Sunday Open Thread 2

wow, you kids sure are talkative this weekend...good for you!

[editor's note, by Prof. Goose]Here's an article to spur you on: "The era of cheap oil is over," he said. "What then becomes of our ambitions and our dreams to see Africa take the path of harmonious development?"

I want to raise the population issue again. There are some statements we should be able to agree upon without being labeled as ecofascists.
  • One of the ways we have used the fossil fuel bonanza is to increase our population fivefold.
  • An earth with half a billion people all living a comfortable lifestyle, with electricity and the internet, is quite achievable.
  • An earth with twenty billion people would result in ecological ruin and collapse.
What kind of earth do we want?
An earth with half a billion people all living a comfortable lifestyle, with electricity and the internet, is quite achievable.

How will you reduce the population from 6.5 billion to 0.5 billion? What specific measures are you advocating?

I wasn't proposing a plan for reducing population to half a billion. All I said was that half a billion people could all be living in reasonable comfort. So far, it's just something to think about (since many people profess to be concerned about whether other people are living in comfort or in squalor).

Well, you did say it was achievable. How?
Well, you did say it was achievable. How?

Hmm, I had a hard time finding the right adjective to complete that sentence. I see now that "achievable" wasn't quite right.

Of course, it is theoretically achievable. We know what needs to be done - it's all in Heinberg's Powerdown.

How is powering down going to reduce the population? Aren't the countries with ballooning population already powered down?
I think the misapplication of the power down concept has the potential to force population reduction (in an unpleasant way).  We certainly can and must reduce our energy use, and adopt new ideas about how we should live and how much energy we need to use doing it.  Such as electric light rail, higher mpg cars, increasing the insulation & efficiency of homes, etc.

But in the transition period, which must/will last a long time, we will need to develop new energy sources as well, and the most important one is probably nuclear.  We'll need to invest heavily in the electric grid as well.  The lead times are long, and if we focus all our attention on reduced use we may end up missing the opportunity - with disastrous consequences.  

The issue is one of rate - if we cannot power down (in a controlled fashion) as fast as the present sources deplete, then uncontrolled things will happen, including population reduction on a too rapid time frame.  Therefore we cannot just focus on powering down; we will have to look at sources as well.

Why not put contraceptives in doctor prescribed illegal drugs?
Pushers go out of business, junkies stop robbing people [free dope], no more crack babies, welfare cost reduction, afghans/columbians etc. get their act together and plant vineyards [or biofuel crops].

Didn't Ghandi [mrs] give free transistor radios for vasectomies?
How about free fuel?? Targeted social engineering..

Hello Quickbeam,

Excellent starting thread.  Radical thinking required.

Consider if America agreed on voluntary pop. controls. to decrease headcount fairly.  Immigrants would desire to come to the US even more.

Would the cheapest way to control the influx, both legal & illegal, is that the primary cost of admission is voluntary sterilization?  Legal immigrants undergo fertility testing before admission to prove sterility, any illegals caught are forcibly sterilized, along with additional penalties.

If every country did this immigration rule, wouldn't this create a greater impetus for local biosolar sustainability vs moving to increasingly endangered detritus-fueled habitats?  Comments?

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

I don't think an explicit two-class society (people who are allowed to procreate, people who are forbidden from procreating) is a way to move toward a happy egalitarian future. It's certainly true that the U.S. is already above its sustainable population, and that immigration to a high-energy-per-capita country like the U.S. is relatively more damaging to the earth. My best hope is that the belief that we have a problem will spread rapidly enough that solutions can be considered.
Hello Quickbeam,

It is not a two class society.  If the couple has one child in the home country first, then when they come to this country legally-- they are on parity with the rest of Americans.  If they have two or more children they want to bring in-- no dice unless we need that many more kids for some reason.  If the father or mother wants to come in to work, but will send remittances back home to the 2 or more child family, the sterilization guarantees no extra births on his/her part while inside the US.  Living in the US, without family, will tend to make them visit the original home family more often--which is good.  When the kids at home become adults, the other parent, if sterilized, can then legally enter the US to be with the other spouse, thereby doubling the potential remittances sent back home.  

Illegals, if they have never had a child, but want one, will tend to have them in the home country first: this effect will tend to keep them home, get a good education so as to attract a spouse, and assert the desire to be near their family and to be good stewards of their community and ecosystem.  If they get caught in this country, the Border Patrol will have no idea if the illegal has already created a child on their own with another American-- that is why they are sterilized.  My guess is the illegal will then be deported for breaking the Law, but now is highly incentivized to enter the US legally if he does have a child in the states.  If he does come back in, the fact that he is already sterilized and has one child already keeps him at parity with the rest of the American couples.

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

There is something to be said for your plan, but of course it has zero chance of becoming law.

By the way, I like your ideas about biosolar zones. If I were philosopher king I might enact them :-)

Hello Quickbeam,

You nailed it right there.  IF some true genius would invent 'instant education' that would imediately download into everyone's head all the info on TOD, the Yahoo forums, the books by Kunstler, J. Diamond, M. Simmons, Tainter, et al, related websites like Dieoff & LATOC, etc...and so on: voluntary population control and Powerdown would be EASY because everyone would be their own Philosopher King.

Instead, the popular saying of "ignorance is bliss" condemns us to horrific sadness.  The truth-telling Cassandra must have been the saddest goddess in mythology.

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

You seem to be assuming that all this information is correct and must lead too one obvious conclusion.

If I were to put togeather an "instant education" mix I would try to make one less biased since there is a risk that I am wrong or that my ideas only solve a subset of the problems.

I would go for samples of things that makes life joyfull withouth being extremely expensive in resources, ways to socialice with strangers and ways to judge and calculate if a statement is correct and a set of informatin is thrustworthy and basic skills in reading, writing, reasoning and math.

Some things needs a Power Up, such a building long lasting usefull infrastructure for food production, transportation and nice cities.

It would be usefull for manny if people that still are irrelevant for their lives but compete for resouces would curl up and die. This would make a curl-up-and-die instant education a usefull weapon. There is an enourmous potential for evil in powerdown and die off scenarios.

You are correct about the potential for evil in various dieoff scenarios. To a large extent, some of them are juvenile fantasies that reveal vast ignorance of history, economics, and sociology.

What I find dismaying in many (not all, not even half) of the posts on TOD is that the people making comments have not done their homework. Many young people think that "truth" is something found quickly and easily in Wikipedia, and that if they can find a website that supports a position, then that position has credibility.

As one educated in Sweden, I suspect that you lack a full understanding of how little most Americans have learned about science, geography, history or mathematics. The credulity, ignorance and confusion shown by the worst posts on this site are a sad confirmation of how the U.S. educational system has failed.

On a brighter side, the best posts--including yours--are good food for thought and constructive action.

What worries me about a lot of the posts relating to 'the population question' is the impression I keep getting that people seem to think it's an 'easy' area of study compared to the enormously problematic issue of Peak Oil. Maybe I'm being unfair and unjust, if I am, sorry in advance.

The whole question of our planet's booming population, and how on earth we get it under some sort of control, is a really Big Deal. One can easily put it on a par with global meltdown, the arms race, Peak Oil...

It's not only a huge economic, environmental and social question, morality and religion also come into it. If ever there was a thorny question population growth is it. It really needs it's own site, not an appendage to TOD.

The way some people bandy about the concepts of 'die-off' and 'nature will take care of the problem' is chilling, in my opinion. 'Care' is a word I would use carefully in relation to 'nature.' 'Nature' seems singularly lacking in 'care' most of the time, at least when I look at it. Where I live there really isn't much 'nature' left. It's all pretty much a man made 'nature' or more perhaps more correctly 'culture.' I also think it's dangerous to superimpose human cultural attitudes and morality on 'nature.' I have a lot of problems with anthropomorhpism and the way we view the socalled natural world. Basically I don't think it really helps our understanding of the world around us, it probably does the opposite.

The famous Hirsch report talked about how we needed decades of preparation if we were going to get through Peak Oil. It was prudent to start in good time. This 'time lag' also applies to population growth in the extreme. As I see it we have a population of around 6.5 billion now. I hope that's the correct figure, the last time I looked it was! I don't think we can realistically stop it hitting 10 or 11 billion or even 14 billion in the coming few decades. After that it should begin a slow decline on a  world wide basis. These are clearly staggering numbers, and lot of people have real problems with them. It's worrying. How on earth will we ever feed so many people, let alone give them decent lives?

Another problem intimately connected with population growth is the decline of rural agriculture and the massive increase in urbanization. People are crowding into mega-cities looking for a better life at astounding rates. How we reduce, stabilize or control this urban growth is also a mega question.

I'm also concerned about some of the 'solutions' offered on TOD. There's this bizarre doomer fantasy that some kind of authoritarian, fascist state could somehow 'deal' with population growth. I don't buy it for a minute. What appears to characterize fascist states is their corruption, incompetence and general lack of intelligence.
China's population policy isn't really applicable to the rest of the world for a number of reasons. Do we just impose population controls on the poor, or are we included in this global fascist empire?

I'm also sceptical about 'die-off' whaterver that idea really means. It seems that people who subscibe to this idea appear to believe that they will personally survive it, and inherit the earth afterwards. I somehow don't think it'll pan-out like that, sorry guys.

I suppose I find both of these scenaios too orderly and easy to comprehend and then reject. I think the future may be far more chaotic than we suspect, with as yet unimagined consequences. I think 'fate' may come into play here and surprise us all. There are a lot of challanges ahead that we probably don't even see on the horizon.

Of course there's always bird-flu. That might solve all our problems. Maybe bird flu is a CIA plot, just like AIDS? When it's all over we the chosen can start all over again. I don't think so. Bird flu may have already mutated into type easily transmitted between humans as we speak. We just don't know at the moment. Let's hope it will never do that. It could theoretically wipe-out over half the world's population in a matter of months in a worst-case scenario. Unfortunately the knock on effects of such a pandemic for society are virtually incomprehensibe. The more one thinks about the consequences, the more ghastly and destructive they appear. We could, possibly be talking about the end of modern civilization as we know it, for decades, or maybe forever. So if one is really into 'realistic dooming' I'd bet on bird flu!  

I think Peak Oil in general, and The Oil Drum in particular, are attracting folks with a pessimistic outlook on the human species.  It seems many think we should all be dead already.  And so they cast around for an exception to their logic, something that lets their pessimism be right ... oil!  If it wasn't for oil we'd all be dead already, and as soon as the oil runs out we'll return to our rightful (dead) state.

I'm actually 50:50 on whether the term "peak oil" will have to be abandoned.  There is already a lot of wasted energy as memes spread that "peak oilers are all end-of-world fanatics."

[Something you're putting in the mouths of "pessimists"]: If it wasn't for oil we'd all be dead already...

Who is exaggerating now? Only a fool would say this, and I'm not aware of anyone here saying it. What is absolutely beyond question is that if there had been no fossil fuel world population would be much lower than it is right now. For heaven's sake, we were close to "peak guano" at the point that synthetic ammonia was discovered.

There would also have been much misery, of course, probably still ongoing.

I think it's funny that you predict a world popluation, with electricity, that is lower than China's population, without electricity:

"An earth with half a billion people all living a comfortable lifestyle, with electricity and the internet, is quite achievable."

You may see a great deal of difference between your pessimistic projection of a world population of a half-billion, and "we'd all be dead" ... but we'd need to lose 11 parts out of 12 in the current population to get there.

I'm not predicting half a billion.

I'm not asserting that half a billion is the maximum population compatible with a first-world (but powered-down) lifestyle for everyone.

I am asserting (and of course this is a WAG) that a first-world (but powered-down) lifestyle for everyone is compatible with a world population of half a billion.

Here's the catch 22 for such predictions - we know that fossil fuels will last several decades and likely a century - we also know that humans cannot predict their own technical progress over several decades let alone a century.

Hence, a "world without fossil fuel" prediction is necessarily a prediction about an unpredictable era.

For what it's worth, the superficial optimists don't get off the hook either.  They think we will get specific technologies on demand (better batteries in 3 years, better solar cells in 5 years, hydrogen cars in 10 years).  Those are all "predictions" which throw out the innovation trend-lines in their respective fields.  They are just optimism, coded as prediction.

The middle ground is to deal with what we have, and to make such projections (like Hubbert's curve) as are actually supported by available data.

... if you want to write science fiction 100 years out, write it up as a movie script ... I'll watch it.

By the way, the Hirsch report's "Scenario I", in which "action is not initiated until peaking occurs" shows (eyeballing it) a 25-30% shortfall in oil 20 years post-peak.  That is more than sufficient to cause economic changes (creative destruction) but not enough to "immobilize" industrial society.
Excellent point!

"Creative Destruction" is a term coined by the late great economist Joseph Schumpeter to explain how capitalism works. Innovations destroy the old way of doing things and much of the value of old capital investments while they create new opportunities for profit and investment in new kinds of capital.

BTW, Schumpeter observed that innovations tend to come in "swarms," at intervals of very roughly seventy-five years. The last swarm we can date at somewhere close to 1950, and I'm impatiently looking forward to the next one, because 2025 is past the time we need some Big New Innovations and Investment Opportunities (BNIIO).

What intrigues me about the idea of massive population die off that many postulate, on a short time scale, is what are the mechanisms that would achieve this?  I don't buy that the bird flu could do it, even if it retained its virulence after mutating to a human-to-human form.  Even a horrible disease like AIDS - wildly "successful" by any disease standards, has not done it.  

Would it be war?  Starvation?  

No, there are 6.5 billion people, and humans are tenacious.  It's going to be harder to get rid of us than it might seem.

There seem to be a lot of people who dream of peaceful, low energy use, sustainable agrarian societies, and see PO as a vehicle to get there.  There's just this messy time in between here and there that's not very well focused.  Hey, I'd like to live that way too, but I'll not see it in my lifetime.  It would require reductions in population way too large to happen on a short time scale - what would the mechanism be?  Long before we got even close to population reduction rates that large, the social consequences would be catastrophic.  

There are also many people who use whatever turmoil is available to further their own pre-existing causes - racism, religious extremism, anti technology crusades, etc.  PO is tailor made for this, and TOD is attracting this crowd lately too.

My guess is that the Hirsch report lays out pretty realistic scenarios.  I don't see much public will to enact the changes we need to make, and I have little faith the invisible hand will be sufficiently proactive, but I don't see society completely collapsing from PO directly.  I'm far more worried about the economic and political changes that are happening now - they may be driven mostly by energy depletion, but it probably won't help in dealing with them.  I see how bad things could get if everything played out in just the worst way, and I believe what does happen will be bad enough and surprise a lot of folks, but I guess I'm not ready to call the collapse of all civilization yet!

I have heard that Swedish education in general were much better one to 1 1/2 generation ago, now we have a noticable percentage that even fail to learn to read and write well. There is a countertrend to this bad trend consisting of teachers whith other backgrounds then only teacher training and the equivalent of a "school check" system giving a growing number of competing schools in large towns and cities but it needs to gain momentum. Market mechanisms and idealists are probably slowly renewing the system. Do not flirt with socialism and centralized politically correct incompetence! Its very dangerous for your communities and even cultures future.

My impression is that Finland has the best schools among the nordic countries. They did not have a political project for tearing down a functioning system to make better more equalized citizens. The sadest part of this is that it has had the worst consequences for lower class children with weak parents, the ones our socialist elite said they cared most about. They still say this but what they say is not what their actions have brought us.

USA is almost a continent, your schools cant be all bad, can they?

And you are all over the globe with your businesses and military, should that not give you good reasons and opportunities to learn about the whole world? But the percentage of the population directly involved should for a large country be lower then for a small traditional free trading nation like Sweden. I guess that might answer my own question. :-/

You dont have to know everything but I think it helps a lot to fairly well know what you know. My posts are better when I stay on the right side of this border and I try to at least be close to it while speculating and connecting small dots of knowledge in a creative way to solve a problem. I think people after a while tend to listen more if you dont bullshit them.

To reduce America's population, one thing is for sure. We will have to shut the immigration valve. Were it not for a 1965 immigration law, our population would be only 2/3 of what it is now. The result is we would be using a lot less oil.

But immigration enthusiasts won't want to hear it. How many people do we need anyways? Next time you are in a traffic jam, imagine 1 out of 3 cars dematerialising. One out of 3 cars is piloted by a post-1965 immigrant or child thereof. Did we REALLY need to download all those prople? It's way past time we undo that law and build a wall. That is the cold hard fact we all must contend with. So if people want to call me an ecofascist, so be it. But the fact remains a fact.

I see the 'fascist' in those statements, not that much 'eco'..  and 'Who's gonna stand on that wall, you?' Actually, we could probably get a good price for guards by hiring the guys on the other side of it..

As long as we enjoy the richest standards of living in the world, no law or wall will keep people out. (Nice Anagrams, there)  And as long as there is cheaper labor and goods abroad, nothing will keep our 'Fuller Bucket' from siphoning out to the rest of the world, either.

As I see it, the population, just like the food supply, is ALL a result of cheap energy, and will rise or fall to the level that our available energy is able to sustain it.  Immigration is only a predictable side-effect. And think about it, if we're going to be moving back towards some serious agriculture, do you think we won't need a lot of muscle to make it happen?

I think we are going to be that muscle.  It may be that they stop coming because there are no jobs here.  We'll find out that there really aren't any jobs Americans won't do.  

I was watching the History Channel yesterday.  It was "doomer porn" day, I think.  They did the Black Death, the Salem Witch Trials, the Little Ice Age, etc.  The Little Ice Age show covering modern-day global warming as well, and had a segment on that Pentagon report.  The one that predicted that climate change might lead to the U.S. being overwhelmed by refugees from Central America and the Carribean.  The experts they interviewed thought that was quite possible...but also thought the opposite might happen.  American refugees from the southwest might head into Mexico.  Not chased by glaciers, as in that movie, but by drought and food shortages.

Either way, I fear "overcrowded lifeboat syndrome" is going to be a problem.

"As I see it, the population, just like the food supply, is ALL a result of cheap energy..."

What about development of vaccines, anti bacterials, ability at disease detection and resolution, medical technologies such as sonar, greater access to hospitals for the masses, cleaner water, bio-technology, pills, etc etc?

To reduce America's population, one thing is for sure. We will have to shut the immigration valve. Were it not for a 1965 immigration law, our population would be only 2/3 of what it is now. The result is we would be using a lot less oil.
Nope, doesn't work that way. When immigrants lower wages and raise rents, they price people out of having kids. Every immigrant that comes in is a kid not born. America's population would be the same without immigrants because we would have had more children.
Same thing works for engineers. If you bring in immigrant engineers, American kids go study law or something else that doesn't have face so much competition. So one engineer in is one potential engineering student studying law.
Not true.  Countries with more restrictive immigration policies (such as many European countries, and Japan) have also had dropping birthrates.  But since they don't have immigrants coming in, their population growth rates have stabilized at much lower levels than ours.  The U.S. has an unusually high birth rate, for a westernized nation, and the reason is immigration.

Immigrants increase the population growth rate for two reasons.  They physically add to the population base, and they tend to have larger families for two or three generations after they arrive.  

Agree that we might not be using less oil, though.  Chances are, we'd be using just as much.  We'd just be using more each.  

"So one engineer in is one potential engineering student studying law."

As an engineer and an attorney, I can tell you that 99.99999% of the attorneys in the world couldn't become engineers if the fate of the universe depended upon it.

Re: the second bullet point, can we really say that the earth would support half a billion indefinitely?  Can they live on renewables, or will they be running through fossil and nuclear fuels?
Half a billion was a guess, but I think it's in the ballpark. I'm certainly assuming all-renewables, and also much less energy use per capita. No cars to speak of (except emergency vehicles and maybe for the disabled). Electric rail sounds great to me (thanks, Alan!). Every few years people could take a long vacation by sail or biodiesel ship.
The "Die Off" is happening in Africa and other Third & Fourth World countries.  War, famine, pestilence, and scarcity of petroleum, water, and good soil are already culling the human species.

The question those of us in the so-called "First World" must ask is something like this:  "How can I respond with care and compassion to this terrible suffering?"

Not one of us made the world as it was when we were born into it.  None of us knows all about how to make things right.

Yet the question remains manifest in very concrete form.  "What do we do about the effect of rising oil prices on the ability of these suffering people to rise out of poverty?"

"What will we do as education, medicine and food and agricultural tools become harder for the people of Africa to buy?"  

"What will we do as the infrastructure of various human settlements in Africa crumbles even as the enviroment is dramatically altered due to global climate change and the burdens it has already born?"

"What will happen as poor people become more desparate and see their children and people dying off even as First World nations consume far more resources per capita than they ever dreamed of? How will this affect geopolitics?"

As the USA is the number one weapons dealer and also has balked at providing affordable AIDs drugs to Africa, I've assumed that the US government has simply written most of the African population off already.

Is US foreign policy a policy of "let them die off" combined with "help them die off, and the sooner the better?"  What about Nato? -- Europe? -- China? -- Russia --the UN?

Beggar, these are all excellent questions. Western culture teaches us that "we" are smart and "they" are dumb. A meritocracy thing. Also "they" are lazy, corrupt and uneducated. Why are our brothers and sisters starving in Africa? Because we let them. And we excuse ourselves by our cultural stories. Let's change the stories!
It may be that a planet with 6.5 billion is non sustainable. And once the oil and gas are depleted, it's very hard to see how it will continue to be sustainable.

Famine and disease are already taking large numbers in Africa. Soil is simply blowing away. This will spread to other continents soon. This is not a future issue -- it is a current issue.

Once the current world order has wrecked as much havoc on the world as it can tolerate, one of the measures to bring things back under control will certainly be population control. Whether this done humanely or fascistically is a matter of choice. The humane way would of course be use the remaining reserves of energy for planned descent, globally agreed on. It would involve first and foremost a policy guaranteeing old people security. That's why people have a lot of kids--for their old age. Second, it means restricting the number of kids people can have FAIRLY. Third it means that older people have to do light, socially useful work to ease the load on the fewer young. Plus a whole lot more. But it is certainly doable in a very humane way.

The most inhumane way is to leave it to nature to take care of it for us, and to the New World Order crowd who will do their thinning via war, plunder and chaos.  

It may be that a planet with 6.5 billion is non sustainable.

I think this is virtually certain. In any case, the burden of proof is clearly on the optimists who believe that 6.5 billion is sustainable, since the system as it exists is in fact depending on unsustainable inputs of fossil fuel. And most of the 6.5 billion are not living a life style that these optimists would be happy with.

Human rights are a good thing, but the unconstrained right to procreation cannot be one of them. (Tradeable child quotas, anyone? :-)

To reach 0.5 billion by 2100 at a steady rate is a decrease of 2.7% a year, by my calculation.

From a photo caption in this month's National Geographic article on the Ukraine:

Dying of AIDS, a prisoner lies in a clinic in Odesa.  The disease's rapid spread, as well as alcoholism, poor health care, emigration, and low birthrates, are projected to shrink Ukraine's population 40 percent by 2050.

This could be a mild preview of what we're facing in the industrialized countries, minus the emigration, of course.  

Russia has had problems with alcoholism for years.  People there are very ingenious as to finding it too:,,1681116,00.html

Perfume, brake fluid, de-icer, meths, toilet cleaner, nail varnish remover ... "I drank them all," says Boris Kuznetsov. "Everything that burns."

If they had E85, I have no doubt that people would have tried to figure out a way to distill the ethanol and drink it.

As an Alcoholic myself, I have heard some scary stories of what some guys and gals would do to get their next fix of the 'forgets'.  From ages past and some odd work experience, as well as Anti-drug campaines of the past.  I know that a lot of the chemicals that we have in products from painting to floor cover glues and varnish removers and floor cover glue removers,  are so bad for the human to even get near it is a Wonder more people aren't dead.

But the human body seems able to take a lot of punishment before total system failure, that is why some of the worse alcholics still are able to function in the world of the living.  The worse though while getting a hold of the "fire water" from folks that mix the "deadlies" in too the snake oil they sold, can die from it rather fast.

Though Russia has those problems, they are not just russia's problems.  The Russian genetic pool might just be so filled with the "Addiction Gene or Genes" so as to seem like the worst case.  The US population has a higher Number per Unit of Pop. of Risk takers, thrill seekers, and other daring do.  I do not know What magizine I was reading it in, nor the time, but the idea seemed to just click into place.

I am a thrill seeker, though with age and joint and blood clotting and now the inability to get all the blood back to my heart causing my legs to swell when I have been more active than normal, I can't do mountain and rock face climbing, or Rock jumping, best while traveling full tilt running and jumping going down hill. I would miss it if I were younger I guess,  but I have a few other things to get my blood in a boil over state.

Survival of the fittest they always say.  And as a Christain in an esostreric way that is also true,  Being fit might mean differant things but it does fit.  If you want an explaination ASK.
God Bless,

2.7%, my family can do!! my parents had 5 kids (would have been 6, one pregnancy didn't make it) and out of the 5 of us, 0 kids. Back in the day, in suburb heaven, it was normal to have at least 3 kids, many families had 4 and 5 and more. Now 1-2 is more the norm. Creating a meme of families composed a few 1,2, and zero kid families that form a Family, would be really cool. That way people would feel there are "enough" kids running around, and each kid would feel he/she had plenty in the mommy department, there'd always be one to run to. I believe this is normal for humans and the modern nuclear (or is it nukular) family is artificial and unhealthy.
It's much, much worse than 2.7%

If you assume that in 2100 there will be only 0.5 billion people, then the reduction in population will be a bell shaped curve. (Or the integrated version of it). Some simple high school mathematics will say that the reduction will be over 5% per year. That means the average life expectancy will be less than 20 years.

Personally, I think the 0.5 billion number is too low. I would think that about 2 or 3 billion would be more accurate, but I have no data for that. The other assumption is that by 2100 we should be in a sustainable situation. Why's that? Why not by 2200?

The point however is that current projections say that the world population will grow to 9.5 billion in 2050.

So we better fix this PO issue, or we end up in a very nasty situation.

The biggest problem the human race has is that people do not understand the simple math of exponential growth.  Or, in this case, exponential decline.  2.7% per year translates to a doubling time (or, in this case, a halving time) of about 25 years (70/2.7).  Thus a century would allow 4 halvings, or a 16x reduction, which would bring 6.5 billion down to about 0.5 billion as claimed.

This is an exponential decline, not a bell curve.  Of course such a smooth curve is only an example, there are many other possibilities.

Also, this has nothing necessarily to do with life expectancy (another very misunderstood mathematical term).  E.g., if everybody stopped reproducing right now, but all lived to age 90, we'll have zero population by 2100...

Of course the target year of 2100 is arbitrary, only an example.  A population decline rate that equals the rate of decline of all energy sources might have a reasonable chance of working out.

To get a 2.7% per year population reduction in a more realistic scenario, we would only need to have somewhat less than 2 children per woman on the average.  That is not draconian I would think, but the tragedy is that we won't do that.  The results of reproduction-as-usual will be much more draconian.

Hello Brother Kornhoer,

6.5 billion world pop X .027 = 175,500,000 of first year postPeak deaths or 1 year equivalent of 2 or 3 WWIIs [a 4 year long war of approx 60 million deaths].  That means we will see some pretty upsetting media headlines every year of the postPeak decline. Yikes!

From CIA website for Ukraine:

population: approx. 47,500,000  40% of this is 19 million people dying leaving 28.5 million alive by 2050.  If the same death rate comes to America: 40% of 300 million = 120 million deaths leaving 180 million alive by 2050.  2050-2007= 43 years of dying 120/43= 2.79 million/year.

From Wikipedia:

The basic Phx,AZ area roughly approximates the 2.79 mil/year.  So imagine losing a major US population area every year between now and 2050.  Isn't math fun for illustrating the conflict levels ahead?

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

I have to agree with all you guys on this...we can voluntarily get a handle on and reduce our population, or let nature do it for us.  Of course, I don't believe we're going to do anything of the sort.  Here's an article from Friday's NYTimes on how 75% of the arable land in Africa has become overfarmed and unusable:

Notice how nobody mentions overpopulation as the cause...

Ah yes, that's the article I had in mind when I mentioned soil blowing away -- except I couldn't remember where I read it.
A study has been done by a Jonathon Heubner that proposes the peak human innovations per capita was reached in 1873, and we are headed towards a new 'dark ages'. This seems counterintuitive at first; however the per capita part is really the key thing here. The geometric growth of the world's population is really what he ended up measuring, IMO.

Plus there is this depressing story,,1742894,00.html

By most estimates, 2007 will see the world's urban population outnumber the rural population for the first time, while those living in slums will exceed a billion. The UN predicts numbers of slum-dwellers will probably double in the next 30 years, meaning the developing world slum will become the primary habitat of mankind.

For reference, the total OECD population is just over 1b, just 17% of the world's population.

I thought the word "achievable" refered to the standard of living, not to the 1/2 billion.  I read the sentence as meaning:  If we had 1/2 billion people on earth, a modern high and sustainable standard of living would be quite achievable.

The fact is, that the current population of 6.5 billion is a consequence of a century of abundant, cheap, and ever-increasing amounts of petroleum products (which include fertilizer, pesticides and medicines, in addition to fuel for tractors, harvesters, storage and transportation, plus pumps for drawing irrigation water from deep in the ground). The dropping away of said energy base is going to trigger a drop in the population, regardless of what we think is the non-morality or undesirability of population reduction.  Anyone under 40 is going to see a good chunk of that drop (unless they're part of it).    

I thought the word "achievable" refered to the standard of living, not to the 1/2 billion. I read the sentence as meaning: If we had 1/2 billion people on earth, a modern high and sustainable standard of living would be quite achievable.

Yes. Thank you for elegantly clarifying what I left ambiguous.

From a talk by Daniel Quinn:

At the present time, there are six billion people on this planet pursuing a vision that is devouring the earth. That's our problem. Our problem is not pollution. Our problem is not consumerism. Our problem is not capitalist greed. Our problem is not conservative selfishness or liberal utopianism. Our problem is not lack of leadership. Our problem is a world-devouring vision that six billion people are pursuing. ... If the world is saved, it will be saved by people with changed minds, people with a new vision. It will not be saved by old minds with new programs.
This weekend I have seen things that really have made me think.  Things concerning our future.  My Pastor even mentioned Global warming and Energy shortages in the sermon,  Though it was talking about God's Covenants with us.

I have been diving into the trash piles looking for flea market stuff or for the sales in my yard sales, or personal use.  Finds::  prefectly good kitty liter box, ( made with oil), Square PVC tubing. ( oil again),  Used Eye glasses,  Aluminium cans, a nice bar stool chair, spotless,  A platform rocker needing an upright support fixed and the joints tightened. and all sort of plastic flower pots and plastic stuff.  So my van is full again and I have a few people to trade with in the next few days anyway.

I have had talks with old timers that eat veggies out of their lawns, Find treasures in the trash and generally are happy with life.

But trash is the topic I wanted to bring up, how many easy to barter for junk items that I can sell are still worth fixing or recycling.

God Blass

I have a question for the folks out there who come up with graphs like this one seen on all the PO Blogs:

i.e. a stacked line graph with time on the X axis and production by oil type and / or region stacked up on the Y axis.

The presumed utility of such graphs is to indicate global "peak date" and give some (informed) speculative info. about the slope of the global post peak decline curve; But as far as I can tell the ones that I have seen only plot "Gross Barrels Produced" for each region, not "Energy Equivalent Barrels" i.e. the larger energy inputs required to produce things like Unconventional, heavy, arctic, deep water, old field with heroic recovery methods in place, etc. compared to a young light sweet field on dry land are not normalized out.    

If I'm correct this would seem to push the "true" peak down and to the left on the graph, and increase the slope of the post peak total line considerably as the EROEI ratio gets poorer, or am I missing something and are these graphs in fact allready normalized in this way...

Here's an interesting article in the Guardian on a Chavez proposal to sign long term contracts for $50/barrel for heavy crude in exchange for being able to count them as reserves. Anyway, what do TODders think about all aspects of this?,,1745707,00.html

Seems mostly to be a ploy to count tar sands (or similar heavy oil) as reserves for the primary purpose of influence within OPEC. Perhaps also it is a clever way to reduce OPEC's production.

Reading TOD and , one gets the impression that Venezuela is already near peak production.  So by increasing their quota, they are not increasing their production.  However increasing Venezuela quota will cause a quota reduction of other OPEC members - which forces them to reduce their production. OPEC then has less overall production - and Venezuela is calling the shots. Sounds like a nightmare for GWB.

Except that no one in OPEC seems to care much about their quotas anyway.
So basically it's just a numbers game, with the goal being to allow Venezuela to move up the OPEC packing order?  

I'm trying to imagine what the consequences would be.  It does not make any more actual oil appear.  It appears we've already got an infrastructure problem in dealing with heavy sour crude, so it won't result in any near term increases in availability.  

Does it get any more money for Venezuela now to allow it to develop fields faster?

"pecking order", of course!
When considering the purchase of household appliances, is there any resource which gives the energy expended in the manufacturing process?

For example, we have a 13-year old, contractor's grade hot water heater that came along with the house.  Should I replace it now for an efficiency gain?  Or would the energy expended in the manufacture of a new tank (amortized over the estimated remaining life of the existing tank) be greater than the direct energy savings?  

I have the same choice with a refrigerator and a washing machine.  Well, not exactly the same choice as there are additional considerations (besides the fact that our 21 year old fridge--though it runs fine--has 'uglied out' and my wife really wants a new one).  A discarded hot water tank, I assume, ends up in a landfill, while a fridge or washing machine (if donated to charity) will continue on elsewhere until they give up the ghost.  The washing machine, further, if the replacement is a front loader--is less hard on clothes so there may be some resource savings there.  

I guess my larger point is:  is one's direct household energy consumption, i.e., metered gas, electricity, and gasoline purchases, rivalled by the indirect consumption, i.e., the energy that goes into the manufacture of all the crap that fills up our homes.  Is there anyway to quantify this indirect consumption?

I would think that the difference in energy efficiency between a 21 year old refrigerator and a new one is quite, if it saved enough energy to pay for itself, presumably use after that would begin to pay for the cost of manufacture, but I wouldn't know the first thing about quantifying it.  
At a meeting to watch a film on Mountaintop Removal, we were told that Fridge efficiency has gone up as much as 40% in just the last few years.  We put an energy-star fridge in for one of our tenants last summer, and their bill is half what it was before the change. (Still waiting to get some hard numbers from them, but if it were our own fridge, it'd be well into paying for itself by now.  ($100 or more, 9 months)

I'm in Maine and still kicking myself for even RUNNING the fridge for 1/3 to 1/2 the year.  How hard can it be to stock up some 'cold' in a glycol solution when it's below 40 out?  (Not that hard, but a pain to put into action, clearly)

just run a heat pipe from your fridge to the outside. then if cold outside, fridge stays cold and does not run.  A heat pipe can be a length of copper pipe with a little drinkin' alcohol in it.  Seal one end, put in the alcohol, boil it with the sealed lower end on a stove burner, and when it has pushed all the air out and is exuding alcohol vapors out the top end away from the stove, seal that end (shut  a tight valve) and let the whole works cool.   It is entirely your responsibility to not kill yourself with the stove igniting the alcohol.

This kind of heat pipe will conduct heat amazingly fast.  try it by putting one end in a hot place and holding the other end.  But it only conducts from the warmer bottom end to the colder higher end.

have fun, and remember, you never heard any of this from me.  I'm just an ignorant hillbilly.

I've heard about heat pipes but with other substances. Try Everclear or Bacardi 151. Or, you could use nail polish remover, but beware it's real flammable. Any ol' volatile fluid will work. I've heard of others using some butane meant for refillable lighters. A heat pipe also acts like a heat rectifier. It works one way, like a diode.

For your fridge, you put the bottom part in the top of the fridge, and the top out in the cold. If you have a PVC section in the middle, you improve the rectifier effect as reverse heat flow is reduced by reducing conduction with the pipe itself. Choose your volatile wisely! Drinkable ethanol is a pretty good choice like the Everclear. (190 proof or "E95")

If the value of the saved energy pays for the device, it is clearly an energy win, because only part of the replacement price is for energy - even if you choose to express all components, eg steel, in energy terms, much of the cost is for labor, profit and taxes.
Most cities have trash gatherers.  Folks that take your tarash and make some use for them.  All metal objects get taken in the scrap hunters.  some of them actually have the time to strip the components out to get better value out of them.

 Only worry about preformance, not if it is ugly or not.  If we think about the pretty, we will be making a grave mistake.

I agree with the other commenter who said that if the energy cost savings pay for the total replacement cost in a reasonable time, that means that it made sense energetically.  That is because the energy cost of manufacturing it can only be less than the total purchase cost.  What is a "reasonable time"?  Economists (growth worshipers) scoff at slow returns, claiming that the "present value of future money" is very small.  That attitude is why we're toast.  But I'm getting off on a tangent...  Anyway that time should be smaller than the expected longevity of the appliance.

Regarding that water heater, if it runs on electricity, then a newer one will not be much better: they are all 100% efficient in converting electricity to heat, but that's a terrible way to use fuel, since the power plant converts only 40% or so of its fuel to electricity, the rest turns into heat, that (in the USA) is usually discarded.  It is much better to use fuel (e.g., natural gas) directly at home to heat the water.  That said, you also need to worry about heat loss from the hot water sitting there in the tank, so better insulation may be built into the newer models, but can also be added (as a "blanket") to older models.  And the gas-fired models basically have a chimney going through the middle of the tank, so they are never well insulated, reducing the advantage over electric models.

It is far better to separate the water heating device from the water storage tank, but that adds to the "embedded energy" and monetary cost.  I use an "on demand" water heater that is built into a propane-fueled boiler that also heats the house.  The temperature of the water fluctuated too much for comfy showers, so I added a small (4 gallon) insulated storage tank (with no energy source - it has an electric heating element but is not plugged in), works nicely.

Its the other way around if you have a grid with lots of wind power or lots of basload power like nuclear power. Heat your hot water with cheap electricity when you have windy day or during the night. If an efficient market reaches the small electricity customers you will get large variations in electricity price. Electricity can not easily be stored but hot water can be stored for days in a large well insulated tank.

A hot water tank with glass/mineral fibre or foamed insulation is a standard low tech solution mostly used when burning wood, one fire each day during winter, two per day if it is realy cold and one every four days or so during the summer to get hot water. One can easily use solar heat during summertime in Sweden but firewood is cheaper then the amortizing the investment.

It is very easy to heat domestic hot water in the US summer.  Just get a so-called pool heater, which is a flat rug of rubber with a lot of water tubes in it.  Roll it out on any surface like a rug on a floor, and run water thru it.  Hot!
One more gizmo one can get to save hot water: GFX

Prices have gone up though: peak copper!

There will be no need to implement population
controls. Nature will do the job. Obviously
agricultural and energy companies can still
squeeze just a little more out of the planet
before the meltdown, but once the meltdown
arrives for real, starvation and intertribal
genocide to secure what resources are left, as
per Darfur or Northern Kenya, will soon see the
population drop. Nobody knows how far off abrupt
climate is, but we do know we have set up all
the pre-conditions for it and by continuing to
pump in excess of 7 billion tonnes extra carbon
into the atmosphere annually we are accelerating
the process of global warming and bringing the
entire planet closer to the brink.

However, for many nations the deciding factor
might just be the supply of nitrogenous fertiliser
or the supply of irrigation water, long before
abrupt climate change.

Certainly a number in the range 500 million to
1 billion seems reasonable for a sustainable
population, in view fo the fact that virtually
no preparations have been made for sustainability.

Had all the issues that now trouble us been
addressed 30 years ago and suitable
infrastructure built and appropriate policies
been implemented, maybe the planet could have
supported more people in the future. But since
most nations have adopted off-the-cliff policies,
that's what we must expect.  

The real irony is that by prodiving food and
medical aid to Africa over the past 30 years,
western nations have simply increased the
unsustaibability (and the misery of the Arficans)

When are the latest oil (OK "anything that burns") production figures due out?)
Here a couple From

International Petroleum Monthly
Posted: March 31, 2006
Next Update: Early May 2006

Monthly Energy Review
Posted: March 28, 2006
Next Update: Last week of April 2006

I'd be interested in knowing where there are others

The IEA has its next summary coming out 4/12/06. It will give a preliminary estimate for March supply/demand, and in so doing will revise its Feb numbers (in an indirect manner - they never formally say they are revising previous numbers, they just say things like  "April increased from March by 400,000 to 82.8 mbd" from which you infer the revised March numbers. The prelim is always quite inaccurate. Check the URL below. On that page, in addition to the report, you will find a publication schedule link.

Not directly connected to peak oil, but I think it could be interesting and useful:

It's a site where you can catalog your books online.  You can share your reading list with other people (or not), see others' reading lists, and get recommendations based on shared tastes.  

You can enter up to 200 books for free.  There's a small fee if you want to enter more than that.  An easy way to add books to your list is to put them on an Amazon wishlist, then import the wishlist to LibraryThing.  Seems to work pretty well. (Though you have to be logged out of Amazon for it to work.)

Still in beta, so there's a few bugs, but it seems really cool.  I always wanted a site like this (but was way too lazy to set it up myself).

No "peak oil" tag yet.  We have to fix that.  ;-)

I am amazed at how quickly the article about Africa Prof Goose linked to made my mind jump to carying capacity.

Apparently others made the same connection.

I wonder how we will address global carrying capacity, as many Cornucopians seem to think that we can continue to knock out more species and deforest the planet so that eventually it will all be farmed -- land and sea.  On the other hand, many hard-headed Realists say we are already in global ecological trouble.  Doomers tend to think that environmental and human economic systems will collapse sooner rather than later.  Without bothering to argue for one of these perspectives (I'm a moderate Doomer) we have people wanting to take human settelment in two (or three?) different directions.

Add to this the geopolitical questions.

Will African nations band together to claim African oil as their own?

Will they demand some form of concrete support from the First World?

Will any African calls for support be based on humanitarian or moral foundations?

What responses might such calls get?

Will African nations have the will or means to force some kind of supports from the rest of the planet?

What implications does this have for the rest of the impoverished world as they also experience crushing shortages of fuel, food, water, and the means to find their feet in terms of sustainable infrastructure?

Will we be forced into some sort of Global Powerdown/Powerup negotiation as poor countries begin to undeniably Die Off?

Will wealthier nations attempt to facilitate the Die Off of the poor, or will they attempt to help at least some of the poor people in poorer nations to survive and eventually thrive within a smaller but wiser global community?

Inquiring minds really, really, want to know.

The real energy problems are confronting the rich countries, not the poorer ones. Most "old" industrialized countries do not have large domestic energy reserves. Japan, for instance, is a real basket case with nearly 0% domestic energy. EU is also in bad shape with about 35% energy-independence at present and much smaller in 20 years (after the complete depletion of North Sea oil and gas and Netherlands gas). The US is in a little better position, with 2/3 domestic energy, but in 20 years also this figure will be much lower.

Most of the remaining world fossile energy is located elsewhere than in the "rich" countries. The impact of the energy crunch will be harshest there where the energy consumption is highest at the present. In the 18th century, in the pre-industrial world, living standard in the world was regionally roughly equal. The most unsustainable population situation is in Europe, which has a population of roughly half a billion and where the population density is one of the highest in the world. The US is not in much  better position. A nice economic collaps in the Western world will free some energy reasources for the others.  

Opec 'doing all it can' for oil prices

Abdullah al-Attiyah, Qatar's Oil minister, said yesterday that there are no plans to increase levels of production to meet extra demand. "The price as it is now, nothing will happen," he said. "Even if it reaches $70, what can we do? We are doing all that we can."

On Friday, a barrel of London Brent crude cost $65.91 at close of trading. Although there are decades worth of oil left, there comes a point at which it cannot be brought out of the ground fast enough. At that point prices soar, as it becomes clear that demand cannot be met. Some experts think that peak may soon be reached.

I might as well do this now.

You are all invited to a Block party.

May 7th,  12:30 pm,  My house, rain or shine.

Pot luck, You bring your food and a bit to share, and a chair.  I provide the tables and the yard.  If it rains the Porch in back and maybe the house can provide shelter.

E.mail me at for details if you might be in the area.    

This is the last for sure weekend that I will be in Huntsville, Alabama.
Thanks, Hope to see at least some of you in the coming years, if not at the party.
God Bless,  Charles

Huntsville Alabama,  is where I live.
I have a question:  Can someone out there explain the octane rating system for gasoline to me?  What exactly does it mean to distinguish between gasoline with an 87, 89, and 93 octane rating (which are generally the available choices on the East Coast)?  

Is the system in use here in the US the same as that used in Europe?  If so, then the Europeans would seem to have more potent gasoline than we here in the US, since the octane ratings there are generally speaking 95 for "regular" and 98 for "super."

This has been bugging me off and on for years.  Any assistance anyone can offer with this matter would be greatly appreciated.

Oh, and while we are at it, why do the available octane ratings gradually decrease as one heads west from the East Coast - from 87 to 85 for "regular," and from 93 to 91 for "super?"

The octane rating of gasoline describes the amount that the gasoline can be compressed prior to exploding, it does not refer to the energy content per unit fuel.

Sporty engines need higher octane gas, otherwise the higher compression ratios they employ will cause the fuel air mixture to ignite prior to the spark plug firing, and / or in a way that has a fast uneven flame front inside the cylinder that can cause engine damage (like blasting a hole through the top of the piston if it is really bad) This is called "Knock" or "Ping"

In the old days the octane number refered to the percentage of the hydrocarbon "Octane" in the fuel, i.e. 87 octane would be 87% Octane, 13% Heptane (more or less).

Fuel additives (the first one used was Tetraethyl Lead) that affect the combustion properties mean that the octane rating no longer strictly corresponds to the actual composition of the various hydrocarbon fractions within the fuel in this way

I guess I should have added that what you call it: Regular, Super, Super-Duper-My-Minivan-is-really-a-race-car, etc. is pure marketing hype, Unless you are hearing "Ping" or "Run On" (Engine continues to fire after the key is turned off) there is no reason to burn a higher octane rated fuel as shown by the octane rating number than is called for in the Owners Manual. It won't hurt to burn higher octane, but is a waste of money.
Just a little sidenote: A good read on population and world crisis is "Stand on Zanzibar" by John Brunner. Also intriguing is "The Sheep look up" by the same author.
Sailorman and I had a discussion about these books about a month ago.

I look for them in every bookstore I go to. Not to be found. Nor on Amazon. I know that you can find them on Amazon used but I haven't looked to be honest.

I belong to an excellent service, which I hate to mention for fear that others will hear about it(but here go's) - Can't get it there either.

There is another book, which I recommend, but won't give up my copy. (Only real TODers have ever read it).

Make Room!Make Room! by Harry Harrison.

On the back cover - "The novel that became Soylent Green"

Some day I will read to you from this - boys and girls.

I'd kill for one of those Brunner books. Are they made out of paper. Two or three hundred pages. I'm drooling.

Yeah, I know. Library.
No need to kill. Just buy used from amazon.

Think of all the bullets and blood you can save;-)

I'm trying not to buy paper. Just like I'm trying to drive less. I have more than a house full of books. The ones I can't part with are walled off, so to speak. The others are getting slowly given away to library, and sent to those who want them - hence

I plan all trips so that I can stop at a Barnes and Noble or Borders.

I'm 50 pages into 1984, so I won't be having withdrawal symptoms for at least another week.

Last book I bought - it was bad, I couldn't control the urges, forgive me - A Thousand Barrels A Second. 30 bucks, too. Could've bought three other books for the same price, ridiculous.

I have two rules:
  1. For every new book I buy for permanent acquisition, I give away or sell two others.
  2. Buy no book that is readily available at a library, unless I need it for reference.

This policy has enabled me to reduce my collection of books from roughly two tons to about 500 volumes, and it also encourages me to ride my bike often to the library, make interlibrary lending requests and even request that the Library system purchase certain books.

I enjoy buying books, but I buy mostly used and give them away, especially to my grandchildren and to low-income friends in the teaching profession.

Another good trick, if think you might want to refer to a book in the future is to give it to your favorite library for shelving (as opposed to going to the Friends of the Library book sale), and then it is availible to others as well as yourself.

As a small-time bibliophile myself, I have little power over my urge to acquire more and more books.  I do want to conserve paper but don't want to curtail my addiction.  

Well, here's how I compensate. First, if you look at the total amount of paper the average (literate) person consumes, you will quite readily see that even the frequent purchase of books usually constitutes but a small fraction of the total. Daily newspapers, paper towels and toilet tissue, and packaging constitutes most of paper people directly consume.  If one just cuts out getting the Sunday edition of the typical major metropolitan area newspaper, one saves an amount paper equivalant to that of a large hardback book. So, I no longer get our Sunday paper, which is about 90% junk advertising anyway. I might even cancel the paper altogether, as I get most of the news I really care about over the internet anyway.

There are many other ways to save paper, but I definitely draw the line on toilet tissue.

"There are many other ways to save paper, but I definitely draw the line on toilet tissue."

Ummm... Have you considered a bidet? nicer to remove it from your body rather than just smearing a fair bit of it around the area in question...

Here's another object lesson in why mass transit - in most places busses and light rail - is not to be relied upon.

More commuters held hostage by very well-paid blackmailers. And as long as any oil at all (i.e. at the margin) is imported, the diesel bus portion of the operation, i.e. most of it, is as open to Middle Eastern blackmail as anything else.

It often happens that when two capital-intensive technologies compete, one of them more or less goes away. Maybe, when you add to this blackmail the unreliability, utter lack of schedule-keeping, and just general shiftless incompetence that characterizes transit in the USA, particularly the busses, it's really easy to understand why cars are not the technology that, so far, is going away.

In Manhattan, and perhaps downtown San Francisco, people may not have an "out". Elsewhere, they do.

As one who has decades of experience as a public transit driver I can authoratively say that buses get stuck in the same traffic congestion as everyone else. Creating a route schedule that takes into account all the variables like time of day, accidents, detours, weather, malfunctioning railroad crossing gates, etc is almost impossible. Managers usually just pick an average speed around 15 mph +/- 2 mph and use that figure all the time. There are always parts of routes where this is too fast and parts where it is too slow. One way of lowering the impact of these variables is to run more buses on each route. Politics usually vetos that idea.
It's impossible to put buses on a schedule becuse of traffic. I know this as a longtime transit passenger. You can schedule trains though, only becuse it has reserved right of way and is controllable like air traffic.

Adding buses may help with layovers when making connecting rides but the drawback is more fuel use. Don't forget in cases of heavy use and heavy traffic you get the maddening problem of bus bunching. You know, the bus finally comes but it's a rolling sardine can and 3 buses right behind zoom by becuse the first one stopped.

About the best thing that could happen to transit ridership is the soaring gas prices... 5_2006-04-03_13-39-59_N03194874

"NEW YORK, April 3 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks opened sharply higher on Monday as brisk acquisition action, including several deals in the telecommunications sector, stirred enthusiasm for equities."

I always amazes me that investors see Merger and Acquisitions as a positive to the stock market.  The more M&A activity I see going on in the business world just leads me to believe that there are no "real" opportunities out there to grow except by buying up other companies or assets.  There is no overall increase in the amount of the general resource in the system, the owners of that resource are just moved around and competition is reduced.  Add on top of that, the usual cost-cutting reductions that occur after M&A's (read staff/infrastructure reductions) and I think this builds a convincing case that increased M&A activity is a sign of bad things to come.

I think the same applies to energy companies' M&A's.

Oil is pushing $68 today, supposedly on concerns over Nigeria.

Oil prices leaped above $67 on Monday with 23 percent of Nigerian output still shut by rebel attacks and no sign of Royal Dutch Shell restarting exports from its vast Forcados oil field and terminal.

...The removal of 550,000 barrels per day of Nigerian oil has coincided with growing demand from refiners in the United States, consumer of 40 percent of the world's gasoline.

"The loss of critical Nigerian barrels just as U.S. refiners are returning from maintenance has established a $60 floor (for U.S. crude) and threatens to re-test the all time high of $70.85," analysts at PFC Energy wrote in a note.

Everyone's fretting over GM, but Ford is just as hurtin'.  

Ford Motor said Monday its March sales fell 4.6 percent to 291,146 from a year earlier.

Sales of Ford's F Series pickup truck, the nation's best-selling vehicle, rose 4.5 percent, but several of the automaker's SUV models posted double-digit declines.

Sales of the Ford Explorer fell 31 percent while the Excursion and Expedition, two of the automaker's large SUVs, declined 82.9 percent and 13.4 percent, respectively.

Sales of the Excursion declined 83%??!!!

Exxon has knocked Wal-Mart from the top of the Fortune 500 list.  Yet another sign of the New World Order...
More signs of the times....

Even Saudi Arabia is demanding that the U.S. conserve!

Demand May Outpace Saudi Oil Capacity

"The current out-of-control demand is not good for us," Ghazi Al-Rawi, head of private equity at Gulf One Investment Bank, said in a recent interview. "When you have this kind of demand, you're forced to supply beyond the optimal rate. That's not a positive thing."

Most urgently needed is energy conservation, especially in the United States, which now burns up a quarter of the oil sold to the world, said Saddad al-Husseini, the former head of production at state-owned Saudi Aramco.

Meanwhile, Africa's problems are the world's problems:

Pirates hijack UAE tanker off Somalia

A dozen heavily armed pirates have hijacked a UAE-registered oil tanker along with 19 Filipino crew members off the coast of Somalia, an international piracy watchdog said.

"Twelve pirates armed with machine guns, AK47 rifles and sidearms boarded the tanker off Mogadishu during daylight," Noel Choong, head of the Piracy Reporting Centre of the London-based International Maritime Bureau, told AFP.

Choong said the United Arab Emirates oil tanker had earlier discharged its cargo at Mogadishu port and was hit on March 29 after leaving port.

Maritime officials identified the ship as "Lin 1."

Choong said the pirates are holding the ship off the coast of Somalia and are demanding "a huge sum of money" from the owners for its release.