Wed Open Thread (and the XOM boycott)

Tim Haab answers the question about whether the ExxonMobil boycott will work.

Otherwise, thread away.

alright well i'll start off looking for comments about this article:

not because it says anything new but because it seems like a good way to explain the situation to those americans just waking up from their t.v. naps to find gas $3 a gallon sans hurricane (they're grumpy!)

yikes wrong link.  here's the article


So Saith the BBC..

"A more controversial concern is the so-called "peak oil" theory: the idea that the world has reached the natural limits of oil exploitation, and that there is little more to be found in the ground whatever the price.

"Although many in the business dismiss the concept, energy planners in several countries are nonetheless beginning to take it into account. "

Exerpted from:

"What is driving oil prices so high?
"Crude oil prices have risen once more to levels above $71 a barrel - a rise of 25% so far in 2006, and a threefold gain over the past three years.

That "many in business dismiss the concept" just shows how ignorant they are.  I am not sure why BBC considers these many to be such authorities on the subject.  One just has to stand back and see how absurd the whole "debate" really is.  Where are all the new sources of light sweet crude that would disprove the "peak oil theory"?  Saudi Arabia is pushing heavy  sour, of which it doesn't have anywhere near the original light sweet reserve amounts, and bitumen in Canada is being touted as a vast new source.  This is evidence for the onset of peak oil.  Invoking non conventional oil is akin to invoking coal as a "refutation" of peak oil.
and bitumen in Canada is being touted as a vast new source
Many MSM publications tout Canada's oil reserves as being larger than Saudi Arabia. That gives the general public a very false sense of security. I wonder when the cost to mine the oil, in terms of natural gas and water, will outweigh the oil extracted. With NG supplies, and fresh water as well, in decline, how soon will this come to an end?
no wonder there's no by-line on that BBC "article", I reckon every word of it has been written by BP's PR department.

BBC News' credibility is now in negative teritory.

You know, with all this chatter from every news outlet and every grandstanding politician and every gumpy guy in line at the grocery store about "Big Oil" and price gouging, I find I simply can't understand how people ignore what appears to me an obvious logical problem that pretty much ends the argument.

If it is so easy for "Big Oil" to drive the prices up and land huge profits, why did they wait until now to do it?

I mean, they could have saved themselves a lot of trouble if they did it in the late 90's when they were hemorrhaging cash. Or at any other point in the last 50 years for that matter. Were they just being nice by selling to us at a cheaper price than they could have? That was sure kind of them.

I have a hard time thinking a "Big Oil" CEO would say, "You know, we could sell this at $2.50, but we're going to let you have it for 89 cents. What the heck, it's just money."

Just had to get that off my chest.

Excellent. This is so transparent.

I wish every American would consider this syllogism to its proper conclusion

So who's to blame for the high gas prices?

That's the wrong question. The questions is:

Why do I care about the gas price being this high?

And the answer is:

I care because I take full responsibilty for making the choice to live a life almost completely dependant on the availability of cheap gas. I have greatly enjoyed the         convenience and luxury this choice has afforded me in the past but now that it is becoming less viable I am free to choose not to live this lifestyle.

Unfortunately the pervasive mindset of the average American is that:

"The American way of life is non-negotiable" - George Bush Senior 1992

To be a little fair to the average consumer, my theory is that there was an unspoken deal.  Income disparity has increased to levels not seen since the 20's here; the median wage has been flat or falling for 3 decades.  The unspoken deal was that it was OK if incomes stayed flat if the necessities like food and fuel also stayed flat.  For something the average American considers a necessity (and it may very well be for some) prices rocketing up in such a short time frame is gouging.
Except that there was no deal (deal implies an agreement).  It's just the hand that was dealt.  The average consumer is ignorant of the problems, and has been fed so much BS precisely to keep them consuming.  What happens to them after they have fulfilled their consuming role is unimportant to those who benefit.  They didn't agree to flat wages in the hopes of stable fuel and food costs; they're just dealing with what comes as best they can.

Yes, I would love if my fellow citizens kept up on these issues, and therefore could not be so easily fooled, but let's be realistic.  With the volume of disinformation, and the general lack of information, what else should be expected?

How many of us who are now aware of the energy depletion issues got here from a series of random discoveries?  One cannot be an expert in all fields - I might be a genius in some particular technical area (not saying I am), but never happened to look into PO.  Better to ask why hasn't my society been informing of these problems for years?

Good for Gazprom.  The professional Russia haters in the UK should wake up and smell the coffee.  

Also, it would be quite fair for Russia to change its own regulations and kick BP out.  Why are acquisitions by UK firms acceptable in Russia but not vice versa.

This at the same time as there is a continued push to build more gas fired power stations.  They are touted as the "clean" way to cover the power generation gap between our old nuclear stations going offline and any replacements coming online.

 Power shortage risks 'overplayed'

Time to take going off grid seriously.

Off grid?  I'd say that if my state and federal government are going to subsidize cheap electric power, I should take advantage of it.

My electric bill is just $15/mo, it's not like I'm a hog.

Well, I seem to have the privilege of being Commenter No. 1.  The pressure is awesome!

First off, the value of boycotts (when there is any at all) is not the real economic pressure brought to bear, but rather the psychological pressure and the attendant bad publicity.  An entity being boycotted is seen by the public as having a 'problem', and that problem will not go away until the boycott ends. So, a boycott DOES get attention regardless of its real economic impact. Still, people doing the boycotting soon get bored with it, so boycotts tend to fizzle out on their own accord. Boycotts can serve a purpose but don't expect too much from them. Remember, just because there is a real energy crisis doesn't preclude the possiblity of people gaming the system and engaging in unfair, and possibly illegal,  practices.

However, of far more immediate importance is the question of impending military action against Iran. If indeed the Bush regime is serious about attacking Iran, as many knowlegeable people seem to think, then what we have here is a potential global crisis that dwarfs Peak Oil and all others.

Yet, you will notice that very few people in Congress are voicing any opposition to 'taking care of Iran'.  Now why is it that something that could quite literally  trigger WW III goes undebated in Congress?  

Well, for starters, there's the mid-term elections in November, and the Democrats want to get back in the driver's seat real bad. They can smell it.

  At the same time  we have to recognize what is the main driving force for attacking Iran. It is an unholy alliance between neocons, fundamentalist Christians, and the more Zionist elements of the Jewish pro-Israel lobby in the US,  whose strongest embodiment is the extremely powerful AIPAC. Woe be it to any congressman up for re-election who crosses the AIPAC.  So, that, in my estimation, is why Congress is largely silent about Iran. They are afraid of the Jewish lobby.... plain and simple.

I don't know when the American people are going to wake up to the fact that our vital interests and those of Israel are not the same. The US is Israel's sole ally and the guarantor of its very existence (to the tune of over $3 billion per year),  whereas Israel is no ally of the US and would sell the US down the river if there were something to be gained. As Tonto said to the Lone Ranger, "What you mean we, pale-face?"

So, gentlemen,  there you have it why there is little noise about Iran in the US Congress. We are slouching toward chaos simply because ambitious politicians don't want to jeopordize their re-election chances by crossing the Zionist Israeli lobby. And if you think this is over the top, then please give me examples of important congressman and senators who has criticized Israel during the last year. I don't think you will find any.

You didn't type fast enough!
If we let go of Israel, there is no guarentee that the Moslems won't hold a grudge with us forever. My bet is that they will hold a grudge so violent that they would be willing to hold that flight yoke foaming at the mouth as a building looms in the plane's windshield, screaming "Allah Akbar!" as they steer it into that looming building.

The damage is done. After all, they know that we can flip any instant. We have our own track record for them to see. And these people have a LONG memory!

Actually, people do hold grudges a long time, and nations do too, but not to the extent that they fight wars to get even.
Consider Israel and Germany.
Israel has not spent the last sixty years getting even with Germany.
Israel has spent the last sixty years getting even with the Arabs.
Ha Ha,
the funniest thing. We can get FOX News in the UK.
Timed perfectly for this thread, a senator/actress/model/whatever from Florida was whingeing about gas prices. He said the answer is to let Walmart sell gas at below cost, cos the little guys (one pump gas stations) are gouging and the oil companies (not little guys , shurly shum mishtake)are also gouging...

Apparently the little guys are protected against predatory pricing from Walmart and the likes by an obscure , 20 year old law against selling below cost. He wants it repealed.

Looks like its going to cost more to get to the golf course... Ha Ha

Kunstler is right: getting to the shops in Florida is going to be like the Bataan Death March

What is it with you guys, do you want it for free?

We are close to £5 per gallon here in the UK and it will be over that by the time school is out in June / July.

Its getting very , very silly.

Maybe , just maybe, some good will come of this:

Wear Sweaters (in winter...except for the above silly person: he can wear two in a Floridian Summer)
Turn down the AC
Drive less
Combine trips
Cut your family's engine capacity
Eco drive (requires a brain, cuts your fuel usage by 10%)

Hey Ho.

Some interesting comments by George Ure at

 "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."

Following are my (ELP) suggestions for a post-peak US:  

Economize--try to reduce your spending to 50% of current income.  Assume that you just got a 50% pay cut. What actions would you then take?

Localize--try to reduce the distance between home and work to as close to zero as possible.  Assume that gasoline costs about the same as Norway, $7 per gallon or more.  What actions would you then take?

Produce--look into becoming or affiliating yourself with a net food producer or net energy producer. Or at least try to work with a company that provides basic needs, instead of "wants."  Today, the majority of Americans live off the discretionary income of other Americans.  Assume that US discretionary income drops by 50%.  What industries would you want to be in?

Correct. Aim to produce 80%+ of your food needs, you can live on that in extremis.
An excerpt from the Daily Telegraph Business section by Keith Woolcock regarding food stocks:

All through history famine and dwindling food supplies have led to mass migration, wars and pestilence, but who knows, this time it might be different and the great march to a global economy will continue without missing a step.

But I wouldn't count on it on the basis of the latest research quoted by Lester Brown, head of the Earth Policy Institute, in his new book, Outgrowing the Earth. I would strongly recommend all investors, politicians and followers of Dr Pangloss to read and digest the message in this book.

Brown points out that a one degree Celsius rise in temperature leads to a 10pc decline in wheat, rice and corn yields. Which brings us to the subject of global warming. While we might like to luxuriate in the benefits of globalisation, the nasty fact is that increased trade and wealth have a dark side, which is leading to profound and unsettling climate changes.

Over the past three decades average temperatures have risen by 0.7 degrees Celsius and a growing number of scientists argue that we might have passed a point after which the rise in temperature accelerates. The omens are not good: in four of the past six years the world has witnessed the warmest temperatures since records began. As a result, the number of global catastrophes is increasing and last year set a record for the number of lives lost due to environmental disasters.

The world's agricultural system is beginning to warp and this might one day wreck the global trading mechanism. Since 1984 grain production has failed to keep pace with population growth. In fact, grain production has been falling. In 1984 it peaked at 339kgs per person but has since fallen to 308kgs. The place where this decline will be felt most is China.

Since 1998 China's grain production has fallen off a cliff. For years the country was able to meet the shortfall by drawing down its massive reserves. Now the reserves are running dangerously low, China has turned to buying on the open market.

In 2004 China imported 8m tonnes of wheat but Brown argues that within the next year or two it will need to import between 30m to 50m tonnes a year as well as record amounts of rice and corn. If you travel to the Far East during the hot dry summer months you'll get an idea of why. China is losing its top soil in giant dust storms that are dumping earth on cities like Seoul in neighbouring South Korea. The amount of land fit for cultivation is shrinking.

In addition, Brown points out that when densely populated countries go through an economic growth spurt, crop production plummets. We have already seen this pattern in Japan, Taiwan and South Korea. Japan now imports 70pc of the grain it needs. As China is following the same pattern of development it is likely to do the same. This will place a strain on the world's ability to supply it with food because the likely demand will outstrip the production of leading grain producers such as Canada, Australia and Argentina.

Its summer in alabama,  you folks call it spring, we call it early summer.  I am moving in a few weeks.  I have no ac on. I use the night air, bring it in and cool the house down, then shut it in, in the morning, and hope it lasts all day.  Range style houses are the pits fo energy savings and heat cool control.

I drive to church,  5 mile round trip, I drive few if anywhere else.  

In 2 months when I am in the colorado summer, I will be able to walk to most everywhere.  I still won't have ac, but I hope to have a working swamp cooler by then and be able to cool the same way I do here.  Pull it in at night, close it in, in the day.  But I will be repairing a house so nothing is a given.

I'm in San's been 100 degrees the last two days. No a/c = death in the summer and its starting early this year.  I really feel the dependence tonight, even though I kept the a/c turned up to 83 all day.
i did not use the ac most of last summer, just sucked in cool night air, and slept then and did light things in heat of the day.  I had to move things then too, though not as radically as this time

I know several folks that live nearby that don't have ac.

our houses were built to be air conditioned,  we need to build them the old ways again, high ceilings and lots of cool porches.

I live in Paraguay. Most people have only fans and it goes to 100 and beyond often. It's humid too. Haven't seen anyone dying from it yet. I'm sure it's similar in Egypt, India, etc. Fact is, you can live at those temperatures,  without AC. You do need lots of shadow (better if from trees), and lots of water.

Most people don't have cars here either, and the buses have no AC :-)

Most of the homes in New Orleans were built before air conditioning became common.

3 meter and higher ceilings are common, as are large trees on the streets.  Windows above the doors for ventlation. Whole house fans were added to homes built after 1910.

We rarely get below freezing (0 C, 32 F) so heating is not so important.

Some suffering if air conditioing was reduced.

I would have thought that Paraguay would have VERY cheap electricity from Itapu though.

It takes time for the body to become conditioned.

Remember the huge heat wave in France a couple of summers ago?  The daily temps were, by Texas standards, moderate.  Yet we get summers like that all the time, but for them it was an anomoly.

And some homes and buildings here are from before A/C, but the more recent additions all have it.  For example, at my office if the AC goes out it quickly becomes bad - huge windows that don't open and only two doors for the entire building that lead to the outside, and they are on the ground floor.  200 people and office equipment inside and it gets hot, fast, without AC.

Yet we get summers like that all the time, but for them it was an anomoly.

One of the reasons so many died was that people were afraid to open their windows.  Due to crime.  

OTOH, most post WW II homes are death traps in the summer without air conditioning.  One can build a house that cannot be "cooled" naturally and we have spent well over a trillion dollars building just those type homes.
Exactly.  People suvived just fine in the summer before AC, but we did not build the types of houses we do now - the assumptions were different, and we built to take summer heat into account.  Around here, most old farmhouses had multi-storey porches, which were screened in in the summer for sleeping.  Now they've mostly been removed, or walled in as regular rooms.
I grew up in Covington, right across the lake from NO.  Of course, nobody had AC in the 30's, but we had high ceilings and porches and fans and lots of big live oak trees, and everybody stayed out of the sun during the hot hours, worked in morning and early evening.  I thought everybody slept in a puddle of sweat until I got in the navy and found out different.  But those other guys not only couldn't stand heat, but were scared of snakes and big flying roaches that slam into the wall in the middle of the night and flop down on your bed.  Bunch of sissy city people who couldn't even talk right.
You got that 100% right about the sissy city people. They know from nothing. True in the 1930s and still true.

During my years of college teaching I noticed the farm kids were often my best students--not because they were smarter, but because they knew about getting up at 4 a.m. to milk the cows and then working hard until sundown when work had to be done. They never thought learning would come easy. Farm kids still understand work, still know how to do things and fix things. Sad thing is, almost none of them want to farm anymore, because they know how hard the work is and that two years out of three you lose money. Especially this is true of young women who have been driving tractors etc. since age 11 or younger: None of them would even think of dating or marrying a farmer.

In the 1930s, people in NYC would sleep in Central Park on hot summer nights.

Now the very idea seems ridiculous.  You'd be mugged...or worse.

bear in mind that IF you don't have air conditioning, then mold will start to develop in the "air tight house". Especially in Texas humidity. where we have 100% humidity very often in Houston. Houses built today are much different than they were 100 yrs ago. When mold starts growing in the house all kind of health issues start to surface.
Having lived near Corpus about 40 yrs ago, we didn't have air conditioning. we opened the windows, and the gulf breeze went through the house. right out the screen door on the front porch.
Boy how i miss those days. but the house was built in 1910. yes we sweat, drank lots of fluids, used fans when there was no breeze, stayed in the shade,  etc.
today the houses are built to be air conditioned, there is no "flow design" for a breeze through the house. or to let the hot air escape, like a "transom" over the doors.

mold will set in and get the better of ya if airconditioning isn't available.

Welcome to Colorado! We can use all the intelligent, informed, peak oilers we can get.  Swamp coolers are definitely the best for cooling in our arid climate.  Don't know how they rate for efficiency vs. AC units but they definitely work well.  We've only had a small, room-sized AC unit for the past few years--we survived quite well up till then with just a basement to retreat to when the temp got above 90F.  It helps that we have high ceilings--great for summer but bad in winter when all the heat goes upstairs.  In a well-designed house you wouldn't need a cooling unit, and probably only a back up heat source, i.e. wood or pellet stove.  It only gets real cold for short periods in the winter on the Front Range (historically anyway).    
   The biggest problem I see for Colo. in the post-oil age is the water supply.  Given that we don't know the long-term effects of climate change, water could/will be a big problem for the semi-arid West.  Wherever you will be in Colo. make sure you have a dependable water supply.  Oh well, after the economic collapse maybe lots of people will leave and there'll be enough water left for the survivors.   :)  
Lived in europe for several years.
My first winter I noticed On very cold days all the people would be out on the streets.  Couldn't figure it out.  I mean throngs out everywhere on the coldest days.

 It was finally explained to me.  The europeans kept their heat turned down so low that it was warmer to bundle up and go out, shopping, library, museums--anywhere was warmer than home.  They were very good natured and humorous about it but was just the best way to handle the cold.

I was amazed.  I had been just turning up the heat.
end o season I got my gas bill.(!)  
Next winter on cold days I was bundled up mingling with those stalwart europeans.

It's the same in Japan.
How about oil prices of $74 per barrel?

These are not the oil barrels you want. Nothing to see here! Move along! Move along!

Just to get us all confused about the "bad guys", the quote below is from the article Greyzone linked to.
Ahmadinejad urged oil-producing countries, both inside and outside the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, to establish a fund to help alleviate the pressure from high oil prices on the developing world.

Chavez helps other S.American countries, Amadinejad comes up with a proposal that could certainly help mitigate peakoil for the real losers.  Hmmmm.  Just politics ?

I've noticed a subtle shift in mainstream media coverage on oil prices. In the past, when oil prices hit a new record, the standard apology was "but they were higher in real dollar terms in 1980." They seem to have dropped this.

And notice how little attention current pricing is getting on TOD? Everyone here expects this, and is focused on the future.

Well, LOL, I did tell you that oil would be at $70 by late March back on 2nd January (barring significant disruption or geopolitics). I guess I was a couple of weeks out but I've said before I have a minor problem with future time.

Perhaps it's very slightly surprising, equivalent to GW stringing 2 coherent sentences together. But it is less surprising than oil being at $60 now.

It has scarcely been mentioned in UK news media. The implications certainly haven't. If you want to know more about those try this and the Morgan Stanley link in its comments:

another tour de force by Stephen Roach

sorta confirms this funny feeling i've had for about a week: the way things are shaping up, the possibility of the economic SHTF by the time the FIFA World Cup finishes in Germany this summer seems pretty high...

...or maybe not? looking pretty ominous though...

could another factor be the devaluation of the US dollar? look at the price of gold and silver these days.
Yesterday's WSJ had a front page story with the old all-time-high inflation-adjusted price in 1980 mention, this being $97.25 / barrel in Feb 2006 dollars, according to them.  Yikes!  The dollar has dropped considerable in real terms, eh?  Since the price of oil figures so prominently in price inflation, though, it doesn't seem right to use CPI to deflate the oil price.  How about the price of oil in labor hours for the median wage earner?  I bet we're closer to the peak price by that measure.
One way to attempt to remove the effects of a depreciating dollar from the price of oil is to look at the price of in ounces of gold.

In theory if supply and demand was in balance and the only explanation for higher prices of oil was a debased dollar then the price per barrel of oil in ounces of gold should be constant.  However, we see in the chart above that not only is the price of oil increase in nominal US dollars, it is also increasing in ounces of gold.  This would indicate to me that the rise in oil prices is not due to debasement in the value of the US dollar, but a fundamental change in the supply and demand equation.

Oil bounces around too much. So does gold. What is the price of oil in rebar?
MMS report further recovery of gulf oil production of 6,000 bpd, from 340,000 bpd lost to 334,000. Hurricane season 6 wks away.
That was over last 2 weeks, sorry.
There was an article about wave energy the other day that was kind of interesting:

GE's Technology Lending is providing capital to Ocean Power Delivery, Ltd. (OPD), developer of the world's first commercial facility that will generate electricity from offshore ocean waves. The transaction, made in conjunction with GE Energy Financial Services, extends a loan facility of $2.6 million (£1.5 million) to UK-based OPD.

Additionally, GE is taking an equity position as part of OPD's $22.5 million (£13 million) equity financing as OPD prepares to deliver on its first commercial contract for a wave power farm.

OPD developed the Pelamis Wave Energy Converter, which generates 750 kW of electricity from offshore wave motion. In early 2005, OPD announced the signing of an order with a consortium, led by Enersis, to build the initial phase of the world's first commercial wave-farm at a site 5km off the coast of northern Portugal.

The first stage consists of three 750kW Pelamis machines with a combined rating of 2.25MW. A letter of intent has also been issued to order a further 28 Pelamis machines before the end of 2006. When complete, the eventual 22.5MW project is expected to meet the average electricity demand of more than 15,000 Portuguese households while displacing more than 60,000 tonnes per year of carbon dioxide emissions from conventional generation using fossil fuels.

If you go to Pelamis's website, they have a pdf presentation where they talk about the economics of it:

Look to page 23 for the chart comparing to wind and solar PV.

As usual with these types of things, take with a grain of salt.  They do have a product to sell, after all, but on the surface it is an interesting concept..

I guess my first question is how well these things would stand up to a large storm.  They say that they have finished sea trials, so I guess they have it worked out.  Still, if some cargo vessel were to lose an engine in a storm, it could take out a whole bunch of these things without a problem.

ericy -

I have an amateur's  side interest in wave power and am quite  familiar with Ocean Power Delivery, Ltd (OPD) and its product, the Pelamis wave energy converter.

Having studied the problem of ocean wave energy conversion for some time, I would have to say that the Pelamis has largely solved one of the main problems with these systems: survivability in severe weather conditions.

You see, the Pemalis extracts ocean wave energy by utilizing the relative motion between its four 'linked sausages'. When one zigs, the other zags, and the relative motion and forces thereof are converted into energy via a somewhat complex system of hydraulic motors.

But where the Pelamis really shines is is the area of survivability.  It is very 'loose moored' in that the action of the waves does not try to rip it from its moorings. In fact, much of its motion is largely 'invisble' to the violent movement of storm conditions. Thus, it is quite capable of riding out a severe  storm, such as is frequently encountered in its first area of installation: the Orkneys off of Scotland, some of the consistantly worst weather in the world.

Now, economics is a whole other thing. And that is where I don't have as much confidence in the Pelamis. It looks to be quite expensive in relation to the amount of energy generated.  Still, when it comes to energy, we need to get what we can get; and today's expenses can not be viewed in  the same way as tomorrow's.

I have followed Oregon State's wave energy program fairly closely.  They plan to bring a different type of product to the testing stage in the next year.  It involves the up and down motion of the ocean and really should be called "Swell Power" as the waves have nothing to do with it.  They say they can produce power at 9 cents, while the system you are refering to is more like 25 cents, we shall see, this could be a huge breakthrough for us on the Oregon and Washington coast.

I went to an OSU presentation and here is a rundown on my website.


Thanks for the interesting link concerning OSU's "wave" program.  Did I understand it correctly that they are hoping to generate 700 MW from the 2800 buoys?  How many households does that pen out to here in the US (based on the above post by ericy, that would be 466,000+ households in Portugal -- I am assuming we use more energy per household than Portugal)?  
BTW -- nice site.  I live in Portland, so that is a nice resource to know about.  Has OSU given any thought as to how they will protect the buoys from Kunstler's "marauding pirates"? <grin>

Not sure of the exact numbers, but the U.S. use close to one KW per household per hour.  In the above article the numbers don't seen to add up unless the MW quoted is max capacity and the average numbers are lower.
Hello TOD-threaders,

Mao Tse Tung once said that "the only power that ultimately matters is the power that comes out of a barrel of a gun."  With this in mind, I would like to call your attention to a little-noted bombshell of an article (no pun intended) that appeared in the March / April 2006 edition of Foreign Affairs (a CFR publication) entitled "The Rise of U.S. Nuclear Primacy" by Keir Lieber of the University of Notre Dame and Daryl Press of the University of Pennsylvania.

Lieber and Press write that it is now possible for the United States to -

"... destroy the long-range nuclear arsenals of (both) Russia and China with a first strike."

Moreover they indicate that the U.S. can now do it without fear that they would suffer a retaliatory strike. They continue:

"For 50 years the Pentagon's war planners have structured the U.S. nuclear arsenal according to the goal of deterring a nuclear attack on the United States and, if necessary ... launching a retaliatory strike that would destroy an enemy. For these purposes, the United States relies on a nuclear triad comprising strategic bombers, intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), and ballistic-missile-launching submarines (known as SSBNs). The triad reduces the odds that an enemy could destroy all U.S. nuclear forces in a single strike, even in a surprise attack, ensuring that the United States would be able to launch a devastating response. Such retaliation would only have to be able to destroy a large enough portion of the attacker's cities and industry to deter an attack in the first place.

"HOWEVER, THE SAME [U.S.] NUCLEAR TRIAD COULD BE USED IN AN OFFENSIVE ATTACK AGAINST AN ADVERSARY'S NUCLEAR FORCES. Stealth bombers might slip past enemy radar, submarines could fire their missiles from near the enemy's shore and so give the enemy's leaders almost no time to respond, and highly accurate land-based missiles could destroy even hardened silos that have been reinforced against attack and other targets that require a direct hit. THE ABILITY TO DESTROY ALL OF AN ADVERSARY'S NUCLEAR FORCES, ELIMINATING THE POSSIBILITY OF A RETALIATORY STRIKE IS KNOWN AS A FIRST-STRIKE CAPABILITY, OR NUCLEAR PRIMACY."

In my opinion, this is huge: Grave economic weakness notwithstanding, the U.S. can nonetheless control the rest of the world indefinitely through naked force.  Please discuss.

Nuclear primacy - - why primates shouldn't have nuclear weapons.

Actually, the Star Wars defense system is the key to a "first-strike" capability, although proponents never mention that. A 90% success rate in eliminating enemy warheads with Star Wars is as good as useless -  unless you can first kill 90% of the enemies warheads on the ground.

This very issue is actually discussed in the article at one point - and you are exactly right in your take on the true significance of missile "defense."  It's really an integral component of a first-strike capability, and was very likely conceived as such to begin with.
I've always wondered about that.

Scenario: incoming missiles
Defense: lasers or photon torpedos or whatever we've been sold as our "missile shield"
Effectiveness: untested (for obvious reasons)

What is the definition of success?  Just one missile can ruin your day.

"U.S. can nonetheless control the rest of the world indefinitely through naked force."

Unfortunately, no.  We may be able to kill hundreds of millions of people, but we damn sure can't keep the shipping lanes open.

Of course, I wouldn't be at all suprised if we tried the "lets kill everyone", when threatened with the end of our way of life.

That is exactly what concerns me.  Another thing that people are too little aware of is that the US does not merely possess nuclear primacy, but they are also utterly overwhelming in just about every other area of military prowess - both qualitatively and quantitatively speaking.  For exammple, the US disposes over 12 world-class aircraft carrier battle groups to project force virtually anywhere in the world from sea, whereas the most any other country possesses is a single, very small and antiquated carrier (China; maybe the Brits and the French also).  Thus, the only thing stopping the US elites from being utterly ruthless in deploying overwhelming force at this stage seems to be the following:

  1.  A certain lingering sense of humanity on the part of the elites (which is a very slender reed, however!);
  2.  A similarly tenuous sense on the part of the elites of the need to take world public opinion into account at least to some degree; and
  3.  A dull and pig-headed, but nevertheless formidable reluctance on the part of the broader US populace to get involved in all-out war.  But how long will that last once the shit really starts hitting the fan with energy, the economy, etc.?
  4.  A rather dull-headed but nevertheless formidable
I believe that the "elites" will create a final world war that would reduce world population by 90%. They are trying to save the planet and its limited resources for the future of their families.
I don't. But there is a small probability you are correct (between 5% and 10% my guess), more than enough to scare me.

Perhaps a more realistic scenario is that the tenuous 'global elite' (which probably exists in at least an informal way) has a contingency plan if the economic system implodes. I know the global population must probably halve, I would guess they do, too.

Actually, Russia's ICBMs can still do their job, however much some wish things were otherwise. I think the appropriate reply to the article of Leiber and Press would be "Do you feel lucky, punk?"
This is extremely interesting to me, and is something I would like to investigate further.  Can you possibly provide a source where I might do this?
The people who know the answers to your questions cannot talk, and the ones who talk do not know.

The big point is uncertainty.

Nobody knows how effective Russian (or Chinese or Pakistani) nuclear weapons and delivery systems would be in the event of war.

Because of the huge uncertainty factor, wise strategists err on the side of caution.

Note that armed forces that look good on paper, e.g. the Argentinean Navy during the Falklands war, armed with Exocet missles, often fold rather quickly when confronted with a genuinely effective armed force, such as the Royal Navy.

By the way, Her Majesty's Royal Marines are every bit as good, man for man, as U.S. Marines, and indeed are the organization on which the U.S. Marines are based, going back to colonial times. Also, the RAF is top quality, and if they had to deliver thermonuclear weapons in retaliation for a nuclear attack on Britain, they could and would do so.

I do not know about the French Force de frappe. The French are very good at keeping secrets--even from themselves;-)

If you only put one round into a well lubricated and balanced cylinder, and spin it good, you can in theory point it at your head and pull the trigger, and nothing will happen.  I would put about the same trust in Lieber's theory as I do in this one.
Good points, but we can be fairly certain that all the nuclear powers which have tested their weapons are confident they will detonate with the desired yield. The Russians are very confident, as are the British, the U.S., and the French - all having had extensive testing series decades ago. The Chinese, true, may be the least confident, with India somewhat more certain, but Pakistan seems to have taken a broader approach than most - it seems like their technology/equipment has met the quality control standards of a number of nations.

As for the Argentines - if they had nailed a carrier instead of support vessels,they would have won, according to the British fleet commander. It was one of the first conflicts where the price of a missile/plane compared to the price of a ship was clearly laid out. This is a demonstration of an equation I remember from some SF WWIII book in the early 1980s (Dean Ing?) - 1 nuke = 1 carrier group, with the remaining carrier groups fleeing to sheltered ports in that war.

There are people that believe one reason the Soviet Union folded its cards in the Cold War was the inescapable logic of one cheap man-carried missile = 1 tank or helicopter. It was certainly a major factor in leaving Afghanistan.

Of course, the cost of an Iraqi IED or car bomb is considerably less than a cheap missile.

But as you noted, uncertainty/luck/fate are an unavoidable part of war, which is why most people who advocate war are those with no experience of it.

But nothing much has changed in the nuclear MAD world since the later 1970s, and this belief in deep secrecy surrounding the fairly basic physics of nuclear detonations is simply marketing.

To put it a bit differently - growing up in Fairfax, I never quite knew where the warheads would come from (missile, sub, plane, pre-placed), their yield (100k+ to 2m+ plus), the wind direction at time of detonation, precise impact zone, height of warhead at detonation, and on and on. Neither did anyone else. But the broad picture, along with most of the details, was anything but some deep secret.

And there are a number of truly excellent sources of information, starting with American government publications from that MAD time (assuming they haven't been reclassified or otherwise removed from view, like so much formerly public information)., the web site of the Federation of American Scientists, 1717 K St., NW Suite 209 Washington, DC 20036 is generally considered to be a world class resource, at least in the past.

Causing mass deaths is a surprisingly open area of study - about the only true obscurity tends to be in some of the technical details (you can be certain that there are some very nasty 'Easter eggs' in essentially any information you find relating to DIY projects), and precise details of which missile/bomber is currently pointed at which target, etc.

But do keep in mind that informing yourself about such things will definitely lead to questions about what human beings are capable of, and likely acquaint you with how the American government practices homeland security. After a conversation with one of my former university professors in 2000 discussing my sister-in-law's work at Savannah River and how headline compounds like uranium hexaflouride aren't really that big of a problem compared to leftovers of things nobody ever kept track of decades ago, my phone service became quite interesting over the next couple of days - and talking to a line crew a mile down the road with direct access using a plugged-in laptop to BellAtlantic's system was also quite enlightening. Talking to people accessing information inside a network is so much more useful than calling customer service. There is absolutely no question we are all are being monitored (at a minimum in the sense of key word lists), it is utterly routine, and it has been going on much longer than Bush has been president. And no, nobody doing this monitoring cares in the least whether you or any other American citizen has a problem with it.

If you are curious to see how well the system works in 2006, I would suggest learning how to correctly pronounce several Iranian terms and locations, and having a conversation or two with friends. On second thought, you may not want to - the legal framework has really changed since 2000.

My Farsi is rusty. I've already got an FBI file that runs over 1,000 pages, but they are not so much interested in me anymore, because I no longer associate with certain people, and they are [correctly] convinced that my interest in certain topics is strictly connected to my writing of fiction.

The interviews I've had with FBI guys would make an excellent two-hour comedy film; I feel so sorry for bright and good people being trapped in an organization dysfunctional for the past sixty years at least--and probably longer.

Did you know J. Edgar Hoover had a file on people who threatened to expose the fact that he was queer?

Hello PhilRelig,

I have posted this before but it explains the situation in your post quite well:

Outstanding post!  How true.  What does America prefer?

"Nuke their Ass--I want Gas"        HUMMER bumper-sticker

or "No Thanks--I like Empty Tanks"  bicycle bumper-sticker

From the movie,"3 Days of the Condor":
[Turner]: Boy, what is it with you people? You think not getting caught in a lie is the same thing as telling the truth?

[Higgins]: No. It's simple economics. Today it's oil, right? In 10 or 15 years-- food, plutonium, and maybe even sooner. What do you think the people are going to want us to do then?

[Turner]: Ask them.

[Higgins]: Now now. Then. Ask them when they're running out. Ask them when there's no heat and they're cold. Ask them when their engines stop. Ask them when people who have never known hunger start going hungry. Want to know something? They won't want us to ask them. THEY'LL WANT US TO GET IT FOR THEM.

"We see the rising floodwaters, secretly working to make the others drown first".

I would hope we prefer Voluntary Population Control & Powerdown instead.

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

Thanks for the kind words, totoneila.  You may have noticed that I have had my hands full arguing my point.  

But actually, I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has challenged me these last 24 hours.  That's exactly one of the reasons why I brought up the topic.  There were quite a number of rebuttals to positions I advanced that had merit, and I will have quite a lot to think about....

Well you could start by getting Mao's quote right and in context,
In Problems of War and Strategy he wrote:-
 Every Communist must grasp the truth, "Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun."
However he said this not to endorse the political power of the armed forces but to warn the political cadres never to let the armed forces gain political power. In the same work he went on to say:-
Our Principle is that the Party commands the gun, and the gun must never be allowed to command the Party.

As for the idea of the United States deciding to try and wipe out the nuclear forces of Russia and China, it is a neocon masturbation fantasy.

But it is now apparently something of which the US is now objectively capable in purely military terms.  In other words, they can attack and destroy any country on the face of the planet at will - without significant fear of military reprisal (other than of the retail-terrorist variety),  You may be sceptical of this, but I recommend that you read the entire article before you dismiss the significance of this entirely.  There are also other articles pertinent to this matter which I will introduce on later open threads....

If this attainment of nuclear primacy is objectively true, then it will profoundly alter military planning both on the part of the US, and on the part of China and Russia, neo-con masturbatory fantasies notwithstanding.  (I doubt that it is available online in its entirety - but, come to think of it, I haven't checked; I read it the old-fashioned way, on paper....)

Theories are nice but they can probably do this about as successfully as they brought democracy to Iraq.

Things have a habit of going wrong and it seems to be a pretty silly risk to take. They would have to believe thay could still maintain an economy and cashflows under such conditions. Very, very unlikely.

I would expect they maintain such a situation mostly to be sure that no one else can.

1.The USA is very dependant on oil for its Military machine.

2.It has limited ability to fight a long war. Howeverother nations have a tradition of 'long warfare'

3.If the USA goes nuclear and other states reply in kind, not necessarily on the USA bt on allies, how does the USA expect to survive a nuclear winter

  1. If the other party was capable of say a limited nuclear attack on the USA, destroying say 30 million people butmuch infra structure, refineries, Navel bases and Ports, New York and a half dozen large cities would this leave the USA in a position as an industrial power compared to a non-beligerant state?

  2. What if the other belligerants waged asymmetric warfare destroying essential (to the USA) targets in other countries using sabotage. As well as within the USA sabotage, destroy the odd 30-40 electricity pilons, half a dozen refineries etc Nothing very large but enough to cause black outs, fuel shortages. Given the psychology after 9-11 where only 3000 people perished, to which I would argue caused an over reaction that benefitted Osama and Co. ?

  3. I would suggest large aircraft carriers are very vulnerable to missile attack, Exocets etc The Aircraft carriers may be as useful as battle ships in the pacific war
They cost billions, whilst missiles, mines and speedboats are quite cheap. Not to mention the fast torpedos.

7.The tradition in the USA is to use machines and overwelming firepower instead of high soldier quality. Massive use of materials. Can the american economy stand a long global conflict?

7. The USA armed forces are over extended, many of their problems are due to amateur soldiers who have a low level iof training. It takes 2-3 years to produce a professional soldier from a Western economy, 6 months from a nepalese hill tribe (Ghurka. One can bomb, shell  fly helicopters but in the end it is the surviving infantry who control the land. Perhaps the USA should remember it's defeat by North Vietnam, Russias by the Afghans etc

Food for thought, is the USA all powerful or is it wishful thinking? Can a determined enemy cause substantial discomfort? Remember North Vietnam defeated the USA, Afghanistan defeated Russia, Russia Germany and so on.

Thanks for your comments, milo.  Here are some thoughts in reply - presented in the numerical order corresponding to your own:

  1.  That is precisely why one might reasonably expect the U.S. to become increasingly ruthless in coming years with regard to taking over fossil-fuel rich nations and areas.

  2.  By wiping out the populations of those places, you eliminate their ability to wage ANY war, let alone a long one.  As for U.S. stomach for long war, I expect this to increase as Peak Oil and related phenomena cause life to become increasingly desperate for many ordinary Americans.

  3. and 4)  The point is that, having attained nuclear primacy, the United States no longer need fear the nuclear arsenals of other nations as a significant threat - particularly if the U.S. launched a massive surprise attack.  So military planners can reasonably gamble upon not even having to deal with the scenarios you suggest as obstacles to carrying out their aims.

  4.  I grant that the U.S. remains, and always will remain, subject to "retail terrorist" attacks that can often be carried out with a significant scale of destruction.  But how much will this matter to U.S. war planners THEMSELVES as the larger situation the U.S. grows increasingly desperate?  This is all the more true since the war planners THEMSELVES will probably be immune to such retail terrorist attacks (as they are even now with regard to Iraq, etc.:  Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, etc., are in no personal danger whatsoever with regard to IEDs, etc. - nor are senior U.S. generals.).  So what do they care, in the final analysis, about a bit of "retail terrorism" that may result from the execution of their grand designs?

  5.  Here you raise an interesting point that I have wondered about myself.  I admit that I don't know too much about this, but as I understand it, the aircraft carriers themselves are protected by other sea-going vessels in the carrier group: Cruisers, destroyers, submarines, etc.  Also, one must keep in mind here the relevance of the U.S.'s vast technological superiority in the areas of radar and detection, surveillance, weapons targeting, enemy jamming, etc.  It could well be that all these sorts of considerations combine to render a particular aircraft carrier essentially immune to attack.  In particular, the U.S. need perhaps have essentially no fear of having one of its carriers struck by enemy missiles, mines, terrorist speedboats, or fast torpedos.

  6. Several brief answers:
a) Reinstitute the draft;
b) Use the military to commandeer every sort of physical resource needed to keep the military well-functioning;
c) Increasing economic desperation will eventually make much of the U.S. populace willing to make personal sacrifices for the sake of helping to keep the military machine going
d) If a militarily occupied people revolts and you need their resources, simply exterminate them.
Food for thought, is the USA all powerful or is it wishful thinking? Can a determined enemy cause substantial discomfort? Remember North Vietnam defeated the USA, Afghanistan defeated Russia, Russia Germany and so on.

For anyone interested in this question, I would strongly recommend Martin Van Creveld's book The Transformation of War.

No actual evidence of these assertions is presented. There was a lot of chaos in 90s Russia, but never enough to impair the deterrent. There are some things that even the most irresponsible don't lose sight of.
I sure hope you are right, friend...

Subkommander Dred

If you can provide me with a detailed study analyzing the actual current state and recent history of the Russian system of nuclear deterrence, this would immensely interest me.  I am thinking of some sort of article similar to the three I have cited at various points in my postings that substantiate your claim.

If I am wrong, I want to know it - Really!!!

The nature of this problem is such that all sides can only offer anecdote and analogy.
The prompt way in which the Russian state reacted to the crisis of 1998, tacitly abandoning democratic anarchy without any serious conflict among the elite, suggests that the distinction between essential and non-essential state functions had never been forgotten. The orgy of looting was stopped before it could undermine the former.
Other the moral question of murdering millions of people (I think what Stalin called a "statistic") the problem with a first strike is that we have to get all of the other guys nukes.  Even if we get 100% of the other guys nukes, what are the probabilities that the victims will manage to get several small tactical nukes into the US, after the US murders millions of their citizens?

Having said that, I have read, and I agree, that the difference between tactical and strategic nukes is irrelevant--there are only nuclear weapons (actually, thermonuclear in most cases).   What apparently trigged the revolt of the retired generals and the leaks by active duty officers to Hersh were the plans being considered for a nuclear strike on Iran.

Kenneth Deffeyes predicted that we would see a war for remaining oil reserves.  He just hoped that it would be fought with dollars--and not nuclear weapons.

I wonder if we might yet see something like a world defense pact, where virtually all of the rest of the world is aligned against the US.  As I said before, GW said that he was a "Uniter, not a divider."  He is in the process of uniting the world against the US.

In his column in Time Magazine, Ret. Lt. General Newbold, pointedly said that officers to not swear an oath to obey orders; they swear to support and defend the Constitution.  IMO, he was suggesting the possibility that senior officers may refuse to carry out some orders by BCR (Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld).

US Officer's oath follows:

"I, __ (SSAN), having been appointed an officer in the Army of the United States, as indicated above in the grade of __ do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservations or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter; So help me God." (DA Form 71, 1 August 1959, for officers.)

Perceptive thoughts, Westexas.

The probability of destroying all (US) enemy nukes on mobile and submarine vehicles is close to nil. Embarking on a nuclear conflict is de facto admission that our species has failed, is inadequate, still a foolish child.

GW's unification mission, as you describe it, has been reasonably effective, the signs are he will successfully accomplish this mission.

No doubt GW and Cheney did solemnly swear and affirm some such oath. They lied. Watch this begin to play out, at last, in the next 3 months.

Like I said in one of my other reply posts above, read the entire article yourself if you can get your hands on it.  They are pretty thorough in their treatment of all aspects of the question, including the one which you raise.

Now it may be, to amplify on a suggestion that someone made above, that the writers of the article itself are engaging in mere neo-con inspired masturbatory fantasies.  But, based on what I know in general about the enormous chasm that has opened between US military capacity and the decrepit capacity of everyone else on the planet by comparison (and this includes the Russians, the Cbinese, and the Western Europeans), I wouldn't be hasty in jumping to this conclusion.

One other thing the authors note is that their analysis, computer simulations, etc., is based merely on information available on an UNCLASSIFIED basis.  They conjecture - not unreasonably, in my opinion - that the more detailed knowledge of the situation which people with high-level security clearances are privy to would merely strengthen the case they are making.

I don't want to clutter up this particular open thread too much, but in future threads, I would like to introduce other publicly-available but little-known information about the overwhelming dominance that US military capabilities have attained.  Perhaps I will do so even on the present thread - depending on what responses I receive to this series of replies I have just posted.

Yes, America possesses overwhelming military power, which is why oil production in Iraq has increased so significantly. Actually, this overwhelming military power has been as stupid an investment as America's suburban development.

To kill and destroy is not very constructive. A lot of people do not make their plans according to American rules and assumptions.

Reading things like this, I wonder how deluded people have become. The Iraqis have been so overwhelmed with our dominant military power that they don't bother to play by our rules at all, while killing and crippling soldiers (notice how hard the numbers are track down - the number of soldiers without limbs, brian damage, etc seems to run into the 10s of thousands) and destroying significant amounts of equipment. And they can't even scrape up a tank, a helicopter, or cruise missiles - looks like the Iraqis are playing out of a handbook they practiced centuries before the Romans gave up the place as a bad job.

Much worse, the Iraqis have made a mockery of the idea that American military power, directly applied, translates into effective resource extraction.

But I guess when all a society still feels it can really  count on is mass death, mass death looks like the solution to every problem.

The U.S. could solve the Iraqi counter-insurgency problem by exterminating the Iraqi population.  There are some who would argue (and I admit that I myself am amenable to, though uncertain about, this line of argument) that the U.S. aims to achieve precisely this extermination through such things as

a) Use of Depleted Uranium weapons on a massive scale in Iraq, which will have the possible effect of decimating the Iraqi population over a matter of decades; and

b) Fomenting of a ferocious civil war as a way of getting the various factions of Iraqi society to exterminate each other.  The recent remarks of second-tier neo-Con Daniel Pipes in praise of the developing Iraqi civil war from a U.S. strategic standpoint underscore the plausibility of this claim.  (I will find references for both a) and b) and post them in an addendum to this one.)

I would simply point that the previous owner of Iraq tried something along those lines with both the Kurds and the Marsh Arabs - in neither case with notable success, though with fairly high death tolls.

Is there a reason for this fascination with truly disgusting ways of thinking? This is not actually trying to be an insult, but replying to a post which suggests that mass death is not something to consider in most lights, to reply that extermination would work in Iraq (where do the oil workers then come from?) is almost too twisted for me to grasp.

As said, this is not an insult or questioning of motives - but shouldn't the goals of people in their lives encompass the ensuring that mass death is not considered an answer to problems?

Not saying that it is unimaginable, or not part of a number of peoples' perspectives, or that MAD is somehow insane as an answer to nuclear weapons, but I would hate to think I provoked an answer which in the first sentence proposes mass death.

What I am saying is that one should not be too quick to dismiss the possibility that the U.S. RULING ELITE would resort to mass-death as an option if they could thereby secure their aims.  There is no A PRIORI constraint on the possibility that the U.S. ruling elite could descend to the same level of barbarism that the Nazis did - especially as the world energy- and resource-constraint situation becomes increasingly desperate in coming decades.
Concerning a) above (on Depleted Uranium): Please see

Concerning b) above (on Daniel Pipes): Please see

The depleted uranium issue is just a lefty cause without foundation, one of their weakest.

All heavy metals, including uranium, lead, cadium, etc. are toxic.  If the US military had used lead instead of depleted uranium, teh effects would have been just as bad or worse. (The Pentagon, before adopting DU, did a comparative between relative toxicity between lead & uranium and found that lead was generally worse).

The radioactivity issue is just a non-issue.  Some natural rocks (uranium ores) are more radioactive than DU. and emit higher energy levels of radiation.  The key part of DU is that the radioactive isotopes have been depleted.  What is left has a half-life of 3.5 BILLION years.

But the left sees "radioactive" and there is no denying that heavy metals are toxic.  But lead bullets would be worse for teh Iraqis.

I admit that the DU issue is scientifically complicated, and that I really know next to nothing about it with any sort of confidence.  To address this problem, I recently sent an article making leftist-sorts of claims about the danger of DU to someone I know who is an academic in nuclear medicine.  Hopefully, he will have some illuminating things to say about it.

But as far as the sources you cite in your own post are concerned, the following question immediately arises:  Whom should one be more inclined to believe?  Radical leftists who have an ideological stake in exaggerating the dangers posed by DU (which I readily grant)?  Or official statements and investigations by the U.S. military, knowing not merely that, in the nature of the case, they have a considerable vested interest in SUPPRESSING knowledge the dangers posed by DU, but knowing additionally that they have a long, dreary track-record of systematic lying and disinformation about many matters over the decades?

If you yourself can lay claim to some particular scientific knowledge or expertise about this topic, I would be glad to listen to what you have to say at greater length.

Regarding the low radioactivity of DU:  As I understand it, much of the toxicity to humans arises because DU munitions turn into a fine, aerosolized microscopic dust upon impact.  Moreover, this aerosolized dust is transformed into a chemically ceramic composition (whatever that means, exactly), which makes it extremely difficult for the human body to discharge.  So the dust remains lodged in the body at physiologically vulnerable points for years if not decades, and contributes to a slow, steady deterioration of bodily organs and bodily functions in a multitude of specific ways.

This explanation of the dangers of DU has a certain prima facie plausibility to me, even if it is advanced in the public arena by the radical left.  Are you in a position to refute this line of thought?

I have more specific knowledge of the toxicology of lead and beryllium (I have taken one course in toxicology decades ago and my term paper was on beryllium) and a friend is one of the leaders (and martyrs, he lost his job teaching at a Big Ten university) for removal of lead from gasoline and lead overall.  Dr. Howard Mielke, Professor of Pharmacology at Xavier, New Orleans.

Somewhere between expert and layperson.

One unanswered question is how much U235 remains in DU.  I have no data on that. (half life a couple of hundred million years vs. 3.5 billion).  Still, radon exposure in the top 1% of US population would likely be higher than those near where DU munitions were used and got a whiff.

The body is able to eliminate most small particles, a small % do get lodged in the lung.  The only cancer risk from radiation from exposure to DU is lung cancer, and Philip Morris does FAR more than DU exposure will ever do.

An interesting paper is that early uranium miners (low ventilation rates > high exposure) that did not smoke got lung cancer at rates ~1/2 those of smokers BUT uranium miners that did smoke got lung cancer at rates 5x non-mining smokers (i.e. most of them).  They were exposed to the more radioactive natural uranium and high levels of radon & other natural radioactive decay byproducts, not DU.

What I have seen of the literature, uranium is far from the worst heavy metal. If I were ranking them, I would rank lead as worse than uranium.  So chemically, uranium not that bad (but NOT good !) and radioactivity seems minimal.  3.5 billion years is a LONG time, very few atoms will decay in the,say, 30 years that the 2% of SMALL inhaled particles that get lodged in the lungs (the rest get spit out).  (Small = few atoms to decay)

BTW; smokers kill the natural process that we clean our lungs with.  DU exposure by a smoker would be at least 10x worse risk than to a non-smoker, whatever the risk may be.  

OK - I acknowledge the force of your argument on DU, Alan.
U238 and U235 decay is primarily alpha particles, and large particles absorb the recoil energy inside themselves as well as being easier to expell.
By the way, it's tungsten that is the alternative to uranium for antitank weapons.
It strikes me that DU slugs were designed for epic tank battles and european "final battle" with the Soviets that would be verging on nuclear anyway.

We had a few epic tank battles in Gulf War I, the Battle of 73 Easting being a famous example.

It seems now that we use DU slugs to knock holes in building as close range.  Given that, wouldn't iron slugs (in a similar sabot(*)) work as well?

* - if the Fench are so bad at war, why are so many of our war words French?  Ready for a sorte' anyone?

One of the things that the articles I cited earlier talk about is the vast superiority of the M1-Abrams tanks to every sort of tank possessed by the Iraqis during the First Gulf War.  Apparently, the M1-Abrams tanks were able to target Iraqi tanks with pinpoint accuracy and destroy them while the latter were still at least a mile away from even being within range of firing at the Americans.  In effect, the Iraqi military was a collection of utterly helpless sitting ducks.  This is a perfect example of the kind of qualitative superiority possessed by the Americans that I have been stressing throughout my posts on this subject.  

DU munitions are an important component in helping to achieve this sort of overwhelming U.S. superiority, because of their extreme effectiveness in piercing the types of other heavy armor that other types of munitions have a difficult time piercing.  The problem for humans in the area is that the DU munition turns to fine, microscopic dust as it pierces its armored prey, which is then breathed in by all the human beings in the area.  

If I remember correctly, one of the articles I cited earlier even goes so far as to state that EVERY sort of tank possessed by EVERY other country on earth would be in a similarly helpless sort of position in the event of engaging in a conventional battle of a similar sort with the US (caveat: I may be overstretching my recollection here in the interests of pressing my point; but even if I am wrong, I think the essential thrust of my position re U.S. superiority in tank battles can be shown to be fundamentally correct).

Sure, I think DU muntions in "epic tank battles" is entirely justified.

On the other hand, if they are being used now in point-blank urban warfare, that is another thing entirely.

From what I have heard of, range of a tank gun is 3 miles. Range of a helicopter based anti tank weapon is 5 miles. Round one to the helicopter. Round two is to the F16 shooting down the helicopter. Round three, anti aircraft missile taking out F16. And on and on ....
Excellent query on word origins! The French led in much military technology until they let this little Corsican artillery guy go crazy c. 1800-1815.

Since then, with the exception of some outstanding aerospace achievements, the less said about French military technology and strategy and abilities, the better. To this day, some older French geezers have never forgiven the U.S. for not using nukes to rescue their troops at Dien Bien Phu in 1954. To give an example of the brilliance of French military thinking, it was their strategy to "win" at Verdun in the Great War by taking casualties at the ration of 5:3 in favor of the Germans, because the Brilliant French Generals computed that they could bleed the Germans into defeat, because of greater numbers of French and English cannon fodder--with many German troops pinned down on the Russian front, prior to brilliant German plan to get Lennin into power so as to focus German forces on the Western front. Then, when French morale broke in 1918 they literally decimated--shot every tenth man--to stop mutiny in some of their army units.

And in terms of atrocities, what the French did in Algeria is right up there with the Major League hitters, such as the Belgians in the Congo or Idi Amin in Uganda.

ONLY the French have made an official suggestion to use nukes against Iran.

How such a wonderful culture and people can produce such stupidity in high places almost nonstop for 500 years never ceases to amaze me.

I was slow on this.  Until (years ago) I went jet skiing with a French-Canadian ... when he pronounced the brand-name "Bombardier" properly, it clicked.
French army mutinies took place in April 1917, not 1918. A couple of hundred executions were carried out, nothing like one tenth or even one thousandth of the troops involved.
And no-one from France threatened Iran, or for that matter anyone, with nuclear attack.
It is depressing to see that irrational dislike of France is not limited to mouthbreathers and knuckledraggers in the US.
I know the official French line.

I also know the facts from people who are likely to know them and tell the truth.

The idea doesn't even deserve a comment. It's ridiculous.
That is a simple ad hominem attack that does nothing whatsoever to address the intrinsic merits of the evidence and arguments adduced.  Have you read the article???
Just as the US has considered and modelled pre-emptive attacks on (past) USSR nuclear launch facilities, so has China on US facilities, and US on Chinese, etc. If you think otherwise you are a very silly fool.

The more pertinent question is if and when any of their models show significant advantage in pre-emptive attack and disadvantage to enemy pre-emptive attack. It is clear that China will become the dominant global economy within 20 years. Russia has a relative surplus of oil and gas. USA has only newks.

Both Russia and China know their long game wins over the US. The question then becomes what are the risks of the US using extreme military action (probably newks) against them. Perhaps the greater risk is them knowing this and feeling the need to pre-empt it. I am pretty sure China believes it can manage the economic thing well enough to avoid military conflict, Russia too, for at least 10 years. Ergo: serious global conflict is most likely to be caused by the US.

Some relevant articles:


Chris Floyd

I do not think that you have a genuine sense of how militarily advanced the US is in this regard, and - conversely - how badly decayed and decrepit both Russia and China are with regard to nuclear capability.  The US, for its part, still has thousands of warheads, the most advanced sorts of ICBMs, submarines, and aircraft to launch them, and has also made tremendous strides over the past 15 years with regard to pinpoint accuracy.  It also has vastly superior command and control systems, stealth capabilities, enemy jamming and incapacitation capabilities, and so forth.

By contrast, the Russians' once numerically formidable, but always qualitatively inferior, nuclear arsenal is now in an advanced state of decay.  They have essentially no viable submarines to use any longer to pose a strategic counterthreat.  Their advanced detection and radar systems are very shot through with holes, and essentially inoperative on the Pacific flank of their territory - meaning that the US can operate from there at complete will.

As for the Chinese, their nuclear capabilities have been far less formidable than many have been led to believe all along.  The number of warheads and ICBMs they have is miniscule - in the dozens.  Moreover, it would take them hours if not days to fuel and otherwise prepare them in the event of a military emergency - which renders them essentially useless in the event of a US surprise attack.  The one submarine they have is apparently constantly breaking down, and they have a single ageing aircraft carrier that is obsolete compared to what the Americans have.

Please note: I am sketchy on some of the exact details, as this is all from memory.  But the broader picture I am painting is substantially accurate, and I think it undermines the suggestion that you seemed to be advancing in your post that military parity still exists between the US, on the one hand, and Russia, on the other, in even a remote sense.

As I have been repeatedly suggesting in my response posts, try to read the article for yourself.  You may find it quite sobering.  I will try to do a bit of research and dig out a few others - of earlier vintage - that add to the overall picture I am painting.  The grand theme of the picture is this:  US military dominance has become so overwhelming over the past 15 years that no potential rival or coalition of rivals has any chance of catching up and posing a serious counter-threat to the US - even on the level of defense and deterrence.  Until recently, it was the case that Russia and China did offer formidable deterrence at least with respect to the ability to defend their own homeland against US attack.  But now, with US nuclear primacy, even that is gone.  The US can now attack and, if it wishes, completely destroy any nation on earth without having to incur serious risk of significant military reprisal.

I will repeat what I said in my initial post:  THIS IS HUGE!!!

A few comments -
  1. It is absolutely true that the Chinese have not wasted many resources on doing more than maintaining enough nuclear strength to be a deterrent to any rational opponent.
  2. The Russians, decrepit as they are, are exceedingly likely to be able to destroy a significant percentage of America, or do a finely tuned response - look into the idea of three to 10 2-10 megaton 'airbursts' over the North American continent (several hundred miles high) and what the resulting EMP would do to the U.S. - you think it was a problem with a hurricane and refinery electrical problems? Try no electrical grid over an entire continent and see how far oil production/refining works - or American society itself.
  3. If you really want to play this game, the only measure is megadeaths. If you honestly believe that Russia or China aren't very capable in producing 'MAD' bioweapons, then it is lucky you aren't making decisions about killing 15%, 30% or 80% of a population on a continental scale.
  4. What is scary is that several societies currently capable of such nightmares are run by people not likely to be judged as either rational nor intelligent enough (forget morality completely in their cases too) for such power in the eyes of a majority of human beings.

The idea of humanity doing a die-off on a scale to captivate any doomer's imagination has actually been a reality of my entire life. That humanity yet hasn't done it yet has to be contrasted to the growing number of people and places that have the tools to attempt it. And people who believe that somehow, megadeaths are what God or justice demand, or that it is a matter of pride or advantage in some abstract game.

I would recommend looking at some previously unavailable writing and documentary work (more or less suppressed by the American government) about Hiroshima and Nagasaki before commenting too much on such matters.

A MAD world is not a very healthy place to live, and quite honestly, only the U.S. seems to have any true desire to remain in such a nightmare - and is truly the only society where a significant number of its members think this brings benefits (whether contracts, power fantasies, or religious dreams of End Times).

I do not see this as huge.  The "elites" have strong roots in the rest of society, we will not tolerate losing even one major city to a nuclear counetr-attack.

the Chinese figured out long ago that all that was needed to deter the US was a reasonable shot at destroying Anchorage, Fairbanks and Honolulu.  A 5% chance at taking out one of these cities would prevent a pre-emptive strike by the US on China.

The US during the Cold War was faced with the MUCH more difficult question of how to deter the Soviet Union.  Afterall, they killed 20 or so million of their own people to consolidate power just a decade to three decades before.

Mao asked Kruskchev (quoted in his memoirs Kruschev Remembers) to launch a pre-emptive strike against the US and that China would supply massive amounts of manpower.

The decision reached by US strategic planners was that a nuclear strike that caused the Communist Party to lose control would deter them.  It was estimated that 200 1 megaton H-bombs would destroy the civil society of the SU enough that it would break up. Later skeptics rasied that to 400 1 megaton bombs on target.  Given that critical targets cannot survice, multiple bombs were targeted to make sure that one got through.  Hence the arms race.

The entire thrust of the Nuclear Primacy article is that the US NEED NO LONGER FEAR any sort of nuclear threat aimed at its territory or its cities if it carries out a nuclear first strike in the correct fashion.  Your post evinces a disbelief of this claim based on being accustomed to think in terms of the old nuclear paradigm of Mutually Assured Destruction, but disbelief by itself does not constitute refutation.  

In my mind, the article argues persuasively that the MAD paradigm is now entirely a matter of history, and that the Nuclear Primacy paradigm can be abundantly proven even on the basis of information that is available on a non-classified basis.  (And it bears noting, in this connection, that FOREIGN AFFAIRS enjoys the governmentally semi-official status of being a publication sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations.)  

The only significant objection to this that I have come across so far in this entire sub-thread is that this claim is based on ignorance and consequent underestimation of what the nuclear capabilities of the Russians and Chinese actually are.  That may be so, but this has also merely been asserted, not proven.  Moreover, the indignant and manifestly insecure public response of the Russians to the Nuclear Primacy article suggests that they may indeed be as weak as Lieber and Press suggest - and now the entire world can know this embarrassing fact.  See in this connection the following link, which I will attach as an addendum to this comment momentarily:

The threshold to deter the United States is quite low.  About a 5% chance to destroy one decent sized US city is all that is needed (by whatever means, including suitcase, container, embassy).

All that China needs is one (or more) small atomic bomb smuggled into their DC Embassy and their NYC UN consulate. No need for even an H-bomb to deter the US.

If pressed they could claim (true or not) that they smuggled them in, and then dispersed them to "sites unknown" when tensions began to rise.  That claim would rise to the 5% level required to deter the US from a first strike.

So there is no nuclear primacy.

The whole issue of covert delivery systems such as the examples you give is one that Press and Lieber do not address, it is true.  Their focus is exclusively on Russian and Chinese weapons delivered according to the means traditionally involved with regard to strategic nuclear weapons: ICBMs, submarines, and strategic bombers.
Actually, the articles present no proof either, as that cannot be had.  This whole thread is sustained only on your insistence that it is a real possibility the US could wipe out the entire population of nations like Russia, China, and India before they have a chance to retaliate, and that somehow we would still be able to access and utilize the natural resources in those and other areas afterwards.  No one will be able to present you with evidence that these theories are not valid, because you are convinced that they are.  But what is presented is unknowable an unprovable - it is in the end a guess, a judgment, no matter how "smart" the people who make it are.  Personally, I think anyone who seriously proposes such a thing as a viable strategy is a moron by definition.

The entire premise is absurd.  The consequences of such an event would be monumental, and no one can have any idea of what would happen afterwards - ecological, societal, whatever.  Nothing would be the same afterwards.  The United States of America would no longer exist in anything like its previous form, although some other nation/entity might come into existence on the NA continent.  In other words, do you "win" if everything is now changed, just because the other guy didn't fire back?

Also the US cannot exist without the resources of the rest of the world.  

And I don't care if there are only a few percent left, they will fight afterwards.  

I am reminded of that Far Side comic where the man and woman emerge from their shelter into a burned out world declaring "We won" (or some such).

Did you read all the articles I cited in their entirety?  And please refrain from deploying ad hominem smears such as "moron by definition," as these have no logical relevance to the topic under dispute.
First, I recognize upon more careful reading of your post that you were not attacking me with an ad hominem epithet, but rather a hypothetical someone who would use Press and Lieber's argument as the basis for launching a nuclear first strike, so I retract that charge - with apologies.

As to your point that I am insistently arguing for the unprovable:  I will grant that too, but only up to a point.  Overwhelming U.S. military preponderance in both a qualitative and quantitative sense, with regard to both the nuclear and non-nuclear spheres, seems to me to be an empirical fact, and one whose general significance is too-little noted.  At the very least, this set of empirical facts ought to give pause to those who consider U.S. economic weakness to be ultimately a more important geo-political consideration than is their military strength.  I stand by my claim - implicit in everything I have said so far - that this is to badly misinterpret the true state of things in the world today.

At the same time, it is also true that Lieber and Press's argument for nuclear primacy is, among other things, predicated upon computer simulations they have performed, based on the the factual realities referred to above as inputs to their model.  At that point, the argument does indeed become questionable, I must admit.  Perhaps it really  is not possible to prove what they are trying to prove using that modality of argument.  But I think that even the fact that a serious argument for nuclear primacy is being advanced in a serious journal such as FOREIGN AFFAIRS is itself an illustration of just how dominant the U.S. is militarily - which, again, is a geostrategic consideration that seems ultimately to trump their economic weakness.

Surely you don't really believe Russians are so stupid that they would have needed this article to alert them to such a danger? For six years Russia has enjoyed copious oil revenues and a government very conscious of security issues. And you think they did nothing?
I never believed the Russians were stupid, smekhovo.  They aren't brilliant at chess, math, music, literature, etc., for nothing when it comes to formulating sound military and geopolitical strategy.  And their reputation for clever and subtle geopolitical thinking is well-established from Cold War days.  

But things were very chaotic in Russia throughout the 90s, and there were articles that appeared from time to time throughout that period suggesting that things were utterly going to oblivion with regard to their military (e.g.: the demise of the Kursk, starving Russian conscripts, decaying and neglected nuclear silos, decaying radar infrastructure, etc).  Also, all nuclear weapons have a limited shelf-life, meaning they HAVE to be replaced periodically in order just to keep the system of deterrence that it offers going.

In bringing up the revival of Russian fortunes from 2000 onward, though, you raise an angle on the question that I hadn't considered.  I also know that arms sales are one of Russia's main exports, as well as being a substantial source of its new-found wealth, along with oil.  And Putin is no fool geopolitically speaking, there's no doubt about that.

Do you have any idea how the most advanced weapons produced by Russia compare to the equivalents produced by the U.S.?

Russians understand weapons very well, and this has been true for a long time. Their tanks were better than the best German tanks in World War II, for example, and the MIG 15 was a better interceptor aircraft than the excellent U.S. F-86. That is not the issue.

The issue in Russia is what has happened socially and to the economy. What is not known--and I suspect not known to anybody at all--is how bad the breakdown in social control was in the various branches of their armed forces was.

I think the scariest scenarios are probably wrong--but I have no certain knowledge on this issue. Neither does anybody else.

Here is only one additional source, from 1998, which discusses the so-called REVOLUTION IN MILITARY AFFAIRS that had even by that point in time advanced the United States militarily beyond any conceivable coalition of rivals by a quantum leap:  (Note that this post involves liberal borrowing from others as it is part of a very rough draft of an academic paper I am currently preparing.)

As reported in INTERNATIONAL SECURITY (Winter 1997/98, VOL. 22, NO. 3) in an article entitled "The Utility of Force in a World of Scarcity," by John Orme:

By the late 1990s, observers were speaking of a "Revolution in Military Affairs," that is, an epochal shift in the military techniques, organization, and strategy employed by the United States relative to the Cold War Period.  As summarized by Orme,
The technological bases of the ongoing revolution are

(1) the dramatic improvements in the accuracy and range of weaponry (i.e., the development of "smart weapons"),
(2) the acuity of reconnaissance and surveillance (i.e., spy satellites and other reconnaissance aircraft),
(3) the ease of deception (i.e., stealth technology),
(4) the ease of suppressing enemy defenses (again, "stealth technology and the development of "cruise missiles), and
(5) the effectiveness of command and control (which the "computer revolution" has unleashed).

This technology, when implemented effectively - and, again, only one nation possesses the means and "know how" of doing this - has the effect of reducing to impotence the military establishments of the other nations of the earth.  From a military standpoint, then - and given the collapse of the Soviet Union and the development of RMA technology in the United States military - the U.S. has no equal left to challenge its hegemony. What military forces the rest of the world possesses (and that includes Western Europe, Japan, China and the new Russian Federation) are non-RMA forces. Their navies are minuscule in comparison to the U.S. navy, while their air forces are hardly worth a yawn. Moreover, these nations possess very limited nuclear capability, and the once formidable capability of the Russian Federation has fallen into irretrievable disrepair. None of these nations has even the remotest possibility [either alone or in combination with each other] of building a RMA military machine with any chance of competing with the Americans - and none of them has the capacity to "project" power the way the United States can. No other nation on earth can put 540,000 men onto a battlefield thousands of miles from its home country like the U.S. did in the Gulf War, support that army in the field logistically, and when the time comes, win decisively on the battlefield the way the Americans can.  


We spend as much as we do on defense spending to reward the political contributions of big business (ie Halliburton, Bechtel and others) or to spread payola around in the form of pork to politicians as a way of securing their votes. Spending almost half a trillion dollars a year (and climbing) is a great investment...that is, if you want to wage endless war.

Subkommander Dred

While I am at it, here is some further empirical data relevant to the point I am trying to impress.  The substance of what is reported below is taken from an article by Gregg Easterbrook, writing in the NEW REPUBLIC in the year 2000 (unfortunately, I do not have more exact bibliographical information readily available; my apologies, and my bad):

Despite all the talk of a "hollow" military, the American military is the most powerful military machine the world has ever seen. For example, in nuclear arms, Russia has about the same number of warheads as the United States, but most are today unusable. Russia's sea-launched warheads, its most valuable kind, are effectively decommissioned because Moscow's strategic submarine fleet is in such poor repair that it rarely ventures far from port. (And when it does, well, remember what happened to the Kursk.)

By contrast, several of America's Ohio-class strategic submarines are at sea at any given moment, and each one of these submarines bears enough force to incinerate Russia and China several times over. Verses what? Russia would have trouble launching any missiles right now, and China possesses only 18 antiquated single-warhead ICBMs that require days of launch preparation, plus a single nuclear-missile submarine that almost never departs its dock slip. This is to say nothing of France and Britain's nuclear capabilities, which stand even further down the line than do the nuclear capabilities of Russia and China. Britain, in particular, has allowed its nuclear capability in recent years to slide to the point of UTTER obsolescence. Moreover, while America may not yet have a reliable missile defense, something no country yet has, if any country ever develops one, the United States will be that country.


In air power, America today possesses more jet bombers, more advanced fighter planes and tactical aircraft, and more aerial tankers, which allow fighters and bombers to operate far from their home soil (a capability that no other nation on earth has) than ALL THE OTHER NATIONS OF THE EARTH COMBINED! On the seas, the U.S. navy boasts more than twice as many principal combat ships than the European Community, Russia and China combined, plus a dozen SUPERCARRIER battle groups, compared with ZERO for the rest of the world. These are floating cities crewed by nearly 6,000 sailors each and capable of launching more aircraft per minute than Chicago's O'Hare Airport. There is no other navy in the world like this - and none anywhere in the foreseeable future.

On the ground, the U.S. Army not only rolls the world's best armor (including nearly 8,000 of the fearfully effective Abrams tanks, MORE THAN THE COMBINED NUMBER OF TANKS POSSESSED BY RUSSIA AND CHINA), but - as the Gulf War showed - it has the world's best-trained troops. China has more soldiers, but the bulk of them are poorly educated forced conscripts, while America boasts the best-educated large military ever. Ninety-nine percent of all officers have finished college, and a master's degree is essential for promotion at the top - and this education shows! Iraq actually brought to the Gulf War a larger ground force than the United States, yet the army was so thoroughly routed that it sometimes appeared that the Iraqis weren't even firing their weapons. Often they weren't: Abrams tanks possess such effective long-range cannon and fire control that in most clashes they destroyed Iraq's best Russian-built armor while the enemy tanks were a full mile too far away to begin shooting.
In amphibious forces, other nations have service branches called "marines," but none possesses anything like the U.S. Marines - whole divisions backed by helicopter carriers, "swimming" armor, and "jump jets," capable of going ashore anywhere in the world. The United States is the only nation that even maintains a standing heavy amphibious force.

In technology, U.S. "smart" weapons increasingly hit targets EXACTLY - within a "circular error probable" of as little as a meter. Individual U.S. soldiers can receive space-relayed battlefield updates, while U.S. electronic jamming and "spoofing" devices have grown so effective that they cause false squadrons of aircraft to appear on enemy screens while keeping the real ones undetected. And that's just what the United States has today. Under development are lasers for shooting down tactical missiles, fighters that sustain supersonic speed for hours (instead of minutes as the best planes do today), mobile artillery that fires at unheard of rates, remote-control fighter-bombers so much smaller than piloted planes that they are invisible until within lethal range, electromagnetic rays that fry the circuitry of whatever they hit and even precision-guided weapons that fall from orbit without it being necessary for an American aircraft to enter another country's airspace.

The very real truth is, AMERICA'S MILITARY IS THE WORLD'S SOLE MILITARY FORCE WHOSE PRIMARY MISSION IS NOT DEFENSE, BUT OFFENSE. THE FACT IS, PRACTICALLY THE ENTIRE U.S. MILITARY IS ONE GARGANTUAN EXPEDITIONARY FORCE DESIGNED NOT TO GUARD BORDERS - A DUTY THAT TIES DOWN MOST UNITS OF OTHER MILITARIES - BUT TO "PROJECT POWER" ELSEWHERE IN THE WORLD. America maintains 100,000 soldiers in Europe (so many, in fact, that it is not too much to say that the most powerful military in Europe is not the German army, nor the French, nor the British, but the American army in Europe), 100,000 in the Western Pacific and literally hundreds of other forces scattered across the globe (including pre-positioned weapons and fuel), all aimed at "projecting power."


Veering back in the direction of oil supply and resource control issues for the moment: bang-up job the US (sorry, Coalition) armed forces are doing in Iraq. So far...
I grant, as an integral component of my argument, that even with the colossal military prowess I am pointing to, the U.S. remains militarily vulnerable in two important respects:

  1. Attacks by "retail terrorists" on American targets
  2. Counterinsurgencies against U.S. troops within nations they occupy militarily.

There is, however, a solution to 2:  Simply wipe out the entire population, and then take over their resources afterwards.  The only thing stopping the U.S. from doing this at this point in Iraq are the three things I cited earlier:
a) A lingering but tenuous sense of morality among U.S. elites;
b) A lingering but tenuous sense of the need to appease international public opinion among the elites; and
c) Most notably, a dull-headed U.S. public that, while it is on the whole morally mediocre, is also not so morally ruthless as to want to employ U.S. military might with complete abandon.

All three of these things could easily change in the event of an energy-shortage induced crisis of sufficient severity.

As far as 1 is concerned, there is little to persuade me that U.S. power elites really care all that much about occasional attacks on ordinary U.S. civilians.  The fact is that such attacks helps immensely in advancing their overall agenda; witness how 9/11 completely altered the political landscape in a way that permitted them to unleash a wave of militarism not previously viable.

All very impressive. All relatively useless in the modern version of 'asymmetrical' (read guerilla) warfare. We can blow up anything, but we can't necessarily actualy control anything in political terms.

Also, all very depressing in many ways, such as this is where your tax dollars go.

"Also, all very depressing in many ways, such as this is where your tax dollars go."

Actually our tax dollars don't go there.  The FY 2005 deficit was about 400 billion dollars including the social security surplus.  The DoD budget for 2005 was right about the same number.  Basically, foreign countries are giving the U.S. the money it needs to build the military that can then destroy the world.  And, of course, we will never actually pay back that money.

Machiavelli would be damn proud of us.

I don't particularly worry about the US military, I doubt it could fight on another front. The world resource base can probably only sustain it for only a few more years anyway.

Most likely the US economy will have crashed into oblivion before they can do anything useful with it.

You don't think that, for example, the aircraft carrier battle group that the U.S. recently sent to Venezuela to intimidate Chavez couldn't also serve as the spearhead of a ferocious attack that completely incapacitates Chavez militarily, and enables the U.S. to take over Venezuela's energy resources?

And keep in mind that this is only one of TWELVE (or maybe even more) aircraft carrier battle fleets that the U.S. now uses to project power.

Granted, the U.S. would then be faced with an immensely hostile population and probable counterinsurgency as a result of taking over Venezuela in this way, but there is a solution to this:  Exterminate the populace.

There are some who suspect that this is the underlies the use of the United States of thousands of tons of Depleted Uranium munitions in Iraq, as well as their possible complicity in fomenting civil war there:  Slowly exterminating the Iraqi populace.  (

This type of thinking is not as far-fetched as it sounds when one fully appreciates what DU actually DOES to people; and also when one takes note of the fact that noted neo-con Daniel Pipes, for example, has recently been very public and open in lauding the development of Iraqi civil war as being of positive value for U.S. interests in the region.

As I have claimed somewhere in another reply post on this thread, one carrier battle group would probably be sufficient to completely incapacitate Venezuela militarily - and the U.S. arsenal includes no fewer than TWELVE such battle groups (possibly even more than that by this point in time, since this information dates back to the late 90s).

This means that the U.S. COULD, if it were sufficiently ruthless, simultaneously incapacitate, say, the militaries of Venezuela, of Nigeria, and of Iran - and STILL have enough firepower left over to keep Russia and China completely cowed as military adversaries - DUE PRECISELY TO THE NUCLEAR FIRST STRIKE CAPABILITY THE US NOW POSSESSES.

Maybe claims of this sort are false, but if they are, I would like to know why based on detailed comparative analyses of U.S. military capability versus that of any of its potential rivals - acting either on their own or as part of an anti-U.S. alliance.

Hi PhilRelig (interesting tag - if it means what I think it means do let me know why you chose it [off-list])

  • I read the article, which was very interesting. There are quite a few critical articles discussing it around, as well. Have a look at Daniel Drezner's blog on it here, especially the comments;

  • US military primacy, whilst undoubted, is not as secure as you seem to suggest. I would recommend, in particular, Googling 'sunburn missile', which China has many of, and which would seem to nullify US superiority in carrier battle groups. It makes me think of the transition to dreadnoughts at the end of the nineteenth century. The UK thought it was overwhelmingly dominant on the high seas, with armed forces massively ahead of all its neighbours, but then a technological change levelled the playing field. The same is now happening (and I haven't even discussed the question of oil dependency...)

  • more broadly, military power is only one aspect of overall power, and is ultimately dependent on the underlying financial strength of a country's economy. The US's position in that regard is very weak, as is discussed here on a regular basis.

Of course, what this means, is that the US government has a brief window of opportunity to assert their will upon the rest of the world. I share many of the concerns expressed here about what this administration is going to do this year with regard to Iran. If the 9/11 truth movement has any truth to it I think we should be very afraid.
Thank you very much for your thoughts, Elizaphanian.  I will be sure to look at the Drezner blog you cite closely.  

As for "PhilRelig," I regret somewhat having chosen that as my TOD handle, because it has turned out to be rather ambiguous.  But it's short for "Philosophy and Religious Studies," which is the academic department I teach in.  And as it happens, both those topics interest me intensely - along with a third: Politics.

I have now had a chance to look at the Drezner blog.  The whole question of what sort of reaction the Nuclear Primacy claim would generate among the Russians is a question I had not even considered until I read the blog, so thanks for passing it on.

The Russian reaction, as far as it is discussed, may be characterized as involving a sense of outrage at having a matter that is very delicate for them addressed so bluntly.  The Russians have also rather clearly been caught somewhat off-balance by the Nuclear Primacy claim, and one sense in their statements a certain measure of insecurity.

Yet, I did not see in any of the material associated with the Drezner blog any emphatic and substantively believable refutations of the original claim that the U.S. DOES in fact possess nuclear primacy at this point.  I would say this is a rather telling point.

I don't dispute the main point of the Lieber article, that the balance has changed.

I guessed that 'PhilRelig' meant philosophy of religion, a subject I'm rather well acquainted with myself, especially the Wittgenstein angle. That's why I was going to ask you about your area of work - but not on TOD! Unfortunately you don't seem to have your e-mail address public. Feel free to drop me a line, or visit my blog here.

No. Shouting louder and loader does not make your case stronger.
Again, that is an ad hominem attack that is directed toward the style in which the argument is presented - and NOT on the factual claims it is based on.  That is a logically irrelevant consideration.  

Please address the factual claims made, and their viability in addressing the overall claim I am making: Namely, that the United States has attained a level of military supremacy that gives it the capability of destroying any nation on earth (including, now, even China and Russia) without significant risk of harm to itself.  How do the specific factual claims I have made fail to support this conclusion?  (And please note:  If I am wrong, then I am happy to be proven wrong!  But the argumentation needs to be manifestly sound.)

And again, as I have suggested earlier: Read the articles themselves in their entirety, as I have only been able to present a fraction of the pertinent factual claims on this thread.

I apologise to you for expressing myself with too much asperity.
I recognise that the argument of that paper greatly disturbs you, and I would be at least as worried as you if I believed it.
But as I said, I find it short on fact and long on speculation.
Apology accepted, Smekhovo; thanks for your grace in offering it.  And I agree with you that one very significant problem in getting to the bottom of this is that, as someone else somewhere on this thread put it, those who know the truth (if anyone even does) cannot and will not talk, while those who can and will talk do not know the truth.

Oh, how I wish it would be possible to tear open the classified secrets of every government and large private corporation on the planet for unfettered public inspection!  That would, incidentally, probably solve many of the problems regularly discussed on TOD in one fell swoop....

And we are paying for all of this wonderful and miraculous military might by...charging it on our Visa card.

Subkommander Dred

More like Uncle Scam's Visa Plutonium card.
You seem to think this is a good thing.

It does explain why the US has such a crappy healthcare system, why we are the only western nation without a high speed rail network, why our government is seemingly unconcerned about climate change or any other science, why we no longer practice diplomacy, why the whole effing world hates us, etc. It explains a lot. Like McMansions, SUVs, and suburbuia, this is just another embarrassing waste of resources that our grandkids, if we don't use these things and destroy their planet, will hate us for.

God I hope it is nothing but a neocon wet dream. Armageddon mighty tired of all their bullshit.

Screw the empire.

No, I don't think it's a good thing at all.  Quite the contrary, it is a very BAD thing.  But it seems to me that gaining some grasp of the lop-sided advantage the U.S. enjoys militarily is essentially to an accurate interpretation of the significance of world events.  Many on the U.S. and international left, for example, have been consternated and puzzled by the military rampage the U.S. has been on since Bush II took office.  They wonder about the fundamental rationality of it all given the tremendous cost involved in terms of international good will, equitable and genuinely productive use of domestic resources, etc.

But if the Bush-elites are engaging in this military rampage knowing
a) that they are essentially militarily immune to reprisal; and
b) that operating in this way is the only way to hope to maintain U.S. hegemony and the "non-negotiable" American way of life,
then the actions of the Bush Administration in recent years suddenly begin to appear frighteningly rational.

One thing I've seen mentioned only in passing in this discussion is the concept of nuclear winter.  It's been some time since I studied this but I seem to remember that the effect of even a limited nuclear strike could be catastrophic to the global environment.  Massive smoke and particulars from burning cities, etc. leading to blocking of sunlight for up to a year or more, radioactive fallout blowing around the world and contaminating the aggressor nation as well as non-participants, huge species extinctions due to ecological collapse, and I don't even remember the effects on the ocean.  If this scenario is correct, seems to me a nuclear attack in an effort to secure resources would be suicidal.  What would be the point?

Not that I'm confident that the PTB are giving this any consideration whatsoever.....

This is an important point that Lieber and Press did NOT raise at all in their article.

Granted, the US is the overwhelmingly dominant military power (ODMP henceforth). But why does that actually matter exactly?

I certainly can't take seriously the idea that this power will be used to make a grab for world resources  by extermination the populations of resource-rich countries.

It's not that it isn't theoretically possible. It's just that I don't believe that the US is really that evil.

Objectively, GWB is the worst president the US has ever had (there may have been worse ones, but the US wasn't the ODMP at the time so it wasn't so scary to us folks out here in the Rest of the World). He may well have believed that the US could do precisely what it pleasedl. In any case, he has overestimated the leverage he had by being the ODMP, and messed up big time in Iraq. If indeed it was All About Erl (which I have never really believed), then it's a canonical example of how fundamentally useless being the ODMP is, in terms of acquiring natural resources.

What was gained by threatening Venezuela with an aircraft carrier? Did Chavez resign and hand power back to the old corrupt oil oligarchy? I must have missed that.

So, what are the prospects of a future US government ratcheting things up a notch, with an explicitly amoral naked-power foreign policy? I'm not sure I'm an entirely lucid observer of US affairs, but IMHO, the chances are nil. Whoever the US next elects (or selects) as president, they simply will not be throwing weight around like Bush. It'll be softly-softly for a couple of decades. Which has its good and bad aspects.

Though there is a very real possibility of a Last Hurrah with Iran : a pre-emptive (by about 10 years) nuclear strike : that would certainly not bring any more natural resources within the grasp of the US, and would greatly reinforce the length and depth of the coming period of US isolationism.

Briefly stated, I guess that I have a fundamentally more pessimistic view of human nature than you do.  Debating the point would probably take us into the area of conflicting religious beliefs, which is something I do not want to get into at the moment (unless you or someone else would like to).  But still, the contrast between your relatively optimistic take on human nature and my own fundamentally pessimistic take is an important point to take note of, because I think the phenomenon of consternation and outraged surprise evident within the secular Left both in the US and worldwide is predicated upon a fundamentally optimistic take on human nature similar to your own.  They simply cannot believe that "The Powers That Be" in the U.S. are acting in a manner as morally outrageous as they in fact are, and they refuse to believe that it could possibly get much worse.  But both types of disbelief are predicated upon said optimistic view of human nature - which I respectfully assert is ultimately unrealistic and false.

If you would like, we can debate the point further, because I believe it is an extremely important one.

As I pointed out up the thread, contemplating a nuclear strike on Iran, according to Hersh, has gone from theoretical to the operational planning stage.  Also, IMO, there is no real difference between strategic and tactical nuclear weapons, insofar as the response is concerned.  As I also pointed out, it seems to me that Ret. Lt. General Newbold is pointedly suggesting that officers may refuse to carry out orders to launch a nuclear attack.

Perhaps the target of the "First Strike" article that Philreig referenced was Russia and China, i.e., any  nuclear retaliation threat is hollow (if the US attack Iran), because the US can kill ten or more Russians and Chinese for every American killed.  

So, perhaps the way it will play out is a series of conventional and nuclear strikes on Iran, combined with a Defcon One alert of US nuclear forces.  

If you haven't read Tom Clancy's "The sum of all fears."  You might want to get a copy.  Arab terrorists set of a nuke in Denver, and tried to:  (1)  set up a war between the US and Russia and/or (2)  cause the US to launch a nuclear attack on Iran.  

I have no idea what the real protocol is for confirming nuclear launch orders (and as they say, those that know are not talking); however, in the book the Jack Ryan character refuses to confirm the nuclear launch order Iran and tells the Air Force that the president is not in his right mind and that they should disregard any additional nuclear launch orders.   To show you how surreal our lives have become, I suggest that you read the first paragraph of this post again.

So do you agree with my fundamentally pessimistic assessment of human nature, westexas?

[And by the way, in a recent dispute with a non-Peak-Oil enlightened colleague over whether the Peak is now, I cited you and Stuart both as world-class authorities on the topic who have said "Peak is very likely now," along with Ken Deffeyes, T. Boone Pickens, and Ali Samsan al Baktiari.  It's a case of arguing from authority, but that's what my colleague wanted, since he didn't believe that I knew what I am talking about.  And it's certainly true that I myself am no world-class authority on Peak Oil.  Can you think of any other world-class people who have said this?  I think Deffeyes said that Simmons has, and is the Saudi person Ali al-Naimi perhaps also in this category?]

Again, you need to keep your eye on the ball. The "ball" is Iran.  IMO, the reason that the "First Strike" nuclear supremacy article was written was as a threat to Russia and China, i.e., the US will do what it pleases in the Middle East, and don't threaten the US, because the US has the power to destroy you many times over.  

According to various published sources, one Trident submarine can destroy between 120 and 196 cities (24 missiles, with from five to eight warheads per missile).

It must be somewhat ironic for a lot of Sixties Era leftists that the only thing that may be standing between us and nuclear Armageddon are the uniformed officers in the Pentagon.  The key point to remember is that BCR (Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld) are the ones driving this thing.  I have a fundamentally pessimistic view of BCR, not necessarily of human nature in general.

In regard to your list, I would add Deffeyes.  He is the one that published the Hubbert Linearization method first (insofar as I know).

Do you think the threat embodied in the article was an empty threat, or would the threat not even have been made were it not fully backed-up by current military realities?
I think the threat was intended to show how crazy the Cheney administration is. Russians were supposed to be scared not that they might be incapable of replying to a nuclear strike, but more vaguely that the US could do anything, no matter how insane.
I don't think it's worked.
To echo Westexas : I have a fundamentally pessimistic view of the Bush administration, but not of the American people, nor even of the US elite. I think the current administration is truly an aberration, and that there will be a correction, perhaps even an explicit moralization, after the end of the Delay/Rove/Cheney era.

But independently of that. Imagine that the Bush clique manages to perpetuate itself (President Jeb?) - stranger things have happened. My principal point is this : What the heck can anyone, even such a profoundly evil junta, actually achieve with a first nuclear strike, or the threat of one? "You've got to cave to all our demands at the WTO, or we're gonna nuke you." Pragmatically, it doesn't work. It's inoperative, an empty threat. Likewise, invading a country to confiscate its resources might work fine on paper, but by now, surely not even Cheney can believe it works in practice.

The thinking you outline us undoubtedly behind the current administration's reckless foreign policy : they thought the US's overwhelming military superiority would make them immune from failure. No rational administration will do such a thing again.

The only hypothesis that holds is the Strangelove one : a completely irrational administration that launches a nuclear war, because it CAN. But that would be driven by ideology, not economics.

Even assuming that the plan worked, and 100% of the "enemy" nukes were taken out with a first strike, how long before the fallout reached the US?  It might be that those who died cleanly in the first explosions would be considered the lucky ones.  And what do the Pentagon's bright boys say about the possibility of a nuclear winter?

Time to re-read Nevil Shute.

Anyone capable of pressing (or ordering the pressing of) the button in a first strike is totally devoid of humanity and should be locked up and the key thrown away.

The whole question of fallout is another one that Lieber and Press did not at all address.  I suspect the broader geo-strategic significance of what they say may lie not so much in the fact that the U.S. ACTUALLY intends to employ this primacy by engaging in a first strike on China and Russia.  Rather, if true, the real significance of U.S. nuclear primacy lies in how its MERE POTENTIALITY fundamentally alters the world geo-political equation.  One would have to carefully think through here how the new reality of U.S. nuclear primacy (if indeed it is a reality) ADDS a new, previously non-existent set of constraints to Russian and Chinese abilities to act with regard to securing their interests; and how that same reality of U.S. nuclear primacy serves to REMOVE constraints on the U.S. ability to act in order to secure its interests.
Use of significant numbers of  nuclear weapons in any part of the world is still MAD.  Strategically, nothing has changed.
This is like having all the major world power togeather in a crowded bus, the bus of world economy. India, Pakistan, Israel, China, Great Britain and France have one hand grenade each, Russia have five and USA have twenty and is the fastest and most accurate grenade thrower.

Throwing a grenade might or might not leave more room in the bus but nobody knows if the bus will work afterwards and how the splinters will fly.

The richest and most powerfull in USA must be extremely stupid to not think of a smarter way to prosper then a nucler holocaust with random mega violence and crasching of random investments. This exterminate-the-world-theory is crap.

Btw, what is the american way of life? It must surely be more then drive-in? What are your non negotiable cultural values that you would risk your life and endure hardship for?

Arizona Clean Fuels Yuma wants to build a new $2.5 billion refinery that can produce 150,000 barrels a day.

Only one problem.  There's no oil for it. P70089_RTRUKOC_0_US-MARKETS-OIL.xml&pageNumber=2&imageid=&cap=&sz=13


The International Monetary Fund said Wednesday the impact of higher oil prices on the global economy was a growing concern. The IMF said in its semiannual World Economic Outlook that it was worried the full effects of the surge in energy prices had yet to be felt.  It called on U.S. officials to consider higher gasoline taxes to curb oil consumption in the world's largest energy consumer.

That works out to almost $400 of capital to refine one gallon per day!
Can somebody explain what is wrong (if anything) with Stirling Solar?

It appears, to my untrained eye, to be

  • Scalable

  • Efficient

  • Sufficiently simple that it stands a chance of actually working

  • In the process of being deployed

But, it's not being widely deployed. And it seems that only this company does it. I've looked for others and drawn a blank.

They have the disadvantages of other solar power schemes only more so. They are hugely intermittent. Not only do they require sunlight, they require direct, unclouded sunlight. Because they are highly focused, a small cloud can drop the output in a few seconds to a fraction of its rated power. All the while the power generated is a small fraction of the total grid power these swings can be accommodated but scaled up to GW power these swings are a huge problem. Sudden gigawatt dropouts can cause cascade tripping and damage equipment.

There is a need for huge advances in energy storage on a massive scale before  such schemes can provide more than about 30% of  generation. Pumped water storage works but when you work out how much is needed it makes very large scale implementation of such schemes much less attractive.

The efficiency of 30% is no better than is achieved with multilayer photovoltaic concentrator systems. These have the same need for unclouded sunlight but have only the slow low stress scanner as moving parts. Perhaps these people have ironed the bugs out of stirling engines but they have in the past been plagued with seal problems and helium leakage.

This is not to say such schemes should not be encouraged. It is just that they can in their present form only provide a small part of the answer.

As far as consistency goes, there is always the downside of Clouds and Nighttime for pushing Solar, but in the long term of course there's a much greater consistency of the powersource reliably showing up for work every.. every year, I'll say..

That is why I am more encouraged by the 'mainly-decentralized' approach of having a small range of sources on every household. (Solar Heat, PV, Microwind, Solar Lighting)   The home can be set up to handle the variations better, while the link to the 'Neighborhood Grids' would provide a more general softening of each supplier's variations.  There is as much incentive for the homeowner to have a secure power-solution as to have a car.. a fact which will be more apparent when the former, ok Both become increasingly non-secure as supplied from distant sources.

I can only pray that we start enlisting 'Rosie the Wafer-Growers' and can ramp up Materials production like we did with Sherman Tanks in '42... as more people see the need for some self-sufficiency.

Yes, but the same is true of wind as well, yet it's not stopping it being deployed.

Besides, energy storage technologies need to get better fast anyway, this is true no matter what generation sources are used. Whether it's hydro or something else, that's a problem that needs solving.

One technology that looks interesting - though again is rather obscure - are flywheels, which appear able to store quite large amounts of energy in a small physical storage space. They can also charge and discharge rapidly. They appear to still be in the R&D phase though, specifically to do with containment ....

There was a considerable amount of research done on energy storage in flywheels back in the sixties and early seventies. From what the engineers tell me, the fatal flaw is that when flywheels fail they fail in very nasty ways.

Could they be engineered to be "safe enough"? Well maybe, but only at the cost of "over-engineering" to the point of sacrificing maybe half or more of potential energy storage capacity.

This problem of large-scale energy storage has been intractable for a long time.

About Alan's notion of large-scale pumping to store energy, um, well maybe. But I am NOT enthusiastic about pumping water into the Great Lakes to store energy on a huge scale for a number of reasons. Nevertheless, pumped storage may be the least bad way to go, and if we are going to rely much on wind and solar then energy storage is the key to making these sustainable sources more than a dream or small-scale niche.

From my (basic) research into the matter modern flywheels are actually pretty safe. They're:

a) Hard to break. You have to seriously overload them.
b) When they do break, they tend to disintegrate into dust rather than shrapnel.

There has only been one serious accident with flywheels (in which an engineer was killed) and that was when they were trying to find out what happens when you overload a flywheel far beyond its capacity with no safeties or containment ...

Right now it seems they're refocusing on containment for research, as up until now they've been focussing on energy storage efficiency (new materials etc). I'd love to know what the state of the art is on this - the safety/containment aspects are largely being done in the open by a collaboration of flywheel companies under the supervision of DERA.

I hope your relatively optimistic outlook is correct. However, when a basic idea has had substantial money poured into it over a period of more than forty years with no commercial development (that I know of), I have to be somewhat skeptical.

Intuitively, I would think that costs of containment would diminish as the flywheel is scaled up, but engineers kept telling me I didn't get it--something about kinetic energy vs. momemtum or something like that, Murphy's Law, etc.

Some Very Bright People put their hearts and souls into flywheel development back in the sixties and came up with zip.

They have been commercialised:

 * They are used as UPS systems for cable networks
 * They are being deployed as power smoothing for chip fabs
 * They have been sold to power companies to provide grid stability

The basic problem, from what I've read, was that in the 60s/70s the technology was ahead of its time. Back then materials and computing science just wasn't good enough (you need fast CPUs to control the magnets and keep the flywheel hovering in space).

Since that time conditions have changed:

 * We now have chips running at 3.5ghz or more
 * Composite carbon fibre materials can store far more energy and have far safer failure modes
 * It's starting to get competitive with other technologies as a result

Right now the big question marks in my mind are how hard/economic it'd be to use large numbers of flywheels to smooth out the output from solar generators. I suspect the answer currently is "no", however, as materials science improves the amount of energy a flywheel can hold keeps going up and up ...

Sorry, I meant DARPA. DERA doens't exist anymore.
Large numbers of large scale pumped storage just need a relatively modest change in economics to be built.

Current gas fired power plants (new US electricity plants in 2004 (or 2003, data from memory) were 94.5% NG fired) require a few minutes to get the turbine front end into production and the steam back end (in a combined cycle NG plant, as most new ones are) follows within the hour.  This quick response from the peak load plants almost everywhere in the US negates the utility of new pumped storage almost everywhere in the US.

Just as Germany (with fewer potential sites due to geography) has started some pumped storage projects since wind has become an appreciable factor in their grid, so will the US. (Florida is a problem though).

The issue that I see coming is that the current grid configuration limits the % of wind that can be used.  Structural changes will need to be made and building new transmission lines is *S*L*O*W*  Typically a decades long process.

The Great Lakes naturally fluctuate a bit, roughly 1 meter (different lakes, different deltas).  Within this natural range, we already control the flows of water from one lake to the next except AFAIK, Michigan & Huron (can be treated as one lake) and into Lake Ontario from Lake Erie.  A coffer dam controlling Niagara Falls (upstream, out of sight of tourists) and much enlarged hydroplants at Niagara and on the St. Lawrence would create a massive "pumped storage"  scheme without pumping a drop.  Just let water backup at night (some minimal flow) and out during the day from Erie to Ontario.

During the summer doldrums (minimal wind from many sites), "we" could have kept the Great Lakes high during the spring (annual snow melt) and could let them fall the better part of 1 meter during the summer (as they would anyway, but we change the timing).  Most of the production would be made during daylight hours @ Niagara and on the St. Lawrence.  Lakes Eire & Ontario would serve as buffers (forebays is technical term) and have a daily, planned fluctation of a few cm.

So all June July and August, Lake Superior is drained, say, 3 cm (1.2 inch) a week into Lakes Huron & Michigan,  which in turn are also drained 2 cm a week (added to water transiting  through from Superior) into Lake Eire.  Lake Eire goes up each night due to Niagara being throttled back) by about 1 cm and down during the day UNLESS it is unexpectedly windy and Niagara production is not needed.  In which case, the entire chain is throttled back and Eire rises another 1 cm or two.  Same procedure for Ontario and St. Lawrence, except St. Lawrence has a series of hydroplants spread out over time.

Natural water flows bring the Upper lakes back up in September and October.

All # are "hand waving" but close to what would be needed.

A more sophisticated model could solve a LOT of problems with a renewable energy grid.

Big problem with a solar/pump storage system. There ain't no water where the sunshines. Using seafront real estate in southern California may be a little to expensive. Store the thermal energy instead by heating the ground beneath the solar farm and generate power when needed via a hydrogen based closed loop Brayton cycle.
Per earlier post, I suggest a North American grid with (by energy)

45% wind
15% hydro
15% pumped storage
9% other (geothermal, solar thermal, landfill gas, other bio and remaining fossil)
20% nuclear

The extra 4% would be for pumped storage losses (19% in, 15% out).  The "in" would be wind & other that was in excess of need ATM (3 AM, etc.)

A continent wide high voltage DC grid to connect and balance it all.  MUCH more efficient than your suggestion.

Why aren't solar PV and Wind racing forward faster than they are?  They are even simpler than a stirling, and generally very durable and available.  They work well, and people know that countless examples are out there to prove that this would be an investment that would pay off and provide ~some~ divestment and security against our dependence on outside power sources.

Why do we still eat so much plastic food, overfattened/sugared/processed stuff that we KNOW is crap?  (Myself included, when Leslie's not watching)  The threshhold for behavior-change is really Big, in particular when we're looking at something 'That's good for you'.. we've had so much of the Goody-goody inclination beaten out of us with a shame-ridden and super competitive society, that Approval, Acceptance and Winning rule too many of our choices.  Being smart has been so UnCool for so long, that we cringe at the slightest suggestion that a choice might bring derision and ridicule.

The PopTarts?  That's just addiction, pure and simple.

Solar PV is still pretty expensive in terms of cents/kilowatthours.  Wind is indeed racing--installed US capacity grew by 35% in 2005, with another 50% increment expected in 2006.  It's currently a tiny share of US electricity consumption, but that's changing in a hurry--US installed wind capacity is about 9,100MW, with many new projects under development.  

Given that utility-scale wind costs about 4 to 5 cents/kWh, it's clean, has no fuel price dependencies, no nuclear waste, no decommissioning issues, and can be sited and built very quickly, it's emerged as "the" utility scale renewable energy source.

American Wind Energy Association:

European Wind Energy Association:

Map of US installed capacity and projects, by state:

One of the best ways to track energy issues is to go to and sign up for free e-mail alerts for news with phrases like "wind power", "peak oil", etc.  I find an amazing amount of good material this way.

I have been watching wind for some decades, and yes, it is nearing breakthrough.

It is economic and can be the preferred source in some situations. Unfortunately it still is not available "upon demand" and there is no pumped storage boom in the US (as there is in Germany).

I have done some rough theoretical work and I believe that the following mix is viable for a North American grid (connected by a HV DC loop around the continent).

By energy

45% Wind
15% Hydro
15% Pumped Storage
 9% other renewable (geothermal, solar thermal, land fill gas or fossil fuel)
20% nuclear

The extra 4% is to make up for pumped storage losses (19% in, 15% out).

As you see, wind plays a leading role.

With natural gas at $14, such a mix could cost less than our current system mix.

It would be a structurally different system from an electrical engineering POV, but workable and reliable.

For example, larger generators and more wells would be installed in geothermal fields, but operated as peaking power rather than base load generation.

Another example would be wind only "grids" that would feed a AC to DC node of the HVDC grids with "wild" variations in Hz (say 57 to 63 or even 30 to 34 Hz) with "unacceptable" AC voltage fluctuations.

If we are willing to periodically sacrifice the tourist potential of Niagara Falls, we could get MASSIVE quantities of pumped storage by varying the levels of the Great Lakes within natural limits.

There are a couple of posts above by ericy and BioDiesel concerning wave energy.  do you see that as being a possibility or is that folded into the hydro percentage?
Wave energy has not proven itself yet, I hope that it does.  But until it is a proven technology, I do not think that policy makers should count on it.

(See Bush counting on hydrogen fuel cells to solve our oil addiction problem).

I hope to be a better policy maker than President Bush.

I have no doubt whatsoever that you will be a much better policy maker than Bush II.

However, first we have to get you elected;-)

Unfortunately, saying someone would be better at energy policy than Bush v.2.0 isn't saying much. A Peak Oil aware layperson would be better! Most any one of us could do a better job.
Not really knowing much about the HV DC lines- beyond your own comments on this site, I wanted to run a twist on that one past you.  

I've been wondering about the possibilities of building towareds Electrified Rail lines nationwide (Freight&Passenger), where the powerline structure doubles as some version of this DC grid that you have promoted.  One aspect of it would be to have distributed generation that accompanies this system so that train systems wouldn't get too far from sources, incurring heavy line-loss, and also taking advantage of the Right-of-ways and properties (unsure of legalities) that the raillines have already established for appropriate Wind and Solar Installations throughout.  This would use that land triply, as Grid-Power Runs, Transit, and some Generation Capacity.

It could also combine a few energy-related projects onto some common ground (so to speak), which might have logistical benefits for making such large projects more palatable to governments or investors.

Most modern electric railways use HV AC (15 & 25 kV AC being common, US has highest voltage, 50 kV AC on 70 mile isolated rail line in AZ, Black Mesa & Lake Powell RR).  Older ones used 3 kV DC (from memory).

My national grid would be operated close to 400 kV DC, FAR too high for use in a loco motor.  DC, unlike AC, cannot be transformed down in voltage.

Still, I like the idea of using railroad ROWs (typically 100', 30 m wide).  Perhaps straddle the rails, and use DC to AC nodes to create locomotive useable power every so often (say every 60 miles, a 400 kV DC to HV AC that would be transformed down to 25 kV AC every ten miles.  Use upper parts of tower for HV DC, middle for HV AC and lowest for 25 kV AC.


"Solar PV is still pretty expensive in terms of cents/kilowatthours."

I realise this is the equation many people realistically will apply when deciding whether to install PV or not, but I think it is an incomplete equation.

    Certainly the price we pay for grid electricity is not showing us the hidden and subsidized costs.. (ie, Long-term damage done by Mountaintop removal, Coal/Electric Pollution Health Costs.. (I'm in Maine and we're eating all the midwest's spewed Mercury in our air, lakes, farms- asthma is top in the US)  The potential costs to us of Nuclear.. or Maine's own problems that grow from excessive damming for Hydropower, for example..  But beyond that, there is the presumed cost of being 'uninsured', for lack of a better term. The value per KWH of having local generation capacity not only 'can' be, but most likely WILL be priceless, even if the rates never went up.  AA batteries can cost you, I've calculated, $200/kwh (1.5v x 2.5ah@.75ea).. even a little solar can keep phones and walkietalkies charged, flashlights, smokedetectors..

  And mainly, for me anyway, is the absolute simplicity of the things.  Put it in light, touch the wires to something, and you're up and running.  And they go and go.  That offers a value that has no match in the (invisibly precarious) ball and chain of the grid.  Is there really ANYTHING else that ~actually~ will pay it's own freight in energy returned and then some as it outlives its eroei and its cost to you by as much as a couple decades? (Besides wind, microhydro, solar heating)  Maybe Seeds..

Before I say anything, I have to confess that I am a maverick here, and have a highly unpopular, however well-supported, position re solar stirlings.  That is to say, most management people in stirlings will say I am just plain wrong, and say so loudly and in unison.  No matter that most if not all of the engineers/technicians with hands-on hardware experience will say I am right just as loudly.

That particular stirling is an old design that has some very well known and very bad technical problems that have defied solutions for decades- a super buggy power control system, big leaks in internal seals that cause the mechanism oil to get into the guts of the engine to foul up the heat exchangers, fantastic rate of working fluid leakage,  and, all in all, very low mean time to failure. Not to mention  high intrinsic manufacturing costs in the heater head, concentrator and elsewhere.

It ain't gonna fly, or even crawl- needs a heart transplant. If you think this is stretching it, just call them up and ask for some real data on mean time to failure.

But the management can't admit any of that else they lose their VC money which they got by singing the sweet song they sang.  So they say the usual thing managers say in such circumstances to the miserable engineers  - quit whining and go fix it- BUT don't change anything- that would cost money and make us look like liars.

The tragic thing is- the engineers DO know how to fix it, but they would have to make some BIG changes- fast.  And that's the  no-no.

So?  Its gonna fall as flat as a tire in texas.  And people are going to draw a big generalized wrong conclusion- solar stirling is a bust.  Too bad, great chance blown to hell.  Damn!  

I would love to be wrong.

What changes are you thinking of, exactly?
No matter, Googling brought up your post here:

And indeed Sandia National Labs seems to claim that the MTBF of one of the Cummins engines was only 5 months! On the other hand, if the engines can be mass produced cheaply, this may still work out as more economic than other sources.

May I enquire as to your background? Do you have engineering experience with these things?

Dean Kamen wants to sell stirling engines to india. eurial-slingshot
Maybe his are a better design?
The high cost of gas was all over the news tonight.  Jack Cafferty on CNN was foaming at the mouth about supposed "gouging" by Big Oil, and that Exxon guy's golden parachute.  They spun it as "taking advantage of the shortage."  (At least there was some acknowledgement of a shortage.)

And personally speaking...gas prices jumped 20 cents today.  It was $2.85 this morning.  This afternoon, it was $3.05.  Sheez.  I shoulda filled up last weekend, even though I had more than half a tank.  The five gallons I bought cost $1 more this afternoon than they would have this morning.  

Best moment on Chris Matthews was when he said "it's like Syriana."
Up $0.20 in a day? Almost certainly a local pent up blip. US average gasoline prices have been increasing at almost exactly and consistently $0.01 daily for the last 30 days (I'm sick enough to check them near daily, despite living in UK):

The odds are this is only the beginning. There is probably a further $0.20 gasoline price increase nailed into the chain over the next month. Now US refineries are coming back onstream after maintenance US crude stocks may begin to decline quite fast, we shall see if world supply is sufficient to hold US crude stocks steady.

What is interesting is the steady increase to new oil and gasoline price highs in the absence of significant supply disruption events. That is ominous. Unless things visibly improve there is a high probability of oil prices spiking up between 30% and 50% over the next 6 months due to relatively minor disruption, doubling if major (2+ mbpd) disruption. Speculation may be contributing $3 to $5, short term fear premium another $5-ish, that leaves a baseline price of perhaps $64. I now don't expect the oil price (WTI next month contract) to drop below $60 until / unless US markets decide a US recession has arrived. $90 oil is more probable in next 6 months than $60 oil, IMO. December futures are about $75.

Since posting the above I've read an article that is a fair overview of this day (not sure if the link content will stay same tomorrow):

Also note that current 'front month' contract, May, expires Thursday 20th April. June is trading at a premium of about $1.50, around $74, I am very tempted to short June oil tomorrow since I don't think $74 oil is rational based on current short term fundamentals. But I would plan to close that position within a week if I do it.

The IMF is suggesting that the US should increase taxes on gasoline, lol: P70089_RTRUKOC_0_US-MARKETS-OIL.xml&rpc=23

Here in Burlington County, New Jersey, there were two 10 cent overnight price spikes over the past week, and a gallon of regular has soared to $2.75.  Since NJ has among the lowest state gas tax, I know that at any time prices are at least 15 cents higher across the Delaware River.  Prices here bottomed out at $1.99 on March 1st, and I expected a spring price runup, but this one is more impressive than I had anticipated. And it is only April 19! And yes, the signs are certainly ominous, because of the absence of an acute crisis at present.   What can we expect when one does develop?

I first heard about "peak oil" back in 2000. Over the years, I have tried to speak out to others over what I consider the paramount issue of our time.  Admittedly, I do feel vindicated right now, because all the signs tell me that it is real and is happening, and nothing is going to stop it.  But it is not a good feeling.  I have a feeling of nervous anticipation - with the attendant helplessness which accompanies it.  To me, there can be no lingering doubt that the party is truly over: the 60 year cheap oil orgy has passed, and a new reality is now setting in - one which will witness soaring prices, and increased world instability and conflict as a natural byproduct.  If only it were not so.  But I simply cannot see it any other way.

This is an outstanding web site.  I appreciate being in the company of so many bright, intelligent folks!  Best wishes to all of you.  

It's true, Erwin, the oil-depletion crowd is certainly an interesting, knowledgeable group.

I don't even TRY to talk to the general public about this stuff anymore. They're too busy bitching about the rotten oil companies to pay any attention.

What can you do?

Re: "Up $0.20 in a day? Almost certainly a local pent up blip."

Northwest of Atlanta, Regular Unleaded Gasoline went from $2.73 yesterday evening to $2.89 this afternoon (at more than one station in the lowest price group).  Not quite as large of a rise, but this seems like a more-than-local blip.  Of course, we could be just the two examples of blipping in a nation of steady-rising.

Thanks, Amy, I based my comments on the AAA average data, I am sure that local variations do exist.

It is very interesting that you and Leanan report large (>$0.10) increases in one day. It could be worth monitoring this over the next month since I guess there is a further $0.20 increase coming in the price chain. Will be interesting to see how it happens, possibly informative for future effects.

Could I ask you both, and any others here who are noticing similar sharp price increases, to keep an eye  on them and record them?

you can check out a great overview of gas prices by location (in a map form) in the US at

Find and report local gas prices in your "neck of the woods" at

I have been using it for about a year now to find cheap gas in my area (which happens to be Syracuse, NY).  I think that there are listings for over 175 locations though.

I've gotten in the habit of checking almost daily.  I live right across the street from a Mobil station.

I rarely ever buy gas at that Mobil station, though.  One, it's not convenient.  (Only in America - something right across the street is hard to get to.)  Two, it's always had higher prices than the station I usually go to.

Weirdly, their price is now among the lowest.  They're using gas as a loss leader, I think.  (Their QuickMart store put the 7-11 that used to be next door out of business.)  

The Getty station I usually go to recently expanded their store.  They expanded into what used to be an auto parts store next door, and now have a fair-sized minimart.  

I would suggest recording the daily price of one gas station and the sporadic (as close to daily as you can) of the cheapest price seen.
Lane Co. Oregon. There is a local Shell station that I've noticed almost always has a price exactly $0.50 higher than the next months unleaded gas futures.
Interesting to see the same solution to the same problem occuring in America. Tesco & Sainbury's have been selling petrol for a few/many years and Shell & BP etc have been expanding their petrol station shops to sell milk etc. Over here, petrol stations just about break even or make 0.1 pence in 95 pence a litre (that is $6.04 per US gallon - as I mostly cycle, a full tank of petrol lasts me about 6 to 8 weeks)
From $2.859/gal to $2.959/gal for regular today at the expensive places near the interstate, and the cheap station went from $2.799 to $2.889 (northern Florida).
Here's a pretty good analysis of the patient's symptoms today.  The reporter doesn't diagnose the disease though: peak oil.

Looks like Ken Deffeyes was right.  We've driven off the cliff.

This is quite interesting, does anyone have a paid subscription to the Financial Times Online? If so, could you read this please and post a summary:

The world should prepare for a Nato-style oil allianceimage
Oil is that most paradoxical of substances: valuable, necessary and dangerous. The free market can no longer be its arbiter, writes James Pinkerton, a former White House policy aide. 19:49 | ReadRequires subscription

to help us get ready for life after peak oil, and also to help others in our family understand what is coming and how we might deal with it constructively

1. "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town"  1936   115 minutes
Directed by Frank Capra, stars Gary Cooper and Jean Arthur
This Oscar-winning film is one of Capra's best and was filmed after six grinding years of the Great Depression. Mr. Deeds, played by Gary Cooper in as good a role as he ever had, is an exceptionally happy eccentric non-materialist guy who has the misfortune to inherit $20 million. Brilliant comedy, scathing attack on establishment values--laughter and hope and the realization that people may try to put you in a mental institution if you try to do something good and decent.

2. "You Can't Take It With You"   1938   127 minutes
Another Oscar-winning movie directed by Frank Capra, this time starring James Stewart opposite Jean Arthur in what is, in my opinion, the most perfect romantic comedy of all time. Filmed after eight years of the Depression, it is another powerful attack on establishment-materialism, and it includes a most hilarious scene that ridicules the F.B.I. It is a funny movie, a serious film, and it has a hopeful message.
    In light of topics discussed on TOD, what the character played by James Stewart decides to do after he quits the banking industry at the end of the movie is flat-out astounding, and I am not going to give it away.

3. "Lassie Come Home"   1943    88 minutes
Possibly the best family film ever made. WARNING: Do not watch without a big box of tissues handy, because it is a tearjerker. Astonishingly good perfomances by Roddy McDowall and Elizabeth Taylor as children, superbly written, directed and filmed, it is set in NE England during the grimmest times of the Great Depression, when a family has to sell its beloved collie just to get enough money to eat. Children as young as seven can understand the main points of the film--which have to do with love, courage, sacrifice, heroism, cruelty, loyalty, hope and decency.  

4. "The Grapes of Wrath"   1940   129 minutes
John Ford directed, Henry Fonda stars in this multiple-Oscar-winning film about Oakies driven from the land during the Great Depression. Unforgettable scene of bulldozers coming to scrape away foreclosed farmhouses in this faithful adaptation of John Steinbeck's most famous novel. This movie suggests how bad things can get and what can get a family through such times.

5. "The Bicycle Thief"   1947    90 minutes
Vittorio de Sica directed this classic of Italian realism that shows what happens to a poor man when his bicycle is stolen; he must have the cycle to get to work.

6. "The Wages of Fear"   1952    156 minutes
When you are hungry and want a chance to get out of poverty, you'll do most anything--even drive a truck loaded with nitroglycerin over bad mountain road to put out an oil fire. Strong social criticism implied in what is meant to be Standard Oil in Venezuela, complete with tommy-gun toting motorcycle guards for a pipeline, but social criticism takes a distant second place to building suspense in this remarkable film.

7. "Empire of the Sun"   1987    152 minutes
Incomprehensibly to me, Leonard Maltin's Movie and Video guide gives this outstanding film only two stars out of four. In my opinion, it is one of Steven Spielberg's best movies: It tells the story of what happens when an English upper-class boy is separated from his parents as the Japanese invade Shanghai--and how the boy survives four years in a prison camp under exceedingly harsh conditions. The boy's shattering loss and will to live show what it takes in the way of personal change to live through terrible times, and both the music and the cinematography are as good as it gets.

7. "Syrianna"   2005
You may have already seen this film recently; it is a clear and powerful statement of what nations and people do to get oil. Winners get the oil. Losers die.

O.K., now let's see some of your lists.

I believe there is no better path to personal growth than through viewing great films. The deepest truths are not to be found in the news nor in nonfiction accounts but rather in various forms of literature--including film, which was possibly the most powerful art form of the twentieth century.

A hard-times chick-flick:

"Babette's Feast"  1989  103 minutes
Set in "olden days" (during the French Civil War) on a rocky coast in Denmark in a very small community, the film is one of my favorites.  It is funny (if you like small-town humor) and illustrates the difficulties and joys of having to depend on the people nearby.  Might be useful for anyone thinking of joining an intentional community.  The film is directed by Gabriel Axel, and it won an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.  I watch it with subtitles, to hear the actors' own voices.  

I like that one too.

We could probably get a list of fifty good to great films that are highly relevant to peak oil, if we put our minds to it.

Always, I think it is important to get back to basics: Values, family, community, laughter and tears.

How about Children of the Marshland (1999, Jean Becker) then?

Friends Garris, (Jacques Gamblin), and Riton, (Jacques Villeret), live on the edge of a marsh making a living from the flora and fauna of the region, which they sell in the neighboring town. Garris arrived here just after the Great War, a war which still holds the most bitter memories for him; and the lazy, wine-loving Riton, his wife and three children probably wouldn`t survive without the kindly Garris` help.

All the doomers will love it.

Ok, maybe this is too obvious, but I always recommend
LOCAL HERO by Bill Forsyth 1982-ish

"If the Oil's out there, a Knox Engineer will find it, cause a little time may be all we have left.."

Burt Lancaster, Peter Riegert, Denis Lawson
Great Soundtrack by Mark Knopfler!

.. I think I have to go watch it right now!

Babette's Feast is Rowan Williams' favourite film (he's the Archbishop of Canterbury, for those who didn't know) because of the theological point and imagery.
Phew, big challege for me since I haven't been to a cinema in 5 years and not watched TV for 3. I'll be as retro as you, lol, and may not get to 10...

  1. "Dr Strangelove" 1962? So serious you have to laugh, loved the coke machine bit.

  2. "La Belle et la Bete" 1953? Just magical and moral.

  3. "Jean de Florettes" / "Manon des Sources" 1980s? You must see them both in close proximity, the bench conversation in the last 5 mins of Manon explains it all, utterly gripping and soul ripping. A french Grapes of Wrath and then some.

  4. "Performance" 1970? Who am I? What is reality? Roeg's greatest. A couple of great Jagger song sequences and a bit of sex, too.

  5. "Outlaw Josey Wales" 1975? Clint's best, coping with life as it is - usually unfair.

  6. "The Man Who Fell to Earth" 1971? Earth fucks alien (martian, David Bowie) long, perceptive.

  7. "For a Few dollars More" not sure if this is the best one, was first name that came to mind of the spaghetti westerns. Starwars in the spanish sands.

  8. "Snow White" cos it's so hilariously sick.

These films do nothing specific to help you with peak oil and its consequences. What they do is challenge reality and how you perceive it. Question everything.
My favorite films:

1. Terminator 2

High tech defense contractor develops computer program that flys fighter planes sans human input. Sucker gets smart and deploys robots to hunt down and kill humans. Thank God this would never happen in real life!

2. Escape from New York/Los Angeles

Terrorists fly an airplane into a skyscaper in the NY version. 15 years later in the LA version, a radical messianic president has outlawed elections, rounded up immigrants, deported all Muslims, turned the US into a police state where pre-marital sex is outlawed and plunged the US into a world wide war against a terrorist group who plans on shutting down the US electrical grid (I shit you not.) Meanwhile a colony former hollywood stars turned plastic surgery freaks roam what is left of Beverly Hills and the president has a total ditz bimbo for a daughter.

Thank God none of this would happen in real life!



And let's not forget Mad Max's opening line:

When the world was powered by the black fuel. And the desert sprouted great cities of pipe and steel. Gone now, swept away. For reasons long forgotten, two mighty warrior tribes went to war and touched off a blaze which engulfed them all. Without fuel, they were nothing. They built a house of straw. The thundering machines sputtered and stopped. Their leaders talked and talked and talked. But nothing could stem the avalanche. Their world crumbled. The cities exploded. A whirlwind of looting, a firestorm of fear. Men began to feed on men. On the roads it was a white line nightmare. Only those mobile enough to scavenge, brutal enough to pillage would survive. The gangs took over the highways, ready to wage war for a tank of juice. ng=UTF8#quotes



That entire trilogy is worth viewing, even without the PO emphasis...who knew Tina Turner could be such a cool villian? And "two men enter, one man leave" has become part of the cultural lexicon.  Love the Wheel (of misfortune) as a metaphor for justice...
I love telling people that "it only took 2 days for the New Orleans Superdome to turn into the Mad Max Thunderdome."

Yeah, yeah, I know the reports of chaos, looting, etc. .. were overblown but it's still kind of funny in a macabe (sp?) way.



What a great topic!

I'll have to have a think about this one, but to get started I would have to say the latest "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" had a great message (as did the original) about what is happening to the kids of today, and how the most important thing in life is your family.

You also can't miss out the "Gandhi" story with Ben Kingsley.

How about the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy.  Some people believe that Tolkien had a lot to say about our modern materialistic world (and the films are a great 'plug' for NZ!).

I would include "Brazil" and "Wag the Dog".
And who's going to collect all these films and invite us over to watch while the world outside crumbles in chaos?
And for something oil-related: "Local Hero".  Texan oil company sales guy is sent to scotland to buy an entire small seaside village. He ends up getting caught up in the sleepy community. Very funny with lots of running jokes (motorcycle zooming past every time he steps out of the hotel's front door).

And on the thoroughly depressing side of things, there is the utterly brilliant "Sophie's Choice". If you ever think you are having a hard time, then you need to watch that movie.

"Bladerunner" is also a personal favourite, but it is more fantasy than any kind of social comment.

I like Bladerunner too, though I don't think we'll ever have a future like that.

Mad Max, maybe.  Bladerunner, no.

Yes, Bladerunner is the IEA-style future!  ;-)
That Bladerunner was picked as the top scifi flick of all time is no surprise to me.  If we're on scifi, Lucas' THX1133 should be in there somewhere.
Local Hero is one of my all-time top ten. If you go to Pennan (on the Moray Firth, where it was shot) you can still see the legendary phone box where MacIntyre makes his incoherent drunken call to Happer back in HOU after stepping out of the ceilidh.

IMHO "Hero" is one of the few movies that captures the reality of the modern oil industry, i.e. most professionals don't go anywhere near the dirty black stuff. And if you look at the prospect map in the conference-room scene at the start of the movie, you would swear that a lot of the blobs correspond to real fields that were only discovered, what? eight years later?

Oh and yes, the closing credits soundtrack, as we watch Mac staring wistfully from his apartment balcony over the Houston freeway lights - "Going Home - Theme of the Local Hero" - is the best piece of fast sportscar driving music ever recorded. BOOM DA DA DA - DA DA DA DA - DAAAH DAAAAAAAH - DAAAH DAAAH DAAAAAAH DA DAT-DAH DAAAAH!!!! Fantastic...

I think my Peak Oil experience will look a lot like the scene in Withnail & I , when they go up to Uncle Monty's place in the country:

W: This place is uninhabitable.

M: Give it a chance. It's got to warm up.

W: Warm up? We may as well sit around a cigarette.

M: This is ridiculous.

W: We'll be found dead in here next spring.

This has to be one of the funniest films ever made that never gets any attention. Can't believe you remembered that one for this Thread. Nice call.
Cuckoo.  The Way Home. Both very good movies both 3rd world type existence- i. e. less energy, but good relationship stories.

 Cuckoo has great survival skills - no oil ways of living for cold places-setting is N. Finland. A sniper  and enemy soldier are taken by a Lappe ( I believe) widower.

The Way Home -setting is Korea only electric is lighting.Motorized transport is only bus. Tender movie re grandmother softening a city raised spoiled grand son in a very very limited material world.

Great idea Don I'll be printing this section. We get the movies in the mail so maybe we can entertain this way for a while at least!

My friend recommended Rollover. I just got the DVD and haven't watched it yet, but the synopsis says, "In the mid-1970's, oil prices skyrocketed. Almost overnight, the largest transfer of wealth in human history took place. A new, powerful player became a world economic giant: OPEC."

And how could you forget The End of Suburbia? :-)

Other pre-oil movies would work, too, to see how people lived before fossil fuels. For what might happen here in U.S., how about The Patriot?
"Soylent Green is made out of people!"

One of my favorite lines from one of my favorite films. However, Soylent Green reminds me way too much of thermal depolymerzation. What do you think?

Subkommander Dred

When are we going to get to see Oilcrash?  I mean, without going to Toronto?
Don, you might also like a film I recently saw called "Bound for Glory."

It's the story of Woody Guthrie and the Okies. A very beautiful film, and it stars David Carradine as Woody.

  1. Charlie Chaplins' Modern Times

  2. Animation film of G. Orwells' "Animal farm"

  3. C'est Arrivé près de chez Vous (Belgium, 1992)
(Alternatieve titels: Man Bites Dog, It Happened in Your Neighborhood. Black and white B movie. Shocking)
Great topic!

* To End All Wars  2001  
Plot Synopsis: A true story about four Allied POW's who endure harsh treatment from their Japanese captors during World War II while being forced to build a railroad through the Burmese jungle. Ultimately they find true freedom by forgiving their enemies. Based on the true story of Ernest Gordon.

* On A Midnight Clear 1992
Plot Synopsis: Set in 1944 France, an American Intelligence Squad locates a German Platoon wishing to surrender rather than die in Germany's final war offensive. The two groups of men, isolated from the war at present, put aside their differences and spend Christmas together before the surrender plan turns bad and both sides are forced to fight the other.

* Harvey 1950
Plot Outline Elwood P. Dowd (James Stewart) is a mild-mannered, pleasant man, who just happens (he says) to have an invisible friend resembling a 6-foot rabbit.

*Much Ado About Nothing 1993
Plot Synopsis: Young lovers Hero and Claudio are to be married in one week. To pass the time, they conspire with Don Pedro to set a "lover's trap" for Benedick, an arrogant confirmed bachelor, and Beatrice, his favorite sparring partner. Meanwhile, the evil Don Jon conspires to break up the wedding by accusing Hero of infidelity. In the end, though, it all turns out to be "much ado about nothing."

What a good and eclectic list of movies! The Wages of Fear is an excellent flick, not seen by many. There was a remake of it in the 80s that was also exceptional. Fitzcaraldo is another movie filmed in South America about conquering seemingly insurmountable odds, involving in this case, moving a ship over a mountain.

I would second the addition of the LOTR trilogy to your list. Other epics for consideration: Little Big Man, Dr. Zhivago, Lawrence of Arabia, and nearly everything directed by Kurosawa.

To your general list, I would add Being There, a fine movie that shows both how gullible the public is and how clueless our leaders are. I think it was Peter Sellers best work.

King of Hearts, Slaughterhouse Five, Johnny Got His Gun, All Quiet on the Western Front, The Tin Drum, Das Boot, and Catch-22, are all different but excellent statements on the futility, horror, and stupidity of war.

Zardoz, which shows what could happen if technology does indeed manage to save us.

For spiritual guidance, you'll need Monty Python's The Life of Brian and The Meaning of Life.

I agree that movies are possibly the most powerful art form of the 20th century, but I would also like to see your list of books and authors.


Looks like PEMEX's much-trumpeted Cantarell replacement, Noxal, isn't so great after all. It's gone from ten billion down to 200 million barrels. Don't know if that's reserves or STOIIP, but if the latter then it may not even be worth developing if it's in an isolated deepwater location. One bit of good news - the fluid prognosis is now "super-light crude" (whatever that means) or gas condensate.

This story has been on the wires for a week now. I'm surprised it hasn't been all over TOD (I did a search for Noxal and turned nothing up).

Get the new scoop here >>>

Original TOD story about over-hyped PEMEX announcement (over a month ago) is here >>>

It's just the one test well that's only expected to produce 200 million barrels.  The article goes on to say:

"The surrounding Coatzacoalcos deepwater basin may contain 10 billion barrels of oil"

Of course we know they're probably 10 years away from producing anything in this basin, and we appear to be headed over the cliff now.  So it doesn't matter.

That's not what the stories say, if you read them carefully

Look at the original announcement (excerpted from here amp;p=9 )

> Mexico's President Vicente Fox says a new deepwater oil discovery in Mexico's GoM could eventually yield 10 Bbbl of crude oil.

"Discovery" doesn't mean the whole basin, it means a freshly-drilled prospect that turns out to contain producible hydrocarbon - i.e. a field

Now read last week's comment (

> Pemex estimates that the deepwater Noxal I well gives access to a reservoir containing approximately 200 million barrels of oil, said Oviedo

Note the change in verb - "yield" has become "contain".

Anyone care to speculate whether "approximately" means "more than" or "less than"? And if that's STOIIP, then reserves are almost certainly <100MMb - basically they've shrunk the thing by a factor of 100. And "gives access to" could mean all sorts of things.

Oh yes - it was the BASIN we meant all along. The sound of asses being covered and faces being saved is almost deafening...

New way to make biodiesel is being perfected at Oregon State University.  
"Once this product comes to market, no one will ever make biodiesel any other way".
There must be some hidden costs with the Oregon Uni. biodiesel process. It will need energy to filter and pump the feedstock through microchannels. I hope the mystery catalyst is not platinum. Since Oregon is a logging region I would have thought the Choren Industries woodchips-to-diesel FT process would be more appropriate than oilseed and chickenfat as feedstock. If it works and is affordable...great.
I have those same questions as well, but this is the first I have heard of it and need to know more details.  Sounds like it will be a cost savings in the investment of a bio-diesel facility.

I can only guess the catalyst is from the breakthrough in Japan a few months ago:

Michikazu Hara, of the Tokyo Institute of Technology in Yokohama, Japan, and his colleagues have used common, inexpensive sugars to form a recyclable solid acid that does the job on the cheap. Their research is reported in last week's issue of the journal Nature.

"We estimate the cost of the catalyst to be one-tenth to one-fiftieth that of conventional catalysts," Hara said.

The breakthrough could provide cost savings on a massive scale, he said, because the technique could fairly easily make the transition from the lab to the refinery--if interest warrants.

"We have developed this material for large-scale chemical production," Hara said. "Unfortunately, interest in biodiesel in Japan is not higher than in the U.S. and Europe."

As for the feedstock, we grow large amounts of wheat in Central/Eastern parts of both Oregon and Washington.  Which Canola can be used as a rotation crop, one thing we have a lot of in Oregon is land to grow things.  (But is otherwise a dump and it rains to much, and it too cold....many reasons to stay away, I don't have time to list them all......)

We got a few grants from the Feds to research wood-chip goodies, but is still years off, Canola can be grown as soon as things appear that diesel will stay over $3.00 a gallon.

I think the latter will happen before wood to fuel becomes reality.

Here in Australia at the moment is an inquiry into Australia's future oil supply and alternative transport fuels.

This is the link for the submissions:

Some of them make interesting reading particularly the one from BP Australia Pty Ltd.

One page 5 are the extraordinary statements:

"To quote Lord Browne, CEO of BP plc in a recent speech: "(There is a) myth, which is that oil and gas are running out, and that we are walking towards the edge of the cliff.....................
The idea that oil is running out is simply untrue. There is no physical shortage of oil or gas.
The reality is that the physical resource base is strong, and the amount which we can recover from that base is being expanded by technology all the time."


"BP believes there is no direct issue about availability. Oil - whether crude or product - is a mature internationally traded commodity. BP has imported virtually all of its crude over the past 20 years, and we cannot recall any major issue of availability during this period."

Now as this is a submission to an official governmant enquiry this brings up the interesting questions.

  1.  If BP knows that these statements are false why are they lying to the Australian Government?

  2.  If they think that they are true why is BP diversifying into renewable power in such a big way and turning itself green if the oil will never run out?

  3.  If they really believe this is true what sort of la-la land are they living in?

They then go on to say that they have replaced all their reserves.  I am sure that they have done this through buying reserves rather than discovering them.

Here in Argentina we know a little about these things. One year ago, our president (yes, our president) urged the country to boycott Shell's products.

"ARGENTINA: President Urges Boycott of Shell Products By Marcela Valente

BUENOS AIRES, Mar 10 (IPS) - In an unprecedented gesture, Argentine President Néstor Kirchner urged the public Thursday to boycott Royal Dutch/Shell's products, to protest what he described as an "unjustified" increase in the prices of petrol and diesel fuel.

"Argentines don't have to buy anything from Shell. Let's unite and not buy a single thing from them, not even a can of oil, so they realise that we will not put up with this kind of thing anymore," Kirchner said in response to Wednesday's 2.6 to 4.2 percent fuel price hikes by the Anglo-Dutch energy giant. "

And it WORKED very well. Shell LOWERED its prices. In fact, I still fill my tank at roughly the same price a year ago.

By the way, Argentina has been growing for three years in a row at 9%.

This falls under the heading: What the Hell is going on?

Is Halliburton telling us that there will not be military action against Iran?

Financial Times, April 15, 2006, pg. 8:

Spin-off of KBR to raise up to $550m
KBR cited in its application to the SEC, "The current level of government services being provided in the Middle East will not likely continue for an extended period of time and the current rate of spending has decreased substantially compared to 2005 and 2004."

And is Zbigny-baby broadcasting for the industrialists who can't get past Rove?

Financial Times, April 19, 2006, pg. 13:
It is time to plan for an American withdrawal from Iraq
by Zbigniew Brzezinski (National Security Advisor under Carter; Influential Council on Foreign Relations member; part of the Washington elite?)

"The US needs to recognise that its intervention in Iraq is becoming part of a wider, dangerous collision between America and the Muslim world-- a collision that could prove, if it becomes truly widespread, devastating to America's global position"

That is an interesting comment when compared to his views about the US needing to control the oil regions of the Middle East, voiced in his book, THE GRAND CHESSBOARD

Are these two things public relations, or disinformation, or the truth? Any ideas about how or if these two pieces of data, may be telling us something about what the future holds concerning America's continuing conquest of Eurasia?

Has anyone given thought to the possibility that there is much market concern about the Chinese visit and it's potential for ending wrongly? That is potentially more a reason for price volatility than the Iran problem though no one is talking about that in the media. The Iran issue is likely a smoke screen to keep people off the real scent of peak oil, dollar problems and Chinese containment issues. What say you all...
Check out Rob Newman's "History of Oil"
I rode my bicycle 32.5 miles for fun today up and over mountains here in L.A. (hence my username). I ascended 2,000' and was completely spent by the time I got home. One of the things I like to do is look for other bicycle commuters. With 87 octane @ 3/gallon here, one would think there might be even a little more bicycle commuters. None. There are still tons of SUVs with single occupants motoring around.

At what price per gallon will Americans' motoring habits change? One would assume that those here in L.A. that are barely able to afford interest-only ARMs on the banks' houses would get pushed over the limit with higher fuel costs, especially since these new housing developments are further and further away from where people work. Where's the breaking point?

It's a shock to see traffic in other countries - all of their vehicles are compact to sub-compact. Compare that to here, especially in L.A., and I think I see the same or more trucks and SUVs than cars, especially in the affluent areas.
I think it takes time for higher prices to change people's behaviors. And prices still aren't so much higher than a few years ago, when they were cheap. But check again in 10 years and you might see a difference in the types of vehicles on the road and who's in them.
I was bad yesterday, I drove in order to mountain bike.  Well I combined trips slightly.  I topped up the gas tank, grabbed some groceries while I was out, and drove the Prius carefully to rack up 56 mpg over 22 miles.

I notice, when I use my bike for transport, that very few people have backpacks or panniers.  That's a clue that they are not commuting.  They might have even driven in order to ride.

I can ride out from my house to my mountain bike loop, but it's 10 miles over and 10 miles back ... put 10 miles of loops and climbs on dirt trails in the middle and it's a big day.

I also am puzzled by the paucity of panniers. (Could not resist alliteration--sorry.) On my 1985 Schwinn Cruiser I have the largest size rear baskets (panniers), the kind that paper boys use. I see similar ability to carry serious cargo on perhaps one in three hundred bikes that I encounter.

Makes you wonder.

On the other hand, I've seen a few bikers, including one homeless guy, use bike trailers designed for kiddies to haul cargo, and I used to do that myself, back when I did not have a washing machine and took fifty pounds of bulky wash at a time to the launderette. My bike trailer is rated to carry only 100 lbs., but I've found it will take 130 without protest.

The critical gas price is anyone's guess. I'll be critical at different prices for each driver, proportional to income and inverse proportional to gallons used on a commuting mission. ("gallons away from work")

The behaviour change will end up affecting each driver at his or her own "critical price" and thus be a bell curve instead of a big pulse of sudden transit demand or bicycle use. So, the changeover can end up being silent.

A lot of people are locked into car use due to extreme distance. A motorcycle is the only alternative for exurbanites. People who have one of each are starting to use the bikes on good days. As gas continues its climb like a Lear Jet on steroids, they will resort to riding on worse and worse days, forcing some to ride year-round even up north.

I have come to the conclusion that some demand will be cut on an individual level in reaction to higher prices, but the large cut in demand (to = supply) will be made on a social level via demand destruction.

Unemployed people use less energy, closed or cutback businesses also use less or no energy.  This is the "easiest" way to make demand = supply when a simple price response (Green beans have doubled in price !  I will stop eating them !!  I like lima beans as well, I will eat them instead), is not enough.

The economic interactions will be complex, but I fear that the bulk of our fuel savings will come from "reduced economic activity" and not conservation.

I think I've seen more "recreational Harleys" out for commuting these days.
Reuter's article about Exxon's deal to import Canadian oil

NEW YORK, April 20 (Reuters) - ExxonMobil has completed the reversal of two of its crude oil pipelines allowing up to 66,000 barrels per day of Canadian crude oil to flow from the U.S. Midwest to the U.S. Gulf Coast, the company announced on Thursday.


Canadian oil production is expected to soar over the next decade, driven by an expected 2 million bpd increase in oil sands production that will more than offset declines at conventional fields.


Shane, The Wild Bunch, Major Dundee, Johnny Guitar, Big Country, The Seachers, The Shootist, Three-ten to Yuma, Once Open a Time in the West, Bad Company, True Grit, The Man who Shot Liberty Vallance, Stagecoach, High Noon, Ride the High Country, Dirty Little Billy, El Topo, Red River, She wore a Yellow Ribbon, Bad Day at Black Rock, Duel in the Sun, The Hired Hand, Run of the Arrow, Rancho Notorious, Mcabe and Mrs. Miller, Culpepper Cattle Company, Vera Cruz, My Darling Clementine,


Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House
1948 Cary Grant, Myrna Loy and Reginald Denny as their architect.  Probably the beginning of Exurbia, but at least Blandings took the train to NYC.

Return of the Secaucus Seven, The Great Santini, Five Easy Pieces, Cool Hand Luke, Shower (chinese), and many that have been named.

Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House
1948 Cary Grant, Myrna Loy and Reginald Denny as their architect.  Probably the beginning of Exurbia, but at least Blandings took the train to NYC.

Watched this the night before last...very nice.  I too thought about suburbia...

Many say we will see $3.50/gal this summer.  If you factor in Iran, who knows how high it could go. Everyone knows America MUST get off the oil.  After September 11, 2001 I expected our President to call on Americans to GET OFF THE OIL.  I was expecting a speech like the one JFK gave that motivated us to reach for the moon. As you know, this never happened.  Eventually I realized that the only way this is going to happen is for us to do it ourselves.  To that end I created this idea and have been trying to make it a reality..

The EPA is offering a research grant opportunity that I believe is a perfect fit for this idea.  I have sent an e-mail to a hand picked list of university professors who have experience with government research projects.  I'm looking to form a research team to apply for the EPA grant, conduct a social-economic experiment and surveys to determine to what extent the American public will support it, project the economic potential of WPH, and identify logistical, social and political obstacles as well as opportunities.

All government grants are awarded based on merit of the proposed research.  I believe WPH has merit but your help is needed to verify it. You can help by posting your feedback.  Let the professors and the EPA know what you think about WPH.  Do you think this idea is worth pursuing? We need to know if Americans will support a plan like this.

Do you have any ideas to improve the plan?

Share any and all of your thoughts.

Tell your friends and family about this Blog post and ask them to post their thoughts on WPH

Thank you