Sunday, February 28, 2010


News links, March 1, 2010

Western Oil Companies Feel the Heat in Kazakhstan
Saudi Arabia to nearly double oil supply to India

Asia Businesses Weather Regular Cyberattacks

--- International high finance! ---
Gold will be perceived as a currency in competition with fiat currencies
IMF chief pushes for more power, new global currency
S&P warns Spain over deficit
Greek PM warns on bankruptcy as crunch looms
Greece Loses Kokusai Money as Investors Demand 7% to Buy Bonds
Euro in most difficult phase since launch - Merkel
French Econ min says state debt CDS should be banned
The Week Ahead: Are the PIIGS, EU Already Beyond Help?
"Greece is virtually certain to default within a month without help."

New Ukraine leader unveils pro-Russia policies
India, China pilots may train at Ukraine base

--- Middle East ---
Yemen declares state of emergency in southern city
Israeli DM: No Need to Coordinate With US on Attacking Iran
Ex-U.S. ally Chalabi, now Iran's friend, likely to win Iraq vote
UAE talks jeopardize Canada's Mideast base
US to spend $50 million on media in Pakistan
Iran sanctions: financial, transportation and Revolutionary Guard would be targeted

Japan: Outstanding OTC Derivatives Rose 11% In 2nd Half Of '09: BOJ

Suicide bomber targets Pakistan police station

Utopian Pessimist Calls on Radical Tech to Save Economy
An uneven collapse (Hint: It's already happening)

Argentina warns BHP against oil drilling
Falklands offer to split oil profits

Food imports hurt struggling Haitian farmers

UK: Bears, lynx, wolves and elk considered for reintroduction into British countryside
Army says it needs 20,000 more soldiers
Opposition mounts to 'factory farm' plans that will house 8,100 cows
Hoax device 'used to lure police' in County Armagh

US: Shell abandons Colorado water rights bid, placing regional oil shale development on hold
Supreme Court case could limit local controls on firearms
Cybersecurity bill to give president new emergency powers
California: Budget cut protest turns into riot
Hundreds gather at Indiana Whirlpool plant to protest refrigerator factory's planned closure
Guns at Starbucks? Pushing the right to bear arms in public
Coming Commercial Real Estate Bust on Tap; 3000 Community Banks at Risk
Hotel rates have biggest drop since Depression
Social and Individual Breakdown Pent up toward Collapse
America, the fragile empire: Here today, gone tomorrow -- could the United States fall that fast?
A Union for the Unemployed
Decision Could Allow Anonymous Political Contributions by Businesses
Foreclosure crisis hits affluent towns
Secret Service Computers Only Work at 60 Percent Capacity; Agency Uses 1980s Mainframe
Senators urge tough derivatives bill

And finally... Beer-drinking, smoking chimp sent to rehab

Friday, February 26, 2010


News links, February 27, 2010

News links will resume on Monday.

Second half of 2010: Sudden intensification of the global systemic crisis
China insider sees revolution brewing
China faces rising crime rates, increased social unrest

Muammar Gaddafi calls for jihad on Swiss after ban on building minarets

Why China's Rumored IMF Gold Purchase, If True, Would Be Of Huge Significance
China May Buy More Gold; $1,100 An Ounce Appears To Be Support Level
Gold Breaks the Rules

Greece Delays Bond Sale Amid New Turmoil
European Union pushes Greece to cut more

Oil: World's New Reserve Currency of Choice
"Buy oil. Buy gold."

The Taliban Strike Afghan Capital, Again

World's Biggest Power Plan May Be Thwarted by Congo
Saudi Arabia to export solar power soon, US says
Uranium has only one way to go: up
"As with everything else in the resource world these days, the low-hanging fruit is all gone."

Iran arrests most wanted man after police board civilian flight
"Iran forced down a civilian airliner on Tuesday to arrest the leader of a terrorist group it claims is backed by Britain, Israel and the United States."

Will airlines and passengers call a truce?
Japan Airlines posts $2 bln loss
Rough Waters Ahead For The Dry-Bulk Shipping Industry

Belgium offers chickens to waste-cutting households

Israelis rush to join Mossad after Mahmoud al-Mabhouh killing

How Has Human Sprawl Affected Bird Migration—And the Spread of Avian Diseases?

Brazil's Real Post Biggest Advance in the World This Month

UK: BBC signals an end to era of expansion
Losses at taxpayer-owned Lloyds swell to £6.3bn on bad debts
Taxpayers to lose £17bn on stake in banks
Spectre of double-dip recession looms over UK: Will pound become "basket case"?
Intercity trains upgrade postponed
Jim Rogers on the Pound

US: Newborns' blood used to build secret DNA database
Generation Zero documentary looks at another inconvenient truth: US debt
California dreaming: California Delays Payments, Ponders IOUs Again, Demands 80% of Income Tax Paid Before It's Even Earned
Senator predicts US "financial meltdown"
US GDP: Looks may be deceiving
Why the US economic recovery is a scam
AIG posts $11 billion loss for 2009
Commercial Real Estate: Five Facts From a Broker
Fannie Seeks $15.3 Billion in U.S. Aid After 10th Straight Loss

And finally... Carly Simon reveals 'You're So Vain' clue

Thursday, February 25, 2010


Infrastructure Deterioration

More on the Great Fall-Apart. One of today’s news links, which I’m sure many readers noticed, is “DoT budget isn’t keeping up with need for road, bridge repairs.” The article kicks off with the truly grim observation by the transportation secretary that “The Transportation Department has a backlog between $80 billion and $100 billion in high-priority infrastructure improvement projects that it cannot afford to fund” (emphasis mine). That represents a lot of miles of road and many bridges that will be repaired or replaced later than needed, and I predict that repair or replacement will never come for a significant percentage.

In the same vein, recently the New York Times ran an op-ed piece lamenting the woefully insufficient amount of investment in infrastructure. For those with shock-resistant hearts, this article gives a number of specific examples showing the horrendous state of America’s infrastructure. Here I will mention one of the best examples, which was that even though the state of Pennsylvania more than tripled its expenditures on bridges, it ended up with an even longer list of bridges needed repairs!

Of course, the US isn’t the only country with this problem. Britain isn’t known as “pothole nation” for nothing. And Japan, which at first glance seems to have a very modern and well-maintained infrastructure, has, for example, loads of bridges that need repair or replacement. According to this article (in Japanese), Japan has about 150,000 bridges that are 15 meters or more in length, and about 90% of them are managed by municipalities. Of those, 121 are totally closed to traffic, and 680 are still open but have instituted weight restrictions because of their deteriorated conditions. Recall that Japan is a geographically much smaller country than the US, and you can see the significance of these figures. Because many bridges and roads were built during Japan’s years of rapid economic growth, over the next decade a slew of them will be up for repair or replacement, and the money surely won’t be there. But bridges and roads aren’t the only problem. This post from last year provided some information on the grave state of sewage pipe in Tokyo.

We won’t make any headway on infrastructure because energy is too expensive now. Only a few years ago crude oil was still in the $20–30 range, which enabled countries to go on infrastructure construction sprees. Now that the same barrel of oil costs three times as much, we can buy only one-third as much energy for the same amount of money. And because — thanks to peak oil — budgets are severely constrained, that further limits the amount of energy we can expend on infrastructure. In a word, we’re fighting a losing battle. Infrastructure will crumble faster than we can possibly fix it.

The upshot is that vehicles will in time no longer be able to navigate broken roads and bridges, and that alone will strangle economies. Meanwhile, when aged water mains and sewage pipes break, the cities they serve will become uninhabitable. The big cities of the world now bill themselves as “24-hour cities” offering every kind of luxury and serving as economic and cultural centers, but when toilets are stopped up, sewage overflows in the streets, and there is no water, those masses of concrete will be hell.


News links, February 26, 2010

Banks Bet Greece Defaults on Debt They Helped Hide

Confirmation Of Chinese IMF Gold Purchasing Intentions?

Global trade slumped 12% last year

Japan: Nissan, Daihatsu, Suzuki issue car recalls
Japan Is the Next Greece
"Frankly put, the yen is toast."
Moody's: Japan's Rating Could Be Cut If Debt Remains Massive

Iceland repayment talks collapse

Dubai's Doldrums Spark Exodus of Migrant Workers

Winter in Mongolia is 'an unfolding disaster'

More Israeli names on new list of Dubai suspects

China: 'No intention' of capping emissions
Concerns grow over China's sale of US bonds
China's Big Fat Growth Facade

Do Texas and the North Sea Foretell the Future of Oil Production?

Viktor Yanukovych sworn in as Ukraine president

Drug-resistant malaria 'growing' in Cambodia

Spanish oil firm Repsol to drill near Falkland Islands

UK: Union's proposed strike could destroy British Airlines
UK debt 'will push retirement age to 70'

Israeli government videos portray Europeans as gullible

Eastern Europe Looks to Neighbors to Break Russia's Energy Grip
Russia threatens to react to NATO expansion

US: Contractors outnumber full-time workers at DHS; lawmakers 'astounded'
US slaps duties on steel pipe from China
Security expert: Obama order resembles controversial Bush-era data-mining tool
Wall Street's Greece role probed
Small business credit in a deep recession
Wave of truck cargo hijackings
New York State Faces Cash Squeeze in March
Oil to Hit $100 in US Driving Season: Analyst
Detroit Mayor emphasizes need to shrink city, wants to relocate residents from desolate neighborhoods
"Nascent" Recovery or "Nascent" Economic Collapse? "Unexpected" bad news
Railway shutdown looms in Maine
DoT budget isn't keeping up with need for road, bridge repairs
"The Transportation Department has a backlog between $80 billion and $100 billion in high-priority infrastructure improvement projects that it cannot afford to fund."

And finally... Xe/Blackwater evacuates congressman who is critical of military contractors

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


News links, February 25, 2010

Europe hit by wave of strikes
"A wave of industrial and social unrest is building across Europe."
Greek police clash with protesters as national strike takes hold
France Joins Europe Travel Industry Strikes

Rare Earth Metal Supply Vs. Demand

India: AI told to implement massive salary cuts even in face of unrest

Armageddon: Never before in history has a world power like the U.S. been so utterly buried in debt!
Bullish a Year Ago, Robert Prechter Now Sees "the Biggest Bubble in History"
Ignore the IMF sales - Soros is right about gold

Report: Japan offers to enrich Iran's uranium
Russia warns West against crippling economic sanctions on Iran

Sinopec, CNOOC Said to Pursue Oilfield in Central Asia
U.S. Sees Al-Qaida Threat in Central Asia

Oz: Rising food costs are forcing restaurants to rewrite menus
"The cost of diesel is keeping an increasing number of fishing boats moored because their catch won't cover the fuel bill."

Carlyle Group Bets On China Again
Report: China restricts loans to local government (but more to private businesses)
Confucianism revival

Mystery over Dubai killing of Hamas official deepens, more identity thefts discovered

Latin America gives support to Argentina over Falklands
Argentina takes Falklands oil dispute with UK to UN

Fertilizer industry: Feeding the world has become a mouth-watering opportunity

North Atlantic Ocean also has huge garbage patch

Post-Peak Economics

Singapore Withdraws Red Carpet for Foreigners With Eye on Vote

Bloom Box evaluation (Hint: Don't get excited.)
The Transition Back to Coal

UK: North Sea oil 'could last at least a decade' (Just one catch: high fuel prices needed)
Royal Bank of Scotland to pay bonuses totalling £1.3bn
U.K. Economy Faces 'Grave Stage' on Deflation Risk, Bootle Says

Hong Kong: More Air For Asia's Property Bubble

France buys U.S. missiles, upgrades army

US: Who works for 30-years-ago wages? (Farmers)
Repo Nation: The Debt Default Boom: How to Profit From the "Car-Stealing" Business
Wall Street pay rises 17%
Joe Stack IRS attack: All-American rage?
Standard & Poor's downgrades Los Angeles' credit rating
When life is a grind, teeth suffer
Another Corporate Bailout: Obama Goes Nuclear
GM pronounces Hummer dead
Airlines increasingly single out fliers they deem too fat to fly
U.S. agents to embed with Mexico drug units
Experts predict $3 a gallon gasoline soon
Airlines see jobs shrink in past decade
FDIC Insurance Fund Is Broke To The Tune Of Nearly $21 Billion
11.3 million homeowners underwater on mortgage
New Home Sales Tumble to Record Low in January
Las Vegas Sands Aims to Refinance $5 Billion Debt

And finally... Cheap thrills in France: Designer abductions

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


News links, February 24, 2010

Amigos, we are approaching a critical juncture while wading in deep doo-doo. The “recovery” exists only in the minds of those who purvey feel-good propaganda meant to keep you investing your last few dollars or yen or whatever in the stock markets. So hike up your doo-doo waders and work on your preparations for collapse and the emergence of whatever comes next.

Dubai murder an 'Israeli act of terror': Iran

Saudi Arabia Shifts Its Focus To China As The United States Falls Out Of Favor
"Saudi Arabia has reacted by striking new refining deals with Beijing and moving storage facilities from the Caribbean to Japan."
West Not Recovering, Bond Crisis on the Way: Strategist
Harvard's Rogoff Sees Sovereign Defaults, 'Painful' Austerity
Debt: Get Out of Europe, Japan and the U.S.

Americas bloc excluding US and Canada is proposed

Argentina rallies regional support over Falklands

Greek Unionists Take Over Athens Exchange Building in Protest
Greek banks see their credit ratings cut
Greece not the only country that cooks the books

Fortress Oz: Kevin Rudd says Australia faces major terror threat

China tightens internet controls
Hong Kong Land Sale Raises Worry of a Bubble

As Mexico's Drug Wars Worsen, Former President Suggests Legalizing Drugs

Japan Carmakers' Overseas Output Up 70% In January

UK: Costs of London Olympics ballooning. Can Paris play host? Athens?
Second thoughts about Britain's ID cards and privacy
'More than one in 10 suffer rude behaviour in the workplace every week'
Too soon to cut public spending, IMF warns
Deathbed of Keynesian Economics Will Be in U.K.

Israel's Mega-Drone: News, or Zzzzz?
Israel's long-range UAV 'no gamechanger'

US: Wealth Disparities in U.S. Approaching 1920s Levels (The chart says it all!)
Commercial Real Estate Apocalypse in 2011-2012
Bridge Problems In Oklahoma
Number of homeless students skyrockets in local school districts (Michigan)
A Bottomless Pit: The coming $1 trillion public pension crisis
Social Security is Ponzi scheme, will go bust
'Doomsday is here for the state of Illinois'
"It will take a massive tax increase -- and $2 billion more in cuts -- to reach solvency, group says"
Economists: Recovery is firmly on track (Whew!)
Insider selling soars to 2010 high (Do insiders also think the recovery is on track?)
U.S. driving decline is in reverse
In quest for jobs, more Americans join ranks of day laborers
Kansas City considers closing 31 of 61 schools
Docs cut work hours as primary care shortage looms
List of Troubled Banks at 16-Year Peak, F.D.I.C. Says
Stocks pull back after worse-than-expected consumer confidence report; Dow falls 100
Liquidating the Empire (Patrick J. Buchanan)
FDIC Report: 'We Were Broke And Getting Broker'
"Remember that the Deposit Insurance Fund went negative last quarter. Now it has lost another $20.9 billion."
'Death of American Capitalism:' The 10 final scenes
"Solution? Get into action, let's launch the 'Second American Revolution.'"
Nearly 20% of Americans underemployed
State and Federal Borrowing Is Crowding Out Everyone Else
Real Debt-To-GDP Ratio Is 130%, Greece Is Amateur Hour

Monday, February 22, 2010


News links, February 23, 2010

Japan, U.S. set to launch joint efforts on drone technology

Debt Auctions Bombing … China Heading for the Hills … Higher Rates Dead Ahead!
Faber advises investors to buy farmland and gold, says next war will be "dirty"

Israel: All postal services stopped after letter bomb found in post office

China's building bubble about to burst
China New Village Makes Chanos See Dubai 1,000 Times
China taps more Saudi crude than US

Dutch confirm Afghan troop pullout sparking fears of domino effect

Greece misses EU debt data deadline
Greece Said to Have Arranged Swaps With 15 Banks
Euro's Future in Question Even if Greece Saved: Soros
The Depression's Already Here for Some Countries in Europe
Europe labor unrest: airlines, oil

Japan: Disclosing Executive Pay May Be Dangerous: TSE Chief
Japanese Government Is Essentially Bankrupt, net assets possibly below zero
Magazine airs anxieties over China's burgeoning economic clout

Rare earth elements: The world's next resource conflict
Coal Rally on Chinese Demand Sparks $59 Estimates

What happens when an Aussie housing bubble bursts

UK: BA cabin crew vote for strikes
Falkland Islands oil drilling begins

Saudi to build $13bn 'tourist city' on east coast

Colombia becomes new hub for human smuggling into US

U.S. OKs $150M to help Yemen fight terrorism

Dubai World unlikely to pay off Nakheel debt

US: Water Waste A Kink In New York Shale Gas Future
More West Virginians may soon experience frustration of toll roads
Arizona speed cameras incite a mini revolt
The New Poor
Homeless, with wheels: Rest stops become home
More US Generations Living Under Same Roof
As Economy Stumbles, Local "Currencies" Gain Traction
Small business loan stimulus runs dry -- again
Pentagon Quietly Explores De-Citizenship of US Citizen Terrorists
US 'closes in on Google hackers'
Commercial bank lending continues to plummet
Muni Defaults May Rise Amid 'Unprecedented Stress' on Finances
The Bloom Box: Energy Breakthrough or Silicon Valley Hype?
Gasoline heading above $3 a gallon by this summer
Top US general: US has Plan B for slower Iraq exit

And finally... Real or Ridiculous? The Hot Waitress Index

Sunday, February 21, 2010


News links, February 22, 2010

'Next Greece' Search Is on as Hedge Funds Circle; BOJ warns on debt

Dubai hit squad may have used diplomatic passports
Dubai World on verge of presenting debt proposal

Israel unveils new drone that can fly to Gulf
War game shows how attacking Iran could backfire

Greece 'not looking for bailout', Papandreou tells BBC

Germany: Lufthansa seeks talks to avert massive strike

Uzbekistan: U.S. envoy says no plans to reopen Karshi-Khanabad air base

China: expect more tightening
Chinese banks told to lend reasonably, responsibly
Chinese grads face tough job market
People's Republic of Hacking

Japan: Department stores forecast to remain in severe conditions
Japan's Oldest Nuclear Reactor Set To Pass 40-Year Mark

UK: 'Fake identity' Brits warned that their lives are in danger
British Prime Minister: Israeli officials were part of decision to invade Iraq
Westwood condemns consumerism after London show

Schlumberger to Buy Smith for About $11.3 Billion

Debt Deals Haunt Europe

Can low-paying garment industry save Haiti?

Indonesia: Jatropha bust

Geo-engineering: the planet's savior or untested danger?

US: Report: Bush Lawyer Said President Could Order Civilians to Be 'Massacred'
Millions of unemployed face years without jobs
Unemployment: Here's Why It's Different This Time
Book: Cheney pushed for military conflict with Russia
Ron Paul Wins Conservative Straw Poll for 2012 Election
Health-care shocker: Policy-holder's premium goes up 69%
Debt: The U.S. Is on the Edge of a Cliff
Joe Stack And Likely Coming Attractions
4th violent flash mob in Philadelphia provokes crackdown


News links, February 21, 2010

I’ll also be posting some news links for your browsing pleasure.

Long-time algae grower deflates claims of $2/gallon oil from algae

Argentina demands oil talks with UK

China's coal imports hit 16.07 mln tons in Jan

Risks in 2010: Crumbling Infrastructure
"Worldwide, some 35 trillion dollars will have to be spent over the next 20 years to meet infrastructure needs, estimates the World Bank."

French oil refineries strike spreads

Gas Shortage Raises Egyptians' Anger at Government

Pakistani police chief dies in attack on stations

Russia stands by S-300 delivery to Iran
Germany Prepares to Deploy UAVs to Afghanistan
The pros and cons of a robot army
Russia looks to France for light armoured vehicles following assault ships talks
US Navy Shifts Focus To Lower-​​end Threats (Looks like it's turning into a glorified SWAT team.)
"The Navy will buy ships and aircraft that deal with a range of irregular opponents, including pirates, terrorists, criminal organizations, insurgents and other state and non-​​state actors."
New Study: U.S. Military Should Prepare for Hostile Reception in Western Pacific and Persian Gulf Regions

Toyota "sticking pedals" recall is a smokescreen (PDF)

Up to 25 bln euros in aid mulled for Greece-magazine

Euro's Unity Bid Hits Fine Print in Greek Debt Drama

US: Texas Congressman pushes for drones on Mexico border
IRS: a frequent target of antigovernment violence
Joe Stack IRS attack and the growth of the tax resistance movement
Frustrated Owner Bulldozes Home Ahead Of Foreclosure
Four banks in separate states shut down
Under-taxed Americans are Too Broke to Finance Sustainability Infrastructure
U.S. May Face Housing Shortage in 2011
"We need one and a half million houses per year just to keep up with population growth."
O.C. has 13 months of unlisted foreclosures
In D.C., more evidence that commercial real estate headed for foreclosure crisis
Bad economies in states to worsen: governors
Muni bond defaults will bust bond insurers
Democratic Governors Urge Passage of Jobs Bill as Debts Loom

Saturday, February 20, 2010


The Great Fall-Apart, Continued

In case you were wondering if the Great Fall-Apart, my inelegant name for the deterioration of the world’s infrastructure, is still continuing, the answer is an unqualified yes. “Risks in 2010: Crumbling Infrastructure” informs us matter-of-factly that “Worldwide, some 35 trillion dollars will have to be spent over the next 20 years to meet infrastructure needs, estimates the World Bank” (emphasis mine — as if I needed to emphasize it). Of course this figure includes the construction of new infrastructure as well as repairs to and replacement of existing infrastructure, but the magnitude of that sum is enough to floor even the most optimistic person. All I can say is: Good luck.

Public infrastructure is funded by taxes, bonds, and fees for its use. All face problems now. With usage down, fees are down. Tax receipts are of course flagging badly. We’ll look at bonds below. Here a writer argues that Americans are not taxed as much as people in many other countries, and need to pay more taxes in order to finance “sustainability infrastructure.” Surely building all that new infrastructure will require much more money, and we have to add onto that the funding needed to repair/replace what we already have and is crumbling. Although not explicitly stated, it seems the writer assumes that there will be some kind of recovery which will underpin the economic growth and job creation needed to enable people to pay all these taxes and fees (assuming there is no tax revolt, but that’s another story). But under peak oil, recession is the rule. We cannot expect a return to the good old days, and even economic/finance experts are admitting that any recovery will be “jobless,” meaning that many of the jobs lost since the 2008 crash will never return.

Now on to bonds. Owing to peak oil, debt defaults are getting to be a huge problem that is going to get worse. And it appears we are in for a storm of muni bond defaults. As Warren Buffett has observed, insuring muni bonds is turning into a “dangerous business.” And bonds are another major source of funding for infrastructure projects.

So, where’s all this leading? Peak oil means lower tax revenues (even if taxes are raised), lower fee revenues (because of lower usage), debt defaults (including bonds), and continuing recession that perpetuates and aggravates these. In sum, the world will not even come close to raising that $35 trillion figure stated above. We’ll see less new infrastructure created, and a lot of existing infrastructure deteriorate further. Some infrastructure is already being downgraded, as I noted here.

The Great Fall-Apart is an inevitable consequence of energy decline. Instead of taxing people to death in a vain attempt to save and expand the vast infrastructure that cheap oil built, we should embrace decline and reorder our priorities.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Ethanol and the Intermittency of Renewables

Brazil is importing 2 million barrels of gasoline from Venezuela to make up for an ethanol shortage caused by the effects of poor weather on the sugar cane harvest. We often hear about the effects of weather on the output of renewable energy sources such as wind and photovoltaic. This is commonly called “intermittency” or “variability,” and is a characteristic of many renewables that prevent them from supplying base load electric power. Even normally more stable renewables such as hydroelectric power are susceptible to the vagaries of nature, a current case in point being Venezuela, which is suffering a crippling power shortage owing to insufficient rain.

By contrast, biofuels are often considered to be above this, but here is an instance in which a country that has made itself heavily dependent on ethanol finds itself short of fuel because of uncooperative weather. So here is the intermittency problem appearing where many people seem to have overlooked it.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Education Funding Is Disappearing

In this post on February 5, I discussed the decline of education and training needed to maintain the knowledge and skills which industrial/technological civilization needs to maintain itself. Amigos, there is more bad news. Here we find that European universities are putting higher education on the chopping block, and this article tells us that UK universities are literally falling apart. And there is no shortage of articles in the US media about cuts affecting compulsory education programs (in Utah a lawmaker even floated a plan to cut the 12th grade). If elites wanted a “dumbed-down” population, they sure are getting it now.

Watch as the dearth of knowledge and skills combines with energy decline to drag civilization down.


Is Energy from Trash Sustainable?

British Airways to Buy Sustainable Jet Fuel Made From London Trash” informs us of a plan which seems quite common-sense and reasonable, and indeed, there is nothing new about waste-to-energy schemes. But will this ensure modern civilization’s energy future?

Before proceeding further, let me say that I have nothing at all against making good use of everything. I myself compost everything organic emitted by my household, and play the good citizen by participating in the local recycling program.

But let’s consider where all that “waste” comes from in the first place. Without fossil fuels — primarily oil — we wouldn’t have all that trash, because it is generated by economic activities that are powered by fossil fuels. And then the trash is picked up and hauled by trucks. Therefore, even if using trash to produce power or to make fuels is reducing reliance on fossil fuels, ultimately the whole operation is underpinned by fossil fuels. That doesn’t sound very “sustainable” to me.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


Hand Notes: Big Deal

Lots of people are making fun of Sarah Palin’s hand notes. Personally, I don’t like Palin’s politics, and I don’t think she’s smart enough to run a country (which of course has not stopped others). But that’s neither here nor there. The issue here is: I don’t understand why using notes, written on hands or any other medium, is bad.

As I recall, most of my college professors lectured from sheaves of notes. Last year I delivered lectures to several citizen groups about peak oil, and I used an outline that covered two and one-half letter-size sheets of paper. And since I’m not particularly good at remembering figures, I wrote all those down, too. It simply makes good sense to write down the points you want to cover, and also keep your facts straight. So, I would encourage Palin to use more notes.

One more thing: Palin’s critics only harm themselves with such ill-conceived and below-the-belt criticism, which is akin to ad hominem or shoot-the-messenger attacks. That the White House itself has stooped to such cheap mockery is indicative of the administration’s good-idea bankruptcy, which is why the mess Dubya left is now much worse.

I now return you to our regularly scheduled war.

Friday, February 12, 2010


Nuclear Power: Good Money after Bad

A article, “Nuclear Power and the Bottomless Bank,” describes how the US is working hard to spend gobs of taxpayer money on propping up the moribund nuclear power industry. Let’s consider parts of the article here.
If enacted, the legislation would create a special “bank” affiliated with the Department of Energy (DOE) called the Clean Energy Deployment Administration (CEDA), which could potentially provide underwriting for 187 new nuclear power projects—at an estimated cost of $10 to $14 billion each—and assume responsibility for cost overruns and delays.
This is rich. The Clean Energy Deployment Administration will fund projects to generate lots more deadly nuclear waste. You call that clean? Oh, and did I mention that there’s no place to dump this “clean” waste? The CEDA would underwrite these multi-billion-dollar projects and cost overruns, which are virtually assured.
If the Senate version is approved, there would be unlimited funding for nuclear power projects throughout the country, instead of just in the three states (Florida, Georgia and South Carolina) that allow utilities to bill consumers in advance for the cost of constructing nuclear power plants. Federal investment in nuclear energy would replace that from the Wall Street investment community, which has been loathe to invest in these expensive capital projects.
That’s real smart. Even Wall Street won’t touch nuclear power with a ten-foot pole, so we’ll solve the problem by letting the taxpayer subsidize this boondoggle. Speaking of subsidizing, the history of commercial nuclear power started in 1956 at Calder Hall in Britain, and about a year later the first commercial reactor in the US, the Shippingport Atomic Power Station, went online. So this technology has been around a good half century, which you’d think would be enough time for a viable technology to stand on its own. But instead we still hear that giant sucking sound — the sound of the nuclear power industry vacuuming up tax dollars, and this new bill shows that the situation has gotten even worse.

But that’s not all. Read the whole article for more disgust and shock.

Meanwhile, as I said a couple of posts back, money is disappearing fast. Even if the US government budgets money to subsidize nukes, that doesn’t mean the money will actually materialize. I could budget a summer vacation in Europe this year, but ultimately there will be other, more pressing uses for my cash, or perhaps because the world economy is rapidly deteriorating, that cash simply won’t be there. In truth, the US government is flat broke and on the way to bankruptcy. Further, we face the burning question of how much longer US debt will sell.

As I’ve pointed out a number of times, money is just a means of mobilizing and accessing energy, so all these massive subsidies are pumping colossal amounts of energy into a system that is supposed to be delivering it. I have yet to see a convincing EROEI analysis of nuclear power (admittedly it is very difficult), but considering the sheer scale of nuclear power’s energy subsidy, you’ve got to wonder if we are really coming out ahead. Nuclear power was supposed to supply electricity that would be “too cheap to meter.” Instead, it’s turned out to be disastrously expensive, and this proposed subsidy budget confirms that still more emphatically. There is no doubt about it — the nuclear power industry is on the ropes, and the need for this massive subsidy proves it.

There will be no nuclear renaissance, and if this bill becomes law, it will just throw more good money after bad.

Monday, February 08, 2010


Complexity, Chaos, and Solar Energy

The Oil Drum has so many great articles that I encourage people to visit the site occasionally. One really fine recent contribution is “Energy Flow, Emergent Complexity, and Collapse,” which discusses how energy flows allow societies to achieve higher levels of organization and complexity until the point of diminishing returns, whereupon collapse ensues. Very relevant to the present point in time, and we can in fact observe these processes at work in our midst. Although slightly long for busy people, I think it’s well worth the time.

Perhaps I’m tooting my own horn, but I have in the past touched upon some of these things here. One example, from last year, is “The New World Order,” in which I noted that declining energy will precipitate the slide toward chaos. Another, from 2008, is “Stored Solar Energy vs ‘Real Time’ Solar Energy,” where I attempted to show the profound difference between the amounts of energy we are able to access through stored solar energy, i.e., fossil fuels, and real-time solar energy, or that which arrives at our planet on a daily basis. These two concepts are part of the overall fabric of the TOD article.

Now that all the “easy oil” has been found, we will find ourselves moving at an accelerating pace toward what is known as the “net energy cliff,” which is the time when there is a rapid increase in the amount of energy we must expend to obtain energy, leaving us with progressively less energy to run the economy. That obviously translates into decreasing organization and complexity, whose concomitant is increasing chaos, and eventual collapse.

Sunday, February 07, 2010


Nuclear Power Industry on the Ropes

With money disappearing faster than fresh humans at a vampire party, there is less money for everything (except weapons, of course). And considering the challenging problems of nuclear power, not least among them gross cost overruns, one should not be surprised to hear about the “Dim outlook for nuke industry.” Consider this:
A coming “nuclear renaissance” is often cited by government and industry officials as reason to keep investing in Canada’s nuclear-power sector. Without support, they say, the country risks being sidelined in a market poised for massive expansion.

But that growth, according to an independent report released Thursday, simply isn’t happening. After 10 years of industry cheerleading, the world’s fleet of nuclear reactors has become smaller.

“There has been, in fact, a decline in the contribution of nuclear power to the world electricity production, from 16.7 per cent in 2000 to 13.5 per cent in 2008,” said the report, the result of a three-year study by the Centre for International Governance Innovation in Ottawa.
Now that’s some really depressing news for nuclear power groupies. Not only is there no “nuclear renaissance” in the offing, the nuclear power industry is not even holding its own, and nukes are producing a significantly lower percentage of the world’s electric power. Because the industrial system itself is on the wane, and because nuclear power is such a large-scale, energy- and capital-intensive industry, there is zero possibility of a “massive expansion.” Governments are cash-strapped and burdened with crushing debt, and fossil fuel net energy is declining. As a result, sufficient funding and energy for a “massive expansion” will never be found on Planet Earth. Of course a few more nukes might be built, but that effort will be the dying gasp of the industry.

Friday, February 05, 2010


China: Nonperforming Loans

Apropos a recent post, “Chinese Bank Lending Unabated,” economic/finance blogger Mish has posted “Nonperforming Loans in China Rise to ‘Trillions of Renminbi.’” You should definitely take the time to read his comments after the Bloomberg article quote. The prognosis is not good.


Industrial Skills Disappearing

A very short but very significant article, “Skills shortage ‘spells disaster for engineering jobs,’” sounds a warning about the coming shortage of people with the skills to maintain industrial society. Although this article specifically addresses the problem in the UK, the entire industrialized world faces the same challenge of sustaining a pool of skilled engineers and construction workers. In this post from last year I observed that much energy needs to be expended on the education and training for this purpose. But energy-constrained societies will perforce expend less energy on education and training, which virtually assures a decline in the numbers of engineers and skilled workers, and less education and training for each one.

This is one more factor that will help drag industrial civilization down.

Monday, February 01, 2010


Global Farmland Grab

A BBC article reports that people in Kazakhstan are protesting a proposal to lease farmland to China. But attempts to lease or buy farmland in other countries didn’t start in Kazakhstan. The global farmland grab has already started. Of course this is a form of neo-colonialism, and that’s bad enough, but there’s an aspect to this that is even more alarming: When a country or its corporations try to obtain farmland in other countries, that is an admission that they don’t have enough farmland at home to feed their inflated populations, or in the near future will not have enough.


Chinese Bank Lending Unabated

Supposedly China is telling its banks to cut lending, but “Chinese Bank Lending Explodes In January” tells us that in January banks already lent a fifth of what they were supposed to lend for the entire year. One wonders how much China can do to cut lending and overcapacity, and bring down its real estate bubble. The Middle Kingdom needs something on the order of 8% growth just to keep absorbing all the new people coming into the labor market. No doubt many of those workers are kept busy by the overcapacity in manufacturing and by building lots of office space and condos that sit unused. That in turn is funded by this massive bank lending. If the leadership lets up on the gas too much, it could multiply the rolls of unemployed and lead to unrest. But because this fast growth and overcapacity can’t go on forever, it’s just a matter of time before more drastic measures become necessary.

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