DrumBeat: October 10, 2006

[Update by Leanan on 10/10/06 at 9:21 AM EDT]

Gazprom Rejects Foreign Bids for Largest Gas Field

OAO Gazprom, Russia's state-run gas company, said it will develop the $20 billion Shtokman field itself, spurning offers from five Western producers to exploit the country's biggest untapped natural-gas deposit.

...The company will concentrate on shipping gas from Shtokman, Russia's biggest untapped gas field, to Europe via a pipeline being built to Germany, Miller said. Moscow-based Gazprom initially planned to ship Shtokman's output as liquefied natural gas to the U.S. to break into the world's largest energy market.

Russia to Set Oil Prices on Its Own

Russia’s Economic Minister German Gref has presented a concept of an independent pricing system for Russian oil at a meeting with President Vladimir Putin. The Russian Fuel and Energy Exchange in St. Petersburg and futures trading of Russia’s REBCO crude oil are to become key elements of Russia’s pricing independence from North Sea’s Brent brand.

Russian Energy Minister Says Gas Exports to Grow 52% by 2015

Russia will increase is annual exports of natural gas by 52 percent to 257 billion cubic meters by 2015, the country’s Energy and Industry Minister Viktor Khristenko said on Monday, Oct. 9. Khristenko’s words came after the country’s natural gas monopoly Gazprom announced that it has decided to cut off all of potential partners for the development of giant Shtokman gas deposit in the Arctic Barents Sea.

Oil Falls Below $60 as Saudi Aramco Maintains November Shipment

Crude oil fell below $60 a barrel in New York as Saudi Aramco, the world's largest state-owned oil company by output, will ship full volumes to Asia in November.

EIA: Any OPEC cut would be "less than stated"

Gulf oil states ‘keep faith in dollar assets’

Gulf oil producers will continue buying dollar-based assets with their windfall revenues, but not all the money will flow into the US, according to Mohsin Khan, director of the IMF’s Middle East and Central Asia department.

Global Energy Demand To Double By 2030

ExxonMobil predicts global energy demand to grow by almost 50 per cent by 2030, driven mainly by rapidly expanding economies in the developing world and population growth.

Police: Nigerian attackers take facility

LAGOS, Nigeria - Nigerians with assault rifles overran a navy base early Tuesday, taking several troops hostage, and occupied a nearby oil facility belonging to a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell PLC, a police official said.

Leak occurs at Bulgaria nuclear plant

SOFIA, Bulgaria - A rupture in a heating device at Bulgaria's only nuclear plant caused a leak of radioactive solution, but the spill did not result in any contamination, plant management said Monday.

An oil boom? Not in India

Government price controls have pushed India's state-controlled oil refineries into the red.

Kenya: Oil Firms Now Face Mass Action Over Prices

Civil society organisations have warned of mass action if the Government does not compel oil companies to reduce fuel prices.

The groups also issued a 24-hour ultimatum, which expires on Monday, to the oil dealers to reduce pump prices or face a boycott of their products.

Venezuelan central bank reports deficit despite oil gains

Spending by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's government has exceeded its gains from oil sales this year resulting in a gaping deficit, according to the central bank's latest figures.

Iran is Beijing's key to the Middle East

China's decision to send 1,000 soldiers to southern Lebanon with the United Nations peacekeeping mission is the latest example of Beijing's increased involvement in the Middle East.

Peak Oil: Yet another 'inconvenient truth'

Fossil fuels are involved in nearly all we own, eat, wear, do, and everywhere we go. Rising oil prices, from a growing gap between supply and demand, are rippling through the economy.

As the demand for oil grows, pundits quibble over how many decades of oil remain. But even the most cheerful forecaster does not see a long future for the liquid that fuels our lives. The more crucial question is: How will the depletion play out?

Lower gas prices won't last, say UC-Davis professors

Although consumers may be pleased with the price breaks they have recently received at the gas pumps, oil-consumption experts warn that the long-term effects of depletion may result in higher prices in the near future.

John Michael Greer on Economics: Hallucinated Wealth

As last week’s Archdruid Report post argued, prophecies of catastrophe don’t accurately reflect the economic terrain on the downslope of Hubbert’s peak. Mind you, the reassuring fictions of those who insist that business as usual will go on forever won’t fare any better. I’ve suggested that the future we face is an age of economic, social, and technological decline as industrial civilization slides down the long and bumpy slope to the agrarian societies of the deindustrial future. The economic dimension of that decline is crucial, but those who expect it to show up in obvious ways in the markets and crunched numbers of today’s official economics may be missing a central facet of what’s going on.

...It surprises me how many people still seem to think that the main business of a modern economy is the production and distribution of goods and services. In point of fact, far and away the majority of economic activity today consists of the production and exchange of IOUs. The United States has the world’s largest economy not because it produces more goods and services than anyone else – it doesn’t, not by a long shot – but because it produces more IOUs than anyone else, and sells those IOUs to the rest of the world in exchange for goods and services.

Leanan, you always find a lot of good links.  But I do have a couple to add ...

More on a Mitsubishi MIEV

Autoweek reports that Mitsubishi has plans to sell a small electric car in the U.S. The car will be powered by lithium-ion batteries, has four doors, all-wheel drive and a 1.1-liter gasoline engine. Each wheel has an electric motor built into the wheel assembly, a MIEV--Mitsubishi In-wheel Electric Vehicle.

and my personal favorite:

American bike makers eye commuter market with new models

A radical idea is sweeping the world of American bicycle manufacturing: building bikes that people will use for actual transportation.

After decades of pushing models designed for recreation, from full-suspension mountain bikes to ever-faster road bikes, industry heavyweights are now moving into commuters -- rugged specimens made for riding to work. Nearly every major manufacturer has a new or revised commuter model for 2007. They may look like 1940s Schwinns, but materials like aluminum and carbon make the frames lighter, while technological advances mean better brakes, shock-absorbing seats, smoother shifters and even electric power. The models usually come with practical accessories, like racks for carrying briefcases, fenders for splash protection on wet roads, lights that turn on automatically at dusk and big chain guards to keep legs and clothing away from chain grease

Thanks for the bike link.   I've forward that one about.

And on the 'how does this all end well'? George Ure has a datum point from New Orleans

New Orleans is filthy. Definitely divided by the have's and have-not's and most of them are the haven't. I saw the future of America depicted as a third world war zone. There are hundreds living on the streets. The despair in their eyes is heart wrenching.

They immediately tell you to not drink the water - even though we did have to shower in it.

I had a moment where I found myself surrounded by a small group of people and we all just '"connected". I went to high school with one of them. What are the odds on that? One of them and her daughter brought supplies for a community church. The church had had no drinking water for two days. She brought cases. They asked "How did she know?" I shouted, "God directed you to them" and there were smiles all around.

The girls (Regina and Mary) and I did walk-abouts. There is still a national guard and state police presence. I don't think people know how to get out of there - and I know they do not have the funds. At night, there are constant sirens going off - police and ems. Not many visitors there and the shops are empty.

I don't think people know how to get out of there - and I know they do not have the funds

Wrong I believe. Note the "I don't think". Everyone back had to make a decision to come back since everyone left at the end was forcibly evaced at gunpoint, regardless of circumstances (some few good).  Most still visit first before returning, finding places to stay (often a sofa or sleeping bag in a friends hallway or "one more" in a FEMA trailer).

And "I can't take it anymore" and leaving again is quite common (as are suicides).

But there is also determination and a willingness to help and incrediably high levels of civic involvement.  I am in the 20% that was not destroyed (burned out block accross the street) and do all that I can to help.  Being "out of the loop' for 1.5 months has hurt.

hen I left 1.5 months ago to help my father, the US Army had removed 70% of the debris.  Rats were a problem.  Somewhat better today.  The tourist areas are clean, 3 city employees were assigned yesterday to put damaged street signs back up.  They hope to be finished in a year. "Stop" and "One Way" signs first priority.

There is a determined effort to keep crime down, Nat'l Guard is patrolling the drowned areas with minimal habitation and NOPD does the areas that didn't drown and those coming back strong.  Yesterday, NG shot and killed someone.  Didn't catch details.

Reopening schools are a mixed bag.  Catholic OK, some charter schools (new) are doing well, others are not.  State takeover schools are off to a bumpy start but seem headed in the right direction.  Remaining public schools can't get their act together but perhaps with time.  All in all, education will definitely improve !

Welcoming home a friend that evaced tonight, her first night back :-)  She may be 3 or 4 months away from moving back into her drowned home (staying at friends with inflatable mattress).  An MD so she is not a "have not" and medical care is perhaps our most important lack.

A shock for those coming from a suburban bubble (we were shocking before Katrina :-), but people can and will adapt.  This unique city is well worth the degraded standard of living, pain, struggle and effort !  All those that came back believe this.

As I told my father, I would rather live in a shack in New Orleans w/o indoor plumbing than a mansion in Phoenix !

BTW, I drink the water all the time (coffee a few inches away).  I have used drinking fountains in the drowned areas.  Potable water leakage is slowly being fixed.  1.5 months ago teh ratio was 2 gallons leak for every one used.  Water pressure for fire fighting is slowly being restored.

Best Hopes,


About a year ago I researched electric bikes and scooters, hoping to make a purchase of somekind.  I ended up getting a single speed commuter bike with baskets and fat tires instead.  I call it my Cadillac because it's so comfortable.  If I were more techno savvy I'd post a pic.

IIRC, you are in eastern Neb, Lincoln or Omaha?  How do you find the commuting?  I lived in Lincoln for years, and found I could get anywhere by bike in 20 min or less.  Moved to Omaha 12 yrs ago, and it's the opposite here, at least in the part of town where I live.

From those who've moved there in the past two years(lots too), I understand there is nothing to do in Omaha.  Is this true?
I moved here a year and a half ago. Big mistake - I can't wait to get out of here. I still haven't found anything to do. It is one of those places that is good to live if you like the midwest, have a family with 2.3 kids and want to live in the suburbs.
That's what I thought.  I bunch of RR guys to relocated the Omaha, and many stayed briefly and moved back here.
What do these people like to do?  From what I've heard there is some good momentum concerning younger people enjoying living in Omaha these days.  There are quite a few colleges and universities, including highly rated Creighton and UN Medical Center.  The Missouri River area has been developed recently and a pedestrian bridge will be added soon.  It has a world class zoo, brand new performing arts center, convention center, art museum, botanic garden and outstanding restaurants.  Its Indie music scene has become quite well known and its produced Bright Eyes and 311.  It has had 5 fortune 500 companies for many years, quite a few for its size.  Buffett money has had a positive influence on it, not because Warren gives his away, but his investors have.  Negatives IMO are not enough bike trails and public land, and weather.
I'll be real.  I've got supposadly the second/third best zoo in the country after the San Diego.  I go maybe once a year.  I do see shows at the Fox Theatre sometimes, but again rarely.  The people I know are mostly middle aged men/women who look for things to do and the ones who moved there from here aren't happy with what's available.  

Oh and the botanical garden can't even compare to the one here due to ours being like the 3rd best after one in France somewhere.  I took a college class in stl history and there's a lot here that's left over even if the rest of the city went to $hit.  I'm sure the Oracle effect isn't bad though.

My favourite story of Buffett was he was at the local country club.

I forget what prompted him, but he asked why the local club had no Jewish members.  The response came back that it had never had Jewish members.

Buffett announced that since it appeared that the club had an informal discriminatory policy, he didn't feel any need to continue to be a member of the club.

Needless to say, the club now has Jewish members ;-).

Sometimes the world can be changed, one small step at a time.

Consume more
Yes, I'd agree that you can bike anywhere in about 20 min. in Lincoln though it's a city of 250,000.  Bike trails and designated streets are reasonable though there are critical links missing here and there.  The city has done a pretty good job of continuing to add and improve paths for many years.  My personal favorite is the rail-to-trail MoPac which continues 26 miles east of town.  What a missed opportunity in the early 80's when the state legislature voted down joining Lincoln and Omaha with that trail.  Now half of it is a lost opportunity forever.  And, Omaha, for some reason has been very slow in developing trails, though it seems they're trying harder in recent years.
Hello TODers,

I guess the price of asphalt to repair a single pothole has gone too high: four people dead, and three injured.

At the opposite end of the spectrum: youths chopped up a 100-year-old banyan tree in central Jakarta to prove it did not have mystical powers.

Bob Shaw in Phx,Az  Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

Thanks Leanan for your daily hard work.

Now I would like to discuss the issue of gasoline stocks. In June I read an article on Bloomberg about blending components. A pity I can't find it on the site again. One of the interesting things in the text was that the author said that what really matters with  gasoline stocks is the finished gasoline stock and not the total stocks which include the stocks of blending components. Since then I've tried to monitor more closely the finished gasoline stock. While the global data seem to say "everything is Ok in the oil economy", I believe the finished gasoline stock tells another story. All the data referenced here comes from Figures from the EIA.

Ok, the total gasoline stock is high. But the finished gasoline stock is really very low.  See here the trend for the month of September from 2004 to 2006 (from  the weekly data set expressed here in million barrels) :

year      finished gas
2004     130.512
2005     125.509
2006     118.527

Just to be sure here's a graph over the last five years (the y axis diplays kb and not mb). Believe me, finished gasoline stocks have never been so low since January 1981 from when they were first reported. Here the data source are the monthly files from EIA.

The absolute minimum has occurred in August 2006 at 114.397 mb.

See here the trend from EIA's more accurate monthly data for the month of July from 2004 through 2006 (finished gasoline stock) :

Year     finished gas     y/y change
2004     140.525
2005     135.074             -4%
2006     118.344             -12%

Let us see why the finished gasoline stock has decreased so much. Here is the data from the monthly data files. The table displays the sum of gasoline supplied, imported and produced from refineries and blenders from January through July (finished gasoline, million barrels) :

Year   supplied       imports     production
2005   1,932.453    123.889    1,758.339
2006   1,944.091    111.103     1,748.518
              0.6%          -10%            -0.5%

Gasoline consumption has increased, production and imports have decreased. Production has decreased but the maintenance season has been intense. What will be the future ?

See the trend for the month of September 2006 compared to the month of September 2005 from EIA's weekly data :

Year   supplied     imports      production
2005   309.106      23.044      289.905
2006   326.109      14.672       319.354
              +5%             -36%           +10%

This last data set shows that finished gasoline stocks have increased mostly because of healthy production of gasoline versus last year when a lot of refining capacity was lost because of Katrina. But the total imports and production volumes are not yet enough to restore the stocks to a more comfortable level. I believe that consumption will be higher than last year because there are no shortages. Refineries will soon be diverting production to distillates and won't be able to work above 90% for a long time because of glitches, upgrading and maintenance issues. So the big unknowns come from the imports of finished gasoline, Canada being the major supplier followed by the European union. With reduced refining margins as R Rapier said will they provide ?

One thing is sure, these figures show the tightness of the whole system. Do you still think investors/managers should look  at total gasoline stocks more than at finished gasoline stocks ?


About 10 days ago, I believe you commented that there seemed to be a lot of crude available to the refineries.  Is that still the case?

Any views on the physical supply/demand picture over the next several months and the likelihood and/or impact of an OPEC production cut?


My take after following the debate & whatever info sneaks through:

  1. Peak oil is here.

  2. Its a big world, likely to be a plateau for some time (5-25 years)

  3. Oil businesses (KSA, OPEC, Commercial interests - drillers, integrateds, Autos?) too rich and influential. (As someone said $1 trillion is available for drilling more holes but one cannot get a few bucks for renewables). In addition our use of oil is very profligate. Therefore we will continue to use oil until the flows become small
3.1) The world will use less at higher prices but given excessive waste in current usage that will not affect economic growth.

  1. Oil/NG/NGL (&coal) will be burned - climate change be dammed.

  2. Plenty of renewables - Biomass derived liquid fuel (likely to come from a synthetic conversion cycle) burnt in an ICE (internal combustion engine) - mated with a plug-in hybrid (battery, ultracapacitor) will be the ultimate transportation solution. Electricity to come from renewables (Wind, solar). Expect that most energy will be from electric drive - biomass fuel for long trips only (this would be ideal environmentally)

  3. We can make just one compound with extreme purity in synthetic reactors - to make a bunch of burnable liquid fuels in arbitrary ratio for the sake of "burning" - not a big deal, but needs institutional support. That will be forthcoming when oil has declined substantially that efficiency gains still leave shortages. Also Oil interests control the current infrastructure (pipelines, gas stations) and will not share it until the oil cow is fully milked. This is also the problem for current VCs (e.g. Khosla et al) who can make fuel but cannot distribute it.

  4. In summary - running out of oil is not a big deal. However, climate change and environmental destruction is a big deal.

  5. Plenty of folks who are on the pay of the KSA (& ilk). One of whom is the fellow who is so anti #6 above.

All IMHO only.
I have some hope for item 3.1, but not enough conviction to call it a done deal.  We do have a lot of waste, and low benefit (IMO) uses for oil today.  Those could be dropped (squeezed out) over time.

My early morning thought is that the pain in that might come down to the uniformity, or volatility, of the price curve.  If there are sudden and dramatic swings, we'll see more people caught on the wrong side of an economic trend (as GM and Ford recently have been).

>>..wild price swings..<<

True enough. Unfortunately without government intervention (e.g. sliding subsidy proposed by Khsola) it specially kills the renewable guys who need predictable cash flow after putting up a capital intensive plant.


Aside Ford/GM/Chrysler (C bailed out by DCX) - their problems are related to high oil but not totally so: UAW, retiree health care, management incompetence and bureacracy built up over 75 years as a successful organization also play a part.

After all Toyota, Suzuki, Honda, and some others (Tata Motors, Maruti-Suzuki, Hyundai) are doing quite well.

Well, there goes our splendid common ground ;-)

To take the second first, Ford and GM do have "structural problems" but those unfortunately tie them to the same SUVs that sufferred market reversals.  Their high costs force them to bet on high margin vehicles, and SUVs have traditionally borne those margins.

The double-whammy in a move to small cars (now or later) is that they are simply less expensive, and support lower margins.

On the first ... that's not where I come from at all.  I think we should be taxing fossil fuels but keeping our hands (subsides) completely off the production of renewables.  Create a level playing field, and let the best solution (even if that is efficiency!!!) win.

True comments on Ford and GM. I think that it is likely though that even with low oil prices ultimately Structural problems would have overcome the two automakers regardless of oil prices. The UAW would not give an inch unless Chapter 11 was around the corner, and the other brands were moving into full size pick-ups for example.

I have to agree with the fossil fuel/subsidy issue also. However, conventional wisdowm is (& this may be more due to politics) that a tax on fossil fuels will not fly so the "sliding" subsidy was the other option. Perhaps it could be designed to be technology agnostic as long as the solution was renewable.


All it will take is for a critical mass of investors to understand that economic growth will no longer be possible as total energy availability declines in the world.  Then they'll take their money out and that's all she wrote for "the economy".

Seems to me the current run-up in the Dow is money fleeing real estate.  Looking for the last refuge of profitability.  And of course the Dow is propped up by defense contractors spending gov't money that was created out of thin air.

When I first encountered PO I had the thought that "it's over, as soon as "everybody" realizes it".  And given the amount of effort being expended to keep the problem covered up I doubt I'm the only one who realizes this.

That's not the way the world works.  When a market (stocks, commodities, real estate) declines, money flees to the next great idea.

Money can't sit, so it will back something, and likely that something will be a story of growth under the new conditions.

That story may even prove true.

That's why I think another Great Depression is likely.  There will still be wealth, but it won't be moving enough to keep the economy going.  
Do you think people are going to get all their dollars printed out, and put in physical safes?

How actually, in a world where bank accounts are nothing more than rows in an Oracle database, does money stop moving?  The banks certainly are not going to stop doing deals (though a return to higher standards of regulation is likely).

I think they'll probably try.  It's going to be interesting.

The average American thinks they are safe from "runs on the bank" now, because of the FDIC.  But it hasn't really been tested.  

When the tide goes out, we could all find we've been swimming naked.

There are plenty of things to worry about, but this is not one of them. The Federal Reserve will make sure the FDIC has whatever money it needs to make the bank deposits good.  Since they can print the money, they won't run out.

And, since it is disadvantageous to keep your money at home if you know you can always get it from the bank, you can be reasonably sure that any bank runs will be very limited. As far as I recall, the only significant runs during the S&L crisis were against S&Ls that didn't have Federal insurance.

The other thing is that it is unlikely that any large bank will be allowed to fail at all (they didn't allow Continental Illinois to fail, and it was a pipsqueak compared to the current banks).

See http://www.erisk.com/Learning/CaseStudies/ContinentalIllinois.asp if you are interested.

With the consolidation of the US banking system over the past 25 years, the bulk of deposits is in the large banks.

Note that I am not saying anything about the safety of the banking/financial system here--it is entirely possible that there could be serious disruptions that would cause all manner of problem, and the owners of banks could be at risk--but bank depositors whose deposits are under the $100,000 FDIC limit, aren't going to be the (direct) victims.

And, since it is disadvantageous to keep your money at home if you know you can always get it from the bank, you can be reasonably sure that any bank runs will be very limited.

People may not trust the banks.  Or the government.  As it is, people post regularly at PeakOil.com about supposed secret Homeland Security plans for barring withdrawals.  Dunno if there's any truth to it, but obviously, there's some anxiety about it.

The other thing is that it is unlikely that any large bank will be allowed to fail at all (they didn't allow Continental Illinois to fail, and it was a pipsqueak compared to the current banks).

My worry is the opposite.  With banks so large these days, will they be able to bail them out?  If, say, Citibank fails?

Educated, business owner, employer, Democrat. I don't trust our government on policy or the ability to protect the supply and value of money. I'm in the fiat-currency-I'll-keep-gold-and-silver camp. There's enough cash in the bank to contribute to the day-to-day operations of my business and the bank's intersts, but primarily our savings are in easily-traded silver and gold.

Stormy weather ahead for the dollar?  With the very-real impacts of Peak Oil, not to mention GW and assorted international conflicts I have little confidence in the dollar. I feel I got out while the gettin's good.

Now, about those printing presses...

I took a banking class and learned all about the FDIC.  The FDIC works in such a way that it's not capitalized.  What I mean is there is never any money sitting aside for faiures.  The FDIC deals with them on a case by case basis and the $100K cap isn't a real max, it's the minimum you're insured for.  Most times all the FDIC does is take the bank that is failing over, then ask another bank to come in and fix everything.  

Even if you're over the $100K, most times all monies are honored since another bank assumes the portfolio minus the BS that the FDIC does pick up (bad loans) or adding some cash to grease the wheels.  In general they rarely ever simply payout your cash, instead focusing on letting a stronger bank manage the branch and if they want to close it later, then fine, but the push is to clear it up asap.

Are there still people left in the US with money in the bank?

If so, and if there's a threat of a bank-run, the Argentina model worked: limit withdrawals to maybe $100 a week per capita. If need be, include plastic, limit spending to $100. Since most is plastic these days, that problem is not the key one. Empty ATM's will do the trick.

A bigger issue for banks is repossessing assets. Housing property is the first big one. And they will repo, bet on it. They let New Orleans folk bleed, and they will the rest of the poor.

The US economy depends on growth, it can't exist without it. That growth has been artificailly facilitated by M3 and other forms of creative money creation. If people's labor can no longer create growth, the game is over. The taps will be closed, and all you have to your name is debt. Maybe not you persoally, but a whole lot of others will.

There may be plans to abolish the dollar, and turn to the AMERO for instance, but would all those foreigners who hold trillions in dollar-denominated assets accept that?
Moreover, such a move is useful only when there is some kind of renewed growth on the horizon. There isn't. For one thing there's too much debt that needs to be paid off, for another there's no manufacturing base left. Society has been utterly gutted.

More likely, the debt will be paid off, albeit partially, out of the pockets and the property of the people. Prepare for a lot less of a lot of things, first of all energy.

Bankruptcy perhaps?

If you mean personal: why do you think that was made nearly impossible?

If you mena natinonal: that's the de facto reality since 1971.


I mean as a country.  I'm sure you're aware of this paper...

http://research.stlouisfed.org/publications/review/06/07/Kotlikoff.pdf#search=%22kotlikoff%20bankrup tcy%22

We need to declare it to the world and start over.

The problem in Argentina was that the government didn't have the money to prop up the banks, because they were trying to maintain a peg to the dollar, so they couldn't bail out the depositors.  The depositors wanted to take their money out either as dollars, or take it out and convert it to dollars, because they knew the peso was going to be devalued.  As soon as Argentina devalued, the problem was solved, although Argentina was hugely impoverished as a result.

No such problem exists for the the US.  US banks may fail in some way, their investors may be wiped out, but depositors under the FDIC limit will be made whole.  

And yes, as someone else mentioned the FDIC may well honor deposits over $100,000.  They did in the Continental Illinois example I mentioned above, where not only did all the depositors get their money, but creditors not only of the bank but of the bank holding company did as well.  The stockholders, on the other hand, were toast.

I guess my point is that historically the reason for bank runs has been people being afraid that the banks were not solvent and that would not be able to get their money out--either in a reasonable amount of time, or ever. This is just not a reasonable fear in the US, so I doubt that there will be serious bank runs by insured depositors.  But even if there are, the banks will be provided with the funds needed to make the depositors good.

This is just not a reasonable fear in the US, so I doubt that there will be serious bank runs by insured depositors.  But even if there are, the banks will be provided with the funds needed to make the depositors good.

There are two limits that you ignore.

1/ A bank run is a physical phenomenon. One or two people that lose faith in the bank and/or currency will not pose a problem, they'll get their money and go home contented. But that is not a bank run. That means, let's grab an example, 100-1000 people who all want their money at the same branch and at the same time (rumours travel fast).

If they each have $20.000 in their account, the bank won't have the cash to pay them. The manager will try to close the door and tell them to not worry and come back the next day. But that doesn't help, on the contrary. They are there because they're worried. Never tell a worried person not to worry. If you have this at one branch, more will follow.

It makes little difference whether you think there is a "reasonable" fear. It's not about reason.

2/ There is no insurance that covers 20 million accounts that each have those same $20.000 in them (let alone $100.000). Like a branch of a bank has limited cash, so an insurance too has limits. It wasn't made for these situations. It'll cover the first few thousand accounts, if that, and then close the door. And maybe even tell people not to worry.

Yes, the government could go to the Fed and ask them nicely to print a few hundred billion. But don't count on it. The "insured" depositors may not either.

Besides, it's not the government's role to prop up the banks. They're private institutions.

There is a strong correlation with gold and fiat dollars. When in the 1960's US creditors demended the US pay its outstanding debts in gold, Nixon said no.
Like those debts didn't have a true value in gold, so your holdings in a bank may not have a value in real dollars.

It wasn't made for these situations.

In fact, FDIC insurance was made for exactly this kind of situation. The government has decided it is its role to ensure the stability iof the banking system. The vast majority of all American savings is insured up to its full amount. There is really no reason to have a bank run, and I don't think any have happened since the depression.

I don't mean to crash your bank run fantasies. I can tell you are enjoying this.


Banks have a capital account on their books.  They provide cash needed on demand from this capital account.  Based on reserve ratios (mostly below 10% on demand deposit/savings accounts).  If they fall below a set ratio they immediatly start requesting cash.  If hordes of people showed up, they would most likely talk to the employees of this bank and the manager would be made aware that people think there's going to be a run (which I must admit in today's age does sound ludicrous at first).  The manager can request emergency loans performed intrabank and they'll get the funds there.

FDIC was created first to end bank runs that were common place and to sort of total failures as in concentrated commercial loans causing an entire bank to fail, thus taking the cash of the savings/checkings account with it. Bank runs dont happen b/c we simply don't need to worry what happens if they close.

and most will have experienced serious "shrinkage."
I'm a bit of an econ novice, but I'm trying my best to keep up.  It seems to me that what everyone is saying is that the Fed could bail out the banks in the event of a run by printing more money, so maybe everyone could pull out their cash, but the cash would now be worth a hell of a lot less, so everybody loses. (hyperinflation?)  That's the "shrinkage" you refer to, right? - not what happens when get out of a cold pool (although just as harmful to the manhood, if not more).

I expect something along these lines of course - less available energy obviously means less wealth to go around, I'm just struggling to grasp a mechanism for how it will actually going to go down.

It seems to me that what everyone is saying is that the Fed could bail out the banks in the event of a run by printing more money, so maybe everyone could pull out their cash, but the cash would now be worth a hell of a lot less, so everybody loses.

Not everyone agrees with that.  It's something that is frequently debated here at TOD.  Some think hyperinflation is in our future, since printing more money is the politically easy way.  Others think we're headed for depression, because we are too dependent on foreign investment for "Helicopter Ben" to actually start throwing dollars out of helicopters.

And some think both are in our future: hyperinflation at first, as the printing presses are fired up, then depression, when it's realized it's not helping/can't continue.

I say short term disinflationary prices, followed by rapid inflation as PO takes hold.  Ka-Poom theory from itulip.com and Eric Janszen, not mine - except for the PO part, he just said lots of inflation but I can see it getting much worse when it takes bite in.
ode, just because you cannot imagine how something could happen doesn't mean it will not happen.  Money flow could decline dramatically as people stop spending on virtually anything other than their current debt.

The dollar is a "Whimpy" currency.  A promise to pay you Tomorrow for your Hamburgers today... and the promise depends on future growth.  

Tate et al, try this one:
(I'm trying to steer clear of conspiracy ideas, a Congressman should have enough clout?!)

Ron Paul chooses to call it "insolvency", not bankruptcy. Different word, same outcome.
There's a video of the speech.

Congressman Ron Paul before the US House of Representatives, February 15, 2006

The End of the Dollar Hegemony

Our whole economic system depends on continuing the current monetary arrangement, which means recycling the dollar is crucial. Currently, we borrow over $700 billion every year from our gracious benefactors, who work hard and take our paper for their goods.

Then we borrow all the money we need to secure the empire (DOD budget $450 billion) plus more. The military might we enjoy becomes the "backing" of our currency.

There are no other countries that can challenge our military superiority, and therefore they have little choice but to accept the dollars we declare are today's "gold." This is why countries that challenge the system - like Iraq, Iran and Venezuela - become targets of our plans for regime change.

It's not exactly a secret.

And then move on to today's:

Russia to Set Oil Prices on Its Own

Russia's Economic Minister German Gref has presented a concept of an independent pricing system for Russian oil at a meeting with President Vladimir Putin. The Russian Fuel and Energy Exchange in St. Petersburg and futures trading of Russia's REBCO crude oil are to become key elements of Russia's pricing independence from North Sea's Brent brand.

The meeting with Vladimir Putin dedicated to prospects of Russian oil trade was not announced beforehand. The economic development and trade minister presented a comprehensive plan for a revolution of world oil prices and transferring to independent pricing for oil export from Russia.

The price on the Urals brand is currently calculated as a derivative from the Brent oil and BFO blend which is extracted at three deposits in North Sea. German Gref's performance was largely an impromptu, and President Vladimir Putin obviously was not always getting him right.

An ITAR-TASS correspondent who was present at an open part of the session reports that the president endorsed am idea to call futures contracts on Russian oil exports REPKA [turnip in Russia] and praises the name of the national blend.

Now, don't conclude too easily that Russia is trying to undermine the US. The Cold War brought such fantasmagorical profits to both "sides", that you just have to wonder: Were there truly two sides?

The threat to the dollar, though, is clear. If not Putin, someone will open the curtains.

I think people vastly underestimate 3.1.  We not only have a lot of waste, but also a lot of unnecessary luxuries that we can easily do without (which I also consider waste).  Doom and gloomers like to point out that people who can't afford a new car will be stuck and unable to upgrade to a more fuel efficient vehicle.  

The funny thing is, you don't even need a more fuel efficient vehicle.  Just driving your current vehicle in a gas conscious way, even an inefficient PoS SUV, will result in massive increase in MPG.  People can easily boost their gas mileage by 20% by just doing two simple things: driving slower on the freeway (55 MPH as opposed to 75/85 MPH, even going down from 65 is a sizable improvement in most vehicles), driving less aggressively (speeding up more slowly and aiming to maintain speed when possible rather than riding the accelerator and brake).  

So all this nonsense about how society is going to collapse as a result of Peak Oil is just crap as far as I'm concerned.  It will be tough, but one of the convenient side effects (or ironic side effects?) of doing nothing to reduce our oil usage is that we have huge room for improvement.  There's a lot of stuff we can cut out, such that we have a buffer against serious problems.  

Provided the decline on the other side of the peak is not too steep we should do OK.  The concern however, is that if the decline is extremely steep then we could run into serious problems.  I still think we'll manage without societal collapse, but if we're talking declines of 10% per year then it's going to be really rough sledding.  

BTW, what do people think of my rule of thumb:

On the energy front, the US ten years from now will look like Europe today.
keep it that vague, and you're always right somewhere somehow
anybody know the typical "lag" from european gasoline prices to US ones?  when was germany/uk at $3/gal equivalent?
so the "energy front" is about money?
Darn tootin'

It's the interaction of expectation, costs, and strategies for the future.

The fact that gasoline is approx $6/gal over there ties to the fact that they use less and drive funny little Smart Cars.

No rocket science there.

In that case, replace Europe with Zimbabwe.

Or: in 10 years, the US will be well below Europe on the energy front.

Or: the available energy will concentrate, away from individual consumers.

I'm suggesting that there is a past pattern in play, with Europe and the US.  The Zimbabwe thing would be a bit of a break in the historical pattern.
Bush's term ends in 2 years and he's barred from running for reelection, so unless we can find another idiot on par with Robert Mugabe, I don't think we have too much to worry about ending up like Zimbabwe.  
But this is how it starts.

Imagine a major terrorist attack between now and then.  George Allen is elected president -GWB II.

Wars with Iran.  Maybe some kind of military action with North Korea.   Perhaps civil unrest in Saudi Arabia (the situation in Saudi Arabia is so strikingly like the situation in Iran in the late 70s-- restive middle class, religiously inflamed poor class, growing gap rich and poor, soaring population with falling living standards, ruling class has reputation for complete corruption, massive expenditures on foreign arms to provide 'security', and now, with Iraq, a safe haven for insurgents just across the frontier).

A repeated pattern of denials that there is a crisis, followed by actions which are diametrically the opposite of the rational, measured ones.

Increasingly polarised domestic politics.  Violent incidents justify crackdowns and reductions in civil liberties.  The arguments are increasingly about whether to teach evolution in schools, abortion, etc. rather than about how to adjust to a changed world environment.

Economy living beyond its means.  The GSEs (Fannie Mae, Ginnie Mae, Freddie Mac) finally get in serious trouble over the collapse of the housing bubble.  Hundreds of billions of dollars of federal bailout.

If a 'liberal' president were to be elected in such an environment (I don't count Hilary Clinton as a real liberal, but let's call her one for the purposes of same) then she would be paralysed by opposition-- every measure of reform would be stopped either in the Congress, the judiciary (FDR's problem-- his second term was effectively a wipeout, and the economy slumped back into depression in 1938, if there hadn't been the rising threat of international events, it is arguably he would have been defeated in 1940).

The US see-saws between right and left, and nothing gets done as successive crises hit.

On one level it's incredibly far-fetched, on another there are all too many tell-tale signs.

The US see-saws between right and left, and nothing gets done as successive crises hit.

Yes, but it does seem to get the most done when the see-saw is balanced. Let the loonies on either side run the asylum and it all goes bad.

Actually that is about parking!!  Swatch cars are easy to park.

Petrol is only 20% of the cost of owning a car in the UK.

1/12 cars sold are SUV class.  1/8 in London (a place where snowdrifts are not common, and all roads are paved).

Real cost of owning a car in the UK has fallen about 10% since 1970.  Cost of taking a train has risen about 60% in the same time, and a bus 40%.

We also drive at c. 90mph on the motorway.

Simplifying - at least not since 1982 for Germany. Essentially, the price has been $4 a gallon or higher all of the times I have noticed. Obviously, there are gaps, exchange rate swings (there was a point later 80s, where a dollar bought 4 marks - a good ten years later, about 1.4 marks bought a dollar).

It seems to be a conscious German government policy to ensure that the price of fuel for personal transportation remain very high. Just another slight difference between the world's largest exporter and the world's largest importer - the exporter considers conservation and efficiency to be an advantage in the marketplace. And this marketplace advantage is ensured through intentional government policy.

I don't think this lag time really matters.  At the point where oil peaks and we are constrained by supplies (we are not there yet, despite what some claim) we're quickly going to see a run-up in oil prices, and gas prices will follow suit.  I think a slow build is a bit less likely than a fairly quick increase, which will over shoot the mark, and then a slight decline back to equilibrium levels.  

Come to think of it, that really describes what we've seen in the oil markets lately.  But, I don't think that we've seen demand destruction on the scale necessary to result in an actual global decline in demand.  

My guess is that a sort of 'cycling' of very sharp run ups in price, then coming back down, then up again, is most likely.

The problem is the lags on the consumption and demand side.  On the demand side, it takes a long time to really reengineer things for less oil consumption (for example, the average car lasts over 10 years- -even if you buy a new car, your old one doesn't go to the scrapheap).

Governments will be tempted, as they are now throughout the producing countries and some consuming countries like Thailand, to 'soften the blow' by avoiding flowing through the real oil price to consumers (who riot in the streets if kerosene or vehicle fuel prices soar).  This is an issue even in China, I believe.

In a first world version of this, Britain had the petrol blockade, which ground the country to a halt in 2000.  Since then, real duties on petrol have fallen by over 10%.

And because of the volatility of prices, no one is certain that there is really an ever upwards extension of prices.  Lots of people and forecasters will steadfastly refuse to believe it.

If the world is roughly 95% cornucopians now, and 5% Peak Oilers, then it will become 25/75 the other way-- there will be loads of prominent figures loudly proclaiming the reality of new oil supplies just over the horizon.  What is it Thomas Kuhn said 'scientific revolutions proceed funeral by funeral'?

On the supply side it takes 10 years to build a tar sands operation.  So again volatility and uncertainty contribute to very long lags.

It's a bit like global warming: if you look at the long term track, you will see that the peaks get higher and higher, each time, and the troughs get higher and higher, too.  But the volatility of oil prices (global temperatures) will also rise, providing fertile ammunition for those arguing that this is not a supply shortage, but market forces (not a global warming trend).

I wouldn't be at all surprised to see oil prices drop to $40 in this cycle.  OPEC has never been particularly successful at managing oil prices on the downside-- there is lots of capacity out there (pace politics) and lots of inventory.  Pundits will then declare Peak Oil discredited, and the popularity of sites like this will collapse.

Peak Oil will enter into mythology as one of those 'cry wolf' scenarios-- like the Club of Rome Limits to Growth, or the next Ice Age (turns out that latter was never a scientific prediction, but any global warming sceptic will tell you it was).

At which point, PO really will be an issue about to whack us on the head.

Peak Gas scares me even more, oddly.  Because my ruling assumption was oil was always scarce, and gas plentiful.  But the Simmons diagrams show gas field depletion proceeds at a much higher rate, which implies we could have a gas crisis almost overnight whereas oil we would have warning (pace what I said above whether we will see it).

There are substitutes for oil in automobile use eg compressed Natural Gas and propane.  We could fly a heck of a lot less-- most flying is actually discretionary in the age of telecommunications.  Long distance buses could come back into favour.

but heating our houses and running our generating stations is not something we can change overnight.

I suspect the era of government subsidies of domestic oil consumption are coming to a close. Thailand, and many other countries have reduced or eliminated subsidies are prices stayed up over the last year or so. It is just too expensive.

Thailand now plans to add a fairly significant new tax to vehicle fuel (I think 4.5 baht ~ $.12/ liter or double the old tax) to restore the oil fund which I understand is exhausted.

I would be surprised, but not shocked to see oil hit $40. I agree OPEC has usually been without teeth and is currently out of practice. I think a sustained price below $50 is going to damage the peak oil message (but not at the level that association with WTC conspiracy theories has).

That would be nice. It would also be a huge culture shock. No drive through!!!!
We can only hope.

With an urgent but not crash effort, and without massive PO impacts (plural), I think 15 years would be optimistic.  

Best Hopes,


imho Geography makes this doubtfull. getting goods/people from point A to B takes a lot less energy In Europe then in the US.

it could happen with a great increase in effeciency but, u know, that paradox thing...

PARADOX!!! Slowly I turned, step by step, inch by inch ...
Headline: "Global Energy Demand To Double By 2030"

TFA: "ExxonMobil predicts global energy demand to grow by almost 50 per cent by 2030"

I guess that is the new math --- growing by almost 50% is said to be "doubling".

A quick note from the Archdruid link - 'It surprises me how many people still seem to think that the main business of a modern economy is the production and distribution of goods and services.'

Again, such an American perspective - just like the belief that America is the world's greatest superpower (and boy, the North Koreans are shaking in their jackboots today, too, I bet), the belief that America has the world's most modern economy is just silly (and it is equally silly to dismiss either America's military or economy, by the way). Or else the German economy is still too old fashioned to realize that creating wealth in the real world is passe.

America is running the world's largest trade deficit in history - how this became a measure of wealth utterly escapes me. On the other hand, the world's largest exporting economy is not exporting IOUs - I liked the recent article about how the Chinese buy German mining equipment as a tiny example.

Realizing that the American economy is no longer 'normal' is just fine - extrapolating that to the entire world and its economic activities just seems bizarre. After all, real things are being exchanged between real people in the real world - it is just America that believes virtual equals real.

At some point, the hallucination of wealth will be replaced by the reality of infrastructure - and quite honestly, I don't think modern American SUVs in modern American housing developments are likely to be considered a measure of wealth at all. And sadly, it wasn't a hallicunation either - delusion maybe, but not a hallucination.

And two final comments about oil/gasoline prices

  1. Oil is still hovering around $60, as oil production keeps being 'cut' to maintain prices. I guess the idea that it just may be the other way round - falling production is leading to a stable price even with a declining economic perspective - comes to close to what peak oil is about for most people to consider as an explanation of the fact that production cuts keep being announced, the price stays 'stable' and the amount coming out of the pipeline is not increasing at all.
  2. How is it that as the price of crude oil remains more or less stable, the price of gasoline keeps falling? What I mean by this is actually something a touch more subtle in terms of oil company policy - normally, they blame gasoline price increase on price increases of crude - oil goes up, gasoline goes up, normally in something approaching real time. But for the last few months (and due to a few unusual circumstances, admittedly, from a lack of hurricane damage to changes in commodity index weightings), gasoline prices keep declining. I don't think this sort of behavior is going to lead to much understanding the next time the oil companies insist that gasoline prices need to rise as crude rises.
I don't disagree at all ... but I do think it is strange that I can type characters into another window here on my screen, call that work, bill for it, and use the resulting dollars to import a new bicycle.

Not every workplace supports that ... but strange economic loops exist all through the internets ... just take a look at TOD's sidebar.  I assume at some point that becomes real money for somebody (and no complaint from me!).

I can't agree with the world moving to an agrarian economy again because that is not what constraints in energy will cause.  We will be forced to build houses and cars that last 100 years, not 10.  We will turn the tap off when we brush our teeth.  And people will not live off of credit because the cost of "spending today" for current material happiness will be offset by material hardship in the future.  In the grand scheme of things we're in the infant stage of industrialisation.  We haven't scratched the surface of perfection or efficiency in any of the technologies we've developed.  To say we have a great knowledge of our technology is like stating "we have 99% of the medical knowledge possible" as some people did 100 years ago.  We know everything the world has seen up to today which is nothing to everything the world will see after today.
Which is why the Olduvai Cliff invocation always makes me laugh.  It's just a theory, but its touted as fact :P
Well, the honest question is why aren't we building things that last 100 years?

It isn't just technology, it is society or the frameworks within a society and its members operate.

Europe slaughtered itself through two wars, with some truly horrible mass murderers in charge of systems covering a large number of all people living in Europe.

The problem isn't that it wasn't possible to build a car with a 30 year life span, or turning off the water.

I believe that technology is a part of the way humans do things - but it is only a part.

Just read America's UN ambassador daring North Korea to launch a missile - saying that the only way to stand up to threats as a prelude to talks is ignore such threats and not talk. Just curious - if North Korea decided to push its button (who knows how jumpy they are - most Americans here can gauge how jumpy those currently in power in DC facing a change in their hold on power are), will the South Koreas start producing autos that last a 100 years, or will there be a few other problems with a little bit higher priority?

I do not discuss war much here - but as someone who grew up during the Vietnam and later Cold War, never underestimate what destruction various power blocs can do. The fact they haven't for the last two generations is about as encouraging as how the Euorpean powers had had no mass wars for a longer period, before 1914. Hard as this may be to grasp, but it is a cliche here that only in the last half decade has the world reached the same level of global trade as before WWI.

50 year car

I drive a 1982 Mercedes Benz 240D, manual transmission.  My choice for post-Peak Oil.  31 mpg in the city (6 gallons/month), ideal for homemade biodiesel, about 1,000 mile range at 50 mph with couple of fuel cans if THSHTF.

I hope to (barring accidents) drive it for my driving lifetime  perhaps another 30 years.

M-B mechanics rate this car as the most durable & dependable car ever built by M-B (or anyone else).  Wind up steel window handles, simple but high quality construction.

Rubber is biggest issue (I am getting Goodridge steel/teflon brake lines as they go out of production for this model).  Armorall on sun-exposed rubber & plastic to keep them going.

Synthetic engine, transmission, differential oil, greases, brake fluid and door/hinge lube.  LED smaller bulbs all around, looking at HID kit for low beam ($300, ouch).

This car is not a perfect "50 year car".  With synthetics & good care, engine & transmission should make 800,000 to 1 million miles (I will never drive that far !).  Rubber should have been higher quality synthetic rubber.  Higher quality metals (i.e titanium) in crucial suspension parts like lower control arm (reduces wear & overall weight of car).  Cut weight with aluminum hood & trunk lids ? Titanium wheels ? Modern lights (my retrofit).  Superb seat, but it will need work within 250,000 to 350,000 miles.  And post-Peak Oil it should have been smaller (no larger than replacement 190D, they got ~38 mpg city with manual transmission). And the vacuum control system could be changed out for durable, simple electronics (not average today).

I live in a no salt environment so no comments there.  And engine cannot meet current emissions standards.

But so much is RIGHT !

Best Hopes,


Best Hopes,


Alan, you said,

"I drive a 1982 Mercedes Benz 240D, manual transmission."

There's one of them weird poetic confluences again....mine is an '81 stick shift 240D.  My thinking is running like yours....It took about a quarter of a century to get to 250,000 miles, so I am figuring it will make a half million around 2025 or 2030!  :-), and it keeps miles off off my big "new" 1987 300SDL  :-)

Roger Conner  known to you as ThatsItImout

There might be an underlying causation.

You are both worried about Peak Oil.

The mentality of PO people tends to be slightly wonkish, interested in good engineering, interested in conservation for its own sake.

Call it a brown form of green, or a green tinged brown.

So you have both zeroed in on what was probably the pinnacle of automotive engineering (of a type).

My father's version of this was the 1967 Dodge Dart (Plymouth Valiant) which would have lasted forever except the Canadian road salt ate it.  The 225 cubic inch slant 6 was all the engine you ever needed.  By modern standards, it was like driving a skateboard, but it was reliable, frugal (for its day), comfortable and relatively easy to park.

Since then we have added massive complexity and comfort to cars (new auto emission standards, air bags, CD players, air con, universal fuel injection, turbochargers, etc.).

All of which adds complexity, reduces reliability, and makes it less and less possible for the owner to maintain or even understand his or her vehicle.

But what a car is hasn't really changed.  At least until we reached the Toyota Prius and its ilk.

On a complete aside, I read an article once:


'Steamer Time (Again)' by William Wallace


I suspect that this was actually the pinnacle of automotive development:

Dobles achieved reliability by lacking most of the things that break: no clutch, no transmission, no distributor, no points, and no fan belts. The Doble steam engines were very simple and reliable, often achieving several hundred thousand miles of use before a major mechanical service was necessary.

Doble advertisements mentioned the lightness of the engine, which would lead customers to compare with that of much heavier gasoline engines - but "engine" in a steam car meant essentially the cylinder block and its pistons. The weight of the boiler and ancillary equipment was neglected.

At 70 mph in a Doble E-series, there is no vibration - the engine turns at around 900 rpm, and apart from considerable wind noise, the car is almost totally silent.

 I don't have enough engineering to know about thermal efficiencies, but I suspect a really good steam car (a steam-electric hybrid?) might be far in advance of the Internal Combusion Engine car in terms of efficiency, plus it could be completely multi-fuel.

I think Saab had a steam prototype in the 1960s.

Valuethinker, you say,
"But what a car is hasn't really changed.  At least until we reached the Toyota Prius and its ilk."

That is much more true than most people know.  I have long been a great fan of automotive history, and one of the more astonishing things I learned is that if you take a gasoline car from the period of the Mercedes 60/60 of 1901,
 the classic architecture of the automobile is pretty much set...multi cylinder gasoline engine in front, transmission behind that, and rear wheel drive, with 4 wheels and 2 driving wheels at rear, wheel steering, not tiller.  This describes the vast majority of the cars made throughout history, with the recent development of front wheel drive being the major varient.  By the time
Of the Prince Henry Vauxhall
only 12 years later, performance standards had risen to good enough to be safe on the interstate if they had existed at that time.  The Prince Henry, one of the great under respected classic cars of all time, was easily capable of 60 to 70 miles per hour cruising, and would have been capable of modern levels of road handling and braking with modern tires.  In fact, what is never admitted by the auto companies is that most of the improvements in performance since the First World War have come in the tires alone.  The cars themselves have only been improved on a "refinement" and not a structural level.

The Doble you mention was a breed apart.  The only steam car to survive (and this in only very limited production) well into the Great Depression, it had developments that no steam car prior had ever had, such as flash boiler for fast starting, and recycling of the boiler water.

This is absolutely imperative in a modern steam car, because without recycling of water, the project becomes primitive and farcical, as one must stop much more frequently for water than for fuel.

But, the recycling of water presents an astonishing set of problems and new variables.  If one recycles the water, the heat must be dispelled or exchanged out of the system very rapidly, by heat exchanger type radiators.  The system is a "closed loop system", and if for any reason the heat is not released fast enough, the closed system must be vented quickly, thus losing the water, or the whole system blows up from overpressure!

Dispelling this heat is a real challenge, and of course loses much of the thermodynamic efficiency of the whole steam idea.  At leat the water or working fluid (whatever it may be) is not lost, but the heat is given up and the working fluid must be reheated as though it were brand newly introduced.

Actually, if one wants to go the "external combustion" route there is a better way:




While the Stirling has long been, like the steam engine, the area in which the oddball "tinkers" liked to play, it is a serious engine, and despite not developing as rapidly as expected, a very serious contender under the right circumstances.  Note that they are being developed and packaged in very large format and marketable systems:

Interestingly, the Stirling is actually as long in it's history, approximately, as the steam engine.  I will not go through explaining it's similarity and differences from a steam engine, the links can do that, but here is the main thrust of it...

"The Stirling engine works by the repeated heating and cooling of a usually sealed amount of working gas, usually air or other gases such as hydrogen or helium. This is accomplished by moving the gas between hot and cold heat exchangers, the hot heat exchanger being a chamber in thermal contact with an external heat source, e.g. a fuel burner, and the cold heat exchanger being a chamber in thermal contact with an external heat sink, e.g. air fins."

What makes the Stirling promising is that it can run on any heat source (including solar, body heat, waste heat from other applications, etc.) and can run on any amount of heat difference (albeit, the output will change as the difference in heat amount changes)

The idea thought is this...how about an electric auto with advanced batteries, motors, controllers....and a small Stirling type engine powered by a combination of waste heat and say compressed propane (or compressed methane recaptured from waste) to handle the auto's climate control and battery recharging, so that the electric car is a Stirling electric hybrid?

Hmmm....there's an area you ain't seen many folks venture into...:-)

Roger Conner  known to you as ThatsItImout

The older BMW R series boxer motorcycles are also good for decades. Teflon/braided steel brake lines are good - they certainly improved the braking on my bike, and last a long time.

Germans do tend to produce long lived products, which in my personally developed theory (certainly not uniquely mine) is due to the huge number of wars fought through much of what is considered Germany today. Having one good thing which lasted for a decade of turmoil was better than something cheap which wore out.

Sometimes, like the DC3, the Mercedes 240D, or BMW boxers, the balance is perfect. But in all three cases, these vehicles were not known for speed or 'excitement.'

It's really older than that.

Germany industrialised late, and the tradition of craftsmanship that has been part of German (and Swiss!) work since the Middle Ages transferred over to the 'high tech' chemical, electrical, optical and machinery industries that Germany took up in the late 19th century.

The entire German system of craftsmen and working decades to become a 'master' aids and abets this-- a Meister is seen as the same or greater prestige than a college graduate.  And the emphasis on science and engineering in education (German business leaders often have Phds in Engineering).

(by contrast the English industrial revolution was about coal, textile spinning and ship building-- not the same traditions of craftsmanship.  I think someone estimated in 1910 that 1/3 the ships in the world then in use had been built on the Clydeside in Glasgow)

Some say this German craftsmanship dates back to the Protestant Reformation-- I'm not sure if we can make that link to religion, but it was certainly noted by writers.

So Germans have always emphasised 'quality' over 'quantity'. For example in WWII they had technically the best tanks (Panzers IV, V (Panther), VI (Tigers I  & II)) but the degree of craftsmanship made them hard to produce in quantity, relative to the Soviet T34

(the Sherman was a disaster by comparison: undergunned and with a petrol engine, the Germans used to call them 'Tommy Cookers').

Back to the original days of the automotive. Daimler and BMW were always craft car builders, rather than mass producers.  It was Henry Ford who introduced mass production to German cars-- the VW Bug was his logical descendant (Hitler's 'People's Car').

Add to that, Germany has those autobahns and the no speed limit rule, which meant German cars are engineered for very high speeds.

A clarification on GDP. First, the U.S. does have the largest GDP in the world, although the EU taken as a whole is about the same size.

Second, GDP does not include imports. America's trade deficit is a matter of imports getting way ahead of exports. GDP is not inflated by this effect. Only goods and services produced within the U.S. are counted. In fact one formula (there are many equivalent ones) is:

GDP = consumption + investment + government spending + (exports − imports)

For the U.S., (exports-imports) is negative - that is our trade deficit and represents the "IOUs" mentioned in the article. As you can see, these IOUs are subtracted from America's GDP, not added to it. The fact that the U.S. still has the highest GDP in the world even after subtracting these "IOUs" is an indication of its strength in producing goods and services.

Therefore the claim in the article that America's GDP is a matter of "IOUs" rather than goods and services is incorrect. It's true that the U.S. does have a trade deficit problem but that doesn't change the fact that it produces more goods and services than any country in the world.


I like the breakdown, however there's a problem with the symantics I guess.  When gov't spending is deficit spending, this should also act as a drain on the GDP, but it doesn't, it's counted in the opposite direction even though this must be paid later by future generations.  Since this will be a drain on income it should be recognized as such and thus our GDP would be a lot of IOU's to alot of foreign govt's.

Careful on the measuring, though. 'Services' is a very slippery concept, and exporting something like Microsoft or Oracle software is not quite the same thing as importing shiploads of the PCs from Asia to run the software. To be very simplistic - the PC is far from worthless without buying anything from Microsoft or Oracle - but their software is a shiny disc without a PC. The U.S. may lead in software revenue, to continue the example, but the factories making the PCs are the critical link in the chain, not the software company.

And let's not even talk about hedonic adjustment and its role in American GDP. Again, to remain very simplistic - 5 years ago, a PC cost $1,000 and it took fifteen minutes to write and send a document. Today, a computer with 3 times the performace costs $1,00 and it takes 15 minutes to write and send a document. How much hedonic adjustment is correct, for the fact that the 'tool' is producing exactly the same 'output' for essentially the same price? If done right, you can have a productivity miracle in the world's largest and most advanced economy - until one day, someone notices that actually, the price remained unchanged, as did the productivity.

There are so many ways to play with words and numbers - voluntary production cut or peaked production, for example. Or a mixture of both. The real world tends to stand apart from the words, regardless.

But the importing of goods and, particularly, raw materials on credit is artificially inflating GDP, by providing inputs that it would not otherwise have. If the USA were constrained to balance its trade, then GDP would plummet. Therefore it is not inaccurate to state that America's GDP is in large part based on IOU's.
SF:  "Slightly off topic, but in my neighborhood, there is a wood chip electrical generating plant using old-fashioned steam boiler technology."

I am very interested in where this plant is located, as my family is involved in wood mulch production from parks and electric utilities, neighborhood and storm related clean up. They are interested in replacing 1800 HP diesel grinders with electrics, supplied by on location electric generating facility using wood fuels.

Are there any updated projections for Brazilian oil production? This Forbes article from 2003 reports that Wood Mackenzie projected that Brazilian oil production would peak in 2007. The Wood Mackenzie analyst says:

"In the short-term Brazil is still on the map, but something has to be done in the tax area to make new discoveries commercial, plus technological advances are needed to pump heavy oil from extreme depths," she said.

Geddes added that under present conditions, Brazil's output was likely to rise in the next few years and peak in 2007. But the increase only was "masking the bad news that it will enter a steep decline post-2007," she said.

A couple of years later, another Wood Mackenzie report said

"Although originally hoped by IOCs [international oil companies] as being the new hot play, deepwater Brazil has been a big disappointment," Kellas said. "No commercial discoveries have yet been made by IOCs, despite having spent nearly $ 1.5 bn in exploration and appraisal drilling and signature bonuses."

So does this mean we should still expect a steep decline in Brazilian oil production after 2007?

Re: So does this mean we should still expect a steep decline in Brazilian oil production after 2007?

No. After maybe about 2009 or so.

John Greer's article "Economics: Hallucinated Wealth" is an excellent essay on how the market and prices or commodities on the market are divorced from reality.  Also describes well the House of Cards on which the US economy perches.

There is the perception of wealth in this country and then those on the street that have to deal with the reality.

I hope when all of you pessimists cash in, and short ... well everything ... you'll remember the rest of us.

You should get richer than Soros, with this better line on the future.

... in the meantime, I've bothered you all enough this morning.  I'm going to go off and type characters into the other window ... and bill a few Hallucinated dollars.

As always ... best wishes!

Enjoy it while you can Odo!!  Good luck!
There isn't a perception of wealth in this country, there is wealth.  Go down to Mexico and compare the standard of living there to what we have here.  Saying we just have a perception of wealth is an utter load of crap.  

The system behind it may be flawed and maybe things are incapable of continuing as they have been.  I agree with that 100%.  But saying all we have is a perception of wealth.  Well, that's the sort of nonsense that only someone living a fairly easy life, in a first world country can say with a straight face.  

Machine makes water from air

A company that developed technology capable of creating water out of thin air nearly anywhere in the world is now under contract to nourish U.S. soldiers serving in Iraq.

The water-harvesting technology was originally the brainchild of the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which sought ways to ensure sustainable water supplies for U.S. combat troops deployed in arid regions like Iraq.

"The program focused on creating water from the atmosphere using low-energy systems that could reduce the overall logistics burden for deployed forces and provide potable water within the reach of the war fighter any place, any time," said Darpa spokeswoman Jan Walker.

"People have been trying to figure out how to do this for years, and we just came out of left field in response to Darpa," said Abe Sher, chief executive officer of Aqua Sciences. "The atmosphere is a river full of water, even in the desert. It won't work absolutely everywhere, but it works virtually everywhere."

"This is our secret sauce," Sher said. "Like Kentucky Fried Chicken, it tastes good, but we won't tell you what's in it."
He did, however, provide a hint: Think of rice used in saltshakers that acts as a magnet to extract water and keeps salt from clumping.

The first line of the second paragraph is correct. It is, if it works, a water harvesting technique. It cannot possibly be a water-making machine. To make water you must burn, or more correctly oxidize hydrogen. There is no free hydrogen in the air so you cannot possibly make water from thin air.

But one could possibly harvest the water vapor that is already in the air. But it is already water; they do not make it. Sorry for being a nitpicker but lines like that give a lot of people the wrong idea. Then they will go off talking about a "water making machine" that makes water out of air. That is impossible.

But you cant DRINK the water vapor thats already in the air.  These machines allow this air to be accumulated in liquid form, which can then be used by the soilders.

I wonder if this could be scaled up to provide water for farms  in the midwest...

Why not?

Kermit had it wrong: It can be easy being 'green'

Environmental advances that can help homeowners save money and do some good for the planet
Hello TODers,

Zimbabwe had a six power gens fail at the same time.  In addition to this, the main line drawing power from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been damaged, and three other power stations are not operating due to a shortage of coal. Zim has lots of coal, but can't get the fuel to move the coal to the power plants.
Zimbabwe imports 40% of its power needs: 100 megawatts a month from the DRC, 200 megawatts from Mozambique and up to 450 and 300 megawatts from SA and Zambia respectively.

Imports are expected to stop next year due to an anticipated power deficit across southern Africa resulting from increased demand.

In December last year, the populous township of Chitungwiza south-east of Harare was plunged in darkness for two weeks due to technical problems at a local power station.

Zimbabwe's once-model economy has been on a downturn for the past five years, characterised by galloping inflation and shortages of foreign currency and basic commodities.

Families in the cities are turning to firewood for cooking and heating because of power outages.
After reading the Keypost by Lads--I wonder if Zimbabwe will lead the parade back to Olduvai Gorge.

Bob Shaw in Phx,Az  Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

There but for the grace of oil, godz and poliTICS go all of us.
"Zimbabwe had a six power gens fail at the same time.  In addition to this, the main line drawing power from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been damaged, and three other power stations are not operating due to a shortage of coal. Zim has lots of coal, but can't get the fuel to move the coal to the power plants."

It may not be a VERY short term answer, but when you have plenty of coal, low labor costs and middling to low levels of technology, what happened to steam locomotives?

South Africa ran them till fairly recently I believe. As late as the 70s they used them in Europe, and they should be fairly cheap to re-introduce. We still have some heavy machine tools in the world, don't we?

Yes the steam alternative.

Of course someone would have to donate them and help fix the railways back up. But they could well be sold off. Any money handed to Zimbabwe goes straight to Switzerland it is not spent locally except in small important political areas. Anyone in the country is trying to gather enough money together to get out before it completely reverts to tribalism.

Give Zimbabwe another 30 years and the combination of starvation, Aids, Pestilence, Civil Strife and War and the nation will exist as 15 or so large tribes.

Steam as a solution in this situation requires a more stable environment. Diesel trains and trucks require imported diesel and truck or train. Steam requires Healthy miners, mining equipment bulk transport of dry, hard to shift fuel. Low tech steam requires manual cleaning and engineering. Anyone in the country with the engineering maintenance or mining skills flees as soon as they get them. The problems were not impossible to solve 10 years ago but I think Zimbabwe passed the self fixing point around the year 2000. It really hit me when I saw the prices adjusted up twice in a store on the same day (about 4 hours) while visiting.

Sakhalin 1 peaks before it starts?!

Wait a minute. When reading these 2 articles, this is what I see:

Sakhalin 1, which has cost $17 billion, has yet to export its first batch of crude, and it will peak next year? Is that a bad investment, or what?

Output from Exxon Russia field to decline from 2008

Oil output from the Exxon Mobil-led  Sakhalin-1 project will peak in 2007 and start to decline immediately afterwards partly because it failed to agree with Russia to extend the field's territory, a project member said on Monday.

Lev Brodsky, head of Sakhalin projects at Russian state oil firm Rosneft, which is part of Sakhalin-1, told a news conference the failure to agree the extension of license territory would cut the projected output by around 10 percent.

"We are now looking for technical solutions such as additional drilling on existing sites to sort this out and try to maintain production," he said.

In Russian Far East, concern for environment

Just now, Exxon is clashing with the Kremlin over whether it can send out by Friday its first exports of crude oil from the $17 billion Sakhalin 1 project. Exports were supposed to start this week, but the Kremlin has said Exxon does not have the right environmental licenses; Exxon insists its tankers will set sail this week.

If they do, they will finally bring online a flow of oil from one of the world's newest energy provinces, and some of that oil in the near future will end up in places like California, helping to diversify U.S. supply away from the Middle East, a goal of the Bush administration's energy policy.

The second article also shines some light on why Russia is mad at Shell and Exxon. They feel they're being cheated.

It was a decade ago when Russia first negotiated the production-sharing agreements that govern the oil projects on Sakhalin Island with Shell and Exxon. At that time, oil prices were hovering around $15 a barrel. Under those agreements, the government does not tax the companies; instead, the government gets a share of the oil, but only after the operators recoup their initial investments.

During the past year, Shell and Exxon both dramatically raised their cost estimates for their Sakhalin projects - by a combined $14.2 billion - citing higher prices for steel and an appreciation of the ruble. The new cost estimates push back by years their payments of the government's first share of the profits. Not surprisingly, the government has rejected these estimates - hence, the conflict.

On Wednesday, Arkady Dvorkovich, the chief economic adviser to President Vladimir Putin, flatly rejected Shell's higher cost estimate, saying "it was clear Russia will never agree to this," the Interfax news agency reported. The companies would have to decide whether to absorb the cost overruns, sell their stakes or walk away, he said.

In regards to when Kuwait was going to announce more details on its actual oil reserves, which the Parliment of Kuwait also wants to know, they say 'pass' for now:

October 10, 2006

Northern Oil Fields project KUWAIT: The Chairman of the Board of Directors and Managing Director of Kuwait Oil Company (KOC), Farouk Al-Zanki announced that in case the Northern Oil Fields project was not approved by the parliament, KOC had many other alternatives in raising its production in accordance to the strategy set for until 2010 with an aim to boost Kuwait's daily production to 4 million barrels, reported Al-Qabas. "Any delay in going ahead with this project would surely affect our strategy and we will not stand by doing nothing", warned Zanki remarking that he was optimistic about the final decision of the parliament in this regard. Responding to a question concerning declaring Kuwait's actual oil reserves, he said such a question should be directed to the Ministry of Energy.

Peak Oil Career?

Here is an add I found on my local Craigslist for a "Reposession Trainee". Might this be a good field of study? Business is likely to be good.

Tom Anderson-Brown

While I'm sure there will be jobs in repossession, I think the debtholders will also come out very badly:

  1. What kind of price will you get on reposessed SUV's, if the price of gas is very high, and there are lots of reposessed SUV's on the market?

  2. What can one do to collect all the student loans, if the former students are now unemployed, or employed in subsistence agriculture?

  3. What does one do with all the reposessed homes? Put them back on the market, and depress the market price further? Rent them back to people who can't pay mortgages, and thus likely can't pay the rent either? Let them sit vacant?
I don't know if I'd take the "Reposession Trainee" job.  

"Ya'll aint reposessin' my shotgun!"

The EIA has just posted this month's Short Term Energy Report. Table 3A of that report has OPEC production down 280,000 barrels, September verses August.

Ron Patterson

This report also contains forecasts for 2007 oil production in a number of different countries. I thought it was interesting that, despite the EIA forecasts nearly always being very optimistic, they are forecasting a larger decline in Mexican oil production in 2007 than in the 2 previous years. See here. If even the EIA admit the Mexican production decline is going to accelerate, then there is not much doubt left.

Peak oil is all about running out of $20/barrel oil...then $40/barrel oil...then $60/barrel oil. We are already at the end of cheap oil.

I thought this was a great way to "frame" PO.  If you tell someone they have a choice between 20, 40 & 60 oil, which would you choose today?  And after you use this up, you'll need more but the 40, 60, & 80 oil is only left, now what?  They'll walk into your point.

And that's just the money. You get into real trouble when you realize how much more energy you have to spend to get that barrel of energy.

You can argue that money creates no waste (you can also debate that, of course), but tou can argue no such thing for using enrgy.

Once energy becomes scarce, this will all of a sudeen be very evident.

While you're right, let me point this out.  I do not come from a Science background.  Ironically I always did extremely well in math/science but I didnt really like it.  I liked money and the whole spectacle of finance and economics and so I got into that.  I regret it partially and wish I had my undergrad in a science and my MBA in finance/business etc.  Too bad.

I know what I know and PO only made sense when the price part got brought into the picture.  Talking energy with someone is hard.  It's not intuitive to most folks.  One of my first questions in Econ was about depletion of natural resources.  I took enough science to know there is an end.  To my surprise in econ jargon there is no end.  I was hooked at understanding why this could be.  Turned out to be BS, since no matter of mathematical games can divorce yourself from reality.

So sometimes, it's much easier to hit people in their wallets and talk price to get the point.  All the rest will fall into place as the questions start.

While you're right, let me point this out:

Yes, it's easier to explain things in money terms to most people. But the savvy crowd here should be able to get it.

The problem with the money explanation is that it's false. Money has no true value, while oil does. Money perhaps had value when there was still gold in Fort Knox, but certainly not today. It's bits of paper kept standing by a belief (religious) system, called economics. Could be gone in 24 hours, no poblem.

The real crux, however, is that as soon as it's clear that there's scarcity, your money explanation will need to be replaced, on the spot, by another, the real, one. Spending the (oil) energy equivalent in natural gas to get a barrel of oil out of the tarsands may seem useful now, and it does to many people, but it will be total blasphemy after. Same is true for all conversion steps, unless you have a truly plentiful source. Might as well them the truth now. But that's just me.

yea hit them with the truth now so they can't get you later by saying "but why didn't you tell me of this?"
Talking energy with someone is hard.  It's not intuitive to most folks. [Whereas money is intuitive]

Well there lies the rub.
Money violates the basic laws of thermodynamics because money can be created out of nothingness. Quick example: I write an IOU note to you saying I owe you $1Million for services rendered, the service being that you reply to my post. So poof, I have created $1Million of paper assets -all from nothing.

In contrast, energy cannot be destroyed or created out of nothingness.

The energy that is stored in crude oil came from the sun. It came slowly, painfully and over the course of many eons; thanks to the hard work of billions of plants and creatures. Once we release it, it dissipates away. Poof. No amount of money will make it come back.

Just because the market "price" for oil is low that does not mean that the penalties for wantonly burning it (i.e. Global Warming) are not extrmeley high. Price does not signal costs.

For all intents and purposes energy can be created out of nothing.  No, not in fact, but in terms of practical application it might as well be true.  There is a vast abundence of energy sources we are not currently harvesting (solar, wind, etc).  Harvesting these sources puts energy into our system.  In effect, from our standpoint it "creates" energy.  
Yeah, I was just down at the demo site with the Emperor; to view the invisible energy harvesting machine.

Only the smartest and most patriotic can see it, just as is the case with his clothes.

Im not arguing what's a better term and that money is real.  My point was that people don't associate to energy as easily as they do money.  So if you wanted to introduce someone to PO for the FIRST TIME(original post), then stick to talking about money which MOST people can relate to easier than basic energy terms.

The point was to not teach, but let them understand on their own from experience with things costing more.  Wether you think money is more intuitive or not, you grab the average go and start talking thermodynamics they're going to start walking again.

start talking thermodynamics they're going to start walking again

Sad but true.

On the other hand, "price" is a loose cannon.
How is T. Boone Pickens going to look if oil drops to $50 after he promised we'd "see $70 before we see $50"?

I note in the graphs at the right that oil is "plummeting" towards $57 today.

When stuff like that happens, the novices you talked PO to realize you are bats. They come to trust Yergin all over again.

The 175 Watt Solution

Electric cars do, however, have a significant environmental impact. The Tesla roadster makes 185kW (248 hp). The AC Propulsion eBox makes 120kW (161 hp). Both vehicles weigh between one and two tons. Moving vehicles this heavy, using all the power available to them, uses energy - lots of energy. Generating this much energy damages the environment, whether the electricity is made by a coal-fired plant, a nuclear reactor, or a photovoltaic array. Storing the energy generally requires batteries which can be made from toxic materials and can pose safety issues in normal use. Don't get me wrong; I am not saying that electric cars are as bad as gasoline-powered cars. I am simply pointing out that, although they are better, they are not perfect.

"Alright, Smartypants," the astute reader now comments, "What is better than the electric car?"

Glad you asked. There are vehicles out there that use less than 0.1% as much power as the Tesla Roadster. They weigh 1.5% as much as the AC Propulsion eBox. They can carry all your groceries, and when they are appropriately configured, you can use them to take your kids to school or soccer practice. Of course, their small size and low power output means that their battery packs are far smaller, so they use less toxic material and pose less of a safety hazard.

What is better than an electric car ?

An electric streetcar :-)  No batteries, highly efficient, very long lived (I eagerly awaiting the return of our 1923/24 streetcars to St. Charles).  A social and urban fabric "improver" that bends living patterns into a more energy efficient (and more livable) form.

Best Hopes,


This is the one you want, the sealed driveshaft allows commuting in nice clothes.


I'm still looking for a good folding e-bike.  Something I could take on public transportation if necessary.
Is there anything you don't know about?
Everyone always recommends British/European models.  Or Japanese.  But I'm in the U.S.  I need something that's available Stateside.
I'm fairly certain that the Tesla batteries use far fewer toxic heavy metals when compared to a single lead battery found in most vehicles :P   And it was already pointed out that we dont need to increase the number of power plants in the US to provide the electricity for all cars on the road if they are recharged at night.

Is that author grasping at straws?

The MSM Actually Has a Population Story ?

Well it doesn't give much in the way of resource related subject matter - seems like mostly anti-immigration coverage to me.  But anything from the MSM that in any way recognizes population as even a potential problem is a huge surprise.  When I stumbled upon it I was shocked to see it as the lead story on MSNBC.

Ya...saw that and about freaked my sh*t.  I guess the MSM can surprise you on occasion.  In general, MSNBC seems to run more stories about issues we discuss here at TOD than other MSMs.
America? well lets see, there is  North America, Central America and South America. Guess we will see just one America soon. We will need a new currency to integrate, called the Amero. Press 1 for english is the first thing you here on the phone now, but i give it 10 years and we will hear Press 1 for spanish and Press 2 for English. But in 20 years there be no more options. Option 2 deleted!Learn Spanish or learn to clean houses, mow lawns, pick fruit, build houses, etc.....  

Thank you State Governors, Senators and The Prez for selling us out. I would say get out and vote,but it's too late. The sheeple don't see it coming! they are hooked on dancing with the stars, american idol, desperate housewives, and wife swapping tv shows to consider that the face of the USA is changing very fast.
Faster than most can learn Spanish!

Who cares if in 10 or 20 years whether we're speaking Spanish or pig latin?  That's really the least of our current worries.  Most Mexicans I have met are nice enough people.  If I could speak Spanish I could communicate with them better.  
Ah, a fate worse than nuclear war, influenza plagues, or a post-peak dieoff - having to become bilingual.

It's very few steps from your post to the Stormfront people - who put forth their most politically correct face of racism: lamenting the end of the white race(footnote: and the other ones, too) to miscegenation.

I think my frustration or concern is that the American culture will be omitted. And i am not too pleased with that. Stormfront is a bit too extreme for me. However I don't think we should sell out the USA just because we won't be here in 20 years.  
In discussions of walkable neighborhoods, distances are often given in blocks. Is there a standard measure of one block? More precisely, of the side of one block? I looked up Manhattan on Google Maps to find out but it seems blocks there are rectangular, so a North-South distance, measured in blocks, is not the same as an equivalent East-West distance. So much for "Manhattan distances" being all the same ;-)
When I was a kid in Manhattan, we used to think 20 North - South blocks were equal to one mile versus only ten East - West blocks.

But I have since found out that lots of things I believed as a kid were wrong.

There is a lot of stuff on TOD lately about the oil and gas in Russia but I was stunned by this article:

It is about the conditions of daily life for the average non-kleptocrat Russian.  After reading Dmitry Orlov's stuff on LATOC I thought that people were more or coping, but this article bodes ill for the future of the only (semi) super power that is self sufficient (for now at least) in oil and gas.

I have just returned from a trip to Russia, and happy to report that the conditions of daily life for the average non-kleptocrat Russian are much better than what is being reported in the American MSM. Actually, my wife and I thinking of moving there. Sounds like LA Times reporters worked pretty hard to find people in the most desperate circumstances.

Having said that, I should also add that I don't view Russia's steady population decline as being a negative trend. The planet would have been in a much better shape if other countries followed Russia's lead.

God a friend of mine was mugged in St. Petersburg.

They were actually pushing his head into the canal to drown him, and he managed to flip one of them into the canal and get away in the confusion (freezing cold water).

They don't just mug you apparently, they kill you for fun and so you can't report them to the cops.

Although he is a fluent Russian speaker, he moved back to the West after this.

Business is still very much about which ex KGB officer is on your board, has the contacts to keep the other criminal rackets off your turf (you have to pay off someone, but having to pay off 2 sets of gangs will make the business uneconomic).  Nothing happens without paying the right bribe to the right bureaucrat to get a permit, and if you don't pay off the right person, the tax police will come avisiting with battering rams and shut you down.  The Russians will steal you blind, you own the shares to the company, but the assets just get taken into a new company they set up.

I don't know how universal this is, it may be only one incident, but I think of SP as the safest and most western city in Russia, certainly not the wild west of Moscow.

It strikes me as a place to make your killing, and then get out.

You have inside information about KGB officers on the boards of Russian companies or are you just regurgitating what you and your friend get from the MSM?  The bulk of your post doesn't follow from your friend's mugging experience.  I suppose vicious muggings never occur in the paradise that is the west.
It's funny to see the "objective" western media just discovering problems that were an order of magnitude worse in the middle 1990s.  While Yeltsin was selling the country down the river and running the economy into the ground on a wave of corruption and organized crime you heard not much about Russia's problems with crime and democracy.  Now that the country is recovering there is an endless stream of "concern" in the western media.  This is rather odd since the "independent" media should be putting problems on their home  turf at the top of the list instead of whinging about a "3rd world superpower hasbeen".  
Just a note about oil prices over the last couple of days :

I was initially surprised to see the price drop in the context of the North Korean nuclear test. But it's a smart and sophisticated reaction.

What is the market telling us? ...

The prospects of an attack on Iran over the next couple of months are now much less.