Wednesday's Open Thread

Since we were asked   . . .enjoy
Everytime I talk to people about energy, they start talking about money. It's like we are talking different languages. I feel like the two are so disconnected in our modern world.

I'd like to hear people's thoughts on the whole financial, monetary issue - ya know, the whole "If you don't change the way money works, you don't change anything".

How do you perceive "the way money works"?
Here's what I'm talking about, from the Energy Bulletin:
Less well known were Hubbert's studies since 1926 on the rate of industrial growth and of mineral and energy resources and their significance in the evolution of the world's present technological civilization. Clark in "Geophysics" in February 1983 states - In recent years, he (Hubbert) has assaulted a target -- which he labels the culture of money --that is gigantic even by Hubbert standards. His thesis is that society is seriously handicapped because its two most important intellectual underpinnings, the science of matter-energy and the historic system of finance, are incompatible. A reasonable co-existence is possible when both are growing at approximately the same rate. That, Hubbert says, has been happening since the start of the industrial revolution but it is soon going to end because the amount the matter-energy system can grow is limited while money's growth is not.

And we discussed this back in October in reaction to Peter Huber's book, but I'm sort of looking for some fresh ideas.

If we don't deal with this in some way, the disconnect will continue to skew incentives IMO.

Precious metals have been lent out at interest for at least 4500 years. It's called capitalism, the old name was usury.
Imagine that 4500 years ago someone very poor put aside as an investment the tiniest grain of silver she could scrape off, and lent it out at 2% annual interest. And imagine that up to the present day, her descendants didn't draw on that store, but kept reinvesting it with the profits in the same way, at the same rate of interest.
Of course, over the great majority of that time, no-one would have lent at anything like so low a rate. But let's stick with my scenario.
By now, that family's hoard of gold would have grown so large, that to create it we would have to turn every single atom in the universe, (we can't observe it any farther even in principle, no matter how big our telescopes) into gold, and then add as many other universes as there are atoms in this one, and turn them all to gold, and still we wouldn't be done.
You have got the maths a bit wrong . 1.02 raised to the power  4500 is  about  5 x 10^38.  That will raise 1g of silver to 5 x 10^35 kg of silver.  The mass of the sum is about 2 x 10^30 kg. Converting the 70% hydrogen atoms (atomic mass 1) and 28% helium (atomic mass 4) to silver (atomic mass 107) gives about 1.26 x 10^32 kg.  You would need about 4000 suns turned into silver.  There are about  10^11 stars in our galaxy and about 10^11 galaxies in the observable universe.  Assuming our star is about average mass you are out by a factor of about 2.5 x 10^18.
Good catch! I was hoping someone would correct that.
I should have let her lend at 7%. Still many times less than the lowest rate you could borrow at for most of the time elapsed since then.
Imagine that 4500 years ago someone very poor put aside as an investment the tiniest grain of silver she could scrape off, and lent it out at 2% annual interest. And imagine that up to the present day, her descendants didn't draw on that store, but kept reinvesting it with the profits in the same way, at the same rate of interest.
Let me suggest another way to think about this.

Ultimately, lending money and getting back more can be thought of as supported by the growth of the economy. But only in recent years has the economy grown as fast as 2% per year. 4500 years ago the economy was dominated by farming. As argued in economist Robin Hanson's analysis, the economy at that time took about 900 years to double in size, compared to about 20 years today. An appropriate interest rate at that time would have been something like 0.08%. Today the equivalent would be about 3-4%.

Over the time period since 2500 BC, world product has increased by roughly a factor of 50,000. That is a realistic estimate of how much an investment should be expected to grow in that interval of 4500 years. It's a substantial amount but not the extravagant figure you calculated. And it corresponds to using the interest rates above, 0.08% for most of the period, ramping up to 3-4% today.

I think it's more useful to consider what profit you could make from real investments, not what rate of interest we might declare acceptable in our minds. The first is a very important historical fact, the second an abstraction.
Even today no investor will settle for 3-4%, though now you can get that with virtually no risk. In ancient times all commercial enterprises, including moneylending, expected huge rates of return, and were correspondingly risky by our standards. From such considerations, Keynes foresaw a future time when real interest rates would reach zero.
If we want to know whether any activity, including interest bearing loan, is sustainable over some time period, we need to consider its real conditions, not those we would prefer in retrospect.  

Before anyone can answer you, we have to be clear about terminology.

  1. Money is just a temporary storage of relative value. If most folk in our society agree that you can exchange 30,000 money units (i.e. US dollars) for a car, then the relative value of the money unit is 1/30,000 of a car.
  2. I have no idea what Hubbert was referring to by the "culture of money" phrase. It is so ambiguous that it can refer to anything you personally want it to refer to.
  3. We will always have "money" as a means of exchange because it sure beats the heck out of bartering.
  4. The problem is not "money" but rather what people in a given society "value". If people do not attribute much "value" to the ability to generate renewable energy and to not emitting CO2; then that is how they value it. If people do highly "value" the ability to impress their neighbors with that shiny,CO2-belching SUV perched on the driveway, then they will demonstrate their "value" system by pricing the SUV and its support structure (oil industry) one way --by not accounting for the true costs of that SUV and its support systems. They will demonstrate their lack of value for a green life by pricing a renewable source (i.e. windmill) another way --by not "accounting" for the positive effects that the windmill has on the environment. It's all in how you pretend to "account" for things or not count them at all. Some of the people who do the counting for us are called Enron accountants. In accountants we trust. To think otherwise is heresy.

None of these are "fresh ideas". It's just a rehash of old ideas. We humans express our value system by making a noise. It is called the "price" noise.

Mother Nature does not listen to our "price" noises. There is a finite amount of easily extractable sweet crude and when it's gone, it's gone. There is a finite amount of CO2 that our atmosphere and oceans can absorb, and when that limit is exceeded, it is exceeded. Make all the price noises you want. It won't change Mother Nature's mind. It won't change the scientific facts.

"That, Hubbert says, has been happening since the start of the industrial revolution but it is soon going to end because the amount the matter-energy system can grow is limited while money's growth is not."

Oh brother, here we go again.  I am not going to spend much time on this because frankly, it's not worth it.

But, for all practical human purposes, the amount of "matter-energy" is decidedly not limited.  
OIL per se, is limited.  LIGHT SWEET CRUDE OIL per se is limited.  NATURAL GAS per se is limited.

But this planet and the solar system around it is awash in energy.
Humans do not even "scratch the eyeball" of the amount of solar, wind, tidal, lightning, and unknown other forces present in the solar system that are available to us given the right technology and yes, sorry to say it, MONEY.

Our system simply did what any system would do (and for all the left wing utopians, Socialists and Marxists style systems are equally energy intensive if they are "technical" and "modern" in communication and transport, which they MUST be to survive exterior competition), that is, gravitate to the cheapest and easiest fuel source, and then build outward around it.  This was not a SIN, it was not IDIOCY, but was simply the normal development that would have been expected.  So what's the problem?  It is actually a very simple one:  To re-steer such a complex system won't be is much the same problem of trying to steer the Titanic away from an iceberg a mile away...sounds easy, but it took more distance than that to slow or stop such a mammoth device.
This does NOT diminish the real and dangerous may seem like a technicality but it proved fatal for the passengers of the Titanic.
Likewise, if steering does not begin soon enough for the oil based economies, it could prove fatal for us.  (the point of the Hirsch report)

This does not mean the problem is incapable of being resolved (as so many here assert over and over again) but it does mean that steering action should already be underway.  It actually is, but the question is, is  it enough, soon enough.  We don't know, but that should not keep us from cranking on the tiller!  :-)

We are on the same page but probably using different words.

Yes, our Titanic Cruise Ship is heading for the Iceberg and yes we need to change course. Problem is that those in charge say, don't worry, the Invisible Hand is upstairs in the steering house taking care of everything. I went upstairs to take a look and there was nobody home. Nobody is steering the ship. It is a mindless machine going on its own unintelligently-designed course straight for the Berg.

Now you say that "we" simply homed in on the "cheapest" energy sources, oil (and before that coal and wood). The word "cheapest" implies that someone is doing a proper accounting of what it "costs" to use oil, or coal or wood. But when you check in on our Enron-era accountants, you find they never accounted for everything. They only accounted for that which makes themselves look good. They served their own "enlightened self-interest" as Adam Smith would have them do. The bottom line is not the bottom line. It's the CYA line. Except now it's our "A" that is going to be on the line as that ship draws ever closer to the Berg's peak.

Okay I'll take a stabe at the money energy issue.

I like to think that more value (money) is assigned to anything that has higher entropy.  In this sense things that are more ordered or complex have higher value.  Even precious metals fit this rule because a ring of gold commands more value (money) than a lump of gold.

So converting something to a more ordered/complex form adds value and we assign dollars to it.  Energy enters the system to allow us to add complexity to things easily.  This happens primarily through the manufacturing process.  We make things.  Houses, cordless drills, cars, computers, canned food, fishing rods, etc.  All those things are more complex than their starting material or individual components.  Like wise the components are more complex than their raw materials.  And the raw materials are more complex than the raw ores or petroleum products.

All these changes of state require energy input into the system.  Hundreds of years ago much of the energy came from muscle power.  People used hand saws to cut wood.  Now they use power saws.  Both the manufacture of the new saw and it's operation use much more energy than a hand saw.  To make the hand saw hundreds of years ago metal was smelted with heat and physically hammered and tempered using muscle power at a forge and anvil.  Only the heating process consumed vast amounts of fossil energy.  The rest of the process was by human or animal muscle power driven by caloric intake of food.

Clearly that hand saw, made by a craftsman, commanded a lot of value for what it allowed people to do.  Their was a lot of money assigned to it so that the person who made it could buy his food rather than spend time growing or catching it.

Today we have substituted fossil energy for a lot of the craftsmenship and manufacturing duities that humans used to do.  People still build houses but it is a heck of a lot easier using power tools, air nailers, precut lumber, siding, premade windows, etc.  All those high entropy tools and materials allow rapid construction.  So has the value of a house gone up or gone down with the ability to do things quickly?

I can't answer that, but clearly a continuous supply of fossil energy is required to maintain this system.  But where is the value (money) to be assigned in this process?  Most of the money used to go to the people that actually built the house, the laborers.  Now that value has to be split between the laborers, every supplier of pre made material, the designers, the makers of the tools, etc.  The price of the house is now really a price for being able to build a house quickly.  And this is all underpinned by huge energy expenditures at every step of the way.

So everything from the smelting of ore to the manufacture of tools to making of windows through to the erection of the house is happening much, much, much faster than it did hundreds of years ago.  All of this speed is underpined by energy.  In most people eyes money is still being assigned to the physical goods.  The tools, appliances, finished lumber, finished houses.  All of these things used to be primarily shaped and created by human brains and muscle power but they are not anymore.  

Today complex things are almost completely shaped and made by fossil energy expenditure.  Most people think that paying people money will get things done.  The reality is that we are mostly paying for fossil energy to get these things done.  People just hang around and contribute a little bit of direction once in a while.  The monetary system is too many layers away from the energy for people to really understand this concept.  Too many people have been raised to believe that if they direct money at a problem than people will solve it.  The reality is that energy has been solving the problems.  And it always did but was easy to see in a person sawing wood or a water wheel grinding wheat.

Human ingenuity has becoming less and less important.  I don't see any thing inherently wrong with money.  It is just being assigned to the wrong thing.  Take away the easy energy of fossil fuels and people, by themselves, are not going to accomplish very much.  I personally do not think we are as smart at solving problems as our great, great grand parents were.  We almost always substitute energy rather than true problem solving to do things.  This leads to very energy innefficient approaches and designs.  

The financial systems are blind to this.  They assign money to human actions when the money should be assigned to what is lifting everything to complex states.  That is energy.  Without energy the whole monetary system as we practice it today doesn't work.  Applying money to solve problems won't work without energy, or will happen so much slower as to be meaningless compared to today.  

But people who primarily or only deal with money transactions have a hard time grasping this concept.  Even if you have limited energy to run the computers and banking system their may not be enough energy to run saw mills, bulldozers, milling machines, etc.  Without that part of the economy the finance system can not actually do anything.  So harnessing energy is where money needs to be focused.  But today the focus is on harnessing money, to make more money through, that can be leveraged into more money, through investments to make more money, etc.  It is all interest gains in a never ending cycle that refuses to recognize the contribution of energy.

I don't see any thing inherently wrong with money.  It is just being assigned to the wrong thing.

You and I are saying close to the same thing except that use of the passive verbal form, "being assigned" hides the true cause of our predicament. Money is not on its own "assigned". People assign it. People decide what they "value" more and what they value less.

So if tomorrow, everyone gets this crazy notion that they must have a tulip in their home, the value of tulips will skyrocket. If the day after, the herd changes its "rational" mind and decides that tulips are no longer vogue, tulip "prices" will drop. The "demand" part of supply and demand is not a rational process. It is driven by emotional impulse. Madison Avenue knows that. This is why they use emotional appeals (sex, power, fear) to sell us things.

Right now they are selling us on buying SUV's and mega-homes filled with massive quantities of consumables. This activity causes our "economy" to "grow". Fossil fuels help it grow faster just like lots of rain, sunshine and fertilizer help the weeds grow faster.

I agree.

There is a manipulation of money for moneys sake.  It is no longer a good substitute for the barter system as an exchange medium.

Hello NC,

Your Quote: "The financial systems are blind to this."

How sadly true.  After the last winter earthquake hit Bam, Iran on Friday, Dec 26, 2003:

It occurred to me how many people will sadly die of exposure to the bitter cold & wet.  I then imagined 'land lifeboats':  the most bare, but most effective way to help protect people from the weather elements and hypothermia.

Basically, I envisioned a sturdy, but very lightweight, insulated carbon-fiber or fiberglass 'human cocoon' on bicycle wheels.  It would be waterproof, have an additional storage compartment for the bare essentials [water filter, small stove, cooking pot, etc], and have a small solar panel and battery cell to power a heating pad at night.  It would be light enough to be pulled by one person, either on foot or behind a bicycle.

So I drew a sketch and went down to my local banker to ask if this is a viable business.  He said that people living in mud houses couldn't afford these, and Americans, even after an major earthquake hit, would refuse to live in these 'coffins'.  So my dreams of saving lives and being a big business success went nowhere, but I left my card that referred him to and LATOC, and related books.  He has never called me back, yet it seems obvious to me that there will be great demand for these in a postPeak world of wandering migrant field workers.  Such is life.

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

Well there you have an example of how the Invisble Hand works. It is always looking for that short term profit and high return on financial investment (ROI).

If you are passionate about your idea you should not take one person's rejection as the final say so. You may flip his criticisms around (if they are valid) and see them as suggestions of how to improve on your idea. Maybe the US government (FEMA) might be willing to fund your idea? Maybe you are on to something except it needs further development. For example what if a bunch of your survival bikes could be modularly hooked together to make a large tent for many people? There are some interesting ideas and possibility buried in your initial proposal. However, before you post your ideas on a public forum like this one perhaps you should talk to a patent attorney or agent. Inventing is hard hard work. Turning it into a viable business model is even harder. But that is no reason to give up. (Someone on TOD earlier posted some quote by Churchill about knowing that you are on the right track when things start to feel like hell and that is when you must develop the resolve to march forward even harder.)

Hello Stepback,

Thxs for responding. I don't believe anything is patentable: the wheel, solar panel, battery, fiberglass, heating pad, sleeping bag, etc, have all been done before.  My initial goal was to make it, as cheap as possible using existing tech, so production could quickly be ramped up.  I don't even care about patent royalties, just a modest stock position would be fine: I am more interested in saving lives, and providing minimal, but highly ruggedized, portable postPeak habitat.  I sent a email to the city council detailing this idea for the Phx homeless-- no reply.  I think they prefer the poor struggling to live out of wobbly grocery carts and cardboard shelters in the dry river bottoms and alleys.  Can't have the rich tourists being exposed to the unpleasant side of life.

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

btw, I totally agree regarding patenting or tming your ideas. In fact when we email privately about this thing we should clear that up first. That way somebody's idea ends up selling a million dollars worth, the person won't end up spending 1.5 million in legal fights.




You say, "I don't care about patent royalties." That's what they ALL say until some other yahoo makes a million off the idea and gets all the females!

I recommend the Nolo series books. They have one about patenting your own ideas. It's not an easy thing to do, but it can be done.




I don't have your email address, but I think this is a fantastic idea. Mostly I think it is because I had almost the exact same idea myself! Genetically mutated minds think alike I say.  I even went and reasearched what it would cost to create one myself. A sturdy bike with one of those bike trailers, slide out solar panels, etc.  

I don't have your email addy and you don't have it posted on the info page but email me and let's talk.

I would think there would be a market for this type of thing after Katrina, Rita, etc. I would totally buy one myself.  It's like the ultimate sustainable bug out vehicle!

I want mine in all black with some cool name like "snake" or "ghostrider" blazened in on the side and chrome spinning wheels to impress the local females.



Hello NC,

I was rereading your excellent post and this quote tickled my imagination:

NC: "I personally do not think we are as smart at solving problems as our great, great grand parents were.  We almost always substitute energy rather than true problem solving to do things.  This leads to very energy inefficient approaches and designs."

It occurred to me that this is exactly what we are doing with our prison systems!  In the olden days, the prisoners were forced to grow their own food within the prison confines-- to be a self-sustaining biosolar habitat.
Nowadays, most prisoners sit in their cells watching TV or even playing videogames.  We powered up the prison system, when it would be much better to power it down!

It would save tremendous taxdollars and provide future post-prison skills for these felons if they were earlier forced to adapt to biosolar lifestyles.  They, by being early adopters, would encounter prePeak, many of the kinks that normal society will have to learn postPeak.  They can learn to be permaculturists, humanure engineers, install solar PV and water heating, animal husbandry, leather tanning and blacksmithing skills, total disassembley and careful recycling techniques of fossil fueled generated items, and building super-efficient housing from locally available resources [adobe bricks, rammed earth housing, housing made from recycled items, etc].  Best of all, the prison guards could almost be considered the first inductees for my surmised Earthmarine vanguard.

Arizona alone has 35,000 prisoners currently incarcerated, living off the taxpayers' funds.  Their housing is very energy intensive and bleak:

I think it would be far better to expand the land around a prison system, and then green it up.  Let them grow switchgrass for biofuels at a minimum.  Comments, TODers?

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

It would save tremendous taxdollars and provide future post-prison skills for these felons if they were earlier forced to adapt to biosolar lifestyles.  ...  Best of all, the prison guards could almost be considered the first inductees for my surmised Earthmarine vanguard.

So, would it be fair to say, that the "biosolars" would be forced to support the "earthmarines", who would rule over them?

Hello Djd,

Thxs for responding.

This is a highly complex problem that I have not thought through all the details and ramifications.  Basically, the detritovores need to pay to support the Earthmarine protection of the biosolars, just as taxpayers now pay for the Secret Service protection of the President.  The continued use of detritus [fossil fuel] allows a leveraged surplus that the biosolars will never be able to afford from their initial efforts.  But some kind of system needs to be setup to protect the biosolars from being overrun until the detritovores decline to postPeak energetic parity with the biosolars or below.

If the NW & NE parts of the US secede to become biosolars, it is like the creation of the first wildlife preserves for humans.  If they gradually become large enough in expanding their territory and techniques to create a small surplus of biosolar generated goods, when the energy parity point is reached vis-a-vis the detritovores, the Earthmarines will be highly incentivized to protect the biosolars even more.

The Earthmarines will necessarily be highly educated and understanding of concepts: they will know that plundering the biosolars would be the worst thing they could do, their efforts will be solely focused on keeping the eventual starving detritovores from invading and stupidly plundering the biosolar habitat.

Our current economic system is optimized to expand the detritus 'spiderweb' everywhere, but we know this cannot continue.  We need to start creating a biosolar 'spiderweb', and my proposal of choking fossil fuel production would create an economic incentive for the oil companies, yet also allow the increased profits to be siphoned off to be EXCLUSIVELY USED for funding this biosolar web.  

Just the President announcing this kind of funding system would send billions to TOD, LATOC, and other websites to find what is going on.  Once the unwashed masses understood the necessity of biosolar habitats, they would gladly continue to pay their taxes because NOW it is finally being spent wisely for a postPeak world.  Or so I hope-- it is my proposal to minimize postPeak violence as much as possible, but I am 'permeable', as Stuart says, to better suggestions.  It seems almost impossible at this point in time, but who knows?  Maybe, just maybe, we will get lucky.

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

More likely, looking at human history, is that the "Earthmarines" will follow the feudal model.  The protectors become the Lords, with special social standing, rights to any surplus and special privileges.
Hello AlanfromBigEasy,

Being a fast-crash Doomer, I am inclined to agree, but I am always trying to prod people to consider less dire alternatives.  It will be up to the combined aggregate will of the masses as to how our future goes.

The curious thing about Peakoil is that doomers sounding the alarm creates an Powerdown impetus that delays the downslope, but optimists, by saying Peakoil will be no big deal, only hastens the downslope as the masses ignore Powerdown.  It's like an inverse psychological function--very ironic to me.

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

Marjorie Kelly's book "The Divine Right of Capital" hits the nail on the head, I think.  She notes that we have never really entered into democracy.  The divine right of Kings was actually transferred by the original US Constitution to a select group:  rich white men.

Women were disenfranchised, as were black or Native American men.  Over time women and people of color have been formally included as citizens, but more importantly than this, we have not effectively the role of concentrated wealth in control of our culture and government.

A second book (and movie) related to this is "The Corporation" (book by Joel Bakan).  The rise of the corporation -- and corporatism -- have much to do with the way concentrated wealth has been protected from democratic innovation.  In a way, human culture has been innoculated against economic democracy by very limited political democracy.

Behind this is the reality that our concept of wealth and our ways of measuring wealth are essentially superstitious.  Human systems of understanding and measuring wealth have to do with concentration of wealth and economic control of the many by the few.

If we measure wealth in terms of making "liberty and justice for all" our standard, then we are very poor.  If we measure wealth in terms of the ability of a few to grow wealthy without regard to the common good or to "liberty and justice for all" then we are a wealthy species.

Finally, we concieve of wealth as something one (or many)can accumulate without understanding or regard for the larger ecosystem.  Permaculturalists on the other hand view the ecosystem as a dynamic resource to be understood and tended while harvesting only the energy income one can understand how to harvest without destroying the ecosystem itself.  Wealth is a dynamic living wisdom in this understanding, and not capable of being measured by money or commodity.

So the economic system we have is simply obsolete.

However, those who benefit the most from the system are mostly unable to see any flaws with it, and are hysterically afraid to consider the possibility of devloping any alternatives.

A few people are working on "parecon" and other ideas for transformation, but these don't make tons of profit for Wall Street, and so stand a snowball's chance in Hell of being considered seriously unless we have a big fat "market failure" which shows the error of our current ways.  It is possible that enough people could lose faith in our current ideas of wealth to insist that we try something different.

Why are we not working at ways to bring economic democracy to the world?  Follow the money.

Marx made some bad calls. But he did a good job of explaining money, commodities, and capitalism.

There is a relationship between energy and money (duh?). Energy is a quantitative abstraction just as (exchange) value is. Value is the amount of human labor power embodied in a commodity. Energy, the physicists tell us, is the ability to do work, e.g. lifting a 1 lb brick a foot high. Energy is contained in oil, gas, wood, etc. Each of these is a commodity and requires a certain amount of labor power to extract from the earth (which includes the labor embodied in all the machinery and ships and so forth employed in extracting it).

But still, what's the difference between human labor power (expended over time) and energy? Insofar as it is a matter of lifting bricks, there ISN'T ANY! But of course you must feed the human laborer, which food he or she converts (inefficiently) into brick lifting energy. Up to this point, a human is no different from a horse, which can also supply energy to lift bricks.

The horse is actually much more efficient at providing energy for brick lifting than humans, and horses don't have a clue as to how to grow oats. So having humans grow oats to feed the horses so the horses can supply the energy to lift the bricks is a far better deal. A better deal still is to have humans collect oil and gas that can be used to power machines that lift the bricks. And now the gas and oil can be used to power the machines the drill for and transport the oil and gas.

The end result of all of this is that energy becomes cheaper and cheaper, meaning there is less and less human labor power embodied in each barrel or whatever.

Ah, what is money? Money is also a commodity (gold, silver, linen, etc) and embodies a certain amount of human labor power. (Let's not get into credit money and all that at this point.) So cheaper energy means less labor power embodied in a barrel which means less gold (embodied labor power) per barrel.

BUT, what happens if the amount of labor power needed to gather up each barrel of oil begins to increase, because, just say, it's deeper in the earth, more soldier manpower (labor power) is needed to protect each barrel, and that none of this is completely compensated for by improved technique or machinery? THEN energy is going to become more expensive, and each barrel will embody more labor power. And since this energy is used in the production of all other commodities, they will ALL go up in price in accordance with the increased amount of human labor power embodied in them.

Well, so what?

Now we have to go beyond money. What is capital? Money is not necessarily capital and existed prior to capital, and was used simply to facilitate exchange. But modern industrial capital arose with the separation of the laborer from the means of production. A laborer now sells his ability to labor for 8 hours say, to the captialist, but he is compensated with commodities (or money to buy the commodities) that embody only 4 hours of work. The 4 hours difference (surplus value), embodied in commodities, is in turn exchanged for money, which is in turn invested in more means of production, including labor power, etc. The whole cycle is the movement of capital, money which is "invested", not to mediate an exchange, but to increase its value, profit. Money is money, and the sole point is increase.

Now we come to the whole point. Modern industrial capitalism is built around the profit motive. What happens to profit when the price of energy reverses its long term trend, and begins going up? It means that the share of total human labor power going to energy acquisition goes up. It means that the total amount of human labor power available for the production  of consumption commodities and production commodities (machinery)
goes down. Yet the amount of labor embodied in production commodities involved in extraction must go up. So therefore the amount of labor power available for use commodities and the production commodities used in their production must go down.

The end result must be highly destructive not only to labor, but also to those sections of capital that are suppliers of the mass consumption market. The capital devoted to energy acquisition, production and protection will grow ever larger at the expense of all else. The amount of capital left to supply consumer needs will shrivel up.

In the end, the capital invested in energy production, distribution and security will dominate and starve out all else -- until such a point is reached as the capital invested in energy is itself threatened with collapse by lack of the human and other infrastructure needed for its continued existence.

One last thing. I mentioned credit money, like the dollar for example. The dollar used to be backed by gold, then only partly, then not at all. However, it was in a very real sense backed by Saudi oil. We are now not only witnessing a competing credit money, the euro, but oil itself is become monetized. Venezuela is bartering oil for doctors and much else, entirely sidestepping the "international currency". But regular barter in a certain commodity is a big step toward monetization of that commodity. This is no small threat to the dollar. As oil becomes monetized, the dollar weakens, except insofar as the US is able to control oil. This monetization of oil empowers the possessors of oil, because they can not only barter for oil -- they can get credit.

At some point, the US is going to turn south and try to reverse this whole trend. Chavez knows this.

I think that money, as others have also noted, is no longer working as a medium of exchange.  

Also, nearly everything has become a "financial instrument" first, and what it is only incidently.

A home is no longer valued as a home, but as a financial instrument to be gotten as cheaply as possible and sold as dearly as possible.

The same goes for a barrel of oil.

So we have become an economy of traders who are making money not from creating work of real value, but by trying to scam some moey on both ends of a deal.

The banking system with the debt-based economy has thrown another monkey wrench into things.  We must have more debt for the economy to "grow."  No creation of wealth, just more debt.

This is true of our measures like GDP as well.  If Johnny breaks a window that's great because it creates a need for product and services.  If Katrina blows away the GOM, that's good because it creates a need for goods and services.  To quote Enron's "Kenny Boy" Lay, "It's all good!"

So our economy is divorced from reality.  If one is going to choose not to be wed to reality, one is going to find that reality just cannot be denied.

Hubbert was getting at this divorce of economics from reality.   We consume and toxify and call it "economic growth."  It is not economic, nor is it growth.  It is simply a long, slow, suicide trip.

I do not know what I am, but I ride tricycles that can carry several hundred pounds, and I plan to die poor, naked, and happy to have lived.  I also get a kick out of helping others, especially the next generations, as best I can.  I must be a clown.

If I were an economist, I would be a Doomer or a Cornucopian, and either way would probably live with a nagging anxiety, lots of toys, and a nose full of cocaine.

The economy is a lie woven to bind and enslave the masses for the benefit of the few. Until we truly democratise the human household budget and harmonise it with the larger multi-species household, we won't be able to claim to understand economics.

You might like to read <Frozen Desire: The Meaning of Money> by James Buchan.
Thanks!  I'll look into it.
How about this one for a starter:
Chavez nationalizes two oil fields

Some Snippets:

VENEZUELA has taken control of two oil fields operated by Eni and Total.

and this one:

In recent weeks, foreign energy companies have been required to convert 32 operating contracts into joint ventures in which the state-owned oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela, or Pdvsa, holds a majority stake. President Hugo Chavez has said the move is an integral part of a policy to secure "sovereignty" over Venezuela's oil reserves, which the Government says are the largest in the world.

I doubt that the general public will really "get it" in the early stages post peak.  They will undoubtedly attempt to maintain the automobile-centered status quo rather than transition to a sustainable future.  Consider this parable (liberally adapted) from the philosopher Kierkegaard:

A theater was presenting a variety show, with each act even better than the one before.  I happened that a fire broke out backstage.  The manager came forward to warn the audience of the danger.  The audience, supposing this to be part of the show, applauded.  When he tried to warn them again, they just applauded more enthusiastically.  So will the world end, with all the wits supposing it is a joke.

I doubt that the general public will really "get it" in the early stages post peak.

If you want to see a preview of things to come, check out this letter to the Billings Gazette, and the comments underneath. A sampling:

The Point is people shouldnt have to change there life style just because the price of gas is high.

Have any of you sent letters to your congressment or to the Prez to tell them we are sick and tired of the gouging? I went on a one woman campaign last year. Sent letters every day to Mr. Prez. Did it do a bit of good? I doubt it. They just said, "Drive less." Well, if I drove any less, I'd be walking and it's too dang far to town!

These people are in for a very rude awakening.


Exactly's not the geology, it's the psychology.
Those comments to the B Gazette letter are a hoot.

The comments over there show a parallel universe, completely alien to how TOD'ers might understand why gasoline prices are rising. I guess that is how many of us thought before we became PO-aware. Yeah, it's those darn Wall Street people and the Ay-rabs and der greed daz making gas-o-leen so spensive. Somebody ought do somethin!

 Nuking Iran will lower the prices of all consumer prodcuts.
Gotta agree with you on that step back. LOL. For the record, I fully approve of turning Savinar loose on those people. ;-)
I think every single person here could produce similar letters. One that recently ran in the Austin American Stateman that had me slapping my head said that the solution to our energy problems in easy, we just need more American oil.

See, it's that easy.

A flag on the outside of every barrel. Lovin it.
  You sound rather lucid for a man with a hole is his head...
    Subkommander Dred
Lack of staff and equipment hit oil output

Efforts to boost global oil and gas production are being held back by shortages of equipment and staff and by soaring costs.

The energy services sector, which provides everything from drills to submersible pumps, lacks the resources to meet the needs of oil and gas groups, forcing up price inflation in some parts of the sector to 100 per cent.

Industry executives say the squeeze has become so acute that energy companies are being forced to scale back their production plans or put exploration projects on hold.

"It's going to be a challenge to get production up,'' said James Day, chief executive of Noble, a leading oil services company. "It's a challenge for us to respond to the demands of the marketplace.''

This is caused by ERoEI going down. More energy has to be invested to get the energy.
From MarketWatch:

Gasoline spotlight

"All the concern is really starting to focus on unleaded and as April whittles away and we approach the summer driving months, all bets are off," said [Kevin] Kerr.

Indeed, Kerr's expecting gasoline to rise to $3 a gallon at the pump and sees a risk of $6 to $7 gasoline this summer. The key factors affecting prices will be hurricanes, new ethanol requirements and developments in the Middle East.

"All of that combined with higher summer demand mean any pullback is a buying opportunity," he said.

Yeek.  $7/gallon?!

Egads! $6 to $7 gasoline? thats a bit over the top don't ya think? I can forsee $3 may pushing $4, due to weather disruptions like a hurricane etc,  but $6 or more? I'll believe it when i see it!
All it will take is another major pullback in the dollar (comparable to the pullback so far since Bush took office) and a "minor" supply interruption fro the corner gas station to put up $7.019.
China 'may cut US debt holdings'

(First two grafs follow)

China may reduce the amount of US bonds it holds as part of its foreign exchange reserves, an influential official has reportedly said.

The remarks, made by Parliamentary vice-chairman Cheng Siwei, triggered a fall in the US dollar against leading currencies in European trading.

Cheng Siwei, a vice-chief of China's National People's Congress, started the ball rolling, saying: "China can stop buying dollar-denominated bonds, increase buying of US products and gradually reduce its holdings of US bonds."

The People's Bank said Mr Cheng's views were purely his own, while analysts pointed out that he had no involvement in economic or financial policy.

"He is a parliamentarian rather than a key economic decision maker," said Steven Saywell, chief currencies strategist at Citigroup.

However, just hours later, Kuwait and Qatar joined the United Arab Emirates in suggesting that they might buy more euros, at the expense of the dollar.

Two aspects of interest. First this report has Kuwait, Qatar, and UAE, joining with China in actions that suggest problems for the dollar. Qatar is supposedly one of the America's strongest allies in the gulf.
Second, the US has been sabre rattling with respect to Iran. Having close allies publicly assert that they may shift out of your currency, while not exactly a threat, should give America some pause for thought.  These are the same nations that Condi seeks to demonize, pardon me, democratize. Still, they are sending an unmistakable signal. Imperial America may be blind to these signals but that is her problem.

I just ran this by the interest rate/bond expert where I work (I work for a financial publishing house).  Her'es his reply:

"you keep seeing this crap all the time, and the Chinese don't move.  Every time there's a speech, someone else comes to swat the speaker back down.  One of these days, they'll actually MAKE the change.  I just hope I'm alive to see it!"

US$ 7 + all over Holland. Come and see!
$7/gal petrol would need $250 bbl.
No it doesn't - it just needs high taxes on mineral oil (to translate the German expression).
Right now, here in Ann Arbor in southeast michigan, gas prices are between 2.50 and 2.70.  This time last year the prices were around 2.15.  Katrina sent prices around 50% higher (from early april to early september, at least).

So if we get another hurricane-induced disruption (or panic from the possibility of disruption), I'm guessing $4/gallon in late summer here in detroit.

At that prospect, I shall now do a little dance to celebrate my Wife's employer being located right by a park and ride...

Year on year increases seem to be more like 20% (2003 = 1.45, 2004 = 1.75, 2005 = 2.15, 2006 = 2.60, all from

That's hardly scientific, I know, I know!  But I really don't want to extrapolate those price increases for another 10 years...

Well OK I will.  2007 = 3.15, 2008 = 3.75, 2009 = 4.50, 2010 = 5.40, 2011 = 6.47, 2012 = 7.76, 2013 = 9.32

OK I'll stop.

That actually made me nauseous (what the results or the method, I hear the cheap seats cry)

The amount of oil coming out of Venezuela will probably drop. Politicians have no understanding of how much energy will have to invested to extract the oil. They are more likely to use their windfall to increase domestic consumption than make the necessary investments.

It starts out with the typical story of people bitching about gas prices:

The average price in the metropolitan area reached $2.63 a gallon for regular unleaded gasoline yesterday, up a penny from the day before and a nickel more than the national average. The price is up from $2.27 a gallon a month earlier and $2.17 a year ago.

Here is something in print that we have been talking about for a while:

"People are wealthier, they've been enticed into buying homes further from work, and the auto industry has been enticing them into buying very inefficient vehicles," said Philip K. Verleger, an oil consultant. He estimates that it takes a 20 percent increase in price to trim consumption by 1 percent today while a 10 percent price increase in the 1970s would have an identical effect.

The general public sees it this way though:

Nonetheless, angry motorists are already sending e-mails to AAA complaining about the higher prices. One accused local gasoline stations of "price gouging" and claimed prices go up twice a day at some places.
 There is another aspect to oil prices and the cost of gasoline. If we model gasoline use against the North American income distribution I suspect the amount used will be fairly constant regardless of income. If there is a bias, it will likely be with those earning incomes below the median. These folks will have accepted long commutes due to the lure of cheap housing.

If we look at China (and India will follow the same model) we will find that those buying cars are those with incomes well above the median.

What this means is that in the coming global bidding war for gasoline there will be some 125 million North Americans screaming for price relief. In China however, there will be 125 million noveau riche who will be likely to bid the price even higher.

Right, and this is why middle-class Americans are going to be shocked when they find themselves in a third-world economic situation.

It may happen sooner than we think.

I've been saying something similar in other threads using stats of my coworkers a la "gallons away". Those of lower income and with long-range commutes will be clobbered first. If your take-home pay is $120 per day, that pricey gas will eat a BIG portion of it soon for the long-rangers. And as the price escalates, people with higher incomes and/or shorter commutes discover it's Game Over. Describing it as Third-World-like is appropriate.
I found some data a while back.  A family with teens drives more than the "typcial family" and a 50K income family with teens drives more than that:

Hello Odograph,

That is what I call the 'chrome penis effect'.  It is not unusual at all to find in the wealthier neighborhoods here in Phx.  The wealthy kids, upon turning 16, get a car for their birthday present.  So instead of riding the school bus, or God-forbid, even of walking or bicycling to school, the kids drive.  Many high schools devote a significant portion of their property to the kids' parking spaces.  It actually would have been better to never allow these parking lots to be built, forcing the kids to use a more energy-efficient transportation alternative.

Years ago in Phx, when I was pedaling my trusty ten-speed, roughly 7 miles, to high school: I distinctly remember, because it was the most beautiful green car I had ever seen, one wealthy girl who was given a brand-new V-12 Jaguar XKE Roadster convertible for her 16th birthday, yet she lived less than a mile from the school!  She proudly drove it everyday, and I gawked over this car every time I pedaled past it.  Seared into my memory!


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

As ERoEI decreases doesn't this mean that the fraction of the total production used for oil production goes up? Any time an oil producer says they are going to invest a bunch of money doesn't this mean they are expend a bunch of energy? Can the amount of oil available for SUV's actually fall faster than total production because of necessary investments in lower ERoEI projects? I guess this can get mind warping. Anyway I think all the math points to extremely bad times for oil importers. The extra wealth being transferred to oil exporters will increase the domestic oil consumption of the oil exporters. This is last thing oil importers want since exporters won't be able to increase production. I think I see higher prices than anyone is predicting.  

This might interest TODers wr.t. modelling of economic effects of high oil prices. I sent in a submission to my state's (Queensland in Australia) enquiry into petrol pricing. It's submission 34, basically outlining the peak oil argument, and the benefits of locally produced ethanol (mostly from sugar cane). The premier of the state (equivalent to the governor), also sent in a submission with an economic model of how high oil prices (doubling in the next 2 years) will affect the state (submission 78): SubArea=inquiries_submissions&Bindex=2

It seems that not only has the enquiry read the peak oil submissions, they have taken them seriously. Here's the report of their findings, see chapter 5 for the peak oil segment: SubArea=report&Bindex=8

Good on you, mate!  Glad to see others putting in the effort.

Shame they chose to focus more on the Cornucopian view, however.

I'm trying to put together a local lobby group to get the local council thinking more sustainably.  Trying to convince the local powers-that-be that global oil industry issues affect our little corner of the world is still quite hard.

I have noticed time and again the use of statistics from the EIA and IEA and USGS, but with a little research I've noticed that the impressively optimistic projections of these agencies are based on fantasy.

An analysis of the methodologies used by these pseudo-scientific organizations can be found at this address:

The paper is titled: The Countdown for the Peak of Oil Production has Begun - but what are the Views of the Most Important International Energy Agencies
W. Zittel, J. Schindler, L-B-Systemtechnik, 12 October 2004

Below is an excerpt:

The projections presented by USGS, EIA and IEA regarding the future availability of oil give reason to grave concerns because the comforting messages of these studies unfortunately are not based on valid arguments. These studies ignore future limitations in the supply of oil which are meanwhile apparent, and by doing this they send misleading political signals.
This article describes how, as it were, a "building" has been erected by well-known institutions:
· The supporting ground floor has been built by the USGS 2000 study: it describes, how much oil the world has at its disposal - it just needs to be found.
· On this the EIA has built a first floor which describes the future production potential. The result is that in fact any conceivable future growth of production will be possible - with growth rates exceeding everything that could be observed in the past.
· On top of this the IEA constructs a second floor: the predicted growth in oil demand for the next decades will not be restricted by any limits of supply.
However, if only one brick is removed from the ground floor, the whole edifice collapses like a card house.

Why does anyone use these bogus figures?

I guess it must be a doomer thing. I'm just not using the right figures.

The USGS projections, especially for a decade or two into the future, entered the realm of fantasy sometime in the mid-80s, during the Reagan era (error?). Not too surprisingingly, this is roughly the same time OPEC reserve figures also entered the realm of fantasy. (Doubling down may have been something a lot of rich Arabs learned in London casinos - it may not work long term, but it feels better than losing in the short term.)

And not surprisingly, Americans in particular decided that the bad things they were being asked to do (conserve, live within their means, etc.) were just part of that horrible Carter presidency, not actually based on anything real, so why worry? Welcome to 2006, twilight in America, brought to you by the same people who brought you morning in America.

Sometimes, I wonder how many people have bothered to pay attention what has been going on around them for a generation.

But current numbers published by various organizations are pretty much all the peak oil commmunity has - trying to figure out how to use them well is the challeenge which this site meets so well.

The new ASPO newsletter has an analysis of the IEA figures that is pretty scary.  
I don't think anyone in the peak oil community believes the agencies projections, but their historical data are probably somewhat better.  About all we can do is work from multiple sources, and to the extent they all agree, there's probably something to it.
Unplanner interviewed an anonymous energy exec, who said this about the EIA figures:

Our executive was very familiar with the Simmons assessment of the natural gas situation. His company's own internal projections aligned closely with the pessimistic scenarios of natural gas supplies painted by Simmons and others. He was less than impressed with the commonly referred to assessment of future North American supplies depicted by the EIA however. That assessment--in his opinion--relied on ridiculously optimistic assumptions of future production that were unlikely to ever materialize. The agency's perennially optimistic assessments largely originated out of political considerations. According to the executive, they used to make more pessimistic assumptions until Congress cut their funding in the mid 1990's. Since then, the EIA has sung a more upbeat tune about energy reserves. This similar level of optimism permeates the USGS and influences some of the consultants (that accept federal funds) as well.
I would suggest that people contributing to this open thread look at HO's story Gas supplies continue to be negotiated and the comments there if they have not already done so. I see that the TOD title now says "Dicussions About Energy and Our Future". That obviously includes natural gas and in particular, for those of us in North America, presents a situation fraught with danger as regards actual shortages, at least in the near term a few years out.

I myself experienced a "rolling blackout" here in Colorado this winter. In Pueblo here in Colorado, there is a plan (and much protest) about building a coal-fired plant. Utilities are not planning on building gas-fired plants because natural gas does not have a secure supply here in the US--to say the least.

I suggest that more attention be paid to these issues, not to the detriment of other problems, but with an eye toward a real & present danger regarding natural gas supplies in North America. Look what Britain is going through right now. I believe that's our future and it's bearing down on us right now.

Dave, I hide out over in Paonia now, but once in a while I'll drive to Front Range. All those miles and miles of huge houses heated with natural gas ... it looks like a disaster waiting to happen.
How's the fishing on the North Fork?
Well, here's a report on fishing in the North Fork.

I can see you're a serious person who I should not quibble with

Perhaps, there will still be fish to catch there in the future.

You obviously know, Don, that I live in Boulder. It is, as you said, a "disaster waiting to happen". But not just here in the Rocky Mountain region. All regions in the US are vulnerable to these potential disruptions in natural gas supply this year and some years out into the future. I take this seriously, as you do, and I expect other TOD readers to consider the problem we're faced with.

I like to look at the big picture regarding the trends. Where's the natural gas coming from, how are the global political deals and markets lining up with respect to supply? And other questions of that sort. Personally, I am very worried about it since little has been done to mitigate the situation. And frankly, what is there to be done? Our "political leadership" has done nothing. Oil & liquids supply, which is a severe problem in its own right, is one thing but this natural gas situation is even more frightening in the shorter term. And who knows what the future will bring?

best, Dave

I lived in Boulder in the '70s and wrote for the Colorado Daily (a good paper then) about land use and energy. So all of this stuff is like deja vu all over again.

When I lived there, the Boulder Turnpike was a long picturesque parkway through cattle pastures and small farms. Obviously it creeps me out now.

I moved to the North Fork because this little valley grows vast amounts of food and fruit, is close to lots of energy and has good solar geography. It's actually a pretty survivable place if things get difficult -- that is, if we can get Bob Shaw's Earth Marines up and running to guard the pass!

Shhhh - dont tell all, Don!1
Hey, I didn't give the map coordinates, did I?
If you know of a site with decent mini or micro hydro potential, please let me know.  Available down to 100 watts (enough to pwer some LED bulbs or an energy efficient computer or two).

A Louisiana utility that burns mainly natural gas for power just announced last week a new "solid fuel" 600 MW power plant.  The primary fuel is expected to be petroleum coke (lowest end by product of oil refining, we have plenty in South Louisiana) but cna also burn Powder River coal (as their only coal fired plant does) or local lignite.

A small step that does little for Global Warming, but does help get rid of that pet coke and lower natural gas use.  Lower quality crude should result in higher amounts of pet coke.

Are there enough Coloradans here to form a TOD CO group?  Any benefit other than the obvious prestige of a tab on the site?

Other Colorado groups worth joining to try to keep abreast and even influence things?

Possible new thread here, I think it's an interesting way to think:

In our society, something is Better if is uses more energy.

Examples: The Internet is Better because it actually uses more energy than the old pencil and paper based culture. Rocket scientists up until shockingly recently used slide rules made of BAMBOO, calculated on scraps of paper which were then given to their kids etc to draw on the backs, then used to start the family fire etc. I myself literally teethed on punchcards.

The Segway is Better than a bicycle because it uses far, far, more energy both to make and to use.

DRM (Digital Radio Mondiale) is Better than AM or SSB because every friggin' listener needs a pretty darned good computer (we're talking at least a GHz clock speed, etc) to do the decoding of the signal.

Eco-tourism is Better than simply learning about and enjoying and improving the ecosystem where you live because it involves jet travel and tons upon tons of energy use while local eco-enjoyment requires your own two feet and maybe a canteen of water, a peanut butter sammie and a magnifying glass or binocs.

My Prius is Better than a 1985 Honda Civic because it has that ooh-wowee computer thingie in it, and it's soooo high tech. And uses more energy, some studies show, to build than an SUV. I'm more than a bit ambivelent about owning the thing.

I could go on and on, post-its opposed to scratch pads, gel ball points as opposed to the humble mechanical pencil, etc.

Whadda ya think?

I am not quite sure about the Internet -
for example, the music I download (over 250 GB) and listen to on an MP3 player running off rechargeable batteries (solar recharger, natch) is extremely like to beat the energy used in making and distributing thousands of CDs or albums. Not to mention the entire transportation aspect.

The same could generally apply to reading (lots of free books on the net).

And most of the Internet's infrastructure, so to speak, was either pre-existing or fairly lightweight in terms of energy use to create.

Of course, I realize that many people in America seem to leave their PCs/monitors/printers on 24 hours a day, and that most people don't seem to realize how much standby power is consumed - you do actually have the PC wired into a switched power strip which you turn off, right?

But in terms of the Internet, and music, films, and books, I would guess a certain neutrality of energy consumption, if you assume a fairly energy efficient user. Of course, energy efficiency and today's America seem to go together like a fish and a bicycle, to misuse an old expression.

As a fun extra note - got my electric bill for the year yesterday (annual billing is the norm here). Our household of 4 used 2650 kwh, and it cost 500 euros (around $600). Compare that to your own bills to see whether one of the reasons Germans are so interested in energy efficiency is directly related to how much they spend on energy.

Though Germany and the EU are now trying to avoid the wild price swings which seem to be occurring and likely to be recurring in various American regions/markets (Great Britian too, to an extent). Here, the cost of energy has been on a fairly simple to understand and plan for upward rise, and the tax percent is so high, there is some built in buffer for extreme circumstances.

Of course, much of what fuels energy prices here is more related to energy monopolies and concerns about global warming than any free market illusions. But most Germans seem content enough with a very reliable system which delivers what people need, while accepting the fact that high prices cause conservation to become a goal worth pursuing.

My guess is that this attitude is also somewhat based on the fact that Germans are fairly pragmatic realists, and seem to have no problem disussing technical problems using technical concepts. This is why the nuclear power debate is so interesting - there, a certain mystical refusal of nuclear technology is based more on feelings than facts, though most opponents of nuclear power do have concrete reasons for opposition, primarily based on dealing with the created nuclear waste and its long term danger to current and future humans. Of course, a certain oopsies in the mid-80s tends to lend a concrete aspect to concerns about reactor safety. The conflict between switching on a light at night and where to get the necessary power to do that is a major part of the debate - and yes, there is a looming gap which both sides attempt to use for their own purposes. The nuclear industry insisting this gap can only be filled with their reactors, and the thoughtful opposition pointing out that massive investment in conservation, wind, solar, and geothermal are required. As generally the case, the debate here tends to actually involve multiple perspectives, some based on technical reality, some based on money, and some based on politics/philosophy (the Greens are very unlikely to accept nuclear power, and the CSU is very unlikely not to support Siemens to the hilt).  

your yearly electricity use seems remarkably low given that utilities seem to assume each person will draw an average 1kw over 24/7 ie 4 X 24 X 365 = 35,040 kwh. If your heating and cooking comes from NG then maybe it will be vulnerable to Vlad P's price rises.
Well, I live in Germany, and the hot water is definitely NG - we use around 11000 kwh of gas per year, for heating and hot water.

We also rent a fairly typical house built in the 1960s, and  before it could be sold, it would now have to be upgraded in terms of insulation. All new houses also have to meet quite stringent insulation standards at this point (my brother in law works in the construction industry, and they hate it - much of the German perspective is in reducing air exchange, and the fitting of doors, windows, pipes, etc have to be essentially perfect these days).

German society doesn't really believe that the free market is the best way to have a society invest in energy efficiency or environmentally smart practices. How to implement such gains is another question, and there, the free market, at least in terms of innovation or price, is generally allowed a fairly free hand. In my opinion, since German society basically lacks America's bounty of lawyers, and since Germany makes its living, so to speak, exporting industrial products, this is simply the easiest way to keep a sharp edge, with demand being created through intentional policy - for example, our gas furnace is tested for efficiency regularly, and if it falls beneath that standard, it must be replaced. Empirically, that perspective is pretty hard to argue with, and is also a reason I believe Germany, at least, will do much better in a peak oil scenario. There is an entire framework in place here, and it is based on very pragmatic technical issues. The same thing is true with electronics recycling, for example. Or mandatory recycling. Or how the price of trash removal keeps increasing, while the volume decreases - we throw out a 60 liter volume of 'remainder' trash (no packaging, no paper, and nothing which can be composted) either every 2 weeks or every 4 weeks (each pick-up costs) - the 4 weeks tend to be in the winter, since the freezing temperatures not only keep the smell and insects away, there is also somewhat less trash to throw out - for example, in the summer, every weed which is setting seed (or about to) goes into the trash. Without fail. (Cheap composting tip - never, ever try to compost anything which is capable of reproducing.)

For those who find such things 'over-regulation,' try to keep in mind who is the world's largest exporter, and who is the world's largest importer. Yesterday, I read that the current EU subsidy, so to speak, to America is currently $120 billion a year, and growing.

It is always such fun to read various pro-American sites suggesting that the way to punish Germany for such things as not invading Iraq would be to cut off trade. Nothing like making yourself $120 billion dollars poorer as a way to show those EU socialists getting a free ride on America's 'protection' racket who is No. 1.

Actually the US should withdraw all defense subsidies for Europe, dissolve NATO, and let you all stand on your own. Then you can calculate the full cost of your own national defense and absorb it yourself. The US loses some of that debt and you absorb some of that cost.

Don't suggest that the American "protection" racket is all a one way street. Germany benefits and Germany knows it. Germany has gotten rather upset in the past at US attempts to reduce military presence. While the true cost of proper defense by European nations might not total a full $120 billion, it would be a significant fraction thereof, and depending on the political parties in power in Germany, France, etc., it might actually total more than $120 billion across the entire European continent.

It is interesting to note that since U.S. presence in Europe after 1945 there has been no war among European powers. Compare that to the period 1870-1945.


   this is a double reply, so to speak.

To GreyZone - for some reason, I keep needing to write this, and it continues to be a puzzle. I am an American. Sure, various German towns/regions were as upset about losing a gravy train as any American area with a military base. The contrast is that in much of Germany, the military (Russian, Canadian, and so on) left years ago, part of the so well spent peace dividend. Remember that, ca 1995? In America, the plans for reducing military bases goes about as well as you would expect - I come from Northern Virginia, so this is all pretty boring to me. Suffice it to say, it is not a plus on a Congressional resume to show your support for defending America by not having lots of money spent on the military in your district.

   I am quite well acquainted with the American and French draw down/withdrawal in this region, though I have nothing to do with the military. First, all the NATO/American facilities in Germany were paid for by German taxpayers (at least in terms of things like barracks, roads, base facilities, etc - no idea about things like runways, though). Second, after a period of adjustment, people got used to not listening to planes fly over their houses, 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, for example, or found other work - like cleaning up the mess after 45 years of military presence (and yes, I saw what the Russians left at Neu Rupin near Berlin in the early '90s, and what the French left when they pulled out from south of Rastatt - the Americans were worse than the French and Canadians, and much, much better than the Russians). And then, after a few years rebuilding the various buildings, the Germans started living in them.

To Sailorman -
   does the Cold War count? Open to interpretation. But what if I pick dates between say 1818 to 1850? Actually, the 'European powers' was well picked, because that does a good job dodging what happened in Yugoslavia - no credit to anyone there, of course.
   Do I believe that America's handling of Germany at the end of WWII and its behavior in the several decades after that was a good thing? I certainly do, and you would be very hard pressed to find any West Germans who would disagree (East Germans are a much more complicated case). This even recognizing the varied dimensions of the Cold War, which certainly makes the discussion complex.

To both -
   I think the 'protection racket' was not well explained. I
am talking about the last five years or so, where whenever anyone on the planet points out that they don't want America to do something for them, America goes ahead and does it anyways, with the stunning justification that it is for others' good.

Millions, literally millions of Europeans peacefully protested against America's pre-planned invasion of Iraq, and tried their best to stop it (sometimes, the naivete of people who are considered cynical is hard to understand - the Iraqi invasion was a foregone conclusion after Bush was appointed - only the timing and picked justification was open). They were not asking for 'protection' then, and they don't want that sort of protection today, either.

America ignores everyone, while insisting that America is acting in the best interests of all. No, it isn't, replies everyone else. And the damage this is causing to an international order created and maintained to America's advantage is almost unfathomable. (Chirac, a fairly isolated EU figure, got in a serious point when he asked Blair what he got for his support of the U.S. - the bon mot meets realpolitik in the most clear sighted way - after all, supporting someone blindly who ignores you completely is just stupid - and since many see Britian as America's most steadfast ally, the fact the British get zip is noted by everyone else.)

The invasion of Iraq, and the insistence that the long, long war against a word is being selflessly undertaken by America to protect everyone else is what I meant by 'protection racket.'

Look at the reaction to Spain, a nation with generations of experience in dealing with terrorism, democratically changing a government which supported America's invasion with a government which promised to stop that support as one of it major platforms. After the bombs went off in Madrid, the Spanish made their decision at the polls. Since then, I seem very little in the America media which says anything but that the terrorists won in Spain, and that America must go the distance, alone if necessary, to selflessly defend even the short-sighted Spanish cowards. This is absurd. The Spanish opposition gained power by promising to leave Iraq before the bombs went off, and the bombings were seen as vindication of the anti-war majority. War brings death and destruction to those fighting it, would be one simple way to express it from a European perspective - and as pointed out, they have enough practice to make such a conclusion from experience.

It is a 'protection racket' in my eyes, since the people being offered such protection don't want it. Though you are welcome to disagree. Then we can discuss Kissinger's bon mot about nations, friends, and interests. Even more, we can discuss the idea of rogue nation in more detail. Not that it likely would be a pleasant discussion, and one certainly not suited to here.

If you wish a summary, I never expected the U.S. to become what it has in my lifetime, and how the direction seems unstoppable. So much of what the founders of America warned against are now coming to pass, or have over the left two generations - standing military, for example, which very roughly co-incides with the time when 'In God We Trust' was put on coins and 'under God' in the Pledge.

My opinion, pre-dating Buchanan's book (we don't share much else), is that America's first fatal mistake was getting involved in the strictly European WWI.

America has become the sort of European state the founders would recognize. Today's EU would likely confuse them, though they might recognize another way to bind states into a federal structure, with state's rights balancing the power of the central executive power. Pretty honestly, it is not likely they would not be impressed, except for the fact that the EU is as much a reason for no war in Europe as any military presence. And the EU is handling various current challenges, such as climate change, with a seriousness utterly lacking in America. (Whether this is serious enough is another discussion entirely.)

'Pretty honestly, it is likely they would not be impressed' - in other words, the EU would be unlikey to impress the founders of America.

Pretty convoluted writing - definitely need more Twain like declaratives. (As if anyone but Twain can do that so well - and his writing about the German language/culture are worth looking up and downloading to read.)

Twain and 'The Awful German Language' -


You and I seem to have a lot in common. I've got two countries, two languages and two cultures. They co-exist in my haert and mind, in kind of rough harmony.

I feel quite at home when I'm in Germany. Last time I was there millions of germans were marching through the streets expressing their opposition to the coming war of agression against Iraq.

I found this both strangely moving and inspiring. I couldn't help thinking how times had changed. Seventy years ago young german men dressed in uniforms, carry banners and torches filled the streets. Adoring crowds, nearly exstatic, cheered them and their crooked flags. The young warriors sang songs praising their strange, new Gods, and the promise of battle and war. But now things were different. Every german I spoke to was proud of this historic change. Here were Germans marching for peace and not for war. The old mythology was gone. It's a really important historical and cultural change. I talked to an old man who had tears in his eyes when he remembered the past, and the terror and destruction those other, darker, marching millions had brought down on Germany and so much of Europe. So much was thrown away and wasted.

What sickened me most was that the British and American governments took turns to criticis this new and peaceful Germany. They actually wanted Germany to join them in their illegal and immoral war of agression against a virtually defenceless Iraq.

The demonstrations weren't just in Germany, they were all over Europe. I felt like the people of Europe were finally united by a positive idea - opposition to war. This was a time of real potential and promise in Europe. Something one could have built on for the future. And if Europe had remained united in oppositon to the war one might even have stopped it.

Tony Blair deliberately scuttled this movement and instead chose to prostitute himself and his whole country for a crazed and perverse 'dream of empire.' Some even talked of Britain becoming Greece to the Rome of the United States.

So many of the perversions that once tainted Germany, and which Germans and others paid such a high price for, have virtually disappeared from Europe. Perhaps most importantly, the scourge of militerism. We should be thankful for that, but have they disappeared completely? Where have many of these traits, that so blighted Germany, gone? Where has the blantent agression and militerism gone? What country has willingly taken up the sword and mantle of Empire? Can one, dare one go further? Where has the ideology and attitude that one is an exceptional 'race', with an almost mythical destiny, santioned by God, gone? Where has this crazed idea, that one has a 'holy right' to lead and create a new world order gone? What country appears to have become the heir to these strangly powerful old myths?

The following shouldn't be read as a condemnation of America, that would be too easy, but more as warning of what may lie ahead.

It almost seems that through some bizarre, cosmic, twist of fate, the United States is emulating and recreating some of the very worst and most dangerous aspects of European militarism. A nation that appears almost innocently, and without really realising it; is embarking on a journy down a well-trodden and bloddy path. A path that, as we Europeans have so painfully and tragically learnt, leads only to death, destruction and eventually, disaster.


My late brother fought his way across Europe with General Patton's 3rd Army and was kept there in the Occupation Force for several months. He liked to talk about the war. Sometimes, the subject of the postwar investigations into how the Nazis transformed Germany came up, which our government always maintained was to allow us to recognize it, in the future, and stop it. We were farmers, with a singular disdain for politicians. He always opined that they just wanted to figure out how they could do it here. That was always good for a chuckle, but it could be he knew what he was talking about.

"No credit to anyone in Yugoslavia . . . "

No credit to the country that used air power to stop Slobodan's genocides--is that what you mean?

Please clarify.

   trying to keep this short. Mainly, I meant 1991 to Dayton (which kept a genocidal dictator in power), since Kosovo is a much more complicated case. On the one hand, a proven power structure dedicated to genocidal solutions, on the other hand a civil war, and in the end, an air war which wasn't all that legal, but with a necessity which could be legimately argued - and an end result which is very hard to argue was worse than doing nothing.

   To give credit to your argument - the disasters of Yugoslavia allowed everyone to see, again, how quickly different power structures/historical affinities flare up a generation or two later. Arguably, Germany's hasty recognition of Catholic and formerly pro-German (and yes, Nazi too) Croatia and Slovenia was one of the major reasons for the ugly war which broke out.

   And the change of American administrations also played well into this in 1991-1993 - the American political cycle itself is starting to become a danger on the world stage. Let me put it this way - do you think the current Republican power structure (with a few of them on trial and likely heading for jail) are likely to lose elections like gentleman so that the Democrats can open the files and start  putting many more of them on trial? Speaking personally and cynically, I believe that a decision to bomb somebody somewhere as a ploy to retain power will be almost impossible for America's current government to resist, especially considering how cynically they used terror in 2004. (Noticed any terror alerts recently? Bet you will in the next 6 months, though they will likely be as laughable as the 2004 ones, and people will not reflexively believe as in the past.)

   Strange that today's situation is almost a mirror image of 1991-1993, where neither American President/candidate wanted to get involved in a (Balkan) war. Seems like back then, people in charge of American decisionmaking actually lived in a fact based world - nobody in the Balkans has ever thrown roses at any outsider, ever. To even suggest such a thing is as laughable as suggesting, oh, I don't know, other people in other places would.

  And as a final cynical note - there is oil/refining in the Balkans, though the amounts are not large today. I would not really want to suggest that America's interest was motivated by that, but it remains notable that of all the places where various genocides are going on, it seems as if only the places with oil (Yugoslavia, Sudan) get focused attention from the West. Just a point to ponder.


I am working on something else and don't want to get sidetracked, so I will keep this short.

While I am trying hard to stay out of political discussion, the topics you raise make this extremely difficult for me, since they are so crucial to so much regarding international security issues.

I find some of your comments on Yugoslavia disturbing. There are a number of serious errors in your facts, history, and analysis.

I'm going to let Sailorman have the first crack at this, but if not, I'll try to follow up tomorrow with a more detailed response.

What I find most disturbing about the entire thing about Yugoslavia (even excepting for a different set of perspectives about the facts) is how essentially all the power blocs could, at different times, easily accept the death of a fair number of human beings because it seemed in their best interests at the time - whether Dutch UN peacekeepers peacefully watching thousands be killed in front of them, or letting Milosevic stay in power as the price of 'peace,' or how the mass graves caused by multiple sides of Yugoslavia's wars seemed to suggest that the human penchant for exterminating others remains as true in modern Europe as it ever was.

What part of modern history am I missing? Check the oil production/refining money laundering aspect of Serbia and the essentially criminal gang running it until the late 90s for example, being an Oil CEO - or the targeting of NATO attacks designed to cripple Serbia to cause it to replace Milosevic.

Why are such 'facts' so hard to understand? Didn't you read 'Ploesti' (B&W picture of a B24 Liberator on the dust jacket, flying low over billowing clouds of smoke from a refinery hit) about the great WWII bombing raid(s), the daring stories of prisoners smuggling out information about trains and oil cars? (Seriously, the book I read was very good, having many interviews, documented numbers about production curves, vital importance of Ploesti to the entire Nazi war machine, costs of attacks/defense, various tricks used by both sides over time, and how the Ploesti raids in the end neither proved nor disproved most major theories concerning 'pinpoint' strategic bombing of choke point industrial targets.) The maps of that entire region, and why Germany either used puppet states or invaded everything in that entire region to keep the fuel pumping for the panzers making the lunge for the next oil sources, either in Russia or the Middle East? The fact that America has been shifting its forces from Germany to such countries as Hungary and Romania (which is the current policy, and has been for since around 2000 - didn't read that in the headlines in the American press? And the old Soviet infrastructure is pretty cheesy compared to what the Americans were used to in West Germany).

Notice at no point did I say anything about America being interested in oil - I said the West. If you don't think all of Serbia's neighbors aren't aware of what is there, then you must think I am one of those people who believes only America does blood for oil. Damn near everyone else does too - it is the world we grew up in and live in. Most of the EU does too, of course - I found France threatening nuclear attack against any threat to its energy supply was not really a message to Iran, but one to Algeria and its neighbors, as France is much more plugged into Algeria - and look at the dead, so far, that has resulted in. But as long as the oil and gas flow, it is just the cost of doing business, right, whether civil war here, Islamist democratic win there? Must be fun being in the oil business, when you have a big picture view. Maybe that is why so few people develop it? (And seriously - do you think anyone in Algeria doubts France means business about Algeria exporting energy? Notice the planned pipeline routes, especially in connection with the EU's enhanced interest in 'sharing' energy Europe wide? Algeria is critical, Iran is merely important.)

I have wondered before at the lack of any real military/diplomatic posters. I am nothing but someone who read a lot of books, and talked to a lot of people growing up, many who did do things of this variety as professionals. Family disclosure- my grandfather worked for Mobil until retirement - sailed tankers in WWI and WWII, and my parents did work for three letter U.S. agencies, while my neighbors tended to be military, and so on. Strange how blood for oil seemed so much easier to understand and practice in those long ago days - but then, some of the people I knew actually once worked for the War Department, before we improved ourselves to only doing defense, not war. And the recent history I learned included things like the U.S. oil/steel embargo as basis for Pearl Harbor when I learned history. And to be honest, I learned the traditional version, which I still believe in - attacking someone because they don't want to do business with you is wrong. Do you have a bet riding on Chavez and whether he will embargo the U.S., which will give the U.S. the same justification to attack him as the Japanese had when they attacked us?  

Trust me, there are people much more qualified than I looking at such things. Of course, they aren't really allowed to talk about it.

But remember the retired AF col. who spotted the lights in the Kuwait/Iraq desert, and pointed out what seemed to be a pipeline being built? That information source did seem to become a dry well, and no one actually seems to be doing such hobby aerial analysis anymore. Or maybe those that can simply know they shouldn't do it in public? For example, I bet a fair picture of Nigerian production/turmoil could be produced by analyzing night flaring today, and in a series stretching back over the last five years.

And remember, I am just a rank amateur.

But I certainly welcome having any chance to discuss various facts, current or historical - it is one reason reading The Oil Drum is so enjoyable.

I may not be a doomer, but my fact based intepretation of the world we live in is not a real pleasant one.

Please, do show me the errors of my ways. I am sure my gloominess is because of the media, or something. After all, we do live in the best of all possible worlds, right?

Briefly, the facts are these:
As so often happens,
  1. Europeans get into a situation of a family of homicidal siblings with nobody to control them.
  2. Major European powers debate and wring their hands endlessly as the killing goes on.
  3. Finally the U.S. (with help from various others) comes into clean up the situation.

Without U.S. intervention there is a plausible case for another August 1914 situation, with Russia not shy about coming in to help its Serbian slavic "brothers." As Vlad the Putin has shown, there is ferocious enthusiasm in Russia for killing Muslim Chechens in large numbers, and the one thing that Russians, Serbians and Croatians agree on is that Muslim Bosnians do not and therefore should not exist.

Briefly, there is no reason at all to believe that there would be peace in Europe without large-scale American occupation. The history of the breakup of Yugoslavia tells us once again that "Europe" is nowhere near the stability or ability to look after itself that it would like to believe. How long the U.S. should be expected to keep on cleaning up European messes is a good question, but at present it would not be safe to reduce armed forces that do indeed act for U.S. benefit (Americans would not benefit from yet another European war.) but also are the essential force for stability.

Thank You, Sailorman, once again.

Also, Yugoslavia and Sudan have absolutely nothing to do with oil. I'm surprised you(expat) or others haven't brought up Halliburton/KBR's Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo. Supposedly this is to protect a pipeline from the mideast. To where? Well Europe, of course.

The only reason the US is not intervening in Sudan, in my opinion, is because we are tied down in Iraq and because of this very same conflict in Iraq, liberal/left forces/influences have cast doubt on American action anywhere, especially Africa - due largely to the history of American intervention in Somalia.

Bosnia, Kosovo, and Somalia are the obvious examples of American policy being both correct and world-friendly. Not to mention Gulf War I.

And who did these actions benefit? I would argue Muslims.

Check out Chalmers Johnson's books on the topic of American bases spread over the world -- including Europe.  (He wrote "Blowback" and "The Sorrows of Empire" amoung others.)  Or check out Smedley Butler's "War Is A Racket."

The USA has put bases in Europe and elsewhere for its own reasons.  The notion that we "protect" Europe and other nations may have been believable in a more naive time, but it simply no longer washes.

US "protection" is US control.  People in the US do pay taxes to support the war machine, but great big profits for the few who run the war machine have always, always been the prime result.  War propaganda covers the profiteering and the brutal effort to control people and resources.

My Granddad fought in WW II.  My dad was in the USMC.  I have two nephews in Iraq now.  My Grandfather told me that WW II was not "The Good War."  It was a war in which fascists (corporatists) on both sides made huge amounts of money by pumping poor farmboys and shopkeepers' sons full of propaganda to motivate them to kill each other.  Fortunes were made, and the wealthy generally went home happy.

American conflicts since then have been most profitable but have overextended the imperial reach.  Wealth from violence begets a whirlwind of violence which one cannot control.  And so it goes.

Money and war go together like love and marriage, like a horse and carriage.  What a funny species we are.

"Dr. Strangelove and Dr. Frankenstein, meet Dr. Doom.  You will rule the world! Just don't forget the patriotic rhetoric, or people might learn to live in peace.  Your source of income would dry right up, then.  Apocalypse is good....creative destruction...break those eggs to make omelettes...."

Read Mark Twain.  Read Chalmers Johnson, and Major General Smedley Butler.  Visit Veteran's hospitals.  Spend lots of time walking quietly in the graveyards, minus the propaganda droning on and on.

US bases in Europe after WW II were for the US.  

$600 a year? Holy smokes my electric bill in summer when the a/c is going (Texas) is nearly that a month!
My annual electricity bill is $315. No natural gas; electricity used for all heating, hot water, lights, computer etc. And I work from home! (UK). Electricity costs about $0.12/kWh, IIRC. Being unemployed encourages one to be frugal :)
Well, I pay roughly 22 US cents a kwh - you may want to check how many kwhs you used during that period, and at what price.
I average a bit less than 300 kWh/month (perhaps 3,400 kWh/year, but records are at home ATM) living in an apartment in an 1890 house.  Heat & Cool is a window Friedrich Heat Pump (supplemented with resistance heat on coldest nights, when it gets down to 32 F/0 C and in mornings in bathroom) in my bedroom.  Most efficient window heat pump made.

Natural gas water heating, perhaps an average of 700 cu ft/month.  My level bill is about $30/month.  I could reduce more, but wonder if it is worth it.

When I redid 5 story 1960s office building, primary heat has a gas furnance on ground floor that was 10 tons (120,000 BTUs) and 94% efficient (flue gas was condensed, this allowed MUCH cheaper installation).  Overall, reduced utilities by over 2/3.

Household electricity bill is far less expensive in USA than Germany, as the data shows below. The electricity is inexpensive in Canada and Norway probably because they generate electricity mainly from hydropower.

Price of electricity (US$/kWh)                           from IEA (2005)

Country                        Industry                       Household

Austria                        0.1010                        0.1872
Canada                        0.0561                        0.0703
Chinese Taipei            0.0551                        0.0727
Czech Republic           0.0847                        0.1105
Denmark                     0.0947                        0.3036
Finland                        0.0748                        0.1282
France                         0.0526                        0.1486
Germany                     0.0759                        0.2037
Greece                         0.0695                        0.1174
Hungary                      0.1041                         0.1533
Ireland                         0.1044                        0.1885
Italy                             0.1704                        0.2018
Japan                           0.1348                         0.2060
Korea                           0.0580                         0.0850
Mexico                        0.0738                          0.0784
New Zealand                0.0602                         0.1350
Norway                        0.0426                          0.0672
Poland                          0.0747                          0.1241
Portugal                        0.1020                          0.1894
South Africa                 0.0234                          0.0605
Slovak Republic           0.0941                          0.1400
Spain                            0.0624                           0.1592
Switzerland                  0.0884                           0.1469
Turkey                         0.1081                            0.1198
UK                               0.0781                            0.1531
USA                             0.0520                            0.0865

Sounds to me like you're starting to "get it". Hooooooeeeee!! the Western world (and the Eastern world we've managed to contaminate with similar wants) screwed, blued and tattooed.
Possible new thread here, I think it's an interesting way to think:
In our society, something is Better if is uses more energy.
Examples: The Internet is Better because it actually uses more energy than the old pencil and paper based culture.

You need t o spend some time with network theory and social interastion of man.

The Internet benefits from the number of nodes, the speed of communication, and the ability for these nodes to communicate.  

For your position to be true, paper would have to have the speed of the internet and the node coverage of the internet.

In addition, you would have to calculate the cost to create this word on my machine and get  it to you machine and to everyone elses machine who reads it, VS making paper (and that includes growing the paper source too) and getting that paper to all thoes other users.   THEN you could make your claim that 'its better because it uses more energy'.   On a photon -> energy basis, I'd bet the internet wins.

literally teethed on punchcards.

Did they use lead type to print up the cards?

DRM (Digital Radio Mondiale) is Better

Is it?  If the goal in life is passive entertainment/information closer to your worldview, that is what sattlite radio can bring you.  How does AM/SSB fill that 'need'?


Anytime you have an unguided wave, it is expensive energy-wise.Guided waves are FAR cheaper.

Whadda ya think?

I think your postion is flawed.

THe idea that the Internet uses less energy than simple paper and pencil is insane. Only someone hopelessly clueless about basic physics could make that assertion.

Lord. No wonder the techies all chase the same fantasy. If you already live in a fantasy, then a newer shinier one doesn't seem all that impossible.

The internet itself seems fairly efficient.  The big cost is probably bringing thicker lines to the users.  

Can you prove your assertion that "paper and pencil" information is cheaper to manufacture, print and distribute?

Can you prove your assertion that "paper and pencil" information is cheaper to manufacture, print and distribute?

No, and you won't see them actually try.

THe idea that the Internet uses less energy than simple paper and pencil is insane.

Prove it.  

Show the numbers.

Show the numbers for the energy for this message to move from New York to Califaornia.  Or New York to Hawaii.

Be a man, step up and SHOW us all how my position is wrong.
(Hint: Handwaving isn't showing)

Only someone hopelessly clueless about basic physics could make that assertion.

Then show YOUR Math.

I can create this message using 57mA on a Newton 2100.   Or a 100Watt Desktop PC.

A 200 watt PC + monitor over one minute to create this message - round up to 4 watts.   Transmit time - nil.   But lets assign a value for the transmission wattage.... how about 500 watts?

Now for 504 watts of energy you can get  the PAPER based message how far?

But, go on.   PROVE your position Chernkov.  

 I would be glad to come to the defense of Cherenkov.

 The proof is in the mail.


The proof is in the mail.

To the thousands who read TOD too?

Your hand must be cramped to do all that writing.

this is why one had better have his/her facts AND SCIENCE straight before posting here.  and why i generally stick to pithy comments intended to lighten the mood.  and, btw, why this site is a better (more energy?) source for objective data than the usgs, et al. -apparently more rigorous review.
and why i generally stick to pithy comments intended to lighten the mood

Actually this was a fun expose of how foolish we humans are as we throw words and numbers about under the delusion that others will receive the communications and interpret them in the way we intended.

I suspect that Chernekov was thinking about the total energy consumed by the whole of the Internet around the world and perhaps during the course of a 24 hour period. Maybe in his mind he pictures all those servers humming away in those hot warehouses, pinging all those spam email messages back and forth that no one will ever read.

On the other hand Blair is probably counting the amount of energy needed to disseminate a message around the world by comparative use of email and snail mail.

Both of them should realize that "watts" are a measure of power (units of energy used per unit of time) and not a measure of energy.

A fun time was had by all. That is the goal isn't it?

I agree. Well said. But then again, Cherenkov hasn't responded to Blair.
Rocket scientists up until shockingly recently used slide rules made of BAMBOO

Bamboo is an astonishingly useful material is certain applications, probably matched only by some composites.  For a slide rule, it's very dimensionally stable, fairly hard, easy to machine accurately, and (if I recall correctly) doesn't need lubrication for the slide.

One of my engineering profs frequently made the point that simple approximations can carry the day in most applications - why calculate stress to 9 decimals when the lot-to-lot variation of materials can be 10%?  And a good slide rule will give 3 decimals reliably.  I got extra credit on the exam for using a slide rule to do the calculations (though that was mostly because I didn't check the batteries in my electronic calculator ahead of time).

DRM (Digital Radio Mondiale) is Better than AM or SSB because every friggin' listener needs a pretty darned good computer (we're talking at least a GHz clock speed, etc) to do the decoding of the signal.

Wrong.  DRM applications will include fixed and portable radios, car receivers, software receivers and PDAs.

Where can I get a 1 GHz PDA?  Seriously, the DRM system uses COFDM - similar to DSL but much slower, thus lower in computational complexity - and I doubt that many DSL modems have GHz-class processors.

What are you - from North Korea? There was actually some discussion here on slide rules a while ago,I will look it up. If the doomers are right we're gonna need all the bamboo we can get.
Actually I'm Californian.  My only slide rule is a plastic 5 inch Dietzgen like this one, which formerly belonged to my father (he found it in with some of his old papers and said I could have it if I liked).

I've thought about this before, and building a "high performance" modern rule isn't trivial.  I was thinking hard-anodized aluminium, but with slide bearings made of Rulon (long wear life, no lubrication needed).  Note: I'm not a mechanical engineer so that may be the wrong plan entirely.  One fortunate thing is that with modern CNC machining, the scale marks can be cut easily.

Also, a circular rule may be a better choice, as (per Wikipedia) they are mechanically superior, at the cost that inner ring scales are less accurate.

Clarification - the first paragraph above would better have read:

Actually I'm Californian.  My only slide rule is a plastic 5 inch Dietzgen, which formerly belonged to my father (he found it in with some of his old papers and said I could have it if I liked).  It's similar to this one.

Thanks. I'm just a huge fan of slide-rule talk. I should probably get myself one on eBay and learn to use it.
I had both a slide and circular rule once, and I did learn to do a few things on them, but well.... I still have my HP-11C, and it doesn't use much power!
BP came out with a trading statementthat covers a lot of TOD bases from declining non OPEC production through refining margins to Russian production increases slowing down.
The Big Melt Coming Faster Than Expected

Beaches, islands and even continents are shrinking as ocean levels rise ever higher due to the accelerating meltdown of the world's glaciers and polar ice due to climate change.

Many of the world's major cities, including Bangkok, London, Miami and New York, could be flooded by the end of the century, according to a new analysis of current temperatures in the Arctic region published in the journal Science. By then, global temperatures will be an average of three degrees C. higher than now -- or about as hot as it was nearly 130,000 years ago, when ocean levels were four to six metres higher.

"Probably our estimates of sea-level rise even five years ago were too small, too conservative," Jonathan Overpeck, a University of Arizona researcher who helped lead the study, was reported as saying.

It ends with:

Cities and towns in low-lying coastal areas are going to face major disasters from storm surges, predicted Griggs, adding that, "We can't just tough this out or engineer our way to a solution."

Last year's eight-metre surge that hit the U.S. Gulf Coast during Hurricane Katrina killed 1,400 people and caused 200 billion dollars in damages. Recently announced plans to build dykes to protect the devastated city of New Orleans will cost 10 billion dollars and will not even protect all of the city.

"I would not rebuild New Orleans where it is," said Griggs.

And on the subject of New Orleans...

New Orleans is sinking

Add one more possible threat to Louisiana's rebuilding: active geologic faults that are causing levees, flood walls, bridges, homes and other structures to sink.

...This threat from deep underground has major implications. If faults are causing the sinking, there is very little humans can do to offset the subsidence other than build higher levees.

...But if oil drilling were the main culprit, then there is hope that the slowdown in onshore drilling will equate to less subsidence.

Rather unnerving, that they can't agree on why New Orleans is sinking.

This possible fault explanation appplies only to New Orleans East, our post WW II sprawl area and the least desireable area overall.

Analysis of peat deposits shows almost no subsidence before oil & gas production otehr than some oxidation when peat was first exposed to air after being pumped dry.

A*L*L sorts of wacko theories & opinions are popping up by people that want soem media exposure.

New Orleans is just too valuable to lose for it's cultural value and it is required to be where it is.  With half of our off shore oil & gas royalities, we could build all that we needed.

More on the $100 laptop:

One distinctive element of the original design was for a hand crank to provide power to the laptops where there is no electricity. To compensate, the devices are being engineered to use just 2 watts of electricity, less than one-tenth of what conventional portable computers generally consume.

But having a hand crank stuck to the device likely would have subjected the machine to too many wrenching forces, so it will now be connected to the AC electrical adapter.

In fact, because the adapter can rest on the ground, the power generator might take the form of a foot pedal rather than a hand crank altogether.

And he think it will end up being cheaper than $100:

In time, Negroponte expects the $100 laptop to be a misnomer. For one thing, he believes the cost -- which is actually about $135 now and isn't expected to hit $100 until 2008 -- can drop to $50 by 2010 as more and more are produced.

He also said the display and other specifications could change as enhancements are made. In other words, he seemed to be saying to his critics: Don't get too hung up on how this thing operates now.

"The hundred-dollar laptop is an education project," he said. "It's not a laptop project."

That's interesting.  I notice that it has no hard drive, so I wonder if they are using flash bulk storage.  I'm sure they are to some extent, but is it user accessible, or are the applications preinstalled and permanent?  Having AMD on board should be an advantage.

I wonder if "a 7-inch screen that can be read in sunlight" means it is not backlit - the 2W power draw would seem to indicate that.  

You could definitely make a useful device this way.

Yes, they are using flash memory in place of the hard drive.  

I would be interested in buying one of these.  It would be great to have a laptop that didn't require you to lug batteries around, or fight for outlets in airports, etc.  

Check on eBay for "HPC"s. I have an NEC Mobilepro 780. No hard disk, runs Windows CE from flash. Has versions of Word, Excel, Outlook, Powerpoint, IE that work fairly well with their desktop counterparts. The NECs have a 3/4 size keyboard and they all have touchscreen LCDs. It will hold a charge for weeks without use, and for 8hrs or so of use. They are running about $60 these days, used of course. Built in modem, PC Card slot (I use mine for a wireless card), and CF slot. Add in a solar charger for $20 and Wala!
I'll keep it in mind, but I really want a crank.  Or pedal, if that's the way they go.  Don't want to be dependent on batteries or solar panels.
Check out this crank charger for cellphones
I didn't know there was such a thing.  I may get one myself.
If you can't get the hand crank laptop, you could try a small windmill with a permanent magnet motor of matched voltage (with regulation). Sitting outside on a windy day, you set up a tripod with the microwindmill and enjoy. 2 watts would make solarizing it fairly easy, though a little pricey.

A problem common to laptops in general is that the lid and its hinges are somewhat flimsily built - planned obsolescence. I bought my laptop (the computer I post with) a year and a half ago, but one hinge came undone, so I have to handle it very carefully. I never dropped it or mishandled it. The hinges were merely designed to last until it became "obsolete" in the computer sense of the word. :( Its fate is it'll resemble the old Commodore 64 all too soon in that the lid will finish falling off and I'll have to use an external monitor or a TV with a "presentation box" VGA to NTSC converter. Apart from the hinges and lid, it works just fine. As you can guess I was disappointed by the broken hinge, but far from surprised.

A hand crank will cause vibration to that $100 laptop and given how the maker will skimp, that lid is liable to fall off leaving some kid in the African outback crying. Picture some shirtless skinny kid in Africa surrounded by dying trees and holding that broken laptop. :(

The crank won't be on the laptop.  It will be on the AC charger.  And it may be footpump instead of a crank.
ASPO Newsletter 64 (April 2006) is now available:

There is a table of production forecast by countries/regions at the end.

Interesting.  It says a complaint has been filed with the SEC over Exxon's "no peak in sight" ad.  For making misleading statements.
"The majority of Cubans appear simply anxious about the future, because at a minimum they believe Mr Castro is intelligent, well-meaning and patriotic, even if they question his policies."

Financial Times:

No return to abandoned Nigerian oilfields

Royal Dutch Shell and others have no plans to return staff to abandoned oilfields in Nigeria until there is a truce with militants who have attacked them, industry sources said on Wednesday.
Stuart, in the previous Plateau thread you wrote:

"permeability to evidence". . . human tendency to change views when contrary evidence shows up.  People who are deeply stuck in some psychological script of their own (often from childhood experiences, but sometimes from a societal paradigm) that they aren't conscious of see the world through some kind of distorted lens that makes it very hard for them to absorb any evidence that will change their mind.  Some are rabid optimists . . .   Others are rabid pessimists  . . .

I think people of low evidence-permeability are not helpful in solving problems. . .  

Which may be most of us?

A fascinating concept of how we often irrational humans, with our limited rational brain perched on top of a far larger subconscious and irrational brain, incorporate information into our decision making.  William Calvin writes (speculates?) on how and why our brains work the way they do, such as "Competing for Consciousness: A Darwinian Mechanism at an Appropriate Level of Explanation" and A Brain for All Seasons: Human Evolution and Abrupt Climate Change.

Any good overview papers or books on this subject, particularly this aspect? Why do we humans so often think that we are operating rationally on the basis of a full range of information when we are not? The old maxim that in conversation, much that is communicated is non-verbal. The way we rationalize to justify most any behavior or position. IMO acquiring a full range of information, both pro and con, assessing the sources for veracity and then acting on rational conclusions are critical if we are to make a successful transition beyond the oil age.

"Which may be most of us?"

I'm not so sure.

I believe that the people with a low "permeability to evidence" tend to be the ones who vote in elections exactly the same way their whole life (like my Dad). While the 'highly permeable' folks tend to be the so-called 'swing' voters.

Last year here in NZ, the swing voters or the "undecided"s accounted for over 40% of the population.

I'm so permeable to evidence that I tend to swing around all over the place!

For instance, I was living the typical modern lifestyle until someone pointed me to Matt's LATOC site exactly a year ago.  I immediately started preparations for "running to the hills" while advising everyone I knew to do the same thing.

But after a couple of months of reading around (including the great work done here at TOD) I swung back to a more moderate position similar to Stuart's.

I don't think I believe that.  The number of independent voters has increased sharply in recent years.  In many states, there are more independents than Democrats or Republicans.

But I haven't seen much evidence that the American people are more "permeable to evidence."  Quite the opposite, in fact.  

I haven't seen much evidence that the American people are more "permeable to evidence."

"Permeable to advertising" maybe? ;-)

Ah, your comment reminded me of Everett Roger's very interesting book, "Diffusion of Innovations", now in its 5th edition, which is about who in a community adopts innovations when and why. Most important, the characteristics of those in a community who most influence others to adopt the innovation and the characteristics of those who, if they adopt the innovation first, kill the adoption by the majority of the community. Wikipedia (As I read the 3rd edition 20 years ago, my recall may be a little off the mark)

This book is complemented well by Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point - what factors lead to the epidemic of an idea and the roles of the various players.

Seems to me that there is some balance between our "permeability" being too low and being too high (switching too much too soon too often) and it is probably different in the various aspects of our lives.

Seems a fair point.  It wouldn't be surprising, evolution being the clever fairy she is, if a range of strategies were included in the genes, and somehow triggered based on early life conditions.
I suspect it's more genetic than early life conditions.  A lot of personality traits are turning out to be genetic in origin.

Have you ever heard of "shadow syndromes"?  They are very mild forms of mental illness.  The best-known example on the net is probably Asperger's, which is autism's "shadow syndrome."  People with Asperger's may be brilliant, especially in the technical fields, but have trouble with social situations and human relationships.  IOW, the classic geek.  Some theorize Einstein and Edison had Asperger's.

While some think "shadow syndromes" are pathological and should be treated, others think it's just evidence that what we see as "mental illness" is an extreme of a natural human trait - something we all have, gone a little too far.

IIRC, the first "shadow syndrome" discovered was "schizotypic personality disorder," found among the relatives of schizophrenia patients.  Researchers were interviewing them for a study, and noticed a very slight oddity.  It wasn't anything you'd notice unless you were interviewing hundreds of people.  These were all "normal" people, who had jobs, families, etc.  But they had an unusual tendency to jump to conclusions.  To embrace ideas that were outside the mainstream.  They were, I guess you could say, "too permeable to evidence."  

Now, the way they expressed this was probably molded by their childhoods.  For example, some had an unusually literal belief in religious miracles.  Others believed in UFOs.  An unusual number were devoted Star Trek fans.

I have a feeling that the general population would consider all of us to be on the "too permeable to evidence" side of the spectrum.  ;-)

The idea that Asperger's is genetic is one theory.  As an autistic spectrum disorder, the natural rates of it occurring are very low - nothing like the present rates caused by mercury-doped vaccinations.  I think the genetic/environmental line is not quite so clear.
There's no evidence that mercury-doped vaccines cause autism.  The rise in autism rates seem to be a result of changing standards of diagnosis.

Autism 'Epidemic' may not be real

The rise in autism is matched by decline in children diagnosed as mentally retarded or learning disabled. It's a labeling issue, not an actual increase.

OK - I read it.  A study by a young researcher of rates of reporting of various disorders, along with this quote at the end:

"Shattuck's analysis was challenged in an accompanying commentary by autism researcher Craig Newschaffer of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.

"We do not know whether individual children have switched classifications, and of course we can never know whether a given child in a particular birth cohort would have been classified differently had they been born either earlier or later. At best, analyses of this type are merely trying to determine if trends in one classification have the potential to offset those in another," he wrote."

There is planty of other evidence to support the linkage, along with massive amounts of Big Pharma produced propaganda to refute it.  Watch the rates fall now that thimerosal is less common.  But as this is now way OT, I'll stop.  

Watch the rates fall now that thimerosal is less common.

But they haven't.  Countries banned thimerosal long ago have not seen autism rates go down.  Studies in Denmark, Sweden, Japan, and the U.K. have not found any connection between thimerosal and autism.  

And in this country, thimerosal was removed from most vaccines seven years ago.  We should already be seeing a drop in autism rates.  But we aren't.

Nonsense.  Thimerosal was only recently recommended to be removed, and it was permitted to use up existing stocks.  It's still in some things like flu vaccinations and tetanus boosters. The UK has the same problem.  The rise in autism precisely corresponds to the introduction of thimerosal vaccinations, and falls with its withdrawal.  The symptoms of autism match those of mercury poisoning.  Communities without mercury have little autism (look into the Amish, for example).

I will warn you that I'm not a non-biased observer on this issue.  My 7yr old son (formally violently ASD) is now doing quite well, if not 100%, due to intervention measures to remove the mercury and heal his body.  The bite marks on my arms healed long ago, but the other scars never will.  I cannot prove it, and I won't bother trying, as I am now focused on the future & other issues.  But if you choose to believe the propaganda of organizations with a massive vested financial interest, without critically examining what is being passed off as science, you will be fooling yourself.  The studies are mostly studies of studies (rarely is any new data taken, i.e. actual research), and look at who is paying the researchers.  

Thimerosal was only recently recommended to be removed, and it was permitted to use up existing stocks.  It's still in some things like flu vaccinations and tetanus boosters.

That's true, but thimerosol vaccines were first introduced back in the 1930s.  The argument for thimerosol causing autism is that kids get a lot more vaccines these days than they used to.  Cutting back the exposure to thimerosol as much as we have should therefore have a noticeable effect.

The rise in autism precisely corresponds to the introduction of thimerosal vaccinations, and falls with its withdrawal.

That is simply not true.  

Communities without mercury have little autism (look into the Amish, for example).

I am aware of the so-called "Amish anomaly."  But I don't find it convincing.  One, the Amish vaccinate more than most people realize.  It's up each community to decide.  Two, there are no real statistics about how many Amish are autistic.  They don't have the incentive to get their kids diagnosed that most Americans have.  Three, there's evidence that autism has genetic causes.  If that is true, an inbred population like the Amish may have genuinely lower rates of autism, independent of vaccination.  Inbred populations commonly have extremely high or extremely low rates of a given genetic disease, because they are descended from such a small group of people.  Four, Amish use social ostracism (shunning) as a method of social control.  People who do not fit in are kicked out.

We've each made up our minds.  I could go back and dig up my data and references, but this is not the forum.  I'm out (for realthis time!).
Mercury may be a trigger, but with two diagnosed Aspys in my family, and their mother who shows many signs, I think genetics must be involved, too.
There's no doubt genetics plays a part - certainly many kids get the shots without major problems, so it cannot be just that.
I think you mistook the degree of dislocation likely to occur for for the imminence of that dislocation.  

That's a psycholgoical cousin of "overreacting in the short run, underreacting in the long run."

Short run, a "Stuart Staniford" like situation is likely. See the first years of the 1979 oil shock. Then imagine what would have happened if production had continued to decline. Today, we'd only have 30-35 mbd at our disposal instead of 85 mbd.



Don't expect demand destruction anytime soon, according to Tesoro CEO Bruce A. Smith.

The head of one of the country's largest independent refining companies said Wednesday he would not expect $3-a-gallon gasoline to cause a major dropoff in demand this summer.

American consumers "have accepted a little higher price," Bruce A. Smith, chairman and CEO of San Antonio-based Tesoro Corp. said in an interview, emphasizing that he was not making a prediction about where prices are headed.

Smith said motorists no doubt dislike paying more than $2.50 a gallon these days, but he believes the short-term alternatives -- say, buying a hybrid gas-electric vehicle or carpooling -- are unappealing to the average American either from an economic or lifestyle perspective.

And not only is energy a relatively small percentage of most U.S. household budgets, Smith said, but "our gasoline, by world standards, is cheap."

He thinks prices will remain high until at least 2010:

Smith said the two major forces propping up the price of gasoline in the U.S. are the cost of crude oil and the limited amount of refining capacity around the world, and he does not anticipate any near-term change in these underlying factors.

At least through 2010, Smith expects that any new refining capacity around the world will be met by a similar increase in demand, keeping the market for refined products relatively tight. Any meaningful reduction in gasoline prices will come, he said, from a drop in demand or the price of crude.

But after that, he expects increased drilling will lead to greater supply and falling prices.

Charles Murray (The Bell Curve) was just on CNN, pushing his new book, In Our Hands : A Plan To Replace The Welfare State.  He argues that it would be cheaper to give everyone in the country $10,000/year than to continue to fund entitlement programs such as welfare, food stamps, social security, ag subsidies, corporate welfare, etc.  He proposes cutting all the programs that benefit only some people.  (Programs that benefit everyone equally, such as defense or environmental protection would continue.)  Instead, people would get $10,000/year they could use any way they wanted, starting at age 21.

Intriguing idea.  He claims that getting rid of the bureaucracy needed to run all the different programs is what makes this a money-saving plan.  There's something downright Tainterian about it.  

It's just flat tax in reverse.  Why give $10,000 to those who don't need it, and how can this be more efficient or equitable.  Truthfully, this constant stuff about how government programs are inefficient is crap put out by those who want to get their hands on that money instead.  Maybe we should just give Halliburtin $10,000 a year for each of us, and they will take care of us.
I actually like the flat tax.  I just don't think it has a snowball's chance in hell of passing.  Congresscritters get most of their campaign funds from PACs trying to influence tax law.  For this reason, any tax simplification program is doomed in the long run.  (But I can dream, can't I?)

Why give $10,000 to those who don't need it, and how can this be more efficient or equitable.

Because you're not paying for the layers of bureaucracy it takes to manage all those programs, determine eligibility, watch for fraud, etc.  Call it a simplicity dividend.  

Maybe we should just give Halliburtin $10,000 a year for each of us, and they will take care of us.

As opposed to the current model, where we're giving them that just to line their pockets?  :-P

So instead of SS, we get $10K a year. That's certainly a bargain for those that borrowed against the trust fund.
Well, if you're 20 years old now, it would probably be a great bargain.  
What if you have a kid suffering spina bifida, autism, or blindness? Will $10K be enough once all the social programs are gone?  
I haven't read his book yet, but I believe his plan includes some kind of universal health coverage.  Perhaps something like Massachussetts just enacted.  

Obviously, $10,000/year would not be enough otherwise, with the cost of healthcare these days.

Let us know.  I have no problem with a minimal government, but  it is one thing to say "no corporate welfare" but quite another to actually vote out the pork.

Also, such a program would have to go hand in hand with serious tax reform, otherwise the middle class would be paying for the whole thing.

Russia's Gas Crunch: Looming Shortfall Poses a Tough Choice

Three months ago the Russian energy giant Gazprom forced Ukraine to pay sharply higher prices for natural gas. At the time, the story was portrayed as a political struggle for control in Kiev. But last week Gazprom announced it was tripling gas prices in Belarus, a country that is politically close to the Kremlin. Moldova has been forced to accept a doubling of prices over the next three to four years, and the other former Soviet republics are already paying market prices for Russian gas.

The truth is that these price increases are not political. Rather, they reflect worrisome economic and geological facts about Russian gas fields. The Kremlin is not simply trying to use Gazprom to reassert authority in Belarus, Ukraine or anywhere else. There are in fact deep problems with Gazprom -- problems created by its inefficient management and a looming decline in gas production.

"Crude oil rose a second day in New York after a U.S. government report showed refineries are reducing gasoline production as demand increased.

Motor-fuel output fell from the previous week as plants used only 86 percent of their capacity because of maintenance. Gasoline supplies plunged 4.4 million barrels to 211.8 million last week, the U.S. Energy Department said yesterday, more than twice the decline forecast in a Bloomberg survey of 13 analysts."

How AIDS in Africa Was Overstated

This headline caught my eye.  I have a friend who biked through Africa and told me about passing through villages of children, where all the adults had died of AIDS.  I think it relates to the idea that AIDS may reduce the  world population.

KIGALI, Rwanda -- Researchers said nearly two decades ago that this tiny country was part of an AIDS Belt stretching across the midsection of Africa, a place so infected with a new, incurable disease that, in the hardest-hit places, one in three working-age adults were already doomed to die of it.

But AIDS deaths on the predicted scale never arrived here, government health officials say. A new national study illustrates why: The rate of HIV infection among Rwandans ages 15 to 49 is 3 percent, according to the study, enough to qualify as a major health problem but not nearly the national catastrophe once predicted.

Yet the disease is devastating southern Africa, according to the data. It is in that region alone -- in countries including South Africa, Botswana, Swaziland and Zimbabwe -- that an AIDS Belt exists, the researchers say.

"What we know now more than ever is southern Africa is the absolute epicenter," said David Wilson, a senior AIDS analyst for the World Bank, speaking from Washington.

In the West African country of Ghana, for example, the overall infection rate for people ages 15 to 49 is 2.2 percent. But in Botswana, the national infection rate among the same age group is 34.9 percent. And in the city of Francistown, 45 percent of men and 69 percent of women ages 30 to 34 are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

This article from Discover has some interesting info about AIDS in Africa:

Why is AIDS worse in Africa?

Basically, it's the pattern of sexual relations.  They don't have more partners than, say, Americans, but they have long-term, simultaneous partners due to their nomadic lifestyle.  Say, a girl at home in the village and one in the city.  This greatly increases the chance of transmission, because AIDS is not very contagious.  It typically takes multiple encounters to contract it.  Weirdly, societies where men regularly visit prostitutes, such as Thailand, have a lower rate of AIDS than societies where people have long-term, concurrent relationships.  

Also interesting is that circumcised men are 70% less likely to contract AIDS than non-circumcised men.  Something to keep in mind if you think latex condoms will be scarce in the future.  ;-)

Leanan -

OUCH!  Sure glad it was done when I was but an infant :-)

I'm sure you're aware that among some people naturally inclined toward conspiracy theories and apocalytic ponderings, there is the notion that AIDS was deliberately intruduced to depopulate Africa of the Africans in order to create 'lebensraum' for the white race.

Silly? I think so. But we are beginning to hear more and more talk, both at TOD and elsewhere, about what a great thing it would be if we culled a few billion people here and there. Of course, it is implicit among the people proposing such measures that it would be 'those people' and not 'us people'.

The same sort of claims have also been made about the origin of this latest deadly version of avian flu.

One thing I do find puzzling is why scientists have been so anxious to re-culture the virus that cause the great influenza pandemic of 1918 -1919.  I have a hard time seeing how  the benefits to science can offset the incredible danger of it getting out into the general population, either accidently or deliberately.  

Then we have claims that various bio warfare efforts have involved research into ethnic-specific diseases. If these are true, then that is extremely insidious and frightening.  It's my view that if a weapon can be used, sooner or later it probably will be. And I am quite certain that there are people in high places who would have no compunction whatsoever about using such weapons. So who knows how much of this is the product of a paranoid mentality and how much might have some truth to it.

In any event, I get very nervous when I hear all this enthusiastic talk about bringing the human race down to 1 billion people, or whatever number is felt to be the 'correct' number of humans.

One thing I do find puzzling is why scientists have been so anxious to re-culture the virus that cause the great influenza pandemic of 1918 -1919.  I have a hard time seeing how  the benefits to science can offset the incredible danger of it getting out into the general population, either accidently or deliberately.  

It's not really that dangerous.  If it got out, it would be no worse than ordinary flu.  What made it so dangerous was that it was new.  Now our immune systems are used to it.

How about this for a dieoff scenario?

Starving villagers in Jos, Plateau state, who exhumed and ate the carcasses of bird-flu infected chickens were arrested by the police, government officials said yesterday.

The Chairman, Sub-committee on Sanitation and Transportation of the Plateau State Bird Flu Committee, Mr Joseph Pate, expressed shock that some villagers of Dong in Jos North local government area, had gone to the dump site to exhume the infected birds to form part of their meals.

Digging up rotting avian flu chicken carcassses for food ....... that's just great!

 Sounds like something that belongs in some apocalyptic  Hieronimous Bosch painting!

Regarding the virus from the Great Flu of 1918, how do you and I know for sure that our immune systems are used to it, as neither of us was even born when it was active?   Possibly our parents were, but how strongly is viral  immunity passed down from generation to generation? What about mutations?

I suppose the same argument could be made regarding the great plagues that wiped out large chunks of Europe during the Middle Ages. There was a weeding out process that left the immune ones alive, and I guess some of the immunity has been passed down.  Yet, these organisms still exist, and as far as I know, there is not universal immunity to the plague. Isn't that why various plagues are the subject of bio warfare research?  

Somehow, I don't find your reassurances very reassuring. I for one don't want to find out whether or not I am immune to the Great Influenza virus.

Regarding the virus from the Great Flu of 1918, how do you and I know for sure that our immune systems are used to it, as neither of us was even born when it was active?  

They could tell from the DNA it was an H1N1 virus, which go around every year.  

And it's really not that lethal.  It killed only 1% of the people who got it, and that was before had we Tamiflu and other modern medical care.  Why it killed so many young and healthy people was a puzzle, and still is.  Theories include the "cytokine storm" theory (young people have stronger immune systems), the "previous exposure" theory (older people had been exposed to a similar flu earlier, while young people had not), and the TB theory (the young people who died seemed to be mostly young men who would have died of TB if they hadn't died of the flu).

Ebola is much more lethal than the Spanish flu.  It kills 50% to 90% of its victims, and there is no cure.  And they work with ebola.  (With proper precautions, of course.  Ebola requires "level 4" safety precautions, while the Spanish flu required only level 3.)