Drumbeat: March 16, 2013

We Must Defuse the Subsidy Time Bomb

As the global price of oil rises, Indonesia’s ability to afford its fuel subsidies will be severely tested.

The government is already under severe pressure to keep the budget deficit from ballooning and to reverse a growing trade deficit.

Subsidies are draining away funds that could be better used securing the country’s long-term economic future and improving people’s livelihoods.

WTI Gains for Second Week to Narrow Brent Advantage

West Texas Intermediate crude gained for the sixth time in seven days as the dollar weakened and inventories fell at a major storage hub. The U.S. benchmark narrowed its discount to Brent crude for a fifth week.

WTI rose to a three-week high as the dollar slid to a one- week low against the euro after a report showed U.S. inflation is contained. Stockpiles at Cushing, Oklahoma, decreased last week to the lowest level since December, according to the Energy Information Administration. Futures pared their advance as U.S. stocks retreated after an index of consumer confidence unexpectedly slipped.

Gasoline Advances on U.S. Economic Data, Narrowing Weekly Loss

Gasoline rose for the first time in five days, narrowing a weekly loss, after U.S. economic data signaled improvement in demand.

Futures gained 0.7 percent as U.S. industrial production increased 0.7 percent in February, the most in three months, Federal Reserve data showed. Manufacturing, which accounts for about 75 percent of industrial output, advanced 0.8 percent for the third month in the past four. The fuel’s premium to crude rose for the first time this week and heating oil was higher.

Prices Spike, but Don't Worry; It Won't Last

"The sizeable increase in CPI inflation was not surprising, given the sharp uptick of prices at the pump, which peaked towards the end of February," writes Michael Dolega, economist at TD Economics, in a commentary on the data this morning. He adds that the spikes are not here to stay.

"With gasoline prices moderating into the first half of March, next month's report should see a correction due to the volatile energy component," he adds. Translation: when gas prices level off, so will the broader measure of price growth.

Gas Rigs in U.S. Surge by Most in Three Years as Prices Rise

Gas rigs in the U.S. jumped by the most in more than three years as futures capped a fourth weekly gain and drilling in Louisiana and Oklahoma increased.

Soaring oil price fuels second boom

It is a harsh place to drill for oil with its gale-force winds and enormous waves but the North Sea is fighting back as global operators pump in more cash to secure vital future energy supplies.

States consider increasing gas taxes

If you’ve ever felt the pain at the pump from filling up your tank and wanted to decry big oil, your anger would be misplaced.

That’s because a larger and larger chuck of change out of every gallon of gas you buy is tax going to the government.

Many states have increased gas taxes as a way to increase the tax revenue and shore up budget shortfalls, and use the revenues to fix transportation infrastructure projects that are long overdue.

Brazilian oil states take royalty war to Supreme Court

Brazil’s main oil-producing states asked their country’s Supreme Court on Friday to overturn a new law that strips them of billions of dollars in royalties levied on the output of rich offshore oil fields.

The three main oil-producing states, Rio de Janeiro, Espirito Santo and Sao Paulo, filed challenges with the court in Brasilia arguing that the legislation is unconstitutional because it changes existing contracts and violates Brazil’s fiscal discipline law.

Shell to resume operations at Iraq Majnoon field May 1

BASRA, Iraq (Reuters) - Royal Dutch Shell will resume operations at Iraq's Majnoon oilfield on May 1, with initial production of 100,000 barrels per day (bpd), Oil Minister Abdul Kareem Luaibi said on Saturday.

Iran’s crude exports plunge in March

TOKYO/SINGAPORE, (RTRS): Iran’s crude oil exports in March may plunge by a quarter from a month earlier to the lowest since tight Western sanctions came into effect in 2012, industry sources said, squeezing income for Tehran as sanctions cast doubt over its future revenues.

The fall may result in a revenue loss of about $1 billion for Iran, according to Reuters calculations based on current oil prices, just as the country’s parliament debates President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s spending proposals.

Iran says gas export revenues to double

Iran's gas export revenues are predicted to double once gas exports to Pakistan, Iraq, and some European countries start, the Mehr News Agency quoted Iranian deputy oil minister Javad Oji as saying.

Currently, Iran earns some $3 billion from exporting gas, he said, adding that a new roadmap will soon be developed to target potential markets.

US slaps sanctions on covert Iranian oil-shipping network

WASHINGTON, (RTRS): The United States slapped financial sanctions on Thursday on a Greek businessman it says secretly operated a shipping network on behalf of the Iranian government to get around international sanctions on the country’s sale of oil.

“Today, we are lifting the veil on an intricate Iranian scheme that was designed to evade international oil sanctions,” US Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen said in a statement.

Sudan border rebellion risks unraveling South Sudan deal: UK envoy

JUBA (Reuters) - Sudan's simmering border rebellions could yet unravel a freshly signed deal with South Sudan and jeopardise the expected resumption of the South's oil flows through Sudan, a British envoy said on Friday.

Nigerians own 52% of active oil blocs, foreigners 48% – DPR

The Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR, weekend, revealed that Nigerians currently own 52 per cent of the 173 active oil blocs, while foreign oil companies own 48 per cent.

Chevron says San Francisco Bay crude unit repairs to finish by end Mar

HOUSTON - Chevron Corp. said on Friday it expects to complete repairs to a fire-damaged central crude distillation unit at its 245,000 barrel per day (bpd) San Francisco Bay-area refinery in Richmond, California by the end of March.

BP Seeks to Halt Some Gulf Oil-Spill Settlement Payments

BP Plc asked a judge to halt some payments under the $8.5 billion Gulf of Mexico oil-spill settlement, claiming the administrator is misinterpreting damages claims and increasing the cost to the company.

As a result of policy decisions on certain business economic-loss claims by court-appointed administrator Patrick Juneau, “BP is already exposed to hundreds of millions of dollars in fictitious ‘losses’ that were never contemplated by the agreement,” London-based BP’s attorneys said in papers filed yesterday in federal court in New Orleans.

University of Tennessee Wins Approval for Hydraulic Fracturing Plan

Environmentalists say opening the Cumberland Forest in eastern Tennessee to hydraulic fracturing, a process known as “fracking,” could harm wildlife and scenery on the 8,000-acre tract of state-owned land.

But the university says it would create a rare, controlled environment in which experts could study the environmental impact of the controversial drilling technique, while also generating revenue to finance research.

Decision Delayed on Dangerous Chemical Found in Drinking Water

Science correspondent Miles O'Brien talks to scientists, members of the chemical industry and representatives from Pacific Gas and Electric about chromium-6 contamination in American drinking water. What is a safe level for humans to consume and why has the EPA stalled on setting a federal standard?

Britain’s Plans for New Nuclear Plant Approach a Decisive Point, 4 Years Late

LONDON — If all goes according to plan, the British energy minister on Tuesday will formally approve construction of the country’s first new nuclear power plant in nearly two decades.

But little has gone according to plan in this ambitious project, which is already more than four years behind schedule. Although envisioned as a big bet on Britain’s clean-energy future, the project has been bogged down in months of dickering between the British government and EDF Energy, the French state-controlled power company that is supposed to oversee construction and eventually operate the plant.

Record cesium level detected in fish caught near Fukushima nuclear plant

Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Friday it detected a record 740,000 becquerels per kilogram of radioactive cesium in a fish caught in waters near the crippled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, equivalent to 7,400 times the state-set limit deemed safe for human consumption.

Obama Seeks to Use Oil and Gas Money to Develop Alternative Fuel Cars

The president said the nation was experiencing one of its regular spikes in gasoline prices, in effect a tax on every American household.

“The only way to really break this cycle of spiking gas prices, the only way to break that cycle for good, is to shift our cars entirely — our cars and trucks — off oil,” the president said. “It’s not just about saving money. It’s also about saving the environment. But it’s also about our national security.”

“It’s not a Democratic idea or a Republican idea,” he added. “It’s just a smart idea.”

Two Rising Biofuels Trends: Corn Oil Biodiesel and Sorghum Ethanol

I continue to believe that, contrary to ongoing fear mongering headlines that you see now and then, overproduction of Ag commodities with consequent low prices is the biggest future challenge for agricultural producers. Today’s industrial methods have become very efficient, and are on course to continue to improve that efficiency. Nations abroad are buying more and more mechanized farm equipment, and dramatically increasing outputs, too. Many see Africa as being a huge new frontier in the quest to conquer arable land.

U.N. bodies want to tackle drought to avert food crisis

GENEVA (Reuters) - U.N. agencies want to strengthen national drought policies after warnings that climate change would increase their frequency and severity.

Droughts cause more deaths and displacement than floods or earthquakes, making them the world's most destructive natural hazard, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, one of the groups taking part.

No Decision on Bee-Harming Pesticides in Europe

A proposed measure to restrict the use of pesticides that have been implicated in bee die-offs around the world was left in limbo on Friday, after representatives from Britain and Germany, two of the largest members of the European Union, abstained from the voting in Brussels. The move left the committee without the needed qualified majority, which gives larger countries greater weight than smaller ones.

Boom Over, St. Patrick’s Isle Is Slithering Again

During the Celtic Tiger boom, snakes became a popular pet among the Irish nouveaux riches, status symbols in a country famous for its lack of indigenous serpents. But after the bubble burst, many snake owners could no longer afford the cost of food, heating and shelter, or they left the country for work elsewhere. Some left their snakes behind or turned them loose in the countryside, leading to some startling encounters.

On Western Lands, a Free-Market Path

REDSTONE, Colo. — Deep in the jagged heart of central Colorado lies one of the world’s most beautiful backyards: a rugged and wild quilt of national forest where elk roam and bobcats hunt. It is public land, and as the song says, made for you and me. But the rights to drill it for oil and gas belong to private companies.

Stories of fiercely loved lands like this one often chart a predictable path. Residents opposed to drilling lodge protests with the government, and when that fails, they head to court. But recently, environmental advocates have begun banding together with ranchers, hunters and rich landowners with a novel tactic to preserve the landscapes of the West: they buy out their opponents.

Fish Populations in the United States Rebound

Many commercial fishing stocks off the United States coast that were depleted by decades of overfishing are returning to abundance, thanks largely to a 1996 law that effectively ordered limits on catches until the fish populations had rebounded, a newly released analysis of federal data on fish populations states.

Bloomberg Welcomes Big Container of a Different Variety

The city announced plans on Friday to install in Times Square 30 trash and recycling stations that can compact waste using solar energy and then send wireless signals alerting workers when the bins are full.

EPA might delay climate rules for power plants

The Obama administration is leaning toward revising its landmark proposal to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants, according to several individuals briefed on the matter, a move that would delay tougher restrictions and anger many environmentalists.

House Bill Would Route Keystone Pipeline Around Obama

U.S. House Republicans won’t wait for President Barack Obama to issue a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline. They plan to vote by the end of May on legislation that would sidestep the White House and offer congressional approval to the TransCanada Corp. project.

White House: Green investments trump Keystone decision

A White House aide suggested on Friday that investments in green energy technology would have greater impact on reducing the effects of climate change than whether or not the controversial Keystone XL pipeline gets built.

Moving bitumen to market: the case for rail

The battle over the best way to export Canada’s oil has encountered a new question: who uses the least energy to move a barrel of oil?

Keystone XL: The benefits and costs of a controversial pipeline

Virtually every aspect of KXL’s purported benefits has been carefully dissected, in particular in the United States, where the project has stoked a fierce debate that was revived again this week by senior U.S. officials, who questioned how much good it will do.

Carbon Tax Fight Looms

The White House continues to inch closer to a carbon tax. In Obama’s first post-election press conference, he dodged the question. The next day his spokesman Jay Carney said: “We would never propose a carbon tax, and have no intention of proposing one.” Great, but they don’t have to propose it. The proposals have now been made by Obama’s key allies. Senator Barbara Boxer, the chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee introduced a carbon tax bill with Vermont’s Bernie Sanders, a self-described socialist. On the House side, the top Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee, Henry Waxman, has introduced a carbon tax discussion draft. This week Obama indicated he’s quietly preparing to back these proposals.

America Needs a Coast Guard That Can Fight

Forget for a moment about the U.S. Navy and its "pivot to Asia." Over the next few decades, the woefully underfunded and thoroughly unsexy U.S. Coast Guard will likely hover near the center of the action.

The reason, in three short words: the Arctic Ocean.

If and when that icy expanse opens regularly to shipping, the Arctic will need policing, just like any other marine thoroughfare. It might even become a theater for geopolitical competition, although the short time it will be ice-free each year, the uneven advance and retreat of the icecap, and the unpredictable location of the sea lanes will limit its potential for conflict relative to, say, the Western Pacific or the Persian Gulf. But the potential is there, and up north, the Coast Guard's aging fleet of cutters and small craft will be critical to upholding maritime security and hedging against maritime conflict.

Re: We Must Defuse the Subsidy Time Bomb (Uptop, Re: Indonesia)

I'm reminded of a passage from a "A Christmas Carol, In Prose."

“Before I draw nearer to that stone to which you point,” said Scrooge, “answer me one question. Are these the shadows of the things that will be, or are they shadows of things that may be, only?”

Still the Ghost pointed downward to the grave by which it stood.

“Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead,” said Scrooge. “But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change. Say it is thus with what you show me!”

Note that Indonesia's petroleum consumption subsidies persisted, even after they became a net importer (in 2003).

Because of the production decline, and because of the steady increase in consumption, Indonesia is a case history of past performance accurately predicting future performance. Based on the initial six year (1991 to 1997) rate of decline in their ECI ratio (ratio of total petroleum liquids production to liquids consumption), they would hit zero net oil exports in 2003, which is exactly what happened.

Of course, Indonesia's economy is more diversified that many other net exporters, e.g., Saudi Arabia, but most net exporters are seeing rising net cash flow, despite an overall post-2005 decline in Global Net Exports of oil (GNE*). Assuming that the (2005) Top 33 net exporters received about 90% of the annual Brent price in 2005 and in 2011, the approximate gross cash flows from Global Net Exports sales in 2005 and 2011 would be as follows:

2005: 16.8 Gb/year X $50/barrel = $840 billlion

2011: 16.1 Gb/year X $100/barrel = $1,610 billion

*Top 33 net exporters in 2005, BP + EIA data, total petroleum liquids

And then there is the rapidly increasing consumption in developing countries:

China poised to top U.S. as top oil buyer; increased car sales spur jump

“The trend of falling U.S. oil imports and rising Chinese oil demand is moving China closer to passing the United States,” said agency head Adam Sieminski, who recently has been closely chronicling China’s remarkable rise in world energy markets. . .

China passed a milestone last year by surpassing the United States as the top oil importer from the Middle East, but oil is not the only fuel China is voraciously consuming these days. The Asian economic giant in recent years became the world’s biggest energy consumer overall, taking all sources of fuel into account, and it soon will use more coal than the rest of the world combined, the agency estimates.

China’s oil consumption is burgeoning as the result of millions more Chinese acquiring cars each year in what is now the world’s biggest and fastest-growing market for automobiles. Chinese auto production reached 16 million units last year, compared with 14.5 million in the U.S., the second-largest auto producer. With 1.5 billion upwardly mobile citizens, some predict the Chinese market will surge to 25 million vehicles within a short three years. . .

Oil demand in China hit a record 10.6 million barrels a day in December and is now more than half the U.S. consumption rate, according to the industry monitoring firm Platts. With predictions of a doubling in auto sales, that could prove to be only the tip of the iceberg for world oil markets, analysts say. Currently only 44 out of 1,000 Chinese citizens owns a car, compared with about 6 out of 10 in the U.S (or 600 out of 1,000).

“But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change. Say it is thus with what you show me!”

... that could prove to be only the tip of the iceberg for world oil markets...

After warnings from the crows nest weren't heeded, by the time the threat became horribly apparent, it was too late to change the course of the juggernaut Titanic (but the band played on).


We are all familiar with the story of the Titanic-the people first deny the fact, then hope for the best, then go into a helpless panic, and then die. Too bad. And totally unnecessary.

Now let’s rewind the tape and start over. Call this one Titanic B. Up to the time the ship hits, everything is the same on B as it was on A, But when the captain of B gets the word from his engineer that they have a mortal wound, he doesn’t hesitate or dither around hoping, he instantly grabs the bull horn and yells:

“This is the Captain speaking. This ship has just received a mortal wound and is going to sink in two hours. Crew will immediately launch all lifeboats to form a raft building crew on the right side. All passengers and other crew will immediately start tearing up decking and any components of the ship that will float and toss them over the left side to be built into rafts. All sheeting, blankets, anything that can be made into ropes or covers will be delivered to the rope building crew amidships for tying the rafts together. Crew will rig up chutes to allow passengers to get down to the rafts as they are assembled. When the rafts are built and loaded with passengers, the lifeboats will tow them a safe distance from the ship.
And anyone denying the danger, or delaying or impeding this work in any way will stay on the ship and go down with it.

And so, in due course, when the rescue ship Carpathia finally appears over the horizon a few hours later, it finds, not a bunch of floating corpses, but B’s passengers, most of them, all huddled on top of those flotsam rafts, miserable, but alive.

And the deniers have gone down with the ship.

Well, fellow passengers, which ship are we on? You have to choose, fast, since our Titanic- fossil fuel-based civilization- has got a mortal hit- global warming- and according to our engineer- the atmospheric scientists- is headed for a titanic catastrophe, sooner rather than later.

Now, do we all get together and build those non-carbon rafts, or do we keep up the dance and the wine tasting and hope that that the nasty news isn’t real? Your choice.

And keep in mind that we have lots of what it takes to make those life-saving non-carbon rafts- lots of knowledge, technology, materials, money, management, and everything it takes- except for one thing.

What we don’t have lots of, instead we have very, very little of- is time.

So, as Captain B says, “DO IT”.

And to carry the analogy further: the movie "Lifeboat". Enough provisions to ensure the survival of just some of the survivors. The captain (just a seaman) is in command and has the power (a pistol). So the less "valuable" are put over the side. Resources are allocated as per the decision of TPTB.

Sound familiar?

Well, then perhaps New Guinea should be our Collapse sanctuary target ; )

New Guinea - 7,000 year civilization success - "Collapse" by Diamond

Per the book, "People have been living self-sustainably in New Guinea for about 46,000 years, until recent times without economically significant inputs from societies outside the highlands, and without inputs of any sort except trade items prized just for status (such as cowry shells and bird-of-paradise plumes)."

Also "It was therefore a shock, when airplanes chartered by biologists and miners first flew over the interior in the 1930s, for the pilots to see below them a landscape transformed by millions of people previously unknown to the outside world. The scene looked like the most densely populated areas of Holland"

That's what I thought was most interesting about Collapse. Some societies do avoid collapse. It's not inevitable.

Unfortunately, I don't think it's a coincidence that the societies that succeed are islands or otherwise isolated. I suspect that isolation is necessary to avoid being forced into an unsustainable technological arms race.

leanan, what do you mean precisely by "islands or otherwise isolated"?
what do you mean by "succeed"? to what kind of data do you refer to?
is there any easily accessible data available?
to what period of history or prehistory do you refer to?
frankly i don't understand what you are trying to say?

From the context "succeed" means "avoiding collapse after many generations". It *is* interesting that some societies isolated by sea or mountain ranges can show such sustainability, and the reason might very well be isolation from advances in "technology". The latter is an evolutionary adaptation whose success is still in question.

Yes, the advanced societies do seem to wipe themselves out with their own technology. Probably because technology allows them to go deep into overshoot before they reach limits or changes they cannot adapt to.

Grand but useless building projects seem to be a common denominator amongst failing civilisations (eg. a generation after Stone Henge was built their civilisation was gone). Unless like pre 20th Century China they tame progress and keep it on a tight leash. Its unfortunate that China and Japan removed the leash and let free the beast of progress. Their respective periods of self-isolation and restrained progress seemed to put them on the path to success. Look at them now, what a mess.

Recommended reading on the topic of collapse; "Why the West Rules - For Now. " by Ian Morris.

It's not light reading, but does discuss "the paradox of social development, the tendency for development to generate the very forces that undermine it" . The book has a nice discussion of the Late Bronze Age Collapse, the fall of Rome, and various other set back not just in Europe but in China as well, which was doing the same things with an offset in time.

Looks like a very interesting book... thanks.

"What a mess" indeed!

I live in Japan. I now see department stores with half the spring clothing stock they had last year.

They tried to spread out the clothes on the racks to make it seem as though there were no scarcity, but the situation is clear: they cannot sell very much,so they are ordering less, much less.

Demand must be in freefall, I am assuming.

The government furiously prints money, but it has no effect.
Perhaps this staves off the crash for another few months ony.

There is now serious talk of Japan joining the TPP, which means no more public health care here (public health care is anti-trade since multi-international insurance companies must be allowed to enter the "market".)

The price of gasoline is 158 yen per liter, up from 143 before the yen was devalued.

I can guess that even joining the TPP will stave off the inevitable for only a year at most, and that Japan will surely lose access to oil supplies as its currency dwindles in value.

It is amazing how this is playing out here, by the way. As the situation becomes more desperate, the leaders are seen to be more and more "heroic".

There is no attempt at all to discuss long-term effects of ever more costly oil supplies. Depletion is a word that doesnt exist.

Japan's "power", its place as the "center of Asia", its "huge and magnificent economy" are the new rhetoric. These are the things "we must protect".

Rally around. Don't ask questions. Let the "heroes" have their way.

Pretty scary!!!!

Scary indeed pi, hope you're keeping well.

I've been fully aware of what we face for 10 years now and watched things slowly develop and worsen over that time. But for some reason, which I'm not fully cognisant of why, I've been scared by things I've come across the last few weeks. Nothing that I wasn't expecting, but suddenly seeming very scary and alarming.

I think for 10 years I've been intellectually aware, but now its becoming less cerebral and the amygdala (lizard brain) has got a hold of it.

Heightened awareness, gut feeling, six sense or just uneasiness? I don't know, I'm beginning to wonder whether we're entering a new phase where things are going to get real (ie. cannot be ignored).

Kinda self explanatory isn't it? I had no trouble understanding what she was trying to say. However...

I suspect that those societies that do avoid collapse usually have not had time to collapse. If for some reason a population manages to avoid overpopulation and food scarcity they will not likely collapse. And it certainly helps if they are isolated thereby avoiding invasion and/or the huge expense of keeping a standing army to repel an invasion.

Collapses are always caused. They are not an automatic natural occurrence. And overpopulation is almost always one of the main contributors to collapse. And populations that do manage to avoid collapse for long periods of time usually have some means of controlling their population. And I don't mean birth control, I mean like involuntary servitude like the ancient Egyptians or the Chinese dynasties. Malnutrition is also a great check on population.

It took over Mayans over 1400 years before they collapsed. They had cities in 600 BC and likely even before that. Their collapse that began about 800 AD and was triggered by overpopulation and a severe drought that lasted several years that caused massive starvation.

Ron P.

The societies Diamond labels as successes are not held in check by Malthusian forces. Rather, they maintain a stable population because it's important to them to do so. They believe in sustainability the way Americans believe in freedom and democracy.

Yes and Diamond says some societies "choose" to succeed and others "choose" to fail. Tainter says he doesn't believe that and neither do I. The Mayans did not choose to collapse and neither did the Easter Islanders or the Romans.

Prior to the industrial revolution and the cheap energy of fossil fuel the population of the world was held in check by Malthusian forces. Then cheap energy brought massive amounts of food and other human needs that enabled the population to explode.

Malnutrition among the masses has always been the norm rather than the exception. The countries of Europe, prior to the industrial revolution were very stable though a few suffered political upheaval. The populations of Europe, and indeed most of the rest of the world, were kept in check purely by Malthusian forces.

As a young man in the mid 60s I spent many hours reading The Story of Civilization by Will and Ariel Durant. Most of written history is about Kings and Queens, Popes and Generals and war, always war. But when people write of the history of the average people, and the Durants often did, it is always a Malthusian story. A few, a very few, lived the life of the wealthy but the masses always, always, always lived lives misery and hunger with little hope. Malthusian forces were ever present everywhere, absolutely everywhere.

Recent times of plenty have enabled the population to explode. In the half million years of human history prior to the industrial revolution it never exploded before, and with good reason. Malthus knew very well what that reason was. Yet, with so much written history to support him, some people still do not realize what the plight of the average human was throughout most of history.

"Sennely is a typical self-sufficient village near the French City of Orleans. It consists of subsistence farmers whose needs are supplied locally: rye grain for bread, cattle, pigs, apples, pears, plums, chestnuts, garden vegetables, fish in the ponds, and bees for honey and wax.

"Population and resources are more-or-less in balance because of the poor health of the residents: they tended to be stunted, bent over, and of a yellowish complexion. By the time children were ten or twelve, they assumed the generally unpleasant appearance of their elders: they moved slowly, had poor teeth, and distended bellies. Girls reached the age of 18 before first ministration.

"Malnutrition was the norm. One third of the babies died in the first year and only one third reached adulthood. Most couples had only one or two children before their marriage was broken by the death of one parent. 'Yet, for all that, Sennely was not badly off when compared to other villages.'"
George Huppert, “After the Black Death” [p. 3]

Ron P.

Definitely, the populations of Europe were held in check by Malthusian forces. But as I recall, none of Diamond's examples of societies that have succeeded were in Europe. (The reasons for this are probably those covered in Guns, Germs, and Steel.)

The societies Diamond points to as successes are very different from those in Europe. As I said, I believe their relative isolation is a big reason they were able to be successful, though I don't believe he discussed it in Collapse. (He has discussed the pros and cons of isolation elsewhere.) Even if you know everyone would be better off if you had fewer children, if you're at war with an enemy, you have to have more kids (more soldiers, more mothers, more laborers) or you will lose. At least, until you reach the technological point where it's not sheer numbers that win.

It's likely some societies did make the sustainable choice...but were then overrun by those that did not. That is, the same reason hunter-gatherers are found only in the most marginal environments now. It is a great life, a much better one than farming. So why are there so many farmers and so few foragers? Because farmers win the wars.

So why are there so many farmers and so few foragers? Because they win the wars.

Really now? People had babies so they could win wars? No, people and animals have babies because that's what all animals do. And historically populations of all types of animals have always had more offspring than could possibly survive on the available resources.

Biological evolution is driven by the tendency of all organisms to expand their habitat and exploit the available resources... Those who are the most successful in doing so win the evolutionary race. Thus we humans do what all creatures do, and we have so far been a notable success.
Immoderate Greatness: Why Civilizations fail by William Ophuls

The simple truth is a given area of land can support ten or more people as farmers for every one hunter-gatherer. Expanding populations were forced into farming in order to feed their families. True, they would have much more leisure time as hunter-gatherers but Malthusian forces forced them to become farmers.

Ron P.

Generally hunter-gatherer populations did not become farmers but were liquidated via genocide, displacement or demographic absorbtion into the larger farmer populations. Examples include agriculturalists moving up the Danube valley and spreading across Europe, Europeans spreading through North America and parts of Latin America, expansions of rice farmers in China and Southeast Asia, settlement of Australia, and the spread of Bantu farmers across Africa.

Metal using farmers generally had a harder time liquidating neolithic farmers. For example, the neolithic farmers of Mexico and Peru survived in larger numbers and make up a larger part of those country's gene pools. European metal using farmers were relatively unsuccessful in the long term against the Bantu farmers of Africa, despite the latter's more primitive use of iron implements.

You completely misunderstood my point. I was not speaking of modern day or historically recent hunter-gatherers. I was speaking of the time when everyone were hunter-gatherers. For at least 95 percent of human history there were only hunter-gatherers. There were no farmers whatsoever. The first farmers became farmers because of Malthusian forces.

There was not enough game, grubs or roots to support everyone so they learned to plant the seeds and tubers that they ate. That way a patch of land would only grow food for them, not food for animals or stuff they could not eat.

Of course farming had to evolve slowly. A few learned it at first and cultivated stuff to supplement their game and gathering. Then when the game got scarce those who had plots had a higher survival rate. It had to happen something like that but my point was that the natural selection works on culture as well as plants and animals. The people who began to cultivate plants had a survival advantage over those who did not. Therefore farming simply evolved as a survival mechanism.

Ron P.

If Malthusian forces compelled hunter-gatherers to become farmers, then why didn't faming begin earlier and in more than a handful of places. Over the last few 10s of thousands of years there have been a lot of hunter-gatherer tribes, they have generally been in balance with resources, and they were often stressed by climate change or by more localized failures of the environment to produce fish, game, fruits and vegetables. Yet, the record is that farming originated in only a handful of places and it spread from those places as farming populations grew and overwhelmed their hunter-gathering neighbors.

It is just as likely that farming evolved in Eurasia in the most properous and dense hunter-gatherer societies, first with the domestication of the dog, then with some simple animal husbandry of goats and sheep, with gardening and orchard tending, and then with farming proper for grains and starchy tubers. The progression may have been significantly different in southeast Asia, New Guinea, and Central America. Possibly farming evolved to satisfy religious or ritual needs. There is some thought that early grains were unsuitable for making bread, but a lot better for making beer for religious and/or recreational purposes.

Necessity is often the mother of improvisation, but not necessarily the mother of invention. Invention requires the extra time and resources to explore inquiries that have only a small chance of suceeding.

Merrill, Malthusian forces compelled the first farmers to become farmers, wherever on earth that might have been. Farming then enabled far more people to live on a given area of land than did hunter-gathering. Farmers then, with their vast superior numbers, simply overwhelmed the remaining hunter-gatherers. It is that simple. There is nothing complicated about it.

Yes, there are still isolated hunter-gatherer tribes. They are almost always engaged in some kind of warfare as my quote from Pinker explains. (I have far more data on this subject of hunter-gatherer warfare. Here is one of the best books ever published on the subject. Constant Battles: Why We Fight.) Their numbers are kept in check by other than Malthusian forces.

Farming is what supports the current 7 billion people on earth. How many people do you think the earth could support if they all were hunter-gathers and there were no farmers whatsoever? Think about it and I think you will see my point. Well, it's not just my point, many historians have made the same observation.

Ron P.

Hey hey Darwinian,

Have you read Craig Dilworth's Too Smart for our Own Good: The Ecological Predicament of Humankind? It's a dry yet depressing book and I couldn't put it down. The core concept of the book is so damn darwinian that Amazon bills it as taking over where Darwin left off .

Essentially our big brains and opposable thumbs give us the potential to change much faster than other species. Other species have to change tools and tactics at the rate of genetic adaptation while we can adapt much, much faster. Other species have to evolve, in the genetic sense, weapons or armor or camouflage to respond to selection pressure while we can make those changes through tools much faster. The "problem" is that our capacity to adapt exceeds or environment's capacity to adapt. Normal evolution pits a predator's ability to prey against the preys capacity to evade and both parties adapt at comparable rates. We adapt much more quickly. Dilworth calls it the vicious circle.

If you haven't read it I think that you should. I can mail you my copy if you are interested.


Tim, I have a copy. I ordered it some time ago but ordered two other books at the same time and I just have not gotten around to reading it yet. I have intended to pick it up and read it for some time but something else always came up. But you have convinced me that I should read it now. Thanks,


On the amazing "adaptability" of racoons:


It may someday be said that humans are not so "special," after all.

The thesis is persuasive. People use up their own resources, then they try to grab the other guy's resources.

That explains baboons raiding the farmer's fields, and Americans in Iraq.

From the Amazon reviews, LeBlanc wishes to debunk the "noble savage living in harmony with nature" myth.

When we look at animals and birds in nature, they always look healthy and in their prime. We could conclude that Nature is a benign environment for creatures. But we missed the stealthy rush and stifled shriek as a predator snatches the sick, the old, and the malformed. That is the mechanism that keeps Nature looking good.

Having defeated all our predators, we must prey on ourselves.

"There was not enough game, grubs or roots to support everyone so they learned to plant the seeds and tubers that they ate." ~ Darwinian

Perhaps there was enough game, grubs or roots to support everyone, but they thought farming might be somehow better and/or advantageous. Why nuclear energy?

Maybe one perceived advantage of farming was to reduce the risk of transgressing others' territories... (paradoxically freeing up their time to make weapons.)

Perhaps there was enough game, grubs or roots to support everyone,

I think you forgot to put a smiley face after that comment. Do you really think hunting game and gathering grubs and roots could support as many people as farming? Farming today supports over seven billion people. How many people do you thing wild game, wild roots and grubs could support?

Ron P.

Do you really think hunting game and gathering grubs and roots could support as many people as farming? ~ Darwinian

Hunting-and-gathering supported the numbers it did, and it is suspected that farming, as a technology, came out of time, observation and experimentation, rather than there not being enough to hunt-and-gather per se, even though it had that application before the fact.

How many people do you thing wild game, wild roots and grubs could support? ~ Darwinian

Sustainably over time? I'd guess far more than current industrial farming practices.

"The Eden that Europeans described when they reached North America was not a wilderness, but a well-managed resource, a complex combination of nature and culture, ecology and economy, a system so subtle and effective that it eluded the settlers who saw only natural wealth free for the taking..."
~ http://www.intelligentagent.com

And then there's permaculture. Who knows where it will be in the next 1000 years, assuming humans are around to practice it.

I asked: How many people do you thing wild game, wild roots and grubs could support?
You replied:

Sustainably over time? I'd guess far more than current industrial farming practices.

I am at a loss for words. And do you think hunter-gatherers or primitive farmers were ever concerned about sustainability? The discussion was why people turned to farming instead of remaining forever hunter-gatherers. Anyway try this one:
Hunter-gatherers: Noble or savage?

The era of the hunter-gatherer was not the social and environmental Eden that some suggest

Constant warfare was necessary to keep population density down to one person per square mile. Farmers can live at 100 times that density. Hunter-gatherers may have been so lithe and healthy because the weak were dead. The invention of agriculture and the advent of settled society merely swapped high mortality for high morbidity, allowing people some relief from chronic warfare so they could at least grind out an existence, rather than being ground out of existence altogether.

And Leanan, this guy quotes Diamond:

So was agriculture “the worst mistake in the history of the human race”, as Jared Diamond, evolutionary biologist and professor of geography at the University of California, Los Angeles, once called it?

No, it wasn't a mistake. It was just one of those things humans do in their struggle for survival. It was never a "choice". It was just what circumstances drove the human race to do.

Ron P.

Constant warfare was necessary to keep population density down to one person per square mile. ~ Darwinian quoting The Economist article

The Economist? Well ok... (Where's the author of the article? Maybe their name comes somewhere after the article?)

This statement again seems in reverse, as though warfare is intentionally tasked with keeping the population density down, rather than the population density being kept down as the result of warfare. I somehow doubt that the hunters and gatherers were thinking, "Hey, we gotta keep the population density down again this week. Time for another fight!".

Tribe, the point is made in the content of the article, it is not about the author. Do not attack the author, or "the man". You know what that kind of attack is called.

I find your suggestions that, that the article suggested, that hunter-gatherers would have intentionally used warfare to control their population, more than a little absurd. History is what happened, no one intended for warfare to control populations, that's just the way it worked out. After all, something had to control the population simply because the territory would only support about one hunter-gatherer per square mile. So if warfare would not do it then starvation would do it. It just worked out that in most cases it was warfare that did it.

Hey man, think about it. That is all you have to do. Just read the article and think for a minute and don't make up silly things like hunter-gatherers intentionally using warfare to control their population. That is not even remotely what the article suggests. And if you had bothered to read it you would have known that.

Ron P.

Ron, FWIW, for the most part I think we're generally on the same page.
Last night I got swamped by other things, but what I wanted to add was-- and perhaps you'll agree-- that different forms and levels of farming likely came from all kinds of reasons and dynamics, maybe some political, and even mythical, irrational, spiritual, artistic or religious, etc.. (That's in part why I asked about nuclear.)

Also, perhaps those who got into farming (or aspects thereof), sometimes got locked-in, too, in some ways, once they crossed certain thresholds. For example, maybe over some time, a generation or more, they lost some wild-food knowledge and/or memory of places where it was growing, etc..

When I was a kid, just out of plain curiosity and fun, I planted a couple of dry beans in my mother's flowerpots, among her geraniums, just to see if they'd sprout. And they did and that was pretty cool. Perhaps if I was to have continued with more kinds of produce, and flowerpots, and starting to feed the family with it, over time, they might have lost the ability to recall where the grocery store was located.

~ Caelan

the fine print
Maybe some liked particular plants because they got them stoned, so farming came from just wanting to get high, or getting high created farming. Maybe they felt, deep in their hearts that farming was fundamentally a bad idea but they usually didn't care because it was the trip that counted, rather than the destination.

Even more easy than that. Once they picked up farming, population grew. Once they were twize the size, they could not go back unless they wanted to half the population. In later steps, farming wiped out the eco systems that suported hunter/gathering.

Indeed... My wife and I do a lot of wilderness canoe trips in Ontario and hiking in the Rockies when we go out to visit her family in BC. It's amazing how little wildlife we see in the backcountry on most of these trips. Trying to live off the land would certainly be challenging -- especially in winter! Agriculture is what ensures that we never go hungry.

Permaculture talks it up, but delivers very little on many fronts. In many ways it is fossil fuel intensive, to set up, then low input with comensurate low output. I struggle to justify the investment, because the EROEI is so low. In terms of calories yeild, permaculture can't compete with modern agriculture. Bill Mollison can make as many extravagent claims as he wants, thats what sells the tickets. As far as delivering hard scientific yeilds, analysis or something that is demonstable and repeatable he falls far short. People like to believe it, for the same reasons people believe technology will save us, or fracking will save us, or fusion et al.

Go ahead and try gardening with permaculture techniques/principles and see what the yeilds are, then compare that to yeilds from a conventional farm that supplies a supermarket. I don't even know of a permaculture centre that grows all of its own food. These are places that charge people for internship labour, claim abundance in food production, yet are not even self sufficient in food.

Great concepts, too bad they don't work so well in the real world.

While I'm relatively very new to permaculture, unless you have something better to suggest, it appears the best to come across so far regarding any kind of hope for the future, if all isn't already lost of course.

We'd be kidding ourselves if any kind of human concept or endeavor-- permaculture included-- didn't have any problems or negative repercussions, but unless our beloved industrial ag can pull a rabbit out of its hat, it appears to be on the way out. I also have my doubts that industrial ag is 'self-sufficient in food'. If anything, not only do I suspect the contrary, but also that it puts a serious drag on other, relatively-unrelated systems.

BTW, permaculture is not just about growing food, though. It's also about care of Earth, care of people and permanence, among other things. That seems like a pretty good basis for anything that might have a glimmer of hope for success if you ask me.

Again, if you have better ideas, please feel free.

Move away from large population centres, make every effort to be self sufficient, learn how hard it actually is. Once I began to grasp how difficult it is to learn new skills without the aid of fossil fuels, I quickly realised that without fossil fuels most of the population would be stuffed, at best third world conditions, at worst total disaster. Luckily there are still pleanty of fossil fuels left, or at least enough that we wont have to live in a world without them, just a reduced supply.

Industrial ag is clearly unsustainable, that however doesn't guarantee a viable alternative. When I first learnt about peak oil, I looked for alternative food production techniques, including permaculture, and some of its forebears like the "one straw revolution"/"natural way of farming". They have some great principles but the techniques are very difficult to replicate, or in the case of the famous 'ten cows per acre' just pure baloney.

Permaculture ethics; earth care, people care, fair share. Yet very little is given away for free.

As an individual if you can afford the land, and to do some water harvesting techniques, some hugleculture, grow some wheat etc, you'll be able to outrun the rest. However the EROEI of the earthworks is too low for society, espicially a society on the downslope of the gaussian curve to afford.

Yes. There was an interesting study released last year. They did DNA analysis, and found that it wasn't farming that spread through Europe: it was farmers. Foragers in Europe weren't forced to take up farming. They were replaced by a farming people who emigrated from the south.

They did DNA analysis, and found that it wasn't farming that spread through Europe: it was farmers.

Kinda the same thing isn't it? In the Middle East hunter-gatherers became farmers and that enabled their population to grow far to far greater numbers than hunter-gathering would permit. Then the superior numbers of farmers allowed them to overtake hunter-gatherers everywhere.

It all has to do with how many people a given area of land can support. That is why the world is supported today by farming and not by hunter-gathering. Of course farming spread around the world. More food allowed farmers to vastly increase their numbers.

Eon P.

I hardly know where to jump in on this debate, but I'll offer these points.
1. Farming probably started when a family/tribe found a perfect spot and decided to stake it out as theirs. Such spots would almost certainly be alongside rivers & streams, with rich soil, a ready supply of water, good solar exposure, etc.

2. Farming and defence go together: a family/tribe would not invest in an area (including whatever sweat went into growing crops and confining & protecting livestock) unless they had some reasonable prospect of being able to (regularly) defend it against raiders.

3. Farming and shelter go together: if a family/tribe intends to stay, they will make themselves as comfortable and secure as possible. The more one has invested in one's shelter, etc the more determined one is likely to be to defend it.

4. When a family/tribe stays in one spot, they learn about that land and what it can produce: what's been tried, what works and what doesn't, etc. Humans are innate experimenters, and early steps like transplanting, identifying & reducing weeds, manuring, etc. would soon bear fruit and become established practices. As Wendell Berry and others have pointed out, agri-culture/intimate knowledge of one's land is very important... when a multi-generational farm is sold, a lot of useful info is often lost in the transaction.

5. Humans are naturally lazy, so discovering that staying in one spot, doing a bit of digging, transplanting & watering, etc is easier & safer than running around bumping into hostile tribes... all you have to do is defend what you have (knowing that around harvest time, others will want it, too).

6. Humans clued into the importance of grasses, which are easily transplanted. All of our essential grains are grasses: rice, wheat, corn, oats, rye, etc. I have a wonderful old book called "Coat of the Earth," which is exactly what the grasses are. We cued into legumes as well and (without understanding nitrogen fixation) realized the merits of companion planting, etc.

I have no idea how much of this evolution would be due to conscious decision-making, Malthusian forces, innate human instinct, etc. But I do think that the process would include most of these factors.

It appears that there is no generally accepted theory of what caused the shift from hunting-gathering to farming. A description of the current thought on the issue is contained in Current Anthropology Volume 52, Supplement 4, October 2011, a 341 page collection of papers named "The Origins of Agriculture: New Data, New Ideas: Wenner-Gren Symposium Supplement 4".

Since farming requires more work than hunting-gathering, there must have been a motivation. Which factors pushed and/or pulled societies into farming are unclear. Agriculture did develop in regions that were relatively rich environmentally, and which supported large human populations. Growing complexity of human society may have been a factor. Slavery seems to have existed from the beginning of agriculture to the industrial revolution.

I think it's a lot more complicated than that.

It does seem like permanent human settlements first appeared in the areas that were most fertile. People didn't settle down because they had to farm, they settled down in areas where resources were so abundant they didn't have to keep moving.

But this didn't necessarily lead to agriculture. Some cultures lasted for thousands of years in settlements, without becoming agriculturalists. Apparently because there was no need to. What exactly it was that led people to take up agriculture is still unknown and is widely debated.

I think we cane safely assume the first farmers were not doing agri but cattle. Then for some reason they begun taking up agriculture as well.

I don't think we can assume that. Agriculture developed independently in different areas of the world, including in areas where there were no cattle. Evidence of agriculture is older than evidence of cattle domestication.

The harvesting of crops in fertile areas does not necessarily require settled agriculture; hunter-gatherers could visit such places occasionally to reap, weed, and replant. Possibly a few members would be left to keep away predators and otherwise tend the site. According to Gibbon the Romans maintained chestnut trees along their army routes in this manner.

But the wikipedia article on Mesopotamia had this section added in 2007:
"The arid environment which ranges from the northern areas of rain-fed agriculture to the south where irrigation of agriculture is essential if a surplus energy returned on energy invested (EROEI) is to be obtained [...] the usefulness of irrigation depends upon the ability to mobilize sufficient labor for the construction and maintenance of canals, and this, from the earliest period, has assisted the development of urban settlements and centralized systems of political authority."

This would also apply to the Nile Valley as well, so EROEI seems to be a factor in early agricultural civilizations, likely also driving warfare to obtain energy-efficient slaves.

No, it's not the same. This is in fact the point we are debating. There is a big difference between "hunter-gatherers were forced to take up farming because they grew too numerous to live by foraging" and "hunter-gatherers were forced off their land by people who were able to increase their population density by farming instead of foraging."

Really now? People had babies so they could win wars?

It's not necessarily a consciously made decision. Rather, the society with the higher population is the one that wins the conflict. So their way becomes the dominant way.

The simple truth is a given area of land can support ten or more people as farmers for every one hunter-gatherer. Expanding populations were forced into farming in order to feed their families. True, they would have much more leisure time as hunter-gatherers but Malthusian forces forced them to become farmers.

There are foraging societies that survive today. Why were they not forced to become farmers?

Diamond's examples of societies that succeeded have population limits as an important part of their cultures. One of them specifically has zero population growth as their ideal. They've agreed on a maximum population limit, and people are encouraged or even ordered to leave if they go over.

Other methods of limiting population growth: late marriage, long periods of time between children, encouraging the kinds of sex that don't result in pregnancy, glorifying suicide, abortion and infanticide.

He described one island where people who went on sea journeys were treated with great admiration. These adventurous types were often young people at the beginning of their adult lives. They'd be celebrated in a huge party, then go off to sea, never to return. Likely to die at sea. I couldn't help wondering if this was how the Polynesians settled the Pacific. Obviously, some of them did find new islands and found new societies...but I wonder how many just died at sea.

As alluded to earlier, the key seems to be living on an island or an otherwise isolated and finite area where it is quite clear that there are limits to carrying capacity. The example I remember is an island that, as you say, had people leave the island or engage in infanticide. It would seem that human evolution follows different paths in different cultures and circumstances and one circumstance is the recognition that there is not an option to simply exploit some other culture or island for one's sustenance. In essence, the island cultures recognize limit which our modern culture cannot seem to grasp since we are so used to going elsewhere or using international trade to supplement our local resources.

Decades ago, of course, people like Kenneth Boulding proposed Spaceship Earth as a metaphor to get people to recognize that there are limits an that we should modify our behavior to recognize those limits. Well, that idea never practically spread much beyond academia and yet was a major influence in some of our lives and perspectives.

Anyway, the domainant culture now which sees itself as much more advanced than those primitive islanders has far less wisdom as it confuses our amazing technology as being able to overcome finite limits. Hubris to the max.

Yes, 'Island Earth' is what I thought about.

Technology seems like an island that we are not on; that our tech capacities are 'extended' to that island, thus removing and/or at odds with a kind of fundamental tangible and/or visceral control and/or understanding... Remote-"control" specialists, drone aircraft, food (h-&-g > farming > industrial ag), debt, energy, government, resources, film & internet (social/temporal/spacial/etc. disconnects)...

...As opposed to, say, realtime sunlight...

Where our our own "bone extensions" (2001: A Space Odyssey clip) inevitably atrophy, threaten or kill us.

Coincidentally, and conveniently, in that clip, the bone thrown up at the end doesn't cut to the spaceship of the same general shape. It's been awhile since the year, 2001.

But today--

"No man is an island--therefor send not to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee"

There are probably several different pathways.

Hunter-gatherer -> nomadic herder -> slash and burn -> settled agriculture

Hunter-gatherer -> gardener-hunter -> settled agriculture

Hunter-gatherer -> raids pastoralist -> WTF do we do with all these cattle?

Hunter-gatherer -> Hunter+domesticator-gatherer -> pastoralist

It's fun to speculate. Domesticating animals and plants would spread like any other technology.

This is one reason why I am not 100% convinced that collapse is imminent. I think there's a chance - a very small chance, but a chance - that we'll be able to see this island earth for what it is, and make the sacrifices necessary to live sustainably on it.

If it happens, it probably won't be in a way any of us foresee, and it will have costs that most people can't imagine paying.

They should make a Collapse App.

Monitor the GPS chip to get your speed and deduce if you're in a vehicle or aircraft. From longitude and latitude you get weather. A temperature sensor can pick up ambient temp and deduce how much heating or cooling you're using. Light sensors can pick up artificial light use. Sound analysis could pick up washing machine and dryer noises. Shouldn't be too difficult to get a rough estimate of energy use.

People had babies so they could win wars?


Once the German mothers had submitted to the plea for overbreeding, it was inevitable that imperialistic Germany should make war. Once the battalions of unwanted babies came into existence--babies whom the mothers did not want but which they bore as a "patriotic duty"--it was too late to avoid international conflict. The great crime of imperialistic Germany was its high birth rate.



(I remember reading/hearing the same kinds of arguments made in the Old US of A but alas my search engine Foo is not good enough to find the public policy statements to back up the idea of needing bodies to fight wars means having a baby production policy)

I don't remember any actual natalist policies in the U.S., but the national school lunch program started because so many young men were too malnourished pass their draft physicals. "National security" was one of the reasons given for it.

Now the majority are to fat or weak to pass PT.

I don't remember any official government natalist policies although child credits and deductions is sort of a natalist policy. However, I grew up in the 50s and used to go to Rotarian meetings with my dad where there was always a prize for the family with the most children. Fecundity ruled!! I think we won a couple of years but then was edged out later by a rival family mostly because my mother start having miscarriages.

And while the observation of a high German birthrate is indeed an interesting startingpoint for an academic discussion, the authors should have spent more time in analysing the actual military mobilisation in Germany 1885-1914: The obvious contradiction is that the German army was relatively small when we consider the population and economic power. If there was the consensus that war is the only solution why the small increase of military power after 1871, that does not make sense.

The Ottoman Turks obtained Janissaries using devsirme, the sons of Christian families forcibly taken as children and turned into loyal soldiers. That policy ought to have created an incentive to have more children.

It created Vlad the Impaler. Probably led to a net loss of population.

New Guinea probably succeeded because of a number of factors, of which isolation from outside invaders was one. The isolation was due both to being surrounded by water as well as the unhealthiness of living at lower elevations near the sea. The highland agricultural areas had a relatively constant and predictable climate. They were large enough and varied enough that minor variations in climate would not matter much.

They were neolithic farmers, so they did not have metal axes with which to cut down the forests. They did not have metal weapons, so no tribe could conquer the entire island. They had incessant warfare and highly variable, but generally strict, sexual taboos.

A combination of sexual taboos and warfare can keep this kind of society well below the carrying capacity of the relatively constant environment, which avoids periodic starvation and results in a healthy and fit population.

Yes, and if the tribes collapsed what would that mean? They were already hunter-gatherers, exactly what they would become if they did collapse. They were already in the state they would be if if they collapsed.

But you make a good point. Unlike today, warfare in hunter-gatherer societies have always been a strong force in controlling the population.

Counting societies instead of bodies leads to equally grim figures. In 1978 the anthropologist Carol Ember calculated that 90 percent of hunter-gatherer societies are known to engage in warfare, and 64 percent wage war at least once every two years. Even the 90 percent may be an underestimate, because anthropologists often cannot study a tribe long enough to measure outbreaks that occur every decade or so (imagine an anthropologist studying the peaceful Europeans between 1918 and 1938). In 1972 another anthropologist, W.T. Dival, investigated 99 groups of hunter-gatherers from 37 cultures, and found that 68 were at war at the time, 20 had been at war five to twenty-five years before, and all the others reported warfare in the more distant past. Based on these and other ethnographic surveys, Donald Brown includes that conflict, rape, revenge, jealously, dominance, and male coalitional violence as human universals.
- Steven Pinker, The Blank Slate, Page 57.

Ron P.

Yes, and if the tribes collapsed what would that mean?

Dieoff. The Pacific is dotted with islands that have obvious signs of collapse: ruins of a complex society, where no one lives now. Often, where no one can live. Collapse in the Pacific often involves deforestation. The result is that the island becomes so dry it can no longer support human habitation.

Read Jared Diamond's Collapse. That is what I was referring to. It's a popular work among peak oilers, so people here tend to talk about it as if everyone's read it.

Basically, Diamond defines societies that have succeeded as those that have continued for thousands of years without collapsing. The societies he labels as successes are current ones. The ones that have collapsed are, of course, in the past.

Unlike Tainter, who takes a sort of thermodynamic view, Diamond sees environmental causes at the root of societal collapse.

i have read it. but easter island and viking greenland were pretty isolated and they are examples of collapse and not success. on the other hand china, (middle kingdom so not isolated by definition), definitely can be interpreted as success. so i really don't see how one can draw a definite conclusion about isolation and collapse. also defining successful societies as current ones doesn't make sense because this is a time dependent definition. during roman times roman empire would thus be termed a success although we may now say that it is a failure. i think one would need to talk about success with respect some timescale. in other words a society can be said to be a success only relative to timescale (which may be different in different contexts). absolute success doesn't exist.

i have read it. but easter island and viking greenland were pretty isolated and they are examples of collapse and not success. on the other hand china, (middle kingdom so not isolated by definition), definitely can be interpreted as success.

It's not that simple. There are many factors involved, not just isolation.

I'm suggesting that isolation is necessary, but not sufficient. Diamond subtitled his book "How societies choose to fail or succeed." He doesn't mean that societies actually sit there and say, "Gee, I really think we should collapse." Rather, they do different things, perhaps for reasons that seem nonsensical (religious beliefs, say), but these choices can determine whether the society fails or succeeds. Also, sometimes collapse is a result of what another society does (leading to warfare, say, or the end of a necessary trade relationship).

And there's more. Diamond describes research that shows some societies cannot succeed, no matter what they do. Their environment simply does not permit it.

China is an interesting case. I don't think they count as a sustainable society. While they have endured for thousands of years, they've suffered dieoffs many times over their history. Famine has been a problem throughout their history. That's not succeeding as Diamond defines it.

As for Rome...they would not have counted as a success, because they did not last for thousands of years. Depending on how you count it, the Roman Empire lasted for a few hundred to maybe 1,600 years. Diamond's societies that succeeded have lasted for thousands of years.

I'm suggesting that isolation is necessary, but not sufficient.

well here i think that one would again need some of sort scale, this time a geographic and/or demographic scale. also isolation is typically relative. before columbus europe and americas were not in contact, but neither europe nor americas were isolated. perhaps you know the story of lykov family:


a kind of extreme isolation. they had iron pans and needles when they moved to isolation. but once a pan broke or needle got lost then it was lost for good. so clearly this was not sustainable.

but in the same way a "big" isolated community may run out of something, and then the isolation will be bad and not
good survival strategy. perhaps one could say that one knows only with hindsight if isolation was good or bad

Diamond describes research that shows some societies cannot succeed, no matter what they do. Their environment simply does not permit it.

yes it's more straightforward to convincingly argue that something doesn't work...

While they have endured for thousands of years, they've suffered dieoffs many times over their history. Famine has been a problem throughout their history. That's not succeeding as Diamond defines it.

but i think famine has been frequent also in "successful" societies. as far as i understand diamond doesn't deny this. so this brings us back to the question: how to actually define success? also taking the earth as a whole we are in the same situation as the lykov family. once certain assets are gone they are gone for good. and if we think some thousands of years in the future there are really awful lot of other things than oil which will be in short supply. so in this time scale the societies that we have now cannot be "successful". this (among other things) is argued in the interesting book:


I don't think the Lykovs are an example of an isolated society. As you note, they are not sustainable. Last I heard, there was only one survivor, so obviously there won't be another generation.

Diamond wrote about the effects of cultural isolation here.

And no, I don't think famine is frequent in the success stories. Hunger might be an occasional problem (after a natural disaster, say), but his successful societies are marked by stability. The population is kept in check with resources, and the boom/crash cycle seen in China's history is absent.

Papua New Guinea

The documentary "First Contact" (1983) contains some of the most amazing documentary footage I have ever seen. I show it every year to our students, who also find it quite intriguing.

In 1930 three Australian brothers headed to Papua New Guinea (PNG), looking for gold. They just happened to take a movie cameraman along with them, so when they stumbled upon stone-age tribes (estimated at one million people) in the interior of PNG they were able to record some of what occurred.

The result is that we get a direct look at these people: how they dressed, how they spoke and most interestingly, what they believed and understood. What they believed is probably the most fascinating aspect of the film (and the part that our teenage students find most interesting).

Since these tribes had never seen white people before, they quickly assumed that the strangers must be supernatural creatures. When they noticed the white men searching in the rivers, they believed that the whites were ghosts, searching for their own missing bones. Since the white men wore trousers (and not lap-laps, the native loincloth) they thought that the whites had no sex organs nor any wastes to eliminate.

The highlight of the film from our students’ perspective is a 10-second clip where this native woman was recounting in her later years how she discovered that these were men (not gods or ghosts). I’m going from memory here, but she says, “One day we were watching one of the white men and he had to defecate. We waited until he left and then went over to take a look. His **** smelled just like our ****.”
Since the woman is speaking her native language, this is written in subtitle, which quickly separates the students who are attentive and quick readers from those who aren’t. The sharper kids usually look over at me as if to say, “Mr. Munroe, did I just read that right?” I give them a quick nod and then they just about fall out of their chairs. Then the inattentive ones want to know what was so funny. The other guys are just dying to tell them but are reminded, “You get an essay if I hear bad language… tell them at recess. I told you guys that this movie was worth paying close attention to.”

There is also an amazing battle scene, with opposing tribes whipping spears at each other full-force, so it did not appear to have been staged for the camera. The brothers and their native carriers were under frequent threat of attack since they had axes, knives, shovels & guns which the natives coveted. They always ran a rope around their camp to provide a clear demarcation zone. In one scene, they shoot a pig to demonstrate the power of their gun and the natives flee.

Toward the end of the film, they decide to fly a native boy to the coast so that he could tell his tribe about the outside world. The natives were told that a big bird would arrive in a few days, so they needed to trample the ground flat to provide a landing strip, which they did. As the plane came in, people cried and ran away. One woman described how “we wetted and ****** ourselves,” a subtitle which our now-more-attentive students usually catch.

In short, it is a most amazing film. Returning to the point about sustainable/enduring lifestyles, one can only assume that these tribes had lived that way for millennia. Furthermore, they all looked fit, healthy and happy (when they weren’t fleeing or fighting).
Sadly, a camera crew went back to these same villages a few decades later and reported the usual: poverty, substance abuse… a broken culture. They showed the original film to the villagers and there were plenty of laughs. Also some tears for what had been lost within their lifetime. Very sad....

This link gives the first 9-minutes:


My father, who shared a mutual dislike with McArthur, was sent to New Guinea as a punishment; he sent me a letter describing those hill tribes. He said some of them seemed to be the most intelligent people he had ever met, and ascribed it to their being endlessly challenged to outsmart the guy in the next valley or become his supper.

But think of what might have happened if those folks had discovered oil. Explosion of wealth, corruption, overpopulation, collapse. Sorta just like us, smell and all.

I don't think we're on the Titanic or the lifeboat. We're on the Flying Dutchman, condemned to hold course to the unknown.

"Sail on, sail on."

Port and Starboard would be more appropriate for the captain of the Titanic to say, then left and right side of the boat.

Yes but this is captain B! She's different, and understands that some landlubbing passengers may not understand port and starboard-- especially in a panic! Now, let's stop splitting hairs and get it done! Thanks to you, we now have only 1 hour and 59 minutes!

...Is it left facing the front of the ship or the rear?!



Titanic II: Replica to make same voyage, but be made in China (+video)

Australian billionaire Clive Palmer announced today that he signed an agreement with a Chinese company to build a Titanic replica in a shipyard there.

To run on what? Coal? Oil? It would be a lot nicer to find they were building Bristol Channel Pilot Cutter replicas or something like that... But then, nothing like building the appropriate ship of a sinking industrial economy. Ahoy, RIP.

"There is little man has made that approaches anything in nature, but a sailing ship does. There is not much man has made that calls to all the best in him, but a sailing ship does." ~ Alan Villiers

"There is not much man has made that calls to all the best in him, but a sailing ship does.."

You may not have thought thus if you had been snagged by a Royal Navy press gang in 1805.

The original Titanic ran on coal:

The two reciprocating engines were giants, each 63 feet (19 m) long and weighing 720 tons. Their bedplates alone weighed a further 195 tons.[25] They were powered by steam produced in 29 boilers, 24 of which were double-ended and 5 single-ended, which contained a total of 159 furnaces.[27] The boilers were 15 feet 9 inches (4.80 m) in diameter and 20 feet (6.1 m) long, each weighing 91.5 tons and capable of holding 48.5 tons of water.[28]

They were heated by burning coal, 6,611 tons of which could be carried in Titanic's bunkers with a further 1,092 tons in Hold 3. The furnaces required over 600 tons of coal a day to be shovelled into them by hand, requiring the services of 176 firemen working around the clock.[29] 100 tons of ash a day had to be disposed of by ejecting it into the sea.[30] The work was relentless, dirty and dangerous, and although firemen were paid relatively generously[29] there was a high suicide rate among those who worked in that capacity.[31]


Wow! Looks like suicide was a moot point for the fateful trip-in-question.

As for the new one, from the previously-mentioned Chinese Titanic article:

The diesel-powered ship will have four smoke stacks like the coal-powered original, but they will be purely decorative.

TOP – In case it hasn’t already been mentioned: The Titanic had only 3 functional stacks…the forth was added for decorative balance.

Thanks, ROCKMAN. They could have made it airtight, detachable and interior-accessible, like Titanic B of this thread.

The new one will run on diesel but it is being built with coal money.

Titanic B infers hindsight, which is 20/20. In this modern age of the internet a whole website (and others) with many geologists on board cannot get the captain or most of MSM to recognize the problem in the first place (no matter how carefully it is explained with data to back it up), let alone get anyone in authority to draw up plan B. Remember, the U.S. is well on it's way to energy independence in most people's minds and with it plenty at cheap prices (sarc off).

Yep my Vet was telling me the other day how fracking has crushed Brazil's biofuel industry.

OK gang…I’m going to take the Titanic analogy to a very dark place but a much more accurate scenario IMHO. First the captain knows the ship is heading for the berg…and knew it before they set sail. Just as nearly every CEO of every oil company knows about PO (the “reserve replacement problem). But the captain knows the only way to assure his retirement package is to cast off on schedule. Obviously he can’t tell the passenger lest the cruise will be cancelled (stock owners run away from the company as fast as possible).

Eventually the berg is spotted. The crew knows they can’t change course…the captain is control. They know if they alarm the passengers (shareholders) they’ll be thrown into the brig (fired). The owners of White Star (the politicians) know the fate of the ship but, like the captain, the passengers are not the priority…their careers are. Some of the passengers (TODsters) see the danger and try to warn the others but are dismissed as delusional pessimists. The course will not be altered.

But wait…there’s hope…the lifeboats. But that means changing the configuration of the ship (changing energy consumption in order to avoid AGW). But that requires moving away from how the ship is designed (IOW BAU). And both the captain (the oil execs) and the owners (politicians) need to keep the belief that all is OK as it is…BAU is not only possible but the preferred way to travel.

So some of the passengers will get a seat in a lifeboat (adapt to climate change) and those who don't will flounder in the water (obvious analogy). Of course, not all the seats in the lifeboats will be given to women and children. The stronger male passengers (the U.S., China, etc.) will claim many of those seats. By force, if necessary. Of course, such actions may be explained as exporting democracy to the lifeboats. And naturally not all lifeboats (Rwanda) need such democratic seeds spread to them. In fact, better to keep them locked down below in steerage...just too sad to see their faces as they drown (hacked with machetes).

But what of the captain’s fate? He actually has already abandoned ship on his luxury cruiser (retirement package). And the owners (politicians)? They’ve already sold off their stock positions (retired from office). So from their McMansions they lament that if they had just known about the deadly course the Titanic was on they certainly would have sounded the alarm. If they had just seen the likely future.

In my 38 years I have not worked with the management of a single public company that didn’t understand the prospect of PO. Not one. In fact, I’ve known quit a few who swung between being concerned to absolute panic. I’m also certain many of the politicians understand PO as well as the potential damage of AGW. As always what someone says (or not say) doesn’t necessarily represent what they beleive.

So everyone can write their hypothetical script as they wish. But unfortunately I think mine will end up on the big screen and the rest of you on the cutting room floor.

Gee. Nobody did what I had expected- talk about whether it would be best to tear out the ducting rather than the deck, etc etc.

Instead, comments about human inadequacy. Sure, we all know lots of examples of that, tons of 'em.
But history is full of incidents wherein someone actually did use foresight, not hindsight, intelligence - and power- to get a tough situation under control,

Example- in the historical Titanic, the captain of the Carpathia received a late, garbled message, correctly interpreted it, took immediate action to flog his hum-drum passenger ship to dangerous speed and prepare for recovery of lots of people in dire need. Just a little sooner and he might have saved most of them.

PS. Sure, I am one of many who think our ship is sunk, for all the reasons Rock gave, So? Sit around and watch the water rise? Hey, tearing up decks is more fun. And think of all the healthy exercise.

wimbi – Valid point. OTOH the problem as I see is that while you and your tiny band are scavenging the ship the rest of the passengers are burning those materials to keep warm. Sorta like the US reducing its number of coal-fired plants while exporting more coal to China to fuel hundreds of their new coal-fired plants. Or the POTUS refusing to approve a tiny section of the Keystone PL while approving over 400 Deep Water drill permits. It all has to do with realistic expectations. There’s nothing wrong with betting on the 300 to 1 shot on the next race. OTOH planning to pay the mortgage with your winning isn’t a good plan IMHO. Or as the great Texas comedian Ron White said: buying a lottery ticket is not a good retirement plan.

One can plan for an unlikely future. One can gather fellow believers of that unlikely future. One can imagine scenarios where that unlikely future might develop. But none of those efforts will change that which is very unlikely. As the great Texas non-comedian Rockman said: The race is not always to the swift nor the battle to the strong. But that’s how you bet.

Also had the captain of the Carpathian hit a berg while flogging his vessel to dangerous speeds and lost all hands I doubt we would be patting him on his long dead back. Likewise had the captain of the Titanic set a new crossing record instead of hitting the berg history would remember him rather differently. Hypotheticals can be very alluring. At least until reality slaps you upside the head. Not putting you down for your optimism. Just my dark expectations of our fellow man are rather unflappable.

OK, Rock, sorry I can't help ya. The race is indeed not to the swift, nor yet the battle to the strong, but time and chance governeth all. Right, OTOH, it ain't to the slow nor to the weak, either. So, yep, we know where to place our bets.

Now, where did I put that crowbar?

wimbi – Yep…would much rather have your outlook then mine especially having a 13 yo daughter. But by the time I turned 19 my belief in the rationality of my fellow man and trust in a govt I was raised to be unfaltering loyal to was destroyed. I’ve tried on occasion but just can’t unring that bell.

Rock. I was late to the same take. As a young guy, I just naturally assumed we wuz the good guys and them germans, japs, etc, was the bads.

Then, when I watched the C130 gunships blowing away guys in pajamas on bicycles, I was forced to change my mind.

But now I have this saving thought-same as multitudes before me- I am way too stupid to understand anything, so, just keep a-goin and hope something will turn up, maybe no, but maybe yes, how do I know? I don't, and that's a comfort.

Anyhow, wimbi's rule, a slight extrapolation of the same thought- try to act so as to avoid reducing the options for future generations. That's it.

wimbi - Yep...kinda conflicts with the image of Sgt. Stryker taking one for the team on the slopes of Mount Suribachi, eh? LOL. Hang in there...don't let us lost causes drag you into our holes.

1st thing to help keep the T2 unsinkable: a collision avoidance radar and/or sonar with automatic pilot override (what you don't hit can't sink you).

; )

Mr. – You mean if they had state of the art safety system like that on the Macondo drill rig? Again quoting the great Texas comedian Ron White: You can’t fix stupid. About 20 years ago I watched them carry the driller off the floor with two badly broken legs. The automatic safety system that would have prevented his injury was well designed. Unfortunateely he deactivated it because it slowed him up a bit. I’ll think back to that day sometimes when a TODster offers a seemingly valid solution to one of our problems. A solution that the human nature of our fellow citizens won’t allow to function.

About 20 years ago I watched them carry the driller off the floor with two badly broken legs. The automatic safety system that would have prevented his injury was well designed. Unfortunateely he deactivated it because it slowed him up a bit.


And I bet the bulkheads go all the way up. T1's did nor, once the water got high enough there was no way to keep it flooding the next compartment, then the next..... Also we now know the iron used for the rivets was crap. I bet the details that aren't visible to passengers won't be the same -heck I bet it couldn't even get a license to sail otherwise.

And the keys to the locker that contained the binoculars were left behind, so the spotters had to use their unaided eyes. "My ship for a pair of binoculars?"

I don't have a problem with the Chinese or anybody else trying to consume more. After all, post-WW2 America showed everyone else the way.

But if this trend continues, the planet is cooked. Sorry, folks.

Here are the annual Brent crude oil prices since 2005 (nominal prices), along with the rate of change in price by year relative to the 2005 price level ($55). Also shown in parentheses is the rate of change in consumption, by year, for the (2005) Top 33 Net Exporters, relative to the consumption level in 2005, 16.6 mbpd.

2006: $65, +17%/year (+2.8%/year)
2007: $72, +13%/year (+2.8%/year)
2008: $97, +19%/year (+2.8%/year)
2009; $62, +3%/year (+2.1%/year)
2010: $80, +7.5%/year (+2.6%/year)
2011: $111, +12%/year (+2.7%/year)

Note that the only year over year decline in the rate of increase in consumption, relative to 2005, corresponded to the only significant decline in the rate of increase in annual oil prices, relative to 2005, i.e., 2009 in both cases.

In other words, it's not surprising that we have--so far at least--seen a positive feedback loop effect in Top 33 consumption levels, relative to global crude oil prices.

Following is the extrapolation of the GNE ECI ratio out to 2030. Note that this extrapolation is likely to be optimistic, because it assumes a slight, but perpetual, rate of increase in (2005) Top 33 production of 0.3%/year, along with a 2.7%/year rate of increase in consumption.

And as I have frequently noted, at the 2005 to 2011 rate of decline in the GNE to CNI (Chindia's Net Imports) ratio, the Chindia region alone would be theoretically consuming 100% of GNE in the year 2030.

Time to add 2012? Brent pricing for 2012 was pretty much flat. Given the EU recession, that's rather telling all by itself.

Rate of increase in Brent fell slightly to 10.2%/year, relative to 2005. No consumption data yet for 2012.

and the annual increase (or at least the holding) of the dollar value of the exports does a very nice job of disguising the failing fundamentals of the system. An abrupt end to the good times is the only likely result!

Fracking is a lot cheaper in Canada. North Dakota costs dismay Calgary producer

“It’s something like $1.8 million for us to frack a well in Flat Lake (just north of the border in Saskatchewan) and almost $5 million in North Dakota,” he said on a conference call with analysts after the release of fourth quarter results.

“The operational efficiencies in North Dakota are poor … because of the large demand on crews and people there … Even the time it takes to do the fracks relative to the time we’d take in Canada, (where it’s) about half the time.”

Ron P.

Just like making an IPhone the components and energy used to frac a well is a fairly small percentage of the “sales price”. In the oil patch pricing is driven by demand vs. availability. Always has been…always will be. A DW drill rig will cost $700k per day when demand is high and $350k for the same rig when demand falls. That’s a cost difference of $30+ million on a typical DW well.

When demand is high there’s no negotiating the bid price for a frac: if the operator doesn’t accept the bid price there are 5 others standing behind them ready to pay it. Same old story: when the shale gas pays were booming in E Texas Devon signed very costly long term contracts to secure drill rigs. When NG prices collapsed they dropped 14 of the 18 rigs. But service companies understand the cyclic nature of drilling: they had cancellation penalties in those contracts: Devon paid a total of $40 million to not use those rigs to drill.

$5 million sounds like an incredible amount of money for a little bit of fracking. That may explain why so many tight oil wells have not completed after they've been drilled. Maybe Rockman can fill us in about what fraction of well completion capex is due to fracking in the Bakken?

Frugal – Demand drives prices up obviously so we can set that aside. The factors increasing frac’ng costs is indicative of a more important dynamic IMHO.

First, there is no average cost of a frac. It varies with the number of stages. Perhaps it should have been pointed out what a “frac stage” is…it’s a frac. Whether it’s frac jobs or drilling a well it costs $X to set up. We call that the “mob cost” as in mobilization cost. Besides the actual expense of moving the equipment it includes the fact you’re tying the equipment up. You can rent a car and leave it in the parking lot…they are going to charge the same daily rental cost even if you don’t drive it. I don’t know exactly what the mob cost for a frac crew it ND might be but it would be a relatively small percentage of the total.

I know the Eagle Ford better than the Bakken so I’ll use it.
So the total frac cost ($TFC)= mob cost $A+ frac stage cost $B . So your one frac stage cost is $A +$B. But the number of stages have increased significantly. Frac stages numbering more than 20 are not uncommon now. So $TFC = $A + $B X 20 as an example.

But the frac cost is just a part of the equation…gotta add the cost to drill the well. For a given lateral length we can assume that’s a fixed cost we’ll call $WC (well cost). Initially when the Eagle Ford was completed with just a few frac stages $WC was much larger than $TFC. But no longer: I’ve heard of completed EFS wells where $TFC exceeded $WC.

So why do so many frac stages? Simple answer: increase initial flow rates and ultimate recovery. The trickier question: is this a cost effective approach? No doubt companies are constantly trying to figure out that dynamic. At some point adding more frac stages doesn’t add enough production to justify that added expense.

But there’s another potential explanation for increasing the number of frac stages and thus the cost: more recent locations drilled are not as productive as the earlier ones. That “sweet spot” thing. So it might take a well with 12 frac stages to produce the same results as an earlier well with 3 frac stages. It’s impossible for us (but not the companies) to know today which dynamic is driving the cost up: making good locations better or making poor locations acceptable. But in time we can look back and get a hint as we get a handle on how productivity changed over time.

But one fact has been proven over the last 100 years of oil/NG development: though not perfect the oil patch is good at identifying the sweet spots and jumping on them first. The less sweet spots will be developed eventually if the price of oil/NG remains adequate. It’s possible that there is a quickly decreasing productivity in most of the shale plays that’ s being masked by the increase in the number of frac stages and length of the laterals. That would produce an overly optimistic projection of future expectations of the shale plays. As profit margins decrease the potential for even relatively smaller oil prices to kill development increases.

One question about frac stages: Does a frac stage mean that you frac the well bore in different locations sequentially, or does it mean that you frac the same location multiple times?

Sequentially along the horizontal bore (you can frack verticles, too, but rarely to my limited knowledge).

Basically you place plugs along the bore to control the staging process, and then remove them when you're done so hydrocarbons can flow.

You can re-frack a well that's slowed, though. But the time between fracks is likely years.

One problem I have had in getting my head around staged fracking is whether you start at the bottom and work up or at the top and work down?


After drilling and casing the well, usually you start at the end and work your way back in a sequence of perforate - frack - packer; rinse, repeat! Then go back in and pull out the packers.

Then you can product from the casing, or you can install production tubing. The smaller production tubing increases velocity for a given flow, and can keep a liquid-rich stream flowing where a larger, slower flow could not.

Ah, thanks, that makes sense especially the production tubing.


NAOM – Another bit of tech: sliding sleeves. Bakken operators, like Hess, has been greatly anticipating there design and mass production. Instead of multiple perf holes that have to be isolated (and eventually unisolated) imagine a section of metal that slides across the perfs and prevents the frac from going thru them until you want them to. This saves the time needed to run packers in and out of the well. Saves time and time is money.

Cool concept - new to me. How do you slide them on command?

Paleo - When doing down hole work like perforating or setting packers they'll typically use a "work string". A WS is often 2 7/8" diameter joints of tubing that are screwed together just like the do drill pipe in order to Go In Hole. Sometimes we can GIH even faster by using “coiled tubing”. CT is a continuous string of tubing on a huge reel so there’s no making connections: get in and out of the hole very fast. There are various attachments they can use to physically connect with the sliding sleeve to push it open or closed. I've used many sliding sleeves in vertical wells although more times than I like to remember I dubbed them "shooting sleeves". I couldn't get them to slide so I had to shot perforating holes through them. As we say: There is the plan and then there’s what we have to do. LOL.

Here is an animation that shows the hydraulic fracturing process.

Animation of Hydraulic Fracturing (fracking)

Thanks, that seems to describe the process quite clearly. It would be interesting to get the oil guys' review on the figures though, they seem a bit at odds to discussions here.


$5M average is a lot (used to be $3M just a few years back), but I've heard of $7 to $10 in downtown areas, due to harder logistics for land, noise restrictions, and so forth.

It seems like a lot of money, and that's because it is, but when you see 100 semi trailers of water, 12 to 20 pump trucks at thousands of hp each, massive piping with manifolds to blend and mix sand and chemicals, and the right people to make it all work, then it starts making sense. It's like building a 50,000 hp pumping factory in the middle of nowhere, running it non-stop for a few days at almost 100bbls/minute, and then taking it apart and moving it.

Note that this is a harsh world for the pumps, and they fail, so you have to over-engineer to a moderate degree, and plan for maintenance on everything between every operation.

I read somewhere that the frack industry is horsepower-limited, as it has only 3M hp deployed. When you see a 1500hp big diesel motor up close, it's humbling to imagine 2,000 of those rumbling along.

see a 1500hp big diesel motor
Isn't that essentially a diesel locomotive!

eos – the largest loco I could find was 8,500 hp but it looks like most running today are in the 2,500 to 3,200 hp range. A single frac truck runs 2,500 to 3,000 hp. So a train with 3 locos: up to 10,000 hp. A frac running 20 trucks: 60,000 hp. Mother Earth doesn’t let you split her innards apart without a fight. LOL. And remember this is being done thru a 3” steel pipe that’s 2 miles long. And the goal: create a crack ½” wide, 60’ tall and extends maybe 600’ from the well bore. And that happens only when everything works just right. I’ve been on more than one frac of that didn’t achieve 25% of the goal.

Yes you are correct, the generators that we use offshore are often EMDs which are definitely loco engines. Quite funny to see the pictures of an old steam engine rapped around a box of hotshot spares, reading "Our LOCO is down" with the steam train icon.

The frac spreads do seem to use more compact engines than the EMDs, not sure if they are also used in locos but they are used in large mining trucks.

Frugal - And to follow up on Paleo’s fine answer think how you might try to adjust to the diminishing quality of the remaining locations. Early Well A drills vertically to 7,000', your KOP (kick off point) and then start to build hole angle to 90 degrees at 8,000’. Then drill a 1,200’ lateral. Then do 6 frac stages at 200’ intervals. But your remaining acreage won’t produce as good a well if drilled like that so you drill to your KOP, build to horizontal and drill a 2,400’ lateral and do 12 frac stages at 200’ intervals. You end up with a better well. But at an increased cost: twice as much for the lateral section and twice as many frac stages.

OTOH you saved money by building just one location ($150K), drilling one vertical hole to your 7,000’KOP ($500k) and installing one set of production equipment ($400k). But as the quality of your remaining prospects continue to decline you start drilling 5,000’ laterals with 25 frac stages. And now you frac’ng costs are exceeding your drilling costs. And your total well cost may have doubled but the well may not be doing twice as good as the initial wells. Maybe doing 150% of the early wells. Thus the more recent wells appear to be better than the earlier ones leading to some cornucopian excitement. But in reality the profit margin has tightened up some. Which means that future drilling activity, along with expectations of increasing total flow rate, have become even more susceptible to lower prices. Can’t quantify this vulnerability but it has always been there hiding in the shadows. If margins are shrinking as I described along with increasing difficulty pulling capex into play it might not take a big drop in oil prices to have an impact of rig count. Some of the pull back we’ve seen recently may be a result of this changing dynamic.

And I’ll repeat again: IMHO the increase in unconventional oil production rates is the best proof of the Peak Oil Dynamic we have. The POD which has produced higher prices that justify the shale play activity that has led to higher oil production rates. And if the increased costs to develop the shales, even while continue to increase total production, is happening the plays may only yield the cornucopian expectations if we have even higher oil prices. And that would only offer more confirmation of the POD.

Thanks Rock, very informative as usual -- I just learned something new again!


Its easier offshore, the boat arrives, you rig up all the iron, all for free. But once you pick up the hoses you start paying $250,000 a day. Which adds up after a few days. That was in Angola a few years back, and we thought we were good doing double and triple frac packs, not 20 to 30.

And let the feeding frenzy begin!!! LOL.

“U.S. House Republicans won’t wait for President Barack Obama…on the Keystone XL pipeline. They plan to vote by the end of May on legislation that would sidestep the White House”

And now the counter attack: “A White House aide suggested…investments in green energy technology would have greater impact on reducing the effects of climate change than whether or not the controversial Keystone XL pipeline gets built.”

The contest is who will get credit for the assumed increased capability of imports from Canada. IMHO it has never been about whether the rather irrelevant very short border crossing segment is permitted or not: it was predestined to happen. The timing has always been the theater: both the initial lack of approval (didn’t hurt the POTUS campaign effort) and the presumed approval as we slide towards the annual summer fuel price spike. The R’s gained little traction with their criticism IMHO so now they are trying to gain some positive spin. Even if the POTUS signs the permit before the R’s try the end run they’ll likely offer that their efforts pushed him to do so. And the White House talking heads will respond with the “balance” spin between economic recovery and environmental protection. Even the State Dept did their part to provide some cover for the POTUS just in time for the summer driving season. Of course, I doubt the D’s will offer any balance to the 400+ DW GOM drill permits and dozens of new production facilities approved by the POTUS since the Macondo spill. And obviously the R’s won’t bring it up since it gives too much cred to the D’s.

It all seems so predictable to me. I’m pretty sure we’ll see how close my script comes to reality in a few months.

The fact that we make major policy decisions based on Billy Joe being annoyed about how much it costs to fill his F-150 is annoying.

In search of black swans

The Big Five of Sweden's peak oil bloggers discuss potential unexpected future scenarios which could have dire effects on the world: http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&ie=UTF8&prev=_t&sl=sv&tl=en&...

A black swan is an event that few have foreseen or expected, but which has major implications. Again and again it is such contingencies that govern the world in completely new courses. Berlin Wall, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2008 financial crisis and the Arab revolt in 2011 are some modern examples. No one knows what might happen in the future, but Effekt has allowed some of the country's most forward-thinking bloggers speculating wildly. What is the next black swan?

"#1 Sunstorm cripples the world"

Odd timing...I just ran across this old article - and I note that this isn't noted under the "Sunstorm cripples the world" problems: Solar flare could unleash nuclear holocaust across planet Earth, forcing hundreds of nuclear power plants into total meltdowns

I have a friend that works with a science satellite. They are extremely up to date on sun storm activity because that can kill satellites. The sun storm activity is generally on an 11 years cycle and it was suppose to be getting pretty big right now but it is much less than anticipated. So right now, the probability of a sun storm being a big problem for us is pretty low.

So much less than a satellite sent to study the sun has a team that is kind of bummed out because the fireworks they were expecting to study turned out to be more of a fizzle.

That human civilization has malignant characteristics should be self-evident to those that have studied biological systems. Within this growth paradigm, the competition between clonal variants, competing cell lines (corporations), has reached the perverse state where relatively unorganized groups (labor) will be and are being destroyed by the more powerful malignant entities that define their own positive growth environment through manipulation of government. Government usually maintains “law and order” within the cancer to maximize overall growth (measured as GDP). However, the laws that maintain maximum growth and resource utilization, are being skewed to allow the fastest growing corporations maximum advantage. Clonal competition also occurs in metazoan organisms suffering from malignancies. Owing to enabling, self-reinforcing mutations in Homo sapiens, the technological cancer began long ago with the use of simple implements and has only exploded to its full metastatic potential with the discovery and consumption of fossil fuels. Today tumors compete, often by usurping government authority, to outperform each other in garnering favorable environments for growth.

That some day this perversity will end tragically should also be self-evident, but in the meantime it is likely that individuals will suffer considerable deprivation as mega-corporations and government agencies compete against and divert energies, previously used by the less powerful, into their own expanding growth. In other words, if you are not part of an effective tumor, you are likely to be starved. Eventually the ecological body will die from being eaten by competing tumors and by this I don’t mean that all life will be extinguished, but that a majority of the energy relationships existing between existing species will be unwound as the malignancies eat, poison or destroy by war the natural world. The web of life will unravel and become greatly simplified.

The competing clones have little choice but the grow and seek efficiencies as they too can be destroyed by more powerful growth entities. Humans are not the most successful organism within the ecosystem, we have become embedded within an evolving technological cancer whose mandate, catalyzed by insatiable human desire to gain advantage and unlimited procreation, is nothing less than eternal life and continuous growth. Even you, the reader, carry within your systematic body the potential for renegade cells to reduce you to a state incapable of processing energy = death. As an individual, one must wonder how to survive this unfortunate turn of evolutionary events.

Strange I was just watching 'Obey': Film Based on Chris Hedges' 'Death of the Liberal Class' which basically comes to the same conclusion. It goes into great detail how society will be changed by the corporate controlled state as we go deeper into collapse.

Paul Craig Roberts on King Radio:


Good and well worth a listen, if you are interested in the dollar, bonds, gold and the end of the US economy.

President Reagan appointed Dr. Roberts Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy

I couldn't get the audio to work, so here is the transcript for those interested. From part 2:

“This type of situation is extremely dangerous. The world has never seen it before.” Former Assistant of the US Treasury, Dr. Paul Craig Roberts, also told King World News that JP Morgan now threatens the stability of the entire global financial system. And if the Fed loses control and we collapse, “Nothing and no one would be safe anywhere.”

“I can point out three giant bubbles that threaten the remains of the American economy ... When these bubbles pop, the consequence is obvious: The wipeout of the remaining wealth from bond and stock collapses, and a very strong domestic inflation from the rise in the import prices.”

“The United States is now an import dependent country. It doesn’t produce its own manufactured products, clothes, shoes. These import items dwarf the import of oil or energy. So what is the potential for happening when these bubbles burst is widespread unemployment, and a rapid increase in inflation, before which the economic policy has no known solution.

... It is frightening, and it shows the extent to which the economic policy of the United States is misused in support of four or five big banks that are ‘too big to fail’ ... We now have one bank, JP Morgan, which has derivative exposure equal to the (entire) world’s GDP....

We now have one bank, JP Morgan, which has derivative exposure equal to the (entire) world’s GDP.


here's the list of JPM frauds...

Bank Secrecy Act violations;
Money laundering for drug cartels;
Violations of sanction orders against Cuba, Iran, Sudan, and former Liberian strongman Charles Taylor;
Violations related to the Vatican Bank scandal (get on this, Pope Francis!);
Violations of the Commodities Exchange Act;
Failure to segregate customer funds (including one CFTC case where the bank failed to segregate $725 million of its own money from a $9.6 billion account) in the US and UK;
Knowingly executing fictitious trades where the customer, with full knowledge of the bank, was on both sides of the deal;
Various SEC enforcement actions for misrepresentations of CDOs and mortgage-backed securities;
The AG settlement on foreclosure fraud;
The OCC settlement on foreclosure fraud;
Violations of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act;
Illegal flood insurance commissions;
Fraudulent sale of unregistered securities;
Auto-finance ripoffs;
Illegal increases of overdraft penalties;
Violations of federal ERISA laws as well as those of the state of New York;
Municipal bond market manipulations and acts of bid-rigging, including violations of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act;
Filing of unverified affidavits for credit card debt collections (“as a result of internal control failures that sound eerily similar to the industry’s mortgage servicing failures and foreclosure abuses”);
Energy market manipulation that triggered FERC lawsuits;
“Artificial market making” at Japanese affiliates;
Shifting trading losses on a currency trade to a customer account;
Fraudulent sales of derivatives to the city of Milan, Italy;
Obstruction of justice (including refusing the release of documents in the Bernie Madoff case as well as the case of Peregrine Financial).

And, exhale.

Essentially its control fraud, carried out by a corporation uniquely placed to profit from the abuse of the trust its position carries.

Normally the State reacts to such abuse and the breaking of its laws as a threat to its authority and prosecutes those responsible. But the State no longer has the authority, the corporations do and they're not going to allow such meddling in their affairs.

In Cyprus depositors are now facing levies so that bankers can get bailouts:


But nothing to see here, move along. Everything is ok. "It can't happen here."

" Everything is ok. "It can't happen here.""

Ilargi has a different take, as usual.

Cyprus is small, and the hope is that hardly anyone will notice what happens there, or be interested. But throughout the Eurozone over the past five years, deposit guarantees have risen, in a so far pretty successful attempt to prevent bank runs. Overnight, that model has now been thrown out with the bathwater. And all of Europe should be wary of what happened. A precedent has been set, and what's good for the goose fits the gander."

It is such a stupid act, that you have to wonder if they are not purposely trying to collapse the euro and kill the PIIGS.

Theft of savings by inflation - well, people don't tend to recognise it. However, straight up theft off the bottom line - that's lighting the molotov cocktail.

There is no reason why the government should not tax financial assets, including bank accounts.

Governments tax financial assets at death through estate and inheritance taxes. Governments tax non-financial assets, such as real estate and a variety of property, such as vehicle taxes. Businesses routinely pay taxes on a variety of assets.

First of all, it isn't their "government"; it's EU technocrats. What matters is why they are 'deducting', 'taxing', 'levying', or 'fining'; whatever they call it, every bank account 6.75% - 9.99%,, and how the account holders are going to feel about it. If you want to start a euro bank run in stressed countries, this seems like a good way to go about it. Maybe they should try this in GB or the US :-0

Rights belong to the belligerent litigant. The non-confrontational way of dealing with this would be to withdraw support by taking out their money and develop the habits of the people subject to garnishment - you keep no meaningful amount of money in the bank.

Actually, it is their governments choice. They can either approve the plan, or they can go bankrupt on Tuesday.

Cyprus Bank Levy Vote Delayed By Parliament Until Monday, As Nation's Bailout Hangs In The Balance

Cyprus' parliament on Sunday postponed a debate and vote on a controversial levy on all bank deposits that the cash-strapped country's creditors had demanded in exchange for (EURO)10 billion ($13 billion) in rescue money.
"There are two choices, voting in favor which allows the country to avoid a disorderly bankruptcy, or rejection, which will have us face a disorderly bankruptcy with all that that entails," said Averof Neophytou, deputy chief of the ruling Democratic Rally party.
At their peak, Cypriot banks had assets totaling eight times the country's (EURO)17.5 billion economy. Those numbers have prompted accusations from some European countries, primarily Germany, that Cypriot banks serve as money laundries for dirty Russian cash.

But it is not only Russians. Other rich Europeans have been retiring to Cyprus and parking their cash in Cypriot banks. BBC was interviewing a UK retiree who will be taking a haircut on her savings. Allegedly Cypriot banks were paying 10% interest on deposits. These days that's a Bernie Madoff-like return.

"Actually, it is their governments choice."

Yeah, some choice. From my link below:

The deal - reached with eurozone partners and also the IMF in Brussels late on Friday - marks a radical departure from previous international aid packages....

..."This decision is much worse than what we expected and contrary to what the government was assuring us, right up until last night (Friday)," Mr Papadopoulos told Reuters.

This is very much a knock on effect of the Greece situation since Cyprian banks were deeply invested in Greece, and a test case to see just how far the ECB, IMF, and their technocrats can take these smaller economies before an all out debt jubilee becomes the default choice. One wonders how many of these technocrats also took advantage of Cyprian banks' high returns. Betcha those rats fled that sinking ship some time ago.

It may be that no one expected the Parliament to approve the deal. The President is a new right of center guy, suceeding the previous communist president. But the communists are still the second largest party in parliament, and they might lead a leftist coalition to reject the deal. Exactly what happens next and who benefits isn't clear. Parliament can dissolve and call elections within 30 to 40 days, for example. That might result in the President's party losing power, communists regaining power, leaving the EU, and a rapprochement with Russia. Whoever wants Cyprus can have it -- its ecomony is smaller then Shreveport's.

Presuming we are talking about savings post taxation how can this be anything but theft?

Essentially confiscation to keep banks and their bond holders solvent. A lot of Russians apparently launder their ill-gotten gains through Cyprus (like Americans and their Cayman Is. accounts). As Ilargi suggests, the Russians are likely fine with paying a 10% fee for the 'service'; not so much, the average depositor. The main questions: Is this the tip of an iceberg, and; what does this do to waning trust in the system, not just in Cyprus, but in the PIIGS and beyond? As Eric suggests, they'll look for ways to not assign their wealth to a system they've lost trust in. Once bitten....

In a sense, I've been doing the same since the US manufactured two wars I had problems with on multiple levels; reducing my taxable income and reducing my need for much of same; also with my relationship to big banks and corporations. The first rule of avoiding associative guilt in a dishonest or disfunctional process is to not support it. Many people feel trapped, but I suggest many are trapped by their expectations and perceived needs, more than by the 'system'. They submit willingly while rationalizing their willingness, bitching allthewhile. Making more careful choices isn't so hard as people make it. Stop feeding the beast.

I'll bet tomorrow morning many folks in Cyprus will be figuring out ways to stop feeding the beast that bit them in the guise of a 'bailout'.

More here.

@ Ghung

regarding your statement: "The first rule of avoiding associative guilt in a dishonest or disfunctional process is to not support it. Many people feel trapped, but I suggest many are trapped by their expectations and perceived needs, more than by the 'system'. They submit willingly while rationalizing their willingness, bitching allthewhile. Making more careful choices isn't so hard as people make it. Stop feeding the beast."

Very profound and the best comment I have read in weeks IMO. And another TOD person emailed me not too long ago with, "I stay off as many lists as possible".

It is hard to trust any Govt. anywhere that blatantly supports corporations and the ownership class with the inferred, "any crumbs that fall off the table is the best that we can offer you. If enough crumbs fall, well, this will rebuild the Middle Class".

It seems obvious that all of these events and headlines indicate the fight over a shrinking pie. This cannot end well without some kind of redirection.

"Making more careful choices isn't so hard as people make it. Stop feeding the beast." X 10


Thanks, Paulo, though it's sad that these seem to have become the default choices for those with any common sense and self esteem.

""any crumbs that fall off the table is the best that we can offer you. If enough crumbs fall, well, this will rebuild the Middle Class".

It's apt that Paul Craig Roberts (where this thread started), one of the guys who gave us Reaganomics, seems to be admitting that they created a multi-generational monster.

Regarding lists, we're all on them, forever it seems. Since closing all credit card accounts and going mortgage free, there's no end to the number of credit offers we get (four pre-approved credit cards this week, two for "putting your home equity to work now!"). They make good fire starters. These folks even blatantly violate their own privacy policies. I got a new discount card at a grocery in the next town and actually read the privacy statement which assured me they "never share your information with anyone". I intentionally (and cleverly) misspelled my name in two places as a test. Within weeks I began getting junk mail with the misspelled name. When I challenged the store manager about this, she informed me that I could be sued for committing fraud. Bring it on. Meantime, I'll be more careful about my more careful choices, and where I shop. The superstores finally managed to put my local independent grocer out of business. Hate that.

If enough crumbs fall, well, this will rebuild the Middle Class

More likely, they will invent a new sort of crumb sucking vacuum cleaner. Wouldn't want to let the riff-raf consume anything of value.

I don't think the people of Cyprus will be alone in regard to your final point.
Sold our house and moved to a boat, if we don't like where we are, we move on. Can't do that with a house and, we own it outright, so no damn mortgage or bank to deal with.
And, I'm finding, more and more people are amenable to bartering.

"reducing my taxable income and reducing my need for much of same"

What he said. Spend my efforts making adobe to augment the thermal mass of the house, building more solar thermal collectors out of scrap, prepping garden beds, tending bees... oh, and reading TOD. Working towards doing nothing to feed the military corporatocracy.

Making more careful choices isn't so hard as people make it.

So true. It's all too common to make behavior change seem like an impossible task. It never was; it isn't now.

You can change to go with the new flow, or against it. You can direct your energy toward rationalizing your "going along" or toward changing.

In this country we're (more or less) still free to choose. But do so carefully, because more and more the consequences are ours alone.

(I'm choosing to plant some early peas today.)

“I am done with great things and big things, great institutions and big success, and I am for those tiny, invisible molecular moral forces that work from individual to individual, creeping through the crannies of the world like so many rootlets, or like the capillary oozing of water, yet which if you give them time, will rend the hardest monuments of man's pride.” --William James

Looks like the Cyprus debacle is turning into a farce. The Cypriot Parliament may not have sufficient votes to pass the bail-in bill (aka. the theft of depositors money).

Cyprus Bank Holiday Extended Through Tuesday As Confusion Spreads

The Cypriot cabinet has declared Tuesday a bank holiday, for fear of capital flight, and this may even be stretched to Wednesday, as depositors are certain to withdraw huge sums from the Cypriot banks after the haircut imposed.

Nicosia postponed from Sunday to Monday the tabling in Parliament of the bill including the measures for the Cypriot bailout – including a bank account haircut and a tax hike on interest and corporate earnings – but the European Central Bank insists on a rapid voting because there are already signs a domino effect will follow across European lenders and markets from Monday.

There is genuine fear of market unrest on Monday morning when stocks may crumble in the eurozone and bank accounts in other southern European bank may suffer.

Skai radio reported on Sunday that the Bank of Greece has sent between 4 and 5 billion euros to Cyprus in order to help Cypriot banks respond to cash requirements by their clients.

Presumably, if they cannot pass the bill they cannot take the money from depositors. And if they open the banks before the bill is passed everyone will withdraw their money from the banks. So the banks will have to be kept shut until the bill passes. Lol! You've just got to love it!

Regardless markets will be opening in a few hours.

Reading Eric Frank Russell is one of the few antidotes I know these days. "Now Inhale" is one of his best short stories.

It reminds me of Albania. After the fall of communism it lost something like one third of its wealth to Ponzi schemes. People were asked how they could be so stupid as to fall for such extravagant promises of returns.

People replied they knew such returns were impossible for legitimate businesses. They assumed the people taking their money were involved in smuggling and suchlike, and they didn't mind investing in illegal enterprises so long as they got a good return.

That list of violations will attract even more money to JP Morgan.

Fascinating rationale on Fed shorting gold. Can't wait to see how this plays out :-(

Peak Earl... probably not that well. Looks like the majority of gold is heading from West to East. The west prints money and fabricates derivatives, while the east exchanges worthless fiat into gold.

This chart puts it all into perspective:

I still find it quite amusing to hear highly educated individuals tell me that they "Can't believe that gold is being manipulated." The Fed is manipulating the interest rates via U.S. Bond purchases and we know that the LIBOR rate was manipulated. So, why is it that hard to believe they wouldn't manipulate the price of gold.

In reality... the FED has to manipulate gold or its scheme to inflate the stock market and keep interest rates low would simply disintegrate.

I have a question for those with knowledge of the operation of the Alaska Pipeline:

When MOL (Minimum Operating Level) of the pipeline is reached for crude oil I believe the pipeline will shut down or operate sporadically? I believe this is due to the crude oil cooling off in the pipeline and getting lower in viscosity? Without a means of shipping the oil the remaining oil would become "stranded oil"?
I am wondering if they built a refinery at the starting point of the Alaska Pipeline and refined the crude oil into gasoline and summer blend diesel fuel which would not see a significant change in viscosity with the temperatures that might be seen with lower pipeline throughput could they keep the pipeline operating for a much longer period and get the otherwise "stranded crude oil" down to where we need it?
Would they be able to make enough money on the crude oil and refining processes to pay for a refinery with the oil that is left on the North Slope? Might the State of Alaska be willing to help subsidize the construction of the refinery to keep their oil revenue up for a much longer period of time?

Thanks for any input those with the specific knowledge can supply.


The cold weather operation issues with TAPS are not so much related to the viscosity of the oil. Rather the problem is with water and parafins.

There is still a small amount of water along with the oil (< 1% water for "pipeline grade oil" as I recall). At low flow rates the oil cools, and also the water tends to settle out at low spots along the line. The water freezes, so now there is ice mixed in with the slowly moving oil. The other issue is that at low flow rates and cooler oil the parafins tend to form waxy deposits on the inside of the pipe.

One way to mitigate these problems is to add heat along the line. With the addition of heat, the minimum flow rate is probably somewhere around 100,000 bbls/day. See "A TAPS bottom line" for more background info on minimum flow. Alyeska Pipeline has already begun of the upgrades in TAPS for low flow, see "Trans-Alaska pipeline upgrades continue".

Absent any major new discoveries, N Slope production will continue to decline. If and when a gas pipeline is built (don't hold your breath) and blowdown of the Prudhoe gas cap begins, N Slope oil production will fall even more rapidly. One option at that point would be to truck the oil down the Dalton Hwy. This of course would depend on oil prices being quite high.

Edit: corrected a typo

Weather causes drop in North Dakota oil production

Helms said he anticipates that the state’s monthly oil production numbers will continue to go up and down through May. February was a strong month, but recent winter storms will likely mean a drop in March production, Helms said.

The month of May will bring spring road restrictions that in some counties may severely restrict truck transportation, Helms said.

Starting in June, North Dakota should again see consistent increases in monthly oil production, Helms said.

June? It looks like boom times in the Bakken may be slowing down a bit.

Ron P.

Dilbit Sinks in Enbridge Oil Spill, but Floats in Its Lab Study

Scientists say the 1.3 gallon spill in the lab tank omitted real-world factors that made dilbit sink in Michigan’s million-gallon Kalamazoo River spill.

By Lisa Song, InsideClimate News Mar 14, 2013

Instead, the study found that dilbit floats when it spills into water, a claim that contradicts what happened during a major dilbit spill in Michigan's Kalamazoo River in 2010. The cleanup of that spill already has cost more than $810 million, and the Environmental Protection Agency is still struggling to figure out how to remove the submerged oil.

-- snip --

"Trying to reproduce a spill on a small scale, where the surfaces are flat, and you don't have the mixing crannies of a riverbed, which is like an English muffin—trying to capture that is not easy,” said Reddy, the Woods Hole geochemist. “I would be incredibly prudent about transferring knowledge that was gained from a laboratory experiment to a broader interpretation."

"Using this study to make decisions about dilbit management would be like analyzing a random scoop of soil and concluding that it's identical to all the soils on earth, he said. "What you need to do is study the whole breadth of products."

I hate to be cynical, BUT: Why would you do a study that would look at the whole breadth of the product when all you wanted was one study that you could point to and say, "Dilbit isn't a problem".

"The lack of research is important because most U.S. pipeline regulations were written before dilbit began flowing into the country in 1999."

That is incredible--almost no studies before and since it began flowing into the US 13 years ago. Lots of people didn't want to know and/or were too lazy to find out. Regulators not doing their job as usual.

I believe that this study is expected to be completed by Dec. 2013. I also think that the National Academy of Sciences is conducting/overseeing it. PHMSA was ordered by Congress to provide data (and presumably, recommendations).


Thanks, very interesting. Lots of dilbit and Canadian oil production info. For instance, dilbit requires roughly about 1 barrel of condensate for each 2 barrels of bitumen (condensate about 30%), so all this condensate from fields like Eagle Ford are almost heaven-sent for bitumin producers, if they can get it. But also interesting: all the studies are only concerned with pipeline corrosion and effects on refineries, but nothing on how dilbit affects the environment if there is a spill. Very irritating.

The next big thing in energy: Decentralization

By David Roberts

Faithful readers know that I’m obsessed with No. 1, the democratization of energy, which refers to more and more consumers also being producers, more and more municipalities taking charge of their own energy, and thus power over power (as it were) devolving into local hands.

But what strikes me is that 1, 3, and 5 are all aspects of the same trend — a METAmetatrend. (Take that, Pike!)

The metametatrend in energy is, for lack of a better term, decentralization. Systems that were once composed of a few big technologies and a few big companies — along with thousands or millions of passive consumers — are beginning to be replaced by recombinant swarms of small producers and consumers engaging in millions of peer-to-peer transactions with a wild and woolly mix of small-scale technologies.

From the Energy Transitions summary at Resilience.org...

Berlin to buy back grid and go 100 percent renewable

The German capital has resolved to buy back its power supply. On Wednesday, the grand coalition that governs the city-state passed a resolution to buy back its grid and switch to renewables.

Big Energy Battle: An Unlikely Effort to Buy Berlin's Grid

And the City of London is also following this decentralisation and democratisation route.


Europeans have always paid more for their energy supplies than people in the US, maybe that is why they seem more aware of the topic, security of energy supply is now considered a mainstream topic of discussion in Europe.

CBCRadio: The End of Growth: Rubin & Suzuki

Audio or download

Ghung ... do you have any advice/comments/experience regarding container gardening in general or "sub irrigation planters" in particular? Gonna try a few out this summer.

I do containers with drip irrigation and have had good success with peppers, herbs, and tomatoes that like heat. That's a great how-to link; I've been planning to try something like that.

Some things: Most plastic doesn't resist UV light so well. Buckets last about one year in full sunlight. Also, they can get hot in full sun (look for white buckets). I made some wraps out of old carpet and zip ties to wrap around the containers. Keeps them cooler and helps keep the sun off. I've seen folks build wooden boxes to set them in (looks nicer than my carpet). I've also seen reflective film used on top instead of clear plastic. An issue is that, if you get lots of rain, you want the rain to run off the top rather than through the buckets like a funnel. Leaches the soil and washes the fertilizer out.

The big home store has their 5 gal. buckets on sale, and I have all of the other stuff, so I'll give these a try; looks like a big water saver. Another thing I'm hoping to try this year is HugelKultur, and my raised beds will be totally non-till - they seem to have really good biology, no sense messing up a good thing.

Aluminium foil, reflect the heat right off while keeping UV at bay. Bakers, restaurants, laundries, auto workshops, painters etc are good sources for buckets, you may be able to get give-aways.


I'm half-a-step ahead of Ghung in something related to self-reliance? Must be getting close TEOTWAWKI ;) :lol:

In my case, I scored 16 kitty litter buckets (3-4 gallons) from someone moving out, will get eight planters out of them. Built 3 yesterday, the rest today. Only 3 lids, so the rest will be capped with plastic.

For more details, ignore the 'oh so sincere and trying hard' tone and check out the videos on the right ...

And some notes on growing media

And the source for the idea, see links on the right re SIP

And there is an alternate wicking method which uses a wicking fabric instead of the wicking cup (going with the cup myself given my smaller buckets)

I live in pretty tough gardening climate - 9000' up the side of a mountain in colorado. Hoping these help me produce a bit more by extending the season and providing a moister bed.

I've posted links to the earthtainer before:

I'm not sure how to use http://www.growerssupply.com/farm/supplies/prod1;gs_seed_starting;pg1062... (Capillary Mats) in such designs and odds are I'll just stick with the earthtainer dimensions as the basis.

(my plant construction project for this year consists of rubber roofing material, pallet wood, bed frames, discarded vinyl siding and a toilet tank float for the fill to construct an elevated planter of the sub-irrigation type)


I tried to incorporate a bit of the hugel method in my deep dig, raised bed. Don't think it added much. Too dry here, even with watering; not the right degree of moisture and natural decomposition to add to the bed biology, IM (inexperienced) O.

I may scale up to some 'earthtainer' style systems next year if the bucket method seems to work out.

Although I have a couple of thousand square feet of raised beds, I've switched to mostly self-watering containers and deep gutters. My containers are home-made out of 18 gallon totes and they mimic Earthboxes*. The gutters are what around here is called "metal facia" and are ~4 inches wide and 6 1/2 inches deep and fine for greens, beets and things like bush beans. I have 60 linear feet of them hung on the fence posts.

There are lots of sites with plans on how to make your own self-watering containers. Mine are sized such that one bag/2 cubic feet of planting mix (not potting soil) fills them. One hint: if you use totes be sure to paint them with something like Krylon Fusion paint for plastic because they are not UV stable and will begin to disintegrate in 5 our so years. Even the paint will start to fade in a few years and they will have to be re-painted

The idea for the gutters came from an article in Mother Earth News.

I switched to containers because, aside from getting old, I can put them in a small confined area that the deer, etc. can't get into and irrigation is a breeze. I've been really, really happy with the containers.


*FWIW my home-made containers cost about $20 each for the container and planting mix versus around $80 for Earthboxes.

How do you water the gutters? I would think they would have a tendency to dry pretty quickly. Do they have drainage holes in them?

Hi Ron,

The gutters don't have drain holes per se. I set them at a slight pitch; like maybe, 1:6 so they'd drain out one end. One of the end caps is a regular metal one but I made the other out of plywood and I left a gap at the bottom for drainage. FWIW, each gutter section is 20 feet long.

They actually don't dry out too badly although I do irrigate* them everyday. The thing is that the only part of them that losses water is at the top. I plant them pretty densely so the there is little evaporation due to the sun and the surface is really small.


*Actually, I fertigate using a 20-20-20 soluble with trace minerals that is injected into the hose at the hose bib. I use regular chemical fertilizer but it can easily be done using organic fertilizers. We used to do that when we were a certified organic "farm" for crops we grew.

Thanks for the tips, Todd.

"I switched to containers because, aside from getting old, I can put them in a small confined area that the deer, etc. can't get into and irrigation is a breeze."

That's one of the reasons I dabble in container gardening; to be familiar with my choices going forward. I helped a friend set up some bucket planters so his dad could do some gardening from his wheel chair. The idea really took off. We made it easier for him to water stuff, etc., and last year he grew about 40 - 50 containers. Containers can also add redundancy and resiliency if weather or other circumstances inhibit traditional gardening. They're easier to cover in case of frost, can be brought inside, and can be grown most anywhere, etc. Besides, it's fun, perhaps the most important thing.

According to my account, I have now been registered on The Oil Drum for 7 years and 2 weeks. Has it really been that long?? I first got acquainted with Peak Oil after reading the Hirsch report -- that was quite an eyeopener. Then I read an article on a website that referred to an article on The Oil Drum .... I have to say that the articles and the comments on TOD are generally of the highest quality, and I've learned an unbelievable amount of new things about the Worlds energy situation. Keep up the good work!

The anniversary of TOD is approaching. It will be 8 years on March 22.

Member for 7 years 28 weeks. Thanks Leanan and everyone!

7 years 5 weeks.

I may not post that much these days, but always worth dipping in to.

Thanks to all contributers

I am a 'youngin' at 6 years and 17 weeks....

In all fairness I did lurk for a 4 months...

Has it been that long? Wow... 6 years and 28 weeks for me. A number of the courses I've taught since then have greatly benefited from the generous sharing of information here. Thanks, Leanan and All!

I'm approaching 3 whole years, and should write a book.

In my online research, I'd periodically run into TOD for about as long as it's been around. What's cool about it is that it can make one sometimes feel like a fly on the wall of some areas of gov't/industry.

The link to the free 8th anniversary champagne order page may be sent to my email.

Braggarts, all of ya! 8 weeks 4 days. So, okay, some of us were a bit late to the party, and continue to be a bit slow in the uptake! :P

Question for all you old timers. Is there anyone out there who is has been hanging around these parts for a while who sees any hope at all???

I have a lot less hope that I did when I first started reading TOD well over 7 years ago. But I guess you should define your terms. Hope for what?

I'm a relative newbie; 6 years plus 6 months of lurking before that. I think there's hope. That is, there's hope of influencing things to suck less badly than they will suck otherwise.

That really needs to be the standard. A description of the very best we could do would seem hellish compared to most peoples' deluded expectations of a wonderful prosperous future. Nobody really wants a parachute when they think they're flapping their arms and flying.

There are large degrees of freedom in how it all plays out. From "a miserable transition period as human population resets to the earth's reduced carrying capacity" to full-on extinction of humans and most other large creatures. Problem is, a miserable transition period with more deaths and suffering than ever before in history, is a really tough sell as a best-case.

Yet that miserable best-case is what we have to be willing to sacrifice for.

Yes, I see hope and possibilities, but I hardly view the future with optimism.

All those limits to growth are catching up with us; we are already seeing multiple effects, all of which have been discussed here over the years. I agree with Nicole, Gail, Feasta, the Bundeswehr analysts and many others who warn that the financial sector may be both an accelerant/magnifier and one of the first casualties, and if it unravels then so does almost everything else.

Almost everything. Our farm is on an island in the St. Lawrence, an island which saw its first car around 1925, its first tractor around 1955, and which was largely farmed with horses when my father-in-law bought his farm in 1959. We only got year-round ferry service in the 1970s. Our farmhouse was built in the 1860s and when we gutted it in 1981 there was not a stitch of insulation. Somehow people stayed warm and fed.

My point is that I draw considerable comfort (perhaps naively) from knowing that this island once was very self-sufficient, with three creameries/cheese factories, three schools, a couple of stores, etc. and from believing that we could somehow pull together as a community once again. There is still one old-timer (91 yrs old) who remembers the old ways... much has been lost during his lifetime (all schools closed, only 2 dairy farmers left, and no store: we can't even buy milk or pop or fuel).

So yes, I do have hope, at least for this island. As for the large urban centers, I think they face an uphill battle to maintain order and essential services in the years/decades ahead.

Hope? Sure, Here's the plan. Phoenix AZ burns up in a firestorm after a power failure during a heat wave and haboob. About a million middle class white people die of the heat- Live onTV, right in your living room.

This causes TPTB to take notice. The president wakes up from his present coma. He uses his emergency powers to do the WWII thing and get us all on to solar chop chop. After all, we sure can live off the cars and other frivolities we are presently drowned in for at least a decade while all those resources are shoveled into sustainable energy

And, by some miracle I have not quite yet been able to invent, we start shrinking our population, starting with cutting off ALL immigration as well as other things.

You asked for hope? There's hope.

Back to the bike transmission. (7+ yrs, Thanks, TOD enablers)

"Phoenix AZ burns up..."

Hope Toto gets out... as in neila, for the other old timers 'round here. For newbies, Totonelia was/is Bob Shaw, champion of wheelbarrows, spider web rings and bags of NPK. Tag line, 'Are humans smarter than yeast?'

He's much missed by this 7 yr. 24 wk. member...

And my answer must be 'no', based on the (lack of) evidence I see.

Toto is missed by me, too. And my answer, too, is 'no'.

Toto gave me hope. I hope he is alive. Is he? I wonder. Otherwise, no hope. But I have an amazing view.

I also miss the wisdom and words of Airdale and OLD Farmer Mac. There should always be hope if only for the young, we are raising an eight year old grand son.

Take a tip from the yeast. Die drunk.

*remembers totoneila, Airdale, Oldfarmermac. Also enjoyed Heisenberg.

BTW Wyoming hasn't posted for a while. He did a couple of key posts on farming. I wonder how it's going.

Wildfires rage in Colorado as fears grow over continued drought

Two wind-driven blazes char 800 acres and cause evacuations near Lory State Park in signal of early start to wildfire season

An early start to the wildfire season?

Here in Colorado, at least where I live, fire has become a way of life. Thus far, the local news media doesn't seem to grasp the big, relevant picture that this will continue into the indefinite future and only get worse.

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

Robbie Frost

Pakistan's Ashraf government makes history

Pakistan's PM has hailed as "a victory" for democracy the completion of a full term by an elected government for the first time in the country's history.

"No-one will be able to harm democracy in future," Raja Pervez Ashraf said.

An interim government will now be installed until the next election, which is expected to be held in May.

Since Pakistan was founded in 1947, governments were often overthrown in coups, toppled by political infighting or end in assassinations or murders...

...At the same time, Mr Ashraf is facing a corruption investigation over allegations that he took bribes while he was a minister.

Mr Ashraf, who became prime minister after his predecessor was forced out amid a dispute with the judiciary, has been in the job for less than a year.


Has everyone in Pakistan been too busy running from US drones to coup the government or something?

Alberta lobbies for Keystone XL in New York Times ad
Influential newspaper ran editorial last week urging Obama to reject pipeline

The Alberta government, continuing to press its case for the Keystone XL pipeline, took out an ad in Sunday’s New York Times newspaper, tying the controversial project to core American values and to U.S. pride in its military.

The half-page ad is headlined “Keystone XL: The Choice of Reason.”

It acknowledges the validity of environmental concerns, but stresses the $7-billion pipeline is about much more than that.

See: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2013/03/17/alberta-lobbies-keystone-...

I understand a late night info-commercial is also in the works.


It should be "about" the WCS to WTI to Brent spread. Sometimes WCS is almost $50 below Brent, and often more than $40 of late.

But to close the spread it takes the southern part of the XL as well, to drain Cushing.

Every time I have just about been convinced that the pipeline makes no difference, I see these frantic ads telling us how important it is. Canadians appealing to our patriotism. Please.

Well, anyway, it sure looks like Obama has already decided to approve this so let us not waste our time and money over this.

ts – “…that the pipeline makes no difference”. You have to remember the oil patch is not a monolith. There are very strong opinions for and against the KPL. I’ve often made it clear how Gulf Coast operators are firmly against it. The GC refiners all for it. The folks transporting oil across the border via truck and rail are firmly against it…it will compete against them. The oil sand operators are for it because the competition should lower their transport costs. The Chinese should be against it because they want increased pressure to see it transported to the west coast. From what I read the eastern Canadians would be glad to see anything that inhibits the movement of the oil south or west on the hopes some will make it their way.

And by far the biggest proponent who should be running as many ads as possible as well as pushing politicians to strongly lobby on their behalf are the owners of the KPL. They aren’t worried about the US getting cheaper oil or the Canadian operators lowering their transport cost. They want the p/l for a simple motive: profit. They already have a huge investment in the segments of the line already under construction. Additionally the delay of the permit gave the rr’s and trucking firms incentive to expand their infrastructure. And now that this system has been built out it will compete with the KPL when completed…IOW a lower margin. To be honest I’m a bit surprised the KPL owners and the Canadian politicians they have in the bag haven’t done more publicly to argue their position.

Yes...there are many folks to whom the issuing of the border crossing permit (or lack thereof) has been very important. OTOH the permit has been of little importance to Mother Earth. Without the pemit the oil sand production has already been shipped into the US in record amounts where it has been burned. And there’s no reason to expect the 2012 record won’t be topped in 2013 even if the KPL isn’t completed before year end. Every bbl of oil sand production will be burned and the production of GHG will be unchanged regardless if the permit is issued or not.

For that matter Mother Earth also doesn’t care if mankind drives itself to extinction. We’re just one more of her billions of species to do so. Once gone she’ll drive the planet back to another balanced state. At least until she lets lose another Loki eruption.

Central US refiners should want it, but not the southern leg from Cushing to the coast. Bakken operators should want the south leg, but not the border crossing.

It all depends on which side your bread is buttered, from what I can see.

The southern leg, aka "Gulf Coast Project" should be well underway. 700Kbpd from Cushing to Nederland, when coupled with the recent Seaway reversal and speedup should finally put a dent into the Cushing glut later this year.

Every time I have just about been convinced that the pipeline makes no difference, I see these frantic ads telling us how important it is. Canadians appealing to our patriotism. Please.

If you are Canadian, the next time you see one of these adds, remember what this is paying for - your "free" medical care and other services. Either governments can extract the money from the oil companies (corporate income tax, GST on company purchases, oil royalties), or you can pay for it yourself (personal income tax, GST on your purchases, provincial sales taxes.) Your choice.

It's all about money. That's just the reality of it.

That's the same thing! And even if it were a choice, if it's not opt-out-- if it's by force-- it's not a choice. There are other, better (an understatement) options, but the state oligarchy et al keeps "us" all chained and blinkered with the shadows/illusions of choice.
If people flowed more like capital, there'd likely be no sweatshops, for example, or even capitalism.

Carbon Tax Fight Looms link above.

Leanan explained the tax nicely: tax the producers who use carbon to make their product less attractive and nudge consumers into seeking lower-carbon alternatives; at the same time return money to consumers so no one is harmed by the higher prices.

I'm not buying it. If you want to use less coal, oil, and natural gas, tax them, not the big companies that use them. But that would be politically unpopular, hence this half-baked scheme.

It's like fighting obesity by taxing fat people then giving the money to their families.

There's a perverse incentive there. To keep the checks rolling in you need to keep the big boys burning fuel, so any proposal to close coal-fired power stations, for example, will be opposed by myriads of small consumers aka voters.

I see very little hope for the efficacy of a carbon tax in part because the proposals I have seen talk about a rather miniscule impact on the price of gasoline, for example. Unless you start fairly high and keep increasing the pain until you see an actual significant result, fuggedaboutit. I think cap and trade and/or rationing makes more sense. Ration it and let people see their carbon credits. Make it so the frugal will profit; that way they benefit twice. Once by not using carbon. Twice by getting paid for their frugality.

But really. It is not even worth discussing since we will do absolutely nothing.

... tax the producers who use carbon to make their product less attractive and nudge consumers into seeking lower-carbon alternatives; at the same time return money to consumers so no one is harmed by the higher prices.

This idea has been around for years. It is another idea that will not reduce the consumption of fossil carbon because it removes the price incentive to stop using fossil fuels. Cap and trade fails because it sends most of the money to the financial sector.

Things that do work:

1. subsidize the conversion to renewable energy;

2. tax the fossil fuels, such as increase the tax on gasoline by $.05 each month for 10 years.