DrumBeat: May 29, 2006

Now for some wise words from the readers of The Oil Drum...
Biofuels again
Soon food could be correlated to the price of gasoline. I can just see poor people going hungry while rich people burn ethanol in their cars.

Grain stock levels are already at 20 year lows apparantly.

I think you are onto somthing. The morality of burning food as auto fuel must be addressed at some point. The U.S. is already unpopular and this will not help. I am surprised that no church groups (that I know of) have come out in protest. Surely feeding our cars corn so we can get to our homes is suburbia qualifies as gluttony.
Most people of the world do not eat corn. Rice, Wheat are the grains that humans eat the most.  Corn is grown for some reason that I can't explain on lands that would be better used by several other seeded plants.  Amaranth is more hardy to the places we are growing corn than anything else, there just is not the infrastructure for it that there is for corn.  

Back in 1980 when the big nasty heatwave hit most of the US there was a study going on comparing Amaranth and Corn production. I read about it the next year in an issue of Organic Gardening.  The corn hit with the heat wave and drought died or produced nothing much, The Amaranth in the field next door did just find, after all it is a plant that grows in the marginal lands, soils to poor to grow much of anything but "weeds".  Well this weed just happens to be edible and has been used for 1,000's of years just like Corn, but by a differant group of Natives.

We just don't live lives that make whole foods and Whole grains and Meats an easy fix.  We have to package things so that everyone will buy them in mass amounts and the Companies can make a bottom line profit.

In the future we will be more in the local markets, the local foods, and a whole lot less international shipping of foods, and a whole lot less massive pre-packed-nukable foods.

I remember those days.  I had an Organic Gardening subscription, and they did push amaranth.  I see it in the specialty grain sections of health food stores, for a few bucks a pound, but don't think I've heard of it going more mainstream.  Surfing a bit, i see that "It is mostly found
in the form of alegrias, blocks of amaranth seeds mixed with honey, raisins, peanuts, and other nuts. "Maybe I've seen those at the checkout of the local Supermercado.  And now that I know the names, I might see if they have amaranto (amaranth) or pinole (amaranth flour).

It would be nice to bump my 9-grain bread up to 10 ;-)

Am I the only one suspicious of "localization" and "re-localization"? The Phoenicians were trading across the Mediterranian before 1000 BCE.  Trade is a good thing.  I suspect that the bad thing is subsidizing trucking at the expense of rail and water modes of transport.
There will always be some trade.  But eventually, it will be on the scale of Phonecian times.  In general, things were MUCH more localized back then.

Antoinetta III

Maybe, someday in the future, objects from foreign lands will once again be exotic, instead of plastic crap from third world factories.
Hello Enviro Attny,

Based on your TOD name, which I hope is directly related to your career background, perhaps you, and other TODers could comment on the following links.  The first link talks about families doubling up back in the cheap energy days of 1983 and how NYC authorities tried to stop it.  The second link, in '87 [still cheap energy days], the NYC authorites then shifted policy to encourage doubling up.  The third link on today's current NYC housing situation then has a graph showing how homelessness has gotten even worse during the intervening years.

So, if rising energy costs forces even more urban detritovore migration and density/sq foot with families doubling or even tripling up to maintain mortgage/rent payments and/or future survival--How is this predicted to affect urban environmental and housing laws?

Will overloaded urban sewage sytems swamp various neighborhoods like in Zimbabwe now?  Will cities like NYC be able to generate the funds and energy to enlarge their subterraneum support infrastructures, or will they pass laws to export the ever-increasing poor outside the city limits to maintain viable living standards inside the city-- a 'taking out the trash' program?

Consider if Insurance Cos' future energy, health, and fire safety evaluations make them refuse to insure living quarters above the seventh floor in NYC, just as they are now refusing hurricane & flood insurance now [recall my earlier posting].  This would force a people/sq. mile density limit in NYC, just as AZ is just now starting to barely grapple with the idea of limiting people based on future water supplies.  Is there any enviro-legal-energy discussion of optimizing urban-enviro design within a postPeak 'safe window' of localized energy limitations?

For example: maybe NYC enviro-planners, after considering all possible postPeak ramifications could decide that one million people max is what is safely sustainable and 75% of all inputs will be demand/supply energetically limited to within a 200 mile radius to maintain optimum rural-urban exchange flows.  From this conclusion, all enviro-housing-transit-water-sewage-ins-urban gardens-wealth distribution, and so on legislation is to induce this desired direction.

Planning for decline is so much better than letting Nature do it for us that I hope you get swamped with legal work as we go postPeak.  For when lawyers cannot find work: that means that discussion and negotiation has ended, guns are next.  Here are the related links I mentioned above:

1. 1983: 17,000 NYC families double up


2. 1987: 35,000 families [maybe 100,000?] doubled up


3.The number of homeless people sleeping each night in New York City shelters reached record levels this year. At the same time, the shortage of affordable housing has grown more acute over the past decade. [Please see graph in link below--BS]


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

Doubling up is very common in New Orleans today (the rental house that I have a half interest in has 2 families, 6 people, one bathroom and 1100 sq ft. the first flooded out renter asked if he could bring a friends family in as well.  We did not increase rent).  

That is one of the keys to fitting half of our population into 20% of our housing stock.  Living in a tent inside one's gutted home with running water and sewage as the only utilities is another, and in a trailer/RV is the third adaptation.

Hello AlanfromBigEasy,

Thxs for responding.  If you examine the charts in my last link under the clickable PDF link: "Charts Describing Affordable Housing in New York City (pdf)", it would appear normal economic forces [more land and housing going for the well-to-do], combined with city zoning and budgetary policies-- it is gradually forcing the 'wage-slave' poor out of NYC housing and onto the NYC streets, or making them migrate elsewhere.

Sound NYC, or any urban enclave postPeak policy should seek to replace the gradual, or precipitious loss, of fossil fuel 'energy slaves' with sufficient 'wage slaves' [like me  =(  ] to keep the top-heavy employment structure functioning as far as possible into the future as a 'resistive' force against entropic decline in shared carrying-capacity.

Aspen, Colorado is a good example of this local wealth consolidation carried to extremes.  So many rich people live in Aspen that many workers that serve them must commute from outlying communities.  During severe blizzards, the service levels drop off markedly because they cannot get into town to work.  A severe blizzard of rising energy prices will have the same effect unless the wealthy make it energetically and time convenient for their wage-slaves to be nearby as energy declines.  Therefore, a proactive NYC city council should reverse policy and be building lots of cheap, affordable housing to serve NYC's postPeak future as an international trading hub of commerce.

A good postPeak model might be to go way back in history to the time of the Pharoahs.  Think of their unfortunate real slaves as their energy slaves, and their soldiers and Captains as their 'wage slaves'.  The extent of the Pharoahs' 3Cs [command,control,communication] was extremely limited because with no-fossil fuels & modern tech to extend their reach: timely execution of orders required the dedication of huge amounts of necessarily nearby resources.  King Tut could not just 'flick a switch' to instantly harness the directed energy of his slaves; it took a long time for the 'service' to spool up under the  stinging whips from his wage slaves executing his orders.

As Yul Brenner [acting as Ramses in Ten Commandments] so often said, "so let it be written, so let it be done"-- He was expressing his desire that he hoped his orders could be efficiently hand-passed down the command chain to eventually bring about the desired effect. Compare chariot travel times vs jetplane vs email communication speeds.  The simple task of summoning Moses to see Ramses might have taken days and dozens of troops fanning out to find him if his spies lost track of his wanders vs a simple cell-phone call to Charleton Heston today.

A billionaire today might be easily able to instantly flick a switch on a million 'energy slaves'-- ORACLE Chairman Ellison flogging the motors on his 483 ft yacht, the Rising Sun--and have 10,000 wage-slaves at his instant beck and call by phone or email.  Detritus entropy will vastly change the future Pharoahs' 3Cs forcing close proximity to his slaves-- energetic, wage, or real.

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

Hard to say if you're the only one.  For my part, I see localization and re-localiation as quite unavoidable in certain ways; I believe it will happen regardless of one's opinion of it.  And for what it's worth, my opinion is that it's a good thing in many respects.  And yes, I acknowledge that there are consequential trade-offs and things to give up as globalization loses power.  I will miss my Guiness.

Yes, long distance trade has been conducted since pre-history.  Examples of flint tools being discovered far from the source rock, and marine shell-based ornamentation far from any ocean are simple examples.  I've heard that Roman big-wigs employed runners to bring pack snow to them over many dozens of miles from the mountain peaks just so they could have a slushie (italian ice?).

But I would argue that pre-fossil fuel trade was limited to high value-density items and materials.  I can imagine that good flint was valued quite highly in its day.  The spice trade seems to be the prototypical material that was greatly valued and thus had a very high value per pound.

Grapes from Chile come to mind as an example of a material that has a very low value per pound.  And trade in those grapes over the distances relevant to me (NW Florida) are only possible via the bounty of unbelievably low cost transportaion joules.

So long-distance trade will continue.  No doubt about that.  But the breakeven point ( value per pound seems a reasonable proxy) for what is worth transporting will undergo a dramatic shift.

Not sure how to weave this thought in, but I'm reminded of how the internet-ordered dog food business model never did quite tick over a few years back.  Even with histrocially high advantages of effectively zero information cost (for conducting a given transaction) and really, really low transportation costs the value in puppy chow just doesn't quite support the costs.  Bummer.  I was planning to teach Ellie how to surf the web and order her own darn food.  No more free loading.  But there is the whole doesn't-have-an-opposable-thumb issue, so maybe it was best after all.

bjj, You won't have to give up your Guinness.  Long ago when I was in college, I made my home beer for a year or two, in five gallon batches.  Guinness was what I tried to emulate most of the time, and I actually got quite close.  I bottled it up in fifth Champaigne bottles; production cost about 35 cents a bottle, in 1972 money.

And if you make your own beer, ALWAYS use Champaigne bottles.  They are made to sustain considerably higher pressure than the bottles commercial beer or soda pop comes in; the latter, towards the end of the fermentation process have a nasty tendency to become small bombs that can explode with the least disturbance.

Antoinetta III

actually, 20oz coke bottles worked real well for me. as long as it could hold pressure, it works. and i ended up using the 20oz soda bottles to make it happen. But champagne bottles will work too. But then i didn't use champagne yeast either. CHEERS!
Homebrew rocks! We just need to smuggle the yeast out of that factory in Dublin ;-)
I agree much relocalization does not have its Thinking Cap on.  Trade is going to be the only thing saving much of the environment, post-peak.   If everybody did all their own ranching, mining, logging, milling in their backyard, then every US county is soon going to look like Haiti.  Look how the eastern US was almost completely deforested before 1830, but local firewood hunters.  But it grew back - after the railroads came.   There were American clipper ships doing a booming trade with China long before coal and Wal Mart - in tea and chinaware.  It is not going to matter that transportation costs go way up (and barges aren't expensive - and half the US is on the Mississippi).  Prices are relative, and lots of areas are still going to make something you want cheaper than you can yourself.  Think of that staple of the Great Depression - the Sears catalogue.  Trade is going to change completely and apples won't come from New Zealand - but the dirt roads of the Third World are packed with buses jammed with people and chickens and crying kids right now, and that's the true vision of relocalization to bear in mind.
The Phoenicians were trading across the Mediterranian before 1000 BCE.  Trade is a good thing.

Trade is not necessarily a "good" thing.
It could be a major reason for collapse.

Forgive me. I'm finally plodding my way through Jared Diamond's "Collapse" of Civilizations book.

One of the examples he brings up is the collapse of society on the tiny Polynesian islands of Picatirn and Henderson. These are not as well known examples of collapse as is the theorized collapse of Easter Island. Instead, the growth and collapse of these tiny Polynesian islands was due to their reliance on trade (a good thing?) for supporting their otherwise unsustainble life styles. When trade collapsed, they collapsed. Their society had "evolved" to a point where trade was a necessary part of basic survival.

The high priests of the Adam Smith religion prod us to believe that "Trade is Good", Globalization is Good (and Greed is Good).

We need to step back and question these axioms of Smithism every once in a while.

Is trade always good?

Suppose you were taking a daily dose of a life-saving drug. For years you were buying it at your local pharmacy. Then you found a distant warehouse pharmacy that sells it much cheaper. You switched. That's economic common sense pure and simple.

Not only did you switch to buying from the cheaper mega-warehouse, so did many other people in your neighborhood. Each of them understood that cheaper is better.

With the sudden drop in sales, your local pharmacy goes out of business. That is basic economics as well.

You know what comes next of course. The vital transportation link (the life line) between you and your distant pharamcy goes down. There is no local pharmacy to buy the life-saving drug from. Now you are hosed.

As you know, we in America are "addicted to oil". We get 60% of our vital drug from foreign locations. Still think trade is always good?

Step back and examine these things critically. Don't trust what "they" constantly preach at you.

I don't understand this.  The pharmacy doesn't make its own drugs.  It trades for them.  
Actually, "compounding" pharmacies do make their own drugs. But that of course, is off topic from your argument.

Pharmacies stock (warehouse) supplies of drugs and fill out prescriptions. They are source points for the needed consumables.

You can make all sorts of economist arguments about alternate source points and substitute drugs and substitute modes of transportation. Sure.

All that misses the big picture. The picture is that of a stretched supply line that is more susceptible to breaking down because it is long and there are that many more points along the way where it is subject to failure.

Enough people here have already posted about the fragility of just-in-time warehousing and how dependent it is on sustainable transportation.

Trade has it advantages. But it also comes with dangers.

Just to put things in perspective, you are right that we can't go totally loco -- I mean local.

Not everyone has a coal mine in their back yard, or a forest, or other necessary resources. So trade will be necessary. But total globalization is no more the answer than total isolationism.

I don't think that questioning localization is thinking any less critically than assuming that all trade is bad or that trade and globalization are synonomous.  Trade can, and is, a good thing when people cooperate by doing what they can do best in their locality and trade if for what someone can do better elsewhere.  The flint arrowheads are really a good example.  Trade goes bad when governments and corporations conspire to pit wage earners in one locale against others by allowing capital to cross borders but do not allow labor or environmental protections to play into the equation.  Thats where we are now and that is what is giving trade a bad name.  Smith and Ricardo got it right, modern governments and their masters, international capital, have screwed it up.
No, you're not the only one. Fact is, Adam Smith was right: If everyone does what they are personally best at, everyone gets more. Anyone who has tried to do something they really don't know anything about (like making their own shoes) admit that it wastes effort - best to do something you are good at, and then trade. Trade is essential. Self-sufficiency is simply horribly expensive.

The only times self-sufficiency (whether on a national or individual level) is preferable to trade, is when entering a mutual dependency relationship is dangerous. And with people heading for the cliffs, like oil companies, that is the case... which is why I don't own a car, and have self-sufficiency as a hobby.

To post a followup to myself here, I am disapppointed at those in the "powerdown" crowd who uncritically applaud local production and independence. They underestimate the value of specialisation greatly, which means that they risk wasting a lot of energy and resources if they ever put their ideas into practice. Also, they don't see that the interdependence that comes from trade has a positive side - it means that we have to be civil to others, and respect their rights. A perfect, local, harmonious post-carbon society, how would they be safe from their desperate neighbours? They could waste even more energy and resources on "defense budgets", or they could accept a level of interdependence.

Whether we will see a powerdown or a more happy ending of the oil age, part of it comes from realising that we are all in this together, and that getting cynical about other people's prospects, be they the rich, or the suburbanites, or the world's poor, is simply a bad strategy.

For example, try tracing the industrial steps from the ground up of producing that staple of all independent living: the bullet.  The metals, the chemicals, the alloy processes, the mining, the mining tools, refining, refining tools, the fine casting, the casting tools, the tools all those tools are made with - how big a network of reliable (and peaceable) trade and specialization do you need to create simply a reliable supply of bullets?  Where are bullets going to come from in the long run, if you eschew such a stable network?  What if you resist trade involvement (and the state processes behind it) to the extent that all you can come up with on your independent own is a hand-cast musketball and powderhorn?  What happens in your relations to groups that do not spurn trade involvement?        
[T]ry tracing the industrial steps from the ground up of producing that staple of all independent living: the bullet.

Personally, I enjoy an armada of nuke-tipped ICBM's to support my independent and oil-powered style of living.

Wasn't it none other than Milton Friedman who proudly proclaimed that in our Adam Smith society, no one person even knows how to make a pencil --never mind something as complex as a precision calibered bullet?

That said, I don't view Adam Smith in black and white terms --as either 100% pure evil or 100% pure genius. Smith was both right and wrong at the same time. "Specialization" is the reason why our society has advanced so much. It can also be the reason for why our society goes into catastrophic collapse. No one is in charge of making sure that all the necessary pigeon holes of specialization are filled. Instead it is left to the whim of the consumer and the random evolution of markets.

Who, for example, is charged with the responsibility of monitoring and controlling Peak Oil, or Climate Change, or Peak Aquifer, or .... you get the picture: (Warning blogwhoring)

Yes, we are the sum of all our specializations and trades.
But we are also the sum of all our ignorances and miscommunications.

Am I the only one suspicious of "localization" and "re-localization"?

I think "localization" is one of those things, like "organic food" that works by being more often right, without being a sound scientific accounting.  In either case one could add up the details, do the math, and figure out which is better, A or B.  But it's easier to have a ready rule, something that can be applied quicly, without a lot of thought.

Certaiinly if you compare item A from a local source, and the same item A from a thousand miles furtheraway, the local A is likley to be more energy efficient.  It gets more complicated in a mixed setting.  I mean, in terms of food calories and energy inputs ... locally grown potatoes or a 25 pound bag of flour bulk shipped a thousand miles?  You'd have to do the math.

Or you can get an "eat local" t-shirt and punt on the math.

Oh, I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that the cost of an item also represents an upper limit on its embedded energy cost.  If a 25 pound bag of flour sells for $5 (as it does at my local Smart and Final), then there is not more than $5/$3 = 1.6 gallons of diesel fuel embedded in that product.  Pretty easy for a local shopper to exceed that, running out, esp. making multiple trips, to pick up 'localized' calories.
Just got into the "Omnivore's Dilemma" and Pollan describes how infused with corn are we Americans, even more so than the 'corn people' natives of Mexico. The rest of the world may eat less corn, but North Americans have it permeating their diet in many ways more than direct consumption.

Along the food and food/fuel threads, I flashed on how insane the US is. We have a multi-billion $ industry devoted to producing non-nutritive faux diet food on the one hand and on the other hand we are talking about putting corn into our gas tanks. How crazy is this?!

In the short to medium timeframe I don't see ethanol contributing to world hunger.  The ethanol is currently coming from excess corn and is used to replace that MTBE fuel additive that was polluting our water.  A little less sugar and meat in our diets can only help our physical fitness.  Our current system has already created such world hunger it is hard to see ethanol making it worse, at least for quite a while.  At the point we start to commit new acerage to crop growing for ethanol we should be concerned.
I live in New England where stickers just appeared on all the gas pumps saying that there is a maximum of 10% ethanol in our gas.  I guess this happened nationwide.  So of course most people think there is 10% ethanol in our gas now.  I sincerely doubt there is one drop of ethanol in any gas currently for sale anywhere in New England.  Probably never will be.
All the ethanol talk is just another way to convince everybody that "everything will be just fine, technology always finds a way".  But the current deepening energy crisis is CAUSED by the technology we employ - that's why we need so much energy in the first place!!  And fermenting our food supply to extract minute quantities of fuel, well, that ain't such a good idea, is it??
Local small-scale biodesiel is the only thing I see that makes any sense.
The stickers got put on because that was part of the deal with the Congress.  But that sticker only says,  A MAX amount, it does not say there is  a Min. Amount of 10%, if it did say that then I'd bet it was lying. Saying there is a Max of $1,000,000 dollars in my bank account, does not in any way tell you what is in my bank account.

They have to cover their collective rearends because of a congressional mandate of getting MTBE replaced by Ethanol. It does not tell you anything about how much there is in any of the gasoline. In fact there could be ZERO % in there and the labels are still correct.

My car (and I suppose other recent vintage cars) says in the manual that it can handle "up to 10% ethanol" - so it's nice to know at the pump that it shares the limit.
Biofuel strikes oil in eateries
Restaurants could put biodiesel firm in fat city
By Ryan Tate
San Francisco Business Times
Updated: 5:00 p.m. PT May 28, 2006
Martin Wahl is a greasy businessman with a slimy operation -- and he's proud to say so.

Fueled by a new partnership with 150 of San Francisco's oil-rich restaurateurs, Wahl's Bay Area Biofuel Inc. pumps close to 12,000 gallons of biodiesel automobile fuel each month, up from virtually none six months ago.

IMO, we are in the very early stages of a bidding war for flat to declining energy supplies--in terms of both food and fuel.    Let's hope the war is fought with dollars, and not nuclear weapons.  

The near term problem that we have been discussing is what happens when we have to exchange our dollars for something else, in order to buy food and fuel.  There is a very good article in this week's issue of Barron's on this topic ($8,000 Gold).  

Barron's: You thought we would have had a dollar crisis by now.

Turk: Yes, but one could argue we have a dollar crisis. If you look at where the dollar has come in the past few years in terms of loss of purchasing power, we haven't reached a panic point yet. But I still fear we are going to see a panic in the dollar at some point in the future.

Translation: Yes, I was wrong, but like a stopped clock, I will be correct eventually.
Were those wrong who said internet stocks were overvalued at, oh, the beginning of 1999?
If they shorted them they were.
Lots of people got hurt by not getting out in time, but some others (notably George Soros) got hurt by getting out to early, and then believing they had made a mistake...
Most Americans are unaware of the devaluation of the dollar and frankly could care less. They have no interest in the relative value of other currencies. They think if they stay in the USA they will be protected. As an example, since the low in 2002, the Cdn dollar is up 48% against the greenback. Very few Americans are aware of this and if they are aware are unconcerned. This attitude makes it very easy for the Fed to continue devaluing the currency-people will squeal at the gas prices but the MSM can divert their attention by any number of means.
Well Said Brian T!

You are right, if it happens outside the Empire, it doesn't matter. As pointed out in the Cowes thread, oil's not going up, it's just going up in terms of rapidly devaluing USD.

But the average Amurrikan's head is still in the 1950s, Eisenhower's still in office, and we're the biggest and baddest thing on the planet.

"Barron's: You've been right on the price of gold all the way up."

His 'stopped watch' timed the lows in gold, which has almost tripled in the last few years.  And I suppose the huge fall in the dollar vs. the Euro and Canadian Dollar is not a crash?  Or does a rose by another name not smell as sweet?

Turk: So, truth be told, it's not that gold is going higher -- it's that the dollar is going lower.
So gold has almost tripled, but Turk says its NOT going up! It's the dollar going down, he says. Has the dollar really fallen to 1/3 its value in just a few years?
Mackay: huge fall...crash
The U.S. dollar has bought between 1.25 and 1.75 Swiss Francs since 1988. And between 0.5 and 0.7 British Pound since 1988. And between 1.1 and 1.6 Canadian dollars since 1988. The dollar was as low, or lower, against each of these currencies back in the 1990s. What crash?
No where in the referenced story is 1988 discussed.  In fact the book discussed is called the "The Coming Collapse of the Dollar" - as in not yet happened.  Also Turk points out that the dollar has only 5% of the purchasing power it did maybe 50 years ago.

It was I that said that the dollar has already crashed, but if you want to think the price of most metals and oil multiplying 3 to 5 times in 5 years does not reflect a  crash in the value of the dollar for some of the most basic and necessary goods - then there is nothing I can do to convince you otherwise.  

"It was I that said that the dollar has already crashed, but if you want to think the price of most metals and oil multiplying 3 to 5 times in 5 years does not reflect a  crash in the value of the dollar for some of the most basic and necessary goods - then there is nothing I can do to convince you otherwise."

Would this also mean that the Yen, Euro and Yuan have also crashed? Any commodity that's value has multiplied by five against the dollar has multiplied by at least four against almost any other currency.

Thank you Jack. That was my point. It seemed obvious to me.

In Turk's case, if he's going to be a guru on only one market, he'd better get that market correct, at least. Timing, and everything.

Of course I DID pay $5 plus tax for my over-the-counter Sunday New York Times yesterday (Sunday). That was the printed price, not a "gouge."

Five bucks... for a paper...

Nah. The dollar's fine...   ;-)

grainstocks, for the most part are very high
and another story
Re: grain stocks high: Very much so. Currently, in America, we have far, far more food than we actually need (we're not getting obese because we lack food, and I'd also note that obesity is hitting the poor more than the rich -- so it's not because the folks at the top are getting all the food).

The current major food problems in the world have more to do with localized draught and incredibly crappy governmental policies than they have to do with our hitting any limit on food production.

And, interestingly, one of the main problems in the world food market is the glut of American corn, due to the massive subsidies we provide.

If we were using up more of our corn in ethanol, and, thus, either reducing our subsidies (since there would be less need, due to less surplus), or reducing our dumping on the world market, or both, we'd do the developing world a great good service.

The question ain't whether we got food; that we have out the wazoo. The question is whether this is the most efficient way to produce a crop that will then be turned into fuel.

And, while biodiesel is cool and all, the fact remains that it's not going to be the majority product any time soon, even with major governmental intervention. Too many petrol-powered vehicles on the road, and too few people who can afford to buy the diesels that exist.

(for those who say, "The used ones are affordable!" Yes, but: there's a limited number, and they're going fast. Meaning that the price for them is rising, and they're scarce, so most people of limited income are going to buy petrol-powered cars. QED.)

-- Thomas Wicker

I've also read that grain stores in the US are at their lowest level in 30 years.  And that the US will become a net grain importer this year for the first time in 50 years.  And that world demand for food has just passed world supply.
     Soil erosion, saltification, dependence on fossil-fuel-based fertilizers and energy, climate shifts.  The food supply is in peril.  Peak oil is here, Peak Food must follow.
Where did you read that?
Well, I don't really have the time to dig.  I get most of my info on Peak Oil and environmental issues from energybulletin.net, pretty sure that info came from there.  But whatever the stats really are, and it was interesting to read those two articles about how, mostly, things look great in agriculture, the fact remains that our current "green revolution" is fossil-fuel based, and will suffer like everything else we do when energy shortages really start to bite.
I read it and I liked it and I recently met and like Lester Brown. HOWEVER, much as recent discussion here critiques JHK for being wrong about Y2k, Brown has been warning of grain shortages for almost 20 years. He will eventually be right, especially about China and the world water situation as he lays out in his book Plan B 2.0.   But I remember reading State of the Earth 1993, State of the Earth 1999, etc. all warning of impending grain shortages due to chinese demand and water shortages....

My gut tells me this is all going to hit at 11:59 (water, oil, food, etc) And at 11:58 everyone will feel like horn-of-plenty.

World grain stocks - kinda looks like that "growing gap" oil graph, no?


World grain stocks are currently high in the US and Canada but worldwide they are very low. Grain stocks have been dropping for several years now.

And because of falling water tables in China, India and most of the rest of Asia, grain stocks are expected to keep falling in the future. China's grain harvest dropped 70 million tons from 1998 to 2003. This drop exceeds the entire grain production of Canada.

A very good book on this subject is Lester Brown's "Outgrowing the Earth".

Thanks Ron, I knew youd have the stats - Im busy packing up for what may be The Last(sasquatch) Road Trip over the next year so have Lesters book in a box....

soy, corn and wheat prices still very low historically, though wheat perking up of late

That story is from 1994.  Here's the latest:

Overall, China doesn't face any national shortage, Chinese officials and the U.N. say. After a healthy wheat harvest last year, grain officials say domestic supply is still more than adequate: according to Chinese customs statistics, wheat imports in the first quarter of 2006 were down 92% by volume from a year earlier.

Source: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB114857802531563206.html

Longer-term, however, it looks like China may be facing grain shortages, according to the Wall Street Journal story.

Good stuff. Never really thought about following Chinese wheat harvest. But I will be. I wonder if there is anywhere you can get reliable monthly data on it going back say 20 years. Probably not. We will need a bored pofessor.
Chinese wheat production has a column in the "CRB Commodity Yearbook". Each book goes back 10 years.
But can you trust the numbers?
My guess would be that these numbers would cover the production in easily measurable areas -- and would not cover production in the interior (western) areas very well. You'd have to compare import numbers with population growth in the eastern areas and see if they made "sense". If population growth correlates with imports fairly directly then production is probably "flat", etc.
(we're not getting obese because we lack food, and I'd also note that obesity is hitting the poor more than the rich -- so it's not because the folks at the top are getting all the food).

I wonder how much energy currently devoted to growing food crops and raising animals for food could be saved if it were possible to eliminate overweight and obesity .I haven't done the math but with a population of 295,000,000 and 66% of adults being overweight or obese it could probably be a very significant savings.

There are some statistics here:

Men between the ages of 40 and 49 were nearly 27 pounds heavier on average in 2002 compared with 1960.

Men between the ages of 50 and 59 were nearly 28 pounds heavier on average in 2002 compared with 1960.

Men between the ages of 60 and 74 were almost 33 pounds heavier on average in 2002 compared with 1960.

For women, the near opposite trend occurred:

Women aged 20-29 were nearly 29 pounds heavier on average in 2002 compared with 1960.

Women aged 40-49 were about 25 pounds heavier on average in 2002 compared with 1960.

Women aged 60-74 were about 17 pounds heavier on average in 2002 compared with 1960.

Children are also heavier in a way that is disproportionate to their increases in height.

It isn't that the rich are eating more, but they do eat better: more fruits and vegetables, which tend to be energy sparse but nutrient dense.

Thought experiment:
One barrel of oil has 5,800,000 BTUs. At about 16,800 BTUs per pound, Rendering animals can produce a decent amount of energy (though it would be more energy efficeint to skip the animal part and let the sun work directly on the grass). This equates to a 345 lb animal equalling a barrel of oil

Curiously, the entire human population of 6.5 billion could be rendered to get about 2 billion barrels, if we really run short.

Soylent Green is people!
Already redubbed Oilent Brown by TOD.
Corn syrup!

High Fructose Corn Syrup, to be exact is the big obesity maker in the US.  It is in everything that is processed for General consumtion.  If you make your own meals from whole fresh plants and meats you do not add pounds of High Fructose Corn Syrup to everything you eat.  But today if you drink more than 2 soda-pops a day you have consumed more sugar than you would have added to your foods for the same day.

We are not living healthy lives, in the 1960's most families ate at home, and only rarely ate at the local Burger joint.  Now I know folks that rarely eat and home and all their meals are eaten out!!  

We have more folks not doing nearly the amount of work in the normal day that we used to have.  We have more stress in our lives, more angst and less family time. We are just riddled with things that make obesity an issue.  Not to mention that more sugars in the diet sooner create more Diabetices and pre-diabetic people.  Genetically we are passing this on to the next generations.  

Look at the statistics for Japan,  More obese children than ever before.  Look at anywhere that fast food comes into play.  Don't forget that most folks make fast food at home, the prepackaged, precooked and sized for easy nuker use and fast food from our busy day, and we are breeding and eating our way into the grave.

Yesterday I prepared 4 dishes for dinner. Olive Oil was in each of them.  The only thing not fresh was the frozen Catfish, which I baked, not fired.  Two dishes of Tomatoes, one with thin sliced Mozarella, and one in a Lemon pepper dressing home made.  I had to make it all myself, and then I could limit fat, and sodium, and sugars, there were none added and very little starches.  

Who cooked last night?  

"Not to mention that more sugars in the diet sooner create more Diabetices and pre-diabetic people.  Genetically we are passing this on to the next generations."

This is like saying giraffes have long necks because they stretch more every generation.  My DNA does not know if I eat healthy or not.  Most people reproduce long before they get to the age of adult onset diabetes.

There is an intriguing article in the Economist last week about how RNA can carry over to the next generation in effect remembering genetic flaws without DNA. Maybe Comrad Lysenko was right after all!!! Take that you effete  Capitalist Darwinists!
How about this one: in Scientific American last year there was an article about how genetic information from the fetus works its way into the mother's brain. My wife hated this when I read it to her!
Id like to read that. So the implications are that 50% of fetus DNA is hers and 50% yours, so surreptitiously, by getting a woman pregnant, your DNA ends up in her brain during pregnancy?? I wonder what the adaptive reason for that would be? So that the mother thinks more like the father after birth? Seems good in theory but....? find link if possible - thx
It was one of those half page science brief things. Ah, here we go...
"Baby to Brain" Therapy clues from fetal cells that enter mom's brain. By Charles Q. Choi

Mothers could literally always have their kids on their minds. Researchers find that in mice, cells from fetuses can migrate into a mother's brain and apparently develop into nervous system cells. Scientists have known for years that fetal cells can enter a mother's blood; in humans, they may remain there at least 27 years after birth. Like stem cells, they can become many other kinds of cells and in theory might help repair damaged organs.

Oil Rig medic,

I meant to imply that the genetic predispenstion is such that most everyone could get diabeties, if their diet was such that allowed the body to push them over to it.  I am at risk, but so are half the people I know for adult onset.  But they have better diets and work more of the extra calories, and eat little of the "corn Syrup laddened" foods.   The ADA toute the facts of 35,000,000 americans are prone to getting adult onset Diabeties.  Our diet is not the best as a whole, as some other nations.  Sure A lot of the folks below and that do post to this sight know better than the general joe-six-pack, but we might still be considered PRONE to the aliment.

Didn't help my writing style and paragraph formulation any that I was cooking dinner and got up several times to check things.

Oilrig Medic
There has been a lot of research lately, especially in the area of epigenetics that indicates quite a lot of environmental effect on one's genes.


Eating unhealthy likely can affect one's offspring and possibly their offspring as well.

I thought you were a botanist....

Interesting, but fructose is not chemically active with a methyl group to turn off an on various genes.  Also so many phenotypes are polygenomal it is hard to determine what caused any particular expression.  Definately interesting though....I'll read more on the subject.


Well, not last night, but yesterday afternoon - cheese tortellinis and Bärlauch triangolis (Bärlauch is somewhat like garlic, but it is the leaf which is eaten - it is only available around now) from a local pasta factory across from where we work, along with a cheese/cream/ham (from a local butcher, also with Bärlauch) sauce. My wife made Spargel soup from the leftover fresh aspargus we had the day before (the water used to cook the Spargel essentially becomes the soup broth) - bought from a farmer a bicycle ride away. The strawberries and cream were also a nice desert, the strawberries also being in season and local. Because I went shopping later on Saturday (no German stores are open on Sunday), I wasn't able to get the creamier (38%, not 32% fat) organic whipping cream.

I am not sure if this proves your point, exactly, but I was very aware of all the fat/salt which this in part locally produced, seasonally appropriate meal had. And we generally eat together, even if the kids found the Bärlauch pretty much not to their taste.

And this meal wasn't a stretch or a luxury - it was quick and easy to cook, and didn't have any genetically modified elements, hormones in the meat, etc.

But then, I don't live in the U.S.

Yeah keep rubbing it in - it takes a LOT of money to leave the US and go live somewhere else, you know.
A fair point about rubbing it in - except this time, I wasn't trying to.

Much of what is written here is very America centric - and speaking broadly, it is just human to think what is normal around you is normal everywhere else.

'Eat local' for example - this is not a revolutionary new concept, it is actually still a significant part of how people choose to live in other places. And even if currently, most people drive a few kilometers to the fields to buy fresh strawberries, there is no problem with them using bicycles either - the paths are there, and the distances fairly short.

It is this problem of choosing which leaves me helpless - Americans, however defined, choose, however defined, to live the way they do, and there has never been any way I can see to change it.

And it is not my place to change them, either, I might add. It remains my faith that reality will end up doing that, even if people cling to their beliefs long past the point where they should be changed (for example, ca. 1980). It is simply I see little reason to be dragged along into a future which could have been different if the people around me had chosen to live differently.

I think too much about this point, in a way - anyone with a sense of either ancient or recent history is likely to. At some point, decisions are taken out of the hands of individuals - somewhat like the difference between swimming in a lake or the ocean, and swimming in a swollen flooding river. Whether the dam has burst yet in America is an interesting debate, but truly, no one can deny that the water it holds backs is rising steadily.

"...it takes a LOT of money to leave the US and go live somewhere else..."

Not necessarily. My net worth when I left the USA was essentially zero. But I had a job lined up.

BUT.... you had a job lined up. How many of us would be able to just line up a job overseas like that? Not many I wager.

And saying people in the US choose to live the way they do pisses off both myself and many social critics who have studied the facts. There are some things we have control over, at least we're allowed to have control over, for now. Like, not allowing a TV into our homes, not drinking soda, not smoking, etc. But what if the FDA regulates "health/healthy" foods to the extent that you can't get anything natural any more? Don't laugh, it's exactly what they'd like to do, and they may just pull it off. What if it's decided under some State Of Emergency that the populace keep up to date with security announcements, hence mandatory TV ownership and viewership?

And then there are the things we don't have control over-  the american populace didn't decide to put high fructose corn syrup instead of sugar in sodas, and into every other food possible. The American populace didn't decide to kill off the streecar systems or to flood the inner cities with the crime-prone and simultaneously build sprawl.

The American populace doesn't in general have Ralph Nader for a dad and Racheal Carson for a mom, it would be a great country if we did, but we don't. The average person has to make a lot of effort to get educated on this stuff and choose not to have a TV, not to eat twinkies and sodas which they've been brainwashed all their lives are wholesome and good, etc.

And the average American can't just up and leave for Europe or one hell of a lot of us would have already. Everything I've heard tells me the difference between Europe and the Empire is huge, and growing larger over time. It's an amazingly humane society over there, it's just unbelievable. I knew a gal who escaped from Texas, by marrying a European, nearly impossible, a miracle, but it happened. She was constantly amazed, she got health care when she was pregnant and just all kinds of kindnesses, big and small, from people there and from the government, strange as that sounds, that are inconcievable here. She was constantly amazed.

Except for a very few, a very lucky, wealthy, talented, young, and healthy few, we will not be able to leave The Empire so we're stuck with what we have here and can only change things slowly. Your sitting over there in the lap of luxury going "Nyah, nyah" sure is inspiring.

  Your disdain for america is concerning.  A TV is not the devil, like alcohol its abuse is.  Too much reading can be bad if it takes away from exercise and socialization (put down your copy of 1984 and go have a beer) If you want to go overseas join the peace corps or the military or volunteer with habitat for humanity.  Americans can leave anytime they want most countries you don't need a visa.  I am not rich and I travel all over the place.    
Uh, dude, you're an Oilrig Medic?

Of course you get to hop all over!

I'm now not young enough to qualify for many immigration programs and don't have easily transportable skills. I may work on changing that (the skills not the age) and I'm starting to exercise regularly to try to get super fit again, which may help with the ability to move and do any kind of work if things get really bad here.

And yes, I agree, a TV is not the devil, but I just choose not to have one. Considering in the average home the TV's on all hours the inhabitants are awake, and socializing consists of the guest joining in staring at the damned thing along with the hosts, with no real conversation, it can be argued that TVs in the general sense are harmful to society, since healthy societies are those in which people talk to each other, and not just about How About Those Lakers.

And yes, I hate Amurrika, better report me right now! I criticize my country, therefore I hate it, oh well I hear Guantanamo's lovely this time of year. And you'll get a brownie point!

   you are missing my point.  Don't own a TV, eat healthy and raise 1-2 happy healthy children like yourself.  So many educated people on this site have talked about leaving america.  That would be a sad loss for all other americans.  Persia has had the same problem for years the best and brightest have left leaving a society with much of the cream skimmed off.  If you see problems in your country be patriotic and fix them.  If your child fell ill would you abandon them?  Travel and see the way the rest of the world does it and bring back some of the good here.  And if things get really bad here they will be really bad everywhere.  Family and friends will be needed, how long would you have overseas to build relationships to count on?  In the end I hope you are happy wherever life takes you, but a positive attitude will help.


PS I've been traveling for 15 years, I've been doing this job for a few months. I volunteered/mission tripped several and went with the Army everywhere else.  Check out habitat for humanity's website.  If you want to see Latin America this is a great way.  Several Universities in Brazil have 100% scholarships for Americans and really low cost of living 100-200$ a month covers all you need housing food is free on campus.

Abandonment is considered just cause for divorce in most cultures.  With the exception of the volunteers that come down here (May God Bless them), I do feel abandoned by the rest of the nation.  Billions, yes, but for no bid contractors while the locals starve.

If the US Army will not fulfill it's 1928 mission, and given the attitude common in the rest of the country, if I cannot live in New Orleans, I will not live in the United States.  The US has abandoned me, not the other way around.

Much of Anerica has become an alien culture repugnant to me.  I spent two months in Phoenix helping my father recover from knee replacement surgery.  I could not WAIT to exit that hell hole (great weather, but the rest ...) and come back to my disaster zone with caring neighbors & friends, great food & music, minimal health care (ambulances sometimes have to wait 20  minutes to be unloaded at the emergency room, 24 hour waits for walkins), minimal fire protection (two weeks ago another house 2 blocks away burned down), 2 day a week postal service, trash piled on the curbs, etc.

And I will abandon my efforts to help reduce US oil consumption and help plan an alternative.  I can have a positive effect on any society I join.

Well said.  I can't imagine why anyone in your situation would feel differently.
"Much of Anerica has become an alien culture repugnant to me." Nominate this for best phrase of the day.  
The most touching example was an elected offical from St. Bernard Parish.  Retired Marine (20+ years in the Corps. apparently at least two tours in Vietnam).  He recounted his love and devotion to his country (I caught "a couple of tours in Vietnam").

He gave the example of an adult child, taking care of himself, keeping a job, paying a mortgage & taxes.  And then you have a bad auto accident.

There is still an expectation that your parents will be there for you, despite the fact that you are "Stand on our own two feet adult".

You wait and wait in the hospital for a week for your parents to show up.  You make excuses for them.  After a week they finally come and make all sorts of promises.  You forget about the delay.

And then as the weeks and months go by, you slowly come to realize that the promises were hollow, that the spirit of willingness to help is missing, that a show will be made, but the checks will bounce.

He was in tears at the end.

Despite the damage to the city that I love, the slow realization that the US is no longer a "great and good" nation is even more distressing.

I have read of the national response to the Great Floods of 1927 (New Orleans alone was spared) and it is clear that was another nation, not the one I live in today.

I think the people who try to stay at least somewhat connected to the world's problems have racked up a lot of "problem fatiuge" over the last five years.  We cut checks for terrorist attacks, hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes ... and worry about another cycle bearing down.

And it's not just giving, it's watchdogging the government on rigged wars, energy bills, torture, questionable contractors, greenhouse science manipulations, domestic spying, ... , and yeah, we should probably still be watchdogging them on hurricane recovery ... and worry about another cycle bearing down.

"BUT.... you had a job lined up. "

That's why I wrote "But" in my post. As for the rest of your post, I think you're responding more to expat than to me. But since you started....

"...saying people in the US choose to live the way they do pisses off both myself..."

I think there are plenty of things about which individuals can make their own choices, and I think enough of them are making the wrong choices that there will be collective hell to pay at some point as a result. And they can't dodge the collective responsibility.

This doesn't just apply to the US. Here in Europe, there are plenty of people who are making the same bad choices. Eating plastic food, watching the local equivalent of American Idol, driving SUVs when they could take expat's tram.

There's plenty to like and not to like in both places. We come here to TOD to try to do something positive about some of the things we don't like, don't we?

I ate frozen last night.  But I rode my bike to buy eggs for this morning's breakfast.  I think that was fairly paleo.  A lot of fun too.

Interesting to note that stone age humans probably had quite a bit higher calorie consumption than modern obese Americans.  Part of their fitness came from a different dietary mix, but a good part also came from just burning it off.

Here's to a happy pedaling future, with a good Mediterranean diet (as you describe above)

(I agree that widespread corn sweetener use is bad.  Hopefully we will correct that.  At least the new labeling is reducing the transfats in foods.)

There was a similar thread a few days ago discussing obesity.  A comment was made that obesity was off topic.  But I think that obesity in America is as much a result of fossil fuels as global warming is.  Both are side effects of widely and cheaply available fossil fuels.  
How about the possibility that all that weight gain has something to do with SUVs?  Add getting the American people to lose weight on the to do list for fixing global warming.  Maybe Congress should give tax credits for weight loss along with tax credits for hybrids.

Just a thought. But I would  like to see a study comparing the weights of people charter against the vehicles they drive.  My anecdotal observations suggest there is a correlation.


I see SUVs as a self-reinforcing thing. When you weigh more, you want/need a bigger car. I know some damn big ppl who are comfy in Priuses, but in general big ppl prefer bigger cars.

There's another twist though - go into a dealership and try to buy a wagon, which is generally just the same as their sedan with a different rear end of the body. You can't unless you want to pay about 10k more. Try to buy a cute little minivan like the 1980s Windstar - again you can't, the vans now are all big luxury "starships" with drop-down TVs for the obnoxious kids to watch while Mom takes 'em to soccer practice. There's a definate effort by the automakers, at least the US ones, to steer buyers into getting an SUV.

There are exceptions though - the Toyota Matrix Wagon is a very functional vehicle, there's a Scion somewhat like it, and there's the Honda Element which is very very functional. Good for some kids and a dog.

There was a big "safety" push though saying basically, the bigger the safer. And this meant getting an SUV to the vast majority of people, not wanting to be seen in a big older Mercedes lol.

In fact I think there's been a general "Big Is Good" push in the US over at least the last decade, I have a theory it's taken root across the whole spectrum of life, and affects cars, houses, types of dogs people prefer to have, and of course people's own bodies.

From a Chevy Tahoe ad in a magazine I happened to be looking at:  "Now there's even more to love."  
Of course everything is big here.  Just go sit in the parking lot of Sam's or Costco and watch the obese people arrive in their gargantuan vehicles, grab an oversized basket (or, better still, a 4x6 pushcart), and purchase huge amounts of fatty food.  Our houses are big (and getting bigger), our children are big, our vehicles are big, our military and our imperial dreams are big, even our coffins are oversized to fit. This is one BIG society!  Now, better...maybe not so much.
Standing next to a Tahoe makes anyone look slimmer.
I was planning to go out to the Greek Festival (one of my favorite small festivals here :-), but stayed in editing a Peak Oil related paper and cooked instead of enjoying their lamb dishes.  The sacrifices I make to save the world {sigh}.

Dinner was a mixture of tomatoes, broccoli, olive oil, two eggs and seasoning with a glass of red wine.   One of my standard bachelor quick dinners.

>Who cooked last night?  

I prepare all of my meals except when I am traveling or socializing.

Breakfast is usually oranges, apples, berries, peaches or other seasonal fruit, ground flax, soy yogurt, and brazil nuts freshly shelled.

Lunch is usually 8-10 cups of raw vegetable salad usually based on romaine and other leaves with onions,  tomatoes, other fruity vegetables, some cooked sweet potato cubes, and some legumes cooked from dried, with walnuts freshly shelled, olive oil, and red wine vinegar.

Dinner is usually something heartier, a cooked grain dish with legumes and other vegetables.

I feel that I have a very high quality diet, routinely exceeing the DRIs for all micronutrients (except B12 and D2, for which I supplement) and getting a very high dose of protective polyphenols and a wide variety of colors and flavors with a minimum number of kcals. Initially I used the pantry at http://www.nutritiondata.com to help select my meal choices but now I sort of have the good sources of each vitamin and mineral memorized.

I am not purely virtuous, however, sometiems I have a bit of prepared junk--most often the salty crispy fatty junk rather than the sweet fatty junk. Also I have occasionally a light domestic beer.

Eating out doesn't necessarily imply eating unhealthily or eating lots of fatty foods. I know a guy who ate out at a Chinese every night for months (for various reasons he was living in a crappy apt with no kitchen for longer than expected) and he isn't fat, never has been.

How much of this is genetic vs diet related I do not know.

Yes. High fructose corn syrup is a far worse threat to human health and the sustainability of the planet than biofuels. The same could be said for sugar.

Nobody says anything about this because they can't use it to prove modernity is doomed.

Hey, I've been looking for a good lemon pepper formula, care to share that? here or mail john@johnmilton.ca


From those figures, you could generalize that working-age men and women in the US are all carrying around about an extra 30lbs. And the bets are pretty good it's not muscle!
A treasure trove for physical anthropologists or just data hounds. Here's the executive summary:
The earliest baby boomers were already just as tall as Americans born in the mid-80s, forty years later.
But at the start of their adult lives, the latter weighed 15 pounds more (men) or 20 pounds more (women) than the boomers at the start of theirs!
Only the more recent stdies divide the population by ethnic group. Black people and white people are the same height in America, but Americans of Mexican descent are three inches shorter.
Black guys and white guys are also the same weight. But black women are 20 pounds heavier than white women.
Among the younger generation, blacks and whites are getting heavier from one birth cohort to the next at the same rapid rate, but people of Mexican descent much more slowly.
What they don't talk about is class.

Middle-class blacks will have stats more similar to middle class whites, and working class whites will have stats similar to working class blacks. The only way they get this "blacks are like this and whites are like that" is that more blacks as a percentage of the number of blacks are working class and more whites are similarly middle class.

And this habit of putting everything in terms of race is harmful, it's part of the overall process of keeping people divided in terms of racial interest groups (which any outside observer is I'm sure impressed with the number in the US) instead of class interest groups (which basically don't exist in the US unless you count the elite running the place).

I would be very interested in seeing such statistics for the population divided by income, if they existed.
But empiricism beats theory on any issue.
World corn stocks as a percentage of consumption

World wheat stocks as a percentage of consumption









I don't understand how people can carry on these types of discussions without data.
And then there are those who present "data" without citing the source.
2005 CRB Commodity Yearbook (only $125 at your local book nook).
And those who cite data without saying what it means.

My read on these statistics is that logistics are getting more efficient so larger inventories have become expensive and unnecessary. Just like in manufacturing.

Why should we be piling up grain in warehouses? Why is that an indicator of future prosperity?

Geez! Just ask me, and I'll tell you what it means!

Since the CRB has about 5+ pages of basic stats on each market, it would be hard to paint an overall picture. I have found the CRB yearbook very well worth its price.

Inventories? You may be right. It seems one way to look at grains now is

  • (1) "old system" = plant seeds, if no drought, flood, bugs, freeze, heat, then you get some yield,
  • (2) "green revolution system" = plant seeds, fertilize, if no drought, flood, bugs, freeze, heat, then you get lots of yield,
  • (3) "Genetically Modified system" = plant seeds, fertilize, drought doesn't matter, bugs don't matter, freeze & heat don't matter, and you get lots of yield (what is in that stuff???)

    I don't know how many times the soybean, wheat, and corn markets have soared because of "conditions", only to crash back when the crops come in apparently just fine.

    It would appear that one candidate for solving some peak oil problems is the GM food bonanza.

  • I agree.

    But even numbers mask some truths. For example, the above numbers look like we have less corn in stocks as a % of consumption. It could just as easily mean we are not eating as many cans of creamed corn but are eating more beef, which at the corn.

    It also doesnt show how much soybeans, oats, rice, etc. So lower wheat and corn stocks to usage could imply more acreage (due to higher prices or weather reasons) were planted in other grains.

    Tough to get a whole picture on things, but if you read Lester Brown, there will come a day sooner rather than later that the world cant feed itself. Im not an ag expert, but I am told that we (farmers) are approaching the theoretical yield per acre on many ag crops, and the continuing increase in efficiency due to pesticides, fertilizers, genetic engineering etc will start to have a negative slope

    (sorry I didnt post any data)

    Yes, getting the whole picture is the problem I continually encounter.  The human race has never come up against a limitation in any natural resource which hasn't been overcome by switching to something else.  And often something that is much better anyway - whale oil to "rock oil", etc.  This has led to a belief that all natural resources are infinite.  Or at least there is so much of everything that there won't be any problems for a long time.  So the notion that we're in trouble soon due to shortages in our most important resource, fossil fuels, just doesn't seem possible I guess.  But this time we have no viable, scalable substitutes.
         And regarding ag stats or anything else, it's possible to find info on the net to back up anything.  I just like to look at all the different sides of issues.  So if I don't provide references, tough nuggies, do yer own research!  Feel free to ignore my posts.
    Nevertheless Sunspot, you should not say things like: "And that the US will become a net grain importer this year for the first time in 50 years.", without references.

    NO, the US will NOT become a net grain importer this year and you can find nothing on the net to back up that story.  That story is so far from fact that it is not even funny.

    To maintain one's credibility one should have references when making such broad and sweeping statements. What one CAN get on the Internet, with very little effort at all, are the FACTS. Here are the facts on US grain production and world grain production, as near as the USDA can estimate them.

    As you can see US exports of wheat this season are expected to be 900 million bushels and for corn exports are expected to total 2.15 billion bushels. And it is pretty much the same story for all other grains. (Those numbers seem awful large but that is what the USDA is saying.)

    I see ample (and welcome) evidence of grain exports here in New Orleans, but none of grain imports (lots of steel though).

    Barges and hopper railcars seem to be bringing grain downstream and either returning empty or with other products.

    If we are importing grain, it is not coming in through the Port of New Orleans.

    I know what I read.  It was months ago.  Perhaps it was incorrect.
    I still maintain I can post whatever the ** I want and if you don't like it, tough.  Telling other people how they are supposed to think is getting very tiresome and the primary reason I don't get involved in these discussions very often.  I read that the US will become a net grain exporter this year in an article from Energybulletin.net, which I'm sure we all regard as a good source of information.  I have no interest at all in my "credibility".  Your types can worry about that, that's just a pissing contest, not a discussion.
    This just isn't worth my time, C-ya!  Maybe I'll post again in another six months.
    Yes, the Energy Bulletin is a great source of information. And they ALWAYS provide their source. Surely you could do as much. But you said earlier that the US would become a net grain IMPORTER in your earlier post, NOT a net grain exporter.

    Actually the US has been a net grain exporter for as long as anyone has been keeping records of such. The US exports more grain than any other nation. In fact the US accounts for almost HALF the world's total grain exports.

    When the US stops exporting grain the world will be in deep, deep trouble.

    Sunspot may have been thinking of the headlines that the US is now a net FOOD importer for the first time in 50 years. Whether this means by value or by weight ... but looks like the link is by value...

    But then, from a certain point of view, not long after you became a net importer of oil/gas you could argue that the energy subsidy made you a net importer of food anyway, maybe?

    If one country has the oil and another country has the soil then I don't see the problem. The soil will work, to some extent, without the oil.

    After poking around in some data -- some interesting things seem to appear -- Japan = oil importer, food importer, Italy = oil importer, food importer (surprising!), Iran (oil exporter, food importer), etc.

    Source: Economist World in Figures 2006

    Obviously there is lots of data, the situation is complex, and the data is a little inexact, but "oil for food" seems like it's going to be more important in the future.

    Also, Sunspot will be taught the ways of the force. Sunspot, "do" or "do not", there is no try. :-)
    Easy does it young feller, we'er all on this space ship earth,and need to hang together.  Just sit back and cool it for a minute, and look at some of the posts below.  I've been in your shoes many times in my life, and believe me the frustration I put myself through wasn't worth it.  

    hang in there;

    "this time we have no viable, scalable substitutes."

    Why do you think that coal, wind and solar can't in the longrun replace fossil fuels?  I posted this question a couple days ago, when someone else said something similar, and we went back and forth a couple times, without getting to a consensus, so I'll ask again.

    I've looked at almost all of the peak oil books (Kunstler, Deffeyes, Goodstein, etc), and none of them convincingly discuss the usefulness (or lack thereof) of wind and solar.   Kunstler clearly knows nothing about them - he just assumes they can't help because he wants things to collapse - wishful thinking.  Deffeyes says right out that alternative energy is not his expertise. Simpson is just dealing with oil. Goodstein simply notes that a transition to alt energies would be a very big job, and that we should get started now.  So does Hirsch.  

    So, why so pessimistic about the growth of alternative energy?

    > Why do you think that coal, wind and solar can't in the longrun replace fossil fuels?  

    You mean nuclear, wind and solar, right?
    Otherwise it becomes "why can't tomatoes replace ketchup".

    Oops.  I didn't mean to include coal (that would apply as a medium-term transitional thing, and the earlier post seemed to be considering more theoretical limits).  And sure, one could include nuclear, although I'm not sure it's necessary.
    Why do you think that coal, wind and solar can't in the longrun replace fossil fuels?

    The problem lies in the question itself.

    1. First, you should have qualified it as being liquid fuels and not just any ole' fossil fuel.
    2. Second, we don't have a longrun.

    Fuel in liquid form is what is needed for powering our mobile vehicles. Kind of tough to load a bag full of coal into your gas tank and then split it into tiny particles for good combustion.

    Because we actually do not have a "long" run ahead of us anymore (we did in 1970), I'm afraid that by tomorrow morning you will have to single handidly build a 6o foot windmill in your back yard. The day after, repeat the same in your neighbor's backyard. Keep going at least for the whole year. So what have you built so far? Just 360 tiny windmills?

    Don't say that somebody else should do it. There is nobody else. It's just us monkeys here, stuck with our hand in the coconut. :-)

    I don't think that anyone thinks wind and solar are "useless."  Certainly, they will be able to generate a certain amount of electricity on a sustainable basis.  

    However, if your definition of "useful" is the ability to completely replace oil in all its uses, and keep the "happy motoring" era alive, well, then, I suppose you would consider wind and solar "useless", as neither they alone or in combination with biodiesel or whatever, will ever come close to doing this, for several reasons.

    Antoinetta III

    "neither they alone or in combination with biodiesel or whatever, will ever come close to doing this, for several reasons."

    Could you elaborate on this? Do you have a source?  The AWEA says that wind could supply at least 300% of US electrical demand - see http://www.awea.org/faq/tutorial/wwt_potential.html.  

    I would think plug-in hybrids, and eventually electrics, could provide all transportation - in the long run.  Why would you disagree?

    I went and checked the AWEA link, but there was no reference that I could see claiming that wind could provide up to 300% of our current electricity useage.  I did find the following statement, however, close to the top of the page:

    "Wind energy could supply about 20% of the nation's electricity, according to Battelle Pacific Northwest Laboratory, a federal research lab."

    Following this was a chart showing the potential levels of electricity that could be generated in a number of "high wind" states.  However, all this was couched in highly tentative language; words like "theoretical" and "potential" were frequently used, leaving me with the distinct impression that these figures were quite optimistic, and unlikely to actually be realized.

    And wind has been discussed here on the Oil Drum before and I don't recall anyone claiming that it could come near to replacing oil, indeed, the 20% figure is pretty much in line with what I read on the posts here.

    Don't forget that the 20% figure is based on our current use of electricity; if you plan to add a fleet of electric/hybrid autos to the mix, the demand for juice would soar, and wind would only be able to supply a good deal less than the 20%.

    Antoinetta III

    I have been waiting for, but have not yet seen a study of wind potential with best current technology (lack of interest and thus funding in current administration ?).

    3 MW and 5 MW wind turbines on the tallest possible towers can extract significantly more power from a given wind province than 660 kW and 1 MW wind turbines can.  Wind velocity declines as one gets closer to the ground (friction) so "taller is better".  The EROEI improves with size as well.

    It has been years since I reviewed the data, but a WT on the tallest tower vs. the shortest can extract an extre 20% or so more power.

    There are logistic issues as well.  Taller and bigger requires bigger cranes for erection and major maintenance.  The limits of rural roads and brudges vary.  This can be a soluble problem.  Just use a railroad to service wind turbines along the RR ROW is one, innovative crane/wind turbines designs is another.

    I am not one to "count on" new technology, but wind turbines are quite immature and are still extremely open to innovation.  And there has been very little demand for massive mobile cranes on rural roads until wind turbiens appeared.  Installing bigger (and better) land based wind turbines is a problem waiting for a very clever mechanical engineer.

    In my long term planning, I will "count on" the ability to install very large (10 MW ?) wind turbines "whereever needed".

    If you are going to go very high, why not just have solar chimneys [convection towers]?


    Less efficient, but no sideways forces so much more reliable/less vibration etc.
    should run a treat near Phoenix from the way the place sounds

    There are two separate questions here.

    First, what is the maximum electrical generation possible from wind (I'm assuming in the U.S.), if all the good sites for wind turbines were used.

    Second, what is the maximum electrical generation from wind that the national electrical grid can handle without excessive problems due the intermittency of wind?

    The wind potential by state is intended to address the first question.  It suggests that wind potential is roughly 300% of current electrical production.

    The 20% figure is an answer to the second question, and is roughly based on the current state of the art in load balancing, wind prediction, demand management, etc.  If total electrical consumption were to increase, that 20% figure would stay the same.

    The key here is that if increased demand came from plug-in hybrids (PHEV), or pure electrical vehicles (EV), the % would increase (and probably faster than the rise in EV demand) because EV's provide storage that helps reduce the mismatch between intermittent wind production and general consumer demand - only very simple demand management would be required to have the EV's preferentially charge when electrical supply was high relative to demand.  Thus, wind could supply all of the additional power needed by EV's.

    Does that make sense?

    The biggest issue is that the EVs would not get charged, sometimes for months at a time, if they were only charged when there was a surplus of wind electricity.

    And there might be other uses for surplus electrical power that was fairly common (combined electric & natural gas water heaters ?).

    Wind is fairly seasonal.  Winter peak, summer minimum in many areas, but spring max in other areas.

    I still think that pumped storage (water first, then air) is a preferred choice with current living patterns.

    "..the EVs would not get charged, sometimes for months at a time, if they were only charged when there was a surplus of wind electricity."

    That's not quite what I was analyzing.

    Transmission system operators (TSO) are concerned with variance: the variance of generation, and of consumption.  Both consumption, and various forms of generation have a certain natural pattern, and a certain amount of random variation: consumers are  unpredictable, and every form of generation breaks down occasionally or is unavailable without warning, and needs periodic planned maintenance and down-time.

    TSO's must change the behaviour of both consumers and generators to make them match precisely.  They have many tools.  Some are supply-side: allowing system voltage to vary (within limits), changing power-plant load levels, bringing on new plant, using storage of various sorts, etc.  The US currently uses about storage which amounts to about 2.5% of system capacity, Europe uses about 10%.

    Other tools are load-side: rates which encourage industrial users to consume at night, demand management programs which allow the TSO to turn off certain loads when demand is high, and so on.

    Electric vehicles (PHEV and pure EV) provide storage, and additional demand management options.  As such, they reduce consumption variance, and make life easier for TSO's.  They don't have to use wind on a one-to-one basis in order to soak up variance, which compensates for additional variance from wind.  In fact EV's are likely to reduce variance disproportionately to the load they add, so that every KW of EV demand would allow several KW's of additional wind power.

    You're right to note that variance exists on several time scales, and seasonal is one of them.  A recent study in the UK found that such variance was not a big problem (at least for the UK): in effect, you never went for a long time without wind blowing somewhere.  OTOH, I would agree that wind above roughly 35% of system capacity will probably require storage solutions larger than PHEV's to deal with such things.

    It's important to remember, though, that the discussion here is not whether we can replace all generation with wind, but whether wind can provide the energy needed for transportation.  In fact, the roughly 2.4 trillion private vehicle miles driven annually in the US would require an increase in electrical production of only about 9% (2.4 trillion miles x 150 watt hours/mile divided by 24 hours and 365 days = 41 GW. 41 GW divided by 450 GW average electrical production = 9.1% increase).  This wind can do easily.

    Electrified transportation today takes 0.19% of US electricity. This provides most of the mobility of New Tork City, and very roughly about a third of Washington DC, San Francisco, Boston, a fifth of Chicago, Philly, etc. as well as half the intercity traffic between Boston, New York, Philly, Baltimore and DC with that 0.19%

    Well over 1 million barrels a day saved for what amounts to the rounding error in calculating transmission and transforming losses.  Pretty impressive !

    North American natural gas is going into decline.  The issue is not installing wind so that we can support a massive new load, we need wind to keep the lights on and preserve/supplant natural gas ASAP.  This will be the reality for the next decade.

    We can run much more Urban Rail with very minor conservation savings.  We can run our railroads on electricity with a bit more than 1% of US electricity.  Again doable with conservation on a larger scale.

    I am ambivalent about EVs. They promise limited efficiency gains whilst Urban Rail and electrified rail promise dramatic gains in efficiency.  An EV-centric solution will create another set fo problems within a generation.

    The smallest US mainland grid, ERCOT (most of Texas) has a peak load of ~58 GW and average load of ~35 GW (from memory).  If Texas had 25 GW of wind installed, load factor of 30%, the massive geographic spread and diversity shoudld prevent problems from arising.  Installing supplemental switchable electric heaters into gas water heaters would give the same load balancing effect (actually more, water heaters do not unplug and drive off to work en masse).  They would also save natural gas.

    EVs are controlled by people who are not concerned about whatever issues the TSO has.  I predict that they will plug them in when they get home and want them recharged ASAP.

    In the more distant future, we will have to look at the circumstances and see where EVs would best fit in.

    I wonder where your # of 0.15 kWh/mile cam from ?  Is this the # for GEM EVs ?  Are battery storage losses included ?

    BTW: I have already read the IEEE article.  I wonder about the need for an "electronic shock absorber" for anything larger than a small island grid.  I have also read articles about wind intergration in New Zealand, ERCOT (Texas), and the EU.

    I will report some of my thoughht on what a US renewable grid would look like.

    Best Hopes,


    Here's more info, from http://www.odograph.com/ and http://www.spectrum.ieee.org/may06/3544:
    "IEEE Spectrum is a pretty serious and respected source. They are running a very positive piece on the potential of wind energy in the US. The author is Karl Stahlkopf, senior vice president and chief technology officer at Hawaiian Electric Co., and he describes the lessons learned with wind power in Hawaii and how they might apply more broadly on the mainland:

    ""The potential of wind power to help meet America's growing demand for electricity is staggering: According to a definitive 1993 study by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, areas of strong winds cover about 6 percent of the mainland states and, if exploited, could supply more than current U.S. electricity consumption. Conversely, just 0.6 percent of the land of the contiguous 48 states would have to be developed with wind turbine farms to provide 15 percent of the nation's electricity requirements. Even then, less than 5 percent of the developed land would actually be occupied by wind turbines, associated electrical equipment, and access roads. In most cases, existing land uses, such as farming and ranching, could remain as they are now.


    Yet one often hears questions related to wind power's intermittent nature; unavoidably, electricity is generated only when the wind blows. Can the power grid handle massive amounts of variable production? Can wind energy be delivered where it's needed when it's needed? Can wind energy harnessed at times of low demand be stored for high-demand periods? Can new storage technologies be devised so that wind energy would become, in effect, dispatchable? The answer to all of these questions is yes, and in some cases the answers are already in practice.""

    for more: http://www.spectrum.ieee.org/may06/3544

    Sorry about the "source" thing in the original post, but I've got a sensitive spot about discussions/arguments where the parties involved haven't even disclosed any data. There are lots of "out of context", "situation specific", and subjective characterization positions being presented (blogged) ad naseum.

    I would think that if people brought out the data, counter argument data, etc, then we'd be able to get somewhere. Instead, we get anecdotal at best. (rant off, whew!)

    Hehe! Looks like someone here in Hawkes Bay, NZ is feeling the pain of recent petrol price hikes!

    It is probably the only H2 Hummer here in Hawkes Bay.

    The price tag is NZ$85,000 which is currently about US$54,000.

    I'll keep an eye on it to see how quickly (or even if) it sells.

    A DRAFT copy of my handout for the "Peak Oil an the Environment" conference last month in Washington DC is now on-line.

    "10% Reduction in US Oil Use in Ten to Twelve Years"

    Please review and comment.

    Thanks ! :-)


    Great idea!  But thirty years too late...
    The energy crisis is starting NOW!  That means that energy will become more expensive, then more difficult to get at all.  It will require enormous amounts of energy to build a railway system.  If we devoted a large percentage of our current energy resources to this project we'd have that much less available to keep everything else going in the meantime.  We're already at the point where major construction projects are being postponed due to the higher energy costs.  Cancelling some will be the next step.
         And so we save 10% of our oil in the next 10 or 20 years.  Well within that time the world oil supply is very likely to drop more than 10%.  And, bottom line:  we're not going to build a railway system in this country.  It would be admitting that "The American Way Of Life" has been a mistake.  Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!!!
    As someone with 24 years of public transit work (all bus) I say keep up the good work. The Grand Rapids metro area lost its streetcars in the 30s due to a GM buyout and dismantling as many other cities did. The question in my mind is how flexible is light rail to emergency changes of routes such as caused by major building fires? What happens if a railcar is involved in an accident which halts traffic on that line?  OTOH there were many snowy days when I wished my bus was on rails.
    Trafic stops, then you fix the problem, then traffic runs again. It works ok in manny cities with an acceptable ammount of downtime. There is usually a spare pool of busses to use to route around a problem or mainatinance that cant be cheduled for nighttime. It is over here in Sweden common to contract idle tourist busses for such work when there is a problem with train traffic.
    Good article, but a couple of points.
    1.How do we generate the electricity? Wind and water and solar are the green answer, but Exxon will hold out for coal because they own half of the US coal reserves through Carter. The nuke crowd will want to construct more reactors, Shell and BP importing LNG will want to use their gas...another interminable debate with no solution.
    We have subsidised the auto and oil industries since Eisenhower built the Interstate Highway system if not before. Why can't we let the railroads dually use the right of way and not tax them? Their arguement about high Ad Valorem  taxes was specious. The railroads received their deeds to the rights of way for free for building the Railroads. It's tough luck that society expects them to pay taxes after 125 years.
    3. The Strategic Petroleum Reserve is 87 days of our import supply, so selling it only very temporarily releaves price pressure.

    I beleive in rail as a partial solution. But is going to take all of the partial solutions to cut our energy useage. So, great work and thanks, Alan! I hope you convinced a few folks to start working on real, practical solutions.

    "How do we generate the electricity"

    Planned wind generation is 40% of overall new generation in 2006 and 45% in 2007 (adjusted for capacity factor), and this trend is likely to continue. Wind could easily handle all new generation in the US within 5-10 years.

    These come from the Nuclear Energy Institute:
    http://www.nei.org/documents/Energy%20Markets%20Report.pdf on page 7, and capacity factors are here http://www.nei.org/documents/U.S._Capacity_Factors_by_Fuel_Type.pdf

    Can you check me on this Nick? Anybody?

    Total world "primary" energy consumption (after converting liquids and gasses to equivalent kwh) is approximately 1.1x10^14 kwh per year (400 Quad Btu). World consumption of the two most quickly depleting "fossil" fuels of interest here is about 40% oil and about 22.5% natural gas.

    World consumption of natural gas is about 95.5 Tcf. U.S. consumption of natural gas is about 22.3 Tcf. About 23% of natural gas in the U.S. is used to generate electricity. The efficiency of using natural gas to generate electricity is between 33% and 50% (apparently with some advanced units getting 60%). So natural gas needs to be adjusted somehow for this loss (using the U.S. number as the world equivalent), the 22.5% of natural gas energy consumption (assuming 40% efficiency, 60% loss) reduces 22.5%-(22.5% x 0.23 x 0.60) to about 19.4%.

    If we held the other stuff (coal, nuclear, hydro, and other) constant for 20 years, then we would have to replace 59.4% of 400 quad over 20 years -- or about 240 quad over 20 years -- or 12 quad per year. If we did this with stirling engines this would take 12 x 2.931 x 10^11 kwh divided by 54500 kwh (for each engine, using Boeing's numbers) which equals 64.5 million engines per year. And at $50000 each this would be $3.227 trillion per year for 20 years. Wowee! Obviously if the cost dropped to $20000 each (some projections), then we could scrape by on about $1.3 trillion per year. World economic output is about $59 trillion so this is almost 5.5% of world output invested in energy production for 20 consecutive years (2.2% on the lower number).


    3.52 x 10^12 demand / 54500 kwh supply per engine = 64.5 million engines

    64.5 million engines per yr * $50,000 ea = $3.2T per year

    We can also calculate how much money we are not spending on the missing fossil fuels (say, 5% each year). The first year for crude comes to 74 mbpd x 0.05 x $66 = 0.2442 billion per day or $89 billion per year about $0.089 trillion per year. Each year 5% more gets gone, so summing up the "savings" 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 + 6 + 7 + 8 + 9 + 10 + 11 + 12 + 13 + 14 + 15 + 16 + 17 + 18 + 19 + 20 = 210, or $0.089 trillion x 210 = $18.7 trillion not spent on crude (over 20 years). The first year for natural gas comes to 82 Tcf x 10^6 mcf/Tcf x 0.05 x $8/mcf = $32.8 billion per year, or $6.888 trillion not spent on natural gas (over 20 years). So we have on average about $1.28 trillion not spent of these two fuels that can be spent on investment into renewables.

    So this reduces the problem from $3.227 trillion to about $1.947 trillion per year, which is 3.3% of global output. And of course, everything needs to run off electricity 20 years down the road.

    Is it impossible for the world to spend 3.3% of output on energy investments (for 20 years or more)? How far off the mark will this number be?

    Just for yucks, if we look at this as only an electricity problem, and restricted ourselves to the U.S., then starting with the average (electrical) energy consumption of a home in the U.S. (using NY state as a baseline) at 17.1 kwh per day (DOE/EERE). We can calculate:

    17.1 kwh/day * 365 day/yr = 6242 kwh/yr (for one American house)

    6242 kwh/yr * 120 million households (120*10^6 ballpark number) = 7.5*10^11 kwh/yr (for U.S.)

    7.5*10^11 kwh/yr divided by 54500 kwh/yr for each Stirling Engine = 13.8 million Stirling Engines

    13.8 million Stirling Engines at $50000 each = $688 billion

    The U.S. economy is over $10 trillion so this would be 6.88% of our economy (for just one year).

    Some conversion factors:

    1 kilowatthour = 3.600 x 106 joules = 3,412 Btu

    1 quad = 1015 Btu = 2.931 x 10^11 kilowatthours

    I would change several of your assumptions.

    First,  you can't convert oil to KWH by using BTU's (at least in this context) without adjusting for the efficiency of heat engine based electrical generation.  If, for instance, you'll replace a gasoline engine (ICE) with an electric motor, you have to take into account that the ICE is only about 25% efficient, and the electric motor is roughly 90% efficient.  The bottom line is that you need only about 1/3 the KWH's in an electric world.

    Second, you seem to be analyzing solar Stirling electrical generators, like those proposed for the CA desert.  You said " 54500 kwh (for each engine, using Boeing's numbers)...And at $50000 each".  That would mean that it would cost $50k to generate 54.5K Kwhr's, meaning a cost of $.90 per kwhr.  I'm confident that's too high (especially given that it doesn't adjust for the timevalue of $, it just uses a lifetime figure) - it should be in the range of roughly 10% of that.

    Finally, you assume that 100% of oil & gas will go away in 20 years.  I don't think even the most pessimistic among us think that will happen: a Hubbert curve is roughly symmetric, meaning that if peak is right now, production 20 years from now should be the same as 20 years ago.  That would suggest less than a 25% drop.  A few people, like Simmons, feel that we're in for unexpected declines.  OTOH,  there is a big difference between a local and global peak: local peaks don't dictate price levels, so on a local level there is no feedback loop increasing prices, recovery rates and investment levels.   I think that the most expert people here think that we'll have an undulating plateau for 5-15 years, then decline after that.   I think they would agree that a reasonable guess at a worst case scenario is in the very rough range of a 25% drop in 20 years.

    Given these errors I haven't tried to follow all of your calculations to identify any other errors, but I would guess that you could reduce your cost estimates by about 120 (3 x 10 x 4).

    Thanks for the response. I posted a version of this calculation here some time ago, and I was bum-rushed out because a published paper that I was quoting had an important number incorrect.

    Re your first item. I like that. Electric motors are about 3 times more efficient. I like that a lot -- especially for best case scenarios.

    Re your second item. The $50,000 number, I believe, was inital volumes of production. And the guy in the published paper (with the un-related error) suggested $20,000 -- which drops to 40% of my result (20/50). You like 10%. That's feels agressive, but I don't really know.

    Re 5% drop for 20 years. This is an obvious simplification, but if Simmons is right about the horizontal "straws" sucking oil out at previously unimagined rates, then the downside could be zippy. Plus, linear is easy.

    Finally, cost reducing by 120 would put "peak oil" squarely in the "fear of martian invasion" category. What were we thinking? Going from 5% of world output to less than 0.05% would truly solve the world's problems (goodbye OPEC). Even a 10x reduction is fat city.

    Have you seen or read George Olah's book on Methanol? It basically says that if we have enough electricity then we can make liquid fuels.

    Thanks.  On the stirling engine question:  my question would be on the 50k kwhr estimate.  That seems low.  Solar PV costs are in the range of $.20 - $.30 per kwhr.  Concentrating solar with stirling is supposed to be substantially cheaper than that, I believe in the range of $.10 per kwhr.  That's where my 10% of ($.90/kwrh) came from.

    "the downside could be zippy"

    I believe Simmons is mainly talking about Saudi Arabia, which is about 10% of world production.  If we lose half of that, that's only 5%.  I believe his main argument is that SA production is likely to fall in the near term, while mainstream analysts assume large SA growth.

    "cost reducing by 120 would put "peak oil" squarely in the "fear of martian invasion" category."

    My feeling is that coping with PO is entirely a social problem.  By that I mean that the technical & engineering problems could be solved easily if the US had the will to do so.  Heck, if we as a country really wanted to, we could reduce our gasoline use by about 15% in a year, and 30% in 6-7 years.  That would make all the difference in the world.  We'd have to make some hard decisions, though, like raising gas taxes (which could be ameliorated by a matching income tax cut to low incomes), lowering speed limits, raising the automotive CAFE (which could be ameliorated by finding a way to subsidize domestic car sales, or domestic manufacturers - not that hard, maybe just pay for some of their health care costs).  These things would accelerate PHEV's and EV's.

    In the grand scheme of things this isn't that hard a problem - we just seem to be paralyzed as a country...

    Maybe the cost of CSP could also drop linearly in the "analysis" over 20 years from $50k to $20k (in constant dollars) as volumes ramp up.

    "downside could be zippy"

    Some of this pessimism is driven by my reflections on the historical behaviour of politicians in crisis mode. Oil exporters are likely to clamp down on net exports due to "pressure" internally or outright overthrow (my view on SA).

    I hope that the lack of net exports would drive the country into "man on the moon" mode without CAFE and taxes because these can be viewed as political tools -- I'm very negative on political tools (unintended consequences and all that).

    Anyhow, what are the battery technologies for all the EV and PHEVs? I thought the batteries were too limited at this stage.

    "Oil exporters are likely to clamp down on net exports"

    I think they'll desperately want to continue exports to fund social programs.  I certainly think upheaval in SA is possible..but not real likely anytime soon, as long as they have the export money.

    "I'm very negative on political tools"

    I'm not sure what you mean.  I would hope that we would use all the tools available to us as a country, and even conservative economists agree that gas taxes are a good idea.  This is based on internalizing external costs - it's just good accounting.

    "what are the battery technologies for all the EV and PHEVs?"

    That's a critical part of the picture.  The new nanotech Li-ion batteries are just now coming out - it's a bit slow because manufacturers are a bit conservative about new battery technologies.  Normally adoption takes about 10 years: they're speeding things up quite a bit.

    The new line of Dewalt 36-volt hand tools use them (M1 batteries from A123systems) - they're in Home Depot this weekend.  They're more powerful than corded tools, and last 2-3 times longer than the battery tools that preceded them.  They charge in 5 minutes: they're perfect for hybrids, and that's their next target market.

    Toyota is planning to use similar batteries (there are a number of competing versions) in the next Prius, in 08. Up to 9 miles on battery (versus roughly 1.5 now), and 94 MPG (by japanese tests, which are somewhat looser than EPA).  Supposed to be 99% efficient, versus NIMH which is 70% efficient for round trip charge & discharge, much faster charge & discharge to capture regenerative braking power, smaller, more power dense.

    It may be plug-in, or the generation after that (roughly 2012).

    "clamp down on exports"

    What I mean is that certain countries (I thought Canada had already suggested this) would not export energy beyond what they thought they needed for themselves for the next, say, 40 years (i.e. "hoarding"). Well, if a country only has 40 years of supply then they could decide to not export anything.

    "negative on political tools"

    I think gas taxes are "tainted" politically because when prices are already going up, additional taxes could be seen as a punishment for certain consumers. Also, if "external costs" have anything to do with global warming, then issues are being mixed -- this could be seen as an "agenda" of leftist planners, etc.

    Further, (going back one post) you said "raising gas taxes (which could be ameliorated by a matching income tax cut to low incomes". According to a study that I read in National Geographic the lowest 10% of earners in the U.S. make about $15B per year (in aggregate), but the government spends about $160B per year on programs to support that same group. So there could be no "cut to low incomes", they already don't earn even 10% of their cost of living.


    I am very happy to hear about the battery technologies. There is hope.

    Also, where is the best place to track EV or PHEV news? Thanks for any help.
    I think the best source of info for PHEV/EV is http://www.greencarcongress.com/

    On the other things: I think there is a little bit of sentiment in Canada about hoarding nat gas, but I think it's pretty small right now.  It would be a big change for them to do so.

    On political perceptions of gas taxes and CAFE:  well, you're certainly right, that these things could get a bad image.  Heck, they're not moving right now.  But, I think the people who feel that way are making a mistake.  GW (and all the other external costs-"criteria" pollution, congestion, security) is real, and a real cost.  Gas taxes are certainly way too low to reflect the real costs of externalities...whether we can find a way to help people hurt by the transition may be the key.

    " the lowest 10% of earners in the U.S. make about $15B per year (in aggregate)"

    Seems kind've low.  That's probably 20M people, so that would be about $750 per person per year.  Even so, you could do a cash tax credit (you could even just mail it out, regardless of filing status), or reduce sales taxes, or reduce FICA.  There are certainly ways to return the revenue from higher gas taxes to low income people.

    First, thanks for the website. That will go on my list.

    Second, I think it would be more politically acceptable when the crunch starts to increase funding for the bus/train/whatever systems, rather than explicitly raise gas taxes. If we raise gas taxes, then people will try switching to diesel which puts pressure on those prices, and if we raise diesel taxes, then the still vital trucking industry will get hurt. I think it's better to ease trucking down and out via simple competition with rail. The tough part is how to make up for the tax income lost by lower consumption of gasoline and less ownership of private cars. I haven't figured that one out. I do think that once gasoline is a "luxury" item then taxes could be raised.

    I believe that most of the lowest 10% of "earners" don't actually earn very much -- there is a lot of unemployment, etc. The article was about how to *really* figure out the best way to help the most disadvantaged. Since this group is basically being supported by the govt, it all comes down to how much money to give them and in what form. Should we have 15 govt programs or 3? "Tax" credits? Or something else. It just stuck in my head how this "working" poor really lived (i.e. like the book "Nickeled and Dimed").

    I find the fuel vs food debate as much ado about nothing. For millenia food has been used to fuel horses, oxen, water buffalo, etc. As little as 100 years ago everthing a person could buy was delivered by horse drawn wagons on at least part of its journey. On my recent visit to Iowa I couldn't go more than 5 minutes on any back road without passing an Amish wagon or seeing a horse drawn plow. Granted that much of this animal fuel was from parts of plants considered inedible by humans.  But a large percentage of acreage was and still is devoted to growing crops like alfalfa which humans rarely if ever eat. Ethanol and biodiesel only use a small fraction of the food value of corn and beans and are used in machines that convert that fuel into work 20-30 times more efficiently than animals can. A large percentage of crop celluose can be converted into fuels by any of several thermal conversion methods. Devoting cropland to fuel production is not immoral. Burning fossil fuels with its environmental damage and global warming is what is immoral.
    China raises gasoline prices

    In China .. the government controls prices. They recently raised prices again to levels which are closer to the international average.


        "Higher prices on oil products will encourage efficiency," said Zhang Guobao, vice-chairman of NDRC, at a seminar; while Niu Li, an economist with the State Information Centre, said they would bring domestic oil prices more in tune with the world market.

        Lower domestic prices have resulted in losses for oil refiners and encouraged consumer wastage, he noted.

        An NDRC statement said prices of processed oil in China are far below the international levels as the price of crude hovers around US$70 a barrel.

        "The unreasonably low price was a key reason behind high resource consumption," an NDRC official said yesterday.

       China's average resource consumption for per unit of GDP (gross domestic product) was 3.4 times the world average in 2004, statistics show.

        Streets near gas stations were jammed on Tuesday night as car owners queued to grab the last chance to buy cheaper fuel.

    Rationing via high prices.  They've learned capitalism well!
    And in today's news from the PRC:

    Stable long-term oil supply predicted:

    ... and speaking of food production:
    Beijing to abolish traditional plough farming in 3 years:

    So, they claim that they can increase oil production, maybe hold it there for 15 years or so, and that at least one province will start implementing some conversation minded agricultural methods (better late than never I guess.)

    on friday, heading out referenced a speech by, gasp, hillary clinton at the national press club in washington. it didn't get any play on that thread, so i thought i might bring it to people's attention once more. in it she, of course, plays the broken ethanol record once again. however there was much more about subjects that get short shrift from most politicians, like conservation (land sakes!) ,wind,solar,etc.:
    And how will we get there? Two words: innovation and efficiency. They encompass the three major tasks that I want to discuss today. First, we need to convert our liquid fuel base from oil to biomass. That can reduce our consumption by 4 million barrels a day by 2025. Second, we need to change our reliance on high-carbon electricity sources to low-carbon electricity sources through innovations in renewables such as solar and wind, as well as carbon dioxide sequestration. The third task is efficiency: getting much more from the cars, buildings, power plants, manufacturing processes we have. Just by major efficiencies in cars, expanding hybrids, getting more fuel- efficiency from trucks, industrial and residential sources, we can reduce consumption by another 4 million barrels a day. Now, efficiency will start us down the road to a better energy future, but an independent, clean energy future will require dramatic innovations. The possibilities are greater than ever for government, science and industry to succeed.

    ...good on you, hillary!

    No mention of CAFE standards and no mention of conservation.  Efficiency is ok.  Conservation is not used as that connotes pain.  Hillary is just another member of the free lunch crowd. Keep in mind that she is one of the biggest recipients of campaign funds from the auto companies.  She also touts ethanol as that is the GM solution and seems painless and easy so we can continue our easy motoring.

    Go Gore.  

    Here's something interesting, where it seems that some smart consumers have been buying fuel years in advance and because of this they are still paying $0.89 cents per gallon of gasoline. I find this an interesting response and actually a good response. This small group of people seem to have been willing to bear up front costs to continue a particular lifestyle. This doesn't make what they are doing sustainable over the long haul but it is another bit of evidence that people are thinking, responding to trends, and perhaps if they really see that oil prices may never return to the $20-$30 per barrel range, they'll start to modify other behaviors as well. Furthermore, I would expect these sorts of arrangements to expand over time even if you are driving the (yet-to-be-built) Prius that gets 94 mpg. Locking down fuel prices now before they climb even higher is how at least one airline has been hedging its operational costs.
    In effect, any of us that invested in oil and gas futures, or oil and gas stocks, have been doing the same thing. One could argue, using wide boundaries, that we are getting paid to drive now vs a few years ago...the increase in energy portfolios has more than offset the personal increase in energy costs.
    Yeah, and the average American's energy investments are limited to their gas tank capacity and their idea of investment is a home equity loan to pay down Mastercard and buy a new Hummer. Workers of the world, unite! We have nothing to loose but our chains!
    These comments in the MSM about $20 oil are quite amusing. The current price is $71. A price of $20 within the next two years is as likely (mathematically) as a price of $252. However, the MSM has people convinced that $20 is quite possible while $252 is far out. As all markets climb a wall of worry, this is very bullish for oil prices.
    and to quote Joe Hill of the International Workers of the World"there'll be pie in the sky when you die". Its kind of like drug addiction, King George II's metaphor. It doesn't matter how rich you are, the real price of a drug habit is all your money and all your time. I'm glad I'm a Pusher as well as a consumer.
    And I was giving the credit to Jimmy Cliff!

    TOKYO, May 29, 2006 (AsiaPulse via COMTEX) -- Domestic spot prices of petroleum products appear to be reaching a ceiling, with refineries that had been sidelined due to fires resuming operations and wholesalers shipping excess stocks domestically instead of overseas.

    Another factor exerting downward pressure on prices is that sales of gasoline continue to decline after the long holidays.

    The benchmark Keihin spot prices Friday stood at 121.1 yen per liter for gasoline, 59.8 yen per liter for kerosene and 62.1 per liter for diesel.

    While gasoline and diesel increased by 1 yen and 0.8 yen respectively since the beginning of the month, the upward trend is losing steam. Kerosene sunk below 60 yen this week for the first time in roughly a month.

    The local fire department is currently conducting final inspections of the Sakai refinery in Osaka, operated by Exxon Mobil Corp.'s Japanese subsidiary TonenGeneral Sekiyu KK (TSE:5012), which was damaged in a fire April 10 . "The inspection is expected to be completed in early June," said an official at Exxon Mobil.

    The Cosmo Oil Co. (TSE:5007) refinery in Chiba Prefecture is also projected to resume operations in mid-June following an April 16 fire. "Fears of shortages have receded," according to a representative from a fuel trading firm.

    Lower purchases by consumers scared off by soaring prices are putting a damper on the upside. According to the Petroleum Association of Japan, total shipments of gasoline by wholesalers declined 0.8 per cent to 1,053,274kl on May 14-20 , compared to the previous week. The figure marks the third consecutive week of declines and a roughly 7 per cent drop over the same period last year.

    In addition, producers are curbing their exports of oil and diesel due to surging shipping prices and directing supplies to the domestic spot market.

    If I read this correctly the last paragraph might be a practical illustration of how westtexas' "declining export capacity theory" begins to work.

    The Energybulletin.net reported May,27th, that Petrologistics stated that Saudi production was down to 9.1 m/b/d in April from 9.42 m/b/d in March. It also inferred that May production would be  more like April's. It is hard to believe IEA and EIA April estimates if this new information is correct.
    The initial IEA estimates (for example for April) are probably worse than worthless. They can be revised so significantly they would do a service by withholding the numbers till they got something more reliable.
    Well maybe. But in the latest simmons paper doing the rounds, he estimates 2006 non-OPEC non-FSU production to be up a fair bit on last year and the year before, up to a record level, which I found surprising. If non-OPEC non-FSU production is up like this, then seeing Saudi production down by these amounts is consistent.

    see page 28


    Methinks you are looking at Simmons' figures crosseyed. His figures for Non-OPEC, Non FSU are:

    2002 36.9 mb/d
    2003 37.0 mb/d
    2004 37.1 mb/d
    2005 36.6 mb/d
    2006 37.2 mb/d

    That is up .3 mb/d in four years and up only .1 mb/d in the last two years. That is NOT a fair amount, that is virtually no growth at all.

       doing my best to contribute some facts about 'Tram-Trains,' as I just found out they were called, reading the KVV (Karlsruhe Verkehrsverbund) magazine.

    These are trains which run on normal rail track, and when on the German national rail network use the 15,000 volt 16 2/3 hertz AC system, and when on the streetcar network then use the 750 volt DC system.

    Developed under the supervision of Dieter Ludwig (a real supporter of rail/transit - the system grew from 80 kilometers to 500 kilometers under his supervision over 30 years), these tram-trains have been a huge hit, at least according to the article, and my personal experience, since I have been using them since 1996 or so. As the article says, these tram-trains changed him from being a 'missionary' approaching various local governments to becoming a refugee from the relentless requests to appear before them. Being plugged into the rail network is considered a major advantage for any community at this point.

    Since 53% of the shoppers of the Karlsruhe Innenstadt (the 'core,' more or less) use rail/transit to visit/shop, shopkeepers in Karlsruhe are very big supporters of the rail system. (As Karlsruhe is very flat, bicycles are also a not trivial part of how people get around - as a guess, 5-10% of the shoppers use bicycles, especially in nice weather.) This means that public transit is by far the most commonly used way to go shopping. The merchants provide a very concrete self-interested group of streetcar supporters - after all, the wider the reach of the rail network, the broader their base of customers.

    One of the most critical points in how Ludwig expanded the system is that the Karlsruhe system has used existing infrastructure. With a roughly stable population, the number of passengers has doubled over the last three decades.

    Karlsruhe has just opened another route, and what I find interesting is that it is an area which in my opinion is quite American in style, built in the 1970s, it seems - true 'suburbs' where a car is necessary in a way unusual here - a friend has lived there for 6 months, and she remains shocked that there are no bakeries to walk to, no farmer's market, and nothing but houses for kilometers in all directions. Ludwig has been quite successful in turning back the seemingly endless assault of the automobile, and slowly, as the price of fuel rises, the value of his vision is becoming ever more clear - he has never been shy in proclaiming the value of streetcars improving the life of a city.

    I may add, to show what a heretic Ludwig really is in terms of his career, he has always proudly proclaimed that the public good of a streetcar network vastly outweighs the inevitable cost of supporting a system which will never make a profit in business terms. Many people here are so backwards they not only aren't post-industrial, they still don't believe that cutting taxes and public services is the way to create an economic miracle - they still think economic miracles are based on hard work, engineering, and meeting the needs of the people buying your products (this might have something to do with German export success).  Instead, a number of people in this region seem to be determined supporters of a public system which they consider an asset in their lives, and evidence of tax money very well spent - for example, all elementary students in Karlsruhe can get a Scool card to use the entire network for free. You just can't start teaching children too early about how to get out and about.

    Very good post! And an illustration of how different european societies and the Empire are. It seems for a short while, the US believed in "priming the pump" or "sowing the seeds" in the form of the GI Bill, actual free or low cost education, both vo-tech and higher, for intelligent working class folks, etc. Of course the GI bill may have been to prevent riots by returning GIs after WWII with lots of time on their hands otherwise lol! But this all ended in the 70s (it really only began during WWII and after it) and the results of the lack of pump-priming are becoming evident: Decreasing quality of education among Americans on average, a very fragile car-dependent economy (we never did pump-priming in the form public transpo except in a few places) and other things like a generally unhealthy working-class compared to that in Europe (where national health care and emphasis on preventative care heads off a lot of medical problems that are life-changing or even life-ending for members of the US working class).
    Well, this fits some people's definition of collapse: an inability to solve increasingly complex problems as a society, leading members to abandon it...
    Chaos-man. You have an interesting blog. Have not read it all. Is your premise that this is all random chaos rather than cabals and conspiracies?
    Nah, it's more based on the principles of thermodynamics and the inevitable march of entropy...
    What's going on at EnergyBulletin.net?

    Their last update is May 17th and it's now the 29th. I hope they're not having problems keeping the site running. I find their news summary invaluable for peak oil related issues.

    Anybody know what the story is?

    Oh, my mistake. The .org site is not mirroring the .net site, which is up to date.
    I've just started what looks to be a very interesting read:
    BIG COAL by Jeff Goodell. Maybe others have posted -- if so, tough, read it twice.
       I don't see how this is as much a crisis as an inconvenience.  Especially for deepwater yes it is nicer to take a bird to the platform, but do they not have crewboats in the northsea? Surely if it is sufficient to transport groceries, mud, and tubulars, it is sufficient to transport personell.  
    I was more intrigued by the fact that this is another symptom of lack of trained workers in and around the oil patch. Part of this is availability of helicopter crews. Once again, this points to all the IOCs and NOCs scrambling for personnel, drilling rigs, and even helicopters. And there's not enough to go around so the prices, just like with rigs, will begin to climb.

    It's an interesting shortage meme appearing all across the oil industry, not just of oil, but of everything needed to further expand access to oil.

    And the average age of the UKCS is 50 which doesnt help matters either.

    But still looks like an investment decline over the next few years will resolve some of these issues:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/money/main.jhtml?xml=/money/2006/05/30/cnoil30.xml&menuId=242&sSh eet=/money/2006/05/30/ixcity.html

    Ageing problems in N Sea don't stop at the workforce - much of the key infrastructure (pipelines, common processing platforms etc) is now approaching end of its design life.  Corrosion is an ever present problem in N Sea and major infrastructure investments on scale of Brent, Forties etc can't be justified given the small (and falling) size of new discoveries.  In short unless discoveries are made and developed very shortly the oil / gas is likely to stay in the ground whatever energy prices prevail.  I suspect ERoEI is also playing a big part here.
    Ahh, good ol' ERoEI - the trump card in the Imminent Peak Oil arsenal vis a vis the Cornucopians rears its head!
    Economics plays a big part.  The Forties pipeline was laid in the 1970's for a 2.7 Gbbl field and subsequently accommodated production from much smaller fields which were nearby.  Average N Sea discoveries now are struggling to surpass 50m bbls and, unless there were several such finds close together, undersea pipeline runs of 200 - 300km would be uneconomic.

    Again I would not be surprised to see (but would not condone) relaxation of environmental regulations to once again permit use of SBM's (single buoy moorings) to load oil directly into tankers offshore.  Even if DTI were to permit such operations weather downtime is at least 25% in central N Sea; further north i.e. East Shetland basis or WOSI SBM's would be impossible due to prevailing swell.

    Using crewboats would involve using the personnel basket to transfer between boat and rig / platform, a practice which ceased in North Sea years ago, except in an emergency.  I've ridden personnel baskets and had no problem but in heavy swell (common in N Sea) it's extremely hard for crane operator to provide a smooth transfer and the practice is now considered dangerous.

    It would not be surprising, however, to see the above revisited as we embark upon the energy descent - some of the more stringent health and safety rules together with planning constraints could be among the first casualties if (when) energy shortages appear.

    I guess one way of significantly reducing the "Energy Invested" part of the ERoEI equation is by sacrificing worker health and safety standards, right?  I predict that another major area of reduction in "EI" as time goes on will prove to be in the area of environmental safeguards - whether it is a question of coal mining, oil drilling, or what have you.
    An Inconvenient Truth rankles the Iron Triangle:

    This weekend on the show "Cashin' In," Fox News analyst Jonathan Hoenig asserted that global warming was "bogus," and "dreamed up" by environmentalists to stop economic development:  "There's no scientific proof that global warming even exists. To be honest, it's a bogus consensus dreamed up by Greens because they hate industry. They hate advancement. They hate technology...Greens will lead us back to the stone ages."


    In this weekend's Washington Post magazine, meteorologist Bill Gray - one of the most prominent climate skeptics - directly compared Al Gore to Adolf Hitler:

        "Gore believed in global warming almost as much as Hitler believed there was something wrong with the Jews."

    It's telling that so many of the attacks on Al Gore and his movie are ad hominem, not substantive. There really is no credible scientific rebuttal to An Inconvenient Truth, so people are forced to attack the messenger.

    Grey was actually quoted in that WP story as saying he is the most knowledgable perosn in the world about hurrincanes.

    But this is what the Los Angeles Times says today:

    In December 2004, Gray predicted that the 2005 hurricane season would see 11 storms strong enough to earn names. As he watched the weather patterns grow increasingly violent, he steadily increased his predictions. By August, he had upped the forecast to 20. Twenty-eight were ultimately recorded for the season. This year, Gray is scaling back on forecasting.

    http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/asection/la-na-gray30may30,1,4287740.story?ctrack=1&cse t=true

    His orginal hurricane forecast tunred out to be terribly wrong - and even his late season revsision was far off.  He possibly encouraged a lack of preparedness to the lethal 2005 hurricane season.  Is that smart?

    XOM pays them, and the "sceptics" deliver the goods.
    I am always very sad when I read such statements. They are purely emotional, devoid of any logical sense. They are even more than misleading, they tend to banalise fascism.

    But most of all such a statement is utterly false in a historic perspective. Linking Al gore with the greens and greens with a anti-industrial movement, then Al Gore with fascism and its historic leader is nonsensical. Do I really have to recall that the nazi regime was totally pro-industry and pro-coporatist at an uprecedented level ?

    It showes to me that even in scientific circles the cancer of bad rhetoric wracks its havoc. Such statements by a "renowned" meteorologist remind me of Axel Kahn, a renowned geneticist (well, renowned in France) who publicly discredites the local green movement by trying to show how they would be inspired by fascist theory of Gaia. Ethics and research should ALWAYS be lead by logic, documented arguments and counterarguments, careful weighing of evidence.