DrumBeat: September 28, 2006

[Update by Leanan on 09/28/06 at 9:24 AM EDT]

Small cars stage a big turnaround

Small-car sales could set a record this year, a comeback from decades of being disparaged as unsafe, cramped and poorly built.

"Small cars and CUVs are going to rule," says George Pipas, market analyst for Ford Motor. That's bittersweet news for Detroit, he adds, because 72% of small cars sold are foreign makes. Small cars are also notorious for delivering slim profits.

The 'Detroit disease' spreads to Chrysler

Chrysler is suffering from the same malady that has already infected Ford and GM — both have seen high gasoline prices decimate sales of their onetime cash cows, big SUVs and trucks. The two companies have together shuttered more than two dozen plants and cut more than 75,000 jobs in an effort to stem their multibillion-dollar losses, caught in a vicious cycle of shrinking market share and tough competition from Asia-based automakers, which dominates the more fuel-efficient car segment.

Concern over Middle East nuclear plans

Plans announced recently by Egypt and Turkey that they hope to build nuclear power plants are raising a ripple of concern about the long-term prospect of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.

"It is easy to exaggerate and it is true that these countries have a right to seek all sources of energy but it is indisputable that there is also a strategic element to this," said Mark Fitzpatrick, senior fellow in non-proliferation at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London.

What is the Peak Oil theory of value?

University of Arizona eyes a greener campus

The oil industry peaked last year, and half of the oil in the world has been used up, said Guy McPherson, a professor of natural resources and ecology and evolutionary biology.

"If global warming is a three on a scale of one to 10, then peak oil is a 12," McPherson said.

McPherson estimated a decline in oil supply during the next 20 to 30 years will account for the deaths of tens of millions of Americans.

Falling oil price a real boon but can Opec live with it?

Tom Whipple - The Peak Oil Crisis: The Perfect Storm

John Michael Greer: Economics: avoiding the Y2K fallacy

Axis of oil: Confronting the world's new petro-powers.

Escaping George Bush’s future

...President Bush recently invited journalists to imagine the world 50 years from now. He did not have in mind the future of science and technology, or a global population of nine billion, or the challenges of climate change and biodiversity. Instead, he wanted to know whether Islamic radicals would control the world’s oil.

Kenya: Student Violence Baffling

Thus, it was surprising that Kenyatta University students decided to go on the rampage on Monday night to protest power outage. In their mindless and misdirected anger, they resorted to stoning motorists on Thika road, and setting ablaze three vehicles, one of them a matatu (jitney).

Gas Pipeline Blown Up in Southern Russia

Bangaladesh: People go berserk for power

Outraged by frequent power outages, thousands of people swooped on local power distribution offices in Islambagh, Dhalpur and Shanir Akhra areas of the capital last night and disrupted road and rail communications.

Angry people also attacked power offices in six districts--Narayanganj, Narsingdi, Cox's Bazar, Manikganj, Sylhet and Sherpur--last night and the night before.

Thousands of power-hungry people besieged the local power distribution offices at Dhalpur at 7:00pm and at Shanir Akhra at 9:30pm.

DOE Funds Six New Projects Aimed at Alternate Hydrogen Production and Utilization

The Department of Energy today announced the selection of six cost-shared research and development projects that will aid in alternate hydrogen production and greater hydrogen utilization.

The selections help to fulfill President Bush's Hydrogen Fuel Initiative which describes a hydrogen economy that minimizes America's dependence on foreign oil, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and provides funding for hydrogen research and development.

The Ascent of Wind Power

Dutch study imported biofuel production

PETTEN, Netherlands - Dutch researchers say they've determined liquid fuels can be produced economically from biomass, even if all the raw materials must be imported.

China carries out test of fusion reactor

Urban farming: City pickers

It was once a forgotten wasteland in east London - now it's a thriving organic farm. Urban areas consume huge amounts of food, so why aren't there more places like this?
Last night, when the debate between Joule and me over price manipulation had devolved into "you just can't see the truth because you are an oil company employee", as well as his speculation that I would have defended Enron, I posted something for him that may also be interest others.

From Harvard economics professor Greg Mankiw:

The Omnipotent POTUS

Some Americans don't understand the limits of Presidential power in a market economy:

According to a new Gallup poll, 42 percent of respondents agreed with the statement that the Bush administration "deliberately manipulated the price of gasoline so that it would decrease before this fall's elections."...Almost two-thirds of those who suspect President Bush intervened to bring down energy prices before Election Day are registered Democrats, according to Gallup.

From yesterday's Washington Post.

I take this as further evidence that we need better and more widespread economics education.

If you don't want to take my word for it that prices aren't being deliberately manipulated to influence the election, then here you have someone else saying the same thing. Or read what Jerome wrote at Daily Kos:

There is NO manipulation of gas prices. An explanation

If you still wish to believe there is more to it than that, then I can at least say I gave it my best shot.

Robert, I think I understand the poinst that both you and Jerome are making. But your point is not that there is NO manipulation, it's that there is none by Big Oil. Am I right?

I still find the Goldman stats intriguing, and also find that Jerome's statements regarding speculators selling off en masse because they made the wrong bets, goes a ways to explaining part of the stats.

But your point is not that there is NO manipulation, it's that there is none by Big Oil. Am I right?

My point here is that there is no concerted effort to drop prices before the election. The level of complexity something like that would entail is mind-boggling.

That is not to say that certain things don't manipulate the market. If Bush announced that we were going to try really hard to work with Iran, it would put downward pressure on prices. If someone announced a breakthrough that promised cheap energy for everyone, it would put downward pressure on prices. But there isn't much an oil CEO can do, especially in the short term, to affect prices. He watches the prices rise and fall like the rest of us. He tries to make sure the company is in position to profit. What he doesn't do is dictate prices, and therefore dictate profits.

My point here is that there is no concerted effort to drop prices before the election. The level of complexity something like that would entail is mind-boggling.


I would like to remind you that Enron managed to thoroughly corrupt the California energy market for many months. There were a number of "experts" who maintained such actvity was not possible and "market forces" were at work, etc... I am sure you are familiar with the details. They were widely reported in major news media.

I haven't read the RR/joule debate, but to indicate energy markets cannot be manipulated is unwise.

Hmmm.  Good point.  I wonder if the American public would be so willing to believe the prices are being manipulated if it weren't for Enron.
I would like to remind you that Enron managed to thoroughly corrupt the California energy market for many months.

There is a vast difference between what Enron did in California, and managing to have a big impact on a global commodity that trades on an enormous scale. It's like saying because a warlord managed to take over a small part of Afghanistan, he could then take over the world.

I haven't read the RR/joule debate, but to indicate energy markets cannot be manipulated is unwise.

That's not what I said, even in the post that you just responded to.

There is a vast difference between what Enron did in California, and managing to have a big impact on a global commodity that trades on an enormous scale.

I mean no disrespect here. I follow your contributions avidly. But I disagree. California is something like the 10th largest economy in the world. The scale of market manipulation there was profound... and it went on for a long while. During which... it was denied by very experienced finance professionals.

In the recent Amaranth case, Bloomberg reported that Hunter (the trader) had purchased, in some cases, 20% of the market's available positions. Nymex NG, though not global, is not a small market either. My point is that the technology, the leverages and the access to many, many billions of $$$ does exist. My disagreement has nothing to do with gasoline going up or down, it has to do with your assertion that oil is too big a commodity to manipulate. Nate Hagens reminds us twice a week that's it's the marginal barrel that prices the market.

It would be interesting to know how Goldman-Sachs traded the market in the run-up to reducing that allocation <g>.

The reason people believe presidents have some power over the economy is that presidents have been claiming the power to do so for generations, and personally take the credit for good times in order to get reelected.

Of course this can backfire, as when the very good engineer and humanitarian Herbert Hoover tried to get reelected.

Is my memory right that Reagan is credited with using oil prices to destabilize and ultimately crash the Soviet Union? Beyond that, isn't it part of what governments are supposed to do - to maintain market structures. Keeping the price of energy down, whether with the 7th Fleet or subsidies, is government action. It strikes me as meaningless to say that a government does not influence prices. Of course it does. But it's not going to happen at RR's level - the Saudi princes, do they take GWB's phone calls - of course they do. I'd not even be surprised if God doesn't tell him where to tell them to drill and find new reserves.

cfm in Gray, ME

Ronnie RayGun's <politically manipulated< the world oil market by having a secret deal with the swing producer, SA, to pump oil like mad to drive down world oil prices. Prices plumetted. The USSR was deprived of huge cash inflows that had been coming in from it's oil.  Within 5 years they, the USSR and it's empire, started to collapse.  The SA"s got the high tech fighter planes, communication, promises of defense if the kingdom was challenged.  They called that chip in after the invasion of kuwait by So-Damn-Insane of Iraq.<p> Of course SA seems to be producing all out so this particular scenario is unlikely.  Are there other scenarios?  Likely.
Don't forget that we were also in an arms race and we kept upping the ante so that they reached a point where they were spending an unsustainable portion of their national budget on the military. I've seen some estimates that it may have reached as much as half of the entire economy of the Soviet Union.
If Bush announced that we were going to try really hard to work with Iran, it would put downward pressure on prices.

He didn't quite say it that way, but sure did turn down the saber rattling noises for now.

If someone announced a breakthrough that promised cheap energy for everyone, it would put downward pressure on prices.

Would the super-hyped announcements of months-old new from "Jack 2", count as "announced a breakthrough that promised cheap energy"?

only to the hopelessly nieve    which includes about 95% of the us public   by my estimate
> My point here is that there is no concerted effort to
> drop prices before the election

I'm shure you're right. Such an attempt would be crazy. Given all these efforts to make it work - and a single hurricane could easily send crude prices back to $70 or even $80.
And no politcal party can foresee the hurricane season until the elections are over.

Ah, but what are the chances of ANY hurricanes hitting GOM now?  Very slight.  There is always risk, but in this case it might be an acceptable risk.
I must disagree with your assumptions here Robert.  I have a very large imagination.  Many things are possible even if not probable.

My point here is that there is no concerted effort to drop prices before the election. The level of complexity something like that would entail is mind-boggling.

A few years ago it would have been thought technically impossible to monitor all telecommunications in real time and sort for key words.  I assure you that no matter how complex a  system is required for that task, the NSA and CIA computer complexes are doing it.  Just because something is improbable doesn't mean it is impossible.

Probably all it would take is a verbal assurance from Bush to oilco CEOs to open the SPR.
Bush proudly suspended refilling the SPR when oil prices were peaking as a way to reduce further oil price increases. It wasn't under-the-table or covert. Everyone thought it a good idea at the time. However, further putting off refilling it does smell of minor manipulation.
Well, yes. That's the overt part. And it smells. What's the covert part look like?
'He tries to make sure the company is in position to profit. What he doesn't do is dictate prices, and therefore dictate profits.'

Well, a single oil CEO may not, but 'the industry' is more than one CEO. Again, I do not believe that the ever so politically convenient for incumbents drop in gasoline prices comes from a single phone call. Though of course a CEO determines profits, at least in the sense of deciding what margins are acceptable for a number of variables (like BP and Alaskan maintenance costs - the profits to be earned by not spending it on maintenance seem quite hard to resist, for example).

And I absolutely agree that major components of the price drop are externally induced. For example, as noted by your writing 'If Bush announced that we were going to try really hard to work with Iran, it would put downward pressure on prices' - which he seems to have done recently, as I recall.

Seasonality is also a very important aspect of the price drop, of course. It would be interesting to see how the switch over to heating oil is going this year compared to the past - New England is pretty much a loss for Republicans anyways, so refineries which keep producing gasoline later than customary could have an interesting effect on gasoline prices. (This could even increase the margin on heating oil later, making it a zero sum game.)

And if ExxonMobil or Chevron or Marathon or BP decided to get competitive in their retail markets, they could set off a price war, lowering gasoline prices a few percent easily - and of course, in this case, one CEO could start such a price war.

Strange - I just figured out one proven method (we saw it happen in real time, I believe), one unproven/conspiracy theory (though it could be checked), and one potential way (still open for exploitation) to lower gasoline prices by a solid percentage, and I didn't need to call anyone or even waste more than 5 minutes typing.

It is very likely that the pros can do a lot better than me in dropping the price of gasoline within a month or two window. And sure, events can overtake all of these methods - one large late season hurricane would really play havoc to such plans. (Not everything is under human control - but how you react separates the winners from the losers.)

But you seem so close to understanding the essential point -
'He tries to make sure the company is in position to profit.' without seeming to understand that the idea of 'position' is very multi-dimensional. I doubt very much that a company like ExxonMobil, for example, has lost so much institutional memory that they can't remember the windfall profits tax the last time oil prices started to have deep ramifications for the American voter - the same way that a company like ExxonMobil hasn't forgotten that the last time Americans bought small cars en masse, it equalled smaller profits. Oh, did I forget to mention how the price in gasoline could just happen to spill over into another ailing part of the American economy? Or have I wandered into the Iron Triangle?

Politics is at least as fun as watching oil prices - except oil has many more direct connections to physical reality. In this sense, you are right - the market is too complex to easily manipulate. What you forget is that the market encompasses much more than physical goods - the rule of law comes to mind, especially the current rule in America that seems to say oil companies are forced to charge higher prices because of leftists and nationalists who don't understood what profit means.

Profit, to a politican, is just another way to spell power - whether to tax or to appropriate or to redistribute or to keep among friends. Of course the oil companies have preferences - can you say tax cut? They certainly can - it comes in that part about 'dictate profits.' The oil CEO wants to dictate where the profits go, as that is infinitely preferable to having the voters determine, for example, that any company earning a gross profit above 3 billion dollars a quarter gets taxed at a 5% higher rate, the revenue to be placed in a special fund to be used to provide health care for children. Such intereference in the free market is what evil dictators like Chavez do (with commie Cuban doctors, no less), and it is not what America stands for. Lucky that American corporations still have the right to spend money in elections - what 50 million dollars last election cycle for the oil industry alone? - to keep such thoughts far from America's not to be trusted electorate.

And if ExxonMobil or Chevron or Marathon or BP decided to get competitive in their retail markets, they could set off a price war, lowering gasoline prices a few percent easily - and of course, in this case, one CEO could start such a price war.

This is the one that is important to address, because it is central to the argument. The only chance they have for doing that, is if inventories are on the rise. Rising inventories favor things like this. We have rising inventories right now for a number of reasons, but primarily because margins are still pretty good, so refineries are still running hard.

But if inventories were currently flat or falling, the CEO could not do what you suggest. Inventories would dry up, and we would run out of product. So, what you suggest is entirely dependent upon what is happening in the market, which the CEO does not control.

If people don't take anything else away from this discussion, take this: We can conjure up all kinds of theories of how markets could be manipulated. In fact, there are very simple reasons for falling prices at the moment that don't involve any conspiracy theories at all. And I am a believer in Occam's Razor.

I agree with you on the rising inventories this is of course for a number of sound technical factors. This effects the price of gasoline sure. But the dramatic effect on the price of crude worldwide ? Simply because in the US we have rising inventories ? No I don't buy it sorry. There are other factors at work. I see a price war seems to be starting and your correct that rising inventories support it but falling crude prices are key to being able to lower prices based on the increasing inventory. If say crude was still going up despite the healthy increase in inventory in the US ( note not the whole world ) I bet the downward pressure on gasoline prices would be far lower.

The mistake your making is that if any manipulation is taking place its in the context of the oil market and its financial not internal to the oil industry.
Your correct in that rising gasoline inventories are critical for translation into a drop in price at the pump.
And I suspect if anyone is attempting to manipulate the market they would not do it without rising inventories.
But on the same hand gasoline stocks have not exactly been low for several months and the effect of pump price was small till....
The price of crude dropped.

Your dealing with the current situation not what initiated it. I assert rising inventories
have been happening for a while without a dramatic drop in prices.

It seems to be crude is starting to rise now so we will get a chance to see how much inventories and crude prices interact to set the price.

But they keep trying to rise every morning till about noon
and someone pulls the price down all afternoon.
I guess the guy does not get up early. Just check prices after 2 pm or so after he gets back from lunch.

Actually, we do agree in general - the world is a lot more complicated place, with many more physical restraints, than most people seem to be able to commonly accept. Inventories are most likely up for two reasons - stockpiling in relation to a hurricane season which was not devastating, and a slowing economy.

But there is no question that oil companies, speaking with a broad brush, prefer the current party in power in the U.S. to someone like Chavez - and the reasons have little to do with morality, and an awful lot to do with profit, and who gets to do what with it.

There is no question in my mind that this preference will be expressed in as many ways as possible. This is simple human nature, and not a conspiracy theory.

If a hurricane had hit a major swath of refining or production regions, a fall in prices this large (or at all) would not have occurred.

But here is a counterexample - why is Saudi Arabia still seeming to pump full out even as prices 'collapse?' (Collapse is so relative these days.) Could it be that the Saudis have a preference in the American elections? After all, Saudi Arabia could easily have oil at a price of $70 a barrel plus, just by announcing a production cut - or even by saying they anticipate cutting production on Oct. 21. But even pumping full out, the price seems stubbornly persistent above $60 a barrel.

We can play this out in any number of ways, but in my case at least, it is all just a game.

Nonetheless, a lower price before the elections would seem to be in the long term interest of oil company profits, and remarkably, prices are lower. Peak oil, in part, is the point where reality takes over from playing games - as witness how oil just doesn't seem to want to go below $60 a barrel, regardless of OPEC's commitment to full production. Of course, maybe a country like Iran is cutting production in an attempt to get Bush booted - this game is very fluid, which is why manipulation is such a silly term. There are too many players with too many goals for any of them control the outcome for any lasting time. But long enough for some of the world's largest and most powerful corporations to politically ensure their continued profits in the world's largest single oil market? I don't need to believe in any fantasies to think that greed is the dominant player in the marketplace, just as power is in politics. And when the two areas share a common interest - holding on to what they have - it is hard to imagine them doing nothing while potentially losing what they possess.

Maybe peak oil is truly making an appearance, before the election, or maybe the Saudis don't like Bush any more either - see this link below, found below -

http://today.reuters.com/news/articlenews.aspx?type=businessNews&storyID=2006-09-28T155051Z_01_L 28469961_RTRUKOC_0_US-ENERGY-OPEC-CUT.xml

This is the sort of thing that just ruins a good market manipulation - unless OPEC is manipulating the market, not that they would ever do that.

Not everything is domestic American politics.

Not too much time at the moment, but I will try to quickly answer a few posts

But there is no question that oil companies, speaking with a broad brush, prefer the current party in power in the U.S. to someone like Chavez - and the reasons have little to do with morality, and an awful lot to do with profit, and who gets to do what with it.

This is no in dispute. It is just like the guy said over in Jerome's thread. Does Big Oil generally favor Republicans? No doubt. So, they probably see benefit to prices falling before the election, although profits this quarter will suffer a bit as a result. But that doesn't mean they are the cause, and there are actually logical explanations for the current round of falling prices.

But here is a counterexample - why is Saudi Arabia still seeming to pump full out even as prices 'collapse?'

For the same reasons refineries are still running full out. Even though margins have fallen, they are still pretty good. Prices haven't collapsed to the point yet that anyone is ready to cut back.

<For the same reasons refineries are still running full out. Even though margins have fallen, they are still pretty good. Prices haven't collapsed to the point yet that anyone is ready to cut back.>
They can cut profits down still make a boat load of money.  Help GW & Bushco. with the elections. Avoid a windfall profits tax.  IMHO (and non-oil educated) I think this would be a wise business decision.  Hell the oil exec's hardly got a slap on the wrist with congress's little dog and pony show.
Where are the democrats?  My god GW and Bushco leave themselves open to attack.  Who is twisting whose arms?

I wouldn't want to be associated with Bush if he was the last man on earth politically, if the deep seated feelings people I talk with is any reflection of the broader electorate- and I voted for the bastard on #1

I wonder if shrub has a |"special relation" with bandar and the other saudi princes, kind of like Ronnie RayGun had.
Occam's Razor is useful for explaining physical processes, but not so useful for explaining human behavoir.  Not saying I disagree with you on the causes of recent price drops, but when manipulation, deceit, etc. are possible, forget about Occam's Razor.
What he doesn't do is dictate prices, and therefore dictate profits.

If oilco CEOs have never dictated prices, they're unique among modern corporations.

Do you honestly believe that the CEO of a company producing a commodity sets the prices for that commodity? Bill Gates may be able to set the price for Microsoft Office. He has a lock on the market. (In reality, those decisions are made far below that level). But he couldn't do it in a commodities market. They watch the prices just like the rest of us. They don't set them.
As it is apparently so important to your ego to have the last word, I will graciously let you have the last word.
As it is apparently so important to your ego to have the last word, I will graciously let you have the last word.

Says the guy who decided to get in one more smear, and the last word.

Actually, what is so important to me is that issues are debated on the basis of facts and not ignorance. I have said before that I often see a lot of parallels in some of these debates and my years of debating Creationists. This is a perfect example. The Creationist, when confronted with the fact that the more science education a person has, the more likely they are to believe in evolution, will say "That's because they have been brainwashed by years of indoctrination. They have been blinded to the TRUTH." However, the truth is that they accept evolution because they understand what it really is, and they understand the scientific method. It is not indoctrination that caused them to accept evolution. It is understanding.

What we have here, Joule, is that you have formed an opinion based on little understanding of how prices are set, and when that opinion was challenged, you ultimately resorted to ad homs. The truth is that I am on the front lines of these pricing decisions, I understand the details behind pricing far better than you do, and that's why my position is what it is. You, in the role of the Creationist, resort to "You believe that because you have been brainwashed."

RR: Realistically, on this one no one knows the whole story. Manipulation of markets has been going on continually since markets came into existence.Long-term we all agree that oil and gasoline prices will rise.We also agree that prices can be manipulated in the short-term. The only disagreement is about who is doing the manipulating and for how long can it be successful.
Realistically, on this one no one knows the whole story.

That's right. This is a global market. But here is the story I do know, and the message I am trying to convey. We set prices that show up on the street. My group. What influences the decision on pricing moves?

1). System inventories: When inventories are rising, prices are cut until margins don't look so good, and then production is cut.
2). What the competitors are doing: If they are lowering prices, and our inventories look OK, and our margins look OK, then we will follow. When system inventories don't look so good, we won't follow, and they will run out of product.

What happens on the NYMEX has no bearing on our pricing decisions. We look to the NYMEX for an indication of where prices are heading, and the markets sometimes behave in an unpredictable manner. But when we change prices, it is due to one of the reasons I mentioned below. When your local gas station changes prices, it can usually be traced to one of those 2 reasons. (An exception could be that the station has marked down winter gasoline to move it out before spring).

If one has a pretty basic understanding of economics, they should understand that prices can't fall for long when market fundamentals don't warrant it. If Bush called up all of the oil companies in the country and got them to start dropping price, then we would simply draw down inventories, and potentially run out of product as demand picked up.

Hi Robert,

Your comment below makes a lot of sense to me.

If one has a pretty basic understanding of economics, they should understand that prices can't fall for long when market fundamentals don't warrant it. If Bush called up all of the oil companies in the country and got them to start dropping price, then we would simply draw down inventories, and potentially run out of product as demand picked up.

Politicians can try to do what they feel is best to ensure their reign of power continues. But their motives don't necessarily match those of an oil Co CEO. If oil companies were foolish enough to abide by the requests of the government politicos, I can't see them hanging on to these politico-prescribed manipulations when it starts to damage their bottom line.

My point is, if Bush-Dick are in cahoots with Big Oil on manipulating prices, there's no guarantee that these manipulative actions will be supported by the market through November. I don't think Big Oil would take that risk, so it's unlikely they'd even entertain the idea, in my opinion.

Tom Anderson-Brown

So, if pricing is based mostly on system inventories (and on competitors response to system inventories)  is it not posible to manipulate system inventories?  More imports of refined product?  Increased refinery output?  Is this not possible?
As I understand it...those inventories reported in the weekly reports are only estimated.  So it would be pretty easy to manipulate those, I imagine.

Four times a year they have to calibrate the estimates with reality, and there are often big changes then.

RR: Thanks for the insight on gasoline pricing (from the inside). Question: gasoline inventories are quite high (historically speaking) before the Nov elections. What is the reason (consumption of gasoline has not dropped noticeably in the USA). High inventories lead to lower prices at the pump. Is the premise that this was an industry-wide miscalculation? If that is the premise, then I can understand why 42% are cynical.
RR: Thanks for the insight on gasoline pricing (from the inside). Question: gasoline inventories are quite high (historically speaking) before the Nov elections. What is the reason (consumption of gasoline has not dropped noticeably in the USA).

Because even though margins have dropped, they are still pretty darn good. Imagine that tomorrow you get a raise to $1 million a year. In six months, they cut you back to $500,000 a year. That's quite a pay cut. Do you quit working? Not if your regular job pays you $50,000 a year. Now, if they keep cutting you back, at some point you will quit. Likewise, if margins keep falling, at some point refiners will cut back (or inventories will fill up).


As a general matter, there is one very substantial factor that diminishes the significance of the scientific mindset as a basis for intellectual superiority, and that is the tendency of the scientific mindset to induce an unwitting allegiance to circular reasoning as the basis of one's fundamental convictions.  In other words, people of a scientific bent often fail to recognize that empirical data which they believe successfully PROVES something does not in fact do so.  This phenomenon arises due to the fact that their pre-conceived, a priori assumptions FATALLY BIASES their interpretation of empirical data to reproduce (in logically circular fashion) those same a priori assumptions as the only seemingly logical outcome that the data will yield.

I am very familiar with this type of pervasive circularity as an integral aspect of the positions of those who deny the historicity of miracles, predictive prophecies, etc., in the canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.  What invariably underlies the veneer of erudition and intellectual sophistication of their scholarly presentations is a fallacious core of logical circularities that recycle their (unproven and unprovable) anti-supernaturalistic assumptions as allegedly iron-cast conclusions of detailed Scriptural analysis.

I am very familiar with this type of pervasive circularity as an integral aspect of the positions of those who deny the historicity of miracles, predictive prophecies, etc., in the canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.

Do you mean like "The Bible is true and infallible."

"How do you know?"

"Because it says so."

Seriously, Phil, I would be glad to debate some of those so-called circular arguments. I have probably seen them all many times, but I have yet to see one that really was circular. Can you give an example? A favorite is often radiometric dating, or that the geological layers are used to date the fossils, and the fossils are used to determine the layers.

But, I will reiterate what I said below: I won't debate your religion with you, unless you equate your religion with Young Earth Creationism, and feel like that needs to be taught as an alternative to evolution. But your own religious beliefs are none of my concern.

As far as the veracity vast tracts of the historical portions of the Bible are concerned (particularly those from Genesis 12 onward, which describes Abraham's divine call), as a general matter, no one has yet succeeded in DISPROVING them in the absence of circular reasoning.  Thus, the Higher Critical case against Scripture amounts to the same thing you impute to believers:

Why are the historical portions of the Bible a collection of fanciful myths?

Because I say so (i.e., because I will ASSUME ON FAITH that the Bible is ahistorical prior to my investigations of it, without taking the trouble of scientifically proving the validity of this anti-supernatural bias).

Admittedly, though, Genesis 1-11 constitutes a special problem, due to the claims made by orthodox geology, etc.  You assert that the orthodox geological account is not guilty of the types of circularities which are rife in academic Higher Criticism of the rest of the Bible.  This is something I would be interested in pursuing further with you privately, since I am in fact not very knowledgeable about those particular matters.

The Bible Unearthed.

from the review: "The headline news in this book is easy to pick out: there is no evidence for the existence of Abraham, or any of the Patriarchs; ditto for Moses and the Exodus; and the same goes for the whole period of Judges and the united monarchy of David and Solomon. In fact, the authors argue that it is impossible to say much of anything about ancient Israel until the seventh century B.C., around the time of the reign of King Josiah."

And they don't have to use hifalutin language, either.

There is non-bilical evidence for David.


'splain to me how noah rounded up all the animals   in practical terms i mean
Including the 250,000 species of beetles...
You guys haven't spent any time around Creationists at all, have you? Don't you know about the floating vegetation mats and the hyperspeciation following the flood? :-)
right (havent spent a lot of time around creationists)  but that doesnt explain how old noah rounded up all the animals   and you have fossil evidence of this hyperspeciation ?
I consider myself a believer in Creationism, and yet also a believer of Evolution.  I don't think the two are mutually exclusive.  What I don't believe in is an instant version of creation(not saying God couldn't do it, just that I don't think that is the way he did do it), a 6000 year time line, and on the flip side, an uninvolved God in the process of universe's and later biology's evolution.  The idea of natural selection being the "tool" that God uses to create is not sacrilege to me, and certainly not unreasonable to me.  Believing him to be an orderly God, and creating an orderly universe with Laws, I see no reason why he wouldn't stay within the bounds of those rules to further his creation.

As for the account of Noah, the story has many outside sources from other cultures aside from Christo/Judeo culture re-enforcing this story, including depictions from several other cultures about a large flood, and a hero who saved life on a large boat.

Keep in mind, when saving life in the "world" at that time, the scope of the "world" was probably at biggest Asia Minor, and maybe SE Europe, and NE Africa at most.  Not a very large area when compared to the "world" today.  Considering that archeologists and historians believe that it was not uncommon for people of that time to consider the "world" to be the kingdom/empire they were ruled under, the actual geographic area of the "world" is probably even smaller within the context of the Flood story.

The problem I have with other Christians today, is that they try to apply knowledge they have attained in todays world to stories that occurred at a time when knowledge was much more primitive.  They also miss out on many of the cultural and historical influences that affect the Torah, and later Bible, as well as other religious texts such as the Koran.  And as a result of Christians not framing their view of biblical stories in the time period they occured in, Christian detractors continue to use those frames of reference to discredit Christians and their views.

Another issue I have with many fellow Christians is that in their search for validating God through proof(rather than faith), they try to force facts to fit these archaic stories, when the people of these stories had no knowledge of science as we do today.  The Torah and later the Bible was never meant as God's Scientific Handbook to the Universe, it is an instruction book for humanity on how to relate to God and to each other.  In the details of this book God provides some coverage to topics which have scientific interest, but he never explains in the terminology we have today on how "He did it".  To have done so would've meant speaking to an audience at that time which would've had no understanding or the even the foundation to build an understanding of what He was talking about.  (In fact I would argue that even in the terminology of today's science we still lack the needed understanding and knowledge to understand the full implications of the creation of the universe)

It is my opinion (mind you I say opinion) that instead like a parent dealing with a child who has asked a question about a very complicated process, He explained to the people then in a parable format how He created the Universe.  Given the nature of Jesus later, and various other manifestations of God throughout the texts, I don't see this as being a counter to God's nature.  God/Jesus used parables often when explaining complex concepts to His people.

When you look at the creation story from the context of a parable, and compare that to the emerging theories that exist today, the two are not dissimilar, especially when you put into context that Genesis was being told to a scientifically ignorant people and that it is also VERY rich in poetic and metaphorical terms used in langauge at that time.

The big bang would certainly create a lot of light.  The creation of plants, animals and man from the seas and the land and the dust, could easily be a metaphor(parable) for the rising of life from primordial ooze.  The seperation of the "waters from the waters", during the formation of the oceans and the sky could perhaps be speaking of the creation of planets and space and sounds poetically like some of the modern theories involving planetoid creation today from "seas" of material in space gathered(seperated) from the "seas" of vaccuumous space.

When you consider parables were often very poetic in their telling, and full of metaphor the depiction of things as provided by the Torah and the Bible are not all that far off base with the observances made in science today.  The problem is many Christians have tried to put a box on God and say that it has to be a certain way(instant creation).  But God never came out and said in a scientific manner how he did things.  That wasn't his point or his purpose when speaking to the people of the Bible.  His purpose was to inform humans how to relate to Him, and to each other.

Anyhow its just my opinion, and one that many scientists who are also believers hold to as well.  Many of these scientists are leaders in their field and promote theories that more Fundamentalist Christians hail as anti-god, when in fact the theories are not anti- or pro- god at all.  They are simply theories that try to explain observations that these scientists have made.

For athiests I think the problem is reverse.  They have a hard time believing anything without proof.  But God by His nature is not about proof, He is about Faith.

The Bible works fine for its intended purpose of Spiritual guidance, but fails miserably for the unintended purpose trying to be painted on it, by Christians and non-Christians alike.  Like wise Science works great for making observations about the world around us, but all the science in the world doesn't seem to satiate the inner desire most human beings have for something spiritual.  The two sides have interrelated connections, but thats not the same thing as being One and the Same.

What I wish both sides would do, is look at Science, and look at Spirituality not as adversies fighting to see which is right, but as companions in trying to satiate the human quest for more knowledge and more wisdom and eventually a fulfillment of purpose.

Great post.

I base it all on Goedel's Incompleteness Theorem.

No system of logic is entirely self referential. You always have to have an assumption from a higher level of meta-logic.

Therefore there is an infinity of Logics.  Just like Plato's Cave, we never get out of it, we just rise in enlightenment to better lit parts.

As soon as I was taught that, I understood God.

If there was a Big Bang, then who created the Universe in which the Big Bang was possible?

If there is a law of Evolution, then who created the Law of Evolution?  You don't need Intelligent Design to determine that man was divinely ordained, you simply need an understanding that someone, or thing, created a system by which a self conscious being, capable of exercising moral choice, could emerge.

The events of 2000 years ago in the Middle East are based on historical fact, but as reflected in the writings of men who were there at the time, and the editings of the Council of Nicea and other church gatherings.

But the appeal for a moral basis to the universe, and to guide our actions, is both eternal and inescapable.  To be human, to have free choice, is to be a moral being, acting in the sphere of the moral.

The laws of Science are in no way incompatible with this.

and if this was all created by "god"  who or what created "god"  assuming a moral authority based on an belief in "god" is the cause of most of the problems facing the world today  and has been throughout history,  in my opinion       buy  consume   marry and reproduce  do not question authority     move to the 'burbs    drive an suv     buy   consume      consume     consume    you ar getting v e r y   sleepy     consume     c   o   n    s     u     m       e                                                c        o          n               s              u               m                e
rehashed recycled intelligent design     more like ignorant design  , in my opinion
That is the reason you intentionally attempt to set up conditions that will falsify your assumptions. If you go looking for supportive arguments, as most do in the general world, you can always find them and you will get into the circularity you are talking about. This is why science makes progress and is able to correct itself.

Obviously a far too brief analysis - no time for more now.

I follow the argument for the most part but I'm not so sure I totally agree that the response would follow such a simple equation (i.e. Bush calls up his oil buddies to have them drop the price, followed by inventories drawing down and potentially running out as demand increases).  I'm just wondering if it's a given that demand will recover, especially at unprecedented prices and if (when) it does recover what kind of time frame would that occur over (how soon would it show up at the pump).

For example, let's say gas is $3 per gallon for Average Joe - but drops back to $2.75 soon after those (hypothetical) phone calls are made.  That $3 per gallon really put him in a pinch, so is a decline to $2.75 really significant enough to make it so that he now magically no longer perceives being overextended financially.  Is it really enough to make a difference in demand and inventories ?  Say the ole full size pickup costs 75 bucks for a fill-up - now drop the price by a quarter - he's still looking at about $70 to fill up - does that decrease really drive demand upward so forcefully ?  He might really want to buy all the happy talk and cheerleading from the media about gas prices and how much they're down - but at the end of the month he's now paying $700 in gas versus $750 - which is STILL twice what he can really afford...  Joe must be pretty delusional if, after getting walloped by the previous months credit card bills, a subsequent $0.25 drop per gallon makes the pain go away enough so that demand is instantly re-instated.  Is that really how it happens - is there that quick of a correlation between price drop and increased demand ?   I apologize for my lack of economic knowledge on even the basics...

 It has to make you wonder at least a bit though that with the inside information the administration must have about other economic factors - job loss, the wobbly housing market, war-making etc. - isn't it conceivable that they know there wouldn't be a turnaround in demand and even if there is wouldn't there at least be a sufficient lag time to get them thru election season.  I defer to RR based on his knowledge of these issues but I wouldn't put it past the administration - I think they could definitely find some way to manipulate things and then bank on demand not recovering due to other factors to hide what they were up to.   I'm just sayin'...

Supply and Demand. The demand for oil is fairly inelastic but there will always be someone who at one price or another will change their consumption.

P.S. by the way there is a whole planet out there consuming oil and therefore determining the price. Not just the US.

RR -

I said you could have the last word in this so-called debate, and I will keep that promise :-)

Most people it seems have a natural tendency to go for the simplest answer when dealing with a complex system and they reach the limit of their understanding (or, when the system doesn't behave as expected).

"Manipulatorz did it."  

That's where we got the idea for godz and devils.  The guys who came up with the most creative ones usually led the tribes.

Excellent point.

I am constantly telling my co-workers and managers "to embrace the complexity" of our work problems.  And we deal with relatively simple things like the control of oxidation of lipids in food and feeds.  The interactions of mechanisms known (and postulated) in this one tiny little area of science are so complex they are not well understood by more than a handful of people worldwide.  Managers in particular want to reduce the understanding to bullet points for easy dissemination.  Using their simple models to plan the work almost always results in failure because all the crucial detail is lost.

The "simplest answer"?

The notion of 'the invisible hand" derives from the idea of a benelovent God.  Smith's Wealth of Nations is clearly influenced (and limited) by Newton's idea of a divinely inspired machine.

It's unfortunate that economists, such as the clever Mankiw, are still the captives of Newton's mechanistic paradigm, even after a century or more of insight from thermodynamics and more than 3 decades after Georgescu-Roegen ably described the entropic essence of economics.

Understanding politics is not simple.  Because Americans are among the least politically aware people in the world, they are the most manipulated.  How did Team GOP get control of all three branches of the federal government?  How did Americans get conned into Iraq?  The free flow of information??

The Creationist, when confronted with the fact that the more science education a person has, the more likely they are to believe in evolution, will say "That's because they have been brainwashed by years of indoctrination. They have been blinded to the TRUTH." However, the truth is that they accept evolution because they understand what it really is, and they understand the scientific method.

Robert, i think it's fair to say that there is no such thing as a scientific method. Demanding possibilities for falsification hardly constitute a "method". Science is to a large extent about creativity, which in some sense is the opposite of methods and rules.

And i find it somewhat easy to understand that creationists don't adapt the better argument when confronted with "facts". There is no such thing as a scientific fact - science is about explaining facts and the frame which those facts are presented within, is of cource nontheistic. It's all about the frame, less about facts.

I have never met someone that refuses to absorb a fact.

Personally i belive in evolution, but think the current paradigm is an intellectual joke. No wonder people like Stephen Wolfram reject the current theory, which of course make people question Wolframs understanding of evolution. Evolution theory is a ridiculus simple theory, easily explained to a 12 year old.

"Wolfram's claim that natural selection is not the fundamental cause of complexity in biology has led some to state that Wolfram does not understand the theory of evolution. A common sentiment is that NKS may explain features like the forms of organisms, but does not explain their functional complexity."

A child prodigy, doing work in particle physics at 15, not understanding evolution?

Never mind - back to the hydrocarbons!

Where is the "delete post" button?
Misread what Robert wrote regarding fact, sorry - will teach myself to read.
Since evolution was brought up, maybe those of you who have a good grasp of sciene/evolution, etc. can help me with a question I have. I am currently taking an Anatomy and Physiology class. One of the points in modern cell theory says:

"Cells come only fom preexisting cells, not from nonliving matter. All life, therefore traces its ancestory to the same original cells."

Working on the assumption that the universe is a 'closed system' with no life, how does a big bang form living cells on earth? Where did those first cells come from? I am not trying to start an evolutionist/creationist debate, I am just asking as I would like to hear an evolutionist perspective on that point.


It's slightly more complicated than I have the time to get into, or than your textbook allows.
Thanks! That will provide some good reading material.
Begin by understanding that this is all a story that we tell ourselves. The current story is different from the ones we told in the past and will be different from the ones we tell in the future. Origin and perceptions of disjuncture are not the strengths of the scientific worldview. Indeed, in some ways you could say that through science we can describe the world really well, but that story suggests that the really important things (big bang, life, consciousness) should not have happened. Oh well, we can't really expect a story to be entirely self-contained, can we?
Robert, i think it's fair to say that there is no such thing as a scientific method. Demanding possibilities for falsification hardly constitute a "method".

Well, yes there is. And no one in their right mind would say that falsification is the entire scientific method. Being falsifiable is a validation of many theories arrived at by using the scientific method. That is, it is a valid theory, not necessarily a proven fact. However it is not the, in and itself,  the scientific method.

The Scientific Method

1. Observation and description of a phenomenon or group of phenomena.

  1. Formulation of an hypothesis to explain the phenomena. In physics, the hypothesis often takes the form of a causal mechanism or a mathematical relation.

  2. Use of the hypothesis to predict the existence of other phenomena, or to predict quantitatively the results of new observations.

  3. Performance of experimental tests of the predictions by several independent experimenters and properly performed experiments.

If the experiments bear out the hypothesis it may come to be regarded as a theory or law of nature (more on the concepts of hypothesis, model, theory and law below). If the experiments do not bear out the hypothesis, it must be rejected or modified. What is key in the description of the scientific method just given is the predictive power (the ability to get more out of the theory than you put in; see Barrow, 1991) of the hypothesis or theory, as tested by experiment. It is often said in science that theories can never be proved, only disproved. There is always the possibility that a new observation or a new experiment will conflict with a long-standing theory.

Papirus again:

There is no such thing as a scientific fact - science is about explaining facts and the frame which those facts are presented within, is of cource nontheistic. It's all about the frame, less about facts.
I have never met someone that refuses to absorb a fact.

Well, that all depends on your definition of a fact. Thousands of scientists would disagree with you. There are literally millions of scientific facts. And I have met hundreds of people who refuse to absorb a fact. You must have lived a very sheltered life not to have met such a person. In the world of fundamentalist religion, there are millions of them. As Eric Hoffer put it:

It is the true believer's ability to "shut his eyes and stop his ears" to the facts that do not deserve to be either seen or heard which is the source of his unequaled fortitude and constancy. He cannot be frightened by danger nor disheartened by obstacle nor baffled by contradictions because he denies their existence.
- Eric Hoffer: The True Believer.


Personally i belive in evolution, but think the current paradigm is an intellectual joke. No wonder people like Stephen Wolfram reject the current theory, which of course make people question Wolframs understanding of evolution. Evolution theory is a ridiculus simple theory, easily explained to a 12 year old.
"Wolfram's claim that natural selection is not the fundamental cause of complexity in biology has led some to state that Wolfram does not understand the theory of evolution. A common sentiment is that NKS may explain features like the forms of organisms, but does not explain their functional complexity."
A child prodigy, doing work in particle physics at 15, not understanding evolution?

You believe in evolution but think the current paradigm is an intellectual joke? Spoken like a true creationist! Yes evolutionary theory is stunningly simple but nevertheless a lot of people simply cannot grasp its very simple principles. Yes a lot of people just cannot understand how such a very simple thing as normal variation and natural selection, can over thousands of generations, lead to very complicated changes. But simply because a 15 year old genius cannot understand it does in no way invalidate natural selection or even the current paradigm. That is about the most absurd thing I have heard in years.

Ron Patterson


Criticism of a notion of an universal scientific method - the method - is quite common and often accepted, i'm surprised that you bring such steam into this. It strikes me that there could be a misunderstanding present. My previous post was not exactly a brilliance in clarity, pardon that. I'll be fair and will not adress mathematics and "the method" here, but there are plenty of reading on the topic available.

Being falsifiable is a validation of many theories arrived at by using the scientific method. That is, it is a valid theory, not necessarily a proven fact. However it is not the, in and itself,  the scientific method.

My position is that what most people think of as the scientific method is more like a guidance or a set of rules that the scientist may or may not follow. Despite what your possibly biased mind might think, there's no need to lecture me on "the scientific method". Authority is a central element in science. People don't waste time on reading about new revolutionary theories from an unknown scientist. Therefore i will not expect you to listen to me, an anonymous poster at TOD.

Perhaps you are all ears to Werner Heisenberg, one of the pioneers in quantum theory? By the way, it seems like your scientific method starts with observations.

"It is quite wrong to try founding a theory on observable magnitudes alone. In reality the very opposite happens. It is the theory which decides what we can observe."

Paul Feyerabend's most famous book is named "against method". His position is that methodological rules generally do not contribute to scientific success, and he provides counterexamples like the Copernican revolution, where he show that all common prescriptive rules of science are violated, and still everyone agrees that the copernician view is progressive. He ironically made the rule for science; anything goes. Feyerabend was also critical of falsificationism, arguing that using a naive falsificationist rule wouldn't be good fore science. He provide examples from quantum mechanics:

"Renormalization' in quantum mechanics provides an example of his intentionally provocative style: "This procedure consists in crossing out the results of certain calculations and replacing them by a description of what is actually observed. Thus one admits, implicitly, that the theory is in trouble while formulating it in a manner suggesting that a new principle has been discovered" (AM p. 61). Such jokes are not intended as a criticism of the practice of scientists. Feyerabend is not advocating that scientists do not make use of renormalization or other ad hoc methods. Instead, he is arguing that such methods are essential to the progress of science for several reasons."

Well, that all depends on your definition of a fact. Thousands of scientists would disagree with you. There are literally millions of scientific facts. And I have met hundreds of people who refuse to absorb a fact. You must have lived a very sheltered life not to have met such a person.

Interpretations are often mistaken for facts. Facts are almost independent of who's observing, that's why they are called facts. And i do not understand why you connect denial of facts specifically to religion.

You believe in evolution but think the current paradigm is an intellectual joke? Spoken like a true creationist! Yes evolutionary theory is stunningly simple but nevertheless a lot of people simply cannot grasp its very simple principles.

Short comment. It often strikes me that studying physics, which really is the simple science, answers are pretty complicated and hard to master - and the participants easily admit contradictions and uncertainties within the science. In biology, the complex science, the atmosphere is different; simple answers and a know-it-all attitude.

But simply because a 15 year old genius cannot understand it does in no way invalidate natural selection or even the current paradigm. That is about the most absurd thing I have heard in years.

I agree, but it does interfere the hypotheses that criticism happen because lack of knowledge. You state yourself that current evolution theory is simple, so how come it's reasonable to believe that a genius don't understand it?

There are lots of scientists and philosophers doing good criticisms to "the method". Pretty often they point out divergences between practice and theory, fueling the debate and worrying philosophers that there is no general description of science, an answer that some dislike and others enjoy. In the meantime the sheeps wander around thinking that those scientifical guys are really objective.

My position is that i'll let "the method" satisfy itself if i find it useful in my work.

Debates with creationists.  Debates with those who think the world is flat.  Debates with those that think the lower gas prices are a form of Election winning hanky-panky.  

The problem is that if you hold a given view.  Even if your view can be found in masses of writings by many other people and even if you can logically defend it.  It is still your view of the facts and figures and things that you have filtered through your given looking glass picture of the world around you.

I have been taking it upon myself to hone my thought patterns to get better at presenting an issue or just my point of view, becuase right now I am putting down on the net and on paper my movie of a book of mine.

I am a Christian.  But I will not debate my faith with you, it is my truth as I see it.  You could never see it through my eyes, nor can I see your world through your eyes.  I could discribe what you see, tell others about it and help them understand where you are coming from, or where I am coming from for that matter.  I can not convince you of anything.  I can offer you facts and figures and my thoughts and let you decide for yourself.

Debating is a great form of giving both sides of the story to those that are listening to the debate, and to the ones in the debate.  In most cases the debate will not convince the one side to fall in step with the other.  That is where we can get all bent out of shape when the other side just will not listen to "Our Reason".  

On the whole topic of the market vs. the calls.

It happened this way last year, but no elections were in a few months.  It did not fall that far, but it fell.  I liked the Tom Whimple piece above it gave a concise reason for what happened and why it most likely happened.  It is up to each of us to filter it all through to our core self and change our way of thinking or not.

Plug for my book.  http://www.dan-ur.blogspot.com  Chapter 6 inside of Installment #5 is online.  Any of you wannabe editors have any time go and read tear it apart, tell me what you think.  If you like mysteries, a spice of action, a slice of humor and a hint of romance, this might be for you.  

I have modified how I debate my ideas with others.  I can not of myself convince anyone to change their mind and come to my side and way of thinking.  I will have to learn to live knowing I know nothing and can do nothing but offer you a good tale and a tall glass of your favorite drink If I have any, and sit a spell and chat with you.

Leave as friends, not as enemies come again let us talk about our points of view and see the world through another's eyes for a while.

Charles E. Owens Jr.  Author At Large.

Hint( I am a large man, some call me Bear.)

I am a Christian.  But I will not debate my faith with you, it is my truth as I see it.

Dan, don't confuse your Christianity with Young Earth Creationism. I will not debate someone's faith. But if they wish to argue that the earth is 6,000 years old and man is a recent Creation, I will debate that on the scientific merits.

You could never see it through my eyes, nor can I see your world through your eyes.

You might be surprised, Dan. I grew up in a fundamentalist Christian home. I was baptized at the age of 12. My entire family consists of Christians, and we have sent missionaries to Japan, Switzerland, and Brazil. My father-in-law is a preacher, and my brother is a deacon. So, I can probably see the world through your eyes. BUT, I lost my young earth view during my scientific training in college.

Again, I don't debate faith, nor do I debate the existence of God. I will debate the age of the earth and the evidence for evolution and against Young Earth Creationism. But if you believe that God caused the Big Bang, or started the ball rolling on life, then I have no reason to challenge your view.

RR: The persons who believe the earth is 6000 years old have a clear definition of "God". When someone states that "God started the Big Bang" it would be useful if you would preface this statement by defining "God", which, in 2006, appears to have an infinite number of definitions.
'The TAO that can be spoken is not the Eternal TAO.'

That is to say, you might be asking to define something that is simply undefinable.  Language simply is not going to be up to the task.

'The truth is one.  The Sages call it by many names.'

"defining "God", which, in 2006, appears to have an infinite number of definitions."

Operationally, God is beginning to resemble not a ruler but the last fading smile of a cosmic Cheshire cat.
- Julian Huxley

I have thoughts on that you might find interesting, But I would rather not posit them here.  As we are slightly straying into territory for the endless brik-a-brak of the scrolling I say this you say that, that this medium has difficulty with.  

I though do stand that some things can only be talked about, never meaning to have the other convinced by the one to a differing viewpoint.  It's the nature of mankind to form stone walls that close off the mind to changes, for the good or for the bad.  I would not want to remove this feature of the genetics of mankind.  I would seek to know that it is there and find ways to dicuss it over a hot cup of tea and a leg of cow, pork or frog, or for those that can't stand to see an animal hurt a leg of brocoli or lettuce.

My e.mail is ceojr1963@yahoo.com.  

As always, depends on what you mean by manipulation - for example, with profits running in the 10 billion dollar per quarter range, ExxonMobil does have just the tiniest little bit of spare change it can spare for political advocacy.

Personally, I do not think the markets are being manipulated in the sense of some single central nexus.

I do think that companies in aggregrate which are earning literally billions of dollars a month in profits have an interest in ensuring that happy circumstance continues in the future, even if it involves a certain conversion of profit to 'expense' in the very short term.

How much reduction, and whether that reduction extends to direct price setting is a factual point, and one which can be argued at a factual level. Personally, I doubt very much that anyone is sending anyone else a memo to lower gasoline prices.

On the other hand, being in the same business, facing the same political risks, they don't have to, either.

And manipulation is not really that hard - remember when Exxon and Mobil used to be part of Standard Oil? Remember where Mobil moved its headquarters to? (Fairfax, VA, a real famous part of the oil patch). And this just a few short years before one part of Standard Oil was allowed to reacquire another part of Standard Oil, an enlarged part which just happens to fund a world wide campaign against the perception that the climate is changing due to the human burning of fossil fuels, with a large number of now proved front groups doing the dirty work?

Coming as I do from around DC, everything revolves around politics. Sort of like how in a place like Houston, everything revolves around oil.

And in this case, the two fit very much hand in glove (or is that hand in till?) - and in what part of the former Standard Oil did the current Secretary of State work for?

If you want to be really, really cynical, the various oil industry related tax cuts, lease handouts, and pesky legal investigations which just end up like water in sand mean that Big Oil is likely just pleased as punch to return whatever favors they can to their friends in high places.

But it is just silly to think that someone gets on the phone to set the price of gasoline, I certainly concur on that.


Who the heck is HiD and why should I believe what he tells Jerome?  I'm not trying to poo-poo your efforts to dispel market manipulations, but you have to admit there are times when markets move for reasons you (an oil insider) or HiD (a former oil trader) can't explain.  When that happens, how do you know what is moving the market?

The sharp drop in gas prices in recent weeks has given birth to many diaries or comments suggesting that this is a BigOil pre-electoral trick (too many to link to, in fact). I'd like, with the help of HiD, a former oil trader, to guide you through the explanations as to what is happening, which is perfectly understandable under normal market mechanisms under the current international context.

Who the heck is HiD and why should I believe what he tells Jerome?  I'm not trying to poo-poo your efforts to dispel market manipulations, but you have to admit there are times when markets move for reasons you (an oil insider) or HiD (a former oil trader) can't explain.  When that happens, how do you know what is moving the market?

Over the short term, prices often behave in an unpredictable manner. Yesterday was a prime example of the market doing something exactly the opposite of what we thought it should. However, we don't know everything. A multi-billion dollar hedge fund could have decided to load up on oil contracts, therefore pushing the price up. Lots of little things can go on like that in the background. But if the market fundamentals don't support yesterday's move, then it won't be sustainable.

Thanks, Robert.  That's what I was looking for.  There are times when market fundamentals control prices, but there are times when they appear not to control prices.

My wish is to know what controls prices when market fundamentals are not.

The large trading desks ARE the market.  

If you don't understand that, read "Liar's Poker", it's a great introduction to the crazy world of Investment Banking.  A highly entertaining read as well.

Thanks...I shall look it up.  

And who runs the large trading desks?  The large investment firms.  And who runs the large investment firms?  Any takers on where this line of discussion is headed?

Robert.  I find that you are an extremely credible source and we are lucky to have you as a poster on this site.  Thanks for giving us some insight into how oil companies set prices.  

However, in another article I read this morning, it was pointed out that Jack2 could have been announced last May and not after labor day. It was also pointed  out that Bush has sure sounded relatively benign lately regarding Iran.  None of this proves anything, but traders react to news and event like these and I still think it plausible that these two occurrences could indicate that the Bush administration is trying to influence the markets.

While it has certainly not been proven that the Cheney administration is manipulationg events to lower prices, it seems plausible that they would try to do so. I would put nothing past Bush, Cheney, and Rove.

However, in another article I read this morning, it was pointed out that Jack2 could have been announced last May and not after labor day. It was also pointed  out that Bush has sure sounded relatively benign lately regarding Iran.  None of this proves anything, but traders react to news and event like these and I still think it plausible that these two occurrences could indicate that the Bush administration is trying to influence the markets.

Last post for me for a while, and then I have to get to work. Yes, the Jack2 announcement could have been political. I will concede that. In fact, I mentioned yesterday that this is one way a company could have a very short-term influence on prices. If suddenly all of the oil companies announced findings like this, right before the election, now you have the makings of a credible theory on price manipulation. As it stands, we can say this may have been an attempt to influence prices. But if I am not mistaken, prices were already in free-fall before this.

The government can do a lot to influence prices in the short term. They could release a massive amount of oil from the SPR. As you said, they have settled down a bit toward Iran. So it is not my contention that nobody can influence the market. It is my contention that oil companies are not deliberately doing this to influence the election.

They were falling only after a 30 day war ended.
Robert and I seldom agree on anything, especially when it concerns Saudi Arabia. However here we are in 100% agreement. The idea that the president can, at will, manipulate the price of gas at the pump is just silly. And for those who wish to drag in the SPR, you should notice that there has been very little movement, in or out of the SPR, in months.

There are several explanations for the recent drop in oil and gasoline prices, none of them involve orders from the Oval office. All this speculation about the president being involved is just an extension of other silly conspiracy theories.

I am a died in the wool democrat and would like nothing better than blame all this on the president. However that bumbling fool, who's actions have increased the terrorist threat many fold, is simply not capable of doing anything of this nature.

Ron Patterson

Ron, the real proof is that Rove et al haven't blamed high prices on the gays,lesbians,Clintons and  terrorists. Without that level of slander and hate-mongering its hard to beleive they were involved. They might be taking advantage of the situation, but its hard to over-estimate their meanness in any situation.
  Rove's hatred of gays is based on his family experience, his father left home to come out of the closet. Its like Hitler's anti-semeticism is based on his probable grandfather's Jewish origins. Almost all of his ad hominem attacks employ this anti-gay strain, trying to deflect attention from his gay stain.(God, a poetic analysis)Note his campaigns against Ann Richards, and his attack orchestration on Hilary Clinton
NPR addressed the public's perception that Bush was manipulating the lower oil prices yesterday afternoon.  Their conclusion:  it was not possible for the president to manipulate the price.
Other than the generally accepted decline in saber rattling as a contributing cause ...
For the purposes of the 'saleability' of your argument you might have done better than pick a guy whose has been a loyal servant of el diablo.

Of course the power of the President is limited in a market system.  The power of the politburo was limited in the Soviet System.  What's the point?  George doesn't work alone.  There is the team that raised $60 million to get him out of the starting gate at the start of the 2000 election cycle, and then managed to turn a loss into a victory.  Team GOP has had a lot of success since, and have paid themselves well for their astuteness.

Is there a credible case that Team GOP has conspired (or, 'given it their best shot', if you are uncomfortable to use a word that rolled off Hillary's lips not all that long ago) to push down the all important price of gasoline prior to the mid-term elections?

Well, let's start a list of 'strange occurrences', in no particular order:

  1. Iran.  What's happened to the urgency of the situation?
  2. Jack2.  How did an incremental production test in the Ultra Deep GoM conducted in the springtime become another Prudhoe Bay in the public imagination in early September, so much so that even Michael Klare refers to it as a discovery, when it was nothing of the kind.
  3. SPR.  During the fall of 2000, a full SPR was for Bush a matter of national security. And now?
  4. GSCI.  Hmmmn.
  5. The no-peak-oil full court press involving Exxon, the Saudi's and their paid touts from Michael Lynch to the Hudson Institute.  Endless media exposure for people trying to talk down the price of oil.

Are there more 'strange occurrences'?  

None of this takes away from the fact that a just-in-time delivery system has got to move gasoline stocks and that the response to oversupply is lower prices.  Like the end-of-driving-season price movement and winter fuel changeover, these are predictable phenomena.  Working with the predictable is important in gaining leverage.  

I for one am glad that many Americans believe the recent fall in oil price is a political manipulation, whether that allegation is correct or not -- as long as this belief affects their voting!  Also, this belief reduces the impact of temporarily lower oil prices on peoples' attitude towards "peak oil theory" and energy conservation.  E.g., supposedly there is not much of an uptick in SUV sales as yet, that is good.
It's still a bit of a shame that Americans think voting the other party will make one iota of difference.
But the fact that people in the USA are becoming suspicious of the politicians (of all stripes) is a good thing, if we are to have any hope of moving away from the warmongering totalitarian oligarchy towards a somewhat saner society as we need to handle what's coming.
I venture that you're not aware of the degree to which the US government has been screwed up in the last six years.  Yes, I'm dissatisfied with the two-party system, and I recognise that some important things wouldn't have been significantly different in a Gore presidency.  I remember saying similar statements 7+ years ago.  But there are just too many instances where the Republicans seem to be out to actively corrupt and destroy our flavor of democracy, to replace it with something outrightly fascist, to ever say that again.

There are a thousand examples, but noone seems to have the attention span anymore, so I'll leave you with just one -
The other party wouldn't 'solve' Abu Ghraib by banning cameraphones.

I venture that you're not aware of the degree to which the US government has been screwed up in the last six years.

And I venture that you're not aware of the degree to which the US government has been screwed up in the last 106+ years.

You are watching a shadow play.

And the theatre is on fire.

Maybe I'm not quite educated enough to make a point-by-point comparison to every past US leader.

But they were.  And that was two years ago, before Iraq descended into total anarchy, before much of the torture "debate", before Josh Bolton...

The list goes on.  And on.

I think at this point you can objectively say that this president is a horrible one - and while the Republican Party itself may or may not be more corrupt than the Congress of 100 years ago (which, to be fair, was way out there), I think it's fair to say there's a pretty big goddamn difference at this point and time.

Loading non-political agencies, important non-political agencies, with people who worked campaign rallies, then firing any career professional who dares not to reach their conclusions is bad government.  Having good friends who own the press run your year-round PR campaigns(because you can't think of any other way to lead) is bad government.  Blatantly violating a document you swore to uphold is bad government.  Being unable to admit you're wrong, or take action to correct yourself, is bad government.

Objectively bad.  Combined together, historically bad.

"war" in iraq   not an iota ?
I for one am glad that many Americans believe the recent fall in oil price is a political manipulation, whether that allegation is correct or not -- as long as this belief affects their voting!

I just had this discussion by e-mail with someone yesterday. I often feel caught between a rock and a hard place. I can let my industry be scapegoated, knowing that this will help get the incumbents booted out. Or, I can defend my industry when the criticisms aren't warranted, but I am usually defending it against people with the same political views as my own. It's a lose-lose proposition for me.

Just for the record, I do not want to attack your industry, only the politics within which your industry must operate.
Regarding the manupulation of prices, which would presuppose some ability to increase supplies of petroleum and its refined products irrespective of demand, can anyone here explain why the US is importing such large quantities of gasoline when there's plenty of crude on hand and refineries are back at full capacity? Last week gasoline imports averaged nearly 1.5 million barrels a day, the fifth highest weekly average ever accoding to EIA. These imports coincided with a very productive week for domestic refiners, leading to a build of 6.3 million barrels last week.

A related question: who decides how much gasoline to import?
I doubt very much that domestic refiners would be overjoyed at the prospect of abnormally high volumes of gasoline imports flooding this country.


There's a similar situation with the people who insist that the important part is "But it's peaking NOW!!!  WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING!"

Either you can attack them, point to lists of new projects coming online in the next few years, and help defeat policies that you advocate, or you can remain silent.

For a guy in a lose-lose position you have garnered a lot of respect here. And deserved it.
I thought this Energy Bulletin article presented a reasonable and balanced view.  Basically, the author attributes the price drop to market forces but acknowledges the real potential for indirect manipulation for political ends.
I just looked at this very long thread. I notice the word "hedge" (as in fund) only occurred twice in it.

As long as there have been markets, there has been manipulation of those markets. It is naive for anyone to think otherwise. I have mentioned recently that there seemed to be the possibility that the current oil price had been manipulated downward.

The now accepted wisdom -- which anyone who contributes to The Oil Drum should doubt automatically, is that prices were in a bubble due to hedge fund speculation.

Company finance directors and spendthrift shoppers alike have reason to hope that energy prices will be more manageable in the coming year, a function of the market economy rather than global anxiety. Oil may not fall back to its post-World War II average of $25.56 per barrel. But the surge was exaggerrated by huge volumes of hedge fund speculation. That would suggest the price will not halt here.
Look at Amaranth, they say. See, there it is. Well, to this, I say nonsense. The price drop started before the Amaranth debacle. The price was based on a number of factors, not the least of which is that there is no spare capacity in the world market. But now everybody is ignoring that.

Everyone assumes (Jerome does, for example) that the big money funds were betting on a reprise of what happened in 2005 during and after the hurricanes. No doubt some were, but that was not a significant price driver earlier this year. Fundamentals and geopolitics were the two main price drivers. About the recent price tumble, I wrote about contributing factors in Whither Oil Prices?. That was before this hedge fund manure hit the air conditioning.

Now, what about manipulation of the markets? If you have a snowball rolling downhill, as we did in early the 2nd and 3rd weeks of August (before Amaranth), then it is incredibly easy to get the ball rolling faster simply by having a few large hedge/pension funds pull out of the oil market. It's just that simple. I don't know that it happened. I am just broaching the possibility. Say the words: Karl Rove, Dick Cheney. How do you feel? Do you trust those guys? I thought not.

As for the oil companies manipulating the market -- that's ridculous. They don't have the capability or the desire to do that.

And a final word. What is The Oil Drum all about? It's about questioning assumptions, it's about looking at the world with fresh eyes, it's about skepticism about recieved wisdom. Whenever I hear someone telling me the markets are a rational place driven by their own peculiar rules -- and no human meddling occurs there -- that's when I start worrying.

Whenever I hear someone telling me the markets are a rational place driven by their own peculiar rules -- and no human meddling occurs there -- that's when I start worrying.

I've gotta confess, Prodigal Son, I have no idea what the Magic Can Opener actually means -- that is buried in the sands of time -- but I must say that every time it makes an appearance, that really makes my day.

I can not stop laughing.

You really do get it, don't you?

What is the joke with the can opener?
Ya dave, we know now that raegan had a secret deal for the saudi's to pump full out to drive down prices in the mid eighties,  the USSR  collapsed. It worked.
Is there any documentation of this? It is stated like fact by several posters here, but I don't think it is broadly accepted.
I hope you get this Jack...

The Administration oversaw a military build-up that represented a policy named "peace through strength". The U.S. set a new policy toward the Soviet Union with the goal of winning the Cold War by using a strategy outlined in NSDD-32 (National Security Decisions Directive). The directive outlined Reagan's plan to confront the USSR on three fronts: decrease Soviet access to high technology and diminish their resources, including depressing the value of Soviet commodities on the world market[oil]; increase American defense expenditures to strengthen the U.S. negotiating position; and force the Soviets to devote more of their economic resources to defense.

I think this is as close as official as you're gonna get.
From wikipedia.

??? - a question

I would like to ask what % of oil is traded spot market or short term as opposed to locked into long term contracts? Obviousily from oil company profits in the last few years, they're not buying many barrels at $70.

That is a very good question. Unfortunately, none of us have a good answer for it. I've checked it out and can't find any good data. You would think that such an important analysis would have been done -- maybe it has, but it's not available as far as I can see -- but yeah, that's a great question.

Exports? Imports? The question pertains to these. You would think people might take that more seriously. I know I do and so do Jeffrey (westexas) & Sam (Khebab), among others.

I sent the question to one of our crude traders. She is out of the office today, but I will talk to her tomorrow to see if she knows the answer. I think the answer is that it is a very small percentage of the overall oil market.
Yes, I'm sure it is. So its interesting to debate how the price of oil is set when the vast majority of the market has little direct bearing with nymex price, especially short term, yet gasoline price has little time lag between the spot price and what's charged at the pump.

The oil market is so opaque and so few players, I'd be surprised if there are any good numbers, then again why should that be any different than the rest of energy numbers. Anyway, it all makes for more coloful conversation.

Be interesting to hear response, I've been asking around for this number for a few years.

Just a small observation. Here in Chicago there's been very little responsiveness to the decrease in spot price. $3/gallon still prevails at some stations, lowest today $2.789. Just across border in Indiana. lots of responsiveness. You tell me what it means.
Here in Minnesota gas has been as low as $2.07 last week.  Today on my drive to work it was between $2.11 and $2.26 at the various stations.

The thing that amazes me is the volatility in the pricing over the past 10 days.

Last week, Thursday morning at a string of 5 stations the price was $2.07 to $2.14.  In the afternoon every station was up to $2.35.  By Friday afternoon most had dropped back to $2.25.

Up through Tuesday morning prices had dropped down to $2.14 at all 5 stations.  On Tuesday afternoon all 5 stations were back up to $2.29.  This morning these 5 stations were in a range of $2.12 to $2.26.

I have trouble understanding how 5 stations can one day range their price by $0.15, then all jack to the same price that afternoon.  These 5 stations consist of 2 Holidays, a SuperAmerica, a Mobile, and a Conoco, and they are spread along a 10 mile stretch of highway.

It confuses me how from day to day they can vary the price by more then 10% between stations, all raise and lower prices by 10% or more, and within a 3 hour span go from a $0.15 spread in prices to all 5 stations being the same.

The amount of volatility is mind boggling.

This is a difficult topic. I strongly suggest serious readers here to check AAA's website on gasoline prices. They track 65,000 stations I think. They break it down by state averages and national, and I think they do regions.

It's easy to get caught up in anecdotal evidence. The numbers in this case don't lie. I can't vouch for how individual stations are doing things, but the average price of retail should be about 65 cents higher than wholesale(on average). Which I believe it is.

Typically(so I have been told) retail follows wholesale down slower than it follows it up. In this last price dive I would say it looked just about right.

I plan to do some work on this in the next week, update some graphs and look at the recent correlation of crude to wholesale gasoline.

Definitely bookmark Triple A's gasoline website and check it  every day.

Insofar as I know, virtually all US oil production is bought based some percentage above or below the "Posted" price, which is basically a version of the spot price (generally somewhat less than Nymex).  

And I think that the prices paid for most imports are generally based current supply and demand.

Interesting, I dont understand why there wouldnt be lot of long term contracts? In electricity there are.
  There are in fact plenty of long term contracts, but they have a floating price determined just as WestTexas stated.
Occasionally producers will lock in a future price by selling their production, but these can be either profit makers or loosers. Look at the notes in the financial statements of public independents for examples-a good one is Petrohawk. That's not a recommendation for their stock, I just remember some being there in their quarterlies which are available online.
  For a producer to change purchasers it must update all its legal and landwork showing who gets the proceeds from a well,aka Division Orders. This is often very costly and a true pain in the posterior portions of the anatomy, so its not done often.
 There are a number of independent oil purchasers who pick up the oil at isolated fields and then put it in to refinery pipelines. Good examples are Scurlock-Permian, owned by Ashland, EOG Resources, spun off by Enron, JM Petroleum out of Abilene, and Ada, also known as Adams Resources. The majors also buy crude from these guys and some large independents.
Independents don't really count, they're such a small part of the market and have no pricing power. For the destruction of American oil independents I'd highly suggest Lawrence Goodwyn's "Texas Oil, American Dreams, A Study of the Texas Independent Producers and Royalty Owners Association". It does a great job of showing how the Feds colluded with Big Oil to in their minds bring volatility out of oil prices. Not much I've heard about here in discussion on oil price.

It doesn't make a lot of sense to have the bulk of your supply with long term contracts tied to spot price, defeats purpose. But then again... My guess is you'll never get a clear picture because the oil companies will say contracts are proprietary.

The one piece of data is profits, which show the oil companies aren't spending 60-70 a barrel to buy oil.

i have little doubt that the iran situation affects the price of crude oil and therefore gasoline  and for political reasons bush has temporarily diffused the crisis  but i doubt that bush's neocon handlers have a diplomatic solution in mind ( and incidentally  for diplomacy to fail one would have to actually engage in diplomacy)  if bush , and his neo-con handlers have their way economic sanctions will be next   then iran and venesuala restrict sales to the us    crude skyrockets  (after the mid term elections of course)
Khosla responds to conflicts-of-interest charge on oil tax


I backtracked this to their story about your discussion with Vinny. They gave you round one.


Just a french article, but it is yours truly being given an interview for discussing the peak oil problem.

Since I'm involved with many elected officials here, I tend to steer the debate into this direction.  I also know personnaly many local and regional journalist, wich is of some help too.

I have given my conference last weekend and we were 3 discussing for a whole afternoon some aspect of peak oil.  

Instead of just translating peak oil into "pic pétrolier" I used the more profound "déclin de l'économie pétrolière" or petroleum economy decline.  I think it grasp better the whole problem.  

I have talked about the problem, then Patrick talked about the agricultural aspect and tried to come with some ways to answer that problem.  He told me that an alternative to make an actual garden is to try to keep an healty land (green grass) with optimal soil composition.  When needed, you just plow the grass!

After his friend Pierre talked about wood mass furnace.  It was so much a good idea that I'm curently convincing our local provincial deputy to include it in a national program to convert electrical heating toward mass furnace.  I will let you know of anything interesting developping in that matter.

I finished the afternoon talking about solution, the one I have posted at the relocalization network.

I know I dont post often, but I'm working really hard to make solution happen here in my place.


The future of agriculture is in no-till or reduced-till farming (mow the undergrowth when you need to plant) using low, localized fertilizer loads, hardier GM plants(as opposed to GM plants that survive under massive fertilizer/pesticide loads), much more extensive crop rotation, and more sustainable irrigation techniques.

Wood furnaces are rather dirty, particularly compared to nuclear power.  They contribute to smog and global warming, and are hard to sustain in any numbers without destroying forests.  If you're blessed with a functional nuclear infrastructure...    Why bother?

As I said, solution are gone to be local and regional, not broadly national or even supranational

My friend Pat is curently developping farming techniques used by chineese for 4000 years.  You can read it in the Farmer of 40 centuries.

Plant can be and are modified and selected for local growing efficiency since centuries.

As for wood furnace, I agree that slow combustion furnace are dirty and emit lots of dioxyn, furanes, HAP and particules.  However, mass furnace are very efficient at burning all the gases at 900 celcius. As for the CO2 cycle, when burning wood or biomass (instead of stored biomass from coal or oil) the complete cycle of carbon is maintained.

For heating all the Quebec province, we only need 1,6% of the available forest.  The available forest is calculated by determining how much does the forest grows each year.  Since you certainely know that trees goes to this cycle naturaly :

  1. Seed ->
  2. Growth (70 years or more) ->
  3. Death and decay

In the step 2, the tree is converting CO2 into cellulose.
In the step 3, the tree is releasing CO2 by decaying.

This is happening since trees exist (not because we want or not)

Using the log for heating release trapped energy and branches stay on the forest ground to maintain good soil nutrients.  Most of the nutrient used by a tree is loged in the branches.

The economy in electricity can go from 60 % to 80 % for each house.  Our friend has a 95 % reduction.

This reduction in local comsumption is alowing a big slump of our hydro power free to sell and export to Ontario and Northem US. This exportation allow us to make a whole lot more of money that selling local.  Electricity sell at 0,04$ KW/h here instead of 0,10$ - 0,20$ in many markets.  

This aditional income goes into the consolidated income of the province, thus allowing to fund a program of light electric rail and improving existing rail.

As for local economy (like in relocalization) using wood instead of electricity for heating will divert the flow of energy expense. Right now the flow of expense divert local earned money to provincial fund (trough QuebecHydro).  Using local wood will transfer that flow of money to the local and in many case in small rural towns.  Since many of our towns are plagged by a very hard situation in the logging and paper industry, that will ensure that we can keep small towns living.  

Those small town are essential to ensure a transition for localization of the economy.  Thus this step is a transition toward a more perenial developpment.

Now, I can answer any challenge to this idea.

As for the CO2 cycle, when burning wood or biomass (instead of stored biomass from coal or oil) the complete cycle of carbon is maintained.
Now, I can answer any challenge to this idea.

The complete cycle has been disturbed via release of old stored carbon.

Why does your plan not char the wood, then take the resulting biochar and put that Carbon back into the soil - terra preta?

It is part of an analysis of using algae to capture most of large factory flue gas.  Including aluminium, cogenetation, steel, etc.

We plan to use the algea to make several biofuels and other products.  Leftover may be buried or stored in a captive form.  

Idealy, we will try to grow the algae not using concentrated CO2 or flue gas, in order to study the effective trapping of CO2 already in the atmosphere.  As for any carbon cycle study, the whole cycle and processes will be studied.  If the solution does bring advantages for this problem, we will use it.

There is no single answers or solutions, but I will try to put on the political agenda the most feasible right now.  

When faced with something as important as the well being of the earth and it's habitant, the people that are able and in position to do something have the responsability to do it.

I'm in position to do it in a local and maybe regional way.  If I do it right, the rest of the province will folow. After that Canada will have no choice but to react.  I hope it's not too late, I will do my best t'ill I can.

Robert, I agree with you. There is no manipulation of the gasoline prices by the major oil companies or foreign governments. The market is just too fragmented and tight.

I believe that the oil companies would if they could, its just beyond their power. Let me explain why:

  1. 80% of world production is controlled by national oil companies, and the percentage controlled by the US majors is sinking rapidly. In fact I expect the Majors to get out of production within the next ten years because of diminishing returns combined with increased political heat.
  2. The US refining and marketing is similarily fragmented. About 3/4ths of gasoline is produced by independent refineries, and most gasoline is marketed by convenience stores and discount gas distributors. US owned Majors Chevron, Conoco,Exxon-control less than 25% of the market. Shell, BP and Citgo have no more than another 15% and lack motive to influence the markets except up to maximize profits.
 Certainly they did so in the past when Texas was the swing producer by supporting Rail Road Commission candidates and setting their policies. The RRC was formed by Ross Sterling, the Governor of Texas and head lawyer for the Humble Compan, who became Exxon. Humble Oil heirs were amoung the original supporters of Bush and helped finance their campaigns, but they lack the power to influence with more than contributins and bribes. The market is just too big and not in their control, and hasn't been in the last 25 years.

IMHO, the real reason for the decrease in profits is the collapse of Amarynth. The other 30-something Hedge Fund Cowboys became scared and stopped gambling on energy futures. My proof is the new highs on the stock market in spite of the lousy economic news, and the low interest rates in spite of inflation. The HFC's have parked their money in a more secure place. But, this is a hunch. I'm in oil and gas exploration and have no absolute proof. Maybe someone who follows the futures volumes like Oilceo can either validate my hunch or refute me.  

I got an email from the Adventure Cycling Association today, asking for more money.  I've given this year, but maybe those who accuse moderates of inaction should put their money where their mouth is:


In particular:

Adventure Cycling Association and several other organizations have teamed up with AASHTO (American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials) to develop a national interstate route system - for bikes! With staff support from Adventure Cycling Association, AASHTO's task force is developing a corridor level plan for a bike route system, perhaps similar to those that are being developed in many European countries.



I don't much ride a bike any more.  But a Bike lane can also be a walking lane or a running lane for the really long distance guys.  

Nothing particularly new in the following article, but it does contain a nice summary addressing CERA's "no peak" reports and Jack 2.


I'm a journalist working on a story for a mainstream (large circ) publication about the development small-scale energy devices. i.e. the sort of thing you could run a household or even just a few appliances with.

I lurk on TOD and follow a lot of the discussion here. Have any of you smart folks seen any interesting developments recently on this subject? New breakthroughs or near-breakthroughs that could push this really push this kind of technology forward?


I haven't heard much since the old Honda co-generation announcements:


Oh, "backyard wind" was a recent meme:


You might take a intrest in the work I'm doing.

Basically it's as follows. Alternative power sources are either erratic or expensive or both requiring storage of electrical energy. Right now we have two basic ways to store.
Pumped storage or batteries. Flywheels are another interesting option. Beyond these are super-capacitors and  superconductor rings. If your looking at alternative energy then its electrical and the problem is storage. That's the real problem.

One of the things I work on is developing software that provides a lot of functionality in a low power ( slower cpu ) environment. For example current desktop computers use 200 watts of power or more while quite powerful laptops use far less say 20-30 watts or even less. The lower end of power requirements while still maintaining a desktop equivalent environment may be is low as 5-10 watts but the energy usage of the LCD becomes a big factor at this point. Wireless radios are another major power problem.

So the trick is to develop very low power devices if you can get the power usage way down then the use of solar and wind with battery backup makes a lot of sense.

Consider the following lets say you have a house with a rooftop full of solar panels and a nice wind turbine could you live a modern American life style ?
For kicks add in the electrical requirements of your commute using a electric car. You can then see what is available now or in the near future to lower power requirements and don't forget storage issues its the biggest problem.

It would make a interesting story and show how much energy we use.

I suspect the modern life style requires 40 acres and a mule  for the wifes hair dryer :)


Hi Mike,

Im doing some similar to you. Im using the new VIA C7 CPUs in my servers. I will also be experimenting to see what kind of kit can be run from 12 Volts DC.



In answer to your question about maintaining a "normal" American life-style, let's look at my situation:  3.6kW PV, solar water, 10-12kW of battery storage (when new) and I used to have a wind generator but sold it.  I am also on the grid and have TOU metering (peak=noon to 6PM, weekdays). We, typically, run on the PV from 10AM to 6PM week days but stay on the grid most weekends so that I can irrigate our fruit trees and grapes.

Forgetting about the PEV, the reality would be no.  I live in the boondocks in the mountains and we often don't have significant insolation for a week or more at a time.  Off the grid people ALL have a back-up generator (I have them too - an 8kw gas and a 23kW diesel) to recharge their batteries.  Further, they all use propane for cooking and refrigeration.  We have an electric range but also have a back-up 6 burner wood cook stove, 25 cu ft refigerator and 25 cu ft upright freezer.

However, a PV/wind sytem could certainly reduce grid load especially during peak demand.  In my case, we do all the energy intensive stuff (with the exception of irrigating) when we are on the PV system.  This includes running the 40 gallon electric hot water heater (This took some work-arounds.), clothes washing and drying and cooking.  On a hot day, it is also when we run the air conditioner.

As far as charging a PEV at home off a PV/wind system, I just don't see it happening for people who have to drive each day.  Some could do it with a swapable "battery" but I don't think many people are going to want to get home after work and change out a "battery."  I grant that energy could be stored and then used to recharge the PEV but storage is expensive.  I have $6k in batteries and I doubt many people would spend that kind of additional money for the PEV.

Todd; a Realist

Here's a handy dandy starter kit. I have two of these systems set up for critical electronics in "balckout" times.

1 of these http://www.invertersrus.com/inv1500wc.html
4 of these http://www.invertersrus.com/gpl-27t.html

some short cable and connectors and you have a very large

I think every home should have one.

These inverter/chargers are cool. And you have almost 5 kWh storage for $1160, including inverter!

Now, imagine one of these with slightly modified software connected to a "smart grid". The utility could then draw from your batteries at peak loads but also recharge them using surplus wind power (ie, helping solve the "wind storage" problem). A hybrid house?

Look to the 3rd world and aid organizations that work with the poor in desolate, austere conditions.  They come up with some very creative ideas...

Necessity is a Mother too.  They can be cruel but they do seem to know what's best.

Here are a couple of small
wind and small solar scenarios
with low cost emphasis

(back yard builder variety)

(MIT based)

  I just had to laugh at myself.. I'm working in my basement office, right near the laundry, and listnening to a tenant's pillows banging the dryer all over the floor.  Out the window, I saw a nice breeze and some hard shadows, and thought about wheels and solar boxes and sails, saying to myself, "There must be a simple way of using both wind and sun together to replace an electric dryer'..  Right.  A piece of cotton rope and some clever, little wooden clips!

Bob Fiske

That seems technically unfeasible... has anyone tried it before? ;)

Thanks all for your input so far!


The Nazi Homeowners Association forbids this method of drying clothes...
Can we grow enough cotton for all the ropes ?

Can we weave and spin the ropes with our existing infrastructure ?

Do we have enough steel for the springs on the wooden pins ?

Is there enough wood for the clothespins ?

Will we have enough diesel to distribute the cotton rope & clothespins ?



  I did actually 'hang the line' up this summer, and we've used it some for blankets, etc, but it's a trudge getting that big basket up from the basement, when the Dryer is just sitting there smiling at you.

  You'd probably get a kick out of my other projects along these lines.  This winter, I will be making my first 'winter fridge', which will be an insulated box with a simple Heat Exchanger to the outside for the days/nights when it's as cold or colder than the fridge anyway.  It makes me nuts, thinking that so much of the country is below 38deg f., and all these homes still have their fridges pulling power from the grid.  My exchanger will be devised so I can install it into a regular fridge (have to drill a couple holes, however), and 'assist' the electrical system with the free 'coolth' of the environment.  Wish me luck!

  I'm also making some Pedal-power tools in my shop by re-fitting a work table to an old Treadle-Sewing machine to become a Scrollsaw/Drill/Sanding station,  and an exercise bike will get a bigger flywheel and run a range of tools, too.

Bob Fiske
  Portland, Maine

Can you post a photo-journal of your progress somewhere? All of them sound like really interesting lo-tech projects...
Thanks for asking.. I will be doing this at my site
although the site is older info about my gadgeteering and film projects presently.

Bob Fiske

There's always been solar panels, of a perfect form factor for rooftops.  There are several improvements on the horizon to make them remotely affordable.  CIGS  thin film (Nanosolar being the most publicized startup) is moving forward.  So are high-intensity multijunction PV solar concentrators, the technology for which was pioneered by NREL, industrialized by Boeing-Spectralab, and is being commercialized by a bunch of firms.  Meanwhile, evolutionary improvements in using lower-grade silicon progress.  A major high grade silicon shortage has choked growth in the market for the last year or two.  With the newer solar techs, it's difficult to sort out what has extraordinary potential and is just ramping up production slowly, what is being priced to demand rather than cost due to a lack of competition, etc.

Wind tends to be practical at larger scales - the wind higher up blows much harder and much more often - very few have practical sites for economic small-tower wind generators.  Perhaps at the neighborhood/subdivisional coop scale...

Both solar and wind are going to need some major energy storage improvements, for that overcast week or windless period (they do tend to complement each other a bit).  There is supposedly progress on hydrogen charging stations which we've been ignoring because we've mostly written off the hydrogen car - it could be practical as a battery in a large stationary tank, who knows.  Newish flow batteries are supposed to be around $500/kwh for small-scale use, $200/kw in much larger scale increments - they're developing, and have a few large-scale plants thus far.  Flow batteries use harder-to-destroy battery acid/base pairs like vanadium and sulfur/sodium, and to make them bigger, simply add more tank space (kind of a reversible fuel cell).    I think more practical on a consumer level is to get a shorter lifespan, large capacity deep cycle battery hooked up to an invertor.

Here's another hidden cost of ethanol from today's Omaha World-Herald (cost in both dollars and CO2 emissions):

 The Nebraska Public Power District is proposing an 80-mile high-voltage line as part of $100 million to $140 million in improvements to its transmission capability.
  The utility says it needs to move more electricity in east-central Nebraska because of record demand the past two summers, an expanding ethanol industry, increasing irrigation and a new crude oil pipeline.
No Kalpa it's not hidden.  Primary energy inputs are accounted for in many studies as you can see here: http://rael.berkeley.edu/EBAMM/summary.html
It sure will be hidden to the NPPD customers who will pay a higher rate to pay for the new power lines.  All NPPD customers will, in effect be subsidizing the ethanol/irrigation industries in order for these lines to be built.  Ask the land owners along the line's route whose property values diminish if they are subsidizing the ethanol industry.  The coal burned to produce the electricity being used may or may not be reflected in your flow chart.  I cannot tell as it is vague.  
Re-read your post.  

New lines are needed by NPPD because of increased demand from record-hot summers - I'll wager this is the bulk of electrical demand in your state not from ethanol producers (who btw pay for the electricity used i.e. it's not a subsidy).

If NPPD is smart, then they've budgeted increased revenue from extended transmission into the cost of providing the service.

This past summer was not particularly hot, or record-setting here, so I doubt A/C would account for the increased needs this past summer, anyway, nor has population grown exceptionally during this time period.  Out of the 3 reasons sited by the newspaper, 2 of them are ethanol-related.  It would be interesting to contact NPPD and get some exact figures.  As you may know, the irrigators are switching to electric pumps since they can't afford to run them on diesel anymore.  If you have numbers relating the the amount of electricity being used by today's ethanol plants, please share.  
Another interesting article published recently (which I tried to link but it's not available) explained why Cargill is not interested in pursuing ethanol production.  They experienced high corn prices in the mid-90's, I believe around $5/bushel in 1995, and lost millions of dollars a day at their Blair plant.  They feel that the dependence upon tax subsidies, which can change at a given moment is too much of a risk as well as the year to year unpredictability of corn prices.  I believe they only have 3% of the ethanol production at this time, compared to closer to 50% for ADM (again, if my memory is correct since I can't find the article).  I know there are huge incentives for building the plants right now, but expect that other companies will be coming to the same conclusions over the next several years.
I think this is it: http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/news/breaking_news/15599376.htm

Note that they are cautious but still planning on putting a $1B into more ethanol and you're right, Cargill got burnt by a 95' drought but I would cite cheap oil, no ethanol mandates and lack of industry expertise as being contributing factors.

The largest $ cost in operating an EtOH plant is feedstock followed by NatGas.  I've seen numbers on electricity but I can't think of anything off the top of my head at the moment.

Just found the answer to the electricity question on the "Ammonia and biofuels" thread.  It takes 1.2 kw hr to produce 1 gallon of corn EtOH, or 160 MW to produce a billion gallons.
It's interesting to follow the price swings of oil, but that isn't the most important issue.  Supply is the problem.  How much would you pay for gas if you can't get any?  Doesn't matter, does it...
When I started researching PO in late'03 (gas was around $1.60/gal and oil was in the 30s - the "good old days") I clearly remember reading "predictions" that the price would go up, but this would cause demand destruction, which would likely cause the price to drop some for a time.  Lo and behold, that's exactly what we're seeing!
As far as manipulating prices before the election, puh-leeze!  Who cares which clowns get elected to Congress, they don't even read the bills they vote on!  And the elections are rigged to what ever degree is needed anyway.  Congress has stripped the Judiciary of most power and given away congressional oversight to the Executive.  It's been going on long before the current administration.  Face facts, we live in a system now where all important decisions are made by the Executive branch of gov't, and that is a totalitarian system.  Congress is irrelevant.
I have thought for a long time that oil prices are manipulated, but only in one direction - to keep the price DOWN.  How is this done?  With money of course.  Where does that money come from?  Well, the 3-4 trillion dollars that has "gone missing" from the US gov't since 2000 would be a nice start!  You know, that money that is propping up Wall St. to keep the little guy in the game.
As for our problems being about "hard-wiring", that's probably true to a certain extent, but I see the main failing as the lack of proper education.  Teaching people how to reason objectively should be the focus of raising clear-thinking citizens, and the inherent dangers of judging things based on "belief" should be emphasized.  But the reverse is true, we are raised to "figure out what we believe in and hold true to those beliefs".  Long considered a mark of excellence in a political candidate.  One of the difficult things about learning is that you sometimes learn that your "belief" is wrong.  I am constantly amazed how easily people dismiss clear evidence - GW deniers are a great example - and "clinging to belief" is the reason.
The National Science Foundation has estimated that 87% of the US population is "scientifically illiterate".  Sometimes I think they're being too kind...
Hello TODers,

Yesterday on Dave Cohen's excellent contribution here on TOD called Burning Buried Sunshine there was some discussion of the modern human intellect and our ability to understand what's happening to our world and change course to avoid catastrophy. Can we humans, as one global community, change our ways en masse to preserve our way of life (or just to preserve our species, for that matter)?

Leanan posted yesterday that

The real issue is our Stone Age brains.  Most of us, if we saw a child starving in front of us, would do anything to save him.  But out of sight is out of mind.  In the abstract, it just doesn't engage the parts of our brain that govern morality.  That is what we're up against.  And you really can't blame people for being that way.  It's how we're hard-wired, and it's probably too much to expect the average person to overcome that.

I thought about this last night after having a conversation with my wife about the next few weeks of our lives. We're closing on the purchase of a home tomorrow and closing on the sale of our current home in a month. I told her I was nervous that the bottom would fall out of the economy/market in October and the buyers of our home would walk, and we'd be stuck with two houses.

I also told her I was worried my company, in the near to medium-term (3-5 years) will be laying people off due to a shrinking entertainment/architectural market (we make lighting fixtures and controls), and I'd lose my job, leading to foreclosure on our mortgage.

In response to these concerns she said "Sometimes you just have to think positively. You can't control all of those things."

This made me think about Leanan's comment about our stone age brains. Is one of our hard-wired features optimism? Most people, myself included, like to think that things will continue on smoothly. We only tend to act when danger is staring us in the face. It appears to be so with Peak Oil, with Climate Change, with all sorts of things that require us to look at trends and probabilities and take action before we start to feel the effects of these dangers.

We, like other animals, can adjust to dangers and risks after we've been bit by them. But can we adjust, as a global community, to dangers that haven't yet arrived?

Tom Anderson-Brown

In response to these concerns she said "Sometimes you just have to think positively. You can't control all of those things."

I suggest that you send her to the housing bubble blog:  http://thehousingbubbleblog.com/

Thanks westexas.

The thing is, in a marriage, as you know, one needs to bend. If I were unconcerned about preserving my relationship with my wife I would have sold our home, socked away the money in gold, rented an apartment, and bought a house after the crash for 30-50% less than today's prices.

However, I do value (treasure) my relationship with my wife and I respect her views. Had I acted on every impulse I've had since reading The Long Emergency, I would be divorced, living in a shack in the woods, never again to see my wife or two young boys.

As others have mentioned here, I've made some concessions in actions I've wanted to take, and so has my wife (after all, we're moving downtown (my strong desire) instead of further out). I feel lucky that she respects my views and acknowledges the possibilities of the future. Most people just call me crazy.

Tom Anderson-Brown

Actually, I think you are right to be concerned and Westexas' advice isn't that bad.  It sounds like you made a mistake in not making your purchase closing contingent on your sale closing.  That's a fairly standard practice around here.  You are being set up for a potentially serious problem.  Good for you for voicing your concern.  

You are just being financially prudent, and if my wife had said that, I would understand it as "I see your point, but I don't see what we can do about it now."  Good responses on your part would be to make temporary moves to cover your bases.  Ask if you could postpone your purchase closing to be closer to, or after, your sale closing.  It doesn't hurt to ask.  Suggest to your wife that you drastically cut back your expenses from now until your sale closing is complete.  If everything goes well, you have extra saved up - hardly a problem.  If things fall through, you would have bought yourself some time.

I overheard my husband talking on the phone to our adult daughter about finances and heard him say, "Don't pay any attention to you mother.  That's all that Peak Oil stuff.  It's a religion like the born agains and the rapture and the end of the world."  Just when you think you have them convinced.....  He's humoring me in my desire to pay off our mortgage but thinks that it is entirely wrong headed.
To this post and above.

I am 42. Devorced twice, and living with my parents again.  They are up in years. Mom 76 and dad 70 but he works 40 hours a week and is likely more healthy than me in most areas.  Though I am younger and would "normally" be living alone.  My thoughts for a long time after the breakup of my second marriage were doom and gloom a lot more than normal.  Yet I still wanted to live alone, in that old house, with the yard that had been let to "go to seed" my fight with the green grass lawn that americans seem to have to have.

I likely will be living here with my parents for a long time, unless another Lady comes into my life and We together move on and away.  I have dated, I have moved to be nearer a few ladies, but nothing seemed to be working out, and none of them knew my Energy-knowledge-the-world-is-going-to-be-in-big-trouble second life I led.

Spouses and for that matter siblings and parents have known you a long time and they do filter a lot of what you say through that knowledge of you.  Given time if you keep up the comments you change how you personally act in everything you can do, without forcing them to act directly as well, they will notice.

It took my dad about 3 years to come to my side of the fence and though my Brother is more involved with NASA and the things to do with Space than most people, he should be slowly moving to our way of thinking in another decade, Just kidding, maybe a few months to a year or so.

Give them time, do what you can to change your actions.  Save your money, do the things that you can do that you do not depend on their imput to actually complete.  My second wife, is fully Peak Aware and knows things, we did not have problems in that repect.  She does not need the added stressors so I don't talk about it as much, besides I have limited time to talk to her at all.

Shameless Plug.. http://www.dan-ur.blogspot.com

Charles E. Owens Jr.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

i get the same treatment from my faimly.
Interesting. I've got my whole family convinced. We're the Peak Family, I guess. Parents, Kids, Grandparents, Grandkids, Uncles, Aunts, Brothers-In-Law, Cousins, you name it. Must be my superior convincing skills. I'm the only skeptic now. But don't tell them that :)
the 'burbs are nothing but a wasteland  i suspect the old bag (your wife) could see this
Oh yeah, super. I can see this attitude is gonna work out great. You and AlphaProphet should hook up. You "guys" have a lot in common.
Dude, My wife is no old bag. She's a hot young thang!
Let's face facts, if you two go bankrupt and you're turned into a financial wreck it'll be much easier for her to find a new mate then it will be for you. So it shouldn't be surprising you're more freaked out about potential personal economic catastrophe than she is.

I seriously doubt she is thinking that consciously or anything along the lines of "we'll if we go broke I'll ditch you and find a new man." The though process is operating at a subconscious level. If we're back in the stone age and Man A can't find any more meat what does his female partner do? Well if she wants to survive (needs the iron from the meat he'll get for the blood loss during pregnancy among other things) she'll find another man who can bring home the beef.

Diamond had an example of this in "Collapse", where the women in the tribe just ditched the men and hooked up with the men from the society next door.

Do you have kids? Maybe she'd be more freaked if you did as women tend to think about these issues more when they have kids, at least in my expereince. (General trend, not an absolute.)

Sorry this might bring up some bad feelings. But maybe that explains why you're freaked and she's cavalier, on a deeper level.

Perhaps Leanan could chime in here? I realize there are examples, even here on this board, where the woman is freaked and the man the cavalier one. But it seems there are far more men freaked out about these issues than men. (Of course, there could be many reaons why that have nothing to do with evo. psych.)

But it seems there are far more men freaked out about these issues than men.

Yeah, well I guess that pretty much sums it up in your case, buddy. LOL. You know I love ya. You do like that word beef, though.

Always preview and proof-read.

"If we're back in the stone age and Man A can't find any more meat what does his female partner do?"

Funny how such ideas about the stone age get around. But from the archeological record we can be pretty sure that for the vast majority of human in most areas of the planet, stone age peoples lived on a widely diverse diet where hunting provided only a very small portion of the overall nutritional value.

"Stone Age" is a demeaning term falling into (appropriate) disuse; too bad these folks aren't around to challenge our stereotypical view of them.  In this thread I take this term to mean "recent foraging populations", meaning fully sapienized human populations of the last 30K years or so.  If that's the case, then yes, as far as I understand we can infer from archaeological data (I'm not an archaeological anthropologist), it appears that women's gathering contributions provided the majority of Kcals for those small human societies.  Much of this is retrodiction from careful studies of extant foraging peoples, so we must be wary of making sweeping generalizations, such as "very small contribution" from hunting.  For the San, the best-studied living foraging population, the Kcal contribution from hunting was about 1/3 of the total (I can look this up) - hardly "very small".  Certainly the meat and vegetable components of forager diets varied enormously.  The Inuit of high arctic, as you may know, traditionally had a very meat-based diet.

AlphaMale's argument isn't based on relative contributions to subsistence, however.  It's based on assumptions about the highly gendered nature of subsistence activities over the long haul of the Paleolithic, and therefore what "default setting" there may be in our shared genetic heritage as a legacy from our "stone age" forebears.

I think a much more important point for TODers is that studies of foraging societies suggest that at least some foraging groups probably didn't have to work very long hours to achieve reasonable subsistence levels (Sahlins' "original affluent society", based primarily on Lee's work with San, where the average "work week" was roughly 17-20 hours).  Lots of time on their hands for story-telling and leisure.  (Again, this is retrodiction from a few careful ethnographic studies, so the jury is still out about the general pattern.)  This has implications for TOD discussions of what the bumpy ride down the back side PO might look like, for those unfamiliar with this literature.  It informs Todd and other survivalists who imagine a foraging way of life may carry them through whatever crash may be coming, but survivalists completely miss the social nature of forager adaptation, as was pointed out a few days ago.  No "lone rangers" in the Paleolithic!  And of course there's the whole problem of population overshoot...

I think were in agreement here. Most declarations about what the "stone age" were like are based on a particular western notion about our superior way of life and the religion of progress.("In the past things were bad, now they are good, the future will be better.")

As for the nutrition coming from hunting, this obviously varied from place to place. The Inuit, for example, had relatively little in their diet that was not meat. In other places along coasts the primary food was likely fish. And while meat was a part of most of these society's diet, we mustn't forget that a good portion of this can and did come from scavenging. The contemporary assumptions about stone age man being a big game hunter (surrounding and killing a mastadon for example) is very possibly a miss interpretation of the drawings at Lascaux and elsewhere.

And while AM's assumptions about gender based divisions of labor may be correct, he is almost assuredly incorrect about the valuations of the work performed. He appears to be speaking from a decidely modernist perspective.

And this, too, would be something worthy of attention by TODers. We tend to measure the tribal ways of life based on their ability to satisfy our modern valuations. But what we are witnessing right now is the failure (one might even suggest, the poverty) of those valuations. Perhaps we need to start looking at our lives in a dramatically different way.

"He appears to be speaking from a decidely modernist perspective."

You sir appear to be speaking from your ass. See my post regarding "iron", hunting, blood loss and pregnancy.

I did and responded - and found your knowledge wanting.

And if you wish to continue to earn the respect of anyone, I suggest you get off your high horse. Ad Hominem attacks as the basis of a discussion won't get you real far.


That's why I emphasized the "iron" part. Women typically procured 80% of the tribe's food in hunter gatherer societies. Men were responsible for the meat which contains iron. The iron was necessary for the women who lost lots of blood during pregnancy. Even if women had procured 100% of the calories, the tribe would have died off (or at least suffered tremendously) if the men had not been able to procure the meat which has the iron.

What's REALLY funny is how you jumped in to show off how much you know when you really don't know as much as you think you do.

Yeah, really funny how little I know about dietary iron, isn't it - funny how much iron you can get from non-meat sources to.

Some Good Sources Foods Rich in Iron* (Dietary Iron) are:
List of Grains Rich in Iron:                       Iron (mg.)
Brown rice, 1 cup cooked     0.8
Whole wheat bread, 1 slice     0.9
Wheat germ, 2 tablespoons     1.1
English Muffin, 1 plain     1.4
Oatmeal, 1 cup cooked     1.6
Total cereal, 1 ounce     18.0
Cream of Wheat, 1 cup     10.0
Pita, whole wheat, 1 slice/piece, 6 ½ inch          1.9
Spaghetti, enriched, 1 cup, cooked     2.0
Raisin bran cereal, 1 cup     6.3

List of Iron Rich Legumes, Seeds, and Soy:     
Sunflower seeds, 1 ounce     1.4
Soy milk, 1 cup     1.4
Kidney beans, ½ cup canned     1.6
Chickpeas, ½ cup, canned     1.6
Tofu, firm, ½ cup     1.8
Soy burger, 1 average     1.8 to 3.9*

List of Vegetables Rich in Iron:    
Broccoli, ½ cup, boiled     0.7
Green beans, ½ cup, boiled     0.8
Lima beans, baby, frozen, ½ cup, boiled        1.8
Beets, 1 cup     1.8
Peas, ½ cup frozen, boiled     1.3
Potato, fresh baked, cooked w/skin on     4.0
Vegetables, green leafy, ½ cup     2.0
Watermelon, 6 inch x ½ inch slice     3.0

A Sample List of Foods Rich in Iron:

Blackstrap Molasses, one tablespoon     3.0
Dates or Prunes, ½ cup     2.4
Beef, Pork, Lamb, three ounces     2.3 to 3.0
Liver (beef, chicken), three ounces     8.0 to 25.0
Clams, Oysters ¾ cup     3.0
Dark meat Turkey ¾ cup     2.6
Pizza, cheese or pepperoni, ½ of 10 inch pie     4.5 to 5.5

Good post.  Believe it or not, there were societies that survived just fine without eating red meat.  Japan, for example.  Traditionally, their diet was almost completely vegetarian.  (Those living on the coasts did eat fish.)  
Can we humans, as one global community, change our ways en masse to preserve our way of life (or just to preserve our species, for that matter)?

No, change by all humanity simply does not and cannot happen. It has never happened in the history of the world and there are many reasons for this. There is no such thing as a global community except for the fact that we are all Homo sapiens with all shared innate emotions and drives found, generally, in Homo sapiens. After that we have little or nothing in common.

The problem with any kind "all world action" is that we have about 6.5 billion people with almost as many different opinions as to whether or not there is a problem, and if so what the problem really is, who is to blame, and what, if anything can be done about it? With a few billion different opinions, how can anyone hope that any real action will be taken.

And I might point out that for every point there is a counter point. Like the problem of peak oil. There are hundreds of people out there who say there is no peak problem at all. And as it becomes obvious to everyone that there is a problem, and it will, then there will be sides to take on that issue. Like who is to blame, is it all a contrived situation by the powerful countries to accomplish this or that?

And I could go on and on in this vein forever. For every point of agreement most people reach, there will arise different sides, different opinions from that point. But the point is there is no consensus of opinion on anything and there will never will be. Therefore with almost everyone disagreeing on virtually everything, any kind of action by the whole community of Homo sapiens is absolutely impossible.

Ron Patterson

I disagree with this...I think it depends on the problem and the time frame.

If the problem is large enough that it would affect every man, woman, child and perhaps our pets, we could perhaps get everyone to work together, at least for a short while.

Modern society has never faced an issue like PO.  If we all knew all the facts and worked on things in the interest of species survival, perhaps we would surprise ourselves.

Dream on Dragonfly, If, if, if you say. If a frog had wings...

Many societies have faced problems like PO before. Modern humans would not behave any different from the Myans, or the Easter Islanders did when they were faced with similar problems.

But you are laboring under a grave misconseption if you think the debate is about species survival. I don't think there is any question that the species will survive. Yes, there will be survivors. What we are talking has nothing to do with a few thousand or even a few million survivors. It is about is everyone suddenly acting together to save the world as we know it. It simply is not going to happen. And yes, a lot of people think that will happen. Then again, a lot of people know diddley squat about human nature.

Ron Patterson

Hello Darwinian,

Good post!  Dieoffs occur all the time throughout Nature, most incredibly quick.  I think it is important for people to read the articles on Reg Morrison's website for understanding:


Even better--read his books!

Now, I hold some hope that we can somehow optimize our decline, not stop it [it is too big], not trying to save billions of humans, but somehow trying to pull a few humans, some crucial knowledge, and as much biota as possible through the coming bottleneck squeeze.  I hope humans can do better than a full grind of catabolic collapse.  IN THE FINAL ANALYSIS: Our Genes could care less about knowledge of any kind or the survival of any other lifeforms, but I think and speculate about possible scenarios whereby WE somehow act smarter than our Genes.  I think this is the direction we need to go, but I sure have a hard time convincing all the Gene-driven people out there.

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

I said "perhaps".  You can find specific examples where societies collapsed, but this was due to factors that only affected their local situation.  

Now, if we have the same selection pressure affecting all societies simultaneously, which will win in the end, good (prevent as much suffereing as possible) or evil (take as much as I can and screw the rest of the world)...that is the question.

Those definitions of good and evil are mine and I'm sure everyone will have their own personal definitions.


It isn't a question of good or evil.  What it is is a question of survival.  In these cases, moral doctrines seldom find a place in the discussion.  Rather, as has been shown in many real life situations, people will do almost anything in order to not die.  This can be anything from killing an incompotent leader to eating your compatriots to doing what ever your captor says to do.  If survival means "Nuke their ass, we want gas," that's what will happen.

Todd:  a Realist

I agree - your dreaming if you think there will be anything more than localized responses. The simple truth is, even if we all agreed there was a problem, we would not agree on the solution. Even if we all agreed on the solution, we wouldn't agree on the implementation.

Only place where I disagree with Ron (on this post ;-))- is on the human nature part. I think its culture, but hey, Ron and I agree on something!

Ah...but this is where the benevolent world dictator steps in...ha, ha!!
WOMP - the World Order Models Project was begun in the sixties with the stated intent to have a wide number of people model political futures of the planet. Most of the work that came from the project envisioned an enlightened world government of some sort. Some of these men (yes, all men) were my mentors, even though I could never bring myself to accept their belief in global institutions. Still, their well meaning efforts to bring about a global government that could deal with issues like peace, justice, poverty, pollution and resource depletion were a casualty of the backlash against environmentalism and the Club of Rome during the eighties.
I do think that the only hope for the planet is a world government that has it's sh*t together.  Like a UN with real power and the HQ would change ever _ years. Whoa...starting to sound like Chavez.

That is an ideology and I have no idea how we as a planet could ever get there, but it may be our only salvation.  It is an ideology that flies in the face of continued, unfettered economic growth of those currently in power in order to level the playing field for the rest of the planet.  I don't think it would have to necessarily be Communist or Socialist in nature, although there are probably benefits from borrowing some of the details from those political theories.

Unfortunately, I think there would be many wars before those countries that had power would give it up in deference to the larger government body.  I think some countries would have to be forced to cooperate in this structure....but...I guess...in the end...this is all merely food for thought.

I'll believe that a governmental institution at the global level will be beneficial to all of humanity when I first see one at a local level that is beneficial to all of its citizens. Unfortunately, institutions are typically controlled  by portions of a population who use them to their own advantage.
Ya...like I said...it's an ideal, far from reality...I don't think in practice it could ever be beneficial to all individuals, but at least give all nations a chance.

What's I've seen that's interesting recently are some discussions of "blocs" around the world and how this has changed in the last ten years or so.  Could these be precursors to larger government bodies or merely the ambitions of Empires?

Personally, I think our best chances for the long term are to break down into smaller units. Granted, some of these will be abyssmal. But if there are enough different smaller polities, we have a better chance of finding some social form or another that is successful at transitioning to lower energy consumption and could potentially be emulated.

There is a risk that a successful polity could be aggressive and expansive in its design and wind up "conquering" the others. Oh wait, that's what we already have... ;-)

Yep...vicious cycle, ain't it?
DavidSmi wrote:
Only place where I disagree with Ron (on this post ;-))- is on the human nature part. I think its culture, but hey, Ron and I agree on something.

David, obviously we disagree on a lot more than wee agree on, especially if you are implying that there is no such thing as human nature. And if you think it is all culture (nurture) and not human nature (nature) then you are one of the few last defenders of the Blank Slate. As Matt Ridley says, (quoted below)

For more than 50 years sane voices have called for an end to the debate. Nature versus nurture has been declared everything from dead and finished to futile and wrong--a false dichotomy,. Everybody with an ounce of common sense knows that human beings are a product of a transaction between the two.
Matt Ridley: Nature via Nurture

Would you argue with Ridley David? Do you think it is all culture and not a transaction between the two. If so, then Ridley says you have not an ounce of common sense. Of course I would never say such a thing. However I do have a very high opinion of Matt Ridley... ;-)

Oh, one more thing. We are talking about the entire world here. That is all cultures. Therefore any common characteristic, or charateristics between them must be....

Could you please finish that sentence David.

Ron Patterson

Actually, Ron, I was merely trying to be funny. But since you want to (try to) ridicule me, let me point out that in your typical fashion you read whatever you like into a post and then attack that.

Let me also point out that it was you that claimed something was "human nature." Did you say "human nature and nurture?" No? Hmmm, should I attack you for not being properly balanced?

But here's the crux of it, Ron, you're so busy attacking what you want me to believe - setting me up to play your foil to set off your obvious brilliance and command of the debate - that you don't even recognize that you don't have a clue what I'm talking about.

But put that aside.

So, since you like to pose loaded questions, let me start by asking you to just be a little clearer first. You want to know about shared characteristics across cultures - right? Okay, so can I ask you to define what a shared characteristic is? And just to be sure I know what you mean, please define culture for me. And while you're at it - include in there precisely what the actor is that we are comparing - I mean, I suspect you are talking about individual human beings, so tell me exactly what that means to you. In essence, what are these people we are talking about?

Oh, and by the way, I'd like you to do this in a completly cultural neutral way. So, that means things like using language are ruled out.

You see, Ron, despite what you want to think I believe, I've considered these things before. And no, I'm not a believer in a tabla rasa anymore than I am a believer in genetic predetermination. Indeed, the entire discussion of nature, nurture and its "resolution" in acceptance of both is all cast within a human created dialog. Your virulent defense of  a particular position does not make that position correct, it only shows what your presuppositions are. And in this case your presupposition is that you know what a human being is and can define that person by resort to a particular way of discussing what that person is.

You know, I'm sure that Dr. Ridley is a fine zoologist (who makes his living as a "science writer" - but I won't hold that against him). But I'm not in the habit of thinking that a zoologist has the definitive answers to the great philosophic questions of human history. I'm kind of funny that way, just like I don't call my plumber when the electricity goes out.

And just to show you that I can be as erudite as the next person, check out Edmund Husserl's essay entitled "On Geometry" which discusses how the math we have (or at least did when he wrote it in the 20s) is a product of a particular cultural trajectory - in essence, how the greek interest in doing certain things with math influenced the development of modern era math.

And just to show you that I can be as erudite as the next person, check out Edmund Husserl's essay entitled "On Geometry" which discusses how the math we have (or at least did when he wrote it in the 20s) is a product of a particular cultural trajectory - in essence, how the greek interest in doing certain things with math influenced the development of modern era math.

David, you obviously think that either I or Matt Ridley would have some problem with the abvoe paragraph. That is, that we would have a problem with math coming from a particular culture. That you think such a thing means you haven't a clue as to what this debate is all about.

Excuse me while I go bang my head against the wall.

Ron Patterson

Ron - please read a little more carefully. Did I say the importance of the Husserl article was that math came from a particular culture?

You seem to think that this is all about who is right and who is wrong. We haven't even agreed upon the ground rules, so how are you going to prove anything?

Do you actually want to discuss this - or are you satisfied posturing and "looking intelligent"? If it's the latter, fine, you win (does that make you feel better?) But if you really would like to discuss this, great, but you're going to have to stop thinking you have it all figured out.

From "The Day After"

"What do you think we are going to do? Sweep up the dead?
Fill in the holes? Build a new grocery store there?

"she said "Sometimes you just have to think positively. You can't control all of those things."

I think that's her way of saying, "it's too complex a problem, my brain is starting to hurt - so just get back in line with the herd and keep smiling."

I honestly think women have a harder time with this situation.  Their brain may be wired more for watching the nest while the testicular brains are wired for looking to the horizon for tomorrow's Breakfast.

I think that's why cavemen were always dragging cave women around by the hair... to follow game.  

Peak Oil also means Peak Single Family Households I think.

Please tell me you're kidding.

You do realize there's no proof that cavemen dragged women around by the hair, don't you?

Sorry. Couldn't help it. Primitive impulses.

So that was you who did the layer studies which determined that ML was pregnant.
LOL leanan.  I think that cavewomen dragging was probably pretty common back then and still would be if the LawzMan didn't interfere.  Still, I meant it more as a metaphor.  And it doesn't mean I support cavewomen dragging (or throwing or whatever).

As for the hard-wiring of the uterine vs testicular, it is so far my anecdotal experience that the uterine side is far more resistant to the concept of Peak Oil, and is far more resistant to doing anything concrete to prepare for it (unless it will provide new drapes - then they might perk up and listen a bit ;).

I think that cavewomen dragging was probably pretty common back then and still would be if the LawzMan didn't interfere.  

I think it's more a fantasy of modern men than historical reality.  Indeed, there's evidence that gender roles were a lot more equal in the Stone Age than they were in more recent history.

As for the hard-wiring of the uterine vs testicular, it is so far my anecdotal experience that the uterine side is far more resistant to the concept of Peak Oil, and is far more resistant to doing anything concrete to prepare for it (unless it will provide new drapes - then they might perk up and listen a bit ;).

That has not been my experience at all.  I'd say peak oilers are about equally divided, gender-wise.  But a lot of women use gender-neutral or even male screen names.  To avoid harassment and/or stereotyping.  You really are treated with more respect online if people think you are male.  Especially when it comes to science, math, and technology.

"I think it's more a fantasy of modern men than historical reality. "

I think it's a constant reality that varies with time and place - today first worlders call it "domestic abuse."

I mostly agree with you really.  I don't think there is much difference between men and women when it comes to their reaction to peak oil. There is certainly some neural hardwiring for gender roles in our species, but in general most behaviors vary greatly within and between genders (overlapping bell curves) and by time and place (culture/materials availability).

But I am a guy and my firstworld wife is a women and homo sap naturally resorts to generalizations - especially under stress - and I am a homo sap so...

This is why anthorpology, sociology, history, and psychology should be much more required in college (and even high school) than they are now.

Gender roles are NOT hard wired in any way shape or form. They change completely based on time, place, and culture. They are LEARNED, not hard-wired. In some cultures, everyone has what we call 'feminine' traits and no one has 'masculine' ones. Others have the exact opposite -masculine, but no feminine. And a few have our traditional gender roles but reversed -the women are 'masculine' and the males are 'feminine'. They also vary in between. Many socities are egalitarian and a few are matriarchal even today. (And even in socities rife with partiarchy like ours, there are subsets that have matricarchal and egalitarian ways.)

There is a lot of really good evidence that early pre-modern socities were egaliterian, and that the dominace/hierarchy model of society only evolved when the nation state and private property were developed.

Interestingly enough, attitudes of one sex towards the other also vary with the society study. Only in patriarchal societies, where women's status is low, will you find people saying things like 'when cave men dragged women around by their hair'. These are also the only societies where domestic violence and rape are common. For example, among the Mousou in China who are a matrilineal (not matriarchial) egalitarian society, violence of all kinds -including warfare and rape -are practically unknown. The sexes are completely equal. Such a comment would never be uttered there.

Optimist:  I certainly agree that more social and behavioral science ought to part of everyone's HS and college education ;->  But what you report is warmed-over Margaret Mead anthropology of mid-XX ("Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies"), now much discredited both conceptually and methodologically.  Gender appears to be the basic binary around which human societies construct systems of classification of people, nature, etc., even in egalitarian foraging societies.  Gender seems to be irreducibly present everywhere; it's just not clear what "completely equal" means or could mean.  No evidence of matriarchy in the ethnographic record, if by matriarchy you mean a (near-) monopoly by women on the public "political" arena of social life akin to males' monopoly on this.  Huge literature and certainly much to discuss.

I'm glad to see the issue of gender raised.  What happened to the results of that "survey" of TOD readers/writers/lurkers from a couple of weeks ago?  Would love to get a better snapshot of TOD demographics.

Actually, that's not just Margaret Mead, and she has not been discredited.
Hundreds of researchers have confirmed that gender is a social construct, not biologically determined. And, there is plenty of evidence of matriarchy in the ethnographic record. Unfortunately, its often overlooked, for the same reason the woman who invented the cotton gin (Eli Whitney got the patent for her) and the one who rode sidesaddle to warn that the British were coming got overlooked -those in power right the books.

Oh, and btw, gender is also not a binary system in many cities. There are literally hundreds of cultures that have more than two genders. The most common example is the berdache among certain Native American tribes, including my own.

Optimist, that is a lot of babble and nothing more - it boils down to nature or nurture- and both play a role, no absolutes.  Of course there are enormous cultural variations but we certainly do have physical differences in our neural anatomy - especially in the hormone-regulating regions of hte brain.  That is the hard-wiring.

"Hundreds of researchers have confirmed that gender is a social construct, not biologically determined."

Tell that to the Y chromosome.

Say, do you see gender roles in other critters or is this something unique to the Homo sap?  Is so, are gender roles hardwired or just "social constructs".  How about in crustatians or chimps?

I suppose this is a dead thread now so hopefully we can pick up this discussion another time ... Peak Oil might bring out the Savage in us so we best know what it is we are dealing with.

Leanan writes:

I'd say peak oilers are about equally divided, gender-wise.  But a lot of women use gender-neutral or even male screen names.

Women in the peak oil community may use gender-neutral names but they don't dress up as men. I attended the last two ASPO conferences in Lisbon (2005) and Pisa (2006). Not more than 10% of the participants -- and virtually none of the discussants -- were female. And most of the women there were 'hangers on' who accompanied their peak oil hubbies.

Leanan writes:

You really are treated with more respect online if people think you are male.

That is not my (anecdotal) experience. I sometimes write with the Irish version of my first name - 'Cathal' instead of 'Charles'. At least on one occasion one of my online adversaries believed therefore that I was female and when he discovered that I was male wrote to me to say that had he been aware of my true sex he would  not have treated me with such delicacy as he had done. So there you are.

My own impression is that blogging women are treated with kids' gloves by most males. At any rate that's the way I tend to treat them!

It would be interesting to carry out some kind of experiment in this connection. Any ideas?

I attended the last two ASPO conferences in Lisbon (2005) and Pisa (2006). Not more than 10% of the participants -- and virtually none of the discussants -- were female.

So maybe men are more likely to go to conferences.  Actually, that has been my experience.  Except for Star Trek conventions.  Those tend to be heavily female.

I sometimes write with the Irish version of my first name - 'Cathal' instead of 'Charles'. At least on one occasion one of my online adversaries believed therefore that I was female and when he discovered that I was male wrote to me to say that had he been aware of my true sex he would  not have treated me with such delicacy as he had done. So there you are.

That story proves my point.  Don't you see how condescending that is?  "You're only a girl, so I have to treat you with kid gloves.  You might cry if I actually criticize your cute little ideas."

That story proves my point.  Don't you see how condescending that is?  "You're only a girl, so I have to treat you with kid gloves.  You might cry if I actually criticize your cute little ideas."

I'm with you on this one Leanan. It is horribly disrespectful and patronizing to treat any argument as different or less open to challenge because the proponent is female. In fact, I am fairly shocked that this is not obvious.

It is 2006. Hasn't every one one out there had female bosses, clients, coworkers, etc? Do they treat them with kid gloves at work?

The fact that people view someone else's intellectual contribution differently because of their sex is a is bizzarre to me as if the differentiation was based on height, hair color, etc.

It is horribly disrespectful and patronizing to treat any argument as different or less open to challenge because the proponent is female. In fact, I am fairly shocked that this is not obvious.

It's not a matter of treating arguments differently on gender grounds -- it's more a matter or inter-gender politeness.

Men, writing to males, are more likely to write: your opinions on peak oil suck.

Writing to females, they might write something like: Your opinions on peak oil are not state of the art.

Leanan would like to win both ways: be rude to women, and you are harassing them. Be polite and you are condescending.

Still, I understand her point. Perhaps we should all opt for sex-neutral names, such as Robin.

After all, on the Internet nobody knows whether you're a dog or a bitch.

Speaking of the difference between how men and women think,

someone emailed me this joke which I can't resist posting here because maybe it gets to the heart of the matter:


A guy goes to the supermarket and notices a beautiful blond
woman wave at him and say hello.

He's rather taken aback, because he can't place where he knows
her from.

So he says, "Do you know me"?

To which she replies, "I think your the father of one of my

Now his mind travels back to the only time he has ever been
unfaithful to his wife and says, "My God, are you the stripper
from my bachelor party that I laid on the pool table with all
my buddies watching, while your partner whipped my butt with
wet celery ???"

She looks into his eyes and calmly says, "No, I'm your son's
math teacher."

Leanan would like to win both ways: be rude to women, and you are harassing them. Be polite and you are condescending.

Have I ever complained about being harassed here?  Some people are incredibly rude, to me and others, but I don't complain about harassment.  IME, the men here gripe about being harassed more than the women.

And being polite is not the same thing as being condescending.  

No idea, you were a girl.  Certainly I wasn't able to tell by your writing style.

Talking about gender-neutral names ....

I'm sure most readers aren't even aware that Leanan is a woman's name --- I wasn't aware myself, until I checked it out on Google. Some kind of poetically inspiring Celtic fairies, apparently ('Leanan sidhe'). Since I'm Irish and spent 10 years at an all-Irish speaking school, and didn't ever come across any 'Leanans' -- well, the likelihood that non-Irish readers know that Leanan is female must be pretty minimal.

So all this time you've probably been treated as a male oil drummer by most readers (the default assumption being that 90% of all bloggers are male, and that 96.2% of all peak oil bloggers are male).

'Sidhe' is Irish for fairy. BTW 'Sidhe' is pronounced 'she'
'Bean' is Irish for woman.
'Bean-sidhe' is Irish for 'woman of the fairies' or 'banshee' in English.

Now we know. All is revealed.

Leanan, you are a banshee (a female spirit who wails to warn of impending death or oil depletion) :|)

So all this time you've probably been treated as a male oil drummer by most readers

Not really.  I've been open about my gender both here and at PeakOil.com.  The regulars know I'm female.  You may or may not have noticed, but my screen name is often mispelled Leanna, Leanne, etc., which tells me they don't think I'm a man.  

"Perhaps we should all opt for sex-neutral names, such as Robin."

Just use numbers, no one will have a clue.

Shortly after reading this thread, I somehow ended up on the End of Suburbia site, and found a comment in answer to the question "Where are the women" in EOS.

Producer Barry S. offers the explanation:

First of all, a good number of our interviewees are people with vast experience in the oil business. The fact that they have accumulated so much experience means that they are elders. And being elders, they got their start in the business at a time when it was dominated by men. And as it turns out, at the time we shot the doc, the most vocal individuals in the peak oil "movement" happened to be

[Second] we were limited by our budget (that budget being the credit-limit on my card) and weren't able to travel to all the places we would have liked. It would have been great to talk to new urbanist Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, but we just didn't have the funds to travel to Florida. Ironically, writer Jane Jacobs (The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Dark Age Ahead) lived within an hour of us, but couldn't be reached while we were shooting.

He concludes

Those who aren't satisfied with this explanation will hopefully be happy to hear that Greg Greene's sequel Escape from Suburbia will include more diversity than The End ever could. When it comes to solutions to our sustainability problems, it seems that there are more women than men involved for some reason. Draw your own conclusions, but based on my personal experience there seems to be a recurring theme: Let the men deal with the problems, while the women come up with the solutions.

While we're on the subject of women and oil depletion, here's a thoughtful blog entry that you might enjoy: Peak Oil for Women, and the Men who love them.

"Except for Star Trek conventions.  Those tend to be heavily female."

And you know this how? ;)

It seems IME that women tend to have to prove themselves moreso than males before being accepted.  You're an example of it.  The people here have gotten to know you, so when you bring something up that they disagree with, there are no punches pulled.

"Indeed, there's evidence that gender roles were a lot more equal in the Stone Age than they were in more recent history."

Indeed, there is strong evidence that through much of human history most humans lived in societies that were not only matriarchal, but worshipped female gods that were more important that the male gods. Gerda Lerner's book, "The Creation of Patriarchy" is a good read for anyone confident that men have always been superior. I'd also recommend Rianne Eisler's "The Chalice and the Blade."

Yes, I would also recommend Eisler's Sacred Pleasure - it opened my eyes to how male-dominated our society has been and still is. How many female Fortune 500 CEO's can you name? Especially now Carly has gone...
I see you've not watched the extremely accurate documentary called "Clan of the Cave Bear."
</end sarcasm>

I do, though, wonder where going out "clubbing" comes from.

Perhaps you can initiate a TOD poll (which of course would be anonymous) to find out the gender spread here.

Sendoilplease, you might suggest that your wife look for some cute new walking shoes to go with the new thermal insulating drapes.

(Ladies, I apologise in advance for the sexist shoes quip. I never let political correctness get in the way of a good joke)

She already bought the walking shoes.  I thought they were croc skinned, until I noticed a big chunk of hide missing from my ass.
Watch what you say.  I'm female and I have no problem understanding the situation.  Since most of the engineers, politicians and captains of industry wjo have got us here are male I would be a little bit careful making blanket statements like that.
flametree, I apologised in advance about the joke about the shoes. Seriously though, men and women think differently and have different concerns, and I believe much of that is hardwired. Which brings me to another joke:
  A man was asked who made the decisions at home, he answered, "I suppose its fairly equal. I let her worry abou where we live and where our kids go to school and what we buy at the grocery, while I solve the problems of the world" I'm figuring out Peak Oil and how to solve the problem in Iraq."
  Its almost too true to be funny. But we need to acknowledge and treasure each others differences and contributions. And , according to Carl Jung, maturing and the human growth that most people have to experience makes us all start adopting characteristics of the other gender as we get older.
  Men begin to be more caring, intuitive and nurturing, and women become more powerful and concerned with the world at large. Its a process that he called individuation.


Leanan's comment about our stone age brains. Is one of our hard-wired features optimism? Most people, myself included, like to think that things will continue on smoothly. We only tend to act when danger is staring us in the face. It appears to be so with Peak Oil, with Climate Change, with all sorts of things that require us to look at trends and probabilities and take action before we start to feel the effects of these dangers.

In the Middle Ages, common folk believed the Earth was flat, that the Sun revolved around us and that we humans were the center of the universe.

Today, we laugh at such primitive notions. How could "those" people have been so stupid, so incompetent, so unseeing?

Maybe in 100 years from now (if humanity lasts that long), historians will laugh at us, the ultimate intellects of the "21st Century".  How could "those" people have been so stupid, so incompetent, so unseeing?--they will ask.

They will be talking about our primitive modeling of the human brain, about our lack of understanding of who or what we really are. Yes, why indeed does the human brain need to believe that things will "continue"? Why is "stay the course" so appealing? Why do we insist on the existence of a wisdom among the mobs -err, I mean among the college educated, "financial herds" --aka, The Market. Why does the concept of voting, of having a "Democracy" feel so appealing in some cultures but not others?

Pessimism versus optimism? Which is "the one" right course? Can't make up your mind? How is that possible? You have only one mind, don't you? There is only, The One. Isn't that true? Hmmm...


"In the Middle Ages, common folk believed the Earth was flat, that the Sun revolved around us and that we humans were the center of the universe."

How do we know what common folk believed in the middle ages?

In India, the heliocentric view has been consistently present for nearly 3000 years.

We know that in Europe the Church presented a geocentric view.  We also know that the Church never supported the flat Earth idea. Did not the Church put God at the centre of the universe?  

The Church provides a written record of its historic views.  The views of the common folk are more difficult to discern.


I also have thought about this and I have boiled it down thusly:

Humans are not good at responding to a new unique situation.

Our learning either direct or passed on is from past experiences.  When we are faced with something completely new there is no pattern for behavior.  Very few people are able to grasp a new situation before it happens and make the correct choices for that new situation.

I liken Peak oil effects to being in a canoe in a river with a waterfall ahead.

1)If you have never been in a canoe on a river you wouldn't know that going over the falls is a problem.
2)If you do know canoeing but not that river when you hear rapids you make a different choice (head for shore) than the person in 1).
3) If you have lots of experience on that river you make yet a third set of decisions about when to head for shore for each waterfall.

So the big question is peak oil is the waterfall ahead?  Or just some fast rapids? And the little questions are: Do we recognize that it might kill us?  Should we head for shore in some way?  Do we wait until we see the falls before heading to shore?  What happens if we are headed for Niagara falls and by the time we see the falls we can't get to shore because the current is too strong because of our choices further upstream?

It's that last one that keeps me up at night.


Yes, I think optimism is hard-wired. And not just among humans.  Probably among all mammals, and maybe further back.  A healthy human thinks he has more control over his situation than he actually has.  The ones who have a realistic view are the clinically depressed.
In my experience the clinically depressed may have started with a 'realistic' view but then overshoot it fairly quickly.
Realism. That's a hard one.
I healthy human who thinks he has control, has more than one who doesn't ;-)
A healthy human who can proofread has more control that one who doesn't.
T Anderson;
  I'm glad your wife said what she did.  I agree with the idea.  Keeping a positive attitude is not even the same thing as 'optimism', or just some faithful belief that the problems will disappear.  You can acknowledge the challenges, and still be able to remember that you are smart enough to deal with a lot of things, that you've got other people around you who will help each other work out big, even apparently impossible problems.  It's happened before.. and if this time is going to be different, what good will it do you to let yourself get incapacitated by some 'Faith that you can't' deal with it.

  Remaining positive is where you take stock of your assets and skills, so that you can be functional when the barbarians are at the gates.

Bob Fiske

'All the world will be your enemy, prince with a thousand enemies, and if they catch you, they will kill you.  But first, they must catch you, digger, runner, listener, prince with the swift warning.  Be cunning and full of tricks, and your people will never be destroyed.'
   - Richard Adams,  Watership Down

Hello tandersonbrown,

Responding to your questions/comments:

  1. "Is one of our hard-wired features optimism?"
  2. "We only tend to act when danger is staring us in the face."

The following explanations are oversimplified, but I would agree that there appears to be a strong physiological basis for these behaviors.

Re: optimism

I recall reading a paper about a study on primates that measured their serotonin levels and compared that with their ranking in the troupe.  There was a strong positive correlation with the level of serotonin and the rank of the individual.  Also, in young animals this level was predictive of their progression in the ranks.  I believe there are human studies that have found similar results, although there are probably more confounding variables and the environment is not controlled so the correlation is not as strong.

As you probably know, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like Prozac increase serotonin, have become wildly popular, and are now used for an increasingly wide variety of "problems".  This over-prescribing of SSRIs begs the question of whether we are trying to modify our response to our social situations rather than merely attempting to treat the biochemical basis for major depressive disorder.

The neural basis for "optimism" is more complicated than the concentration of just one chemical, but the serotonin issue is a window into the larger discussion of evolutionary pressures for selection of confidence or optimism.

Re: The tendency to react only to imminent danger.

The acute stress response is a old tenet of basic physiology.  As you can guess from the description of the physiological response below, a prolonged and/or repeated  ASR would be physically and psychologically deleterious to the organism.  In humans repeated ASR could manifest into maladaptive behaviors (e.g. PTSD in soldiers), therefore, IMO the type of stress that may come with peak oil awareness is the kind of information that many people have a biological predisposition to avoid, particularly given their relative impotence on changing the course of things and the dire consequences that such a paradigm portends.

From wiki:

Biology of the Stress Response -
Normally, when a person is in a serene, unstimulated state, the "firing" of neurons in the locus ceruleus is minimal. A novel stimulus (which could include a perception of danger or an environmental stressor signal such as elevated sound levels or over-illumination), once perceived, is relayed from the sensory cortex of the brain through the thalamus to the brain stem. That route of signaling increases the rate of noradrenergic activity in the locus ceruleus, and the person becomes alert and attentive to the environment. Similarly, an abundance of catecholamines at neuroreceptor sites facilitates reliance on spontaneous or intuitive behaviors often related to combat or escape.

If a stimulus is perceived as a threat, a more intense and prolonged discharge of the locus ceruleus activates the sympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system (Thase & Howland, 1995). This activation is associated with specific physiological actions in the system, both directly and indirectly through the release of epinephrine (adrenaline) and to a lesser extent norepinephrine from the medulla of the adrenal glands. The release is triggered by acetylcholine released from preganglionic sympathetic nerves. The other major player in the acute stress response is the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis.

Physiology of the Stress Response
These catecholamine hormones facilitate immediate physical reactions associated with a preparation for violent muscular action. (Gleitman, et al, 2004). These include (but are not limited to) the following:

Acceleration of heart and lung action
Inhibition of stomach and intestinal action
Constriction of blood vessels in many parts of the body
Liberation of nutrients for muscular action
Dilation of blood vessels for muscles
Inhibition of tear glands and salivation
Dilation of pupil


Hope this helps a little.  An evolutionary biologist or specialist in the neurobiology of cognition would be able to provide many more details.  I just do a little reading in these fields from time to time but this is not my area of expertise.

BTW, thanks for the Elvis Costello Radio Radio lyrics, they made my day.

Hey southpaw - interesting stuff. I'd life for you (and all who are drawn to these types of explanation) to think about the presumed direction of causality. For example, in the monkey troop, the researchers presume that the serotonin levels are predictive of social rank. Perhaps it is rank that is predictive of serotonin levels?
"Perhaps it is rank that is predictive of serotonin levels?"

davidsmi, you are astute in pointing out the cause and effect conundrum.  I considered briefly mentioning this but didn't want my comment to be too wordy.

The fact that the researchers examining the association of serotonin levels and rank found that high serotonin levels in young animals (who had no rank yet) was predictive of their social status as adults would support the notion that it is not just a case of high rank producing high serotonin level.

That is not to say this should be an either/or proposition.  Rather, a feedback loop would be a likely scenario wherein a high serotonin level would facilitate behaviors that lead to higher social status and that higher status would, in turn, boost confidence and thus serotonin levels.

A simple analogy might be attractiveness in humans.  A beautiful woman or handsome gent would likely be the recipient of a great deal of attention and favorable social standing.  The attractive person would be inclined to nurture this benefit by being attentive to maintaining this advantage and even finding ways to openly display or accentuate their good looks.  So then, was it the beauty that brought the attention or the attention that generated the beauty?

To get back on track: Most of the studies I've read on neurochemisty and behavior have indicated that a tendency to be gregarious (introvert vs. extrovert) is more hard-wired or based on genetics than it is a learned behavior.  There is some epigenetic component, but I don't think environment is the critical component.  

I rarely have time to keep up with research in these areas.  (Heck, I struggle to keep up with TOD.)  If I stumble on some recent summaries of this topic I will surely pass them on to you.  

If I may be allowed to indulge in a quick little opinioinated rant re: domestic auto sales...
What never ceases to amaze me is the sheer stupidity big companies get for the big money they spend on their CEOs. These guys are supposed to be planning and implementing strategy for the health of their enterprises, and in the case of all three US automakers my goddam trash collector could have made better business decisions. If the only function of a CEO is to maximize quarterly profit, well any BOD member can do that in their spare time.
They deserve to get pushed over the ledge by Japan. Then maybe we can put their former employees to work making more useful products, like mini cars, solar cells, wind turbines and batteries.
Thanks for letting me unload
Jeffrey: They wouldn't be in this situation if they had started their outsourcing from the top down. Kerkorian is trying to do this at GM by bringing in Ghosn but it is too late (IMO).  

GM exec: We need more new Hummers

General Motors Corp.'s Hummer brand needs to double its product line-up by adding two or three more models, the executive charged with GM's product planning told reporters on Wednesday.

"Hummer needs some more products. It needs two or three more products to give it sufficient market coverage," General Motors Vice Chairman Bob Lutz told reporters at the opening of a Hummer dealership in Paris.

Lutz said making a Hummer-branded pickup truck, which would have ample passenger seating, remained an "option."

Looks like GM is building their market strategy around the Hummer...

You start off assuming that there must be something there.  There must be something of value that has propelled them into that position.  But it does not take long until you recognize the blank stares, the inability to comprehend anything beyond the second or third bullet point in the PowerPoint for what it really is. "Put in more white space", "Your explanations are too long, people won't read all that", etc.  Mangement by neglect, focus only on the appearances.  

Well, there is something there - the ability to put themselves first in all things, to take advantage of every situation for personal gain.  Beyond that, the suits are empty.  COMPLETELY EMPTY!

It should not be long now until the word "Manager" in my job title will be replaced once again by the word "Engineer".  I'll still have to do that work until they find an appropriate empty suit, but at least I'm on the right track.  

I feel bad for those who worked at these companies actually doing something of value - they could have put their efforts into making something worthwhile, and might have liked to, but the empty suits above them did not think it would be to their personal, short term advantage.  But there is nothing that can be done now - the last one out will be a manager who has never produced anything more than a PowerPoint and who gets paid far more than anyone who's ever touched a product.

An excellent post on the Archdruid Report today, discussing the economics of Peak Oil. An interesting read for those of all viewpoints.

...the survivalist fantasy that peaking oil production will lead to sudden collapse can't be justified. What we face instead, as I've argued elsewhere, is a long period of economic contraction and technological decline. There will be plenty of bumps and potholes on the long road down, to be sure. Systems failures like the one that accompanied Hurricane Katrina last year, and reduced large portions of coastal Louisiana and Mississippi to a Third World level from which they show no signs of recovering, are likely to be regular occurrences. Still - and this has to be grasped in order to make any sense at all out of the future - systems failures don't automatically spiral out into total collapse.

Tom Anderson-Brown

I find Greer possibly the most depressing of the peak oilers.  With the possible exception of  Goodstein at his darkest.  (He thinks our desperate attempts to keep the party going could tip the earth into a runaway greenhouse effect, resulting in a planet that is "inhospitable to life.")

Greer, IMO, is the ultimate doomer.  His is not a fast crash, but it's a far worse one.

Hi Leanan,

I haven't read much on the Archdruid Report, but I find it interesting that Greer's latest post was a more hopeful outlook than I find myself having. After reading it I thought, "well, maybe we're going to be alright".

Each person has their own perspective on what will happen, their own paradigm. What you see as a post by "the ultimate doomer" I see as a post by an "optimist".

Perhaps his latest post is much different from what he's done in the past?

Tom Anderson-Brown

Perhaps his latest post is much different from what he's done in the past?

No, he's always argued in favor of a slow collapse.  He's best-known for this paper, based on Tainter's work:

How Civilizations Fall: A Theory of Catabolic Collapse

A slow collapse is considered good news by many here.  And it likely is good news, for most of us.  We'll be able to continue with life as we know it. We can still drive our cars, eat at McDonald's, watch Desperate Housewives.  The World Series and the Super Bowl will still be played.  It will just all be a little harder, a little dirtier, a little poorer, each year.  

It's the long view that's depressing.  When, three hundred years from now, we have crashed to an existence more primitive than the Native Americans', because the soil is exhausted, the trees all cut down, the water polluted, the land poisoned with radiation, many species of plants and animals extinct, etc.

Now, he does not think that this is inevitable.  But, reading his paper, I can't help but think that this sort of "catabolic" collapse is the most likely outcome of the current situation.  A slow collapse that allows us to wreak maximum destruction on the planet before we go.

This is my favorite Greer paper:


Maybe it will go this way.  Unless we nuke the crap out of each other somewhere along the way.  Which leads me to my next read:

http://www.amazon.com/Road-Cormac-Mccarthy/dp/0307265439/sr=8-1/qid=1159465651/ref=pd_bbs_1/002-3845 163-4144009?ie=UTF8&s=books

A little doomer fix.  Anybody read it yet?

I've just read the essay by Greer you recommended. All very well argued until the last paragraph, where Greer writes:

Organic farming is an excellent case in point. In the last century organic agriculture has made immense strides, to the point that it's now possible to grow a spare but adequate diet year round for one person on less than 1000 square feet of soil, with only hand labor and no fossil fuel inputs at all, and do it while increasing the long term fertility of the soil.

A spare but adequate diet? Only hand labor? No fossil fuel inputs at all?

Know what? My bullshit detector tells me that this is bullshit.

Hope I'm mistaken, though.

Perhaps bullshit, perhaps not.  From my experience with year round intensive organic gardening here in Chicago I expect this is possible with some added requirements...

It can't be just any 1000 square feet, but 1000 square feet with good sun, good soil, good drainage and access to 1000+ gallons of clean fresh water per week, especially during mid summer.  Good siting such as being on a south facing slope with a few degrees tilt to maximize winter sun exposure for northern latitudes such as here in Chicago, and having the space sheltered by windbreaks will help out a lot too.  On flat ground, for 1000 square feet, ie a 25x40 foot growing space, the ground can be manually sloped from south to north across 4 foot wide growing beds running east-west given some timber or bricks to frame in the north side of each bed.

Additional adjacent less prime land for growing green manures, storing compost, digging a storage cellar, providing living space, collecting rainwater, etc. would be immensely helpful.  Without adequate additional space for growing green manure one would have to forage for external biomass to have an adequate supply of compost to maintain soil fertility for the year round intensively gardened 1000 square feet.  This perhaps sounds like cheating, but the biomass for compost is just grass clippings, weeds, leaves, twigs, branches, etc. stuff commonly available in abundance most everywhere.  You'd roughly want to gather an additional 5 pounds or so of biomass each day to match the 5 pounds or so of food you'd harvest each day.

External sources of seeds with a large variety of cultivars suited to ones local climate and growing conditions is essential both to get started and to provide the ability to adapt to changes over time in growing conditions, pests and diseases.

It might not be needed depending on where one lives, but one can achieve a huge boost in productivity by not swearing off all fossil fuel derived products.  Using 1000 square feet of row cover fabric (spun bond polyester) inside a 1000 square foot steel tubing framed hoop house with a removable translucent plastic cover, probably made from oil although I suppose could be made from biomass, will allow growing cold hardy crops year round through zone 5 areas (-20F minimum anual average temp.) without the use of auxiliary heat.  The row cover and hoop house cover require replacement every few years but are likely well worth their inputs in materials for regions with seasonal sub 40F weather.

An additional 50+ square feet of climate controlled space probably inside ones living space (maintained at 55F to 75F) with several hundred watts of artificial lighting would be enormously helpful for seed starting and providing well grown seedlings for transplant.  This starter space allows one to have a steady supply of new plants year round to immediately replace anything harvested out or anything damaged by disease, pests or extreme weather events along with providing seamless transitions to appropriate plantings each season so little of the growing space ever sits bare.

To produce an average of 3 crops per year from each of the 1000 square feet will require clearing/replanting roughly 10 square feet per day.  Quite manageable with manual labor.

Additional water and energy for preparing, drying, freezing, canning, etc. will also be super helpful in ensuring a reasonable supply of an adequate variety of food year round.

A willingness to mainly subsist on the more productive crops each season and mostly skip more desirable crops with lower yields per square foot might be necessary.

And the ability to catch and perhaps eat the slugs, beetles, mice, voles, gophers, squirrels, possums, raccoons, rabbits, birds, deer, goats, pigs, cattle and various other things drawn to ones garden probably wouldn't hurt either :).

Todd Allen

You forgot the rats.


And the armadillos - lost more to the damn armadillos this year than to anything except aphids.
  It sounds like Ruanda right before they got out the machetes, or Ireland before the Potato Famine.
A spare but adequate diet? Only hand labor? No fossil fuel inputs at all?

I agree this would be very difficult for almost all people.

That must be the ultimate in democracy: Pick your favorite collapse.

I had never thought of it that way before, but in a world with dwindling energy, rebuilding after natural disasters will be next to impossible.

I recently finished reading "A Canticle for Leibowitz".  Walter Miller paints quite a picture of a post nuclear war collapse.

oh, but it's not just about the collapse. It's about our ability to learn.
I agree with Greer purely about the dynamics of collapse but the collapse is not going to occur in a vacuum. The overriding danger is that systemic collapse might bring on wars of desperation, which could even go nuclear. I don't share Greer's optimism that this will take decades to unwind because of that very tangible danger. If left alone, I agree that the collapse would almost certainly take decades but I don't think the collapse can occur by itself without other social and political forces acting at the same time.
I share your concern, Grayzone.  Other things that I think are missing from Greer's prognosis include the future global shortage of energy getting in the  way of national actions (such as public works and subsidies and building new infrastructure), and the likely meltdown of the financial system.  The first point is one of physical limits, the second is of social conventions, and is only a problem unless and until the "growth" religion is abandoned, and the control over the remaining resources is wrested away from "the rich", since the financial system is only a formalization of their claims of ownership and their right to get richer yet.   Greer wrote:

The fallacy that bedeviled the Y2K survivalists was the belief that government, business, and ordinary people, faced with an immiment threat and obvious responses to it, will sit on their hands and do nothing until catastrophe overwhelms them. This same odd belief can be found all through discussions of peak oil. As oil plateaus and then declines, energy prices will rise sharply; that’s the threat. The obvious response, which succeeded brilliantly in the 1970s, is to reduce energy use through conservation.

But the difference between PO and Y2K is that "the problem" this time is not solvable by simply hiring a bunch of geeks for a very small amount of money (relative to the rest of the economy).  Any "solution" this time involves major changes in lifestyle and aspirations of most people.  And the difference from the 1970's is that the low-hanging fruit in the areas of conservation have already been picked, and replacement of infrastructure is becoming harder and harder.  And like Leanan says, if the collapse is slow then we certainly won't do enough, we'll wait until it's impossible to do enough.

But the difference between PO and Y2K is that "the problem" this time is not solvable by simply hiring a bunch of geeks for a very small amount of money (relative to the rest of the economy).

I disagree.  Smalley's Apollo program is projected to cost 5-10 billion a year.  That is peanuts compared to the 3 trillion dollar energy business.

Pretty good post. But, I think tech will help a lot; as oil increases in price, we will turn to better nukes, wind and solar.  The holy grail is a decent car battery, which could change everything.  Meanwhile, hybrids plus car pooling will ease the transition.
Did I read that right? We are now reduced to searching for the holy grail in order to save our lifestyle?
A grail, did you say? It sounds like a quest to me!
Allow that in any given case choice of words may be unfortunate.  Then expect to see a lot more of this language and that kind of thinking. When times are tough some need a fallback
A bit of politics today. Don't worry, it's all about oil. Lots of it.

Sorry it gets a bit long, but it's complex. And I still left out the US .

Last week, there were a number of posts here on Turkey and Iran preparing to do awful things to Kurdistan; someone asked what Israel would feel about all that. Turns out the situation is somewhat complicated.

The Kurds feel heat from several angles (though none of the Iraq 'religious bloodshed'). Nothing new there. However, they seem to get serious in their claim on Kirkuk, and its oil. And that is different.
Already, some 40% of Iraq oil is located in Kurdish territory.

Iraqi Kurds raise secession threat over oil

Iraq's Kurdish regional government raised the threat of secession on Wednesday if the Baghdad government did not drop its claims to a say in the development of oil resources in their northern districts.

In a strongly worded response to comments by the Iraqi oil minister, the premier of the autonomous Kurdistan region said he "resented" the remarks by Hussain al-Shahristani and accused him of trying to "sabotage" foreign investment in Kurdish oil.

Competition between Kurds and Arabs for control of Iraq's big northern oilfield around Kirkuk is a major potential source of conflict. The field lies outside the present Kurdish region but Kurds want a referendum to bring Kirkuk into their area.

Kurdish militants kidnap son of Turkish politician

The son of a Turkish provincial leader was kidnapped on Sunday by Kurdish PKK separatist militants who stopped his car, the provincial governor's office said on Thursday.

The kidnapping in the southeastern province of Tunceli was made public as jailed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan called for a ceasefire.

We've seen this year where one kidnapping can lead.

Then, to the background. What would Israel think? The BBC, Sep. 20:

Israelis 'train Kurdish forces'

The BBC has obtained evidence that Israelis have been giving military training to Kurds in northern Iraq.

A report on the BBC TV programme Newsnight showed Israeli experts in northern Iraq, drilling Kurdish militias in shooting techniques.

Kurdish officials have refused to comment on the report and Israel has denied it knows of any involvement.

The revelation is set to cause enormous problems for the Kurds, not only in Iraq but also in the wider region

Israeli security experts who spoke to the BBC said they could not have worked inside Kurdistan without the knowledge of the Kurdish authorities.

The news will most probably increase tension between the Kurds and Iraq's Arab population, both Sunnis and Shias, reinforcing fears that the Kurds are pursuing a secessionist agenda.

This would be a serious blow to efforts for national reconciliation at a time when hundreds of Iraqis are killed every month in inter-communal violence.

Iraq's neighbours, too, will be outraged.

Ever since the US-led invasion of Iraq began over three years ago, Arab journalists have been speaking of Israelis operating inside the autonomous region of Kurdistan.

They said this was evidence that toppling Saddam Hussein was only the first chapter in a wider American-Israeli conspiracy to eliminate threats to their strategic interests and re-draw the map of the Middle East.

And that's just the beginning. A description of what China is up to around the Middle East, recommended and comprehensive, though way biased: ("China's support for regional dictators could severely impede efforts by the U.S. and Europe to help their Arab partners with political, economic, and educational reforms and to encourage peace efforts."). Yeah, right. Bridge for sale.

China and the Middle East: A New Patron of Regional Instability

The PRC's empathy for state sponsors of terrorism and terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah and its cynical manipulation of Kurdish politics to leverage Turkey are just a few warning signs that Beijing's intentions in the region are not benign.

Iraqi Kurdistan.

China also seems to have a strong interest in Iraq's oil production, notably in Kurdish northern Iraq. This is perhaps because of its proximity to the Yadavaran field in Iranian Kurdistan. Kurds in Iraq have enjoyed de facto independence, and Iraq's 2005 parliamentary election gave Kurds unprecedented influence in Iraqi politics.

Since U.S. suspension of Chinese oil concessions with Iraq following the Iraq War in 2003, the Chinese have looked for opportunities to access the Kurds' rich oilfields, which contain an estimated 40 percent of Iraq's oil reserves and are in the only Iraqi provinces that are relatively secure from sectarian terrorism.[21] High-level government visits between the PRC and the Kurdistan regional government have opened up business and investment opportunities in various sectors as well.

The Chinese also have used their relations with the Kurds to leverage Turkey to withhold support for Turkic-speaking Uighur refugees from China's Xinjiang province.[22] China has long been a fierce advocate of territorial integrity and has systemically oppressed separatist movements in Xinjiang and Tibet.

Turkey has 15 million Kurds, roughly 20 percent of the total Turkish population, and is burdened not only with armed Kurd separatist movements, but also with Uighur separatist activists and refugee organizations. Allegedly, the Chinese government has implicitly threatened Turkey that Beijing would support Kurds if Ankara did not make life a bit more mis erable for Uighur exiles.[23]

Great Stuff...  So invade Iraq, as the shiites and sunnis kill each other off have the Kurds peal off the oily parts.  I wonder if that was a contingency plan or part of the original plan... ???

Peak oil poliTics has lots of Spy vs Spy stuff and godzillAllah vs godzjevhova stuff to complicate proJectiOnz and the best made and laid (to waste) plans of manzthingy.


Good post.

I put good odds on the "israeli experts" being mercenaries - compulsive military service, frequent urban combat, and first-world weaponry gives IDF vets a significant chunk of the industry.

This is precisely why I liked the idea of a Tri-State solution to Iraq in the first place.  Rather than 1 giant mire, we'd have three seperate areas to assert control and influence.  The Kurds had a head start on the rest of Iraq in Self governance, we chucked that headstart out the window when we forced the three factions to start over on a new government.

We could easily have 1/3rd less of a problem had we let the Kurds get themselves going.  Further we could've pushed the kurds into causing trouble for Iran since Iran has a large portion of "Kurdistan" within its border.  In essence a reversal of the game Iran is playing against us in Iraq using the Shiite and Sunni tensions.

Not to mention, with 40% of the oil under Kurdistan control we could be seeing that oil coming online in more stable conditions sooner.

Interesting that three of the six hydrogen research projects funded seem to be as much or more about ethanol than hydrogen.  
Ottawa says no to Mackenzie pipeline subsidy
Imperial Oil rejects idea of equity stake for the federal government
John Michael Greer, in his article above called Economics: Avoiding the Y2K Fallacy argues for a controlled decent - that the decline need not be worse than the rise of the industrial age, except going in reverse.

I would think this would be a best-case scenario. Issues that cause me to question the likelihood of this scenario include the following:

  1. The world now has a much larger population than during the rise of the industrial age, so that there will be less oil per person. Also, because of the high population, there is likely to be major famine, with declining oil production.

  2. The decline in net energy from oil is likely to be much sharper than the rise in net energy from oil, given the declining ERoEI.

  3. Besides the decline in oil, we also have rapid global warming, water shortages, and tight natural gas supplies to deal with.

  4. The monetary system, the pension system, and life insurance companies, are not set up to deal with a declining economy. If an economy is in decline, businesses and individuals will have less resources in the future to pay back debts made in the past, so there will be a very high default rates on loans. Also, stock investments valued at the net present value of future earings will suddenly be worth very much less, since there is no longer growth.

  5. If there is not enough to go around, people and countries tend to fight about what is available.

I think we will have a Kunstler's Long Emergency -  or maybe a shorter one, if global warming is out of control.
Hi Gail,

There are many models of Oil production. Any thoughts on how we might make a model to predict if we will collapse or have an orderly powerdown? It would be nice to get past the informal debates between the "realist doomers" and the "optimists".

Stuart Staniford did some work trying to seperate the two at the bottom of his post here:


We do have the example of Cuba surviving a major decrease in energy production that happened almost without warning.

And we also have examples of rioting and chaos when power dropped too far.

So can we estimate the maximum level of power decrease before collapse?

An elite group in has proposed a gas tax that increases in steps over time. The proposal is cited at the end of this very interesting item about the need for an alternate direction in foreign policy, http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Front_Page/HI29Aa01.html

"On energy, the project called for going much further than the administration has proposed to reduce US reliance on Middle East oil by adopting a tax on gasoline that would begin at 50 cents per gallon (about 13 cents a liter) and increase by 20 cents per year for each of the next years. It also called for stricter automobile fuel-efficiency standards and for US leadership in devising new ways to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases."

I can't help myself. I was searching for something entirely different, and somehow got to DieOff.com, page 133. You got to love Hanson using this:

WHATEVER THE TWISTS AND TURNS in global politics, whatever the ebb of imperial power and the flow of national pride, one trend in the decades following World War II progressed in a straight and rapidly ascending line -- the consumption of oil.  If it can be said, in the abstract, that the sun energized the planet, it was oil that now powered its human population, both in its familiar forms as fuel and in the proliferation of new petrochemical products.  

Oil emerged triumphant, the undisputed King, a monarch garbed in a dazzling array of plastics.  He was generous to his loyal subjects, sharing his wealth to, and even beyond, the point of waste.  His reign was a time of confidence, of growth, of expansion, of astonishing economic performance.  His largesse transformed his kingdom, ushering in a new drive-in civilization.  

It was the Age of Hydrocarbon Man.

-- Daniel Yergin, 1992. [1]

Hmmm . . some OPEC members cutting production by 5%starting October 1. A convenient story if you can't produce more I suppose. Interesting that it is primarily Saudi and Kuwait. Maybe Kuwait finished that reserves study theu were working on.

 http://today.reuters.com/news/articlenews.aspx?type=businessNews&storyID=2006-09-28T155051Z_01_L 28469961_RTRUKOC_0_US-ENERGY-OPEC-CUT.xml

Smart move all around.

Wait till they change the proposed cut to 5.4876% +/-0.0005 and you know the techies finally finished the production decline report.

Winter natural gas demand seen growing

U.S. total natural gas demand this winter is expected to increase 5.7 percent, or 600 billion cubic feet, from last winter, but there will be plenty of supply, an industry trade group said Thursday.

While temperatures this winter are forecast to be slightly warmer than normal, they will still be colder than last year's near record warm weather, pushing up natural gas demand for heating fuel this November through March, the Natural Gas Supply Association said in its annual winter outlook.

"Because residential natural gas customers make up 52 percent of all U.S. homes, a normal winter in general will lead to strong (gas) consumption," the trade group said.

Trader who lost $6 billion leaves Amaranth, but nothing changes

Brian Hunter, the Calgary-based energy trader largely responsible for about $6-billion (U.S.) in natural gas trading losses, is no longer with Amaranth Advisors LLC, the hedge fund confirmed yesterday.

The departure comes after Amaranth's chief executive officer Nick Maounis told investors Friday that the company planned to get out of energy trading. The fund had previously invested more than half its capital in its energy business alone.

A press report yesterday suggested the fund is in talks to either liquidate its remaining assets or sell itself to a larger institution.
"It wouldn't surprise me if another commodity complex was called to the mat, but I haven't heard anything," said Jim McGovern, founding chairman of the Alternative Investment Management Association. He said Canadian hedge funds don't typically have concentrations of more than 30 per cent in any one sector -- meaning they tend to be more diversified than Amaranth.

Mr. McGovern still expects the industry to grow "rapidly" in Canada in the years ahead, as foreign investors and institutional managers seek ever-higher returns.

In the U.S., meanwhile, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commissioner Paul Atkins said yesterday that no new regulations on hedge funds are needed, despite Amaranth's losses. He said the SEC's probe into whether Amaranth misled investors will continue -- but insisted that existing rules to prevent a widespread failure in the market had worked.

Matt Simmons has a new presentation at www.simmonsco-intl.com

He specifically highlights the (EIA) decline in world crude + condensate production since December.

I don't think that he mentioned the 5.2% decline in Saudi crude + condensate production (EIA, 5/05 to 6/06) since "Twilight in the Desert" was published.

This is a link to Matt Simmons new presentation referred to by Westexas. It is called Summer's Over: Preparing for a Winter of Discontent. This is a large PDF - takes several minutes to load.
As I've mentioned before, CNN is running a series called Help, Home For Sale!  About people who are having trouble selling their homes.  

Today, they've got reader responses:

Help! Home for sale Letters

Notes from all over on the difficulties of selling real estate.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Home price increases have slowed nationwide and even reversed in many markets. Inventories are up and new home builders are cutting back. More and more sellers are having difficulty selling their properties.

We've profiled some of these sellers and that has produced a flood of reader emails from other troubled sellers.

Perhaps the most interesting thing is that there was something of a backlash; apparently, some readers didn't have much sympathy for the people profiled, and even thought they were getting what they deserved for their greed and stupidity.

From Drudge:


(CBS) Veteran Washington reporter Bob Woodward tells Mike Wallace that the Bush administration has not told the truth regarding the level of violence, especially against U.S. troops, in Iraq. He also reveals key intelligence that predicts the insurgency will grow worse next year.

In Wallace's interview with Woodward, to be broadcast on 60 Minutes this Sunday, Oct. 1, at 7 p.m. ET/PT, the reporter also claims that Henry Kissenger is among those advising Mr. Bush.

According to Woodward, insurgent attacks against coalition troops occur, on average, every 15 minutes, a shocking fact the administration has kept secret. "It's getting to the point now where there are eight-, nine-hundred attacks a week. That's more than 100 a day. That is four an hour attacking our forces," says Woodward.

The situation is getting much worse, says Woodward, despite what the White House and the Pentagon are saying in public. "The truth is that the assessment by intelligence experts is that next year, 2007, is going to get worse and, in public, you have the president and you have the Pentagon [saying], 'Oh, no, things are going to get better,'" he tells Wallace. "Now there's public, and then there's private. But what did they do with the private? They stamp it secret. No one is supposed to know," says Woodward.

"The insurgents know what they are doing. They know the level of violence and how effective they are. Who doesn't know? The American public," Woodward tells Wallace.

Woodward also reports that the president and vice president often meet with Henry Kissinger, who was President Richard Nixon's secretary of state, as an adviser. Says Woodward, "Now what's Kissinger's advice? In Iraq, he declared very simply, `Victory is the only meaningful exit strategy.'" Woodward adds. "This is so fascinating. Kissinger's fighting the Vietnam War again because, in his view, the problem in Vietnam was we lost our will."

President Bush is absolutely certain that he has the U.S. and Iraq on the right course, says Woodward. So certain is the president on this matter, Woodward says, that when Mr. Bush had key Republicans to the White House to discuss Iraq, he told them, "I will not withdraw, even if Laura and Barney are the only ones supporting me."

Drudge Report?  Ok, try this one:

George Bush's Iraq in 21 Questions

Interesting post.

The master of stirring the political pot just never goes away.  That ol' buzzard Kissinger appears to be one of the "undead".  (A nice little experiment would be to administer HK some garlic extract to see if he goes into anaphylatic shock.)  

It was bizarre enough when he rose out of his 'coffin' to use his considerable talents to direct the 9/11 Commission whitewash.  Now he is advising Bush on Iraq?  This borders on a Twilight Zone episode.

More Kissinger?

Operation Enduring Freedom is running screamingly out of hand. NATO today decided there will no more guise of peacekeeping; the battles are so bloody it would be useless to keep the pretense up any longer.

All NATO troops, 32.000 at the moment, with demands for much more, will come under NATO control. This includes the largest deployment of US troops under foreign command since WWII.

NATO will also deliver weapons to the Afghan army. The resistance in Afghanistan has been underestimated so much, you have to wonder what goes on in some heads. US reaction?

Rumsfeld: Enemy Underestimated NATO in Afghanistan

"The enemy obviously decided that once NATO came in, NATO would be a soft touch," Rumsfeld said at a news conference during an informal meeting of NATO defense ministers. "And so they went after NATO, and they were surprised. NATO was not soft; NATO was hard. And NATO pushed them back, and they didn't like it."

He said NATO arguably is the most successful military alliance in history. "I have no doubt that if NATO and its members muster the political will to make the necessary adjustments and investments, we will be able to successfully deal with challenges of this new era."

I guess if you stand on your head, every thing is upside down and the world looks completely different. Two things:
  • Enduring Freedom is the least successful military operation in decades
  • I'm starting to suspect that the US doesn't mind one bit dragging its allies into bloody battle, so they can prepare for what's in store, increase military spending and get the homefront used to fear and mourning


Afghanistan seems to have slipped under US public radar. Not so smart perhaps.
The -meagre- Newsweek coverstory in all editions except for the US one (?!) describes how 'we' risk losing Afghanistan. There's a lot of talk of the drug trade, the alleged source of money that lubricates 'Jihadistan'.

Losing Afghanistan?

Some critics point to a jarring mismatch between Bush's rhetoric and the scant attention paid to Afghanistan. Jim Dobbins, Bush's former special envoy to Kabul--he also led the Clinton administration's rebuilding efforts in Bosnia, Kosovo, Haiti and Somalia--calls Afghanistan the "most under-resourced nation-building effort in history."

In fact, warfare over the past 25 years, first by Soviets, then by allied forces, has destroyed much of the land , and little will grow on it. "The only crops that prosper there are landmines and poppies", as one author recently put it. Hunger is no stranger to today's Afghanisten. And it's the poppies that we seek to eradicate, leaving the farmers with... what?

The Newsweek article may claim the 'insurgents' fight because they get paid very well, but many undoubtedly fight out of sheer desperation over being left with nothing but scorched land. Call them "religious radicals' all you like. The allied invasion has brought the country precious little of what was promised, and the Taliban step in the void and feed the desolate population. Opportunity missed.

A much better article:

AFGHANISTAN: Military Policy 'Barking Mad'

"All those people whose homes have been destroyed and sons killed are going to turn against the British. It's a pretty clear equation -- if people are losing homes and poppy fields, they will go and fight. I certainly would."

Human development by way of improved rights for women is in fact becoming a casualty of the military operations -- after declarations that human development was one of the goals of the Afghanistan intervention besides countering terrorism.

The Senlis Council has reported starvation conditions in several parts of southern Afghanistan. And this is only increasing support for the Taleban, and potentially, for terrorism too.

The increased military presence is not always helping the military either. Another British army officer has said in a leaked email that the air force is "utterly, utterly useless" in protecting troops on the ground in Afghanistan. The air force has been called in as ground troops face increased attacks from the Taleban.

Today's Taliban mainly consists of local Pashtun, not imported Arabs, said Pakistan President Musharraf this week. Not only does that mean they blend in and are much harder to fight, they also fight for a different reason: to liberate their land. People don't like their land being occupied. They're funny that way. How would you feel with heavily armed foreigners parading in your street saying they come to bring you freedom?

Unlike in the US, here in Canada, Afghanistan is constantly in the news: our troops are dying there, and lots of them. A recent report stated that Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan are 6x more likely to be killed than US soldiers in Iraq.

It's hard to figure out what plans, if any, the allies have in store for the country )other than simply a live ammo practicing ground for armies). As the map shows, it's crucial for control of the region, say: OIL, so it's hard to imagine 'us' leaving. In the meantime, resistance grows daily.

thanks (again) for posting these...
I kinda like the Israeli view of a battle: See bad guy, kill bad guy!
Roel: I just watched WHY WE FIGHT. War makes money for the important people (and sometimes the sheeple enjoy watching on the telly) so it continues.    
Good for you, I recommended it here a while ago. Don't know where you're located, but I could imagine it's not easily available all over the US.
What was it again? Chalmers Johnson (paraphrased from memory):

"The Defense budget is 3/4 of a triilion dollars. The profit margin [last year] was up 25%. If war is that profitable, I guarantee you we'll see a lot more of it."

The doc also explains quite well how and why there is no difference between Dem's and Rep's.

Great interview with Chalmers Johnson in this month's
Acres Magazine covering all of this.


I would highly recommend this one, if nothing else just for a "What if?"

The Master Plan for the World and its effect on Resource Stocks
by Clive Maund

The number of deaths is of no concern.  It's the cost of doing business so to speak.  

Hello TODers,

Interesting FTW report on Mexico. Stratfor weighs in too:
Defeated Mexican presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador called on President-Elect Felipe Calderon on Sept. 28 to make his opinions on the dispute in Oaxaca known. Lopez Obrador also claimed to have information that Calderon's National Action Party is conspiring with Oaxacan Gov. Ulises Ruiz's Institutional Revolutionary Party to keep Ruiz in power despite the demands of the Oaxacan unions.

The use of measured force is an option in attempting to negotiate a settlement between Mexico's Popular People's Assembly of Oaxaca and the government of Oaxaca, Deputy Interior Secretary Arturo Chavez said Sept. 28. The federal government has not set a date by which it hopes to resolve the conflict, but President Vicente Fox said he will do so by the end of his term in December.
So far, I haven't found anymore news on the water shutoff in the cities in the state of Veracruz.

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

  I went to Juarez today, the politics seemed pretty quiet. The city is very prosperous by Mexican standards, but the human misery is still evident even in the tourist areas. And the poor Indians are perpetually the worst off.
  A guy from Honduras came up to me at the Mercado with a box full of gum, telling me in broken Spanglish that he hadn't sold anything today, so I gave him 10 Pesos (a dollar). Iknow why he is on the border, he's trying to scuffle enough  money to illegally immigrate. Skinny and starving, how could I turn him down?
  A dark-skinned woman that looked 60 with a baby in her shawl stuck out her hand-acted like she didn't even speak Spanish, I emptied my pocket change in her hand.
  I stopped a guy to buy a popsickle from his bicicle freezer. He overcharged me-6 Pesos, a tourist price-but how could I haggle with a poor skinny guy on a bike? You can't imagine the look of greed as he counted out the 60 cents or so.
  I sure hope the Mixtecs and Zapotecs in Oaxaca join with the schoolteachers and fight. Oaxaca is my favorite state, and something has got to change. Viva Zapata e' Subcomandante Marcos !
Bob, when Juarez comes up, all I can think is: please please read

While you were sleeping

Charles Bowden, Harper's Magazine, 1996

One of the most "penetrating" things I have ever read.

Can you maybe put up a little warning next time you post something like that. I'm trying to eat breakfast.

That's for pointing out where Afghanistan is, by the way. I could never figure that out.

Ay! Chihuahua!
There has been a little talk of wood burning on this thread today, so I'd like to post a quote by Thoreau which I ran across a few days ago.

I just put another stick into my stove, --a pretty large mass of white oak.  How many men will do enough this cold winter to pay for the fuel that will be required to warm them?  I suppose I have burned up a pretty good-sized tree tonight,--and for what?  I settled with Mr. Tarbell for it the other day; but that wasn't the final settlement.  I got off cheaply from him.  At last, one will say, "Let us see, how much wood did you burn, sir?"  And I shall shudder to think that the next question will be, "What did you do while you were warm?" Do we think the ashes will pay for it?  that God is an ash-man?

Yes, yes, what are we doing while it is warm?  is the big question!!

eh this article wasn't very helpful


It didn't seem to properly address the fact that Russia and other countries didn't spend billions to fix the problem.  Yet they were ok.  :-p

So I just had a some quick thoughts in my head about about westexas and his Import Export models. Has anyone actually tried to write some type of computer model to try to mimick this system?

So quick background, I work as a Software Developer in Test. One of the ways I work to find bugs in a system, is to develop a conceptual model of how I think the system works. I generalize it to something simplier. I then take these ideas and essentially write this up in code. I define particular variables as the state and then use actions to change the state.

So here is what I'm thinking of possibly trying to make (if its not too complicated and I have some time), I need some comments though and a little help on simplifying it to something that makes sense. But here is the jist of it, you can create some type of Model called a CountryModel. It can contain state information such as how much oil imported, how much oil exported, how much oil used, % of what the oil is used for in this region, Estimated URR with a percentage of uncertainty, current daily production, Decline rates of existing fields, and or or possbile increases based on other fields. You can then create a simple action such as IncrementMonth. Then record the change of the various variables during time. You can include various probablities of various bad events of happening, such as a hurricane hitting or other things like that. For various regions it could be different, maybe there is a War or conflict action that can be triggered that lowers production or something too.

Honestly initially I'd have to make a much more simple model. But what I was thinking that would be cool is that you can say have a model for the US, and all the other countries it imports oil from. You can run the model and attempt to look at the possible price of oil given various scenarios. Maybe this has too many moving parts though.

Good idea? Bad idea? The other question I had is where can I get some oil stats on various countries? Need some raw data for this.



www.bp.com - look for their 2006 Statistical Analysis excel download.

EIA's numbers are better, but you have to know what you are doing to play with them.

Good idea/Bad idea? Yeah, good, of course. I'm not going to do the work, though. You are. Let me know if you need any help.