DrumBeat: June 16, 2006

Update [2006-6-16 9:57:45 by Leanan]: The invisible hand is hard at work. There's a flurry of stories today on how individuals, countries, and corporations are responding to high energy prices.

Detroit's Midsize SUV Problem

It's not just the mammoth SUVs that are suffering. The once-powerful midsize segment is also dwindling as gas prices rise and boomers age.
Russia to Build World’s First Floating Nuclear Power Station
Environmentalists are not pleased.

Rural Kenyan women on vanguard of African 'solar revolution'

Elizabeth Leshom may not know it, but she is among a legion of African women at the vanguard of what many hope will be a "solar revolution" that could empower them and help save the environment.

The 25-year-old Kenyan is part of a rapidly growing programme across east and central Africa that aims to replace or at least reduce traditional wood-fired cooking with efficient energy from the sun.

In Cape Cod, Massachussetts, a tidal power plant may join the proposed wind farms.

France boosts purchase rates to spur renewable energy: they are increasing the rates they pay for electricity from renewable sources.

Meanwhile, China plans to fill cars with ethanol made from tapioca.

Britain's new power plants to avert energy crisis. One will burn natural gas, the other will burn trash. (Don't know where they're going to be getting the natural gas.)

BP plans $37 billion energy investment in US, in the deep water of the Gulf of Mexico, and in the Rocky Mountains.

Update [2006-6-16 11:0:8 by Leanan]: Here's a good reason to make your power plants floating ones: Thawing permafrost could unleash tons of carbon

Ancient roots and bones locked in long-frozen soil in Siberia are starting to thaw, and have the potential to unleash billions of tons of carbon and accelerate global warming, scientists said on Thursday.
And Lester Brown has a plan for Meeting the challenge of Peak Oil. It's laid out in his book Plan B 2.0: Rescuing a Planet Under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble. If you don't want to buy a hard copy, he is offering free digital downloads (PDF and HTML) here.

Update [2006-6-16 11:44:9 by Leanan]: Also from Lester Brown: World Grain Stocks Fall to 57 Days of Consumption: Grain Prices Starting to Rise

This year’s world grain harvest is projected to fall short of consumption by 61 million tons, marking the sixth time in the last seven years that production has failed to satisfy demand. As a result of these shortfalls, world carryover stocks at the end of this crop year are projected to drop to 57 days of consumption, the shortest buffer since the 56-day-low in 1972 that triggered a doubling of grain prices.

Update [2006-6-16 12:43:24 by Leanan]: Are our cities making us fat?

DENVER - It’ll take more than public service campaigns to solve the nation’s obesity problem, according to fitness experts who say neighborhoods must be designed so people can get around without their cars.
Maybe we'd have more success spinning walkable neighborhoods as a health issue, rather than an energy conservation/environmental issue?

The Norwegian blogspot


Has in two recent posts with diagrams in English (based upon BP Statistical Review 2006) shown the developments in net (oil) exports for the years 1985 through 2005 and declines in oil production from countries that have seen declining trends in oil production through the last 5 years (2001 - 2005).

Though production during 2005 increased by 0,9-1,0 Mb/d, net exports increased with less than 0,4 Mb/d. As net imports by countries within OECD and China increased in 2005, this suggests that the other countries collectively must have decreased their imports due to price increases during 2005 (demand destruction). This has been illustrated with a supplementary diagram within the post.

Some of the oil producers and exporters have been increasing their consumption, explaining why growth in production has been stronger than growth in net exports.

The more recent post illustrates how production has been declining for the countries that have a documented decline through the last 5 years (2001 - 2005).

Could this give an idea of how global oil production declines when it starts?

net exports increased with less than 0,4 Mb/d

Note that the recent 500,000 bpd decline in Saudi production, if it holds or get worse, would--all by itself--more than wipe out the entire gain in net oil exports last year.

You are right about that.

Add to the equation the possibilties of increased consumption within some of the producers and exporters, and it would not be unlikely that net (oil) exports declined through 2006.

And regarding EROEI, it culd be fair to assume that oil recovered now takes a little more energy than last year.

This could intensify the bidding war for oil later this year.

Normally demand is weaker through May and June, and picks up through the 3.rd quarter.

Oil companies going deep in Gulf of Mexico drilling

Improved technology, high prices drive deepwater exploration

Nearly three football fields long, the ship appears to be sitting idle on the turquoise blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico, perhaps even abandoned.

Beneath the deck, there's no such tranquility. A 200-person crew of geologists, engineers and technicians work around the clock at dimly lit keyboards, controlling every move of an adjoining oil rig as it uses an 16{-inch (41-centimeter) pipe to bore through the ocean floor.

The Chevron Corp. crew is developing a deepwater oil field 190 miles (305 kilometers) off the Louisiana coast projected to produce 100,000 barrels a day by 2008 and 500 million barrels overall. Each well willreach more than 26,000 feet (7,800 meters) below sea level.

It's the kind of deepwater discovery once thought to be out of reach, but with improved technology and climbing global oil prices, companies are spending billions developing oil fields the Interior Department says will substantially boost Gulf production.

Deepwater exploration _ done in depths of 1,000 feet (300 meters) of water or greater _ is also volatile, as companies face increasing development costs, a battle with the federal government over royalty payments and continued rig shortages

Gross display of power!

The thrusters help the ship withstand 20-foot (6-meter) waves, 80 mile(130-kilometer)-an-hour winds, and currents that would prevent traditional rigs from operating. The amount of power used to keep the ship stationary and drilling would light up 40,000 homes.

Another interesting tid-bit

Already there is an almost four-year waiting for drilling ships, according to a recent report energy consultant Howard Weil. The backlog prompted Chevron to have Transocean build another ship, to be ready in three years.


Hm... On the power necessary to keep the ship stable: Is this average power, or peak power? I'd expect average to be a small fraction of peak.

And homes don't use that much power. A car can use enough power to supply dozens of homes.


I wonder if they use a standard value for "homes?" ;-)

For what it's worth I recently heard a 50 MW powerplant described as enough for 100,000 homes ... so they think 500 watts draw on average for a home?

... and the 40,000 homes above would represent 20 MW

(though I know it's silly to expect a standard "home")

Not my house. Built 1931; Texas; 3200 sq.ft.
with an 1800 sq.ft. basement. 100 deg. days
in the summer = 8 tons of central
air conditioning.
According to the Washington Post, we have a glut of natural gas:


The whole world is talking about energy shortages, but for the moment, the U.S. natural gas business is looking at a potential glut.

Thanks in part to a warm winter, inventories of natural gas have built up to levels far greater than normal for this time of year. And terminals built to handle imports of liquefied natural gas from other countries are operating at about half of their capacity.

Sadly the article doesn't talk about anything beyond a year out.  

I have Johnathan Darley's book "High Noon for Natural Gas" sitting in my pile of books to be read..

The average decline rate of natural gas wells in the U.S. is 30%. The only reason we have a glut of natural gas is that we've been drilling new wells at a ferocious rate - the number of natural gas wells has doubled in the past year. Obviously, this trend cannot continue indefinitely.

I read on a financial website that the department of the interior claims there is enough natural gas located offshore to heat every home in America for 80 years.

All that's needed is an approval from the Government to drill and the natural gas crisis is over for the next 100 years or so.  

Is this pure hyperbole and/or guesswork, or is there actual science behind this claim?  

Often, this claim concerns what is called "deep gas" offshore in the Gulf. For example, from here.
Trapped more than 15,000 feet within the earth's crust, so-called "deep natural gas" represents a tremendous untapped domestic energy resource. Government studies estimate that there could be more than 20 trillion cubic feet of untapped deep natural gas deposits in the Gulf of Mexico-- about as much as is currently being produced from all areas in North America on an annual basis!

... Unfortunately, despite significant advances in deep gas technology, these prospects remain very challenging to find and develop successfully. Since 2001, Gulf natural gas production has decreased from 5,128 BCF to 4,175 BCF in 2003. Deep gas discoveries may help reverse this trend however: deep gas production increased from a relatively low 284 billion cubic feet in 2000 to 421 billion cubic feet in 2002.19

At this time and for the foreseeable future, most of this gas, if it is indeed there, is still effectively "stranded" despite what articles like Oil companies going deep in Gulf of Mexico drilling say. I would pay more attention to facts like this one, from the lastest ASPO-USA newsletter
Canadian gas production peaked at 17.4 billion cubic feet a day in 2001 and 2002, according to figures from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. Large new discoveries of natural gas have become rare.
Other claims involve the western part of the Gulf nearer to Florida (dry holes and "sour" gas H2S) and completely unsubstantiated assertions about offshore California and the East Coast.

In other words, don't believe everything you read.

I was underwhelmed by Darley's book. I thought it was pretty much a repeat of Heinberg's The Party's Over only starting from gas rather than oil and not as well done. I didn't think he added anything to my understanding of the reasons for the impending problems in natural gas supply. YMMV.
What they fail to mention is that they now count the base gas (i.e. the gas that HAS TO REMAIN BEHIN in the caverns to provide structural pressure and integrity) in Louisiana as part of the reserve. They did not used to do that - they used to count only the gas that they could actually use.

This is a 44% difference!!!

Go figure.

You haven't really picked up on the faith-based theory of markets, yet, have you, Francois?


Waiting for the lights to go out

Here is a fascinating article from last year. There are apparently a bunch of people out there who are convinced that the rate of innovation is slowing drastically.

One of the strangest portents of the end of progress is the recent discovery that humans are losing their ability to come up with new ideas.

Jonathan Huebner is an amiable, very polite and very correct physicist who works at the Pentagon's Naval Air Warfare Center in China Lake, California. He took the job in 1985, when he was 26. An older scientist told him how lucky he was. In the course of his career, he could expect to see huge scientific and technological advances. But by 1990, Huebner had begun to suspect the old man was wrong. "The number of advances wasn't increasing exponentially, I hadn't seen as many as I had expected -- not in any particular area, just generally."

Puzzled, he undertook some research of his own. He began to study the rate of significant innovations as catalogued in a standard work entitled The History of Science and Technology. After some elaborate mathematics, he came to a conclusion that raised serious questions about our continued ability to sustain progress. What he found was that the rate of innovation peaked in 1873 and has been declining ever since. In fact, our current rate of innovation -- which Huebner puts at seven important technological developments per billion people per year -- is about the same as it was in 1600. By 2024 it will have slumped to the same level as it was in the Dark Ages, the period between the end of the Roman empire and the start of the Middle Ages.

This does not bode well for the techno-cornucopian position that we will be able to innovate our way out of the Peak Oil box - for instance by developing fusion reactors that fit in the trunk of an electric car or something.

This contrasts starkly with Ray Kurzweil's notion of an imminent "Technological Singularity", a spritual/technological notion that a transcendence of the human condition through technology is both possible and desirable. Needless to say, Kurzweil disagrees vehemently with Huebner's conclusions.

The linked article goes into this in some depth, touching on such disparate topics as capitalism, globalization, ethics and the nature of progress. I recommend it to anyone who is interested in the future of the human race.

There are apparently a bunch of people out there who are convinced that the rate of innovation is slowing drastically.

And I am one of them.  Indeed, that's how I came to peak oil.  I always figured technology would save us.  Until I started wondering why we weren't colonizing other planets, like those 1960s SF TV shows predicted.

I came to the conclusion that The End of Science was real.  As for why...I think Tainter has the right explanation.  The low-hanging fruit is plucked first.  We're running out of low-hanging fruit.

We have discussed this before, more than once.  Someone posted a nice link to a Business Week story about it, but it's on my other computer.  And  Discover magazine had an article about it a few months ago, too.

I was just reminded about the Fermi Paradox: the apparent contradiction between high estimates of the probability of the existence of extraterrestrial civilizations and the lack of evidence for or contact with such civilizations.  As I thought about it, I realized it dovetails neatly with my opinion about the Peak Oil endgame.

I've long been convinced that intelligent species exist, but only for very short periods of time cosmologically speaking. I now believe that those species probably exist near the peak of their technological capabilities for only an extremely short time, probably less than 500 years, depending mainly on their rate of reproduction (less fertile species exist longer).

The reason is twofold: first, we develop on spheres where stored resources are axiomatically finite, and secondly our techological development allows us to rapdly dominate all the resources of that sphere. This leads automatically to a situation of overshoot, where the easily available stored resources support exponential population growth, followed by a Malthusian collapse. The time required to enter that overshoot depends on three things - the availability of resources, the overall fertility of the species, and their ingenuity. A reduction an any of these factors leads to a broader curve (slower ascent and descent) without changing its fundamental shape.

I no longer see expansion into space as a saviour. the reason is that the growing ability to exploit local resources causes the population to start exploding well in advance of the development of pinnacle technologies like mass space flight. I also expect that the utilization of renewables would not play a major role in saving a species, because by the time the need to collect such diffuse energy was obvious it would be too late due to exponential population pressure and the depletion of the foundational stored energy sources.

I'm obviously guilty of massive anthropocentrism here, because my primary assumption is that intelligent species arise in conditions much like those we have here. Still, it seems like a reasonable first approximation.

Those with time to indulge in a little escapism might enjoy the recent SF novel Spin (by Robert Charles Wilson).  It employs Gliderguider's notion about brief windows for advanced civilizations as a key element in the story (sorry to give away a bit of it!).
It does seem like the Fermi Paradox has something important to say about a potentially harnessable source of infinite energy just waiting out in Nature to be discovered, to save an upcoming intelligent species from the sociobiological karma of its origins:  then where is it?  
So, the existence of the Fermi Paradox proves that Zero Point Energy is a chimera?  That's a useful notion.  I think :-)
Here's a fuller statement of the chain of logic about energy implied by Fermi's Paradox:

  • An intelligent, space-going species needs lots of energy if it is to persist.
  • Planetary resources and insolation are insufficient to permit such a species to persist.
  • Such a species needs access to small-scale, controllable, high-density energy.
  • Such an energy source must not depend on overly limited inputs - indeed, the less limitation on inputs (up to and including an infinite source) the better.
  • The availability of such an energy source is necessary (though admittedly not sufficient) to ensure the species' survival.
  • The lack of such an energy source will doom the species in short order.
  • The fact that we can detect no such species is a good hint that they don't exist.
  • They should exist, so the best explanation for the fact that they don't is that they existed at some point but did not persist.
  • The surest explanation for their lack of persistence is the lack of an appropriate energy source.

    Therefore, the existence of Fermi's Paradox proves that such an energy source does not exist.

    The conclusion:  Ultimately there is no way out of the finite-resource box.

  • Unless we're living in a simulation (groan) :-)
    I don't know the explanation for the Fermi paradox, but "lack of energy" doesn't make much sense to me. Stars are everywhere we look, pouring out inconceivable amounts of energy. Every second the sun puts out more energy than we use in a hundred years. Only a modestly higher technology level than our own would allow creating a solar-based economy that would be more than enough to get started on interstellar exploration.

    Given the enormous energies that are just barely beyond our grasp, it is hard to believe that no civilization anywhere could manage to bridge that gap and produce a solar-powered interplanetary and then interstellar civilization.

    Stars are also inconceivably far apart so that the energy density from those stars is extremely low throughout most of the universe, unless you happen to be close to one of those stars. If we built a solar-powered vehicle it would receive extremely little energy from the sun by the time it reached the outer planets of our solar system. Currently, the fastest space craft built would take 40,000 years to reach the nearest stars - the triple system Alpha Centauri. That doesn't take into account the extremely hostile environment of space - hard vacuum, radiation, micrometeorites, etc. At present, interplanetary space travel is a pipe dream. It would take radically new technology to make it feasible.
    (that's 80,000 years, round trip ;-)

    One clarification: a "space travelling species" beaming out lots of electronic signals is still the same species after it returns to the dark ages, right? It's just that we're no longer detectable to other civilizations with advanced receivers.  

          I think we need a fellow named Andy Libby...
    I think you mean interstellar travel. Interplanetary is routinely done now via robotic probes and is certainly feasible with manned spacecraft using the existing technological base.
    But but but!!!

    What about Dilithium Crystals?

    Zero point energy is a well-accepted phenomena in physics. It has been verified experimentally by the Casimir effect, and in other ways. However, what I think you mean is the notion of a "free energy" device that can tap into the zero point energy to produce usable energy. Claims of free energy devices are shams similar to perpetual motion machines.
    Yes, that's indeed what I meant.  I know about the Casimir effect, but the jump from there to perpetual energy machines or scalar energy weapons requires just a bit too much suspension of disbelief even for this old hippy.
    I think it is a mistake to appoint energy as the only crucial resource for the survival of intelligent species. Far more important IMO is the depletion of biological resources needed to sustain life. We can survive without cars but we can hardly survive without food.
    I understand your concerns and share them. Ironically, I think that the only viable solution is to expand into space yet I am unsure that we will ever possess the political will to do so until it is too late. Interestingly, we possess the technology to do much of what such an effort would entail but instead of doing it we are doing other things, including driving ourselves into a population overshoot crisis. In one sense, from an energy perspective, it's "raining soup" out there but if we as monkeys are not smart enough to fashion ladders to get there and bowls to collect it, I guess we don't deserve it.
    You've got to be joking. Manned space exploration is extraordinarily expense and a complete waste of scarce resources.
    I agree with that!
    Ten years ago I'd have disagreed violently.  Today, not so.  With the advent of robotic technology like we've seen in the Mars Rovers I'm much less convinced that a human presence is required (or even helpful), at least for the things we need to do in space over the short term. Even pure science requiring microgravity has been successfully automated.

    Actually, my main objection to manned space flight for research and exploration isn't that it costs too much, but that it takes too long.  We spend extraordinary amounts of effort (effort=time and money) trying to make sure nobody gets killed.  Launch a robot, and if it blows up on the pad nobody but the designers (and maybe the odd computerized kitchen blender) mourns.

    The usual reasons given for going further into space than geosynchronous orbit have generally been resources, energy and human diaspora.  All have been revealed as pipe dreams as we got past the gee-whiz stage of space flight.  I used to be a Solar Power Satellite fan, but lately the idea of spending that kind of money to beam microwaves through the atmosphere has pretty much lost its appeal for me.

    We do need lots of observation and communications satellites to keep an eye on our planet in crisis and to link those in remote places into the global village.  Beyond that, we have ground-level problems aplenty to spend the money on.  Manned  space exploration isn't going to mitigate the impact of $100 oil on villages in Botswana, or even Indiana.

    The "mission to planet earth" stuff impressed the heck out of me.  finding lost cities, etc.
    Unless we can keep our numbers in check once they fall back to something sustainable, we're fucked.  And evolution does not favor keeping our numbers in check.  Successfully getting into space, and gaining access to more solar energy and the other resources in out solar system, is our only way out of this problem in the long run...not that it would support unbounded growth, but it would give us a LOT more maneuvering room than we have now.
    This contrasts starkly with Ray Kurzweil's notion of an imminent "Technological Singularity", a spritual/technological notion that a transcendence of the human condition through technology is both possible and desirable. Needless to say, Kurzweil disagrees vehemently with Huebner's conclusions.

    I recently read The Singularity is Near. While I disagree with a lot of what Kurzweil wrote, and he didn't even address the problem of future energy supplies, that book is mind-blowing. It gives you something to think about. Regardless of what happens with PO, there are certainly some interesting times ahead. But I have to wonder if someday Kurzweil won't wake up and think "Energy supplies....Should have thought more about that".



    The rate of major advances in physics tapered off in the 20th century. There was Einstein's special and general relativity, quantum physics, field theories, the "standard model" of subatomic partcle physics, and now (possibly) string theory. Most modern technology is based on discoveries in physics (solid-state electronics is based on quantum physics of semiconductors, nuclear technology is based on particle/atomic physics, etc.) Without new fundamental physics, where would the new technology come from? Really, the only major outstanding problem in physics is the unification of the gravitational force with the other known forces. (This is what is hoped for with string theory.) It seems that we are close to the "end of physics", therefore, the end of radically new technology. We will continue to refine and expand what we have (to the extent that we aren't limited by resource scarcity) but where are the great new technological innovations going to come from?

    The only hope might be a big advance in fusion technology which allows cheap abundant energy, or some theoretical breakthrough in string theory (or some competing model) which gives us a much deeper physical insight and could lead to radical new technologies. At present, neither of these possibilities seem likely.

    I started contemplating what the fundamental advances of the last one hundred years were.  I could come up with three: QM, DNA and HTTP - one each for the physical, biological and social spheres.  That just doesn't seem like a lot for a species that's supposedly smarter than bacteria.
    I was dealing specifically with physics. Its apparent that advances in physics in, say, the last 50 years, are very modest in comparison to the breakthroughs of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Physics is over. I believe there is still more progress to be made in the biological sciences, but its not obvious to me how that will help our energy situation and/or global warming.

    Someone joked once that we would soon reach a point where the rate at which library shelf space that is filled with scientific journals would soon exceed the speed of light.  

    This wouldn't violate the laws of relativity however as there would be no information being transmitted.

    You are quite far off the mark − it's simply that you are not aware of the relevant advances.  Science is continuing to move forward at a tremendous pace.  If I said "negative refraction" or "magic mode-locking" you would probably look at me as quixotically as if you said "atom bomb" to someone in 1944 or "laser" in 1960.  
    Nonsense. Negative refraction and magic mode-locking are simply extensions of existing technology. They're not even in the same league as the discovery nuclear fission or coherent light.
    Sometimes quality is more important than quantity.  Read "The Eighth Day of Creation" by Horace Freeland Judson if you want to appreciate what was involved in the discovery of DNA.  What a journey!
    There's some low-hanging fruit about how the nervous system really works still to be picked, as well as historical (worldview) consequences of DNA mapping everyone.  When Darwin finally sinks in after about the same 300 years it took Galileo to sink it, the social consequences of already-finished science will be very great.  
    We dont need any major new physics to make very usefull technological advances. There is plenty left to do in biotechnology, different kinds of nanotechnology and in handling information. We do for instance not yet know how our brain and our mind works.

    This could lead to new ways of gathering energy, much more efficient ways of using energy and enourmous cultural changes that could challange our old notions of what it is to be human and what life and death is. There is physical "room" for very intresting things, if we work on it.

    I would have thought the highest priority, applied technology breakthrough we need is the male contraceptive pill.

    If men get to choose which genes are preferred [and when], we may just dig ourselves out of this mess

    I see the rate problem as the inability of the world's 5,000,000,000 poor people to improve the technology they can't afford. It's among the affluent 1 billion where innovation is occuring.  The difference between the rich and poor in 1873 was much smaller than now.

    I guess I would look at it this way.  The affluent 1 billion are for the most part uninterested in developing things that are affordable and practical for the remaining 5 billion.  There simply isn't any money in it, so instead they 'innovate' by developing new ipods and cellphones and all that rot.

    Technologies that are practical for the 3rd world might be things like solar cookers that are easily made with materials that are available in the 3rd world.  It would eliminate the need to collect firewood, and reduce pressures on deforestation.  At least for a while - increasing human population would eventually overwhelm any ecosystem.

    Except, of course, Bill Gates.  He's going to find a cure for malaria so the 5 billion can become 8 billion.
    That's an amazingly cruel and thoughtless comment.
    The evidence is pretty clear that as a society improves child mortality and becomes more prosperous and educated they slow there birthrate.
    Yet it is historically accurate. Families don't immediately "downsize" and we've seen large families in the first world nations as they became wealthier especially in the first few generations as the wealth has come into play. The smaller family effect is a trailing edge effect after a generation or two so a jump from 5 billion to 8 billion would be entirely within reason.
    Not only within reason but probable. My grandfather that was born in 1896 was born in a world with 1 billion people. The US was 50% farm population and suffering from a heck of a lot of non-cureable diseases. He had 9 brothers and sisters.
      He got an education and received a Bachelor's in 1921. He had two children, but by the time my father and aunt became adults of breeding age in the late 1940's the world population had doubled to 2 billion. I reached breeding age in about 1970 when the world's population was about 4 billion. My one child is now 18 and, thank god, I'm not a grandfather yet, but by the time he has grown children the world will probably have 12 billion people, and our current 6 billion is destroying the world. Oh sh*t.But,to change as my family has done the world needs prosperity and education and quickly.
      I know the moron above is a right-wing troll. But his evil b.s. needs to be called what it is, evil,stupid and simplistic. If we don't identify narcicsistic BS they think that its all right.
    Bill Gates is simply applying his money to a goal where his "charitable" works can seem to be effective and his name revered.  As far as I'm concerned, that's vanity.  Wiping out malaria could easily be one of the worst things for this planet, people included.  As I understand it, malaria is a major factor that keeps large sections of rainforest from being settled.  I suppose you think making all the sections of the world now plagued by malaria habitable is a good thing.  Whatever!
    Exactly. It's a question of taking knowledge from basic research and applying them, and that, inevitably, revolves around social choice. The pyramids were built because the Pharoahs commanded that they should be built. The US went tot he moon because the Russians might get there first. Older men can now screw regularly because they pay a lot for the privledge.

    It's all a matter of priorities.

    There are apparently a bunch of people out there who are convinced that the rate of innovation is slowing drastically.

    Basically, people who believe this do not have an accurate sense of time.

    I think you are incorrect.  

    There were commercial plane flights about a decade after the Wright Brother first flew.  Not so with spaceflight.  Why?  Because the problems are harder to solve.  

    Tainter takes a quantitative approach, as much as possible.  He looks at the number of patents granted, for example:

    He also considers the money companies spend on R&D vs. the payback on their investment, and the benefits of medicine.  

    The declining productivity of the United States health care system illustrates clearly the historical development of a problem-solving field. Rescher (1980) points out: Once all of the findings at a given state-of-the-art level of investigative technology have been realized, one must move to a more expensive level.... In natural science we are involved in a technological arms race: with every victory over nature the difficulty of achieving the breakthroughs which lie ahead is increased.

    The declining productivity of medicine is due to the fact that the inexpensive diseases and ailments were conquered first (the basic research that led to penicillin costing no more than $20,000), so that those remaining are more difficult and costly to resolve (Rescher 1978). And as each increasingly expensive disease is conquered, the increment to average life expectancy becomes ever smaller.

    Note that this does not literally mean the end of science.  It's more like "peak science."  Yes, there will always be more knowledge out there.  But it will be more difficult to extract, and more difficult to turn into a useful form.  If it weren't, it would have already been discovered.

    It doesn't show me a very good understanding of technology to give me that spacecraft line.  Spaceflight is relatively simple.  That's demonstrated by the fact that manned flight was possible with 1950's technology.  You are confusing technology with cost, and perhaps even energy ;-).

    How many joules does it cost to lift my body (and a suitable container) up out of the gravity well?

    Why the heck would you assume that 'free energy' would show up to solve that?

    (the per capita stuff proves nothing at all about total rate of innovation.  in fact, it hide it.  more engineers (a good thing) dilutes the per capita messurement.)

    You are confusing technology with cost, and perhaps even energy ;-).

    No.  I am arguing that cost and energy are integral parts of technology.

    more engineers (a good thing) dilutes the per capita messurement.)

    Why?  If discoveries are infinite and equally accessible, shouldn't more scientists and engineers mean more patents?  

    I think you were going to show for me that innovation was slowing ...

    Not that costs for certain actions (spaceflight) remain high.

    Not that "discoveries are infinite and equally accessible"

    I think the point is that the marginal benefit of innovations, whether economic in the case of technology, or effect on the discipline in the case of science, is and has been declining.
    I might be willing to discuss that with you, but we should clear the original question first:

    Puzzled, he undertook some research of his own. He began to study the rate of significant innovations as catalogued in a standard work entitled The History of Science and Technology. After some elaborate mathematics, he came to a conclusion that raised serious questions about our continued ability to sustain progress. What he found was that the rate of innovation peaked in 1873 and has been declining ever since. In fact, our current rate of innovation -- which Huebner puts at seven important technological developments per billion people per year -- is about the same as it was in 1600. By 2024 it will have slumped to the same level as it was in the Dark Ages, the period between the end of the Roman empire and the start of the Middle Ages.

    The article above refers to a study by James Huebner (more here), which divides the rate of innovation by the current U.S. population:

    Huebner used two measures of innovation, the 7,200 major innovations listed in "The History of Science and Technology" and the number of patents granted in the United States. He plotted the first against world population and then divided the number of patents granted in each decade by the U.S. population.

    Now, I think he's done is make a sneaky semantic definition that "innovation" must be "per population."

    I don't get that.  Consider the mental experiment in which an island nation is composed of 100 scientists, each producing one innovation per year.  Add another 100 scientists, you get another 200 innovations per year, but per Huebner you'd be "flat."

    It's gets interesting if you add yet another 100 scientists (100 more innovations) and 300 gardeners (the place had been getting overgrown).  Whoops, per Huebner the "innovation" just dropped by half (even though it went up in real terms).

    ... so I call B.S. on dividing by innovation.  It only has any kind of interest if you aesthetic/moral goal is to get everyone in your population involved in innovation (no more lifeguards!!!!).

    oops, B.S. on dividing by population, of course.
    I do think that the quantity of fundamental breakthroughs is in decline, but I have to agree with Odograph that this analysis technique is rather slanted.

    1. True genius, which leads to dramatic discontinuous innovation, if freakishly rare. We don't often get a Copernicus, da Vinci, or Einstein. Looking at this on a per-capita basis won't show us much. But it only takes one innovation by a Sabin or Salk to start vaccinating the whole world.

    2. Dividing by population calculates the likelihood that any one person will innovate, but it obscures the total amount of innovation. With population essentially flat in the high-tech western countries (excluding immigration), and growing in education-deprived countries, it is pretty clear that you will train fewer scientists per capita worldwide, leading to fewer innovations per capita. Your country may vary.

    3. Innovation quality is hard to measure, but quantity is up. Total US patents granted have increased steadily:
             1963      48,971     (18% foreign)    to
             2004    181,302     (48% foreign)

    source: http://www.uspto.gov/go/taf/us_stat.pdf

    That's interesting that he was dividing by population to get his "decline". Even if that's true, as the population of scientists and engineers increases, innovation in absolute terms can be expected to accelerate.

    The big news in this regard is China. We talk a lot here about China's economic growth in terms of its impact on the energy situation, but I know in my field we are seeing an enormous emerging effect from Chinese research. More and more papers are appearing with fundamental breakthroughs from Chinese institutions.

    For generations, a billion Chinese have been trapped in feudal conditions, living as primitive peasants one step from starvation. Now, at last, China's economy is improving, and one of the major effects of this is that millions of potentially brilliant researchers are being saved from lives of back-breaking labor and allowed to work up to their intellectual potential.

    I believe we are going to see a tremendous burst of creativity and discovery as a quarter of the human race is finally allowed to bring its intellectual powers to bear on the problems we face. Millions of potential Chinese Einsteins and Newtons will finally be able to offer their gifts to the human race, just when we need them most.

    We tend to fall into the trap here of thinking of people as just a cost, a drag, mouths to feed and needs to fill. What we forget is that, on average, people produce more than they consume. The riches we see around us are thanks to hundreds and thousands of years of people doing just that. As China steps up to the international plate it, too, will not be a net cost to humanity, but a net boon, perhaps the greatest we have ever seen.

    "I believe we are going to see a tremendous burst of creativity and discovery as a quarter of the human race is finally allowed to bring its intellectual powers to bear on the problems we face."

    Could be.  It'll be interesting to see how the Culture(s) of China develop at this point..  I wonder how much innovation comes with new freedoms, or whether it grows with need, such as we seem to be heading into..  Is Necessity the Mother of Invention?

    I think that we have missed something here.  It is all the safety devices that exist that are allowing the stupid to survive and deluting the ratio of inovation.
    The word is spelled with two "n"s. In --as coming from within. Nova --as in new. And then -tion for nominalizing the verb form, innovate.

    Diluting comes from the simpler root: to dilute.

    There is no evidence that mental ability is a major selective trait. At the time they procreate, most 20-something humans are not yet using the the neocortical part of their brains for selection of an appropriate mate. It's more of a sniff test.

    Just about every huan being "invents". It's no big deal. The issue is more so, what specifically do you invent?

    Important discoveries in physics have been slowing.  Without new physics, where will the technological breakthroughs come from? Certainly we will have technological advances based on current science (the internet is a good example), but the really dramatic breakthroughs like electricity, radio, solid-state electronics, nuclear technology, etc., seem less likely.

    On the other hand, Stephen Hawking has used Godel's incompleteness theorem to argue that physics will never be complete:

    Gödel and the end of physics

    As Leanan says above, what we're seeing may be "Peak Science".  The major breakthroughs you cite are the Ghawars and Burgans of science.  They were easy to find, and yielded "light sweet crude" ideas.  To torture the metaphor a little further, we're now doing a lot of a lot of tertiary recovery in science - essentially optimizing our processes with enhanced technology to wring the last benefits out of the existing wells of knowledge (e.g. making more powerful processors by reducing feature sizes rather than using any new underlying scientific principles).

    While Hawking is right, in science as in the oil industry production rate is a crucial consideration.  If we need two huge new scientific ideas a century to keep our civilization going, and we only get one, we're in a pickle.  Developing a bunch of small technological improvements on existing concepts is like drilling more infill wells in a depleting field.  We all know how much that helps.

    How isolated do you think "the majors" in physics were in time?  This is what I meant in my frst comment ... those things evolved over a century, but there is this natural human tendancy to compress such ancient history into the blink of an eye.

    Einstein published his first paper in 1905.  It forty years later that the whole bomb thing capped the story.

    ... but forty years (BLINK!) it's all one thing to someone looking back at the great "moments" in physics.

    During those 40 years there were tremendous developments in physics, notably quantum theory, discoveries of atomic structure and subatomic particles, development of semiconductors, analog electronics, radio, telephone, etc. The first half of the 20th century was an incredibly fertile period for scientific discovery. Advances in physics are just not happening at that pace anymore.
    And the 40 years now is seeing an equivalent explosion around molecular biology.

    You arent' making some claim that the same fields have to explode over and over again are you?

    No, I agree. This is the time for the biological sciences to make their big advances. I'm just saying that the fundamental discoveries in physics seem to be winding down. Books have been written about the "end of physics".
    I found some growth in physics ;-)


    Growth in 'nanotube' patents.

    Nanotech has been trumpeted as the next big thing, but it's based entirely on existing physics, same as the internet and modern consumer electronics. Thats fine, but no real breakthrough for physics. For that matter, has anyone yet seen any new product based on nanotechnology? Plenty of horror stories about the dangers though (biological and environmental dangers, the possibility of cheap, ubiquitous weapons or surveillance, etc.)

    Now, if physics were to finally unify gravity and quantum theory, that would be a breakthough.

    If we started this thread on general "innovation" by the human species, why would we want to narrow that now to "existing physics?"

    A lot of the nano stuff spans physics and chem, but as an old chem major I wouldn't say that "de-innovates" the inventions.  Everything is based on something older.

    Really, I think you retreat into a tautology.  We can never invent the things we've already invented.  We've got to move on.

    BTW, have they stopped giving Nobel prizes in physics?  That might convince me that it is done ;-)

    General nanotechnology patents:


    I think, as the graph suggests, "peak science" was in the mid '40s to mid-'50s.  

    I'm reminded of an article that appeared in the LA Times.  It was called Utopia lost.  The author, Andrew Yarrow, bemoans America's loss of optimism:

    AMERICA HAS never been richer, but it once was much more optimistic -- even utopian -- about its future.

    In 1956, Fortune magazine published "The Fabulous Future," a book of essays by luminaries forecasting a nation of technological and economic wonders by 1980. Adlai Stevenson spoke of "the most extraordinary growth any nation or civilization has ever experienced." George Meany predicted "ever-rising" living standards. And David Sarnoff gushed, "There is no element of material progress we know today that will not seem from the vantage point of 1980 a fumbling prelude."

    That same year, that wild utopian, Richard Nixon, then vice president in the Eisenhower administration, heralded a 30-hour, four-day workweek "in the not too distant future." Gallup polls found that only 3% of the population questioned whether the nation was enjoying "good times," and just 8% doubted that the good times would keep getting better indefinitely.

    From the end of the Korean War to the peak of the Vietnam War, American media trumpeted a utopian future. A 1953 issue of Time predicted that a newborn would be twice as wealthy by her high school graduation and that a worker 100 years in the future would produce in seven hours what he now produced in 40. In 1954, Life magazine predicted a technotopia of jets, computers, color TVs, superhighways and doubled living standards by 1976. In 1959, Newsweek predicted that the 1960s would bring short workweeks, automatic highways and self-operating lawnmowers.

    Someone named Martha Voght wrote the following response:

    Andrew L. Yarrow, in "Utopia lost" (Opinion, Feb. 25), describes the rosy forecasts about America's economic future made during the 1950s and wonders what has happened to our sense of optimism. He ignores one forecast that turned out to be correct -- geologist M. King Hubbert's prediction in 1956 that U.S. oil production would peak in the early 1970s. Hubbert was widely dismissed as an alarmist, but production in the Lower 48 states began to decline after 1970. Is it a coincidence that Americans' happiness index peaked between 1965 and 1973?

    Geologist Kenneth Deffeyes has applied Hubbert's methods to world oil production and arrived at a peak production date of 2005. Any authors of "utopian dreams" better include a long chapter on alternative energy sources.

    Whether they know about peak oil or not, Americans intuitively understand that things are different now.  We are not going to be staying in hotels on the moon or taking a flying car to work any time soon, as seemed so possible in the '50s.  

    Things are very different now, but I think those quotes open the discussion to more than simple technological innovation.

    I wouldn't want to confabulate economic factors with the fundimental question of whether innovtion is slowing.

    I wouldn't want to confabulate economic factors with the fundimental question of whether innovtion is slowing.

    And I don't it is possible to separate them.  Economic factors are the reason innovation is slowing.

    Tainter's The Collapse of Complex Societies is essentially an economic argument.

    Huebner used patents as a measure of innovation.

    If a separate measure were not available he would not be able to do his comparisons of innovation relative to population or investment.

    So, of course the are separable.  Otherwise there would not be two axes on those graphs.

    Here are a couple graphs showing biotech patents and drug approvals growing pretty soundly over the last few decades:


    And here are the overall patent statistics 1963-2004:


    In absolute terms, they are going up.

    there is no 'low hanging fruit' in bio-tech science.
    to enter you need a multi-million to multi-billion dollar facility and stock it with people who spent about half a decade in school dedicated to a specific function of said lab.
    so basically bio-tech further proves the theory rather then disproving it, otherwise someone like me could set up a bio-tech lab in his basement on 1,000 dollars or less.
    Again, we were talking about the rate of innovation, not ROI.

    ROI is actaully complicated because in a competitive market people will be overspending to get an innovation days ealier than their opponent, and nab the patent.

    The final days of the human genome race provide a case in point:


    Yes, that's it's exactly.  The days are gone when monks growing peas in their gardens can make significant discoveries.  That's what I mean by "peak science."  It's taking more and more investment for less and less return.  It's not sustainable.

    As Tainter put it, an increase in spending on R&D of 4.2% yields an improvement of only 2%. At that rate, even if every one of us becomes a scientist or engineer, we'll be losing ground.

    When a company sets itself up to spend a million dollars and invent a widget Foo.  The total societal ROI is one Foo for $1M.  But what if, in a competitive market economy, 5 other companies set up to race for Foo, each spending $1M?  Someone reaches the goal, and patents Foo.  Their company ROI is still low, but society's ROI has dropped to one Foo for $6M.

    People (like the good Dr. above) who total US industrial R&D costs are totalling the costs of such battles.  The total of course does not represent the basic cost for the research.  It could still have been done for less, by one company.  The advantage of the race is that it presses the pace of course, and also that some other side-benefits might also be encountered sooner.

    And this does happen in the real world.  The "teams" racing for the human genome were one example.  In a more trivial field, how many companies design portable mp3 players?

    It's a great advantage of our system that we can do "lossy" research like this.  We have the resources to over-fund some areas, and gain from the resulting "races."  We are also fortunate that when the market does not provide an incentive, private foundations or governments may provide "X-prizes" to spur along such competitive effort.

    If you ask me a tech race is better than a production subsidy, by far.  Better to put up a $1B prize for a method to produce ethanol at some favorable EROEI/ROI than to drop much more than that to inefficient producers.

    You say physics and I answer molecular biology, or windsurfing, or kite surfing.

    Point cases aren't going to prove the general.  As bad as I think patents are as a general measure, they at least span many disciplines (including the trivial recreational ones that increasingly attract our attention ... there's a patent on the Super Soaker, right?)

    I agree that there will be further advances in the biological sciences. Perhaps those advances will solve peak oil and global warming (new strains of oil producing plants, C02 consuming bacteria???), but I'm not optimistic. I'm even less optimistic about breakthroughs in the physical sciences (practical fusion energy, free energy, etc.) that will give us a new source of clean, cheap, unlimited energy.
    I think that the historical context of this graph cannot be ignored when taking the whole concept of 'peak science' or 'peak ingenuity' into account.

    Look at the years. The huge jump is in 1944-1945, just at the end of World War II. That's when all of the companies who had developed technologies used in the war effort were able to patent their creations as they were declassified from solely military use. The big leap and decline directly following that might be related to the development of commercial applications for military technology. (Hey! This microwave radar thing makes my lunch get hot! Wild!)

    If you throw a rat into a tub of water, he will struggle and flail and do anything he can think of to get out of it. Humans are not that different -- you throw us into a situation where we know we are doomed, where we cannot deny it, when people are dropping bombs on our heads or our kids can't get food because the long haul trucks have stopped running...then we struggle. We flail. And we create, because that's what monkeys do. Grab sticks and start seeing what can be done.

    Of course, it helps to have a unified front or target to go after. The US in particular hasn't seen anything as unifying as WWII since that happened. Or possibly even before; it was a rather singularly clear sort of conflict.

    Unfortunately, as long as there is profit to be made on stringing along the oil dependent voters in the US, Big Energy is going to do their damndest to confuse the issue and make a unified effort to fix the problems we've gotten ourselves into all the more difficult. Which is why we, as the aware, have to do our damndest to get the signal through all of the noise that the Big Energy types are putting out. I honestly do think that we can win this fight, or at least go down with an effort to be proud of, if we can pull ourselves together long enough to raise our fists.

    Just my opinion. I must be feeling feisty today.

    Great post!

    Even cornucopian Marshall Brain (he does the "how it works" books) has lamented the lack of the "next big thing" that's kept the US economy growing. He says that through history, there have been huge advanced in technology that kept things going, the automobile in the teens and 20s, the new tech of WWII in the 40s, computers in the 60s and 70s and even 80s. He notes that "nanotech" and robotics have not become the Next Big Thing. Although the Internet certainly ranks up there with the car or radio as a society-changing technology.

    Of course, being a cornucopian, his viewpoint is our society simply runs on new ideas. Somehow, God or someone rewards humans with endless energy as long as we keep on coming up with new ideas. I should note that this is essentially the bedrock American belief about this matter. Little American scientists and engineers etc., as they're growing up, are indoctrinated with the idea that we live better now than people did in Europe in the 1600s because of our more liberal and enlightened ideas. The whole (excellent) series Cosmos by Carl Sagan is an extremely eloquent, well-done, and entertaining look at history from this viewpoint.

    All depends on what one means by "nanotech."  If you mean Drexlerian assemblers, then no, we're not even close.  But if you mean kick-ass litium ion batteries that will allow for a 200-mile/charge sedan that can be fully recharged in 6 minutes (as described in a Congressional hearing this week; see http://www.altairnano.com), or improved oil recovery, or vastly cheaper carbon fiber, then nanotech is zommin' right along.

    I've been saying for a long time over on my site that the two technological areas that will have a huge impact on our energy situation are nanotech (as above) and genetic engineering (cheaper, more efficient biofuels processing).  These are extremely high multiplier areas, where even a single, seemingly minor breakthrough can be scaled up to broad application and have a huge impact on world energy markets.

    They're not the "holy cow!" level of advancement like General Relativity or DNA, obviously, but I wouldn't trade them for anything right about now.

    Here's an article about a new nanotechnology that is said to be "revolutionary" and "disruptive" in terms of increasing oil production:


    World first technology to revolutionise oil production

    Nanotechnology to help extract more petrol from oil fields has been developed by researchers from The University of Queensland's Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN).

    With oil companies forced to leave behind as much as two barrels for every barrel of oil they produce, this revolutionary technology could help reduce the cost of supplying petrol to the market.

    Well, when you read the article it's kind of hard to see what they're so excited about. It's some kind of molecule that gives you greater control over emulsions, like mixtures of oil and water. I guess it is supposed to make water injection work better, but it's not clear how.

    Even if this is a case of a somewhat over-eager press release, it's clear that researchers are looking at energy problems in a new way. And with nanotech and biotech just coming out of the labs and into serious application, chances are we will in fact see significant enhancements in energy production. Whether they will really be revolutionary and disruptive remains to be seen, but the potential is certainly there.

    I wish I had a nickel for every press release in which some scientist or research group trumpets their mediocre work as a "breakthrough". Their desire is to maintain their funding and so they have a vested interest in exaggerating the importance of their work. From reading the article, I would say that this is an extreme example of this activity. Turn oil and water into an emulsion is an example of "revolutionary" and "disruptive" technology? Give me a break.
    No offense intended, but I wish to hell I knew what people meant when they talk about "the techno-cornucopian position that we will be able to innovate our way out of the Peak Oil box."

    Is this the idea that technology will deliver us painlessly through the transition to a post-fossil fueled world?  Is it the belief that technology will just barely be able to keep modern industrialized civilization from crashing like the Hindenburg?  Or is it somewhere in between?

    My personal view is in the gray area between those extremes.  Technology will clearly play a huge role in our energy future, and we won't see a collapse of modern civilization or even the end of the suburbs, but we're still in for a lot of human and economic pain for a couple of decades, at least.

    What does that make me?  A techno-opti-pessimist?

    Dear techno-opti-pessimist:
      Just someone with a reasonable view. Some folks gleefully predict the collapse of western civilisation because they are chicken to look at their own mortality. The psychological term is projection. Some people whistle in the dark because they do not wish to examine their own behavior. And, some just sit at their computer keyboards and masturbate a lot.
      But, in these word about Peak Oil sometimes a little wisdom and humor arises from the collective unconciousness of the Human Race. But, the truth is I'm 54 and will probably be dead in 30 years, and most everyone posting will be dead in 50 or 60 years.Continuing along about the same is the most probable course with lots of improvements and lots of shocks.
    My definition of a techno-cornucopian is something along the lines of a guy I argue with on another board:  he firmly believes that electricity will seamlessly replace gasoline without a day's shortage in between, and it will all be generated by fusion reactors.  In his mind all we have to do is turn the free market loose on science, and happy days are here again.
    a guy I argue with on another board

    A guy like that needs to be reminded that:

    1. He is the free market
    2. He is the technology
    3. Necessity is now

    Let "him" therefore bring on to us all these fusion reaction marvels and seamless electrical salvations that he promises. We have complete faith in him. But even our most glorious leader Ronald Raygun said, "Trust, but verify". Now is the time for verification. Bring it on.
    But even our most glorious leader Ronald Raygun said, "Trust, but verify".

    Strange I thought Lenin said that first and it was used by Dzerdjinski afterwards. Makes me fall into the temptation of looking for similarities between those guys...

    I used to tell those guys that the market will give you lots of innovations, but there is no reason you can call them in advance.  There is no guarantee that you will get the specific dreams you desire.

    Maybe that relates to some of the up-thread comments.  Innovation does not equal dream fulfillment.  It just means adding to the technological base overall.

    The loss of optomism is because the free market has chosen to invest in the tried and true more than innovation. The free market open the floodgates of cheap foreign goods which resulted in lower real wages over the last 30 years. The free market has made the cost of housing a much larger percentage of those shrinking wages for half the population. The benefits of innovation are going to a smaller percentage of the population than 50 years ago. The free market has created a tolerance for underclass in America and has written off the continent of Africa as unneccesary to the world economy.  While corporate profits are at a record level we have a country that cannot afford healthcare for all its citizens and a decent education for all its children. Every social good has been sacrificed on the altar of the free market and they wonder what happened to optomism in America.
    the free market has chosen to invest in the tried and true more than innovation.

    First off, the "market" does not have a brain and therfore it does not choose to go one way or the other. Each businessman looks to optimize his return on dollars invested ($RO$I). If you had a tried-and-true way of making money versus a very risky possibility of making money, which way would you go?

    Most innvoavtions are a result of government subsidy. Industry rushes in at the end, after it has been proven (tried-and-truthified) that a given innovation will make money.

    If climate change is not our doom, perhaps our greatest asset right now is wise use of historical methods from all civilizaitons studied/documented.  (low-energy, low-tech solutions).  Also, if the internet is our crowning achievement, if we can continue that (at some level) to perpetuate the resources and information that we now have, our children will be better off than the cave man from Olduvai theory.  The problem, I see, is squandering of present resources and time on foolish pursuits instead of preparing for this.  (ethanol $, roads $, insane traffic etc)  I'd like to see some of that $ being spent on interconnected bike paths throughout the nation, rail, solar, wind generation.  The rich resources that we have now and will continue to have for some time could be used to prepare the best utopian low-energy society possible. New ideas are good, but they are no guarantee, so we need to use the best information we have currently.
    The interent is the long wished for "brain ampilfier" (and will become moreseo) - the only problem being that brains don't always get up to good, useful, productive, stuff.
    Terrorism Index

    While not directly energy-related, I find this piece of news well worth a read. It seems the most influential foreign policy analysts in America agree that the War On Terror is being lost and that the Bush administration has generally done a very bad job. Knowing how hard many Republicans tend to fight any suggestion of Bush being bad for the country, I'm really surprised even Republican analysts, including former Secretaries of State and National Security Advisors, acknowledge the current administration is not doing a good job.

    OTOH, it's remarkable how few of these analysts consider energy-related issues THE top priority.

    Several Reagan and Bush Sr. cabinet members have been highly critical of this Bush administration's foreign policy, handling of the war on terror, and of the Iraq situation for years now. This is not new but doesn't get the press coverage that a Democrat disagreeing with the president gets. Further, to demonstrate how divided the Republicans are and have been, right wing talk show hosts like Limbaugh have actively attacked old-time Reaganite Republicans who they previously held in high regard. Why? Because many of those Reaganites are still philosophically small government oriented and nowadays the Republicans are the party of big government.

    Personally, I am seeing the potential for a more centrist party to form as higher than anytime I can recall. The extremists in both main parties are dragging their parties further and further to the left and right respectively and there is a large centrist body that might reject them both. I think this is part of the Democrats current problem - Bush is so down in the polls that the Democrats should be soaring yet they are self-destructing instead (see the recent California governor's primary for an example).

    When I talk to people they often are not up to speed on root issues but everyone I know thinks energy is an issue and that we need to do more about it. Often the kneejerk reaction of BOTH liberal and conservative is that it is the fault of the oil companies but if I start explaining why it's not then they both state that we need to do something else then. I think there is a willingness there to look at new ideas and neither party is willing to try that, instead staying firmly in the embrace of suburban/automotive failing culture. Likewise on Iraq - the Democrats come across as peaceniks who want to run from every fight whether that is their intention or not. Most people now question the war in Iraq but do not question the need to be aggressive in fighting terrorism generally. Just those two issues might be enough to launch a centrist third party. If you throw in the rapidly growing national debt and maybe the bad effects of globalization, such a party could get populist backing as well and take off.

    Third party? Why not just have ONE political party in the USA? The reason the Democrats look so weak is because they have basically backed the Rethugs on everything. They are "rethug lite". The two parties are extremely close (both controlled by big money) and now you want to insert a third (centrist) party between them? Could be a tight fit.
    The time is ripe for the return of ROSS PEROT!!!! Just kidding...but I DO think an Independent could make a real dent next time around.
    3rd party will split the Dems again.  Repubs will continue their rule.
    I voted right the last time.  First time eligible to vote too.  I think I voted with the mindset that one day I'll be rich and I will be there so I might as well make sure it's ready for me.  Talk about backwards!  College happened and life changed.  I assume I'll have to keep my ideology to myself in the finance world though.  I just want to be a parasite and take my money and run (hyperbole).
    Isn't going to happen. The US' electoral instituions simply aren't conducive to the success of third parties. It's like trying to breed Cows in order to get them to fly. It's just not in the DNA.
    The formation of a third party does not mean this becomes a 3 party system. Remember the Whigs?

    A new party might destroy one of the other two and at the moment, I suspect it would be the Democrats (or Rethugs-lite as someone else called them).

    True. But I don't really see the Dems transforming them into something different any time soon.

    The Whigs emerged and died relatively early on in US political history at a time when our political institutions were just getting into stride, sectional divides (e.g. slavery) were real issues that could sustain third parties, and the mass media hadn't been invented yet.

    But who knows. Maybe the ferment on the left will lead to something chaning on the Democratic side.

    Seems voting in US national elections is a feel good exercise.

    Republican owned corporations make the voting machines. The machines use proprietary software to tabulate the vote - that is secret vote counts for public elections. See http://blackboxvoting.org/.

    Was the 2004 Election Stolen? --Rollingstone

    "But what is most anomalous about the irregularities in 2004 was their decidedly partisan bent: Almost without exception they hurt John Kerry and benefited George Bush. After carefully examining the evidence, I've become convinced that the president's party mounted a massive, coordinated campaign to subvert the will of the people in 2004. Across the country, Republican election officials and party stalwarts employed a wide range of illegal and unethical tactics to fix the election. A review of the available data reveals that in Ohio alone, at least 357,000 voters, the overwhelming majority of them Democratic, were prevented from casting ballots or did not have their votes counted in 2004(12) -- more than enough to shift the results of an election decided by 118,601 votes.(13) (See Ohio's Missing Votes) In what may be the single most astounding fact from the election, one in every four Ohio citizens who registered to vote in 2004 showed up at the polls only to discover that they were not listed on the rolls, thanks to GOP efforts to stem the unprecedented flood of Democrats eager to cast ballots.(14) And that doesn?t even take into account the troubling evidence of outright fraud, which indicates that upwards of 80,000 votes for Kerry were counted instead for Bush. That alone is a swing of more than 160,000 votes -- enough to have put John Kerry in the White House.(15)"

    <rant, recanted at the end>  I'm pretty sure I've witnessed the end of the Republic. Just as the totalitarians took over Rome, they have taken over our government. And it's both parties, too, The Demicans and the Republicrats. The real turning point was when the US media were consolidated under large national corporations, but the real culprit is television. When people sat on their porches and talked instead of watching the mind-numbing electron flow, when people went to see speeches as entertainment rather than listen to 30 second sound bites the level of discourse seemed  better.
      But, then again perhaps I'm seeing a lot of this through the the blinders of memory and desire. Fifty years ago or nation practiced apartheid, discounted women and the average educational standard was low. A hundred and fifty years ago our nation allowed men to beat and torture others in order to steal their labor and would not allow women to vote. Most people were illiterate by contemporary standards.
       The internet has allowed all of us to publish to a national audience self-selected to a group that actually can do something. And the totalitarians can't hire enough spies to keep up with all of us. So, to quote Monty Python frm "the Holy Grail":
        "Peasants! We're not Peasants! We're an Anarcho-Syndicalist Worker's collective!"
      The moral being, don't take yourself too seriously. God knows, the universe is laughing behind your back.
     Brian is writing a slogan on a wall, oblivious to the Roman patrol approaching from behind. The slogan is "ROMANES EUNT DOMUS".

        What's this thing? "ROMANES EUNT DOMUS"? "People called Romanes they go the house?"
        It... it says "Romans go home".
        No it doesn't. What's Latin for "Roman"?

    Brian hesitates

        Come on, come on!
        (uncertain) "ROMANUS".
        Goes like?
        Vocative plural of "-ANUS" is?
        (takes paintbrush from Brian and paints over) "RO-MA-NI". "EUNT"? What is "EUNT"?
        Conjugate the verb "to go"!
        "IRE". "EO", "IS", "IT", "IMUS", "ITIS", "EUNT".
        So "EUNT" is ...?
        Third person plural present indicative, "they go".
        But "Romans, go home!" is an order, so you must use the ...?

    He lifts Brian by his short hairs

        The ... imperative.
        Which is?
        Um, oh, oh, "I", "I"!
        How many Romans? (pulls harder)
        Plural, plural! "ITE".

    Centurion strikes over "EUNT" and paints "ITE" on the wall

        "I-TE". "DOMUS"? Nominative? "Go home", this is motion towards, isn't it, boy?
        (very anxious) Dative?

    Centurion draws his sword and holds it to Brian's throat

        Ahh! No, ablative, ablative, sir. No, the, accusative, accusative, ah, DOMUM, sir.
        Except that "DOMUS" takes the ...?
        ... the locative, sir!
        Which is?
        (satisfied) "DOMUM"...

    He strikes out "DOMUS" and writes "DOMUM"

        ..."-MUM". Understand?
        Yes sir.
        Now write it down a hundred times.
        Yes sir, thank you sir, hail Caesar, sir.
        (saluting) Hail Caesar. If it's not done by sunrise, I'll cut your balls off.
        (very relieved) Oh thank you sir, thank you sir, hail Caesar and everything, sir!

    ... This calls for immediate Discussion!

      I also loved The Life Of Brian.Whats really interesting is that both scenes from those movies show us something about the debate. The first quote puts our debates in a real prospective-even if we are great theorists and economic and political philosophers, we still have to wrest a living out of the mud while most people think we are rediculus. So slop a little mud around!
      The second scene shows how the establishment goons handle our criticism. They find some little flaw-say not being to pin down Hubbert's Peak Oil to a definite minute on which Tuesday of which month to completely ignore the message that the earth has a finite amount of fossil fuel and we need to prepare. And Brian is distracted from the real thread of his arguement(Romans go home) to worry about the grammar. And the slavish response to that kind of pedagogy remains universal. We are,in  fact, conditioned and unfree. Oh sh*t, now I've done it, intellectualised something funny into a moral and political lesson! Maybe my faith in the blood of Brian will save me!
    Blessed are the cheesemakers? What? Must be some kind of dairy subsidy.
    RE: China plans to fill cars with ethanol made from tapioca.

    The region will build ethanol plants with a combined annual capacity of 1.0 million tonnes to deal with a fuel shortage, Xinhua news agency quoted Pan Wenfeng, an official with the Guangxi development and reform commission, as saying.

    "to deal witha  fuel shortage"

    Why is there a fuel shortage?  Hello, SA where's all that lovely oil nobody want's to buy?  China would like some...


    There could be another story here, Guangxi is a very poor, agricultural province and sometimes gets left to sink or swim on its own.
    From The Dallas Morning News:

    Venezuelan President May Be Behind $3-a-Gallon Gas

    By Jim Landers, The Dallas Morning News

    Jun. 15--CARACAS, Venezuela -- President Hugo Chavez might be the reason you're paying nearly $3 a gallon for gasoline instead of $2 or even less.

    The conventional explanation for today's high oil prices involves sharp increases in demand in the United States, China and India that collided with production cuts and instability in Iraq, Nigeria and Iran.

    But oil analysts here, both supporters and foes of Mr. Chavez, say the Venezuelan leader deserves the credit (or blame, depending on your perspective) for $70-a-barrel oil.

    "If we'd stayed with the pre-Chavez policies, we'd be pumping now 7 million barrels a day, and the price would obviously not be as high as $70," said Elio Ohep, editor of Petroleumworld.com, a Caracas Internet journal.

    Venezuela's current oil production is disputed (for reasons discussed below) but is variously estimated at between 2.5 million and 3.1 million barrels a day.

    So, Venezuela says they could produce another 4 million barrels a day. But, they have no intentions of doing so.


    And I was worried, that sure is good news![sarcasm]
    4 million barrels/day of improved asphalt.

    It would certainly take the cost pressure off of the budgets of Public Works Departments around the country.  And shopping mall owners might not be postponing needed repairs to their parking lots.

    Oh, the heavy oil can certainly be upgraded into something usable. The economics of this have been pretty attractive, but the investment prospects down there are a bit risky, as some oil companies have recently discovered.

    They are certainly sitting on an enormous quantity of heavy oil, which makes you wonder what the U.S. might do as oil prices start to strain our economy to the breaking point. They have oil. We "need" oil. We might decide that we are in a similar position to Japan circa 1940.


    There has not been time since Chavez took power to build the speciality refineries required to process their "improved asphalt" into anything other than asphalt.

    I was told by a native of Trindad that the roads department there just goes down to their asphalt lake and picks up (speciality equipment) goo from their asphalt lake and lays it on the roads after heating.  It takes longer to dry & firm up than what he has seen here. but it makes quite servicable roads unprocessed.

    So, IMHO, an extra 4 million barrels a day from Venezula today could not be used for much beyond road repairs.

    You are right, that "today" it wouldn't be of much use. My impression was that the original article meant that had the investments been made, or if they were to be made, they could be producing another 4 million bpd of usable oil. But some of that heavy stuff is being upgraded and processed in the U.S.

    Incidentally, speaking of Venezuela, several years ago I decided to try my hand at writing fiction. The premise for my story was an ice age triggered by an influx of cold water from the melting polar ice caps that disrupts the warm water ocean currents. Over the course of a few years, Canada, the northern U.S., and northern Europe all start to get colder, and ice begins to accumulate. At one time, where New York City stands today was under about a mile of ice. I believe it is only a matter of time before this situation occurs again.

    I then fleshed out the ramifications. First, the northern U.S. would migrate south, causing the typical problems we see when a massive number of refugees migrate to a new location. Picture New York City displaced into the very conservative Bible Belt. The Alaskan and Canadian oil fields eventually disappear under the ice, cutting us off from very valuable oil supplies. As our oil supplies are constricted, we turn our eyes south, to Venezuela. We ultimately decide that we have no choice but to invade and take over their oil fields, or watch the U.S. regress to a pre-industrial living standard.

    I eventually gave up the project for 2 reasons. First, as an engineer, I realized I can't write fiction. While Anne Rice can fill up 2 pages describing a room, I tend to be too concise. I once read a Michael Crichton book, and I rewrote the first chapter from memory. It took me about 10% of the space it took him. At that point, I realized I just can't stretch my writing enough to write a decent-sized book. The other thing that killed it was that the movie The Day After Tomorrow came out about a year after I started working on the book. The story line wasn't exactly the one I was developing, but it was close enough that I decided that the subject had been covered.


    As an author who writes fiction I can understand your problem  I am great with poems and great filling the page up with imagery, but conversations kill me, I have to work and work on them.  I also had a SciFi novel Idea that was about climate change.  The aliens were able to cut big cubic mile blocks of ICE out of our Polar region Glaciers and deposit them in the deserts all over the world.  I still ahve not worked out the climate they wanted to create earth into for themselves.  But The charactors in it were from previous stories and in the end the earth is saved still,  except for the small fresh water lakes in the deserts.

    Everytime I get a great Idea i find out that its a TV series or a movie and I just bid my time and shelf it.

    Writting about the end of the world as we know it in and around Peak Oil has been a back burner project of mine.

    I think you and Robert are missing a key point about science fiction - it's not the science, it's the story. Don't be afraid to reuse an existing scenario because someone else has used it. What matters is the human story inside that scenario. Science fiction simply gives authors more scenarios than regular fiction in which to place their characters and thus build the human story.
    RR -

    Indeed, for those who think that the prospects of a global war over oil is the unrealistic fantasy of some nervous nellies, it might do well to refresh one's memory regarding what really triggered WW II in the Pacific.

    Prior to onset of WW II Japan was almost totally dependent on oil imports from the US, which at the time was one of the worlds largest oil exporters. To intimidate Japan into halting its ongoing aggression in China, on August 1, 1941 FDR slapped a total oil embargo on Japan.

     Both Japan and the US knew that Japan had roughly a six-month supply of oil left. As such, Japan felt it had no choice but to sieze the oil fields of the Netherlands East Indies (now Indonesia). A little over four months after FDR announced the oil embargo, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor as part of their strategy of neutralizing the US Pacific fleet while they consolidated and secured their advances on Indonesia and the rest of SE Asia.

    While Japan rather dramatically committed the first overt act of war in the Pacific, arguably FDR actually made that war inevitable by placing an oil embargo on Japan.  (Of course, we might very well have eventually gotten into a war with Japan over something else, but that is beside the point.)

    So, we do have a very real predecent for a war being caused (at least in part) over access to oil.

    I would bet good money that the Pentagon has all sorts of contingency plans for siezing the major oil fields in time of crisis.

    While Japan rather dramatically committed the first overt act of war in the Pacific, arguably FDR actually made that war inevitable by placing an oil embargo on Japan.  (Of course, we might very well have eventually gotten into a war with Japan over something else, but that is beside the point.)

    Well, that oil embargo wouldn't have been imposed at all had Japan refrained from tear-assing around Asia, looking for the shit. The rape of Nanking didn't exactly go over well here.

    I'm not an apologist for the Japanese at all, but they were just following the footsteps of England and France before them, and thinking they were more justified because they were at least Asian. All colonization involved unspeakable cruelty, including by the European powers. England attacked China because the Chinese govt was trying to stop the lucrative English opium trade to their country from South Asia.
    Yes, but the root cause of the war was Japanese imperialism, not oil per se.
    Prodigal Son -

    Or one might also say that Japanese imperialism in Asia was beginning to interfere with American, British, French, and Dutch imperialism and therefore had to be stopped.

    One might also ask: Would there have been a Pearl Harbor if FDR had not imposed the oil embargo on Japan? Maybe, maybe not. My own thinking is that sooner or later we were going to get into a war with Japan over one thing or another.  

     I do think there's a lot of truth to the accusation that FDR was trying to provoke the Japanese into firing the first shot so that he would have a justification for implementing his main goal: to enter the war against Hitler and thus save the ass of our 'ol chums, the Brits. FDR had to have known that embargoing oil would be the last straw for the Japanese.

    The oil embargo wasn't the only provocation, and it appears that FDR was deliberately trying to make our relations with Japan worse rather than better.

    And as far as the Rape of Nanking is concerned, the Japanese did not have a monopoly on committing atrocities in Asia. I suggest you look into what the US was doing to Filipinos during the Philippine Insurrection in the early 1900s, a little episode in our history that many Americans aren't even aware of.  

    Or one might also say that Japanese imperialism in Asia was beginning to interfere with American, British, French, and Dutch imperialism and therefore had to be stopped.

    Fair enough. I should have said they were trying to upset the imperial status quo.  

    And as far as the Rape of Nanking is concerned, the Japanese did not have a monopoly on committing atrocities in Asia. I suggest you look into what the US was doing to Filipinos during the Philippine Insurrection in the early 1900s, a little episode in our history that many Americans aren't even aware of.

    Of course. All empires commit atrocities to control the periphery. Rome makes deserts and call them peace -- that's what empires do. There were, however, important degrees of difference between Japanese imperialism and Western imperialism. It might be described as the difference between being held prisoner by a man who is going to rape you versus someone who is going to rape and then kill you.

    It goes back to Teddy Roosevelt deciding to keep the Phillipines and letting Cuba go. Cuba could have easily been directed into joining the Union.  If the Americans hadn't been in the Phillipines Japan would have an easy path to Indonesia and kept us out of the war for maybe a few more months.
    Hm... would we have declared war on Hitler after Pearl Harbor, if he hadn't declared war on us first? Or would we have focused on Japan for a year or two and perhaps even taken some pressure off Hitler?


    Read Robert Stinnett's Day of Deceit . After reading it I realized the significance of PNAC's referring to a "catalyzing event", a new "Pearl Harbor" to get the ball rolling regarding the present madness.
    I was reading Yergin's chapter on exactly this in The Prize last night.  (He's a great historian, anyway.) I hadn't realized how completely the military operations in WWII were centered around oil. It just had never occurred to me to wonder why the battles were in the Phillippines, North Africa, and Stalingrad.  I liked the bit about Miami refusing to turn off its lights, which made it easy for U-boats to target oil tankers, because it would hurt the tourist industry (p 375).  And the detail that absolute maximum crash wartime emergency petroleum conservation finally got Americans to drive 30% less (p 381).  And the rather mindblowing fact that maximum Nazi synthoil production  with fullscale slave labor and their entire empire resting on it was less than 100,000 barrels a day (p 347).        
    Easier to enginner a coup/revolution and pay of the elite to do our bidding. That's what happens elsewhere. Actually invade and, well, peple tend to shoot at you.
    engineer. Damn typo!
    And the demonization of Chavez continues.  It all seems so sadly familiar.
    You've got to be kidding me. They quote this guy like he's for real? 7mb? They'd have cured AIDS and got to Mars too, right?
    I entirely agree. That claim is ridiculous and is based on the demonization of Chavez, as was just noted by GliderGuider. However, there are legitimate disputes about how much Venezuela is producing right now. These may be politically motivated but it's tough to get reliable data out of there lately.

    The rule of thumb is "when times get tough, find a scapegoat".

    and when we kill that scapegoat we point to another untill there is nothing left but to blame ourselves.
    Chavez went from a 1% royalty on heavy crude to a 16.6667% royalty. Not very onerous compared to the Saudi's crude contract history. At least he lets US independents get an occasional concession.
      The demonization of this is extremely reminiscent of what happened in Mexico during the 1930's. According to the history I was taught at Mirabeau B. Lamar H.S. in Houston, Cardenas stole the oil wells of the long suffering US companies without compensation, the commie rat bastard. The history is a little different. After the revolution the oil companies "suspensed", or stopped paying for the oil that they were producing and Herbert Hoover sent the Marines in to Tampico. This was our third invasion of Mexico in a 90 year period. Cardenas "nationalised" the oil and the Mexican Constitution was amended to exclude foreign ownership of the oil industry, and Mexico was boycotted for thirty years by American and British oil companies.
       Chavez's attitude might be colored a little by knowing this history, as well as seeing the Cuban embargo because the Mafia lost their whorehouses and casinos to the commie bastard. Or remembering the 2002 "coup" against him by the CIA/NSA.
    I was waiting for a drumbeat to post but I wanted to continue working on the BP excel data.

    This may be a stupid question but can someone explain to me why 2005 total world oil consumption is greater (82.5 Mbbl/d) than total world oil production (81.0 Mbbl/d) in the spreadsheet.

    Is this an accounting error or a rounding error?

    It could be that the world is starting to use strategic reserves.
    Perhaps they take into account the consumption of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve?  I don't know if thy consider th storage of the oil as consumption but they do once we release it, which we did after Katrina and Rita.
    I think they count refinery gains as consumption, but not as production.
    Carbon taxes anyone?

    Quebec takes some action

    QUEBEC -- Quebec plans to adopt tough vehicle emissions standards and will become the first province to levy a "carbon tax" on oil and gas companies as part of an ambitious plan to fight global warming.

    The tax will raise about $200-million a year over six years, provincial government officials said yesterday, and will finance a $1.2-billion Green Fund to make reductions in greenhouse gas emissions called for under the international Kyoto accord.

    Environmental groups welcomed the measures, but a petroleum industry spokesman said the tax will be passed on to consumers.

    Quebec Premier Jean Charest and Environment Minister Claude Béchard said that from 2006 to 2012, the province will tax oil and gas companies for hydrocarbon products sold in bulk to retailers -- non-renewable fossil fuels such as heavy oil, gas, natural gas and propane.

    Given that Canada's "Governor Harper" has backed away from a federal committment to Kyoto, it's good to see a province putting a stake in the ground.

    I prefer Lapdog Harper (or Lapdog Jr.).
    Yep, this is taking most front pages available here and much news.

    They still wont talk about PO but the tax is certainly a good thing anyway.  Charest made that comment about how much of that tax would be passed to consumers : "This is an opportunity for Oil companies to show that they are taking good steps in showing that they are doing their part for solving the Global Warming problem."

    They did that plan because the Federal gov wouldnt reconize what was done previously and the fact that we produce most of our electricity with Hydro (95 - 98%)

    The plan is broad and include incentive to build commuting rails and bus lines.  I havent had the time to read the plan altough.  

    I will read it because I will use what's in it for making changes for my city.  

    My grand solution scheme is going fast here, I go see each and everyone I know in power to get done what need to be done.

    A gardening course grow biointensive for poor families and low wage worker is being plan as evening or day courses.  Fall will be used to prepare the soil, winter to prepare seeding flats and tools, sprouting will be done as required finishing with planting.  

    The Roberval city is helping us by offering a large agricultural land to implement the gardens. I will also negociate to make spaces available very close to poor living quarters.  

    I have teamed up with a group of volunteer that will make a garden in one of our touristic attraction (of wich I'm the President) so people could ask question and raise the debate.

    I have met today with many highschool teachers (many were my teachers back then) and explaining 1 or 2 at a time to them the problem and how it could be raised in the classroom.

    The environnmement and natural option will probably make a one course presentation.

    The teacher of geopolitic (grade 8) will give me a course so I can make a conference on the geopolitic aspect of the problem.  The teacher of physics (grade 8 and 9) will use the matierial I produced regarding the geological limitations aspect of the problem.  The teacher of biology (grade 11) will use me for a course explaning the enviromment side of the equation and the effects on agricultural and feeding outputs.  

    The biology teacher (he was my science fair coach back then, so he knows how good I'm at doing that stuff) asked if a homework done raising questions of perceptions, impacts and what they plan to do about it, what can be done to reduce the oil comsumption.

    The two teachers for environnement option will give me acces to their classes when next year student get older (they are starting the option)

    I havent talked to the economy teacher but I know her I I plan to make a talk to her student (grade 11) regarding the economical aspect of oil.

    For grade 1, 3 and 4 I plan to find a way to reach them one way or an other.  Grade 12 here is given trough college courses.  I was a college teacher 2 years ago and I plan to reach some student there too.

    While writing this I just had a phone call with the supervisor of community and adult courses program in my city.  I have a meeting with him next monday.  He is already quite open for a biointenvise gardenning course.  I told him  just a few bits of my plan and he tought it was really good.

    The Kyoto dollars will be used to make some reaserch for biodiesel production from algae, mainly reviewing what was already done.

    A local currency is also taking shape, but at a slower pace.  I plan to make a move toward it this summer while meeting with some leaders on this.

    I was named VP of our county provincial liberal party, currently forming the government.  I did my french report with my deputy and plan to ask him for a grant to develop light rails and biodiesel.

    Anyway, things are taking shape at a fast pace around here.  I dont have much time left to put up the website that will relate all the stuff I do on a day to day basis but I will make one this summer.  

    I was diagnosed with wrist problem 2 weeks ago and it's preventing me from doing too much computing.

    I was diagnosed with wrist problem 2 weeks ago and it's preventing me from doing too much computing.

    Try using an ergonomic keyboard, and the problem just might go away.  It helped me a lot.

    Or use a game controller and a program called Total Game Control that lets you program anything you want into it.  My hands cannot handle clicking the mouse button at all!
    Thanks for the help.

    I bought the MS natural keybord (both at home and at work.  I'm waiting for my new desk at home and new adjustable keybord holder at work.  I guess it will get better with time :)

    Your posts are a shining example to us all!  You are an example of a person who, instead of complaining just goes out and gets the job done!  I wish you and your city great success in going forward!  Keep up the good work and keep us posted on what you're doing!
    Also, consider using gel wrist support pads for your keyboard and mouse. They take a little getting used to but I had constant wrist pain a few years back and over the last 5 years none at all since I started using these pads. They support the wrist nicely and cushion the weight of the hands on the wrists as opposed to the wrists laying on hard desk surfaces.
    I've heard the IBM voice recognition stuff is really good.


    At $30 it might not be to steep to give a shot.

    Check out the Dvorak keyboard.  It takes a month or two to get used to, but it works far better with people.  The most used keys all rest in the center.  The qwerty design was made due to typewriters constantly being jammed by typist who were too fast.  So the qwerty keyboard was invented to slow typists down and prevent jams. We don't need that anymore.
    It's questionable whether qwerty was deliberately designed to slow typists - the primary jam-reducing function was supposed to be the physical separation of often-used keys, although this probably did reduce attainable speeds by quite a bit.

    The Dvorak layout was designed with purely mechanical typewriters in mind - typist fatigue was a very real problem.  In addition, the mechanical linkages did not lend themselves to the more sophisticated coding available in an electronic keyboard system.

    If it's high speed with normal text you're looking for, an ortho-chorded keyboard (Wikipedia example) is probably better.

    Some brief econ news related to the general collapse of the country as we know it....(aren't you glad it's Friday)

    Europe is in love with American Pay Packages!
    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/16/business/businessspecial/16pay.html?_r=2&oref=slogin&oref= slogin

    For decades, Europeans were far more restrained than Americans when it came to rewarding the boss. Now, executives overseas are less inhibited about asking for American-style compensation. And often they are getting their wish.

    I think this may be due to better economic conditions that have followed Europe after 9/11.  They are beginning to share a little more of the world wealth pie.  They have enjoyed a nice appreciation of their currency while our's has been falling.

    USA agrees to let Asia create currency.

    US officials said the move is intended to show that the US does not fear greater monetary co-operation between Asia's rising economic powers and wants to play a constructive role in helping to shape it.

    I don't feel this will work as well as the European integration.  There are little details in the article other than saying we are prepared for an Asian currency, but the Asians aren't really ready.  Go figure.

    Housing crash...redux.

    Housing prices in San Diego County took the largest-ever dive in May as the average price of a home fell $15,000 from the previous month, according to DataQuick Information Systems.

    The median price of a home in May was down 5 percent from the record level of $518,000 it reached in November. Meanwhile, sales were down for the 23rd straight month; days on the market stood at two months, and inventories of unsold homes topped 19,800.

    For newly built homes, condos and condo conversions, the median dropped from $495,000 in April to $424,000 in May, the second largest drop in that category since DataQuick began its record keeping in 1988.

    University of San Diego economist Alan Gin said the sudden decline probably reflects builders' discounts on asking prices and similar reductions at the many apartment complexes that have been converted to condominiums.

    I think it's clear the housing bubble is crashing.  Wasn't San Diego one of the top 10 markets in terms of appreciation?  In the face of losing home values, inflation still remains strong so how is the deflation in the housing sector going to spread throughout the econ?

    The higher profits and managment rewards are actually entirely on the back of the employees. From around 2000 on, they received al smaller part of the corporate wealth each year. (According to a study in the newspaper)
    Friday WSJ:  "The McMansion Glut"

    There is a very good article on Page W1 of the Friday WSJ--lots of interesting numbers.

    Virtually all of the trends are against the McMansion owners--higher heating & cooling costs; higher commuting costs; higher property taxes; higher interest rates; slowing economy and negative demographic factors (in 2010 there will be 50% more people aged 50-60 than in 2000--all trying to sell their large suburban homes at the same time).  

    As Jim Kunstler predicted, it looks we are in the early stages of a McMansion meltdown.

    What the hell are we going to do with all these homes?  I mean I know someone has to take ownership, but damn when the boomers are gone as a generation (I'm firmly a gen Y'er so I'm led to believe) there is going to be a massive glut in all kinds of crap.  From houses to plain old "stuff."  Should be a buyers market....
    It will be a buyers' market all right, like Weimar Germany or the Midwest during the Last Great Depression were. You see, housing is highly leveraged, and there are some excellent articles out lately about this.

    One of the best ways of illustrating this is, if iPod sales go down by 50%, a few thousand jobs at Apple may go. But, if house sales go down 50%, because houses are made and maintained here, there go a bunch of jobs for RE agents (another site calls them realt-whores lol!) carpenters, Home Depot employees, gardeners, decorators, painters, etc you name it. Of course houses are much more expensive than iPods, but a house represents a cluster of US workers. And, as those ARMs readjust, and people simply can't make the payments it takes to keep a house afloat, you get desperation selling. A bit of desperation selling and you end up with panic selling.

    As others have written elsewhere, some of these McMansions may become either multiple dwellings, multi-generational housing or both.

    We might see grandma and grandpa with their own suite or even their own apartment, Mom and Dad closing in on retirement or already there and kids taking up residence in their own suite or apartment in the basement. In some cases, a single aunt or uncle might take up residence.

    In many places, "suites" equipped with a fridge, microwave, toaster oven, hot plate and sink might fit under current zoning laws, so long as all residents are related by blood or marriage.  At any rate, changing zoning to allow multiple generations of families to live together would probably be rather easy as costs tighten.

    I moved to Colorado to help a female friend (sic girlfriend, which became female friend),  and reduced my junk profile by 75% or so I thought.  When I moved back to North Little Rock to figure out what to do next, I found that my PackRat parents had filled up 4 sheds with tools and junk.  I am the oldest son of two.  I would like to reduce their junk profile as well and give them more room to live and walk.  My dad has all the tools to run his own wood working shop and fix just about anything else.  His skill base is 70 years old and he has been a Maintaince Engineer fixing anything broken in the 4 multi-floor stores of a Local family owned department store for the past 25 years, though they are now non-family, he still does all the fixing.  I would love to gain as much hands on knowledge from him as I can.  We work well together and Have been Cooking as a team for many years.  

    So I am an older child back in the roost.  Been married twice and devorced twice, have raised a few step kids, and my parents are 70 (dad) and 76 (mom).  At 70 he can out work me most days.  I just can't see wasting all that knowledge he has in his head and hands.  I told Trisha my second x-wive what I planned on doing and her still being my best friend, though they dislike her, she said go for it.  So here I am, an Author, Gathering my works for some self published articles and gaining skills that I could not pay to learn.  If it breaks in his house or car he can fix it.  The tools he has I could never afford to even get half of them. There is a vast array of hand tools that do not require power to run them.  

    They are older and getting older everyday and my brother can't come here to take care of things if they get ill, but I can and that is what I doing.  Besides the House is paid for and his debt level is low.

    The only thing I'd like to buy in the future is some cheap land, I'll wait till the market crashes and see if I can get some cheap unloadable land from someone.

    Has anyone really analyzed what affect the passing of the "Boomer" generation will have on US fuel consumption?
    That would take a lot to be accurate.  Boomers are the largest, but even within the generation there are divisions.  We would have to skim the poorest off the top since their direct gas expenditure would be low.  You would need the best data for death rates to "predict peak boomers."  Well you would need the birth info as well, but really that's moot.  You would need to figure out the avg age that they go to a retirement community and use less.  Then you would need some info regarding avg mpg of the group etc etc.  It would be fun at least.
    Nigerian First Quarter 2006 Oil Exports Down

    New report but we here at TOD new this already (I think)

    Nigeria's crude oil exports fell to 1.8 million barrels a day in the first quarter of this year, down from an average of 2 million b/d in the last quarter 2005, the Central Bank of Nigeria has said in its report for the period.


    That sounds about right based on some calculations I did here.

    Why hasn't more oil be found in the southern hemisphere? This is the only cause for optimism I've yet seen on the peak oil issue.

    The first half of the article deals with geology. The last half tries to link the issue with the money system.

    Maybe I've missed discussion of this issue.

    It was discussed in yesterday's DrumBeat, IIRC.
    And this just in...

    Looming energy crisis requires new 'Manhattan Project': US scientists

    The United States urgently needs an effort similar to the Manhattan Project or NASA's moon mission to confront a looming energy crisis, scientists said at a high-level energy conference here.

    Soaring global demand for energy and rapid depletion of resources need to be addressed by a long-term government-led project similar to the World War II-era effort to develop an atomic bomb, University of Southern California scientist Anupam Madhukar said at the annual National Energy Symposium on Thursday.

    "A sense of urgency is needed like the Manhattan Project or sending a man to the moon," Madhukar said.

    But the scientists spoke of the difficulty of a paradigm shift in the way the United States addresses its energy needs to fend off an energy crisis on the order of the 1970s, scientists and politicians at the symposium said.

    I'm not wearing any pants, news at 11!



    from the article you posted

    If (since) the SUV is on life support, maybe it's time for Detroit to revisit this option.

    So what is it gonna take to get the 'Manhattan Project' underway?

    A nuclear war.

    I believe in the last 'Terminator' movie it is revealed that the T-man ran on a fuel cell.

    Ah so the 'governator'/'fuel cell' connection.

    That's "Who killed the electric car" :)

    with extreme prejudice
    How much profit did the Manhattan and Apollo projects bring their investors?

    How much profit did the Manhattan and Apollo projects bring their investors?

    Heh, both projects consumed monstrous amounts of energy and yielded very little real benefit to humanity. Could someone please explain what these two monuments to massive resource misuse might contribute to dealing with resource decline?

    Hey we got velcro.

    Actually space travel and man living in space has given us better understandings of several human aliments and Space Medicine is a very big field of study.  Bones and Calcium degenerate in free-fall or low gravity. This lead to new ways to give older human bones a way to be recharged and has led to several good improvements in the science around keeping people alive in adverse conditions.

    The problem with space travel for humans is that you have to keep the humans alive a long time and space is a harsh environment and is very unforgiving.

    The climbers that climb K2 and Everest and Other high mountains are exposed to environments that are just as harsh, and we still have them climbing though the death rate is very high.

    IF China wanted to they could get a moon base before us and have a manned flight to Mars, if they pushed the death rate up to that of High Altitude climbers.  Americans do not like watching the space guys die, so we have spent ooddles of time and money keeping them safe and still make things to the lowest bidder.  

    Looking in on the outside it all looks useless and throwing good money after bad, but that is just an impression not really the truth of the matter.  There were a set of pamplets talking about all the things you use today that the Space Program made possible, I have some copies of them, but I have moved to many times to have them at my beck and call.

    And note, my Brother works for a sub-contractor that works for NASA on the newest Crew Launch Vehicle.  They are trying to make it as low cost reusable as possible and get as much bang for the buck as possible.  He is though not as pessimistic as I am on the Peak Oil band wagon.  And though I don't see us really getting to the Moon in any big way or to Mars, I am a Science Fiction Writer and I like to think we could, if we just were given a bit more time to fix things down here.  It won't happen and I am sad that Star Trek is just more fiction, it would have been nice to see them things for real.

    Believe it or not, I was getting along just fine before velcro  and we didn't find it on the moon. Oh, I should also mention that I worked on the Apollo Project. It was my first experience of an economic bubble. It wasn't a pretty sight when that bubble burst, boarded up houses all over Cocoa Beach. Another thing, you might as well make the best of this world, because we're not going anywhere.
    A tech-writer I worked with claimed to have been there when they invented zip-lock bags, to hold poop in space.  He told me they were throwing them around the room, after filling them with a mixture of peanut butter and oatmeal designed to simulate the real product.

    (I tried to googe-confirm this story, but the terms seem ungoogleable)

    bradshaw -

    I know it's been frequently said that we desperately need an energy version of the Manhatten Project or the Apollo Project.  The analogy is supposed to convey an all-out crash effort to get something major accomplished.

    However, I have for some time felt that the analogy is seriously flawed.

    First: Both the Manhatten and Apollo projects each had but a single narrowly defined goal, i.e., create a deliverable atomic bomb, and put a man on the Moon, respectively. Once each of those goals had been accomplished, both projects had essentially reached their climaxes. Follow-on nuclear weapons development and further lunar flights continued, but at a much less intense pace. On the other hand, getting ourselves out of this energy mess is far less of a single-goal endeavor and will require multiple efforts on a variety of technical, political, financial, and social fronts.

    Second: Neither the Manhatten Project nor the Apollo Project had the slightest concern about efficiency or cost-effectiveness. It was: hang the cost and full speed ahead for both!  On the other hand, getting ourselves out of this energy mess, by its very nature, must entail efforts to maximize efficiency and to maximize cost-effectiveness.

    Third: While both the Manhatten and Apollo Projects entailed huge costs, they were essentially exercises in cutting-edge technology. On the other hand, getting ourselves out of this energy mess, is only partially dependent upon improved technology. Capital investment in infrastructure and  major changes in the way society does things is at least as important as the technology.

    So, I think that if one has to have an analogy, a more fitting one might be the Marshall Plan for rebuilding war-torn Europe. Or if you want to go out on a limb, perhaps the Russian Revolution or Maos' Great Leap Forward. I guess what I'm getting at is that what we are talking about here is not just some high-tech solutions but also major, and probably wrenching, changes in the very way we live and do business.

    What we need is a vision of the future that can produce political willpower!  Then we can move forward.  Until then there's really nothing much to be done.  Conservation doesn't make for a compelling vision, unfortunately.

    A good example of the kind of effort we will need is the US Interstate Highway System of the 50's.  Or the TVA project for hydropower.  Both those had clearly defined goals and that's the only kind of project that will rally political support.  Oh, one other thing - somebody had better be able to get rich or get elected or remain elected because of it.  So the time line to realizable benefits has to be with four years.

    One thing we desperately need is a hybrid transportation system that allows small personal vehicles to hook up with a rail or monorail system for the longer hauls.  It wouldn't be an easy task but it would be a marvel to use.  Drive surface roads to the onramps and then relinquish control until one is dumped at an exit not more than five miles from your desired destination.  I don't think it will happen because of the capital expense involved but it is an example of a vision that just might appeal to a public tired of pollution, traffic delays and high fuel costs.  They would be able to remain in their small vehicle for the whole trip and, for most of it, they can do business over the phone or the internet since they wouldn't need to attend to driving.  The major car manufacturers would be delighted to sell a slew of new cars and the cars could be conventional electric since they get recharged as they travel on the rail system.

    This could be a positive image project.  Just think how easy it would be to sell this to the residents of Seattle!

    I kind of like Chairman Mao's Great Leap Forward analogy best. All those ethanol stills in the backyard sound like the mounds of unuseable substandard steel in every village in China. Oh wait, American inginuity will triumph. We can drink the stuff! And the marijuana stems are just biomass for the methane converter, and the seeds are for biodiesel, officer!
    Regarding the so called 1st floating nuke plant. Wasn't the USS Nautilus the 1st floating nuke plant over 50 years ago and the NS Savannah the 1st civilian floating nuke plant?  Offshore nukes are one way around NIMBY problems as long as they don't block the Kennedy's seaside view.
    I read a British report on alternate fuels for aviation and was surprised to see that BTL via Fischer-Tropsch has a EROEI of at least 13:1 to as much as 53:1. The ratio depends mostly on how the feedstock is grown. They gave wind power to hydrogen a 200:1 EROEI. Looks more and more like ethanol has more to do with ADM and Cargill owned politicians than domestic fuel production.
    I read a British report on alternate fuels for aviation and was surprised to see that BTL via Fischer-Tropsch has a EROEI of at least 13:1 to as much as 53:1. The ratio depends mostly on how the feedstock is grown.

    Got a link for the report? I would love to have a look at it.

    BTL probably does have a decent EROEI, but the capital costs are a killer. Just going from memory, I think it is 6 times the cost of a conventional refinery per barrel of daily production.


    Go to page 48.

    This is one of those hyper important issues that needs a lot of discussion. I want to remind you that building highways consumes a great deal of oil. I want to remind you that land owners will be displaced. I want you to talk about what levels our ruling class will resort to in order to divide and polarize a nation.  
    You are assuming that this highway will be built.  It won't be. There is a small and shrinking risk that one section will be built to bypass the bottlenecks in downtown Austin & San Antonio.

    It is NOT of "hyper importance", but a pipe dream by some Texans.

    Of greater importance is that Texas bought the "Katy" railroad ROW in West Houston so that TxDoT could expand I-10 to (from memory) 20 lanes.  TxDot refused to leave enough space for a future light rail line.  They needed those extra two lanes !

    You are the one doing all of the assuming. First you assume that I assume the NASCO road will be built. Your second assumption is based on a theory of yours that NASCO will not be built so then there is nothing to be concerned about.

    The facts as stated in the news are different then the facts stated by AlanfromBigEasy. You claim that NASCO will not be built, that in fact is an assumption made by you. Actual facts are quite different since Canada, Mexico and the US have made all the necessary agreements to proceed. The fact that news and media are now reporting on NASCO gives weight to the intent.

    The fact is that unless citizens stop NASCO's construction it is guaranteed that this road system will be built. If I am guilty of assuming that citizens would unite to prevent such a thing then so be it. Just so you know the NASCO/NAFTA situation is of HYPER IMPORTANCE. It will add to GW, it will consume and destroy even more resources.


    Where will the money come from to build it ?

    State road budgets ?  

    Not in Texas, not in just about any state.  Gas tax revenues down, demand for new roads up, cost and demand for road repairs up.  They are in a serious crunch as the sprawl model runs against it's limits (see I-10 expsnsion in West Houston mentioned earlier).

    Toll roads ?

    This requires toll road bonds, either from the state or private financing.  Even w/o PO, this road makes no sense.  It cannot generate enough tolls with a free I-35 a few miles away.  Not enough of a market.

    And bond buyers are going to start questioning assumptions made in the bond prospectus.  Bonds for the first half of a 4/6 lane bypass around Austin include the assumption of gas prices "not higher than $3/gallon".  Bonds for the second half will be harder to sell, especially if sprawl commuters do not show up in the #'s projected and some truckers avoid the longer (but faster) toll road for the free, slower, IH-35 through central Austin.

    Project described at www.sh130.com

    And with SH130 half built, the need for a NASCO diminishes dramatically.

    So not worth worrying about.  It was and is economic nonsense, so the free market will keep it from being built.

    I'm sorry to enlighten you, but we don't have "free market" in the United States, but rather a corporatocracy. The following sectors are lined up in favor of the corridor:
       1. big engineering and construction
       2. Real Estate, because they are drooling at the prospect of new far suburbs of McMansions
       3. The Auto Industry, who expects to sell more SUV's
       4. The Finance Industry, who expects to sell all the bonds
       5. The Trucking/Transportation Industry, who love new roads
       6. the major oil companies who want to sell more gasoline
      Goveror Rick "Good Hair" Perry wants to set this up as a "transportation corridor with pipelines, railroads and hike and bike trails as well as "privatise" the current Interstates with tolls and to hook up Houston with a corridor to San Antonio and Dallas.
      Sorry, but the pie has already been cut up. Hope they left you a crumb or two...
    By the way, AlanfromBigEasy, I think you are right in your premises but mistaken in the political conclusion. We have the best government that money can buy here in the US and Texas. Unlike Louisiana where money and campaign donations have absolutely no power. How are all those grants to the poor black homeowners working out? I hear New Orleans is nearly rebuilt in spite of being a Democratic stronghold. God Bless those NeoCon-artists, every one!
    Actually the state formula works out much better for poor black homeowners than rich white homeowners.  There is a maximum of $150,000 state payout per homestead (with a 40% cut if you move out-of-state).

    $150,000 would cover the full market value of 90% of the homes in the Lower 9th Ward, and less than 10% in Lakeview.  If they had any insurance at all, about 98% of the Lower 9th will get full market value and the rest close to it (except Fats Domino).  Thos ewithout any insurance, will get a good % if not 100% of their fair market value.

    Amazingly, there has been no outcry about skewering those with million dollar homes.  "Why Not Pro rata ?" has not been the objection.  

    Even those with the maximum $250K federal flood insurance, full other coverage and getting the max $150K from the state and an $800K mortgage that end up with a ruined home and a mortgage due of $380K ($20K paid for wind damage) do not claim that the state was unfair.  They realize the limited resources and do not wish to pocket monies from the poor.

    In many ways I live in the worst physical & services (fire, medical, postal, etc.) situation in the US but inside the best society !

    I agree that New Orleans is a great society. Galveston, where I live, came back from the same utter devestation. And I'm proud of the way our city and the whole Houston area helped out. I was very pleasantly surprised by the common citizen's reaction, especially as demonstrated by our elected  local government.I'm just sorry we can't keep more of your artists and musicians here.
       The Katy Freeway using the Katy RR ROW is another legacy of that  fine American, Tom DeLay. He always opposed rail because he 1.owned a lot of real estate on highways2.railroads were against the interests of his car dealer and Major Oil Company contributors and 3. Railroads might bring Democrats into the unsullied suburbs of Ft. Bend County.I was sick when it happened,but Houston doesn't have a local paper, the Chronicle is a Hearst rag.Only big money alks very loud there.
      I've directed the Editor of the Galveston County Daily News to ya'lls piece in the Dallas Morning News. He's a very thoughtful man and I'm hoping he will reprint it. We have a little light rail on the Island and they just extended the line from downtown through UTMB and up to the Seawall. The tourists love it, I just wish it were more frequent and rode right down the Seawall past the major Hotels then over to Moody Gardens and the new Schlitterbaum then loop back downtown. It would be very practical for our workers and convenient for tourists and conventioners. I'm hoping the new extension is a great success for Galveston. It's such a conservation no-brainer.  
    Where did the latest 68 billion for the Iraq war come from? Where did the 100's of billions for Iraq and Afghanistan come from? Where did the billions spent on "homeland security" come from? It appears that all of this money comes from the middle class to support Republican deficit spending. By the way official construction begins in January of 2007 though unofficial construction has begun.

    When the Supreme Court upholds the no-knock police search as they did yesterday it means that anything can happen now in the US.

    Alan one day you will see things more clearly till then try to stop the war, stop NASCO and convince the Fed to switch to a barter system.

    I believe a "Sigularity" with nature is much more likely
    than a "Sigularity" with technology.
    How would you define a "Singularity with Nature"?  What would its characteristics and consequences be?
    Living sustainably or not living
    The worldwide grain harvest is not keeping up with consumption. Ethanol is becoming an increasingly important factor in this equation, especially in the U.S.   Another significant reason is global warming and drowth. See Lester Brown's article at:  


    I gave someone a ride from their car dealer this morning.  I had time to walk around, and noticed that the next dealer over, Saab, was chuck-full of SUVs.

    Funny to see a Saab SUV, with a Saab-style model designation, the 9-7x, in the first place ... but man, the thing I said to myself was "poor guys" ... thinking of the salesmen.

    Who comes to Saab for an SUV?  People go there for funky european cars.

    GM really loses two ways.  They kill another brand, making it just another "badge," and at the same time, they bleed their other dealers by expanding the badges on an existing model (the Trailblazer).

    To be more descriptive ... this was a smallish dealer that should have had just a few Saabs.  They did have few Saab cars, but they might have had 100 Saab SUVs stashed on the side and back.

    How does GM count "sold" again?

    The original Saab development team and factory are as far as I know still intact in Sweden. GM can still do something Saab:is with their brand.
    I've always liked Saabs, and came really close to buying a 900 turbo convertible year ago.

    I just see the brand acquisitions that GM (and Ford) did a few years ago as futile.  They had plenty of (US) brands.  They had (I'm sure) good designers.  They just weren't giving those designers the lead.  They were playing it safe with models they could rebrand for their different nameplates.

    The article up at the top, on the midsize SUVs, talks about the same thing I saw at Saab ... I planned on mentioning it, but it has already shown up as TOD news.

    Now, could GM use european designers to re-invigorate their US lines?  That depends on what the word 'could' means.

    I mean, they could have merged in a lot more Saab (or Opel) spirit already.

    odograph -

    I think that GM and Ford still havn't quite completely gotten rid of their long-standing mentality that small cars have to be cheap crappy cars and that small cars mean small profits.

    It doesn't appear that their current structure allows them to have any more than a certain number of small cars in their total production mix.  Maybe when one or both declare bankruptcy and dump their pension obligations on the US taxpayer, they will be in a better position to compete in the small car market. So if that happens the real cost of a GM small car will be its actual sticker price plus the incremental tax burden need to cover the pension obligations. The consumer gets screwed again.

    Furthermore, I don't think GM's problem is a lack of design and engineering talent.  They have a wealth of highly talented people and a ton of technology on the shelf.  What it comes down to is an uncanny tendency for GM's management to instinctively and consistently do the wrong thing.

    (Repeat of post on yesterday's DrumBeat)

    We still have a spammer on some UK threads and elsewhere, can they be cleared out?  Example: http://uk.theoildrum.com/story/2006/4/23/6050/44818#8

    I hope this works...

    Right on...so the real $hitty part about this graph is that in less than 9 years (i.e. 1997) we've doubled the debt that the preceding 84 years took to build.  In other words the debt from 1913-1997 is the amount we added from 1998-present.

    Now let's jump ahead a bit.  This site uses the preceding 46 years worth of data for the M3 stats.  This is the broadest measure of money and whether or not you agree is the widest net to determine how much fiat money is in the system.  From this 46 years of data they project what it may look like for the next 75 years.  Keep in mind we are talking M3 stats and some will knock it, but we should know better.

    In the 8 weeks ending September 30, the Fed increased the money supply by 182 billion.  In the following 12 weeks to year end, by another 273 billion.  This is over a 10% annualized increase to our entire money stock.  To put these figures into perspective, it would appear that if the government sold all of the gold they claim to have today, at $500 per ounce, it would total less than 131 billion dollars, unless the Government has gold that this site doesn't account for.

    There's some interesting data on how the FED and the GOV prepares the budget.  The fiscal year doesn't follow the calendar year, so Oct 1 is the new year for the gov.  If the increase in debt for the first two days of fiscal 2006, had been posted on the last day of fiscal 2005, the deficit for 2005 would have swollen to 599 billion, making it the largest on-budget deficit in the history of the Republic.  That's bad news so again, we get a massage of the numbers.  

    This is the first I've heard of this simple manipulation, but again it's cumulative so it will be measured eventually, but people tend to shrug off large numbers they can't wrap their heads around.

    This website even goes on to try and put some numbers on the prescription benefit and thoroughly depresses you with the real cost, not the gov't numbers.

    Are we as a society just so entertained by the side shows to not give a damn?  I don't get it.  When I talk to people I can see the glaze come over their eyes as I start to explain the cliff we're resting on.  It seems the only people who stop to listen are religious types.  

    One gentleman I work with listened to me for half an hour and at the end he said, "you know my pastor has been preaching this for almost two years."  He went on to show me all the ways he changed his life.  He doesn't use his car except for intermediate trips that would take far too long by bus, but long enough to warm the engine up so to speak.  He takes the light rail/bus interchanges to get to work and he doesn't take on debt.  Granted he has 30+ yrs in the company, I think he's planned well.

    We are going to be moving debt even faster as we increase interest rates.  Service on the debt in FT2004 cost $320B, in FY2005 $353B, and in the first half of FY2006, $198B.  Since interest rates are higher now than the first half of '06, figure $220B for the second half for a total of almost $420B.  So, on top of a deficit of over $400B for this year, add another $100B on debt service.  Then add that to the existing national debt and apply the higher interest rates to the higher debt.  Ugly stuff.
    Peak Food Article on Energy Bulletin

    World Grain Stocks Fall to 57 Days of Consumption: Grain Prices Starting to Rise
    Lester Brown, Earth Policy Institute

    This year's world grain harvest is projected to fall short of consumption by 61 million tons, marking the sixth time in the last seven years that production has failed to satisfy demand.
    published June 16, 2006.

    Peak grain in 2004 and peak oil in 2005: Nostradamus predicted it!

    Considering how many more calories Americans consume in a day than they need, nothing could be better for the U.S. than a doubling of grain prices.

    Any sense about whether high oil prices are a major contributing cause for the decrease in production or does it have more to do with climate concerns?

    The shortfall was exacerbated by ethanol production (which equalled our exports), drowth, and global warming.  Don't see how things are going to get any better.  This is a global issue , so the fact that fat Americans may have less calories isn't much solace for the world's poor, who, if they can get it, will be paying much higher prices.  

    The vast majority of our corn is fed to animals, a handy way of disposing of what used to be all that excess corn.  

    As a side note, one of the reasons so many Mexicans have had to give up corn farming is because of all the cheap, subsidized corn making its way south of the border.  This also contributes to illegal immigration because of decreased employment in Mexico. Perhaps the higher prices resulting from this grain shortfall might help a few more Mexicans to make it in agriculture.  

    This will affect ethanol prices, thus making it harder to compete with gasoline, even with the subsidies for corn and directly to ethanol.  Will the corn/ethanol lobby ask for even higher subsidies to make up the difference?

    This will affect ethanol prices, thus making it harder to compete with gasoline, even with the subsidies for corn and directly to ethanol.  Will the corn/ethanol lobby ask for even higher subsidies to make up the difference?

    The thing is, ethanol is mandated now. So, they don't actually have to compete. That's the problem with mandates. So, let's say ethanol goes to $6.00 a gallon. Big deal. It's mandated. We will pay the price, regardless of what it is.

    The only hope is to get the mandate rolled back. You are seeing what's happening in California right now with ethanol. It is bumping $4/gal. Nobody would pay market price for it if they had a choice, but mandates mean we don't have a choice.


    So, let's say ethanol goes to $6.00 a gallon.

    Wow, I was exaggerating for effect, but it seems this wasn't too much of an exaggeration. From today's OPIS report:

    The ethanol market continued to be quoted in an incredible $5.00-$5.30 gal range for prompt June East Coast bbls.

    Man, that is unreal.


    You've hit on something I hadn't thought of.  Maybe these high prices for ethanol are as much of a function of mandates as anthing else.  The ethanol industry is even more monopolized than the oil industry. With mandates, there is not much of a limit on what they can charge.  People need to start directing their ire at ADM, not just the oil companies.

    Of course, on the bright side, maybe the ethnanol industry will be inadvertently helping us cut back on oil.  

    Talk about the law of unintended consequences.

    Let me clarify.  When I said that ethanol would help cut back on oil, I wasn't just stating the obvious fact that it is a substitute. I was stating the underappreciated fact that it is actually raising the price of gasoline.  

    Again. What about all those happy faces in the GM commercials now. Will the American public wake up to this scam?  Not likely.

    With the longstanding Ethanol Subsidy, isn't it fair enough to say that ADM IS an oil company?
    Although natural gas prices have probably had some impact on fertilizer production and costs, I would think most of the yield decline has to do with global warming and irrigation water issues.  Lester Brown's book Outgrowing The Earth has a good discussion on falling water tables due to overirrigation and diversion of water resources to population centers.  But increased temperatures alone will decrease yields (like 15% per degree C or something) but will also exacerbate rainfall issues which then further diminish replenishment of aquifers leading to less water for irrigation leading to lower yields.  It's a discouraging positive feedback loop.  An interesting stat that Brown uses is that it takes 1,000 tons of water to produce 1 ton of grain so he looks at grain distribution as water distribution.
    Can anyone give me figures on EROEI in the oil industry?

    I read somewhere that 7% of all energy consumption in America was used by the oil industry.  This is a pretty general figure, but it indicates the the oil industry has a 7% burn rate to supply us with gasoline and deisel and natural gas.  I assume it was based on a supply light sweet crude oil.  I can't remember where that figure came from.  I am wondering if anyone has more detail?

    I'd like to know what percentage of energy is consumed by producing and refining light sweet crude oil into consumer products.  What about sour oil? What about heavy oil? Tar sand?  Thanks!

    7% is in the ballpark, but probably too low unless you are only considering the refining portion. The overall EROEI from crude oil in the ground to finished gasoline, diesel, etc. ranges from 5/1 to probably around 15/1. The refining portion is about 10/1. The only variable is the oil extraction part, and that can vary quite a bit.

    I have read that the overall average for crude extraction is 17/1, giving a total EROEI of 17/(1+1.7), or 6.3/1. In that case you are using around 1/6th of your energy in the production of your energy, or 15.9%. But, if you are just looking at the refining portion, the number is around 10%.

    Heavy oil is going to be a bit worse than that, and tar sands even worse. I have seen tar sands estimates of 1.5/1 up to 4/1, but I think that is just for the extraction portion. You will still have the refining portion, meaning that from tar sands to gasoline is probably only around 2/1.


    You will still have the refining portion, meaning that from tar sands to gasoline is probably only around 2/1.

    I presume that means twice as much CO2 produced for every usable unit of end user energy?

    At least twice as much. More than twice as much when comparing conventional oil to tar sands.


    The penultimate 'graph of the SUV article is priceless:

    It's not just high gas prices that are hurting the sales of these vehicles. George Pipas, head of sales analysis at Ford, says that the baby boomers who drove the Explorer market to the point where Ford's accountants kissed off the whole minivan segment are getting older. They're less inclined to haul themselves in and out of high-off-the-ground SUVs. "It's a great vehicle, but aging and creaky baby boomers who drove this market are wearying of the climb in and out unless they absolutely need one to pull a trailer or boat."

    That's right - SUV sales are slumping in part because it's just TOO HARD for us boomers to drag our sorry asses in and out of 'em! It's a lot closer to midnight even than I had thought ...

    It was so much better to be carried in a litter, the bearers put it down and you didn't face that climb ...
    Thursday's U.S. Drought Monitor, http://drought.unl.edu/dm/monitor.html,
    includes a brief discussion of U.S. crops harmed by the ongiong drought in the Plains and Western Midwest.  Apparently, winter wheat in several key states is in very poor shape, as are oats, sorghum and spring in some states.  Drought in U.S. wheat-growing areas does not bode well for any increase in the number of days' worth of supply at the end of the season.

    Anyone have information on any drought in Canada?

    I don't know about Canada, Barb, but there's definitely a drought in Colorado and the western United States. Hay prices sky high ...
    I am currently in s.cen.PA, near the Amish settlements in Lancaster.  It's dry here, too, although not nearly as bad as what you are experiencing.  However, the beans and corn are a bit stunted for this time of year, and I think that a few fields have not yet been planted for lack of moisture.  

    The hay crop probably will not be very good unless we get some more rain.  A moisture laden, low level tropical storm or tropical disturbance making its way here would be welcomed.  

    What's with the $200,000 price tag for a nuclear reactor floating out in the bay!!!  Some americans pay more than that for a fancy car in this country.  Somebody must have slipped by a few decimal places here!
    Good article in today's (Sat) WSJ editorial page (opinionjournal.com) on ethanol, a product only politicians could love! Somewhat on the wild side, 321 Energy has an article (Australian Nanotechnology to Revolutionise Oil Production) that sound very interesting - in theory.