Jubak: More Peak Everything! (and an open thread)

Jubak uses a nice discussion of peak oil to explain "peak metals" in this article:
Call the theory Peak Metal. The price of gold and other metals, and related stocks, will keep rising as finding new sources gets harder and more expensive.[...]But I find the mechanisms that Peak Oil theory has developed to explain the direction of oil prices and the operation of the oil market immediately applicable to the metals sector.
Hello TODers,

Of course!  I have posted on this before: consider first gold-mining at Sutter's Mill in Cali-- picking big nuggets out of the stream by hand.  Nowadays, it takes 50-100 tons of ore being very, very energy intensively processed to get just one ounce of gold!  Extrapolate to all other minerals--rising energy prices will eventually shut down most mining operations for any earthen minerals.

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

I think it's not that bad.  I did some internet research on this topic a while back.  A real good mine produces about 2 ounces per ton while an average mine produces about .5 ounces per ton.  There are usually other metals produced as well such as copper or silver or nickel.  However, the ore from the early mines in the 1860s was producing 50-60 ounces per ton................
Hello Wrs,

Thxs for the reply.  You maybe roughly correct in ounces per ore tons, but you also have to consider the 'total picture' of how much non-gold overburden and non-economic gold ore has to stripped away to get to the gold ore 'paydirt' underneath.  The following link has a nice chart showing we might have passed peak gold in 2000:


Grades vary enormously with ore bodies. Generally, the largest South African underground operations run at between eight and ten grammes per tonne (i.e. eight to ten parts per million), with more marginal South African operations grading between four and six grammes per tonne. At a grade of 10 grammes/tonne, therefore, it takes more than three tonnes of ore to produce one ounce of gold. Many of the world's operations are open pits, which tend (generally) to be of lower grade than the underground mines, running from as low as one gramme to three or four grammes per tonne. While this low grade is instructive in that it shows how rare gold is in the ground and gives an idea of how much rock has to be shifted to produce the metal, production costs are a more important parameter in determining the quality of an operation and these are a mix of both grade and operating costs.


This article conservatively talks about 20 tons to make a 1/3 ounce gold ring, and it does not figure any of the tons of overburden removed first.

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

I need some help in convincing a Peak-Oil wary friend of the truth.  His hang-up is nuclear power.  Can anyone direct me to sources - especially ones dealing with the EROEI issue?
Nuclear power is used to generate electricity. But Peak Oil is not really about electricity - it's about transportation. Oil is not much used for electricity generation, and if necessary it can be replaced by coal and other options, including nuclear.

The challenge of Peak Oil is finding a replacement fuel that can support our massive transportation infrastructure, and scaling up the replacement in time to prevent a serious shortfall.

You can start at the below hyperlink, but also click the Previous button at the bottom of that page to get better background info re:

 The major problem of nuclear waste is what to do with it.

This month's Nature magazine (subscription required) has a couple of articles on assesing the "cost" of nuclear power:

Nuclear power: Chernobyl and the future: when the price is right

Once touted as too cheap to meter, nuclear power has become too costly to build. But the economics may be shifting, finds Jim Giles.

link to editor's notes

Go to peakoil.com. Top left of the home page there's a little box labelled Editorials & Opinions. Right now it contains a 1st rate article which takes apart nuclear from the viewpoint of ERoEI. Footnoted, thorough, but accessible to laymen.

 Welcome back  ;-)
Indeed, welcome back.
There was a long series of posts on obtaining uranium from sea water on the energy resources forum within the last two or so years.  I'm sorry I don't have a specitic link - do a search


The essential deal was that nets containing a material (can't remember what) would "attract" and concentrate naturally occuring uranium in sea water.  Therefore, ERoEI would be "low."

Seeing Peak Metal as only a manifestation of Peak Oil is like seeing everything as a nail because all you have is a hammer. Not everything is about oil.

Jim Jubak's analysis makes sense to me. The same kind of factors that limit oil production - basically, that we got the easy stuff first - are present in mining industries too. And he notes that mining industries are both more conservative in their pricing estimates and have fewer new technologies to work with in trying to increase production, compared to oil companies.

In short he sees Peak Metal as a manifestation of the same kinds of effects that are driving up oil prices, as a robust world economy puts unprecedented strains on commodity production. And for the reasons above he sees the run-up in metal prices as likely to be even stronger and more persistant than for oil.

Hello Halfin,

Your Quote: "Seeing Peak Metal as only a manifestation of Peak Oil is like seeing everything as a nail because all you have is a hammer. Not everything is about oil."

Sir, I respectfully disagree in regards to peak minerals.  It could be argued that we would have passed Peak Minerals decades ago if we had not discovered petroleum to mechanize machinery.  In the olden days, sailing ships use to sail to hand-harvest guano from caves and ancient bird nesting places.  Please google Guano mining. Here is a link to get you started:


Not many humans are willing to shovel 100 tons to get one ounce of gold.

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

It should also be added that Jim Jubak is an extremely intelligent, experienced observer in these matters. His attention to the topics of oil and economics and his analysis of energy companies and their balance sheets are on record and go back years.
Uranium is like oil. First we got the expensive stuff, then we got the cheap stuff, then we got the expensive stuff. Remember, we started out with oil in Pennsylvania long before we found Spindletop and other "real" oil fields.
Same thing with uranium. We found the crappy stuff first and the good stuff in 1970 and onwards. Eventually we will run out of high grade uranium ore and then the EROEI will go down.
Hey OilDrummers, Please consider attending this important conference coming up Saturday May 6th in the US capitol, and pass on this announcement to all interested folks!

The DC Petrocollapse Conference -- www.petrocollapse.org

Surviving Peak Oil: Economic Doom or Transformation?
Culture Change and Sustainable Post-Petroleum Living


Sponsored by Culture Change -- http://culturechange.org

You are invited to attend!
All Souls Unitarian Church
16th and Harvard Streets, NW, Washington D.C.
Columbia Heights Metro Station
Saturday, May 6, 2006 9 am - 7 pm

Speakers at the DC Petrocollapse Conference will include the most widely read peak-oil author, Richard Heinberg. Experts on peak oil, small-scale agriculture and alternative energy will discuss "petrocollapse," the imminent failure of the petroleum infrastructure to continue to provide the myriad goods and services that our consumer economy has grown accustomed to. Multimedia presentations and multiple films will demonstrate solutions to the audience. Heinberg, Jan Lundberg and others will perform music including oil-satire songs. Films will include DC premiers of "Our Synthetic Sea" (plastics pollution in oceans) and "The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil."

At The Petrocollapse Conference we will ask

  • What are we facing now as the economy prepares to hit the wall known as resource limits? Will growth suddenly implode?
  • What will be the effects of Peak Oil (a geological phenomenon) and petrocollapse (an economic and social phenomenon) on food supply and other services we depend on?
  • What other mitigation strategies are possible?
  • What is the role of the market in determining how severe the effect of shortage stemming from geological depletion will be ?
  • Upon upheaval, deprivation, and a restructuring of social relations in a "new" local economics system, will we choose to create a sustainable culture?

*Albert Bates Global Ecovillage Network; author
*Diana Leafe Christian Communities Magazine
*John Darnell, Ph.D Energy advisor
*Richard Heinberg Author, The Party's Over and Powerdown
*Michael Kane From the Wilderness publications
*Jan Lundberg Oil industry analyst; http://culturechange.org
*Jenna Orkin Moderator; World Trade Center Environmental Org.
*Joel Salatin Organic Agriculturalist, http://polyfacefarms.com
*Mark Robinowitz http://Oilempire.us; author, Permatopia
*David Room Post Carbon Institute; Global Public Media


Please register online via PayPal at http://petrocollapse.org/register.html

The registration cost of $100 will pay for lunch and attendance at a special noontime press conference.

We have scholarships, work exchange arrangements, and "sliding scale" discounts available for students, activists, and those who can't afford the $100 registration cost. Send us an email with the details of your situation, and/or what time or energy you may have for volunteer activity for the conference. Send to conferences@culturechange.org

Please contact the registration coordinator -- Ethan Genauer -- if you have any problems registering, or for more details, by email at : ethan@culturechange.org

For more information, see http://petrocollapse.org and the DC PetroCollapse Conference press release below[/b]



DC Petrocollapse Conference: May 6, 2006
All Souls Church, Unitarian 16th & Harvard, Washington, D.C

A conference on the effects of peak oil and the growing global energy crisis will take place in Washington, DC on May 6th at the All Souls Church, Unitarian from 9 A.M. to 7 P.M. Speakers include peak-oil author
Richard Heinberg.

Conference organizer and speaker Jan Lundberg is a former oil industry analyst who ran the market research firm Lundberg Survey. Lundberg, who quit serving the oil industry so he could put his knowledge to use to protect the environment, says "M. King Hubbert, who developed the theory of peak oil, observed that we do not have an energy crisis but rather a culture crisis. This fits with the theme of the Washington DC Petrocollapse Conference that there is no technofix for our energy dilemma. Society will have to bring about a closer level of community and rediscover what local economics are about."

The May 6th conference will feature Richard Heinberg, the most-read peak oil author (The Party's Over, and Powerdown). Films and music will be also offered as part of a varied program to stimulate discussion and action by attendees. Heinberg and Lundberg and others will perform music including oil-satire songs. Films will include premiers of "Our Synthetic Sea" (plastics pollution in oceans) and "The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil."

Lundberg says the Petrocollapse Conference asks, "What we can do in advance of the social upheaval and chaos that may produce a 'national New Orleans,' to prepare or mitigate? What will the future look like during and after a transition to non-petroleum living?"

For more information, see http://petrocollapse.org

Hello Livetrii,

Is this a mandatory attendence conference for Congress and other MilGov officials?  If not, I hope the Joint Chiefs of Staff summon a small force to make these politicians attend.  The recent postings on the military analysis of Peakoil shows that they understand the situation much more than the politicians.

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

Ok, I just don't get it. I am interested in everyones input. Oil is over $71 and gold is over $620 and yet the stock market goes up 200 points! I just don't understand. The price if oil and fuel has to be effecting something. Either companies eat the price and it effects the bottom line or else they pass the cost on to consumers. And as far as consumers, higher gas prices have to effect something. Either the consumer saves less (ha!), goes further into debt, or spends less on other things to pay for gas. So why is the stock market still going up? Is the government just printing money and buying stocks with it?!?!??!?!
actually, I think today's pop was because of the fed signaling it was just about done tightening, as well as some other positive numbers...
In my haste I did seem to focus on today. However my dismay is  wider than today. Oil and gold are steadily climbing and it's not even summer yet. That fact seems to be disconnected from the stock market that is still hovering over 11,000.
I just don't understand. The price if oil and fuel has to be effecting something.

I know that, personally at least, I'm hiding the effects of $3/gal gasoline by putting it on the credit card. I suspect that many other sheeple (I'm one) are doing the same thing. We're sticking our heads into the denial hole and pretending the end-of-cheap-oil problem is still not yet here.

The debt will just accumulate and accumulate. Then one day, these two knee-cap busters from the credit card company will show up at my door.

You are absolutely right.
Eventually, it all comes home to roost
(TSHTF later, if not sooner, but it still hits)

The market has been waiting for ages for a strong signal that the rate increases are at an end.

But I'd like to point out that tech and financials didn't lead the gains today as one might expect if interest rates were the only thing on investors minds.  Energy and mineral stocks were bigger winners.  BTU up 10% on very bullish earnings news!  Glory! Coal stocks aren't supposed to do that.  If this keeps up much longer I might be able to afford to retire before the crash.

that might be because if Fed is doen tightening then we REALLY are going to have inflation....
Good observation.

I am puzzled as to why the statement to suggest that interest rate hikes are soon to end came from the Fed at this time. My guess is that it is jawboning--but jawboning exactly what, I do not know. WAG, maybe they are concerned about weakness in the housing market and are afraid of being blamed for a crash in housing prices.

To announce a probable end to monetary tightening in light of increasing inflationary pressures is exeedingly odd, to say the least.

Any ideas from economists or other Fed watchers/interpreters on this topic?

     For a little perspective, go to http://www.the-rude-awakening.com/RAissues/2006/march/RA041806.htmml.  I get their daily update by email.  Today's column is better than usual, but not necessary to read.  Just scroll down to the year-to-date increases in the various markets-- none of the equity markets, with maybe the exception of the Russell 2000, is even keeping up with (real) inflation.
WAG, maybe they are concerned about weakness in the housing market and are afraid of being blamed for a crash in housing prices.

I would agree with your guess Don, although I don't think their words will prevent a housing market crash or prevent them getting the blame for it. Once the housing market starts to slide in earnest (and I'll be amazed if it isn't this year), Bernanke will be riding a tidal wave of bad debt.

Various manifestations of irrational exuberance.
There is a lot of captive money that always flows into the stock market such as 401k and pension money.  Those two sources are huge and provide large amounts of money to the mutual fund business.  They have tended to put a floor under the market to a degree.  

There is a marked movement to gold though, it's clearly shown up in the last six months but it wasn't hard to predict.  I knew we were setting up for $600 gold when we broke out of the triangle last July/August.  I had advised a friend to hurry up and buy last July when gold was hovering around $435 just before the breakout, it went up $10 the next day and never looked back.  He bought just before that rise and he still can't believe how well he has done.

The stock market has actually gone down in gold terms and in $ terms if you adjust for inflation. In 2000 it took 39 ounces of gold go buy the Dow, today it only takes 18 so the  Dow has dropped by 50% against gold.

I think what you're really asking is, why are investors so optimistic about the U.S. economy, when oil prices are at an all time high, as well as gold?

The standard economic analysis is that oil just does not have that overwhelming an impact on today's economy. Oil only accounts for about 4% of total economic spending in the U.S. Here's a post from Econbrowser in which JDH describes the economic case:


And even though oil has gone up by a factor of five or more since its bottom in 1999, the economy has continued to do well, providing concrete evidence that high economic growth and high oil prices can coexist. Recent economic reports have continued to be very positive. In addition there may be recognition that today's oil prices are not as high as they seem when adjusted for inflation, and that we saw much higher prices back in the 1980s. (Of course, we went into a recession that time so this cannot be too terribly reassuring.)

As far as gold, I think it is generally seen as a hedge against economic and political uncertainty, and that its climb is largely a result of the current high level of international tensions. It doesn't imply any serious concerns about the health of the U.S. economy.

Bond yields and other factors have also been moving favorably and imply reductions in the threat of inflation, which is further helping the economy. And of course the news from the Fed on interest rates spurred today's big run-up.

All in all, the markets see a healthy and robust economy which has not been slowed by high oil prices, with inflation in control and good unemployment and growth numbers, and apparently hope and expect these trends to continue.

Thanks for the reply. So let's say that your point is correct, that oil prices don't have as much of an impact as they used to or as much of an impact as we think. So at what price would there be an effect? If we can keep going along with no real problems at $70, then why not $80? $100? $125? It would certainly seem to be contrary to many of the doomers here and more in line with Stuarts slow squeeze view.

That being said, I am still curious. If for example I have $100 a week after my bills are paid, and I used to spend $25 of that on fuel, but now spend $40, I have to spend less somewhere else. I have to buy one less CD, or eat out one less time, etc. So that would seem to limit companies growth potential.

Here's what you're forgetting - and I've made the same mistake myself, as you'll see if you read the comments to that Econbrowser article I link above.

Yes, you have less money to spend - but the person you bought the gas from has more money to spend! Those effects largely cancel out when you look at the economy as a whole.

Now, you might say, we're buying the gas (ultimately) from Saudi Arabia, Russia, etc., so how does their spending benefit America? Two answers. First, the U.S.'s biggest oil supplier is actually - the United States! Over 8 MBPD. The next two are Canada and Mexico, for another 4 MBPD, and of course both those countries are huge markets for American goods.

But secondly, even for oil money that goes to Venezuela or Saudi Arabia, the world market is all inter-connected, and the spending from those countries eventually benefits the U.S. (and more generally, world) economy.

This is not to say that rising oil prices are actually good for the economy, because they do reflect decreased availability of a valuable resource. But rather, the impact on the economy is due to the decrease in consumption, rather than changes in price. Price changes largely shift money around but leave economic growth alone. Consumption changes are more likely to have significant economic effects. But as noted in my post above, the impacts should be relatively small on a percentage basis.

Thanks for the input, I'll have to think this.  :)
Yes, you have less money to spend - but the person you bought the gas from has more money to spend! Those effects largely cancel out when you look at the economy as a whole.

First of all, the 'person' you buy the gas from does not have more money to spend.  Gas stations are pass-throughs, and for the most part don't profit significantly from oil price increases.  The refiners may, but that's a different story unless the gas station chain is owned by the refiner.

If the oil comes from outside the U.S., or worse, if the refined product comes from outside the U.S., ultimately the extra money goes elsewhere and negatively impacts the trade deficit.  While the U.S. may be the biggest single provider of our oil, most of what we use comes from outside the U.S., and since the trade deficit factors directly into the GDP calculation, it is nonsense to claim that it's a wash or that the economy stands to gain overall.

And yes, the Saudis may reinvest the money in American securities.  So that just means that they will own us outright.

That is correct.  The latest figures I've seen have the House of Saud owning roughtly 8% of the US's debt.  There is little they can do with our I.O.U.s (dollars) except spend them for US goods (what goods?) or reinvest them in US businesses (i.e. the stock market).  So that's what they, and all the other major US creditors, do.

I think sometimes we do not look beyond our noses. The world economy, especially in the 3rd world, is to a large degree booming. We know about the story of China and India, and the former just had a surprisingly strong 1st quarter 10.2% growth rate, but even smaller nations like Vietnam, Pakistan, Indonesia, Egypt are having strong growth, and that does not include places like Australia.

That to a large degree is allowing the markets to rise and profits to be had, inspite of the price of oil.

So inspite of Mr. I-make-$18,000-a-year in Missouri and have a wife and two kids and how the heck can I fill my gas tank, they end up being a relatively small part of the total equation.

Halfin genearally takes the "markets are smart" position, whereas I sometimes lean to the "markets are dumb" side.

From that standpoint, people have money (this is a rich society) and have to put it someplace.  They can take low interest rates and worry about real inflation ... or they have to choose between the stock market, real estate, gold, etc.

The problem is ... when each of those might be in a bubble condition ... which do you choose?  I think people reinvest in a bubbled stock market, hoping that it won't pop.

(And of course a huge machine translates government generated data into stock brokerage marketing materials.)

"..And even though oil has gone up by a factor of five or more since its bottom in 1999, the economy has continued to do well.."

This only applies if you accept the USG's own figures on how the economy is doing. IMO there is ample evidence to suggest that the USG figures are spun fairly radically in the positive direction. One can find alternative calculations of GDP, CPI etc that give a very different picture.

"Is the government just printing money and buying stocks with it?!?!??!?!"

Why do you think the M3 is no longer reported by the Fed?

That number is just the public sector debt.
Got milk money?
Got $28,000 spare change in your pocket?
Well guess what fellow Americans, that's what you owe just for Uncle Sam's use of the ole' credit card.

Look here to read about the growing "trade deficit" due to increasing oil prices.

I live 15 miles from the US Office of Public Debt.  This is the office with the infamous file cabinet full of IOU's that Bush visited last fall.  Needless to say, they are currently expanding their office space with a new 5 or 6 story building which will hold more filing cabinet which can hold more and more IOU's.  
So that's the Public Debt..  I always forget that is 'ours', and not 'The Guv'ment's'..

do you know what are the numbers for Consumer debt these days?  How much creditcard and mortgage debt are people considering 'normal' nowadays, and not even thinking about whether there is $50 or $75 available at the end of the week?  (My wife is smart and motivated, so ours is $0!)


Links concerning Consumer Debt:

Big Picture: Household Debt Service

This [shift of debt into mortgages] removes any and all doubt that HELOC and REFIs have replaced credit card debt.

Daily KOS: 6 Major Problems

The bottom line is consumers are relying on debt to finance consumer purchases.  The level of consumer debt is increasing at an alarming rate.  At some point consumers will have to repay this debt.

About: Debt To Income Ratio

# BusinessWeek says that total household debt in the US was more than 100% of our disposable annual income last year. Now that is scary.
# The total consumer debt is at 1.7 trillion dollars. (You can visualize a trillion dollars as a stack of $1000 bills placed one on top of the other, flat side on top of flat side, reaching 67 miles high.)
That's a bigger problem for whomever the debt is owed to than it is for the American people. A large part of that debt is owed to the Social Security System which means future recipients will have their benefits paid out of general revenues. If we go back to the tax code of the 60s inflation adjusted then it won't be much of a problem.
I would be amazed if 'future recipients' had their benefits paid at all.
There is some evidence that the US Treasure dept. has been buying its own bonds, through Carribean intermediaries, in order to prop up the value of the dollar and to keep up with the printing presses.
Oil is over $71 and gold is over $620 and yet the stock market goes up 200 points! I just don't understand.
Welcome to hyperinflation. Take a look at the US Dollar. It's been tanking the past couple of days. Either the stock market goes down or the US Dollar goes down. Politically, I don't believe our "leaders" will allow the stock market to go down. (Now, you don't believe in that silly notion that we have a free-market set only by supply-and-demand with absolutely no government intervention at all, do you?) Therefore, the only option is to print dollars - actually have the Fed buy securities & futures to prop up the market, thus creating more dollars. Sure, the Dow is over 11K, but your Dollar has much less purchasing power than the last time the Dow was over 11K.

During the hyperinflation period of the Weimar Republic, their markets went up and away, but the Reichmark went down, down, down, down, down, and out. I believe we have finally entered that period in our fiat-based money supply.

A threat for the future, yes, but we are nowhere near there now.

During the "era of warm beer" of hyperinflation in the Weimar Republic near the end of 1923, you ordered all the beer you were going to drink as soon as you entered the bar, because after half an hour the price was likely to double, and after two hours perhpas be up tenfold.

I do not know what is in the minds of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. They may indeed give up the battle against inflation, and the minutes of their March meeting that were released yesterday are puzzling to me, but my conjecture at this time is that their big worry is a possible crash in the housing market triggered by increased interest rates, and--odd as it seems to us--at the moment their worries about inflation are on the back burner.

It may be that the Fed governors believe Denial Yergin & Co.

I could easily see a return to the "wheelbarrow economy" (so named because you needed a wheelbarrow of cash to buy even a turnip) of the Weimar Republic, right here in the good ol' US of A.  We're already on that road now, but just getting started good. Give it a few more years.....
I think it is a mistake to underestimate the quality of the people who serve as the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.

After printing out and rereading the minutes of the meeting of March 27-28 Fed meeting about seven times, I think the media "got it wrong." The consensus was NOT that increases in interest rates would soon stop. Not at all. The consensus was that inflating risks and slowing in real economy risks were roughly in balance, and that future Fed actions would depend on future events and information.

Let me quote just briefly from page 8:
"Several members were concerned that market participants might not fully appreciate the extent to which future policy action will depend on incoming data, especially when an end to the tightening process seems likely to be near."

In other words, the Fed thinks it is likely that the rate of growth in real GDP will slow down, and IF THIS INDEED HAPPENS, THEN [AND ONLY THEN] will the Fed stop tightening money. However, the Fed left the door wide open to further tightening if inflation, and especially if expectations about long-term core inflation, increase.

The minutes of the forthcoming May 10 meeting will be very interesting reading indeed.

As always, I think it is best to go to original sources whenever possible. In case anybody wants to look,


Interesting contradiction going on here. The govt. spins the GDP figures to look more positive than they are for the usuual political reasons, the Fed will stop tightening money if/when the GDP figures look bad. A house divided against itself? Or kind of like the little Chinese woven tube that you put a finger in each end and the harder you pull to get your fingers out, the tighter the tube gets.
That is a spot-on comparison, ET.
Interesting blog entry last week from economist Brad Setser, about the impact and effects of high oil prices:


Setser asks the question of what happens to all those dollars that Americans and the Western world pay to oil exporting countries? The data on what those countries are doing is not very clear, but he suggests that in large part they are investing the money back in America and the West. America in particular is borrowing money internationally at record rates, and Setser suggests that much of this is coming - at least indirectly - from the big oil exporters.

What this means is that the economic impact of expensive oil may not be as large as expected (at least, as Setser expected!). If much of the money being spent on oil is getting circulated back into the American and Western economy, it can actually help to fuel economic growth. The result is that high prices do not by themselves necessarily lead to an economic slowdown (although he cites other factors that could do so, such as real estate price declines).

This illustrates a point which can be difficult for non-economists to understand, and which Jim Hamilton spent some time explaining on his blog last year. When you analyze the impact of price changes on the economy, you need to consider both the people who spend the money and the people who receive the money. To some extent, one group's loss is the other group's gain. However, it is not perfectly zero-sum.

When the price of oil goes up, yes, the extra money paid by consumers ends up in the pockets of producers (and will eventually be re-circulated, as Brad Setser describes). But there will also be a reduction in consumption. This means there is less oil coming into the economy, with a corresponding loss in economic value. It is this reduction in oil usage, rather than the high price per se, which harms the overall economy.

Stuart Staniford keeps us well updated with the current production statistics. What is sometimes forgotten is that these are also (to close order) consumption levels. Worldwide oil consumption has largely leveled off in the past year. Yet economic growth has continued to be relatively strong. That is roughly in keeping with standard economic theory, but it will be interesting to see how long it can go on.

Interesting article and well-caveated (since in the end it is just speculation as data on gulf state holdings is not opaque.)

But did you notice this post in the comments section:

VINOD KHOSLA: I was recently at a conference where one of the senior executives of a major national oil company from Saudi Arabia, Aramco, came up to me and said, "Be careful." It was almost a warning. He said, "Be careful, because if biofuels are successful, we will drop the price of oil."

Doesn't sound right to me:

A)  Can OPEC even drop the price of oil if they wanted to (and agreed to)?
B)  Wouldn't they already know if biofuels are going to be a threat?  Isn't it more logical to go after subsidies rather than take money out of their own pockets by dropping prices?

Sounds made up.

You used to hear this kind of thing a lot, a few years ago, when OPEC was being somewhat successful in keeping prices within a certain price range. It was easy to understand why they wanted a floor on prices, but why a ceiling? The standard explanation was that if they raised prices too much, the West would have incentives to develop alternatives to oil and OPEC would be killing their golden goose.

Since then, OPEC has failed to keep prices down (and they were never all that good at keeping prices up either, for that matter). And in fact we do see what was predicted: investments in alternatives, conservation, etc. But it hasn't hurt OPEC; quite the contrary. If they ever really had market power, they must be kicking themselves now that they didn't jack up prices twenty years ago.

I agree that in this day and age, for them to claim they can lower the price of oil at will is a pretty questionable claim. They've never said they were aiming at $70 oil, yet here it is. And we see frequent comments from OPEC oil experts who say that they have essentially no excess capacity at the moment, hence it is impossible for them to drive prices down right now.

I wouldn't necessarily say it is a "made up comment", though, as this was very much the conventional wisdom a few years ago. It's more likely that the guy talking was living in the past, as many people do, and had not yet adjusted to current realities.

This analogy between Peak Oil and Peak Metals can only be taken so far.

The energy content in oil can only be used once; it cannot be recycled. (Sure, it can be used more efficiently, it can pass from a high-grade use down to a lower-grade use; but after you use a BTU, you simply can't get it back to use all over again.)

Metals, on the other hand, are highly recyclable. It may take additional energy and other inputs, but the metals, to a large degree, can keep going round and round. There is already a high degree of metals recycling in various industries.  It is not inconceivable that some minute fraction of the steel in your brand-new 2006 Ford originally came from a 1966 Ford. Ditto for the copper in electric motors.

As metals prices go up, we can expect to see an increased percentage of recycled content in new metal items. The problem, of course, will be an inbalance between scrap metal demand and scrap metal supply, simply because it takes time, often many years, for a metal item to become discarded junk. So, there can be a long time lag for 'new' scrap metal to become availabe.

Of course, nothing is 100% recylcable, and there will always be a substantial demand for newly smelted metals. My only point is that oil is a total one-time consumable, whereas metals are highly recyclable.

Recycling metals is no solution if the total quantity of metals in use in finished goods is constantly increasing. That's what we expect in a growing worldwide economy. There's no way to satisfy Chinese demand for copper, tin and everything else by recycling, as long as the number of Chinese cars, buildings, factories and everything else is growing exponentially. The number of tons of copper in use is constantly increasing, and recycling won't change that.
Haflin -

That is of course true, which is why I made the comment about the inbalance of scrap demand and supply and pointed out the fact that it can take many years for a metal item to become junk and finally enter the scrap metal stream.(This is particularly true for steel used in building construction.)  

Again, my only point was to bring out the inherent differences between consuming oil and consuming metals. If the world's demand for oil were to level off at some stable amount, we'd still be in big trouble because the production of oil would still decline. However, if the world's demand for metals were to level off, the effect would be greatly alleviated by increasing use of recycled scrap metal. And unlike oil, there really is no shortage of iron- or aluminum-containing minerals, just those that are commercially 'easy'.

Being that the primary metals industry is extremely energy-intensive, my hunch is that most sectors of the metals industry are going to be in trouble due to energy shortages long before they get into trouble  due to ore shortages. Either way, the worry over metals is legitimate.

Halfin, I must confess I don't understand your argument.  What difference does it make whether metals are sourced from a mine or some scrap heap somewhere?  As long as a quality product can be produced at a reasonable cost, it seems to me that the scrap heap could be just as good as the mine.

I am also not convinced that the total quantity of metals in use in finished goods must constantly increase to support a growing economy.  At some point old goods are written off and scrapped, making them available for recycling.  But the scrapping of an old good does not impact GDP (ignoring junkyard fees).  The metals in the old good can then be recycled into a new good, resulting in no change to overall metals in use in finished goods, yet value was created by the manufacture of the new good.  Doesn't that constitute economic growth without an increase in the total quantity of metals in use in finished goods?

And lets not forget the importance of substitution as well.  As metals increase in cost, we can change what we use as well.  The use of composites in cars has reduced the amount of steel needed for one.  And I have a growing suspicion that the Mineral Return On Effort Invested (MROEI)ratio for old trash dumps will keep us stocked for a while.  Whether or not it is enough to keep the world economy is another story.  I worry more about peak oil, the green house effect and our (the human civilization) knack of collapsing due to some resource level restriction.

I guess it does boil down to if we are really smarter than yeast as Bob S from Phoenix puts it.

And composites are made of ?
Seeing as composites are just fancy plastic, I would say the answer is "oil."  


yes true, but first of all we are not going to run out of oil anytime soon.  We are going to lose the ability depend on it as an energy source but there will be plenty of it left in the ground for non-energy purposes.  It's one thing to expend more energy trying to get an energy source, it is a whole other thing to expend energy mining for something that will be put to a non-energy use (like composites). It may cost more, but it will still be done (presuming there is a functioning economy based on another energy source in the future).

Plus there are opportunities for recycling, thermal depolymerization and use of renewable oils grown for this purpose (they are making plastic containers out of grapeseed oil in my old county).  

I think we should differentiate between using oil as an ENERGY source versus using it as a FEEDSTOCK.  I believe as long as there a source of surplus energy--take your pick of future energy sources--and a functioning economy of some sort, oil will continue to be extracted and put to use for feed stock purposes, supplemented by recycling and bio-oil.

I do agree that the days for oil's use as an energy source are more numbered.  But because of the substance's unique properties, I believe we can continue to use it to substitute for metals for a very long time to come.  As far as I know, there is still no way to "fabricate" metals, once they have all been recovered (leaving aside nano or pico technology solutions).

Anyway, thats my take on this matter.  I may be off base on my assumptions, so if anyone has better info, please correct me.

It is hydrocarbon energy (especially natural gas) that provides the energy for the refining and production of those feedstock plastics.  Ethylene cracking is an energy-intensive business, so much so that the US plastics industry has been taking it on the chin of late, and many are already relocating (or have relocated) to offshore, to places where natural gas is more plentiful and cheaper.

Old article, but still relevant, even more so today:

I talk often about "peak landfill" because it is a BIG problem in Los Angeles. Like oil, its not that we are running out of "resources", its that getting the garbage to them will cost more and more and NIMBYism is making it politically difficult to get new landfills permitted.

Actually, this is a good thing because it is spurring interest in waste-to-energy solutions involving gasification to green electricity and syngas fermentation to ethanol. The L.A. City Council has embarked on a 20 year plan called RENEW LA to replace its landfills with biorefineries.

Iran Parade 04.17.06

On parade in Iran, April 2006, Ahmadinejad's version of the tank. Providing excellent armored protection for its occupants.

That's a jeep with a recoiless rifle on it. A modern tank is very large and heavy. They cost millions of dollars, get one mile per gallon, and can only be destroyed with a 30,000 dollar modern antitank missile, a six inch gun, or a large IED.
The US Army used these extensively into the 1970's.  Cheap, effective, reliable, and reasonably fast, if properly utilized.
I don't know how many people read the article the NYT ran this photo with, but it was about a speech Ahmadinejad gave vowing to use the lastest technology in any conflict. It was unclear whether he meant his new P-2 centrifuges or these.

What is the axe on the side for?

Looks like a spare wheel to me.
It's camoflaged, it's directly beneath the door.
Sorry, I misread "axle" for axe.

An axe is a really handy thing to have when out in the field. You can cut wire with an axe, not to mention a whole bunch of other things.

A shovel is usually stowed on the opposite side, same location.  
Oil Ceo,
Have you ever seen the supremely excellent film, THE WAGES OF FEAR? It has this marvelous scene of a truck loaded with nitroglycerin (needed to put out a fire in an oil field) stuck in a crater of crude by a broken pipeline that is gushing the black stuff. How to get out? Answer: Pound a stake [in this case an iron bar, it seems] into the dirt, attach a cable to stake and also between two right-rear wheels. The jeep-like vehicle in the picture probably has a winch in front. The axe could be used not only to cut a piece of wood into a stake but also to pound it in.

Anyway, I have been meaning to recommend that movie for months; it is on my personal list of 20 best films of all time.

One of my favorites. Seen it several times. Whenever I think of it I think of "Beat the Devil" as well.
Another one of my favorite movies!

Am going to post on the next open thread a short list of my favorite films to help understand Peak Oil and also to prepare for the coming hard times.

Few people will do much serious reading. More may watch fine movies readily available on DVD.

Also, we need all the good entertainment we can get, these days.

An excellent idea. You had mentioned this a while ago. I was wondering when you were going to "just do it."
You need to look at a war game scenario between 27 Abrams MBT's and a similar number of 'mad max' stripped 4x4'S equipped with anti tank weapons.

I will try and dig it out for you (It is US Army archived).

Summary: the Abrams got wiped.

It's been commercially available for almost 5 years now. It's  EA Games' Battlefield series. They have scaled it up to 64 combatants.It's easy to see how it could happen.

But historically speaking, 1973 is one of the key lessons. The  Egyptians with swarms of anti-tank teams on foot overwhelmed the Israelis at first. But once the tactic is realized and coordinated armor responds to it - then it comes down to the strengths of the weapons and the soldiers.

I haven't decided if the guns on those jeeps are primarily for artillery or are intended as anti-armor.

The terrain is a huge factor. The Bocage vs. the Russian plains.

I would love to see that US Army scenario. When was it done.

The US M40A2 106mm recoilless rifle (pictured) fired either a fin-stabilized HEAT (primarily AT), spin-stabilized HEP (primarily artillery), or APERS (beehive, anti-infantry) round.  The latest Bofors 3A-HEAT-T 106mm HEAT round for these (in use by Canadian military, for instance) will defeat modern, reactive tank armor out to 1800m.
Excellent. How did you know they were M40A2's and if they are US made, how old are they?

Typically specs on these weapons represent a best case scenario. 106mm is basically the barrel size of an older model T-55/62 tank-gun. I'm not sure if it's considered high velocity. Those guns didn't have a very good record in the First Gulf war against American armor. In fact I think the better equipt T-72's had problems as well.

One issue I see is aiming. Looks like one guy has to hand crank that thing. Is there even a scope on the M40? Better not miss on your first shot. Meanwhile an Abrams can reload in about 10 seconds and can see you from 2 miles away. In closer, the Abrams can just use its coaxial 7.72 machine gun probably up to about a half a mile away. I have heard that that gun alone on such a stable platform is deadly. It would shred those jeeps.

There is another conversation about tank battles in another thread, I wish we could have combined the two.

My guess is that the Iranians use this as mobil artillery. They demonstrated in the Iran-Iraq war a profound lack of technological advancement. Human wave tactics was more like it. Interesting article in this week's New Republic on this issue.

I'm something of a fan of military model kits and "Jane's".
If the RR's are not US made, they're copies.  The M151 Jeep shown is most certainly US, and probably date from the days of the Shah!
Recoilless rifles are not high velocity weapons, but as they are not kinetic energy kill weapons (HEAT round does not require high velocity) this is largely irrelevant.
This weapon system is battle proven, having served well in Vietnam, and it has a 90% first round hit accurate using the Canadian "CLASS" laser sight.
The old model shown had a simple optical scope and a coaxial single shot .50cal (for sighting).

A good source for more info on this weapon system.

Is the following sound reasoning?

USO is a newly listed ETF that allows one to buy one share for the current spot price of one barrel of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude.  Unlike a futures contract, however, this share price is locked until one sells the share.  The adminstrative cost of the ETF is approximately .4% per year.

For those of us who believe the current $70 price of a barrel of oil is a bargain, what better way to make our vote heard?  We use our savings to buy virtual barrels of oil at today's price and, in a small but definite way, we raise the current price of oil through our purchase because USO is obliged to go out on the spot market and buy contracts to cover their guarantee that our shares will always be redeemable at the current spot price of WTI.

The beauty of buying shares in USO is that:

  1. We are voting with our dollars and driving the current price of oil up in the process.  This is comparable in effect to the fed raising taxes on gasoline except that we, the individual investors with peak oil foresight, are the enactors of this premium (or tax if you prefer) and we stand to benefit from the gains.  If one believes, as I do, that cheap energy is at the basis of our life style, a barrel of oil is a perfectly responsible and acceptable way to preserve life savings.  That the dollar will fall against a barrel of oil doesn't mean I'm thereby making a profit.  The number of BTU's in that barrel of oil is a fixed quantity and that's what I'm buying; today's price on raw energy.

  2. We are investing in a fungible barrel of oil, not Exxon Mobil or BP.  Punitive measures against these corporations could drive share prices down while the price of oil continues to rise.

  3. We are effectively parking our wealth in what certainly seems to be a sound investment.  I'd rather have my savings denominated in barrels of oil than US dollars.

There seems to be consensus on TOD that the current price of oil is far to cheap to modify our squandering of a precious resource.  Here's one way we can vote with our dollars and reap the benefits.

Any thoughts on this?  What about the hoarding argument?  How does this kind of investment differ from those who hoard gold or silver?

Seems reasonable to me. It would make even more sense for a Peak Oil believer to buy oil futures and options, because those let you bet specifically on oil increases several years out in the future, and provide greater profit opportunities if you guess right. But it's complicated to open a commodities trading account, compared to the ease of buying USO.

Your economics is sound: if people are concerned that oil will be more scarce in the future, they buy it today, which drives the price up today, which makes people use less. The market automatically conserves exhaustible resources.

There seems to be a trend here lately of peak everything: peak metals, peak high school enrollment, etc etc. That has got me to thinking about the Club of Rome and the world models they built. Does anyone know much about that subject?

I thought, (based on the very little I know about it), that as the world population kept growing, we would run into many types of problems, disease, polution, peak resources, etc. If you encounter one problem, maybe you can solve it, but in doing so you create/encounter another. Solve that and there is another. Solve that one and you are back to your first problem.

Just seems that this 'peak everything' fits into that theory. Any thoughts?

I read the book, after seeing Matt Simmons review on it on his web site.
I think you are in general right.  Let me try and give a summary.

The main point is that world human population growth is exponential, i.e. doubles every 33 years (as they calculated in 1970 - p41 of my copy, signet with a picture of a globe on the front) - As the title suggests what is going to stop this on a finite planet is the question.

They model this growth with inputs like farmland, commodities supply, birth rates and death rates and a bunch of feedback loops in a very general way.  The aim was not precision - but to get a general pattern.  They could be off on the year - but they noted that the exponential nature of growth means a 2 fold error = 33 years error.  They also did this on something called a "computer" which they seem very proud of, and seem to think that no-one had heard of in 1970.  I have no idea if a laptop, calculator or cell phone would have the same computing power today - either way the model was primative - but in my view that makes the whole thing more plausible - they could only deal with the obvious stuff.  I count about 82 circles/squares/vaiables in the model they present in Figure 26 of the book, and probably about 160 connections made between things.

They get results from this model for a bussiness as usual scenario:
before describing further let me quote them:  "In the first simple world model, we are only interested in the broad behavior modes of the population-capital system" i.e they are interested in the kind of change that can happen, and which seems most likely - they don't have the data or the compute power for anything more.  After a lot of model explaining you get to p129 (fig 35) before you get to the main results the "standard run leads to population overshoot with a peak around 2050, and subsequent decline.  Perhaps more interesting is the other lines they put on the same graph - the X axis of which is time from 1900 to 2100.  The resources line (no y scale) starts at say 100% (note - no scale - just the top of the graph) and starts to decline faster and faster until it meets a halfway point at between 2000 and 2020 (by eye - no real scale as they don't want to focus on details) and then the decline slows until effectively none after about 2070.

The resources are dealt with in some detail - there is a table with 1970 world reserves, and one of the columns is given exponential growth in demand how long would 5X the world reserves last - the answer for copper is 48 years - but that was done in 1970.  I am not sure about the absolute value of these numbers - but I think it does give a good relative guide - the same number for coal-150 years, gold-29 years, iron-173 years,natural gas-49 years, petrolium - 50 years (only 20 years was for if supplies were notincrease by 5 fold - perhaps they got snookered by US reserve reporting? - perhaps just too broad a number to have any acuracy) - These numbers are from table 4.

Then they do what in my opinion is the most intersting thing - they re-run the model adding unlimited resources - i.e. what if economists are correct and we can extract much more oil/gas/copper/farmalnd/coal.  The model then looks different - polution becomes a much bigger factor and that leads to 1900 populaton levels in 2100- perhaps with an even steeper down slope from a peak in about the same time as the standard run.  Other models incorporating "perfect birth control" and other unlikely things are also examined.

What I didn't find in the book:  The world doesn't end in 2000 like a lot of people making fun of the book say it does - I guess this is an urban legend, and most people (myself included - but at least not in this case) talk a lot about things they haven't read.

Anyway I recommend reading it - although I don't trust the graphs in terms of numbers/dates - the idea that several key resources would hit half way points in the 2000 - 2020 time period and that might cause problems somewhere down the line seems quite possible right now.

I just checked Amazon, and they have used copies for sale for the price of 25 cents - I would say a bargain (although I wonder about the shipping price).

When I attended a meeting during the 2004 ASPO workshop in Berlin, I had luck and was sitting at the table with many capable and famous people (Campbell, Baktiari, Laherre...) and Matt Simmons.

He was telling a story how he first heard about the "Limits of growth" and how (obviously) difficult it was to find a copy in Houston. He seemed to be very fascinated by this book. Maybe a little bit unusal for business leaders to talk in a respectful way of this book. I had really the feeling, Simmons is a remarkable person, because he reads books which normally are disparaged by many "business people." He's got sense of mission!

I received a story today from U. S. Newswire that goes to show that the Democrats also don't "get it".

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi released the following statement today on news reports that the price of oil has skyrocketed to more than $70 a barrel:

"Democrats have a plan to lower gas prices, taking America in a new direction that works for everyone, not just the few. Our plan would empower the Federal Trade Commission to crack down on price gouging to help bring down skyrocketing gas prices, increase production of alternative fuels, and rescind the billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies, tax breaks, and royalty relief given to big oil and gas companies."

Ah yes. Let's get those gas prices down and see if we can accelerate the peak. Let's make Global Warming worse.

We really need a few politicians to have the guts to say what needs to be said: We are responsible for high gas prices, and lowering them will just make matters worse in the long run.


A journalist once remarked something to the extent that a five-minute interview was enough to exhaust Nancy Pelosi's knowledge of just about anything.
I just blogged on it. The irony of the situation is that Pelosi issued a statement in February condemning the Bush administration's lack of leadership on Global Warming. Hey, I know. Let's lower gas prices and see if we can get consumption back up. That should help.


Oil CEO;
   I would think such a thing could be said by most of the politicians in Washington, regardless of affiliation. Indeed, I think I can hear Thomas Jefferson spinning in his grave (Monticello is a short distance away) at the level of mendacity and mediocrity that remains pervasive throughout the Legislative and Executive branches of our government.

Subkommander Dred

The criticism of Nancy Pelosi is unfair. As Jon Stewart said, Democrats have 49% of the vote and 3% of the power. Pelosi has no real voice in Congress, the way it is run now. Can you seriously doubt that Al Gore would not be approaching this problem differently from George Bush?
I just call them like I see them. If a Republican says something stupid, I will point it out. If a Democrat says something stupid, ditto. I treat all pandering politicians the same.

Incidentally, don't confuse my criticism of Pelosi with any kind of endorsement of Bush. Your last question is nothing more than a straw man.

And Jon Stewart is awesome. That is the only show I watch every time it's on.


I'm with you on this - stupidity and/or simple political expediency and self-interest is equally shared by the parties. I may lean more one direction than the other for policy reasons, but the individuals are pretty much all gamers from what I can see.
My last question was anything but a straw man-- you talked about Democrats in your post, and did not limit it to Pelosi. Is there a comparable leader on the Republican side of the aisle, with Gore's stature, who you can say has the same grasp of the issues we are discussing here? Gore's stance on hyrdocarbon use issues are identical to most of the TODer's I am aware of. It is too simple to say "a pox on both their houses"-- and then nothing gets done by anybody, anytime, anywhere.
Pelosi is the Democratic Leader of the House of Representatives. She speaks for more than just herself. But your argument is a strawman because I didn't say anything about Bush. You are making unwarranted implications.

Pelosi is pandering to the consituents. If someone on the other side had done the same thing, my response would have been identical. We need some real leadership here, not a bunch of politicians telling people that gas prices will be coming back down as soon as they stick it Big Oil.

Are there Republican leaders with grasp of the issues? I would say that Representative Roscoe Bartlett ( R - MD) has a pretty good grasp of the problem.


No doubt at all. So let's get Gore to have a talk with Pelosi.  Her comments were just clumsy from several directions.  The Dems are stuck in a rut, about 4 feet to the left of the Republicans, and they're all running in the same direction, powered by the same engine.
I liked the MPR quote of a high ranked Democratic congressman (I forgot who) who said "we've got the wind at our backs, now we just have to figure how to hoist a sail."

Pelosi's remarks are a string of "feel-good" sound bytes designed to play well to the basest instincts of a whole bunch of 'mericans.

The Democrats have only one plan right now, and that is to out-Republican the Republicans.  The Dems want to assure everyone that we will have an unlimited supply of energy so cheap that we will not have to think about it, and a cheap supply of consumer trinkets from StuffMart, along with an increasing life span and more drugs to keep us pretending to be young as we steal resources from the next generations.

Think about it.  Will  the kids who are 15 years old today be peaceful and calm as they gain an awareness that we've stolen their lives away so that we could buy Viagra and cheap wine?

A long slow swindle of Biblical proportions has taken place over the past century or so, and most people had little or no idea that they were involved, or in what ways.

My guess is that the generational backlash has barely begun, and will be more important as time goes by.

Peak Oil...
Peak Coffee...
Peak Orgasms...
Peak Problems...
Peak Everything...

Good night and Good Luck.

Reporting from a tiny asylum for achy old insane cargo trike pedalers in far outer Syriana (the Imperial Heartland) -- beggar

ps.  I'm going out to ride my trike now. It always makes me feel better.

When the leaders are clueless hacks, more interested in enriching themselves than in serving the public or actually "leading", then it is time for the individuals themselves to take matters in their own hands and find their own way.  Nothing is quite as lame as a "leader" with no followers.
Speaking of peaks, we passed peak Republicans in late 2004, but no one noticed the peak until this year.  Meanwhile, while some flat-earth political scientists assert that the supply of Democrats will continue to increase exponentially through the next several decades, a small but knowledgable group of geologists and engineers claim that peak Democrats will occur in late 2008 or early 2009.  Many of these same geologists and engineers worry about what they see as an inevitable transition in the United States to alternative and lower-grade sources of politicians.  Proposals range from using the American military as a source of political leaders, to importing large quantities of politicians from Canada and Venezuela.  What is to be avoided at all costs, say these geologists and engineers, is a politcal vacuum that will attract Chinese and Saudi influence, especially as these political sources are known to be heavy and sour, and will be difficult to process by American political institutions.
How about Peak Prisoner?  In one Heinlein novel, Time Enough for Love, I think, our heroes stumble across an extremely litigious planet where almost everyone is incarcerated for something or another.  Eventually everyone does end up in stir, and the warden rules a planet of trusties and inmates.
Love it!!
There was an article in one of the major financial newspapers (Financial Times?)a few weeks ago that essentially argued we were at or near "peak gold" without using the "peak" term.  Unfortunately I didn't tag or bookmark it.  

I actively manage my 401k with a brokerage account and moved a good chunk of my portfolio into precious metal and energy sector funds over a year ago.  I'd have to say that I've done about as well as pre-housing bubble condo flipper since then.  ; )  

I'm a little dissapointed that I lost some of my nerve and sold a portion of my positions recently to take profits, but I was starting to get concerned that a broader market decline could drag everything down.    

I was speaking to some rockhounds at the weekend about a proposed new open cut uranium mine in outback Australia. It will be 3.5 km X 3.5 km in area and 1km deep. Surely that will use many tons per day of diesel, not to mention ammonium nitrate explosive and electricity for plant operation. There must be a cutoff price for liquid fuel when it threatens the economics of mining, even energy mining. It's a double whammy because you not only pay for liquid fuels in the commodity price but you also compete with them just to drive your car.
America is short of NH4NO3, but not Australia because they are huge natural gas exporters. Diesel is something they import, though. Australian oil production has fallen off the cliff.
But most energy is electrical, and is used in grinding the rock. Hauling and blasting are fairly minor energy costs. And since uranium makes electricity, it's ok by me.
Gold has historically done well when inflation was running above short term interest rates, and badly the rest of the time. "Official" inflation is now running quite a bit under short term interest rates, but gold is surging - this may be a special case in which petrodollars are being used to buy gold on account of exporters dissatisfaction with all currencies. If so, the precious metals will continue to boom.
I thought peak gold happened a long time ago.
Investment guru and former George Soros partner Jim Rogers put forth a similar thesis in his late 2004 book Hot Commodities: How Anyone Can Invest Profitably in the World's Best Market.  He claims we are in the early stages of a 15-23 year bull market in commodities in conjunction with a bear market in equities.  I have not read the book but would be interested in comments from anyone who has.  He has given numerous interviews, which are easily Googled.  Here's one from Resource Investor:


He suggests a simple strategy of going long the Rogers Commodity Index Fund and short the S&P 500.

I skimmed it at the bookstore (by which I mean I sat down and read it...thanks, Borders).  I researched the premises of the book--that commodities are negatively correlated to stocks, run in 17 year cycles, etc.  Appears to be good information and a nice way to defensively invest, if you believe as I do that there's not much upside to stocks over the next 5-10 years.  Unfortunately, Jim Rogers' fund got caught up in the Refco scandal and is unavailable for investment until it is sorted out...http://sg.biz.yahoo.com/060407/3/3zwzh.html

Currently, I'm looking for a way into this asset class.  Deutchebank has a commodities index, I think.

Seadragon, the ticker symbol is DBC. It consists of positions in these commodities: 35% crude, 20% heating oil, 12.5% aluminum, 11.25% corn, 11.25% wheat, and 10% gold. (Full disclosure: I own DBC in my portfolio.) The full name of the fund is DB Commodity Index Tracking Fund.

Another relevant ticker symbol would be USO.

Commodities for the masses! And if you really want to get down and dirty... plant some potatoes in your yard this spring...

Thank you...getting some today.
Change of topic...

Anybody besides me having trouble getting in to energybulletin.net today?

There is no connection here as well, just

DB Error: connect failed

At least it's not just me...What a drag, however.  I look at EB.net before I check Google...
Looks like they're offline completely today.
The discussion here is both informative and super technobabbly for me (and please keep it that way...that's the way this site should be, and I learn a lot!) but I have a simple question...

We have now oil prices that are fronting into May with records that are being broken every day. I check this site several times a day, and when I see this I intake a breath and say "Man...how will people react to THIS?"

I just find it interesting that OD types are posting about their aquaintances/friends reacting negatively to high gas prices NOW, all the while knowing this price is obviously going to rise based on today's (and yesterday's...and the trading day before's) record setting lead prices on oil. If there is bellyaching NOW, what's it going to be like in a month from now when $70+ oil actually makes its way to the pumps, however that manifests itself regionally in price?

Every day I see these new prices, it makes me gasp...even as a person who knows why this is happening.

"Man...how will people react to THIS?"

I think they'll try reacting like they always have, by blaming the oil companies, or government ... and then maybe move on to understanding that they better make some changes.

Funny conversation moment of the weekend...

We had some folks over for an Easter BBQ.  My PO convictions are NOT shared by the rest of my family, and my full-court press to powerdown our lifestyle is seriously hampered by my wife who absolutely does NOT believe in PO.  Not one little bit.

In any case, my Prius-buying, PO-ranting, local article-writing habits came up for a bit of social amusement.  I took a few half-hearted stabs at laying out the facts, but we all knew that we'd agree to disagree.

The new Prius came up for a drubbing, but an unexpected twist came.  Without any prompting from me, the group-think went down a path that approximated the whole PO path.  Maybe, just maybe gas prices will never come back to 'normal'.  Maybe, just maybe there are limits to our consumption.  They each discussed in soft tones how horribly it would wreak havoc on their important, busy lives.  When someone finally mentioned how smart the Prius purchase might turn out to be, the....conversation....trailed.......off into sile......

Then talk of consumption and good times came back.

I am Joe Average and sorrounded by fellow Joe's and Jane's.  Blame is laid everywhere (oil co.s, foreigners, guv, etc.).  It is never assigned to personal choices and fundamental limits.  I witnessed a bare glimpse of the non-believers peering over the cliff.  They really don't like what they saw, and they DON'T accept their role in the whole mess.  That whole Hubbard thing can't POSSIBLY be right.

This is a rant.  But I'm very frustrated at an inability to get my family to understand and adapt to a new reality.  Westtexas has an excellent strategy: Economize, Localize, and Produce.  It's a Sysyphean task when one half (OK, 51%!) of the family unit doesn't believe and won't discuss.

Who's got any thoughts / success stories on how to convince the people closest to you that it's way past time to get ahead of the powerdown curve?  And going separate ways is a non-starter.  I'd rather stay with her under every scenario than be without her.


Frustrated in NW Florida

Your first mistake is trying to "talk" to them.
They do not operate on the basis of "reason".
This is why John Kerry lost the election in 2004.
He made the mistake of thinking his fellow human beings are "intellectual". He intellectualized to them. George Bush emoticon-wise connected to their inner fears and favorites (fear of terrorism, fear of flip flopping, love of life, love of country, support our troops). That is how George won --twice.

I sympathize with your plight because I have family members who are sure that I am the fruit cake --oozing about oil all day-- and they are sane in their rationalized determination that the markets will provide and "somebody will do something about it" should the problem ever crop up, which it won't of course.

If you're really intent on converting them, you will need to use emotional manipulation techniques. It will take time, patience and persistence.

Find some rhyming or alliterative noises that you can drill into their heads over and over again at emotionally trying times. For example, as you pull up to the gas pumps with your wife in the non-Prius car, comment about how "Here we are at the Gas Gallows aGain". Keep calling it the Gas Gallows and equate it with the negative emotion that comes from shelling out $40 plus with every fill up. After a while, your wife will arrive at this strange realization --all on her own of course-- that these metallic monsters at the gas stations are Gas Gallows --hanging us out to dry (oh my).


Excellent post.  Clearly you wouldn't sound like a nutcase on PO if local/federal government or other policy makers were saying the same thing.

I find there are a lot of people (but still huge minority) who think over-consumption is the problem.  There is no traction for this message at present because the people with money develop land, sell cars and houses, run financial institutions, etc.  All of which require the status quo to continue to make money.  They can't imagine an economy run any other way.  

We Peak oilers are contrarians right now.  We are saying "do the opposite of what everyone is telling you".  To accept that message takes a certain mindset that most people don't have.  We are the early adopters and change agents in society.  Our burden is to wait for the rest of the population to catch up to us.  Stick to the message as it is liable to get a lot of traction soon.  At that point you might go from a laughing stock to a wise leader over night.  

I just finished Nassim Taleb's "Fooled by Randomness."  I've been cross-reading with other things and didn't do it all the way through in one effort.  It is good enough that I think I might begin it again, to make sure I picked up the good stuff at the start.

The book ends with this observation:

We favor the visible, the embedded, the personal, the narrated, and the tangible; we scorn the abstract

I think there you've got peak oil (and global warming) in a nutshell.  They are calculated not readily observed.  They are not visible, or (yet) embedded or tangible in our lives, in a personal sense.  There are narratives, certainly Kunstler will give us a new one every Monday, but there are counter-narratives that play into the visible, etc.

I'd say good luck to you, us all really, but I think Taleb makes a good observation about human nature.  We few might favor the abstract, the calculated ... but we sure as heck ain't everybody.

Seeing is believing --that's the problem.
We see when a desert overtakes an above ground region that had trees:

We don't see (refuse to see) when an underground cavern filled with oil is replaced by one that is mostly filled with water cut.

We see when the petri dish is half empty.
We don't see that it will be overfilled after the next doubling.

"It takes five years for a willing person's mind to change. Have patience with yourself and others when treading in an area protected by a taboo."

--Garrett Hardin

Sorry for the rant, and I appreciate the replies.  Later in the day it occurred to me that my post may have fit better in the "Psychology" section ('Shocked beyond belief. Freaking out?'..) of another PO site.  And to those who agree with that, I apologize for posting my vent here.

But communication is one of the essential issues.  How does one best communicate the excellent and powerful technical facts presented here to those around us?  The trends are so obvious, but they are not yet slapping us totally silly this ten seconds.

I'm just guessing, but I would think that people who frequent this site and those who buy into the idea that PO is a Really Bad Thing (RBT) have a higher capacity for abstract thinking.  Maybe that's just hubris on my part, but I agree with the replies that suggest that emotive arguments (TEOTWAWKI) will be more effective for the other 99.9% of humanity than technical facts.

In fact, I tried the drama approach ("Honey, I'm scared because...") and it had more traction than HL. ;) I felt like I needed a shower afterwards.  


I'm feeling much better today, thank you.

Talking Technical can't work for those who don't speak or understand technical.

Remember how you started in 1st grade and everybody was the same back then? They started teaching the "hard hard" math and half the class dropped away behind you. It was easy for you. You shook your head in disbelief and kept going. Then they started teaching the "hard hard" science and half of your remaining classmates fell away. Each year, more and more dropped out. They went off and became lawyers, stock brokers, car salesmen or office clerks at the insurance company.

If you turn around now and study how many around you are literate in math and science, you will find that only about 2% of the US population works in science and engineering. That means that roughly 98% of the US population does not. Figure that a good 90% of them forgot all that "nonsense" the high school teacher sputtered out about quadratic equations. The song says it all:

Don't know much about geography,
Don't know much trigonometry.
Don't know much about algebra,
Don't know what a slide rule is for.
But I know that one and one is two,
And if this one could be with you,
What a wonderful world this would be.

It should be no surprise that "they" don't get it even though it seems so obvious to you (... that Hubbert's curve will repeat at the global scale).

There is nothing "dirty" per se about communicating with them at their level: ("Honey, I'm scared, I'm terrified, about the new gas prices ..."). If you get part of the message to stick, you are that much closer to getting the complete message across.

My own experience is that watching certain movies together, and then talking about them works to get at fundamental issues.

I've posted SAILORMAN'S LIST of movies elsewhere.

My suggestion is to start with "Lassie Come Home," which is one that few younger people have seen, because it was made in 1943.

Yes, another Depression could come.

Yes, it could happen that ordinary families have to sell their dog to get funds needed for human food.

I have found that seven and eight year old children are more receptive to ideas that life could change to one of severe hardship than are older people. In other words, I've often been more successful at getting my grandchildren to think about fundamentals than I have been with my adult children.

Can you get your grand kids to think up new energy solutions?
If yes, please do. Thanks.
Must say that my grandchildren are extraordinarily creative in several ways:
#1 Granddaughter has enjoyed sailing from age of 18 months. She also is in training to become a pirate, and also a teacher of art and dance.
#2 Granddaughter has been catching huge fish from age of about two-and-a-half. From about age six she has been practicing with bow and arrow I gave her and at age seven nearly shot a bird with success. She is extremely interested in science and shows remarkable quantitative skills in addition to creative retelling of complex stories.
#3 Granddaughter is only two but appears to be a Deep Thinker and she has an extremely high energy level.

Children are a long-term investment. I have found that in raising children that the first thirty-five years are the hardest;-)

Grandchildren, on the other hand, are nothing but joy. Without them I'd shrivel up and become a bitter old man.

Thanks for the grandfatherly advice.
I haven't hit the 35 year post-umbilical marker yet and all my kids are part of that generation that wants to be "famous and rich" like the Hollywood celebrities. One offspring was on the way to a chemical engineering degree, but sigh, found the going too difficult once we hit those enthalpy rate equations. The new major is in the school of business --but I think you know my feelings about those who don't account for their failings to fully account for everything. Many of them used to be the smartest in the room when Enron was still believed to be a solvent concern. :-(

Maybe there will be hope in the grand kid generation if we get that far. $75/bbl today-ooch!

Robert Kiyosaki, far more prominent in the popular press and media than Jubak due to his "Rich Dad, Poor Dad" books.  Very strange to see hardcore Peak Oil Doomer rhetoric like this so close to the mainstream.  Front page of Yahoo! Business yesterday:

"I believe it will be the end of civilization as we know it -- and possibly the birth of a brave new world."


I liked Kiyosaki's conclusion:

As my greatest teacher, Dr. Buckminister Fuller, said to my class in 1982, "Humanity will soon have to choose between utopia or oblivion.... Do we work only for ourselves or for our planet?"

Restoration conference in New Orleans.


"WASHINGTON, April 18 00 The competition for access to oil is emerging high on the agenda for President Hu Jintao's visit to the White House this week. President Bush has called China's growing demand for oil one reason for rising prices, and has warned Beijing against trying to 'lock up' global supplies."

For details, click this URL:


If you're an addict, it's generally advisable to go a bit easy on warning your only supplier.
Some interesting comments by George Ure at www.urbansurvival.com

"The world is our shoemaker, automaker, baker, gardener, and we've lost manufacturing.  The chickens come home to roost when those countries and industries stop lending us money to live a lifestyle we didn't earn through traditional American hard work."

  I read a very interesting article in the Daily Progress (Charlottesville, Virginia) yesterday describing the doubling of housing inventory over the previous year. Indeed, there have not been as many houses on the market since 1996. There has been a ridiculous amount of surburban/exurban development of late, particularly along the route 29 corridor, with the usual townhouse/McMansion/Big Box store crap that has been popping up late of late in so many other places. I have also noticed that one such 'development' has laid dormant for some months due to unknown reasons, but this was after KB Homes ripped out a couple of hundred acres of forest and replaced it with an ugly red clay moonscape surrounded by orange plastic drainage sheeting.
  I spoke with a real estate agent at a dinner last week, and he seemed very reticent and taciturn when it came to discussing the market, making vague statements as "the market is seeing a bit of a change" and "their may be a change in some projects."
   Which was rather surprising, if for no other reason IMO real estate agents usually are among the first people to hand you a business card and start hustling you for a commision. I mean, the odd behavior was so profound as to the be the equivalent of a hammerhead shark going vegetarian.
   Now, I would have loved to have posted the over the fold article or a link to it ("The Daily Progress, Charlottesville, Virginia...front page 4/18/06) but a thorough checking of the web site for said rag contains absolutely NO mention of the article at all. Curious, I contacted the editorial page editor, who stated complete and total ignorance of said item not being on the site, and directed me to the webmaster for further info. A call to webmaster was not further enlightening.
  Which got me to thinking...The Daily Progress sure does make a lot of money from developers buying ad space. If I was the conspiracy theorist type, I would say a phone call or two got made and the story killed from further publication.

Subkommander Dred

Hello TODers,

According to this REUTERS article we are headed into serious gasoline supply problems:  http://tinyurl.com/rylf2

Gasoline prices have soared faster than crude since the start of April as inventories dwindle while refiners run down stocks ahead of changes to more environmentally-friendly fuels in May.

Refinery maintenance has also eaten into stocks.

Fears of a supply squeeze at the start of summer, when U.S. gasoline consumption peaks, have driven the gasoline refinery margin - or crack - to around $22 a barrel.

"The way the cracks are pricing now, it looks like there is going to be a gasoline supply problem down the road," Coleman said.
Bob Shaw in Phx,AZ  Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

I have been saying the same thing all year. We still don't have refining capacity back up to pre-hurricane levels, and gasoline inventories have fallen for 6 weeks in a row. When people complain about rising gas prices, I tell them that as long as inventories continue to fall, prices will continue to rise. I am also hearing a lot of stories about suppliers scrambling to find gasoline in various local markets. I heard of several cases this morning.

I am waiting for the EIA to release the latest figures, but I expect that gasoline inventories will fall once again.


One of the local gas stations (Enmark) near my home is already "out of GAS", with bags on the pumps.  I could easily see another panic day (with gas lines, lots of out of gas signs) like we had last year, post-Katrina.
Inventory reports are out for the week. Bad news for gasoline and oil. Gasoline inventories fell over twice as much as was forecast, and oil inventories unexpectedly fell as well. Fill up your tank today, because prices are going to rise some more:



Robert, I was hoping you could comment on something. Last night after hearing the consensus of analysts that gasoline inventories would drop by 2 million barrels, I went to the EIA for historical data.

I got the numbers for inventory and daily usage going back to 1995. If you divide the first by the second, you get a "number-of-days-supply" on hand.

This number is cyclical, depending mainly on the season. However in 1995 it averaged between 25 and 30 days for the most part. This has moved steadily down in the last decade and now averages between 20 and 25 days.

This week we are at 22 days of gasoline on hand. Do you think this is a troubling trend or merely the result of a more finely tuned "Just in Time Delivery" economy than 10 years ago?

I think it is a potentially troubling trend. I think it highlights the fact that even when refineries are up and running well, we are having trouble meeting demand. We are plowing billions into expansion projects and projects to handle heavy, sour crudes, but it just doesn't seem to be enough to meet demand. I have seen excess refining capacity gradually diminish over the years, to the point that 1 or 2 refineries going down can shake the whole market.


I ran into this link http://www.azstarnet.com/news/124820

"In the biggest highway privatization deal in U.S. history, state officials last week signed an agreement to turn the 157-mile Indiana Toll Road over to a foreign consortium that will operate it for a profit for the next 75 years"

75 years. Yeah. Sure

From the NY Times:

China's Oil Needs Are High on U.S. Agenda

It has this graphic:

Exporters can export:  domestic production less domestic consumption.

Importers want to import:  domestic consumption less domestic production.

There are four factors:  production in the exporting and importing countries and consumption in the exporting and importing countries.

As Khebab and I showed, the top net oil exporters are, based on the HL analysis, farther down the depletion curve than the world is overall.

The top importers are farther down the depletion curve than the world is overall (or don't have any significant oil supplies).  

As whirlwinds of cash descent upon the net oil exporters, their economies are going to expand at a faster rate, especially in Russia (car sales up 15%) and Saudi Arabia (average of seven kids per family--consider the consumption predictions based on that number).

So, production in the top exporting countries and the top importing countries (with production, e.g., the US and China) will, in my opinion, be falling faster than world production overall.  

Consumption in the exporting counties will, in my opinion, by and large be increasing faster than the world consumption overall.  

Therefore, if export capacity has fallen short of demand, markets will respond initially by drawing down inventories and increasing prices.  However, before too long, someone has to cut their demand, and it is going to be in the importing countries.   As I have repeatedly said, I think that we are looking at a 50% reduction in net export capacity a heck of a lot sooner than most of us anticipated.  


That graphic really hammers the point home. If Peak Oil doesn't get us in the short term, China's continued growth will. That's what I have been saying for a couple of years. I think we are still a few years off from the peak, but it doesn't really matter. I don't see us being able to close the supply/demand imbalance, and that will have effects very similar to a Hubbert Peak.


Perhaps yet another regime change is in the cards?
No, I think they'll leave us alone ;-)
Angola at #2!?  Equatorial Guinea made the list!?
PEAK SILVER according to the USGS, there are only about 13 year supply of Silver at current mining rates.  World production of silver is about 640 million ounces.

Year     World Production     World Consumption
 2004       634.4 million oz       836.7 million oz
 2003       611.2 million oz       853.4 million oz
 2002       607.4 million oz       838.7 million oz
 2001       611.8 million oz       867.0 million oz
 2000       587.3 million oz       904.0 million oz
 1999       548.5 million oz       867.9 million oz

This chart goes on and on.  As you can see what we have in silver is a Structual Deficit.  Now, some of the silver is recycled, but from 1942 to 2006, silver has been in a structual deficit for 6 decades.  In 1945 after WW2 the US Government had the largest stockpile of Silver in the world with over 4.5 billion ounces of silver.  Today, the US Government has no silver left.  Completely wiped out. In 2002 George Bush had to sign legislature so the Treasury could buy Silver on the open market to mint the Silver Eagle.

One, who is old enough can remember all the coins before 1965 had 90% silver.  For a few years after that there was only 40% silver.  Now the coins are clad worthless slugs.  Most of the silver coins have been melted down to supply the structual deficit.  

Governments, Central Banks and large private stocks have been depleted to fill this structual deficit.  The Silver Users Association, which was formed to be a lobby for Silver Industry, has enjoyed depressed prices from the Comex manipulation of Silver for many decades.  

Recently, Barclays has sent for approval of the BARCLAYS SILVER ETF to the SEC to be traded on the NYSE.  That is, silver will now be traded like a stock.  Every share will be worth 10 ounces of silver.  When Barclays announced their plans of the Silver ETF, the SUA was the first to publically argue against it.  The SUA felt it would create shortages and price spikes due to the fact Barcalys would have to accumulate over 130 million ounces of silver.

Ironically, the SUA has stated for decades that there was plenty of silver and a low price.  Those who knew better, understood the day of reckoning was coming when there were no longer any real above ground stocks of silver left to pillage.  There has been a manipulation of silver on the COMEX for decades.  Large institutions, have been buying and selling silver long and short contracts, controlling the price and making millions.  Today there are over a billion ounces of silver in paper certificates, leased and short contracts with only a mere 120 million ounces of silver in the COMEX warehouses.  A very interesting situation.

Today, if anyone has noticed, silver is going through the roof.  As Barclays Silver ETF has won primary approval from the SEC.  

Let me put this in perspective.  Lets look at the Silver history.

  30 billion ounces

TOTAL SILVER RESERVES  (according to the USGS)
   9 billion ounces

As one can see we have past PEAK SILVER.  But of course alot of silver is in silverware, coins, and bullion.  But today, silver is used in thousands of industrial applications.  A small amount is used in almost everything we use.  So these products, which many are in landfills, are not viable to melt down and recycle like silverware.  

Today, the price of silver is spiking because of many different aspects.  You might say a SILVER PERFECT STORM is happening.  Just in the last month silver went from $11 dollars an ounce to now $14.41.  We are in the beginning stage of what is termed the SILVER SUPER NOVA.

Anyone, who understands this, would buy all the physical silver one can get their hands on.  Because Silver will be the GOLD of the future.  Because Gold is not used much in industry, most of the GOLD ever mined is still sitting nicely in Vaults and Central Banks all over the world.  Matter-a-fact, there is 5 times the amount of Gold to Silver in above ground stockpiles.  So why is Gold more expensive than Silver?  Good question.

Its time to look at Silver.

Hmmm, it looks like the oil market is attracting some attention over at Morgan Stanley's Global Economic Forum ( http://www.morganstanley.com/GEFdata/digests/latest-digest.html ). On April 18, Stephen Roach wrote a piece titled "Oil and Bonds", and Richard Berner had a piece with some interesting analysis of the oil market. (Click on Archive, then click on April 18, to see those.)

On April 19, Serhan Cevik has a piece titled "Listen to Gaia." Just a few of the leading sentences from a few paragraphs:

  • "Supply-side shocks, reminiscent of the 1970s, push energy quotes higher."

  • "Only new technologies can reduce oil dependence and carbon emissions."

  • "Reliable, low-cost energy is a requirement for sustainable development."

Geez, is this Oil Week over at Morgan Stanley, or what??