropugh out their life to a gazillion bbls of water and sometimes from Day 1. It all depends on the reservoir drive mechanism. If pressure depletion (as seen in may of the shale plays) the oil/NG is produced as the reservoir pressure declines and you never see an ounce of water. But a nice fat NG conventional reservoir sitting on top of a nice fat water column in a water drive reservoir will produce all NG with no water and little pressure decrease until the water level reaches the perforations. And then the flood hits. The well will still produce some NG as long as the pressure is high enough. And when the pressure drops too low you can actually use some pumping systems to lower the head and produce some more NG.

So like the answer to many oil patch questions: it just depends.

thanks for a helpful reply.

I was curious because I recently learned that there is a lot of brine in the formations in N PA and southern tier NY that either are currently (PA) or may be in the future (NY) hydrofracked for natural gas. If indeed the formation water gets mixed with fracking fluids and produced natural gas, then one thing nearby residents can monitor in their own drinking water wells is salinity/sodium/chloride. A marked change could indicate contamination related to drilling activity.

Here is an interesting paper on these deep brines showing up in drinking water wells in this area ... in this case not due to fracking:

Geochemical evidence for possible natural migration of Marcellus Formation brine to shallow aquifers in Pennsylvania.

Apparently this is a process that happens naturally. IIRC there was a correlation between wells with methane and high salinity.

dovie – Thanks. I’ve seen such reports before including how much fresh water methane contamination has come naturally from the Marcellus. One land owner complained a company that had drilled near his land had caused his methane contamination. Then the company’s lawyers dug up evidence that NG was flared from a well 800’ off his property line long before the first well was ever drilled in the area. In fact, long a well had been drilled the land owner was notified by the regulators that his water was unfit to drink. And as I’ve said before such scams (if this was actually an attempt to defraud) are exposed it hurt folks with legitimate claims against the oil patch.

I’ve mentioned before that oil field brine is the most potentially damaging oil patch by product. Not so much that it’s more toxic than frac fluids but because there’s so much produced. In Texas alone 100’s of billions (if not may trillions) bbls of brine has been produced over the decades.

What I’ve never under stood was what appears to be a lack of concerns over fresh water contamination by salt as a result of all the road salt northern put down for ice control. I’ve read that the state of PA highway dept. accepts oil field brine so they can spray it on their roads. So to you point: if a land owner finds high concentration of salt in his well where did it come from: drilling activity, road salt or natural contamination from the Marcellus. At least with the frac fluids they are some unique chemical markers. But NaCl in NaCl regardless of the source.

Brine disposal is highly regulated and monitored in Texas and La. Most of our drilling, plugging and disposal regs focus on salt.

Good point with the road salt. The paper on Marcellus brines said they could separate road salt from deep brine contamination by a couple of chemical signatures. They did find wells affected by with road salt in their survey of N PA wells.

Not surprised they found road salt in their wells. But I hope you didn't miss the part where ROCKMAN was saying they are spraying oil field brine on the roads, so any kind of chemical signature doesn't help you much.

It's an easy to thing to check whether they are spraying oil field brine on the roads in the study area. I doubt it. I think they put regular road salt.

The paper found salty wells w/Marcellus brine chemical signatures, which they interpreted as affected by deep groundwater, and salty wells w/different chemistry, which they interpreted as affected by road salt.

It's an interesting read.

That article was atrocious and not worth reading . . . and the author seems to admit it. Some quotes from it:
-"I am not qualified to give an opinion on whether this report is correct or incorrect"
-"Again, I have no idea if this is something that will be successful commercially"
-"I am not sure what the next catalyst for a boom will be"
-" widely believed to buy up and shelve any patents for potentially competitive technologies" (This is completely illegal as it violates anti-trust laws.)

Thanks for a bunch of uninformed rambling.

If I got the article right, they were trespassing.

Yes, thats what it says.

Perhaps also drunk/drugged/too stupid to ignore the No Smoking signs ?

The chemical plant I worked at for 12 years, had a standard policy of confiscating all lighter/matches/cigarettes etc by security staff before entering the site (and returned on leaving the site).

Difficult to 100% protect against trespassing at 3am though.

Go with chew, huh? what a surprise.

After 45+ years of tobacco, the last 2/3 chewing snoose, I'm 10 days nicotine free. The white knuckle kind of free.

Couple of thoughts-one, chewing is nonstop, it doesn't go out in the shower. So your blood nicotine levels stay pretty constant, and high. Spitting is for the old movies, you swallow now. Keeps that nic level up. And no one knows, you chew in any smoke free area. A little squeeze with your cheek and zippo, a little surge. So I think that tho it's safer around natural gas wells, and a heck of alot easier to breathe, it's rough to quit. That was the change for me-breathing. Smoking so much made it tough to breathe, but you can chew a can in day or two and still no problem. And d*amn, tho I chewed nonstop for eons, its quitting that's bringing all the GIRD problems, stomach seemed happier chewing.

Good for you. It will probably take a while for your body to adjust to the new, changed chemistry but I have no doubt that in the longer run you're way, way better off without nicotine.

Yea, maybe. I'm not that sure, if it was just tobacco. But every company puts its own sludge in there. I've got too much skin in the game now to give up. Just something I've promised myself and my wife for years, now, it's go for it.

Good neighbor passed away this weekend. 82, full life. Nurse in the ER says "There was hay all over the Emergency Room floor. Working to the end, I hope I go that way." It was was pretty quick, his second stroke, while chaining up the tractor to feed the cows. With one of his boys. They winter a big bunch of heifers above our place. Yesterday I watched his boy, and now that boy's young son, bringing the hay up to the heifers. Goes around that way, makes sense, just wish we'd quit screwing it up. Regards to you.

Nothing fits the description "one day at a time" like kicking nicotine. I heard some years ago that it is harder to kick than heroin. My wife and I will both attest to that and we are more than 30 years off the stuff but we still remember. You just have to avoid that next smoke.

Son of a gun. It's the devil this morning, insidious, seductive, cagey. Don't even realize it, that you're grabbing the shirt pocket for a chew, that dip that will clear the head and make life all right.

The yoy EIA numbers show ethanol production down 15%. The first plant shutdown reported last week due to lack of corn was six months earlier than last year. I also read that one of the major beef processing plants shutdown in Texas a week or two ago. Overall, the market is handling the supply shortage well so far with adequate demand destruction. The hurricane induced oil shortages of 2005 and 2008 were educating case studies and I think this shortage will also provide market lessons (to me) but on a much longer timescale.

Ethanol Output in U.S. Falls 2.8% to Record Low on Shutdowns

The effect of TV.

Most of these innovations were only grudgingly acknowledged, but the sin of television, which they encountered at the geologists' camp, proved irresistible for them.... On their rare appearances, they would invariably sit down and watch.

eric - A sad and heart warming story at the same time. And all they understood of the outside world was what they saw in a bunch of geologists. No wonder they refused to leave their mountain.

I read about the old lady years ago in another publication. Wonderfull to get the rest of the story.

She have attracted some followers that are interested in the Old Faith. But she sent one of them home again, because he did not believe Jesus would return on the day of easter.

Stop Hyping Big Data and Start Paying Attention to ‘Long Data’

... no matter how big that data is or what insights we glean from it, it is still just a snapshot: a moment in time. That’s why I think we need to stop getting stuck only on big data and start thinking about long data. By “long” data, I mean datasets that have massive historical sweep — taking you from the dawn of civilization to the present day.

... Why does the time dimension matter if we’re only interested in current or future phenomena? Because many of the things that affect us today and will affect us tomorrow have changed slowly over time: sometimes over the course of a single lifetime, and sometimes over generations or even eons.

Datasets of long timescales not only help us understand how the world is changing, but how we, as humans, are changing it — without this awareness, we fall victim to shifting baseline syndrome. This is the tendency to shift our “baseline,” or what is considered “normal” — blinding us to shifts that occur across generations (since the generation we are born into is taken to be the norm).

Shifting baselines have been cited, for example, as the reason why cod vanished off the coast of the Newfoundland: overfishing fishermen failed to see the slow, multi-generational loss of cod since the population decrease was too slow to notice in isolation. “It is blindness, stupidity, intergeneration data obliviousness,” Paul Kedrosky, writing for Edge, argued, further noting that our “data inadequacy … provides dangerous cover for missing important longer-term changes in the world around us.”

So let's add a lot of CO2 and see what happens now that the sun is hotter than it used to be...

One wonders whether there were conversations like this on Venus in the distant past. Probably not, but it seemingly did once have oceans and a mild climate.


Shockingly, Earth – which used to be smack-bang in the middle of our sun's habitable zone – is now a scant million kilometres away from the warm edge, so almost too hot for liquid water. Of course, we know Earth is robustly life-friendly – the mismatch is probably because neither definition accounts for clouds, which reflect sunlight away from Earth.

Yes, amazing isn't it?
Instead of fleeing as fast as we can from the most gigantic, uncontrolled experiment mankind has ever conducted i.e. cooking our only home by stuffing as much crap into the atmosphere as quickly as possible.
What do we do? Drill baby drill: dig baby dig: burn baby burn.
Clever, but oh! So bloody stupid we are.

Unfortunately we're not in control, the System is. Which is really unfortunate as no species can survive the destruction of its habitat. If the System doesn't alter course, we're done for and there is no off switch to shut it down.

Doesn't really matter whether we're clever or stupid, the result will be the same, it's too late.

Cannibalism Reported in Famine-Stricken North Korea

Numerous reports from North Korea indicate that starving residents of the isolated regime, where famine is an all-too-regular occurrence, may now be resorting to cannibalism.

One report from the British newspaper The Sunday Times stated that a man was put to death by firing squad after officials discovered he had killed and cooked two of his own children.

... In the spring of 2012, a drought wreaked havoc on North Korea's crops, according to the Times. Following that disaster, a severe tropical cyclone hit the country, leaving an estimated 21,000 homeless.

As a result, last year the secretive pariah state was forced to accept food aid from South Korea (its sworn enemy) for the first time in years, according to CNN.com. An estimated 10,000 people are reported to have died of hunger-related problems in the past year.

Resolving the food crisis: The need for decisive action

It's a population crisis not a food crisis, the world is producing more food then ever before in history. Absent was any acknowledgement that it is population that is causing the food crisis. As Malthus showed food shortages are one of natures ways of keeping population in check. The more people there are, the more thinly the earths resources are spread around. You can't just add 90 million people to the planet every year, and expect to keep them all fully fed, and you can't expect to fully feed everyone and have population stabalise.

It's not a population crisis, it's a politician crisis.

Take North Korea. SeraphLeanan (apologies!) points out above that it's having a famine and has to beg food from South Korea.

What's the difference between the two Koreas? One produces plenty of food, the other starves. Same soil, same climate, same culture, same everything, except their political system. If farmers don't own their land, they have nothing to offer for security for loans to improve the land or buy equipment. If they don't have incentives to increase their production, they don't buy fertilizer or irrigation systems. Why did Burma's rice production fall when it became Myanmar, got taken over by an army clique? Why did Zimbabwe start having famines after Mugabe took over?

In these countries, the politicians in power want to stay in power. To make things harder for potential rivals, they rip up roads and railways, raze villages and confiscate land and livestock. Meanwhile they siphon off aid that comes in from donor countries. Corruption pervades every level of their societies. Want a loan? Pay a bribe to the bank manager. Want to start a business? Pay a bribe. Want a legal dispute to go your way? Pay a bribe. Want to import some machinery? Pay several bribes, taking several trips to the city, and wait. And wait. Pay more bribes. From Angola to Zimbabwe, the problem is the same. Haiti, Honduras, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, the list goes on.

The food crisis is not caused by population growth. The cause is that in most countries, the people in charge don't care about anything except staying in charge, which means keeping everyone else poor and insecure. They work hard at it.

In countries where farmers have strong property rights and access to an impartial and active justice system and well-regulated credit and crop markets, they produce ample food. And--bonus side effect--the birth rate falls.

It's not a population crisis, it's a politician crisis.

I completely agree. Stable countries rarely have famines, only in rare occasions does weather wreak a havoc and cause food shortages. Food shortages rarely cause famines, it's political mismanagement most of the time. That was the conclusion of Amartya Sen's Nobel prize winning work as well.


Have you noticed? (which I know you have) the girth of the new N Korea beautiful leader when he stands in front of population/demonstration shots? Yep, that's a fair system for sure....worker starve...leader gorge.


India's Coal Illusion


".. India's huge pipeline will require approximately 2.4 billion tons of coal by 2030. That's two and a half times what the U.S. currently consumes. More importantly, it's nearly five times the amount of coal India produces..."

it's nearly five times the amount of coal India produces

An article up top says China is now burning as much coal as the rest of the world combined and now this article on India's plan to dramatically scale up coal usage. No wonder there was that comment lately in another article here on TOD, that the idea of a 350 ppm CO2 limit (since we are already near 400 ppm) is like asking a 70 year old alcoholic to quite drinking at age 60.

Climatologists have warned about what will happen as carbon levels rise, but in light of that we just reach out and turn up the burner. Obviously there is no capability to even hold steady at some level that will cook us anyway, let alone scale back (to the fantasy level of 350 ppm CO2).

If you could somehow cover each country with a dome and make them responsible for their own air quality, you might get some action.

"If you could somehow cover each country with a dome and make them responsible for their own air quality, you might get some action."

Beijing's temperature inversion should be doing that, but so far no effect.

Yes, and as people start getting sucked into the bottleneck they're going to ratchet up their energy use in an attempt to stay out of it. And as EROEI declines so does the amount of energy available to share.

Electricity demand will likely skyrocket as will the burning of coal and gas to produce it.

Yes, and as people start getting sucked into the bottleneck they're going to ratchet up their energy use in an attempt to stay out of it.

Actually, I think the idea is the one's that make it through the bottleneck survive, but your point is taken that people will be pumping up the volume of energy consumed and everything else they can think of in a desperate attempt to outpace the competition, as we all play musical chairs on a mass scale.

That's the way I see it, those with sufficient energy at their disposal will probably survive. Those without, won't.

Species don't survive the destruction of their habitat. We humans on the other hand have the ability to create artificial habitats, cities for example. But creating artificial habitats needs massive amounts of energy. So what kind of habitat will we need in a 4 to 6 degree world? A world where we can no longer rely on the services provided by nature and must therefore reproduce those services artificially ourselves. Desalination, water recycling and purification, temperature amelioration and air conditioning, etc. Not only for ourselves, but also for our animals and food crops.

Even our buildings will have to change as existing structures become death traps due to unpredictable weather extremes and other natural and man made disasters. Where our relationship with our home changes from being desirable place to live to an essential necessity to avoid death. Not unlike the relationship between an astronaut and his spacecraft.

When the decision comes, consciously or unconsciously, that the choice is to save the natural world or ourselves. We will chose to save ourselves and do whatever it takes to produce the energy we will need. Even if it means creating the biggest extinction event the world has ever seen. That's how those that make it through the bottleneck will survive.

When the decision comes, consciously or unconsciously, that the choice is to save the natural world or ourselves. We will chose to save ourselves and do whatever it takes to produce the energy we will need. Even if it means creating the biggest extinction event the world has ever seen. That's how those that make it through the bottleneck will survive.

I very much doubt that. If we can't figure out a way to preserve the natural world first, then we probably won't survive at all. That's the ONLY way to save ourselves. End of story!

If we can't figure out a way to preserve the natural world first, then we probably won't survive at all. That's the ONLY way to save ourselves.

Fred, I love your posts because most of the time you are spot on. But I think you just missed this one.

People are not really conscious of the fact that they are destroying the natural world, they are just trying to survive. And they will continue that effort to survive while continuing to destroy the natural world. They would, if necessary, kill the last animal for food and cut down the last tree for heat or cooking.

The attempt to save BAU will come first, then when that fails, and it will fail, there will just be an attempt to survive. And the will to survive overrides all concerns about the environment, other species or even other people. No one will be thinking of saving the natural world when they are faced with death by starvation. And there will be a bottleneck.

But I firmly believe that there will be survivors. Homo sapiens occupy every habitual niche on earth, from the arctic to the desert to the steamy jungles. Even if 99.9% die in the bottleneck, there will be survivors. I would not venture to guess what the world will look like then however. It won't be pretty.

Ron P.

Even if 99.9% die in the bottleneck, there will be survivors.

Probably. However there will also have to be some intact surviving natural world to support them. I think that you might agree that a purely technological solution, at the point probably won't be sufficient to guarantee their survival.

I also agree that the vast majority of people are not really conscious of the fact that they are destroying the natural world and are just trying to survive.

Though the small minority that is aware, might still be able to steer events a bit here and there. Unfortunately the good ship BAU is definitely going down and it looks like it's going to take quite a few of us and much of the natural world with it. I don't see it making a 100% clean sweep.

I don't think for a moment that we will manage to eliminate all life on this planet anytime soon and once the support systems self correct and restablise in a million years or so, evolution will continue doing what it has for the last 3.5 billion years.

Homo habilis, Homo erectus, Homo ergaster, Homo heidelbergensis, Homo floresiensis, Homo neanderthalensis and perhaps a few others, are now all extinct members of the genus Homo. Perhaps there will still be another species to come after Homo sapiens. Hopefully they will be somewhat wiser than us!

If not, then I still have some hope for the cephalopods >;-)

"If not, then I still have some hope for the cephalopods >;-)"

My bet is on the Corvids. They're watching, and waiting...


Well quoth, FM ;-)

Possible. Birds are the only dinosaurs to survive to modern times. They obviously have something going for them.

The extinction event is already under way and is probably out of our hands now. We may be able to affect the severity if we act now, but there is little evidence that we will. I would say that events are going to overtake our ability to react and our response will be to save what we can... ourselves and our food sources. To do this will take an all out effort, the entire global economy and all resources will be directed entirely to this one end eventually.

Not what I want, but given the evidence stacking up all around us, I believe this is what is going to happen. There will of course still be a natural world, just one we can no longer live in as we do today.

To me collapse was always about internal system dynamics. However, I'm now beginning to realise that external events, namely climate change, are going to impact us hard and much much sooner than anticipated. Complacency will be replaced by panic and an almighty attempt to fix things, then realisation, then survival before all else.

It is interesting that US GDP dropped in 4Q2012 and a number of economists are blaming
"the weather" ie Climate Change which probably led to Hurricane Sandy which impacted 10% of the US economy in NYC metro area. So we are already seeing direct economic impacts of Climate Change. We still do not have full recovery even for inland NYC areas. Only 92% of NJ Transit trains are running, the PATH from Hoboken to World Trade Center just got opened for limited hours yesterday. Hoboken itself is a wreck.

I just signed up for one of these cheap FIOS package deals and was upset when they said FIOS was unavailable for my town when I knew that neighbors on FIOS still had connections while cable went out all during Hurricane Sandy. (Of course they may not have had electric power to RUN any of their FIOS connected devices or home box!) It turns out a lot of FIOS backends were knocked out during Hurricane Sandy and have not yet been restored.

Climate Change storms are going to be increasingly devastating...

Yes, but we "can't" do anything significant about global warming because it would reduce the GDP. This doesn't mean that GDP would be lower than now just lower than it could be. And, after all, we just don't have a high enough GDP yet. But not to worry because the reconstruction costs due to the damage by Sandy will be added to the GDP.

Having said that, focus should be on what makes life actually, you know, good as opposed to this blind acceptance that GDP is the end all and be all of happiness and well being. Speaking for myself, I could live with less income for more nature. Nature contributes to my well being more than a few extra baubles.

Hey . . . look on the bright side. Big storms = big mess = big clean-up = JOBS! We refused to do really big stimulus spending that would address climate change things because that would be 'make work' according to some . . . so instead climate changed mother nature creates 'make work' by destroying things.

I think it would have been better if we spent on a smart grid & solar panels instead of on storm clean-up.

OK, I know this way oversimplifies and is a cartoonish depiction. But there is a point there.

Shell Drill Rig Kulluk Heavily Damaged – To Be Put on Oceangoing Drydock and Moved to Asia

It appears that the damage assessment of the Shell Oil drill rig Kulluk is far worse than has been thus far disclosed by the Unified Command:

- Severe hull damage, making it unsafe to tow it to Puget Sound.
- Severe power plant damage from saltwater contamination
- Severe damage to wiring, ventilation and other internal control systems

Supposedly, a very large, oceangoing dry dock will be underway soon to Kodiak from Asia, and the rig will then be brought to Asia, most likely Korea, where it has been worked on before.

... Alaska’s leading maritime oil spill expert, retired University of Alaska Professor, Richard Steiner feels that if my Kodiak information on Shell’s Asia renovation and repair plans turns out to be accurate, Shell’s 2013 Alaska drilling season, perhaps even 2014′s, are non-starters.

... Friday, in Washington DC, a small number of pro-environment organizations held a congressional briefing on Shell’s 2012 string of screwups and near-disasters: ...

h/t to A-Team @ http://neven1.typepad.com/blog/2013/01/dark-snow-project.html#more

Yeah, 2013 drilling is definitely not happening.

BTW, it is depressing that they don't do repairs locally . . . they are going to ship it across the ocean and back for repairs. :-/

As I said before on this site, Shell spent billions for the right to drill in this area and then they go cheap on the rigs they choose for the project! WTF!

Well now you folks can see what I was talking about. In the Gulf of Mexico working for some of the cheapest Mom and Pop players in the GOM they were more prudent than Shell is being in the Arctic with the entire world watching. Shell should have already had that rig in protected waters or dockside well before they decided to move it, but how much would that cost? I think they even tried to move the Kulluk with one tug boat when many smaller jack up rigs and Semisubs in the much calmer GOM use three tugs.

If heads aren't rolling at Shell over these decisions, then they don't need to drill in the Arctic and I'm saying this as a "drill baby drill" guy that has drilled in the Arctic.

It's the backup rig, right? Probably thought they'd never have to use it.

Is there any way they can speed things up (with respect to drilling this year) by getting another rig somehow?

Leanan – It obviously depends on how many rigs exists that can drill in that environment. But even more important is their current contract status. Most Deep Water and specialty rigs are under long term contracts often with contingency contracts behind them. Devon once had to wait 2 years for a rig to drill one of their DW GOM wells. Unless a company gets lucky and catches an “open slot” in another company drilling program they just sit and wait. Devon also didn’t want to wait years for a rig to drill one of their DW Brazil wells so they found one in the N. Sea that was available. I was assigned to that project for a short time and saw the daily cost for that well. The day the rig showed up on location offshore Bz the well cost was already $50 million. That was the cost to mobilize it from the N Sea to Bz.

I have no idea how many rigs there are that can drill the Shell well. But I suspect there are a lot fewer of them than there are DW rigs. And from what I understand those are rather tight right now.

How many rigs were built for artic work like the Kulluk?

Kulluk is ice-reinforced with 3 in (76 mm) thick, reinforced steel, and a double-sided funnel-shape hull with flared sides enabling her to operate in Arctic waters as moving ice is deflected downwards and is broken into pieces.[17] The vessel is moored with a twelve-point anchor system.[18] Its rated water depth for operations is 400 feet (120 m). Its drilling depth is 20,000 feet (6,100 m).[6]

Kulluk originally had no propulsion and had to be towed to location. In 2006, Shell contracted Aker Arctic to evaluate the feasibility of adding a thruster-aided propulsion to the drilling barge. In 2007, Kulluk was fitted with two 62-tonne, 2,000 shaft horsepower (1,500 kW) ThrustMaster hydraulic overboard azimuth thrusters, the largest ever supplied by the company, to provide the platform an ability to move between drillsites and improve its operability in ice.[1] However, before the system had been installed completely, the project was already delayed and subsequently halted due to regulatory and operational changes. In 2011, it was decided to remove the thrusters while Kulluk was on the shipyard and sell them, turning Kulluk into an unpropelled drilling barge again.[19]

The very thick (3") double hull will make repairs much more problematic. The 3" steel will likely need to be custom manufactured, and most shipyards aren't equipped to work with cutting/shaping/welding this type of steel. I guess this is why they need to tow it to Asia.

The other rig is a POS also. It may even be worse, it has also had several problems in the past.

IMHO I think Shell should have waited for the Stena IceMax to be ready to go. I hope that they plan on using that drillship in this area for future work IF they don't ruin their opportunity with this clown circus that they have going on now.


We've occasionally discussed tiny homes and living in RVs, etc. here. I've mentioned that I was a fulltime RVer for six years, and "PrudentRVer" posts now and then, but this family has taken the lifestyle to a new level:

Family of 14 gives up everything to live in RV

“Every single day is a weekend."

That's how Susie Kellogg, mother of 12, describes family life these days, after she and her husband, Dan, decided to sell their Glenwood Springs, Colorado home last fall, fill up an RV with their children—all of them—and travel the country in search of adventure. Permanently.

All but one of the Kellogg children—aged 3 months to 19 years, each with names ending in a "y"—are home-, er, RV-schooled in the morning. In the afternoon, they explore: kayaking, hiking, camping—anything they want.

“This is what freedom is,” Dan Kellogg told the "Today" show. “You go after it.”

“I want them to live life in the moment and not be living for tomorrow or ‘After my kids are grown’ or ‘Thank God it’s Friday,’” Susie added.

I'm not sure how 14 people live in this RV with all of their stuff, especially without exceeding the maximum weight capacity of the rig. I lived in a 27 foot model that likely had about 60% of the square footage that these folks have, and would describe my rig as "cozy and comfortable" for one or two people.

Their blog may offer some insights.

Per capita they probably don't use alot of resources...but still, 12 kids. And of course the oil to power their RV so they can have that lifestyle.

Good riddance.

Sorry, but that many children is sickening.

I don't see how the number of children people have in the U.S. is an issue when you consider the number of immigrants annually.

I didn't mention the U.S. But now that you mentioned it, children born in the U.S. have a much larger footprint that the typical child born in Zimbabwe. I am talking about the human and thus carbon footprint on the planet. And further, I think children born now will see the worst of what we have been doing to the planet.

An immigrant already exists and will use resources no matter where they live. A new child is an addition to the already very large human population. Considering that we already have a billion hungry people, we should think real hard before adding more people. That applies to all people no matter where they live.

That's true, but...anyone in the U.S., immigrant or not, is likely to use far more resources than they would in a poorer country.

This is why developing nations get so irate when we tell them they should have fewer kids. Twenty kids in Mongolia have a smaller environmental footprint than two kids in the U.S.

But twenty years from now on average at least two of those kids have moved to the developed world. And then if they have twenty each -its exponential growth on steroids.
And those immigrants when they move away from the home country, leave space for yet more local kids. I don't think there is any way for the planet to win this game.

This is why developing nations get so irate when we tell them they should have fewer kids. Twenty kids in Mongolia have a smaller environmental footprint than two kids in the U.S.

Yeah, that is bad reasoning by those developing nations.
1) They often have systems stretched so thin that when a drought or something happens, too many of them end up starving. That doesn't make us or them feel good.
2) As the person above me pointed out, many of those people will migrate to more wealthy nations and start consuming more.
3) Even if they stay put, they are going to do everything they possibly can to consume more. It is not like they are consuming less because they are all bunch of super-environmentalist extremists. They consume less because they don't have money to consume more. But as China, India, and many other places show, that is changing fast. Most of them would all be consuming more than Americans if they could.

Evolution in action. They win.

Life is never as simple as that.

As Thurber said once, 'There's no safety in numbers, or anything else'

"The Fairly Intelligent Fly"

I don't think children born today are going to win. They are going to lose, big time. It is just a matter of time and it is part of an inexorable trend. Less resources, higher temperatures, less water, less food, you name it.

I think the definition of evolutionary success is living long enough to reproduce. I'd say thirteen children living in a motor home, being home schooled, have a relatively slim chance of reproducing in the US future they are facing.

Yeah, but the parents only need four grand kids to reach average. I would think with 12 kids, they aught to manage a bit more than four grandkids. Do we know if they're good-looking?

Gawd. If all twelve had twelve more each, that would be 144 grandkids! Insane.

Edit: to change back to 12 kids.

I am seriously considering something along these lines but for different reasons. Try as I might, I can't see how things are going to work out after the coming economic and political crash. This leads me to conclude that flexibility and adaptability will likely be key. While I might have enough money to buy a few acres and build a house, then I would be tapped out and basically tied down to that location.

So now I am looking at a small parcel in the woods that is way off-grid. The lack of utility connections keeps the price way down, although to meet occupancy requirements I will be forced to install a conventional well and septic system. After that I would like to park a single wide mobile home and build a roomy pole barn around it using mostly lumber cut from the property. That would shade the mobile home from extremes of hot and cold, and provide a good size year-round yard and BBQ area to make things much more livable. Add a clean burning wood stove and I'm done with the house for around $20K, doing most of the construction myself.

That does a couple other very crucial things for me. First off, with no structures except a mobile home and a couple pole barns the propery isn't likely to be assessed at a high value. I am rather talented at creating that redneck Camaro-on-blocks look for the benefit of any county assessors who might drive by. Second, the core of the living space and most of the equipment is mobile. With planning even the solar panels and wind generator can be packed away in a few days. If for whatever reason I am forced to leave the property at least I would have a chance to bring the key bits of my home with me. Maybe that won't work either, but at least it's a chance. Anything I can do to keep my options open seems like a good idea at this point.

RinkWatch: How backyard skaters are monitoring climate change

People in Canada and some northern U.S. states have a long tradition of turning their backyards and parks into homemade ice-skating rinks, where everyone can skate or play hockey to their heart's content. But how will these homemade rinks fare in a warming world? Will people need to adopt new methods to build their rinks, or will they even be possible?

A new website called RinkWatch aims to answer some of these questions — eventually. Created by geographers from Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario, RinkWatch asks citizen scientists and rink aficionados to record data about their backyard rinks. The information — including data points such as the date the rink is first flooded and the number of weeks that the ice is good enough for skating — will be used to track the progression of climate change in the coming years.


Ottawa temperature jumps seven degrees in an hour to set heat record

OTTAWA — We just set another January heat record, six degrees above the previous high. But the heat wave left half of the capital in the cold for much of the day.

Wednesday’s mark of 11.6 C beat the old record of 5.6 C from 1974. The last time we blew away a previous record by this much was during last spring’s “March melt.”

Normally records are beaten by small fractions of one degree.

Last week...

Ottawa sees coldest day in nearly a decade

Ottawa is under a frostbite advisory and a windchill warning as an expected high of -22 C is the coldest in eight years,...

The week before last...

Warm day sets Ottawa temperature record

Temperatures in Ottawa have eclipsed an all-time record for Jan. 12, rising to close to 7 C on Saturday.

The city hit its high temperature at about 2 p.m. Saturday, and by noon had passed the record for Jan. 12 of 4.2 C, set in 2007.

Way Up and then Down and then Way Up again... Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Rollercoasters are popular attractions.

Ottawa temperature jumps seven degrees in an hour to set heat record
Ottawa sees coldest day in nearly a decade
Warm day sets Ottawa temperature record

Aw, heck, that would just be an average day in Calgary. Easterners just don't know what real weather is.

On Jan. 11, 1983, the temperature in Calgary rose 30°C (54°F) from -17°C to 13°C (1°F to 55°F) in 4 hours,

Further south of Calgary, things get even more exciting:

In Pincher Creek, the temperature rose by 41°C (74°F), from -19 to 22°C (-2 to 72°F), in one hour in 1962. Trains have been known to be derailed by Chinook winds there...

It has to be experienced to be believed. You go to work in knee-deep snow wearing your winter jacket and snow boots, but when you come out to go for lunch, all the snow is completely gone, all the meltwater is gone too, and the warm, dry winds are tearing the roofs off garages and blowing semitrailer trucks off the highways into the ditches.

We're having one of these Chinook winds happening here right now. It is currently -5°C here in the mountains and -20°C in Calgary, 60 miles west. We were talking to a friend in Calgary on the phone this morning and he said, "WHAT!? Oh well, at least I know what's coming." I hope he ties down his little dog so it doesn't blow away.

I saw the temperature drop 50 degrees in less than an hour at Ft. Sill, Okla in the late fall of 1964. Froze my butt off.

That is cool. Pond skating is the best.

Water Demand for Energy to Double by 2035

The amount of fresh water consumed for world energy production is on track to double within the next 25 years, the International Energy Agency (IEA) projects.

And even though fracking—high-pressure hydraulic fracturing of underground rock formations for natural gas and oil—might grab headlines, IEA sees its future impact as relatively small.

By far the largest strain on future water resources from the energy system, according to IEA's forecast, would be due to two lesser noted, but profound trends in the energy world: soaring coal-fired electricity, and the ramping up of biofuel production.

If today's policies remain in place, the IEA calculates that water consumed for energy production would increase from 66 billion cubic meters (bcm) today to 135 bcm annually by 2035.

That's an amount equal to the residential water use of every person in the United States over three years, or 90 days' discharge of the Mississippi River. It would be four times the volume of the largest U.S. reservoir, Hoover Dam's Lake Mead.

Like so many other predictions we get from the "Yesterday's Tomorrow" official bureaucratic prediction agencies: ain't gonna happen!

Biofuel production in the US is already declining due to the Midwestern drought. Also there is increasing political pressure to cut the hugely expensive biofuel subsidy...

The bigger threat is salinization from seawater intrusion with rising seas from Climate Change...

Interesting to note the increase in biofuel with a bigger "pie". You can get water for biofuel from desalinization and/or water reclamation. Power plants have cooling towers, multistage evaporator/condensers can recover that. Use water several times and you get more out of it.

Biochar Cookstoves Boost Health for People and Crops

Groups like Seattle, Washington-based SeaChar, the recipient of a $72,000 grant from National Geographic's Great Energy Challenge initiative, have been testing new variations on clean cookstoves. SeaChar's Estufa Finca ("Farm Stove" in Spanish) burns biomass cleanly while turning it into biochar. It's not a fancy apparatus: Fashioned from local materials, its components include a 5-gallon steel paint bucket, some corrugated steel roofing material, and half of a one-gallon tomato sauce can.

Spain's recession worsens in the fourth quarter

The downturn in the Spanish economy worsened in the final three months of 2012, as output fell 1.8% from a year earlier, official data has indicated. Output shrank 0.7% from the previous quarter - the worst performance in Spain since the 2009 global recession.

GDP unexpectedly shrinks, decline seen temporary

The economy unexpectedly contracted in the fourth quarter, but analysts said there was no reason for panic given that consumer spending and business investment picked up.

Gross domestic product fell at a 0.1 percent annual rate, its weakest performance since it emerged from recession in 2009, the Commerce Department said on Wednesday.

... "Obviously, the headline number is a bit jarring, but the underlying details of the report, by and large, are consistent with an economy that is growing probably at a trend basis of about 2%," Michael Hanson, a senior economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in New York.

Sort of like oil prices isn't it?

The anemic "recovery" while the US does nothing to grapple with the twin realities of Peak Oil and Climate Change exacerbated by bankster financial fraud and now an "unexpected" dip in US GDP.

Not that GDP measures most people's well-being, health, happiness or chances of survival.

Wait until the budget sequester works its black magic after taking away 2% of people's pay that now (properly if you ask me) goes to pay for the Social Security Trust Fund...

Brent at $120 May Renew Calls for US to Tap (SPR) Reserves:


Aren't we tapping enough reserves (non SPR) as it is. Maybe that might tell us something as in we don't control the world price regardless of how much drillin' and pumpin' we do. We hear daily that we are going to be net exporters before you know it. We simply cannot keep up with increases in demand in China and elsewhere. Wonder if China is now questioning whether it was such a good idea to destroy their bike culture.

Aren't we tapping enough reserves (non SPR) as it is.

tstreet, in a few years we'll look back and call $120 Brent as cheap.

We should keep the SPR in reserve until we really need it.

Tapping the SPR? That's crazy talk. I get it when you do it because there is some identified TEMPORARY supply disruption like the Iraq war or the Libyan revolution. But there is no such supply disruption. And if you've been reading all those puff pieces, we are supposedly in a new golden age of oil drilling where we are drilling more than ever! How could anyone possibly rationalize opening the SPR when we just had a flood of stories about how we are now the world's new oil empire!

A TEMPORARY supply disruption is an OK situation because you know it will end and you can then refill the SPR. But to tap it now would be like eating your seedcorn.

spec et al – Just a reminder how SPR releases work and why they’ve never lowered oil prices in the past. First, the CONGRESSION LAW requires that SPR oil be sold/loaned at the previous 30 day benchmark price. In essence the govt cannot sell the oil below market price. Notice I said loan. Much of the previous volume of release has been loaned to refineries who are then obligated to repay in kind. IOW they’ll eventually take the same amount of oil out of the market place.

The best an SPR release can achieve is putting more oil into the market place and thus potentially put pressure on the exporters. The max release allowed by CONGRESSIONAL LAW over a max 90 day period represents only 5% of current global consumption. But on a practical level past releases have represented about 1.5% of global consumption. In addition to the fact that such a small release would probably have minimal effect of prices the exporters need only reduce their sales by an equivalent amount for that short period of time and thus eliminate even that small amount of supply pressure.

IOW it’s very unlikely that even the max release would have any significant effect on prices. And what effect there might be will be very short lived. I know it. The congress knows it. The POTUS knows it. Big Oil knows it. And every OPEC member knows it. Unfortunately I doubt the majority of the American public knows it.



Brent at $120 May Renew Calls for US to Tap (SPR) Reserves:

Notice how the Brent price that requires US action is steadily declining. Last year the Brent 'action price' was approximately $125 per barrel.

The end of the year the action price will be $115 then the next year it will be $110 ... or less. At some point the price will fall below what the producers require to bring new, expensive crude to the marketplace.

The high price is bankrupting entire countries, listen to the French. Ditto the European auto industry. How high is too high?

Higher than it is now! Our wonderful waste-based economy cannot afford itself.

France needs to push hard on getting people to adopt EVs. They have all that excess electricity from their nuclear plants at night. But the French people cannot afford the EVs.

New from Congressional Research Service ...

Can Contractionary Fiscal Policy Be Expansionary?

As Congress considers policies to foster economic growth, arguments have been made that the traditional expectations of fiscal policy, namely that cutting spending will contract the economy in the short run, should be reversed. Proponents of this view also argue that cutting spending rather than raising taxes would be a more effective means of increasing economic growth (or at least avoiding contractions). These arguments often refer to recent empirical studies of deficit reductions across countries.

This view contrasts with that held by most economists and found in conventional models. In those models cutting spending will contract the economy. Chairman Bernanke of the Federal Reserve was referring to this view when he cautioned against large and immediate spending cuts. Most multipliers (measures of the effect of deficits on the economy) indicate that spending cuts contract the economy more than do similarly sized tax increases.

… The findings in the Alesina and Ardagna study that successful debt reductions were associated with higher growth when spending cuts were used was based on 9 observations out of 107 instances of deficit reduction, or less than 10% of the sample. In addition, most of the countries where debt reductions were successful were at or close to full employment, while the United States remains well below full employment, raising questions as to whether this evidence is applicable to current U.S. conditions. Thus, both methodological questions and questions of applicability to current circumstances can be raised for the Alesina and Ardagna, and similar, studies.

The Increase in Unemployment Since 2007: Is It Cyclical or Structural?

Expansionary fiscal and monetary policies commonly have been used to remedy what is known as cyclical unemployment. However, the unemployment rate has not been as responsive as had been hoped to the countercyclical measures undertaken by Congress and the Fed. Consequently, some have suggested that an increase in another type of unemployment—referred to as structural unemployment—has accounted for much of the rise in the unemployment rate from pre-recession levels. These observers assert that the rise in unemployment due to change in the structure of the economy represents “a new normal” of elevated unemployment rates for years to come.

An Analysis of Where American Companies Report Profits: Indications of Profit Shifting

Consistent with the findings of existing research, the analysis presented here appear to show that significant shares of profits are being reported in tax preferred countries and that these shares are disproportionate to the location of the firm’s business activity as indicated by where they hire workers and make investments.

For example, American companies reported earning 43% of overseas profits in Bermuda, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Switzerland in 2008, while hiring 4% of their foreign workforce and making 7% of their foreign investments in those economies.

In comparison, the traditional economies of Australia, Canada, Germany, Mexico and the United Kingdom accounted for 14% of American MNCs overseas’ profits, but 40% of foreign hired labor and 34% of foreign investment.

This report also shows that the discrepancy between where profits are reported and where hiring and investment occurs, as examples of business activity, has increased over time.

Additional evidence that profit shifting has increased over time is found from a comparison of business profits with economic output (gross domestic product) in the two country groups. MNC profits as a share of gross domestic product (GDP) in the traditional economies averaged from 1% to 2% between 1999 and 2008, while their profits in the tax preferred countries profits averaged 33% of GDP in 2008, up from 27% in 1999.

Individual countries within the tax preferred group displayed more dramatic increases in the ratio of profits to GDP. For example, profits reported in Bermuda have increased from 260% of that country’s GDP in 1999 to over 1000% in 2008. In Luxembourg, American business profits went from 19% of that country’s GDP in 1999 to 208% of GDP in 2008.

Is it possible that the rich are going to prove better for the environment than anyone else? By fleecing the entire world to build their fortunes and thereby collapsing the world economy and driving everyone into poverty...they're essentially bringing about the end of industrial expansion and seem to be insistent on dismantling the industrial infrastructure. As the cost of things go up and companies refuse to pay better wages, people purchase less stuff, and are having fewer children. They want to take away earned-benefits programs like Social Security and Medicare...so that the old die quickly, don't travel, and can't lavish gifts upon their grandchildren. They want to expand military programs, bomb more people off of the Earth, start more wars that kill people.

The rich are trying to save the world by driving everyone into poverty and killing off excess population with wars!

Oh that's just brutal!

It's got me humming the Nietsche line from CONAN The BARBARIAN, too..

"That which does not kill us makes us stronger."

(Or was it.. 'To Crush your competition, See them driven into debt before you, and hear the lamentation of the Teacher's Unions' ??)

Is it possible that the rich are going to prove better for the environment than anyone else? By fleecing the entire world to build their fortunes and thereby collapsing the world economy and driving everyone into poverty...

It seems certainly true in today's global economy that a poorer people (less GDP at their disposal) consumes less global (not necessarily local) natural resources than a richer people (more GDP). "The rich", whoever they are exactly, of course consume more per capita than "the non-rich", but I wouldn't be surprised at all if "the non-rich" consumed more natural resources per unit of GDP at their disposal.

Really, what other point is there in inequality of income (or of anything) than the finiteness of resources?

Vegetarianism Can Reduce Risk of Heart Disease By Up To a Third

The risk of hospitalisation or death from heart disease is 32% lower in vegetarians than people who eat meat and fish, according to a new study from the University of Oxford.

'Most of the difference in risk is probably caused by effects on cholesterol and blood pressure, and shows the important role of diet in the prevention of heart disease,' explains Dr Francesca Crowe, lead author of the study at the Cancer Epidemiology Unit, University of Oxford.

There is no doubt that people in the developed world eat too much meat. Still, meat intake provides critical proteins and nutrients particularly for children and young adults. Unless they have a very broad diet including supplements, vegetarian kids grow up to be less robust.

Perhaps people should start out as meat eaters and gradually transition away as they get older?

Sanest comment on vegetarianism I've heard for a while (omnivore speaking here).

Nonsense, there is simply no factual basis to the statement "meat intake provides critical proteins", you just made it up. The fact that vegetarians have a life expectancy somewhere between 4 and 8 years longer than non-vegetarians is an indication. Smoking reduces life expectancy by about 8 to 10 years, so eating meat is only marginally more healthy than smoking.

"vegetarian kids grow up to be less robust" is probably true if by "robust" you mean "fat".

Any half-way decent vegetarian diet provides all the essential amino acids. Cows are not some sort of magic protein factories, they get their essential amino acids from grass. Plants and bacteria are the source of all essential amino acids, and there is no nutritional benefit to having them spend a couple of years in a cow before you eat them. A little knowledge of biochemistry goes a long way.

What about pork? I apologize for my flippancy/humour but I remember the pall on almost every meal when my ex became a complete vegetarian. Beach cookouts no more, separate spaghetti sauces, family barbecues and reunions affected. Everything so serious and almost morally directed. Now, we grow our own food and well know the relationship of animal to the table (don't name the animals...don't.)

“(Lisa) “I’m going to become a vegetarian”
(Homer) “Does that mean you’re not going to eat any pork?” “Yes”
“Bacon?” “Yes Dad”
Ham?” “Dad all those meats come from the same animal”
“Right Lisa, some wonderful, magical animal!”"

Many things we do reduce our life spans and hurt 'the planet'. Today is my last day of work at my current career. (by choice). I plan to go in and pick up a few things, turn in my keys, go write a test, grab a burger with some buddies before heading home. There are times when a salad or stir fry just won't cut it IMHO. :-)

"The fact that vegetarians have a life expectancy somewhere between 4 and 8 years longer than non-vegetarians is an indication."

"Smoking reduces life expectancy by about 8 to 10 years, so eating meat is only marginally more healthy than smoking."

Could there not be other factors in play here? Could it not be that folks who control and watch their diets and other habits might also engage in other activities (or not) that increase longevity? Cherry picking stats to imply strict causal relationships to support a personal POV is not proof in itself.

Perhaps the golden rule of moderation rather than total abstention is a more realistic way to proceed for us omnivore FF using folks that occasionally write comments to TOD? Or as my nephew likes to say when he eats something he really shouldn't, " you wouldn't want to miss out".

Regards Paulo

Congrats on the career move, Paulo. I've done it more times tham I care to count, and it's always exciting, like setting out on a new journey. We plan a celebration of sorts for tomorrow night. We Fed-Exed the final big check to the Mega-Bank yesterday, so the deed to the homeplace will soon be safely stashed in the fire safe. It also looks like we'll get a significant break on our property taxes after a couple of years of challenging the assessment.

...and our new PV panels are so close I can smell 'em; should arrive tomorrow. Installing these things is one chore I look forward to. Baby-back ribs, low 'n' slow, my famous beans (which ain't right without sweet Vidalia onions carmelized in bacon grease), maybe one of my special cheese souffles using our own eggs... Weeds and seeds just won't cut it. We'll probably skip desert ;-/

I started veganism two weeks ago due to a health problem that started last summer. While searching for some enlightenment on how nutrition may have an impact on my condition I came across two very informative books. THE CHINA STUDY, by Dr Colin Cambell and THE FOOD REVOLUTION by John Robbins. They are an easy read with a lot of facts to support a whole foods/plant based diet. More vegetarianism would help the planet too.

I've seen a number of studies like this, and they all share a similar set of problems. First, they are epidemiological studies which only show 'associations' or correlations, which do not show any causal link. Secondly, they typically have major problems with confounding variables such as smoking, drinking, other lifestyle issues that are most likely not randomized. They claim that they statistically allow for these confounding variables, but this gets into pretty dodgy statistical methods which, in the final analysis, are based on subjective value judgements. Thirdly, many studies like this rely on subjects self-reporting what they eat, how much and when. People are notoriously bad about accuracy in reporting, and there is a great tendency to report what the subject thinks the researchers want, or to report what the subject feels like is a healthier diet.

I have yet to see a well designed study that shows eating meat by itself is bad for ones health. The China Study is one of the best known and largest studies of this type and it has, IMO been thoroughly taken apart for its sloppy design and confirmation bias. I expect to see this study discussed and taken apart in the nutrition blogosphere in the next few months. Trouble is, few people go further than reading the headlines and have no idea how much bad science goes on in the field of nutrition.

Nutrition research is very difficult due to all the variables in any population and I am surprised at the high loss of life expectancy in this paper. Nevertheless, the trend in the majority of these studies is that there is some loss of life expectancy with eating meat. I was mainly trying to correct the funny notion the vegetarianism is unhealthy when the opposite is more likely to be correct.

Also keep in mind that the association between smoking and lung cancer is based on similar methodologies.

I think they're appealling to an ancient divide, the one that set up Cain and Abel, the one that let Rodgers and Hammerstein write 'Oh the Farmer and the Cowman should be friends!' - It creates teams fighting for one extreme or the other, when the need is for balance, and the dangers are really elsewhere.

We have real and proven sources of ADHD, Cancer, Cardiopulmonary diseases, Diabetes, Asthma etc etc.. being driven by industrial practises, preservatives, coloring and flavoring, Rancidity, the severe denutriantizing of numerous foods.

But tossing out these 'studies' that are only looking to keep tickling an old feud, which EVERYONE picks up like a Death Penalty or Abortion argument.. and keeps them from looking at what's really dangerous in our food supplies. Meat or Veggie Diet? I eat BOTH. Extremists, Bah!

"One interpretation of the Cain and Abel story is that it reflects the very ancient tension between the different values and ways of life of wandering herders, represented by Abel, and settled farmers, represented by Cain."

Read more: http://www.mythencyclopedia.com/Be-Ca/Cain-and-Abel.html#ixzz2JeD5v28R

Nevertheless, the trend in the majority of these studies is that there is some loss of life expectancy with eating meat.

Well, I strongly disagree with this. Another confounding variable, and probably the most important, is the carbohydrate and sugar intake of the subjects. Carbs and sugar (and possible grains) are more likely to be the real culprits and in studies like this, they are almost always ignored.

These UK meat eaters should move to France. There they would statistically live longer:-)

This is very true, as Taubes describes in excruciating detail in Good Calories, Bad Calories. It's just not possible do a truly rigorous study on human nutrition, for many reasons.

In this case...34% of the subjects were vegetarian. That is pretty unusual, at least in the U.K. I'd guess that these people were just very different kinds of people than the non-vegetarians. More health-conscious, more educated, wealthier, maybe from a different cultural background. Sure, they say they adjusted to account for these things, but I don't believe for one minute that there's a formula that will accurately do that.

As a data point...my dad participates in one of these studies. He's randomly called and asked what he ate the day before, and how much of it. He is pretty health-conscious these days, and takes it seriously. He's proud of how he eats and exercises, and likes talking about it. But it was still difficult; when he first started, he had a hard time remembering. Now he makes a point of remembering, so it's easier, but I gather a lot of people dropped out because it was too much of a hassle.

This is very true, as Taubes describes in excruciating detail in Good Calories, Bad Calories. It's just not possible do a truly rigorous study on human nutrition, for many reasons.

One of those many reasons might have something to do with the fact that we don't as yet have a very good handle on understanding the relationship between our intestinal ecosystems and how they impact our nutrition and overall health.


The Food Fight in Your Gut: Why Bacteria Will Change the Way You Think about Calories

By Ferris Jabr | September 12, 2012 |

...The more a zebrafish eats, the more Firmicutes in its guts. And the more Firmicutes in a zebrafish’s guts, the more efficiently its intestinal cells absorb fat.

To investigate how Firmicutes stimulates fat absorption, Semova and Rawls grew different strains of bacteria in different liquid media, which you can think of as a kind of broth. After filtering out the bacteria, they exposed baby zebrafish to the different media. Only media from Firmicutes significantly increased the number of lipid droplets in the fish’s intestinal cells, suggesting that whatever proteins or molecules those bacteria secreted into the media somehow enhanced fatty acid absorption. The results were published September 13 in Gut Host & Microbe.

These findings mirror the conclusions of many previous studies, which have shown, for example, that starving mice for a single day reduces the population of Firmicutes in their guts and that transplanting Firmicutes from obese mice into the germ-free intestines of lean mice makes the thin rodents plump. When obese people begin a low-fat or low-carb diet, Bacteroidetes proliferates and Firmicutes dwindles. Clearly, Firmicutes is happiest when we are eating a lot.

When the theory that obesity was an infectious disease first came out, I thought it was nuts. Now it's sounding like there might be something to it.

And in general, it's looking like good bacteria have as great an effect on human health as harmful bacteria...maybe more.

High-Tech Cargo Airship Being Built in California

The Department of Defense and NASA have invested $35 million in the prototype because of its potential to one day carry more cargo than any other aircraft to disaster zones and forward military bases.

The airship functions like a submarine, releasing air to rise and taking in air to descend, said Aeros mechanical engineer Tim Kenny. It can take off vertically, like a helicopter, then change its buoyancy to become heavier than air for landing and unloading.

Next, Aeros wants to build a full-size 450-foot (137-meter) -long vehicle that can carry 66 tons (60 metric tons) of payload

Seraph, with the expected helium shortages in the future it seems like a waste to be investing in a helium lighter than air airship.

True, but they could also work with Hydrogen

Hydrogen? Like, the Hindenburg?

"Oh, the Humanity!"

Seraph, even more lift with hydrogen.

However, I thought after the Hindenburg disaster they stopped using flammable hydrogen gas.

after the Hindenburg disaster they stopped using flammable hydrogen gas


Off the top of my head there were about ten airships active in the 1930's - R100, 101 Akron, Macon, Shanandoah, Hindenburg. Most outside the USA lifted with hydrogen. Most were destroyed by thunderstorms. Even with smoking permitted on board the explosion risk was small, and possibly minor compared to the impressive behaviour of nitrocellulose fabric dope. With no smoking & polyester heat shrink skin I think I could guarantee a modern airship's biggest risk is thunderbolt & lightning; very very frightening.

Galileo,Galileo ;-)

Hydrogen in an airship can be safely worked with and Germany had flown many hydrogen airships before the Hindenburg without any issues. So it can be safe...if it's designed that way from the start. The Hindenburg was designed for helium, but due to an embargo by the United States they couldn't get the helium to fill it and decided to just fill 'er up with hydrogen. There was no contingency built in...the gasbags were highly flammable and the outer skin was essentially made of thermite so when it went - it went.

Researchers solve biological mystery and boost artificial intelligence

By simulating 25,000 generations of evolution within computers, Cornell University engineering and robotics researchers have discovered why biological networks tend to be organized as modules – a finding that will lead to a deeper understanding of the evolution of complexity.

The new insight also will help evolve artificial intelligence, so robot brains can acquire the grace and cunning of animals.

... For years, the prevailing assumption was simply that modules evolved because entities that were modular could respond to change more quickly, and therefore had an adaptive advantage over their non-modular competitors. But that may not be enough to explain the origin of the phenomena.

The team discovered that evolution produces modules not because they produce more adaptable designs, but because modular designs have fewer and shorter network connections, which are costly to build and maintain. As it turned out, it was enough to include a "cost of wiring" to make evolution favor modular architectures.

... not sure if I want cunning robots.

... Hal! What are you doing with that arc-welder! Hal ... put the arc-welder down! ... Hal !!!

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.

- As it turned out, it was enough to include a "cost of wiring" to make evolution favor modular architectures.

I wonder if the same logic applies to solar PV vs central power stations? If the electricity distribution network/infrastructure (and maintenance) was a separate cost item, would individual solar PV have the cost advantage?

I'm sure some joker in the department has already nicknamed the system Skynet.

Maybe it is Skynet!

Hopefully it'll send some robots from the future to save the earth from humans.

Barges stuck as oil spill jams Mississippi River

With more than 50 vessels idled on the water for a fourth day Wednesday, authorities said they still did not know when they would be able to reopen a 16-mile stretch of the Mississippi River that was closed due to an oil spill.

Severe weather that was expected to sweep through the area could shut down cleanup operations for a time, prolonging the process further, authorities said.

Lally noted that about 7,000 gallons of crude oil were unaccounted for aboard the barge.

Oil boom creates economic push for gas flaring

Texas Railroad Commissioner David Porter said Wednesday the state’s rapidly increasing oil production was posing “a very difficult economic question” for drillers faced with curbing oil production or flaring natural gas produced along with the oil.

Natural gas is selling at only a fraction of the fuel content price of oil. And oil wells are being completed before natural gas pipeline connections can catch up. As a result, the Texas Railroad Commission issued 1,963 flaring permits last year, more than six times as many as it did in 2010.

“Particularly now when there’s such a disparity in price, in some cases it does make economic sense to go ahead and produce the oil and even flare the gas, even though that is a worst-case scenario,” Porter said.

Rising Seas Threaten the Coast's Future

... "Sea levels have been rising for a long time, but there's evidence now that the rate of rise is accelerating," said James O'Donnell, professor of marine sciences at the University of Connecticut's Avery Point campus in Groton. "A half-meter in the next 50 to 100 years," he said. "That doesn't sound like a lot, but what it means is that very destructive storms would be occurring much more frequently."

O'Donnell said he performed an analysis after Tropical Storm Irene in 2011. "And what I found was that instead of getting a storm like Irene once every 20 years, it would be an annual event, more or less," he said.

Staying put along the shoreline will be possible for some time to come, but the cost will be increasingly prohibitive. "We can build wherever we want -- it's a matter of money and environmental impact," he said. "You'll have to weigh these costs and the benefits."

... Woo-hoo! Now I'll have beachfront property

When they say homeowners are under water, they'll have to clarify whether financially or aquatically.

The reasons are different they get homeless because house is underwater or because the bank take the house but the result is the same. The house is gone.


Nice photo.

Here is some more interesting sea level rise conversation:

Box also provided a large-scale perspective on how much sea level rise humanity has already probably set in motion from the burning of fossil fuels. The answer is staggering: 69 feet, including water from both Greenland and Antarctica, as well as other glaciers based on land from around the world.

Scientists like Box aren't sure precisely when, or how fast, all that water will flow into the seas. They only know that in past periods of Earth's history, levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases and sea levels have followed one another closely, allowing an inference about where sea level is headed as it, in effect, catches up with the greenhouse gases we've unleashed. To be sure, the process will play out over vast time periods — but it has already begun, and sea level is starting to show a curve upward that looks a lot like…well, the semi-notorious "hockey stick."

(North To Davos Country, quoting Mother Jones). Depending on the speed of rise, lots more folks get to have beachfront property for awhile.

I am thinking a sea-worthy houseboat will extend the beachfront aspects of the scenario.

I am thinking a sea-worthy houseboat will extend the beachfront aspects of the scenario.

A version of that was proposed after the disasterous Mississippi floods of '93. Basically it was a design for a concrete foundation built as a barge, under a standard stick built home. The barge would be shackled to a large mooring in the ground to keep it in place during a flood. Utility connections were designed to break away. Normally with a little landscaping, it would look like a standard basement foundation.

Do I even need to say it? Of course, any such concept was vehemently opposed by existing homeowner groups who quite logically thought that such construction nearby would reduce the value of their flood-prone homes. As far as I know, this type of foundation is still not allowed by building code.

Nice one, Seraph. Right near my old stomping grounds - I was born and raised in Milford, though I haven't lived there in over 35 years. My brother still lives in the old family home there, and I have several friends that still live there, so I get down a couple times a year (I'm in NH now). A couple of pics over on that site and you can see Milford.

Luckily, my brother lives at the top of a nice hill - great view of the harbor, but no surge danger. But the lower part of the property is not that far from high tide as it is - he's thinking about building a dock down there, so that when the sealevel rises, he's ready...

Whereabouts do you live?

A stones throw [literally] from the town hall in Stratford. Elevation 45 ft.

Sea level rise has become visible here over the past 10 years. A frontage road near Bond's Dock was clearly above high waterline 20-25 years ago - now its underwater nearly every high tide. Same with the parking lot at Birdseye Dock. The hurricane and tidal surge destroyed an old brick oyster shack built in the 1850's. What that says is that high water had never reached that level for the past 160 years.

It does now.

The link above on 'Long Data' touches on the problem of not noticing the changes from day-to-day and year-to-year.

... Datasets of long timescales not only help us understand how the world is changing, but how we, as humans, are changing it — without this awareness, we fall victim to shifting baseline syndrome. This is the tendency to shift our “baseline,” or what is considered “normal” — blinding us to shifts that occur across generations (since the generation we are born into is taken to be the norm).

We have become separated from nature.

Ah, Bond's Dock - the starting point for many a fishing trip on the Housie... Yes, the baseline keeps shifting, and the new higher sealevels become the new normal, generation by generation. Gotta keep records!

Todd, sorry I missed responding to you earlier about being optimistic.

Once on a survey about me one of my co-workers called me a "half-full" type of person. As in, the glass is half-full not half-empty.

No matter what we go through, we are in control of our attitude.

I feel there is much to be optimistic about. Declining birth rates, declining costs for solar and wind energy, advancements in computers, higher fuel economy standards, etc.

What things cause others to be optimistic?

Sorry, but I am not in the least optimistic. If you look at just one side of the coin, of course, it is easy to be optimistic. Which is exactly what you have done. I'd say the glass was damn near empty at this point. Sorry.

Someone on a listserve we read was told by his husband: "Your glass isn't half empty. It's on the floor, broken, and you're walking barefoot in the pieces."

The worst bit are those people that mock progress in renewable energy.

So a relatively new wind turbine collapses in England, and the ignorant deniers try to out-sneer each other:

Sickening because that blog was voted "the best science blog for 2011".

It looks like the turbine did fine, the install job was just sub-par.

And this failure should be celebrated. How much mercury was spewed? How big was the explosion? How much radioactive material was released? How much oil spilled? How many other structures did the fire burn? Oh . . . none of any of that.

The UK is trying their best in the face of dwindling North Sea oil. The deniers actively seek to ignore this.

To be frank, a 50 kW, downwind, passive stall controlled machine is '80s technology, and not the best you can do. That would be more along the line of 2 MW, upwind, active pitch controlled for 1/3rd the price per kW.

C'mon, tstreet, we live in challenging times that demand creative responses. While we certainly can't change the path that humanity is on, we can change our own, and possibly have a local effect planting seeds of hope. Beats the crap out of some utopian future free from strife, with little room for non-conformity. I see this era as the possible dawn of our breakaway from the stories that have us repeating our childish, repetitive, self-destructive patterns. Like V'ger, the question of whether we and our planet will survive our technological infancy is demanding an answer, in OUR time. What could be more exciting?

Other carbon-based lifeforms' responses will certainly differ...

Well, I must be an other carbon based lifeform. I am not saying that people should do what they can to improve their own communities, the nation, or the planet as a whole. In fact, I have been involved in many of those endeavors myself.

On the other hand, I see no reason whatsoever for optimism given the nature of mankind and its actions or inactions to date. I certainly have no faith whatsoever that our national leaders will take the necessary actions to save humanity, the planet, and other species which have not yet been driven to extinction.

I thought the dawn was occurring in the early 1970s and foolishly thought that my generation would be the one to change the world for the better. In some respects it is a better world but that means very little given what we have in store for us going forward.

I have changed my own path but don't find that terribly exciting when I see what is going on around me. I mainly see zombies.

demanding an answer, in OUR time. What could be more exciting?

Exactly. And as I see it, people are slowly waking to (at least some of) the challenges facing us. I think if we try nearly all of us can supply more cure, than our disease causing resource consumption. We can use the time we have to make things better. If enough people do that it will have a big effect.

We can use the time we have to make things better. If enough people do that it will have a big effect.

Agreed. Not sure how big of an effect. But in the right direction.

Just read a book review quote on Resilience.org from Heinberg suggesting we might, "make the future better than it would otherwise be."

And, besides, I don't mind talking realistic pessimism, but there ought to be some optimistic action thrown in.

Maybe folks like Greer are right, the social effects unravel more slowly than the biophysical. Maybe giving a small bit more time for optimistic actions to gain traction?

And, besides, I don't mind talking realistic pessimism, but there ought to be some optimistic action thrown in.

Aspera, a guy I knew liked to say "I want problem solvers, not problem makers".

We should take a step in the right direction, as it is always the right direction.

Before you can solve a problem you have to notice and then acknowledge that there is one.

An optimist may notice a problem though they are less likely to since they're optimistic there won't be one in the first place, but are even less likely to acknowledge that it really is one where there is.

A pessimist will notice and acknowledge a problem, but might not believe there's a solution.

A pragmatist will notice the problem, acknowledge it, and simply go about finding a solution if there is one to be found.

If anything, the problem makers are the optimists..."there will always be plenty of oil" "CO2 isn't a problem" "Asbestos is a miracle substance" "Nothing's wrong with a little lead in gasoline" "Watch this!" "What's that noise? Ah, it's nothing" "Too cheap to meter!" Failure to acknowledge that there might be a problem with something is critical in perpetuating an "issue" until it becomes an Earth-threatening "problem."

There are, of course, blends of these...like a pragmatic-pessimist - which probably describes a lot of TODers...the problem is noticed, acknowledged, an attempted solution is sought for but the outcome is still expected to be bad.

There are, of course, blends of these...

Maybe blends are more common than purists? Like Gramsci’s notion of “pessimism of the intellect; optimism of the will.”

To me the problem lies with extremes of optimism and pessimism. Extreme hopefullness and hopelessness leaves us off the hook (i.e., someone will solve it, no one can solve it).

Optimistic nihilism. The only way to go. The glass is half full. Pay no mind to that hole in it.

Can we stop up the whole in time? Damn fine question...

While you guys are talking, I'm gonna take that water and frac with it.....

If, after the crash, human beings develop a civilization in which:
1) those who rampantly procreate are forcibly sterilized
2) "growth" disappears from the vocabulary
3) financial fraud is punishable by death

Then I may be optimistic about the ability of those people to be stewards of this planet.

Without growth, what do babies do? Trees and Gardens What do good institutions do? Appropriate Products and Businesses.. What does your knowledge do?

I think the bedevilment of that word is misplaced. Growth is a marvelous thing.. what we need to check is 'Blind, Uncontained Growth'..

Fine, the glass is half full. We have half of all the resources left. OMG!


For me it's neither optimism nor pessimism but rather considering what is going on and then rationally arriving at a likely outcome whether good or bad. Like many TODers, I look at a lot of information from a variety of sources. I'm not looking for a consensus but rather which information appears to be the most accurate/reliable.

A very simple example is Jeffery's ELM: It is rational to conclude that there is going to be less energy per capita available in the future. Ok? From that I could draw a few conclusions. 1)Energy is going to cost more in the future. 2)Since there appears to be a relationship between energy and the economy, it is likely that the economy will ever regain its former "glory". 3)Those who do nothing to become more energy efficient will likely be backsided and, possibly, be unable to adapt.

I could go on but this gives you an idea of my thinking process. Years ago I used to tag my name with "Todd - a Realist" and that's still how I see myself.


Well, I think of myself as a realist too. That means that while I don't see much to encourage me re human behavior, I also don't think feeling pessimistic or optimistic therefrom is worth even thinking about. Why bother?

So, I just go ahead and do things that might do some good- write to the local newspapers, work on energy efficiency, make energy-related widgets that might work, have fun doing it. And in doing so burden the rest of the planet and especially the future as little as I can--within reason, of course.

I have had tremendous fun today working with a couple of local backwoods types on a biomass burner, and repair of my wheeled chicken coop that got smashed in the great windstorm of last summer.

And speaking of wind- so small turbines aren't cost-effective? How about just one big blade sticking straight up and wagging back and forth- no tower, easy to put up, fun to watch, guaranteed to work - (think of an albatross wing). Call it a WindWag,

And speaking of wind- so small turbines aren't cost-effective?

They do work and in some situations they probably make good sense (such as off-grid). But between the cost and the maintenance, it is not as easy as PV solar.

I took the naked rotor from an industrial ventilating fan and put it up as a cheap way to harvest very strong winds only. Worked fine until a VERY strong wind blew it over on my workshop. Curses! foiled again.

Also, made big mean growling sound disturbing to my then-young children.

Takes me right back to Yogi-Berra's way of responding..

"You can't get power from the wind.. it's too strong!"

1)Energy is going to cost more in the future.

Todd, I am more optimistic. It is possible that solar cells could continue dropping in price to rival the present cost of electricity.

I remember when solar cells were only used on spaceships. Now we have hundreds of megawatts installations being constructed. Windfarms have also increased in size and number with multi-megawatt turbines.

I look forward to the future.

Best hopes for low-priced renewable power.

I think it's more a question of when the paths of rising FF's cross the path of lowering prices for PV and Wind. Taking into account inflation and the fact that PV and Wind both still need a small amount of FF inputs this price could be quite a bit higher than what we pay for either one today.

It is possible that solar cells could continue dropping in price to rival the present cost of electricity.

It already has in many places. I'm reasonably efficient but I still hit the tier in of my PG&E bill where electricity starts costing 0.29 per KWH. If I put up some PV, it will cost much less per KWH over the life of the PV panels.

A technology break-though may cut PV prices a big more but I think we are probably getting to a pretty tough point in the cost drop curve. But at this point, it doesn't really matter because it is the balance of system costs that are now dominating.

getting to a pretty tough point in the cost drop curve.

Well the Germans are installing residential rooftops at under half of what we pay here. That should be proof enough that their is a lot of headroom. The issue then becomes, do we have the will and the way to slash those costs? Our biggest costs are the "soft" ones, permits, applications, inspections, cost of sales (for an installer, making lots of sales calls, but getting few takers).

But at this point, it doesn't really matter because it is the balance of system costs that are now dominating.

This point cannot be underestimated. While there is still quite a lot of potential to reduce the costs for renewables, e.g. by being able to slice thinner wafers from a silicon block, the overall costs for a transition to a system run on large amount of renewables are huge, due to the need of a lot of storage and power transmission capacity are extremely high. Today I only see methanation / hydrolysis as technology that can be scaled high enough to meet the demand. And there is still a lot of R&D to be done that this make sense economically.

The question is: is there enough (political) will to make such an invest happen without short-term benefit in sight? Using technologies you have to invest in first in order to make the mature? The disadvantages of not taking the decision like AGW, high dependency on energy imports, etc. have in common that you have a hard time to put a price tag on them.

"It is possible that solar cells could continue dropping in price to rival the present cost of electricity."

In some places they are already there.

"The cost of a unit power from an off-grid solar system (Euro 0.14 - Euro 0.16 per kWh) in comparison with diesel generators (Euro 0.23 – Euro 0.25 per kwh) makes solar an increasingly attractive electricity solution. "


And interestingly the big mining operations in the Atacama desert are planning to spend a couple of billion on PV to augment their expensive locally produced power. So we cam grow some portions of the market without subsidies.

As long as optimism isn't mistaken for hope. Optimism is simply an expectation that the best will happen, a Panglossian belief that in this best of all possible worlds things will turn out positive. Misplaced optimism is just another threat as it defers action and leaves people vulnerable to negative events they assumed wouldn't happen or wouldn't affect them.

I think it would be better to be classified as 'hopeful'. Hopeful that a specific, articulated plan of action will be successful, rather than a nebulous belief that things will somehow turn out fine.

Given what I see daily, everywhere, I find no reason to be hopeful as I see little to nothing is being done to curb the tsunamis of threats we face. In many cases quite the opposite. But, in the absence of hope, I guess people will grasp for the straw of optimism instead.

Emotions and/or beliefs will be the end for 99% of the people. They will have either such strong emotional attachments regarding BAU that they're simply deer in the headlights as BAU goes away. Or, their beliefs will prevent them from changing course since it would require accepting a new paradigm and admitting their old one was wrong.

We see these sorts of things in real life all the time; the woman who stays with the guy that beats her "because he says he won't do it again" and in emergency situations where people pile up against each other at one emergency exit and die when other exits are available.

I can't claim to be totally rational all the time but it's sort of like mindfulness meditation where if your mind wanders you simply acknowledge it and go back to meditating.


Peak Oil solved, but climate will fry: BP report

The peak oil problem has been solved, or so says BP. And here is where it is going to come from.

Tight oil. This new source is predicted to surge to prominence and account for about half the increase in global fossil oil supply by 2030. Tight oil is extracted by fracking shale to release the trapped oil, similar to the growth in fracking to produce fossil methane (aka "natural gas"). The center of the "tight oil" industry is in the USA. The methane flares from these fields can be seen from space.

Oil sands. Explosive growth in excavating carbon out of tar sands deposits is predicted to supply another big chunk.

NLG. Increases in Natural Gas Liquids (NGLs) are predicted to make up the final wallop of increased fossil oil supplies.

And the rest comes from OPEC which will increase by about 5 mb/d. Non-OPEC, except for tight oil and the oil sands, will be down by about 4 million barrels per day.

Fossil Oil Supplies photo FossilOilSupplies_zpsc595f4f2.jpg

Well, I won't bother giving my opinion... again... of what I think of BPs prediction. I will just post it for your enjoyment. ;-)

Ron P.

It's a mad,mad,mad world. The patient will be well fed. Sadly, though, he will die of a high fever.

Eyeballing that graph it appears that BP expects production from existing wells to decline by just a little over 3% over almost 20 years. How realistic is that? That's an annual decline rate of about 0.1% a year! Assuming such a small decline rate makes it easy to make the case for higher production in the future. But let's take a conservatively realistic number for decline rate over this period of just 3%. That would put existing production at 49 mbpd in 2030.

I would think that the graph implies that total net decline of non-opec conventional will be 3-4 mb/d by 2030.
In their outlook BP is clearly taking the lead in shale/tight oil optimism, predicting that the US tight oil production will be up to 6 mb/d by 2020. I wonder how many wells and how many rigs that would take?

"climate will fry"...it does not have to.

Fast reactors and thorium can replace coal, bio synthetic fuels can replace gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. This page is about "energy and our future".

Not having to use motorized transport in the first place is even better. We need to go medieval.

We could all go back to the commune or the farm, but that is not likely to happen, time goes forward in this universe.

Yeah, ok, then why have I heard all these conversations so many times before?

'Back to the farm or forms of communal living' doesn't have to mean reigniting the 1960's, (or the 1860's) the way some folks think it does.. Even if time goes forward, we all go back to the kitchen for every meal, and back to growing our own food every now and then, too.

Industrialized living might not disappear, but it seems likely enough that it will at least have to make some transitions.

The difference IS there are 7 billion people, soon to be 9 billion people, it is called "carrying capacity". We can exceed that due to abundant affordable energy.

time goes forward in this universe.

Arab saying: My father rode a camel, I drive a car, my son flies a jet plane, his son will ride a camel.

Hopefully my son will ride a solar powered electric assist velomobile.

They may ride camels because they did not plan, you would have trouble getting 9 billion people on camels. IMO it would be disastrous to try, to get to the stage where you have to or even consider having to. With planning and execution, we may not have to go back to the farm nor ride camels.

Biofuels? From what I remember reading here it takes a field of crops, enough food to feed an adult for a year, to make just one tank of fuel. You could use cellulose, if that technology ever matures enough. But that might not work well either. In agriculture little is often wasted, and you might find that "waste" cellulose is needed as animal feed, mulch or fertilizer. With biofuels you could power a relatively small number of cars for the rich and powerful, a handful of light planes. But powering the American motorized lifestyle? Not a chance.

Israel attacks arms convoy in Syria, U.S. confirms

WASHINGTON -- Israeli warplanes struck targets Wednesday outside Damascus, the Syrian capital, according to Syrian and Western reports, amid rising international fear that President Bashar Assad will lose control of his nation’s stockpiles of chemical and advanced weapons.

So Israel claims it hit a convoy of anti-aircraft missiles for Hezbolla, Assad claims they hit a research facility. Don't have a lot of faith in either source, although I'd give only about a 10% probability of Assad telling us the truth, versus maybe 50% for the Israelis. Interesting times.

Interesting article on drilling costs in Marcellus Shale.

WeekendPeak - Good article...thanks. everyone should skim though it if just to get a sense of what to believe/not believe when someone tosses out finding costs not just in the Marcellus but all plays. The biggest take-away IMHO is how companies will toss out their economics with re; to drilling and completion costs but conveniently exclude lease, pipelines and other costs required to bring production on line. For instance Anadarko's talks about the economics in drilling the Marcellus but doesn't include what they've spent in the play. For instance they have over 700,000 gross (260,00 net) acs leased. At $500/ac (which I suspect is a good bit less than they paid on average) that $350 million. Or $130 million depending on how one interprets what they call net acres. If I lease 1,000 acs of land but only own 50% of the well with another company owning the other 50% I have 1,000 gross acs under lease but only 500 acs net under lease. So when they say their drilling/completion cost for a Marcellus well deliver production at the cost of $X/mcf is that based upon their cost of those 700,000 acs or just their 260,000 net acs. Always difficult to interpret such statements.

And from a company's point of view such economic presentations that exclude lease/overhead costs isn't completely dishonest. All those are "sunk costs". While they do determine to economic value of a company's investment in a play they don't impact the economics for drilling the next well. IOW that decision won't use those sunk costs in that analysis. The other good point the article brings out is whether a company is using the cost of wells not completed in the trend as well as acreage condemned by drilling result and won't ever be developed. recent a Bakken well was drilled on a large portion of unexplored acreage. Not only was the Bakken not found to be productive but it wasn't even present in this area.

An alternative point of view, by Deborah Rogers, from September, 2012:

USGS releases damning EUR’s for shale:

The extraordinary hype surrounding this industry has been impressive to say the least. It has clearly been a public relations exercise of disproportionate scale compared to what the wells are actually producing. That should have been our first clue. Methinks they doth propound too much.

For instance, in July 2011 a giddy article on monetizing the Marcellus was published by E&P magazine, an industry publication. They had this to say:

“At press time, Cabot reported new whopper Marcellus wells…the newest wells suggest an EUR of at least 15 Bcf per well[emphasis mine].”

As I make clear in my presentations, such “monster wells” are the darlings of industry PR departments. There is nothing wrong with touting your best results provided you temper such statements. Unfortunately all too often these statements are taken out of context and the reader is left with the notion that every well is performing at these high standards. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth.

Based on production data filed with the Texas Railroad Commission about 94% of all wells in the Barnett are underperforming their type curves. This is not surprising in that every major operator in the Barnett has bailed on its properties. They have jv’ed or sold outright to get the proverbial albatross off their financial necks. I don’t care how much PR spin you put on it, if these properties were monetizing at the giddy levels originally claimed by operators, they would not be selling.

East Texas town rattled by ninth quake since May

... Frohlich said there's been a lot of interest in human causes of Texas earthquakes in relation to the injection of fluids into the ground.

He said there are wells near where Timpson earthquakes were the strongest, and it's possible that the injection of disposable fluids played a role.

“Sometimes when you inject fluids you get earthquakes, (and) in Texas there are (numerous) disposable wells,” he said.

Frohlich noted that faults are also everywhere, and some might be as small as a football field or garage.

He said there is friction to help prevent faults from slipping, but if fluids are pumped in, it can become “like an air hockey table.”

Of course most of these quakes are tiny and don't do anything substantive. But one of these days there may be a big quake that does real damage and someone is going to sue the frackers. That will make a strange case. Did the frackers cause the quake? (Probably) Would a quake have occurred eventually anyway? (Prbbably, but who knows when?) Is there liability? (I dunno.)

Study: Work Needed To Make Algal Biofuel Viable

To date, researchers have struggled to determine if the nonrenewable energy it takes to make a gallon of algal biofuel will be equal to, less than or greater than the energy produced.

A Cornell study published online Dec. 13 in the journal Environmental Science and Technology has addressed that question.

The researchers used computer simulations to analyze uncertainties in the algal biofuel production lineup. They found that when oil is extracted from algae through thermal drying, or when the algal cultivation step has a low yield, the energy produced is less than the energy expended to produce the fuel. However, when methods that promote high algal yields are matched with wet extraction techniques -- both processes that require further technical innovation -- algal biofuels can provide a viable alternative to liquid fossil fuels, like gasoline and diesel.

... While all the steps require improvements, a few of the processes fared particularly poorly, according to the study. For example, all the scenarios studied failed to reach a break-even point when algae were grown with methods that had low yields of biomass. The cultivation phase involves growing algae in large open ponds with a mixer to expose algae to the sun. Fertilizers and carbon dioxide, potentially provided from industrial sources, are needed. Algal productivity depends on species, sun exposure, temperature, competing organisms, culture densities and nutrients.

Similarly, during the lipid extraction phase, no scenario supported a dry extraction process as an energetically viable option. Thermal drying requires too much energy, with solar drying alternatives requiring space. Wet lipid extraction using water under high temperatures and pressure produced the best results, especially when coupled with growing methods that produced high biomass, though those technologies have only been tested on small scales.

Quantitative Uncertainty Analysis of Life Cycle Assessment for Algal Biofuel Production

License will lead to faster-charging batteries for phones, electric vehicles

RICHLAND, Wash. – An enhanced battery technology that can potentially reduce the time it takes to charge cell phones, electric vehicles and other battery-powered devices from hours to minutes is the subject of a commercial license agreement between Battelle and Vorbeck Materials Corp. of Jessup, Md. Battelle operates the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash.

"Today, a typical cell phone battery takes between two and five hours to fully recharge, and an electric vehicle has to be plugged in most of the night to recharge," explained John Lettow, president of Vorbeck Materials. "The pioneering work done by Vorbeck, Princeton University, and PNNL is leading to the development of batteries that recharge quickly, reducing the time it takes to charge a smartphone to minutes and an electric vehicle to just a couple of hours."

Lettow noted the research effort also could lead to the development of batteries that are more stable, have a longer life and store larger amounts of energy.

What? I thought the government didn't make anything?!! /sarc


“Vorbeck Materials Corp. has been awarded a two-year, $1.5 million grant from the US Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E) to develop a low-cost, fast-charging battery for hybrid vehicles. The battery cells are based on lithium-sulfur chemistries, which have a greater energy density compared to today’s lithium-ion batteries. If successful, the system has the potential to shorten recharge times by factor of three, maintain high battery capacity and increase the efficiency of hybrid vehicles by up to 20% while also reducing cost and emissions. ”

Hmm.. LiS.

Russia may become Venezuela's No.1 oil partner

The CEOs of PDVSA, Rafael Ramirez, and Rosneft, Igor Sechin, signed the accords, including a memorandum of understanding for the joint development of the Rio Caribe and Mejillones offshore gas fields, part of the Mariscal Sucre liquefied natural gas project off Venezuela's northeast coast.

... He said the goal is to boost that production to 913,000 bpd by 2019 through a $46.9 billion joint investment program in which the Russian firms will contribute $17.6 billion, more than half of which is to come from Rosneft. "We'll have joint production of 1,123,000 barrels per day by 2021, ...

Sechin, meanwhile, announced that Rosneft has become operator of the vast Orinoco oil belt's Junin-6 block, which it and the other Russian firms that make up the Russian Oil Consortium are developing in a joint venture with PDVSA

I wonder what Putin will do when Chavez decides to 'nationalize' the project.

There are always совершить политическое убийство

UK Oil Output Fell by Record 28% in September-November

Production of petroleum fell a record 27.9% compared with the same period the previous year, according to energy department data, with output particularly hit by a lengthy outage at Buzzard, the largest producing field in the North Sea.

Production of natural gas also fell sharply from September through November--20.6% to be exact.

Separately Thursday, the statistics office said weak output from U.K. mines and quarries--mostly comprising North Sea oil and gas--reflects the longer-term decline in reserves. Output in the sector is now less than 40% of its 1999 peak, equivalent to an annual rate of decline of more than 6%, the office said.

U.S. Purchases Fuel for Afghanistan, Possibly Undermines Own Iran Oil Sanctions

America’s attempts to cripple Iran through economic sanctions may have been undermined by, you guessed it, America.

Yesterday SIGAR, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, released a report showing that the U.S. spent nearly $1.1 billion to import fuel for Afghanistan’s National Army (ANA) between 2007 and 2012. Where the fuel came from is anyone’s guess.

After a harsh lesson in crude economics, new pipelines now biggest issue for country, says Enbridge CEO

The current rock-bottom price for Canadian crude in the U.S. market is the No. 1 challenge facing the country today, leaving governments short of revenue and possibly leading to a big slowdown in future oilsands investment, the head of pipeline-builder Enbridge said Wednesday.

“Nobody’s making any more oil and gas, so we’d better get a fair value for it,” Al Monaco, Enbridge’s chief executive, told the Alberta Enterprise Group. “There is no more critical issue facing Canada today. Failure to develop a consensus around energy development will have serious consequences, for this generation and generations to come,” he said, adding the difference between Canada and U.S. crudes is costing governments and companies about $75 million each day.

Alberta Finance Minister Doug Horner said he thinks other provinces are finally getting that message.

“The significance of this logistical jam (the lack of pipeline capacity) for Canada did not become evident until it was created by our own over-production. And when people see that this is going to affect the GDP of the country, you start to see why Northern Gateway was important.”

Nobody's making any more oil and gas so it is imperative that we use it up as quickly as possible. Am I correct that it is not just about the pipeline through the U.S. but pipelines through Canada as well. He talks about serious consequences for generations to come.

Will this really cause a big slowdown in oilsands investment? That would imply that the current prices are not sufficient to yield a sufficient return on investment.
Generations to come can always put in some pipelines if they so choose.

Some say that stopping the trans Canadian pipeline through the U.S. is pointless because of alternative modes of transportation. Well, this article makes it sound like that resistance may not be so pointless.

If there is indeed a glut, then it appears that the alternative modes of transport are not working out so well.

Of course it is their interest to spin this to create as much fear and angst as possible. So, maybe this should be taken with a grain of salt.

With the perception that peak oil was imminent, we heard more talk about alternatives and conservation. Now, all we hear about is more oil sands, more fracking, more shale oil, gas, and more coal. The availability of all these things should be seen as a short reprieve, not an excuse to ignore all those things that should be done regardless.

MEG unveils rail delivery plan as oil discount widens

Sky-high differentials that have severely eroded heavy oil prices have convinced a second Alberta oilsands producer to take on the ability to deliver all of its production by rail.

On a conference call after announcing a fourth-quarter loss on Thursday, MEG Energy Corp. confirmed that it will have the capability by mid-year to move its entire 32,000 barrels per day of bitumen production by rail and river barge to underutilized refineries on the Gulf of Mexico coast.

Fellow thermal producer Southern Pacific Resource Corp. plans to use rail exclusively and recently moved its first shipments by truck, rail and Mississipi River barge from its newly producing northern Alberta works.

The move is potentially frustrating for environmentalists who hope to stifle oilsands production by halting pipeline projects such as the cross-border Keystone XL, which is awaiting a ruling from the U.S. State Department.

Bill Gross: Be very afraid of the markets

Bond guru and Pimco (PTTRX) managing director Bill Gross isn't buying into the bull market. In fact, he's warning investors to be afraid, be very afraid, of how inflation and the flood of cheap money will affect all investments.

Investors should be prepared to accept "lower returns on bonds, stocks, real estate and derivative strategies," Gross wrote in his monthly letter entitled "Credit Supernova!"...

...While the letter's title obliquely references the band Oasis, Gross opted to lead his monthly missive with an ominous T.S. Eliot quote rather than his usual song lyric: "This is the way the world ends... Not with a bang but a whimper."...

... He says one of his investment committee members wants to buy land in New Zealand and set sail. Land has an inherent value, suggests Gross, unlike other so-called investable assets.

Stoneleigh, Gail, and others (including myself) have been saying this for years. Sounds pretty doomy coming from PIMCO. Good land, good water... they ain't making any more of it. No mention of investing in the energy sector. Where will big energy be when the "Credit Supernova" hits?

I was thinking about New Zealand the other day. Basically in a world warming fast, you really don't want to be caught on a continent (climate warming faster over land than water). So ideally you want to be in a place where there is more water than land. Hence my thinking about the Southern Hemisphere and New Zealand.

Although Europe is quite far North. For example I'm probably on a similar latitude to Montreal and a couple of hundred miles from the sea. But, even now if I go South a few hundred miles things start getting hot and dry (Mediterranean climate). And given the ominous signs that the climate is changing far faster than anyone believed it would, I'm beginning to think seriously about location (again!).

Tough one. And what happens when a couple of billion people get the same idea?

Hopefully, you weren't thinking about Australia. Don't know what this summer in New Zealand has been like.

A US citizen Martin Polin built a cold war bomb shelter up the road a ways from me. Then he died of natural causes and his kids weren't interested. That property is now for sale but it appears to be a long way from a supermarket
Presumably those bunkers are full of cans of baked beans. Maybe Peak Oil is a bigger threat than nuclear war, or maybe it will be something else.

Another view is here

The problem is that you have been saying this for years and the market has continued to rise. Sure, it will eventually fall but when. Just like every year Kunstler predicts a stock market crash. I have been saying this for years too and have thereby not profited from the market rise. Case in point. Look at Amazon stock. Any rational analysis would have predicted its demise years ago. But its rise has been meteoric. Well, at least I have learned one thing. To not predict anything when it comes to the stock market.

Oh, and we have been waiting for inflation for years also. Well, we have inflation but nothing like what has been predicted.

The stock market indices are very good indicators of the valuation of certain tranches of stocks at the moment, and not really much more. The wellbeing of actual people, the (un)employment picture, etc., do not seem to be reflected in the "stock market". There's a disconnect here...

This got me thinking
Here's a news story I got from Ran Prieur
Dell Private buyout

Apparently Michael Dell wants to make Dell private and take it off stock market, this would allow him the luxury of not thinking about quarterly results. And here's a comment on Reddit about the same

This happens because of the short sightedness of the stock market. If you do not have growth every quarter your overpaid board of directors want your head. This is half of the problem of business in general and a large problem for our country as a whole.

Assume you this vision for a company where you sell good, pay your people above minimum wage, have benefits packages, and full time employees. Those things cost you money but you do it because you care about your employees and you want them to have nice lives because the millions of dollars you still make every year is more than enough for you.

I think it's a reflection of how our economy works where GDP dipping for 2-3 quarters is considered a disaster of epic proportions.

Ron Paul has been predicting hyperinflation for more than 30 years now. If it eventually happens there will be many that call him the great oracle. Of course a broken clock . . .

"The problem is that you have been saying this for years and the market has continued to rise."

Yeah, it took $trillions$ in QE, five years, and the markets still aren't back to where they were, though I must confess that the wife and I have benefitted somewhat from other folks' irrational optimism. I hope they squeeze a couple of more years out of this little run, even if they're digging the hole deeper. That said, I've rarely predicted the timing; too many variables, too much inertia, too many fumes still in the tank.

My point is that more financial heavies like Gross are getting on board with the idea that a big reset is baked in. I feel the same about global warming, a point of discussion at Davos this month. Even though the card game continues, it seems some folks are deciding to cash in their chips and hedge their bets, as the ship is undeniably beginning to list a bit more than they were told to expect.

I see parallels with Asimov's Foundation series here, the industrial society has a lot of momentum, it's not just going to stop in two-three years and die, it will take time, a lot of time and even a crumbling superpower can do a lot of things. Maybe "The Limits to Growth" was our own version of Psychohistory.

Brazil Accelerates Ethanol Blend Increase After Fuel Price Rise


"The amount of ethanol will rise to 25 percent from 20 percent, Energy Minister Edison Lobao told reporters in Brasilia today.."

14 killed, dozens injured in blast at Mexican state oil company offices

Mexico City (CNN) -- An explosion rocked the offices of Mexico's state oil company Thursday, killing at least 14 people and injuring dozens more, the country's interior minister said.

At least 80 people were injured in the Mexico City blast, Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong told reporters.

Dozens of people were trapped in the building after the blast, Foro TV reported.

The blast prompted an evacuation of personnel from the Pemex offices, a company spokesman told Notimex.

They are saying it's an accumulation of gas in an electrical supply room on the ground floor, and people were being evacuated before it blew.

15 dead, 100 injured.


Preserving Moral Progress

KMO welcomes Charles C. Mann back to the podcast to discuss the themes of slavery and the second great African diaspora, which took the shape of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. In his book, 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created, Charles details how the human taste for sugar, plantation-style agriculture, and diseases like maleria and yellow fever shaped the social arrangements of Europe, African and the so-called New World and which continue to influence our contemporary way of life. KMO asks Charles about the potential for preserving the moral progress we seem to have made in the last 200 years in an ear of limits to growth and economic contraction. Nicole Foss, in an excerpt from an upcoming Full Circle podcast, weighs in on that same question.


400 ppm CO2 was surpassed in the Arctic in June 2012. I had no idea until bumping into this article. The CO2 measuring station in Mauna Loa, Hawaii is the standard most people go by and is not expected to breach 400 until May, 2014, but in the far north CO2 levels are evidently higher.

Readings are coming in at 400 and higher all over the Arctic. They've been recorded in Alaska, Greenland, Norway, Iceland and even Mongolia.

Fortunately Canada closed its arctic climate research station so we don't have this problem.