Drumbeat: April 29, 2013

Ready (or Not?) for a Great Coming Shale Boom

The Cline Shale, thousands of feet underground in a roughly 10-county swath, is just one of many little-tapped shale formations in Texas and across the nation, geologists say. That means the potential for oil and gas discoveries is theoretically huge, and the reason is technology. The rock-breaking process known as hydraulic fracturing, coupled with the ability to drill horizontally underground, has allowed drillers to retrieve oil and gas from previously inaccessible areas.

Many shales will be too expensive or too small to develop, especially if oil prices fall or environmental regulations tighten. But in Texas, which is already the top oil-producing state, bullishness about a new era is pervasive.

“We’re back into another phase of wildcatting, like the old-timers,” said Jamie Small, the president of Icon Petroleum, a Midland-based company that has worked in areas including the Cline Shale and another early-stage formation, the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale. Barry Smitherman, chairman of the Railroad Commission of Texas, the state’s oil and gas regulatory agency, has said that oil production in Texas could roughly double by 2020.

Excluding the US, rest-of-world crude production in 2H2012 was not higher than in 2005

Excluding the US, rest-of-world crude oil production in the 2nd half of 2012 was on the same level as in the 2nd half of 2005, despite 85% higher oil prices. There are many reasons for this. Declining oil production in many countries which cancelled out growth elsewhere. The 2nd Russian oil peak petering out. Saudi Arabia’s swing role response to US shale oil. Financial crises impacting on oil demand. High investment costs in the oil sector to keep production going. Geopolitics around Iran. Oil wars and civil unrest in Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Yemen and Syria. Hurricanes impacting on offshore oil. Altogether, there simply were (and still are) too many problems, often one after the other.

WTI Crude Rises to Near Two-Week High; OPEC Basket Above $100

West Texas Intermediate crude advanced to near its highest closing level in more than two weeks. OPEC’s reference price rebounded above $100 a barrel.

WTI reversed losses of 0.6 percent as European stocks and the euro rose amid speculation central banks will maintain monetary stimulus. Brent crude traded near its highest closing price in two weeks as Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta prepared to finish installing a new government.

Crude prices drop on demand concerns, reports NBK

NBK’s Economic Update reports that after trading broadly flat through March, crude oil prices dropped sharply in early April. The price of Kuwait Export Crude (KEC) fell from a peak of $107 per barrel (pb) on 2 April to just under $100 ten days later. This was its first spell below the $100 mark since July 2012. Other global benchmark blends also scored notable declines. Brent crude fell $8 to $102, and stood some $17 below its February peak. The fall in West Texas Intermediate (WTI) was less steep – by $6 to $91 – and this blend remained slightly above its levels of early March.

The fall in prices seems to have been mostly generated by demand side factors, said NBK. Firstly, oil demand is believed to have softened for seasonal reasons: the (northern hemisphere) spring period is typically the maintenance season for refineries, which reduces the demand for crude feedstock. Historically, Q2 quarter-on-quarter oil demand has fallen by around 1.6 million barrels per day (mbpd) relative to its trend. These regular demand patterns – although predictable – seldom seem to be ‘priced in’ well in advance.

UK Gas Hit As Norway Pipeline Supply Cut

Fears are raised for gas prices as a key North Sea pipeline is hit by an outage - with supplies possibly affected until May 6.

Land-locked Alberta mulls oil pipeline to Arctic port

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's oil-producing province of Alberta, trying to deal with a lack of pipeline capacity to the Pacific Coast and the United States, is mulling the idea of building a line north to an Arctic port, the province's energy minister said on Friday.

Ken Hughes said he has been talking to the government of Canada's Northwest Territories, which lie directly north of Alberta, about a pipeline to a port such as Inuvik or Tuktoyaktuk on the Beaufort Sea, a section of the Arctic Ocean.

Exxon Mobil Begins Production at Kearl Oil Sands

Exxon Mobil Corp., the world’s largest company by market value, began production at its Kearl oil sands project in Alberta, which is projected to produce 4.6 billion barrels of recoverable oil in the next 40 years.

The project will produce 110,000 barrels per day later this year and that’s expected to double by late 2015, the company said in a statement. The Kearl site is 46 miles (75 km) northeast of Fort McMurray, Alberta, and is operated by Imperial Oil Ltd., which is 70 percent owned by Exxon Mobil.

China's Sinopec threatens to quit Ghana gas project over funding: reports

Cape Town (Platts) - China Petroleum and Chemical Corp., or Sinopec, has threatened to pull out of the $700 million gas project in Ghana if the government fails to honor its financial commitments to the project, local news agencies said Friday.

KazMunaiGas eyes $10 billion investment to boost reserves

ASTANA/ALMATY (Reuters) - State-run KazMunaiGas, Kazakhstan's second-largest oil producer, will invest 1.5 trillion tenge (6.3 billion pounds) in exploration in the next 10 years as it aims to nearly double its reserves of crude oil and gas condensate, the company's head said on Monday.

KazMunaiGas Chief Executive Officer Lyazzat Kiinov said the company's current reserves stood at over 800 million tonnes of liquid hydrocarbons.

Namibia to Sell 49% Stake in $1.1 Billion Gas Power Plant

Namibia Power Corp., a state-owned electricity supplier, plans to sell 49 percent of the $1.1 billion gas-fired power plant it’s building.

CNOOC Revenues Grow on Higher Sales

Chinese offshore giant – CNOOC Ltd. reported first-quarter 2013 revenues of 56.18 billion yuan ($8.95 billion), up approximately 14% from the year-earlier level. The upside came primarily from growth in production volume.

Total Profit Drops 7% on Lower Oil Price as Production Falls

Total SA, Europe’s third-largest oil producer, reported a 7 percent decline in earnings as output fell and weakening fuel demand pushed down the price of crude.

Profit excluding changes in inventories retreated to 2.9 billion euros ($3.8 billion) in the first quarter from 3.1 billion euros a year earlier, the Paris-based company said today in a statement. That met the 2.92 billion-euro average estimate of 14 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

Iraq offers 3-month credit for Egypt oil deal - Sources

DUBAI/BAGHDAD--OPEC member Iraq has agreed in principle to offer cash-strapped Egypt 4 million barrels of crude a month on a three-month credit term, in a move that could ease the fuel shortage that has recently hit the Egyptian economy, officials from the two countries said Monday.

The officials told Dow Jones Newswires that Baghdad would supply Cairo with 2 shipments of Basra light crude each month at international prices but the payment will be deferred for three months with no interests incurred. The first cargo is expected in Egypt next month once the deal is finalized, they said.

State TV: Syrian prime minister escapes bomb attack

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — Syria's prime minister escaped an assassination attempt Monday when a bomb went off near his convoy in Damascus, state media reported, the latest attack targeting a top official in President Bashar Assad's regime.

Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi was unhurt in the bombing in the capital's western neighborhood of Mazzeh, state TV said. The TV showed footage of heavily damaged cars and debris in the area of the blast as firefighters fought to extinguish a large blaze caused by the explosion.

Beyond sanctions, Iran squeezed by higher edible oil costs

Iran is having to pay a premium for basic foodstuffs such as cooking oil, highlighting the increasing strain on Tehran from Western sanctions aimed at its disputed nuclear programme, even though the sanctions don't cover food, Reuters reported.

Putin and Abe play ‘Let’s Make a Deal’ on natural gas

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is in Russia today for a sit-down with his counterpart, Vladimir Putin. Near the top of the agenda: Japan’s insatiable appetite for natural gas, which Russia has in abundance. Lurking in the background is China, which has a complicated history with both nations, and an intensifying need for natural gas imports of its own.

Japan is the world’s biggest importer of natural gas, and its needs have only grown since the nuclear crisis at Fukushima led to the shutdown of 48 of the nation’s 50 commercial nuclear reactors. Even if some of those power plants resume operations later this year as proposed, Tokyo is under pressure to find alternative sources of energy to replace nuclear power, which generated around 30% of Japan’s electricity before the tsunami.

BP seeks $1.5 bn incentive for deep sea gas

NEW DELHI: Europe's second-biggest oil firm BP plc has asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for a $1.5 per mmBtu additional "incentive" for deep-sea fields over and above the near doubling of domestic gas price suggested by the Rangarajan Committee.

Exxon Mobil’s Baytown Refinery Facing Labor Deadline, Union Says

Exxon Mobil Corp. and union steelworkers at the company’s Baytown, Texas, refinery and chemical plant face a June 15 strike or lockout after failing to agree on a contract at the largest petroleum and petrochemical complex in the U.S., United Steelworkers said today.

Problems choke India's coal industry

MUMBAI // India's coal industry is choking under a heap of problems, including inefficiency, corruption and environmental concerns.

With coal being India's main source of power, these issues pose substantial risks to the country's economic growth, analysts warn.

Norway oil industry rapped by Eva Joly

MEP Eva Joly castigated oil nation Norway when she spoke at environment Party De Grønne’s congress in Oslo, Saturday.

Amongst other things, Norwegian-French Joly pointed out the lack of coherence between Norway’s rainforest commitment on the one hand, and its Sovereign Wealth Fund and Norsk Hydro's investments in Brazil on the other.

600 hectares covered with oil wastes in Mangistau oblast

600 hectares of land are covered with oil wastes in Mangistau oblast in western Kazakhstan, Lada writes. According to the regional Akim (Governor) Alik Aidarbayev, 2.2 million tons of oil wastes are scattered across the territory.

He called oil companies to take better care to solve ecological problems. “Subsoil users have to deal with the issues of utilization not through some pilot project, but use solid approach and construct highly-effective units for soil treatment,” Aidarbayev said.

BP’s Ula Oil Leak Could Have Been ‘Major Accident,’ Norway Says

Norway said an oil and gas leak at BP Plc’s Ula field could have been a major accident with loss of life and substantial damage, and ordered the company to review maintenance procedures after discovering “serious breaches.”

The estimated 125 barrels of oil and 1,600 kilograms (3,520 pounds) of gas that leaked at the North Sea site last year was due to the fracture of corroded bolts on a valve in a separator outlet, the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway said today in a statement. While no one was injured, output closed for 67 days.

UK ministers consider offering communities fracking sweeteners

(CNN) -- The government is proposing to bribe communities with cheaper energy bills in exchange for dropping opposition to local fracking projects as part of plans to push ahead with shale-gas extraction.

Several options to cajole rural England to accept the contentious drilling schemes are being discussed as ministers prepare to announce that the UK's shale-gas reserves are much larger than previously estimated.

EPA report on methane further divides fracking camps

PITTSBURGH — The Environmental Protection Agency has dramatically lowered its estimate of how much of a potent heat-trapping gas leaks during natural gas production, in a shift with major implications for a debate that has divided environmentalists: Does the recent boom in fracking help or hurt the fight against climate change?

Oil and gas drilling companies had pushed for the change, but there have been differing scientific estimates of the amount of methane that leaks from wells, pipelines and other facilities during production and delivery. Methane is the main component of natural gas.

Keystone Pipeline Support Enlists Oil Firms to U.S. Jews

Almost 50 groups representing everything from oil companies to American Jews have stepped up their Washington spending as the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline proves to be a bonanza for lobbyists.

The American Petroleum Institute, a Washington-based oil industry trade group, increased its lobbying spending on all issues, including Keystone, to $2.1 million in the first three months of the year from $1.8 million during the same period a year earlier, Senate records show. The American Jewish Committee lobbying costs rose to $40,000 from $30,000.

China cracks down on military use of luxury cars

HONG KONG (CNNMoney) - Top military officials in China might soon be forced to trade in their luxury cars for something a little less flashy.

China has banned the use of military license plates on expensive cars, according to official state media. The new guidelines were issued by the Central Military Commission, and are the latest anti-corruption measures undertaken by the image-conscious government of President Xi Jinping.

Hyundai pulls ad that plays suicide for laughs

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) - Korean automaker, Hyundai, has apologized for an advertisement that featured a man attempting to commit suicide with exhaust fumes from one of its SUVs.

The ill-conceived punch-line was that the SUV, an iX35, runs on hydrogen and, therefore, emits only water vapor, so the man can't kill himself.

6 greenest cars made in America

Buyers who want "green" cars carefully read the fine print pertaining to emissions and gas mileage, choosing between battery-powered electrics (EVs) and gas-electric hybrids. Buyers who worry about job creation in the U.S. pay attention to where the car was built.

Future-Proofing Energy Markets

In energy markets there are few more contentious theories than that of peak oil.

The idea was first posited by M. King Hubbert, a geologist for what was then known as Shell Oil—he asserted that oil discovery, and therefore production, would follow a bell-shaped curve.

Long-term focus needed for India's improved energy security

There are several dimensions to India's energy challenge. First of all, they have a great issue with access. Making sure that people have access to reasonably affordable energy is a very high priority for India, of course. They have a rapidly growing economy. They have an increasing energy demand in general. They have quite a large number of infrastructure investment needs, so they need to invest a lot of money into their energy system, regardless of what kind of system they're looking for. We believe that fundamentally to keep and, even worse, to grow their dependence on coal in the long run is fundamentally unsustainable.

In Abu Dhabi's energy oasis, setbacks and progress

FORTUNE -- The last time we visited Masdar -- the green city being built in the desert sands of Abu Dhabi -- the project wasn't much more than an architect's scheme. Fast-forward and what you'll find is an operating university, the Masdar Institute, and nearby the energy-saving Middle East headquarters tower of Siemens, plus various shops and restaurants -- including a sushi joint, a bookstore, and an organic supermarket. To date, Masdar's buildings reduce energy demand by 56% and potable water demand by 54% compared to traditional Middle Eastern structures. What's perhaps most impressive is that the small city is currently powered 100% by renewables. Electricity is generated by a 10-megawatt solar PV plant located on-site and a rooftop solar PV installation totaling 1 megawatt.

Turkey to say in days who will build 2nd nuclear plant

(Reuters) - Turkey's energy minister said Ankara will announce by the weekend which country will construct its second nuclear power station, a project expected to cost around $22 billion.

Turkey, likely to overtake Britain as Europe's third-biggest electricity consumer within ten years, plans to build several nuclear plants over the next decade to reduce its dependence on imported oil and gas.

West Virginia: Lawmaker wants kids to work for ‘free lunch’

“I think it would be a good idea if perhaps we had the kids work for their lunches: trash to be taken out, hallways to be swept, lawns to be mowed, make them earn it,” said Ray Canterbury, a Republican from Greenbrier and a member of the West Virginia House of Delegates, during debate over Senate Bill 663, also known as the Feed to Achieve Act.

The bill — the first of its kind in the nation — would create a partnership between private donations and public funds to make breakfast and lunch available for free to every student, kindergarten through high school senior, in West Virginia. It’s based on a model program in Mason County that’s improved attendance and decreased discipline problems, according to the school district’s food service director.

When One Man’s Game Is Also a Marauding Pest

In 1990, fewer than two million wild pigs inhabited 20 states, according to John J. Mayer, the manager of the environmental science group at the Savannah River National Laboratory in Aiken, S.C., who tracked the state populations. That number has now risen to six million, with sightings in 47 states and established populations in 38 — “a national explosion of pigs,” as Dr. Mayer put it.

The swine are thought to have spread largely after escaping from private shooting preserves and during illegal transport by hunters across state lines. Experts on invasive species estimate that they are responsible for more than $1.5 billion in annual agricultural damage alone, amounting in 2007 to $300 per pig. The Agriculture Department is so concerned that it has requested an additional $20 million in 2014 for its Wildlife Services program to address the issue.

Carbon Markets Drive China, India Climate Efforts, Center Says

Carbon markets are a key driver for investment in the biggest emerging nations’ greenhouse-gas reducing efforts, and allowing them to collapse would be a “disaster,” according to the Center for American Progress.

The United Nations carbon market has spurred $356 billion of investment in emission cuts, encouraging climate-protection policies in at least 10 nations including China, India and Brazil, the Washington-based policy institute said in a study, citing UN data. More than 3,000 projects in China supported $202 billion in investment and seven pilot carbon markets.

PR smokescreen cannot hide the holes in climate teaching proposals

The new national curriculum provide a less in-depth introduction to climate change, and misses out vital information about risks.

What's climate scientist James Hansen's legacy?

Just a few weeks ago, one of the biggest names in climate science made one of the biggest announcements possible. Dr. James (Jim) Hansen said that he will "retire" from his duties at NASA to focus his energies elsewhere. This is a "retirement" that is anything but. Dr. Hansen has made clear that he will become more engaged in communicating climate science to the general public and he will continue to carry out the high-quality work which he is known for.

What does this mean for climate science and the future of the Earth? It is impossible to know now but instead of looking forward, I want to shine a light on what Jim has done for climate science, what he signifies to the larger public, and how he is viewed by current and upcoming scientists.

Along N.J. bay, rising sea draws ever closer

The night Meghan Wren got stranded by floodwaters and had to sleep in her car, she knew it was time for a reckoning.

She had been driving to her waterfront home along the Delaware Bay in South Jersey. As she crossed the wide marsh in the dark, the water rose quickly. It became too deep - ahead and behind. She had to stop and wait.

To her, no longer were climate-change predictions an abstract idea. Sea level has been rising, taking her waterfront with it.

Re: What's climate scientist James Hansen's legacy?

I hope Dr. Hansen can be more effective, now that he is beyond the government's muzzle...

E. Swanson

The Government's muzzle?

The IRS and the ability to charge one under any of the thouands of laws isn't an effective muzzle?

How about his pension? How much shut-up would be bought with that pension?

He wasn't muzzled all that much working for the government. His pension is irrelevant.

Curious - what is that he could say that he hasn't already said that would have any impact on the debate?

You either believe CO2 is a greenhouse gas or you don't. If you believe it then you know that even if it hasn't impacted the climate yet it will at some point in the future if levels keep increasing. Unless of course you believe that there is a hidden feedback process that nobody is aware of that is automatically going to reduce the CO2 from the atmosphere even if HS keeping putting it into the atmosphere. To me CC and PO share the same characteristic- we live on a finite planet. While the timing is debatable - the end result is not.

If I was able to change from being a climate change denialist, other people can too! Even if the message is the same, it needs to be repeated over and over again.

Wow, I'm always happy to hear about people changing their opinions based on data.

Personally, I've flipped a bit and become somewhat more accepting of the Keynesian economic views and how it is not so bad to run deficits. Countries are NOT households. Countries can print their own currency so they can get away with running deficits in bad times. Now we certainly can't do it forever and we do need to restructure things (cut some government programs and increase some revenues) but running deficits is better than going into harsh austerity. Japan has shown that you can run deficits for a long time and that it is probably better to do that than to go into a sharp austerity that just creates an economic death spiral.

Given the reigns of power, I would slash military spending and hold the line on social spending and reduce the deficit. But I'd much rather have deficit spending than slash domestic programs like crazy as the conservatives seem to want to do (while wanting to invade Syria).

That is a real myopic view IMHO....when you slash military spending how are you going to employ those millions of people you just laid off? We have a Keynesian war economy.....just go to any university and see where the big research money is going----not to art...The system is broken and there is no easy fix with save a little here and spend a little there the "system" needs to and will collapse------No Susy Orman fixes here, sorry.

Good point. But my program would be a bit more complex than that. I would hope many would find private sector jobs. But I'd ramp up domestic spending that would achieve multiplier effects. Spend money on the military for overseas wars is such a drain. So much of that money is sucked out of the country. I'd have some stimulus spending that would at least help the domestic economy. Old fashioned WPA stuff. Hydro-electric dams, smart-grid, other infrastructure. And things that would provide at least some pay-back . . . PV on government buildings, insulation, etc.

But I agree that no matter what you do, there is going to be some suffering. We just have more labor available these days than jobs that need to be done.

Hi, Your comment regarding overseas wars sucking money out of the country got me thinking...I'm not a war hawk by any stretch (and this is getting way off topic so I apologize in advance) - but I would think most of the tax dollars spent on the military ends up staying here. Certainly it is a massive redistribution of funds from taxpayers to our military industrial complex that could be probably be more effectively utilized - but unless we are purchasing weapons from other countries the majority of those funds go to US based companies employing US citizens. Even in the case of our soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen the bulk of their spending from their meager salaries will be by their families who either remain in the US or purchase the majority of their goods from exchanges on military bases rather than from the local markets.

If anything - the largest outlay of money that ends up overseas is likely to be that tucked away in island tax havens by those who own and control the military industries. In the end I agree with your sentiments, I just think the mechanism of the waste is driven by different factors - and am just cynical enough to think that if a push was successfully made to spend our tax dollars differently then the same actors would find a way to successfully siphon off a hefty share of that flow too.

Well, you are right that much of the money stays home. But we do spend a lot of money overseas supporting these wars. Sure, we build the planes & helicopters. But we also buy food, water, fuel, and other supplies overseas. We support an archipelago of military bases in foreign countries to support these wars. And we need to bribe provide military support to countries like Pakistan to allow us to use their roads and bases.

If that money were spent domestically to subcontractors building a bridge, providing cement, etc., then you'd have less money sucked out of the country and more money spent within the country. The Afghan war is a failure. We tried. We've tried for more than 10 years. It is what it is and it doesn't seem like whatever it is we are doing is making the place better. I'll feel bad if the place collapses after we leave but you can't say we did not try.

You basically have two flows of MIC money...one is the builders of the weapons systems. These are the already wealthy corporations that bribe our government to make them more wealthy by awarding more contracts...this money builds items of specific value - the value to kill people. It's necessary to have some of that around, however, we have to keep making more and more to satisfy their greed. Since the money is going to already wealthy people, it takes money out of circulation and parks it. Parked money creates no value.

The other flow of MIC money goes to the "boots on the ground." This money does tend to get sent back home and wind up in the local economies, or stays in the local economies through civilian contractors in the US. So where does it go wrong? We're paying folks something on the order of $35,000/year to traipse around, get shot at, blown up, killed, and to kill. What if we instead paid that person $35,000/year to install solar PV on people's houses, to re-insulated poor people's homes, build wind turbines, etc.

So for $35,000/year you can have:
Someone whose purpose in life is to murder/kill
Install renewable energy and help poor people

Currently somewhere between $800 Billion and $1 Trillion is spent on the murder/kill thing...What would you like your tax dollars spent on?

That money goes to maintaining the empire, and thus our ability to have 5% of the world's population get 30% of the world's wealth (including most importantly energy). This arrangement is maintained by force, or the threat of it. It's really that simple.

The corruption is just endemic to any flow of money that large, but I have come to understand that if we made what appears to be the rational choice to spend that money more wisely on other things, then we abdicate the throne and some other people take over the imperial role. Then not only do we stop mining the rest of the world, but soon someone starts mining us. It is a trap - we will keep at it until we are stopped.

I'm not advocating any of this mind you, just pointing it out.

Strictly economically speaking spending money on war/defense is (short term) an investment in non-productive assets. When you spend a million on a weapon that weapon will produce zero in immediate economic value. If that same million were spent on a paperclip machine you now can produce and sell paperclips - it produces something on value. The immediate multiplier effect of military spending is likely much lower than if it were spent a on something different.
A slightly more macro view may offer a different picture; one can argue that if it weren't for military spending that there would less stability in the middle east and that oil prices would be higher, thus causing a drag on the economy. Also, as the military tends to have a longer horizon of analysis they can invest in projects without a short-term payoff like nylon, nuclear power and a lot of other basic research that the rest of society benefits from. But because there tends to be a large lag - years if not decades - and the main purpose of the research is not to improve civilian life but to increase military capabilities that research likely could be done more efficiently / directly.


You phrased that significantly better than I did. Most of the spending that's occurring right now is just pork. Building stuff just to build stuff - like the tanks and planes the military says they don't want, but the congress wants to keep building. If one wants real innovation you fund universities, NASA, and off-the-wall research. Ignoring the interest on the debt it's produced we went from spending about $450 billion pre-911 (inflation adjusted), which was already massively bloated, to $1 Trillion in 2011. We could maintain a world dominating force with less than $450 Bil...much less.

Whereas we could be spending that money to build a society that can live well - live better even - without needing 25% of the world's resources we've simply pi**ed it away while allowing all of our industries to leak out through "free trade" deals. China is starting to roll out replicas of not only US warplanes, but civilian jets as well - that was one industry the US could usually count on. India and China are starting to come out with their own tech...we've been building things in their country, training them how to design and build stuff for so long that they've come of age to start doing it themselves. The 0.1% have collectively bought out the US government and embarked on exporting every job possible through "free trade" agreements while continuing to pull resources from the US to themselves. I don't begrudge other nations for wanting more for themselves (unless they use that to extinct species and destroy the planet) - but the US is just giving everything away for the benefit of 0.1% of the population.

We haven't built our systems, economic and technological, to sustain in a world where We The 5% can get by without hogging 25% of the world's resources...and instead of spending our remaining capital in doing so, we're building weapons, blowing up Iraqis, blowing up Afghanistanis...and we're going to be left looking like North Korea...a vast military surrounded by a bunch of poor, starving, deluded people.

Yes, we could swim to shore ourselves, but if we let go of the alligator's tail we'll be eaten before we get there.

The investment into military is not necessarily bad investment as long as you have a business model that gives a positive ROI, either by payments of allies/"allies" or seizing resources which have an much higher value than your investments into your military. The problem of the USA in the last two decades was and still is that there is no solid business model, i.e. there is no grand strategy.

Or from a green POV: With only 35% of the military investments one could finance very likely an energy transition in the USA that would have a real strategic impact and would dwarf everything that was achieved by military means since 1990.

Yeah, when the looting and pillaging was taken away from war in the 1950's or so, war really became a losing enterprise.

And yes, if instead of spending $3Trillion on Iraq, we had spent the money on green energy & EVs we could have largely eliminated our need for any foreign oil. But that kind of outside-the-box thinking is too much for most people.

The problem with the paperclip machine is that some Chinese paperclip maker will sell paperclips cheaper such that the paperclip machine buyer just goes bankrupt. Our private sector is struggling to create businesses with jobs that are not destroyed by foreign competition. And we can't seem to admit that we are just no longer the economic super-power that we once were . . . yet we keep on living like we are.

It's a complicated and very much multi-facetted issue. Think for example of the difference between selling paperclips and paperclip machines. in the short run the latter is probably more productive because paperclip machines are likely higher value items but after a while you'll sell fewer paperclips, and, if you sold the machines to an entity with machining capacity themselves, chances are they now will make, and sell, paperclip machines.

One huge issue is that globally the playingfield is not level. One of the reasons why China/SE Asia has done relatively so well is because of, in effect, labor, financial and currency arbitrage.
The notion of "Same rights, Same rules" is not embraced and likely won't for a while.
At the same time in the a number of countries there seems to be a reduction in the rate of increase of consumption, and that is also disrupting a system in which growth as absolutely essential. When there is a prolonged period of no or very low growth there has to be contraction and reallocation of wealth, and whoever is on the "own" rather than the "owned" side of that equation will fight that with every tool available.

our ability to have 5% of the world's population get 30% of the world's wealth (including most importantly energy). This arrangement is maintained by force, or the threat of it. It's really that simple.

No it is not. Commodities are freely traded on the world markets and sold to the highest bidder. Westexas has shown us numerous graphs which show that oil consumption of developing countries (including countries like Kenya) continues to rise whereas it is falling in OECD countries including the US.

Now when we have a real crunch the US may use its navy to hijack oil tankers but that has not happened so far.

There are a bunch of articles on TomDispatch about the billions of taxpayer money wasted on
things like the $1 Billion Baghdad embassy, and very expensive simulations of the American way of life including air conditioning, Kentucky Fried Chicken etc etc all the comforts of "home" for Americans half a world away! And the Corporate media pundits wonder why Afghans being trained by these same privileged Americans living in their splendid isolation have been trying to kill their American military trainers repeatedly??

Just one sample of what our tax dollars get spent on from TomDispatch:


Look up Seymour Melman on peacetime conversion:


He did a lot of work on how we COULD convert Wartime production to beneficial peacetime production. But we never did get the Peace Dividend promised under both Bushes or Clinton.
Instead the Military Industrial complex just kept manufacturing new "enemies" with the endless War on Terror, a totally nebulous, abstract concept as opposed to a concrete enemy, the latest excuse to waste $1 Trillion per year on Wars and the US National inSecurity State.

But obviously as we run out of resources this waste will not be affordable unless we just let
everything else go to rack and ruin, people go hungry, sick, homeless, lacking education ie the current Austerity programs in the US and around the world.

Actually it is interesting that some towns have benefited from the base closings decades ago as what was wasted land, buildings, resources only for War have become parks, research parks, and factories.

The sooner we get on with this work for the benefit of all humanity and a sustainable civilization of converting from Military Keynesianism to the Green New Deal, the better.
Every barrel of oil burned is gone forever...

This is a podcast blog called "Stansberry Radio" with Porter Stansberry and Aaron Brabham. Their guest on this episode is James Altucher, the guy who has been all the rage lately by claiming that college is bad for your kids. There has been a lot on TOD lately about what this guy is saying. All three of these guys are financial advisers.

James Altucher on the Peak Oil Fallacy, Investment Opportunities

All the fun stuff starts at 33 minutes into this Youtube podcast and the oil stuff lasts for 8 minutes. You can skip to that point and not miss anything but babble. They start at that point with Altucher telling us that the United States is the new Saudi Arabia and the other two guys cheer loudly.

Stansberry says that there are 20 shale locations and each location has over 20 billion barrels of oil reserves. Then they wonder "When is the price of oil going to fall out of bed."

They claim that we cannot refine the light sweet stuff that shale is producing because all our refineries are set up to process all that heavy sour stuff we are getting from Venezuela and Nigeria. "It will take a decade or maybe three before we can use the oil we are producing to make gasoline." (A direct quote.)

And they rant on about the government blocking exports of crude oil while we are increasing production by 25 percent per year. So sooner or later the government is going to have to let us export it. And Altucher claims that the price to produce fracked oil is going to fall to $5 a barrel and the price will fall to $40 a barrel.

There was a lot more nonsense but it is a real hoot. These three investment advisors are spouting some real advice about the future of oil production in the USA.

Ron P.

The key problem is the steady increase in the underlying decline rates from existing wellbores. The latest EIA data indicate that the estimated four week running average of US crude + condensate (C+C) production is 7.2 mbpd. Let's assume that the US averages 7.5 mbpd for 2013.

At an overall decline rate of 10%/year (which I suspect is probably conservative), the US oil industry would have to add 750,000 bpd of new C+C production every year, or 9.0 mbpd over the next 12 years, in order to maintain a production rate of 7.5 mbpd. Note that given the high and rising percentage of US C+C production coming from tight/shale plays, the overall underlying decline rate from existing wellbores is almost certainly increasing every year.

In any case, at a conservative decline rate of 10%/year, the US would basically have to put on line over the next 12 years the approximate cumulative equivalent of average post-2005 Saudi C+C production in order to maintain a US production rate of 7.5 mbpd.

Wanting to believe in something, being desperate to believe - its a powerful drug.

They claim that we cannot refine the light sweet stuff that shale is producing because all our refineries are set up to process all that heavy sour stuff we are getting from Venezuela and Nigeria.

The refineries on the East and West Coasts can refine it, they just can't get access to it because there are no pipelines leading there from North Dakota. They assumed that their oil would arrive by ship. Railroad is feasible but expensive, and there aren't enough tank cars for the amount of oil they need. Nigeria produces light oil, not heavy oil, but the price is much higher than ND oil.

What the Texas fields are producing is really what the oil industry would call "wet gas". It is natural gas heavy in condensate and NGLS. There are limits to the amount of condensate and NGLS refineries can put into their product mix, so they really don't want to buy it. Fortunately for producers, Canada is short of condensate to dilute bitumen to get it to flow through pipelines to the US, so that is where a lot of it is going. The Canadian oil sands producers blend it with bitumen and send it back to the US, the US refineries strip it off the inlet stream and send it back to Canada again. And around and around it goes.

And they rant on about the government blocking exports of crude oil while we are increasing production by 25 percent per year.

The US is still not close to being self-sufficient in crude oil. However the US government does allow US oil to be exported to Canada because it is simply refined there and the products (gasoline and diesel fuel) are shipped right back to the US. Some Canadian East Coast refineries export most of their products to the US - in some cases to California, as bizarre as that may seem. And, as noted above, a lot of US condensate and NGLs are exported to Canada for use as diluent for bitumen.

I wouldn't take anything said by Porter Stansberry seriously.


If you managed to wake up the moribund SEC who doesn't bother going after anyone then you must be a serious fraud.

Energy & New Materialism: the Other Side of a Mass Extinction Event

This is a very strange blog. He predicts a mass extinction because of global warming but admits he cannot predict the severity of it. But the blog is more about peak oil and EROEI. Bold and italics his:

Nothing Competes with Petroleum
150:1 is the reason there is simply nothing like oil. But there is a catch: EROEI decreases over time as a resource becomes more difficult to extract. By the mid-20th century, petro EROEI stood at 100:1. Even at that rate it was still able to fuel the rise of American economic supremacy along with globalization. It is extremely difficult to pin precisely, but petro EROEI is now floating between 100:1 and 50:1 (probably closer to the latter). Part of the reason we have not and cannot recover from the current recession is that the mortgage/derivatives crisis hit in what was likely the peak year for oil extraction.

Well I don't think it was the peak but it was pretty close to the peak.

The below jpeg is a little deceiving as it combines oil with natural gas, nevertheless it makes his point.

Ron P.

I was wondering if it is better to be optimistic about the future, rather than glum.
Let's say that the future may be: Better, or Poorer.
If one is pessimistic, and then the future is Better. What is the point of being pessimistic? And if one is pessimistic, and the future is poorer, then what have you gained?

But if one is optimistic, then one can plan and make changes, and the future will likely be Better. And even if the future is Poorer, you will have a better life being Optimistic.
So, it is better to be optimistic at all times, even if some facts point towards danger ahead.

What is the point of being realistic? What is the point of planning for a future that you think will be totally different? What is the point of permaculture? What is the point of trying to increase your chances of being among the survivors?

Ron P.

What is the point of trying to increase your chances of being among the survivors?

You will be going against millions of years of evolution if you don't. Easier said than done, especially for us young-uns. If my body doesn't feel like keeling over, i'd rather not end up sleeping under a bridge until it does.

You aren't just increasing your odds of "not dying" during a sudden step-down, you are also increasing your chance of living more comfortably through it.

I thought being in the mountains would be a good place to be...now after doing the numbers a warmer place is probably better...without cheap fuel it is hard to live in the north...

As someone who finds himself int the mountains quite routinely, I'm not sure how good they'd be to live in during a post peak world. They're beautiful for sure but everything is a chore. You're always lugging something up or down. Even moving a wheel barrow around can be a major challenge. It's fine if you have gasoline to help you out, but I question how fun it would be to manage with only manual labor as one gets older and less physically capable.

It's fine if you have gasoline to help you out, but I question how fun it would be to manage with only manual labor as one gets older and less physically capable.

Maybe you could get yourself a couple of friendly Llamas... or a mule or two.

Some traditional Tibetan Buddhist prayers mention an ideal world, "smooth as lapis lazuli", so there you go.

In both their pre-industrial and post-industrial world, negotiating the high elevations and severe winters in the Himalayas has to be daunting. I was oohing and ahhing over a beautiful photo of a winter scene a monk showed me once. He looked at me quizzically when I told him how beautiful the photo was and said, "but it's winter."

When I've cycled in flat areas I can easily cruise 40 miles and feel ready for another 40...up in the mountains there are some places where I go for 10 miles and I'm wiped out. I've had this sneak up on me when backpacking before too. I'll plan out a trip, look at the mileage and even adjust for the terrain but not adjust enough. On one trip I was carrying a 40 pound pack and plotted a trail, estimated it would take me a day with the terrain and weight to make the first 8 mile leg - wrong. It was more gnarly than it appeared on the map and after a grueling day of climbing hills made it a whopping 5 miles - about half the distance I thought I would. Compare this to the flats where 15 miles is easily doable on a similar time scale.

The mountains have traditionally been populated by poor, lesser-educated people fairly removed from society. Nice to look at, but lacking in farmland and removed from sea trade. Olden-times folks might have hunted game, but if they haven't been hunted to near extinction in the area then their habitat has been largely destroyed or disturbed (at least in my area of the Apps). YMMV.

Some traditional Tibetan Buddhist prayers mention an ideal world, "smooth as lapis lazuli", so there you go.

While I have nothing against the companionship of Tibetan Lamas, the Llamas I was referring to are of the furry hooved variety... They make somewhat better beasts of burden, though they do tend to spit a bit more >;-)

I live on flat land in between several mountain ranges but it is the carrying capacity I am worried about. It was 70 here last week now down to the lower 20's hard to grow when you have wacky weather. One year we had a hail storm midsummer and gardens looked like someone came in with a shotgun and blew them away.... We are the canary in the cool mine for climate change.

If you look at modern produce farming you will find the trend is to grow in protected and controlled environments for just this reason. Modern produce farming includes seeds and plants shipped across the country, pesticides, fungicides, plastic row covers, plastic mulch, with as much automation as possible. Then it is delivered around the world. As little as possible is left to chance. At the same time it is available year around, blemish free, perfect shape, and several times the size of the vegetables home grown produce. IMO taste is the one quality that often suffers.

I expect farmers to continue this industrial agriculture especially as climate change accelerates. Even field crops could be grown in this manner. It would just be much more expensive.

Personally I find all this disturbing, but I do see how it is a tempting direction to go especially when you do not get a crop because of the weather, insects, ...

Yes but doesn't the kind of farming you are talking about depend on cheap fossil fuels....plastic, fertilizer, distribution etc all take cheap abundant energy----I was guessing that we are running out of that. My point is the carrying capacity of places is wearing thin...cold mountain climates with large populations...and desert locations will suffer.

I agree that this kind of farming depends upon fossil fuels. That's why I find it disturbing. Still I expect this trend to continue and accelerate until it can't.

The idea of being an optimist or pessimist is a little too binary for my mindset. Opimistic or pessimistic about what? "The future" is an abstract, and any expectations I have about it must pass through my reality filter. My goal is to develop as much situational awareness as possible; optimism/pessimism are artifacts of that process, less of a "decision". I've seen pollyannas get blindsided, pessimists fall into depression. There's a groove somewhere in between,, if one can find it. Bias and expectations often get in clarity's way.

One of the most underutilized expressions in any language is "I don't know". If we start with that, no need to feel any need but the shortest range predictions, since we know any guesses any more than a nose length in any direction in time or space are close to useless, given the range of possibilities.

So, given that I don't know, I am having loads of fun going for what I guess might be right for the next generations- off ff and on to solar in all its apps, which are too many to count. Here's a few:

solar water heater- super simple, good results. Have not burned a molecule of propane for that purpose for a couple of years.

Insulation- always the best unless you already have lots (doubtful).

New one- ductless heat pump pulling heat/cool out of my big cistern by way of a simple water circulator dribbling over the air to air heat exchanger, making the outdoor thing think it is living year around in a wet seattle morning- a happy state for a heat pump. This gets rid of lots of work with wood, and keeps wife able to be busy in too hot weather, when otherwise she might be sitting there thinking of things for me to fix.

Another new one, is compressed air the way to go for PV storage? How to find out with not too much hardware?

Oversized PV, with all kinds of gimmicks unheard of by sane mortals. Far better entertainment than golf or trips to paris.

Hey, all you non-Ghungs, living in an energy revolution can be fun. Just do it.

Maybe if one thinks of the long-term too much, one can get depressed about the problems. It is good to think and act short-term.
And hope for a better future is still a good thing.

The idea that civilization will fall apart in 2025 or 2100 is just wrong. Even Roman civilization in Britian continued for many hundreds of years after the failure of Rome in 420 A.D.

Even Roman civilization in Britian continued for many hundreds of years after the failure of Rome in 420 A.D.

Perhaps but at the time they weren't faced with the consequences of 400 ppm of atmospheric CO2 and the global population was only about 400,500,000 So the conditions were vastly different.

If it did continue it was completely undocumented. I am always amazed at how quickly Roman culture disappears from the UK archeaological record , and how little replaces it until the appearance of Saxon settlers in what often appears to be uninhabited locations. Yes some towns and cities continue occupation, but many others disappear so completely that only a few cropmarks remain in the fields today. Roman Britain in 420 was industrial, and widely literate. 100 years later there are no records, no new buildings, little evidence of population. Almost all Roman technologies disappear completely.

It makes me wonder whether and when a cultural model is dropped because it had merely been imposed and the imposer goes away, or where it hangs on out of habit and inertia, but that a change event (Herding to Agro. .. New Technology .. Adoption of Literacy.. religious upheaval/revolution ) reveals a cultural model simply has no place to grasp when the people in it have moved to new developments that make it very quick to fall away.

I would think the Chinese central control model might follow that Roman/Britannia example, where outlying regions have often not really been 'true believers' (ahem, Tibet.. but others as well..) and would very quickly revert to their Latent Natures if the current authority 'just stopped writing' one day.

Greer addressed this in his paper [PDF], How Civilizations Fall: A Theory of Catabolic Collapse. He argues that after a catabolic collapse, social complexity ends up way below where it was before the complex society arose or arrived.

The best documented examples of collapse, such as the fall of the western
Roman empire, show a distinctive temporal pattern even more difficult to square
with Tainter’s theory. Thus, during the collapse of Roman power, each of a series of
crises led to loss of social complexity and the establishment of temporary stability at
a less complex level. Each such level then proved to be unsustainable in turn, and
was followed by a further crisis and loss of complexity (Gibbon 1776-88; Tainter,
1988; Grant, 1990). In many regions, furthermore, the sociopolitical complexity
remaining after the empire’s final disintegration was far below the level that had
existed in the same area prior to its inclusion in the Imperial system. Thus Britain in
the late pre-Roman Iron Age, for example, had achieved a stable and flourishing
agricultural society with nascent urban centers and international trade connections,
while the same area remained depopulated, impoverished, and politically chaotic for
centuries following the collapse of imperial authority (Snyder 2003).

He argues that the reason for this is that the environment is left in a far worse condition that it used to be. IOW, resource constraints.

You also find the good argument that in the Roman empire the industry was already very specialised and the retreat of the Romans left an economy that suddenly lacked imported products, the homemade replacements were of much lower quality as the producers did not have the Roman technological knowledge.

But that doesn't really explain why complexity and population fell to way below that which existed before the Romans arrived.

For some reason this reminds me of a time when I was young/stupid (not long ago) in the back seat of a car where the driver was drunk and speeding along an undivided country road at 1/3rd higher than the posted limit. It is a cosmically unreal feeling having the realisation that the chances of having an accident are falling towards almost certainty whilst the driver is completely oblivious to the risk. In real life terms I guess I experienced what is happening metaphorically with the drivers of the world economy drunk with power not ethanol. In this instance there was very little I could do regardless so I wasn't optimistic or pessimistic, I just practiced my bracing positions mentally. In the end the car did spin out and the driver proclaimed that the gravel along the side of the road caused it, not driver error, so I guess my experience mirrors your idea of neither being an optimist nor pessimist.

I sometimes go into that mode when in a Plane at Takeoff, under the roar of the Engines.. I just try to let go and submit to the fact that I am inside powers that are far too great for me to have any useful effect or control over.

Sort of my 'It is a good day to die' moments..

Most apt comparison, Squil, I too remember being in that back seat watching the drunk teenage driver attempt suicide, and thinking, "this guy is going to kill himself and I'm gonna sit back here and watch".--since I was even drunker than he was.

We are all in that back seat, and the driver is just as drunk, and worse, nuts to start with.

But, it's a pretty big back seat, and there are lotsa things we can put around ourselves if we think about it. If we act fast and smart, we might be able to crawl out of the wreck that's just around the curve alive.

And, we might not. Who knows? Anyhow, have fun.

LOL - it is a good comparison! Those of us who spend a lot of time contemplating the nature of PO and CC and all the issues we face are like a bunch of people in the back of a decrepit bus with a drunk and insane driver, discussing exactly how drunk the driver is, what the maximum speed he's gotten to is, how long the bus will run, whether he has the heat on, etc. And when he rolls the damn thing it will still be pretty much chance how we come out of it. Well, OK, the guys with their heads out the window might be a little worse off.

Trouble is, in reality, it is usually others than the driver that come off the worse. The driver often walks away. I hope that is not what is facing us.


There is a small degree of opposition being raised in Ireland to the imposition of a national carbon tax on heating fuels of €10 per ton of CO2 produced. This tax was first imposed on transport fuels in 2010 and from the 1st of May this year it will also apply to domestic heating fuels such as coal and heating oils.

Ireland is currently recovering from the economic fallout of a property bubble pre 2008 and the last 3 winters have been pretty severe, yet rather than concentrating on the economic impact of this measure, amazingly the main thrust of the organised opposition seems to centre on a claim that our current trend of more severe winters has nothing to do with carbon emissions but rather is being caused by a weak solar cycle.

It seems that political ideologues have no shame, the same people rubbish concerns about energy security, this in a country that imports 90% of its primary energy and of course these same people also attempt to halt the extraordinary pace of the development of Irelands renewable energy resources, this year wind will supply circa 20% of Irelands electricity, this from a standing start in 1999.

The brighter side of this unfolding story is that the government have ringfenced a high percentage of the revenue being raised by this new carbon tax to be used in assisting low income home owners to improve the energy efficiency of their houses.

Sounds like its time to start planting tree farms and converting to wood heat!

There are lots of state forests and the harvesting rights are about to be auctioned for the first time to private companies.

But official thinking seems to be that heat pumps and vastly improved standards of thermal efficiency are to be the preferred method for heating Irish homes.

The divorce proceedings with fossil fuels may have begun :)

I'm really encouraged to hear that the Irish Home Weatherization programs are going to be in the mix. It's funny how this target is both Painfully Obvious, and yet remains counterintuitive, or easily overlooked at the same time.

It has sometimes been really challenging for me while doing insulation projects, to shut up the voices in my head that are screaming that 'I'm wasting my time, this is dumb', etc etc... Those are some well-planted weeds in the thought process, and I know I'm not the only one infected with them..

Ireland is not capable of growing enough trees to heat everyone's house. That is the reason the Irish historically heated with peat after they burned all the trees. Peat, though, is really a fossil fuel - coal that hasn't made it to the pure carbon stage.

It also doesn't have enough land to feed more than its current population. It reached over 8 million during the 1800's, but that just proved that it was an unsustainable level, after the potato blight hit and the population was cut in half. Nothing except potatoes could feed that many people on Ireland's marginal soils, and a potato mono-culture was exceedingly fragile.

That may be true, I haven't run any numbers to figure out what a reasonable growth rate would be for Ireland. But, I would think, Ireland is capable of growing a fair amount of wood and a sizable percentage of rural homes could be heated with wood. Wood heat isn't always the best solution for urban areas anyway so wood in rural areas coupled with heat pumps in urban areas might not be a bad way to go. It might also save on electrical upgrades in rural areas.

Diving into absolutes is a bit pointless, though.. as ever.

Ireland could likely do very well with a bunch of wood heat, particularly when they've doubled the insulation values on their housing stock.. but there's no need to exclude some electric heat from wind, some geothermal, and even some solar. I do recall seeing the sun shining both in Belfast and in Dublin, not so very long ago.

I tend to think of peat as not quite a fossil fuel. If you leave the depression/swamp it formed in intact, it will reform from deposted plant debris. It might take a few centuries, but on that timescale it could be considered renewable.

The line between renewable fuel or not should pretty simple either it is mined slower or faster than it grows.

I agree, it takes thousands of years to regrow a peat bog and the energy density of peat is not great. Ireland currently generates a small amount of electricity from 3 power stations however the amount of peat they would be allowed to burn in their lifetime was decided before they were built for conservation reasons and the forecast is that this quota will be exhausted by 2017.

The second world war was an eye opener for the country on the extent of its dependency of imported fossil fuel, had the country not invested 25% of its total GDP building the then largest hydro project in the world, at Ardnacrusha on the river Shannon during the late 1920's, the outlook would have very bleak.

Ireland is now moving steadily towards the electrification of its energy demand, with a target of producing 40% of its electricity from wind by 2020.

The adaptation has begun in Europe for sure.

Ignoring the change in climate between now and when oil deposits were formed, I did a quick calculation of what an equitable, sustainable allocation of crude oil would be between 7 billion humans. The number I came up with was one small cup per person, per lifetime.

Re: Ready (or Not?) for a Great Coming Shale Boom

Interesting to note that as the Texas drought continues (70% of the state's area at severe drought or worse), some water authorities are blocking aquifer withdrawals if the water is to be used for fracking. Whether they actually have the legal authority to do that remains to be decided. Texas law states that the drillers do not need a permit, and are not subject to limits, if the water they withdraw is for "drilling or exploration operations". Historically, it appears this was interpreted to mean for use in drilling mud. Some of the authorities are asserting that the fracturing process is neither drilling nor exploration. The Texas legislature is considering several bills which would clarify things -- some saying that fracking falls under the current exemption, some saying that it is subject to the same restrictions as farms and cities, some in between.

Where the heck is the Rockman when I need his knowledge of the history of drilling in Texas?

We may have to organize a collection to bring him back.

If someone starts a petition to encourage him to come back, count me in.

me too ! count me in


Rockman COME B ACK!

Me too! Hope he is checking in on TOD and seeing how much he is missed.

Maybe he passed away? Or just got tired of all idiots here?

He's posting at peakoil.com, so not dead.

Does anybody know what has happened to Rockman and whether he is alright. He is greatly missed.

His last post was March 27 and there was nothing in that post that signaled his leaving. He even talked about getting some more info on the subject in a "few days".

The Rockman posting on peakoil.com forum seems the same as the one posting here to me (writing style, knowledge), and still posting there even today !
Maybe he doesn't like TOD anymore :)

I really would have hoped that he'd let us know his intentions. It seems odd that he'd just vanish like that. Oh well. I sure did learn a heckuva lot from him...

I could have sworn there was mention of some kind of heated exchange, perhaps in early April? If so, maybe Modzilla ate it.

Rockman left under mysterious circumstances and conflicting stories of a certain grievance with the moderators of this site. He now posts over at peak oil.

From what I remember some of his posts got lost recently and that "broke the camels back". I think he found the censoring a bit too heavy here sometimes (although I think the last time was actually just an accident)

He's on peakoil if you want to find him.

Any blame should go to spammers who were sending thousands of crappy posts. The moderators were apparently forced to address the problem

Re: West Virginia: Lawmaker wants kids to work for ‘free lunch’

IANAL, but this would seem to run afoul of West Virginia's child labor laws. The WV Dept of Labor web site states that 13-year-olds may: baby sit; deliver newspapers; work for parents in their solely-owned business; engage in agricultural activities; or be an actor or performer. 14- and 15-year-olds performing activities other than those must obtain a work permit and may not work during normal school hours while school is in session.

I presume the argument would be, "But we're not paying them, so it's not employment." If I were taking them to court, I would argue that the kids are performing work that would otherwise be done by a paid employee, and you're giving them free meals in exchange for what they do, so it falls under the law.

As with soldiers peeling their own potatoes again, instead of Bechtel or whoever it is.. I would like to see school simply incorporate cooking and meal prep as a part of a normal and practical education. Many hands can make light work, but certainly it would be a tough hit for the food-service sector.

My daughter did some of her preschool days at a Waldorf school, where the kids helped cook, set the tables and clean up from lunch, and it made for a very pleasant and connected way to learn a good number of lessons about food and working together for a real and basic need.

When I was in school, every kid did KP duty. It worked out to maybe once or twice a year. I liked it. Got me out of class, and you got a free lunch. (I always brought lunch from home, and the cafeteria food was far more interesting. Plus, you got seconds, extra cookies, etc., if you wanted, which is very motivating for an elementary school kid.)

We did chores in grade school as well; cleaned the chalk board (remember those?), took out the trash, swept the classroom, washed the desks, KP, etc.. I think it's a sign of people's sense of entitlement that this isn't the norm these days, and likely an issue of liability. Parents will sue a school system for just about anything.

There is surely some entitlement, but also there is the service-economy and monetizing of every aspect of our lives. Maybe it all just means entitlement and vice versa.. but we do seem to make choices so that we don't think we're 'acting poor' and belittling ourselves.. there is this attitude that seems to still be running (well, peeling out, I suppose) to get away from the terrible ogre of all those horrible chores and tedium and such that our unmechanized ancestors must have done till their fingers bled. To the point that walking a couple miles really does sound like a horror.. unless you're doing it at the gym that you pay to get you in shape.

I think the difference probably was that ALL kids were assigned a duty. Not just those whose parents couldn't afford lunch. making all of them do it is character building. Only making the poor ones do it, marks them in front of their classmates -and probably spreads the attitude that work is for losers.

The difference is that in your daughter's school all the children helped out equally with the chores. The proposal in the West Virgina legislature is to only have the kids who can't afford meals do work. This will tend to farther accentuate the differences between the "haves" and the "have nots".

I agree that some of the school chores should done by the children, but who does what should never be decided by the financial status of the parents.

I don't think that is the case.

They are talking about providing meals to every child, regardless of income. Presumably, that also means every child would do chores, too.

They are talking about providing meals to every child, regardless of income. Presumably, that also means every child would do chores, too.

Upon digging further and reading carefully, the bill as passed has no provisions for students doing chores. It establishes a foundation for each county board of education, and the foundations are to seek charitable contributions or grants of various sorts to be used to provide breakfast or lunch to every student who wants such. Read uncharitably, the WV legislature is basically telling their school districts to beg for breakfast/lunch funds, as the legislature won't be providing money for that purpose.

The part about making students do chores in exchange for their meals was merely a remark made on the floor during debate. My bad; I let myself get sucked in by a sensationalist article.

The school lunch program is funded by the feds. I assume this is meant to pay for the students not covered by the federal funding.

The program it's modeled on is meant to encourage more students to eat school-provided meals. The entire class eats together, so there's no stigma, and no worries about not having enough time for breakfast in the morning (which affected both those getting free meals and those who didn't).

At which point this all makes some kind of sense, although it would have been nice if the legislature had managed to come up funds to cover it. I suspect that some districts will have no trouble raising the funds, and some will struggle. Again, apologies for getting sucked in -- feel free to delete the entire thread.

Agree, and it is obvious.
Education should be an example of radical democracy, like libraries.

School, part 1:

A commentary on why so many kids hate school, and how and why they rebel against it. ~ Charles Eisenstein

"The pupil is thereby 'schooled' to confuse teaching with learning, grade advancement with education, a diploma with competence, and fluency with the ability to say something new. His imagination is 'schooled' to accept service in place of value. Medical treatment is mistaken for health care, social work for the improvement of community life, police protection for safety, military poise for national security, the rat race for productive work. Health, learning, dignity, independence, and creative endeavour are defined as little more than the performance of the institutions which claim to serve these ends, and their improvement is made to depend on allocating more resources to the management of hospitals, schools, and other agencies in question."
~ Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society

"...The map is a simulacrum that, as a model, loses all reference to reality... the model, itself, has primacy for us; the real has become irrelevant..."
~ Philosophy and The Matrix - Baudrillard

After listening to KunstlerCast's most recent, it would appear that 'the economy' has become ever more "unreal"-- a bit of a simulacrum, a prop(-up), by and for the "corporate oligarchy elite".

I thought I heard this as their intent as well.. that this would be for the kids without lunch money.. and I agree with those of you who would see that as a class barrier more than 'a lesson in responsibility'.. or whatever. In any case, it does really matter how it's presented and balanced.. and could be a useful program if done with that in mind.

"and you're giving them free meals in exchange for what they do,"

The IRS will want the value of the meals included as income, and taxed.

This is how hyper inflation starts. There is a reluctance to part with hard assets for local currency. I bet the farmers would gladly accept US $ for their crop. Argentina is toast, thanks to the stupid policies of their corrupt government.


Meet Mr. Money Mustache, the man who retired at 30

You describe the typical middle-class life as an “exploding volcano of wastefulness.” Seems like lots of personal finance folks obsess about lattes. Are you just talking about the lattes here?

The latte is just the foamy figurehead of an entire spectrum of sloppy “I deserve it” luxury spending that consumes most of our gross domestic product these days. Among my favorite targets: commuting to an office job in an F-150 pickup truck, anything involving a drive-through, paying $100 per month for the privilege of wasting four hours a night watching cable TV and the whole yoga industry. There are better, and free, ways to meet these needs, but everyone always chooses the expensive ones and then complains that life is hard these days.

They live off $25,000 a year - below the poverty line. They have the cashflow to spend more, but say they can't find anything they want to spend it on.

good god - if everyone did this the USA and UK economy would collapse and everyone would be out of work... well those that dont matter that is

on the other hand being debt free is such a great feeling - as for some of those peoples replies - meh Amerika get over it , we have the NHS - so can you . As for those dogy teeth - f'er gods sake we have private dentists as well - costs kept in check by the NHS - result!

but most of what this guy is doing is what my father said - born in 1928 , brought up in poverty that today people cannot understand, and make every penny count

dont have to be a socail outkast but make thing last , repair , and never take on debt you havent planned to get rid of as soon as possible

never had debt for a car , had to for a house , but when you cut the other things to what you can afford with savings, then .....


Yeah. If everyone did this, the economy would collapse.

I also suspect that in the post-carbon age, we simply won't be able to afford many people who live off investments - that is, people who consume (however little) but don't produce stuff.

But on the flip side...there sure is a lot of room to cut back, should it become necessary.

If most people lived like most people currently do, we would be exceeding the carrying capacity of the planet. Which we are.

And the economy is ultimately dependent upon the natural capital available to support it. And those resources are dwindling.

On a personal level, I do not think we have an obligation to somehow project the consequences if everyone did it and then go in debt to satisfy our notion of what a economy should be.

It is a conundrum, of course, and I do not know if anyone has been able to solve said puzzle. How do we reduce our impact to where it needs to be and not collapse the economy. I don't know the answer but in the mean time I praise those people with the guts and ability to divorce themselves from the rat race at at an earlier age.

"How do we reduce our impact to where it needs to be and not collapse the economy."

Why continue to be a willing participant in the greatest economic, environmental, and social meltdown in history if that's the conclusion your awareness leads you to? I'm not sure how one even justifies such participation if one has a choice.

"If every one else is jumping off the cliff..." -or- "The definition of insanity is..."

We also have to project some new models for 'the Economy', which gets oversimplified in the same way that we talk about 'The Grid' or 'The People'.. it's design assumptions could be adjusted to meet other criteria. (and like other coming changes.. maybe they'll just change on their own.. accompanied by a lot of pain and surprised looks..)

The trick is being willing to talk about such criteria, of course. Single Payer healthcare was sniffled out of the room before the talks even got underway..

I agree but was just posing the question. My guess is the answer is "no" but I would love to hear an answer. And there is a difference between total collapse and no growth. I am not suggesting that we even try to figure out how to grow and lessen impact at the same time.

More power to those who have decided to live frugally. This mustache dude just figure this out earlier than the vast majority.

How do we reduce our impact to where it needs to be and not collapse the economy.

Perhaps if it reduces our impact then collapsing the economy would be a good thing. If nothing else it might buy the planet a little more time. We are going to need to do things differently sooner or later, why not sooner.

Our culture is into later, so count on later.

I also suspect that in the post-carbon age, we simply won't be able to afford many people who live off investments - that is, people who consume (however little) but don't produce stuff.

It is interesting that the very thing he encourages others to do, should it be taken up in large enough fashion, would in fact lead to its own failure. A note to be made is that he emphasizes "investments" over just "savings". This would imply some sort of interest bearing (debt) which contradicts precisely with the "get out of debt" aspect which he also emphasizes. If everyone is out of debt, there is no interest, and therefore there are no interest bearing investments - just savings (which ironically represents debt owed to you by an amorphous someone else [who can refuse it], but is not interest bearing debt).

"But on the flip side...there sure is a lot of room to cut back, should it become necessary."

This brings up an interesting problem...if everyone were to do this, and the economy collapsed (no ifs there) there would be hellacious excess of unemployed/unemployable people - would we see a large shift/return to Housewives, Househusbands, Communes (which could be seen to include multi-generational households). It seems like this is already the case to some degree. The househusbands/housewives thing is currently a trend if someone can afford it - seen as a luxury, but if enough people get kicked out of the workforce and wind up long-term unemployed it may simply become a survival strategy. Marry someone - anyone with a job.

It's like that now in some countries. One person with a job is supporting 15 others - parents, siblings, kids, in-laws, cousins. This is very undesirable by our standards, but when there's no other "safety net" you can see the appeal.

Another week, another new high:

Eurozone unemployment at record high as inflation drops

Unemployment in the eurozone has surged to a fresh record high, while inflation has fallen to a three-year low, boosting expectations that the European Central Bank will cut interest rates.

Unemployment in the 17 countries using the euro hit 12.1% in March, up from February's 12%, according to official figures from Eurostat.

While there's an assumption that many of these folks are idled by unemployment, I can be sure that many are seeking alternatives in the non-formal economies that always develop under these conditions, some gray markets; barter/trade/etc.; some black markets... clearly illegal. Most folks won't sit around waiting for economic conditions to improve.

why just usa and uk economy...

I didn't know the UK was doing well. Last time I posted a graph (april 18th) on the set of financial markets doing well, only the US and Japan were doing well:


Two responses to my ELP Plan:

Two responses, from recent years, are illustrative.

First, the West Texan. After outlining my plan, a friend of mine from West Texas thought about it for a moment and then said, “But if we stop borrowing and spending, what will happen to the economy?”

Second, the Dallas socialite. Again after outlining my plan, this lady said, “You’re not from Dallas, are you?” I replied that I was not. To which she said, “No one raised in Dallas would ever talk about living below their means.”

So, living below one’s means, at least in years past, was somehow considered vaguely un-American and socially unacceptable.

Full article: http://www.resilience.org/stories/2011-08-08/elp-plan-economize-localize...

(I now have a commute of about 20 steps, but I was not very successful in talking my wife into smaller housing, although I have consolidated home and office into one.)

I think many (?most) of us would live below our means if we truly costed out what we consume. Costed out in terms of what should be a fair wage for someone making a T-shirt; costed out in what the real cost of a gallon of gas is (considering that much of the US -- and other -- armies) exist to protect a perceived right to fossil fuels that really belong to someone else; costed out in terms of the services nature provides to put food on our tables, to build most of the products we purchase and consume. I think most of us would be broke if our true debts were called in.


The problem I see with any story like this is health insurance. Sure, they only pay $237 a month for insurance but that is a 80% plan plus a TEN THOUSAND dollar deductible PER person. My 11 year old hurt his knee a few months ago playing soccer - easily $3000 worth of insurance changes. And if any one of their family had a truly bad illness happen or even a car accident injury with hospitalization, that is a huge hit. And what will it cost when they are 50?

The stock market goes back to 2009 levels, they lose their high priced renter (netting $25k a year..what is rent...$3k a month?), and they lose their nest egg pretty quick.

A few years out of the job market and how do you manage to get back into your chosen profession?

I'd love to retire early but I'm just not confident enough in BAU to do it.

That is only a problem in the US. The rest of us only pay health insurance when going abroad.

Hearing about all the huge medical expenses for those hurt in Boston (don't hear about West, Texas) I just am so happy I moved north. $47 * 10E6 is not enough for their bills. (Oh btw - Canadians live 3 years more on average than US.)

That's because they are more frozen, so their metabolism is a little slower-- 3 years to be precise. ;)

I also was amazed that their primary source of income was the rental income from one house. Sure, we've been through a period where home ownership was seen as an investment. The normal situation is that a house is a depreciating asset and will sooner or later require significant expenditures for maintenance and refurbishing. That's especially true if you are talking about what appears to be a fairly high end house.

I also was amazed that their primary source of income was the rental income from one house.

Digging through his web site, it's a deluxe house in an attractive part of the city. $2-3K per month, then subtract out the expenses, isn't an outlandish rental rate. He currently lives in Colorado, so I assume the house is there also -- because of the peculiarities of how various amendments to the Colorado state constitution over the years work together (or fail to do so, depending on your perspective), property taxes on residential properties have been nearly frozen for the last 20 years. He appears to do considerable amount of the refurbishing himself -- one series of postings is a how-to sequence for building a luxurious shower on the cheap.

It says he lives in Longmont, CO. Is that a high-income area?

It might a multi-family house.

And it probably helps that he and wife are handy. They fixed up the house themselves, so presumably can also do any repairs and maintenance themselves.

I have quite a few friends who do this kind of thing. The main drawback, IMO, is you can never go on vacation. You just know that the minute you leave, the furnace or water heater will go out. And what might be a cheap and easy fix becomes expensive if the tenant calls in a pro.

Longmont is not particularly high income, and certainly not high income compared to nearby upscale Boulder. And as someone else said, we have very low property taxes in Colorado.

That's my situation right now. We have 4 units, good tenants.. but I'm the everyman for the place.. and I have to take some out of town freelance work soon. It's not impossible, though, just a little challenging for us guys who don't like to ask for help. The solution, of course, is to make connections and swap favors or hire each other. It's not impossible. Well.. I'll update that last remark if necessary.

We live a pretty Mr Mustache style life in Boulder, next town over from Longmont Colorado.
We consumed way below our income for a long time, and also have various rental properties (5 at the moment) which we self-manage.
We take frequent vacations, but just have to arrange for friends or family members to cover for us when we travel.
And kind of like MMM, we could stop working for money if we wanted to, but I like doing independent software development for building energy models, so I keep working as a contract software developer.

I do have handyman skills and lots of tools too, but I hire all the maintenance that I can, because software developers make a lot more per hour than handymen.
So we are not "early retired" in our 50s, but we do work that we want to, when we want to.
The biggest single factor in our financial independence was reduced automobile expenses, just like MMM claims.
When I worked as an engineer at high tech companies, almost all my co-workers purchased a new car every few years, so the family auto depreciation cost alone was often over $10K per year. Meanwhile I rode my bicycle and our single old car sat home un-used. Putting $10-20 K a year into investments instead of auto expenses builds capital pretty quickly.

We pay $10K a year for insurance for 4 people, with a $10K deductible, which we could afford to pay for many years if needed.
Mostly we get our medical/dental care done during annual trips to Costa Rica. The medical/dental cost savings more than pay for the $400 air fare (carbon debt I know)...

I am not so sure that the economy has to collapse if everybody shifts to a lower consumption lifestyle, since less GDP is required to meet lower total consumption, and equilibrium at lower consumption levels seems just a likely as equilibrium at higher consumption levels. Plus most of the planet already lives at consumption levels a fraction of the US, and their economies have (mostly) not collapsed yet, even though nobody has an SUV or a big screen TV.

I can recall people who did that sort of thing. Bought 15-20 houses and rented them. Did most of the repairs themselves. Its sort of like owning your own business, that you are the only employee of. On paper you are your own boss. But, the boss has to keep the tenants happy enough.

He points out at his web site that he assumes you have a million dollars in retirement funds altogether, so the $10K deductable -- if you need it all in a particular year -- is only 1% of your wealth. The 20% share is potentially considerably more, if you have a major health problem like one of the exotic cancers. But that's likely to be a one-off event in your life. Some of whether you can make it work depends on whether the odds work out. Even though we spend a large amount on health care for the elderly in the US, there's still a "concentration of benefits" thing occurring. If I recall the statistics properly, 50% of the elderly die without ever having a high-cost event.

It's $10k x three but yes, if you avoid a catastrophe, you'll do okay.

I'd be curious what the average insurance usage is for a suburban family like mine with 2 40-ish adults and 2 10-ish kids. We have high deductible health insurance through my job and my company pays the first $2500 and we pay the next $2500. It seems like every year we use up the $5k more or less. One big thing comes along and chews up half of it. With that $237 in insurance, we'd be paying another $400 in medical bills plus $100 a month in prescription drug costs. That's $9k right there per year.

I have one those plans. The interesting thing is that add $420 (5000/12) to the basic premium and the total cost was less than what I would pay in a conventional plan with $20 co pays etc. Actually by the time I figured in all the co pays etc the high deductible was always going to be cheaper. So the insurance companies at least think that if people are on the hook for the first $5000 their total health care use actually declines. Part of that might be because people who need real emergency care might not go to the ER if they have to foot the whole bill- and end up dying- rather than using lots of medical care.

Yep same with my company's offerings. We save the $5k in premiums by picking the high deductible plan and we definitely look at the statements a little more closely. Some things are amazingly expensive. My son got a knee brace for his injury and the plastic and fabric device was $500. He wore it for all of three days.

One of my friends had to do an emergency root canal while in US, since his insurance didn't cover dental he had no choice but to bear with the pain for a week, after which he flew back here, did the procedure and flew back, it cost him $1350 (1200 for the travel and 150 for the root canal). In US he was asked to pay $2500 for the same procedure. (Root Canal + Crown)

Maybe it just means that for the average healthy patient, he simply pays the doc and the paperwork is minimal.

The big elephant in the room that hasn't come up yet is that in 2014, the PPACA state exchanges open up. Assuming his family's total income is about $35K (the $25K from the rental property and $10K in hobby income), with a family of three the subsidized premium will be about $200/month. Total family deductible capped at around $4K per year. Lots of routine care covered (although there may be copays) even before the deductible is met. Out-of-pocket maximum for family coverage, including everything except premium payments, around $12.5K. So the federal government is going to guarantee he and his family health care, no matter what happens, for somewhere between $2.4K and $15K per year.

Not the $10K he cites, but certainly in that ballpark.

if you have a major health problem

A close family member developed lung cancer within the past 5yrs. They did not survive. The final cost for all treatments (medical visits, tests, chemotherapy, radiation therapy) was approx US$1million.

So I suspect only "the one percent" will have enough money to cover (retirement + major health issue).

For everyone else, probably we'll have to hope whatever medical insurance we can get will prevent being wiped out (both financially and medically).

Interesting that he moved to the US from Canada because taxes are lower in the US. I would have expected it would be easier for his family to live cheaply in Canada because medical coverage is free and there are lots of tax credits for low income earners. Given that we are heading into a future where there will be less wealth for most of us, I can imagine that some of us on TOD would applaud a family that is able to live on such a small amount of income. However, I would expect that even in the US, a family with an income of only $25,000 a year is not paying enough in taxes to cover the cost of the benefits they receive from the government.

On his web site, he says that the move to the US was because pay for engineers is significantly higher than in Canada. Since he would need a green card, chances are good that he went to work for a sizable firm, most of which provide subsidized access to a group health insurance plan.

What sense does it make to retire at 30? What is a person going to do with their time without huge amounts of money to travel or do something to fill the time? My sense of it is, at the end of the day you need to look back on your day and know you did something constructive. People who do nothing usually feel awful about themselves. Retiring young is a young person's dream, but once you've been around for a while you realize work is a part of life. Guess I'm speaking as someone who started my own business, married a woman who did the same and work is more than just paying bills, it's a labor of love as they say. We don't look at the clock, often working seven days a week. Days are just days. I plan to work until my body gives out because I'm not rich enough to travel all the time and goodness knows I need to stay busy in between posts on TOD, reading kindle and watching Netflix streaming.

Obviously, he's still working. He's managing his rental property and his web site. He's just choosing what he wants to do and when he does it.

They also had a kid after they retired. I imagine that keeps them busy enough.

He also talks about "hobby" income -- his as a carpenter and his wife's as a realtor. I know several couples who have retired (at a more traditional age) who have hobby income in the range of $10-12K per year. In one case, they're both adjunct faculty at the local community college. At least here, the CCs live or die by their "volunteer" faculty -- and yes, that's what the school administrators call them. Especially if it's a class that you've taught repeatedly, one person can make $3-6K per year for 10 hours per week, none of that during the summer or around the Christmas-New Year's holidays.

It's kind of funny to look at the math faculty at one of the CCs here. A small number of full-time faculty that get paid modestly and most of whose time is spent on things other than teaching: curriculum development, advising, supervising the adjuncts, paperwork, etc. Then three or four times that many adjuncts, which mostly fall into one of two categories. One group are young and teaching a class as a second job or as a place-holder while they try to get on somewhere as a full-time high-school math teacher. The other are retired people who may or may not need the income; some of them do it simply because it gets them out of the house. I've met exactly one person who makes $35K or so as an adjunct -- they call him "the Road Warrior" because he typically teaches nine classes each semester across three different campuses.

Different strokes for different folks. I agree that 30 is a bit young bu t not everyone needs to go to a paid job to feel that life is meaningful. We don't know what he does in his spare time. For all we know, he contributes a lot to his local community.

If your job is a labor of love, good for you, but not everyone is lucky enough to get a job they love or thinks that working is necessary for life to have purpose and fulfillment.

There's a huge difference in "working for the man" because you have to in order to survive vs. doing what you love and happening to get paid for it. Retirement is probably a poor word to describe it. I plan on spending 10 hours/day on my moth rearing business during the summer when I'm "retired". Being retired means I don't have to wake up at 4am and trudge out in the cold dark winter every morning to go to work. Instead I can wake up at 7am and do the stuff that I want to at my own pace. It's going to be epic.

I plan on spending 10 hours/day on my moth rearing business during the summer when I'm "retired".

Very Interesting! Are you raising silk moths?

For the past 25 years I've reared giant silkmoths and sphinx moths as a hobby. It's one thing that has stuck with me through the years, been doing it since I was 7.

Sphinx moths are amazing! I used to watch them hovering over flowers out in the everglades. It's easy to mistake them for humming birds.

What sense does it make to retire at 30? What is a person going to do with their time without huge amounts of money to travel or do something to fill the time?

I don't disagree. But what my wife and I did was something a bit similar. We lived cheaply and deliberately, and instead of retiring young, we were able to be career activists. Instead of banking the money we didn't need, we put it into conservation campaigns we'd design. So we'd live on 15k or so per year even when technically eligible for salaries far higher, enabling cool projects to happen that wouldn't have otherwise.

We're now living in a home I designed and built on the cheap, and renting rooms in the attached home downstairs for income.

So instead of retiring at 30, following that sort of advice can allow you to live a more self-directed life starting at 20 or so. A meaningless career is just one more kind of monkey trap, of many...


Maybe in the prolonged absence of Rockman you can fill the gap so to speak and tell us a few more of your stories?

*Pulls up a chair*

I've got 'em, but only a few are about oil. Not really on topic here, but thanks.

I can't believe this, I've been wanting to make a MMM post on here for quite a while but just haven't gotten around to it. My wife discovered his blog through someone at her work and then introduced it to me shortly after. I don't know why, but it was like a complete jolt to the system that this could be done. Then I did the 5th grade math and yeah, it could be done pretty easily if you save enough money.

Sooo...my wife and I are well on our way to the extreme early retirement advocated by MMM. I figure somewhere between $750k-$1MM dollars and we're good to go. We plan on being "job free" in about 10 years, or age 42. I only wish I had started earlier in my career, I could have been retired already.

Once your eyes are opened up to the possibility of actually retiring that early, life takes on a whole new meaning. I don't care about spending money on most anything and all that matters is growing my investment funds to get my "money employees" working for me. Even work has gotten better, I know I'm just using my company to get me the money I need to retire! It's great.

That said, I wouldn't worry much about everyone getting onboard and doing the same thing. I haven't run into a single person in real life who responded with a "yeah, you know that's a great idea and it could be done!". Everybody is full of a thousand excuses why it's impossible, but if you read the MMM blog from beginning to end, he addresses most all the issues.

A lot of the lifestyle changes are very compatible with PO. Hell my wife even started air drying all our laundry and is plotting out bicycle routes we can start using for small chores....and if you knew my wife you'd realize what a huge impact this has had on her life. She's even dropped the dream of buying a BMW M6 in favor of a cheap used car!

I was thinking more along the lines of what would happen if this lifestyle becomes more prevalent out of necessity, not choice.

Obviously, you aren't going to die if you make your own coffee rather than buy lattes at Starbucks, or live above the store instead of driving 30 minutes each way in your truck, or can't afford the monthly cable bill. There's a lot of fat to cut.

OTOH, a Great Depression-type scenario would probably be bad news for anyone living off rents or investments. Though it will probably be an advantage to live off multiple income streams, even if none of them is enough to survive on alone.

That's one thing I like about the "furlough" method of cutting back. Giving people extra time off gives them a chance to develop alternate income streams (hobby income, as he put it), or at least gives you time to do things that can cut expenses (like home maintenance, gardening, cooking, or sewing).


You might want to talk to some of we old folks before you make the change. My wife and I had a good plan and I retired at 60 (I'm now 74). But many of our suppositions such as interest income have been trashed by various government actions. Further, since SS was a large part of our financial planning, we assumed it would be indexed to inflation similar to our parents. Again, wrong and it would be even worse if they go chained CPI.

Finally, there is a lot of talk about the government changing the rules for 401's and IRAs such as requiring them to be government securities. Beware.


I 'retired' at 42 (former microbiologist at a London Uni) to the country of my wife's birth, New Zealand. In the year immediately after leaving my job I 'reskilled' by taking a 1 year culinary Diploma on the basis that if I had to work again a cooking job would be a lot easier to come by than one in tropical medical mycology. Thankfully I have never had to use that qualification in anger. Eight years on, despite the Depression and what it has done to fixed earnings incomes we still travel extensively and still have a wonderful lifestyle - but we have had to protect that by making many of the changes advocated on the MM website. We grow 80% of our own fruit and veg, we generate our own electricity, run only one car (infrequently) and my wife runs her own part time jewellery business (which brings in a small amount). However when I tell our friends what our actual post tax income is they are astounded that we do what we do on what they regard as such a low income (generally 3 overseas trips a year for example). Often couples we know are pulling in twice as much but cant ever seemingly even scrimp for a trip to Australia once a year, and they remain continuously mired in debt. I dont actually think the changes you need to make are that painful - but most folk seem blind to the possibilities.

"Then I did the 5th grade math and yeah, it could be done pretty easily if you save enough money."

Math needs to be taught in every subject, not just as some separate "Mathematics" entity. People get annihilated by the most simple of math, let along the non-simple math.

For example I've talked several people into re-financing their house, showed them the amortization tables and showed them just how much they were really paying - every one of them was stunned. All they look at is "Can I afford the monthly payment?"

Example: $200,000 house at uber-low 3% interest rate fixed 30 year...most people see "$843/mo." What they fail to see is that the $200k house + mortgage interest is going to cost them ::drum roll:: $304,000. That's $104,000 down the toilet IMO. For someone making $25k after taxes that's four years of their life down the tubes.

A $30,000 car financed at 5% for 7 years will cost $35,600...an extra $5,600 - which alone could have bought a serviceable used car.

We need more math literacy in the general population.

What a laugh!

You and this other guy just (re)discovered capitalism!

The (other people's) money works for you !

Might as well use the consumers to your advantage. They're going to consume either way, why not make them support you while they're at it?

It's his money, not other peoples'. You want some, go earn it.

The assumption that people have money because they "earned it" is self-evidently false.


The Walton family, heirs to the founders of the Wal-Mart Stores Inc. superchain, are worth nearly as much as the bottom half of American households combined.
The Waltons' value -- $89.5 billion in 2010 – is equal to the worth of the 41.5% of families at the lower end of the income ladder, according to an analysis by Josh Bivens of the Economic Policy Institute. That comes out to 48.8 million households.


One study (“Do Poor Children Become Poor Adults?")[8][10][13] found that of nine developed countries, the United States and United Kingdom had the lowest intergenerational vertical social mobility with about half of the advantages of having a parent with a high income passed on to the next generation...At least five large studies in recent years have found the United States to be less mobile than comparable nations. A project led by Markus Jantti, an economist at a Swedish university, found that 42 percent of American men raised in the bottom fifth of incomes stay there as adults. That shows a level of persistent disadvantage much higher than in Denmark (25 percent) and Britain (30 percent) — a country famous for its class constraints.[14] Meanwhile, just 8 percent of American men at the bottom rose to the top fifth.

So in truth, in the US, if you want money, the best path is to be born into the hereditary over-class. And at all costs, avoid being born into the peasantry rather than the nobility.

Pithy catch phrases about "earning it" have little to do with current US reality.
Just ask the Walmart heirs, or the 41.5% of US families at the bottom of the net worth distribution.

And if anything, with smaller families, wealth remains concentrated for more generations. That gives you the whole dynasty thing which previously only could be achieved with some very well designed trusts.

Yeah, the whole attack on estate taxes (or "death taxes" as their wordsmiths has dubbed them) is a terrible thing for income equality. Look if you made millions, then you deserve to give your kids a few million. And you are allowed to give a few million tax-free. But if you don't tax it at all, you'll just end up with these perpetual dynasties of family lines that never have to work ever. Forever. That is not good for society and not good for those kids! People like Bill Gates Senior, Warren Buffet, Bill Gates Junior, and others recognize this. (And if you notice, they tend to be the ones that earned their money.) People like the Walton kids, the Koch Brothers, Steve Forbes, and others want to abolish estate taxes. (And if you notice, they all inherited their money.)

The guy in the article is hardly a Walton.

Land ownership predates capitalism. It is the foundation of wealth. Currently, one can be rich by owning capital goods or financial shares, but before these things became a "thing", land ownership was all there was. Feudalism was based on a system of land tenure.

In one sense a subsistence farmer who owns his own land is richer than many people in the US, who have a negative net worth and no real property. Between the modern wage economy and feudalism, there was a brief period where there were many people who lived on the land under traditional land rights. Modern capitalism and the destruction of traditional land tenure mostly wiped them out - in the Americas, this happened to Natives mostly, in Europe this happened through enclosure and land clearance. You may note that reservations are notorious for poverty, and the Highlands are still severely depopulated.

Holding land and getting rent (and/or growing your own food) allows a certain independence. Relying on another person to pay you wages is ultimately to be in a state of dependence.

BTW...I don't know if you've ever read Ken Rockwell's web site. Someone post a link years ago.

How to Afford Anything

He supports his young family via his web site, which is devoting to reviewing ridiculously expensive camera gear. One of his secrets is to buy luxury used cars, drive them for years, then sell them. It works out to be way cheaper than a cheap used car. Because they hold their value so well, he's even made money on the deal sometimes.

Today I drive a couple of shiny Mercedes. Big deal. Sillier people think I'm rich. One of my two Mercedes is a convertible that cost over $100,000 new, but for which I also paid less than everyone else pays for new Ford Taureses. I bought this convertible after I had been unemployed for over two months, hah! Guess what my convertible will be worth when I sell it? About what I paid for it. It's essentially a free car!

Maybe you can, but I simply can't afford to drive a Ford.

So...maybe your wife can justify a BMW, at least a used one. ;-)

Mercs hold their price better. I found that a lease/bubble on a Merc was cheaper than a Ford Escort and 2 years was cheaper than 3. All due to the high resale value.


I do not doubt the important of frugality and this man certainly has some good ideas. However he's still invested in stocks/401k (which tells me he hasn't yet put the whole picture together). His rental house probably should do ok for awhile, but even that income will decline.

I'm semi retired at age 32 and have 95% of my wealth in precious metals. Although born into a country built by the Protestant work ethic, I am smart enough not to work as a slave in a system in which bankers make free money and billions live subsidized by aid and debt.

Do you think I'm going to be interviewed by the mainstream media?

Precious metals are wonderful as a store of wealth but they don't generate income. Although it is none of my business I am curious to know how you generate income. Also, what about health insurance?

Actually, lately precious metals have terrible "as a store of wealth", and have lagged far behind equities historically. Certainly the future maybe different, but the past record is unequivocal.
Such a bold claim should be backed by some factual source, rather than stated as a fact with no supporting evidence.


To take an extreme example [of price volatility], while a dollar invested in bonds in 1801 would be worth nearly a thousand dollars by 1998, a dollar invested in stocks that same year would be worth more than half a million dollars. All this is in real terms, taking inflation into account. Meanwhile, a dollar invested in gold in 1801 would by 1998 be worth just 78 cents.

Until August 1971 the price of gold was fixed at $35 per oz. Since then it has performed better than any other investment that is accessible to the ordinary person. So unless they decide to fix the price again (which is highly unlikely) gold is a reliable way to store your wealth long term. At least you don't have to worry about counter party defaults. The drawback is that it does not produce income.

As far as stocks are concerned, how do you pick the right stock? All stocks eventually go to zero since businesses are like people. They are born, they grow, they decline and then die. Virtually everyone who invests in the stock market eventually loses money. Stocks will make you rich only if you are insider (upper management of a corporation or an early employee of a startup) and you get them as part of your compensation.

DHS Denies Ammo Purchases Aimed at Civilians

GAO Now Investigating DHS Ammo Purchases

Officials at the Department of Homeland Security denied Thursday that its large-scale ammunition purchases were an effort to keep bullets out of the hands of private citizens.

The Associated Press reported in February that DHS was planning to buy more than 1.6 billion rounds over the next five years [to be used by about 70,000 DHS officers who are currently authorized to use weapons], a number that sparked fears of government stockpiling – which DHS previously denied. Officials told lawmakers DHS actually was planning to buy only up to 750 million rounds.

But Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said it still looked like the government was unnecessarily amassing ammunition.

... 1,600,000,000/70,000 = 23,000 rounds per officer

23,000 per officer / 5 years = 4600 rounds per year

4600 / 12 months = 384 per month

Training typically 100 - 300 rounds 10 - 30 clips, biweekly.

23,000 per officer over five years sounds about right.

Bottom line for me, if you authorize someone to use a weapon, then I want them to be very, very, very skilled in the use of that weapon. This involves thousands of rounds in training up and maintaining proficeincy.

China is using up oil faster than we can produce it

Maybe you’ve heard that North America is producing a lot more oil these days, courtesy of fracking, tar sands and other new sources. The Atlantic has a nicely reported cover story on the whole phenomenon by Charles C. Mann. Headline: “We will never run out of oil.”

It’s a great article, but here’s an key bit of additional context. Stuart Staniford has some great charts looking at the rapid growth in Chinese oil consumption over the past few decades. He’s also done a simple extrapolation to see what China’s oil demand would look like if it kept growing at 7 percent annually for another decade — hardly a wild assumption:

Things would get very interesting. By 2025, in this hypothetical, China would be consuming 15 million barrels per day more than it does today. “If you compare this to things like the extra 4 [million barrels per day] you might hope for from tar sands in this time frame, or the 2mbd that global crude supply has increased since 2005, you can see that this is going to stress the global oil system a lot,” Staniford writes.

7 Reasons Why Oil Prices Won't Plunge

... there are seven good reasons why we will not see a sustained plunge in crude

1. Decline rates at mature fields

5. Rising marginal costs

1. Decline rates at mature fields

It’s conventional wisdom that the output of mature oil fields declines at a rate of 5% to 10% a year, slowly fading away over time but never giving up the ghost entirely. The Bernstein analysts earlier this year conducted a study of 3,100 oil fields that debunked that myth. They found that some fields decline much faster. The decline rate in the Gulf of Mexico, for instance, is 23%, with the North Sea is about 10%. Russian fields fare a little better, at a 3.5% decline rate. Even if the average decline rate worldwide is just 5%, that means the industry needs to develop a new Saudi Arabia every two years, just to stay even.

Russian fields, as well as Saudi fields, fare a little better because they both have an intensive infill drilling program. But they will both fare a lot worse when the water eventually hits those horizontal wells at the top of the anticline. That will be a hockey stick graph turned the wrong way.

5. Rising marginal costs

Despite the enormous growth in the U.S., the costs of getting that oil out are growing at unprecedented rates. Bernstein figures that the cost of producing the last barrel rose from $89 in 2011 to $114 in 2012. About 95% of U.S. production was done at a marginal cost of $71 a barrel.

And some so-called investment advisers say oil will plunge to $40 a barrel because of fracking. I would steer clear of any stocks they recommend.

Ron P.

I wonder how the decline rates match up with the year of first production? Do the more recent wells decline faster than the older ones?


Mapping and accounting for sunken radiological hazards in Arctic devils Russian authorities

Enormous quantities of decommissioned Soviet and Russian nuclear reactors and radioactive waste were dumped into the Arctic Ocean north of Siberia over a course of decades. According to reports given to the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority by Russian officials in August of last year, the quantity of such waste is far more staggering that initially believed, even by Russian officials themselves.

... The most dangerous of these is the K-27 submarine, which was scuttled in 50 meters of water in Stepovogo Bay of the Novaya Zemlya Archipelago in the Kara Sea in 1981 after a serious reactor accident that killed nine. Its reactors contain 90 kilograms of uranium 235.

This is highly enriched uranium. A seepage of only 5 liters of water into the reactors could cause criticality and lead to an uncontrolled nuclear chain reaction” or explosion, said the Kurchatov Institute’s Stepennov.

Kurchatov Institute Pressentation (in Russian)

That one-way trip to Mars is starting to look better every day.

Should be an interesting situation as the Arctic ice volume which has lost 80% since 1979 to the present, see short animated video clip at http://neven1.typepad.com/ methane in the East Siberian shelf may become unstable, see article http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2012/01/19/406762/arctic-methane-outgas... and as it does, it will probably disturb the disposed nuclear sub and other nuclear waste dumped into the Siberian arctic ocean. Will be quite a show as methane bubbles up en masse, while radioactive levels sharply rise and who knows maybe that sunken nuclear Russian sub will go into a chain reaction providing for an entertaining crescendo! It will be like our reality will have transitioned to something akin to a 'B' sci-fi movie.

What caught my eye was

The conference was co-hosted by Bellona and Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom.

Bellona has been one of the NGO's investigated hard recenltly in Russia. They have raised a lot of salient questions about aging Baltic region and Russian (and ex-Soviet Union) reactors over the years. Nice to see at least parts of Rosatom willing to work with them.

“This is highly enriched uranium. A seepage of only 5 liters of water into the reactors could cause criticality and lead to an uncontrolled nuclear chain reaction” or explosion, said the Kurchatov Institute’s Stepennov.

Great! The rusting hulk of a old Russian nuclear submarine in 164 ftsw. What could possibly go wrong.

There are no worries, didn't you learn that from the 'Humanity must accept nuclear accidents' arguments of the pro-fission people?

It will just weed out those among us without the genetic toughness to be radiation resistant. A race of Galtians shall rise!

"There are no worries, didn't you learn that from the 'Humanity must accept nuclear accidents' arguments of the pro-fission people?"

When you read news items like Turkey ... plans to build several nuclear plants over the next decade above, you realise that yes, you WILL have to live with the risk of nuclear accidents.

The pity is that the West, the early leader in nuclear technology and arguably the most concerned with safety, has chickened out. It hasn't lost the race, it has decided not to compete.

Instead of graduating and employing many engineers and scientists with nuclear skills and set them to work on the problems of disaster-proofing reactors and reprocessing and disposal of waste, they are leaving the field to others.

The Russians, as we know, took the easy and cheap way out and dumped their unwanted nuclear stuff in the sea. The Chinese... well, we don't know. I think they will be more responsible, but when you see the pollution over Beijing you wonder if they have enough environmental sensitivity.

And the West will just have to accept this because the West has no better solutions to offer, more's the pity.

How has China's other industrial and energy activities convinced you that they will ~In ANY Way~ be more responsible? (I'm taking that as 'they will act with more responsibility', of course..) Even with Solar PV, we've heard of Chinese PV factories dumping barrels of liquid waste right between farm fields.. (unreferenced.. with apologies, if you would like a link on that one, I could try to find one later..) Lead Paint on kids toys, right up to the very recent few years, etc..

I posted this previously; from September:

Arctic Oil Near Soviet Toxic Waste in Exxon-Rosneft Plan

The Kara Sea, a body of Arctic waters so remote that the Soviet Union used it as an atomic- waste dump for more than 25 years, has become the focus of an environmental battle that oil companies are preparing to win.

Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) and its Russian partner OAO Rosneft (ROSN) are taking steps to drill near the ocean-floor wasteland, eager to plumb an Arctic region estimated to hold enough crude to supply the world for five years. They’ve sidestepped environmental groups’ calls for a clean-up prior to exploration of the area off Russia’s northern coast where Soviet ships dumped worn-out reactors and 17,000 containers of radioactive waste.

Scientists in Norway today presented the first survey of atomic pollution in the region for 18 years. Levels of gamma radiation haven’t increased and are “generally low,” said Hilde Elise Heldal, the Norwegian leader of the expedition. The lack of visible leaks may rob some ecologists of a weapon to stop drilling that oil companies say can be done safely.


It's all just part and parcel of our collective energy/profit madness. What's a little nuke waste when there's oil to be had?

I recently reread a nice article in the New Yorker about a Russian cargo ship in a convoy that made the northern passage. They mentioned the Kara Sea nuclear dumping. A good read, sorry no link.

Do remember that this nuclear leader, most concerned with safety (of the USA I speak), dumped our nuclear crap for years in the sea directly off of San Francisco. Undocumented amounts! Giant mutant sponges! Leaking rusting barrels!

FTAlphaville has a few posts worth considering

Natural Gas: The Hot Air Case series
In which FT Alphaville examines some of the more exciting predictions about the future of natural gas.

1. About that peaking global oil demand…

2. The US manufacturing renaissance

And a post on Grantham's latest work.
Deep thoughts on civilisation from Jeremy “Hari Seldon” Grantham

Note: You'll have to sign up for free access.


The main notion of Ivan Illich is the concept of counterproductivity: when institutions of modern industrial society impede their purported aims. For example, Ivan Illich calculated that, in America in the 1970s, if you add the time spent to work to earn the money to buy a car, the time spent in the car (including traffic jam), the time spent in the health care industry because of a car crash, the time spent in the oil industry to fuel cars...etc., and you divide the number of kilometres traveled per year by that, you obtain the following calculation: 10000 km per year per person divided by 1600 hours per year per American equals 6 km per hour. So the real speed of a car would be about 3.7 miles per hour.


Which is walking speed. Fantastic.

That calculation is similar to one I heard about the use of a bicycle. It was said that the average commute in a car, starting from the time one turns the key until it's parked only achieves (roughly) 25 mph effective speed. The driver must then work (again, roughly) 1 hour to pay for every hour of automobile travel, so the real effective speed is only 12.5 mph. A bicycle ridden over relatively mild terrain can easily produce this speed and the rider gets added benefits from the exercise. Of course, this only works over short commutes with good roads and tolerable weather, but it shows how much more efficient transport systems can be...

E. Swanson

And if someone telecommutes, then immediate savings in their pocket?

"And if someone telecommutes..."

670,616,629 mph...ish. :)

One of the Biggest Challenges Facing Oil Companies

In the world of energy, an unsettling trend has emerged over the past few years. The world's largest oil companies are spending massive amounts of money on new oil and gas projects each year, yet their production continues to stagnate or decline...

Not surprisingly, the industry's annual capital spending has more than tripled over the past decade, coming in at $550 billion in 2011, according to oil-field services firm Schlumberger. Yet despite shelling out all that money, the industry as a whole has been unable to secure enough new reserves to offset production.

Very strange. All the oil in the US is produced by private companies. And with all that hype about the US about to become the next Saudi Arabia, one would think their reserves would be growing by leaps and bounds.

Ron P.

And then you have Ready (or Not?) for a Great Coming Shale Boom, which must not be adding up to much new reserves.

The article was not completely clear about the $550 billion in 2011, but I assume that they are talking about the world's 50 largest publicly owned oil companies. On top of that would presumably be expenditures by smaller companies and by national oil companies.

But even if we just use the $550 billion number for 2011, versus the increase in annual global C+C production of 1.4 mbpd from 2011 to 2012, the total cost per incremental bpd of production from 2011 to 2012 was $400,000 per bpd of incremental production.

Well I would say it's a bit worse than that 1.4 mb/d increase 1.1 was OPEC and .3 was non-OPEC. Of course not all OPEC production is produced by OPEC national oil companies. Some OPEC countries, like Nigeria, use publicly owned oil companies for most of their production. But on the other side of the fence a lot of non-OPEC production is produced by national oil companies. China's oil companies are CNPC and CNOOC, Brazil's Petrobras, and Mexico has Pemex. And there are other smaller ones. However it is true that of these three, only one, China, showed any increase last year. China showed a small increase of 70 kb/d year over year.

So what percentage of that 1.4 mb/d increase in 2012 was produced with the aid of that $550 billion? My guess would be less than half.

Ron P.

An interesting chart would be total estimated annual global oil industry expenditures divided by year over year change in global annual C+C production, from 2002 to 2012. Of course, one problem is differentiating oil from gas expenditures, so I suppose one could use a BOE number, incorporating year over year changes in oil and gas production.

Meet the Chechens

Sergei Maslenitsa was a simple Russian lad who was born and grew up in Chechnya, in Shelkovskaya Stanitsa, a Cossack encampment, into a family of Cossacks and hereditary warriors. Born in 1972, he went to kindergarten with Chechen children, then went to school with Chechens, and fought with them even as a child. And then, in 1991, the Chechens slaughtered his parents, along with most of his relatives. At the time, Sergei was far away in Ryazan, studying at a military academy. After graduation he went back to Chechnya, to take revenge. He fought in both Chechnya campaigns, was repeatedly wounded and received highest military decorations, but after Captain E.A. Ulman, another Captain in the Chechnya campaign, was sentenced for following explicit orders to shoot Chechen civilians, he submitted a very rude report in which he referred to Putin as “Commander in ****,” gave back all of his medals, and went into the reserve.

IMO Dmitry knocks this one out of the park, this is a story about Russians fighting Chechens and vice versa but I guess the takeaway is that we will revert to the comfort of our tribes once things go south. Things like vows, oaths, honor and fidelity will grow in importance and what we term as 'moral progress' will disappear.

I agree. I believe that humans are inherently tribal, and that this will be the way we self-organize as the wider society falls apart. I'm not at all sure what will define the tribes, but I expect that building these new tribal identities will take a long time to settle down and become well established. I think people will welcome it frankly - they will feel a part of something, a sense of belonging.

The other side of course is that tribes are exclusionary as well as inclusive. Those who find themselves on the outside will be in a very bad way. At some point in the collapse it will become foolish to rely on the rule of law enforced by a remote government if you find yourself in some other tribe's territory.

An example of this is speculawyer's post below about conservatives spending more money to distance themselves at all costs from being perceived as environmentalists. It makes no sense, until you see that it is worth more to them to maintain their tribal identity.

Dr. Doom: Buy stocks while you still can

LOS ANGELES (CNNMoney) The famously gloomy economist Nouriel Roubini has finally fingered an investment he likes. But his advice carries an expiration date.

Roubini is predicting an uptick in stock prices over the next two years as the Federal Reserve continues its stimulus efforts. But buyer beware, Dr. Doom says, because a day of reckoning is lurking at the end of the two-year horizon...

... "At some point, there's a levitational problem," said Roubini.

When gravity sets in, Roubini says there will not be a recession but a depression...

I agree with Roubini. Right now the stock market is reaching new highs. How is that even possible? Hmm, maybe because of 85 billion a month in QE, much of it making it's way into the stock market, because as an analyst on CNBC said yesterday, there's nowhere else for big institutions (aka banks) to get a decent return. But the QE program can only go on so long before something has to give and when that artificial stimulus isn't there, zingo, down the game goes, with all its people.

I heard yesterday for the first time in 6 years the treasury will be making a payment on the debt! How the heck are they accomplishing that, while needing to borrow about a trillion more each year? This is getting very strange.

Texas, because of oil and gas (especially oil) activity, is certainly not representative of nation as a whole, but last year a house on our street sold for $95 per square foot, after being on the market for months. Last week, the house across from us sold for $175 per square foot, after being on the market for three days (the owners got full asking price).

I heard that one of the premier private schools in the area increased their tuition by 10%, and because of high demand, the school is no longer automatically admitting siblings of existing students.

How Do You Get Conservatives to Buy Energy Efficient Products?

But slap a message on the CFL’s packaging that says "Protect the Environment," and "we saw a significant drop-off in more politically moderates and conservatives choosing that option," said study author Dena Gromet, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business.
. . .
Gromet said she never expected the green message to motivate conservatives, but was surprised to find that it could in fact repel them from making a purchase even while they found other aspects, like saving cash on their power bills, attractive. The reason, she thinks, is that given the political polarization of the climate change debate, environmental activism is so frowned upon by those the right that they’ll do anything to keep themselves distanced from it.

So many conservatives will literally opt to spend more money in order to pollute more. Amazing. That is just so mean-spirited.

I think it is a knee-jerk reaction . . . a mindset of "well those liberals are evil and thus anything they do is bad such that I must do the opposite".

This behaviour is alive and well in the UK. Google UKIP. They are a sort of anti-green party who want to defend economic BAU because that is how they (inherited) their wealth.

How Do You Get Conservatives to Buy Energy Efficient Products?

Tell them that the products will make their neighbors think they look rich, beautiful and slim... Hey, these people obviously aren't exactly the brightest bulbs in the chandelier, eh?

"When you ride alone, you ride with the Taliban."

I wish that would work. But that kind of appeal to patriotism doesn't work. People seem to be just fine slapping their 'remember the troops' stickers on the back of their big Japanese/German SUV filled with foreign oil. Heck, they'd rather have that than some union-thug built Government Motors Volt that is only for hippies in California. Somehow, underpaid workers with less benefits working for a foreign company became more patriotic. Go Figure. I don't understand this world anymore.

Well, you've got us, don't you?

Remember, you don't have to outrun the Lion.. you just have to outrun the other Impalas.. who are currently driving Expeditions, 350s and Suburbans (for a little while yet..)!!

Upon reading your reference to 350's, in concert with the discussion in this thread regarding CO2 levels, I can't help but wonder if perhaps F-350 is shorthand for "F**k 350!"...as in ppm.

I've long said that the only way to gain traction among conservatives is to drop any mention of environmental benefits for a given product and only advertise the monetary benefits. If anything, put a sticker on the box of CFLs promoting coal and conservative consumption would probably double. Morons.

I'm not so sure that would work. When you mention saving money they'd figure out that they save money by using less energy and thus they'd be polluting less and we can't have that!

You just have to play it to their team.

Just create a couple front companies that sell these as the Patriotic Christian alternative to all that Green Hippie Feel-good Stuff! Have some of the proceeds going towards Charter Schools and to pay for School Security Officers and "Lock and Load!- Arm a Teacher" programs, and I think you're in.

I think you are being sarcastic but this could work.

A little sarcastic.. but yes, we do get to see how well the ridiculous can also work these days, Nyet?

I am sure calling people morons will advance any debate. For the last 25 years the US has averaged paying 342 billion per year on interest for the debt alone. That adds up to 8.5 trillion. Of course I could go back much farther and probably get to the entire 17 trillion of debt but I got tired of using the calculator. Some of us that like the label of conservative see this as a problem.

Researchers Find High-Fructose Corn Syrup May Be Tied To Worldwide Collapse Of Bee Colonies

A team of entomologists from the University of Illinois has found a possible link between the practice of feeding commercial honeybees high-fructose corn syrup and the collapse of honeybee colonies around the world.

The researchers aren't suggesting that high-fructose corn syrup is itself toxic to bees, instead, they say their findings indicate that by eating the replacement food instead of honey, the bees are not being exposed to other chemicals that help the bees fight off toxins, such as those found in pesticides.

Specifically, they found that when bees are exposed to the enzyme p-coumaric, their immune system appears stronger—it turns on detoxification genes. P-coumaric is found in pollen walls, not nectar, and makes its way into honey inadvertently via sticking to the legs of bees as they visit flowers. Similarly, the team discovered other compounds found in poplar sap that appear to do much the same thing. It all together adds up to a diet that helps bees fight off toxins, the researchers report. Taking away the honey to sell it, and feeding the bees high-fructose corn syrup instead, they claim, compromises their immune systems, making them more vulnerable to the toxins that are meant to kill other bugs.

So complex natural ecosystems are good and artificial mono cultures are bad... Whoever would of thunk it!

They feed honeybees high fructose corn syrup? What could go wrong with that? Why not feed zoo lions tofu? How about this, let's feed the honeybees Aspartame and claim it should be better for them because it's sugar free!

They feed honeybees high fructose corn syrup?

Yes because its cheaper than regular sugar.

And one should not use beet sugar as there are waxes that are not refined out that clog the bees. Cane sugar you have to make a simple syrup of or use cheaper already made HFCS.

Some claim aspartame started as an insecticide or can be used for killing ants.

Some claim aspartame started as an insecticide or can be used for killing ants.

That stuff is real nasty. I had no idea what it was until I mixed some powdered protein mix into a drink and felt awful. The feeling wouldn't go away for 3 days! I had an allergic reaction to it and my body would not stop reacting. A few anti-allergy pills later and the symptoms began to dissapate. I really have to make sure food does not have it. The alert is when the packaging reads, sugar free! Later, I bought some Ricola (which I presumed was all natural from their ads) and got that same bad reaction because it was their sugar free version with aspartame. I contacted them via internet and got into a back and forth with a corp. flunkee that could only muster the defense of, "It's an alternative to those that cannot have sugar." Which of course is for all the people that are type 2 diabetic due in part to many years of inbibing high fructose corn syrup. Buyer beware because the corp's are allowed via lobbying to feed us any kind of garbage they please all in the name of profit.

Yeah.. I have to hope readers who sympathize with sick bee colonies might consider that their own immune systems need to have functional detox supports as well.

And then there's the REALLY unpopular sugar substitute, which is to eat something that isn't sweet..

Was the aspartame in the protein mix used for sweetness AND phenylalanine - or just for the sweetness?

Used to test for PKU and later care-giver for individual with PKU born prior to neo-natal testing. My rule of thumb is to find ways to exclude (can't restrict) aspartame to any one with seizure disorder. M.D.'s can and will write a total diet restriction on aspartame to anyone diagnosed with PKU.

Aspartame is a little short molecular wise to set off an allergic reaction, possibly it acted as a hapten. 2 examples of haptens are poison ivy and also people who are allergic to penicillin.

If sucrose is 50:50 Glucose/Fructose and HFCS is 45:55 is there any significant difference? To truly get away from the fructose you would need to substitute starch (long glucose chains) instead of simply switching from bad to nearly as bad.

There are substantial differences in sucrose and HFCS, mainly the first is a single molecule disaccharide while the latter are two seperate monosaccharides that can take different forms. I would be very hesitant to compare on those simple ratios.


In Germany and Austria we have the same collapse of bee colonies but usually the beekeeper -here honeyproduction is more a spare time occupation, not as industrial as in the USA- do usually not feed corn syrup but sugar.

As my university is quite good in bee research and two of my friends are doing analytical work in this field the more plausible explanation for me is that neonicotinoides, used as insecticides, cause a short time desorientation of the bee workers which simply do not find their hive any more and die. The good correlation of dry weather (dust) and empty hives supports this model for Germany.


Climate Chief Warns of 'Urgency' as CO2 Levels Rise

"We are just about to cross the 400 ppm threshold," she said in a prepared speech that stressed "a heightened sense of urgency".

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which informs policy makers on the science of global warming, has said the atmospheric CO2 level must be limited to 400 ppm for Earth's average temperature rise to be contained between 2.0 to 2.4 degrees Celsius (3.6 to 4.3 degrees Fahrenheit).

Current CO2 level = 399.50 ppm


I have news for these people, it already surpassed 400 ppm in the Arctic last year. The link is below. I guess it depends on where the measurements are taken.


Also, what happened to the magic number of 350 ppm? It's been written about a million times, as if we could somehow in the present go back in time not to exceed that number. Someone equated it to trying to get a 70 year old alcoholic to stop drinking at age 60.

Guaranteed we'll run right past 400ppm and head for 500, all the while yammering on about maybe we could do this or maybe we should do that...

The 350 level is fake. 350 is not a stable level. 180 is. 280 is. There probably are another level higher up. But not at 350. It is just an arbitrary number.

Fake might be the wrong word.. 350 is better than we have right now, which means it is an appeal to head us back in the right direction.. and that direction change is tantamount.

350 is what would stabilise current temperatures. See Hansen's energy balance papers. (I'd link but that just gets me spam filtered).

There is a seasonal zigzag in the CO2 level. co2now.org has it at 397 and it looks like the high point of each year is in May, at which point it might be over 400.

397 was for March, 399 is evidently the current measurement of April (not posted on all CO2 websites yet), and that's why they are suggesting we might top 400 ppm in May (the high ppm month in the seasonal zigzag).

What's interesting about this, is last year I did some back of the envelope estimates based on past annual rise in CO2 and figured May of 2014 to top 400 ppm in Mauna Loa, not May of 2013. So apparently the increase in CO2 is accelerating.

Well all-righty then. We gonna have a big party as we blow through 400 ppm? Ye-haw! +4 degrees C global mean temperature, here we come!

Neural codes for memory implants

The ability to short-circuit debilitating tremors in disease states with implantable stimulators is nothing short of remarkable. The same can be said for cochlear prosthetics which restore hearing, and more recently, retinal implants which give some rudimentary light-sensing capability to the blind. The logical extension of these sensorimotor restorative devices converges upon something a bit more extravagant—a purely cognitive implant—namely, the memory prosthetic.

Ted Berger, and his group from the University of Southern California, have recently extended their initial efforts to develop hippocampal memory devices in mice, to create full frontal cortex implants for primates.

Eleanor Shaw: Sergeant Shaw.
Raymond Shaw: [Abruptly] What...?
Eleanor Shaw: Sergeant Raymond Shaw.
Raymond Shaw: Mother, I...
Eleanor Shaw: Raymond Prentiss Shaw.
Raymond Shaw: Yes.
Eleanor Shaw: Listen.

This will become another separation between the have's and have nots. Elderly wealthy will have memory implants and have perfect short and long term recall, while the poor won't be able to find their keys or glasses.

I doubt there will be that many elderly as the effects of the massive amounts of radiation we've released take hold. I expect death from cancer to be the norm.

Harken the rise of the Mentats.

USGS Releases New Oil and Gas Assessment for Bakken and Three Forks Formations

On April 30, 2013, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) released an updated oil and gas resource assessment for the Bakken Formation and a new assessment for the Three Forks Formation in North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana. The assessments found that the formations contain an estimated mean of 7.4 billion barrels (BBO) of undiscovered, technically recoverable oil. The updated assessment for the Bakken and Three Forks represents a twofold increase over what has previously been thought.
The USGS assessment found that the Bakken Formation has an estimated mean oil resource of 3.65 BBO and the Three Forks Formation has an estimated mean resource of 3.73 BBO, for a total of 7.38 BBO, with a range of 4.42 (95 percent chance) to 11.43 BBO (5 percent chance). This assessment of both formations represents a significant increase over the estimated mean resource of 3.65 billion barrels of undiscovered oil in the Bakken Formation that was estimated in the 2008 assessment.
Since the 2008 USGS assessment, more than 4,000 wells have been drilled in the Williston Basin, providing updated subsurface geologic data. Previously, very little data existed on the Three Forks Formation and it was generally thought to be unproductive. However, new drilling resulted in a new understanding of the reservoir and its resource potential.
In addition to oil, these two formations are estimated to contain a mean of 6.7 trillion cubic feet of undiscovered, technically recoverable natural gas and 0.53 billion barrels of undiscovered, technically recoverable natural gas liquids. Gas estimates range from 3.43 (95 percent chance) to 11.25 (5 percent chance) trillion cubic feet of gas and 0.23 (95 percent chance) to 0.95 (5 percent chance) billion barrels of natural gas liquids. This estimate represents a nearly threefold increase in mean natural gas and a nearly threefold increase in mean natural gas liquids resources from the 2008 assessment, due primarily to the inclusion of the Three Forks Formation.



So their estimate of things they don't know are there has doubled? Why am I not particularly impressed? And as Rockman(RIP) would say, its all down to the geology and the faults as to whether it could be recovered anyway.


An inside source gave Team 10 a picture snapped inside the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) showing plastic bags, masking tape and broom sticks used to stem a massive leaky pipe. [...]

Source: ABC 10News

The anonymous source said the picture was taken in December 2012. [...]

“[Staff] identified a small leak in the water box and will perform maintenance per our scheduling process,” SCE [Southern California Edison] spokeswoman Maureen Brown wrote in a statement. “In the meantime, plastic is in place to direct the water from the small leak to a drain.”

Some of that infinite Human Ingenuity at work!

'drain'='away'... so everything's fine!

Power bill peeking encouraged

Residents of about 90,000 houses and apartments in Nova Scotia will receive invitations to sneak a peek at their neighbours’ energy bills this week.

Anonymously, of course.

It’s part of a three-year Home Energy Report project that Efficiency Nova Scotia launched Monday to allow people to compare their home energy use with that in about 100 similar homes in their area.


Nova Scotia is the first Canadian jurisdiction to introduce the system.

See: http://thechronicleherald.ca/business/1126058-power-bill-peeking-encouraged

Today was a good day. We will be replacing four hundred and seven 400-watt metal halide fixtures in a warehouse (currently undergoing renovation) with an equal number of twin-tandem industrials. This will drop this portion of their load by 144.9 kW. When you add in the offices, the total reduction for this facility is just over 154 kW -- about as much energy as would be required to power 16,000 L-Prize lamps.

Estimated CO2 reduction: 700+ tonnes/year.


Hello Halifax

Do you know a good source of ratings for energy efficiency of fridges and freezers available in Canada? I want to replace our old fridge and freezer this summer with something better as part of my quest to move the household from 300 kwhr/ month to 200kwhr/ month. Right now I have the ruler test, take a ruler and measure the thickness of the walls and assume that's insulation.

I must also do the math on our old Sask Energy bills. I think by a rough estimate with the upgrades we've done so far, we've cut our heating usage by 40% and have a much more comfortable house (the fur children (spoiled cats) approve as well). I'm hoping with adding wall insulation (R5 now if lucky), will go to at least R20, we can reach a 60% reduction in natural gas.

Thanks Paleo

Hi Paleo,

Here's a link to the 2013 EnergyStar directory of the most efficient appliances sold in Canada: http://oee.nrcan.gc.ca/residential/personal/energystar/1868

Wishing you continued success in whittling-down your energy requirements !


I wonder if they will track those bills over time? I am thinking that it may start as an even spread of power consumption but change into a high and low peak (no pun intended). The lows as people try to drive down usage and be 'good' while the high is due to people showing how they can use more than others.


PS That is going to be quite a negawatt change!


I know that similar rating systems have been deployed elsewhere, I'm assuming with some degree of success, but I haven't looked into the details as yet. I imagine the target audience are the above average users, and that the ones who fall below average are sufficiently motivated to save energy or have already invested in more efficient appliances, etc.. The Nova Scotia Utility Review Board will be tracking this initiative closely, and it will be interesting to see if it pans out.


What kind of qualification does it take to do what you do? I'm currently doing the general proportion of my University degree but next year I have to specialise. What you do seems quite cool (don't worry I live in NZ so I'm a non competitor) so do you have some kind of electrical engineering qualification? Anyway what skills does one need to be to be a 'useful mammal' with what you do?

Well, my undergraduate degree was in political science and political philosophy, and my graduate degree environmental studies (public policy), so I have no formal training in this field. I chalk-up my success, such as it is, to 99 per cent good fortune (i.e., being in the right place at the right time and happening to know the right people) and 1 per cent bravado. There's nothing technically challenging in what I do and anyone and their dog can pick-up the necessary skills very easily.

Best of luck to you as you further your studies and develop your own career.


When I click on the comments section and it says there are new comments, the "new" designator disappears. Therefore, I can't access "new" comments with the find mode. Anyone else having this problem?

I just refreshed the comments a few minutes ago and yours (this one) had the new mark on it. Are you still logged in? They don't show up unless your are.

What do you mean by "click on the comments section"? What link exactly are you clicking on?

Neil Macdonald: The illusion of growth
How central bank stimulus is creating a global 'bubble economy.' Power Shift, part 2

Conservative economists have predicted for years that expanding the money supply will inevitably lead to inflation, or even hyperinflation. That, of course, has not happened in this instance, mainly because there's been so little economic growth and because the world is awash in the production of consumer goods.

But the big question, nearly everyone agrees, is whether the central banks can "unwind" the unprecedented situation they've created without massive disruption (not least to their own balance sheets, which are now stuffed with long-term, low-interest bearing bonds as part of the quantitative easing).

It's an impossible question to answer.

See: http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/story/2013/04/29/f-rfa-macdonald-power-shif...

Keep calm and carry on. =:O


It is difficult to know what is best. Where would be right now if the Fed did NOT do QE? Perhaps we would be in a real depression.

I don't know. But Ben Bernakke's main study was the great depression and we are not in one right now, so I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

The Goldbugs . . . well

As you know, I have introduced, and other members have cosponsored, H.R. 7874, which is a comprehensive bill to place the United States on a full gold coin standard within two years of the date of its passage.

I believe such a standard to be not only desirable and feasible, but absolutely necessary if we aim to avoid the very real possibility of hyperinflation in the near future, and economic collapse.

That is what Ron Paul said when he introduced his gold standard bill . . . . back in 1981. It has been some 32 years since then and still no hyperinflation.

We have certainly had economic ups and downs since then but never hyperinflation. The 2008 collapse was bad but we started having deflation ($1.83/gallon gasoline!)

But I won't pretend I fully understand this stuff. I don't. And I do worry about endless QE and low interest rates. But it seems better than the alternative of a harsh austerity that will crash everything.

The crash is inevitable, as there is too much debt in the system. The Fed is merely delaying the crash and making it worse when it finally happens.

Hot off the press.

"Costs tied to the long-running shutdown of California's San Onofre nuclear power plant have soared to $553 million, while the majority owner raised the possibility Tuesday of retiring the plant if it can't get one reactor running later this year."


I think it's done. Their choice is really replace the boilers again (and hope they get it right this time), or scrap the plant. And I don't think replacing the boilers is penciling out.

And since it is not generating power or income for anyone, I wonder how relocating all the nuclear waste will "pencil out"?


But the urban metamorphosis that has most caught our eye is the reconstruction of the city's waterfront, a project that will run into the early 2020s. The city is planning to demolish the elevated Perimetral Highway that runs along the coast, while rebuilding the streetscape in its place and constructing a six-lane, 1.6-kilometer underground tunnel. The plans call for 650 thousand square meters of new sidewalks, 15,000 trees, new light rail infrastructure, three sewage treatment plants and a "Museum of Tomorrow."

Includes getting rid of streets, green-spacing them and turning them into pedestrian corridors and electric tramways.


President Barack Obama announces Mayor Anthony Foxx, of Charlotte, N.C., as his nominee for Transportation Secretary, in the East Room of the White House, April 29, 2013.

Since Anthony took office, they’ve broken ground on a new streetcar project that’s going to bring modern electric tram service to the downtown area. They’ve expanded the international airport. And they’re extending the city’s light rail system. All of that has not only helped create new jobs, it’s helped Charlotte become more attractive to business.

Can't find much about him, but apparently he's not opposed to light rail.