Saturday Open Thread

Because you're good enough, smart enough, and dog-gone it, people like you.
The transcript for last November's Senate hearing on 'Energy Prices and Profits' is now available.

This hearing took place on Nov. 9th, 2005. It was held in front of both the Commerce and Energy Committees. It ran all day and included testimony from the CEO's of all the Big Oil companies. Not to be missed.

The transcript runs to 361 pages.

(Adobe Acrobat warning)

See how much of a grasp our leaders in Washington have on the energy situation. It will make you proud to be an American.

  In 361 pages only three references to peak oil are found all of which deny "evidence" that peak oil is eminent.  Lee Raymond is especially optomistic in saying that their studies show increasing oil production through to 2030.  He further says that legislation would be premature in regards to peak oil.  The two senators that I care about were only worried about excessive profits.  Natioanal security was brought up 54 times, which I think should be the center piece of any disscussion on energy.
  I have only skimmed the document, but do you feel, that other than gouging, that congress has their finger on this?  Have they understood what two more hurricanes this summer might bring about?  What if a terrorist attack on a Ryadh refinery succeeds the next time.  Will NATO open their SPRs to us again?  We have 26 days before the Security Council reports back to the UN on Iran and Iran has just sucessfully tested an MRV ICBM.  How can we afford to risk taking Iranian oil off the market?  I know that Iran and Iraq don't sell oil directly to the US, but fungability means that the loss of their oil will be felt globally.
  What exactly are you so proud of in this document?
Well, I could take the easy way out and say that I was kidding, which I was - but I'll take a different approach. I'm proud that I live in a country where at least the possibility of open debate exists and where at least one other person(you) will take the time to at least skim through this document. I had actually watched the entire original hearing. This particular document includes about 200 pages worth of additions in the form of written responses to questions posed by the senators. There is alot of very important information included which is coming directly from the professionals in this case.

The senators in general seem like a pretty clueless lot, and I hold them (as I do for most issues) responsible for the problems this country faces oil-wise. Gutless wonders. The chairman Domenici and Wyden demonstrate complete ignorance and are just a disgrace professionally and in the manner in which they treat the witnesses.

One issue I have is the delay (5 months) in releasing the transcript. This seems to be normal as far as these transcripts go. I normally don't think on a conspiratorial level, but I have to wonder how much of that delay is intentional to allow media interest to fade(not that there is much to start with.

As far as the CEO's go. Honest. Forthcoming. Smart. Informed. Of course, there will be those here who disagree, but I think overall they are doing their jobs well and deserve the salaries and bonuses detailed in the transcript.

Hi Guys,

First post here, although I am a long-time lurker. My CEO was at the hearing (I am a chemical engineer), and I agree that they did well. I thought the senators came off looking clueless for the most part.

I did enjoy this exchange (paraphrasing):

Senator Domenici: How is the price of oil set?

Lee Raymond: The price is set by willing buyers and sellers on the open market.

Senator Domenici: I don't think my constituents will understand that.

That's the real problem here. The majority of the population does not understand basic economics.

"That's the real problem here. The majority of the population does not understand basic economics."

With all due respect, baloney.

People understand economics plenty well enough, and they also understand the corrupting influence of power, whether that power is influence over a market, political, sexual, or something else.

The major disconnect with mainstream consumers right now is that they know almost nothing about the peak oil concept, so they assume (incorrectly) that higher prices are caused by greedy corporations, not by supply and demand.  It's not that they don't know how supply and demand work, it's that they don't see the connection between that staple of economics and what they pay on their gasoline and heating bills.  So they look for the best alternative explanation, and they wind up blaming the "big, greedy, evil" oil companies, a group that's, in the mind of consumers, all too easy to blame for anything, whether deserved or not.

I've had I don't know how many discussions, some at relatively high volume levels, with mainstreaners about this issue, and I've had a very hard time convincing them of the scope and serious of the fundamental situation.  

In fact, I think the outrageous oil profits are helping to convince people that PO is not real, that it's all just a scam.  I think this is especially true in liberal circles, where I see a lot of doubt about PO.  
There are two true things:

1 The oil companies profiteer.
2. Oil is at or near peak.

In addition:

1 is old and has always been true.
2 is new.
2 is going to make 1 even more true.
1 should be dealt with, yes, taxation, regs...
2 needs to be dealt with even more.
2 IS being dealt with, but in the worst possible way.

Final truth:

3. We're in the deepest conceivable doo.

There is great resistance to accepting the concept of Peak Oil because (IMHO) 1) the implications for the assumptions that people have built their lives on is too great and 2) there is no trustworthy "solution".

My Electrification of Transportation is aimed at #2.  I know that it is NOT a complete solution, but it is a big chunk of one.  Generally understandable (I think).

Coupling "bad news" with a way out should reduce the level of denial.  Again IMHO.

So my question to everybody would be have you contacted your US Senator about peak oil??  If not why, if so, did you get a response??

I once belonged to the so called largest yahoo group about peak oil until I ask one question. Reminder that, the group is very deeply involved about peak and all its ramifications and will answer any question put out there.. Until I ask one question which was how many of them contacted their elected officials about peak oil.  The silence was defeaning.. Not one response from anyone.. Kind of reminded me of the Y2K days..

SO until our so called representatives, beside congressman Bartlett, hear form us on and start asking question, I think we'll be relagated to the internet waiting for the other show to fall..

Hello Reno,

I have regularly send out emails on Peakoil since summer '03.  I have emailed everyone like Oprah, the National PTA, all my elected officials, the CIA secure website, various music groups like the U2 website [to hopefully reach kids], national and local media, various & sundry forums, etc.   In every email: I am pleading for greater Peakoil awareness and including energy saving suggestions.  I have yet to get back more than an auto-reply-- no personal requests whatsoever for more info.

Most of the non-energy forums ignore me, quickly change the thread topic, call me a troll or a raving lunatic, or launch into endless optimism or Denial.  I recommend that everyone here on TOD should try this for awhile-- you will then become a fast-crash Doomer like me.

I am not sure when the energy inflection point will  finally occur causing a societal critical mass to ask for help, but I suspect when it finally happens: I think most of us Peakoilers will be too busy attending to our own affairs to be of any help.  My two cents.

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

Hi Bob.

There is a lot of denial and baseless optomism in many internet forumns. Hopefully [I am not a doomer] there is an educational aspect to some of these interchanges.

The flip side is that a lot of very thoughtful people on TOD seem to believe that oil has mystical aspects that make it somehow totally irreplaceable in all aspects [fuel, feedstock and God knows what else] and then compound this by emotionally equating the peak in oil production with an absolute energy cliff.

Nukes. Solar cells. Windmills. Wave power? Run of the river hydro. Biofuels? Coal as a transitional thing.

More long haul freight transport by rail. Smaller more efficient cars. More than one person per car a lot more often!!!! Fewer truly pointless automobile trips. Sensible public transportation. Telecommuting. More bicyles. More walking. Better insulation. Swamp coolers. A couple of degrees on the old thermostat setting. A new thermostat with a timer. LED and compact florescent lighting. LED TVs versus plasmas and CRTs. Less bogus security and street lighting. Reduction in the number of devices that draw current even when not in use. Turning off switches when things are not in use. More reuse [think refillable versus disposable bottles -- and repair versus replacement.] More recycling where it makes sense. The list gones on and on. We are swiming in energy and wasting vast amounts that add absolutely nothing to quality of life.

Population control.

IMO to benefit from the true [but the otherwise potentially irrelevant] fact that "Humans are Smarter than Yeast" the only answer is education. State the facts. Will we experience a train wreck or a transition? I honestly don't know for a cetainty, but I am certain that it is possible.

My advice [probably gratutious but I sometimes enjoy restating the obvious]:-) Hold your ground might convert a cornucopian ... but even if you don't you might convert some lurkers.

Right on, RWR!  Good Post.

It's hard to not try to predict the future positive or negative, but just try to keep our options in view, and you've listed a bunch of my favorites.

I don't buy the 'Stone Age' predictions at all.  We might see some chaos, but it'll be chaos by a people with an entirely different set of cultural tools than anyone in the past. Not necessarily better, just very different.  Our technologies won't disappear, and neither will the various blendings of world cultures that now brew in cities together due to the migrations afforded us largely with oil's assistance.  Who knows what wonderful and also hideous political concoctions will emerge as we move on from here, but there are certainly many many people who are, in fact, thinking about this, and will try to make the best of it with the great bundle of tools that we've grown up knowing about.


Speaking as a die-hard leftie: I agree completely, RWR.

We have vast, untapped reserves in the form of conservation.  My wife and I have been running our household much as you suggest, and we consume less than half the average amount of electricity per household in the US (avg. is about about 900 kWh, we're normally under 400) and I'm sure we have by far the lowest winter heating bills in our neighborhood.

By driving less aggressively, I gain at least 8 to 10% in fuel mileage, without spending a single cent on a new car, different fuel, or any modifications.

I plan to add a solar-powered attic fan to our house soon, to help reduce our A/C bills, and we already make good use of the ceiling fans in our living room and bed room to minimize the amount of A/C we need.  (If you have a well insulated home, you can often run the A/C to knock down the temp on the really hot and humid days, then turn it off, leave the windows closed, and use a ceiling fan to stay comfortable for a surprisingly long time.)

Yes, all of these things will take some changes to our "lifestyles", and in some cases some up-front expenditures, but big friggin' deal.  We'll adjust and we'll do much more than merely survive.  It won't be a non-event like Y2K was (at least from the public view; I have a lot of first-hand experience with the behind the scenes stuff, and it wasn't easy or pretty), but the people, like Kunstler, who are predicting gloom and doom now will look nearly as silly as those, like Kunstler, who predicted gloom and doom then.

So here's a bit of necessity inspiring change.

The air conditioning in my apartment has been broken for about a month now.  I live in South Texas, and the daily temperature is already approaching 100 degrees.  Right now, 10 PM, the thermostat in my house reads 93 degrees.  I have the ceiling fan on, and a door open for some heat exchange.  

Short of going out and buying 10 rotary fans, anyone have any suggestions for reducing temperatures, and thereby saving electricity when the A/C does get fixed, that are practical in an apartment?  As it is, I fear I could be putting a drain on water resources just by replenishing the sweat. =D

Foam gaskets behind switches and outlets reduce air leaks significantly for minimal cost.  Weatherstripping any window or door that leaks (easier to check in winter).  But compact fluorescent lamps (less heat to a/c away, less electricity to use.  Insulate water heater (and pipes going into it) especially if inside conditioned space.

Shading for windows if possible.  Ask landlord about reflective film on windows.

Off the top of my head.

My apartment has a huge picture window that faces south, which means my living room gets stifling on summer afternoons.  I bought mylar curtain liners, and they made a huge difference.  About $5, trim to fit.  (You can even use them without curtains, though it looks a bit tacky.)  They make the room a bit dark, but you can open them when you get home if you want more light.  Keeping the sun from shining in all day makes a big difference.  
If the humidity isn't too high, you can tack a loose weave towel or curtain over a doorway, wet it, and then use your fan to blow air through it (improvised swamp cooler).  If you have a bathtub, you can partly fill it with water, wait a couple of hours as the water cools evaporatively (assuming the drain seals well), and then take a cool bath. The idea behind both of these approaches is to augment the natural human cooling system, sweating.
How about a glass of ice water?

The reciprocal for those of us in the colder north: the house is too cold?  Put on a sweater.  Why heat/cool the rest of the space when you can heat/cool the person instead?

I lived in a similar situation. What helped me: take empty 2L milk containers, fill 'em with water, then freeze 'em. When they are solid, you can place them in front of your fan (in a bucket or plant tray). It really helped, but it's a bit of a pain trying to keep large amounts of ice on hand. Still, useful in emergencies (eg. blast furnace with no AC).
I agree, there are many pragmatic things we can do - but will we do enough of them soon enough?  Or will we waste the opportunity in foolish adventures?  These are the big queations!
Hello RWR,

Thxs for responding.  Yes, I am a Doomer, but desperately trying to get people to prove me wrong by their aggregate actions.  I am like Matt Savinar-- haven't yet seen sufficient proof to become more optimistic in my outlook-- yet would be highly appreciative, and greatly relieved to see massive planetary efforts at Powerdown and ecosystem reform.  In short, still waiting to see if humans are smarter than yeast. Time will tell.

I think most people, even on forums like TOD, are not yet considering the full implications and ramifications of Peak Everything and Overshoot: it is so very much more than just Peakoil!  When global warming, mass extinctions, mass migrations, topsoil depletion, water shortages, pollution, continuing population growth, growing militarism, and all resource depletions are taken into full consideration-- there is HELL to pay.

I believe that for humanity to even have a chance at a peaceful Powerdown: the current nine gallons/day American energy avg. should be rapidly heading to the Bangladeshi avg. of two cups of detritus/day within the first three years of the postPeak downslope, but the sooner the better.  We can use all the natural daily biosolar energy we want [PV, wind, tidal, geothermal, etc] but we should be relentlessly trying to save ancient sunshine and our ecosystem for the Seventh Generation Ahead.  Will we ever learn?

Yes, I strongly agree with you on population control: TRUE ROOT CAUSE--more time and worldwide taxdollars should be spent on this ESSENTIAL cultural change than anything else, but this is probably the least discussed governmental topic on the planet. AFAIK, only China has made an attempt of proactively limiting its numbers by questionable legislative fiat, instead of widespread education on the primary reasons to create a non-violent voluntary cultural change.

Consider my now numerous TOD postings on the need for the creation of biosolar habitats distinctly isolated from detritovore habitats, and protected by what I call the Earthmarines.  TODers ignore widespread discussion because they are myopicly focusing on energy to the exclusion of the ecosystem.  Hello Folks--the health of the ecosystem is far more important than maintaining the Energy Fiesta, even if we make great strides at Powerdown!  I believe that both these forces must be tied together if we hope to have any reasonable peaceful mitigation in the days ahead.

Most of us can live without exuburant energy, but very few can live if we have eaten the last raspberry, goat, poodle, salmon, pigeon, rodent, and cockroach, etc on the planet.  Recall the recent MSNBC posting on SST warming and coral reef bleaching-- sounds like a oceanic species Dieoff to me.  More proof of suboptimal planning as we daily squeeze through the Dieoff bottleneck.  Are we going to wait until there are no more fish, crabs, and clams in the stores, or are we going to get ahead of the game?  C'mon People--times awasting.

So far, the bravest people on the planet, IMO, are the indigenous tribespeople throwing wooden spears at the more 'advanced tribes' in a futile effort at keeping them from raping their habitat of its resources.  They truly understand the necessity of LARGE habitats to allow adequate space for other species.  WE did too, at an earlier time, by setting aside land for national parks and forests.  But now, because of increased headcounts, pollution, exurban growth, and increasing mechanized forays into these lands for visits and resource grabs-- the total 'freespace' for other species is declining.

Powerdown alone with our presently massive headcount is like setting up a huge patchwork of scattered one acre national parks--insufficient space and resources for the vast interlocking 'web of life' to strongly rebound and support harvestable biosolar human living--it requires a contiguous geographic area and drainage basin of sufficient size for sustainability and defensibility from being overrun.  Ideally, it should include significant elevation variability so the myriad of species can shift according to the rising GH temperature, yet still retain optimal cross-specie interaction.  As mentioned before, the biosolar secession of the NE & NW parts of the US, and Alaska too, would be a great initial breakthrough: "A small Powerdown step for Mankind, a giant leap for the Ecosystem".  Never forget that the other species have to squeeze through the bottleneck with us too.

The Earthmarines will be dedicated to protecting the biosolars from being overrun AND protecting the other species in the habitat-- think Govt. treehuggers.  Please contrast this idea to the sad African system where the corrupt officials, police, and militias are the worst offenders and polluters against struggling biosolar tribespeople and natural habitats.

Economic collapse due to decreasing net energy and global warming has already setoff human migrations--consider the massive influx and rising concerns over illegal immigration in this country.  Google Zimbabwe, Haiti, Tanzania, and other third world countries suffering a brain-drain.  Unfortunately for the poor people, most of them cannot migrate very far: no cars & no wealth means mostly dying in place and being abused by the worst societal elements.  The sad first world response is indicative of the atrocious sentiment, "We see the rising floodwaters, secretly hoping the others drown".

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

Hi Bob.

I think that you and I both see population the key problem as it makes all other sustainability issue more daunting.

I however do not believe that the absolute carrying capacity of the earth is much lower than [and might even be higher than] today if the goal is to jam in as many humans as possible. Quality of life is a much different question ... and the probablity of accidents escalates.

Logistics is a bitch. Our supply lines are too long and our options are narrowing.

Global warming? A good question, but one that is not IMO answered. All things being equal, the more greenhouse gasses the warmer average global temperatures will be. Have we reached some sort of a tipping point? I dunno. To the extent that we have choises, prudence would dictate that we avoid voluntatry participation in the great global greenhouse gas experiment ... but we have limitted options.

Notice that I did write "experiment." All things are not equal and nothing is static in terms of the factors that determine climates. There are major exogenous influences -- solar output is variable. There are both positive [self reinforcing] and negative [self imiting] feedback mechanisms impacting global temperatures.

Climates change. There have been pictures posted on this board showing a retreating glacier in South America over a time span that most of us can relate to. About 80 years IIRC. Very striking. How meaningful? IIRC ten thousand years ago the Matanuska [spelling] glacier covered what is now Anchorage. Is is now something like 80 miles from town.

The earth has been a lot warmer and a lot colder in the past and all we know for certain is that man caused changes in the level of green house gasses had nothing to do with those. If there are major man caused changes there will be winners and losers. Given a choice, would I but a ticket in this lottery -- hell no. I think that you and I can agree on that much.

Large biospheres & biodiversity. All for them. Population pressures and sprawl for the sake of sprawl are going to chop things up. Many on this board believe that exurbia and the miles strip malls that have popped up in the U.S. are doomed even without a rapidly declining population. If I live to see that I will not mourn their passing.

Regarding Zimbabawe, my brother spent a couple of years traveling through Africa in the 1970s. He regarded Rhodesia as it was referred to at the time with great hope. [Not so South Africa which he saw as very nasty political situation that was bound to get worse.] Based on his descriptions, in Zimbabwe, the whites were a tiny minority and were working to create a country that would be stable and prosperous through education and steady / slow change if only in sober recognition of demographics. Ian Smith might have been a racist, but he knew that the withdrawl of colonial power without a transition phase to majority rule would be a disaster. The West imposed an rigorous embargo and Zimbabwe ended up with Mugabe.

As to Haiti, add over population to a fabulous level of corruption. Outcomes so far have been much better on the other half of Hispanola in the Dominican Republic. Probably a cultural thing, I don't know. Maybe Don Sailorman, or some other resident economic sage of this board has some thoughts on what if anything can be done from outside. I don't so in that sense maybe I am a doomer.

In general, I am not a "doomer." However, in regard to some societies, such as that of Haiti, I see no hope at all. During the past five hundred years, Haiti has not had five minutes of good government. To the best of my knowledge, no country has had a worse history of two centuries of atrocities nor a worse colonial government preceding independence. As far as I know, no society has more ruined its environment than Haiti.

What intervention from outside could do any good? None that I can think of. When Haitians strap together some inflated inner tubes and float away hoping to land on other shores, they know their odds of survival are perhaps fifty percent--perhaps even less. Nevertheless, for an ordinary person living in Haiti, such a choice is rational, because some chance of a decent life is better than none. Without remissions from overseas Haitians, even the current levels of misery would greatly worsen. As individuals, many Haitians are fine people, hard workers, honest and decent. But trapped as they are by population increase, environmental destruction, pervasive violence and corruption, Haiti is an unending horror story--and likely to get much worse as HIV infection spreads.

It is all to easy to speak glibly of "failed societies," and when TSHTF. To see what these concepts can mean, look closely at Haiti.

I am like Matt Savinar-- haven't yet seen sufficient proof to become more optimistic in my outlook-- yet would be highly appreciative, and greatly relieved to see massive planetary efforts at Powerdown and ecosystem reform.  In short, still waiting to see if humans are smarter than yeast. Time will tell.

I think the obvious conclusion we can draw from peak oil, global warming, and possibly social security ... is that people as an aggregate do not trust mathematical models.

The can and do respond to environmental/economic changes that stare them in the face (70's and 80's fuel crisis), but I think it's apparent that they aren't going to change just because someone calculates that they should.  Those of us with a little more numeric background find that frustrating.  (Emotional pessimists just sign on to our cause because they are pessimists, not because they have a high degree of numeracy.)

So anyway, responses to peak oil and global warming will come when the problems are obvious.  That may be happening already, in both cases.  High gas prices and hurricanes, even if they do not have a 1:1 causality with peak oil or global warming to appear to have gotten the ball rolling.

We are starting to see policy response.  I think this start is late enough that we will see some economic problems, but not so late that we will see major social disruption, starvation, and dieoff.

... and I don't think anyone has a model that can prove the pessimistic cases.  The Hirsch report does project, model, that we will have troubles ... but I classify those as the moderate sort.

"Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?" This question is really irritating and utterly unfair. Yeasts have much longer record of success than humans. They are one of the most ubiquitous group of species and very good survivors. Besides, talking about population. the human species has a very long record of stable population (I mean the last 50 000 years or so.) Population growth is not mere biology. And listen - ever heard  of naturally decreasing population in those countries that have currently experienced severe energy shocks. The Chines population program has not been a great success - but the Ukrainian population is diminishong without any population control legislation.

And don't worry about conservation. When the energy supply starts declining, everybody starts conserving, for sure. But why should they do that before it? Very large conservation would push the peak a little bit forward, but would not prevent it. For now efforts to increase energy efficiency will only increase energy consumption because of the energy-consuming investments they involve.

There is nothing much to do about the peak oil now. Tell other people? Why not, but they will know anyway when the peak comes. We cannot prevent the peak - it is impossible in the end. But shouldn't we do something? Yes, prepare politically and otherwise to cope the economical and social problems caused by an unprecedented development - sustained negative economic growth. They will not be any nice collapse  or many interesting dramatic events - the real challenge is just the sustained and long, slow slide downwards. Have fun.

"Most of the non-energy forums ignore me, quickly change the thread topic, call me a troll or a raving lunatic, or launch into endless optimism or Denial.  I recommend that everyone here on TOD should try this for awhile-- you will then become a fast-crash Doomer like me."

I don't see the connection--people you contact don't ask for more information and/or dismiss your concerns, so we're doomed to a fast crash?

"I am not sure when the energy inflection point will  finally occur causing a societal critical mass to ask for help, but I suspect when it finally happens: I think most of us Peakoilers will be too busy attending to our own affairs to be of any help.  My two cents."

I don't believe that for a second.  The people committed to educating mainstreamers about this looming situation will continue to help how they can.

Hello LouGrinzo,

Thxs for responding.  Consider all the past [before fossil fuels!]civilizational collapses: ameliorative social change was way too slow to effectively and peaceably mitigate ecosystem 'web of life' changes induced by destructive societal practices.  What is now simultaneously presented to us is a horrific COMBO of planetary ecosystem and a non-biosolar 'artificial & temporary detritus construct' collapse.  Do you detect a sufficient and ever-growing differential rate of positive societal change happening NOW to feel fully confident that we can peaceably evade the DOUBLE_WHAMMY?  May I suggest you study this link on eco-islandization:

or this one called "DEAD. WRONG.":

Does anyone still dispute that Pres. Carter's Sweater Speech misled the masses?  Does anyone EVER READ reports on increasingly healthy habitats and massive political change against infinite growth?  How much proactivity vs resistivity do you detect worldwide?  Who would draw the larger media coverage: (Brad & Angelina) vs. (Simmons, Kunstler, Campbell, both Bartletts, & Savinar)?  Who should be the media megastars?

Will a child accept a stuffed teddy or panda bear if no real live ones exist on the planet?  Think of the park rangers and wildlife scientists killed by poachers, who then go on to harvest the bushmeat.  More humans are born everyday than the sum total of our fellow primates-- is this a positive trend for the other species?  How many detect that the 200 year history of economic 'scientific' planning has brought Peace on Earth and full bellies for all?  Twenty generations of the 'Tragedy of the Commons' seems more likely, and the next twenty generations, due to our borrowing against the future, will only get 'Tragedy'.

I am doing my best to alert the unwashed masses: alerting friends and family, hundreds of emails and postings, handing out website cards to strangers, but eventually I will not be able to spend this time and money on this endeavor-- Law of Diminishing Returns goes for messengers too.  The Easter Island ecologists probably found it painfully difficult to argue with the last lumberjack because he was holding the axe.

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

I do not think my elected federal representatives in the House or Senate give a rat's ass what I think, so I would not contact them.  
You are right Twilight, they do not give a rat's ass what you as an individual think.  However, if we all take that standpoint, then we deserve all the bad goverment we get. (Wherever we live).  It is the sum of individuals efforts that can lead to change. So put the negative feelings aside, pick up your pen or keyboard, and use an hour of your time to try to convince whoever you think is the most effective target.  After all - what have you got to lose?
Hello Twilight,

If Richard Rainwater & Bill Gates donated $10 million apiece to promote Peakoil nationally across all media forms, would that be sufficient inducement to email your pols?  Recall that both of these men have read Simmons "Twilight in the Desert".  Just musing, of course, but IMO, this would make them national heroes in my eyes.

But does anyone know how to contact these guys, or the Google founders?  I emailed the Google website a long time ago asking them to put an "I'm Feeling Unlucky" button [underneath the "I'm Feeling Lucky" button] on their search page that would take the viewer to  I would even settle for search results of "addicted to oil" at this point in time.

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

Ahh, now you have it!  My opinion does not have a check attached you see, which makes it worthless.

Haggisbasher, I have been a dedicated participant in the democratic process all my life, including running for a local office, so spare me the pep rally!  I do not believe most federal Congressmen care at all what the majority of people think, because they can effectively control what enough of them think (through corporate money, propaganda, gerrymandered districts, and voter fraud, etc.) to stay in office regardless.  A few of them are so pathetic that they are vulnerable, and mine is one, so perhaps the next guy will be worth communicating with.  Writing your federal congressman will get you a form letter, and they will only total the ones that agree with their existing (purchased) positions.

It is far more worthwhile to work at a local level, or even state level (depending on your state).  This will not make the kind of large-scale infrastructure investments we need happen, but it may build grass roots support over time.

Ok twilight, our representatives don't give a rats ass right now but its my belief that awareness is the key in trying to wake everybody up to what we is an issue.. And what better way than to get our representatives talking about, other that just one lone wolf like Mr Bartlett.. But of course, its going to take leadership and if can find that one leader that the people will listen too, them perhaps the idea that PO should be taken seriously will get to the masses.

That's why I believe we should all contact our representative, like Bob Shaw, on a weekly basis. I'm just trying to get one to acknowledge my emails..

Iran, Qatar, and us....the center of the world is here:

Iran sells NO OIL and NO NATURAL GAS to the United States at this time, and has not for many years. In case you have not noticed, we don't get along well.

The Europeans and Asian nations do however buy Iranian oil and gas, and for some of them, it is crucial to their economy.

Iran has been very astute at taking advantage of the "split" between the U.S. and our Asian/Euro allies on where our oil/gas comes from.

Iran's oil is actually past it's peak production of the 1970's and '80's, this from Iranians inside the oil industry (one of the biggest proponents of so called "peak oil" is an Iranian oil minister)

But, Iran's ace in the hole is natural gas. They have the second largest known reserves in the world, behind only Russia, and are a stone's throw across the Persian Gulf from the third largest, in Qatar, a staunch U.S. allied Kingdom. Look at a map. The distances are truly minute, with Qatar almost in view of the Iranian coast on a clear day with good binoculars.

CENTCOM, Central Command, the operational headquarters of the Iraq invasion, is in Qatar.

If a true shooting war were to break out, the CENTCOM headquarters would surely come under a "shower of missiles", Silkworms to be exact, that would be very hard to defend against. This of course would be responded to in full measure, as Iran would be laid flat, but....

The damage would have been done. Iran, and Qatar, two of the largest known reserves of natural gas, and all the investment in trying to get that gas would be destroyed in a day.
CENTCOM would be heavily damaged, possibly destroyed, and it is already stretched to the limit in the Iraqi occupation. Qatar, one of the wealthiest and most pro-American regimes in the world would be in ruins.
The Japanese, South Koreans, Chinese and Indians, would be left in the lurch for Iranian and Qatari natural gas for long periods of time as infrastructure would have to be rebuilt. The American fleet would be hanging on by a thread, surrounded by hostile parties on one and destroyed allies on the other. American power in the region would be hanging by a thread, with the risk of lose of oil and our allies natural gas base. We would be looking at the nuclear option as our only way to survive...and the humanitarian ecological nightmare is too grim to comtemplate.

We have not even touched on the effect on oil and gas shipping in and out of the Persian Gulf.

Would Iran take the chance? Only if they thought we would actually invade. And after our adventures in Iraq, the U.S. is now seen as the unpredictable party in the region, at least as much so as the Iranians.

We are walking a tightrope. One error on either side could have catastrophic consequences.

That's a worse case scenario, but a not unrealistic one. Let's pray we dodge this bullet, and ask the Iranians, who would cease to exist as a nation in such a scenario, to pray with us.


 In the recent roaring row about the UAE (Dubai) operation of U.S. ports, in became obvious that many people had no idea what the "UAE" is or where it is, or why they are important to us.
Now, of course, we continue to hear the "Qatar" come up with increasing frequency in relation to our need for natural gas, LNG, and natural gas liquids, so this time, let's get in front of the news!

Qatar, what is it, where is it, and why should we care?

Why should anybody care!?
"The United States Armed Forces Unified Combatant Command unit for the Middle East theater, known as CENTCOM (US Central Command), has its headquarters in Qatar. Qatar also hosts a large United States Air Force base."
" Qatar exports almost all of its oil production to Asia , with Japan by far its largest customer."
"Qatar also produces a significant amount of lease condensate and other natural gas liquids (NGLs), both of which fall outside the country's OPEC crude oil production quota, which has been set at 700,000 bbl/d since November 1, 2004 . Production on NGLs has been rising as a byproduct of increased natural gas production."

" With proven reserves of 910 trillion cubic feet (Tcf), Qatar 's natural gas resources rank third in size behind Russia 's and Iran 's. Most of Qatar 's natural gas is located in the offshore North Field, which is the largest known non-associated natural gas field in the world"
Exxon shareholders care...
The 1.7 billion barrels of reserve additions DOES include the 1.6 billion equivalent barrels of Qatar gas, which means 94% of the additions were Qatar gas. This is the second consecutive year almost all the additions came from a single natural gas field in Qatar, raising questions about the diversification of the company's reserves. Notice that when they say "excluding the effects of using single-day, year-end pricing" they mean that the announcement is not in conformity with SEC Rules."
My guess:
We will be hearing more about this place in the near let's learn about them now....

 In President Bush's State Of The Union Address, he challenged America's addiction to oil, foreign oil in particular.

In recent weeks, he has also given speeches indicating his concern with natural gas (to quote the President, "We are in trouble on this....", don't know how much clearer you say it!), and then goes on to speak of LNG (Liquified Natural Gas.

However, while getting free of dependence on Mideast oil seems the implied goal of the administration, there is little mention that we are preparing to MASSIVELY increase our relience on Middle Eastern natural gas.

But from where is all this gas to come from? We currently get the bulk of our LNG from Trinidad and Tobago, small islands off the coast of Venesuala. It's a very short haul, which is VERY important as far as LNG goes, since it is super cooled to reduce it from a gas to a liquid, and as heat returns to the containers, natural gas is vaporized. The most modern LNG ships then use this gas to provide power to the ship itself, so it is not "wasted" as some seem to believe, but used.
However, as the distance increases of hauling the gas, it can vapor faster than the ship needs it...and there is another issue. With extremely long distances of shipping, the scheduling of the deliveries get more difficult to control, and it is to be remembered that this is a HUGE volume of gas once it is rewarmed, gas someone will be waiting on. The scheduling must be well planned, and any technical problem creates the risk of a big disruption...

Behind Russia (a very big nation with a large natural gas consumption of it's own, and ready pipeline customers for it's gas in Europe) and Iran (which we are at odds with, and which has ready pipeline consumers for it's gas in India and Pakistan, the third largest known reserves of natural gas in the world are in Qatar. There are well under one million people in Qatar. Per person, the natural gas endowment for such a small nation is ASTRONOMICAL beyond words. In theory, Qatar could provide gas for it's OPEC sisters, and still have trillions of cubic feet for sale. Compare Qatar with a population of 863,051 (not as many people as Atlanta!) to Iran with 61 million, and Russia with a 143 million!

And we have the advantage.
CENTCOM (US Central Command), has its headquarters in Qatar. Qatar also hosts a large United States Air Force base.
Our military machine in Iraq literally runs it's invasion/occupation of Iraq out of Qatar.

The massive wealth soon to pour into Qatar is ASTOUNDING if the LNG plans and "natural gas liquids" and fertilizer and chemical business continue to grow.

Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani is the monarch in Qatar, and is given as "the staunchest ally of the United States in the Middle East", but do not assume he is naive, he was educated at Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, in the United Kingdom.

Qatar is very conservatve but on a path of modernization that is liberal by Mideast standards. It educates it's women, has U.S. college campuses operating there, and other socially progressive ideas, pushed forward mostly be the Emer Sheikh Hamad's progressive and beautiful young wife Her Highness Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al-Missned.

It is possible that these people will soon be the richest couple in the world. But they make a juicy target. The propaganda against them as Western collaborationists by the Al Queada types is already underway, and they are within eyesigt distance of Iranian silkworm missiles. If Iran and the U.S. go to war, they would be among the first targets in the Iranian crosshairs. They are relient on U.S. military protection in a way even far exceeding the Saudi Arabian or Kuwaiti royal family.

If we want the natural gas and natural gas liquids we need with ever increasing desperation, we must keep them convinced that we are their ONLY PROTECTOR.

If is becoming fascinating to watch the last years of world fossil fuel desperation funnel down to an area of the Earth smaller than Texas.  America's mighty military machine is being driven into the big end of the funnel, and going further and further down the narrowing tunnel, to where the world is now centered, with a tiny hole at the end of the funnel to squeeze through:  Saudi Arabian Ghawar, Kuwait, Iraq, Iran, Qatar, United Arab Emirites, literally stone throws apart, one from the other, and it is here is this small place that our destiny as a nation, and as people, may well be decided soon.  We are at a pivotal epoch making moment, when even the smallest events can be the tipping points to catastrophic outcomes that are hard to even imagine the implications of.

Scenarios are useless except as a way to terrify the observant.

One can of course choose to concentrate on the dangers of some kind of military action against Iran, but there are also substantial gains to be made from an attack on Iran. Sure there are a lot of negatives in the balance, but there are also a number of positives for the United States. One could call them collectively "The Prize."

1. Regime change in Iran and the establishment of a friendly government.

2. Access to and control of Irans oil and gas reserves. China, Japan, India and Europe get a lot of their energy from Iran.

3. Breaking the back of the Shite "renascence".

4. At a stroke removing Iranian support for "terrorist" and "resistance" movements in Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine.

5. Detroying Israel's last, true, military enemy.

6. Weakening the Russian/Chinese/Iranian alliance.

7. Dramatically improving ones chances of "winning" in Iraq.

8. Showing the world that the United States is an Empire in full vigour and not a declining power bogged down in the hopeless quagmire of Iraq.

9. Going on the offensive millitarilly is preferable to the static occupation mode employed in Iraq.

10. "Peace" between Israel and the Palestinians. Israel would be secure for perhaps decades and the Palestinians would realistically have no choice but to accept their defeat and agree to peace on Israel's terms.

So, even though it's a really risky strategy, war and regime change in Iran has an awful lot going for it. No one really doubts that the United States would win a short, sharp, war with Iran do we? What happens afterwards is another story completely. If one believes that Iran is a totalitarian dictatorship, then liberating its people surely couldn't be that unpopular could it? One last, cosmic, throw of the Devil's dice, and all that appears lost might yet be won. If I was a betting man, I'd put a small wager on war with Iran sometime this year. It's a near certainty if there's another terror attack on U.S. soil. If one could successfully present the coming war as a struggle to preserve "civilization" from the forces of Islamic terror/barabrism, then it might just be "doable."

The US has proven itself an effective force at toppling
3rd world governments with relative ease. However, its
ability to win the peace subsequent to its government toppling
is in question (witness Iraq). I'm not sure that I'd trust
an administration that admits making thousands of mistakes
in its dealings with Iraq to start yet another war. With a
blundering track record, an attack on Iran could topple
more than just another 3rd world government.

If total destabilization of the region is a good idea; then
attacking Iran is a good start. All this talk of yet another
country to attack reminds me of Japan in WWII. "Attack
everyone and hope it works" is bad military theory.

I think that unless the US wants to go into a real war footing
domestically, like it did during WWII, it should avoid another
war at all costs.

I am going to assume that this was a deliberate 1st April post. If it wasn't, you have some problems with reality.

Please take a good look at what has happened / is happening in Iraq. That was supposed to be a short, sharp war.  

Are you also aware that the Pentagon is comfortable with  the use of tactical nuclear weapons in any attack on Iran?

In case you have not realised, the USA is no longer an Empire in full vigour but a debtor nation on the edge of bankrutcy.

You assume that Russia, China osv. shall be content to see the US establish full control over all oil supplies.

I hope for all our sakes that those who will take this decision have some more common sense and confine their betting to the track.

Your assumption

10. "Peace" between Israel and the Palestinians. Israel would be secure for perhaps decades and the Palestinians would realistically have no choice but to accept their defeat and agree to peace on Israel's terms.

Is unlikely to be true longterm. Temporarily there might be 'peace' but a lasting peace has to be built on mutual respect and mutual interest. An imposed peace can be a war waiting to happen. France found this after defeating the Prussians at Jena. They got reopaid in 1870.  Again the allies found this after the first World War, and were almost defeated during the Second. That is one reason the West did not demmand major reparations.

The simple fact is the Arabs can outwait the Israili -US alliance. Sometime after peak oil Israel will be vulnerable and the USA will no longer be interested in the Middle east..

The only solution is mutual accomodation and respect..and a real peace treaty with full social and commercial interaction interaction.

Now that we're in April, this seems as good a time and place as any to ask:

Wasn't the US supposed to attack Iran last month because of the opening of the Iranian oil bourse?

There are plenty of pros and cons for attacking Iran, but the oil bourse thing seemed awfully farfetched, both in the claims made about the effects it would have and as a reason for an attack.

Where are the people who were making those claims? (Maybe I read all that stuff somewhere else, but this is practically the only peak oil site I visit with any frequency.) What do they have to say now? Did Iran even open the bourse?

Just trying to cause trouble....

They are locked away in their secret underground laboratories perfecting the reasoning behind why the US is about to invade Nigeria, why Natural Gas will be $50 by Easter, and why suburbia is about to implode today, or any day very soon now. They have no time to answer questions about their bold predictions on Iran, only time for more predictions.
Natural gas is chemical feedstock for PAAS easter egg dye...As long as these Manufactured holidays keep progressing we WON'T have a christmas.
The IOB has been "delayed" - perhaps forever.  I never thought the IOB was more han a minor factor - I still think the Bush administration is dead set on a military attack on Iran if they can pull it off.  Since the hardliners didn't do as well as expected in the Israeli elections, perhaps the danger is slightly reduced, but as far as I can see the prepostioning for war grinds on.  
Since the hardliners didn't do as well as expected in the Israeli elections, perhaps the danger is slightly reduced

How did the "Hardliners" do in the Palestinian election?

Oh yeah they won.

Which is relevant in regard to Iran how?  IMO the Israelis have a part in increasing the pressure to attack Iran, but I'm not aware that the Palestinians do, regardless of who they've elected.  

As far as Hamas goes - they won in a fair election.  Democracy is messy - get over it.  

"IMO the Israelis have a part in increasing the pressure to attack Iran"....If the Israelis want to attack Iran they won't ask permission.  There are birds on runways 24/7 fueled and ready.

As far as Hamas goes - they won in a fair election.  Democracy is messy - get over it.   You brought it up...If hardliner Israelis get elected thats messy.  But yes Hamas a terrorist organization being elected puts the Israelis in fight mode. Not just inside their borders.  

The aggressive Israeli posture towards Iran far precedes the Hamas election, and since the Hamas elections the Israelis have elected a less hard-line government than many had predicted.  Both facts support my assertion that the Israeli pressure to go after Iran may have eased a bit - not much I'd bet, but nonetheless.  It's clear that the Hamas election has little to do with the Israeli policy with regard to Iran.  Feel free to interpret it any way you please.  

It is fairly obvious that your only purpose is to disagree with whatever it is I post, regardless of whether there is a point or not, which I find rather tedious.  As I have said before, we clearly see the world in very different ways, and it is not necessary to continually prove that.

  I have agreed with you on to previous postings outside of ME policy.  I am contesting here that the Bush Administration has made their mind up to invade Iran.  Also Israel will do whatever they want, they independantly attacked the Iraqi reactor previously.  You consistently chatter about the evils in the white house.  The leader of Iran is developing nuclear weapons and said he wants to wipe our ally off the face of the earth.  We are in a political process with many other nations resolving this.  Honestly the first dusk after Iran's president said that I am surprised we did not take them out.  The whole point of having nuclear primacy is to keep countries like Iran out of the club. If you think that is incorrect give me the advantages of a nuclear Iran.  

How does an optical rectenna work?  I've read about it and I am not understanding?


Iran is not very close to having a nuclear bomb, and there is very little reason to believe that a nuclear Iran would attack Israel for the uncomplicated reason that Israel, a very considerable nuclear power, would wipe them off the face of the earth if they did.

The notion that Iran is a great and immanent threat is no more credible than previous nonsense about the terrifying danger of allowing Iraq to go uninvaded because of its WMDs.

By the way, if I were an Iranian, I'd have no difficulty at all coming up with reasons for wanting the bomb.

  1. To deter the United States and Israel from bombing or invading Iran since neither country shows much respect for anybody's sovereignty.

  2. To be able to deal with regional neighbors who already have the bomb (Pakistan and India).

  3. To rule out another attack on Iran by some future Sunni power--the Iran/Iraq War of the 80s is not forgotten.

 and there is very little reason to believe that a nuclear Iran would attack Israel

forget everything you knowe read the Koran 123,000 times and then sit and pray in a mosque 5 times a day for life.  Then make the logical decisions you outlined above. You can't reason with the unreasonable.  The leader of Iran said he was going to do it.  If I tell a cop I am going to reach into my coat, grab a gun and shoot him, he'll draw his weapon.  If I reach into my coat he'll cock the hammer. If I move to fast I'm dead.

On the historical record, the Americans and the Israelis are more likely to attack somebody than the Iranians. And we've got our own religious fanatic who thinks he's got God on speed dial.

There is an old Arab proverb to the effect that the Iranians know how to do everything. Assuming that these people are fanatics and idiots is, to adapt an old line, worse than a sin against political correctness, it's just a mistake.

No doubt it's very risky to try to appease aggressive, unreasonable regimes. Thing is, the Iranians quite agree. That's why I don't think they're going to back down.

 The issues you raise are important.

 I know an Iranian, one who is full of scorn for the present Iranian administration.

 I asked him about Iranian nuclear development from my perspective that this may be a legitimate response to peak oil. Since Iran has uranium within its borders it makes sense to generate power via nuclear and to export the increasingly valuable petroleum assets.

 My friend responded no, Iranian nuclear was not an attempt at peak oil mitigation but a means to defend itself against the US. I was taken aback that he would argue so forcibly against the current regime while at the same time supporting that regime in its pursuit of nuclear weapons. I asked him to explain this contradiction.

 He then gave a long review of America's acts of aggression and repression in the Middle East. His key argument is that America is no friend or ally to anyone, that America will ignore its own written treaties and agreements with impunity. He views America as a rogue state and an extremely dangerous one. He gave many examples of his concerns. These ranged from America's creation and support of the Taliban which served to destabilize the entire region, and the American provision of WMD precursor chemicals and satellite imagery support to Iraq in support of its war with Iran. He claimed that his views were shared by all Iranians regardless of their opinion of the current Iranian adminstration.

 His arguements were not filled with rancour against the Mullahs in Washington; he gave a very clear headed presentation of the great violence done in the Middle East due to rampant US self interest.

 This self interest extends to your political leadership which has made clear its intent to carry the november elections on a national security plank. We know the American public is not well informed on peak oil or GHG and is therefore easily manipulated. I believe the same applies in regard to US interventions in the Middle East.

I agree with the assessment that the threat of Iran is being trumped up by this administration, in pretty much the exact same way that the threat of Iraq was.  That extremely hurts the credibility of anything the administration says. I'm just afraid that the majority of us Americans will be fooled again.

The application of Mutually Assured Destruction is outdated though.  During the Cold War, if there was a nuclear attack on the US or it's allies, one could be 99% sure it was the USSR.  However, the most likely scenario with an Iranian bomb would be that it'd be passed to a paramilitary (terrorist is too loaded of a word nowadays) group and Iran could maintain plausible deniability, thus decreasing their chance of immediate and overwhelming reprisal.  

Then again, if a nuke went off anywhere in the world right now, I think that the US's response would be to immediately send a dozen ICBMs Tehran's way, regardless of whether they were responsible or not.  

In fact he did not say that, it's just the translation you have been fed and willing swallow because it fits your preconceived notions.  As I posted before, this article contains a description of the translation.  Do you really support immediately attacking another nation because of the words (allegedly) spoken by its president?

I do not know for sure if the Bush administration has decided to attack Iran - I just see the same kinds of obvious, transparent lies as I did in the run up to the Iraq war, and by the same people.  I see them working very hard to build support for it, and doing everything they can to prevent reasonable settlement within the limits of the established international treaties signed by both sides.  And therefore I conclude that there is something else going on, and are likely likely to continue following the plan they published in PNAC.  

There is no evidence that Iran is developing a nuclear weapon, just US propaganda - and the fact that it would be entirely reasonable for them to want nuclear weapons given the past and present aggressions of the US against them.  In fact Iran is entitled to the nuclear fuel cycle by the terms of the NPT, and they have done a far better job adhering to its terms than we are doing.

The political process we are involved in is a ruse, as is the nuclear weapons issue it is intended to "resolve".  This is about one small nation that wants an advantage over the only other regional power that it considers a threat, and another larger power that wants to eliminate a threat to its control over the oil/NG in the ME.  Our real rivals are China and India, and Iran is in the way.  

Frankly, I am no more concerned about Iran having nuclear weapons than I am about aggressive, irresponsible states like Israel having them.  Or Pakistan for that matter.  I do not for a moment believe that if Iran had nukes that they would immediately attack Israel - their rulers may be jerks, but they are shrewd.

Perhaps you mistake my criticism of the things the US is doing as somehow translating to a lack of patriotism - nothing could be further from the truth.  I love my country and I'm deeply offended by the things that are being done in my name.  I am simply unwilling to ignore or excuse what is going on because it is painful to see.  It is my duty to speak up when the people who run my country are doing things that are counter to the law and the principals on which it was founded.  

I have no idea how an optical rectenna works - semiconductor device physics is not my field.

Thanks for the link, here's what I have found regarding Ahmadinejad His original comments were to wipe the regime off the map which I read the day the speech was made at the aljazeera site and have now been removed as far as I can see, the google cache of this site is the only reference I could find.
As it seems to have been removed already here it is as I copied it:
Last update - 00:23 21/02/2006              
Iranian FM denies wanting to 'wipe Israel off the map'
By Reuters

BRUSSELS - Iran's foreign minister denied on Monday that Tehran wanted to see Israel "wiped off the map," saying President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had been misunderstood.

"Nobody can remove a country from the map. This is a misunderstanding in Europe of what our president mentioned," Manouchehr Mottaki told a news conference, speaking in English, after addressing the European Parliament.

"How is it possible to remove a country from the map? He is talking about the regime. We do not legally recognize this regime," he said.


Ahmadinejad caused a storm of condemnation last October after Iran's official IRNA news agency quoted him as telling a conference: "Israel must be wiped off the map".

Mottaki's comments came as he sought to assure EU lawmakers and institutions that Tehran had no ambitions to make nuclear weapons, despite widespread mistrust in Europe and the United States of the reasons behind Iran's nuclear program.

Iran says it is for energy production only.

Mottaki also acknowledged the Holocaust, in which six million Jews were killed by Nazi Germany, despite Ahmadinejad saying in December that it was a myth.

He told the parliament's foreign affairs committee, speaking through an interpreter: "Our friends in Europe stress that such a crime has taken place and they have stated certain figures that were actually suffered. We have no argument about that, but what we are saying here is to put right such a horrific event, why should the Muslims pay a price?"

The political leader of militant group Hamas, which won Palestinian legislative elections last month, was in Tehran on Monday for talks with Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Mottaki said it was natural such talks should take place, while making clear he rejected the West's labelling of Hamas, which is committed to Israel's destruction, as a terrorist group.

"We believe that those people who make efforts to free their countries should not be regarded as terrorists," he said.

"The leaders in that government and parliament have been invited by many Arab countries such as Egypt, and other Islamic countries, even Russia, so it is natural they should also visit Iran."

He declined to speculate on how ties between a Hamas-led Palestinian government and Tehran would develop.
A disturbance in the matrix? Just as Condi's comments were some months ago changed from "the question is not on the agenda" to "Condi says no attack on Iran" or a variation of and plastered over hundreds of media sources, is that double speak?

In response to the various other posts it seems as good a place to put this as any now as it comes up time and again.
On Iran getting Nuclear weapons, what possible use other than defence could they have (just stick them under oil infrastructure) it would obviously result in a nuclear retaliation even if they could aim missiles accurately, a suitcase bomb for what possible reason, they couldn't claim it and receive any thanks from the Palestinians for an attack outside the region and as for an attack on Israel has anyone ever looked at a map of  the place it's tiny and a surface blast from such a weapon even one ten times smaller, the smallest according to this and assuming a ten times reduction in the blast area where the hell would it be detonated and not cause damage to the surrounding countries, the Palestinians themselves or their land according to whatever madman you chose, please everyone who does it lay off the drugs (the MSM) it seems to be making many into paranoid delusionals or is that indoctrinated individuals :)

The only place I fear is the U.S. even the MSM thinks so along with the worlds obsession with never ending growth it's also where my greatest hopes for the future lay the U.S. and its people still have enormous power don't they? Does it still have enough of that power to invite the world to power down?

Some background on the middle east and Israel as a Pawn for the U.S.
From Noam Chomsky's Understanding Power
Understanding the Middle East Conflict
MAN: 1 f I can just change the topic a little, Professor-I'd like you to talk a
bit about the situation in the Middle East these days. People say the Pales-
tinians are utilizing the media more than they ever have before to draw at-
tention to Israeli repression [i.e. during the Palestinian uprising of the late
1980s]. I'm wondering whether you think that will have any, effect on
Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories on the West Bank and the
Gaza Strip in the future?
(Editors' Note: The following discussion of the Israeli/Palestinian con-
flict forms the foundation o f Chomsky's analysis o f the so-called "peace
process" that began in the early 1990s)

Well, this business about the Palestinians "using the media" is mostly
racist garbage, in my view. The fact of the matter is that the Intifada is a big,
mass, popular revolution in reaction to the absolutely brutal treatment the
Palestinians have been living under-and it's going on in places where there
are no television cameras, and places where there are.

See, there's a whole racist line which is very common in the United
States. One of my favorite versions of it appeared in the journal Commen-
tary, in an article written by some professor in Canada. It said: the Pales-
tinians are "people who breed, and bleed, and advertise their misery." 37
Straight Nazi propaganda. I mean, imagine if somebody said that about
Jews: "Jews are people who breed, and bleed, and advertise their misery."
But that's the kind of thing you hear-it's a particularly vulgar version of it,
but the line is: look, the Palestinians are just doing it for the cameras be-
cause they're trying to discredit the Jews.

They do exactly the same thing when there are no cameras.

The real point is, Israel is having a lot of trouble putting down this pop-
ular revolution. I mean, the repression of the Palestinians in the West Bank
is not qualitatively different right now from what it's been for the last
twenty years-it's just that it's escalated in scale since the Palestinians
started fighting back in the Intifada. So the brutality you see occasionally
now on television has in fact been going on for the last twenty years, and it's
just the nature of a military occupation: military occupations are harsh and
brutal, there is no other kind [Israel seized the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and
Golan Heights from Jordan, Egypt, and Syria during the Six Day War in
1967, and has controlled them ever since]. There's been home-destruction,
collective punishments, expulsion, plenty of humiliation, censorship-I
mean, you'd have to go back to the worst days of the American South to
know what it's been like for the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories.
They are not supposed to raise their heads-that's what they say in Israel,
"They're raising their heads, we've got to do something about it." And
that's the way the Palestinians have been living. 38

Well, the United States has been quite happy supporting that-so long as
it worked. But in the last few years, it hasn't worked. See, people with
power understand exactly one thing: violence. If violence is effective, every-
thing's okay; but if violence loses its effectiveness, then they start worrying
and have to try something else. So right now you can see U.S. planners re-
assessing their policies towards the Occupied Territories, just as you can see
the Israeli leadership reassessing them-because violence isn't working as
well anymore. In fact, the occupation's beginning to be rather harmful for
Israel. So it's entirely possible that there could be some tactical changes
coming with respect to how Israel goes about controlling the Territories-
but none of this has anything to do with "using the media."

WOMAN: What do you think a solution might he for resolving the conflict
in the region, then?

Well, outside of the United States, everybody would know the answer to
that question. I mean, for years there's been a very broad consensus in the
world over the basic framework of a solution in the Middle East, with the
exception of two countries: the United States and Israel.39 It's going to have
to be some variety of two-state settlement.
  Look, there are two groups claiming the right of national self-
determination in the same territory; they both have a claim, they're com-
peting claims. There are various ways in which such competing claims
could be reconciled-you could do it through a federation, one thing or an-
other-but given the present state of conflict, it's just going to have to be
done through some form of two-state settlement.") Now, you could talk
about the modalities-should it be a confederation, how do you deal with
economic integration, and so on-but the principle's quite clear: there has
to be some settlement that recognizes the right of self-determination of Jews
in something like the state of Israel, and the right of self-determination of
Palestinians in something like a Palestinian state. And everybody knows
where that Palestinian state would be-in the West Bank and Gaza Strip,
along roughly the borders that existed before the Six Day War in 1967. And
everybody knows who the representative of the Palestinians is: it's the
Palestine Liberation Organization [P.L.O.].

All of this has been obvious for years-why hasn't it happened? Well, of
course Israel's opposed to it. But the main reason it hasn't happened is be-
cause the United States has blocked it: the United States has been blocking
the peace process in the Middle East for the last twenty years-we're the
leaders of the rejectionist camp, not the Arabs or anybody else. See, the
United States supports a policy which Henry Kissinger called "stalemate";
that was his word for it back in 1970.41 At that time, there was kind of a
split in the American government as to whether we should join the broad
international consensus on a political settlement, or block a political settle-
ment. And in that internal struggle, the hard-liners prevailed; Kissinger was
the main spokesman. The policy that won out was what he called "stale-
mate": keep things the way they are, maintain the system of Israeli oppres-
sion. And there was a good reason for that, it wasn't just out of the blue:
having an embattled, militaristic Israel is an important part of how we rule
the world.

Basically the United States doesn't give a damn about Israel: if it goes
down the drain, U.S. planners don't care one way or another, there's no
moral obligation or anything else. But what they do care about is control of
the enormous oil resources of the Middle East. I mean, a big part of the way
you run the planet is by controlling Middle East oil, and in the late 1950s,
the United States began to recognize that Israel would be a very useful ally
in this respect. So for example, there's a National Security Council Memo-
randum in 1958 which points out that the main enemy of the United States
in the Middle East (as everywhere) is nationalism, what they call "radical
Arab nationalism"-which means independence, countries pursuing a
course other than submission to the needs of American power. Well, that's
always the enemy: the people there don't always see why the enormous
wealth and resources of the region have to be in the control of Ameri-
can and British investors while they starve, they've never really gotten that
into their heads-and sometimes they try to do something about it. Alright,
that's unacceptable to the United States, and one of the things they pointed
out is that a useful weapon against that sort of "radical Arab nationalism"
would be a highly militarized Israel, which would then be a reliable base for
U.S. power in the region. 42

Now, that insight was not really acted upon extensively until the Six Day
War in 1967, when, with U.S. support, Israel essentially destroyed Nasser
[the Egyptian President]-who was regarded as the main Arab nationalist
force in the Middle East-and virtually all the other Arab armies in the re-
gion too. That won Israel a lot of points, it established them as what's called
a "strategic asset"-that is, a military force that can be used as an outlet for
U.S. power. In fact, at the time, Israel and Iran under the Shah (which were
allies, tacit allies) came to be regarded by American planners as two parts of
a tripartite U.S. system for controlling the Middle East. This consisted first
of all of Saudi Arabia, which is where most of the oil is, and then its two
gendarmes, pre-revolutionary Iran and Israel-the "Guardians of the
Gulf," as they were called, who were supposed to protect Saudi Arabia
from indigenous nationalist forces in the area. Of course, when the Shah
fell in the Iranian Revolution in 1979, Israel's role became even more im-
portant to the United States, it was the last "Guardian." 43

Meanwhile, Israel began to pick up secondary functions: it started to
serve as a mercenary state for the United States around the world. So in the
1960s, Israel started to be used as a conduit for intervening in the affairs of
black African countries, under a big C.I.A. subsidy. And in the 1970s and
Eighties, the United States increasingly turned to Israel as kind of a weapon
against other parts of the Third World-Israel would provide armaments
and training and computers and all sorts of other things to Third World dic-
tatorships at times when it was hard for the U.S. government to give that
support directly. For instance, Israel acted as the main U.S. contact with the
South African military for years, right through the embargo [the U.N. Se-
curity Council imposed a mandatory arms embargo on South Africa in
1977 after the U.S. and Britain had vetoed even stronger resolutions].44
Well, that's a very useful alliance, and that's another reason why Israel gets
such extraordinary amounts of U.S. aid.45

something on the Iraqi situation - the Salvador Option

Neocons on the middle east

How does an optical rectenna work?  I've read about it and I am not understanding?

As usual I will refer to Wikipedia.  In short, it is theoretically possible to convert most electromagnetic radiation into the more usefull form of DC current with near-100% efficiency.  A network of antennae receive a field, and embedded diodes convert the power to DC.

If you've heard of a "crystal radio" set, where a small earphone is entirely powered using the received radio signal, the principle is basically the same.  But while a radio station might broadcast 50 kW over many square km, the same power is received by the roof of a medium sized house when it's sunny.

The problem is with frequency.  While microwave rectennae already work well at a few GHz, there are major difficulties in making them work at > 100 THz (near-infrared).

I see these (even if made to work) as a likely niche product, since cost per watt is usually more important than size per watt.  (Ignoring storage difficulties which impact all solar cells equally.)  I'm not totally sure about the price - these are much more complex than conventional cells, but might not need such high quality substrates - but my SWAG is that the overall fabrication effort would be higher.

The whole Iranian Oil Bourse thing is interesting.  Could Iran have benefitted somehow from the mere threat of the IOB?  Perhaps it was a bit of psychological warfare going on.  A little jab to see how the world would react.  There seems to be many energy "games" and "ploys" going on these days between countries and markets.  Those countries that have surplus energy to sell are letting the world know what they might do with that energy if they don't go along with their desires to control that energy.  Bluffs?  Perhaps, but do we want to find out what really happens if Russia seriously yanks the yoke of natural gas supplied to it's customer countries, Venezuala gets all the back taxes and royalties it thinks it deserves from the private companies sucking up "their" oil, and Iran does eventually go through with it's IOB.

All of these things "might" not happen, but why are they even being put out into the public conscienceness?  I think the signal these energy-exporting countries are trying to plant in the minds of the energy-importing countries is this.  We have what you want.  If you want it, you will have to start playing by my rules or "this" or "that" will happen.

Perhaps, I am just reading too much into all of these events, but there are definitely power plays going on.

No, Iran did not open the bourse, and now it may never happen.  Qatar has just announced that they will open their own energy bourse.  Trading in dollars, probably.

Many of the "petrodollar" theorists view this with suspicion.  Qatar is a close ally of ours.  We still have a lot of troops based there.  Could the U.S. government have put them up to this, in order to kill Iran's oil bourse?

FWIW, I'm an "Iranian bourse" moderate.  I think the petrodollar is a big reason our currency has not suffered brutal inflation despite our horrendous debt levels.  However, I don't think Iran is in a position to undermine the petrodollar.  Why would anyone trust them enough to use their bourse, especially if the bombs may be flying at any minute?

This Christian Science Monitor article sums it up:

Iran's plan to weaken the dollar will fail

Thanks for the link. After reading that, I'm even more skeptical about the Iranian oil bourse. Leaving aside all the arguments in that article, it also seems questionable to try switch from one rickety currency to another. If the dollar goes down the tubes, it probably won't be due to this bourse. As for the euro, it's racing the dollar to the bottom.
Ahem.  The oil bourse didn't open in case you missed it.  Now it's been rescheduled a couple years out.  Predictions of attack were predicated upon a successful opening.  The Iranians chickened out for probably that very reason - fear of an attack.
OK... and why did they reschedule it? Have they decided it's better to wait until they've got the bomb?
No, no, nothing like that. Apparently there was a small mixup. That had forgotten to reserve the big conference room.
Writerman, I am not sure if your points are meant to  be the views of the most impervious neo-cons still surviving or your own beliefs. Either way they are ridiculous.

1.Regime change in Iran and the establishment of a friendly government.
Hasn't Iraq taught you? Whether justified or not America is hated by all sides there for what it has done. There could be no US friendly government in Iran after the destruction of an invasion. The best would be a self loathing puppet willing to co-operate for power and money. He would need constant huge long term US military support to protect him from the anger of the people.

2. Access to and control of Irans oil and gas reserves. China, Japan, India and Europe get a lot of their energy from Iran.
The time has passed when the US has enough power to simply help itself to what it wants. If it tried to grab resources vital to China and India it will provoke a war it cannot win. By this I do not imply simple military victory by China  and India but a global disaster that would leave the US hugely damaged for decades to come.

3. Breaking the back of the Shite "renascence".
With the shi'ite obsession with martyrdom, persecution while at the centre of world attention would recruit to the shi'ite cause like no other. The futility of military solutions to inappropriate problems is at its clearest here.

4. At a stroke removing Iranian support for "terrorist" and "resistance" movements in Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine.
Iran is a huge and geographically difficult country. Support for foreign political and social movements does not require a central bureaucracy. An isolated puppet regime installed in Tehran as it was Kabul will have as little effect on such support in Iran as it did in Afghanistan.

5. Detroying Israel's last, true, military enemy.
Practically every predominantly Islamic country in the middle east is deeply antagonistic to Israeli expansionism. Several of these countries have significant military power. The fact that they have in the past chosen, for various political reasons, not to exert this power is no guarantee that they will not in future.

6. Weakening the Russian/Chinese/Iranian alliance.
This would be true as long as the Iranian puppet regime survives. It will become a much more powerful factor as soon as it falls.

7. Dramatically improving ones chances of "winning" in Iraq.
There is zero chance of a government in Iraq that is democratic (that is truly represents the views of the people) and if friendly to the US. Diluting US military power over yet another vast area will only speed the recognition of this. The war in Iraq cannot be won in any useful sense.

8. Showing the world that the United States is an Empire in full vigour and not a declining power bogged down in the hopeless quagmire of Iraq.
America is a declining power. A war in Iran will only serve to underline it.

9. Going on the offensive militarily is preferable to the static occupation mode employed in Iraq.
In a situation where there is no military solution choosing one military solution over another is pointless.

10. "Peace" between Israel and the Palestinians. Israel would be secure for perhaps decades and the Palestinians would realistically have no choice but to accept their defeat and agree to peace on Israel's terms.
The Israeli fantasy. They would claim that no setback would ever force them to give up their dream of nationhood but somehow cannot rid themselves of the idea that slaughtering a few more Palestinians will get them to "realistically" give up their dreams. As long as a lone suicide bomber is motivated to wreak havoc in Israel the country will have no security.

The Israel Palestinian conflict is really an area I don't want to get into here. I'd just point out that Israel is militarilly the stronges nation in the Middle East. It has an incrdibly well-trained, well-equiped and well-motivated army. It has by far the best airforce in the region with more and better pilots and planes than the entire arab world put together. On top of this, as if this wasn't enough, Israel probably has between two and three hundred nuclear bombs and the means to deliver them anywhere in the Middle East. Finally it is allied with the United States.

So, looking at the situation objectively, Israel is, for now, close to invincible. It has no credible enemy apart from Iran, and Iran is many years away from having a nuclear weapon or posing a real threat. A lot can happen in Iran during the next ten years. Peace between Iran and the West is not an impossibility if there is goodwill on both sides. Unfortunately, Iran just has too much oil and gas to make that likely.

Some may not not like it, but denying these facts doesn't seem sensible to me. Israel is incredibly strong. It's neighbours are divided and weak and are likely to remain that way for a long, long, time. Given these military facts, if I was Israel, I would withdraw from all the occupied territories and make peace with the Palestinians now.

What good will Israel's planes and tanks and helicopters be when there's no oil for them?  

Their "divided and weak" neighbors have all the oil. Also all the water; they are downstream of everyone.

Israel is not in a good position for a peak oil world.  I suppose they could nuke all their neighbors while they still can, but that seems rather like cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Dear Leanan,

I promised myself I would never, ever get into the Israel/Palestine conflict in relation to the geo-politics of the Middle East and Peak Oil. But if we are really going to go for regime change in Iran, (and that is the policy of the current administration, or so it would appear), then it's hard to avoid discussing it. War and conflict in the area is relevant to the whole Peak Oil debate. A war in the Gulf could really upset the whole apple cart far sooner than the downside of Hubbert's Peak.

Trouble is, Israel/Palestine is such an incredibly emotive, complicated and sensitive issue. Years ago at college I had a girlfriend who was Jewish. I'd seen her fighting with her own brother over Israeli tactics in the West Bank territories and the refugee question. So we agreed not to discuss it, not ever, and we got on just fine most of the time.

If one criticises U.S. policies and actions in the Middle East far enough, one soon gets into the realm of critcising Israel. Criticising Israel is like entering a minefield, mostly counter-productive and the kiss of death to rational debate, especially, it would appear, in the United States. Does criticising Israel or the ideology of Zionism necessarilly mean that one is anti-semetic? I don't think so, not always. Though it's relatively easy to become tarred with the dirty brush of anti-semetism. So why go down that road? One chooses or is forced to impose self-cencorship on oneself and restraint. In my case that's probably a good thing in forums like this, as I often let my imagination just fly off on it's merry way regardless. It's one of the hazards of being a writer of fiction.

I agree with what you're intentions are, I just can't advocate what essentially amounts to stiffling of a topic just because it's uncomfortable. That leads to ignorance, and ignorance leads to poor decision making.

FYI, I feel that the vast reason that politics and religion are so screwed up in the US is precisely because they're not acceptable dinner time conversation.  

The US doesn't need to 'invade' Iran to accomplish any of the goals you described. Either through diplomatic or military force once Iran is de-nuked then their political influence in the region will drop to that of Syria.
  1. Make sure to read Regime Change for Dummies first - the chapter on Iraq in particular makes for great notes.

  2. Riiight... China is just going to walk away from its $100 billion investment in Yadarvan - no sweat.

  3.  And I always thought that it was the job of the beacon of light, that bastion of liberal freedom -western democracy- to SUPPORT a people's renascence as opposed to crushing it.

  4. HAHAHHAHAHAH - too funny

  5. see #4 above

  6. Dude, the US is strengthening the troika's resolve -if anything- not weakening it.

  7. see #4 above

  8. The US would get to show the world that the Navy is doing FA but that's about it - submarine commanders holding the streets of Tehran?? Yeah, not so much.

  9. Now this is the scariest circumstance of all.  Going to need another false flag for the 'American People' though ;)

  10. Yup and they'll all live together in a gumdrop house on candy lane.
I'd actually forgotten it was the first of April, sorry.

I don't believe I actually stated that I personally advocate some kind of attack on Iran. I do not. Previously I've written a lot about the incredible dangers connected with such an enterprise. I'm sorry if I confused anyone. I was just trying to outline, dispassionately, and without taking sides in the post, some of the arguments one could bring to the table if one was considering an attack. I was playing the role of Devil's advocate, in order to present some of the arguments for attacking Iran, apart from the main argument that they are supposedly developing nuclear weapons and are the real threat to the U.S. and Israel, and have to be stopped at almost any cost. There is more at stake here, as in Iraq, than weapons of mass destruction.

Recently I've read and heard an awful lot in the mainstream media about all the problems connected with action against Iran, and why it was regarded as an impossible scenario, especially if one factors in Iraq and the lessons one has so painfully learned from that debacle. These arguments are valid as far as they go. But they are not absolute, there are alternative arguments. One can, of course, disagree with them, but that doesn't make them completely invalid. There are people in positions of power and influence who are thinking along these lines and weighing up the pros and cons of an attack on Iran. I just wanted to bring some of these ideas out into the open and present them starkly, in the cold light of day. Can we or can we not live with a potentially nuclear Iran? It is, I believe, a valid question, isn't it?

I'd just point out that the problems we now see in Iraq were all discussed in minute detail before the invasion. Nothing that's happened in Iraq is a surprise to the rest of the world. Only the speed and intensity of the disaster was under estimated, even by the most pessimistic. Eygypt's president Mubarak warned that invading Iraq would open the gates of hell. He was right. The Bush administration was warned that invading Iraq was an incredibly reckless and risky strategy, which had the potential to destabilize the whole region and lead to disaster. All over Europe and the rest of the world people with knowledge of Iraq and the Middle East were tearing their hair out in frustration and almost despair at the disaster they saw unfolding. Did their protests do any good in the U.S? Did the Bush administration listen to this advice and criticism? Did they understand it? Did this stop them invading Iraq? No, it didn't. They invaded and occupied Iraq despite of everything and with dire consequences.

So I'm very sceptical that the warnings about the dangers associated with an attack on Iran will have any real affect. The main lesson learned would appear to be, next time we do it right!

I'm also concerned about what happens if Iran fights back? There is some talk that Iran may "accept" a U.S. military strike as long as the action is not perceived as an attempt at regime change. Therefore, Iran will only reply with a "symbolic" attack on U.S. forces in the area. Personally, I'm not so sure. How will Iran know the true nature of any attack? How weak is the Iranian regime? How easy will it be topple it?

Personally I don't think the White House is finished with the Middle East. As I tried to indicate, seen from their perspective, there is a lot more to do, and "the prize" is still tempting and within reach, if one is bold, resolute and prepared to take a few risks.

Maybe it would be useful for you to have a look on the situation from the Russian point of view.

The goals of Russia's foreign policy (in relation to ME):

  1. to limit nuclear development in Iran.
  2. to pull down the US.
  3. to bind China's rise.
  4. to provoke further rise in oil price.
  5. to keep good relations with it's Muslim allies.
  6. to keep ME countries disunited and under stress.

I feel that Russia is interested to draw the crisis out to the great length (at least until Russian air defense missiles will be deployed) but eventually to let the US to strike Iran so as both sides could damage each other by the most.
It's very useful to look at this from the Russian perspective.  So I don't get goal number 1, especially in position number 1.    Goals 4, 2, & 5 9in that order) seem to me anyway, to line up with Russia's demonstrated actions.

Goals 4, 2 & 5 all work to build a free oil market with rising prices for a freely traded commodity.  This is what Riussia seems to be working for, because it will transfer capital and power to energy exporters.  It seems to me that Russia have something very powerful in common, something that makes them natural allies.  They both resent that they have humiliated by the USA the last 30 years, and they see an opportunity to regain what they see as their rightful positions of leadership on the world stage.

The path to that end includes 1) high oil prices, 2) the US occupation of Iraq collapsing.  Time and momentum is on their side and they see US influence and power fading away.  

A post-peak world economy will no longer have both the oil producers shipping their natural resources and China shipping the production of their labor to the USA.  Instead it will have the oil producers shipping their resources to China while China ships their products back to the oil producers.  The Americans will be left with wads of debt and no takers for their dollars.

This is the dream of both the Iranian Mullahs who led their revolution and can taste it's yet unrealized glory, and the Cold War Russians who spent their careers fighting the USA and can still see the collapse of Capitalism in their sights.

"So I don't get goal number 1, especially in position number 1."

Trust me. Here in Russia no one wants to have another nuclear neighbor across Caspian vlei. But that goal must be faggot with others, at least from the point of view of russian interests.

Andrei, Moscow

"If is becoming fascinating to watch the last years of world fossil fuel desperation funnel down to an area of the Earth smaller than Texas.  America's mighty military machine is being driven into the big end of the funnel, and going further and further down the narrowing tunnel, to where the world is now centered, with a tiny hole at the end of the funnel to squeeze through:  Saudi Arabian Ghawar, Kuwait, Iraq, Iran, Qatar, United Arab Emirites, literally stone throws apart, one from the other, and it is here is this small place that our destiny as a nation, and as people, may well be decided soon.  We are at a pivotal epoch making moment, when even the smallest events can be the tipping points to catastrophic outcomes that are hard to even imagine the implications of."

THAT is good writing.

Don't know whether it was picked up on TOD, but a presentation from March last year by Baker & O'Brien argued that the traditional 3-2-1 crack spread formula might be losing its value as a simple yardstick for calculating gross refining margins.

A New Proxy for Coking Margins - Forget the Crack Spread

The rationale for the crack spread is given at the beginning of their discussion:

The theory behind the crack spread formula is fairly simple. It is grounded in the fact that refineries convert crude oil primarily into two key product classes: gasolines and middle distillates--and very broadly speaking, the demand for these two classes of products is in the ratio of approximately 2 barrels of gasoline to one barrel of middle distillate. Since gasoline and middle distillate together will typically comprise more than 80% of a refinery's yield, a formula that equates each barrel of crude oil to 2/3 barrel of gasoline and 1/3 barrel of middle distillate (3 barrels of crude = 2 of gasoline and 1 of middle distillate) would seem, on the face of it, to offer a simple and reasonable "proxy" for refining margins.
They go on to say why the crack spread is becoming less useful:
As might be expected, if the traditional USGC 3-2-1 crack spread reasonably reflects cracking margins, it shows much less utility when it comes to more complex refineries that incorporate coking capacity. Thus, we have found that the usefulness of the crack spread, as an indicator of refining industry economic performance, has waned considerably over recent years. The average USGC refinery configuration has shifted substantially toward the complex coking refinery that produces a higher proportional yield of valuable products and processes heavy sour crude oil.
They introduce a new 'back of an envelope' calculation which seeks to act as a proxy for margins in processing 100% Mexican Maya (the USGC's benchmark heavy sour crude). They call this the 'coking spread'. It's calculated as follows:

0.5 x Regular Unleaded Conventional Gasoline, plus
0.5 x 0.2% Sulfur No. 2 Heating Oil, minus
0.33 x WTS-Midland, minus
0.33 x Dated Brent, minus
0.33 x 3.0% Sulfur No. 6 Fuel Oil

[Rem to multiply gasoline & heating oil prices by 42 to get bbl price]

In August 2004 the coking spread was $12.34, and the average spread over the previous ten years was $6.89, with a high of $17.99.

I'm having trouble finding a public source for the spot price of 3% No.6 Fuel Oil, but it does look as though the coking spread went over $25 last week before gasoline and heating oil prices dropped back.

Refining margins are currently very healthy, just as you'd expect.

[Also you might want to check out Baker & O'Brien's presentation on the Status of the U.S. Refining Industry. Some good graphs and graphics]

A New Proxy for Coking Margins - Forget the Crack Spread
That sounds so ... pornographic. I had to look to see if it was an April 1 joke.
This article from the Sidney Morning Herald may be apropos to our previous discussions about the upward mobility and generational conflict:

WERE you born after June 30, 1961? If the answer is yes, bad luck. Economic and demographic forces have been conspiring against you for decades.

That birthdate, almost 45 years ago, has become a crucial fault line in the distribution of national wealth.

More than three-quarters of all household riches are owned by those born before that date - an unprecedented portion for those over 45.

...The director of Access Economics, Chris Richardson, says this proportion is excessive even by world standards. "This is a generational wealth split we have never seen before in Australia and, I suspect, [nor in] many other places around the world," he says. "Age is a clear dividing line in the national asset base. It's a gerontocracy."

Note that the current US "plan" is to tax the payrolls of the young to pay for the retirement costs of the Baby Boomers.  

The Payroll Tax is highly regressive--levied on the first dollar of income.  

The Energy Tax idea--see below--would shift the tax burden from young wage earners to energy consumers.  Since it is in effect a consumption tax it would also put everyone, even those operating on a cash basis, in the Social Security/Medicare system.

I really hadn't thought about this angle before, but it would be fascinating to look at the energy consumption per capita for those over 45 versus those under 45.  

In any case, the Energy Tax would be a tax cut for low energy users.  For those misguided souls driving their Hummers on 50 mile roundtrip commutes to and from $500,000 mortgages, it would be a tax increase.


What about those who jet about the world? How does that equate with Hummer2's?

I think that we should primarily tax liquid transportation fuels--jet fuel; diesel and gasoline.  The devil is going to be in the details of an Energy Tax.  

In any case, if you want to drive your H2 Hummer to your private jet, from your McMansion, you will pay the price.  If you don't have a car and live in a small energy efficient home in a walkable New Urbanism community, you will have an effective tax cut.  

I think that the American people will accept this proposal because they recognize its inherent fairness--if you consume large amounts of energy, you pay the price.  The problem will be all the parties that are making money off the status quo--led by the housing/auto industries and the media (the media make a lot of money selling advertising for the housing/auto industries).

I didn't see "anything below", but here is one suggestion...

Let me begin by saying that I have zero trust in the government to use an energy tax for anything but a source of general revenue, that is, I believe it is unlikely that the funds would be used for energy related projects.  Therefore, I'm not really in favor of it.

With that out of the way, here's my suggestion: A regressive tax on energy used similar to how I am charged for electricity via my TOU metering. In a way, it would be like states that want to charge motorists for the number of miles they travel.

For gasoline:
up to 10 gallons - 10 cent tax (for example)
11-20 gallons - 20 cents
21-30 gallons - 30 cents and so forth.

The tax would be on the total gallons purchased, not just by range.  For example, the tax on 30 gallons would $9.  Given computerized pump prices, this would not be a terribly difficult thing to do.

Yes, it could be defeated by doing mulitple small purchases.  But, doubt many people are going to pull the hose out, put it back, go through the credit card thing again many times.

A similar tax scheme could be used for NG, fuel oil and electricity by establishing base usages (which my power company does already). And, it could also be applied to water.

The advantage is that it would not penalize people who use little energy.  Even I, who griped about this kind of a tax since I live in a rural area and have a long trip to town, wouldn't be too upset since I drive infrequently and have a small gas tank.

But, doubt many people are going to pull the hose out, put it back, go through the credit card thing again many times.

I think you are dead wrong on that.  During the Katrina crunch, people drove miles out of their way and waited in line for two hours just to save 5 cents a gallon.  Multiple small purchases is nothing.

I would support a rise in the gas tax, especially if payroll taxes were cut to make up for it.  I don't drive much, so I'd make out like a bandit.  You drive less, you pay less taxes.  No need for the complicated structure.  

But I still think this proposal is dead, for a  ducat, dead, unless it gives retirees a reason to vote for it.


I'm a retiree and I'd vote if, and only if, it was the lesser of evils.  Most of the proposals I've seen are to simply stick on a whopping tax across the board and then try to somehow "rebate" via income tax or some such scheme.
This is why I believe all these types of proposals are dead at the starting line.

I think they are also dead because people are fed up with taxes regardless of whether they are retirees or not.

The question then is, how do you get demand destruction and changes in life style?  We know that lower income people will pay a far larger "share" than others if it is done via market price.  Do you establish a special tax based on the horsepower of a car and miles driven?  Do you have an added tax based upon the size of the house?  I really don't know.

Finally, there is the problem of the astonomical debt levels people are carrying.  Anything that results in higher out of pocket expenses could lead to a collapse of the housing bubble and reduced retail sales.

I believe absolutely nothing is going to happen until all of the various interest groups begin to speak with one voice.  And, we are no where near that.

Most of the proposals I've seen are to simply stick on a whopping tax across the board and then try to somehow "rebate" via income tax or some such scheme.

The NYT supported a gas tax that would be "revenue neutral" by cutting the payroll taxes.  So the "average" worker would end up breaking even.  Those who used less gas than average would actually make money on the deal.

This could be a good deal for the "working poor," as long as they don't drive a lot.  But it would hurt anyone who doesn't work - the unemployed, the retired, stay-at-home moms.  

The AARP would be against it, I suspect.  And after Bush's attempt to reform social security, I don't think any politicians will be willing to touch the Third Rail again.

There is literally only one way that a gas tax would be fair and accepted by the general population.

Suppose, people on average use 1000 gallons/licensed driver.  Put a tax (say $1/gallon) on gas, then at the end of the year, mail a check for 1000 dollars to each and every licensed driver in the US.  If you drive less than the average, you come out ahead.

The problem with this is that it penalizes those who do not drive.  If you're doing the right thing and taking public transportation or riding a bike, you're screwed.  That's not fair.
how is that screwing them over?  If you don't use gas, you don't pay the tax in the first place.
Sure you do.  Transportation cost is built into everything you buy.  And presumably you use motor vehicles sometimes.  Taxis, say.

Look at this way.  If the refund goes to every licensed driver, then suddenly a lot of people who don't drive will rush out to get licenses anyway.  So you might as well give it to everyone old enough to drive.  

How about a energy stabilization fund?  First, it isn't a tax.  We base it broadly on all fossil fuels, since they all have volatile pricing.  We start out adding a few cents per some amount of BTU to the price.  Then, when the price falls more than x, we increase the fees by x/2.  When the price rises by y, we reduce initially reduce the fees by y/2.  When the fund reaches a certain minimum threshold, we stop reducing the fees and let the price rise. If the fund reaches some maximum threshold, we reduce the fees.

At the end of the year, any excess above that minimum threshold is rebated to the public as a per capita tax credit.

The stabilization fees are paid/reduced during distribution, before they get to the end user.

The end users only see generally less volatile prices, though large price spikes are passed along and maintain the most important part of the price signal.  If prices are continually rising, they still rise, but more smoothly.

I suspect there is a bigger constuency for price stabilization than for tax increases, even if the government promises to keep it revenue neutral.

Some parts of the country, like California, depend heavily on undocumented workers to do much of the "dirty work".  Of course, those workers don't have driver's licenses so they can't get any rebates or tax refunds.    What nightmares will unfold as more and more of these people can't afford the gas to get to their jobs?
Of course, that's going to happen anyway.  

It's already beginning.  There was an article a couple of months ago in the San Mateo County Times, about fuel prices were forcing them to cut bus service.  It was stranding kids who lived in low-income labor housing complexes.  They had no cars, and no other way to get to school.

Let's replace a tax on one shrinking resource (wage earners) with a tax on another shrinking resource (oil).
I was born about six months before June 30, 1961...does this mean I'm rich?  Funny that they could pick the date so precisely...
Well, not necessarily.  If you read the whole article, even among the old, much of the wealth is in only a few hands.  A few are very well off, the rest, not so much.  Which is bad news, because it means they can't help their kids.
It seems like its an Australian version of the demographic changes that are occuring in the US (and most Western nations too) as the massive Boomer generation heads into retirement. Looks like a lot of people in AU are "house-rich" which doesn't translate into liquidity very well. Hence, little or no help for the kids.  People living longer, using up more health care, taxing younger generation to pay for benefits--these trends are worldwide and are going to be a backdrop and an intensifier for the coming energy and GW crisis.  
I don't know what it was like in Australia, but the '50s and '60s here were a "golden age" for economic growth in the U.S.  A rising tide really did lift all boats, thanks in part to social programs like the GI bill, welfare, food stamps, and college financial aid programs.  However, it was the robust economy that let us afford those programs.  

We haven't had anything like it since.  I can't help but wonder if the U.S. oil peak in 1970 had something to do with it.

The rising tide also produced a very large demographic cohort, which has had a significant effect as it has moved through each stage of life.  Most of the coming shortfalls in promised benefits are in fact due to this, although much exacerbated by irresponsible lack of fiscal planning.
Unionism was strong. So cash and opportunities were distributed down the food chain in ways not imaginable today.

We didn't have voodoo economics in the financial markets... like derivatives insuring bonds for folks who don't hold them. (this is one of those BGO's that will take me a while to get over)

We weren't willing to export our industrial base. Trade restrictions protected "strategic industries". A lot of industries were protected.  

We had an established minority class with no representation, education or political status... so imported labor was actively discouraged. Bad but true.

We were still investing in domestic infrastructure. This disperses power, capital and wealth. Military investment, where we are today, concentrates wealth and deleverages capital.  

I think it was "outsourcing" that did in both unions and our industrial base.  And part of what was driving that was high energy costs.  Why should Alcoa keep an aluminum plant in Pittsburgh when it's much cheaper to put it next a natural gas well or hydroelectric dam in Africa?  This gutted the unions' power.  If they struck, management would shut the plant and move overseas.  

As for the derivatives...people are resorting to those because more conventional saving and investing isn't working as well.  

We had an established minority class with no representation, education or political status... so imported labor was actively discouraged. Bad but true.

Hmmm.  There is that.  It was great to be a white male in the '50s.

We were still investing in domestic infrastructure. This disperses power, capital and wealth. Military investment, where we are today, concentrates wealth and deleverages capital.  

We could afford to build infrastructure then.  It's much harder now.  We don't have the money, and building infrastructure has become more difficult (Tainter's diminishing returns).  Our highway system was designed with a 40-year the '50s and '60s.  Those were the golden years.  We never imagined that we wouldn't have the money to replace it all now.  Heck, many thought we'd be using flying cars that didn't need any roads by now.  

We are actually spending a smaller percentage of our GDP on the military now than we did in the '50s and '60s, so it's not that military spending is gutting the economy.

source please for that graph?
I dunno, $750 billion or so for the most powerful military on the planet seems like a lot of money to me.  Could think of much better ways to use it, instead of reckless adventurism around the world, military bases to rule them all, and missile defense systems that don't work (not that anyone here is advocating those...).
That's an interesting graph on defense as % of GDP. They have more detailed information on government spending here:

It shows defense at 3.7% of GDP. GDP is like $12 trillion so that's about right.

I was curious about how this compares with other components of GDP. One source I found was here:

Table C shows GDP by industry, however it is not consistent with the previous source, because it shows total government GDP as only 12.9%, compared to 19.9% from the site. I guess they are counting things slightly differently.

According to this source, private industry is responsible for 87% of GDP, divided as 21% from goods and 67% from services. Production of goods is broken down as: manufacturing, 14%; construction, 5%; agriculture and mining, each about 1%. Services is broken down as: finance/insurance/real estate, 21%; retail trade, 9%; wholesale trade, 7%; transportation & public utilities, 8%; other services, 22%.

So to put it into perspective, U.S. military expenditures of about 4% of GDP are somewhat smaller than the domestic construction industry; half of transportation+utilities (but a little more than just transportation by itself); and much smaller than finance/insurance/real estate.

It would be interesting to see this broken down even more. I wonder how the military budget would compare with just the amount we spend on lawyers and legal services. I'll bet the legal "industry" would be bigger.

Let's hope the lawyers don't try to take over the country, the military would be useless against them. Oh, wait, they already have...

They could afford building the Interstate System and the Cold War because a much higher percentage of revenue came from corporation and the rich than now. Go back to the IRS code of 1960, inflation adjusted, and we could afford infrastructure improvements and many other things again
Unfortunately, the old tax codes (and the current one, for that matter) are really inadequate for a global economy.
Electrification of transportation as a response to peaking of world oil production

The Energy Bulletin just published Alanfrombigeasy's light rail article, along with my editorial comments (at the bottom)

Electrification of transportation as a response to peaking of world oil production
Alan S. Drake, Light Rail Now
Electrification of transportation ought to be the leading economic and policy response to the advent of "Peak Oil."
published April 1, 2006.

I've launched some discussions--with the group that put the Simmons/Kunstler event together last year--regarding an Energy Tax/Light Rail conference in Dallas in September.  

Last year, Matt and Jim presented the problem; this year we discuss solutions.  At least it will be a change of pace to contemplate positive action.   Having said that, at last year's symposium Matt Simmons said that if we fail to take action to address Peak Oil, Jim Kunstler will have "turned out to be an optimist."

My hope is that we can get all of the Peak Oil groups to participate in the Energy Tax/Light Rail conference(s).

A minor correction.

Please use "Urban Rsil" which includes Rapid Rail (subways), Light Rail, streetcars (trolleys, trams) and commuter rail (the electrified Long Island RailRoad is the premier US example).

Miami wants to build 103 miles (about 23 miles open today) of "Subway in the Sky" and a later, a couple of Light Rail feeders.  They have local funding in place but it will take ~30 years to build at current federal matching rates (cut from 80% to 50% in recent years as a way to exercise "birth control" on new Urban Rail).

Miami also has a failed experiment in automated elevated "Minibuses" downtown.

Light Rail was invented when Rapid Rail became too expensive.  Light Rail can operate for limited distances in traffic, has grade crossings where required, etc.

New Orleans wants 35 miles of streetcars.  Each city has unique needs.  Hence the "cover all" term of Urban Rail.

Will do.
Just a few disjointed ramblings about Urban Rail progress in recent decades.

BART (SF Bay) got going before the 1973 Oil Embargo, but that event certainly pushed it forward.  San Jose desperately wants an extension of BART south to them.   Cal Trains is also operating a San Jose-SF commuter service that is in need of upgrading.  A low volume rail feeder is in the works towards Sacramento (but not to).  SF runs trolleys (streetcars) for local service (BART has stops ~1 mile apart in urbban areas, further apart in suburban areas) as well as electric trolley buses.

Much more could be built BUT SF is a model of what can be done in a reasonable time frame.

DC Metro was built as an example for the nation after the '73 embargo (which it is in fact) but also to keep our gov't running "no matter what".  An astounding success, 4% used buses to work in 1970, 40% today, they are building an extension towards Tyson's Corner and then Dulles Airport (perhaps beyond).  Still born is an outer connector between two spokes in Maryland (R governor stalling it).  Some talk of extending DC Metro towards BWI airport to serve new federal installation.

In DC, there are plans for 40 miles of streetcars to provide local service and connect Metro stations with rest of city.

IMHO, growing from 40% to 50% of commuters just requires building a bit more.  The demand is there, Metro is well accepted (and well run/economic).  Going above 2/3 of commuters will be difficult without a change in urban development.

DC is another example of what "could be" done in a couple of decades. (Perhaps one decade ?)

In 2006 $, my SWAG is that both BART and DC Metro cost about $25 billion to build.  Miami wants something comparable (sprawling Ft. Lauderdale not interested in expanding north there yet).

St. Louis is one of those "build one at a time" cities rather than a grand design.  But the candidates add up to an impressive system.

Since ST. Louis is Light Rail, the price tag for "all of it" is much less than $25 billion (I have contacted local expert for a number).

Light Rail was developed as a concept when the cost of the admitally better Rapid Rail (subway, grade seperated surface running, elevated) got too high.  Cities could not afford the costs of BART & DC Metro post-1985.

An interesting question.  Should we build "cheap" (Dallas wanted Rapid Rail/subway but could not afford it, so built Light Rail with some Rapid Rail features) or "good" ?

"Good" will be shorter and longer/more expensive to build, but will be faster, cheaper to operate and have almost unlimited capacity.  "Good" will attract a higher percentage of riders in the "rideshed".  "Cheaper" Light Rail will cover more ground, quicker and beat SUVs hands down for energy use.

Miami is unique AFAIK is going forward with the more expensive alternative (they built a starter line in the late 1970s/80s).  But with more funding, this could change.

What can this nation afford as Peak Oil transistions to post-Peak Oil ?

Should we build the best that we can, or as much as we can ?

In the "What-if" department, what if we had taken the hundreds of billions spent--and that we will spend--on Iraq and invested it in wind power and urban rail.
what if we had taken the hundreds of billions spent--and that we will spend--on Iraq

How would have that helped 'rally the people behind The President' , or lined the pockets of The Caryle Group and other such firms?

haliburtion could of over charged the workers for expired meals :P
AlanfromBigEasy -

Ah, the age-old question: quality or quantity?

It reminds me of what some Russian general said when confronted by an American general at some embassy diplomatic function during the height of the Cold War. They were comparing the relative strengths of their armaments, and the American general said something the effect, "While you have more tanks and more soldiers, ours is of better quality."  To which the Russian general just chuckled and said, "Yes my dear friend, but quantity has a quality all of its own."

When it comes to mass transit, I'm inclined to take the position of the Russian general: right now we need lots of modest little Toyota Scions, not a few luxurious Mercedes supercars. We can always build showcase rail service later.

Phrased another way.

Do we bring Light Rail to the suburbs and exurbs, or do we let them come (via the other TOD, Transit Orientated Development) into a more compact urban form.

Please note that it is much more energy efficient to service (mail, UPS deliveries, police patrol, plumbers, etc.) higehr density TOD than sprawl.

Higher quality (faster, more frequent service, shorter distance) Rapid Rail (think elevated subway perhaps) will attract more TOD than will Light Rail.

There is a design continum and many points to chose on that line.  I suspect the "best answer" is 1) unknowable and 2) will vary from city to city.

But well worth debating.

I side with the higher quality solution in most cases, despite the limited mileage.

DC Metro is something I know a bit about - I have a station about 2 miles from where I live.  Don't ride it though - the office is 6 miles from the nearest Metro.

The point I wanted to make is that these things don't spring up overnight.  It takes years of planning before you can even break ground, and then it takes billions of dollars.  Even once the stations are open, it can take years for high-density development to fill in near the stations.

On top of this, underground subway systems are obscenely expensive.

For longer distances, a subway type of system isn't quite as effective as it gets kind of slow with all of the numerous stops.  If you are going 40 miles or so, commuter rail makes more sense - the infrastructure costs are far lower as long as you can share rail with freight systems (and you can work out the scheduling and all that to keep everyone happy).  The local example of that is here:

My understanding is that the problems that they currently have are a shortage of rolling stock, and they have ongoing problems with scheduling.  You don't want a commuter train sidetracked for 20 minutes while a freight train goes through, for example.

Don't forget MARC.  I used to bike to the Germantown stop and ride into Silver Spring.  I got a lot of reading done.

Yes, the design and implementation of proper Urban Rail is quite complex.  And you are quite right about commuter rail.

However, New York has a solution :-)  4 track subways.  2 tracks for local service, 2 tracks for limited stop express service on SOME lines.  Massively increases the max volume (Lexington Ave subway is at 600,000/day).

But the NYC subways are fed by the electric Long Island commuter railroad (plus others).  In the future, I could see electric trolley buses or streetcars running from some LIRR stops.

BART is an interesting hybrid between subway and commuter rail all in one system.  In SF, streetcars & trolley buses feed and interconnect locally whilst BART provides the longer distance backbone.

If I was "rebuilding" BART and had a couple of billion extra $, I would have 4 tracked significant parts of the system.

The under development eBART is an interesting variation.  They want to extend rail service into areas that cannot support 8 car BART service, so they will run two car trains on a "spur" and then transfer to an 8 car BART train.  Later , they may move the xfer point further out as density increases.

"Obscenely expensive" ?

Have you priced the "Big Dig" in Boston ?  Or the ICC highway proposed in Maryland ?

Or many of the other costs associated with oil use (try US medical & disability costs for auto accidents, that old favorite Iraq, monthly costs for care, feeding and repairs of our "horses", etc. ).

At a social level, I find even the highest quality mass transit affordable.

However, I see the slightly less expensive elevated (with quiet concrete vs. noisy steel, Miami vs. Chicago) as being preferred in many cases.  Less energy for lighting & HVAC & about half the cost of subway.  Or just at grade but grade seperated (both found in DC Metro).

Yes, I know about 4-track systems.  It helps a lot if those are designed in from the start though.

In DC, they are projecting that they will have system bottlenecks downtown where you have the blue and orange lines sharing track downtown.  You also have similar problems where the yellow and green lines share track.   I heard mention that one possible solution is to build a second set of tracks through downtown, at a huge cost.  As a stopgap measure they are talking about upgrading the system to run 8-car trains (the stations are already long enough - I think that power systems upgrades and purchasing the rolling stock are what is needed).

Once you get out of downtown, the elevated or at-grade tracks are more feasible.  It essentially depends upon land availability though - they try to follow existing railroad right-of-way to avoid grade crossings.

One problem I see all the time is that there are people around who will fight any mass transit tooth and nail.  I suspect it is mainly anti-tax activists who are doing this - I suppose they also are car lovers.

"Years of planning"

True enough.  Fortunately, most urban areas (but NOT all) have already done that planning.

Detroit, no planning, lost cause for next decade plus (while they catch up, if they ever do).

Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville, San Antonio, Ft. Worth, El Paso, Kansas City, Omaha, Spokane, Columbus are other cities without viable plans to move forward on.

But NYC 2nd Avenue subway, Salt Lake City, Miami, Houston, Dallas, Denver, San Diego, Baltimore, Boston, St. Louis, New Orleans, Austin, Atlanta, Memphis, Cincinatti, Los Angeles, San Jose, Sacremento, Portland, Seattle, Phoenix, Pittsburg,  Honolulu, San Juan PR, Minneapolis-St Paul, and many others have viable plans ready or just in need of an update.

By the time that we get well along with those cities with ready plans, (say 6 years), plans could be ready for many of the rest.  As gas passes $8/gallon, cities will either be building urban rail or watching as their people & businesses move to those cities that are.

   my experience is years out of date, but you do know that at least in Northern Viriginia, the rise in Metrorail ridership is directly connected to the size of the outer Metro parking lots, right? Here, I am speaking of Vienna, Fairfax City, Rt. 66. (I'm sure the same applies to MD end stations too.) Essentially, by 2000, the Metro simply allowed extended parking lots for DC commuters to become practical and cost effective. I grew up watching Braddock Rd, for example, go from a pre-Revolutionary War rural road, ending in gravel to a true 10 lane monster before it crossed the Beltway, which wasn't built when I was a child, etc., - DC and its commuter car culture is something witnessed first hand, while it grew - awful, truly awful. Of course, metro DC is almost as extreme a case as LA. (Hmm - DC as concrete expression of the shift in American commuter culture between say 1965 and 1985 - would make an interesting case study, I'm sure. Morning in America - the swirling haze of exhaust from literally miles of idling cars along every feeder road. It hasn't improved since 1985 by any meaningful measure, I might add - from time spent in cars, number of cars, fuel efficiency, or miles travelled.)

Certainly, with carpooling, kiss and ride, and the fairly spotty bus service (apart from Fairfax City's former CUE circular routes), Metrorail is just an example of how completely interwoven the car is in a modern American mass transit. At least in terms of using Metrorail as an example of how ridership has been growing - a lot of that growth are people driving down 66, for example, before they hop a train, and not people walking to the station. I would be surprised if more than 5% (try 3%, actually) of the Vienna ridership used anything but a car to come and go. Sure, some are being driven by someone else, and the potential for carpooling certainly exists, but the fact remains, for most Vienna Metro riders, the car is the crucial element of Metrorail use. Let's not even get into how embarassing the bike racks were - let's just say that from I remember, the bike racks would be considered inadequate for a small town of 5000 in Germany, much less a major commuter hub. (Direct comparison between Vienna, ca. 2000, and where I live today.)

It is quite likely that in a true oil shock, Metrorail ridership from the Vienna station would not actually increase any significant amount, or would see a decline.

Obviously, Vienna Metro / Nothern Virginia is a special case, but I have noticed how it tends to be used as an example of Metrorail's success, and I think that is almost illusory. It certainly has not actually displaced anything but parking lots and a bit of exhaust for people living closer to DC. In this sense, it has simply allowed the commuter culture to extend further into what was formerly farmland, historic towns, and mountains.

I won't even get into how carefully Metrorail was designed to ensure that people without cars (is there a good term for urban poor that covers the unspoken assumptions but overriding truth of how to define 'urban poor'?) would not have access at all, or when it finally happened, the old neighborhoods would have been thoroughly gentrified, curing the 'problem' of those people using mass transit.

But you are absolutely right about Metro (rail and bus) being set up to ensure that the government could keep working. I actually grew up at the end of a truly functioning bus route (rare in the Northern Virginia suburbs at the time), which even had a 24 hour service ending at the nearest shopping center - and yes, the largest single block of reliable riders tended to be assigned to the Pentagon (ah, the old Pentagon bus station), and yes, watching uniformed officers get off the bus was simply part of how I grew up. Can you imagine mass transit riders in full uniform, every day? Your tax dollars at work - I even enjoyed swimming at the Pentagon's attached indoor pool, though apparently it no longer exists - partially, it seems, to increase the size of the parking lots. Somehow, I can't imagine many self-respecting American military officers taking a bus to work any more, like 30 years ago.

Metro is much more (and much less) than a true mass transit system, which you captured quite well. To use it as an example for a normal city is not as easy as it may seem.

But DC's light rail systems are probably worth looking at without that Metro overlay of Cold War/urban poor background. At least in terms of noting how old freight lines (like the one that used to incorporate the Crystal City freight yard, which was redeveloped years ago) can be easily used. But I would also recommend wondering at how important it is to sustain a commuter culture, which is pretty much all that DC's transit systems are geared to, in my experience and opinion.

Though there are good public transportation systems in America, check out something like Karlsruhe's dual power streetcars for broader ideas - they use the same rail guage as the German rail system, and switch power automatically from city system/rail system, so that a streetcar goes directly to city center and then back onto the national rail system. A very clever and cute trick - it expands the use of the rail system by adding convenience for riders without any change in infrastructure at all. Which is one reason this system has been steadily expanding for years, at minimal cost.

But in all fairness, using the KVV model would probably have one fatal flaw from an American perspective - KVV not only recognizes it will never make money, it proudly tells people that fact, while pointing out the other benefits people get - cleaner air, ease of travel without needing a car, no parking hassles when shopping, making life pleasant without a car for those who can't/don't drive, and so on - the free tickets for school children to grade 5 is another example. Notice - kids get used to just hopping a train or bus long before they can drive. Sort of like how they learn bicycle riding and traffic rules as 4th graders in school - Germany seems to have no problem ensuring that people can walk, ride bicycles, use the train, and drive, with all of these elements being kept in perspective, and all of them receiving adequate funding as part of a functioning society. Not that Germany is utopia, of course - the Mannheim demonstration project more than a decade ago of how a bus could use a street car station to save 30 seconds in a traffic jam might just have had something to do with the fact that Mercedes builds busses in Mannheim.

A short and somewaht inadequate response (time pressure ATM).

The end-of-line station almost always has the heaviest Park & Ride demand.  It collects from everywhere past the end-of-the-line.

In Miami, about 20 montsh ago, I counted building cranes.  2/3 were within 3 blocks of a Metro station.  Some were offices (good for destinations for commuters) but most seemed to be condos/apts.  Miami had ignored their Rapid Rail fro a generation, but with expansion plans, getting close became "hot".

In DC I went to an office bldg close to a newly opened station on an old line.  To the best of my memory, this was East leg of Red Line but I am hazy.  It was in DC (I was helping DC DOT with thw Anacostia Streetcar Line).  Anyway, medium rise (all allowed in DC) office buildings were going up EVERYWHERE close to this new station.  Cause - new Metro station Effect - New Office buildings with 3 to 4 blocks.

Step 1 may be "Park & Ride".  And driving 2.8 miles to the nearest Metro station is not that unsustainable (although servicing sprawl is energy intensive).  Step 2 is taking the bus/streetcar to teh station.  We are a LONG way from that just about everywhere I am afraid.

Dallas exurbs are fighting for more light rail 2016 to 2030, getting a second light rail line that connects the various exurbs together (and goes to DFW airport), instead of just being spokes on a Dallas hub.

Is that a good thing ?  IMHO, not the best of all possible worlds, but better than the most likely alternative.

   true point about an end station - but in this case, the end station, in my opinion, has led to considerably more suburban development, and the distance for a very significant fraction of the people using the Vienna station are much more likely to be 28 miles than 2.8 (again, talking about 2000 - but considering how developed the entire area around Vienna Metro is, it is very unlikely that much dense new construction will be built near it).
   Though I didn't write about it, having read essentially nothing about it, a DC trolley sounds like a solid idea - especially since they had one before ripping it up. I never rode on one in DC really, but I do remember the tracks and cables - I also believe the absolute last vestige of the system was ripped up in Georgetown, near the Potomac - I remember rails when riding to towards Virginia - a pain for motorcyclists.
   Of course office buildings are going up near the Metro stations - the question is, where do the people filling those building live, and how do they travel? Certainly, denser development in places like Ballston, Rosslyn, or Crystal City could allow a pool of workers, but odds are, most people working in DC are suburbanites - look at the population figures - Fairfax County now has something like 2 and 1/2 times the population of DC - when I was 10, the figure was 1 to 2. The amount of commuter traffic into DC and 'overflow' - not only the Virginia areas mentioned above, but their Maryland counterparts - is stunning. And Metro plays a fairly limited role in that, to the best of my memory - I can't imagine much difference today. (Numbers are welcomed, of course.)
   Is this where we start to discuss 'edge cities' in relation to Northern Virginia? I would rather not, as this is the sort of nightmare planning which just confirms my despair. As a guess, based on 2000 and what I remember reading in the 10 years before that, the amount of daily traffic to the Tysons Corner edge city area (not talking about the entire Rt 7 / Dulles Access/Toll Road / Rt 28 nightmare), the amount of investment in its road infrastructure, and its almost unimaginable dependence on driving dwarfs all gains in Metro ridership for the last decade, and all costs involved in the Virginia Orange/Blue Metrorail lines over that same decade.
   But now we are in Kunstler territory, which is not what this blog is about.

   As a side note about Metrorail - actually, the system was designed to handle a fairly high number of passengers, but the braking involved in the speeds used to achieve that planned volume simply chewed up the braking systems so badly, they had to slow everything down - vague memory is at least a third - this from the 1970s. Such an optimistic time - my memory is the trains didn't actually use drivers either, except in the sense of someone overseeing what the system performed without human intervention. The early 70s were full of optimism - the first time I saw a mag-lev system was at Transpo (1972?) - but somehow, mag-lev became a Japanese and German industry. Sort of a metaphor for the decades that followed, I guess.

But now we are in Kunstler territory, which is not what this blog is about.

Hahaha. Pretty sure he owns this blog. But, whatever, you'll learn.

Well, I first read Kunstler (though not in a weblog context) in connection with Y2k, and I certainly agree with his deep disgust about suburbia as seen in his current writing.

But this weblog, at least in terms of its owners, does attempt a fact based approach, and at times does offer original research and interpretation.

And speakly very broadly, it is neither an echo chamber nor a shouting match.

In 2000 Census, 36% of DC commuters used mass transit to get to work,  With growth to date, 40% seems a reasonable estimate.  (4% used city buses in 1970 census).

After LOTS of political earthmoving, the first half of the Dulles Line is a go, to Tysons Corner. Still waiting for fed OK.  Increased tolls on Dulles Tollroad and increased property taxes near line are big pieces of the financing.

DC Metro is NOT perfect, but consider DC area without it.  US Gov't would have moved most functions more out of DC into surrounding sprawl, DC would have descended into a Detroit like disaster zone* as surrounding suburbs & exurbs choked with 22 lane freeways everywhere.

One estimate is that DC Metro saves a half billion gallons of gas/year.  I think that # is quite low.

* DC went a good ways down that road, but lately gentrification & offices have brought back a tax base & stability, mainly around Metro stations.  Electing an honest mayor helped as well.  IMHO, without Metro, DC would have kept going down that road.

There is an attraction to taking rail to work. Walk to the station, ride and walk to work.  Walk for groceries, haircut, ride and walk to movies, etc.  Not attractive to all, but a growing % IMHO.


Have you had a look at what Melbourne has done?

The local authorities there have put loads of money over the years into local public transport. They have a very extensive tram network with a lightrail ring around the main CBD and lightrail links to the suburbs.  Plus standard rail connections to various parts of the state.  Buses "fill in the gaps".

We went there on holiday last year and we found the system very easy to use and it took us to all the places that we needed to go.  We very rarely used the buses as the Trams went everywhere.

The Trams are being updated all the time and there are lots of really flash new ones that are very low to the ground.

The local authorities there seem to be heading in the right direction.  One of the new parks that was built on an old piece of Dock land has been made as sustainable as possible with the lights over the paths operating off batteries charged with solar.

If you get a chance I would visit there just to check out their infrastructure.

Melbourne and Toronto are both VERY worthy of emulation.

I have looked (via internet & correspondance) at both.

Since I am a "Streetcar" supporter, the success of both are well appreciated.

My heart is with streetcars (I live 2.5 blocks from the world's oldest line, operating since 1834) but my logic is with heavier solutions in larger cities.

I saw this in Savannah, GA last weekend and immediately thought of all of you here at TOD:

Incidentally, if you get a chance to visit Savannah, try coming into the city from I-95 and take the GA-204 exit.  You are then driving on a road that illustrates the changes in development through time, from the newest quasi limited-access road of exurbia, to older classic sprawl of a wide boulevard choked with traffic, commercial establishments, and new traffic lights, to a more narrow boulevard going through 1950's style homes, then finally to streets and commercial districts laid out in the victorian, ante-bellum, and finally colonial times.  The downtown colonial area is truly built for walking, and was a delightful place to live car-free when I was there in the early 1990s.  

One thing that sprang to mind as I was driving home through rural Georgia, however, was that all the wealth, education, and beautiful buildings in pre 20th-century Savannah depended on agricultural production in the hinterlands (Savannah was the location of the cotton commodity exchange).  You have one location where a fraction of people lived comfortable, gracious lives, but it was based on a vast pyramid of slavery and/or sharecropping, grinding poverty and ignorance, flimsy shacks, barefoot children on dirt roads.  

The challenge for the future as I see it is to partially powerdown to a renewable/sustainable level, with the gracious living arrangements and transportation exemplified in places like the old parts of Savannah and New Orleans, but without shoving people in this country back down to the rural peasant level....and accomplish this with 4x population we had previously.

My parents told me that Savannah used to have an extensive streetcar system, that not only covered the city but extended to nearby communities such as Thunderbolt and Sandfly.  Sprawl infill has made a continuous cityscape from Savannah to those communities now, but back then, in the 1940s, those streetcar lines must have been going through some pretty undeveloped areas.

That was a very informative article "ThatsItImout".
Excellant closing comments.  Thanks for posting.
Good article in NYT on Exxon's problems in Venezuela.

...Moreover, Venezuela still exports the bulk of its oil to the United States, since no other country's refining system can better handle its high-sulfur crude.

In Washington, the Energy Department issued a report this month concluding that Venezuela still offered a more favorable investment climate for American companies than Saudi Arabia, the most pivotal member of OPEC, and Mexico, where longstanding nationalism and constitutional law prevent foreign companies from exploring for oil.

Some analysts say that foreign oil companies account for as much as half of Venezuela's estimated 2.5 million barrels of daily oil production, explaining in part why these companies are hesitant to leave Venezuela and why Caracas, so far at least, is hesitant to see them go...

Ken Deffeyes says "We've driven off the cliff." here:

As usual, in the article they trotted out our buddy Daniel Yergin to provide the counter-argument regarding Peak Oil.  

In a Forbes column published on 11/1/04, Yergin firmly predicted that oil prices, on 11/1/05, would be at or below $38 per barrel. Let's see, it's been five months and counting since we should have crossed the $40 mark.  

I think that you could make a fair amount of money by starting a hedge fund with a simple business plan:  listen to what Yergin says and base your investment decisions on doing the exact opposite of what he recommends.

Of all the cheerleaders waving their pom-poms on CNBC for Morgan-Stanley and other investment banks - Dan has to be the Best! I think it was the day after Katrina hit - CNBC had him on 3 or 4 times during the day telling us so soothingly that all was going to be OK. I have been using him as a contrarian indicator for a while now. Sucessfully I might add.
I notice that Yergin is supposed to have said that "our capacity to produce oil will grow until 2010 . . ."  If that means it won't grow after that, then Yergin is putting the peak in 2010, doesn't it? That's much less cornucopian than I thought him to be. A misprint? Misunderstanding by the writer of the article?
If memory serves, I believe that Yergin is predicting an "undulating plateau" (some after 2010) for a couple of decades, before any real decline in oil production.   My impression is that Yergin is assuming very small declines in existing production and then just counting the production from new fields.  I believe that he is also assuming that a swarm of smaller fields will make for the decline that we do see in old larger fields.  

All of these assumptions are directly contradicted by the post-peak production that we have seen (at or around the 50% of Qt mark) in Texas, the Lower 48 and the North Sea.

Even a plateau is bad news as free-market economies are predicated on constant growth.  (Actually in a lot of organizations, they don't just want growth, they want an ever-increasing rate of growth.)
Speaking of Yergin, he had an very large piece in the Times Today:

''The world is waking up to new era of power politics
By Daniel Yergin

The institutions and policies set up after the 1973 Arab oil embargo can no longer meet the needs of energy consumers or producers, says our correspondent

Old questions, new answers

ON THE eve of the First World War, Winston Churchill, the First Lord of the Admiralty, made an historic decision: to shift the power source of the Navy's ships from coal to oil. He intended to make the fleet faster than its German counterpart. But the switch also meant that the Royal Navy would rely not on coal from Wales but on insecure oil supplies from what was then Persia. Energy security thus became a question of national strategy.

Churchill's answer? "Safety and certainty in oil," he said, "lie in variety and variety alone." Since Churchill's decision, energy security has repeatedly emerged as an issue of great importance, and it is so once again. But the subject needs to be rethought, for what has been the paradigm of energy security for the past three decades is too limited and must be expanded to include many new factors. Moreover, it must be recognised that energy security does not stand by itself, but is lodged in the larger relations among nations.

You can find it at Times Online: Go to search, Type Daniel Yergin. The problem (apparently) is not geology at all....

April fools day jokes are becoming increasingly elaborate.

This is a good article. It is basically a carbon-copy of the one that is currently running in Foreign Affairs.

While I have serious issues with where he thinks all this oil is going to come from, there is obviously alot that readers here can either agree with or learn from.

This is the Times Online UK, not the NYT online just to save anybody else the confusion. Thanks for the post.

Near the end of his talk, Deffeyes compared the debate over how much oil might be beneath the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to passengers on the Titanic arguing about the arrangement of deck chairs.

It looks like gasoline on the NYMEX has jumped 15 cents/gallon over the past week.  I expect it will take another week or two for these price changes to filter down to the retail level.

I cannot think of anything in particular that is driving this - my guess is that this is just normal seasonal variation (prices typically rise in the spring as we get closer to summer).

Odd that they don't list diesel separately - I suppose it is no different than heating oil (ignoring questions about sulphur levels).  That only went up 9 cents this week..

I noticed this morning that local gas prices jumped $0.15 since last week.  Sheesh.  
I say, "Hooray!"

Every little bit helps. People will use much less gasoline as the price gets much way way much higher--and not before then.
$4 per gallon gasoline, good
$5 per gallon, better
$6-10 per gallon, and then we begin getting serious about conservation
$10+ per gallon: At last, a reasonable price that takes account of negative externalities of gasoline consumption.  

You said it, brother. I want to see the end of those giant SUVs on the roadways so I can ride my bike, motorcycle or small car in (relative) safety.
There are lot of things driving the price increase at the moment. I blogged about it a couple of days ago:

In addition, I have attempted to explain it in the Billings, Montana newspaper after someone wrote in complaining about the "gouging":

I think I have too much faith in the American public, though. They seem to think cheap energy is an entitlement (which is something I just blogged on this morning).


Nice blog! Will read more when I have the time.
Canada to Ban LNG Ships in Nation's Waters, Canadian Press Says

April 1 (Bloomberg) -- Canada plans to prohibit U.S. owners of liquefied natural-gas terminals in Maine from using waters off New Brunswick to bring large LNG tankers into their plants, Canadian Press reported, citing a member of the federal Cabinet.

Greg Thompson, the Canadian province's senior minister in Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Cabinet, said LNG is seen by the country as a dangerous cargo and can be banned from transport in its waters, the news service reported.

Three U.S. companies are planning to build terminals on the Maine coast, across from New Brunswick on Passamaquoddy Bay and want to use an internal Canadian waterway to bring in their tankers, CP said. Residents along the coast fear that increased shipping activity will hurt tourism and the fishing industry.

Gordon Grimes, an attorney for Quoddy Bay LLC, one of the LNG companies, said Canada can't block the ships because the waterway is used for international navigation and there is a right of passage, the news service said. Grimes also said Canada has endorsed the safety of LNG by approving a terminal in New Brunswick near the port of Saint John.

This is from the Canadian Press via Bloomberg. Doesn't make a great deal of sense as PetroCanada is developing an LNG terminal in the St Lawrence.

This could be a move in our little trade chess game with Canada. Hey, you want to exclude Canadian lumber, we'll keep you from doing your LNG deal, and so on.
Immigration isn't a big issue just in the U.S.:

Africans risk death at sea for new life abroad

Mauritania becomes a gateway to Europe

...Humanitarian officials estimate that at least 1,000 African immigrants have died in the past four months attempting to ride narrow, open fishing boats across 600 miles of rough Atlantic water to Spain's Canary Islands.

Thousands of other Africans seeking a way out of punishing poverty have fled by boat in the Mediterranean toward southern Italy or climbed barbed wire into Ceuta and Melilla, two Spanish territories on the northern coast of Africa. Now, with crackdowns making those routes increasingly impassable, the beaches of this desert country are the newest back door into Europe.

Wealthy beyond belief in the eyes of destitute people almost everywhere, the European Union also draws an illicit flow of migrants from the former Soviet Union, China, Latin America and the Arab world. Together, these tides of people are adding up to one of the most significant migrations of current times.

I'm reminded of this passage from Jared Diamond's Collapse:

Starving people would have poured into Gardar [the largest farm], 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.

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.

In 1978 the USA consumed 18.85 million barrels/day. In 2006 the USA will consume approx 21.25/day. This is a compound rate of increase of oil usage of .42% a year. The USA has effectively been at "Peak Oil" consumption for 25-30 years. There is no reason to predict the downslope will be any less gradual. The changes in the economy over the last 25-30 years (outsourcing,declining average wages,increasing gap between rich and everyone else) will continue gradually over the next 25-30 years. The days when you will need to grow food in your backyard are a long ways off.        
Interesting post. Can you give a source for your figures? I would add efficiency gains as the big reason to explain these negligible consumption increases.
Hi Keithster: Thanks. You will have to google world oil consumption by year and country. I actually put together an EXCEL spreadsheet a couple years ago. In 1978 the USA had 29.4% of world consumption of 64.16 and in 2006 is estimated to be at 25% of 84-85 mill. The way things are going China is obviously going to be the big user down the road.    
Correct.  And keep in mind that "efficiency gains" includes outsourcing.  Making steel rebar, cars, plastic gewgaws, etc., within the U.S. takes energy.  Making them overseas and shipping them here takes no energy at all. At least according to the statistics.

This is why I don't think we'll be able to repeat the efficiency gains we made after the last energy crisis.  If there's a world oil shortage, then obviously, outsourcing isn't going to fix it.

As for real efficiency...the lowest fruit is already plucked.  We've done the easy things that produce the biggest gains already.  We've backslid a bit on some things, like the 55 mph speed limit, but overall, new gains will be ever smaller and harder.

The lowest fruit has been picked?

In America, the lowest fruit was thrown away years ago.

Look at other industrial societies, and their energy consumption to see what lowest fruit means - in places like Japan or Germany, the next major gains will be fairly difficult, but in America, nobody, and I mean nobody, seemed concerned about developing personal virtues like thrift for a generation.

America is in for a world of hurt - this is why the peak oil debate needs to be much more global in perspective, I feel, since America is essentially the test case of how not to prepare for what we all know has been coming for a generation. Luckily, America is a fairly small country that only believes it is the center of the world. Unluckily, it is fascinated with mass death, whether natural (the die-off is coming), military (megadeaths aren't MAD, they are the cost of doing business in today's nuclear league), or religious (how American Christians becames enraptured by End Times (TM) visions of death is a true mystery).

And remember, America itself is a shrinking part of the industrial world - things are not like 1960. Or even 1980. Most Americans are still living in the world they grew up with as children, it seems, in part, because the media has become accustomed to repeating the same stale recycled beliefs, and not reality as seen from outside the U.S.

Look at other industrial societies, and their energy consumption to see what lowest fruit means - in places like Japan or Germany, the next major gains will be fairly difficult, but in America, nobody, and I mean nobody, seemed concerned about developing personal virtues like thrift for a generation.

Longer than that.  We didn't really change in the '70s.  We bought smaller cars and continued the happy motoring lifestyle.  Those smaller cars let us become even more car-dependent than we were before.  We moved further out, we bought two or three or four cars per family instead of one, etc.  Thrift really had nothing to do with it.  

But it won't be so easy to cut back.  We have sunk a huge amount of capital into the current infrastructure, and it won't be easy to change.  Switching to public transportation or bicycles is not low-hanging fruit for us.  

Well, that is part of the question in the end, isn't it?

I think American society was undergoing a number of changes throughout the 70s, some of which were at least partially successful (attitudes towards women and blacks, to name two concrete examples).

And growing up at that time, I did think America was undergoing concrete changes.

Being stupidly attached to my own memory of that time, I do believe that at least the potential for change was there.

I also believe it was utterly squandered, and in the real world sense of simply not doing the necessary work to handle the problems which will soon be impossible to obscure. And yes, the people and organizations that profited from that obscuring are currently the ones seeming to hold all the important levers in America today. But even then, at some point, people get sick of hearing the sizzle, and want their steak. Wonder what will happen when they realize the sizzle was the only thing being sold. Starving people aren't noted for moderation, we can also agree - regardless whether the starvation is real or of a more metaphorical variety.

Not living there anymore, it doesn't bother me much to realize after going through Morning in America, I'll get to watch the Twilight without feeling any responsibility at all.

But really, please don't believe America is somehow typical or normal. It is simple to imagine how America will crumble (it was real easy in 1985 - things have not improved, I am sure we can agree), but everyone else isn't really planning on following the American model to its logical conclusion.

Most people on this planet actually don't believe in Hollywood fairy tales, do know that the rich not only get richer, they don't care about anyone else, and quite honestly won't know the difference between an America living in an oil wonderland or the one which you seem to foresee.

Their life will be more or less filled with the same grinding labor - the big difference will be that through their stupidity and laziness, most Americans will get the chance to share that life (or die if they can't deal with it). This will be the end of the American Dream, not the end of life in America.

I know the U.S. is not typical or normal.  Unlike most Americans, I have lived overseas.  Mostly in Third World nations. (My dad is an agronomist who specializes in international agriculture.  He chose the field because his guidance counselor in the '50s told him that feeding the world would be the #1 problem in the world.  Only later did he realize that you'll never make a lot of money if your "customers" are starving.)
That is an interesting point, about making money and having people starve.

This could explain, from a very reasonable perspective, why you would think that a lot of people are destined to starve when peak oil's depletion becomes very tangible.

From my perspective, people starving is the norm of human history and experience, and I just don't see the future being much different than the last several thousand years, acknowledging that the absolute numbers are much larger, counterbalanced by the fact that knowledge is also more widespread - whether this means merely hundreds of millions of people dying of starvation while population reduces to sustainable limits or billions die quickly is the debate which would be worth fleshing out, much like the TOD tries to do with peak oil.

As a personal opinion, I don't see China, India, or South America (more or less) sliding into massive starvation (that is, 20% or more of the population starving in a limited time frame). Africa, and parts of Asia like Indonesia are an entirely different story. Of course, climate change is the true joker in the deck, but at least in part, that is the knowledge part - could a society like China's or India's adapt quickly and ruthlessly enough before collapse? I honestly don't know, but betting against them seems to be a major part of truly believing in inevitable die-off. I think both China and India have thousands of years of experience in handling such problems. Though such 'solutions' are very unlikely to appeal to any modern Western society - like China's 1 child policy, or India's love of using ultrasound to kill women before they are born, or just starving a province to feed two others. As said before, both societies have a lot of experience in starvation. Neither has been famous for die-offs, though. That seems to be more a European thing, somehow - whether in plagues, truly destructive warfare, or both. This may also explain part of Europe's more concrete response to the looming problems.

In a sense, America is the only global society that has no experience in managing starvation or historical knowledge of significant amounts of the population dying in a short time frame.

And if you travelled much, and now live in America, I can also sympathize with how difficult it must be to get people around you to actually be interested in the broader world.

I think both China and India have thousands of years of experience in handling such problems.

Yes.  China is the only large country that still keeps significant food stores.  They have not forgotten that a government that cannot feed the people cannot stay in power.  And now they are building petroleum stores, too.  

Neither has been famous for die-offs, though. That seems to be more a European thing, somehow - whether in plagues, truly destructive warfare, or both.

I disagree.  China has suffered regular dieoffs due to war, disease, and famine.  The "Black Death" that killed 1/3 of Europe's population seems to have originated in China, and was even worse there than in Europe.  From Wikipedia:

The initial outbreak of plague in the Chinese province of Hubei in 1334 claimed up to ninety percent of the population, an estimated five million people. During 1353-54, outbreaks in eight distinct areas throughout the Mongol/Chinese empires may have caused the death of two-thirds of China's population, often yielding an estimate of twenty five million deaths.

I am very concerned about China.  They are doing the right thing with their one-child policy, but I'm not sure it will be enough.  In the old days, they struggled to maintain 100 million people.  Now they have over a billion - thanks to the Green Revolution. China uses four times the world average of synthetic fertilizer per hectare, and are barely supporting their population.  Acid rain from their heavy coal use is killing their crops and dropping water tables are a serious problem.

Right now, the world market can provide if food production falls short.  The only reason all those people starved to death in North Korea was the government refused to admit the problem and ask for help.  But as the population grows and food production falls, that is going to change.  Especially if we start putting food in the tanks of our SUVs.

   I do think that comparing oil 1978 and 2006 needs considerable refinement. First, the use of oil for electrical generation has certainly declined - not sure where 1978 stands on that decline, but it is certainly reasonable to guess a few percent. Second, oil as feedstock for fertilizer, plastics, etc is also a something to compare - I would assume another few percent.

America's use of natural gas rose very dramatically since 1978 - this may be an area where comparing oil/natural gas as both energy and industrial feedstock would likely be productive, if tricky. I would guess that America has not been at peak oil in the sense you mean since 1978. And this without factoring in the oil shock/recession of approximately 1979-181. which would further skew this statistical picture.

As a matter of fact, my guess is that 1978 would likely provide one of the least useful dates to compare - obviously someone better than I could approach this, but for example, fuel efficient cars became very attractive after 1979-80 and CAFE standards were tightening, for example, and this would show up nicely for the next 7 or 8 years, while the growth of the minivan and SUV started in the later 80s (in part as a reaction of American carmakers to the fact that these vehicles were exempt from CAFE and various safety standards  - yes, America is a perfect example of how not to run an industrial society in an age of declining finite resources). In a sense, this creates a sort of mirror image of two decades of gasoline use, while oil was being replaced in the American economy in other areas (or simply removed through outsourcing). America's use of gasoline as fuel has most certainly not remained flat since 1978, for example, when measured by other standards, like VMT, as fuel efficiency has essentially remained flat since the mid-1980s.

Slate has published a review of Kevin Phillips' new book. While I have not read it, I have read an earlier work and actually found it quite good.

This book is Top-5 on both Amazon and the NYT Bestsellers lists and oil is one of the topics it covers so I thought this review was quite illuminating.

Here are some excerpts...

...Phillips' faults are on full, gaseous display in his latest jeremiad, American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century. The book was  No. 1 on Amazon before being released and has already been widely praised by liberals, who continue to welcome Phillips as a fresh convert to their side decades after his defection from the right...

... Phillips' argument is that oil dependency, Christian fundamentalism, and excessive debt are destroying the country. He is not wrong that these are dangers. But he wildly misunderstands, distorts, and overstates all of them...

...Thirty pages later, having presented no evidence and answered no objections (So, why did the oil companies oppose the Iraq war?), he restates his claim more hyperbolically: "During the first George W. Bush administration, that reliance [on automobiles] dictated an attempt to turn the Persian Gulf into an American filling station so as to maintain high energy consumption." At least Michael Moore tries to make us laugh when he says stuff like this...

...When it comes to economics, Phillips has still less of a clue. The tip-off that he doesn't know what he's talking about comes in the section about oil, when he tries to explain that not all "proven" reserves are available. Drilling may become uneconomic, Phillips notes, if more energy is required to find and extract a barrel of oil than the barrel contains--"at least until the price of oil rises." Sorry, but if it costs more than a barrel of oil to make a barrel of oil, a higher price won't help.

This sort of comment at least prepares us for the obtuseness that follows. Phillips is surely right, if impressively unoriginal, to argue that too much debt is a bad thing. But why must it mean that America is headed the way of Rome?...

...Once upon a time, Kevin Phillips crunched a lot of numbers to give shrewd, if cynical, political advice to Republicans about capitalizing on white fear of black people. Since switching sides, he has proposed various ways for the liberals to knock down the conservative majority he helped to build. Democrats would be wise to beware of geeks bearing such gifts.

That just strikes me as an angry, factless, review.  What's the problem here, Hubbert's peak, or Philips' gall at writing about it?  The reviewer seems more concerned with Philips' gall.

(I did trip over that "t least until the price of oil rises" sentence fragment myself, but it is a very minor (and uncharacteristic) hiccup in context.)

Two more US ethanol companies filed for an initial public offering of shares on the stock markets recently.

This is a renewable energy source that will mitigate peak oil.

Unless it is cellulosic ethanol, it won't do much to mitigate peak oil. Grain ethanol could supply around a tenth of our fuel needs if we turned the entire corn crop into ethanol. In the process, it would pull down our natural gas reserves even faster, and speed up the rate at which we use up our topsoil. Ethanol has such a poor energy balance that the industry would collapse if the mandates/subsidies were pulled. Grain ethanol is too reliant on fossil fuels to provide a sustainable solution.

Grain ethanol is mostly a sham, made possible by pseudoscientific work put out by the USDA that would never have passed peer review. I took a look at some of their claims here:


Very interesting information. This is what I worked on in graduate school in the early 90's (cellulosic ethanol) and we weren't remotely economic then. But I know they have made a lot of strides toward reducing the costs of the enzymes. I will have to take a close look at that post and think on it a bit.

Thanks for that info.


The USA is totally committed to holding together the whole suburban, liquid fuel economy. Considerations like effects on topsoil health will not be a factor at all. Most of the crops to fuel farming will be done outside the USA (China is investing heavily in palm oil plantations in Malaysia). The destruction of the rainforest is not even to be discussed. I think you are underestimating the extraordinary measures that will be undertaken in an attempt to provide liquid fuel to the economy so that this economic system can hold together.    
No, I think I have a pretty good idea of where this is all headed - I just don't like it a bit. We will continue to make ethanol, and more and more ethanol plants will turn to coal to power the plants. Canada will mine the tar sands at an increasing pace, despite the poor energy balance. I don't know how they will deal with Kyoto in the long run, other than to conclude they have to drop out. In the interim, the ice caps will melt, and I am going to start growing oranges in Alberta.

I agree with you as well that topsoil destruction is always given a free pass in these debates. The midwest will probably have to experience a great big dust bowl before this garners public attention. Of course if that does happen, lots of people are going to die.


Coal is a very efficient fuel source for ethanol production. It takes an abundant resource and turns it into useable liquid fuel.
Right, as long as you aren't at all concerned about Global Warming. The problem is that even coal is not sustainable, and we really need a solution that is sustainable. I think certain biodiesel options have a chance at sustainability, but we have got to step up to the plate and start conserving.


I don't rule out coal-driven ethanol.  While it is nowhere near sustainable, it might buy at least a couple of decades to develop a more sustainable source of energy, perhaps a nuclear plus full electrical car solution.

As for GW, I may be pulling a deus ex machina, but I think with the development of better scrubbing technologies and STRONG enforcement of pollution controls, the increased use of carbon emissions from coal will be offset by the declining use of oil carbon emissions.  Ethanol is carbon neutral, of course.  

You pretty well summed up the situation. Also, desperation will lead to a big coal liquefaction industry (real good for the environment).  
 Yes coal liquifaction is very good for the environment. There are only a few of them but they don't produce carbon dioxide.
Interesting blog. Have you looked at this paper published in Science? Here is the abstract:

"To study the potential effects of increased biofuel use, we evaluated six representative analyses of fuel ethanol. Studies that reported negative net energy incorrectly ignored coproducts and used some obsolete data. All studies indicated that current corn ethanol technologies are much less petroleum-intensive than gasoline but have greenhouse gas emissions similar to those of gasoline. However, many important environmental effects of biofuel production are poorly understood. New metrics that measure specific resource inputs are developed, but further research into environmental metrics is needed. Nonetheless, it is already clear that large-scale use of ethanol for fuel will almost certainly require cellulosic technology."

What strikes me is they found that corn ethanol is less petroleum-intensive than gasoline?! How can this be since the modern ethanol industry has only been around for 30 years versus 100 years for gasoline refining? Think of how efficient ethanol will be with 70 more years of innovation.

I agree that ethanol is only a bit player because it displaces 3.5% of the US annual gas consumption but this number is on its way to 7% within two years even without cellulose-based production. This is significant.  

I have seen that paper in Science, and actually reviewed it for a friend. I have some comments on it at work that I will have to dig up. The problem, as I see it, is not that the energy balance is negative. It is that at best, it is only slightly positive.

Regarding corn ethanol being less petroleum intensive than gasoline, that is a myth that has been perpetuated by the USDA and Argonne. Here is what I just sent to Wang at Argonne on that topic:

I am very puzzled by your 3rd slide, and need some clarification. You show that it takes 0.74 MMBTU to make 1 MMBTU of ethanol, but 1.23 MMBTU to make 1 MMBTU of gasoline. That simply can't be correct, on multiple grounds, if you are considering the entire process in both cases.

First, it is well-known that the EROI of getting crude oil out of the ground is about 10 to 1. A barrel of oil contains about 6 MMBTU, so it will take 0.6 MMBTU to get that barrel out of the ground. Processing that barrel also takes about 10% of the energy contained within the oil, or another 0.6 MMBTU. I think this is what you show in your GREET model, and is also consistent with my knowledge of refineries. Almost all of the BTU value in a barrel of oil gets converted into useful products. The BTU inputs for transportation of the oil and gasoline are very small compared to those for extraction and refining of the oil. The bottom line is that we have inputs of about 1.2 MMBTU to get products out worth 6 MMBTU. Or, to put it on a 1 MMBTU basis, we input 0.2 MMBTU to produce 1 MMBTU of fossil fuels, NOT 1.23 MMBTU as your slide indicates.

After all, would they really need subsidies if these claims were true?


They don't 'need' subsidies. The blenders are offered subsidies so they take them. Who wouldn't? From the peer-reviewed Science paper that I read, it isn't just Wang at Argonne that is saying this, it is these guys now too: 1 Energy and Resources Group, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-3050, USA. 2 Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-3050, USA. 3 Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-3050, USA.
Gee, there's an ethanol shortage, but farmers are planting less corn this year.  I wonder why that is?
There is an ethanol shortage because refiners are discontinuing the use of MTBE, a fuel oxidant that was found to be a carcinogen. They need to substitute ethanol.

The ethanol shortage has nothing to do with the amount of corn grown. In fact, there will be another corn surplus this year, guaranteed. There was so much extra corn from last year that people had to pile it on the ground because the storage facilities were full.

Actually, they don't "need" to substitute ethanol.

The California Air Resource Board (CARB) researched this issue at length and found that ethanol-blended gasoline does not help California meet the goals of the Clean Air Act as it relates to reducing ozone formation, particularly during the summertime, and, in fact, ethanol actually increases the emission of pollutants that cause ozone during the summer months.

There are lots of details in Feinstein's statement refuting the need for ethanol.


Oh, I did forget to add:

"The EPA announced today that the federal 2% oxygenate requirement, which forced California to use MTBE and then ethanol in its gasoline, has been repealed.

This is great news for California. I've been fighting for a repeal of this provision for years because the federal requirement has forced California's refiners to use an oxygenate even though they can make cleaner-burning gasoline without MTBE or ethanol.

The announcement means that California refiners will finally be allowed to make gasoline that is cleaner burning than what they are making today."

That happened in February. So much for the "need" of ethanol to replace MTBE. This is politics, nothing more. Each state is going to have to ask for the waiver California finally got.


Of course they need subsidies. At the close yesterday, the spot price of gasoline was $1.90. The price of ethanol was $2.52, and you only get 70% of the BTUs. So, how many people out of the goodness of their hearts are going to spend almost twice as much (on an equivalent BTU basis) to run ethanol? Face it, without subsidies/mandates, this industry would not exist.

Regarding the Berkley group, I am pretty sure that they quoted Wang. But my analysis is correct. The energy balance for gasoline is at worst 5/1.


I think people are underestimating how big the crops (sugar,corn,palm oil,soybeans) to fuel thing is going to be. I have read the comment that it will be limited because the land is needed for food production, however, the reality is that there is no shortage of food in North America (obesity is an epidemic) and the people who need the fuel have a lot more money than the people who need the food (globally). Farmers will grow whatever pays the most. The impact on global starvation will be pronounced.
Actually obesity is a worldwide problem. Growing plants for fuel is just what the world needs to combat rising obesity and diabetes.
What a nightmare.  It's all too likely, though.  Matthew Simmons points out that Limits To Growth was wrong (in timing, at least) because they assumed the rest of the world would catch up to the U.S.  Wrong.  Instead, the gap between the haves and the have-nots widened into a chasm.  Thus enabling us to keep the party going awhile longer.
I read today that currently world population is growing at a rate of 100 mill/year. The growth is concentrated in the poorest countries. When oil declines (along with farmland devoted to fuel production) the scale of starvation will be incredible.
Renewable? I don't know much about ethanol, but I think that the consensus here is that it is a joke for a variety of reasons.

The US can't meet it's own ethanol needs, so it is already getting set to import it from Brazil. With all the import/export/tariff nonsense, it doesn't look like a winning situation.

There has plenty written on the subject here. I better let others with better knowledge comment.

Tariffs? You can call it a joke if you like but every year from this one onward it is going to be a more important source of liquid fuel for the US economy. Period. Can it take the place of oil? Of course not. That is not the point. When you have been pigging out on filet mignon for 100 years you will gladly eat week old donuts when you have no other choice.    
I was trying to be diplomatic. My personal feeling is that not only is it a joke, it is a Big Lie. When GM is promoting this stuff as our future, you know something is up.

Again, I am not an expert on ethanol, I only know about it what little I've read here and elsewhere. So, again, I will defer to others on the subject. Nothing you are saying refutes what Mr. Rapier, for instance, is saying. I would suggest that  you look a little more closely at his comments for starters.

These are the main points I'm looking at:

  1. It takes as much energy to produce it as you get out of it. Seems kind of stupid, no? The only possible reason for this is that the end result is something you can burn in a car. 10%? Why not make the car 10% more efficient? Doesn't that sound like a better solution?

  2. We can't even meet our own projected needs for it, so we end up importing it, thereby sending more money out of the country, making us more "import dependent," and less "energy secure." Why? So we can continue to drive Chevy Tahoes back and forth to the mall?

Ethanol (E85) has never been anything more than a feel good measure put forth by parties not really interested in the long-term well being of either this country or the world.

We burn 9 million barrels of gasoline every day. Yeah - that 15 percent ethanol in the tanks of GM and Ford's monster trucks is going to do wonders for the environment.

It is nothing but a scam advanced by special-interest groups to allow Detroit to continue with Business As Usual and to convince your average yokel that the government is serious about doing something about them Saudis.

Get behind a Gas-Tax. Get behind much higher, improved fuel-efficiency standards. Support a transition to more LNG in the energy mix. E85 is a lie.

I think I'll go try to scrounge up a donut, now.

We can't even meet our own projected needs for it, so we end up importing it, thereby sending more money out of the country, making us more "import dependent," and less "energy secure."

I think that's the key there.  Brian is right; we already import food from countries that can't even feed their own people.  Just as Brazil's cars are run on fuel made from sugarcane harvested by people who can never dream of owning a car.  So chances are, we will import ethanol (or ethanol feedstock) from other countries as long as we can.

But how long will the rest of the world put up with it?  Our twin deficits are already scarily high.  How long is the rest of the world going to let us put it on credit?

Except that Brian didn't say it. I did.
Nevermind, I guess he did say it. We're having two different conversations here. I'm just talking about ethanol. You two are talking about food and Brazilians, I guess.
We're talking about whether it's possible to overcome the EROEI shortcomings of ethanol by importing it from Third World countries.  

Perhaps, but then the question becomes how much longer we can keeping running up the deficit.

Something that has been brought to my attention is that we currently have a 54 cent per gallon tariff on imported ethanol. Maybe that has already been discussed. How does this effect things?
Leanan, EROEI is a thermodynamic concept not an economic one right? If that is the case it does not matter if we grow the biomass or someone else does, EROEI will be the same for the same chemical process. Worse if you count transportation.
Not necessarily. Different techniques used here vs. in Third World countries.  If you use human labor instead of mechanization, the EROEI may be different.  Ditto if you use slash-and-burn instead of fertilizers and pesticides.    
Different techniques used here

In Brazil you can grow sugar cane...not so much in the US of a.  

My Back of the envelope calcs have one acre of sugar beets ending up yeilding 275 gallons of ethyl Alcohol.   750 if you go for buytl alcohol.

50 gallons of oil from sunflowers per acre, based on the same napkin calculation methodology.

Sugarcane is a hard to remove weed in my neighborhood.

Fields of sugarcane still dot the rural areas in South Louisiana.

The Florida sugarcane crops were bought out by the feds in their tens of billion dollars effort to save the Everglades, and Hawaii found better uses for their real estate.

The Florida sugarcane crops were bought out by the feds in their tens of billion dollars effort to save the Everglades, and Hawaii found better uses for their real estate.

Which is why we should all be thankful that the people of Europe figured out the breeding of sugar beets so most of the land area of the United States can actually grow sugar in some form.

So no matter how much of the swamplands go underwater along the southeren coasts of the US of A, a sugar crop can grow well into minnesota.

Fields of sugarcane still dot the rural areas in South Louisiana.

And a fine use for the land previously occupided by The City of New Orleans.

Brian did say it.  At least, that's how I interpreted "The impact on global starvation will be pronounced."
How can you declare something a big lie if in your own words, "Again, I am not an expert on ethanol, I only know about it what little I've read here and elsewhere." Let me dissect your points:

1. "It takes as much energy to produce it as you get out of it." No that is wrong. This graph from the Science paper I quoted shows that gasoline takes more energy to make than you get out of it. Ethanol is the opposite, you get more out than you put in.

2."We can't even meet our own projected needs for it, so we end up importing it, thereby sending more money out of the country, making us more "import dependent," and less "energy secure."  We can meet our own projected need for it. The US is the world's largest producer (yes, we make more than Brazil). There are 97 plants that produce it now and another 33 under construction. Production will double every couple of years. We have lots of fallow farmland, tons of corn we don't know what to do with and capital that is being invested in new ethanol feedstock.

The rest of your post is just political grudges or weird conspiracy theories.

I can call anything I want a lie. If you disagree, prove me wrong.

So, you're an expert? You better be, otherwise you shouldn't be telling me I don't have a right to my opinion.

You get more out of it than you put in. Really? How much more.

Political grudges? Where? You don't even know what my politics are. How could you possibly comment?

Weird conspiracy theories? Good. I almost never get accused of that. I should probably take that as a compliment.

So basically, your position would be that ethanol is the best thing since sliced bread and is an important part of a sustainable future. Did I at least get that right?

This graph from the Science paper I quoted shows that gasoline takes more energy to make than you get out of it. Ethanol is the opposite, you get more out than you put in.

Again, that is simply not true. Argonne started that crap with their stupid GREET model. Everyone else quotes them. What is true is that if you have a barrel of oil, it will take some BTUs to get the gasoline out. That is how they defined efficiency for gasoline. In that way, it can never be 100%. They did not define ethanol in the same way. If I defined ethanol as a barrel of crude ethanol ready to be distilled, the efficiency would be about 35%.

On an apples to apples basis, the EROI of gasoline - starting with the crude in the ground - is about 5/1. Ethanol is at best about 1.3/1. That's why they need subsidies or mandates to compete.


And what is all this industry propaganda in your links. How about some third party references.'re not an ethanol lobbyist, are you?
Let me dissect your points:

1. "It takes as much energy to produce it as you get out of it." No that is wrong. This graph from the Science paper I quoted shows that gasoline takes more energy to make than you get out of it. Ethanol is the opposite, you get more out than you put in.

Better take another shot at that one. If this were true, we never would have started using gasoline.

Oil CEO; You misunderstand my comments. I am not saying that fuel from farmland is a long-term solution or good for the environment (the destruction of the rainforest for fuel farms is certainly not). I am just saying that the USA is going to be getting liquid fuel from farmland in a big way. This isn't going to solve anything but it is still going to be done. Point two: don't be too sure on the net energy loss argument. Brazil's fuel from sugar cane operation is so big it has driven up the world price of sugar dramatically. Also, third world farms use a lot more cheap human labor (energy).    
Brazil's fuel from sugar cane operation is so big it has driven up the world price of sugar dramatically

Great, so now you are telling me that the price of my week-old donut is going to go through the roof, so Keith here can continue to drive his V-8 Hemi to the Burger King drive-thru 12 times a week. Way to add insult to injury.

Oil CEO: The price of your week-old donut is definitely going to go through the roof. Not sure if Keith drives a Hemi.
Get behind a Gas-Tax. Get behind much higher, improved fuel-efficiency standards. Support a transition to more LNG in the energy mix. E85 is a lie.

I second all of that. Having lived in Europe for a couple of years, I can tell you that they have learned to live with much higher gas prices. But they don't drive SUVs 30 miles to work. They have tiny fuel efficient vehicles. They ride bikes or walk on short trips. For the most part, they don't even have suburbs. We could learn a lot of lessons from them.


You're right. The irony is eventually (in my opinion within 10 years) Americans will be using bicycles and walking for short trips (because of the price of gas). The only problem is it will be more of a drag as the US cities are generally very sprawling. Mass transit is also far more advanced in Europe. What this means is, effectively, in some ways the standard of living in the USA in 2016 will be lower than in Europe.