Friday open thread

Yeehaw. It's Friday. The price of oil has risen for the fourth day in a row. This headline is ominous: "Oil climbs toward $64 on supply concerns"
Fears of more violent attacks against Nigeria's oil industry and international tension over Iran's nuclear plan helped push up prices to their highest level in nearly a month and discouraged traders from going short into the weekend.

U.S. light crude <CLc1> for April delivery climbed 36 cents to $63.72 a barrel by 1015 GMT, taking four-day gains to more than 4 percent. Prices hit their highest level since February 7.

On the other hand, Chevron is going to take its windfall profits and develop a giant oil-sand project in Canada's Alberta province.

Update [2006-3-3 12:7:12 by Yankee]: Oh, and let's revisit the whole "is flying for pleasure bad?" issue. 'Cause, you know, we're masochists around here. George Monbiot has a piece up at Alternet arguing that even though people seem to know that flying is a large contributor to global warming (not to mention being a sinkhole for oil), they get glassy eyed and ignore him when he asks about their vacations to Rome or Florida. "The moral dissonance is deafening," says Monbiot.

Update [2006-3-3 13:4:52 by Yankee]: Davebygolly comments that yesterday, ExxonMobil ran an ad in the New York Times called "PEAK OIL? Contrary to the theory, oil production shows no signs of a peak." Here is the pdf of the ad from the ExxonMobil website.

Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When oil is 64?

[Sung to the economy upon which we all depend.]

And, backdated contracts are making all time highs. December 2009 is at $67.62 and its high during the hurricanes was $63.

Up until now, I think traders believed that the current price spike was geopolitical unrest and hurricane and expected many new projects coming online in next few years. It appears now they may be starting to believe in higher decline rates.

NY Times article probably started some new research efforts who though PO was a fringe idea 6 months ago.

"December 2009 is at $67.62"

That, my friends, sounds like the bargain of the century

Yes, if there is an oil market by 2009, if the economy does not slide into a new Great Depression and if some smart guy does not invent a high-density electric battery, $67.62 will probably be a great deal by 2009.
You want a bargain?  Try this: December 2012 oil is $65.41.
lou - i think it 'almost a certainty' that oil will be higher than 65$ by 2012. the reason i dont load up on those contracts  however is that one has 6.5 years until expiration. we have possibilities such as:
a)large scale bird flu
b) global recession/depression
c) some bizarro weather event or natural disaster

that all could cause oil to go to $30 since its priced at marginal barrel between now and 2012. i think the most likely path is that we have 3-6 month trends in oil prices with higher peaks and higher troughs until 2012 - i think the asymptotic rise in oil prices (from say $150 to $1000 per barrel wont happen until 5-6 years post peak and AFTER the governments have attempted at privatizing oil, rationing coupons etc). In other words, the futures market might not exist for the REALLY big run up in prices in the next 10-15 years. Unless Coal to Liquids is extremely successful.

Richard Heinberg told me yesterday that he visited SASOLs CTL operation in South Africa - SA produces 150,000 barrels a day despite having large reserves of coal and they still import 400,000 barrels of oil per day. He also said that the Sasol CTL plant is the only structure in Africa that can be seen from space (the pollution clouds).  

My real fear is not Peak Oil per se but using coal on a grand scale circa Britain 1700's. Soot everywhere, lung problems etc.

If anyone is seriously considering loading up on long-dated oil futures, please don't forget that there are plenty of other people more than willing to take the other side of the trade, and most of them are not stupid.  Even if one accepts Peak Oil, there are plenty of reasons why oil futures may tank such as those posited here by LevinK and thelastsasquatch.  Buyer beware!


Re: "My real fear is not Peak Oil per se but using coal on a grand scale circa Britain 1700's. Soot everywhere, lung problems etc."

Today's (3/3/2006) Wall Street Journal has a page one article:

"China Stumbles In Attempt to Cut Use of Coal and Oil - Beijing Pushed Natural Gas, Which Is Now Too Costly; New Strain on Crude Prices."

Here's one quote:

"Meanwhile, in the 18 months through July 2005, the government approved 168 power plants, nearly all of which are coal-fired. In the past year, China has built enough coal-fired power plants to provide electricity to all of Italy, all but ensuring coal will remain a dominant fuel for decades."

As an ex-hedge fund manager, you still get the Journal, no?

With less than 6 months to the next hurricane season there is an interesting summary of progress in GOM on an Australian news site:
I was particularly taken with admissions that some capacity will probably never return and also that they are using an icebreaker. Must be some climate change expected :)

Map of the GOM showing where Rita and Katrina tracked.  Shows where all the oil rigs are and how much they each was damaged.


Thanks, this was an interesting site.

Did anyone catch the Sam Bodman (US DOE) show this morning? What did he say? I missed the startling announcement part. Thanks.
Was it that the U.S oil reserves are now 4 times bigger?

Co2 to the rescue

Of course they also say that prices may rise up to 80% to pay for it.

Thanks, I caught only the tail end where reporters were asking him about some sort of "Gens", so this CO2 sequestering FutureGen was probably part of it.
China To Massively Raise Oil Storage Capacity

BEIJING -(Dow Jones)- Driven by energy security concerns, China is penciling in at least two more phases in its current program to build up the nation's petroleum reserve capacity. But no timeframe has yet been disclosed.

"Our nation's plan for the next five years is to massively increase oil reserve capacities," an official at the National Development and Reform Commission told Dow Jones Newswires Friday.

..."The capacities of the current four bases are far from enough. We are planning the second and third phases of the national oil reserves buildup in addition to the first phase," said the official, who declined to be named.

Exactly what you would expect when just-in-time, or on-demand,  supplies are no longer considered feasible. It is an economic and military necessity.  
Re: new Chinese oil storage capacity

Thus continuing to make it possible for China to attack Taiwan regardless of what the oil markets may look like at any time in the future.

As this is an open thread, and I'm usually asleep when the interesting discussions are typed, I'll rewrite this question posted previously(any responses will not be answered this day):

It is obvious we are at Peak. I'm eager to learn how long the world will be able to maintain the bumpy plateau of peak production? Any suggestions anyone? Stuart?

That's because to me timing is of utmost importance.

Since reading TOD I've been eager to answer Bob Shaw, in Phoenix, Arizona: Individually, yes, people are smarter than yeast. More brains enabling them to alter circumstances. Collectively I'm affraid they are not.

Thanks to you all.

Paulus from Holland

Hi Paulus. I don't think anyone can answer that, it can only be made by a field-by-field analysis, with data that no one has (at least here at TOD).

But there is something you have to realise, economic impact is felt as soon as demand shots up above suply. So when you're on a plateau you're not coping with demand and prices will rise, like now. The moment production will decline prices will already be higher, they will just climb faster.

My best guess (using that 8% decline for major oil fields) is that during 2007 Saudi Arabi and FSU won't be able to fill the gap to the decline in the rest of the World - and that's it.

If Iran cuts production, or if like prof. Bahktiari says the decline rates are much higher than what we might think a decline will probaly be felt still this year.

And demand is projected to go beyond 87 MBD by the end of the year...

By the way, there are more folk from Europe discussing here at TOD (like me), so don't hesitate to post at day time.
"Bumpy Plateau" - Sounds like a new Oxymoron

I don't pretend to guess at the economics, but here's one thought on renewables. If we're getting both Peak Oil, and Global Climate Change at the same time, then I'd say we ought to prepare for some more great (ie, REALLY great, TOO great) opportunities in wind energy.  Of course, weather events 'might' be heavier, but would almost certainly be less predictable, too.  You'd need equipment that could protect itself during excessive conditions.

There's a Finnish site with a Vertical-Axis windmill that seems to be better suited for really heavy weather..

 The wind crowd seems down on Verticals for their efficiency, but if you get cheaper engineering (lower towers, reduced Gyroscopic stresses) and more durability, the numbers might be better.  Also takes better advantage of smaller winds and quick directional changes, as it doesn't lose time aiming into a new source..

(And did Bush really say Nuclear was a Renewable today?  Maybe it was a replay of an older speech, but I don't know if that is funnier than their calling it 'Clean'.. the fuel-waste that can poison us for more millenia than we've had agriculture)

The market started several decades ago with a WIDE variety of models of wind turbines.  The Danish model WT, "3 blade, up wind, horizontal" is the CLEAR economic winner.

IMO, other types of WTs may one day fill certain niches (sites on islands, sites with low wind conditions or gusty, high wind conditions), but if we ever get 50% of our electricity from wind, well over 90% of the WTs will be the Danish model.

Perhaps non-engineering reasons affected the development of the Danish model over all others, but I think that was a minor and not a major force in the evolution of wind turbines.  After all, the other models got LOTS of Gov't R&D put into their approaches, the Danes did not. The market forced the evolution of Danish WTs simply because they worked and the next larger size worked a bit better..

The Danes (and their copies) work today and make money.  The others do not, yet.

A perhaps significant ammount of research into Danish style wind turbines were made in Sweden. After the referendum that decided to abolish nuclear power sometimes in the future after building a lot more of it (not a joke) it was decided to spend a lot of money on energy research since it was part of the debate and the decision. So a few MW size wind turbines were built and research done at a high cost.

Then the Danes found knowledge where it could be found and subsidized building of wind turbines that then grew in the local subsidized competition. Since other countriels also started to subsidize wind power it grew into a large export industry for the Danes.

Subsidizing of wind power started later in Sweden and it was smaller. It now depends of forcing everybody to buy a percentage of "green" power. Myself I do not like it, I bought 100% nuclear power when I got a chance to make a microscopic statement with my power bill, I find this "green" to be as good as the "greens green".

The ammount of money spent on different kinds of energy research in Sweden following the peak ;) in the local nuclear power debate is about the same as the cost of a full scale nuclear reactor. A little of it has yielded practical results that are being used, its very hard to figure out how usefull it has been. The debate and research has probably led to more energy efficient building code, better energy efficiency in some industries and a lot more biomass heating  then would have been strictly short term economical. But I am only guessing based on how I view things.

>It is obvious we are at Peak.

That is not so obvious. You need at least 4-5 years of flat or declining production to confirm Peak Oil is here.

>how long the world will be able to maintain the bumpy plateau of peak production?

IMO many many many years. The consequences will be 1) permanent process of reallocation of leftover oil resources: less on individual transportation, more on mass transit and chemical production 2) more oil substitutes will come 3)  more technical inventions in auto industry etc. (you name it)
In sum: new stage of technological revolution.

I joked in other thread about removal of Dutch guys to Antarctica after Holland will be drowned. Don't take offence. I like Dutch guys :)  

Andrei, 3500 km to Moscow.

I see big profit opportunities in the development of the oil sands. This development requires a lot of oil workers, predominantly men. What do roughnecks want? Booze, food, and sex, not necessarily in that order. People who get there first and sell what the workers want will have a chance to make a bundle. Now many workers fly in and out from oil camps for long distances: Will this make any sense with oil above $70 a barrel?

Think boom towns. Think Chinese restaurants and laundries. Think massage parlors for all those tired backs and "complete relaxation" for the managers;-)  Query: What is the price of a drink at a bar today in Fort McMurray in northern Alberta?

Think Judge Roy Bean.
Think crystal meth...
I see a shining mine town on the hill.
I see a pastoral pond.
Sheep feeding peacefully on the green and breezy pastures around the pond.
I see a sail boat rental shop.
I see the proprietor floating on a pile of money 'cause all those miners need communion with nature after a hard day in the pits. :-)
You think crystal meth, I think pretty college girls who could make $10,000 (Canadian) per weekend at "massage parlors."

You think meth, I think hot yummy food.

Rum came to Canada roughly four hundred years ago; along with brandy, whiskey, beer, etc. it has been popular ever since. Taverns have been around for at least 3,000 years, and mining-camp saloons provide great opportunities for some--even for piano players . . . unemployed musicians, go north!

Current annual salary for a crane operator at the oil sands: just south of $200,000.
And so why do we send our children to college?

Also, what is the price of a woman up there? Long ago, while grappling with the problem of how to construct a long-term price-level index and failing on the grounds that commodities change in their qualities (even basics such as wheat or pig iron), a foreign student who had travelled a lot proposed the oldest profession as a way to solve this problem.

To track inflation over the past fifty years, for example, just track the price of a call girl in the parts of Nevada where this is legal (because it is hard to get good data on illegal activities).

For Internet dating of Houston oilmen, the price of an out-of-town first-class woman is now $3,000 per night, plus hotel and a good restaurant meal, and a tip on top of that is expected. The Net has been a huge boost to reducing information and transaction costs in high-end prostitution, which is not only an old profession but probably a rapidly growing one as income and wealth inequalities increase.

One of my former students (female) was summa cum laude in Electrical Engineering; she gave that profession up in favor of exotic dancing and Internet "dating." She specializes in Texas oil men because they never give trouble.

Who would have thunk it?

Was that Millie Amp, the one who crossed the Weatstone Bridge for her first date with Eddy Current? :-)
Holden and Sunny sort of spoiled the idea of prostitution for me.
GB Shaw makes a great defense of your electrical engineering student's decision in Mrs Warren's Profession.
Re:  "bloated (oil) stocks in the United States"

Every time that you see this phrase, remember that no one--as best that I have been able to tell--differentiates between heavy, sour crude oil stocks and light, sweet crude oil stocks.  

IMO, growing inventories of heavy, sour crude are obscuring flat to declining inventories of light, sweet crude.  But again no one counts.   The only real evidence is the considerable spread between light, sweet and heavy, sour crude prices--which supports my thesis.

Light, sweet yields the largest amount of liquid transportation fuels for the least expenditure of money and energy.  It only makes sense that light, sweet has peaked before heavy, sour.

Econobrowser post on light, sweet versus heavy, sour (interesting chart). 005/08/sweet_and_sour.html


"The graph at the right shows the price differential (in dollars per barrel) for European Brent (a relatively light, sweet crude) over Mexican Maya (a heavier sour). The price premium for light sweets had typically been about $5 a barrel up until last summer, when it began rising quickly, now standing at triple its earlier value. To put the size of the current price spread in perspective, if the price of light, sweet crude had only risen as much (in dollars per barrel) as the heavy sour, the increase in the price of light, sweet crude during the last year would have been a third smaller than what we actually observed."

so what are the main uses for heavy sour?  Chemical industry? Plastics?
Thanks for this post.  It answers the question I've been wondering about which is why oil stocks continue to increase.  It seems to me that commodities traders aren't blind to this fact which explains the growing difference in price between heavy and light oil.  There was a post a while back on TOD discussing the possibility that light sweet had already peaked.  Are there any updated production figures to support or deny this idea?
Nevermind, I should have read the Econobrowser article before replying.
Wow!  The decline in light sweet since 2000 is startling!
Malaysians stage rare anti-govt protest over fuel

KUALA LUMPUR, March 3 (Reuters) - Nearly 1,000 Malaysians protested in the capital on Friday against fuel price rises, the first significant anti-government demonstration in years.

Protesters, led by the main opposition Islamic party, chanted anti-government slogans and called on Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to step down over his government's decision this week to raise pump prices by another 20 percent.

"Prices rise, Badawi should step down," said one banner.

Stuart has posted some good analyses of the Greenland ice sheet melting here and here. Today the Los Angeles Times is reporting:

Antarctica Cannot Replace Ice Loss

The ice sheets of Antarctica -- the world's largest reservoir of fresh water -- are shrinking faster than new snow can fall, scientists reported Thursday in the first comprehensive satellite survey of the entire continent.

Researchers at the University of Colorado determined that between 2002 and 2005 Antarctica lost ice at a rate of 36 cubic miles a year, rather than growing from heavier snowfalls as had been predicted...

This month, an independent research team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge reported that the Arctic glaciers of Greenland were melting twice as fast as five years ago, adding an extra 38 cubic miles of fresh water to the Atlantic Ocean every year.

Taken together, the findings suggest that a century of steady increases in global temperatures is altering the seasonal balance of the world's water cycle, in which new snow and ice neatly offset thaw and rainfall runoff every year to maintain the current level of the seas.

If so, experts say, increasing global temperatures -- the 10 warmest years on record all occurred after 1990 -- may be hastening the demise of the polar icecaps and estimates of the pace of sea-level rise could be too low...

Here is the science paper:

A subscription is required to read the whole thing, but here is the abstract:

Using measurements of time-variable gravity from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites we determine mass variations of the Antarctic ice sheet during 2002-2005. We find that the ice sheet mass decreased significantly, at a rate of 152 ± 80 km3/year of ice, equivalent to 0.4 ± 0.2 mm/year of global sea level rise. Most of this mass loss came from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.
Saw this in the morning paper.  Anyone want to buy their stock?

They're betting on the boolean AND between vacationing and airlines.  Guess they don't read TOD.

If stock were available, I'd short it. However, the fundamental concept is not bad: Basically, the way to work it would be not to take off until you had a full load of passengers. Using cheap facilities (only 7,000 foot runways, for example) gives a cost advantage.

I question the choice of the 757, though it is a wonderful plane, very safe and easy to fly. It is too big.

Somebody needs to design small rather slow extremely fuel efficient planes. This may already have been done; I do not know. One problem is that by law you usually need two pilots even in the smallest planes; this drives up costs. Or maybe laws could be changed: For example, up in Alaska single pilots haul passengers around in single-engine aircraft (that are VERY slow, Super Cubs and Beavers) under some of the worst and most dangerous flying conditions in the world. Alternatively, I wonder if it would be feasible to have safe pilotless aircraft carrying passengers; potentially a lot of money could be saved that way. Of course my professional pilot friends will find a dozen reasons why this is a bad idea, but that does not make it so.

The airlines should start using Caribou cargo planes, those things can take off and land on a dime.
How is fuel economy at, say 50% power?

A big problem is that for forty years planes have been designed to fly high and fast. What I would like to see is something like a DC-3 but with hyper-efficient engines and props.

In the olden days, pilots would say, "Put your faith in God, also in Pratt and Whitney." Those old engines of the 1930s were magnificent achievements, given the knowledge and materials of the times--just flat-out incredibly fine engines. Why cannot we design equally good engines that use much less fuel. If necessary, cut flying speed to cut drag, i.e., fly ten knots slower than the DC-3s cruised at.

Bring back the DeHaviland Beaver into production, but fit it with a somewhat less powerful engine that gets way, way better fuel economy than does the magificent old beast that powers those planes now.

I seem to recall the Beachcraft Staggerwing was originally fitted with a 230 h.p. engine, years before they ramped up to the 450 h.p. Pratt & Whitney.

Less power = lower speed = less drag = greater fuel economy.

In a nutshell flying low increases parasitic drag on the wings and lifting area.

High altitude flight gets you into thin air.  This air has less drag, but also less lift.  To compensate, go faster.  This means it is more efficient to go fast at high altitude than, slow at low altitude.  More miles covered per gallon of fuel consumed.

Planes that are designed to fly at low speed have a lot of parasitic drag built into their shape.  They generate lift quickly but can't go fast because parasitic drag exceeds horsepower and structural integrity.  Conversely sleek jets have very little parasitic drag but they can't fly slow and stay in the air.  If you are going to fly fast to stay in the air it is much more efficient at high altitude.

The point is that there are HUGE gains from not flying fast:
  1. Short take off and landings which mean we could get away from the gigantic inefficiencies built into the present system.
  2. Climbing to altitude burns a heckuva lot of fuel, and you do not get back all of it when you gradually descend (and gradual descents to maximize fuel conservation are generally illegal and dangerous anyway because of all the traffic near airports).
  3. With oil at $70 per barrel, we'll see major contraction in the industry with few opportunities for profit, except possibly in the scrap aluminum industry.
  4. With oil above $100 per barrel, I think there will be profit opportunities for some new ideas, though not necessarily exactly the ones I propose.
Just because a plane is slower doesn't make it more efficient.  The planes sited above all get (I'm edu-guessing) less passenger-miles per gallon than a modern jet.  

Air travel only accounts for, from what I can tell based on the data here

about 8% of the fuel used in transportation, so focusing on air travel before land vehicles isn't nearly as much bang for the buck.

Also, I believe that Southwest is up to about 50 passenger-miles per gallon, which is on par with a single person in the most fuel efficient hybrid on the road.

One of the deltas between Boeing & Airbus design si:

Boeing builds the most efficient wing for high altitude cruise and straps on larger engines to get the a/c up there faster.  BA also builds an oval fuselage to fit cargo & pax in as efficiently as possible (high fabrication costs).

Airbus builds a hybrid wing (especially for the A32x family) that climbs better than Boeing (hence smaller engines) but does not cruise as well.  They also like circular cross-section fuselages (cheaper to build).

Result AB costs less (smaller engines, lower cost to build fuselage), but does not cruise as high (high = thin air = good fuel economy) or as fast and uses more fuel overall (on short hops = or better fuel economy than BA).  These differences are a only few %.

The drawing board 787 (all plastic) will save about 20% over the 767, the drawing board (plastic wings, Al-Li fuselage, design not frozen yet) Airbus A350 will save about 10%.  This is the largest delta in fuel economy seen between the competing AB vs. BA models seen to date.  

Of course drawing board #s can change.  However, BA has a reputation for bettering projections (the 777-300ER came in with 3+% better fuel economy than promised, and garnered many smiles and extra sales.  The A340-600 came in 1% below and the A380 seems likely to be 1% below promises as well.  All this history helps the 787 and hurts the A350).

The 737 replacement is coming into view out of the fog and 25% better fuel economy may be part of the package. EIS 2012.

Today, a/c are flown slower to save fuel when conditions allow it (tail winds, on schedule, no back-up at destination airport, etc.)  One day, schedules will be stretched to allow more slow flying (I see an extra 5 minutes being added to SW flight segments now here & there).

At $120/barrel, the optimum speed may well be Mach .6 or .65 instead of Mach .8+.  Higher labor & capital costs, but lower fuel costs.  Will pax avoid the "slow airlines" with an extra 35 minutes flight time MSY-PHX ?  Or even notice the slow flying ?

Slow flying will be great for the airframe makers.  Sure, higher fuel costs > fewer pax-miles, but more a/c to fly them slowly.  And their latest and greatest a/c will take 20% or 25% less fuel !   The fuel savings justify the capital costs.

Wings generate induced drag while the fuselage generates parasitic drag. Induced drag is largely a function of angle of attack which increases at low speeds in order to generate enough lift. Parasitic drag is simply a function of the cube of airspeed. An airplanes most efficient airspeed is the point where induced and parasitic drag are equal.
Diamond Aircraft builds a diesel powered twin that averages 30 mpg at 180 knots. There isn't a car on the planet that matches that performance.
Sounds criminally irresponsible.  :-)
RE: Otto, the virtual pilot

So instead of someone running into the cabin, yelling, "Does anybody know how to FLY?!", they'd have to yell  "Hey! Who knows how to Program ?!.. Really fast!"

Maybe we could develop a Wiki-pilot, where everybody in the plane has a terminal and can offer their input into the flight decisions.  It should average out OK..

Sorry for the attitude, but really.  My friend, the video engineer, loves Tech, but was new to computers, and when I complained that my system had crashed, he, of all people, said to me.. 'What do you mean? They're not supposed to break.' He was totally unprepared, all while tweaking and tuning Betacams and Broadcast Trucks every single day, that a "Computer" could fail.

PS, Sailorman;
I like your taste in Planes.
I grew up with my Dad playing Records of the old 'Liberty' engines starting up.  What a beautiful Cacophony!

A friend of ours publishes (beautifully) two mags on early 20thCent Flight.  WWI Aero, and Skyways.  Get you a link if you're interested.

But I'm personally very PRO-pilot.. I love radio-control and all, but in a plane, as at home, I want to have the opportunity to 'Act Locally', and not be guided solely by 'benevolent forces from afar'


Pilots screw up too, as when a couple of 747s collide on the ground. I do not think we are yet at the point where remote control is safe enough to replace good live pilots. We are, however, getting close.

Also, if you have flown much on local feeder airlines lately you know something: There are a helluva lot of not-so-good pilots out there, typically the low-time ones beginning to build hours who do things such as (true story, so help me Logos):

  1. My mother-in-law (whom I liked very much) is getting on a flight from a small town to Minneapolis. The plane is more than a hundred pounds over gross weight. So, do they dump fuel to make weight or bump a passenger? Hell no, that would put them behind schedule, and so they take off over gross and shave the spruce trees by about a yard . . .
  2. Same airline: Pilot misses approach in bad weather. Refuses to acknowledge missed approach (would look bad in log book) determined to make second approach. Breaks out of ceiling about 250 to 300 feet above the runway going too fast, is about half or two thirds of the way down the wet and ice-slick runway, decides to land anyway and puts the plane down so hard the wingtips bend down to within centimeters of the asphalt. We survive. I do not fly that airline or in little airplanes anymore.
  3. I could multiply examples, but what is the point?
  4. The big point is that, IMO, we need some new thinking.  
Right.  I used to fly a Mooney Mite, the suicide ride- real fast, real weak.  The only reason I survived this folly of youth is that my new bride had a condition that I sell the damn thing.  The model for airplanes of the near future is the cruise missile. Fast, cheap, no crew.  Package the CEO' like a six pack of beer and slide them into the belly of the airframe with a forklift, give each one a soma pill and fire them off with a linear electic motor to cruising altitude.  They land into a net right in front of the terminal where they are given the anti-soma and walk off to their meaningless meeting that could have been done at almost no expense by a telethon.

Meanwhile, honest engineers are running optimizations to get to the truly best way to go, which hasn't been discovered yet but will be when the CEO'S  are told that even the cruise missle is too expensive.

I'm all for new thinking, and sometimes for re-reading the old thinking and seeing if we're still applying it.  Your experiences don't tell me that having Piloted aircraft is the inherent problem.  We have an overworked Air-traffic environment, with high-speed craft packed in on top of one another full of people (including pilots) who are harried and hurried, but 'can't afford to compromise on speed'.. You mentioned Pilots who were a little light on experience, who are pushed into a full-pressure environment, apparently without the liberty to make critical safety decisions unless they want to take career hits for it.  I see lots of areas for Rethinking this situation, but not going full-automatic/remote.

I just have to wonder how many stories are out there of Pilots who took a challenging or puzzling situation, Mechanical, Atmospheric, Inter-aircraft, Psychological, etc.. and were able to bring the plane home because he/she was able to be creative and adaptible in ways that a remote system never will be.  Especially if this is a 'Cost Savings' issue, this is just a setup for a very bad fall.  Even with freight loads, you're talking about Pushing Heavies over all our heads at high speeds, controlled with systems that could very conceivably lose Transmitters/Receivers, programs could fail at either end, they could be hacked or digitally hijacked.  .. and the Inter-Continental Ballistic Moguls just sounded way too 'Dr.Evil'..  Trump would do it once, for the press-time, but it doesn't seem to fit with people who are traveling on business, especially the capos.  No Dignity, No Control over your environment.. I don't think they'd buy it.

If people were willing to give up a LOT of speed, I could consider going remote with Airships.. maybe.. but why take out the Skilled Labor Pool at all?  Improve the skills, if need be, tame the frenzied system, though that might happen on it's own, as costs rise.

I know this was all just a hypothetical.. guess it pushed my buttons.  ..and I'm flying in the morning.  Wish me luck!


As an air traffic controller, I think I probably have one of the more "at risk" jobs in a PO environment.  My friend is just starting his training this fall.  I told him not to start spending money he hasn't already made because when it costs $2000 to fly from Vancouver to Ottawa, there won't be many planes flying and even fewer controllers controllin'.

I look forward to sequencing airships.  I imagine you could line 'em up pretty tight.  No wake turblence to worry about...

"Pushing Polyester" starring ??

Airliners usually fly themselves. Pilots are there in case something goes wrong and according to my airline pilot brother things go wrong more often than the public notices. Most problems are small and quickly remedied by crew. Computers are still too dumb to match human brain power and ingenuity.
ExxonMobil ran an ad in yesterday's (3/2) NYT: "PEAK OIL? Contrary to the theory, oil production shows no signs of a peak."

The ad refers to "so-called 'peak oil' proponents". What's "so-called" ? The theory or the proponents? That the proponents include Campbell, Deffeyes, Simmons and others whose right to an "opinion" cannot be questioned is thereby completely sidestepped.

The ad says "They theorize that, since new discoveries have not kept up with the pace of production, we will soon reach a point when oil production  starts going downhill." Well, that's not the main thing the peakers say: the main thing they say is that  we started with something closer to 2 trillion barrels of oil in the ground, not the 3.3 trillion USGS figure cited in the ad. We'll get back to that. But having raised the point, the ad nowhere returns to address it. If discovery trails production, won't that lead to a problem at some point? The ad says "Oil is a finite resource, but because it is so incredibly large, a peak will not occur this year, next year or for decades to come."

The ad also says that "Since the dawn of human history, we have used  a total of about a about one trillion barrels of oil." So we are using it up very slowly, aren't we? But wasn't almost all the trillion used up in the last hundred years, and the lion's share in the last 50? Shabby.

Also unmentioned  is the current rate of consumption of 31 billion barrels of oil per year. Unmentioned too is that the "so-called 'peak oil' proponents" hold peak production  occurs when the resource is half-gone. Hm? Let's see: half of 3.3 is 1.65 trillion. One trillion is gone. That leaves 650 billion barrels of oil before peak. That will last less than 22 years at current consumption rates. If we assume consumption grows at 2 percent per annum (and don't even compound it) then we get less than 18 years.

I suppose one could concoct a theory where peak occurs long after mid-point, but that would still get you much less than 18 years additional. And that doesn't figure in compounding or a greater than 2 percent annual increase.

Also mentioned is a 4 trillion figure that includes heavy and shales. I used up my napkin. Do your own.

The ad ends "With abundant oil resources still available -- and industry, governments, and consumers doing their share -- peak production is nowhere in sight."

Even if the figures used by Exxon were correct, there would be no grounds for complacency -- in fact, there would be grounds for near panic. It would mean that we had two decades to prepare for calamity. But of course we don't.

The point of all this? ExxonMobil is from ignorant, and far from stupid. They know they  are lying. And anyone who sits down and does a back-of-the-napkin calculation knows that they are lying. So they are not trying to deceive the back-of-the-napkin crowd. They are making propaganda. That they are making propaganda over the heads of even the back-of-the-napkin-crowd (like me), never mind the people who have spent their lives in the energy business ("so-called 'peak oil' proponents") is, to me, an admission that they have no arguments, and know very well they have no arguments. And if ExxonMobil has no arguments against peak oil, then that is in-and-of-itself a very stong indication of where we stand -- isn't it?

Here's a pdf of the ad from the ExxonMobil website.
ExxonMobil clearly has changed how they present the future energy outlook. The following image was from their site last year.
The page has since changed to reflect their new strategy of denying any near term peak in production.
Eyeballing the graph in their report, it looks like non-opec production should increase about 10 mbd in the next 10 years, and opecs should go up about 19 mbd by 2030.

As of 2030, the curve is still going up.  Peak Oil is officially cancelled (per the pdf orders of exxonmobil).

Some areas where they are probably not lieing.  They predict coal usage in Asia to double by 2030 and CO2 emisions to do the same.

Scary stuff in this report.  I would prefer peak oil to the hell that would be created by this hydrocarbon usage in 2030.

Stock prices have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau.

Irving Fisher, Yale University Professor of Economics, 1929

Two weeks later, the stock market crashed and the Great Depression started.

                               PEAK OIL?

Contrary to the theory, oil production shows no sign of a peak  

ExxonMobil advertisment, New York Times, March 2, 2006

My response to the Exxonmobil ad. ^_^

LOL!  That's great!  
You forgot the thought bubble for your cartoon caharacter: "The peak is nowhere in sight"

Good job

Upon further reflection, let me just say that I find it totally incredible—and telling—that they even bother to run an ad like this at all. ExMob can't ignore the "peak oil proponents" anymore. They're too numerous, and too important. They're reputable people who have their lives at stake (Simmons, etc). And now that the Times is helping to bring the peak oil concept out in the open, ExxonMobil is running scared. It's also interesting that the ad came out just days after the Times op/ed, but I bet it's been in the wings for a while. Truly, this is amazing.
And don't forget:

Facing the Facts on Oil

Scientific American responds to the Exxon "op-ad"

And Readers respond to "The End of Oil"

(Another TimesSelect article, unfortunately)

I thought some TOD readers might like to respond to this one:
George Mobus, Gig Harbor, Wash.: I appreciated your article and felt it summed up the situation nicely. However, I would like to suggest that there is another, even more important, measure of the economic significance of energy in general. That is net free energy. Free energy, in this usage, means the energy available to do useful work borrowed from thermodynamics. The net free energy is the amount of energy left after you do work to GET the energy in the first place. So, for example, it takes a considerable amount of energy in the form of doing work of exploring, drilling, transporting, and refining fuels. In particular, the energy required to drill more deeply or build off-shore platforms, increases the energy investment cost while not increasing the energy content of the fuel. Thus, the net free energy declines as the energetic costs of exploiting the fuel source goes up.

This is basic physics. It amazes me that more physicists haven't point this out. Peak oil only looks at volumetric net without looking directly at the energy net. The latter is captured very imperfectly in the monetary costs, but the true costs are hidden by the same kinds of externalities that mask environmental costs in commerce, for example. ...

Richard Semple Replies: You're right about net. It would certainly apply to relatively inaccessible stuff like oil shale and tar sands.

I don't get the reason why they would run a counter-peak-oil program.

Even if they disbelieved it they could sit back and let everyone else worry, benefit from prices ... and maybe benefit from some new lease areas opening.

... do they worry that gas tax momentum is building?

You cannot find external logic for running this piece. The copy is poorly written, a chimp could figure out that oil wasn't used until several decades ago. That leaves internal (Exxon) logic. Are they about to do something that needs regulatory approval? Are they about to obscenely bonus the executive committee?
Do they worry about consumers purchasing hi mpg vehicles?
... do they worry that gas tax momentum is building?

Ding-ding-ding-ding-ding!!!  We have a winner!

I doubt it is against a gas tax specificly, it is probably against any type of conservation calls.
When oil/gas prices get real painful, a gas tax will look like a half-assed measure.  The question people will ask will be why are the American people paying World market price for our own natural resource.  Peaope will say I understand that we have to pay $x00s per barrel to buy it from Saudi Arabia, but why pay the same to pump it out of the Gulf of Mexico.  People will scream for price caps on Domestic oil and some means to offset the rising cost of imported oil.

Whatever the mechanics, there will be a call for nationalizing the domestic energy market in order to control prices.  I'm not suggesting that it is a workable economic idea, but it will be a serious political consideration.  ...and it must scare the Hell out of XOM.

I think that they are more worried about punitive income tax increases.  Their argument is that they need all the cash flow that they can get to bring on production from the "trillions of barrels" of remaining reserves.
Many CEOs believe their job is to sell shares of stock instead of producing a good product.  Peak oil means investing in oil companies is a bad idea.
That depends on the timeframe.  I'd say it could be really good to own oil stocks over the next ten years ... especially if peak oil is true.

I really think you gotta pick your timeline and then see what makes sense with it:

Ah, I typed faster than I thought.  I guess we could look at which oil companies like "peak oil" and which do not.  If it turns out that companies with lots of reserves like talking about it, and companies that have trouble with their reserves don't like it ...

Ah, Southsider1 posted an article on ExxonMobil's reserve replacement just a little while ago:

It strikes me the reason is to buy time. For us conspiracists there are a number of things converging (M3 money, Iran bourse, Iraq civil war, to name a few short term ones, ) that will need a paradigm shift to be handled by the administration. They need things to be calm and under control until they are ready, and thought it wise to put some oil on the stormy "peak oil is here" waters.
In a similar vein, our local NPR radio affiliate, KOPB, interviewed John Felmy, chief economist of the American Petroleum Institute for nearly half an hour yesterday (audio available at at least for now).  Similar pooh-poohing, the end of oil has been predicted many times but never happened, the markets will provide, the energy fairy is just around the corner... surprisingly, he was skeptical of hydrogen.  The interviewer, Christy George, asked all the right questions, repeatedly in some cases, but each time got the same disgusting and (to me) inaccurate answer: "Nothing to worry about here folks, go back to your normal lives."

I'm going to write and ask when they're going to air a contrasting viewpoint.

Two Interesting articles in Technology Review. The first one relating to Oil Sands. A "Photo Essay: Dirty Oil" and "The Methanol Economy"
The idea in 'the methanol economy' of 'reversing' the CO2 and water reaction and making a liquid emergy store is a fine idea - if you have excessive electrical energy.

The SeaLand process (per a poster over on has been done.   A stirling cycle system that can be driven by a 100kW wind turbine was quoted at nearly $100,000,  So lets spitball 1/4 a million JUST to make methonal from water and CO2.   How much methonal and what price makes sense to do such?

Using plants to fix carbohydrates and then using heat, bacteria or yeasts to make Methonal, Butanol, or even Ethonal.   But it ainb't cheap and it won't replace the volume of oil.    No matter what method you opt for, you WILL be expending energy to get that organic matter into a state where you can eventually acomplish the conversion of carbohydrates into an alcohol.   So the question becomes, do you use small-scale renewables to create a liquid carbohydrate to sell/use and be able to put the after-process material back on the land or do you gather organic material, send it off to some large facilities for processing.   (for cellulose conversion, something like a  disintrgrator would make the particles small enough for procesing.)
Here is a small unit with a 3 HP motor - fine for a samll power source:   (now how much alochol do you have to make to pay for that one?)

And remember folkes:  Today (March 3rd) in 1791 is when the Congress passed the excise tax on distilled liquors.  So celebrate as you see fit!

I tried this question Wednesday, but a bit after the thread had slid down the list:
Is there a way to combine the peak and decline predictions for major producing countries with domestic demand predictions for those nations to give "net available for export" forecasts?  
Is this already figured somewhere here?
It seems to me that this is increasingly relevant as regions like north sea/ Mexico and others start to look like they will only be extracting enough for domestic supply in the near future.

Thanks for the great site.  I've learned a great deal from you all.  
-Matt in DC burbs.

I tried this exercise for Saudi Arabia and Iran. Saud Arabia is in trouble because of a very high consumption per capita combined with a high fertility rate.
Their domestic refining capacity is the limiting factor right now, but it is being increased.

P.S. I don't think its them that's in trouble, unless you're talking about water.

Water and refining capacity is another aspect. I was talking about growth of the domestic demand based only on population growth forecast and the observed pattern of consumption (number of barrels/capita/year). Saudi Arabia has a very high consumption per capita (almost 24.9 barrels/capita/capita), a high fertility rate (6 children per woman) and a very low gasoline retail price (~24 cents/liter). Because of high domestic growth, Saudi Arabia exports may peak years before production actually peaks.
Right.  Understood.  

I just meant to imply that its not they that will have a problem, in so far as they will have petroleum for domestic use long after everybody else is scraping around for it.

Re:  Net Oil Exports

Following is a link to a guest post that I did.   My thesis, based on technical work by Khebab, is that while the world is about 50% depleted, the top three (and four) net exporters are about two-thirds depleted.  My assessment is that we are facing an immediate and critical crisis, probably starting this year, because of a shortfall in net export capacity.  The whole discussion pretty much focused on the Russian question.  Since I posted this story, the Russian energy minister has explicitly warned of a real collapse in Russian production, if they don't immediate pass tax incentives for frontier exploration.

Hubbert Linearization Analysis of Top Three Net Exporters:


 Let's assume that we have a world where all oil production is from one country--Export Land--that produces 20 mbpd, consumes 10 mbpd, and exports 10 mbpd to oil consuming countries around the world.

Export Land hits the 50% of Qt (URR) point, and over a five year period production drops by 25%.   Over the same time period, Export Land's consumption increases by 20% to 12 mbpd.  This causes Export Land's net exports over the five year period to fall from 10 mbpd to 3 mbpd, a decrease of 70%--resulting from a combination of increasing domestic consumption in Export Land and a 25% drop in production.

Let's look at real world production with our hypothetical Export Land as a model.

Re:  Russia (the #2 Net Oil Exporter in the World)

Russian Minister of Industry and Energy Viktor Khristenko:

One important point is that the longer we delay making this decision (tax incentives for frontier exploration), the harder it will be to feel the effectiveness of the measure taken: the structure of the country's reserves will continue to get worse and Russia could end up facing a real collapse in oil production.

Thanks for that analysis, w.t.   I agree totally that the "net export" numbers are the heart of the production issue and that when combined with growth in usage outside the exporting countries constitutes the entire issue.  Question: could you explain in more detail what the Russians are talking about in terms of tax incentives for frontier production?  I'm not familiar with this issue.  Thanks.

Incidentally, and further to the "net export" concept: as I've said before, net exports may be even more impacted by a change in the desires of the exporting countries to retain their oil in the ground than they are by internal usage requirements.   That will impact net exports even more dramatically than internal useage, with very dire consequences for the developed economies.

This was just posted on the Energy Bulletin.  Note that the Russian Minister of Industry and Energy is concerned about a "a real collapse in oil production" if they don't immediately start encouraging frontier exploration.

Interview with Russian Minister of Industry and Energy Viktor Khristenko
("The Need for Energy Dialogue")
Thomas Rymer, Russia Profile


Question: One issue of concern is investment in new production in the oil industry. What effect are the high tax rates on excess profits having on companies' investment in new production? What role does your ministry play in promoting investment projects in the oil sector?

Viktor Khristenko: The differentiated rates of the mineral resources tax have been discussed for quite some time now. The Industry and Energy Ministry is actively involved in this process. The objective is to create a transparent differentiation mechanism for the tax that would rule out varying applications, without leading to large losses for the budget and at the same time encouraging the development of new deposits.

Our position is that we should resolve this issue by introducing a tax holiday period of 5-7 years for new deposits, where industrial production has not yet begun.

Above all, zero-tax rate would give companies an incentive to begin high-risk development in eastern Siberia, the Far East and offshore. The Industry and Energy Ministry also proposes introducing tax breaks for exhausted deposits. Various threshold levels of depletion are currently being examined.

One important point is that the longer we delay making this decision, the harder it will be to feel the effectiveness of the measure taken: the structure of the country's reserves will continue to get worse and Russia could end up facing a real collapse in oil production. At the same time, we need to remember that it will be quite some time before any mechanism aimed at encouraging the growth of reserves will have a visible effect. This is another argument in favor of taking action as quickly as possible. I think that we will reach concrete results this year.
(6 February 2006)
Long interview giving the Russian point of view on energy issues, such as the confrontation with the Ukraine, energy security and state control.

Sorry if I missed a discussion of this, but according to the EIA world production is estimated to have (barely) hit a new high in 12/2005 of 84.783mbd.  Yes, I know that this number will be revised, but honestly, how many more times will we be able to talk about a new high in worldwide oil production, even if it's just a preliminary estimate?

See and download the Excel sheet for table 1.4 (file is t14.xls).

Direct link to the table:

I have observed that there are several members of this site who liken human beings to genetic robots.  That is are believers in the theories of evolutionary psychology.  They support there apocolyptic views with the argument that we are programmed to hoard, make war, be jealous of our neighbors onward and upward.  If I follow the logic, every desire relates and is directed towards having sex and procreating.  So if this is all true, why is it that the members who fulfill the theories main premise are the poorest, illiterate, mothers and fathers of the world?  I live in Brazil, and 99% of the white middle class that I have seen and talked with do not have more then 3 children.  Yet, the poorest, stupidest retards of the land often have 5 little crackers at there side.
You raise The Most Important Question for the long-run.

Plato raised this question explicitly but could find no good answer for it.

Very briefly, the way to persuade women to have fewer children is to educate them. Women with college degrees are having two or fewer children (world-wide). Even worse, women with advanced degrees are averaging one or fewer children. The most brilliant and most highly educated women I know have no children at all. In the long run, this trend is a catastrophe, but it is Politically Incorrect to talk about it.

As an economist, my answer is to pay significant sums of money each year to women with no education to not to have a child. Or, if it were socially acceptable, then I would pay a very large one-time sum to uneducated women in exchange for sterilization.

The Roman Empire fell when its (relatively well educated) women had too few babies to maintain population in light of high death rates. By way of contrast, the illiterate Gothic women (i.e., Germans) had babies every other year, and in a nutshell, that is how the barbarians beat the Latin speakers.

Do not knock evolutionary biology and evolutionary psychology; it has shed much light on why things are the way they are. What it has not yet done (and really by itself cannot do) is to figure out how to deal with dysgenic trends in reproduction.

One of the reasons civilizations collapse is that they duck the most important issues.

Ah, the old "Marching Morons" theory.  The dumber you are, the more kids you have.  

There has been some research done on this, and these people are in fact behaving logically.  If you are poor, and don't have much of a chance to improve your own life, it can be beneficial to have a lot of kids.  They're free labor, especially in rural areas.  They take care of you in your old age.  And one of them may succeed where you have not.  Maybe one of your daughters will be beautiful, and marry a rich man.  Maybe one of your sons will be a star football player and become a millionaire.  Kind of like a lottery.  The odds may be against you, but when you have little to lose, why not take a shot?

The calculus is different for well-off families.  Having kids is more expensive for them, because for a wealthy family, a child costs money, he doesn't earn money.  Rich kids don't work.  They are often sent to pricey private schools and elite colleges.  They take up time, which even the wealthiest parents can't buy more of.  Having too many children can also be problematic when it comes to the family business or estate.  Too many heirs fighting over the inheritance, etc.

This is why I fear our progress in population control will unwind with peak oil.  

I can certainly understand the logic of having many children if you live as a poor subsistence farmer in a underdeveloped country, i.e. the children are quite literally a form of human capital as well as a form of old-age insurance.

 But in an environment of crime-ridden urban squalor, where half the young people are chronically unemployed (and probably unemployable) I don't see where it makes all that much sense to have many children, as in such an environmental extra children are a liability rather than an asset. Unless it's an unconscious feeling that more children means more personal protection - as in tribes, clans, gangs, or whatever you want to call it.

I have no good explanation, but I'm sure there are people on TOD that are far more knowledgable on this subject who could maybe enlighten me on this point.

It is indeed disturbing that many highly-intelligent, well-educated young people are having far less children (in some cases, none at all) than unintelligent people who live in severe poverty. It sure looks like we don't have to worry about the human race getting too smart, because many of the super-smart ones appear to be slowly breeding themselves out of exisitence.

In fact, urbanization does reduce birth rates.  That is one of the factors that has defused the "population bomb" everyone was so worried about back in the '70s.  People have moved to the cities, and that reduces family size.  

It is indeed disturbing that many highly-intelligent, well-educated young people are having far less children (in some cases, none at all) than unintelligent people who live in severe poverty. It sure looks like we don't have to worry about the human race getting too smart, because many of the super-smart ones appear to be slowly breeding themselves out of exisitence.

I wouldn't worry about it.  The poor may be uneducated, but they aren't stupid.  They are surviving in much tougher conditions than the rich, are they not?

I come from a long line of peasants.  In fact, I am pretty sure that we were dirt-poor peasants for thousands of years.  My great-grandparents were brought here as indentured servants.  Being the dumb peasants that they were, they had lots of kids.  Like, 13 kids per family.  And that was just the ones that lived.  My grandparents got off the plantation and ran small businesses.  A general store, a small restaurant, that kind of thing.  My maternal grandparents had five kids, my paternal grandparents had six.  All their kids finished high school but only one or two got a college degree.  Most of them are white collar workers of some sort. Secretaries, teachers, civil service workers, etc. They have between one and three children each.  My generation, we are all educated professionals.  In fact, many of us have advanced degrees, including multiple advanced degrees.  We are doctors, lawyers, veterinarians, engineers, college professors.  And we have between zero and two children each.

And no, we didn't marry smarter people.  Because of various socioeconomic conditions, most of us "married in."  We married other peasants - people from the same social and ethnic background.  It's only my generation that is starting to "marry out."

And this is typical of immigrants who come to the U.S.  They have large families at first, then family size shrinks with each generation.  So I'm not in the least worried that "only dumb people are breeding."  

I am worried that many of the factors that lead to smaller family size - urbanization, birth control availability, the empowerment of women, good sanitation and health care - will unwind post-peak.  

The population bomb has not been defused.
The fuse keeps burning, big oh oh wheel keeps a turnin'
We passed the 6.5 Billion mark last weekend (I read this somewhere, didn't bookmark it):

Right click View Image to see larger

Go here to see the Global Population clock.

Who was it who said be like fruit flies and multiply?

"The Marching Morons" is an excellent science fiction story by C.M. Korbluth, published about fifty years ago. I recommend it.

Leann, I think you are confusing two different issues:
1. The quantity of population is a problem. It is a severe and a major factor, ultimately the main factor behind mass human misery and poverty.
2. You glibly deny the premise that there are big genetic differences between you and your well-educated sisters and the uneducated women who still have six to ten kids. Do you have one single shred of evidence to support your rejection of the premise that there are very significant genetic differences between, for example female college graduates and women who drop out of high school?

Any problem that Plato worried about, I worry about.

I know population is a still a problem...but it's not nearly the problem the experts feared it would be 30 or 40 years ago.  

Discover magazine picked this as #3 on their list of the "Top Science Stories of 2002":

3. Population Bomb Fizzles

     The world's population bomb may not go off after all. Demographers assumed that development and education were the principal ways to reduce fertility rates in countries with soaring population growth. However, recent surveys, satellite data, and number crunching presented and analyzed at a United Nations meeting in March show that fertility rates are declining in some less-developed parts of the world. Mexico, Indonesia, and the Philippines have slowed their longstanding high rates of the 1950s to a replacement level of 2.1 children per couple. Thailand has dropped from 6.6 to 1.9; Iran's rate is down to an even 2. India's fertility rate of 6 in the 1950s has now dropped to 3.3.

    The widespread availability of contraceptives may be the biggest factor behind the decline. In the past third of a century, their prevalence worldwide has nearly doubled. Even in Brazil, with opposition from the Catholic Church, no government support, and no official family-planning programs, the fertility rate has dropped from 6.2 to 2.3. Roughly 40 percent of Brazilian women of reproductive age have been sterilized, says Joseph Chamie, who is director of the United Nations Population Division. "They've said, 'Enough's enough, we're closing the kitchen. No more coming out of the oven.'" Couples who once had more children than they wanted are now able to take control of the size of their families. Other factors include declining mortality rates and increasing urbanization. "Children aren't necessarily milking the cows, feeding the chickens, slopping the pigs, and taking care of the goats," says Chamie. "So the return from children is relatively limited in urban environments."

    If these trends continue, the population of the world may reach 9 billion by 2050 and level off at around 10 billion by the end of the century--1 or 2 billion fewer than earlier predictions. "It won't double again, and no one sees it going to 12," said Chamie. "It's like a slow-moving oil tanker: It's slowing down, but it will take awhile to stop."

If it weren't for peak oil, I would be fairly confident we could stabilize the global population.  

It seems to me that the bigger problem isn't with third world breeders but with first world overconsumption.  We may produce fewer people but we make up for it, and then some, with our raping of natural resources.
The difference is, when peak oil starts to bite, we can reduce our consumption.  Indeed, we will have to.

The Third World will have to reduce its population.  

The statement that 'the poor aren't educated, but they're not stupid' brings up a question that has interested me for some time now.

 I want to preface my question  by pointing out that I come from a family background not unlike yours, but from a different part of Europe. Maternal grandparents were Hungarian peasants, the lot of whom were little better off then the slaves on American plantations. The German side of the family was better off, but not by much.

I am thus quite aware the just because someone is poor and uneducated doesn't necessarily mean that that person is dumb. In fact, one of the most naturally intelligent persons I've ever known never finished high school. And many people with college degrees are truly dumb, the education being totally wasted upon them.

Many members of my parent's generation were quite smart but didn't have the oppurtunity to get a higher education. Thus, there was a large fraction of the population in the factories, the farms, and the trades, who were quite naturally intelligent people. However, in post-WW II America, with its post-war prosperity, many of these same people and their children how had the oppurtunity to get a higher education. Thus ( and this is just a hunch on my part), the ranks of the factory workers, farmers, and trades people became more depleted of the more intelligent people. One might say that there was a 'brain drain' from the working class to the lower and middle middle class.

That is why (and this is purely subjective) I've been noticing that today's working class people don't look as 'with it' as the working class people I've known as a kid growing up in the 1950s. Quite bluntly, many of them tend to look like ill-termpered losers and seem behave accordingly. I know it's unfair to make such a blanket statement, but that's what I see a lot of. The fact that wages for the working class have been quite bad doesn't help, I'm sure. Or maybe it's just a cultural thing. I don't really know.

Could it be that what we are seeing is the formation of a true proletariat, with all the negative connotations that word implies?  Or maybe I'm just not looking at it objectively?  Someone help me out with this one. I don't have fixed ideas here; it's just an observation that has been slowly working its way into my consciousness for some time.

I suspect there hasn't been nearly enough time to for such differences to be encoded in our genes.  

However, I do think that in the U.S. at least, working class people have more reason to be surly than their grandparents did.  The deck is really stacked against anyone who doesn't have a college degree...and money is still a huge factor in who gets educated and who does not.  

You might find this excerpt, from a book called Strapped, of interest:

Soaring tuition costs combined with cuts to financial aid have forced students into massive debt and priced many smart kids out of four-year colleges altogether. Every year, 410,000 college-qualified students...from households with incomes less than $50,000 enroll in community college instead of going to a four-year college.  Another 168,000 college-qualified students don't enroll in college at all. These students took the SATs, had good grades, and were college-ready. They just didn't have the money. And they weren't willing to play the debt-for-diploma game.

Thirty or forty years ago, skipping college was much less important. While a college degree has always been considered a stepping stone to higher status and greater prosperity, it certainly wasn't expected of everyone. Jobs for high school graduates were plentiful, and many blue-collar workers made good money. Back in the 1970s, an accountant with a B.A. and a steel worker might live on the same block, drive the same cars, eat at the same restaurants, and send their kids to the same public schools. But as the pay difference between high school grads and college grads has widened, so too have the life outcomes. In 1977 there was only a 6 percentage-point difference in home-ownership rates between those with college educations and those without. Today, there is a 20 percentage-point difference. Today the college-haves and the college have-nots live in different worlds.

College: From Nicety to Necessity

Nowadays, entering the real world with only a high school diploma is like going into battle armed with only a squirt gun. Over the last thirty years, earnings for workers with high school diplomas have taken a beating. By 1994, males 25 to 34 without college degrees were earning roughly the same amount as their similarly educated grandfathers earned in 1949. High school students saw the writing on the wall and more began enrolling in college. In 1975, just over half of all high school graduates continued their education after high school. Today, nearly three quarters of high school graduates enroll in some type of college after high school. But those numbers are deceptive. Although young adults may be swarming into college, most are failing to complete their studies. Less than a third of young adults aged 25 to 29 had a bachelor's degree or higher in 2003 -- a percentage that hasn't kept pace with enrollments. The kind of family someone comes from and the amount of money they can pony up exert a heavy influence on whether a student ends up at a two-year or four-year college and whether or not they will complete their degree. Which means that today's bachelor's degree holders are still a rather select group.

Another book you might find interesting is The Pecking Order.  Basically, it finds that most of the difference in socio-economic status is within families, not between them.  For example, Bill Clinton became President of the United States.  His younger brother is a convicted drug dealer.  That is an extreme example, but it is typical of sort of variation you see between siblings.    

For example, Bill Clinton became President of the United States.  His younger brother is a convicted drug dealer.  That is an extreme example

For it to be an extreme example, one has to have a frame of refernece that President = good and Drug Dealer = bad.

What if you really don't have alot of use for either types of people?   What if you decide that 'each person who's life is effcted negativly by your actions makes you a "badder" person'?  If you have the second POV, the militay actions President Clinton would make him 'badder' than his brother.   (I had to reach to find a frame that would flip the premise)

And if you believe the 'Bill Clinton Ran Drugs as a government official' type stuff, I'd bet a President can authorize moving more drugs than a non-president.

Two things are inherently incorrect within the question that you pose: First is the assumption that intelligence is a one dimensional attribute that can be fairly measured on a scale from "moron" to "genius", where the "with it" grade is somewhere in the middle. Second is the idea that you can tell a book by its cover, you can see how sharp each tool in our human tool shed is simply by looking.

IMO what you are noting is the change of demographics in the USA. America is no longer the Anglo-Saxon homogenous population it used to be when you were a kid. There are so many folk who no longer "look" the way you are used to seeing the "with it" part of the working class. They don't speak English. They don't share your cultural values. But none of that makes them "stupid".

We are all irrational animals who have crazy notions of religion and what might be right or wrong, what might be the "with it" way to behave and what might be the "out there" way to approach life. If you got to know one of these strange "others" in a deeper way, you might have a changed point of view. What was the name of that movie where Gossett Jr. plays a reptilian alien who befriends and is befriended by a marooned human; the human raises his asexually produced child, the child calls him "Uncle"? Enemy mine?

The book "The Bell Curve" by Herrnstein and Murry attempts to answer many questions about demographic, educational and social trends in the US.  They suggest that if anyone is going to solve the problems rationally, it is the smart educatated elite that will have to do it.
Any person holding an academic position who cites that book is branded by the Politically Correct Thought Police as racist and may be subjected to indignities up to and including suspension.

Please, do not ask me how I know this to be true.

"The Bell Curve" and "The Coming War With Japan" are two books with ridiculous conclusions and fascinating statistics. Oh yeah, the Japan one was written years ago when people were worried about Japan as a superpower. It's about logistics and raw materials. The authors run the stratfor website.
Read them both. Just don't believe them.
Japanese live longer than do Americans; they have more leisure time (because they live longer and retire earlier and have far fewer women in the labor force), and they have a high rate of saving while in the U.S. the rate of saving is negative.

The Japanese won. Take a look at "Consumer Reports" rating of new cars. GM and Ford are sliding down toward bankruptcy while Honda and Toyota prosper.

Can one really draw meaningful conclusions comparing an ethnically-diverse country like the US with Japan?  The only one I draw is that there are certain advantages to a homogenous culture, and others to a diverse culture.
Re: brain drain from the lower classes to the elite.

This is one of the main themes of the book "The Bell Curve."

Successful elites have always co-opted talent from lower classes; that is how they stay successful. For example, the Roman emperor Galerius (one of my favorites) started as a shephard and worked his way up to top job through merit. Ah, Galerius, he knew how to deal with unruly Christians . . . .
The rich get richer and the poor get pregnant.
It's also a matter of taxes. In corrupt countries you can't save and invest because the local government kleptocrat franchise holder takes away your money. You might as well invest in babies. Ditto in countries like ours where the game is rigged against the lower class. They act rationally, but sometimes with a generational lag, as if they did what payed off for their parents.
I think we have to be extremely careful here on TOD when we dealing with the subjects of evolutionary psychology and poplulation growth. I noticed several people using theories about evolutionary psychology in rather vulgar and pretty superficial manner. Basically that we are almost "programmed" for certain forms of behaviour - war, sex, greed, violence ect. I think we underestimate the importance of "Culture" for our species. In many ways we have, in contrast to other creatures on this planet, created our own "reality" and by using our incredibly powerful imaginative powers we've transformed ourselves and our surroundings, both positively and negatively.

I'm not against evolutionary psychology per se. I am though sceptical when it's used to justify reductionist theories about "human nature" and why we're "doomed". Human beings are complicated. Human beings in large groups/socities are even more complecated.

This whold subject is way too big for a post. At least for me.

I also worrry about the population question and how easily one can start to move into the tricky question of "intelligence" and who should or should not be having babies! One can so easily move towards very extreme attitudes and politics if one follows the logic of one's arguments to their extreme conclusions. Eugenics is just around the corner in may opinion.

By all means lets discuss "population", but I really think we need to do it do it responsibly and with a degree of caution, as historically these have really led us into the darkness of the human soul.

Sorry about this post. I just start to get nervous when I hear people blithly beginning to discuss; intelligence, population and who best qualified to have children.

Writerman raises a good point as population is kicked around as in a good BS session in the ol' dorm days.

But what is possible in the USA? I would suggest, much of what is possible is limited. As Bismarck would say, "Politics is the art of the possible". I would like to see less people move to California legally or illegally. I can not legally stop them at the Oregon or Nevada border - certainly not legally and constitutionally introduce a China type family policy of one child, but I could tax families. If you have one kid, you get a tax benefit. Two - none, Three kids you pay more in taxes for that kids impact on the earth, aid, water, etc.

Another point here is that PO and higher prices will hit and hurt poorer families in 3rd world countries more than here or in the EU. I think that Bush and Condi Rice pulled off this nuke deal with India in part to address the above points, along with countering China.

I suspect that the easiest way to reduce our population - politically, I mean - would be to limit immigration.  Alan Greenspan credits all the growth of the past 20 years to immigration.  Immigrants not only have large families, they have large families for several generations after arriving.  If not for immigration, we would have population growth rates similar to Europe.  

Of course, it might not be logistically possible.  Especially as economic conditions worsen.

In Collapse, Jared Diamond warns about "overcrowded lifeboats":

Starving people would have poured into Gardar [the largest Norse farm in Greenland], and the outnumbered chiefs and church officials could no longer prevent them from slaughtering the last cattle and sheep. Gardar's supplies, which might have sufficed to keep Gardar's own inhabitants alive if all their neighbors could have been kept out, would have been used up in the last winter when everyone tried to climb into the overcrowded lifeboat, eating the dogs and newborn lifestock and the cows' hoofs as they had at the end of the Western settlement.

Diamond then draws an explicit parallel with unrest in the U.S., and our inability to secure our borders against illegal immigration:

I picture the scene at Gardar as like that in my home city of Los Angeles in 1992 at the time of the so-called Rodney King riots, when the acquittal of policement on trial for brutally beating a poor person provoked thousands of outraged people from poor neighborhoods to spread out to loot businesses and rich neighborhoods. The greatly outnumbered police could do nothing more than put up pieces of yellow plastic warning tape across roads entering rich neighborhoods, in a futile gesture aimed at keeping the looters out. We are increasingly seeing a similar phenomenon on a global scale today, as illegal immigrants from poor countries pour into the overcrowded lifeboats represented by rich countries, and as our border controls prove no more able to stop that influx than were Gardar's chiefs and Los Angeles's yellow tape. That parallel gives us another reason not to dismiss the fate of the Greenland Norse as just a problem of a small peripheral society in a fragile environment, irrelevant to our own larger society. Eastern Settlement was also larger than Western Settlement, but the outcome was the same; it merely took longer.
The whole issue of demographics is complicated in the eextreme, and especially so in relation to Western Europe. Because of falling birth rates in many countries we risk chronic shortages of labour in many areas of the economy in the next couple of decades. It has been calculated that we probably need somewhere in the region of twenty to thirty million extra people in the European Union if we are to maintain our current standard of living. This is paradoxical as there is also high unemployment in a number of countries - France and Germany spring to mind. However, in the Scandinavian countries there is pretty much full employment and labour shortages.

Where will these extra "hands" come from? The only real alternative is to allow massive immigration from our nearest neighbours. For example North Africa, the Middle-east and Turkey. This is where most of our "immigrants" come from already. Now we have a problem. Immigration on such a scale is very problematic. There are already substantial problems relating to the integration of immigrants in Europe. There is a real backlash against these people, based many on fear and ignorance. Many of these immigrants are Muslims, which makes everything much more complicated and potentially explosive.

One can of course argue that once Peak Oil kicks in, economic growth will stop and we won't need all these extra hands and the problem will solve itself. Unfortunately, zero-growth has a whole set of problems of its own, not least in relation to demographics. So one "problem" is solved only to be replaced by an even bigger one!

I think this shows the weakness of our current system.  We not only have "ergamines" - energy slaves - we have a lot of actual human slaves, too.  

Okay, perhaps not technically.  But our lifestyles are supported on the backs of a lot of poor people.  Some in our own country (illegal immigrants who pick our fruit, wash our dishes, build our houses), most outside (child slaves on cacao plantations in Africa, women in sweatshops making our clothing in Asia, etc.).  

We justify this by growth.  Theoretically at least, if these people work hard, eventually they, too - or at least their children or grandchildren - will have lifestyles like ours.  Supported by ever more poor eager to get higher in the pyramid, of course.  

Clearly, this is not sustainable.  But without at least the myth of infinite growth, it becomes a lot harder to justify our massive consumption.

I am though sceptical when it's used to justify reductionist theories about "human nature" and why we're "doomed". Human beings are complicated. Human beings in large groups/socities are even more complicated.


You said it better than I could.
Guess that is what makes you the writer among us.

Human morphology and human psychology and mob psychologies are extremely complicated subject areas, which is why volumes of books are written about these.

No glib, one-liner in a blog comment is going to encompass all of the nuances. It sounds like a number of people (or electronic entities) on this site feel like they have it all figured out --even ahead of the experts.

It should be self evident that we do not come out of our mums' bellies all "pre-programmed" as some suggest. We learn different languages, different cultures and mores, different everything elses after we emerge.

Greed and selfishness are not wholly innate characterisitcs. I read somewhere else today that scientists have spotted "good samaritan" behavior among chimps --yet another attribute they thought only we uber-superior humans posses.

100 years ago as today 50% of the most intelligent people were women, however the number of well educated women were considerably smaller. Today the 90th percentile of women are no doubt judges, college professors, engineers, etc. 100 years ago the 90th percentile of women were grammar school teachers, and nurses. Today's teachers and nurses are somewhere closer to the peak of the bell curve or at the 50th percentile of intelligence. 100 years ago the 90th percentile of women was distributed quite evenly though out the population as were men to a great extent. 90th percentile women often married 30th or 40th percentile men and vice versa. Therefore each city, village, or community had their fair share of leaders to make things function efficiently. Today the sharpest and brightest leave for college, marry equally sharp and bright folks, live in gated communities or areas of equally successful folks. The 30th and 40th percentiles are left to shift for themselves, and also live in areas of less successful folks. Now it requires the government to support the 10 and 20 percentile folks. Which community school do you want your child to attend? Of course this theory isn't absolute, but only some of what I observe today.
If you don't believe you'll survive the weekend, why think about Monday?
Thelastsasquatch, you recently duly noted the lack of EROEI calculation in my Ethanol:Land calculator. Note this in now fixed. It highlights that corn is a very unsuitable crop for ethanol production but switchgrass is much better (by a factor of over 7). Enjoy :)
Couple of interesting things from World Oil.

Uterenonnumera posted this link in the NYT thread, but that's so old now I suspect many missed it:

Simmons: What a difference 20 years make in crude oil prices

And there's this summary of world oil production:

World crude/condensate production, 2005 and 2004

I suppose that part of my motivation for the angry and definitely anecdotal post is a response to the doomsdayers.  I feel that their underlying premise is that we are genetic robots and can not adapt to a less materialistic existence due to our underlying genetic algorithms aka genes.   Evolutionary psychology could be the most pessimistic, depressing theory I have encountered in my 31 years on this planet.  
I have studied roughly 10,000 pages of evolutionary psychology writings over the past thirty years. Much of it is garbage. However, having said that, I think that the best of the evolutionary psychologists and biologists (And the biologists are generally smarter than the psychologists.) have much to contribute to our understanding of human behavior.

We have met the enemy, and he is us.

Now, how can we make a treaty with the enemy to survive and thrive?

This is what philosophers (and some of the better political scientists) have been trying to figure out for 2,500 years. This is what every single great religious leader has been trying to figure out since Moses.

Alas, I see no evidence of progress since Aristotle in political thinking. However, I see much progress in biology.
And religion . . . Do not get me started on that topic.

So how can we defeat the enemy within?  Is the answer Re-Writing the genetic code?  What gene(s) would you like to see deleted/inserted?  

Not to go to far off topic here, in your learned opinion, based on the discoveries of Evolutionary/Biological Psychology, will our collective response to Peak Oil be wholly predictable and what is  this likely outcome?  

On a cynical note, I do wonder how an expert can draw a clear line between cultural values and gene determined behavior?

Surprisingly, there is very solid research on this topic. The most convincing and most elegant research involves identical twins separated soon after birth and raised in very different cultural (and different social-class) environments. Some of the best of that research has been done at the University of Minnesota. It is easy to find.
So its March 2006, and I haven't seen any mention on the whole Iranian Oil Bourse, delayed again?


The Iranian Oil Bourse is scheduled to open later this month so the beginning of the month is hardly the time to look for it.

In other news, Scientific American disagrees with ExxonMobil.

The oil futures market is in a state of contango for many months, maybe over a year. Is this significant? Has it happened again? Are other commodities futures in contango too?
Well, you know, this is what I've thougtht about. Maybe I am trying to see the working class circa 2006 through a 1955 lens. Maybe that's the explanation. Maybe the superficialities have gotten in the way of really seeing through to the real people. I don't know. Maybe they are not really all that different.

Yet, I still get this nagging feeling that it was much better to be a working class person circa 1955 vs a working class person circa 2006. And money is not the only reason I say that. There seemed to be more personal pride back then. People were proud to be say a steel worker and belong to  a trade union.  My own father carried a lunch pail, but he was never slovely, foul-mouthed, or had the demeanor of a loser. I never once felt that I was part of an inferior class. Yet, today, things have changed. I don't know .... there seems to be a more biker-ish element to the working class - like they know that they are out of the mainstream and don't give a damn if you know it. There is more of an 'in your face' attitude among these people. As if they know they will never get anywhere, so why pretend.

Again, this could all be the result of my overactive imagination, but I just get this gut feeling that we are establishing a true proletariat in the US. And that the powers that be know it and even encourage it. This is not a good time to be a working man in the US of A, circa 2006.

Just for fun, look up the derivation of the meaning of the word "proletariat."

Those Old Romans knew a thing or two.

Well, don't keep me hanging .... please enlighten me, oh wise one, ...what is the true Latin meaning of the word 'proletariat'?  And then, pray, what does the original Latin meaning have to do with the common-usage meaning of the word today?  We both know what the word means, so why the bullshit? Were you one of these people who had suffered through years of dreary Latin (a most cumbersome and unnecessarily complex language, that, thankfully, is now dead) and now feel the need to show off your learning? You're not getting pedantic on us now, are you, Sailor-boy?

OK: Let's try my defintition ..... Proletariat =  Working slob.

Can you improve upon that?

Wiki definition
The proletariat (from Latin proles, offspring) is a term used to identify a lower social class; a member of such a class is proletarian. Originally it was identified as those people who had no wealth other than their sons; the term was initially used in a derogatory sense, until Karl Marx used it as a sociological term to refer to the working class.
Yes, my definition fits perfectly:

Proletariat = working slob

Can you possibly improve upon that?

Yes, I can.

Find a good dictionary. Look up the word.

I found an excerpt from The Pecking Order by sociologist Dalton Conley:

Why is my sibling a success and I'm not?

A snippet:

In fact, in explaining economic inequality in America, sibling differences represent about three-quarters of all the differences between individuals. Put another way, only one-quarter of all income inequality is between families. The remaining 75 percent is within families. Sibling differences in accumulated wealth (i.e., net worth) are even greater, reaching 90-plus percent. What this means is that if we lined everyone in America up in rank order of how much money they have--from the poorest homeless person to Bill Gates himself--and tried to predict where any particular individual might fall on that long line, then knowing about what family they came from would narrow down our uncertainty by about 25 percent (in the case of income).

Does this mean wealth doesn't matter? No. Conley argues that the vast differences between siblings come about because family resources are limited, and families tend to support certain children more than others - because they have to. For examples, see our nation's presidents. Jimmy Carter was president; his brother Billy was an embarrassment. Bill Clinton was president; his brother is convicted drug dealer.

But wealthy families, because they are wealthy, tend to produce more successes. If Dubya had been born into Bill Clinton's family, he'd probably be in jail now. He was a ne'er-do-well in his youth, addicted to alcohol and drugs, at one point threatening to beat up his own father. (That would be George H.W. Bush, the 41st president of the United States.) An ordinary family would probably have written him off, in favor of serious, hardworking, responsible Jeb. But this was the wealthy Bush family. They had the money to take care of Dubya, without taking anything from his siblings. So they did. Despite a long string of failures, both personal and professional, he's now in the White House. I don't expect to see Roger Clinton there, though his crimes are no worse than Bush's.

Anyway, it's a fascinating book. Particularly interesting are the patterns of who gets supported and who doesn't. Birth order doesn't matter if there are only two children, but if there are more than two, the middle children suffer. If you have a boy and girl, the boy tends to be favored. Mothers who work tend to produce more successful daughters than stay-at-home moms.

Perhaps most interesting was the part about children who are "outsiders." A gay child born into a conservative Christian family, say, or a very religious child born into an agnostic family. In wealthy families, this tends to produce downward mobility, but in poor families, it's the opposite. Family rejection spurs the outsider to move out...and up.

Leanan -

That's quite fascinating. 'Pecking Order' sounds like a very interesting book, and I should check it out.

I never gave too much thought to the large differences between siblings largely because I was an only child, so I never had any to be compared to.  I was numero uno out of a group of one:-)

Regarding wealth, I think it can be said that one of the main functions of inherited wealth is not so much to produce upward mobility, but rather to prevent downward mobility for one's offspring who are not that sharp. The example of Dubya is a classic. Many scions of famous 'good' families have been notably lacking in intelligence and general ability. If it weren't for trust funds, etc. many of these people couldn't hold down a job as hamburger flipper.

Jimmy Carter was president; his brother Billy was an embarrassment. Bill Clinton was president; his brother is convicted drug dealer.  Jeb Bush was president; his bro....

oh, darn.

One of my two brothers (I have a sister as well) is much more economically successful than I (he is a patent lawyer at a well known semi-conductor maker, and not at the bottom of the list there).  He uses about 10,000 liters of gasoline/year to support his lifestyle & family (and rather proud of it).

I do "my thing" here in New Orleans, Iceland and elsewhere (including TOD).  From a social perspective, I think I contribute much more to our society *and use 6 gallons of diesel/month).

Which is more successful ?

The 2006 model prole does often display MORE attitude than our good old 1955 models did. But, its not them that have changed so much. Your dad and mine were almost always treated with respect and courtesy by their "betters" back in '55. I don't see that nearly as commonly in 2006. Today too many of the "betters" treat people who are pretty obviously working for a living as if they were known criminals. And, if a job requires any skills other than heavy lifting then BY GOD it requires a college degree.

My brother studied anthropology back in the 80s and paid a visit to the Kalahari Bushmen. He proclaimed them the best people he had ever met. His thinking was that they are such fine natured people because they have no "betters".

You have a point.  I worked at a fast food place when I was in college.  A lot of the customers were wealthy people headed for the ski slopes of Vermont or Massachussetts.  And they often treated me like crap because I was "only" a burger flipper.  But if they found I was a college student, it was like night and day.  Their whole attitudes changed completely.  They spoke to me like I was a human being.  

It was eye-opening, that's for sure.

I've run across websites run by restaurant staff with stories about being treated like crap.  Here's one:
Yes, this is more or less what I was trying to get at, though maybe not expressed as clearly as it should have. Maybe the difference between the 1955 and 2006 version of the American prole is not just in my imagination. I am uncertain as to what the causes are, but I suspect it has something to do with the increase in status consciousness that has taken place during the intervening years plus a general coarsening of our entire culture.
That is one of the things I like about New Orleans, the comity and pride among all groups and classes.

Our billionaire would ride the streetcar, Mardi Gras Indians developed their own pride and respect among black working class (mainly men), Zulu rolled before Rex on Mardi Gras Day and is the clear crowd favorite (white members of Zulu are required to ride in Black face, a la Al Jolsen, optional for black members) and just in daily life.

I have developed a local rep for being "a nice guy" and this helps me daily in myriad small ways with all groups of people.

We are a gumbo, and a fine one at that !  :-)