Drumbeat: April 10, 2013

Stuart Staniford: Should The Last Few Years Have Updated Your Idea of Peak Oil?

For oil production to halve over the next twenty years, it would have to decline on average by 3.5%/yr throughout that time (possibly some years by more, some years by less). Above I have posted the average annual change in oil production 1965-2012 (with data from BP except for 2012 from EIA). I have also added a linear trend line out to 2040. Obviously, this is a rather rough time series and the linear fit is not particularly strong and the extrapolation not particularly stable. But it's not clear that anything else will work much better - global oil production is a very complex process that we understand poorly. In that situation, we are probably best sticking to very simple models and acknowledging their severe limitations. At any rate, the straight line implies that peak oil (in the sense of "average growth is zero") was in about 2009. The straight line also implies that we would not reach average growth being -3.5% until almost 2040.

So Professor Meadows is asserting unequivocally that this line is going to make an abrupt turn downwards in the next decade or two. Possible, but it's a strong claim that requires strong evidence, and the interview certainly doesn't lay out the basis for his views, or his certainty in them.

To Stem Fall in Oil Output, Alaska Seeks to Slash Industry Taxes

President Obama's budget proposal this week is likely to seek an end to federal tax breaks for oil and gas companies, attempting to revive a bid that died in Congress last year. Meanwhile, with much more rigor, Alaska is heading in the opposite direction.

Alaska's State House is working on a bill already passed by the Senate that would overturn the state's progressive oil tax structure, which increases the taxes oil companies pay as the price of oil rises. Supporters of the overhaul bill, which was written by Republican Governor Sean Parnell, say the tax break will help boost dwindling oil production in Alaska, which was overtaken by North Dakota last year as the number two oil-producing state. (See related: "Pictures: Bakken Shale Oil Boom Transforms North Dakota," and "The New Oil Landscape.") Texas produces by far the most oil in the United States.

Critics of the Alaska bill, however, say the move marks the end of a taxation scheme that has filled state coffers while much of the rest of the United States struggled through the recession. And they worry the break will do little to spur oil production.

Refineries sprout in North Dakota, bucking the trend

(Reuters) - On a windswept North Dakota prairie in late March, Governor Jack Dalrymple drove a bulldozer into the fertile black earth and broke ground on the first new U.S. refinery since 1976.

The state's two U.S. senators, as well as dozens of other politicians and investors, stood nearby wearing hard hats, eagerly sharing hopes that this new refinery will help resolve North Dakota's diesel demand problem.

WTI Falls as Supplies Rise, OPEC Trims Demand Forecast

West Texas Intermediate fell, halting a two-day advance as a report showed stockpiles of U.S. crude increased to the highest level since 1981.

Futures slipped as much as 0.6 percent in New York after the industry-funded American Petroleum Institute said inventories gained 5.1 million barrels last week. An Energy Department report today may show supplies advanced 1.5 million barrels to about 391 million, the highest in 22 years, according to a Bloomberg survey of analysts. OPEC trimmed its estimate for global oil demand growth.

OPEC joins U.S. in lowering 2013 oil demand growth view

LONDON (Reuters) - OPEC on Wednesday trimmed its forecast for global growth in oil demand in 2013, becoming the second of the world's closely watched oil forecasters this week to predict weaker consumption.

The move by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries in a monthly report follows a similar downward revision to oil demand growth in 2013 by the U.S. Energy Information Administration on Tuesday.

China Keeps Fuel Prices Unchanged in First Review of New System

China, the world’s second-biggest oil consumer, won’t adjust gasoline and diesel prices in the first review under a new mechanism because international crude costs have remained relatively stable.

There will be no change to tariffs because average global crude costs in the past 10 working days were “basically” the same as when China last revised fuel prices, the National Development and Reform Commission said on its website today. The NDRC, the nation’s top economic planner, previously considered an adjustment every 22 working days. The modification signaled this time will be carried over to the next review, it said.

Kuwait investigating plan to extract shale gas - source

KUWAIT (Reuters) - Kuwait is investigating a plan to extract shale gas from its northern fields, a Kuwaiti oil sector official said on Wednesday, estimating that the Gulf Arab state could produce 150-200 million cubic feet per day under the right conditions.

OPEC member Kuwait is a major oil producer, with a capacity of 3 million barrels of oil per day. However its gas production is relatively low and it depends in part on gas imports to serve its energy needs.

Russia Proposes Oil-Extraction Tax Increase to Raise Road Funds

Russia proposed to increase extraction taxes on oil, its biggest export earner, to raise as much as 60 billion rubles ($1.9 billion) for road building.

The government is considering a jump of about 5 percent in the levy as part of 2014-2016 tax policy, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said today in Moscow. Ilya Trunin, a department head at the ministry, said it’s a “reserve measure” to raise funds.

ASPO International announces Qatar confident of future gas demand

The conference “Peak Oil: Challenges and Opportunities for the GCC Countries” in Doha, Qatar, has ended. It was a very interesting Peak Oil conference and was the first to be held in the Middle East. I was given the honour of summarizing the conference and will write a summary when I am back in Sweden.

Energy and Thatcher: a tangled legacy

Both sides of the environmental debate are keen to claim Thatcher as one of their own. She was, it’s said, the first major politician to bring climate change to prominence as a global issue; she made speeches on the subject to the Royal Society in 1988 and to the United Nations General Assembly the following year; surprisingly, she even acknowledged in these speeches that the free market ‘would defeat its object’ if it did more damage to quality of life through pollution than it could improve it through providing goods and services.

It’s been said that Thatcher’s opinions on this were shaped by her background as an industrial chemist and her ability to read research papers, but frankly this seems to be as much of a myth as her contribution towards developing Mr Whippy ice-cream (though hot, rather than cold).

Gay rights activists, topless protesters greet Putin

Western nations need Russia for energy and as a market for exports but are uneasy about Putin's human rights policies and his treatment of opponents in his new Kremlin term.

Putin's visit to the Netherlands and Germany, Moscow's biggest trade partners in Europe, also comes at an awkward time after a wave of state inspections of foreign-funded non-governmental organizations in Russia that has been much criticized abroad.

In Amsterdam, Dutch and Russian companies signed a batch of energy deals and Putin met Queen Beatrix and Prime Minister Mark Rutte, while around 1,000 protesters blew whistles, played loud music, and waved the gay pride flag nearby in the city famous for its liberal attitude.

Turkey open to energy ties with Israel, but early days

ANKARA (Reuters) - A tentative rapprochement between Turkey and Israel could eventually pave the way for joint energy projects but it is still too early to talk of specifics, Turkey's energy minister said on Wednesday.

A U.S.-brokered thaw between Turkey and Israel could alter the energy equation in the eastern Mediterranean, in theory allowing newly discovered Israeli gas to be piped to import-dependent Turkey and on to other markets.

Israel, once energy poor, is expected to become a gas exporter by the end of the decade. Its huge offshore Leviathan field contains an estimated 17 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of gas, making it the world's largest offshore discovery of the past decade when it was found in 2010.

FACTBOX-Political risks to watch in Iraq

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Attempts to resolve a power-sharing crisis in Shi'ite premier Nuri al-Maliki's government, disputes over oil with autonomous Kurdistan and spillover effects from Syria's war on Iraq's internal politics and insurgent violence are areas to watch.

Violence has surged since the start of the year with al Qaeda's local wing gaining from the Syrian conflict next door, and feeding off Sunni Muslim discontent in western provinces along the Syrian border.

Iran's Q1 fuel oil exports rise more than 12 pct over Q4 - sources

Iran exported nearly 18 million barrels of fuel oil in the first quarter, or around 200,000 barrels per day, an increase of nearly 12.5 percent from the previous quarter, according to traders and data from Thomson Reuters Oil Analytics.

The figures show that Iran's fuel oil exports remain healthy despite tougher Western sanctions aimed at restraining the country's nuclear ambitions, although the measures have more than halved its exports of crude oil over the past year.

Qatar PM promises $3 bln more aid to Egypt

DOHA (Reuters) - The Qatari government has agreed to provide an additional $3 billion of aid to Egypt, Qatar's Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani said on Wednesday.

"We reached an agreement to add more bonds from the Qatari government in the amount of $3 billion. During the coming days, we will discuss the details of issuing those bonds," Sheikh Hamad told a joint news conference with Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Kandil.

Egypt close to signing Qatari gas deal

Egypt might finalize a deal to import natural gas from Qatar during a visit by Prime Minister Hesham Qandil, according to Egyptian Planning and International Cooperation Minister Ashraf al-Araby.

APA Expects Final Bids for Australia Gas Pipeline in Next Week

APA Group, whose pipelines deliver more than half of Australia’s natural gas, expects to receive final bids shortly for a pipeline that may fetch about A$400 million ($420 million).

APA, which agreed to sell the Moomba to Adelaide Pipeline System to get regulatory approval for its takeover last year of Hastings Diversified Utilities Fund, trimmed the list of bidders to a “small handful” of companies and expects binding offers “in the next week or so,” Managing Director Mick McCormack said in an interview in Sydney.

Genel Rises on ‘Significant’ Oil Find in Kurdistan

Genel Energy Plc, an oil explorer run by former BP Plc Chief Executive Officer Tony Hayward, rose to the highest in five months after making a significant oil discovery in Kurdistan.

Asian LNG Set to Rise as Premium at Two-Year Low

Liquefied natural gas prices in Asia are poised to reverse an eight-week drop that brought them to a two-year low relative to cargoes for Europe as Japan faces delays in starting nuclear reactors.

LNG for northeast Asia has fallen 22 percent from a record in February, cutting its premium to shipments for southwest Europe to as little as $1.40 a million British thermal units, data from World Gas Intelligence show. Asian prices may soar about $5 to more than $20 per million Btu by September, according to Sabine Schels, an analyst at Bank of America Corp. in London.

Tokyo Electric Boosts Coal Capacity to Cut Need for Costly Oil

Tokyo Electric Power Co., Japan’s biggest utility, may cut its oil purchases by more than one- third as it boosts its reliance on coal plants to reduce an energy bill that’s ballooned since the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

Tepco, as the utility is known, will generate or buy as much as 54 percent more electricity from coal-fired plants starting this month compared with last year, according to calculations based on company statements. That may enable it to reduce its purchases of crude and fuel oil by as much as 3.95 million kiloliters, or 68,000 barrels a day, according to Osamu Fujisawa, an independent energy economist in Tokyo. Tepco bought 10.8 million kiloliters in the year ended March, the company said today in a report on its website.

Canadian Visits U.S. to Promote Oil Pipeline

WASHINGTON — Alison Redford, the premier of the Canadian province that is home to the oil sands formations that would supply the proposed Keystone XL pipeline to the United States, said Tuesday that critics of the project had distorted its environmental effects and exaggerated the impact of developing the oil.

Killing Keystone Seen as Risking More Oil Spills by Rail

A rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline by President Barack Obama would push more of Canada’s $73 billion oil exports onto trains, which register almost three times more spills than pipelines.

The March 29 rupture of an Exxon Mobil Corp. oil pipeline in Mayflower, Arkansas, provided the latest evidence for opponents citing the risk of environmental contamination in their efforts to scuttle the Keystone XL project, an almost 2,000-mile pipeline linking Alberta’s oil sands with the world’s largest refining market on the U.S. Gulf Coast. The alternative, hauling crude by rail, may be worse, said Charles Ebinger, director of the Brookings Institution’s energy security initiative.

ExxonMobil faces lawsuit after Arkansas oil spill

(CNN) -- Residents in Mayflower, Arkansas, have filed a class-action lawsuit against ExxonMobil after a pipeline rupture that allowed thousands of barrels of heavy crude oil to flow into a residential area.

They are seeking more than $5 million in damages.

Exxon Mobil Is Found Neligent in New Hampshire MTBE Use

Exxon Mobil Corp. will appeal a $236 million New Hampshire verdict in a case over the use of the gasoline additive MTBE, after having gotten a much larger award in a similar dispute thrown out by a court in Maryland.

After an almost three-month trial, a jury in Concord took about three hours to find Exxon Mobil negligent for putting the additive in gasoline without warning the state of its risks, and that the company should pay for contaminating New Hampshire’s groundwater.

U.S. proposal to move fracking wastewater by barge stirs debate

(Reuters) - The Obama administration is inching ahead with a plan that would allow wastewater from fracking to be shipped on barges, fueling a debate whether it is safer than other transportation modes or risks polluting drinking water.

The Coast Guard last month quietly sent to the White House's Office of Management and Budget a proposal to allow the barging of fracking wastewater. If the plan is pushed forward, it would become a proposed rule open for public comment and could be finalized sometime in the near future.

NRA to boost Fukushima plant staff over water leaks

Nuclear Regulation Authority Chairman Shunichi Tanaka on Wednesday instructed the NRA Secretariat to increase its staff at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant to deal with radioactive water leaks at the disaster-stricken plant.

The leaks are "very serious and deeply regrettable," Tanaka told a regular meeting of the authority. "It's important to devise measures to prevent the leaks from affecting areas outside the plant premises and check progress."

Stop using reservoirs at Fukushima: Motegi

Tokyo Electric Power Co. must stop using sunken reservoirs to store radioactive water accumulating at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant once it has enough storage tanks, Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said Wednesday.

Combined wisdom needed to deal with leakages of contaminated water

The rainy season is approaching, meaning the volume of groundwater will substantially increase. There is no time to waste in strengthening measures to deal with the leakages.

It is apparent that there has been a recent decline in the level of urgency among workers at the Fukushima No. 1 plant, as a series of blackouts have also occurred. TEPCO should brace itself.

Asia’s Accelerating Energy Revolution: Japan

Largely unnoticed in the West, Asia’s energy revolution is gathering speed. It’s driven by the same economic and strategic logic that Reinventing Fire showed could profitably shift the United States from fossil-fuel-based and nuclear energy to three-times-more-efficient use and three-fourths renewables by 2050.

Renewable energy now provides one-fifth of the world’s electricity and has added about half of the world’s new generating capacity each year since 2008. Excluding big hydro dams, renewables got $250 billion in private investment in 2011 alone, adding 84 GW, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance and ren21.net. The results were similar in 2012.

South Africa’s bottomless pit for renewables

South Africa is running way behind the curve on this. Renewable energy sounds wonderful because it claims to be infinite and clean. But it is horribly expensive and doesn’t do the job anyway, because it is so dependent on natural conditions over which humans have no control. It has to be backed up by coal, nuclear, gas or thermal producers.

Very large savings can be realised by trashing these grandiose plans to spend money on solar and wind power, which fail to produce the base load we so desperately require.

Power Shift Away From Green Illusions

Every day, the news about climate change and the harms that are sure to accompany it gets worse and worse. To many environmentalists, the answer is simple: power shift. That is, shift from fossil fuels to clean, green, renewable, alternative energy. Well-meaning concerned citizens and activists have jumped on the bandwagon.

The problem with this simple solution: Things aren’t as simple as they seem, and "there's actually no such thing as a free lunch" when it comes to energy consumption and production. Further, what we're often sold as "green" and "clean" is actually neither. In the spirit of these inconvenient truths came a timely and provocative book, perhaps missed by many, titled, "Green Illusions: The Dirty Secrets of Clean Energy and the Future of Environmentalism," by Ozzie Zehner.

Ballooning Gas Exports to Leave Australian Wind Winner

Australia’s $65 billion of projects to export liquefied natural gas from the east coast are set to push up domestic prices, opening the way for record investment at home in competing energy sources to produce power.

Energy crossroads

Everyone should wish Germany well in its great experiment in renewable energy.

Washington, D.C.’s Union Station Now Powered by 100 Percent Wind Energy Provided by Washington Gas Energy Services

Union Station will transition to 100 percent wind power for its electricity load of 18,943,964 kilowatt hours annually. This is equivalent to avoiding the consumption of more than 1,400,000 gallons of gasoline or taking more than 2,700 cars off the road for one year. The world’s fastest-growing energy resource, wind power displaces conventional power, reduces carbon dioxide and helps eliminate air pollution.

First Solar surges 50% on sunny guidance

First Solar shares spiked more than 50% Tuesday, rising to a new 52-week high and triggering several circuit breaker on the way up after the company issued a bullish forecast for the year.

The solar panel maker said it expects to earn between $4 and $4.50 per share, with annual sales between $3.8 billion and $4 billion. The guidance was well above analysts forecasts. Those polled by Thomson Reuters have been expecting earnings of $3.51 per share on revenue of $3.1 billion for 2013.

With Help From Nature, a Town Aims to Be a Solar Capital

LANCASTER, Calif. — There are at least two things to know about this high desert city. One, the sun just keeps on shining. Two, the city’s mayor, a class-action lawyer named R. Rex Parris, just keeps on competing.

Two years ago, the mayor, a Republican, decided to leverage the incessant Antelope Valley sun so that Lancaster could become the solar capital “of the world,” he said. Then he reconsidered. “Of the universe,” he said, the brio in his tone indicating that it would be parsimonious to confine his ambition to any one planet.

Lowest Swiss Water Levels in 13 Years Set to Boost Power Prices

The lowest hydro reserves in 13 years in Switzerland, which generates more of its power using water than any other non-Nordic European country, may boost prices in neighboring France, Germany, Italy and Austria.

Why women and kids should farm

Historically, cotton and soybeans were the cash crops of Mound Bayou. In the 1960s, in an effort to battle hunger and malnutrition, local governments created programs to encourage farmers to grow fresh produce for the community. Conwell’s uncle, Lewis Sanders, partnered with these programs and established Mound Bayou as a sweet potato-growing community. Following a Sweet Potato Jamboree sponsored by Alcorn State University, Conwell recognized the crop as an opportunity to engage the city’s youth in agriculture.

In a 2011 interview, Conwell told Linda Rule of Southern Rural Black Women’s Initiative that given an opportunity, “You can farm this land, and you can grow some vegetables, and you can put food on your children's table, and you can make a good living.” To Conwell, agricultural work fosters a sense of responsibility and pride in a way that could make the difference between a young person's success versus hanging on a street corner.

Oyster Farm Caught Up in Pipeline Politics

POINT REYES NATIONAL SEASHORE, Calif. — Seen from a nearby hilltop, the Drakes Bay Oyster Company is a cluster of shacks with faded white walls. One patched roof appears at risk of being blown away by the next Pacific squall. A dozen workers on a small weather-beaten dock were busy handling a batch of oysters harvested on a recent morning, separating the mollusks on a single rusty conveyor belt.

But this modest, family-run business just north of San Francisco lies at the center of an increasingly convoluted battle pitting longtime allies against one another and uniting traditional foes. Its fate — whether Drakes Bay will be allowed to remain on public land here or forced to close, as demanded by the federal government — has drawn the attention of a little-known, well-financed watchdog group in Washington, a United States senator from Louisiana, Tea Party supporters, environmentalists, sustainable-food proponents and celebrity chefs.

Amid Drought, Water Board in New Mexico Confronts State Over Supply

A small water agency in southern New Mexico has moved to force state agencies that control water distribution to deprive some users of their supplies.

The local agency, the Carlsbad Irrigation District, or C.I.D., acted to ensure that its alfalfa farmers receive the supplemental deliveries to which they say they are entitled.

The irrigation district voted unanimously last week to make what is known as a “priority call” on the Pecos River, a move that could force New Mexico’s Office of the State Engineer to reallocate supplies, relying on a longstanding priority list and assigning water to all the users of the river based on their seniority. On Tuesday, the district was pressing its case at meetings with state officials.

Peru bores through Andes to water desert after century of dreams

(Reuters) - Peru's Olmos Valley might be a desert now, with rare rains and rivers that trickle to life for just a few months a year, but a radical engineering solution for water scarcity could soon create an agricultural bonanza here.

Fresh water that now tumbles down the eastern flank of the Andes mountains to the Amazon basin and eventually the Atlantic Ocean will instead move west through the mountains to irrigate this patch of desert on Peru's coast. It will then drain into the Pacific Ocean.

How a Leafy Folk Remedy Stopped Bedbugs in Their Tracks

Generations of Eastern European housewives doing battle against bedbugs spread bean leaves around the floor of an infested room at night. In the morning, the leaves would be covered with bedbugs that had somehow been trapped there. The leaves, and the pests, were collected and burned — by the pound, in extreme infestations.

Now a group of American scientists is studying this bedbug-leaf interaction, with an eye to replicating nature’s Roach Motel.

India's largest copper smelter ignites toxic debate

The plant employs 4,000 and supports thousands more jobs indirectly. But since opening in 1996 it has split this coastal city between residents who say it is crucial for the local economy and farmers and fishermen who see it as a health hazard.

Similar debates are playing out across India where disputes over safety, the environment and livelihoods overshadow the efforts of Asia's third-largest economy to industrialize. Just 100 km (62 miles) south, in Kudankulam, fishermen are fiercely opposing a new nuclear power plant.

Amid China air, water pollution, soil survey reveals century-old heavy metals

(Reuters) - Soil samples across China have revealed remnants of toxic heavy metals dating back at least a century and traces of a pesticide banned in the 1980s, an environmental official said on Wednesday, revealing the extent of the country's pollution problems.

Street-level anger over air pollution that blanketed many northern cities this winter spilled over into online appeals for Beijing to clean water supplies, especially after rotting corpses of thousands of pigs were found last month in a river that supplies tap water to Shanghai.

Europe's toxic air: clearer but not clean

LONDON/BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Europeans no longer see the kind of pollution that within living memory killed thousands of Londoners in the Great Smog of 1952, but the air they breathe still bears invisible threats scarcely less deadly, and little more controlled.

While attention is given to curbing the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions blamed for global warming, substances more directly harmful to human health, notably nitrogen oxides, are pumped out of diesel engines and from European power stations burning coal that is getting cheaper as Americans exploit new gas reserves.

The result, say those campaigning for change, is ever poorer air quality shortening lives. Yet a move by the European Commission to tighten vehicle emissions rules is being challenged by some car makers.

New Guidelines Call for Broad Changes in Science Education

Educators unveiled new guidelines on Tuesday that call for sweeping changes in the way science is taught in the United States — including, for the first time, a recommendation that climate change be taught as early as middle school.

California Carbon Advances After Governor Approves Quebec Link

California carbon futures rose to the highest price in almost three weeks after Governor Jerry Brown approved a proposal to link the state’s greenhouse-gas program with one in Quebec.

The regulation behind carbon markets in Quebec and California are “similar or identical” enough to be linked, Brown said in a letter posted on his website late yesterday. State law requires the governor’s approval before the state Air Resources Board links carbon systems with any jurisdiction. The board is scheduled to consider regulation April 19 to join systems with Quebec beginning Jan. 1, 2014.

Shanghai to Start Emissions-Trading Trials Before End of June

Shanghai, China’s financial center, said it will start trials of emissions trading before the end of June in an effort to reduce the intensity of its energy use and carbon discharges.

Shanghai aims to cut its energy consumption and carbon releases per unit of gross domestic product by 3.5 percent this year, according to a document posted on the website of the Shanghai Municipal Development & Reform Commission.

Air travel to get bumpier as CO2 emissions rise, scientists say

Turbulence on transatlantic flights will become more frequent and severe by 2050 as carbon dioxide emissions rise, leading to longer journey times and increased fuel consumption, British scientists said in a study on Monday.

Will Obama Put Coal out of Business?

In 2008, candidate Barack Obama infamously said that as president he would set policy that would bankrupt the coal industry: "So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can; it's just that it will bankrupt them because they're going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that's being emitted."

Now, according to a new Duke University study, pending regulations by President Obama's Environmental Protection Agency may just accomplish that goal. It concluded that tougher air-quality standards would make two-thirds of the nation's coal-fired power plants more expensive to operate than comparable natural-gas-fired facilities. And if the price of natural gas soared four times higher than what it currently trades for, the costs of operation between the two systems would simply be comparable.

After Sandy, Jersey shore looks for protection

A line of more-modest protective dunes saved the neighboring borough to the south from widespread damage. So Akers might be expected to embrace any plan to protect his battered town, where the roller coaster still sits upright in the ocean and workers are busy replacing the boardwalk in anticipation of the Memorial Day start of the beach season.

But he has grave doubts about the Army Corps of Engineers’ plan: a 300-foot-wide sand dune project along 14 miles of the Jersey shore. Sand dunes will loom over the boardwalk, blocking much of the view. “You can do ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ out there on the beach,” he said.

Rebuilding the Shores, Increasing the Risks

This might be a good time to take a look at the most important environmental law that nobody has ever heard of.

The real estate industry fought that law bitterly in Congress, but lost, and it landed on Ronald Reagan’s desk in 1982. The president not only signed it, but did so with a rhetorical flourish, calling it a “triumph for natural resource conservation and federal fiscal responsibility.”

The law — the Coastal Barrier Resources Act — was intended to protect much of the American coastline, and it did so in a clever way that drew votes from the most conservative Republicans and the most liberal Democrats.

Clamshells Reveal Secrets of Pre-Columbian Society's Decline

The effects on society would not have been sudden or dramatic, but nevertheless, the Moche apparently had difficulties contending with the changes, Andrus said. Eventually, they disappeared as a people.

"I think we can say climate change posed a severe challenge," Willams said. "It has as much to do with the social and political configuration of their society as it does with the actual climate impacts."

Experts sound alarm over 'perfect storm' in African Sahel

The vast region of Africa known as the Sahel will descend into large-scale drought, famine, war and terrorist control if immediate, coordinated steps are not taken to avert the perfect storm of climate change and the most rapidly growing population in the world, a group of experts from the University of California, Berkeley, and the African Institute for Development Policy (AFIDEP), concluded in a report released today, which summarizes findings from the first international, multidisciplinary meeting on the region.

Bakken Watch -- Downspacing is the word. Downspacing is to tight oil what infill drilling is to conventional oil fields, though not quite the same thing. In the Bakken most of the wells drilled since the surge began in July 2011, have been drilled one well per two square mile area. Now they have taken up almost all the bakken area with these wells, they are having to now drill in between wells, making each well cover one square mile, or in some cases less than that.
Bakken: The Rail Revolution - Everything Investors Need To Know

Numerous downspacing assessment projects planned for 2013 may redefine the view on the Bakken's recoverable resource base. Several companies - including Continental, Whiting Petroleum (WLL), EOG Resources (EOG), Kodiak, Oasis Petroleum (OAS) and others - are actively testing downspacing potential in various intervals. Continental alone will drill 47 wells in its four comprehensive pilots. Kodiak has dedicated one third of its 2013 capex budget to downspacing projects. Whiting plans to initiate six or seven pilots in its key operating areas.

And at this link you will find the below JPEG. Click on to enlarge and Check out Embridge's forecast for both the Bakken and Canada. Interesting they are expecting the Bakken to peak around 2017 at about 1.2 mb/d. And they expect Canada to grow by 1.5 mb/d by 2020, less then half the CIBC predicted growth.

(click to enlarge)
(Source: Enbridge)

More on dwonspacing: Bakken: The Downspacing Bounty And Birth Of 'Array Fracking'

(Click to enlarge)

14 Wells per 2 square miles. Now they are really squeezing them in.

Ron P.

Thanks for sharing this Ron. It's interesting to see how the article at Seeking Alpha spins this development as a good thing. To me, it seems to suggest that this play is moving into the next phase of development (i.e. closer to peak and decline). Or perhaps the end-game phase of Bakken production growth.

What do you think of the oil recovery potential of this downspacing approach?

I think that each of these downspaced wells drilled b/w the existing wells will simply yield less overall oil (smaller initial flow, quicker & lower peak and perhaps and even more rapid decline from peak flow rate).

Speaking of Seeking Alpha spin, Mark Anthony used to have about eight or ten posts per month on Seeking Alpha. Most of them on fracking and/or the fast decline rate of fracked wells. Now he has been banned. Seeking Alpha sells advertising to those companies doing drilling and fracking and his comments apparently upset them.

Google: Stock Psychology: How Fast Does Bakken Shale Oil Wells Decline
(Put the in bold headline in your browser search bar. This will get you the link without the long spam filter delay that links now cause on TOD.

Some vested interest group played a dirty hand in getting me, Mark Anthony, completely banned on Seeking Alpha. My previous articles are still there. But I bet they will ultimately remove all traces of them eventually...

My study shows that Bakken well declines MUCH FASTER than even Arthur Berman claimed. For example I summed up production from 3062 Bakken wells that has been continuously producing in all the months from May to Nov 2012, including 128 wells that only started in May 2012. That's the entirety of all wells I can find that has been producing continuously, but excluding a few that produced for a while and then shut down.

In May 2012, those existing wells produced at average of 506869 Barrels per day (BOE), with gas and oil production lumped together as Barrel of Oil Equivalence (BOE).

In Nov 2012, only six months later, these same 3062 wells produced at 353040 BOE/day. That's a drop of -30.35% in merely six months. That's averaging at -0.2% drop per day, or -5.9% drop per month, or -51.5% drop per year.

Ron P.

In May 2012, those existing wells produced at average of 506869 Barrels per day (BOE), with gas and oil production lumped together as Barrel of Oil Equivalence (BOE).

In Nov 2012, only six months later, these same 3062 wells produced at 353040 BOE/day.

That's actually an annualized exponential decline rate of 72%/year, which would result in a simple percentage decline of about 50% in one year.

Mark Anthony should place his posts on a separate blog. The decline of Bakken wells is appearing to become a very well-characterized phenomeno and one that I am documenting on http://theoilconundrum.blogspot.com.

I linked to at least one of his posts, and it would be a shame if it all gets disappeared.

Ron, I wonder if this development requires a new concept of what "sweet spot" means. I always thought of sweet spot as just a point on the map. But now it takes on a vertical dimension as well (ok, it probably always did, but I'm just no expert). Since they are talking about drilling outside the original target layer -- does that imply that the original target layer had the most potential and that subsequent layers offer less potential? I think that's exactly what it means. Doesn't it make sense that they would frac the highest potential zone first? Or is it possible that TF1 through TF4 all have the same potential as the initial zone? I can't see how that could be -- but where is Rockman when you need him?

Of course, the bigger story is why would they even be considering this approach if they weren't running out of good plays. To my mind it implies that they are already going after the higher hanging fruit.

The Bakken appears to be pretty thin and only one dimension while Three Forks looks to be much thicker. Anyway I am not so sure this will work out for them. They are already at the margins of profitability. If their barrels per well per day for their new wells falls off then it will be so low they will not get their investment back. Rig count has already fallen from 220 last summer to around 185 right now.

This all looks like more pie in the sky to me. But we will just have to wait and see.

Ron P.

I didn't see this posted in the drumbeat:

More Financial Worries Coming to Light in Domestic Shale Drilling Industry

A good summary of the continuing revelations of sketchy financial & accounting practices by the shale drillers. It also mentions those who have for years now pointed out the lack of transparency and the uneconomical nature of shale gas & oil production; and how they have been shouted down by the big oil PR machine.

For those of you interested in Arctic and Antarctic enviornments it may be interesting to know they just posted the first ever map of Antarcticas bathomery ("underwater topography"). It is avilable following this link:

Interesting link Jedi. Neven's blog at;
has several videos relating to Arctic ice melt today. One shows the ice volume loss by showing a line that keeps circling into smaller circles as each year passes. Get this, in just the past 3 decades there has been an 80% loss of ice volume!

thanks for the link it will load some day on my end of the wire connection.

On the Arctic note thought I'd pass this along as it is more upbeat than most stuff that finds its way here. Last year a young Alaskan couple made this amazing muscle powered five month road-less/trail-less jaunt pretty much on the cheap with post office resupply.

We were lucky enough have them give a slideshow/video recount of it here last night.

Cool, thanks, JW. I'll take the opportunity to slip this in:

Team sets out to retrace Sir Ernest Shackleton's epic Antarctic journey of survival
A British-Australian expedition recreating Ernest Shackleton's perilous 1916 crossing of the Southern Ocean in a small boat has set off, braced for fearsome seas and icy, bleak conditions.

Link up top: Stuart Staniford: Should The Last Few Years Have Updated Your Idea of Peak Oil?

Nate Hagens draws my attention to this recent interview with Dennis Meadows, lead author of the famous Limits to Growth series of books. Meadows is very pessimistic. I was particularly interested in his views on oil production and peak oil, in which he states positively that peak oil is in the past (which is very arguable at best, given that oil production is still making new monthly highs),...

No, it is not. The last new high was in April 2012. The EIA data isn't out for January yet but the EIA's Short Term Energy Outlook has non-OPEC liquids down half a million barrels per day from November. And OPEC crude only is down 1,426,000 barrels per day from its high in April 2012 and is down 1,479,000 bp/d from its all time high in July 2008.

I think Dennis Meadows is spot on in this instance.

The new OPEC Monthly Oil Market Report is out this morning with the March OPEC crude only production numbers. OPEC crude only was down 100 kb/d from February at 30,193,000 barrels per day. There were no big changes from any of the OPEC 12.

Ron P.

Kurt Cobb: Ageing Giant Oil Fields still Dominate World Oil Production:

With all the talk about new oil discoveries around the world and new techniques for extracting oil in such places as North Dakota and Texas, it would be easy to miss the main action in the oil supply story: Aging giant fields produce more than half of global oil supply and are already declining as a group. Research suggests that their annual production decline rates are likely to accelerate.

The most recent research on giant oil fields has been available since 2009 so it doesn’t attract media attention the way new discoveries hyped by oil company public relations departments do. And yet, that research is far more important to understanding our oil future.

Correction I said the EIA Short Term Energy Outlook had non-OPEC liquids down half a million barrels per day November to January. That is incorrect. The EIA has Non-OPEC liquids dropping by 1.07 mb/d between November 2012 and January 2013 from 53.6 mb/d to 52.53 mb/d. OPEC crude only dropped by about .5 mb/d over that same two month period. I was thinking OPEC instead of non-OPEC. Sorry.

Ron P.

oil production is still making new monthly highs

No, it is not. The last new high was in April 2012. The EIA data

Perhaps it was revised since you last looked, but the EIA data currently shows Nov'12 as the highest monthly production rate (89.6Mb/d vs. 89.3Mb/d in Feb/Apr/Dec).

Sorry, I should have explained. I don't count bottled gas, refinery process gain or ethanol as oil as the EIA does in their all liquids category. I only track C+C and April 2012 is still the peak. I would have mentioned that in my post but since I don't track all liquids I simply overlooked that fact.

Of course when I refer to the EIA's Short-Term Energy Outlook I must speak all liquids because they don't report C+C there. But for all my databases I only use C+C except for OPEC only. There I use Crude Only because that is all the OPEC Monthly Oil Market Report reports.

Jan-12	75,764
Feb-12	75,993
Mar-12	75,788
Apr-12	76,028
May-12	75,365
Jun-12	75,140
Jul-12	75,310
Aug-12	75,284
Sep-12	74,867
Oct-12	75,442
Nov-12	75,823
Dec-12	75,850

Ron P.

Something odd happened in 2011

OCT - 74,268.590
NOV - 75,204.590

Jumps about 1 mb/d on Nov 2011 and never looks back.

Hi Ron,

You are correct that a new monthly high hasn't happened since last April (by EIA estimates). IMO it is the 12 month running average which is more important, that is at its highest level yet as of Dec 2012 at 75.55 MMb/d.

I agree that the peak may be near, it will depend on the price of oil and world wide demand for oil (which depends in part on economic output).

If the economy does not deteriorate further as oil prices rise we may see C+C output rise slowly until 2017 unless decline rates start to increase.

A quick HL on EIA data for 1993-2012 (cumulative output 429 GB at year end 1979) points to 2600 GB for a C+C URR. We are currently at a cumulative total of 1205 Gb at year end 2012 so in 3 years we will reach the halfway point (current levels are about 27.6 Gb/year) so the peak is likely around 2015 if you believe in Hubbert Linearization (I do not.)

At high prices and higher extraction rates we might peak a little later than 2016, possibly 2020, a further push to extreme extraction rates might allow a plateau for 5 or 10 more years, if that is accomplished (which I think is unlikely) the decline will be steep.


Article from above:

Australia’s $65 billion of projects to export liquefied natural gas from the east coast are set to push up domestic prices

The Australian coal seam gas industry is having difficulties in New South Wales to sell their projects to the local communities, in particular farmers who fear for their water supply.

Fracking fails the poll test

The gas industry tries to shore up support by organising events like the following with headings designed to frighten the public:

Australia's $60 billion Global Energy Industry at Risk

I attended this presentation. We were told gas is a clean energy. But my calculations show otherwise:

Why Coal Seam Gas will not reduce CO2 emissions

Total global CO2 emissions will be reduced by LNG exports from coal seam gas (CSG) only if there are binding intergovernmental agreements in place which force destination countries to leave an energy equivalent amount of coal in the ground, for good. But this is NOT being done. CO2 from CSG is just added on top of that from coal. The numbers to prove this are in this graph from the International Energy Agency (Paris)......

Moreover, if Australia wanted to replace its petroleum based fuel consumption by CNG or LNG as transport fuel the energy equivalent of 5.5 LNG trains would be needed. 7 LNG terminals have been built or are under construction. So this will one day be bitterly regretted.

Some numbers are here:

Queensland plans to export more than 10 times the gas NSW needs

Howard's wrong decisions on offshore gas exports start to hit transport sector now

NSW gas as transport fuel. Where are the plans?

The Gladstone LNG hub in Queensland could be like a Death Star that will suck the life out of everything nearby. All to chase Japanese gas prices if they hold up. It's not just lack of coal seam gas for neighbouring New South Wales but natural gas in South Australia as well, mentioned in this Drumbeat article
APA Expects Final Bids for Australia Gas Pipeline in Next Week
SA gets nearly half its electricity from gas power despite having huge uranium reserves. Now they'll have to outbid Japan for their own onshore gas. A section of that conventional natgas basin does appear amenable to fracking though at a cost. Note natgas, shale gas and coal seam gas each being mostly methane can be blended.

I'm puzzled by another Drumbeat article in which Bloomberg thinks that wind is a complete substitute for gas
Ballooning Gas Exports to Leave Australian Wind Winner
What happens when the wind doesn't blow? Then as you say there's also the slight problem of finding a diesel substitute when Australia has little oil left.

One thing that happens when the diesel becomes too precious, is that we'll start to notice certain regions that are simply too sparse and unproductive, or cost too much energy to travel within, heat or cool, to be able to support habitation by humans.

Desert regions at least might have a good solar or wind resource, but if they're isolated because of the transp fuel limitation, it may well not be enough to help support a population there, particularly if the pop. numbers are already too small to, in return, support investment in rail, etc..

EG, some areas might not be savable.

Yair . . .

One thing that happens when the diesel becomes too precious, is that we'll start to notice certain regions that are simply too sparse and unproductive, or cost too much energy to travel within, heat or cool, to be able to support habitation by humans

I don't know about that jokuhl. There are millions of acres of Australia that can produce beef with little/no FF input...it's all been done before, and not that long ago.

I reckon the cattle industry is one segment of agriculture that will be least affected...you can walk the suckers to market.


Don't get me wrong.. I don't pretend to know WHICH areas will turn out to be uninhabitable.. we certainly have different ways to make our land serve some kind of benefit.. I just think that we're living in many spots which owe their allegiance to the pipelines that keep them afloat. I would expect that were the artificial lights to go out, some will discover their natural light again, so to speak. Just that some, likewise, probably will not.. such as those Alaskan islands that live in a cargo culture, until their air service umbilical is no longer economically feasible..

I live in Mt and I think that this area has a umbilical cord as well..how many people can you fit on a space without cheap oil to provide for them....first people will leave for comfort then they will leave for survival.. . have we changed much.

I've wondered about the High Mountain Homesteaders as I looked at this question. I know there are a lot of devout 'independent spirits' up in the Rockies and the Cascades (and the Appalachians)who, but for the grace of the truck and the paved stretch that gets them anonymously into the shops- could be forced live in a very different relationship with the broader communities than they can with that gas can handy.

In this interview, http://damnthematrix.wordpress.com/2013/03/31/there-is-nothing-we-can-do... ,Dennis Meadows refers to human industrial civilization as being cancerous, an ecosystem disease. I wonder if he or others have worked out the actual mechanism by which this occurred. They must have studied the analogous growth patterns. But even if this identity were fully explored and elucidated, how would that translate into policy in a world that is hell-bent upon cancerous growth for their own survival and enrichment and which has very little sympathy for other species. They will never realize that their advantages are the same as the advantages a malignancy has within a human body. Try telling them, even the leaders and policy makers that they cannot use their technology to take advantage of an unarmed ecosystem and see how far you get. It really is too late to become sustainable, the cancer must devour the last of the resource gradients just to stay alive in its stage IV development, even without further expansion. But it is still expanding in some areas while other areas become necrotic from insufficient nutrition.

Many of us have known lung cancer victims that refuse to stop smoking and tobacco company executives that refuse to acknowledge that cigarettes cause cancer. Likewise we have billions of people participating in a malignant event that seems, from the perspectives of their short lives, to be completely natural and normal. We also have a fossil fuel and banking industry that would never acknowledge that their product causes aggressive, rapidly growing cancer.

The first great episode of starvation will likely induce the remaining cancer to accelerate its own demise through warfare, associated local strife and distribution failure. Local flora and fauna will suffer at this point and local farming/permaculture efforts will fail to satisfy the cancer’s entire metabolic needs. Large city tumors will become necrotic as metabolic necessities fail to be distributed to the center. Instead, energy and material will be consumed at the periphery and will never make it the the denser accumulations of cancerous cells that will eventually face economic death. Expropriation from the periphery will eventually fail for lack of cooperation.

While I will admit that it seems our population/consumption dynamic is that of a cancer, I do not conclude that we ARE a cancer. Dennis may have forgotten that those dynamics apply to any species that temporarily transcends its normal boundaries. All of life is guilty of the mandate to dissipate energy. See: Schneider & Sagan, (2006), Into the Cool: Energy Flow, Thermodynamics, and Life, University Of Chicago Press, Chicago.

Thus insisting that an analogy like this be pushed too far is probably not very helpful. There are many aspects that make humans different from mere cells that should be taken into account before concluding that we are merely a cancer. See Is humanity the planetary equivalent of cancer?

In my research I find that, while we are at a dangerous nexus in evolutionary terms (e.g. an impending bottleneck which was also carried in TOD) we are still evolving and have a tremendous capacity to evolve further (See my series on sapience).

No argument with the observation that this current species of humans is seemingly out of control. But nature will impose limits (in this Dennis and I agree completely). The question is will that imposition be a complete halt to the evolution of Homo or merely another step.

Question Everything, especially our beliefs!

No argument with the observation that this current species of humans is seemingly out of control. But nature will impose limits (in this Dennis and I agree completely). The question is will that imposition be a complete halt to the evolution of Homo or merely another step.

Good point GM. As a species we will have to bend like a reed in the wind to all the changes that will need to occur, but in particular consciousness will need to elevate to better understand our limits and connection with the planet and all other life-forms. Any way it gets cut, it's going to be a very tough test.

The analogy between civilization and cancer is very close. Humans no longer are limited to their ecological niche, just as cancer cells are no longer limited to their role as a component of a tissue. Cities penetrate their surroundings and collect a disproportionate part of the biological resources in order to live and grow, just as tumors are able to penetrate surrounding tissues, induce a greater blood supply, and grow abnormally fast. Cities have sent expeditions to other parts of the earth and founded new cities, just as cancer metastasizes.

This does not imply any value judgement with respect to humans. Pine beetles and gypsy moths kill trees, but that is just a natural consequence of their existence. The fact that humans came, flourished for a time at the expense of other populations, and then disappeared, is of no more consequence than this year's crop of Cicadas. Nature is very profligate with life -- including the yeast in the brewer's vat.

On the other hand, one of nature's other "design patterns" is that of germination, growth, maturity, fruiting, senescence and death. That works pretty well too, in particular for plants. Animals have some interesting variations, particularly the metamorphosis of insects and other animals. The hunter-gatherer, agricultural, and industrial stages of human development may be analogous to the stages of a metamorphic animal. We may be in the last stage, or we may be entering the next stage of development.

as far as i see there's no difference in this respect between humans and other species. all species
try to grow as much as they can, until external things make further growth impossible.
so this cancer analogy could be applied to any species, and i fail to see what is the point
of the analogy.

The analogy holds in that the cancer begins to detract from the rest of the organism so tremendously that the health of the organism declines, possibly leading to death. Humans are contaminating land, air and sea, overfishing, contributing to the extinction of countless species, and experimenting with the earth's natural climate control system (akin to a warm-blooded organism's ability to regulate its temperature).

Some species have done such damage at a very local level, but only humans are the only individual specie to have taken the cancer-like behavior global. Other species that try to grow, but are kept in check by normal evolutionary forces (predators, lack of food, inhospitable climate) are in no way cancerous as they do not detract from the overall health of the ecosystem in which they live.

I recall the cancer analogy being used during the 60's and perhaps even the late 50's. I used it myself on occasion, probably parroting what someone else had said. The French Pathologist Charles Oberling pointed out many decades ago in The Riddle of Cancer that cancer is not one disease. If anyone is interested a magnificent book on cancer The Emperor of All Maladies : A Biography of Cancer was published in 2010 http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2013/01/23/david_attenborough_ca...

The Matrix uses the virus analogy. And we (they) are the cure.

The point is, we take the whole thing down with us. 'External things" don't make further growth impossible for us until we've eaten the whole planet. The difference is crystal clear.

That is one heck of a sci-fi scenario drawn from an anthropocentric viewpoint. See my comment on that to FM up page. Very little chance that we sterilize the planet to the extent that the organic evolution process ceases.

Oh come on Luke, you know what I meant. Look, I'm not talking about sterilizing the planet such that evolution ceases. I'm talking about destroying many highly and wonderfully evolved ecosystems. That is not a sci-fi scenario. It's already happening.

Yes, no doubt there will be jellyfish and bacteria in the oceans, and maybe in a few million years they'll radiate out and populate the oceans with new life forms and all that.

If my concern seems anthropocentric, well, I'm an anthropos. I'm an ecologist, and an evolutionary biologist, and I hate to see it go down.

If you take solace in the fact that we probably won't end organic evolution and sterilize the planet, well, that's a pretty low bar. Do you think everything is OK?

I guess I lost track of where this comment was on the page, my reply to Fred was down the page. I think if you read it you'll find I don't set a low bar at all and that we are in agreement. We both place very high value on our anthropocentric world view and we'd very much like it to keep going to continue unravelling the mystery.

Do you think everything is OK

It is a nasty/wondrous double edged tool kit that emerged within us isn't it.

I haven't lost all hope for the future. We do appear to racing toward a difficult to navigate bottleneck but then my view comes from way down near the base where I've gleaned my living by extracting resources or fabbing pretty straightforward things with them at great enough speed to create enough surplus to help build all that structure over me. Some of it is wondrous structure indeed but the farther that structure pushes our understanding the better tools it designs for extracting and fabbing resources so the process keeps picking up steam.

Like I said it looks like a bottleneck ahead from way down here but it sounds like the view from your part of the tower above indicates we are getting sucked into the void of no return. Well 'fortune telling' has always been important work of the 'priest class' and therefore has been very instrumental in helping form the toolkit we now wield however it has never been very good at actually predicting the future.

We often get sucked into the Carlin trap here, where 'Everyone driving faster than you is a maniac, and everyone driving slower than you is an idiot!' ..

In a complex spectrum of views, any time you come out a little too hopeful for someone, you're simply Pie in the Sky BAU Cornucopian.. and if you come out a bit darker than the other, you're a deatheating doomer.

It's a tough gig to be a moderate in, since both extremes will paint you as a naive compromiser, lukewarm and ineffectual. But of course, it's in the lukewarm where we can actually live and survive.

Our extreme situation drives us to extreme views. Just leaving the planet is the ultimate minimalist statement with the benefit of compost if possible.

Some of us just want to live simply and live well and would like a future where our descendants can live simply and well. This is not the lifestyle that is glorified in our entertainment all the time media because it does not sell but seems like a reasonable course.

As soon as one starts describing what it means to live simply and well, there is where the disagreement starts and even if we could get a consensus, there would be a very strong contingent that would scream that we are denying freedom, a right presumably guaranteed by the constitution. We are a freedom obsessed people and that will be a major cause of our downfall.

Voluntary simplicity is an option but will only be followed by a small minority.

I don't disagree, but in this forum, there are devils in the details of which, whither, what flavor and how much ??, to the constant effect of having retorts like Sgage's up above..

"Do you think everything is OK?" - which as anyone who's been here a while knows, is an intensely pointed rebuke. It's as much as shouting 'blasphemer!' to someone trying to have a conversation and maybe make points that hope to clarify or somehow qualify the extremity that these discussions keep slipping over towards.

Voluntary simplicity is great, I fully support it; and while yes, I know it is anathema to many, and hard enough to achieve to adequate levels myself in 'this thrall of car crazies' ( John Glenn in THE RIGHT STUFF ) , and won't ever reach the levels of popularity that tailgating does.. it is still not the same as the pronouncements of 'GAME OVER' and EXTINCTION is COMING that we get thrown in our faces daily around here, as if someone had just found God's Decoder Ring in his Cracker Jacks, and fully knew what was coming around the corner.

That kind of arrogant, self-assured bluster is far too similar to the same attitude that I get from the Americans who refuse to consider limiting Assault Rifles or Magazine sizes for me to have much respect or patience for it.. Blustery Absolutism is maybe very gratifying from a cathartic point of view, but I don't think it gets us very far towards the actual doing that is needed.


And so NO, I don't think it's ok either. I know we have any number of ecosystems that are already in extreme peril, while the partiers are setting up more keg runs.. I do KNOW this, and yet, I'm no more impressed at people's decision to toss around Exaggerated Claims.. I think it hurts our validity, and we'll be just as ignored as the boy who 'overstated' his first few 'Wolf' warnings..


My comment to Luke above was actually _intended_ to come across as sort of glib and silly, and was in reaction to a series of posts yesterday that seemed to be taking an extremely long and nihilistic view of things.

You know, after all, that in the end the Sun will swell into a red giant and destroy all life on Earth. So nothing matters. I know that's not how most of the folks really think, but I just wanted to point out a trend I saw in some of yesterday's posts. That said, as an ecologist, I understand that sometimes comfort is to be had in taking a pretty long view :-(

As far as what degree of peril "we" might be in, yes, who really knows? There is such a range of bluster out there every which way, muddying the water, some well-intentioned and I suspect some deliberate.

As far as being ignored, well, too late - "we" are completely ignored already :-)

Fair enough, and apologies for my own strident tone.. it must be a bit contagious..

I kick and scream because I love..


"I kick and scream because I love.."

I do believe that I know how you feel... :-)

Most plants and animals are tightly constrained in the ranges that they can occupy, the food that they can eat, predators that eat them, etc.

The unclothed human, for example, will die of hypothermia in still, dry air below around 5 degrees Centigrade, so the boundary of the human specie's natural range would be roughly the Line of Palms. However, by using man-made shelters and clothing, humans are able to live and be active above the Arctic Circle.

You are partly correct though, in that there are "invasive species" which multiply rapidly at the expense of native species. American gray squirrels in the UK or Zebra mussels in the Great Lakes are examples. Invasive species are not necessarily the product of human transport either, since there have been past episodes where formerly separate continents have joined and species invade both ways. There are no doubt other instances where microbes have wiped out whole host species in epidemics.

However, humans have had a pretty unusual impact, particularly on larger (and/or cuddly, photogenic) species. So we are more analogous to a malignant cancer, as opposed to a slowly growing or begnign tumor.

The point is that people think we are smarter than other species and cancer. But evidence does not seem to bear it out. Granted, parts of the world have slowed growth. But unless we get everyone on board, it won't matter if some people do good.

It seems that humans are a completely different phenomenon than simply a species that has wandered upon a surfeit of resources. Instead it seems that we have evolved the tools necessary to escape the wonderfully complex and limiting interrelationships that exist within the ecosystem, that underlie the full length and breadth of its complexity. We are like a bull in a china shop or a neoplasm making mish-mash of delicate and balanced structures within a body. Nature will pass harsh judgment upon our temporarily exuberant and luxurious growth within the ecosystem.

In an unprecedented manner I think complex adaptability has unleashed us from our plodding evolution to one where we cannot resist eating and damaging irrevocably the body to which we formerly belonged. In many cases our growth actually mimics neoplasm growth.

At this stage of metastasis, identifying humans as participants in cancerous growth would not be helpful, but in my case it’s just a matter of curiosity and anticipating human response to failing systems. Whether you complete your textbook on systems or I write a primer on ecosystem oncology probably makes little difference at this point except for those having a genuine interest in evolution, complexity and energy flow.

I stop in at your site occasionally and appreciate your work.

Guys, (all you guys that disagree with Dennis' cancer analogy), I don't think you understand. We are not a cancer as far as the earth is concerned, but we are a cancer as far as all other animal life on earth is concerned. All species on earth are in competition with all other species for food and territory. But then there evolved a species that had such an advantage over all the other animals that he began to take over all their territories and driving them into extinction. Our massive brains and superior intelligence have given us such a weapon in this war that no other species can hope to compete with us.

And George, the situation is not temporary. We are not temporarily transcending our normal boundaries, we have permanently taken them over. Only a massive die-off of the human population will ever return any territories to their former occupants. That is, only a cure for the cancer can help them. Otherwise they are doomed.

Ron P.

But it is just temporary, isn't it, if we expect massive die offs in the near future as oil production declines? The only real question would appear to be: can they (the other animals) hold out long enough until most of us die off? Here's hoping they can.

Not likely that many of them will survive. When people get hungry, real hungry, and there is nothing to eat, they will eat the songbirds out of the trees. It has happened before but only on a small scale. It will be worldwide when it hits.

Ron P.

How true. Going to have to aquire a taste for sparrow, I guess.

Having actually hunted sparrows with a slingshot when I was a boy, I also learned to prepare and eat them.
I can assure you there is very, very little meat on a sparrow, you need quite a few of them for a single decent meal. If we start to eat sparrows, the end will be very near indeed.

When there isn't enough food to feed the human population of the Earth, I would expect that the food distribution system will fall apart. If the discussion assumes that Peak Oil will happen before the food limit is reached, then it's likely that there won't be enough energy to ship food from areas of surplus to the other areas suffering hunger. Your worldwide crisis assumes that there will be the will and the way to ship food from here to there, but if that assumption is wrong, then the food crisis wouldn't be global. Besides, even if there were food and the fuel to ship it, our trading system would demand some form of compensation from the starving masses and one would think that lacking resources to pay for the food would be quite bad for any importing nation...

E. Swanson

Why hope one way or the other? The Passenger Pigeon is gone, but its absence does not matter.

"The Passenger Pigeon is gone, but its absence does not matter."

How do you know that?

On the other hand, clearly, nothing matters. It's all a dream, Maya, illusion. Who cares? Why are we putzing around on this blog? Your absence or mine will not matter one iota.

Jeez, there are some pretty nihilistic posts this evening...

Well, just for the sake of variety sgage, figured I'd toss out an observation from commuting on the Metra rail system into Chicago nearly every workday.

First off, it seems to me folks are slowly changing their behaviors, based more than anything on the price of gas. When it spikes, I've got to move over to allow someone to sit next to me. When it goes back down enough, I've got more room. I haven't noticed anyone in my subdivision buy a new SUV lately, and I know of only two people personally who bought heavy duty trucks, and they both use them for work. I've noticed more folks walking to the train rather than driving, but that is pretty weather dependent, I admit. I generally see more people out walking for leisure than I did a few years ago too. I'm one of them.

It's just a thought, but if the price of hydrocarbons rises slowly enough, and folks have enough time, I think it's at least possible they will gradually move away from oil-intensive activities voluntarily. They may not be too thrilled with it, but they seem to be adjusting. I notice a lot of younger folk downtown, and work with some of them, who do not own a car and don't intend to get one anytime soon. You don't really need one in an urban environment, and there's a lot of reasons to avoid one.

Now whether this slow, grinding downward trend in fossil fuel use here will be enough to counteract the increasing use elsewhere I don't know. But it seems to me that, in many ways, the explosive growth of the less developed world was dependent on selling trinkets to the developed side of the house. As our side slowly downsizes perhaps theirs will too.

We're clearly in need of a new economic paradigm, but the old one seems to be making incremental progress towards weaning us off fossil fuels without anyone in particular having to do anything in a directed way.

Just random ruminations.

I think this sums it up....


we are still evolving and have a tremendous capacity to evolve further

Humans occupy every inhabitable niche on Earth, there are more than seven billion and adding eighty million a year.
So are we all "evolving" together or is that privilege reserved for a select group.

I doubt humans are evolving much at all, currently. Adaptation generally requires external pressure that humans are not currently experiencing. In much of the world almost everyone lives long enough to reproduce.

Oh, we're evolving all right. We are exposed to all sorts of selective pressures. We are evolving to adapt to the environment that we have created. This terrifies me.

Sgage, the adaptations we learn during our lifetime are not passed on to our offspring. Natural selection is about who survives and reproduces, and who dies and/or does not reproduce. It has nothing to do with how we adapt to our environment.

Ron P.


You have misunderstood me.

I am not talking about adaptations we learn during our lifetimes. I am an Evolutionary Biologist,and indeed teach it at the college level, so please trust me when I tell you that I understand this stuff. I'm not peddling some Lysenkoism.

I'm saying that now, although we are somewhat insulated from raw "nature" in terms of evolution, culture sets up the selective pressures that affect our evolution. The things that confer success are not so much raw physical parameters. The skills required to raise a famly in the wrldd of "civilization" ar not those of a hunter gatherer group. These are the things being seleced for.

That's why I'm terrified. We have domesticated ourselves...

Most of the comments seem to be dancing around the issues raised in the book "The Bell Curve". I started reading it, but didn't finish years ago, but I think the author may be correct. There's the old idea that the less intelligent breed faster than the more intelligent, the result being a dummying down of the overall population. That conclusion assumes that some portion of what we call intelligence is hereditary. If so, civilization may include the seeds of it's own collapse as the overall level of intellectual ability diminishes.

No, I'm not going to jump into a racial or eugenics rant. We know that the US has plenty of intelligent, well educated people to man the ramparts of the capitalist world, which is the reason our corporate masters claim they need more H1B visas to bring still more intelligent, motivated foreigners into our country...:-)

E. Swanson

Eric, I did read "The Bell Curve" back when it was still on the best seller list. I would rather not comment on it here however. But your idea of some people breeding faster than others was a favorite subject of Garrett Hardin. He wrote a lot about people who limit their reproduction because of their concern for the earth verses those who breed like rabbits. Well, actually he did not use that term. ;-)

Anyway, that, and immigration was the main theme of his book "The Ostrich Factor".

And remember the competitive exclusion principle: if fertility varies in a population that is offered options in fertility, then as the generations succeed one another, the pronatalist elements in the population will, in time, displace the ones who conscientiously limit their fertility. You will have failed to internalize population control. (And unfortunately, some of the more competitive individuals may start thinking about violent alternatives. That means that you will get genocide secondarily.)
- Garrett Hardin, The Ostrich Factor

Ron P.

People have been worrying about this for a long time. "The Marching Morons" was written in 1950 and "The Time Machine" in 1895.

But there's no evidence the population is actually getting less intelligent; quite the opposite. Given the difficulties of measuring intelligence (or even defining it), the link between lack of intelligence and poverty is questionable at best (and there has much criticism of the way the authors of The Bell Curve measured and handled those statistics).

I think there's a paradox in there. If this is indeed true then we are facing this since civilization evolved and "intelligence" became a defining characteristic of the society i.e. people herded themselves into classes which were segregated based on "intelligence" levels. It also means that this process has been going on for last several thousand years. By now you'd think that we'd consist entirely of "stupid" individuals. Yet there's no evidence of that (the usual misanthropic jabs on TOD don't count, people are very smart individually), we're still far away from the world shown in "Idiocracy".

It is an argument that one cannot be politically correct and engage in at all. But if higher intelligence did not evolve then it was handed down by the Hand of God. I choose to believe that intelligence evolved. That means, quite obviously, that if smarter people have more children then the general population will get smarter... and vise versa.

If people are getting then there must be a cause. But if less intelligent people are having more offspring then the general populace is getting dumber. One cannot simply make a blanket statement that "it is not happening" without an explanation as to why is not happening. Well they can make such a statement but without an explanation as to why it is not happening, such a statement carries no weight.

There is a thing called the Flynn Effect. But that has been explained time and time again. The latest explination: Are You Smarter Than Your Grandfather? Probably Not. Google it. I did not post the link because of the spam filter. Anyway Flynn himself explains why.

Ron P

Nobody is saying that intelligence did not evolve.

What they're saying is that there's no proof that people who have more children are less intelligent.

It is true that the elite tend to have fewer children. This is generally true cross-culturally, and historically (in Europe, for example, the nobility had fewer children than the peasants). But are the elite more intelligent? That is the point of contention. The argument could be made that it takes more smarts to survive as a poor person than if you're to the manor born.

In particular, the way The Bell Curve measured and analyzed intelligence, it's likely what they really ended up measuring was the effect of education.

What they're saying is that there's no proof that people who have more children are less intelligent.

Oh! Well, having no statistics at my fingertips I cannot dispute that. But if they are then I assume you agree with me. One would have to if one agrees that intelligence evolved. That means it is a heritable characteristic. And being a heritable characteristic makes my point valid. That is if smarter people are having more children then the general population is getting smarter... and vise versa.

I have read the Bell Curve, cover to cover and even the end notes. It is my experience that people who argue the Bell Curve is garbage have not read the book at all, but only read about the book. It is for that reason that I do not argue the book one way or the other.

Ron P.

But if they are then I assume you agree with me. One would have to if one agrees that intelligence evolved. That means it is a heritable characteristic. And being a heritable characteristic makes my point valid. That is if smarter people are having more children then the general population is getting smarter... and vise versa.

Sort of. I think it's much more complicated than that. There's a lot of fascinating stuff coming out of the human genome research. They've found a few genes that lead to cognitive deficits. And they've found genes that make people prone to all five of the big mental illnesses: schizophrenia, autism, depression, bipolar disorder and ADHD (and we never even thought of those disorders as related before). But so far, no one has found any genes linked with higher intelligence.

That does not mean they don't exist. It's pretty well accepted that about 50% of intelligence is heritable. But it does mean that there are likely many, many genes that control intelligence, perhaps thousands, each with a very tiny effect. That might make it more difficult to breed for intelligence (or lack thereof)...if you can even define what it is. It's likely there are many different kinds of intelligence, and they are not necessarily linked. The Machiavellian theory of intelligence suggests that social intelligence/empathy is the root of human intelligence...but that is not measured on the average intelligence test. I'd guess it is strongly correlated with success, however - financial and reproductive.

So, yes, if smarter people are having more children, then the general population is getting smarter...but that is a situation so abstract and unrelated to the complexity of the real world that I don't find it particularly useful or illuminating.

So long as high status males marry females primarily for their attractiveness, there will be considerable mixing, and a division by intelligence is improbable. A good example is that Joe Kennedy was a pretty shrewd character, but his grandchildren are unremarkable.

I know you have made the observation many, many times that the "elite" have less children but I can't find any census data by country or world that it is indeed the case.
My feeling is it is the exact opposite or maybe equal. The middle classes tend to be bearing the brunt of decreasing fertility.

The wealthy and elite have higher divorce rates.
I don't know how adoption would affect fertility rates. If orphans are adopted I don't think that would skew data but adopting children of parents that can't economically afford them, leaves the adoptees available to continue bearing more children.

Anyway if you have info to support the elite having lower fertility rates I'd be very interested to read it.

Thanks for the info but nothing here to refer to "elite". Some reference to wealthy and nations (Swedish Cohort) but we all knew fertility has plunged among the middle classes and may be relatively attributed.

I can't find any census information for elite or even wealthy individuals. The info is mostly

I would opine that the elite and truly wealthy and not influenced by economic circumstance to bear fewer offspring like what happens with the middle classes. That is not to say they don't now have fewer children than a couple of generations ago. Birth control and infant mortality rates also play a major role. I would suggest that fertility rates for the elite and wealthy are higher or maybe equal to the middle classes.

It's just interesting to ponder and discuss, in the scheme of things it means very, very little one way or another.

Well what do you mean by 'elite'? And why does it matter?

It sounds like you are just comparing small groups within an a particular industrialized nation. That is more local sociology than the grand view of the human endeavour.

To get a big picture of the grand scale, you can look at data from nations as a whole. Look at their growth rates, their children per mother, their GDP per capita, etc.

And man . . . I don't see a good future for places like Niger where they have had stats like 7+ kids per woman. That is not going to end well for them if I had to make a guess.

Another issues here is reductionism. In many discussions we reduce intelligence to the IQ. But newer research, discussed in some of these sources, identify other facets including emotional intelligence (EQ), physical intelligence, etc.

Resilience to energy descent may need a mix of these.

The elite may have had more of one type (IQ), providing competitive advantage, but perhaps only during an energy ascent?

But if higher intelligence did not evolve then it was handed down by the Hand of God. I choose to believe that intelligence evolved. That means, quite obviously, that if smarter people have more children then the general population will get smarter... and vise versa.

Ok first of all there is no one uniform yardstick for intelligence, just as there is no one yardstick for "fittest" in Darwin's terms. It all depends on the environment, if the environment changes a certain kind of intelligence might thrive and others may vanish. Sometimes intelligence is actually an impediment to survival, cockroaches are a very successful species, they don't need much intelligence. And your implicit assumption behind making this statement being that a)intelligence is entirely related to genes b)It can be passed on. But what if there are other factors involved like nutrition levels, cultural factors, education etc, after all the IQ test is designed by humans.

But if less intelligent people are having more offspring then the general populace is getting dumber. One cannot simply make a blanket statement that "it is not happening" without an explanation as to why is not happening

Here's my response.
1. Well for starters I am not making the claim that less intelligent people are having more offspring, you are, so the burden of proof is on you and the reason I am making this claim is because there is absolutely no evidence that there is some kind of large scale change going on with regards to intelligence, I don't see any difference, my grandfather didn't either, I mean what's supposed to happen as people become less intelligent, I'd like to know, how are we supposed to know that.

2. As explained above the whole IQ thing is controversial in the first place, not for political reasons but for scientific reasons

3. IQ doesn't correlate to "success" and poverty (hence the whole offspring thing). You can check out the MENSA club members, they come from all strata of the society. Poor to Rich.
Here's the description from MENSA website

Mensans have ranged in age from 2 to more than 100, but most are between 20 and 60. In education they range from preschoolers to high school dropouts to people with multiple doctorates. There are Mensans on welfare and Mensans who are millionaires. As far as occupations, the range is staggering. Mensa has professors and truck drivers, scientists and firefighters, computer programmers and farmers, artists, military people, musicians, laborers, police officers, glassblowers--the diverse list goes on and on.

In the end it's not just a matter of being politically correct, it's just bad science. There isn't enough data or logic to support this hypothesis.

The strongest logic I can give in rebuttal is that if intelligence is supposed to have some survival value then wouldn't it make more sense to think that people with higher intelligence will outlive those with lower intelligence and if intelligence doesn't have any survival value then how the hell does it matter anyways.

Wiseindian, you are reading way, way, too much into my post. I was referring to intelligence evolving as opposed to the intelligence of other animals. All animals have survival skills and adaptations. The primary survival skill of Homo sapiens is their intelligence, and it evolved. And the first hominoids were not nearly as intelligent as those that followed them a few hundred generations later. And the hominoids that followed them were a little bit more intelligent and the process continued until the modern Cro-Magnons appeared about 40,000 years ago.

I will not speculate on what has happened since then. But my main point was intelligence evolved. I don't care to argue your points about the nature of intelligence. I do have opinions on that subject but this is not the forum to argue them.

Ron P.

Fair enough.

I don't know whether the population is getting more intelligent or not. But I think that misses the larger point. Being intelligent does not save you from bad decisions. We all know plenty of examples of extremely intelligent people that do extremely stupid things. I'm more worried about trends of people with high fertility rates and people with a drive to consume as much as possible without a concern about the long term implications. "Be fruitful and multiply" . . . but where will the resources come from to support all that? . . . "God will provide".

I know . . population growth rates definite HAVE been coming down and that is great. But we are still growing overall at an unsustainable rate.

"Intelligence" is NOT a scalar property that can be "selected for" - it is hugely multi-dimensional, and its utility to an individual is dependent upon the environment one is in. "Intelligence", as in "that which is measured in a standard IQ test", is just one dimension...

"Intelligence" is NOT a scalar property that can be "selected for"

Really now? Then how did we come to acquire this multi-dimensional intelligence if it were not selected via natural selection? There is only one other way you know. And I don't believe in that way, the Hand of God method. But perhaps there is a third way, not natural selection, not God, but....?

"Intelligence", as in "that which is measured in a standard IQ test", is just one dimension...

Well I have taken a number of IQ tests in my day and none of them were one dimensional. They all consisted of a battery of different tests, usually eight or ten, each testing a different type of mental ability. One dimensional they definitely were not.

Ron P.


"Then how did we come to acquire this multi-dimensional intelligence if it were not selected via natural selection?"

Because the various components that are adaptive were selected for, when they were adaptive to the environment at the time. Did you not see the "" around "Intelligence"? It is not one simple thing. Do you know what "scalar" means? And if you think your intelligence tests covered all the bases, I think you are mistaken.

I am an evolutionary biologist for 30 years, fer godz sake! I "believe" that natural selection is the shizzle. I just don't think "intelligence" is a single thing.

Sometimes, Ron, you are a bit hair-triggered.

Intelligence is indeed multifaceted but every facet was selected for, else we would not possess it.

Perhaps you are saying that intelligence is one of Stephen Jay Gould's "Spandrels", that is it is a byproduct of something else that was selected for. I am not saying that we do not have spandrels but intelligence is definitely not one of them.

I just don't think "intelligence" is a single thing.

I never said it was but I did say that IQ tests are not one dimensional. The people who create IQ tests are not idiots. They fully realize that there many facets to intelligence and try to test for every one of them they possibly can.

I appreciate the fact that you have been an evolutionary biologist for 30 years but intelligence, every facet of intelligence, is a result of natural selection. And it is beyond me how any professional biologist can deny that. I know I have read dozens of them who agree with me.

Ron P.

"Intelligence is indeed multifaceted but every facet was selected for, else we would not possess it."

If you would kindly read my post again, or indeed perhaps for the first time, you will realize that this is EXACTLY what I was saying in the very first sentence. EXACTLY. Pardon my all-caps, but holy moly Ron, please read my post before you go off.

Do you even read people's posts? How can you possibly, based on my years of posting here, conclude that I deny natural selection in any way? I never have, in all my years of posting here, and I never will. You seem to be responding to something that isn't there...

All I was saying, ALL I WAS SAYING, was that "intelligence" isn't a monolithic "thing". I was not in any way saying that those components of what we like to call intelligence were not arrived at via natural selection. Indeed, I SPECIFICALLY and CLEARLY said that they were! Are you willfully misunderstanding me?

Sgage you said:

Intelligence" is NOT a scalar property that can be "selected for

I disagreed and said so. I said it most definitely WAS selected for. You said:

"Intelligence", as in "that which is measured in a standard IQ test", is just one dimension...

I disagreed and said so. IQ tests are definitely NOT one dimensional. Now if you did not say what I said you said in the quotes above, then please correct me. But I copied and pasted directly from your post. So what is the problem?

It is politically correct these days to attack intelligence tests and to even imply that anything connected with intelligence is heritable. So I am not politically correct. Sorry about that.

Ron P.

Ratchet it down, please. If you think he's wrong, by all means, poke holes in his ideas. But to imply that anyone who disagrees with you is just being politically correct is an ad-hom.


NO, I CLEARLY (and now repeatedly) said that the components of what we call 'intelligence' were absolutely formed by natural selection. You have been corrected. My point was that 'intelligence' is not a scalar property. Do youkniw what that means?

Bringing up 'political correctness' is utterly irrelevant, but I guess you had smething you needed to get off your chest.

Realy Ron, you might consider actually reading what folks write here. And then, if you have questions, ask them. I am here to learn, not win arguments. And I can guarantee uou tha I know more about evolution than you ever will. OK, that was a cheap shot - sorry.

And I can guarantee uou tha I know more about evolution than you ever will. OK, that was a cheap shot - sorry.

Not a problem. I am used to taking cheap shots. And I do not have a degree in biology. But I have read perhaps 80 to 120 books on the subject in the last 50 years. That's only about two per year so not shocking at all. So I do know a bit about the subject. And, though I acknowledge your expertise on the subject, I do not believe you know more about evolution than I ever will. And I do not consider that a cheap shot.

The point is Sgage, that the heritability of intelligence is not a politically correct subject to discuss. And I took your post, saying that "Intelligence" is NOT a scalar property that can be "selected for" as an attempt to bury science under an attempt to be politically correct. And that just irked me. Because I know that it is a scalar property that can be "selected for", or rather was selected for, during the history of the evolution of Homo sapiens. So what else was I to assume?

Anyway, sorry for any misunderstanding.

Ron P.

I was not attempting to bury anything, and I don't know why you though that. But if you got that impression, well, that explains your "political correctness" tangent.

I still maintain that there is not one thing, "intelligence" that comes in the packagage we now call intlligence. We can agree to disagree about that. But of course, the things in that package were surely arrived at by natural selection.

I feel that my crack about knowing more about evolution than you was indeed a cheap ahot, though I still suspect it's true :-) :-)

I guess the whole reason I was so weirded out by this whole exchange was that a) it seemed like you hadn't read/understood my post and b) we are natural allies.

Thanks for staying with it, and keeping cool...

I feel that my crack about knowing more about evolution than you was indeed a cheap ahot, though I still suspect it's true :-) :-)

Knowing is one thing, understanding is another. And I think I understand more about evolution than you ever will. Cheap shot. Sorry about that.

Bye now.

Ron P.

"I think I understand more about evolution than you ever will. "

Yeah, sure, whatever.

I think I understand more about evolution than you ever will


Too bad that you are unwilling to post links due to the filter to back this up.

Eric, you do realize that sage is a professional biologist, and ecologist and that one can not become a biologist without a deep understanding of the Theory of Evolution, right?! I would go further and say that any biologist by necessity has a better understanding about evolution than any layperson. It's just the way it is.

As for posting links, ever since the implementation of the new TOD spam filter, I myself have become rather reluctant to post them...

I think I may as well jump in here in the chain.

I don't get this idea that people all of a sudden are getting dumb in the west. We're at best only a couple of generations out of major grinding poverty for many where a lot of children simply did not survive. Kids are getting smarter presently because they have enough to eat to get their brain developed. Even today in many poor neighbourhoods it still takes a few brains not get your brains blown out so you could call that a selective pressure. Calling the people in poverty idiots is usually a justification of some sort to explain why they are poor and the person using the term is not. Using a heuristic like that actually indicates the speaker is of relatively poor intelligence ironically enough.

If evolution has been working on reducing our overestimated brain power you'll probably find it in wealthy families which have been wealthy for quite a few generations. The royal families are pretty inbred so I would probably look at them and their 'noble' brethren to look for any sign of stupidity because it doesn't take that many brains to be wealthy if you're born into privilege. In many parts of the old world if you do not have the right 'accent' the playing field is extremely skewed.

I remember an old statistic bought up here on TOD quite a while back that 90% of children in Church orphanages died before 'graduation' so to speak. That is a heck of a lot of selective pressure towards intelligence. Any city environment with poverty and misery would be an excellent breeding ground for the ones who have the wits to survive. Going back to the orphanages I guess that explains the child molestation. If the priest liked the look of you then your chances of surviving a place like that would be greatly increased?

Eric, I wasn't serious. It was just a comeback to Sgage's comment that he knew more about evolution than I every would. I should have put a smiley face however.

Ron P.

Nah, he might shoot from the hip occasionally but he's the best value on TOD.
Everyone should be more like me, I've never been wrong in my life and deserved to be nailed to a cross.

In the same way that genetic recombination during meiosis is adaptive, I'm pretty sure that intelligence with its hugely multivariant phenotypic expression (from rocket scientist to ballet dancers to shock troops), is adaptive. I guess what I'm saying is that I agree with Ron. How intelligence is evolving now is a much more difficult question because what is the selection pressure on intelligence that is driving evolution? I'd say there aren't any because everyone, dumb or smart gets to reproduce. Who actually reproduces (as shown by the Mensans) is pretty random and doesn't correlate well or at all to who is actually more intelligent than someone else, given that we don't reward all the various expressions of intelligence equally. But I digress from the proper topic of TOD, which is pretty much everything under the sun. The reason I do love it so!

Being intelligent does not save you from bad decisions.

Exactly. Intelligence is related to various aspects of "problem solving". Judgment is what guides intelligence in paring down the search tree (among other things). Sapience is a mental construct that addresses the biological basis of higher order judgment.

Humans don't really need more "intelligence" (in almost any of its dimensions). It does need more sapience to make better long-term, complex social judgments.

I agree. We have social pressures, which to some degree determine how many offspring we have. Evolution isn't just about external selective pressure, any sort of selective pressure will do the trick. So if redheads get the more fertile spouses, then we are inadvertently selecting for redheads. Even with no apparent pressure we have genetic drift. Although I think what is being selected for is changing as our culture and technology change, there just isn't enough time in any given cultural-technological niche for us to adapt.

we are still evolving and have a tremendous capacity to evolve further...

George, I understand you are a professor with a PhD... in computer science. But I must take exception to that statement. The process is natural selection, not evolution. Natural selection is a process, evolution is history. So when you say we are still evolving you imply that certain traits or mutations are being selected for while others are selected out, by natural selection.

Now how could that be? Well, I guess some sexual selection is still going on. For instance really attractive women with shapely bodies have more success in breeding than those not so well endowed. And women select mates also, so healthy successful men should have more success in breeding more children also. But I would not argue either point, for men or women because there are other factors that may counteract this type of sexual selection. For instance very successful people sometimes have fewer children because they are married to their work.

But I don't think anyone can make the case that higher intelligence is still being selected for. And neither is bodily strength, or swiftness or even cleverness. I cannot see any reasons that those who are more intelligent, or stronger, or whatever, will have a higher survival rate or breed more children than those not so intelligent, or strong or...

So if we are still evolving George, or anyone else, tell me just what is driving this evolution? What traits are being selected for, and why. I hope to be proven wrong here, but I just can't see any natural selection going on right now. And as any biologist will tell you, with any species, natural selection loses influence during times of plenty. It does because in times of plenty almost everyone survives, good traits or bad traits. And for Homo sapiens these are definitely times of plenty.

And I do not believe we have the capacity to evolve much further... unless... unless these times of plenty disappear and our population again comes under great stress, and then only those with certain traits manage to survive and reproduce.

Ron P.


I also have degrees in biology and management science, have done research in simulating neurons and brains, and have worked as a systems scientist and engineer. Computer science was merely a convenient degree to get!

The blog I pointed to has a section devoted to evolution. I have researched and written a number of items on evolvability and continuing human evolution (selection). So I will simply point you there for further explanations.

There are a large number of archaic notions about the process of evolution (not merely its history), some of which have been expressed above. But the latest work in the field has shown that, especially for humans, culture-biological coevolution is alive and well. There is even some work suggesting that we are subject to sympatric speciation even as we speak! Assortative mating seems quite prominent as well.

As for the future, I expect a bottleneck situation as the outcome of our reliance on fossil fuels (my review of Catton's book is available in the archives here) and the co-problem of climate change. Every major speciation event in the history of Homo has come with major climate changes associated with the ice age cycles. I would expect that to continue to be the case for survivors of our species.

If you are interested you may find my latest exploration of evolvability interesting: How did mammals and birds survive the end-Cretaceous Event?

George, glad to hear you have a degree in biology. Yes, I am aware of cultural evolution and that peoples of some cultures have far larger families than others. And this a form of natural selection, for that culture. Garrett Harding explained that very eloquently in his "Competitive Exclusion Principle".

But I was not thinking of cultural evolution, or one culture having far more offspring than another. That is a given. I was thinking, and thought you were speaking of evolution of the phenotype, that is physical or mental changes brought about by natural selection. I simply don't believe that is happening to the human race right now. We are simply not evolving. That is our phenotype is not changing to any degree right now. And even if it were, we are so diverse that any changes would be diluted into our massive population in a few generations.

But if you think it is I would love to know what is changing and why?

Ron P.

I think George, and I are using cultural selection to mean selectivity of traits and subtraits within a given culture. Its not just survival of the fittest culture and the individuals comprising it, the real action is within a culture. Also evolution isn't just survival of the fittest species, as species themselves evolve.

Only if these traits increase in proportion (or become newly relevant in absolute numbers). That require that human beings with these traits increase in numbers, or others (without traits) reduce. Relevant examples within a culture are difficult to name. What relevant examples are there today (or shortly in the future)?

In the western world, diabetes comes to mind. Composed of genetic and nutritional reasons. Possibly, those humans with diabetic prone traits might, decrease over generations, in the western world ((although), because(!), currently diabetes rates are increasing, culture might notice and selection might increase against reproduction - just a hypothesis to discuss - difficult to model - diffucult to find relevant examples).

Relevant examples between cultures are obvious.

Look back 100 years: what traits have been selected, within a given culture or region? A very large part of the change you see, is nutritional and health care.

Are you talking selection over longer time periods than century (generations)? Then we might be talking. BUT, environment has changed faster!
Are you talking selection through one such "critical event"? BUT then it might be luck, very hard to model with genes... within a culture!

Different cultures fare differently, again, obviously. Another, future, comment might handle - "the winning culture" the next 50 years.

Lactose tolerance has become a dominant gene throughout most of the world in the last 10,000 years, allowing most people to drink the milk of a distantly related mammal. That is civilisation driving evolution, and I think 10,000 years is a reasonable time frame for evolutionary changes to occur.

This is incorrect. Most people in the world are lactose intolerant. Only a few people - northern Europeans, and some Africans - are "lactase persistent."

What has become dominant is the dairy consuming culture. So even in places where everyone is lactose intolerant, people consume cheese, yogurt, and ice cream. (Even people lacking the lactase persistent alleles can generally eat a little dairy, especially things like cheese and yogurt, which have less lactose than plain milk).

Only a few people - northern Europeans, and some Africans - are "lactase persistent."

I found this paper (referenced by wikipedia)

Gene-culture coevolution between cattle milk protein genes and human lactase genes.

Milk from domestic cows has been a valuable food source for over 8,000 years, especially in lactose-tolerant human societies that exploit dairy breeds. We studied geographic patterns of variation in genes encoding the six most important milk proteins in 70 native European cattle breeds. We found substantial geographic coincidence between high diversity in cattle milk genes, locations of the European Neolithic cattle farming sites (>5,000 years ago) and present-day lactose tolerance in Europeans. This suggests a gene-culture coevolution between cattle and humans.

This would support the continuous natural selection/evolution theory with regards to milk.

I'm not disputing that lactase persistence has evolved along with dairying. I'm just saying that it's not "dominant" - most people in the world are still lactose-intolerant.

Another example of a human trait that evolved recently: blue eyes.

People with blue eyes have a single, common ancestor, according to new research.

A team of scientists has tracked down a genetic mutation that leads to blue eyes. The mutation occurred between 6,000 and 10,000 years ago. Before then, there were no blue eyes.

People with blue eyes have a single, common ancestor, according to new research.

Leanan, thanks for that information.

I will have a new appreciation for my "relatives" who have blue eyes like myself.

Oh we are definitely evolving. Certain gene combination are becoming more popular than others. It is not natural selection by survival of the fittest as we think of it out in nature. But some people are reproducing more than others and it is changing the population. For example, I think those more susceptible to religious beliefs are reproducing more. We have lots of religions that push people to reproduce and the people do reproduce. Non religious probably have a lower fertility rate. Thus, welcome to your Muslim, catholic, Hindu, etc. world.

Non human species also have evolutionary pressures that aren't due to external pressures. How could a Peacock have evolved? Obviously mate selection within the species has had a profound effect. I think the rhetorical boundary between natural and artificial is fuzzy at best.

There is nothing in Hinduism that opposes birth control or abortion or requires large families. In India, abortion/birth control is not even an issue. My parents generation (married after independence in 1947) was the first generation to have small families (two or three kids). For my generation, the family size has shrunk even more: just one or two kids. The only Hindus in India who have large families are the poor and illiterate ones (through no fault of their own). Even for them, the size has shrunk significantly in the last one generation.

Point taken. Many of these issues are more cultural than religious.

And what you point out is probably one of the reasons why India has been succeeding whereas its neighbor Pakistan has been inching closer toward failed state status.

I think Pakistan is a failed state because political Islam leads to poverty (unless you have a lot of oil/NG to sell), violence, dictatorship, and oppression.

Political Islam, just like communism, does not work.

And it's politically incorrect to say this. They thought religion would provide the foundation for a new country, first they lost their eastern half and will now lose themselves.

We can say it. But you, as an Indian, probably should not since you are too close to the rivalry.

But yeah, it just does not work. Too much corruption and oppression involved. Iran could be doing great if not for the Mullahs. And it is not just an Islam thing. I don't think any religion makes for good government. Religion is dangerous in that people can be quite corrupt if they claim to speak for god and people believe them. The catholic church was able to run a pedophile ring for years without punishment because that. Countless televangelists have fleeced their viewers.

Government is created by people and must be always open to criticism and change. Religion inherently shuts that off.

And despite seeing these other places fail, Egypt is going to make a go at it. "Islam is the answer" the Brotherhood says. They've got a massive pile of problems as is . . . and that is not the answer, that is just another problem.

I must sincerely disagree.

Iran for one would probably be doing a heck of a lot better than they are had the U.S. and other western countries not taken an interest in their internal affairs. How can we judge a religion when a good proportion of the countries which follow it are run by dictatorships which have/had the support or were put in by western powers? We've seen the full extent of secular brutality not less than 100 years ago. Power corrupts and it is both our corruption as well as theirs which we can blame.

Egypt would be no better off really if the secular guy had won. Well perhaps only with respect to the level of support/aid that our western governments would be willing to offer them. The place would still have a lot of people in a not particularly nice place to live with very few natural resources to speak of to go around. The tourists are scared away, pirates are threatening the ships and a nice alternative route is threatening to open up for 3-4 months of the year AND their oil/gas revenue is drying up.

How can we judge a religion when a good proportion of the countries which follow it are run by dictatorships which have/had the support or were put in by western powers?

Not defending the dictatorships but we are not just talking only religion here. Religion, in the Western, world is something that happens on Sunday and holy days. But Islam is their entire life, it is who they are from the first moment they wake in the morning until they go to sleep at night. Islam dominates every aspect of their lives.

Using the word "religion" to define Islam is totally inadequate and misleading. Islam to an Islamist is not just their belief, it is who they are, it is their entire being.

Ron P.

Once upon a time when Islam was the more civilized one and Christians were the barbarians did we say that the Europeans in the 11th Century for instance were that way because they are Christians? I think it is too easy to attribute to people that they act a certain way because they are religious when they likely would have acted in the same way regardless. There are many in my country, the person who sleeps next door to me is one, whose devotion to alcohol is just as great as some of the most ardent muslims are to their religion and I would wager that the level of alcohol consumption prevalent in many places is likely on a whole far more destructive.

It is true that the US screwed up Iran by overthrowing Mossadegh and installing Shah in 1953. But the US has done similar things in the rest of the world as well (e.g., overthrow of Allende in Chile in 1973 and installation of brutal Pinochet, support for Marcos in Philippines, etc).

What if Iran had a Zoroastrian majority and a US puppet for a leader? After the puppet was overthrown would it turn into an oppressive backward theocracy where women are stoned to death and gays are hanged? I don't think so.

I don't think "Political Islam" has anything to do with it. Any country that runs afoul of the planet's major empire is going to have trouble. Iran's leaders and elite classes could be "doing great" if they would allow the US, through our corporations, to plunder the wealth of the nation. That would not benefit the majority of their population.

I'm certainly not eager to live under such a system, but what system would work well under such stress?

So Iranian government hangs gays, persecutes Bahais, stones women, bans alcohol, etc as a reaction to US hegemony? What if Iran had a Zoroastrian majority? In that case after the overthrow of Shah they would probably have ended up with someone like Hugo Chavez instead of Khomeini.

I'd pick Hugo Chavez every time, but that was not the point. I sense you have an emotional investment in this discussion somehow, so I don't think it fruitful to continue.

I'd pick Hugo Chavez every time, but that was not the point.

That is the point! A secular society would pick someone like Hugo Chavez after the US installed puppet was overthrown. A society of people brainwashed with religion would pick someone like Khomeini or Mullah Omar.

I sense you have an emotional investment in this discussion somehow, so I don't think it fruitful to continue.

Oh really? How did you sense that? Did I make personal attacks or indulge in name calling?

I think Pakistan is a failed state because political Islam leads to poverty (unless you have a lot of oil/NG to sell), violence, dictatorship, and oppression.

VS all the States (or States that are somehow united) that are not practised in violence and oppression?

Political Islam, just like communism, does not work.

VS the success of other types of 'religious' States?

VS all the States (or States that are somehow united) that are not practised in violence and oppression?

All crows are black; doesn't mean that no other bird can be black.

VS the success of other types of 'religious' States?

We were talking about Pakistan in this case. The only non-Islamic religious state I know off is Israel. Israel is successful because while it is founded for jews, its laws, culture, people and leaders are secular in their outlook. The orthodox in Israel are as irrational as religious nutcases elsewhere, but fortunately they are a minority and mostly the laughing stock for the secular jews.

Ron, evolution of a population of biological organisms never stops unless the species goes extinct. Between sage's comment above and George's below, I think they have the topic pretty well covered... but here's a quote from the horse's mouth.

"Variation is a feature of natural populations and every population produces more progeny than its environment can manage. The consequences of this overproduction is that those individuals with the best genetic fitness for the environment will produce offspring that can more successfully compete in that environment. Thus the subsequent generation will have a higher representation of these offspring and the population will have evolved."
Charles Darwin

Absolutely, without any doubt whatsoever, humans are still evolving! Like sage, I too am terrified.

Fred, I think you are misinterpreting Darwin's words here. No, that is not correct, you are definitely misinterpreting Darwin here.

every population produces more progeny than its environment can manage

Meaning only a few will survive. Evolution happens because only a few can survive and natural selection is the strongest. But who will be the ones that will survive?

those individuals with the best genetic fitness for the environment will produce offspring that can more successfully compete in that environment.

Clearly what Darwin is saying here is, when far more offspring is produced than can possibly survive, then those with the best genetic fitness will be the few who survive. So simple. So eloquent.

No such situation as Darwin describes here exist within the human population today. Well, perhaps in a few pockets of the world but none in the developed world anyway. Almost everyone survives today. If you think that without any doubt whatsoever, that humans are still evolving, then what is driving that selection pressure. What is culling the less fit from the ranks of the fit. How is this process working now?

Just what is it that natural selection is selecting here Fred? That is, what traits are being selected for and what traits are being selected out. That is, what traits did the survivors have that allowed them to survive as opposed to what traits did the unlucky have that caused them to die out, or not to reproduce if they did survive?

After all, that is what natural selection is Fred. Fred, if you really believe that we are still evolving then it behooves you to explain what is changing and why.

Ron P.

Ron, if you wish you can look through the scientific literature yourself there are plenty of peer reviewed articles about this topic. There is zero doubt that humans continue to evolve and scientific research backs it up unequivocally!


Darwinian "survival-of-the-fittest" laws continue to shape human evolution in the modern age, research led by the University of Sheffield has confirmed.

Humans are subject to the forces of natural selection just like any other species, say scientists.

A popular misconception is that humans stopped evolving when they took up farming and embraced monogamy.

But evidence from detailed church records of almost 6,000 Finns born between 1760 and 1849 suggests this is not so.

Researchers analysed data on economic status, births, deaths and marriages to examine four key natural selection factors: survival to adulthood, mate access, mating success, and fertility.

They found that the Finns' natural selection opportunities were on a par with those seen in the wild.

Fred, I would not argue that people do not change. If smarter parents have more children than dumber parents, then the average level of intelligence will rise. If dumber parents have far more children then the opposite will happen. There, I told you what would happen and why.

But I really don't think that is the kind of evolution you are talking about. Well, I really don't know what kind of evolution you are talking about. Could you explain?

And your Finnish example is about sexual selection. Yes, I have already conceded that point. Attractive people have more sexual success than uglier, obese, or whatever. Therefore they have more offspring. That, Fred, is what evolution is all about. There are subtle changes going on all the time. But these changes are not species wide. The Finns may be changing slightly, the Inuit may be changing slightly and others. But we as a species are not changing. We are in a period of stasis. That will definitely change if we go through another bottleneck after the die-off.

Ron P.

But I really don't think that is the kind of evolution you are talking about. Well, I really don't know what kind of evolution you are talking about. Could you explain?


Perhaps we are just talking past each other. George Mobus has already hinted at the vast amount of scientific information from multiple and diverse fields of inquiry that together make it impossible to deny the ongoing evolution of Homo sapiens.

Here's an example of what I'm talking about:


Evidence of Contemporary Modern Human Evolution Contained Within the Human Genome


An increasingly common opinion is that humans have hit an evolutionary peak or adaptive plateau. A combination of complex culture, technology, and biomedical advances has effectively buffered many human populations against many of the selective forces that would otherwise drive continual evolution of our species. “Most laypeople tend to assume that humans are the pinnacle of evolution and that we have stopped evolving (Balter, 2005a).” This statement by Huntington Willard, director of the Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy at Duke University, is indicative of one of the major questions in the field of human biological variation and human evolution. Are humans still evolving?

The purpose here is to explore multiple examples of evolution within the human genome, primarily focusing on three specific examples of selective sweeps that are in progress at the present time: resistance to malaria, lactase persistence, and resistance to HIV. By exploring these topics and the ability of humans to adapt to these conditions, it will show that not only has human evolution continued to the present day, but will continue indefinitely.

Emphasis mine


Perhaps we are just talking past each other.

Yes, I think we are. We are evolving resistance to some diseases all the time. And at the same time some bacteria are evolving ways to overcome our ever evolving resistance.

I recently started reading a book, a novel about after the collapse, called "Was a Time When". It was supposed to take place in the year 3100. The people had short harry tails. I quit reading at that point. Stupid, stupid, stupid, I thought and threw the book away.

A similar story took place in the movie "Waterworld". That supposedly took place after global warming, and perhaps other causes, had caused the water to rise and cover all the continents. People evolved gills. Again, stupid, stupid, stupid. Mammals returned to the sea 50 million years ago and none have evolved gills and for a very good reason.

Which is my point. Evolution happens, and only happens, for a reason. That is, some sort of selection pressure must be present or nothing changes. Well, not very fast anyway, genetic drift can cause subtle changes over great periods of time.

I can explain changes brought about by sexual selection, or lactose tolerance, or bacterial resistance. But when most people say we are still evolving they usually mean that we are getting smarter or changing our body structure in some better way. And they can never explain why they think this is happening, only that evolution marches ever onward and upward. No, if we are changing then there is a reason why and it can be explained is simple terms.

Ron P.

Ron as a final clarification I'll just post the definition of evolution used in the paper that I linked to and the conclusion :

Defining Evolution

In its most basic definition, evolution is described as a change in the frequency of alleles in a given population over time (Freedman & Herron, 2004). Evolutionary theory tells us that the majority of evolution is brought about by selective pressures acting upon a given population. Selective pressures are responsible for the evolution from australopithecines to early Homo species to modern humans. Yet, there is a current question about the effects of modern humans' culture on these selective pressures and whether our culture is counteracting these selective pressures to a degree that it has prevented the continual evolution of our species.

Snip...To determine whether or not humans are still evolving, we must look at the genome and determine if there are documented cases of changes in allele frequencies. A change in frequency of alleles would signify that the allele is being favored (shown by an increase in frequency) or that it is being selected against (shown by a decrease in frequency).

Snip...Current estimates by Williamson et al. (2007) show that there are approximately 101 regions of the genome that show evidence of a recent selective sweep (Appendix I). These regions contain both the allele being selected for and the alleles within close proximity that increase as a result of selection on the original allele. For this study, populations were divided into categories of African-American, European-American, Chinese, and combined. The African-American sample showed only nine regions of recent selective sweeps (Williamson et al., 2007). This coincides with what we should expect to see


While skeptics argue that humans have hit an evolutionary peak and that our culture, medicine and technology have solidified our lack of need for continual evolution, it is medicine and culture that help to solidify continual evolution of the human genome. Culture has been responsible for the evolution agricultural dairying and lactase persistence, responsible for an increase in malaria, thus the evolution of sickle-cell trait, can be said to be a main reason for the rapid spread of HIV, thus is responsible for the evolution of HIV combatant alleles, and is responsible for populations' migration to high altitudes, thus responsible for in increase in high oxygen saturation of hemoglobin. These examples suggest that modern humans remain in a state of constant evolution as a result of common mutation, natural selection, new endemic diseases, and our own cultural influences.

Hi thanks for the comment.
A 2007 paper which states that most think as I do (skeptics???). And then states this paper has another world-view. Critics: the last sentence uses "suggest". Not strong wording. This means in academic language: heavily debated.
The first meaning of conclusion is really hard to understand, another problem. Like me, (in another comment), the author introduce medicine, as a reason for "evolution" to have stopped. Then somehow, the author reaffirms that this is however the reason that evolution continues. Very odd sentence.
Does the new worldview become true because of the reaffirmation???
Clearly, the authors then talk about changes since agriculture developed, the last 10000 years?
So, how much of evolution is still present today, say since the development of modern medicine and antibiotics, the last 50 years? I maintain - "little".
Odditites; "can be said" "sickle-cell" "rapid spread of HIV" "responsible for populations' migration to high altitudes"?
Really odd conlusions, not at all understandable. To many "can be said" and "suggest".
It does not look like a game-change paper for me and the textbook.

So, how much of evolution is still present today, say since the development of modern medicine and antibiotics, the last 50 years? I maintain - "little".

Then please write a paper of your own, which supports your position, submit it to peer review and have it published in a reputable scientific journal such as The Journal of Human Evolution.

Otherwise, what you maintain or not, has little weight in this particular discussion.

All of us are entitled to our beliefs and opinions and they have zero impact on actual scientific facts. That humans are still evolving today, is a scientific fact!

Really odd conlusions, not at all understandable.

Either you have difficulty understanding the English language, perhaps it is not your native tongue and therefore you are forgiven, or the text is a bit too filled with technical terms for you, or you simply do not grasp the scientific concepts being discussed.

To me, these conclusions are neither odd nor very difficult to understand.

Hi, yeah but c'mon, the conlusions of a paper, can be strong or less strong. This smells of a paper where the reviewers have squeezed the author a fair bit. The wording that got through included "suggest" the word means (even for a non native english speaking person) - no evidence, simply "future research might tell more". These are facts, correct?
I also do not have to write a paper on that topic on my own, it should be enough to read the scientific literature available.
I still interpret this particular paper as saying, the last 10000 years, evolution has taken place. My question is, presently, since say 50 years, how much evolution of humans are taking place?

That is not a reasonable question. 50 years is not enough time for evolution to occur. It's two generations. You're just not going to see a lot of change in that time, for mice or men.

If it is not so: a game-changing techology has arrived, even several: food, housing, medicines, healh care, education, the last 50 years,
which have transformed the western human society. All these factors substantially reduce natural selection. That should merit the scientific question.

Yes I understand that "a measurement" of evolution in 50 years is rather difficult to perform. That should not stop us from making models though.

Yes I understand that "a measurement" of evolution in 50 years is rather difficult to perform. That should not stop us from making models though.

No, that completely misses the point.

Regardless of any models you use or construct or measurements, you might make to assess the changes in the frequency of alleles in a given population over a period of merely 50 years, it would at most give you a single data point, which could not by itself be used, to come to any scientifically valid conclusion.

However to argue that because you can't see any meaningful evidence of change in a single data point, you can therefore refute the overwhelming evidence from multiple fields of scientific inquiry over many decades of research that unequivocally support the fact of continuing human evolution is something that I find rather difficult to parse.

There is evolution, and there is adaptation. Adaptation can occur in less than a generation, particularly if some coping mechanism evolved in past generations that were subject to a similar stress, and that mechanism now lurks in the DNA of most individuals waiting to be expressed.

Intelligence could be such a mechanism, mostly switched off until BAU fails.

Heritable adaptation, however, IS evolution.

Yes, but my point is that such evolution may have already occurred in the distant past, and we are now capable of adapting to the same stress without new generations, dieoffs, etc. Well, it's a nice thought.

Oh, for sure there are cultural adaptations. That, after all, is the whole point of culture. :-)

That, after all, is the whole point of culture. :-)

Check out Cambridge University's Dr. Lambros Malafouris...

My research aims at developing ways to understand the long-term implications and causal efficacy of material culture in the functional architecture of the human brain and the evolution of human intelligence (especially with reference to human capacities related to self awareness, memory, theory of mind, agency and the body schema). For the last few years I have been working on the Material Engagement approach to the study of mind and the archaeology of extended and distributed cognition.

If he's right and our civilization with all it's gadgets should ceases to exist, we are all in for some severe withdrawal... That's my conclusion not his. I have no idea if he has looked into the consequences of our civilization collapsing but I would like to hear what he has to say on the subject.

Ah, gadgets. Or as the current usage is, "devices".

I am not a gadgeteer - don't even have a dumb cellphone. But my siblings and their children are totally gadgeteers. To the point where I visit them on a holiday and they're sitting around the living room with their faces stuck in their gadgets, and I wonder why I bothered to drag my butt to go visit. Really, REALLY pisses me off sometimes. It's the height of rudeness, IMO.

Let 'em suffer severe withdrawal, and realize that the world is here, around them.

I'm pretty sure that in mice you'd see plenty of evolution occur. Not so much in men. 50 years is a long long time for mice, given that females can have 5 - 10 litters per year.

But I get your point.

BTW, there's a lizard that developed a new stomach structure (actual morphological change), and behavioural characteristics in only 30 years. Evolution can happen real fast when it needs to. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080417112433.htm Every time I read this, it truly blows my mind that change can happen so fast. Needless to say, this kind of change we're not seeing amongst humans at this time. Not on any scale significant enough to be easily noticed at any rate. Unlike say if we evolved a new digit because it proved to be advantageous to one's survival, which everyone would notice.

I meant in two generations, not in 50 years.

In that case, I completely agree with you. My bad.

I read about dog-breeding it takes about 7 generations to change the apearance of a race of dogs. For people, that would mean 140 years. And we are only looking at what meets the eye.

A dutch girl in my church youth group has a dog race that carries her family name. Aparently a relative of them breeded this dog, or wolf-hound rather.


Didn't know until I wikied it he mixed wolf into dogs.

All dogs are capable of interbreeding but breeding has begot a myriad of genetic defects. What traits would you select for in humans.........would you breed close relations, kill failed results?

Maybe breed for intelligence? How would YOU select for it, would you be sure about psychological perfection?

Maybe breed for a fast runner, champion golfer, tennis player, big teeth, height, strength.......................


"Maybe breed for a fast runner, champion golfer, tennis player, big teeth, height, strength..."

Ability to pick cotton, hoe the fields...

Familiar with the history of the United States perchance? The early years in particular.

We can see a difference in brest size in Europe. In Russia, women tend to have very small, and the largest are found in the UK. I can see no other explanation than mens preferences in the matter. Culture beeing encoded into genetics, over time.

Don't know what Fred will produce but I thought I'd pop in here with a comment in response.

Your response to Fred's interpretation of Darwin's words seems to be lacking some of the latest understandings of selection, esp. in driving speciation. In particular what is now called multilevel selection, which the strict Dawkinites still reject, but only because the selfish-gene interpretation held so much sway (and grant-producing power) for so long is now being recognized as a much more comprehensive way to view the forces that drive evolution. Multilevel selection provides a better framework for things like sexual selection, and most importantly for humans, group selection.

Honestly, I don't have time or space to elucidate the details. They can be found in the literature; but I do spend a lot of time studying that literature and writing about aspects of it in my blog for general consumption. I am working on my next installment which will consider current evolutionary process and where we came from to get to this point, and project some future possibilities. But I suggest a quick look at Wikipedia articles on speciation (and drill down to the separate types), evolvability, multilevel selection and group selection, just for starters. Of course you will find criticisms and such for all of these, evolution is not as settled a field as is gravity. But work through the lot and see if you can spot the pattern.

The point is that natural selection as Darwin described is only one aspect of selection processes at work in evolution. It cannot be counted as all there is to the process.

As for your earlier comment above, please see articles on Evo-Devo and epigenetics (heritable). You will find that natural selection is merely the tip of a huge iceberg!

George, I am afraid I am one of those strict Dawkinites you speak of. But in particular I am a disciple of George Williams. And I am sure you know of his opinion about group selection. So I guess we will have to agree to disagree.

However I was in the process of editing my post to Fred but your post stopped that effort. So I will post it here. Fred wrote:

Ron, evolution of a population of biological organisms never stops unless the species goes extinct.

Oh, but evolution does stop. That's what Stephen Jay Gould's punctuated equilibrium was all about. Evolution goes in spurts... then nothing. Gould thought he had exposed a fallacy, evolution was not gradual at all. That was until Dawkins pointed out that no biologists had ever claimed that evolution was gradual. Everyone always suspected that they were great periods of stasis between spurts of evolution. Dragonflies stopped changing millions of years ago. The Coelacanth has not changed in millions of years. Ditto the Horseshoe Crab.

Dawkins used an example of the Israelites 40 year journey from Egypt to Israel. (Dawkins is an atheist but this was such a good example he could not resist.) Someone figured that if the Israelites moved the same amount each day they would have moved 37 feet per day during those 40 years. (I don't remember the exact number of feet but you get the idea.) Then one day two young historians made the announcement that the Israelites actually wandered about, going hither and there, and did not move a set distance each day until they gradually arrived in Israel. They had disproved the gradualist theory. But the catch was, there never was a gradualist theory in the first place.

So it is with evolution. No one who knew anything about evolution ever put forth a gradualist theory of evolution. So when Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould announced their punctuated equilibrium theory, they thought they had disproved the gradualist theory of evolution. Until Dawkins pointed out that there never was a gradualist theory of evolution. Most everyone always assumed that evolution completely stopped at times and went in spurts at other times.

Ron P.

So I guess we will have to agree to disagree.

Ron, we will. The work you refer to is hopelessly out of date. The names you name are revered but their theories are rapidly being displaced by modern evidence. The field of evolution is vibrant beyond belief. There are controversies as one would expect in such a fulminating field. Nevertheless there have been many advances in the last several years and the last decade. The new findings are daily expanding our understandings of the process as a whole. I sincerely hope you will try to follow some of the linkages I've provided or risk becoming obsolete in the same way species become unfit to their environments. Dawkins provided valuable insights but not the end understanding. The knowledge of how evolution operates is itself evolving and it is not adaptive to get stuck in the past. Dawkins, Gould, Eldredge, et al. have made their contributions to our understanding, but only incrementally. No one today, for example, disputes punctuated equilibrium (ample evidence in the evolution of Homo) but there is so much more to the story.

Hamilton's inequality is not sufficient to explain either altruistic behavior nor cooperativity in non-Apocrita species. This is what happens as scientist dig deeper. You cannot get stuck in past explanations. Ernst Mayr is no longer the FINAL word in evolutionary theory. Please update your notions.

Oh, but evolution does stop. That's what Stephen Jay Gould's punctuated equilibrium was all about. Evolution goes in spurts...

Yes it does go in spurts for some genera, but it never stops. Selection(s) of all types are constantly at work. Microevolutionary work shows this definitively. Better check it out.

The Coelacanth has not changed in millions of years. Ditto the Horseshoe Crab.

That is because their environments have not substantially changed relative to their fitness. Not because evolution has stopped.

Your use of puctuated equilibrium is a non-sequiter in modern evolution theory. It is accepted as a mechanism for macro-evolution within genera and higher classifications. But it has nothing to say about micro-evolution or sympatric speciation (which you have not yet addressed).

Until you specifically answer the issues raised by Evo-Devo (for example) or other more-modern-than-Dawkins evidence of evolutionary mechanisms beyond selfish genes you are hopelessly out of date with the state of knowledge. I am sorry to say it because I respect your knowledge of peak oil. But on this count you are falling behind. Sorry.

George, I am sorry I am falling behind also. I don't dispute that evolution continues on the micro level. Lactose tolerance was mentioned up thread. Yes some peoples, but not all, have evolved lactose tolerance in the last few thousand years. But I think most people here, when thinking of evolution, think of physical, or perhaps mental, changes.

And you said the Coelacanth stopped changing because its environment stopped changing. That is the point I was trying to get across. Evolutionary change must be caused. We do not evolve different characteristics willy-nilly, something must cause every change. You know that a lot of people just believe we will change just because time elapses. We don't. I know, genetic drift keeps changing our genome slightly just as every person has a different DNA because of copying errors at conception. But unless a change in DNA results in some advantage or disadvantage then no change in adaptation is passed on to the offspring of the population.

That is, and this is the crux of my argument, the natural changes in the DNA, even if in historical times, would have given that individual some advantage that might have allowed that individual to survive or have more offspring, no longer has that advantage.

So when I ask people to explain why they think evolution is still happening, when I ask them what is causing it, they are almost always at a loss for words. So if we are still evolving what is changing and why? When almost everyone survives what is there left for natural selection to select from?

Ron P.

I don't have source here so I'm just quoting from memory. But russian scientists discovered seeds frozen in the tundra. They where 20 000 years old, and belonged to a species that still exist there. We can assume the enviornment are the same over the entire time length. I saw pictures of the present day flowers and the 20 Ky/o ones they got from the seeds.The plants where still the same species biologically,but looked distinctly different. Obviously drifting occur and implement some marginal changes at least.

Yes humans don't clone......obviously. Genetic drift occurs. Homo appeared.....when, 85000 years ago?, 25 years for a generation equals very few for "evolution. We have bred up to seven billion and all can interbreed and we are exceptionally clever at breeding, we will always find a way, some even think we interbred with neanderthals.

Hands up those who have "evolved" and if you think you have, have you "evolved" to something different from your neighbor, or have seven billion of us "evolved" together.

Genetic drift occurs. Homo appeared.....when, 85000 years ago?,

The first hominids to split from our common ancestor of chimpanzees sometime between 5 and 7.5 million years ago. Homo sapiens, (in modern form), first appeared about 100,000 years ago. (That date is uncertain however.) Cro-Magnon, or modern man, first appeared about 40,000 years ago.

Mutations drive evolution which are mostly caused by DNA copying errors. Genetic drift is something altogether different.


Hands up those who have "evolved" and if you think you have, have you "evolved" to something different from your neighbor, or have seven billion of us "evolved" together.

Bandit your question speaks to some popular misconceptions about evolution.
All of us are here because of evolution. None of us have evolved or can evolve as individuals.

Evolution is the change in populations, not in individuals.
Evolution is not a process in which species universally progress up a "ladder".
Humans are not descended from any modern species of monkey; both monkeys and humans are descended from some long-extinct ancestor pre-dating both. Although this species, if it were transferred to today, would be considered a "monkey", it is not any living species of monkey.
Evolution explains how humans developed from a primate ancestor, but not an extant species of monkey or ape. (Modern primates include: bonobos, chimpanzees, gorillas, baboons, macaques, lemurs, gibbons, and humans. None of these is a descendant of any other.)
Speciation can occur by branching into two or more reproductively isolated populations (cladogenesis) or when a single population changes over time to such an extent that the later population is considered a different species (anagenesis).
Source Wikipedia

Respecting the horseshoe crab and ceolacanths, morphological change may not have occured, but I doubt that this is the same case at a biochemical level. Some changes almost certainly occurred as their environments changed chemically and otherwise over vast spans of time. Their morphoology continued to be adaptive as is clearly shown in the fossil record. Whether their biochemistry and enzymatic profiles remained static over the same time period is something we don't know and which I would bet, did change over that same time period. My bet isn't very scientific, but to suggest that they didn't face new chemistries or pathogens and did not adapt at a biochemical or cellular level (changes which won't be revealed in the fossil record) is utterly unreasonable to me. Surely some new bacteria, virus and other changes occured over the ceolacanths 225 million years of existence and the fish adapted to survive. I'm not sure of the horseshoe crab's longevity...

Coelacanths are not living fossils. Like the rest of us, they evolve

I'll risk posting a link:


if you really believe that we are still evolving then it behooves you to explain what is changing and why.

i think on the contrary one would need a very strong argument to suggest that the change has stopped. why would it be so?

No such situation as Darwin describes here exist within the human population today.

but now you are talking about ridiculously small time scales compared to time scales in the evolution. as far as i see this proves nothing.

Change has stopped: in a population of humans, some people should die, because of genes, before they have about 2 adult kids.
This is since 50 years no longer the general case (western world). That is the "proof" against "classical" selection today.

On longer timescales, peak oil and climate change and nuclear problems, will affect large parts of a human population. Which will survive?
These pesky preppers (genes), the rich (healthcare - genes?), luck shots(?) some other groups (gene reasons?). That is again selection.

On very long timescales (thousand years), if the environment (culture) for humans change even more slowly than these current 200 years, selection
might again take place, according to the case in textbooks. If a future human sustainable society chooses to build that in.
One might even say, the future human society, in order to reach sustainability, must (should) build in selection in order to keep the genes that allow the society to be sustainable. If that is a goal to achieve to get further in this universe for us humans.

There are still selection pressure. But it works on the level of not who survives, but who reproduces. For example educated people get fewer kids, etc.

I'm not terrified. Partly its a case of whatever will be will be. But, also assuming we reach something sustainable and steady, will should evolve to better fit that environment. So rather than being optimized as hunter-gatherers, we will be optimized for whatever culture we co-evolve. Now maybe if we invented HG Wells time machine and went forward in time, we would be horrified by the result. But those Eloi, would probably consider us to be primitive ape-men.

Okay guys, so like, are we evolving or aren't we? Only managed a B in undergrad Biology, but my understanding was if we're evolving, then there's some pack of humans off somewhere isolated enough from the rest of us to soon be unable to breed back with us.

Can't think of any such pack at the moment. Which means we probably still need to work things out amongst ourselves. We ain't gonna evolve outta this one, unless we do it culturally.


Two things to look at: sympatric speciation and population bottlenecks. Suggest you start at Wikipedia. The modern reality of evolution is not what it was just ten years ago.

Okay, took a quick look. Intuitively get the bottleneck concept. It's tossed around here quite a bit. The sympatric stuff all seems well and good, no problem with the micro-evolution and all if you like. Still not seeing how either is currently likely to result in speciation of home sapiens sapiens at the moment, but I'm game. How do we get to the point where we spin off a daughter species? Whether it's Evo-Devo or another mechanism, it looks pretty difficult to get it to apply to us unless/until some event shakes down. We seem to be pretty compatible from a breeding point of view across all our population ranges and subgroups. Eskimos and Ethiopians can have kids if they like. In another species the geographic isolation might drive speciation, but with us, we just hop on a plane.

Is this an accretive sort of thing? All sorts of little micro-evolutions and then pop, one day some pressure gets applied and a series of individuals mix and match those and we have a new daughter species? I'm open. How does that happen? The orca, polecat, and horseshoe bats, okay. But us?

Edit: Saw your reply to Ron above. So I guess there's some gap in here - does the sympatric speciation in any way appear to apply to us? I think I'm inappropriately mixing the micro and macro. At a macro level is there something going on with us as a species which is leading, or might lead, to speciation that I ain't seeing? We definitely overlap territory, but I'm not seeing how the factors are there to drive speciation, I guess. The factors that drove the orcas to refuse to associate and the bats to tune to a different frequency don't seem appropriate to us.

The simple answer re: sympatric speciation is YES it applies in the sense that ANY species that occupies an environment in which there are sub-niches that can be specialized into AND some small behavioral change in those animals that strongly occupy those niches reinforces mating preferences (e.g. democrats marry democrats, or catholics marry catholics) then offspring from those matings will trend, over time, to the isolation of the group's gene pool relative to the other groups or main species. Given enough time after that, the species may become fully genetically isolated (no hybrids). Check out the speciation of cichlids in certain African lakes (e.g. Lake Victoria) where the evidence for sympatric (as opposed to allopatric) speciation is quite strong.

As for humans right now, today, we cannot say with certainty that it has or will happen. Human mobility tends to mix the gene pools that might have been forming before the industrial revolution. However the logic of sympatric speciation, above, certainly has been documented in normal human behavior and mating preferences. So...? Also I should mention that recent fMRI and other techniques have shown that republicans and democrats DO think differently about the same subject. They react differently emotionally to various stimuli. I find this fascinating. Could it be that ideologies and religions are effectively niches???

My main thesis is not about sympatric speciation in humans today, however. That it may be operative is more along the lines of evidence that evolution is still operating on humans in various forms. That is, variations in so many (but esp. cognitive functions) traits are still being generated and there are still incredible selection forces at play that if left in play long enough could still result in speciation. Adaptive radiation (or several species of the same genus occupying large environments) was always at work in hominid populations. Several different species or subspecies of many populations occupied Africa at the same or overlapping times. There is nothing new in this. Human evolvability appears to be especially high. So the idea that we aren't currently evolving in some way is simply anachronistic.

My thesis, to reiterate, is that humans are about to enter a massive bottleneck which will do the job of allopatric isolation (either in distant pockets or one small group as may have happened in southern Africa ~70k years ago). From those survivors we should expect to see the unfolding of the Founder's Effect and subsequent adaptive radiation. Owing to the climate change problem I suspect there will be plenty of selection stresses that should satisfy Darwinian's concerns! If there are survivors they will have to evolve. There simply is no other game in town.

Thanks for the comment.
OK, that is clear. I see what you mean. I agree, and take the following with me from above:
"As for humans right now, today, we cannot say ..." that sounds fair, it is what I mean.
"humans are about to enter a massive bottleneck which will do the job of allopatric isolation". That I think too, perhaps a bit less,
but is what I see as causes from peak oil, climate change, possible nuclear problems etc. Can start tomorrow or this century or later.

On speciation: What is a species? From Wiki: In biology, a species (plural: species) is one of the basic units of biological classification and a taxonomic rank. A species is often defined as a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring.

So what causes speciation? On Madagascar there are about fifty (surviving) species of Lemur. Some look quite different, from the size of a mouse to the size of a smallish dog. But some of the species look almost exactly alike but still cannot interbreed. The reason has been explained that in historical times the ocean rose dividing Madagascar into two different islands. These look alike lemurs were separated so long that, due to genetic drift, they could no longer interbreed.

In Africa there are almost as many different types of baboon. But they are not different species because they all can interbreed. The same can be said about dogs. They all can interbreed if only physical size did not prevent it.

So I have my own theory of what causes speciation. Natural selection, or domestic selection in the case of domestic animals, can create great physiological differences in the body structure. But only great amounts of time and genetic drift while separated can create a different species. That is animals formerly of the same species but later incapable of interbreeding.

Ron P.


I have noticed in this thread a confusion between the evolution within a species, and the formation of new species. There are many other confusions going on as well, as well as simple misunderstandings of evolution, and this isn't really the time or place to address them all.

But for sure, we're not going to biologically evolve out of the pickle we're in...

What traits are being selected for, and why.

We don't know.

Pre-1800 my parents would have buried me as an infant: too sickly. In today's world, I've lived long enough to sire, and I plan to do so. That changes the make-up of the human species a small amount, because my genes will hopefully be passed on instead of hitting a dead end. That change in natural selection has caused a minor shift in human evolution.

However capitalism is like cancer, with unlimited growth, and not being controlled by biophysical realities, just a cancer cells have gotten around Apoptosis.

George & Darwinian
Re "Question everything"
Suggest checking the quantitative accumulation rate of deleterious vs beneficial mutations. Test the models yourself using the quantitative forward simulation Mendel's Accountant

MENDEL is a genetic accounting program that allows realistic numerical simulation of the mutation/selection process over time.

The Next Step in Understanding Population Dynamics: Comprehensive Numerical Simulation, John C. Sanford and Chase W. Nelson DOI: 10.5772/34047

I had a strange encounter with Dennis Meadows at an ASPO conference in Washington DC. I sat two feet from Dennis at a symposium that included Gail Tverberg and Nicole Foss. After the meeting I introduced myself to Dennis. He said "here it comes" turned and quickly walked away. In no way did I intend to criticize Dennis. I was an original fan of The Report to the Club of Rome and remain a fan. One of my all time favorite essays was written by the late Donella Meadows (on Thomas Jefferson). I have had brief but pleasant conversations with Gail and Nicole at ASPO meetings.

Not sure what you might have said to Dennis. I can tell you that he is not pushing Limits or actively engaged in system dynamics as a way to understanding how the world works. He and his former colleagues (Donella and Jorgen, Forrester) made their case and the world largely rejected their findings. He will offer his opinion about what is coming if asked. But he seems to have given up on trying to change what humans think. He is engaged in organic farming (e.g. Permaculture) and has pretty much abandoned trying to convince the world of human beings that it has no choices that would ensure BAU. Personal communication. I'm in agreement with his sentiments.

Well, George, most of us in the doomer community have also given up trying to present information that contradicts what people hear on the MSM. It doesn't matter whether people choose to reject this due to cognitive dissonance or because we don't present our case well. Why waste our time? In my case, sure I send out my little Update newsletter each week but I'm doing very little to involve the rural community where I live.

In addition, the more one accepts how "bad" (although that's not the right word) the future might be, the greater one feels the need for OPSEC (operational security). If we doomers are wrong, so what. We've only wasted our own time and money. However, if we are right, we certainly cannot begin to help the number of people who will be in need. Although it sounds uncaring, I don't want (most) people to know what my capabilities are.


George prob said enough on it, but one can surely imagine the degree Dennis and company have been at the focus of a lot of heat and vitriol over the years, as LTG became iconic of a whole philosophical stance in defiance of (ahem) other views.. I have to wonder what sort of exchanges he ends up dreading these days, as the next person approaches..

Interesting article on LI battery life in auto applications: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130410103921.htm?utm_source...

Unless they took the batteries over lots of bumpy rough roads, I wouldn't call it a realistic test. Time will tell.

About the No Dak refinery.

It sure makes a lot more sense than that hyper-helium inflated ballon proposal of a refinery west of Sioux Falls South Dakota.


tonnes of dead links here at


Would the fact that No Dak has the only state bank (not sending buckets of money off to wall street as Ellen Brown keeps talking about) have anything to do with the financing?

A bit smaller article with a bit more detail


"Peak demand" is back on the scene and the new mantra these days apparently (also used by Yergin).

You wonder why Greeks are cutting trees instead of burning fuel ? They are not asking for it, simply !
Why Egyptians should cut subsidies in order to get an IMF loan ?
Apparently they have forgotten that they shouldn't be "demanding" for "cheap" fuel, but they will probably remember that soon !

I've noticed that too Yves. Last week I believe the Motley Fool had an article out which was covered in the Drumbeat. It called Peak Demand a brand new theory. Like it was just coined in 2013.

It's brand new folks....never existed before. Please don't search that term on Google. Thanks, the Fool!

Of course, back in 09-10 the last time i remember really seeing it. It was quickly squashed on blogs like this by simply showing that production flat lined first, prices spiked then demand fell.

Pesky facts!!

Summary of Weekly Petroleum Data for the Week Ending April 5, 2013

U.S. crude oil refinery inputs averaged over 15.1 million barrels per day during the week ending April 5, 2013, 106 thousand barrels per day above the previous week’s average. Refineries operated at 86.8 percent of their operable capacity last week. Gasoline production decreased last week, averaging about 8.8 million barrels per day. Distillate fuel production increased last week, averaging over 4.5 million barrels per day.

U.S. crude oil imports averaged over 7.7 million barrels per day last week, down by 211 thousand barrels per day from the previous week. Over the last four weeks, crude oil imports have averaged 7.8 million barrels per day, about 1.2 million barrels per day below the same four-week period last year. Total motor gasoline imports (including both finished gasoline and gasoline blending components) last week averaged 876 thousand barrels per day. Distillate fuel imports averaged 139 thousand barrels per day last week.

U.S. commercial crude oil inventories (excluding those in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve) increased by 0.3 million barrels from the previous week. At 388.9 million barrels, U.S. crude oil inventories are well above the upper limit of the average range for this time of year. Total motor gasoline inventories increased by 1.7 million barrels last week and are at the upper limit of the average range. Finished gasoline inventories decreased while blending components inventories increased last week. Distillate fuel inventories decreased by 0.2 million barrels last week and are in the lower half of the average range for this time of year.

Propane/propylene inventories increased by 0.3 million barrels last week, and are in the upper half of the average range. Total commercial petroleum inventories increased by 5.9 million barrels last week.

Total products supplied over the last four-week period have averaged over 18.4 million barrels per day, up by 0.9 percent from the same period last year. Over the last four weeks, motor gasoline product supplied has averaged over 8.4 million barrels per day, down by 2.4 percent from the same period last year. Distillate fuel product supplied has averaged 3.9 million barrels per day over the last four weeks, up by 8.3 percent from the same period last year. Jet fuel product supplied is 2.6 percent lower over the last four weeks compared to the same four-week period last year.

In Tokyo Electric Boosts Coal Capacity to Cut Need for Costly Oil, we learn that TE is switching from oil to coal for 1/3 of its power generation. This is something that portends a future of increasing CO2 production as others follow the leader, and as we increasingly burn the planet in order to stay "rich."

Nice going, homo sapiens.


Nice going, homo sapiens.

Nice going, going, gone, Homo sapiens... only the rats, pigeons and the cockroaches will miss ya! And maybe not even them.

Of course there is an implied value judgement in these sorts of comments and that value judgement opens quite the can worms doesn't it? The earth will be stocked with ever evolving life forms until the sun says that is not happening regardless of our actions so it does appear.

But unless you want to argue for some sort of higher being concept setting out intrinsic worth systems within and beyond the universe at the get go, which your past comments make seem very unlikely, what difference does it make what species occupy this place? That is unless you adopt some sort of variation of our anthropocentric world view--so I'll modify zaph's words nice going Homo sapiens for developing a thought process that damns its own worth, a worth which only exists within that self same thought process.

So I am saying throw in the towel party hardier if we at all possibly can. No, not at all and that is because I do embrace the anthropocentric world view we have created and would like to think it has just begun its journey to make sense out of the world.

Not so much a value judgement, Luke.

The way I see it we are sitting out on a limb and sawing away at it between where we sit and the trunk of the tree. And because we are so smart we come up with better and better tools to saw faster and faster. Perhaps I'm wrong but I think we are going to manage cutting off the branch on which we sit. When we do we will take our civilization down too.

My comment about the rats, pigeons and cockroaches was simply because they have evolved to survive in our cities and if our cities collapse their source of sustenance will change drastically.

Then I simply caught myself and realized they have been here evolving for a long time and would probably survive without us regardless.

So when we are gone they won't really miss us either.

Your comment lies on top of the implied value judgement of zaph's sarcasm. No doubt in my mind that you attach immense value to our species' quest to fathom the world about us, to as fully fill out our world view as humanly possible...that is why you are quite distressed at where and how fast we look to be sawing the limb. But then I might merely be reading my own reflection in your comments and be missing your true point of view entirely.

Zaph, Ghung, Ulenspiegel, all other renewably interested parties ;)

Coming from a perspective of complete ignorance here. Is Japan just not interested in looking at renewables to replace their idled NPPs? Are they just too far north to get decent sun? If Germany is going after it, and Japan is certainly not lacking for technical or engineering expertise, what is the primary driver(s) for why they aren't attempting to ramp up on solar/wind/geo? Or are they?

As I said, coming from complete ignorance here. Just trying to get some ideas on why I never seem to run across an article on Japan's renewable initiatives. It's LNG, clathrates, oil, coal, what have you.

Is Japan just not interested in looking at renewables to replace their idled NPPs? Are they just too far north to get decent sun?

Sharp and Kyocera both make solar panels.

Just trying to get some ideas on why I never seem to run across an article on Japan's renewable initiatives.

You can not find what you are not looking for Grasshopper. Now, again, snatch the search engine results from my hand.
(the language barrier may also be a roadblock)


About 6,910,000 results (0.13 seconds)
Search Results

Japan Council for Renewable Energy(JCRE)
101-0041, Japan TEL:03-5294-3888. FAX:03-5294-0909. E-mail:council@renewableenergy.jp. "Advanced Technology Paths to Global Sustainability" ...
Japan's Remarkable Renewable Energy Drive—After Fukushima ...
Mar 11, 2012 – Japan's Remarkable Renewable Energy Drive—After Fukushima ... the country's initiatives on conservation, renewable energy sources, and ...
Solar and renewable energy initiatives in Japan - Solar Energy ...
In the wake of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan that precipitated one of the worst nuclear disasters in decades, the Japanese Parliament is preparing to ...

Tried that. Well, fairly close to that. Wound up with a lot of links to 2011/2012 info. Not unhelpful, but was looking for something a bit more current. Not to worry, Google News came through with some more current stuff.

Looks like they've got the most generous FIT in the world, and a bit of a land shortage too. Also the spa owners aren't too thrilled with trying to tap all that geothermal.

Seems a pretty typical story, so far as reporting goes. The MSM doesn't seem to pay attention. Ya gotta go dig for it yourself.

P.S. The SunEdison link is busted. Or at least it was for me.

I have the impression they are pushing ahead aggressively, but from a low base. Given the rapid shutdown of what about a third of their generation, and not having been a big renewables market to begin with, it is not surprising that their renewables industry is not even close to the required scale.

I strongly suspect that nuclear was pushing out renewables. Before the tsunami and subsequent disaster, there was a lot of talk about going all out with nuclear, like France perhaps. The government strongly supported nuclear and hoped to build many more plants. Naoto Kan, the former prime minister who now is very vocally anti-nuclear, was one of the proponents of this plan.

That said, wikipedia has a good article on solar in Japan.

Though I haven't gotten that far into it yet, it kinda looks that way to me too. Looks like the renewable stuff is out there, and there's some work going on, it just didn't seem to bubble up into the MSM very well. The LNG stuff seems to grab the headlines more easily.

They are sort of small scale at the moment.


I looked up an insolation map awhile back, and the southern two islands have good PV sites. Hokkaido has good wind potential. I think they are still trying to wrap their heads around the fact they pick the wrong solution (nuclear) for an seismically active island. That process won't last forever, then they will probably go into a big renewables program.

And NGK has the hot battery (sodium sulfur) technology, and there are plenty of mountains for pumped storage. They can balance their supply and demand.

Japan is by far the hottest PV market, they will install more than 5 GW in 2013. They already affect the German market as some high quality modules are not longer available for us. :-)

Go Japan!

Somebody here, I think it might have been Ulenspiegel, pointed us to this site some time ago:


Their most recent post on Japan is:


The accident in Fukushima continues to change the country's power market. By 2016, consumers are to be able to switch utilities, and the forecast for installed PV in 2013 has nearly tripled.

Last month, Solarbuzz put Japan in fourth place in its forecast for 2013, far behind China, but also behind Germany and North America. But last week, BNEF announced a much different forecast of 6.1 to 9.4 gigawatts rather than the previous 3.2 to 4.0 gigawatts, mainly because of the commercial sector (arrays from 10 kilowatts to one megawatt). If Japan manages to install that much, it could actually overtake China to be in first place.

That story showed up somewhere else. I thought it might have been here but, looking through the last three drumbeats didn't turn it up. Must have been Yahoo Finance.

Not a lot of news coming out of Japan but from my perspective they seem to be going "all in" with renewables. As recently as 2004 Japan had more capacity than Germany and it cannot have escaped them that, Germany has gone from less than a Gigawatt to over 32 GW in less than ten years, with more than 22 GW being installed in the last three years! As others have said, the incentives are for all renewables and not just solar. Other articles I have seen recently outline that they have already begun to scale back the incentives because of the overwhelming response to the FITs. Obviously the original rates were a tad too attractive!

Alan from the islands

For the same investment (FIT) Japan can easily get 5 times the German capacity due to the now cheap PV modules.

Yeah, that was depressing news to read.

But what else can they do? Natural gas is really expensive. They can't build new nukes. They are building out solar & wind too. Oil is too expensive. So coal is the default energy source.

I guess they should try harder on wind & solar but they'll still need some back-up. I guess they should work on geothermal.

But what else can they do? Natural gas is really expensive. They can't build new nukes. They are building out solar & wind too. Oil is too expensive. So coal is the default energy source.

That is precisely the point I was making, Spec. When all else fails, turn to coal... not a very good Rx for our climate, is it? And that is what we may expect from increasing numbers of players in this particular game.

The real problem is that we all have skin in the game, and what is taking place is enimical to our skin.

Interesting posts today that are converging, as might be expected, on several of our three converging, interacting, multi-level crises.

You might want to research some of the downside problems with geothermal. For a while I felt it was a natural, go-to solution; after reading carefully I am not so certain. Certainly it is not a long term sustainable solution. For that we need to look up, to the sun. Even wind power and tidal power have extreme long term difficulties.

Good to see your contributions.


North Dakota builds refinery to supply North Dakota. Looks like things are getting more local.

Th empire of Dakota, the empire of Texas, the empire of Quebec (hydro) with Manhattan at its Southern end, the empire of California (solar) with the coal pits and solar arrays of Nevada, Arizona at its eastern edge, the empire of the Forest (Oregon, Washington, British Columbia) with hydro, the empire of Canada (tar sands).

The six survivors of North America.

The idea that bio-regions are a much more useful concept to humans than nation-states defined by written statute and enforced by military power has been a staple of sustainable-human-population thinkers since ... Well, to be honest I only became aware of it after leaving the USAF in 1994.

I've been mostly thinking about where is the water going to come from and how is the soil tilth? I'm also really hoping for high clay content on the soil I'm currently occupying but I haven't tested it yet and that's a different story.

Climate change is too much of a wildcard to make any firm plans on, except I save every shade tree I can except the ones breaking foundations, walkways etc.

Your addition of energy resources to this potentially new map of the planet is interesting. Those high-tech and low EROEI sources aren't all going dark at the same time. Hopefully. I'm not a civil engineer but it seems to me that concrete parts of some of those hydro dams might last for generations. Not so sure about the steel parts though.

One does worry about where the weak links are in this massively complex civilization we enjoy here in the US.

One does worry about where the weak links are in this massively complex civilization we enjoy here in the US.

They're all around you....

Iran Earthquake Death Toll Rises

A magnitude 6.1 earthquake killed at least 37 and injured hundreds more in a sparsely populated area in southern Iran on Tuesday, Iranian officials said, adding that it did not damage a nuclear plant in the region.

The epicenter appears to be about 80 km from the Bushehr NPP, which is not online yet. Far too early to know if Iranian claims about the condition of the plant are credible. Not that it would ever be easy to figure out if any claims about their nuclear program could be considered credible, I realize. I'll be following this one, though.

The Bushehr plant has been brought online. The reactor first went critical in May 2011 then was brought up to full power in stages reaching design capacity in August 2012.

Russian technicians man the plant and Russian News agencies quoted them as saying the plant was fine but a full routine inspection will be carried out. I am not sure if the plant was running at the time of the quake as it is still shut down occasionally for fine tuning and problem fixing. They did shut down in October last year and fuel was removed to the pool. I'm not sure what the status was at time of the quake.

I am not sure if the plant has been formally handed over to the Iranians yet or is still in commissioning but it has been online to the grid for some time now (when it is running).

USGS estimated level 3 or 4 shaking in plant vicinity. That should be within design parameters but who knows for certain.

Thanks. Did find Iran to Connect Bushehr N. Power Plant to National Grid Soon, which seems to give a few more details than I was seeing when I initially saw the info about the earthquake. This article seems to predate the quake, however (or to have conveniently ignored it - it is from the FARS News Agency).

Sometimes better to look for Russian reports on the plant.


­"The reactor of Bushehr nuclear power plant’s Unit 1 was brought up to 100 per cent of its projected capacity at 18:47 local time on August 30, 2012" Atomstroyexport, an engineering company within Russia’s Rosatom, said Friday.

...The plant, near the Gulf city of Bushehr in the country’s southwest, was connected to Iran’s electricity grid in September 2011

The future date given by the Iranians for grid connection seems to be the restart and formal handover due soon (or was before the quake anyway). That fits with the quote from your Fars News Agency item: "Abbasi rejected the media reports about a halt in the operation of the Bushehr nuclear power plant, and stated, "The plant is under test, and thus, its connection to and disconnection from the (national) grid is natural due to the technical problems." "

So it has been up and down during commissioning but it does appear they had not restarted at the time of the quake but were likely preparing to do so.

Good point. Will keep an eye on them Russians. ;)

Besides not having a Republican in the White House I wonder if its operational status is one of the reasons the US hasn't made some war with Iran yet.

The thought occurred to me the other day that if the US were to "Shock and Awe" a country with operational nuclear power plants it's entirely likely they'd be responsible for Chernobyling/Fukushimasizing the reactors of that country.

I don't think Romney would have started a war either. It would be a complete flip-flop on their "Obama spends too much" routine. The nation is way too war-weary. Iran is much bigger and more powerful than Iraq. It is just not going to happen.

Same for North Korea. That story bores me. It is just the old song & dance trying to get more food aid and some fuel oil.

"I don't think Romney would have started a war either. It would be a complete flip-flop on their "Obama spends too much" routine. The nation is way too war-weary."

Pfffft! Thanks for the laugh :)


Said the same on another site months ago. Need to be sure what way the wind is going to blow for a long time. Fallout could end up in Israel. Better still how long would it take to decontaminate a super tanker that was down wind ? Or say Saudi Export terminal.

Chris Martenson hits the big time on Yahoo Finance

Link Here

I know there are Chris Martenson fans here, and I have to hand it to him -- he's succeeded in going from marginal peak-oil advocate to mainstream internet talking head in the space of about four years. Now he's providing economic forecasts, predicting a huge market drop this year (down 40%! Didn't he learn anything from JHK?) and interviewing the likes of David Stockman. I don't know about you, but I find it depressing.

The whole subject of Peak Oil used to have such dignity with heavy weights like Campbell, Heinberg, Deffeyes, Laherrere and others bringing important warnings of what was to come and urging change. Now it's just degraded into an unseemly mix of disaster mongers and investment hucksters offset by an increasing chorus of cornucopian reality-deniers while the rest of us watch the paint dry, ticking off every little downturn in production.

The thrill is gone, nothing meaningful is going to be done, and the unfolding disaster that lies ahead will creep upon us ever so slowly. And my son will inherit a world of limits the likes of which I cannot fully imagine. I'm tired.

I am grateful to everyone who has contributed to this site, especially to Ron for his herculean effort to accurately measure what's going on and to Rockman for his invaluable insights and to Leanan for making it all happen.


Yeah, I gotta say that I'm disappointed how much of the peak oil talk has gone away from geologists and engineers to a lot of doom-sayers with varying qualifications include former-reporters, 9/11 conspiracy theorists, Druids, now-astrologers, organic farmers, etc. I'm sure I've offended some of your favorites.

The cornucopians have not been right . . . but nor have the doomsayers. It is certainly not always true that the truth lies between two disputing sides but that does seem to be the case with peak oil. Oil production has not grown like the cornucopians predicted and prices have risen faster than they predicted. Score one for the peak oilers. But the higher prices have managed to bring out new supplies and production has managed to continue to eke out gains. Score one for the economists.

But Peak oil is just not a fast decline like some believed. There is a lot of fat in the system, there are feedback-loops, and there are some substitutes that make it a slowly changing situation, not a collapse.

I worry that the strident voices that make rash predictions that don't come true will serve to discredit peak oil and cause people to forget about it. But the real damage hits people in a ways that they don't even detect. Their wages are stagnant, their gasoline bill is higher (but they didn't notice because it went up relatively gradually), their food prices are higher, and they just can't manage to make ends meet.

And since the rash predictions did not come true, people dismiss peak oil as a cause. Thus, people blame other things . . . speculators, greedy oil companies, Obama, Ben Bernakke, OPEC, etc. But the really sad thing is that by dismissing peak oil, they won't take any actions that could help protect themselves. They'll continue buying gas guzzlers thinking that things will soon turn around. Well, it's been some 5 years since the massive oil spike in 2008 . . . but people just don't get it. Read the comments after any MSM story on oil prices and the culprit du jour is Ben Bernakke and the Fed. All the stories about North Dakota have totally wiped away all peak oil worries.

The Druids are especially wading in the shallow end of the pool, but very entertaining.

I think you've nailed it -- the decline in oil production hasn't happened as quickly as we expected. I do believe that economic growth is stagnant due to oil prices consistently above $100/barrel and the plateau in oil production but the MSM and most of the investment community don't see it that way. Things will get a lot worse once oil production actually goes into decline but TPTB seem to be quite oblivious to what is coming.

The cornucopians have not been right . . . but nor have the doomsayers. It is certainly not always true that the truth lies between two disputing sides but that does seem to be the case with peak oil. Oil production has not grown like the cornucopians predicted and prices have risen faster than they predicted. Score one for the peak oilers. But the higher prices have managed to bring out new supplies and production has managed to continue to eke out gains. Score one for the economists.

I concur, but also not surprised, as the truth often ends up between two schools of thought initially far apart. What seems truth one day moves later for unforseen reasons.

Without taking sides on this issue, I note the following - Chris Martenson on structurally high oil prices

Well, pretty much agree with the thoughts here. Lately I've been musing on the need to switch terminology. Repackage the argument, as it were. I can get a conversation on energy started by using Expensive Gas instead of Peak Oil, I've found. I seem to get less friction with this fairly simple substitution.

Now, keeping things going once I've got it started, well, that's a little trickier. Generally I find additional beer to be a useful tool, however...

Interesting article here about how parents differ cross-culturally.

I am not talking about National Geographic bare-breasted, hunter-gatherer pictorials. Those are the most memorable variations in child care, the sort we can see: Think of the live-in Mongolian livestock in Babies. What makes the work of Harkness so interesting is that it highlights the variations we are unable to see. Even when compared to other Western cultures, we Americans are a deeply strange people.

Every society has what it intuitively believes to be the right way to raise a child, what Harkness calls parental ethnotheories. (It is your mother-in-law, enlarged to the size of a country.) These are the choices we make without realizing that we’re making choices. Not surprisingly, it is almost impossible to see your own parental ethnotheory: As I write in Baby Meets World, when you’re under water, you can’t tell that you’re wet.

These "ethnotheories" are so distinct that you can tell where a parent is from by the words they use to describe their children. American parents use the word "intelligent" a lot. Intelligence is the answer to everything in the U.S. Not so in other countries, even other developed countries.

When a child asks lots of questions in the U.S., the parents see it as a sign of intelligence. Italians see it as sign of social competence. The Dutch tend to view it negatively: a sign that the child is too dependent.

The American tendency to put so much emphasis on intellectual development is quite strange, viewed globally. But I guess it might explain our technocopian bent.

Maybe other cultures value humans intrinsically because they are humans while in the U.S. money and ability to contribute to the market economy are more the measure of worth even for New Borns. Personally, I pick the former over the latter.

In the US intellectual development is associated with upward socioeconomic mobility, or with at least keeping level with the parents' status.

However, I'm skeptical whether there is an "American" theory of child rearing. Child rearing tends to be handed down from mother to daughter, and large numbers of Americans are only a generation or two from somewhere else. Even for those who have been here longer, their ancestors lived in ethnic enclaves, both in rural districts and urban neighborhoods. Maybe geographic mobility and multi-ethnic backgrounds have resulted in mothers who are so confused they have to look it up in a book -- hence the emphasis on intellectual development.

I don't know what we Brits say - depends on which Brits I think.
Better not get into what parents say about children brought up in other countries.
But I liked the old Jewish joke about some dubious specimen of their own. Went something like this I think: "Aye, but he loves his Momma!"

+1 on that opening sentence. This is just a sign of the comparative dominance of capitalism and pro-capitalist/Social Darwinian ideology in the USA. The rich continue to perceive themselves as rich because of native ability and effort, rather than luck and social priorities/policies, and they have never been shy about lecturing us all on the topic. In Holland, poverty doesn't exist, and the existential threat to children is vastly lower, so the main concerns are saner.

As for mothers being the main vessels of parenting: Not sure about that one in our age of TV.

Day care and nursery schools are more of a homogenizing factor than TV. But the mother-child interaction still transmits a lot of cultural assumptions from generation to generation.

Jared Diamond's latest book "The World Until Yesterday" offers a lot of interesting comparisons of 'traditional societies' with modern societies, including child rearing practices. I am sympathetic with a number of practices of these traditional societies. If we could learn from them, we might be able to figure out a way to have our cake and eat it too.

But who is "we", who are "them"? What can we "learn" from them that would somehow render post-industrial capitalism into something workable?

No, you can't have your cake and it too. Sorry.

Well the having our cake part was tongue in cheek. It seems like a common attitude among the techno-optimists (that we can have our cake and eat it too).

For the rest, there seems to be a prevalent notion that the trajectory toward a bottleneck is somehow inevitable and was inevitable right from the start. I don't personally believe that the human race was destined to self-destruct right from the beginning. The general way of countering this notion is to look at various cultures and find the exceptions to the doomer notion that, well, doom is inevitable and has been from the start. So we look to 'traditional' societies (Diamond's term for what we often call hunter-gatherer societies) to find exceptions to the 'rules' that we perceive as guiding our 'modern', 'Western', 'civilized' (choose your term, they all are baggage laden) societies. In other words, humans are capable of creating an extremely broad diversity in how we organize and run our societies.

Maybe all a moot point, but I think it is useful if merely to keep us from falling into cultural myopia in the way we perceive humanity in general.

And I thought all we cared about was basketball or football prowess!

Alert to Congress: Nuclear Evacuation May Bog Down

A new government report challenges a pillar of planning for disasters at American nuclear power plants. It finds that people living beyond the official 10-mile evacuation zone might be so frightened by the prospect of spreading radiation that they would flee of their own accord, clog roads, and delay the escape of others.

GAO Report Summary: http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-13-243

GAO Report: http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/652933.pdf

... Those in the 10-mile zone have been shown to be generally well informed about these emergency preparedness procedures and are likely to follow directions from local and state authorities in the event of a radiological emergency.

In contrast, the agencies do not require similar information to be provided to the public outside of the 10-mile zone and have not studied public awareness in this area. Therefore, it is unknown to what extent the public in these areas is aware of these emergency preparedness procedures, and how they would respond in the event of a radiological emergency.

Without better information on the public's awareness and potential response in areas outside the 10-mile zone, NRC may not be providing the best planning guidance to licensees and state and local authorities.

In other words, some of the people who live outside the "official" evacuation zone may not be so gullible as to believe there is anything meaningful about an arbitrary 10mi circle drawn about a an NPP. I'm 12mi as the crow flies, and you can bet we'd be bailing out in a heartbeat if something happened. Which is why we won't be told if they can avoid it.

Studies of evolving human societies overlook the role of animals

... York and fellow sociologist Philip Mancus of the College of the Redwoods in Crescent City, Calif., make that argument in a paper published in the current issue of the quarterly journal Sociological Theory. They say that animals are more than pets or domesticated creatures bended to human needs. Instead, animals have had "profound influence" in driving the evolution of human societies.

Our effort was to show that animals influence the historical development of societies, and that the actual characteristics of animals, not just the meaning humans make of them, matter."

Just five of 14 species of large animals domesticated before the 20th century—the cow, sheep, goat, pig and horse—became widespread and important around the world. More domestication was tried but failed, the authors noted, at least in part, because of the nature of the animals involved.

York and Mancus also took issue with Lenski's heavy emphasis on the role of the plow, rather than the animals that pull it, in driving technological advances. Plows are only useful when combined with draft animals such as horses and oxen. Thus, a major difference between the Old World and New World was that the former had large draft animals and the latter—with only small animals such as the llama, alpaca, guinea pig, and dog—did not. The Incas, for example, instead devised the taclla, a human-powered digging stick that also served as a hoe.

No mention of dogs?! With the first canine domestications at least 27,000 years ago (possibly 33,000+), the domestic dog likely assisted in the domestication of the other species mentioned. It's considered probable that dogs chose us, unlike other domesticated animals. What could be more "influential"?

I recall reading that the spread of humans to some environments was delayed, until we had domesticated dogs. The combination of dog and man has some unique capabilities neither would have alone. Dogs aide in hunting, and defense (mainly by warning of the approach of predators). Later they became useful for controlling some grazing animals. Horses were hugely important militarily.

Some experts have stated that without dogs humans would not have progressed beyond hunter-gatherer civilization. Dogs were essential to herd and protect sheep, goats, cattle etc. It simply could not have been accomplished by humans alone. A fascinating proposition.

In Africa there are various tribes that tend their domestic animals, such as cattle, without the use of dogs.

German bank reports solar power cost in India and Italy has reached grid parity

Germany's Deutsche Bank has released a report that concludes that generating electricity using solar collectors has reached grid parity—cost competitiveness with other industry standard sources—in some countries. Analysts with the bank claim that both India and Italy have reached grid parity and that other countries are poised to do so over the next couple of years.

The German Bank is particularly optimistic about solar power price parity in India, the U.S., China, the U.K., Germany, Spain and Italy and because of that is forecasting a 20 percent (30 GW) increase in worldwide demand this year—it's already pushed above 100 GW. They note that Germany alone accounts for approximately a third of all solar power production, but project that China will soon surpass that country because of a very strong push by the government there. India too is making a strong push—the government has set a goal of producing 20 GW by 2022. The U.S. is also making strides with construction underway in the Mojave Desert of what will soon be the largest solar farm in the world.

More information: Deutsche Bank: https://www.db.com/medien/index_e.htm

Northern hemisphere summers warmest in 600 years

Harvard University researchers analysing evidence from Arctic tree rings, ice cores, lake sediments and thermometer records said recent warm temperature extremes in high northern latitudes "are unprecedented in the past 600 years" both for magnitude and frequency.

"The summers of 2005, 2007, 2010 and 2011 were warmer than those of all prior years back to 1400," they reported.

"The summer of 2010 was the warmest in the previous 600 years in western Russia and probably the warmest in western Greenland and the Canadian Arctic as well," they said.

"These and other recent extremes greatly exceed those expected from a stationary climate."


Aren't deniers apt to sieze on this to show that, "as short a time as 600 years ago the world was the same as it is now"; and as, "What's the big deal?


"Aren't deniers apt to sieze on this"

Probably. We have returned to the Medieval Warm Period, or at least the end of it. I think the Western colony on Greenland had already frozen out by 1400. the last recorded contact with the eastern colony was 1408 or so, where they had a wedding. Then they were cut off by ice flows and died out sometime before 1500.

From my squinting at temperature graphs, the next benchmark is about 2 degrees C warmer, matching the warmest part of the Eemian interglacial, right before it crashed back into an ice age.

The next one after that is at 4 degrees C, when we return to the mid-Pliocene climate of about 3 million years ago. Six degrees C is about Mid-Miocene at 17 million years back, but the ocean circulation was very different, so it will be hard to compare the future and then.

By the way, Mid-Miocene sea levels were 25 meters higher than now. If you were planning to leave the grandkids real estate you might need to take that into account.

At the moment we seem to be doing a re-run of the Medieval Warm Period (MWP), with the various negative feedbacks that caused the Little Ice Age (LIA). Unlike the MWP and the LIA we now have additional and continual climate forcing, which I suspect will push us on through the negative feedbacks and into the next stage of Climate Change, whatever that might be. I'm expecting to see wild swings between cold & wet, and hot & dry, until the conflict between positive and negative feedbacks is settled.

Originally, when I was deciding to leave the UK, I used the 1300's as a potential analogue for what to expect. It was a time when the MWP was coming to an end, the climate was changing, resource constraints where evident (including energy - firewood), disease flourished (the Black Death) and society was transformed. Strangely, livestock farming was impacted first, followed by cereal and vegetable farming leading to famine, malnourishment, disease and eventually war.

It seems to me, 10 years on, that the analogue is holding true, albeit in a rhyming sense rather than exact copy. If I'd have known just how accurate it would be, I'd have paid even more heed to its lessons in choosing my response.

Looks like an interesting paper. As usual, it's behind a paywall, so I can't read it. However, the supplemental information, all 75 pages of it, is available for free. Breezing thru it, I notice that they mention three big volcanic eruptions, Kuwae (1452), Huaynaputina (1600), and Mount Tambora (1815) (see page 18), but that these events appear in only one series(?). See figure S.38, which also appears to show the effects of Krakatoa...

E. Swanson

Words of wisdom from GOP Congressman Joe Barton of Texas (surprise)...

Noah’s Flood is proof that climate change isn’t man-made, says GOP

"I don't think it's a secret that I'm a proponent and supporter of the Keystone pipeline," Barton said.

“I would point out that people like me who support hydrocarbon development don’t deny that climate is changing,” he added. “I think you can have an honest difference of opinion of what’s causing that change without automatically being either all in that’s all because of mankind or it’s all just natural. I think there’s a divergence of evidence.”

“I would point out that if you’re a believer in in the Bible, one would have to say the Great Flood is an example of climate change and that certainly wasn’t because mankind had overdeveloped hydrocarbon energy.” (video

Sadly this is one more piece of the GOP war on science, or as we call it, “the legitimate rape of science.”

Of course the real funny thing is that not only is that brain-dead on science, it is brain-dead on theology. According to the old myth, god promised that he would never again flood the earth so he can't blame rising sea levels on god.

Sounds like his divergence of evidence includes so called evidence from the bible.

According to the old myth, god promised that he would never again flood the earth so he can't blame rising sea levels on god.

Yeah, but his god is just one out of about 3,700 or so currently worshiped deities around the world... I'm sure there are at least a half dozen or so among the remaining 3,699 that would be more than willing and capable of flooding out a few remaining recalcitrant humans, eh?

go to God Checkers dot com


The problem is that these god's being inventions of humans are dependent upon the populations of humans that believe in them. The vast bulk of these 3700 gods, get very few votes (and therefore don't count). The three great Abrahamic religions all claim to have the same god, so that god claims something like half of the population. And then some religions like Hinduism have many gods -so each Hindu god gets only a fraction of a vote per believer....

"The three great Abrahamic religions all claim to have the same god, so that god claims something like half of the population."

I've attempted to convince dozens of Christians at this point that "God" and "Allah" are one and the same and that Jesus is in the Ko/Qu/Q'ran...they just don't acknowledge that it's even possible for that to be true. Or furthermore that a Christian properly practicing the decrees in Leviticus would be essentially indistinguishable from a Muslim.

For every one that curseth his father or his mother shall be surely put to death: he hath cursed his father or his mother; his blood shall be upon him.

And the man that committeth adultery with another man's wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.

A man also or woman that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death: they shall stone them with stones: their blood shall be upon them.

And he that blasphemeth the name of the Lord, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him: as well the stranger, as he that is born in the land, when he blasphemeth the name of the Lord, shall be put to death.

Lots of stoning or other putting to death for this and that. Burnt offerings. I could probably piece together all of these bits of the Bible and pawn them off on Christians as being from the Koran and they'd no doubt be appalled at how brutal and unenlightened the "Muslims" are.

It's all the same god, and the god is man. Call me not a fan of the Abrahamic religions, they are self-worship, ultimately. "God" created in the image of man. "God" the abusive father figure.

In my opinion, that is the biggest problem. The environment went out the window when people stopped seeing the divine in nature. Perhaps it would be no better with paganism, heck, the Japanese are experts at concreting over beaches and much more despite being pagan (Shinto), but there really is no chance when humankind sees itself as a god.

And what was all the upthread talk on evolution? This is the funniest thing I have read for days. You have to laugh right? Thanks Seraph.

Resiliance had a great post the other day on complexity vrs power-down. Today I saw a fairly modern smaller road MC with a side car. (We passed too fast for me to get the make and model), but it was an awesome treat to see. The above hand wringing on Peak Oil debate now supposedly being discredited is really a great thing as it gives aware individuals more time to approach the future with their own versions of adaptation. Whether that is EV complexity, or side cars and wood heat, every action people take in response to energy challenges are explorations of the possible and examples for friends and family.

I just spent 10 minutes up at the mailbox with some neighbours comparing Hydro bills. For two months our bill was $81.19 for straight up energy use with taxes and conservation levies increasing the bill to $99.47. My immediate neighbour's bill was 2.5 times that and one down the road was 3.5 X!!!. We run a full range of wood shop tools, my wife has an art studio, and our house is always well lit and woodstove warm. We have a nice home of 1600 sq ft. The studio is 600 sq ft and shop/pub is 800 sq ft in a separate 2 storey building. (Studio above the shop). Everything heated with wood, well insulated, and illuminated with cfl. Our decision has been to power down and insulate rather than go for complex BAU lite (to quote Todd). I urged my neighbour to look into a heat pump which is more of a substitution rather than an increase in complexity. He currently uses wood with resistance for a steady temperature range.

Pursuing adaptation further I am almost 1/2 way through a 7 month full-time welding course. I plan to use this skill to begin construction of a very simple but light-weight car powered by an ICE, but efficient due to weight/power with no frills. The body will be epoxy composite. If it isn't considered to be legal I'll just run it to town anyway and use the inevitable conflicts to promote it. I was inspired by the Mother Earth News 100 mpg contest a few years ago and thought it would be a good retirement project.

My wife just told me they would throw me in jail. I told he I would make it look like a miniture sports car so I guess we are at the negotiating stage. hmmmm. It is evolving...(sorry, couldn't resist the jibe). Wimbi will like it.


Right on Paulo! We-uns are showing the right evolutionary path to all the oil-incrusted primitives around here.

Hydro? Uh, ah yes, canadians use that word for electricity. I look at my bill, sitting right in front of me, says my average monthly usage over past year is about 90 kWhrs, around $15, around 3kwhrs per day. thats from the grid. Was adding about the same on average from my gloom-shrouded PV last few months. Use peaks about now when wife is using double yearly average for growing little green things under big florescent lights.

since I am fortunate to have no time/resource barriers, am going for all solar this year- more PV, heat pump to boost woodstove, and electric car. Would love to make one but don't have the remaining life force to do so.

would appreciate suggestions on car. Grandkids like the Smart electric, wife likes the Fit electric, both not for sale, despite big advertisements. Why are they wasting their money? Only one I can actually buy is the Leaf. Seems ok, and will do that if not other options.

And as for that great stirling engine project- instead turned out to be a not so great wood burner development project. High tech stirling would run fine on evil propane, but demanded high temp woodburner to get enough heat in (heater head designed for radiation only)- tough to do. finally saw the light and dropped the helium engine to go for super simple stove top cooking pot air thermocompressor. Work in progress.

Above impeded by parallel project on incredibly-great bike transmission development, which my intensely business-like son says is worth orders of magnitude more $ than all that silly thermal machinery I am addicted to, and so I should spend my remaining hours on patents. Not my favorite sport, by a long shot.

The Smart ED should be available soon, very reasonably priced but it is only a 2-seater. The Honda Fit EV is very nice but it is an over-priced lease-only limited-availability "compliance car". The GM Chevy Spark EV should be hitting the market soon too. The Ford Focus Electric is a bit over-priced. You can probably get a Mitsubishi-i pretty cheap . . . that car bombed hard. Not great range but if it works for you, you can probably get it at a reasonable price.

There was a dealer in the northeast who had the craziest, but I think legitimate, deal on Mitsubishi i cars...they were something like $12,000 after a flurry of federal rebates, state rebates, and dealer incentives.

If you check Autotrader you can find Nissan Leafs with 10k-20k miles for $18,000 as well as Mitsu i with the same for around $21,000 and Volts around $25k. Avoid Leafs from hot climates.

The Leaf is a normal car that happens to be powered by electricity, the Mitsubishi i is a quirky kei car, and the Volt is the clear winner if you want something with more than 70 mile range (50 in winter).

As to the Spark...the Koreans have stepped up their game, Kia is definitely a competent car maker now, but I still don't know if I'd want to get a re-badged Daewoo.

Funny Leaf video: http://youtu.be/zSZplNzFRZk
A couple driving to/from Maastricht
"I don't think it's [battery tech] to be researched... potential customers have just not been informed yet...we should put a video on YouTube...let people know who want to buy an electric vehicle be aware that in winter your range is just 50%...it's just a fact - count on that or you will be disappointed"

Pursuing adaptation further I am almost 1/2 way through a 7 month full-time welding course. I plan to use this skill to begin construction of a very simple but light-weight car powered by an ICE, but efficient due to weight/power with no frills. The body will be epoxy composite. If it isn't considered to be legal I'll just run it to town anyway and use the inevitable conflicts to promote it.

Studying welding to work on composites, eh? The easiest way is to do a three-wheeler (two in front, one in back) so that you can register it as a motorcycle. Check with your state's DMV and see if you get the information required to register a home-built/custom vehicle. It will probably involve keeping all of your receipts, taking a lot of photographs during the build process, complying with a few persnickety things like headlight and tail-lamp height, and then applying for a VIN. Then you'll have to go to a shop that can inspect motorcycles and get an inspection there.

I'd suggest something like an HMV Freeway (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HM_Vehicles_Free-way) or Messerschmidt KR200.

The other way to do it is to heavily modify an existing car and use its VIN. You'll still need to keep receipts and do the pictures thing and also want something pre-airbag. You may have to get the DMV to reclassify it as restoration/modification. The skate from VW beetles is very popular as are S10 frames.

If I were doing it I'd buy a VW VIN from a wrecked or terminally rotten car, a new frame/skate (there are places still making them), and build a body modeled on a Daytona Prototype Class car (but without the wing and spoilers). I'd want to do an electric driveline, though.


That one looks a bit like the Loremo, actually.

I hadn't seen the HMV Freeway before. They apparently didn't do well in the MPG department, considering their small sized motor. At higher speeds, say above 45 mph, the air drag on the sharply cutoff rear end would reduce the MPG. Motorcycles do rather poorly in the MPG department, even the ones with relatively small motor size. My 500cc twin does about 65 MPG and weighs in at 439 pounds (199kg) dry weight without the rider. Those with larger motors or more cylinders do worse.

For comparison, I built a project bike with a fully enclosed fairing based on a 100cc single dirt bike. Running it on the freeway at a constant 55 mph, it produced 235 MPG. Others have done much better. Craig Vetter ran a contest for high MPG motorcycles, many of which used low drag fairings similar to those used for velomobiles...

E. Swanson

The challenge is always in mating a vehicle to what conditions you'll spend the most time in.

Stop and go traffic most often
For stop-and-go traffic on a freeway, highway, or city streets: aerodynamics are not what to focus on. The vehicle could be a cube. For those conditions you'd want a design that uses the least fuel per hour, so likely a start/stop hybrid with minimal horsepower (Aerodynamics does not apply much, as going from zero to 25mph to zero over and over doesn’t move much air. Design likely have the most benefits to turn off the engine as often and as long as possible).

Highway long distance cruise most often
For a long-distance freeway commuter that the condition is mostly open highway, then aerodynamics are likely the most important as well as low fuel consumption at cruise speed. (Start/stop does not apply, nor likely any hybrid approaches.)

Also if you start venturing into plug in hyrids, how far do you typically travel between recharge opportunities?

Of course topography matters as well, if it is hilly where does the gravitational energy on the downslope go? Into extra engine braking (lower gear)? Into the brake pads? Into a hybrid traction battery, and if so is the capacity great enough to absorb the whole hill?

My suggestion for a stop / go car, or one that travels a lot commuting, would be a Leaf or similar electric. Need to stay within the range, though. It is important that the destinations you frequent have recharging capability -- preferably Level II -- if you are planning an afternoon multipoint excursion. Don't need Level II at home, though -- overnight charging on a 15 A dedicated 110 V circuit is sufficient to get a full charge. The electrics with regenerative braking get great mileage on freeway at 35 MPH stop and go... all the other cars are pushing the wind, and if you are gentle on the pedal, you can get 5 miles per kwhr. (From experience: I have a Leaf and a Volt). Dunno about cold weather -- Houston doesn't experience it much.

Another alternate, depending on traffic density and cold/rain, would be an electric bicycle -- excellent mileage, lower cost, and if you run out of charge, you can get home without having to debase yourself to beg for a 110 volt connection at the nearest house -- or worse, call the tow truck.

Which leads to, as ever.. the Velomobile. http://www.velomobiles.net/

Lightweight, Pedal and/or Electric, Aerodynamic, and can be ridden in foul or cold weather (and I'd try out snow-tires happily on one,too), in your work clothes, without necessarily overexerting yourself before your shift.

My brain keeps jumping back to all the others, the E scooter, the E-motorbike, the Wee E Car.. the E-powered bike-trailer to just snap onto my or any old bike, the Small Pickup Truck E-conversion. Keep coming back to this solution as the almost unassailable best mix of factors.

I would just like to see one that is viable and legal up to standard street speeds, so I can scoot out of the way of most of the traffic situations it could currently be subject to..

"They apparently didn't do well in the MPG department, considering their small sized motor. At higher speeds, say above 45 mph, the air drag on the sharply cutoff rear end would reduce the MPG."

Actually there are two things in particular going on that make the HMV Freeway not "shine"...the first is that between the front and the back is that there is not enough side taper. The second, more importantly, is that the curvature over the top is too acute and should be reduced and then cut off on the end. The VW Beetle (new and old) suffers from this as well.


The curvature actually creates worse drag than cutting off the back like a Kammback (like a Prius or CRX). If you notice on the 3rd gen Prius the sides of the rear bumper have been made quite sharp: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/29/automobiles/autoreviews/29AUTO.html?pa...

The basic idea is to get the air flowing in the right direction and then "detach" it from the car by breaking the boundary layer so that it doesn't try to curve back around, accelerating and dragging it along with the car.

The HMV I meant more as a good example of a tube-frame Kabinenroller than one of aerodynamics - and the KR200 is just plain pimpin'...If you want the most prime example of aerodynamics, the Aptera has it all - wheel skirts, suspension streamlining, and full-taper laminar aerodynamics.

I think 4 wheels is the way to go if your can get around the laws - it gives you more interior space and seems to allow better ways to control under-body and side flow. Since this is going to fall into the moderation cue already I'll provide a gratuitous link to the original Honda Insight: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Honda_Insight_Back.JPG

I agree with most of what you wrote. Sad to say, the Aptera didn't make it and the company went bust. I had hoped to buy one, once they had worked out the usual teething pains of a new design. The original VW 1 Litre would be a close second, especially the newest version, the XL1, with a diesel hybrid setup...

E. Swanson

More like gaslighting.


ConocoPhillips Suspends Arctic Drilling Plans

ConocoPhillips announced on Tuesday that it was suspending its plans to drill in Alaskan Arctic waters in 2014 because of uncertainties over federal regulatory and permitting standards.

ConocoPhillips said it welcomed working on that approach with the government before drilling. The company has 50 leases in the Chukchi Sea, a region that oil company geologists say has the potential to produce billions of barrels of oil in the coming decades.

The Norwegian company Statoil had already announced that it was putting off its plans to drill in the Alaskan Arctic waters.

Methane emissions from natural gas local distribution focus of new study

Beginning this month, a Washington State University's (WSU) Laboratory for Atmospheric Research research team led by Regents Professor Brian Lamb will quantify methane emissions throughout local gas systems (from city border to customer meter) and use the data to estimate a national methane emissions rate for U.S. natural gas distribution systems.

Results are expected to be released in a peer-reviewed journal in early 2014.

Mathematicians Predict the Future With Data From the Past

In Isaac Asimov’s classic science fiction saga Foundation, mathematics professor Hari Seldon predicts the future using what he calls psychohistory. Drawing on mathematical models that describe what happened in the past, he anticipates what will happen next, including the fall of the Galactic Empire.

That may seem like fanciful stuff. But Peter Turchin is turning himself into a real-life Hari Seldon — and he’s not alone.

Turchin — a professor at the University of Connecticut — is the driving force behind a field called “cliodynamics,” where scientists and mathematicians analyze history in the hopes of finding patterns they can then use to predict the future. It’s named after Clio, the Greek muse of history.

These academics have the same goals as other historians — “We start with questions that historians have asked for all of history,” Turchin says. “For example: Why do civilizations collapse?” — but they seek to answer these questions quite differently. They use math rather than mere language, and according to Turchin, the prognosis isn’t that far removed from the empire-crushing predictions laid down by Hari Seldon in the Foundation saga. Unless something changes, he says, we’re due for a wave of widespread violence in about 2020, including riots and terrorism.

Waves of Violence Chart: http://www.wired.com/wiredenterprise/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/cliodyna...

Cliodynamics: The Journal of Theoretical and Mathematical History

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to predict future riots. Climate change, ever-increasing oil prices, ever-increasing food prices, continued population growth, etc. It would be miracle if there were not more riots in the coming years.

"Unless something changes, he says, we’re due for a wave of widespread violence in about 2020,"

What, he finally read "The Fourth Turning?


The stock market had another big day today, reaching an all time high, so it clearly must be expecting some decent economic growth this quarter.

I will probably regret this, but I am going to make a contrary statistical argument that real US GDP growth this quarter will be very close to zero and could even be negative (contrary to expectations of about 2.5%, see JP Morgan forecast below).

First of all, since real growth is calculated by subtracting inflation from nominal GDP growth, it is helpful to know what the nominal rate of growth has been over the last two years, a period in which quarterly oil prices have ranged between $98 and $109.

The chart below shows nominal annualized quarterly GDP growth over the last 8 quarters plotted against the average oil price for each quarter (average of Brent and WTI). Note that the most recent quarterly data point is yellow and was just 1.4%. Also note the straight brown line—this is the average of 3.68% nominal quarterly growth for all 8 quarters.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Of course, real 1st quarter growth will be determined by subtracting the inflation rate from the nominal rate. So what will the inflation rate be for the 1st. quarter?

Unfortunately, we only have the 6.9% annualized inflation rate for the first two months of the quarter to go by. But can a reasonably accurate prediction of the quarterly inflation rate be inferred from the rate for just the first two months?

Unfortunately, the answer seems to be no, since regression analysis of inflation for all 121 consecutive 3-month periods since 2002 plotted against the inflation rate for the first two month of each period show an R-sq. correlation of just 24%, meaning there is no chance of ACCURATELY predicting 3 month inflation from 2 month inflation.

HOWEVER, strange as it may seem, it turns out that one can predict with almost 100% certainty that when the 3 month inflation rate is LOWER than the two month rate, that it will almost never be more than 50% lower.

In other words, since there is almost no chance that first quarter inflation will be higher than 6.9%, then it would seem to be almost a certainty that it will be at least 3.45%, if not higher.

To prove the above statement, the chart below plots the drop in annualized 3-month inflation against the annualized 2 month inflation for those periods in which (1) the 3 month rate was lower than the two month rate, (2) the inflation rate was positive for both, and (3) where the inflation rate was at least 1% for both.

As can be seen, in 40 out of 41 cases, the 3 month rate was never more than one-half of of the two month rate. In other words, if the two month rate was 6%, the 3 month rate was almost always at least 3%.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

[Just to explain again, the above graph shows that when the 3 month rate was lower than predicted by the 2 month rate, it was never more than 50% lower, in which case if the annualized 2 month rate was 2%, or 4% or 8%, then the quarterly rate would always be at least 1% or 2%, or 4%, but could also be higher too]


OK, so since the data indicate that the quarterly rate of inflation will be at least 3.45% (one-half of the 6.9% two month rate, although nothing to keep it from being higher than 3.45%), then nominal GDP will have to be at least 3.45% before the government can proclaim real economic growth. Yet the average for all 8 recent quarters is only 3.68% nominal growth, and with the previous quarter being just 1.4%.

If all these numbers are legitimate, then it suggests that real first quarter GDP growth is going to have a hard time exceeding the inflation rate.

(Good news is that I can’t be shown to be wrong until the end of April, although the CPI will come out early next week)

Nominal GDP is adjusted by the implicit price deflator, not the CPI.

BEA Table 1.1.9

I'll side with the consensus since the two month real Personal Consumption Expenditures (consumer spending) is running at 3%. PCE accounts for about 70% of GDP. Fixed investment will rise. They keep drilling all those oil wells in Texas and North Dakota, ya know. Government will be flat to higher as the Q4 2012 report showed a substantial decline, which will not be repeated sequentially. Imports and exports are too hard to figure out.

While I don't disagree with your analysis, since the GDP is a circle jerk based number it can be whatever they want it to be with a little hedonic adjustment, regardless of inflation rate.

The number used to inflation-adjust GDP is not the CPI, it is the GDP deflator, which is not the same thing as the inflation rate.

AWS and Marmico,

Yes, you are both correct that GDP isn't adjusted using the CPI. But before I go any further, understand that my purpose really isn’t to exactly predict what the GDP number will be, since the number the government will put out will not only be adjusted for inflation, but also for “seasonality”, which I have no interest in adjusting for.

My over all interest really is in trying to spot the point at which oil prices really start to affect economic growth, since I firmly believe that they eventually will.

But yes, the government has it’s own proprietary inflation index called the GDP Deflator which it applies just to GDP, and from the little I can find about it, it seems to be kind of a black box. It is only published quarterly, it isn’t clear how the government determines it, and it is hard to even find more than 3 years of past data, (unlike like monthly CPI data that goes back decades ), which makes it hard to correlate it to anything. Furthermore, unlike the CPI which is calculated monthly, you can't use it to guestimate what the upcoming quarterly inflation rate might be.

And over time, the CPI and the Deflator seem to be highly correlated. Using a base of 100 for the end of 2005, the graph below plots the increase in both the CPI and the deflator over the last 3 years: CPI up 5.5%, Deflator up 5.3% .

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

However, it is over the short term that my use of the CPI to estimate inflation could trip up my prediction. This is because the CPI is a lot more variable than the deflator. The graph below shows the quarterly changes in both the deflator and the CPI since 2010.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic
As is obvious, deflator inflation is a lot less variable than CPI inflation, and this would argue against my prediction for a lot of government-calculated inflation. However, notice the huge jump in the inflation rate over the last two months (the black 2 month inflation line). Notice that in the past when the two month inflation jumped this high, the deflator has shown as much as 3% inflation. So I am still thinking that government-announced GDP could be shockingly low.

We will see!

My over all interest really is in trying to spot the point at which oil prices really start to affect economic growth

CPI is associated with households. You may want to analyze BEA Table 2.3.5U, line 11 (gasoline and other energy goods). That is the oil component of household spending. Compare it to personal income or consumer spending or GDP. For instance, in 2000, the ratio of gasoline and other goods to total personal consumption was 2.8%. In 2012, it was 3.9%. Or you could analyze line 26 (energy goods and services) which is total household energy expenditures (oil, natural gas and electricity). The Table can be adjusted to monthly, quarterly or annual data.

Sorry, meant Marmico and Abundance

ACCA vs BPI—The Brouhaha Over Home Energy Audit Standards

Posted by Allison Bailes on Wed, Apr 10, 2013

Probably the biggest news I heard at the 2013 RESNET conference this year was that the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) and 12 other organizations had asked the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) to have the Building Performance Institute's (BPI) accreditation as a Standards Development Organization (SDO) revoked. Really!

That was big news. This year, RESNET combined its conference with ACCA's, and that was great. The HVAC industry is critical to the success of fixing existing homes and building new homes that perform as they should. I know there's always rivalry among organizations that are doing work in the same arena, but I didn't expect to see one organization in our fold taking on another in such dramatic form.

Re. article entry above; Clamshells Reveal Secrets of Pre-Columbian Society's Decline, specifically;

"...'I think we can say climate change posed a severe challenge,' Willams said. 'It has as much to do with the social and political configuration of their society as it does with the actual climate impacts.'...

I cite this:

"In one view, the destruction of old energy technology and its replacement could become the basis for a new round of capitalist growth. In another analysis, the changes necessary to halt global warming cannot be contained within capitalism. It will be argued that the technological changes required are so very major as to imply a drastic reduction in material production and consumption. The consequences of doing nothing are equally drastic. One possible outcome is world revolution... Another option is that the capitalist class will agree to a new dispensation and direct much productive capacity to saving the planet. The capitalist class would be behaving more like a redistributive chieftainship; extracting surplus value and redistributing it. Or these problems could be resolved coercively in a technocratic feudalism.
A likely outcome is a last days flurry of grand projects and expensive wars, followed by a collapse in food production and population. So whatever is done to resolve the environmental crisis, we are not going to end up with a capitalist society. For environmental activists, putting environmental outcomes first is just as likely to bring down capitalism as a campaign to end capitalist society. Doing nothing at all is very likely to have the same effect.

Thinking about environmental catastrophe requires us to imagine future society, and think about what might be likely and what could be possible (Coates & Leahy 2006; Curran 2007; George 2007; Leahy 2004; Trainer 1985; 1995). I will argue the changes necessary to halt global warming cannot be contained within capitalism. The consequences of doing nothing are equally drastic for capitalism..."

~ Terry Leahy, 'Checkmate: Why Capitalism Cannot Survive Global Warming'

Your clams are no good here.

Re. article entry above; How a Leafy Folk Remedy Stopped Bedbugs in Their Tracks, 3 other things that may also have some effective application:

- Heating entire building to above 115 deg.F
- Cooling entire building to below freezing
- House centipedes

When Home Is a Campus Parking Lot

Along with owing $32,000, I’d graduated with an unmarketable degree in history and English. Naturally, I struggled to find work and wound up taking a $9-an-hour job as a tour guide and cook at a remote truck stop called Coldfoot in Alaska’s Arctic. But while I took the job out of desperation, I’d accidentally placed myself in a near-ideal situation to pay off my debt. In Coldfoot, the nearest store was 250 miles away (eliminating all temptations to buy stuff), there was no cellphone reception (making a phone plan unnecessary), and workers got free room and board (no food, rent or utility costs). After a year, I had paid off $18,000. A year later, I got a better-paying seasonal job with the Park Service. After two and a half years of work, I was debt free.

But my journey wasn’t just a financial awakening. I had learned about subsistence living in Arctic villages, and worked with a 74-year-old maintenance man who lived in his 1980 Chevy Suburban year-round. I began to bring into question what passed for “normal” down in the lower 48, especially when it often led to a lifetime of work, bills and Bed Bath & Beyond purchases. Out of debt, I felt for the first time that my life was my own, and that I could do whatever I wished with it.

Peak Oil Flip-Flop

Ever since M. King Hubbert advanced the theory of peak oil in 1956, experts and non-experts alike have been debating about timing and relevance. (See here, here, here and here.) Hubbert’s argument seems like a no-brainer. Oil is a finite natural resource, so there must come a time when oil production peaks and begins to decline. The question is, when? And for a world economy that is largely fueled by oil, that “when” question is quite germane. If peak oil hits while oil demand is rising, it could spell worldwide economic disaster.
But now two new reports — “Global Oil Demand Growth — The End is Nigh” by Seth Kleinman et al. of Citigroup and “The End of an Era: The Death of Peak Oil” [pdf] from Robin Wehbé et al. of the Boston Company — argue that something entirely different and rather unprecedented is underway. Both reports argue that we have entered a new era, one characterized not by the spectre of a supply peak, but by a demand peak that will assure that demand will not outstrip supply for quite some time to come.

Oil Demand Forecasts

As you can see, Citigroup is predicting demand to drop to almost nothing therefore no peak oil. But even if the Citi prediction is correct, production by 2020 will be down by several mb/d, not up by 2 mb/d. So there will be peak oil even if Citi has the closest estimate of demand.

Ron P.

For some inexplicable reason I am reminded of attractive young archaeologists, shoe shops and redefining murder. It is all too improbable.

From the linked article:

Lots of folks, myself included, assumed that the reprieve from the economic slowdown was temporary and that oil prices would rise, possibly even more sharply than before once the global economy got going again.

Fortunately that hasn’t happened. The economic recovery, while tepid, is underway. And while oil prices have recovered somewhat, they have not hit the July 2008 peak, let alone shot above it.

One key problem with this analysis is that the average annual Brent crude oil price, which is a good indication of global oil prices, was at $111 in 2011 and at $112 in 2012, which significantly exceeded the $97 average Brent price that we saw in 2008.

If we use monthly prices, Brent was above $100 for six months in 2008, versus Brent being above $100 for 25 of the past 26 months.

Regarding Citigroup, in my opinion they continue to desperately search for various justifications to support their belief that oil prices must go lower.

And if the following trends more or less continue . . .

Also the dollar index was as low as 72 in 2008 and currently stands at 82 against a basket of world currencies. So on average people are paying about another 12% more in their local currencies over and above the dollar price rise. In Britain it is even worse as the pound was allowed to devalue by 25% against the dollar since about 2008. So $100 /barrel in 2008 is equivalent to us paying $125 /barrel today.

The Citigroup article is just nonsense.

And on the natural gas side, the last storage report shows that the we are 804 BCF below the huge level that we had a year ago, while the Henry Hub Spot price looks like it will average over $4 in April, versus $1.95 per MMBTU a year ago, when some analysts were predicting that natural gas prices would fall to $1.

I think that the Citigroup guys don't understand, or they are choosing to ignore, the effect of depletion. On the upslope of a production increase, the volumetric decline from existing wellbores increases in tandem with the production increase--the greater the increase in production, the greater the volumetric decline from existing wellbores that we have to offset with new production. And the current rebound in US oil & gas* production consists of the highest overall decline rate wells we have ever seen in the US.

*US dry natural gas production has not materially exceeded 2 TCF per month since the fourth quarter of 2011, and some preliminary data suggest a possible production decline.

Taking of natural gas storage. Britain's gas in Long Range Storage currently is given as -289 GWh so it has actually gone negative. Data from http://marketinformation.natgrid.co.uk/gas/frmPrevalingView.aspx

What is negative gas?


If so - our energy problems are over !

sorry, couldn't resist. They are pumping the fumes out of the Rough long range NG storage,
and there is a bit more left after the meter has officially fallen to zero, but at reduced pressure.

... What is negative gas?

Maybe it's that "giant sucking sound" that Ross Perot talked about ;-)

Cushion gas at Rough is about 200 BCF... "stored gas" can be a negative if Centrica Storage Ltd allows customers (or themselves) to "borrow" from the cushion.

It would not be the first time - when Rough was owned by BG Group, they drew the cushion down by about 20 BCF to pad earnings when they couldn't make a profit selling storage services. They never actually replaced the gas, which therefore makes Rough's actual working storage capacity closer to 120 BCF than the 100 BCF which they are required to sell under the storage licence.

I think Citigroup eventually realized that their previous cornucopian reports were over-optimistic garbage.

And just like CERA did when their predictions were proven false, they have jumped on the "peak demand" bandwagon to explain why their earlier prediction really wasn't wrong.

"Uh . . . yeah, we could have produced all that oil we predicted . . . but we are just choosing not to. Yeah, that's the ticket." (In my John Lovitz voice.)

Basically, Citi made complete fools of themselves and are now trying to gracefully slink out of it.

"Uh . . . yeah, we could have produced all that oil we predicted . . . but we are just choosing not to. Yeah, that's the ticket."

That's right. And that will be Leonardo Maugueri's backdoor exit as well, just watch.

Maybe it is starting to dawn on the production optimists that asserting 'peak demand' ends up being a concession that 'peak oil' has had its effect. Own goal!

Declining EROI -----> Less production per $ invested ------> Higher price to bring product to market --------> Lower demand. For a product under continuous demand pressure (non-discretionary), like oil, a peak in demand is strong evidence of a peak in production.

The Exxon-Mobil prediction sure looks excessive. Continual 2 million barrel/day production increases over the next 7 years. Or are they just stating what people would like to burn in 2020?

And now for something different. Make of it what you will. And I am sure you will.

Record-breaking Portugal generates 70 per cent of power from renewables.



actually it says 70% of electricity production, not total production.

Record-breaking Portugal generates 70 per cent of power from renewables

To paraphrase Jaime Lerner, the former governor of the state of Paraná, in southern Brazil, renowned architect and urban planner and also former mayor of the city of Curitiba:

"If you want creativity to flourish, take a zero off the end of your budget, if you want more creativity, take off two..."

Original budget $1,000,000
Creative budget $100,000
Very creative budget $10,000

One way to have zeroes removed from the budget is to have a severe fiscal crisis...

As we continue to approach the supposed peak (or double peak) of solar activity, decent solar flares are currently very rare. Even this isn't a particularly strong flare but it has produced a CME apparently directed almost head on at earth and should produce an aurora visible over a wide area about April 13.


Space Weather Message Code: WATA30
Serial Number: 102
Issue Time: 2013 Apr 11 1403 UTC

WATCH: Geomagnetic Storm Category G2 Predicted
Highest Storm Level Predicted by Day:
Apr 11: None (Below G1) Apr 12: None (Below G1) Apr 13: G2 (Moderate)
Potential Impacts: Area of impact primarily poleward of 55 degrees Geomagnetic Latitude.
Induced Currents - Power grid fluctuations can occur. High-latitude power systems may experience voltage alarms.
Spacecraft - Satellite orientation irregularities may occur; increased drag on low Earth-orbit satellites is possible.
Radio - HF (high frequency) radio propagation can fade at higher latitudes.
Aurora - Aurora may be seen as low as New York to Wisconsin to Washington state.

On top of that warning we currently have an S1 (and approaching S2) proton storm and there were multiple radio events associated with the flare as was expected. The M6.5 flare was the largest since October 2012. But it was puny compared to the largest flare of the cycle so far an X6.9 in August 2011. The flare originated in the sun's northern hemisphere (which has already peaked) so is not a sign of the south waking up).

The Maine Hermit Is A Truly Remarkable Human Being

A Maine man lived in the woods for 27 years — before being caught stealing food from a campsite last week.
From "100 feet away you never would have known that a suspect lived there," Sgt. Terry Hughes Jr. of the Maine Warden Service said. "I was in shock ... It was an overwhelming experience. It’s very difficult to articulate.”

I saw that story. It kind of reminded me of that article about whether it's still possible to be a real mountain man/survivalist any more.

This guy was completely dependent on the nearby camp for disabled children that he stole supplies from. His own personal Wal-Mart, as they put it. He stole food, sleeping bags, a radio, any books he could find, tanks of propane, batteries, and, from looking at him, hygiene supplies like soap, razors, and shaving cream. Some people put food out for him so he wouldn't break into their cabins, but most of the stuff he took was from the camp.

They asked him why he didn't hunt or fish, and he said it was too much work.

That surely gives cause to be clear about the assumptions behind self-sufficiency.

I just gave notice at the 'Depot'.. and may be trying to thrive off of the table scraps of the NY film industry, which looks to be busy this summer, so I have few illusions as to the sources of my current provenance.. but life in Bix Box retail sure has given me some sorry examples of 'Yankee Frugality', as I hear tales from the returns desk, and then of 'Corporate Efficiency', as I try not to squeeze our cliplights too hard, for fear of putting fingerprints into the aluminum reflectors.. I swear they're the same gauge now as the Dollar-store Baking Pans!

The reliable old Coriolis Effect, and the accomanying odors can hardly be a surprise to anyone with their eyes open. Still daydreaming about things made of good, solid Brass and Stainless.. and Food that has real food in it!

Still daydreaming about things made of good, solid Brass and Stainless

I'd go track down a link to back up the podcast content but given the filter hates links you'll just have to research it yourself.

It seems that Brass surfaces are antimicrobial (I'd guess the Copper) and so the old brass handrails and doorknobs mean dead microbes in less than an hour VS Stainless Steel where the lifetime can last over a day.

It is certainly possible. Our ancestors did it for thousands of years. However, it is an amazingly miserable existence. Our modern economies deliver the goods. As person who's lived all his life in the soft existence of late 20th and 21st century USA, if I were forced into such a survivalist existence, I'd probably just kill myself. As he put it, that would be "too much work".

You wouldn't have to kill yourself. Unless you have the skills, which take years to learn, you'll starve to death in a couple of weeks. And be too weak to do much of anything after the first 3 or 4 days, so that's how long you have to become self-sufficient in food acquisition.

"an amazingly miserable existence"?

You can get an "amazingly miserable existence" in a number of ways. I think there are a number of people who have refridgerators and live in "rich" societies who are "amazingly miserable". If we think that things are what make life worth living, we become amazingly miserable.

I remember hearing that hunter-gatherers did better on pretty much every measure of health, physical and mental. Miserable?

If we think that things are what make life worth living, we become amazingly miserable.


And can make those close to us amazingly miserable too.

Good point.

But I meant it just in a relative manner. I'm sure they felt they had decent lives. But once you become accustomed to an easy life, it is hard to go back. I've lived long enough and if I was forced into cave-man existence, I'd probably just give up. Not worth it to eke out a few more years of what will feel miserable to me considering I've become 'soft' living a 21st century industrialized world existence. So no prepping for me. I'd just cash in my chips.

Fair enough.

Actually, I don't think it's really about being "soft". We have mostly lost the knowledge to actually live off the land, and there are too many of us to do it practically. On top of that, most of us don't know anything about agriculture either. It would also require social change as people re-formed local groups for survival (that's what a tribe is, really). The "mountain man" here didn't have the knowledge either, and couldn't survive on his own - which is very difficult even with the knowledge.

Honestly, this is not something any of us has to be concerned about in the near future (barring blacker than black swans). Even with peak oil and high population, it would require a total breakdown of agriculture and food distribution. Maybe if the climate gets really, really bad. Even then I expect it would take decades to reach anywhere near the point where we have to worry about foraging to survive.

Agriculture is already breaking down and once the surpluses are gone, things will appear to deteriorate very quickly. Although this may be lost in the general financial mayhem as the economy breaks down.

You don't need a total breakdown to see things getting really bad, a gradual loss of production is all you need. The way things are going we've probably got 6 months before the global economy starts deteriorating in earnest. Probably less than a decade to see major problems in agricultural output.

By 2020 you may see people driving to the countryside, when their part time job allows, to forage for additional food. Or grow their own where possible. Everything doesn't have to collapse before people are forced to forage or grow their own food. I think Greece is a good example of the future.

I'd try to dissuade you and suggest, in any event, that you wouldn't need any 'chips', and invite you into my humble seaworthy wooden sailboat for a trip to some nice place where we could moor in a calm bay and fish and eat the wild edibles along its shores and have time left over to shower under a falls and sun ourselves on a rivers' elbow's sandbar... while we periodically took drinks with cupped hands directly from its waters without worrying about what any hypothetical god-forsaken alternate-reality 21st century industry did to what we were enjoying. As for 'things', our thinking along those lines would naturally be uninfluenced by said alternate reality and would be more along the lines of such things as water, air and food, their pristineness of which would be taken for granted.

Thanks for the kind offer. Fortunately, I don't think there is anything but an extremely a remote chance of being forced into such a cave-man existence. It is just a thought experiment. I've got the humility to know that I'm not prepared for such an existence and self-awareness to know that I couldn't hack it. But, it is not something I'm worried about happening. Things that could possibly happen . . . another financial collapse, skyrocketing oil prices, etc. that I can handle.

Google "Sylvan Hart:Last of the Mountain Men"

The article I referred to said it was no longer possible because of the way land has been carved up and restricted by developers and the state and national park systems.

For example, this guy stole tanks of propane for cooking, because he was afraid a fire would be seen. That wouldn't have been a concern for our ancestors. Well, most of the time, anyway.

This is my experience too.

I saw that story. It kind of reminded me of that article about whether it's still possible to be a real mountain man/survivalist any more.

No. It is not. Survivial/wildlife reliance is one of my hobbies, and I think I would outlive 99.5% of western people in such an enviornemnt if I had to. I know what to eat, what to keep me warm, how to build shelter, how to prioritize (very important), how to avoid common misstakes and so on. And I can tell you in managed land (wich is 100% of Europe for example) this can not be done without breaking laws. In most places outside Sweden even sleeping on the ground under a spruce is a felony. This can no longer be done.

But I guess deep into the siberian woodlands, it is still possible. The woodlands west of the Yenisei river would be my shot at it.

Is lead in rice the new mercury in fish?

Worrisome Levels of Lead Found In Imported Rice

Reporting at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society, a group of researchers lead by Tsanangurayi Tongesayi, an associate professor of chemistry at Monmouth University in New Jersey announced the results of their analysis of rice from Asia, Europe and South America. The imports, which currently make up about 7% of rice consumed in America, contained higher than acceptable levels of lead.

The levels ranged from six milligrams/kilogram to 12 milligrams/kilogram; factoring in average consumption, that added up to estimated lead exposure levels 30 to 60 times greater than the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) provisional total tolerable intake (PTTI) levels for children and 20-40 times greater than the standard exposure levels for adults.

Where is all this lead coming from? Burn coal does spew lead out into the atmosphere. Is it, like mercury, now showing up in our foodstuffs because we've been burning so much coal? I don't know, I'm just speculating.

BTW, Leanan, can you create a whitelist of known posters so you don't need to moderate their posts with links for spam? That would reduce moderation work.

No. A whitelist is technically not possible.

... Where is all this lead coming from?

Ask and you shall receive ...

In China, where is the lead contamination coming from?

Eating Rice as a source of lead poisoning:
Lead can be emitted during the mining and smelting of mercury ores, because most such ores also contain lead. Lead is also emitted during the burning of coal. Researchers in Guizhou province, where there are 12 large mercury mining and smelting operations and heavy coal-powered industry, found that rice accounted for 94-96% of the uptake of methyl mercury (Raloff, 2010). They were not testing for lead, but it is likely that the rice was also a source of lead in the diet.

So basically mining and coal burning are polluting their water so much that it is now showing up as lead in their food supply.

Now from what I understand, it is difficult to assign tariffs to imported goods based on environmental damage done in exporting countries due to trade agreements. However, I'm certain we can certainly ban imports of unsafe food. I say it is high time we carefully monitor food imports and ban them when there are unsafe amounts of things like lead in them. That is a legal way to put leverage on countries that pollute heavily.

Where is all this lead coming from?

Upstream River pollution and groundwater pollution. A lot of irrigation water is used to cultivate rice in India, I guess there's a similar situation in other countries.

One of the catches of moving form surface water irrigation to groundwater irrigation is that you have to worry about what is in the groundwater. I understand parts of India have a lot of arsenic in the groundwater.

As Electric Car Sales Struggle, Obama Calls For More Funding

Still the Obama administration is not throwing in the towel when it comes to supporting electric vehicles. For example, the President wants to increase the federal tax credit for those buying electric vehicles to as much as $10,000. That would be a hefty increase from the current tax incentive of $7,500 per vehicle.

Best hopes for reducing subsidies rather than raising them.

I certainly wouldn't mind such tax-credit. It would definitely help things along. But that is not going to happen. This is probably just posturing as a way of saying "You are not going to kill the $7500 tax-credit" (which, BTW, was signed into law by George W. Bush).

Best hopes for reducing subsidies rather than raising them.

As it pertains to economies of scale, subsidies to encourage purchases will assist in increasing the numbers of EV's, which in turn should help reduce the per unit cost of production. It will also encourage infrastructure development of PV charge parking lots. At some threshold of production subsidies will no longer be needed to incentivise sales.

Here's an interesting idea to encourage EV ownership. If charging stations have roofs for the PV's, then drivers will benefit from their cars being cooler when they return to them in the Summer. If the city benefits from reduced pollution, maybe they offer charging at no extra cost.

subsidies to encourage purchases will assist in increasing the numbers of EV's, which in turn should help reduce the per unit cost of production. It will also encourage infrastructure development of PV charge parking lots. At some threshold of production subsidies will no longer be needed to incentivise sales.

Yep, that is the goal anyway. The current generous subsidy can only be temporary (and it is temporary per the terms of law). It is designed to get the ball rolling and help the EV market hit a critical mass of mass manufacturing scale. But such a large subsidy cannot last for ever. It will need to scale down over time.

Perhaps a small subsidy could remain permanent. There are tangible benefits for encouraging people to get cars with no local pollution, lower CO2 emissions, high efficiency, and run on 100% domestic electricity instead of gas-burners.

"... If charging stations have roofs for the PV's..."



At this moment in time I think subsidies should be going towards putting in charge points. The early adopters right now are willing to pay the high price for the novelty of newness but they also need to work as cars and not just be expensive toys.

I ran across an article yesterday - this is the Chief Technical Officer at Tesla...

The Least Range an EV Should Get:
A functional minimum we should aim for is the 125- to 150-mile range. I think it gets meaningful constrained when you get below that. The LEAF works for most of your driving. But the frequency of times when you have to really start thinking about when do I charge, how am I going to charge during an intermediate trip and destination, it’s not linear. It’s like a hockey stick. That’s really tough for the super mass-market consumer who doesn’t want to deal with any of this stuff.

Having not seen this statement before and from studying the account of others and examining my own needs/wants in an EV I came to the 150 mile conclusion myself. I watched a video with him and he said that at about 20 or 30 miles of range left is where "range anxiety" starts really kicking in, so in customer's mind "useable range" is actual range minus 30 miles.

I am thinking it might be more useful to offer incentives to employers to install charging capacity at work. Based on our own usage, and discussion with my employees, the hurdle is not just the cost of the cars --- it is also the range anxiety. Recharging at work gives sufficient range to do a lot more traveling when leaving for the commute to home, which is when (based on our own local usage patterns) most of driving is done.

We have installed chargers at several of our work locations, and now have employees considering purchase of electric cars. The primary cost of the charger point is capital -- the actual electricity cost is nominal - a buck a day or two, hardly registers as a costly employee perk. The chargers, due to installation and electrician / permitting costs, range over $2000 per site (Level II). That is still not too much if you have enough cars to spread the cost over.

Could you get by offering level-1 (120volt, more or less standard outlets)? If employees stay at work for eight hours that should supply 12-15KWhours. If they have plug in hybrids, the need is even lower.

Based on our use, I believe that Level I (110 V, on 15 A dedicated circuits) will do most of the trick. These are relatively cheap, provided the outlets can be kept dry (and if one does not put in local GFCI, which fails in outdoor use in damp conditions, leading to high repair costs).

If I had several employees with electric cars, working full shifts, I would install the additional circuits -- they cost a few hundred dollars, fully installed / permitted, as long as the main breaker box has capacity (most of mine have 50 A at least available).

Level II recharge fully in about 2-5 hours, depending on the vehicle, and are great for refueling before / after lunch. These are good at retail / dining sites, where patrons would be located for an hour or two, and will generally recharge the distance traveled in getting there. We will be touting free EV charging to our customers... Doubt, though, that many will use it. Just not enough cars in the mix in Houston yet.

I just responded to the start of this thread without seeing your response here - I'm in agreement. If the network is established then the cars will come. Have you seen this link?


He makes a valid sounding argument that L1 charging is really all that's required at a workplace as it will restore approximately 32 miles during the course of an 8 hour charge (a little under 5 mph).

LEVEL-1 CHARGERS AT WORK: Enabling the use of 120v standard outlet Level-1 chargers at work should be the #1 goal of EV Infrastructure roll-out in the USA. As shown at right, installing level-2's is an 83% waste of resources. However, enabling the use of 120v outlet charging (Level-1) can meet the charging needs of 92% of all USA commuters with EV's and still use less than half the Level-1 charging capacity! As shown here, these 90% of all EV commuters simply plugged into a 120v outlet at work, would leave work fully charged in under 8 hours.

It would really only be long-range commuters that would need an L2 to top off before heading home - so it might be good to have a few and make sure the employees know that they shouldn't use those particular ones over an L1 unless they need to. But bravo, it sounds like you're good to work for.

Information Technology Amplifies Irrational Group Behavior

"Group behaviour that encourages us to make decisions based on false beliefs has always existed. However, with the advent of the internet and social media, this kind of behaviour is more likely to occur than ever, and on a much larger scale, with possibly severe consequences for the democratic institutions underpinning the information societies we live in," says professor of philosophy at the University of Copenhagen Vincent F. Hendricks.

... he points to other social phenomena such as 'group polarization' and 'information selection' which pose threats to democratic discusson when amplified by online media.

"In group polarization, which is well-documented by social psychologists, an entire group may shift to a more radical viewpoint after a discussion even though the individual group members did not subscribe to this view prior to the discussion. This happens for a number of reasons - one is that group members want to represent themselves in a favourable light in the group by adopting a viewpoint slightly more extreme than the perceived mean. In online forums, this well-known phenomenon is made even more problematic by the fact that discussions take place in settings where group members are fed only the information that fits their worldview, making the discussion forum an echo chamber where group members only hear their own voices," Vincent F. Hendricks suggests.

Companies such as Google and Facebook have designed algorithms that are intended to filter away irrelevant information – known as information selection – so that we are only served content that fits our clicking history. According to Professor Hendricks this is, from a democratic perspective, a problem as you may never in your online life encounter views or arguments that contradict your worldview.

More information: Read the article in Metaphilosophy: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/meta.12028/full

Architect Paolo Soleri – a life in pictures

The Italian-born architect, who has died aged 93, is best known for his visionary city of Arcosanti, an ecological utopia in the Arizona desert. With his philosophy of 'arcology' he combined architecture and a prescient concern for the environment to stunning effect.

Soleri is perhaps most famous for his experimental town, Arcosanti, built in the Arizona desert. Its aim was to prove urban living didn't have to harm the environment

"If you are truly concerned about the problems of pollution, waste, energy depletion, land, water, air and biological conservation, poverty, segregation, intolerance, population containment, fear and disillusionment," reads the sign at the entrance to Arcosanti, "join us." Beyond the placard lies the proposed solution to this list of ills: an otherworldly landscape of concrete domes and soaring vaults rising out of the Arizona desert, like a cross between an ancient Mayan ruin complex and the Star Wars cities of Tatooine. This is the experimental eco-town of Arcosanti, the lifetime's work of the visionary Italian-born architect Paolo Soleri, who has died aged 93.


I visited Arcosanti back in its heyday, in the 70's. They had a set of drawings as to what the final thing would look like, with the current construction shown in red. It was quite a tiny fraction of the full vision. I got their newsletter for a while.

It was quite a vision, quite 70's, and like the article says, ran out of steam in the Decade of Greed. But I guess there's still people there...

The 70's... what a strange dreamlike period...

I visited Arcosanti in the late '80s. It was still a tiny fraction of the full vision. I picked up one of Soleri's early books, which was about large scale utopian urban designs.

My wife and I dropped by there about 11 years ago, and it was loping along, but didn't seem to be advancing at any great speed.

Whether this one succeeds or fails, I see it as part of a long, slow process whereby all sorts of people are sifting through the possibilities, susceptible to luck and financial vagaries as much as the strengths or flaws in their core ideas.. but these ideas have been shared and compared as well, so I hope there is a 'thesis/antithesis->synthesis' process that will be the natural outgrowth of it all.

My folks came to Maine in the early 70's, and we did our Passive Solar Saltbox with the Masonry Stove in it.. that house is still serving another family, and we the next gen are out there putting our own experiments into the lore along with that of our friends and contemporaries in order to try out the next batches.. just more evolution, it seems!

The Turkish 'Power Ship' Keeping the Lights On in Lebanon

Moored at a specially constructed dock 100 metres off the coast of Beirut, a huge hulk of a ship rises impressively at dusk against the fading pinks and blues of the western sky. But this is not a US aircraft carrier or foreign warship sent to keep an eye on politically fragile Lebanon; its purpose is more peaceful, but in its way, equally dramatic.

The ship, the Fatmagül Sultan, is the centrepiece of an innovative project to overcome chronic electricity shortages in developing countries struggling to meet expanding demand. Known as a "power ship", the Turkish-owned and operated vessel with 11 towering steel stacks or chimneys resembles a sort of floating Battersea power station.

It arrived off Beirut earlier this year under a $370m, three-year deal agreed between Lebanon's government and the Turkish energy company, Karadeniz Holding. After securing a supply of heavy fuel oil and hooking up to Lebanon's national grid, the ship is delivering 188MW of electricity daily. This total is expected to rise to 270MW in June, when a second Turkish power ship arrives off Beirut.

Massive Energy Cost Hidden In Wireless Cloud Boom

For the first time, researchers have calculated the energy consumption of the multiple components needed to support cloud services accessed via wireless networks.

The report – "The Power of Wireless Cloud" – warns that industry has vastly underestimated energy consumption across the cloud ecosystem as more people access services using portable devices. The popularity of services like Google Apps, Office 365, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Facebook, Zoho cloud office suite, and many others delivered over wireless networks, is driving a massive surge in energy consumption.

The energy use of cloud services accessed via wireless networks is expected to grow up to 460% between 2012 and 2015, the equivalent of 4.9 million new cars on the roads. The analysis shows that wireless access networks (WiFi and 4G LTE) will be responsible for 90% of that energy. Data centres, the focus of recent high-profile Greenpeace research, account for only 9%.

Principal Research Fellow Dr Kerry Hinton, CEET Deputy Director stated, "When Greenpeace analysed cloud efficiency it hit a nerve with the likes of Google, Microsoft and Apple by suggesting that data centres are to blame for a 'dirty cloud'. In fact, the problem is much worse, data centres aren't the biggest issue. The trend towards wireless is the real problem, and the networks are to blame. By 2015, the energy consumption of data centres will be a drop in the ocean compared to wireless networks in delivering cloud services."

I don't see where they have taken any credit for reducing the energy consumed by coaxial cable and twisted pair copper wire systems replaced by PON and LTE systems?

Prior to the introdution of loop carrier systems and digital time division systems, telephones used little energy, since each line only consumed the leakage current resulting from the -48 V and ground applied to tip and ring when in the on-hook state. Outside plant electronics, as in digital loop carrier systems, and digital central offices resulted in per line active components that consumed power even when the line was on-hook. The consequences were studied in some detail in the '70s.

I'm not familiar with the power consumption of coaxial cable TV distribution systems, but they must also consume some power to distribute a hundred or so TV channels to every household. Current systems that support up and downstream digital services and which are implemented as hybrid fiber coax architectures must also consume energy.

The older phone technologies did require continuous power for amplification and switching, though this was hidden from the user. There are photographs at http://www.google.ca/search?q=telephone+switch&hl=en&rls=com.microsoft:e...

It is true that always on electronics certainly does consume power and that there is a staggering amount of such hardware in use, particularly if you count standby/instant on functionality. To some extent, this has been offset by industry efforts to find ways of minimizing power consumption. For television, advanced coding/compression techniques help, but, at the same time, the amount of information to be transmitted keeps increasing as the industry comes out with new video/data standards - it is on the treadmill of having to find new and compelling products/services to sell.

It might be noted that traditional radio and TV transmitters did have high power requirements.

As an aside, I was doing a bit of historical research on mobile phone technology - there were systems available from the late 1940s intended for automobile installation. if you were using one of these systems, you were well advised to keep your engine running, lest your battery quickly run down.

Oops ...

U.S. Upgrades North Korea Nuclear Threat

WASHINGTON—A new U.S. intelligence assessment says for the first time that North Korea may have developed a nuclear device small enough to mount on a ballistic missile, but said such a weapon's "reliability would be low."

In a seven-page, classified assessment by the Defense Intelligence Agency, a branch of the Pentagon, analysts appeared to upgrade U.S. estimates of North Korea's nuclear weapons abilities.

"DIA assesses with moderate confidence the North currently has nuclear weapons capable of delivery by ballistic missiles," the conclusion said, according to Mr. Lamborn. "However, the reliability will be low."

The threat seems less about nuclear weapons or WMD's in general and more about the large-scale state oligarchy.
Chis Hedges, presumably by way of Sheldon Wallin, calls, if recalled, the US's structure, 'Inverted Totalitarianism'.
If so, "Mr. Inverted Totalitarianism, meet, Mr. Totalitarianism, Mr. Totalitarianism, Mr. Inverted Totalitarianism... Now, I'll leave you two to get acquainted. Don't get into any trouble...".

Seems to me that this well-timed assessment just gives the US the excuse needed to drop a N Korean missile with the newly-arrived anti-missile ships, should "Little Fatty" decide to shoot off one to be provocative during Kerry's meeting with the Chinese. "See we told you it was a threat... could have been nuke, dontcha know. Just had to splash it."

It seems that the NK regime has had a pretty good run of mis-behaving and getting consessions and loot from the industrial powers. I can't imagine why yet another bout of this behavior is suddenly an existential threat to humanity. So what if he has a missle? So what if he shoots it off into the ocean? What possible motive could he have to actuallly shoot a missle into Japan or even a US military base in the Eastern Hemisphere, assuming they have a missle that accurate? Suicide?

Better to ask what is the motivation of the US to make such a big deal about it.

One motivation might be for "saving face." It appears that more provocations are not leading to additional food/ fuel this round... so higher levels of provocation are being tested. And, maybe, at some point, "Little Fatty" will have to back up his remarks with some kind of actions to maintain credibility of the provocation -- or indeed, just to rachet up again.

Hoping that the Chinese take him out first.

Chinese nothing...
I just don't like being held hostage/prisoner by "chimps" with dangerous weapons and their/that illegitimate authority-by-force.
And although I've never had the occasion, I imagine it might feel a little like running, unarmed, into a gang of child soldiers with a bad attitude.
Those child soldiers are not really too far removed from the young soldiers sent to places and situations and in a world they know very little about.
It's the beneath-mature, asinine culture that sends its ignorant babies abroad, armed to the teeth, to do the dastardly work of a very dubious group of people.
The Collateral Murder video thing happens all the time.

"The tragedy of modern war is that the young men die fighting each other - instead of their real enemies back home in the capitals."
~ Edward Abbey

I have the impression we are trying to ignore it as much as possible. At least we aren't making loud counterthreats. Just enough that he knows things could be real bad if he pushes his luck too far.

Cost of Cyprus bailout 'rises to 23bn euros'

The cost of the bailout for Cyprus has increased to 23bn euros ($30bn; £19.5bn), according to a draft document prepared by the country's creditors.

The original cost of the bailout was put at 17.5bn euros.

But the new total, disclosed in a document seen by news agencies, means Cyprus will have to find 13bn euros to secure 10bn euros from the European Union and the IMF.

... 'haircut time' again

Yair . . . I can't provide a link but just heard on our National Radio that Woodside have pulled the pin on the sixty five billion dollar on shore gas facility north of Broome . . . talk is they will go to a floater a la Shell.


Like I said on another website this is a gift to Woodside shareholders and the foreign shipbuilding firm that will build the floating plant. Plan A was a shore based plant with generous compensation to the aboriginal landholders. Locals miss out on good jobs (construction phase and ongoing) as well as the $1.5 bn land use fee. Local industry doesn't get to use the gas brought to shore. I'd also guess a floating LNG 'train' isn't obliged to pipe 15% of gas to domestic customers as is West Australia policy. True the WA govt will get royalties but local people miss out.

If all this comes to pass I suspect some will turn against those who opposed the land based plant. Billions of dollars just over the horizon going elsewhere.

Side note: speakers a gas conference have argued against eastern states having something like the WA 15% set aside policy. Instead 'the market' will always provide cheap gas. Er, OK.

Yair . . . Dunno Boof. We all have our values. Billions of dollars over the horizon isn't everything and I can think of nothing more obscene than an industrial plant on that coast.

Fifty eight years ago I worked on a station called "Eulorel" not far from Surat in south west Queensland. One of the paddocks,as fourteen year old station hand was at he very edge of my known world.

I went back there a few years ago and the skline was dominated by a gas and oil production plant . . . pretty much in decline.

Would it have made any difference to any thing if that little field had never been produced?

As far as the jobs B/S goes, the floating facilities could be built in Australia with a bit of backbone from Government to say it will be so.


Apparently US shale gas is to blame
They obviously don't read TOD.

A potential big customer for Australian west coast gas is the Australian east coast. Logically a pipeline should come to shore and traverse the continent. It is wasteful to liquefy the gas on a floating platform then ship it 5,000 km around the coastline to be re-expanded. It's uncanny how 40 years ago maverick politician Rex Connor predicted something like this. That was way before shale gas. Unfortunately Rex's attempts to privately finance the pipeline ultimately ended in the collapse of the Australian government in 1975. See the controversy discussion in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1975_Australian_constitutional_crisis