Wednesday, June 17, 2009

oil shennanigans...,


Fist tap to Dale for providing this "how the world works" item.

Hellenic Shipping News | A fifth of supertankers being used to store oil are scheduled to deliver their cargoes, according to ICAP Shipping, a unit of ICAP Plc, the world’s biggest broker of deals between banks. A so-called notice of redelivery was issued for seven of 33 supertankers storing crude, Simon Chattrabhuti, a London-based analyst at ICAP, said by e-mail today. There “may well be others storing or that have given notice,” he said. Two new carriers were hired to store oil, the analyst said.

The amount of oil stored at sea climbed to the highest in at least two decades because traders could buy the commodity, sit on it and take advantage of higher prices in the future, according to Frontline Ltd., the biggest supertanker operator. Hamilton, Bermuda-based Frontline on May 28 estimated as many as 60 supertankers were storing oil.

The storage trade boosted demand for vessels as oil supply and demand contracted. BP Plc, Citigroup Inc.’s Phibro LLC, Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Koch Industries Ltd. were among the companies that sought tankers to store cargoes. Most of the crude oil is being stored in the Gulf of Mexico and in Europe, according to E.A. Gibson Shipbrokers Ltd.

The premium for Brent crude for delivery in a month’s time compared with immediate supply has shrunk to 72 cents a barrel from as much as $1.16 a barrel a month ago. The spread is profitable so long as it exceeds storage and finance costs.

Oil Products
Traders are now seeking to store oil products. JPMorgan Chase & Co. booked the newly built supertanker Front Queen to store 2 million barrels of heating oil off the coast of Malta, and several other traders are seeking similar deals, Athens- based Optima Shipbrokers said June 2.

A supertanker is capable of storing about 2 million barrels of crude, more than France consumes every day. Crude oil has advanced 55 percent in New York trading this year, rebounding from last year’s 54 percent slump.

Oil-shipping costs have climbed in recent days, further reducing potential profit from storage. The industry-benchmark route, based on Saudi Arabian shipments to Japan, has gained 28 percent since May 28.

The route rose 2.5 percent to 36.58 Worldscale points today, according to the Baltic Exchange in London. Worldscale points are a percentage of a nominal rate, or flat rate, for more than 320,000 specific routes.

ICAP Shipping arranges oil-tanker rentals and also has a commodities ship-broking team.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

coon man



Detroit News | When selecting the best raccoon carcass for the special holiday roast, both the connoisseur and the curious should remember this simple guideline: Look for the paw.

"The paw is old school," says Glemie Dean Beasley, a Detroit raccoon hunter and meat salesman. "It lets the customers know it's not a cat or dog."

Beasley, a 69-year-old retired truck driver who modestly refers to himself as the Coon Man, supplements his Social Security check with the sale of raccoon carcasses that go for as much $12 and can serve up to four. The pelts, too, are good for coats and hats and fetch up to $10 a hide.

While economic times are tough across Michigan as its people slog through a difficult and protracted deindustrialization, Beasley remains upbeat.

Where one man sees a vacant lot, Beasley sees a buffet.

"Starvation is cheap," he says as he prepares an afternoon lunch of barbecue coon and red pop at his west side home.

His little Cape Cod is an urban Appalachia of coon dogs and funny smells. The interior paint has the faded sepia tones of an old man's teeth; the wallpaper is as flaky and dry as an old woman's hand.

Beasley peers out his living room window. A sushi cooking show plays on the television. The neighborhood outside is a wreck of ruined houses and weedy lots.

"Today people got no skill and things is getting worse," he laments. "What people gonna do? They gonna eat each other up is what they gonna do."

A licensed hunter and furrier, Beasley says he hunts coons and rabbit and squirrel for a clientele who hail mainly from the South, where the wild critters are considered something of a delicacy.

world wheat crop time bomb

LATimes | The Ug99 fungus, called stem rust, could wipe out more than 80% of the world's wheat as it spreads from Africa, scientists fear. The race is on to breed resistant plants before it reaches the U.S.. The spores arrived from Kenya on dried, infected leaves ensconced in layers of envelopes.

Working inside a bio-secure greenhouse outfitted with motion detectors and surveillance cameras, government scientists at the Cereal Disease Laboratory in St. Paul, Minn., suspended the fungal spores in a light mineral oil and sprayed them onto thousands of healthy wheat plants. After two weeks, the stalks were covered with deadly reddish blisters characteristic of the scourge known as Ug99.

Nearly all the plants were goners.

Crop scientists fear the Ug99 fungus could wipe out more than 80% of worldwide wheat crops as it spreads from eastern Africa. It has already jumped the Red Sea and traveled as far as Iran. Experts say it is poised to enter the breadbasket of northern India and Pakistan, and the wind will inevitably carry it to Russia, China and even North America -- if it doesn't hitch a ride with people first.

"It's a time bomb," said Jim Peterson, a professor of wheat breeding and genetics at Oregon State University in Corvallis. "It moves in the air, it can move in clothing on an airplane. We know it's going to be here. It's a matter of how long it's going to take."

Though most Americans have never heard of it, Ug99 -- a type of fungus called stem rust because it produces reddish-brown flakes on plant stalks -- is the No. 1 threat to the world's most widely grown crop.

The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center in Mexico estimates that 19% of the world's wheat, which provides food for 1 billion people in Asia and Africa, is in imminent danger. American plant breeders say $10 billion worth of wheat would be destroyed if the fungus suddenly made its way to U.S. fields.

Fear that the fungus will cause widespread damage has caused short-term price spikes on world wheat markets. Famine has been averted thus far, but experts say it's only a matter of time.

"A significant humanitarian crisis is inevitable," said Rick Ward, the coordinator of the Durable Rust Resistance in Wheat project at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.

Monday, June 15, 2009

food inc.



NYTimes | Forget buckets of blood. Nothing says horror like one of those tubs of artificially buttered, nonorganic popcorn at the concession stand. That, at least, is one of the unappetizing lessons to draw from one of the scariest movies of the year, “Food, Inc.,” an informative, often infuriating activist documentary about the big business of feeding or, more to the political point, force-feeding, Americans all the junk that multinational corporate money can buy. You’ll shudder, shake and just possibly lose your genetically modified lunch.

Divided into chapters dedicated to points along the commercial food chain — from farm to fork, to borrow a loaded agribusiness phrase — the movie is nothing if not ambitious. “There are no seasons in the American supermarket,” the unidentified voice intones in the opening scene, as the camera sweeps the aisles of one such brightly lighted, heavily stocked if nutritionally impoverished emporium. From there the director Robert Kenner jumps all over the food map, from industrial feedlots where millions of cruelly crammed cattle mill about in their own waste until slaughter, to the chains where millions of consumers gobble down industrially produced meat and an occasional serving of E. coli bacteria.

The voice in the opening belongs to the ethical epicurean and locavore champion Michael Pollan, author of “In Defense of Food” and “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” as well as a contributing writer to The New York Times Magazine. (Somewhat confusingly, the movie uses voice-overs without clearly identifying who’s issuing forth on the soundtrack.) Mr. Pollan, who periodically appears on screen seated at a homey-looking table, is a great strength of “Food, Inc.,” as is one of its co-producers, Eric Schlosser, the author of “Fast Food Nation.” These two embodiments of conscience, together with Mr. Kenner, chart how and why the villains not only outnumber the heroes in contemporary food production, but also how and why they outbluff, outmuscle and outspend their opponents by billions of often government-subsidized dollars.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

the data deluge

3Quarksdaily | Anyone reading this article cannot fail but be aware of the changing interface between eye and text that has taken place over the past two decades or so. New Media – everything from the internet database to the Blackberry – has fundamentally changed the way we connect with each other, but it has also altered the way we connect with information itself. The linear, diachronic substance of the page and the book have given way to a dynamic textuality blurring the divide between authorship and readership, expert testament and the simple accumulation of experience.

The main difference between traditional text-based systems and newer, data-driven ones is quite simple: it is the interface. Eyes and fingers manipulate the book, turning over pages in a linear sequence in order to access the information stored in its printed figures. For New Media, for the digital archive and the computer storage network, the same information is stored sequentially in databases which are themselves hidden to the eye. To access them one must commit a search or otherwise run an algorithm that mediates the stored data for us. The most important distinction should be made at the level of the interface, because, although the database as a form has changed little over the past 50 years of computing, the Human Control Interfaces (HCI) we access and manipulate that data through are always passing from one iteration to another. Stone circles interfacing the seasons stayed the same, perhaps being used in similar rituals over the course of a thousand years of human cultural accumulation. Books, interfacing text, language and thought, stay the same in themselves from one print edition to the next, but as a format, books have changed very little in the few hundred years since the printing press. The computer HCI is most different from the book in that change is integral to it structure. To touch a database through a computer terminal, through a Blackberry or iPhone, is to play with data at incredible speed:
Sixty years ago, digital computers made information readable. Twenty years ago, the Internet made it reachable. Ten years ago, the first search engine crawlers made it a single database. Now Google and like-minded companies are sifting through the most measured age in history, treating this massive corpus as a laboratory of the human condition...

Kilobytes were stored on floppy disks. Megabytes were stored on hard disks. Terabytes were stored in disk arrays. Petabytes are stored in the cloud. As we moved along that progression, we went from the folder analogy to the file cabinet analogy to the library analogy to — well, at petabytes we ran out of organizational analogies.

At the petabyte scale, information is not a matter of simple three- and four-dimensional taxonomy and order but of dimensionally agnostic statistics...

This is a world where massive amounts of data and applied mathematics replace every other tool that might be brought to bear. Out with every theory of human behavior, from linguistics to sociology. Forget taxonomy, ontology, and psychology. Who knows why people do what they do? The point is they do it, and we can track and measure it with unprecedented fidelity. With enough data, the numbers speak for themselves.

Wired Magazine, The End of Theory, June 2008
And as the amount of data has expanded exponentially, so have the interfaces we use to access that data and the models we build to understand that data. On the day that Senator John McCain announced his Vice Presidential Candidate the best place to go for an accurate profile of Sarah Palin was not the traditional media: it was Wikipedia. In an age of instant, global news, no newspaper could keep up with the knowledge of the cloud. The Wikipedia interface allowed knowledge about Sarah Palin from all levels of society to be filtered quickly and efficiently in real-time. Wikipedia acted as if it was encyclopaedia, as newspaper as discussion group and expert all at the same time and it did so completely democratically and at the absence of a traditional management pyramid. The interface itself became the thinking mechanism of the day, as if the notes every reader scribbled in the margins had been instantly cross-checked and added to the content.

In only a handful of years the human has gone from merely dipping into the database to becoming an active component in a human-cloud of data. The interface has begun to reflect back upon us, turning each of us into a node in a vast database bigger than any previous material object. Gone are the days when clusters of galaxies had to a catalogued by an expert and entered into a linear taxonomy. Now, the same job is done by the crowd and the interface, allowing a million galaxies to be catalogued by amateurs in the same time it would have taken a team of experts to classify a tiny percentage of the same amount.

grapholectic thought

3Quarksdaily | Meaning is not to be found in final “truths”, but in the questioning of contexts; in the deliberation of what constitutes the circle. If we forget this then we commit, what A. N. Whitehead called, the fallacy of misplaced concreteness:
“This... consists in mistaking the abstract for the concrete. More specifically it involves setting up distinctions which disregard the genuine interconnections of things.... [The] fallacy occurs when one assumes that in expressing the space and time relations of a bit of matter it is unnecessary to say more than that it is present in a specific position in space at a specific time. It is Whitehead's contention that it is absolutely essential to refer to other regions of space and other durations of time... [Another] general illustration of the fallacy of Misplaced Concreteness is... the notion that each real entity is absolutely separate and distinct from every other real entity, and that the qualities of each have no essential relation to the qualities of others.”

A. H. Johnson, Whitehead's Theory of Reality
Our error is to mistake grapholectic thought - thought maintained by writing and print - as the only kind of thought we are capable of.


I predict that the next “great discontinuity” to be uncovered, the one that historians will look back upon as “the biggest shift in our understanding since Einstein”, will emerge not from the traditional laboratory, or from notions computed through the hazy-filters of written memory, but from our very notion of what it is for “events” to become “data” and for that data to become “knowledge”. The circle we now sit at the centre of, is one enclosed by the grapholectic perceptions we rely on to consider the circle in the first place. In order to shift it we will need a new method of transposing events that occur ‘outside’ the circle, into types of knowledge that have value ‘within’ the circle.

This may sound crazy, even impossible in scope, but we may have already begun devising new ways for this kind of knowledge to reach us.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

US cities may have to be bulldozed in order to survive

UK Telegraph | Dozens of US cities may have entire neighbourhoods bulldozed as part of drastic "shrink to survive" proposals being considered by the Obama administration to tackle economic decline. The government is looking at expanding a pioneering scheme in Flint, one of the poorest US cities, which involves razing entire districts and returning the land to nature.

Local politicians believe the city must contract by as much as 40 per cent, concentrating the dwindling population and local services into a more viable area.

The radical experiment is the brainchild of Dan Kildee, treasurer of Genesee County, which includes Flint.

Having outlined his strategy to Barack Obama during the election campaign, Mr Kildee has now been approached by the US government and a group of charities who want him to apply what he has learnt to the rest of the country.

Mr Kildee said he will concentrate on 50 cities, identified in a recent study by the Brookings Institution, an influential Washington think-tank, as potentially needing to shrink substantially to cope with their declining fortunes.

Most are former industrial cities in the "rust belt" of America's Mid-West and North East. They include Detroit, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Memphis.

In Detroit, shattered by the woes of the US car industry, there are already plans to split it into a collection of small urban centres separated from each other by countryside.

"The real question is not whether these cities shrink – we're all shrinking – but whether we let it happen in a destructive or sustainable way," said Mr Kildee. "Decline is a fact of life in Flint. Resisting it is like resisting gravity."

Karina Pallagst, director of the Shrinking Cities in a Global Perspective programme at the University of California, Berkeley, said there was "both a cultural and political taboo" about admitting decline in America.

cheap oil is over...,

Tomdispatch | So here's the headline for you: For the first time, the well-respected Energy Information Administration appears to be joining with those experts who have long argued that the era of cheap and plentiful oil is drawing to a close. Almost as notable, when it comes to news, the 2009 report highlights Asia's insatiable demand for energy and suggests that China is moving ever closer to the point at which it will overtake the United States as the world's number one energy consumer. Clearly, a new era of cutthroat energy competition is upon us.

Peak Oil Becomes the New Norm

As recently as 2007, the IEO projected that the global production of conventional oil (the stuff that comes gushing out of the ground in liquid form) would reach 107.2 million barrels per day in 2030, a substantial increase from the 81.5 million barrels produced in 2006. Now, in 2009, the latest edition of the report has grimly dropped that projected 2030 figure to just 93.1 million barrels per day -- in future-output terms, an eye-popping decline of 14.1 million expected barrels per day.

Even when you add in the 2009 report's projection of a larger increase than once expected in the output of unconventional fuels, you still end up with a net projected decline of 11.1 million barrels per day in the global supply of liquid fuels (when compared to the IEO's soaring 2007 projected figures). What does this decline signify -- other than growing pessimism by energy experts when it comes to the international supply of petroleum liquids?

Very simply, it indicates that the usually optimistic analysts at the Department of Energy now believe global fuel supplies will simply not be able to keep pace with rising world energy demands. For years now, assorted petroleum geologists and other energy types have been warning that world oil output is approaching a maximum sustainable daily level -- a peak -- and will subsequently go into decline, possibly producing global economic chaos. Whatever the timing of the arrival of peak oil's actual peak, there is growing agreement that we have, at last, made it into peak-oil territory, if not yet to the moment of irreversible decline.

Friday, June 12, 2009

readying americans....,

Global Research | At least three US federal laws should concern all Americans and suggest what may be coming - mandatory vaccinations for hyped, non-existant threats, like H1N1 (Swine Flu). Vaccines and drugs like Tamiflu endanger human health but are hugely profitable to drug company manufacturers.

The Project BioShield Act of 2004 (S. 15) became law on July 21, 2004 "to provide protections and countermeasures against chemical, radiological, or nuclear agents that may be used in a terrorist attack against the United States by giving the National Institutes of Health contracting flexibility, infrastructure improvements, and expediting the scientific peer review process, and streamlining the Food and Drug Administration approval process of countermeasures."

The Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act slipped under the radar when George Bush signed it into law as part of the 2006 Defense Appropriations Act (HR 2863). It lets the HHS Secretary declare any disease an epidemic or national emergency requiring mandatory vaccinations. Nothing in the Act lists criteria that warrant a threat. Also potential penalties aren't specified for those who balk, but very likely they'd include quarantine and possible fines.

The Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act (S. 3678) is the other worrisome law, effective December 19, 2006. It amended "the Public Health Service Act with respect to public health security and all-hazards preparedness and response, and for other purposes." Even its supporters worry about issues of privacy, liability, and putting profits over public health. Critics express greater concerns about dangerous remedies for exaggerated or non-existant threats as well as mass hysteria created for political purposes.

At least one other measure is also worrisome - The Model State Emergency Health Powers Act (MSEHPA). So far it's just a proposal by the Center for Law and the Public's Health - "A Collaborative at Johns Hopkins and Georgetown Universities (as) a primary, international, national, state, and local resource on public health law (and) policy for public health practitioners, judges, academics, policymakers, and others."

military classifies incoming space rock data

Space | For 15 years, scientists have benefited from data gleaned by U.S. classified satellites of natural fireball events in Earth's atmosphere – but no longer.

A recent U.S. military policy decision now explicitly states that observations by hush-hush government spacecraft of incoming bolides and fireballs are classified secret and are not to be released, SPACE.com has learned.

The satellites' main objectives include detecting nuclear bomb tests, and their characterizations of asteroids and lesser meteoroids as they crash through the atmosphere has been a byproduct data bonanza for scientists.

The upshot: Space rocks that explode in the atmosphere are now classified.

"It's baffling to us why this would suddenly change," said one scientist familiar with the work. "It's unfortunate because there was this great synergy...a very good cooperative arrangement. Systems were put into dual-use mode where a lot of science was getting done that couldn't be done any other way. It's a regrettable change in policy."

Scientists say not only will research into the threat from space be hampered, but public understanding of sometimes dramatic sky explosions will be diminished, perhaps leading to hype and fear of the unknown.

fear rules

Creator's Syndicate | The power of irrational fear in the United States is extraordinary. It ranks up there with the Israel lobby, the military-security complex and the financial gangsters. Indeed, fear might be the most powerful force in America.

Americans are at ease with their country's aggression against Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, which has resulted in a million dead Muslim civilians and several million refugees, because the U.S. government has filled Americans with fear of terrorists. "We have to kill them over there before they come over here."

Fearful of American citizens, the U.S. government is building concentration camps apparently all over the country. According to news reports, a $385 million U.S. government contract was given by the Bush-Cheney regime to Cheney's Halliburton to build "detention centers" in the United States. The corporate media never explained for whom the detention centers are intended.

Most Americans dismiss such reports. "It can't happen here." However, in northeastern Florida not far from Tallahassee, I have seen what might be one of these camps. There is a building inside a huge open area fenced with razor wire. There is no one there and no signs. The facility appears new and unused, and does not look like an abandoned prisoner work camp.

What is it for?

Who spent all that money for what?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

what a difference two years make.....,

Energy Bulletin | CERA has been a leading voice among peak oil skeptics. Even though they claim the reason for peak oil is economic/political rather than geological, this is a significant admission.

Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA) "is a leading advisor to international energy companies, governments, financial institutions, and technology providers. IHS CERA delivers critical knowledge and independent analysis on energy markets, geopolitics, industry trends, and strategy. "

Speaking at the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) in Washington DC on 8 June, CERA Global Oil Group Managing Director Jim Burkhard began and ended his talk by stating that “CERA acknowledges that peak oil is here, you heard it from a CERA person.”

Mr. Burkhard spoke at a CSIS session on “Transforming the Transportation Sector: Energy Security, Climate Change and Transportation”.

During his presentation, Mr. Burkhard explained that in acknowledging that peak oil is here, CERA’s interpretation is that US gasoline demand peaked in 2008 and is expected to decline in future years. He also stated that CERA maintains its position that the reasons for US liquid fuel demand having peaked are economic and geopolitical in their nature, rather than in any way driven by geologic factors.

Here are some articles from two years ago when CERA was still in vehement denial.

Why the "Peak Oil" Theory Falls Down - Myths, Legends, and the Future of Oil Resources

Peak Oil Theory Could Distort Energy Policy and Debate

There is No Evidence of A Peak in the Next 10-15 Years

cockiness trumps expertise

New Scientist | EVER wondered why the pundits who failed to predict the current economic crisis are still being paid for their opinions? It's a consequence of the way human psychology works in a free market, according to a study of how people's self-confidence affects the way others respond to their advice.

The research, by Don Moore of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, shows that we prefer advice from a confident source, even to the point that we are willing to forgive a poor track record. Moore argues that in competitive situations, this can drive those offering advice to increasingly exaggerate how sure they are. And it spells bad news for scientists who try to be honest about gaps in their knowledge.

In Moore's experiment, volunteers were given cash for correctly guessing the weight of people from their photographs. In each of the eight rounds of the study, the guessers bought advice from one of four other volunteers. The guessers could see in advance how confident each of these advisers was (see table), but not which weights they had opted for.

From the start, the more confident advisers found more buyers for their advice, and this caused the advisers to give answers that were more and more precise as the game progressed. This escalation in precision disappeared when guessers simply had to choose whether or not to buy the advice of a single adviser. In the later rounds, guessers tended to avoid advisers who had been wrong previously, but this effect was more than outweighed by the bias towards confidence.

The findings add weight to the idea that if offering expert opinion is your stock-in-trade, it pays to appear confident. Describing his work at an Association for Psychological Science meeting in San Francisco last month, Moore said that following the advice of the most confident person often makes sense, as there is evidence that precision and expertise do tend to go hand in hand. For example, people give a narrower range of answers when asked about subjects with which they are more familiar (Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, vol 107, p 179).

There are times, however, when this link breaks down. With complex but politicised subjects such as global warming, for example, scientific experts who stress uncertainties lose out to activists or lobbyists with a more emphatic message.

So if honest advice risks being ignored, what is a responsible scientific adviser to do? "It's an excellent question, and I'm not sure that I have a great answer," says Moore.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

home



HOME is a documentary by Frances Yann Arthus-Bertrand, the French photographer known for the Earth From The Air books and Seen From The Air on TV. The commentary is narrated by Glenn Close in English and Salma Hayek in Spanish, and it's message is, that Its too late to be a pessimist, we have to act positively, now.

Showing the splendour of nature, the squalor of over population, the depletion of resources, and the glimmer of potential solutions, it challenges us to become more aware of the problems, and then choose to be a part of the solution.

See the full documentary online here.

u.s. forsees a thinner cushion of coal

WSJ | Every year, federal employee George Warholic calculates America's vast coal reserves the same way his predecessors have for decades: He looks up the prior year's coal-reserve estimate, subtracts the year's nationwide production and arrives at a new official tally.

Coal provides nearly one-quarter of the total energy consumed in the U.S., and by Mr. Warholic's estimate, the country has enough in the ground to last about 240 years. A belief in this nearly boundless supply has led officials to dub the U.S. the "Saudi Arabia of Coal." But the estimate, recent findings show, may be wildly overconfident.

While there is almost certainly as much coal in the ground as Mr. Warholic's Energy Information Administration believes, relatively little of it can be profitably extracted. Last year, the U.S. Geological Survey completed an extensive analysis of Wyoming's Gillette coal field, the nation's largest and most productive, and determined that less than 6% of the coal in its biggest beds could be mined profitably, even at prices higher than today's.

"We really can't say we're the Saudi Arabia of coal anymore," says Brenda Pierce, head of the USGS team that conducted the study.

No one says the U.S. is facing a coal shortage. But the emerging ranks of "peak coal" theorists argue that current production levels may be unsustainable and, if anything, create a false sense of security. David Rutledge, an electrical-engineering professor at the California Institute of Technology who has studied global coal production, figures the U.S. has about half as much recoverable reserves as the government says, which would work out to about 120 years' worth.

The Energy Information Administration, part of the Department of Energy, says it is reassessing its coal tally in light of the new Geological Survey data. It intends to create a new coal baseline from which it will begin its annual subtraction "as soon as we can," says William Watson, a member of the energy analysis team at EIA in Washington, D.C.

In the field, challenges are becoming more apparent. Mining companies report they have to dig deeper and move more earth to extract coal from aging mines, driving up costs.

Utilities have grown skittish about whether suppliers can ship promised coal on time. American Electric Power Co., the nation's biggest coal buyer, says it has stepped up its due diligence to make sure its suppliers can make deliveries after some firms missed shipments last fall. It even bought a mine to lock down supplies. "We are very much concerned, and it's getting worse," said Tim Light, senior vice president for AEP.

(Accompanying slide show is amazing. Check it out.)

arming up

The Economist | The world's biggest military spenders by population - GLOBAL military expenditure rose by 4% in 2008 to a record $1.46 trillion, according to a new report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Israel spends most on defence relative to its population, shelling out over $2,300 a person, over $300 more than America. Small and rich countries, and notably Gulf states, feature prominently by this measure. Saudi Arabia ranks ninth in absolute spending, but sixth by population. China has increased spending by 10% to $85 billion to become the world's second largest spender. But it is still dwarfed by America, whose outlay of $607 billion is higher than that of the next 14 biggest spenders combined.

team aggression



FORA.tv | Why is it that humans, nearly unique in this regard, have a natural inclination to band together and kill off members of our own species? The fact that chimpanzees, our closest evolutionary relatives, are the only other animals known to exhibit such organized warlike behavior is a big clue.

Malcolm Potts and Thomas Hayden, authors of the new book Sex and War, assert that the answers lie in our biological history -- that aggression against our own species is rooted in deep evolutionary impulses and predispositions. In other words, intra-species battling among our protohuman ancestors gave a reproductive advantage to the most violent males -- and here we are, their pugnacious descendants, still at it.

Watch to learn how sex and war are inextricably linked, and perhaps, what we modern-day humans can do about it.

sex and war?

The Scientist | War has most often been studied by social scientists -- anthropologists embedding themselves with hunter-gatherer tribes, archaeologists teasing evidence of past epochs of war and peace from the ground, and psychologists and sociologists poking and prodding the minds of warriors and others. But one question often goes unasked: Why war? Why do we humans, almost alone among the animals, band together and intentionally kill members of our own species?

That is a question only biology can answer -- and as Theodosius Dobzhansky famously said, "nothing in biology makes sense but in the light of evolution." Humans, of course, are descended from a long line of ape ancestors, including a common ancestor with chimpanzees some five to seven million years ago. As Jane Goodall, Richard Wrangham and others have shown, we also share with chimps the bizarre propensity to attack and kill others of our own species. And evolution explains why.
I haven't read it, so the answer is that I don't know. Being a student of pernicious killer-ape tendencies, my interest is piqued. However, one thing I know for certain, is that it's being propagandistically marketed. Note the second part of the full title; Timely Book Puts Finger On Terrorist Attacks in the Gaza and Elsewhere. Chances are that there's a profoundly unscientific agenda undergirding this presentation of yet another killer-ape hypothesis.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

europe swings right as depression deepens

Telegraph | The establisment Left had been crushed across most of Europe, just as it was in the early 1930s.

We have seen the ultimate crisis of capitalism -- what Marxist-historian Eric Hobsbawm calls the "dramatic equivalent of the collapse of the Soviet Union" -- yet socialists have completely failed to reap any gain from the seeming vindication of their views.

It is not clear why a chunk of the blue-collar working base has swung almost overnight from Left to Right, but clearly we are seeing the delayed detonation of two political time-bombs: rising unemployment and the growth of immigrant enclaves that resist assimilation.

Note that Right-wing incumbents in France (Sarkozy) and Italy (Berlusconi), survived the European elections unscathed.

Left-wing incumbents in Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Hungary, Poland, Denmark, and of course Britain were either slaughtered, or badly mauled.

international energy outlook 2009

EIA | The International Energy Outlook 2009 (IEO2009) presents an assessment by the Energy Information Administration (EIA) of the outlook for international energy markets through 2030. U.S. projections appearing in IEO2009 are consistent with those published in EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook 2009 (AEO2009), (March 2009). A revised, updated AEO2009 reference case projection was released on April 17, 2009. It reflects the impact of provisions in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA2009), enacted in mid-February 2009, on U.S. energy markets. The revised AEO2009 reference case includes updates for the U.S. macroeconomic outlook, which has been changing at an unusually rapid rate in recent months. Throughout IEO2009, significant changes to the U.S. outlook relative to the published AEO2009 reference case are noted for the reader’s reference. The complete revised AEO2009 reference case results for the United States can be viewed on the EIA web site: