Sunday Open Thread

[editor's note, by Prof. Goose] There's a discussion of the 60 Minutes piece on E85 Ethanol evolving in here as well. We are not amused.

If you're needing something to read, JDH is talking about oil prices, then there's this piece from the NYT (registration required), it never hurts to go read John Robb, or if you're really looking to learn something today, read various portrayals of the Crusades.

Also, don't forget to give our sponsors in the left sidebar a look if you are so inclined, note especially our newest sponsor on the petition to tell "Congress to keep the 100 bucks campaign" from EWG. (Interesting little (and free) Kevin Bacon-style experiment there.)

I notice that at the Berkshire Hathaway convention, Warren Buffet and Charlie Munger have announced that they are bearish on investing in ethanol.  Munger says that using ethanol for fuel seems "stupid" to him because it takes more energy to create than it produces as fuel.  Buffett said there are so many ethanol plants, existing or planned, that he doesn't see how they can all continue operating profitably.  And those are not going to be popular comments made in the heart of the Midwest...


As I write this, I have just finished watching the second segment of "60 Minutes" on CBS, dateline Sunday, May 7th, 2006, a report by Dan Rather on E85 Ethanol.  

It is now safe to say that those who have serious doubts about Ethanol have just lost the public debate on this issue.  

In the history of TV journalism, I have never seen such a complimentary report, such a fawning respect, and such an absolute play to all the right emotion of the American people on one specific idea.  Like or not now, it will be Ethanol.  But, how could you not LIKE IT?

In the report, Rather opened with the Brazilian example.  Within seconds we learn that, according to the report, "Ethanol had completely freed Brazil of expensive oil imports."  It was declared as clear as a jury verdict:  Brazils ethanol has been a complete success.  (no mention was made of Brazil's natural gas or it's home oil industry, including giant rigs offshore to assist in helping Brazil with energy security)

The the ploy to the "Heartland".  Sad photos of declining farm belt towns.  And then, like the ancient industrial mills of Britain's Coalbrookdale, rising on the plains, the "home brew" ethanol plants....and down to Earth true American co-ops running them!  Tons of "excess corn" carried in by tractor trailer, and a tour of the plant as it passed through the distilling process, where it becomes "beer", not the drinking kind, (opportunity for humor here), and then comes out, caught in a glass for Rather to show him what it looked like, clear as water!  It looked like the dawn of a new age, and rebirth of real America!

Before it would be allowed to cause any concern, in an outside photo of the plant where an exhaust stack could be seen,  Rather quickly pointed out that what was coming from that stack was "harmless steam, not pollution".  So touching this, has any news agency ever pointed that out about many of the cooling tower photos of fossil fuel mention of how the "more than 2000 degrees tempeture" mentioned earlier in the distilling process was achieved without making any smoke or pollution, no mention of a possible need for fresh water to run the process, no mention of any byproduct (is there any?).

And then down the stretch to the finish:  General Motors.  The standard photos of the nice big E85 trucks and SUV's (one wonders if E85 will actually only run in large vehicles, since GM never shows a small E85 car in it's promotions), rolling out on the car show floor, yellow and greens everywhere, and GM saying "E85 is here" there will be no need for advanced technology!

Buried in all the talk, it is barely mentioned, and I must give Rather credit for candor at least here, that "E85 may never make up more than a small portion of the total fuel cars consume, but it's a start."  But then, back to the tribute to the fuel that will save rather dour Petroleum Executive said "we just don't want the risk of E85 making more promises than can be delivered and then underdelivering."  In the context of this report, he looked like someone who would have bet against the Wright Brothers being able to fly, a sad old timer out of the loop.

Of course, no mention was made of the fertilizer consumption, the natural gas used to make the fertilizer, the Diesel consumption in equipment, the process consumption, water, soil degradation, and on and on.....

After seeing this report, I myself, once a doubter, just want to go out and buy one of those stylish yellow and green big GM trucks and a fast stylish boat to tow behind it, and head for the lake.... and brag to the friends about how I can run it all on E85, after all,  it's clean, it's plentiful (or soon will be), I am helping the Amur I Can farmer, and givin' the finger to the OPEC gang who hate us....AND HERE'S WHAT'S COOLEST, I don't have to tolerate no new fangled technology, I don't have to drive some little funky hybrid thing...."It's morning in America....finally.....again......"

As the old Wall Street saying goes, "Don't bet against the tape."  Whether you know that E85 is a bit of a scam, even if you think it consumes more to make than it produces, and you know it can be nothing more than pure symbolism, don't now bet against it.  The American people now see it as the long promised savior fuel.  That argument is done, that verdict is in.
Roger Conner  known to you as ThatsItImout

Buffett's credibility versus Rather's credibility for anyone actually paying attention? Mano a mano? Buffett hands down [pun intended].

The key will be whether Buffett's comments get any airtime ... and whether the average American knows the difference between Warren Buffett and Jimmy Buffett.

Average Americans will listen to Dan Rather. Investors in ethanol plants are a lot more likely to listen to Warren Buffett.
In response to both RW's and Stuart's appreciated remarks, I can assure the TOD newbie that there are many average Americans in any Jimmy Buffet audience who both follow Warren's investing posture and have watched Rather for years before he retired.
I TIVO'd it and am watching it now and taking notes.

So far, the irony of a worker out there hacking down sugarcane by hand and then a picture of a big diesel-powered tractor harvesting corn in the U.S. did not get a mention. There was a brief shot of some cars in Brazil. No SUVs, no pickups. Gee, I wonder how Brazil was able to get off of foreign oil? Must have been that strong commitment they made to ethanol.


Excellent. Look at Prof. Goose's NYT post on Brazilian gas prices.
Where is the post? I read the NYT link in the OP, but it was only about U.S. gas prices. Was there another link somewhere?



Sorry, I was just referring to the price of gas in Brazil, which may only have been in the graphic in the print version of the NYT. Brazil has high gas prices, due to taxes, I believe. Something you rarely hear about when the politicians are talking about how Brazil went from 70% export dependent to 100% independent thru ethanol production.
I just finished a blog entry on the 60 Minutes piece:

60 Minutes - The Ethanol Solution.

I don't think ADM could have done better had they written the piece themselves. No attempt at balance whatsoever. No indication that there is anything controversial about it.


Brilliant rebuttal.  Now if you could just condense it down to a bumper sticker . . .
How about:
"Ethanol: The hole in our energy donut plan."

Bad graphics. You know I love you. You need to re-stage that. All it will take is a dozen pastries and a digital camera. Those weren't even donuts, you crazy...
It was an Archer Midland Daniels commercial. Yay!

It reminded me of the recent 60 Minutes stories on coal-to-gas in Montana and tar-sands in Alberta.

Don't worry, we can just keep on motoring! Everything's under control ...

Good piece, Roger. Though I disagree. You can kill ethanol with two facts adeptly pursued. I think you know what those are.

Yes, I hope folks took my heading as a bit of satire....if I had to bet my money, indeed I would take Buffett's word over Rather's....however, once the popular, and I mean MSM POPULAR gives the average folks what looks like a way out of any real change (and that's what will appeal to the average working joe or the office just stop at the quick mart and fill, just like the Universe intended, you don't really care with what...I think we should just call all motor fuel "go juice" and not confuse folks with thoughts of what it is made of, they really don't care, as long as makes the car "go"),  they will take it, and now anyone expressing doubts will be replied to with, "but didn't you see 60 Minutes?"

I will never forget how I figured out the giant consumption boom was upon on was back in the early 1980's, and I still recall two harbingers of wha was to come:
*There was a Sunday "Feature" section in the Louisville newspaper, that ran an article...I can almost recall the opening lines of this "lifestyle" feature, it said "If you think the ultra rich are driving Rolls Royce's, Bentley's or Mercedes sedans, you would be wrong.  The big ticket ride for the ultra chic and wealthy are now Jeep Grand Waggoner's, Land Rovers, and Suburbans, trucks with the room to carry Sam Walton's dogs."  It was the first inclination of what would be the SUV rage....who could have known...
*The other was, as it happens, a peice on "60 Minutes".  I had just bought my first VCR, and was looking for something to tape to test it out.  Most TV is almost unbearable to me, so I chose the one show I knew, and set it for Sunday at 7PM.  On that show, there was a feature piece about the 12 cylinder Italian super car, The Lamborghini Countach.  When I saw the promo at the opening of the show, I thought, "uh oh, they are going to carve this one up and spit it out", given the shows somewhat anti business and liberal reputation in those days, I was sure that the pollution issue, the fuel consumption issue, the safety issue involved in selling pretty much under the radar of the U.S. regulations (due to the car's low sales volume) a 200 mile per hour car for highway use....I was astounded when they air the piece....a fancier of the Ultra performance high end super exotic Italian car must have been gleaming with pride and joy...."60 Minutes" rode the Autostrada in Italy at 180 to 190 mph, and waxed almost poetic about the sound, the art, the fury of this great dream machine!  
The car itself had already been around since 1971, crafted by Bertone coachbuilding in Italy before the fuel crisis and oil embargo days, and was hanging in production of  few hundred a year, as a moribound and at the the time of the "60 Minutes" piece, Lamborghini was on the edge of insolvency.

After the "60 Minutes piece, the car began to appear in every movie and commercial, and was almost sure to be cast in any music video made in the early 1980's....and sales of a VERY EXPENSIVE ULTRA EXOTIC car TOOK OFF.

Such is the power of the mainstream media in America.  So, sadly, on the E85 debate, I do stick to my guns....GM and ADM along with the farm lobby have won the public debate.  The U.S. average citizen will not figure out until it's too late to matter that E85 did virtually nothing to save our nation from having to make much bigger changes on the energy front.  The only thing I regret is that by then, we may have wasted our great treasure of natural gas on this and on the tar sands boondoggle.  It is sheer insanity in a way, that all we would have to do is a bit of REAL re-engineering and creative design and we could avoid at least that.
Roger Conner  known to you as ThatsItImout

So far ethanol plants have been designed with the idea that a cheap fossil fuel(nat gas or coal) will be available for decades to come. Little has been invested in energy efficency at these plants as the steam venting clearly showed. They are like Langley and the airplane he built with government money. It never flew. It took self financed innovators to show the world what worked. Not everything Langley's plane had was a failure. He built a very light radial engine which became the prefered engine type up until the jet age.
There may be some country bumpkin out there experimenting in his barn with ways to improve both the energy efficency and money efficiency of ethanol production which blows ADM and Cargill away.
Why not combine them with a garbage incinerator, district heating or absorbtion district cooling?
The largest ethanol plant in Sweden is colocated with a biomass district heating plant.
It doesn't work that way in chemical engineering.  The easy stuff was done decades ago.  You can't garage tinker anymore.

Besides, it's probable that the plant operators are completely aware of the inefficiencies.  They just do not want to spend the money for the fixes.  When a company wants to cut costs, the first thing that goes is maintenance.

Hello all you knowledgable TODers. First time posting.

I am from Sweden, the country where the government recently started a "comission against oil dependence". One of the members of this commission, an energy researcher by the name of Christian Azar, was interviewed recently in my local newspaper. He is a guy that seems intelligent, informed, eloquent and also very likable - a guy I'm inclined to put some confidence in. He said that he didn't really understand the hoopla around Peak Oil. The problem, he seemed to think, was to get away from greenhouse gases. If the greenhouse gases wasn't an issue, we could just move to Coal-to-liquids.

I realized that I've seen lots of discussion about the feasability of ramping up ethanol and bio-fuels, but very little about CTL. Google didn't help a whole lot. The main downsides to CTL that I've found mentioned seem to be price and of course greenhouse gases. But apart from that, could it be done? What about scaling up in time to meet demand?


First, welcome to TOD. I have been to your lovely country several times. I even went camping there once, and rathered enjoyed myself. I look at Europe as the model for how we should have structured our society in the U.S.

We are currently in the process of building a lot of GTL plants in Qatar, but CTL will be next (in the U.S.), and in a big way. The capital costs are huge, and the environmental costs are liable to be steep, but that's never slowed us down before. I would rather see us skip that step and go straight to BTL - biomass to liquids. The only issue is whether we can scale these CTL plants up by the time they are needed. We will need a lot of them.

Finally, a reminder to everyone that 60 Minutes will be covering ethanol in a couple of hours.


Coal mining plus CTL is almost certainly pretty energy positive. It probably would take a while to scale up, but it is the carbon emissions that are the kicker.

In general, I see global warming as fundamentally much harder to solve. If peak oil was our only problem wed just need to keep conserving a few percent a year, and we get to fuel switch to other things to varying degrees. Global warming, even stabilizing emissions (which would be damn hard to do) is nowhere near enough. Even stabilizing CO2 concentration at the current level (which is next to impossible) probably still leaves us facing enormously significant climate change as the oceans catch up with the existing concentration we've created. At this point, there's probably little hope of avoiding significant impacts (which is not to say we don't still have the option to take a bad situation and make it far worse).

The worst thing about peak oil is that as a society we seem to have ignored it until it's almost running us down.

Stuart, I agree, global warming is the big problem. I can envisage technical solutions for a carbon neutral, nuclear free society, but it's harder to imagine any political solution, yet alone an equitable one. Although a revenue neutral carbon tax would be a good start... Maybe Al Gore's video will stir the public?
I don't know if this has been discussed on TOD previously, just up on the Powerswitch/News site:

Please note that the following is fiction.
-EB editors: "On 22 June, at 8am, all operators in the oil sector in Norway received the same message from the authorities: "Starting today, Norway will no longer authorise oil exports from its territory. You are required to reduce your production accordingly, effective immediately. Delays will only be tolerated for imperative technical or safety reasons"."

Article at:

Basically the government of Norway (or it could just as easily be Venezuela, Iran, etc.) decide peak oil is here and they are keeping what they have for future generations in  their own country.  It turns out they are only bluffing but it almost starts a war and results in a permananet doubling of oil prices.

??remotely plausible??

Having read the full thing, the only bit that seems a bit false is the language used to describe, firstly, "we're at peak oil", and then, the "just kidding - for now!" sting at the end.
Would a current oil exporter do something like this? Possible (especially as the story had the 'resting' oil price roughly double the pre-announcement price, thus improving balance of payments)

Would they use such overt language? Probably not.

New article in Time online this morning bemoaning the fact that the politicians are afraid to address conservation:

The Oil Fix Congress Won't Touch

Analysis: Conservation is one of the few things that would actually help drive down prices. Too bad most politicians are scared to utter the word.


RR -

Quite true: the very word 'conservation' has a dull, dreary connotation. It conjures up Jimmy Carter whining to the nation in his 'sweater speech'. It conjures up sacrifice and doing without. Quite simply, it is boring.

Most of us felt much better when we heard Reagan's Morning in America campaign propaganda. We wanted to believe that all was right with America, and Reagan happily obliged us.  

So, woe be it to the politician who talks about conservation instead of 'doing something' to  get the price of gasoline down, keeping it down, and making sure there is plenty of it for everybody.  

They will tell us what we want to hear, and will try to muddle things along until the next election.

The political class is incapable of fixing the problem, but they are plenty capable of making it worse while pretending to be in the process of solving it.

I love the public service TV "commerical" for "Conservation Energy" with Fred Flintstone dancing around, against a backdrop of oil drums, good clean fun. That was playing in the 80s/90s still, I'm sure there's video of it out there on the net.
It's always party time when you're with the Flintstems.

Just recently I saw on TV how to make millions from foreclosure sales of my neighbors' houses.

Yah bah dabba doo !

Hello Stepback,

Consider the review of this book and the Joy of Delusion:
'Stumbling on Happiness,' by Daniel Gilbert
Review by SCOTT STOSSEL Published: May 7, 2006

Hopefully not behind a paywall, otherwise check these links:,8599,1190379,00.html

I especially like this segment:
Gilbert argues that what he calls the "psychological immune system" kicks into gear in response to big negative events (the death of a spouse, the loss of a job) but not in response to small negative events (your car breaking down). Which means that our day-to-day happiness may be predicated more strongly on little events than on big ones. On its face, this sounds preposterous, but Gilbert cites study after study suggesting that it's true.
In light of Peakoil, I suggest Gilbert should switch to studying unhappiness-- big negative events PLUS day-to-day little negative events PLUS the guaranteed prospect that tomorrow will be even worse.

An future example of this might be the overseas military death of a child, PLUS being laid off again, PLUS having your utilities cutoff for non-payment, PLUS finding very little food in the store, PLUS having your bicycle stolen, PLUS taking a cold sponge bath, PLUS every MSMedia source you encounter telling you tomorrow will be worse due to Peakoil and global warming.

I expect most of America will simply go nuts because
our "psychological immune system" cannot function long at this elevated stress level.  Most heart-warming of all is knowing that even our DNA is working 24/7/365 against us as we have evolved a 'culling mechanism' to reduce our numbers.

From Reg Morrison's outstanding website [Yes, he is Peakoil Aware]:

Quote below taken from the article, "Hydrogen: Humanity's Maker & Breaker":
I have previously inferred that an auto-collapse mechanism is built into the genomes of most plague animals.  Evolutionary safeguards are triggered in social species when populations grow exponentially and stress levels rise. This results in a predictable spectrum of physiological and behavioural responses that invariably reduce the
population's fertility below replacement level. The Canadian
endocrinologist Hans Selyein 1936 named these responses the General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS), and many other studies have corroborated Selye's findings. A GAS decline typically appears well before famine and disease begin to cull the population, and its hormonal `fingerprint' often persists in wild mouse populations long after the population has shrunk to preplague levels and the habitat has recovered. GAS has led to the local extinction of a species in some instances.
True future 'Delusional Unhappiness' is based on knowing that even our own DNA hates our guts for making such a mess of the planet--->CHEERS!!!  =(

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

geeeshh, give it a rest, you make Eyore of Winnie the Pooh look like a Pollyanna...have you ever seen the robot in the movie "Life, the Universe and Everything"

"This will end in tears, I just know it."
"I would give you your odds of survival, but you wouldn't want to hear them."

Well, if this is any consolation, your going to die with or without Peak Oil!

See, I knew I could cheer you up!  :-) :-)  :-)  :-)  :-)  :-)
Roger Conner  known to you as ThatsItImout

Hello Roger,

Thxs for responding.  The logical comparision that inevitably results from studying the included links in my original posting is that humans may have the bi-modal mental 'delusional' capability to adjust to declining postPeak conditions, but our genes do not as exhibited by the evolved GAS in response to overall environmental stress.  If we are therefore seeking to optimize the Dieoff bottleneck, it would behoove us to 'create' biosolar habitats, and associated memes of appropriate culture and artifacts, whereby the inhabitants are shielded [read genes], as much as possible from the genetic assertion of the GAS.  The earlier image of the Flintstones, with rat tails and noses happily short-term singing, alludes to the overcrowded rats in the cage and all its ramifications.

I think it is far better to separate the biosolars from the detritovores as the lifeboat response is the initial condition to lessen stress [we seek distance from disaster].  That is why we see so many Peakoil-aware survivalists moving to rural areas, abandoning TV, reducing complexity and clutter, and reducing personal stress levels and increasing dopamine-reward contentment by the sheer physical exertion of permaculture, less addiction to energy slaves, and increased self-reliance.  This is the 'intelligent' response to avoiding the GAS.  The addition of Earthmarine buffer zones to further protect the biosolars from external stress and old-paradigm cultural memes facilitates the creation of new-paradigm cultural traditions and social arrangements that can further optimize biosolar Powerup and conditional happiness.

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

And as theme music, Shatner singing 'You'll Have Time' would certainly drive the point home. We all become has beens.
Hello Expat,

Thxs for responding.  Only those that cling to the old-paradigm of detritus exploitation become has-beens, the biosolars, safely shielded inside their refuge from the GAS and gasoline, can re-orient their daily compass to maximizing biodiversity, sustainability, and topsoil viability.  Just as we created national parks and game preserves to protect valued wild species--we must do the same for those pioneering humans seeking the new paradigm.

The detritovore Dieoff rate [accelerated by the GAS], being vastly elevated in comparison to the GAS-shielded biosolar rate, will facilitate a rapid decline in detritovore opportunities to try to overrun the biosolars.  The detritovore breakdown in social cohesion and interaction promulgates intra-detritovore violence that can be easily constrained by distance and/or effective Earthmarine strategies to the detritus-driven geographies.  For example, imagine the relative calm of those lucky few that made it to the Titanic's lifeboats vs those trapped on the sinking ship with no propect of rescue in time.  We should be striving to do no less as we go postPeak if we seek bottleneck optimization.

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

An addition of a thought experiment along the lines of the outstanding 'Oslo Warning' by Jerome Paris.  Imagine if all New Zealand decided to adopt the new paradigm of biosolar sustainability and the US Navy became Earthmarines to facilitate their protection.  The NZers could trade all the useless old paradigm artifacts for this protection and could biolabor secure in the knowledge that any invading detritovore force would be quickly sunk by submarine, or aerial shootdown.  Now, I have never been to NZ, but the photos I seen seem to indicate still plentiful biodiversity, fresh water, and topsoil viability.  They would be starting the transformation at a much higher level than say Phx,AZ and the Asphalt Wonderland.  I am sure that there are other islands or continental river drainage basins that are suitable for the same new paradigm, but would obviously create different cultures in adjusting to the existing climate and biosystem.  Regardless of where these biohabitats are located around the globe: the overriding drive for sustainability will preclude gene assertion of the GAS in these pioneers.  As Matt Savinar says, seeking the least hotspot in Hell is the key to survival.  I say it is far better to create a few Heavens on Earth, and I am trying to convince others to make it so.  Time will tell.

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

Well, I think I need to explain a touch of the joking involved. William Shatner's second album (where he thankfully does not cover the Beatles or the Byrds) is titled 'Has Been.'

The song 'You'll Have Time' has lyrics like -

Live life
Live life like you're gonna die
Because you're gonna
I hate to be the bearer of bad news
But you're gonna die

Maybe not today or even next year
But before you know it you'll be saying
"Is this all there was?
What was all the fuss?
Why did I bother?"

Now, maybe you won't suffer maybe it's quick
But you'll have time to think
Why did I waste it?
Why didn't I taste it?
You'll have time
Because you're gonna die.

Yes it's gonna happen because it's happened to a lot of people I know
My mother, my father, my loves
The president, the kings and the pope
They all had hope


And they muttered just before they went
Maybe, I won't let go
Live life like you're gonna die
Because you are


By the time you hear this I may well be dead
And you my friend might be next
'Cause we're all gonna die

Actually, a well done song, much like his song about discovering his wife drowned in their swimming pool. The cover of 'Common People' is also really good, but then, I am a Joe Jackson fan, and I truly enjoy the contrast between the singing/spoken lyrics shifting seamlessly in time.

Whether a pessimist or an optimist, there is truth in the simple statement 'Live life like you're gonna die /
Because you are'

I think, to a certain extent, that sums up the point.

Hello Expat,

True, nobody gets off the planet alive.  What I am arguing for is that we create isolated habitats to hopefully optimize the coming bottleneck; to squeeze through as much biodiversity and a reasonable sample of genetic human variability as possible.  Continuance of current trends plus global warming strongly indicate a huge Dieoff of not only humans but a general ecosystem collapse.  We should strive to do better than that, and prevent the eating of the last raspberry, goat, deer, poodle, carrot, etc.

Potable water and fertile topsoil are not only key to human survival, but also to other land-based lifeforms.  A drive for sustainability plus voluntary population controls is the only way to successfully paradigm shift.  Any effort to create large biosolar habitats will send a huge warning to the remaining detritovores that change is coming.  As detritus entropy plus ecosystem entropy starts to reach fever pitch: the signs will be too obvious too ignore, and the current trickle of survivalists will become a flood of millions eagar to organize and defend themselves.  Those detritovores caught on the outside of the new paradigm will be experiencing decline at a phenomenal rate-- too fast to effectively organize and too set in their ways to mitigate properly.

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

I'm not convinced that it's political suicide to call for conservation. If they couch it in the concept of energy independence it would go a long way to silencing the critics who might call it communism or race bait (we're just conserving so some Chinese guy can drive a car? &$%* that!). Certainly reps from very liberal districts could "get away" with it.

The government might be close to hopeless, but the view that Americans are all stupid morons shorts this country badly.

The public is pretty malleable for better or worse - if Bush had called for an energy Manhattan project right after 9-11, EVERYONE would have been on board.

Bush's failure to call for conservation after 9/11, and his moves which increased oil consumption needlessly, is one reason I think he's in bed with our national enemies.

In short, he's a traitor.

Right on Millman!  Folks, please don't give up on leadership and the certain trumpet just because at the moment we are spectacularly short of both.  Sure, most people are pretty sheepish, but real leaders know how to lead.  I listened to Churchill do it as he was doing it, and it moved me, and millions of others to feel good about sacrifice.  We can do it again.  My only personal regret here is that I am not gonna be around to find out how you-all get out of this fantastic mess, but I'm sure you will- maybe with a whole lot of casualties.  And I recommend what I am trying to do- just keep pegging away at whatever llttle bit of the puzzle happens to be at hand.
Super G, this user is spamming the older threads:

Please delete -- I posted a note at the end of the Saturday thread as well, but not sure you will see it.

I will alert SG.  Thanks.
what does this mean, point me to a link or something please
interesting, but that cursade article provides little proof other then 'trust me i am a historian'
Twike's website noted that they are mentioned in Vanity Fair's Green issue, so we stopped by the bookstore. There were lots of photos of celebrities that embrace green causes, and on page 88 was a blurb on the Twike and the Ego electric scooter. I didn't buy it, but instead picked out a paperback of Collapse, and the Sunday NY Times.

The Times Magazine "Talk" includes locavores defined as "a subset of activists who eat not only politically, sustainably and seasonally, but also extremely locally ... fighting the environmental ramifications of a truckload of Klondike bars shipped across the country." There was also an ad for Bolivian, hand-hammered, sterling silver potato bowls - one for $4,400 and one for $5,500.

Book Review offers Knowledge and the Wealth of Nations, A Story of Economic Discovery by David Warsh - "the story of the intellectual revolution ... that swept through the profession (of economics) from the late 1970s to the late 1980s." "It's a world of informal manners yet intense status competition, in which a single seminar can suddenly transform a young man or woman into an academic star."

We watched two LinkTV shows on China today.  One was Concrete Revolution, which concerned the massive construction in Beijing. At one point, they focussed on one worker whose wife, two sons and parents lived back in the home village. As they asked about his family, he said that he hadn't seen his pay in three months, and couldn't be a dutiful son without money. The narrator noted that in 2004, some workers had not been paid, and had jumped off the buildings they helped build rather than face their families.

Searching for the China Girl concerned the surfeit of single Chinese men. According to this, China now allows couples that have girls to have a second child, and offers special economic incentives to couples that end up with two girls.  A photo op showed a couple who had received a dining room suite for having two little girls.  It also featured this young man who traveled about a thousand miles to Beijing to try to find a job and wife, and a rescue of two dozen young girls. Despite a half-hearted police crackdown, kidnapped brides number into the tens of thousands, especially in the countryside.

This article concerns fairly welloff couples that live in different cities.  In one case, the wife stays in suburban Plano TX while her husband first rents a 650 SF flat, then buys a half million dollar 750 SF flat in NYC.

It doesn't mention working class people who also must relocate to find work.

Farther Afield: Americans Head Out Beyond the Exurbs

Yet the logic is not obscure: The new destinations are precisely the places, like Archer County, that have been undervalued -- whether by industry or agriculture or mass leisure or urban flight. They are the places where you can still get something that feels like a good life, without the salary of a chief executive.

"South of the Twin Cities, it's much richer soil, and more intense farming, and the land prices are high," said Marty Ringham, a real estate agent who lives 80 miles north of Minneapolis in the heart of a remote boom area. "Here the soil has more clay content, and the agricultural value is not so high. It's not an exact science, but we figure that the same house is about $1,200 cheaper for every mile you go north."

William H. Frey, a demographer at the University of Michigan, said there were "whole regions that people have been locked out of" by high housing costs.

"People are forced to look beyond the trendy areas," he said. "These are places that are beyond the exurbs, it would seem."

The movers represent multiple demographic trends. Many are retirees, but young families are involved as well. Some are successful 50-somethings, who can buy lakefront property in a place like Vilas County, Wis. -- another notable destination, 220 miles from Milwaukee and Minneapolis -- for less than half a million dollars. Some are just people with a dream and an Internet connection.

First time post! I've been reading TOD for a few months. It is the best Internet site for Peak Oil information. It's so comprehensive I never feel like I need to add anything. Today, I'll make a few comments. I've researched PO fairly extensively. My research is on my web page:

From what I have found, PO is imminent, although I don't think we are there yet. Non-OPEC and OPEC should both have some growth over the next couple of years. I think it's possible we could get to 87, but I expect at least 86. Either way, PO is going to happen this decade, which is ominious. There are three issues that will determine PO: 1) The net decline rate, 2) Political Turmoil, and 3) Demand.

I think TOD has it right on target when people say we are bumping along the peak. I would expect a production range between 83 and 87 until the end of the decade. I can't imagine prices falling. We'll be lucky if prices stay below $4 for much longer.



I'm attempting to determine a dollar figure for a gallon of gasoline that would break the `average' US family. At what level does it become a choice between fuelling the car and feeding the kids? A lot of peakniks like to quote `$5 dollar gas' as a breaking point, but that seems low to me. After all the Europeans (not to mention Australians) are paying more than that now.

By my guesstimations the highest possible price the average US family could pay is: $8.12 per gallon.

If you want to know how I reached this figure read on:

US median household...
Income per year: $44,389
Discretionary income per year: $21,657
Gasoline consumption per year: 1456 gallons

So the gasoline price breaking point for the `average' US family by these figures is $14.87 per gallon. This equates to around a $300 barrel of oil.

Not impossible - but far higher than most people would expect. And it is actually too high due to the use of discretionary instead of disposable income.

Disposable income per household would give a far more accurate price as discretionary income does not include government taxes and charges. To not include Uncle Sam's cut seems far fetched, I admit, but unfortunately I couldn't find a figure for US median disposable income per household (at least one I didn't have to pay for).

My rubbery figures, however, follow.

The average US tax burden per household is around 22% (US Census figures).

So Discretionary Income ($21,657) - Tax ($9765) = yields a guesstimate of US median disposable income per household ($11,892).

So the final maximum breaking point for the `average' US family is actually an $8.12 gallon of gasoline. This equates roughly to a $160 dollar barrel of oil.

We are well within reach of that price. An accidental (deliberate?) overstep by Iran or Bush and we'll be there in a jiffy.

Of course the $8.12 figure means that you are spending every cent not consumed by housing, food, clothing and tax on gasoline. This is clearly impossible for most people. They have credit cards, personal loans, and other non-negotiable costs that must be paid out of disposable income (like tyres, oil, insurance, car repairs etc). Therefore the real figure for most people would actually be lower again.

And statistically half of all US families have less disposable income than the median household. The maximum possible price they can afford to pay for gasoline is lower again - some are no doubt well past it at $3.40.


well it won't be one magic price that will break people's backs. the point that the price of gas becomes unaffordable depends heavily on how far said family has to travel and how much their job is dependent on the cost of transport of goods.
you will see company's cutting pay or laying off workers before the majority of people are not able to bear the price of gas.
Interest rates will end the party.  The economic party.

Unless the neighbours warn us first - We could turn down the music.

Remember though, that geologic time is ever so slow, and that our time is but a snip.

We are throwing ideas against history, and we invented it.

I 'believe' in Peak Oil, and that is really what worries me.

Of course I realise that. It is the nature of averages that they are virtually meaningless when applied to individual  cases.

But it did give me a 'Look Out! Really bad things about to happen!' number (approx. $160 a barrel) which is what I was after.

What I would really be interested in is someone with some statistical skill taking this on. My back of the envelope figurin' clearly leaves a lot to be desired. Like the impact on non-discretionary income of gasoline price hikes (food costs rise etc).

If we could actually say to the politicians 'Look if we ever hit $145 a barrel (or whatever) our goose is cooked.' It might prompt action as we close on those numbers over the next few years.


An excellent site for every conceivable sort of FREE economic data which you can manipulate, sort, graph, etc. is:

There you will find Disposable income data, etc etc.

Now, as to what gas price demarcates the consumers' willingness to keep filling up...

It is obviously not as simple as straight gasoline expense as a ratio of disposable income. The reason is that americans already spend almost all of their income - the household savings rate went to -1% in 2005, the first time since 1930 i.e. dis-saving.(FYG it was +7% in the 90's and +12-14% in 1980's.)

Here's a way to work the problem...Take disposable income and subtract personal expenditure; this will give you "unspent" income. Then divide that with the annual expense for "gasoline, fuel and other energy goods" and graph goes all the way back to 1947. The chart is absolutely fascinating.

Sneak peak: The ratio has collapsed from 3x to 0.5x in just 2-3 years. In other words, people's "free" income can buy them today six times less of their usual fuel than 2-3 years ago.

I say they are already in "cannot afford" territory.


But it did give me a 'Look Out! Really bad things about to happen!' number (approx. $160 a barrel) which is what I was after.

The Economy is about 'people's faith' more than objective analysis.

Faith shaking price events:

When gas shifts from being a collection of $1 to a single $5 a gallon.
Rhetorically, when working for one hour gets you one gallon of gas.

Methinks the pandering over the minimum wage == gallon of gas will amuse and scare non-Americans.

Tracking when people STOP going tochurch on Sunday so they can instead get to work Mon to Friday would be a good indicator of pain.   Already Wal-mart has said their cashflow has been impacted from their customers having to spend gas money VS at wal mart.   When the cable companies start getting hit over the issue of energy...we'll be in real pain land in America - less circuses.

No, people will pretty much give up driving anywhere but work  before not paying the cable bill - they might even give up driving to work, except work is how they pay the cable bill.

At least, this was the experience of a very small 'cable' (actually, microwave) system in West Virginia. People living in truly appalling conditions by any standard could always scrape up the money to keep the TV on - even if it meant not fixing the car, the roof, getting running water, whatever.

Less circuses will be a real sign of collapse, and not a hopeful marker towards a brighter future, at least in America.

At least, I think that is a more realistic appraisal than believing most Americans will voluntarily cut back on cable 'circuses' as being disposable income. And considering how low cost cable is in most infrastructure senses, don't expect the political system to encourage it being cut back either.

"you will see company's cutting pay or laying off workers before the majority of people are not able to bear the price of gas."

The above began to occur in my company (large, internationl) about one year ago in my neck of the woods.  

The price of gas that I will endure before I will begin using the less convenient bus route for my 25 mile commute is $3.00/gal.  Out here in the Midwest, we are at $2.59/gal right now.  I have my bus schedule already and my company is selling discounted monthly passes.  I am ready for it but apprehensive because my young kids are in school in daycare back home, so in emergencies, I will have to take a taxi back to my home town to get them.

I am beginning to hear co-workers talk about carpooling and taking the bus about one month ago.

First time poster, and probably way too late to this thread for anyone to read...

That price point will fluctuate at which gas gets too expensive because the costs of other goods as gas continues to rise will be eating away at the checking account - last year working at a consumer goods corporation, one dependent upon plastics, their costs were up 40% YOY.   HUGE.  They were in the midst of passing those costs onto the consumer.  

Food, goods, all of it is going to rise in time with filling up the family car, bringing to point at which gas becomes "too expensive" ever lower.

Well suppose gas goes up to just $5/gallon.  On your estimate that's about $3000 less the average American has to spend on CDs, DVD players, vacations, clothing, home repairs, mortgage payments etc than they have now at $3/gallon.  Take those purchases out of the economy 300 million times and many businesses are in for big hurt, something like over 800 billion dollars gone from the economy.  (People thrown out of work at least won't have to commute everyday.)
that's about $3000 less the average American has to spend on CDs, DVD players, vacations, clothing, home repairs, mortgage payments etc than they have now at $3/gallon.
It's only $3000 less if you assume gasoline was free beforehand (it wasn't), so try $1800 or so.

This is exactly the reason I propose a stiff gasoline tax with a 100% rebate via employment or other tax exemptions.  If you did everything the same you'd be right where you were before, but if you found ways to cut back on fuel you'd have even more money to spend on CDs, clothes, vacations...

E-P, I agree 100% with your transfer tax idea. I can understand a straight tax being a hard sell politically, but why should a transfer tax be?
Beats the hell out of me, but it gets attacked by both the free-market right and the Kossack left.
Oil at $160/bbl would give us a pump price of $3.80. I took the barrel price divided by 42 and added $1/gal for refining, distribution, and tax.  To reach a pump price of $8.12/gal would require oil at $300/bbl.
It depends on where the system bottleneck is. If it is refining capacity, as is currently the case, you could get a runup in gasoline prices without a similar runup in oil prices.


The NYT piece is not behind a paywall.  Free registration may be required, but it's not a TimesSelect feature.

Here's another (free) NYT piece:

As Profits Surge, Oil Giants Find Hurdles Abroad

To many Americans, oil companies like Exxon Mobil or Chevron appear all powerful, pocketing record profits as energy costs soar. But in many countries around the world, high oil prices are also making life considerably harder for big oil companies.

Sharply higher energy prices have shifted the power to oil-producing countries, as some governments seek a larger share of the riches. As a result, even as Western oil companies expand their reach through acquisitions and multibillion-dollar projects, a resurgence of nationalist policies is weakening their influence.

"We've seen a return to a 1970's style of resource nationalism riding along the crest of high prices," said Daniel Yergin, the chairman of Cambridge Energy Research Associates, a consulting firm. "During times of low prices, governments are keen to open up. But when prices are high, they have the high cards."

thanks for catching that Leanan.  Someone had emailed me the whole thing, but I was on a different computer than usual, so when I went to find the link later, I just saw the login window and assumed...

you know what they say about assuming...

Oil took over from coal at the beginning of the 20th century for one primary reason-cost. Coal has to be mined by miners,loaded into some type of transportation to the citiesMostly rail),unloaded and burned. Then the substantial amount of ash has to be hauled away. All this adds up to many more laboring humans than oil which is extracted by drilling a hole in the ground and flowing into a pipeline and then flows to the refinery where a few workers turn it into useful products. Unlike solar or wind, it stores energy efficently.
Basicially oil is much cheaper because it requires less labor by a factor of at least 10.
    Turning coal into liquids has been technicially feasable since coal oil a.k.a kerosine was invented in the mid 19th century by the Germans. Same thing with using oil tar sands and shales. But it is a lot more expensive than "black gold". Modern society is going to have to confront the fact that energy is going to be a lot more expensive in the future and that we may have to give up using it for personal transportaion.
    The real answer is conservation-the old fashioned american virtue of frugality. And cut down on babies. When the oil era started the earth had 1 billion it is 6 billion and rising. The amount of oil consumed by everyone during the first hundred  years will probably be consumed in the next 20 years just from the growth in demand by the population. Use condums. In fact, have a condum minimum (ive been waiting for months to use that bad pun).  
Please elaborate on how any transportation can occur without using some form of energy. Walking requires btus from food. Due to the effects of gravity and atmospheric pressure all form of movement needs to use some form of fuel.
just returned from a trip to toronto and montreal (tres jolie) toronto there was an article in the globe and mail about tar sands water seems people in alberta are concerned that the athabasca river may be "over allotted" as they say in water court. the tar sands projects are using now what was originally expected to be needed by 2015. ...something like 4 times more than they originally expected....and then on the way back in denver airport a big and i do mean big headline in that literary masterpiece , the rocky mountain news:
UNSOLD HOMES GLUT...record 29,045 metro listings-up 19% from a year ago-tied to foreclosure

...and later on this quote:
"Ed Jalowsky, principal of Classic Advantage Reality, said 50 per cent of the homes priced less than $300,000( median in den = $250k) in his office are either in foreclosure or facing foreclosure"

A shortage of water has been a concern for some time with respect to tar sands development. The other big concern is natural gas availability, but there is no reason that you couldn't use some of the product to drive the process (instead of natural gas) as long as the EROI remains positive. I also don't think the Canadians will be able to meet their committments under Kyoto, as tar sands development is not GHG friendly.


Robert, maybe you or some other knowledgable folks could answer a NG/tar sands question I've had relating to the 3 different ways NG is needed for tar sands:
  1. At some point about a year ago I saw a piece about having to shut down some NG wells because of how the field pressure was needed for certain in-situ extraction of the tar sands. I found (and lost) a link describing the technical details.
  2. Then there is the energy for heating the stuff.
  3. Then there is, I think, a need for extra H to turn the goo into something like light crude, and NG is the handiest source of the extra H.

 Have I got these right?
  1. I don't know about this.  The sands themselves are mined more than extracted.

  2. Essentially correct, but most of the energy goes to heating water.

  3.  Right.
Well my name is 'Robert' and I live in Edmonton so maybe I can comment.

1. Unlikely.  Bitumen is extracted in-situ by pumping steam underground.  This improves the viscosity of the bitumen to the point that it can be pumped back out and processed.  Technically any fuel could be used to produce steam, including the bitumen itself.  There has been research into closed-cycle fuel production processes of course.  The water generally isn't recovered -- it is pumped into wastewater ponds.  Total (the French oil company) has floated the idea of building a nuclear steam plant for this purpose and Atomic Energy Canada has also examined the potential.  

(For those that don't know, when there's 1.8 trillion barrels equivalent of bitumen siting out there, it means the deposits go down very deep into the ground.  Some of the rich surface stuff is literally mined but the deep stuff needs to be extracted from the sand on-site or 'in-situ'.)

  1. Part of 1.

  2. Hydrogenation is the most common method to upgrade bitumen at the moment.  The other option is catalytic cracking.  Essentially you remove carbon instead of adding hydrogen.  Suncor does this.  The product is synthetic crude oil and petroleum coke.  Suncor burns the coke in their boilers but it has a high sulfur content and eventually the government might slap them for their SO2 emissions.  Both cracking and hydrogenation require high operating temperatures.  
We have CTL (coal to liquids) and GTL (gas to liquids), so I guess we have TTL (tar to liquids). But KTL (kerogen to liquids) is still not profitable with today's known oil shale deposits.
Here are a couple of links about the shutting in of gas wells because of the effect on the oil sands production:

I'm still looking for the technical description with graphics that shows the way that the NG pressure affects the oil sand in-situ extraction. Anyone out there have this?

I suspect that this connection between NG and oil-sands doesn't affect that much of the production, but I think it is interesting that it comprises one more area where choices have to be made between different forms of energy extraction.

No problem there!  Under our new government we no longer even have to pretend to be committed to Kyoto.
Anectdotally speaking, my lower middle class neighborhood in the Midwest has about 10 houses for sale right now.  I know at least 5 of them have had a sign out in the yard since January this year.  THEY ARE NOT SELLING!!!  These are decent 3-bedroom houses at about $130,000.  Five years ago, those houses were snatched up by young married folk almost as fast as the sign was stacked in the ground.

Another oddity is people are selling the houses themselves...not going through a sales agent.  I believe this is because they are having to lower the prices to try to sell and don't want to waste the money on an agent.

I am curious how common this sight is in other neighborhoods around the US right now.

Hello, I'm curious about how much of the increase in the price in oil over the past few years can be accounted for in the decline of the American dollar.  I was wondering if someone could point me toward a graph, or where I can find out the price of oil has been in euros or ounces of gold compared with the price in dollars and the percentage difference in the increase between the three, and maybe what the price of oil would be without the dollar decline. Thanks.
I know the dollar's been decreasing in valus vis a vis other world currencies. That's all I know and more than I am supposed to know as a good Amurrikan.
On another forum I came across the fact that the American dollar has declined by 7 percent against the euro this year alone, shocking to me since we're just in the beginning of the fifth month of the year.  Of course, since I'm a Canadian, I guess I've been periphally aware of this in the rise of the loonie; still gave me a pause. I've only casually followed Ben Bernanke's installment as the Fed head, the redaction of the m3, and concern over Iran's oil bourse, but I guess the printing presses are churning them out these days.

In the context of oil however, you always here how that sources of oil which would be economically unattractive to recover at $30 dollars a barrel or whatever become feasible now that oil has risen to $70.  Of course, 30 dollars today isn't the same as 30 dollars five years ago.  It'd be intellectually satisfying to know what the price of oil was back in the $30 days if the decline of the dollar was taken into account, and what the price of oil would be today with the depreciation removed. I get the feeling I'm gonna have to do a bit of work if no one saves me from burden.  At the very least I must learn how to make a snazzy graph.

There's a graph of the price of oil in 2005 dollars here . Note that the highest price ever reached (in 2005 dollars) is $86.10.
the ethanol hype is hitting a all time high. here i am sitting and every major news station has a very poorly made segments saying switch grass, corn, etc ethanol is the magic bullet.
Another shout out for Don Sailorman. Don?


If you're reading this, I just want you to know I will NOT be running my apocalyptic religious cult . . . I mean "eco-commune" like this guy runs his:

I ain't down with the marrying underage girls thing, the "reassigning" of wives thing, the ex-communication of potential sexual competitors and am MOST definitely NOT down with the racism bit. As you know, my belief is that the only way we can ensure a few of us survive whatever killer plague Dick Cheney releases upon us peasents from the depths of his secret lair is to mix up the genes through interracial marriage. That way at least a few of the next generation have a genetic resistance to whatever is unleashed upon us.




I miss your wise & witty posts also.  Hope to hear from you soon.

I shall return.
Ah, he rises!
Hybrid vigor is a good idea, but do you really think WASP leaders are going to formulate a germ that will attack those with WASP genetics? Rather it would make more sense to have the bioweapon select for african/asian/nonwhite genetic indicators.
Your insinuation that JH Kunstler's children would not fight for their country because they are Jewish is disturbing. (On the Sat. open thread.)

Astonished to find such vitriolic levels of prejudice at TOD.

It's not so much that, since there are many other elites who don't see their children as "cannon fodder" either.

Remember the real protests against Vietnam didn't start until they brought in the lottery system and children of the comfortable classes and intelligentsia started getting drafted along with those of the working class.

WASP genes are a subset of african genes. Africans already have all the genes of humanity. It goes like this.
Native Americans, Australians, Papuans, and Pacific Islanders have some alleles, Whites and Asians have more than they do, Bantu Africans have more than both, nonBantu Africans have more than all three, and Click speakers have the most allele variation on earth.
Any African has more allele variation than WASP-African hybrids. American blacks are Native American/WASP/African hybrids.
You think the puppet masters are WASPs?
Hey Matt,

I recall Don saying that he was writing a post-Peakoil sci-fi book-- maybe he decided to ignore TOD until he got it done.

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

Another shoutout for Don. He is seriously missing. He gave no indication of going away. I've been concerned for a while but don't know what to do. May be time for a TOD all points bulletin. Maybe he's just sailing.
News flash of sorts. Sixty Minutes thinks that ethanol is going to save us. Puff piece. A little background from Brazil. The head of General Motors stating that Detroit is serious about ethanol. A group of Iowa farmers who bulid an ethanol plant with their life savings. A one sentence mention of cellulousic [sorrry about the spelling] ethanol. Oh well.
dateline was showing the same thing. i angered my mother who was watching it with me by pointing out all the show stopping flaws. her last words in the argument were
what do you want to do? go about blowing up every car and truck in existence and turn back the clock 200 years?

btw i was pointing out the flaws because the show was doing a a very poor job of it.
Damn. You don't want to do that. Mother's Day is coming up. You should be more than grateful you have a mother so in-tune. I know I do. Both Mothers and Fathers are extremely important when it comes to geopolitical energy issues. When you have either that is versed in this subject, you should count yourself among the blessed.
i was wondering if someone on the east coast would give me a sneak peek.  it's still two hours off here in the west.

it doesn't sound like i should get my hopes up too much ... i thought, given hints of an ethanol rebound in the news, that they might dish the dirt.

all they do is talk to a guy who sells the stuff saying that with a barely mentioned advancement he could make the united states the Saudi Arabia of ethanol.
they never go into how much land is needed to grow the crop, or the amount of fossil fuels is needed to grow and harvest said crop. the amount needed to transport the crop.
then they mislead people as to the cost of retrofitting gas stations to carry ethanol by quoting a small number(1,000 to be exact. they only mention California too.)
The Sixty Minutes piece made no attempt at balance. At one point someone [I believe Dan Rather lending his questionable integrity to the thing} feels the need to comment that what is coming out of a smoke stack of the farmers' ethanol plant is "harmless steam, not pollution."
Considering the odor complaints I've seen about ethanol plants (link 1 [note the info about excessive VOC emissions - non-polluting, my a**], link 2) I'm amazed that Rather let those "stinking nuisances" get by without even a single comment from a critic.
i guess having some warning from you guys helped.  i didn't think it was that bad, but i wasn't expecting much.

it was basically a PR piece for GM.

ok fine, time to move on, and point people to the hard questions about making it all work.  on that, i did notice that the farmer's co-op they visited used natural gas for distilation - maybe that's a thing to mention to people enthused by the 60 minutes report ... how well does it run when natural gas gets more expensive?  what did they do this past winter?

Hello TODers!  I've been reading the site now for a few months, and I thought I would put up my first post.

Here in New Zealand (where I live), we have a well documented history of oil production, which is now in decline.  It follows the classic shape of Hubbards Peak.

What seems strange to me, and I haven't been able to find an explaination for it, is why all our fields peaked in the same year 1998?   If anyone could shed some light on this for me would be very useful.  

Matt (Auckland, NZ).

Eyeballing your graph gives that one dominating field peaked in 1998. Other large fields peaked in 1978, 1998?, 1994. It is so obvious that I am afraid I have misunderstood your question.
the danger of this kind of layered graph is that it makes it look that way at first glance.  you've got to be careful.  the red layer actually peaked in ~1978, the turquois in ~1989, light blue in ~1993 ... and the dark blue in 1998, lifting everything and creating the impression that they all peaked together.

the dark blue (print is too fine for me to read the reserve name) is certainly big though, dwarfing all the others.

Yeah, you are not looking at graph design. You have to re-order to get a sane look.
The June Discover has a couple of brief items on electric cars.  

One is a review of the movie Who Killed the Electric Car?  (Official site here.)  It accuses GM and the oil industry of a conspiracy to keep us addicted to oil.

The other is a blurb about MIT's urban supercars.  They envision them being like shopping cars, stacked in various locations around the city.

Concept-only, so far, but they hope to have a working model by this summer, and stackable-car queues near you in five years.


Interesting photo, interesting idea.

This to me is the only way that mass transit can be made to work:

You have a set of satellite pickup drop off points for "station cars" (the idea is not new, but somehow never catches on), and you get to one of the satellite centers by bus or rail, slide you debit card and are rented use of the station car for x miles.  This is an electric car, so the distances are obviously limited, and it is for in town use, so the speed of the vehicle is obviously limited (in other words, you are not going to hit the Interstate and take off with the car at 75 miles per hour to another state!)  With GPS tracking, the operators of the system can know immediately if the car leaves the service area.  So, for example....I live outside Cincinnati Ohio, and want to go to Columbus OH...instead of driving, I take the bus or train from one city to the other, and use the station cars to get around town once I am there  (because with them, when I get to Columbus OH, I have no way to get around, the local buses may not be available when I need them and I am not familiar with the local schedules, etc.)  The issue of how to get around on your own schedule to the very individual destinations you have to are the ABSOLUTE STOPPER for most folks using mass transit.

A group of friends/potential investors of which I was one,  once looked at this idea in Louisville KY....since much of the suburban development of nice homes had occurred up the Ohio river from Louisville, to the East, we thought it would be a great way to relieve traffic congestion to use a boat or hydrofoil to carry commuters downtown by river.  A nice decent hydrofoil could move as many as 300 to 400 commuters, or two smaller ones could run opposite one another, one up river while the other came down , and have people from out in the suburbs to downtown in (rough estimate) maybe 15 to 20 minutes.

The problem was....they had to get from the suburban neighborhood to the river port.....and once downtown, they had to get from the river port at that end to their individual destinations.  Some would be within walking distance, but others might have several blocks to walk, not a fun thought in freezing winter or driving rain.  Plus, they would have no freedom to do local shopping, visiting, etc.   The station car approach is the only one that made sense....but, and this is big, the insurance and liability issues are HUGE.  (They never talk about that in futuristic artists concepts)

ONCE MORE, we see that the technology is easily available to bring fuel consumption in transportation CRASHING THROUGH THE FLOOR, with no depression, no recession, no "Mad Max" scenario and certainly no big die off, (and referencing one other poster here today, CERTAINLY no need for $8.12 gasoline prices or $400 crude oil prices {that will NEVER HAPPEN, I can tell you why later}), if we simply reorganize the way we do business.  However, there is danger of the above horrific outcomes if NO ONE seems willing to change what are HABITS, not necessities.

Roger Conner  known to you as ThatsItImout

thank God, I was getting nervours my suburban shangrala of endless shopping might be coming to an end soon!



The sarcasm drips off of your post :P

Well, folks were "shopping" in the Middle ages, well before the age of oil...
they also ate, slept, had sex and died...worship at the alter of crude oil if you want, or enjoy a world of changing design and creativity, in other words, THINGS CHANGE.....get over it....
(don't know if I made the required sarcasm "drip" rate...but I tried...

Roger Conner  known to you as ThatsItImout

It seems every time US gasoline demand falls a tiny bit, in the same week spot shortages occur, there are the stories like those linked above that tell us that high prices really do reduce demand.

No, less gasoline available reduces potential sales more - as we saw in the aftermath of last year's hurricanes.  Not surprisingly, tight supplies and shortages also lead to high prices  - which are then blamed for the drop in demand.

In much the same way, the 30 million barrel bailout from the IEA last year is never discussed as a reason why we have 'high' overall oil inventory levels.

My own opinion, is that on the down slope of world oil production, prices will go much higher than most dream possible - especially in the US as the value of the US$ drops.


I'm not in position to figure this out, but could any of you figure out how much energy is transported from a supertanker from the MidEast and how much coal and mining acreage would be required to produce a similar amount of useable energy from coal to liquids?  I'm guessing a scary amount.  Corn to ethanol would be much worse....
I did something similar once previously with switchgrass-to-ethanol, using USDA provided studies and figures.  Reprinted below:

Using the USDA's slighly optimistic figures, found here:

And a little mathematics, we see that we can replace the US's annual petroluem demand (20mbpd x 365days = 7300mb) by just growing and converting switchgrass into ethanol on a total of 1213 million acres of land.  Hurray!!

Only one small problem....The US only has 434 million acres of available cropland (2002 USDA figures), including pastureland, and is losing available farmland at a rate of nearly 3 million acres every year (to surburbia, housing developments, etc).

So, assuming ALL of it were converted over for ethanol production use, we could keep things running at 1/3rd of normal.  
Until we starve.

The "SUSTAINABLE ENERGY FORUM 2006" started this evening with a couple of talks.  I know a couple of other TODers are there - I ran into alanfrombigeasy, and I have no doubt that there are others there.

Speaking of ethanol, David Pimintel is at this conference.  I was standing near him, and he stuck out his hand and introduced himself.  I mentioned that I had heard much about him, and he joked that most of what I had heard had probably been bad.  I admitted that for the most part it was (ethanol advocates attacking him, for the most part).  He asked if it was related to ethanol and I said yes, but that I had no dog in that hunt.  If he had asked about biodiesel, I would have had to answer a bit differently, but even that seems to be to be an interim measure until we get a better transportation infrastructure.

If you listen to the ethanol advocates, Pimintel is some sort of raving senile lunatic of some sort.  In person, he comes across well - I am looking forward to seeing what he has to say later on.

The first speaker this evening was Roger Bezdek, and spoke on peak oil.  For those who regularly read here, there wasn't anything particularly new.  After the session was over I was talking to him with a group of people, and his feeling is that when push comes to shove that there will be military conflict.

The second speaker this evening (Bill McKibben) had an interesting comment.  He said that if you view peak oil as a crisis, it presupposes that you consider what we have now to be a success.  It does make light of the fact that peak oil may lead to recession and unemployment, but I don't know how you correct the many problems we have without pain however.  Pain is the catalyst for change - without it, people would wish to continue on with life as usual.

This is an email that just came to me. It was sent to everybody in somebody's address book and forwarded that way (everybody in address book) several times that I could tell. So a good bit of circulation. It's the "boycott Exxon" spiel. I thought readers here might like to see what's going on at the grass roots.

Here goes...

GAS WAR - an idea that WILL work
>This was originally sent by a retired Coca Cola
>executive. It came from one of his engineer buddies who retired from
>Halliburton. It ' s worth your consideration.
>Join the resistance!!!! I hear we are going to hit close
>to $4.00 a gallon by next summer and it might go higher!! Want gasoline
>prices to come down?
>We need to take some intelligent, united action. Phillip
>offered this good idea.
>This makes MUCH MORE SENSE than the "don't buy gas on a
>certain day"
>campaign that was going around last April or May! The
>oil companies just
>laughed at that because they knew we wouldn't continue
>to "hurt" ourselves
>by refusing to buy gas. It was more of an inconvenience
>to us than it was
>a problem for them.
>BUT, whoever thought of this idea, has come up with a
>plan that can really work. Please read on and join with us! By now
>you're probably thinking gasoline priced at about $1.50 is super cheap.
>Me too! It is currently $2.79 for regular unleaded in my town. Now that
>the oil companies and the OPEC nations have conditioned us to think
>the cost of a gallon of gas is CHEAP at $1.50 - $1.75, we need to take
>aggressive action to teach them that BUYERS control the
>not sellers. With the price of gasoline going up more each day, we
>consumers need to take action. The only way we are going to see the
>price of gas come down is if we hit someone in the pocketbook by not
>purchasing their gas! And, we can do that WITHOUT hurting ourselves.
>How? Since we all rely on our cars, we can't just stop buying gas. But
>we CAN have an impact on gas prices if we all act together to force a
>price war.
>Here's the idea:
>For the rest of this year, DON'T purchase ANY gasoline
>from the two biggest companies (which now are one), EXXON and MOBIL. If
>they are not selling any gas, they will be inclined to reduce their
>prices. If they reduce their prices, the other companies will have to
>follow suit.
>But to have an impact, we need to reach literally
>millions of Exxon and Mobil gas buyers. It's really simple to do! Now,
>don't wimp out at this point.... keep reading and I'll explain how
>simple it is to reach millions of people.
>I am sending this note to 30 people. If each of us sends
>it to at least ten more (30 x 10 =3D 300) ... and those 300 send it to
>at least ten more (300 x 10 =3D 3,000)...and so on, by the time the
>message reaches the sixth group of people, we will have reached over
>THREE MILLION consumers.
>If those three million get excited and pass this on to
>ten friends each, then 30 million people will have been contacted! If
>goes one level further, you guessed it..... THREE>>>>HUNDRED MILLION
> >>>>PEOPLE!!!
>Again, all you have to do is send this to 10 people.
>That's all. (If you don't understand how we can reach 300 million and
>all you have to do is send this to 10 people.... Well, let's face it,
>you just aren't a mathematician. But I am, so trust me on this one.)
>How long would all that take? If each of us sends this
>e-mail out to ten more people within one day of receipt, all 300
>people could conceivably be contacted within the next 8 days!!!
>I'll bet you didn't think you and I had that much
>potential, did you? Acting together we can make a difference. If this
>makes sense to you, please pass this message on. I suggest that we not
>buy from EXXON/MOBIL
>Thank You,

Do people honestly expect this sort of thing to make any difference whatsoever?
I think they do. It is sad. OTOH our political leadership was going to give everybody $100. Yippee Skippee.
Let's pretend for a moment that this really happened.

So... XOM would sell their gasoline to Chevron, ConocoPhillips and company instead?  How exactly does this make them suffer?

This one has been around a few times. I like to "Reply All" with this link to TOD. Usually makes for lively discussion!
I'm just a layperson, posting my rants about energy price politics, and I thought I'd seek the comments of you experts... anyone care to do me the favor of reading this?



Ah, very nice. I especially like the "We pay you to keep electing us" section.
Very nice indeed!
I did take the trouble Will, not a bad rant...
 I admit to sharing your disdain for the GM idiotic truck sort of whatever you show, but you did make one comment that  I could not let go by...
I have this same discussion about every two weeks with various folks, so here goes again.

In your blog you said,
<In the past 20 years, gas prices adjusted for inflation have decreased.>

That is most certainly NOT the case, and here's why:

Allow us to take a bit of a longer perspective. Instead of choosing a chart that begins in the all time peak price years of 1979-1980, let's take the whole of the post war period, from 1947:

Now to get an idea what gatwn and the other posters are referring to, we look at the "nominal price", that is purely "how many dollars now", not adjusted for inflation, and the "real" or "inflation adjusted" price (the red line in the following chart) .htm

If you look at the two charts above, you should quickly see why 1979-1980 are the "holiest of holy years" for those making the "oil is cheap" argument. Never in history had there been a period like the 1970's, with twin spikes MASSIVE upward spikes, first in 1973, due to the Arab oil embargo, and then in 1979, due to the Iranian hostage crisis, followed almost immediately by the Iran Iraq war. Please look at that chart from once more...because there can be no better statistical picture in existance of what we now call the "superspike" phenomenon, it is staggering even now to look at, a true work of economic art.
It goes without saying that if I begin my count from that astounding oddity of economic history, I can paint a very astounding statistical picture. This is known in the propaganda trade as "card stacking", that is, taking a chart or a set of numbers and "slicing" a section to be used to make your point.
Taking a que from gatwn's remarks, let's go all the way back, and look at a statistical picture from the very birth of the industry:

As gatwn rightly pointed out, oil prices at the birth of the new industry were indeed HIGH. In fact, the FIRST 5 YEARS OF THE BIRTH OF THE OIL INDUSTRY WOULD NOT BE EXCEEDED IN PRICE guessed it, the "holy years" of 1979-1980. Now if I were going to use a "fair and honest chart", I ask, would I choose the FIRST TIME IN 110 YEARS, INFLATION ADJUSTED, THAT OIL ACTUALLY EXCEEDED THE PRICE IT WAS AT THE BIRTH OF THE INDUSTRY? Or would I instead choose the "green line, mean price of oil from 1879 to 1969, A NINETY YEAR PERIOD OF FLAT PRICES as a measure to use as my baseline judging point for the word "cheap" You be the judge.
Many more fair and long range charts can be found at from the site these were extracted

So there you have it...gas is cheap if you compare it to that one gigantic superspike, but over the long history, it certainly is not...some use European gasoline prices as a comparison, but that is not a fair one, since most of the extra cost of gas in Europe comes from (a)massive taxation to deter usage and (b) no home energy supply (remember that the largest single supplier of crude oil is still the U.S., even after the 1970 peak....)  Europe's situation has been somewhat "abnormal" to their overall history since the early 1980's due to Atlantic North Sea oil and gas...a situation that is changing as we speak and will throw Europe back into the situation they faced right after WWII when folks had to drive Citroen 2CV's, BMW and Isetta bubble cars, and finally, real luxury, the BLMC Mini (and a hot rod too, I once saw one hopped to 78 horsepower  (don't laugh, that was done with a 1 litre engine!)

This brings to point the fact that American doomsayers are carrying on about the "dollar crash" and predicting the rise of the Euro as the new savior currency....sheer idiocy that, Europe's energy situation after the North Sea decline is MUCH WORSE than that of the U.S., and the Euro currency is the product of an organization that in a true legalistic sense no longer even exists.  The dollar may crash but the liklihood of it being replaced by the Euro is about as high as America ever seeing usable amounts of petro from the Canadian tar sands!

The amount of "mythology" on all sides of this debate is astounding, it is almost as good as the theatre of the absurd!  Great fun!  :-)

Roger Conner  known to you as ThatsItImout

A couple of clarifiers to my last post on "gas is cheap"....the person referred to in the piece was in reply to a poster on another board, I re-used some of my own prior text rather than have to rewrite (since, as I said, I have this debate with someone rather frequently when the pull out the "gas is cheap" saw) and on the sentence (remember that the largest single supplier of crude oil is still the U.S., even after the 1970 peak....), it should say, "the biggest single supplier <to the United States> is still the U.S.)

Also the link .htm
may have to be cut and pasted to work and take out the wouldn't fit on one line, but it is a very educational chart!
Roger Conner  known to you as ThatsItImout

Dear Roger:

Thank you very much for the thoughtful response. I know that comparing gas prices at their historical peak was a bit of an unfair argument. I was looking for a quick simplification, and perhaps made a mistake. I am going to restate that assertion.

Nonetheless, I would like to point out that your charts showed historical oil prices adjusted for inflation. Whereas, my argument was that gas prices are low. It's somewhat interesting to see that the two prices don't track exactly the same over history:

I assume that this is because the process of producing gasoline from oil, shipping it, etc... has become more efficient over time.

Nonetheless, my point should not really have been that prices aren't rising. I don't think that's really defensible. It should have been that gas is, and historically has been, an inexpensive commodity in the US.


Well, first I want to repeat that what I was referring to was only a minor point in what I thought was overall a very good and accurate blog on your part, and what you said at the end of you reply to me bears repeating:

<It should have been that gas is, and historically has been, an inexpensive commodity in the US.>

That is most certainly true, and few Americans realize how much so until they look at a long historical chart.  In the late 1980's to the late1990's, for over a decade, the average price of both crude oil and gasoline ran below the historical average inflation adjusted rate of the century!  Try to think of any other product that did medical, home prices, and education were running ABOVE the rate of inflation, fuel costs were running below it....and this was at the same time that natural gas and propane were also at inflation adjusted lows...this is why the current price is certainly such a shock to people...even though as a percentage of income, you are right, fuel is still not as expensive as some would make out.

Now let me get everybody p.o.ed at me (and p.o.ed in this case does not mean Peak Oil), I really do think we are closing in on the topside of the market as it relates to oil price....I think the "superspike" mentioned by Goldman Sachs of $100 dollars a barrel is very possible, and we could even see $120 a barrel for a short duration, but that's about it.

Crude oil, despite what some may think, is not God.  It will (in fact is already beginning to) price itself out of the market, and be pushed aside.  Crude oil wins on convenience, but it is even beginning to lose that advantage.  5 more years of development on lithium ion and lithium polymer batteries, plug hybrids using a mix of compressed nat gas and propane, and yes, even E85  (why not?  after all, GM and ADM would have coaxed the American taxpayers into subsidizing it for them, we might as well enjoy it, and in an aerodynamic narrow sedan with plug hybrid capability, we wouldn't be using a gallon of it every 150 miles...), cars that will be refueled at home from photovoltaic panals and nat gas or propane home refueling, saving the always annoying trip to the convenience store, the younger generation will see gasoline and most crude oil used in transport as stupid as owning a TV without a remote control....who could live like that?  

It is going to be a fascination time, and there will be BIG challenges....but there will be some interesting and inventive design and careers and companies will be made that get it right....if what I am saying sounds strange, go back to 1980, and read Toffler  ("The Third Wave").  This stuff is no real surprise, we just got held up in the "Morning In America" period from getting started on the real "morning in America".
Roger Conner  known here as ThatsItImout

Oil is not god but it is good stuff. I don't think $100 will come close to stopping oil consumption. In fact I think we will see $100 this year and then the price will come back down and the MSM will yawn and babble on about how that wasn't so bad and our economy isn't as sensitive to energy prices as it used to be. We have to keep in mind that the pattern we are used to will change once production starts to fall.

It is so easy be optimistic after having cheap energy for so long. I think one reasons that PO is going to hurt is that it is also going to mean peak available energy. Available energy  = total energy minus energy invested to make energy. This is because we will have to slide down the EROEI curve. I think only NG may be able to compare will oil on EROEI and it has already peaked for the US. This means every year there will be less energy available. Demand will be destroyed by force because the supply won't be there.

I would just like to point out that comparing prices of gasoline, past and present, 'adjusted for inflation' is, itself, erroneous and circular logic.  Higher energy prices translate into inflation for all goods and services, across the board, and hence actually contribute to same said "inflation".  To some extent, you confuse cause and effect, and define higher energy prices as low, adjusted for the effects of higher energy prices.
Back to gas prices, I think we'll start seeing real change for the majority of the population at say $4 a gallon. Which I think we'll see this summer.

A small percentage of very rich people in the US masks the fact that therea are huge numbers pf people living on less than $20k a year, in fact large numbers living on less than $10k a year. At that income, having a car at all is barely possible, and most of these people do their own oil changes, etc. Yes, these are the people referred to disdainfully as "those who change their own oil".

Media in the US is aimed at Those Who Matter, which pretty much means Those Who Make More Than $50k A year, but those are the people about 2/3 of the way up on the social pyramid - the huge base is ignored.

At $4-$5 a gallon we can expect to see rural types getting into farming and doing something about the actual overpopulation of whitetail deer, squirrels, and yes, even at times feral pigeons, dogs, and cats. In the cities we'll see a lot more bicycles  - not fancy ones, utilitarian ones. At $4-$5 a gallon we're going to start seeing some real restructuring of the US economy. And we can expect to see/hear the elites continue to talk about how everything is A-OK, how ethanol will save us, and occasionally refer disdainfully to those who change their own oil.

I can't see any ads on the left sidebar. I'm using Firefox with Adblock Plus. Adblock is probably blocking the images. Perhaps SuperG could add a regular text link below the image so those of us with adblockers can still click the ads?

There is also a distinct possibility that I've gone crazy and can't see the ads, or that I'm looking in the wrong place.

I am using Microsoft Internet Explorer 7 (beta) and I cannot see them either.


I see a few non-offensive ads by Blogads at the very top left, then a bunch of links to other PO sites, then a bunch of ads for PO books sold by Amazon, sort of the essential PO library lol. Nothing annoying at all.
Today in The Australian Financial Review, Claude Mandil of the IEA was asked if there was anything positive to stop oil rising to $100/barrel or more his reponse was;

"I cannot say that I can point to anything that would encourage such optimism."

Asked is this a third oil shock?

His reponse was

"it depends on how you define what a shock is"

Note article is behind a pay wall.

Seems like Claude has a lot on his mind these days to be so candid.

OK. It's monday, yet I am going to post this question in a sunday Open Thread anyway:

How would peakoil influence the chemical industries?

Considering that chemical industries are another foundation of today's life I like to discuss the importance of oil, and the depence of cheap energy of that manufactoring process. Mind you, it produces such taken-for-granted things as birth control pills, medical products, fibers and plastics

Oil use by the CPI is not too big.  Peak natural gas, though, is very bad news.
Our energy conservation co-op in Minneapolis is about to buy a delivery vehicle. One of my hopes in this is to protect ourselves against peak oil. We thought hard about it, and we're going to get an E85 flex-fuel van rather than a diesel to run on biodiesel. It seems though, that we're practically as likely to have ethanol availability/pricing issues as gasoline availability/pricing issues. Oh well.

Besides delivering replacement energy efficient window air conditioners, we need the vehicle for going to meetings. I had to go to a meeting over in Saint Paul last week, 5 miles away and near a major bus line. It took 50 minutes each way. What a waste of time, not to mention the cold rain. As a small business person, I can't afford that. We need the vehicle. The whole peak oil issue is really tough.

You could have gotten a diesel as well as created an infrastructure to reform WVO, made some deals with local restaurants, and not only be turning something that's normally wasted into something useful but be spending doodley-squat to fuel your truck.
I thought about that too. It's mostly a matter of trying to stay focused on our core business and what we do well . . . not that becoming a major provider of WVO in the Twin Cities wouldn't be fun.